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

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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.

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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

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Originally written May 9, 2017

Completed shop stool

Back in February, I bought a large slab of spalted elm I'm using to build a new workbench. A piece from the end of the slab was big enough for a stool, so I decided to build a tall and sturdy shop stool for myself.

Slab of elm. This will become a seat

Two corners cut off the slab

I cut two corners off a rectangular piece, then shaped the legs from red oak using a jig and a jack plane. Took another piece of red oak and spoke-shaved it down to make a stretcher, and built another jig to drill the angled holes in the legs for the stretcher. Then made the final stretcher from a scrap of white oak, and built yet another jig for the hole in the back leg, as that's at a different angle than the first two legs.

Red oak stretcher

Some holes and some glue, a little clean-up with a card scraper on the legs.

Legs in the stool, stretcher between the legs, clamped with brightly colored vet-wrap

Carved the seat using spokeshaves and trial and error. Finish it all with three coats of BLO and I have a completed stool.

Stool with a flat seat - carving of the seat is next

The design is loosely based on a stool made by Chris Schwarz.

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Originally written Jul 4, 2017

Five board bench in its original leftover house-paint finish

Lately all of my woodworking projects seem to take a long time to wrap up. Last Saturday, I noticed Dave Rutan's five board bench post, and said to myself, “Hey, I could make one of those pretty quickly!”

I set up my 7” miter saw, dug out an 8' 2×12 and an 8' 2×4 and got to work. First two cuts (with a hand saw) were the legs. 20” seemed about the right length. Then a 48” seat left me with an 8” long scrap. The 2×4 got one end chopped off at 45 degrees on the miter saw, then cut to 48” on the long side, and another 48” long chunk of 2×4, which left me with a 6” long piece of scrap.

With my five boards cut, and the miter saw already set to 45 degrees, I cut the wedges out of the bottom of the legs. I made the straight bit 3” wide, with a 6” wide cutout in the middle. I didn't worry about the depth of the cut, figuring that this is a quick and dirty bench. I also cut the notches in the tops of the legs to put in the 2×4s down the sides of the bench. Again, I didn't worry about the depth of the cut, figuring that it wouldn't be too big. I did cut off the notches with a hand-saw so I didn't have too many stray cuts.

Assembled five-board bench

Two cordless drills, one with a drill bit for pilot holes, and the other with a Torx bit, plus a couple dozen deck screws left over from another project and I was into the assembly. The legs and sides went together first. Drill, screw, check for square. Two screws at each corner and things seemed square enough. Drop the seat on top and screw in one corner. Check for square, adjust a little, and drive in the screw diagonally opposite the first one, and things should be good. Four more screws and the seat is on.

end view of the five board bench

Then I sat on the seat, and took a 6tpi rasp to edges, corners and such, rounding things off to make it less likely someone would get a splinter. As I worked, I noticed that there was a little wobble in the bench, so I grabbed the 8” chunk of 2×12, and cut it in half diagonally, then put that between the leg and the seat with four screws holding everything in place. Went to the opposite corner of the bench and did the same with the 2×4 scrap I had (the other half of the 2×12 had a knot that looked like it might be weak, so I tossed it).

bottom view of the five-board bench, showing the handles

Everything together and smoothed, I cut two handles in the top. Two sets of five holes made with a 1” spade bit, then a little rasp work to clean them up, and I had handles (or flatulence slots). Used the bench that afternoon at a neighborhood picnic. It's nice to do a project that's usable in a single day!

Sunday I primed the bench. Monday I painted the underside and today I painted the top.

Five board bench sitting on our portal with a rostra hanging near it

Updated Oct 7, 2020: Here's the bench after we moved to Santa Fe and repainted it with a sea-green enamel rather than leftover house paint. It sits next to our front door, and many of our neighbors have commented how nice it is.

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Originally written Oct 29, 2017

Completed dustpan, sitting on a bench

I've been needing a dust pan for my shop for a while. I have a cheap one, but in order to sweep up, I end up having to bend down, and with my bad back, that's no fun. So when I saw the one in Popular Woodworking by The Schwarz, I added that to my to-do list.

Sides of the dustpan, held in a vise with the rasp and spokeshave that shaped the curved bits

I cut a couple pieces of elm for the sides. They've been rattling around my shop for a while, and I wasn't sure what to do with them. A piece of scrap hemlock served as the back. The handle is the leftover legs from a failed shop stool rounded off with a 1” circular plane (aka dowel maker) and then tapered down to 9/16”. I wedged the two pieces of handle together, then drilled 11/16” holes in the elm sides, figuring that the tapered bit would fit in there pretty well.

Fitting the handle pivot to the width of the dustpan

A piece of 3/16” plywood made the top and the bottom of the dust pan. The sides sit in rabbets on the back, as I'm no good at dovetails. The back sits about a half-inch below the bottom, tipping the pan down so the front edge is flat on the floor, and I tapered the front end of the bottom by planing it a bit. The bottom isn't held in especially well, but the back of it sits in a groove in the back. If it fails, it should be easy to make another and replace it. The front edge is a little fragile, and I expect it'll wear out over time, requiring me to plane it down every once in a while. Maybe I'll make a metal edge at some point.

Fixing the handle to the pivot

I made a couple “nuts” out of walnut I had laying around to dress up the ends of the pivot in the pan. Glued them on and then finished the dustpan with a couple coats of BLO. I'll probably wax it at some point.

Gluing the dustpan together

Update: Jan 26, 2023: This dustpan still gets used almost ever day I'm in the shop. The only complaint I have with it is that the handle should be about six inches longer so I don't have to bend at all to use it, but otherwise it's a champ!

The dustpan, minus the top

I also made a second version of this as a gift for a friend.

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two turned shaving brushes flanking three bottle stopper / pourers

I took some time off from bigger projects in the shop lately to play with my lathe.

Pictured above, from left to right:

  • A eucalyptus and ash shaving brush. The brush is silvertip badger, and is pretty nice. The eucalyptus was cut and the kerfs replaced with pieces of ash microlumber the same size as the kerf of my table saw, and then I turned the resulting piece to make a Celtic knot. This was the second shaving brush I made in the past week.

  • A russian olive bottle stopper / pourer. This was the third of three bottle stoppers I made. I had a little fun with the shape, trying to enhance the look of the grain of the wood.

  • A maple and pernambuco bottle stopper / pourer. My second of the three, and first attempt at a two ring celtic knot. The pernambuco tends to chip out if I’m not super-careful in my turning. Lesson learned…

  • A maple bottle stopper / pourer. This was my first attempt, and I was mostly concerned with getting the hole for the stopper the right depth. I decorated the maple a bit with a Henry Taylor Decorating Elf which uses a spiral bit to make different patterns depending the angle you hold it in relation to the moving wood on the lathe. I also used some markers to add black and red rings.

  • A mimosa shaving brush. My first attempt, and I didn’t get too fancy, just letting the wood do the talking. I think it came out pretty well. Mixing the very small amount of epoxy needed (about 7.5ml total) to glue in the metal cap and the knot of the brush is tricky, but I did discover that if I wax the wood really well first, it’s easier to clean any slop off afterwards.

#woodturning #woodworking #project

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I wanted to experiment with punched metal. Well, I clearly need more practice, but it’s promising, and I think this one came out good enough to send off to a friend.

oblique downward view of the box, showing the top and front

I started with a photo of a raven that I printed onto a piece of paper, then taped it onto a cut-open and flattened-out Coke can. Then I punched where the dark was in the image, putting the punches closer together in the darker areas and farther apart in the lighter areas.

raven sitting on a juniper branch, head slightly raised

The biggest problem is that I couldn’t keep consistent in how hard I was punching the metal, so about half of my strikes tore through it, rather than leaving a dimple. But when I started, I thought maybe I wanted to punch through the metal, so I learned something there. I also was using a 1/32 inch nail set, which ends up being pretty big. I may have to grind my own punch for this. Or make a few.

interior view of the box - quite plain

The box is dovetailed salt cedar sides, a 9mm plywood bottom, and a 6mm plywood top with juniper put on top of it to hold down the metal. After gluing that up, I poured about 50ml of epoxy over the metal to protect it. A pop can might be thinner than is ideal for is sort of thing, as pieces of metal broke loose as I was trying to glue it down. More learning, there.

top view of the box, showing the metal with no reflections

The box is finished with a few coats of shellac. Super blonde, I believe. I like the way the salt cedar grain darkens when finished, and the juniper really popped when the shellac hit it. It’ll fade some over time, but the contrast between the red heartwood and blonde sapwood will remain. It’s going to a friend, and hopefully he’ll like it.

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Originally written May 2, 2018

I couldn't find anyone describing how to cut dovetails for non-square corners, so I decided to write this up. This trick will work for any angle dovetails, but you'll have to change up the workholding jigs.

This is a description of how to cut dovetails for a 135 degree corner. This is the angle used on an octagonal box (if all the angles are equal). They're not perfect, and there's probably a better way to do it, but this is the best I found.

My first try cutting 135 degree dovetails used no special workholding. I just threw the pieces in the vise and started cutting. I cut tails first and I cut them pretty much as normal, except with the end of the board at a 45 degree angle, so they were pretty easy.

Tails cut on a board with the end cut at 135 degrees

The pins were fairly straight too. This is feeling easy!

Pins marked on a board with a 135 degree angled end

But the fit left something to be desired.

First attempt at a 135 degree dovetailed corner, showing a fairly loose fit

So I sat and thought for a bit and decided that maybe I could use a square piece in the corner, all tails, and put pins on the edge pieces that would go into it, and then cut the 45 degree angle afterwards. It couldn't be any worse than the previous attempt, could it?

A corner piece with tails cut into it from two directions at 90 degrees to each other

Cutting long pins into the end of a board

Boards with long pins inserted into the board with two sets of tails cut into it

The assembled corner, with the corner sanded off, leaving the pin boards almost meeting

Well, that worked okay, and I might end up trying that method again, but I'll have to think harder about the grain direction in that corner piece when I do.

So I tried again. Third time's the charm, right?

I cut the tails square this time, just like you would on a normal dovetail. I even gang-cut them two at a time.

Gang-cutting tails on two boards, as I typically do for dovetails

Then I cut the pins on a board with the end angled 45 degrees using a jig I made for the purpose. I made the 45 degree end on the board using a miter jack before cutting.

One corner together with the pin-board fitting into the tails

Two adjacent corners fit together, with a mirror behind so the inside of the joint is visible too

Those came out pretty good I think. They're a little gappy where I went astray with the coping saw while cutting out the waste, but they glued up solid.

Hopefully someone else will learn from this and find it useful. To get the boards to look good in the corner, just make the corner piece (the walnut in the above photo) 0.7 times as thick as the edge piece (the ash). The example I show has the walnut thicker, and the corner looks kinda goofy to my eye.

#technique #woodworking #dovetails

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