Over the past couple days, I continued to tackle the entropy that is my benchtop. I made these two small and quick storage solutions to try and keep things organized.

First is a caddy to hold my twist drill bits. I use these a lot, and all of the commercial solutions I’ve seen figure you only have one drill bit of each size, which isn’t the reality in my shop. For the smallest size (1/32 inch), I have 15 bits, which leads me to believe I’m on my second dozen, and have broken 9 or so. These bits are pretty fragile, and when drilling pilot holes for small screws in wood, I will sometimes break them.

drill bit caddy made of canarywood

So I found a piece of canarywood on the shelf and drilled some holes in it. The front row is by 64ths, from 2-16, and the back is 17/64, then the 32nds to 3/8, plus ½. Fairly quick build, as it was just drilling a bunch of holes, but also much-needed.

Next is a small caddy to hold my nut-drivers and a handle I made to use them by hand, rather than with my 1/4” drive cordless drill (though I use that pretty often, too).

nut driver caddy

The caddy is rock maple. Again, mostly just a bunch of holes, but the spacing was tricky and carving out the recess for the handle took most of a morning using gouges.

caddy, top view, showing recess for the handle

Both of these will probably spend most of their time on the top of my bench, but they’ll keep the tools from getting lost in the clutter. And they were nice projects to tackle while I was waiting on parts for another #project.

caddy, top view, handle in place


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Originally written Jul 24, 2020

For the 2020 Barbecue Swap that I ran, I decided to make a kit of bbq tools, along with a small briefcase to hold them. Given that I'm still settling into my shop, I figured this would give me the ability to switch between the different components as I needed to find tools, rearrange my bench, or other distractions. I'll try to break this into three sections, the briefcase, the tools, and the shakers.

The briefcase

oblique view of the briefcase, showing the letters on the front and the dovetails on the sides of the case

front view of the briefcase, clearly showing the BBQ-X front panel

inside of the briefcase, showing the hand-written lyrics to Barba-Q-X by Farm Accident

inside of the briefcase, showing my makers mark and the date the case was made

I wanted to make sure the briefcase fit into a USPS medium flat rate box so I looked that up and figured my briefcase had to be about 13-¾ inches long at longest, about 8 inches wide, and a little more than 3 inches thick. I cut a piece of walnut I had down into two book-matched pieces that were 22 long and 3¼ wide by about ⅜ thick. I roughly smoothed the outside of the pieces, but left the rough, inner, book-matched surfaces alone for now. Those would become the outside of the box, and I've found that it's easiest to smooth them after I've assembled the box, especially when working with thin stock.

I cut grooves near the edges of the wood, which would be the grooves that held the top and bottom of the case. Did ¼” grooves, about an eighth from the edge of the board.

Then I dovetailed the ends, paying some attention to where I would want to cut the box open, and trying to lay the tails out so I would be sawing a tail in half when I cut the box open. And rather than assemble the top and bottom of the box immediately, I planed off the spare eighth turning the groove in the boards into rabbets.

I also sanded and finished the front panel of the case at this point so when I put the handle on it, I wouldn't have to try and sand around that.

The handle was a piece of 4/4 walnut, hand-carved to a handle shape. I then made octagons on the end of it, guesstimated they were going to end up about an inch in size, and drilled a one inch hole in a piece of birch. I then cut it in two, and hand-shaped it to make brackets to hold the handle, and then turned down the ends of the handle to match the holes using my hollow auger. I also drilled a couple holes to align the handle brackets while I could still get inside the box to clean up the holes.

Handle and brackets for the handle

Attaching the handle to the front panel of the briefcase

I glued up the dovetails, and just set the top and bottom of the box in place for now to help keep things square. And then I took the case to the belt-sander to finish sanding the sides.

That done, I finished the exterior of the case. This included cutting the BBQ-X letters from some thick (1/8” or 3/32”) bubinga veneer, hand sanding them, and gluing them to the lid. I oiled the box, handle, brackets, lid and bottom, and then glued on the letters, and glued the top and bottom into their rabbets, and glued on the handle. Clamping everything took a little improvisation.

clamping the edges of the box

clamping the letters to the front of the box with a can of polyurethane as a weight

The name comes from a song by the band Farm Accident, who were friends of mine who played in Minneapolis back in the 1980s. If you look at the third picture, you can see the lyrics to the song, which I wrote on the inside of the box.

The box assembled, I hit it with four or five coats of super-blonde shellac, padding it on. Then I cut the box open, put on the hinges and latches, and called it done.


The Tools

The bbq tools, a fork, steel and carving knife with stabilized birch handles

The tools were made with stabilized birch for the handles. The birch came from Timber Bay Resort in Babbitt, MN. There had been a big wind-storm just before we went up there in 2018, and I scavenged a bunch of birch, brought it home, sliced it up, and stabilized it.

The knife and steel are from Hock Tools. Ron Hock is a great guy, and when I asked him about a barbecue fork, he said he didn't make them, but suggested the steel (which I had forgotten they made) and pointed out that he sold aprons which were certainly bbq related. Nice job up-selling me, Ron! The fork ended up being from eBay. I bought one that had a rough-looking handle, but was made in US steel, peeled the old wooden handle off, and put on a new handle. Nothing too fancy with the tools, but I left them slightly oversized so Grant could reshape them if he liked.

The Shakers

shakers, spare chile, and tools arranged in the case

And then the shakers. After thinking about turning them, and cutting my own threads for lids, I decided that was too much to bite off this year, and I bought some shaker inserts from Lee Valley. They're about 15/16 in diameter, and slightly tapered, so I drilled holes in some pieces of birch. I had initially planned to have the grain in the birch running up and down on the finished shaker, but my 15/16ths auger bit has a bad lead screw, and drilling into end-grain in the stabilized birch proved to be too tough, so I oriented the grain cross-wise, which made drilling much easier.

With the holes drilled, I started figuring how to shape the outsides. I had planned to use a spokeshave to turn the birch from squares to octagons, and then to round, but that was when the grain was running the other way. I tried using the shave cross-grain and broke one of the shaker bodies. After some thought, I took one of my walnut offcuts, put a deck screw into it, shaped it roughly round by spinning it against my (running) belt-sander, and decided that would work well enough on the birch.

a block of wood on the end of a drill which is about to serve as a mini lathe

I also experimented with dyeing the stabilized birch, and decided that for the red and green, I was best using non-stabilized birch, especially after I cracked one of the pieces while rounding it. Learning as I go!

cracked and mended shaker with a piece of 12 gauge copper wire holding it together while the glue dried

With the four shaker bodies dyed and finished (I used shellac, tinting it with TransTint dyes), I took a tapered reamer to get the holes to the final size, then put a tiny bit of CA glue on the insert, and pressed them into the bodies. I ran a little extra CA in from the bottom to make sure everything held. Note that the inserts say “DO NOT USE EPOXY” and they mean it. The acrylic that's used in the inserts kinda dissolves if you try to epoxy it in place. CA glue is the right glue for this job!

I packed the knife, fork, steel, and four shakers into the case with foam inserts, then packed the case into the flat rate box with a Hock apron, another cow-spotted apron my sweetie found, and tossed in a couple tins of extra chile from New Mexico and the box was full, and ready to be on its way.

And then, of course, I realized I'd forgotten to include the note in the box, so I had to open it up again. At least I remembered to take pictures of the complete stuff for this writeup while I had the box open. ;–)

#woodworking #projects #swap

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clamping a small piece of wood, similar in thickness to a piece of leather

clamping a ¾ inch piece of wood

A couple evenings back, I was watching some YouTube in the evening and saw a one-day build by Adam Savage of a stitching pony. I’ve been wanting a stitching pony for a while for when I make a sheath for a knife I’ve made, but watching his build, he was talking about using it for holding metal for filing and a bunch of other uses. That gave me the push I needed in order to build one for myself.

screen grab of Adam Savage demonstrating his stitching pony

I started by cutting the arms from a piece of pine I had on hand. Rather than using plywood so the arms would be sprung, I decided I was going to use a couple pieces of hinge. It won’t spring open like his does, but I think it’ll still work pretty well, and if I make one of something nicer than pine, I can get fancier.

stitching pony with the lever removed and laid flat - the hinges are visible

With the arms built, I found an inch square piece of ash, and drilled a half dozen holes in it. Rather than having a spinning piece of wood to adjust the range of the clamp, I figured multiple holes which I can slot a bolt or a dowel through would be easier. Since drilling round holes is easier than chopping square mortises, I made the hole in the arm with that adjuster a ⅞ inch round hole, and turned the end of the lever arm round on the lathe.

round hole in one of the arms, with the round end of the level arm and adjustment holes visible

I left the other end square, and cut a slot into it to hold the cam on the lever arm. The cam was a circle drawn using a pop can, then made bigger on one side and smaller on the other. And then once I assembled everything the first time and realized that the handle restricted me to only a half-turn, I adjusted the curve so it would have the full ¾ inch of travel I needed based on the holes I had drilled. To match the square end, I had to chop a square 1 inch mortise in the other arm.

square hole on the other arm, with lever arm and cam

With it working, I added a cleat to the foot of the pony so I can hang it on the cleats on my wall. It’ll get a coat of oil after I contact-cement some leather pads to the jaws tomorrow. With the holes in the lever arm spaced ¾ inch apart, and with six of them, I can clamp anything from paper thin up to 4½ inches thick, though thicker things will have the jaws at an inconvenient angle, so I probably won’t ever use it for anything thicker than an inch or so. But I could make hinged jaws too…

pony hanging from a cleat on the wall

And that’s it.

#woodworking #project #clamp #HandyTools

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closed box

As part of the ongoing battle against entropy in my shop, I built a small box to hold my coarse and fine sharpening hones, and my sharp skate, though I have the older model with wheels, which is perfect for me, since I prefer the side-sharpening method with most blades. The friable hones are my go-to sharpening system, as I don’t need to fuss with water or oil, and can just sharpen whatever’s dull quickly and get back to work.

The box is simple dovetailed pine, with a scrap plywood bottom and a nice piece of quarter-sawn sycamore, resawed down to ¼ inch thick as the lid. I chamfered the edges of the box at a 30 degree angle to give it a little different look, cut out a curved shape to give it some feet, and used the table saw to cut dados ⅜ inch deep (i.e. halfway through the board) on the inside and out in order to make a lid that would piston fit. The top and bottom float in ¼ inch deep dados on the inside of the box.

open box, showing hones and sharp skate

Once it was all together, I gave the pine a few coats of Real Milk Paint Terra Cotta and then hit everything with a coat of tung oil. On the inside of the box, I glued a couple thin pieces of poplar to hold the stones securely in place so they wouldn’t slide front to back as I’m sharpening. I’ll contact-cement some non-skid to the box feet if it slides around on the bench, but I suspect I won’t need to do that.

Next time I feel the need for a quick project, I’ll probably make a similar box for my set of 3 Japanese water stones, but I’m thinking that will have an epoxy finish inside so I can use it as a pond for the stones, too.

#woodworking #project

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plane till with hand planes in it

For the past few months, I’ve had a half-dozen hand planes sitting on my workbench. They’re the ones that are regular “users” and I never quite seem to get around to putting them away, at least partly because they don’t have a regular home in my larger plane till.

The planes are a transitional jack plane, a few smoothers, three block planes, and a shoulder plane. There’s also a small, Stanley #1 sized plane I got in the most recent plane swap. This ended up taking quite a bit of space on my bench.

I started yesterday by figuring out how much room I needed for the large transitional plane, then having enough room for the smaller planes on some shelves. Next was dovetailing together the carcasse, then cutting dadoes for the first divider.

Next up was cutting sloped ends on the board that would hold the transitional jack in place. I laid the board against the case and set a bevel gauge to the angle I needed. Set the table saw blade to that and nibbled away until the board fit into the case. I ended up “wasting” about a half inch of board, but it was a lot quicker than doing trig and making a mistake.

One divider dadoed in place, angled board fitting into the case to hold the transitional plane

With that in place, I called it a night.

This morning, I realized that I wanted the transitional plane to sit entirely within the case, in case I later decided to add a door to keep the dust out, so I changed the angles on the end of the board and shortened it a bit more so it only used about ¾ of the depth of the case. I also made a sloped piece to sit on the bottom of case for the toe of the transitional plane to sit on.

With that done, I cut the dadoes for the shelves on the right, spacing them more or less equally within the available space. I had a little math problem with the dadoes in the right side of the case because I measured from the end of the board, which came up a little short of the end of the case. Oops. One of the shelves is noticeably sloped due to this.

case with dividers dadoed in place and everything test fit

I measured some boards for the back of the case, and got them ready, then with all the lumber done, I decided I wasn’t going to put a door on the case immediately, but I would decorate the front of the case with my trim router after it was assembled. I had thought about carving decorations onto the front of the boards, but I couldn’t come up with any design I really liked.

Finally, just before lunch today, I glued everything up, glued and nailed on the backboards, and screwed on a cleat and a spacer so I could hang the case on the wall.

After lunch, I trimmed a little extra length off one of the back boards and off the cleat, and used my trim router to “fancy up” the front of the case. The case is done, except for a coat of oil, which I’ll put on after I clear a few other projects from the shop. I may end up deciding to put a door on the case yet, too.

finished case with planes in it, hanging on the wall

#woodworking #project

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Originally written Mar 27, 2020

The completed plane with carved wedge, viewed from the right The left side of the completed plane

The spring swap this year was a surprise swap, so we could make anything we wanted. Since my shop was being built, and would not be complete until reveal week on the swap, I spend a while thinking about what I was going to build for the swap. I decided I'd make a skew rabbet plane. I have an old one which I use, but it's hard to find a nice old plane, and I felt I had okay chances of being able to make a nice-looking plane that was functional.

My "user" skew-rabbet plane, which shows the signs of lots of years of use

So I started trying things. I had a bunch of pallets from the hardware store, and used some of the lumber from them to experiment on. The first try had some issues. I couldn't drill the holes for the mortise as precisely as I needed with a bit and brace and without much better workholding than I could achieve on the tailgate of my pickup using a pallet as a workbench, and with only a half-dozen three foot long bar clamps.

Misaligned holes for the blade

The second try didn't go a lot better. The mortise was maybe a little less raggedy, but I had geometry problems with the multiple angles for the skew and the bedding angle and the different sized escapements needed on the two sides. I'm glad I was practicing on pallet wood while working out the details, since it was pretty clear I still had to so some more thinking.

Attempting to saw the compound angle for the mouth / escapement of the plane

My third try, I decided I'd make it a composite plane. I could then cut the mortise with a hand-saw and get good angles, and drill the sides separately, and most of the complicated geometric issues could be simplified. So I started by gluing a piece of poplar to a piece of ipe that I was planning to use for the sole. I went with the poplar because I still wasn't sure this plan was going to work, and I should have used something a little more stable.

T-board forming the core of the plane

It was about this point that I found that I was sending the plane to Brian in Spain, so I decided I'd keep my schedule as tight as possible so that he wouldn't be waiting on international delivery while everyone else was revealing the goodies they'd received in the swap.

Since clamping (and really any other operation) on this T-shaped piece of wood was difficult, I used a few drywall screws to screw some pallet wood to the sides of the poplar. That turned out to be the real trick, and I started making good progress. I got the mortise and the bed for the blade cut, and was feeling pretty good. The picture below shows the cutting, which was made easier by clamping the piece so I was cutting more or less straight down.

Cutting the mouth of the plane on my fancy workbench

Since I don't have a forge for heat-treating, this was when I roughed out the blade, too. It's a rabbet plane blade from Lie-Nielsen, and while it was a little expensive, there's no way I could've succeeded without it. Then I sent it off to Dave Kelley in AZ for heat-treating, as he volunteered to help out. Thanks, Dave!

This was also the point that I realized I'd made an error in my geometry, and had cut a left-handed plane body. On a skew-rabbet plane, you want the forward point of the blade on the inside edge of the rabbet, since that will tend to pull the plane tightly into the rabbet you're cutting. I decided that I was far enough along that I didn't want to change things to make it a right-handed plane. I've used both left and right-handed, and I can usually manage, even with a plane that goes the wrong way – it's only been a problem when I'm also fighting the grain, and that's why I have both left and right-handed skew rabbets in my collection.

Once I'd gotten the core of the plane cut, I removed the pallet wood sides, and started working on the nice cherry sides that were going to make the final plane. I laid out and drilled holes for the escapement (pictured below), cut a wedge from alder, then drilled in some indexing holes I could use when gluing all the pieces up (also below) so I could keep things from creeping while I was clamping all the pieces together.

Drilling holes for the escapement of the plane Drilling alignment holes for the dowels that would align all the pieces

Now that I had an idea of how all the pieces would go together, it was time to get the wedge cut and tweaked for thickness. It's not rocket surgery, but it's a lot easier to do when you can take the sides off the plane and look at the angles and draw directly onto the wedge with a pencil so you get things right. With that done, it was time for the glue-up.

Once the plane was glued together, I had a few days to wait for the blades (I made two, in case I screwed one up) to get back from AZ. I rough-carved the escapement at this point, but I needed a blade to know exactly how tall the escapement needed to go to make room for the blade.

Left view of the plane Right view of the plane

I then cleaned up the blade (removing scale from the heat treat, mostly), and put the final edge on the blade to match the actual glued-up plane body. Once that was done, I could fettle the plane, flattening the bed for the blade with floats, opening the mouth up enough to handle the blade thickness, carving the end of the wedge to help steer shavings out the escapement (they curl because of the skew, and I'm still not enough of a pro to know just how tightly they'll curl), and using my belt-sander to bring the plane down to final thickness (you want the plane to be just a hair thinner than the width of the blade so the blade edge protrudes just a bit). With no shop, the belt-sander just got wheeled out into the driveway, and I let the New Mexico winds blow the dust to Texas.

With the thickness right, it was mostly finishing work. Cut the chamfers on the edges of the plane so it feels nice in the hand, carve a little detail in the wedge because I knew Brian would appreciate that, and hit the various pieces with some linseed oil and paste wax.

And here's the note that went in the box:

pages 1 and 2 of the handwritten note, text reads: Brian, Happy swap! Enclosed find a rabbet plane made from ipe sole, poplar core, cherry sides and an alder wedge. I gave it a 45° bedding angle with a 30° skew. It should work reasonably well in most woods. The blade is O-1 steel. I got help from Dave Kelley on the heat treating. I have sharpened the blade, and it should be ready to go unless the post damaged it. Also included is a spokeshave with a Hock Tools O-1 blade. It is also made from ipe. You may want to touch up the blade, but it should also be ready to go. If you want a wider mouth, put a washer under each end of the blade. Hope you enjoy them. Finish on both is linseed oil, followed by wax. A little wax on the sole if they drag should make them good as new again. pages 3 and 4 of the note, which reads: I think that is about it. Hope you get years of use out of them. Oh! One last thing, the rabbet plane is technically a left-handed one. I cut the skew the wrong way and didn't realize it until I went to grind the blade. Oops! I can manage to use it right-handed though. I think you will be able to make it work. -Dave Polaschek p.s. I have not completely tuned up the plane. The blade is not perfectly flat, but it seems to bed well enough. Drop me a message if you find it chattering or otherwise not performing.


Spokeshave showing escapement and date mark

This was a spokeshave I made as a bonus for the 2020 surprise swap. I started with a Hock Tools blade, and these instructions for making a spokeshave. Plus a piece of ipe I had on hand. It went to Brian Johns, and I hope he's happy with it!

Spokeshave showing blade and sole

#project #swap #woodworking #toolmaking

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Originally written Apr 2, 2019

Another through-tang carving knife using a Morakniv 120 blade blank. Stabilized sweet gum from a friend's place in St. Louis, with blue and black dye. Also brass bolster from a batch made for me by a friend with a mill.

Right side view of the knife Spine view of the knife Left view of the knife Blade view of the knife View showing the guard / bolster of the knife View showing the pommel of the knife

Learned a few more things not to do while putting this one together, but it came out pretty well. Think I'll hit it with a thin coat or two of shellac before I call it completely done.

Brass guards and end mill bits

#woodworking #project

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The simpler of the two squares I made

During the last surprise swap, Bill Berklich made Squares Everywhere and I thought that was fairly neat. I'm going to be building a bunch of bookcases for our home, and rather than dive right in, I figured I could procrastinate by building some of my own. I went back and looked up Chris Schwarz's writeup online, and then started digging through my scraps.

Back side of simpler square

I found a fairly nice scrap of mahogany, and a birch 1×3. Since I wasn't sure what I was doing, I slapped together the square you see above. Nothing fancy at all, but it's actually square and I can use it to mark edges, but only in one direction. And shaping the mahogany got me some practice cutting curves and such (and encouraged me to finish my spokeshave so I could clean up the curvy edges).

Side 1 of the fancier square

Next was putting a profile on the birch board so I could make a fancy handle. I cut a rebate and plowed a groove in the birch, then got out my hollows and rounds and made the profile you see on the handles in pictures 1 and 2. Then I cut another rebate in the back of the board and sawed off a couple lengths in the section where my profile worked cleanly. I got the mahogany shaped, and carved a few patterns in it. The longer lines are done with a straight gouge, stabbing in twice to make a V, which is a technique I want to get better at for carving letters. And it meant I had to find my gouges and carpet tape so I could hold the piece while carving it.

Side 2 of the fancier square

Then it was time to glue things up. I drilled a couple 4/16th holes, and used some dowels to align the pieces so they'd stay square. After gluing them together, I had to run a plane along the edges to get things actually square, and run a chisel along the joint to clean up the glue squeeze-out.

Then a coat of linseed oil, and a light coat of wax, and it's done, and I managed to put off the real project for almost a full week.

Update Jan 26, 2023: I still use these two squares on a regular basis. They're a gateway drug into making your own tools, and I'm definitely hooked.

#woodworking #handyTools

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Originally written Apr 18, 2020

top and bottom views of the spokeshave

Started with a piece of katalox from Savage Woods, a spokeshave blade from Ron Hock and some directions, which I mostly ignored, as I've done this before.

I found that working katalox is pretty challenging. It's a very hard wood, and while attempting to drill a pilot hole before drilling the larger radius hole for the curve in the handle, I snapped off the drill bit in the wood, and then had to work around that until I cut away enough wood to free the bit.

Bottom view of the shave

Shaped the handle with drills, turning saws, rasps, files, a knife, and probably some cursing, too. Not sure which was the most effective, but I got there in the end. I mostly finished with the knife and a file. Hit the shave with a coat of oil, and here we are. It needs a little fine-tuning yet, but I sliced a bit off my finger testing how wide the mouth was, so I'm going to write it up and call it a day.

top view of the shave

Update Jan 26, 2023: This is still one of my most-used spokeshaves. This is my low-angle one, and the small shave from HNT Gordon is my high-angle version. Really glad I made this one, though.

#woodworking #handyTools #toolmaking

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Originally written Jun 21, 2018, modeled on my shop dustpan

oblique view of wooden dustpan

I've got a friend who's opening a new shop soon. She cuts hair, and I thought that a dustpan on a stick would make a nice shop-warming present.

wooden dustpan sitting in front of a stucco wall

Hand-resawn poplar sides and back, dovetailed together. Mahogany? plywood top and bottom, a doug fir piece of molding on the back to tip the front down so it rests securely on the floor, an ash front strip and handle, and cherry “hubcaps” on the ends of the pivot.

front view of the wooden dustpan

Finished with a coat of BLO, three coats of platina shellac, and a coat or two of orange shellac.

glue-up view of the wooden dustpan, with the bottom partially installed so that the sides stay the correct distance apart

#woodworking #project

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