The Woodwork Geek

Programmer by day, at night I become…The Woodwork Geek!

Carving a shallow bowl (part 1)

I’ve had some maple sitting in a corner of my garage for about 3 years, since I pulled apart my original plane till. This particular wood has a lot of meaning for me, it was originally part of a set of bunk beds my Dad made for me when I was a kid so I’d been saving it for something special.

I decided I wanted to make a shallow bowl and it would be perfect for it so selected a length that had good grain. It had been badly stained when it was part of the plane till but that could be fixed.

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I worked out the size I wanted and used a small plate to mark rounded ends

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Using a coping saw, I cut one end to shape

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then the other. Not the neatest cut in the world so I went back and fixed it

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Then it was time to start hollowing out the bowl. I’d been given a carver’s spoon for my recent birthday, which is a concave plane, so used it to start removing the middle out of the bowl shape

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After I’d done that half, I turned it around and did the rest. The carver’s spoon makes very quick work of this process, and once you’ve used it for a while you learn how to take either deep or shallow cuts to get just the shape you want.

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The next step was to start shaping the outside, so I turned it over and have a look at it to get a feel for what I wanted to do

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Using the same tool, I started shaping the outside. You wouldn’t think a tool designed for the inside of a bowl would work so well on the outside but it does. I could have used a plane here but since I already had this tool in my hand I used it and was very pleased with the results. First one side was shaped

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Then the other side.

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Then I started shaping the ends

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Then it was time to start refining the shape now that I had it sort of where I wanted it, so I started taking less aggressive cuts with the carver’s spoon to to get the bowl to a smoother shape.

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Then I started smoothing it out with rasps, card scrapers and gave it a light sand, top

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and bottom

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To give you an idea of how long this was taking, I was at this point in around an hour from the time I picked up the original bit of timber to use. By this point it was late on a Sunday evening and the light was getting low, so I stopped for the day with plans to finish it the next weekend.

I did take the time to admire the pile of shavings on the workbench though, for some reason they always make me smile!

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Tool Review : Faithful Gouges

I’ve been getting into carving in recent months, as you can see from my recent posts on spoon and guitar pick making, so I asked my wife for a few extra tools for my birthday to help me with my future projects.

First up on my wish list was a gouge for roughing out a bowl shape, and one for cleaning up the insides of spoon bowls. I have a few smaller gouges already but nothing that would take the abuse of turning a chunk of hardwood into something resembling a bowl, and no specialised gouges at all.

I did my research and basically it came down to either a few cheap gouges so I could see if I liked them or one expensive Pfeil one. I wasn’t convinced I’d use them enough to justify $70 on a single tool and I’d had a really great experience with a faithful brand skew chisel, which is much better that it’s price would indicate so that along with a recommendation from another blog set me in that direction.

My lovely wife ended up suprising me with three gouges. A 1″ straight, a 1/4″ spoon bent and a 1/4 Bowl gouge.

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For the price, which is about $14 each, these are pretty well made. The handles are walnut, turned consistently and finished quite well, though there’s a little runoff into the grooves and they could do with the finish being rubbed out to be really good.

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The steel ferrule isn’t overly heavy duty but it’s no worse than that on some vintage gouges. It looks like brass here but it isn’t.

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The actual blade, which is the part that matters, is actually really good. I know from the skew chisel that it holds an edge well, and these three seem no different. The tool shape is good and it’s like someone who actually carves may have been involved in the design rather than them just working off a picture.

Being a cheap tool there’s no effort to polish the machine marks off the steel, even on the bevel, but it wasn’t much work to do so myself. The factory edge wasn’t great but again, it wasn’t hard to get it the way I wanted it. It’s a little too steep for my liking but works.

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I’ve had them since August and held off on writing about them until now to make sure first impressions were correct and they were.

I’ve only been touching up the edge with a strop even after quite a lot of use. So far what I’m finding is that they are comfortable to use, hold an edge well and the handles will stand up to being hit with a carving mallet without issue – even though my carving mallet happens to be made of spotted gum. I’d happily buy more of these if needed.

 

Making Guitar Picks

One of my other hobbies is playing guitar. I’ve actually done a few restorations over the years and quite enjoyed it.

I’ve been experimenting with my tone and decided to try making a some picks out of different materials to see how they turned out. I had a bunch of different bits of hardwood around that I thought would make good picks so cut different width slices off a few to try out.

The top left piece I think is Karri, the bits on the right are some form of maple and the bottom left piece is some sort of Aussie hardwood that I know is as hard as a rock. You’ll notice everything is cut off engrain, it was the only way I could easily get the slices the size I wanted. I also thought that the endgrain edge hitting the strings might be stronger and hold up better and so far it’s proving to be the case.

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I decided to try the unknown hardwood first as it’s the nicer wood and it’s also heavy as anything.

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I used an existing pick to mark up the shape I wanted, using a white pencil. It’s a very handy thing to have around the workshop for marking dark wood.

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I put it into a vice and clamped it lightly, then started using a coping saw to cut out the shape. It turns out that the wood was incredibly brittle and basically shattered. I thought maybe it was just too thin so I cut a thicker piece and tried again with the same result.

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I gave up on this wood and tried a bit of the maple. I decided to cut it differently, using a tenon saw to cut the basic shape instead of using the coping saw and risking breaking these too

 

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I used a combination of rasps and sandpaper to get it to the right basic shape.

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I then shaped the curves until I was happy with the result and it felt right in my hands.

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Once it was done I was really happy with the result so made a couple more, one more in maple in a different shape and one out of the redgum. I also branches out a bit into metalwork and made one out of copper and one out of aluminium.

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In use, the middle one of maple feels great and brings out a really big, beefy tone. You can get really good attack on the note. The thickness tapers down to a fairly thin point though so you can also do fine work.

The far right one out of maple is a little too thick, it works fine but it’s also a little short to grip well. It does however work well on Bass guitar strings.

The one second from left is decent, but it doesn’t flex enough and so doesn’t have quite the attack or feel of the middle one.

The aluminium one is odd. It feels fine, but it basically deadens the strings. You get a very flat attack and no resonance, which is very odd. It does work well with certain effects though. The biggest problem is that it is very soft and leaves a residue on the strings.

The copper one on the left was the real surprise. It was hammered out of a smaller piece of copper and so is thicker at the grip end than the tip, and the hammer marks add terrific grip. The tone it brings out is bright and clean, but because of the thickness tape it’s also possible to really dig into the strings

 

Making a Jarrah Breadboard

Earlier in the year I had the chance to use a powered jointer at the local woodwork club so I cut up a bunch of hardwood stock I had sitting around into breadboard sized lengths and used the machine to get the edges ready. The one shown in this post is Jarrah and was originally a decking board.

I used biscuits to join them, and this is where I have photos from. In the first image the board has been glued up but not sanded and is very rough. You can also see the glue spillout in the joints.

 

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I cleaned up the joints with a card scraper, then I used a combination of my scrub plane, jointer plane and a belt sander to make sure everything was nice and flat. I then sanded it to 1200 grit manually. I also rounded the edges with a block plane at this point.

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I gave it three coats of canola oil, which is food safe since it’s a cooking oil, buffing each coat in with a cloth.

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Finally, here it is with the first loaf of bread on it ready to be cut. It’s been in use nearly 6 months now and is holding up really well. Jarrah is a tough wood so barely scratches when the knife touches it, and it’s held up nice and flat even without breadboard ends being used.

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A shelf for parts bins

I’ve been making a concerted effort to make my workshop as tidy as possible and to keep it that way. A huge part of that has focused on getting rid of tools and wood that I have no use for, but I’ve also been trying to add storage where possible.

I already had a shelf under the saw till, but it was too narrow for the parts bins I wanted to put there, so I edge glued another scrap to the front, rounded the corners to make it look neat and added a couple of support pieces underneath for added support.

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Once the clamps came off I gave it a light sanding. It will need a coat of linseed oil to match the old part, but that can come later. I tend to build first, finish later!

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Here you can see the parts bins in place. I originally had about 40 of these full of ju…tool related items, but I’ve managed to clean those out. I did need a few though for thinks that wouldn’t store nicely elsewhere like sanding blocks.

Total project cost was three bits of scrap, some glue and about 20 minutes work.

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A few more tool racks

Given how happy I am with the screwdriver rack, I decided to make a few more. I still have lots of tools that could use a better home than a badly fitting pegboard hook. I have plenty of offcuts of pine and plywood in the woodshop so worked out the sizes of a few racks, cut them to size and glued them up. You’ll notice that I remembered to use masking tape to stop the glue spillage that was a problem last time.

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A pile of tool racks in waiting

 

I wanted to make a shelf for my surform tools, which despite having been on the pile of ‘tools to sell’ a few times have managed to make their way into project after project, for my marking gauges, which are a pair of nice old Australian made ones that dey attempts to hang on any conventional hook, and for my Gimlets, which actually do get some use for starting pilot holes.

The rack for the marking gauges was actually quite interesting to make. I got to cut a mortise and use my hole saw, which I don’t often find a use for.

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Surform Rack

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Marking Gauges

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Gimlets

Here you can see them on the pegboard. It’s starting to look more tidy already

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Making a difference already

 

A New Screwdriver Rack

“Ouch”

That was the censored version of the sound I made after getting out of the car last week and again knocking a screwdriver down onto my foot. My workshop is also my garage, and there’s not much room separating the two so I tend to knock things over quite a bit if they aren’t secured to the pegboard properly.

I’ve been through about racks for this particular set of screwdrivers in the past 4 years. The first was a ugly red plastic one from the hardware store where nothing fit properly. The second was a metal rack built for screwdrivers, but it didn’t fit into the pegboard properly and since it was a lot heavier when it hit my foot it went as well. The latest attempt was the metal pegboard screwdriver hooks but nothing sits properly in those.

I had some time on the weekend so decided to build a custom fitted rack instead. This is my only screwdriver set and it’s still got all its pieces after 7 years somehow and I’d like to keep it that way.

First I measured up some scrap pine to see how big the rack needed to be. I ended up starting the leftmost hole 4cm in, then there’s 4cm to the next all the way across except for the two thin screwdrivers, those are 3.5cm apart.

 

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An awl is a handy thing to have in the workshop. This one was my dad’s and would be probably close to 50 years old and still works fine. I used it to mark the spot where I wanted the drill bit to center on so it didn’t wander.

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While I have a very nice drillpress, I was enjoying the quiet in the workshop so decided to do this by hand. This old Stanley brace made short work of the holes. I was drilling into a dog hole each time so I didn’t cut up my bench, but this left a bit of blowout on the exit side of each hole so next time I’d use a backing board.

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I used a hand held countersink to chamfer the holes top and bottom. Again, a useful little handtool to have around.

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I test fit the screwdrivers to make sure everything wa the way I expected

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Then I marked up and cut a piece of plywood to use as a back. The reason it needs a back is I want this to hang on standard pegboard hooks.

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I glued and clamped it for about half an hour, then added some nails for strength

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I gave it a sand and rounded the corners over to make it looks a little more finished. It also helps if I do drop it on myself again!. I also measured where the hooks needed to go through and drilled those holes

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A coat of boiled linseed oil was added to protect it, though next time I’ll remember to put masking tape on to protect it from glue spillage.

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Here it is finished and working. I’m pleased to say I’ve not yet knocked anything out of it :)

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Spoon Making, Part II

After enjoying the process of making the first spoon so much, I decided to have a go at a second one. This time the wood was Jarra, and boy was it so much harder to work than the maple! It took nearly twice as long to make, even though I improved my methods this time around and used rasps and spokeshaves to do most of the shaping.

Halfway through I decided that this was going to be a ‘Man’s’ spoon, and the proportions echo that. It’s a bit of a beast actually!. Here it is next to the original one for comparison.

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Making a hand carved wooden spoon

I’ve got a lot of odd bits of wood around the woodshop at the moment that are too small to do anything much with but far too good to throw out, so I decided to have a go at making some small gifts to give away with them instead.

I have a book about using up offcuts, and one of the projects in there was a spoon and that took my fancy, so off to the workshop I trotted to have a go at it.

Rummaging through my woodpile I found a likely bit of maple to use, then a raid of the kitchen cabinets found me a spoon I liked the shape of to use as a template. This one’s a salad server but I thought it would work anyway. The maple I picked up is only 9mm thick so I decided to reduce the arch of the original and make a flatter version.

This piece is quite a lot darker than the photo suggests, so I used a white pencil. That’s a handy thing to have in the workshop for marking dark woods, plus it’s softer than a lead pencil and the marks are easier to rub out.

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The next step was to cut the basic spoon blank out, and so I reached for my trusty copying saw. Halfway through I heard a high pitched ‘ping’ that anyone who’s got experience with this type of saw knows indicates the need for a new blade, and so I donned my pith helmet and went looking for one in the dark recesses of the workshop that I normally fear to tread. I got out alive and finished cutting out the blank.

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This is where it started to get interesting. Apart from one attempt at a scraper shave some years ago, I generally stick to building with right angles. Working with curves is something new for me. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about shaping it so ended up using a combination of a coarse rasp and a flap wheel in my drill press. Neither worked overly well, and since then I’ve worked out better ways to do it, but we’ll cover that in a future post.

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Even harder than the shaping was the bowl. I have some gouges, but like lots of tools in my workshop they have never been properly restored and were far from sharp. In the end I used a narrow bench chisel, bevel down, and then a convex card scraper to hollow and smooth the bowl of the spoon.

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Card scrapers turns out to be handy for the outside as well, between them and some heavy sanding I got the spoon shaped and ready to be finished.

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The final step was to give it some oil, I used spray canola as I know olive oil goes rancid after a while and I wanted to use a food safe oil. This is the top

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and the back.

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I’m really happy with the result, the design leaves it a little narrow at the neck to be useful as a cooking spoon it will make a lovely salad server once I make a fork to go with it.

The best part of the project was that it was so different to what I normally do. It presented a number of challenges and I found later that there’s better ways to do parts of it, but it’s something that was highly enjoyable to make, only took a few hours from start to finish and was a truly pleasant way to spend a winter’s afternoon. If this post encourages you to have a go at one yourself I’d love to see the results, please post a link in the comments section below.

Cheers

Andrew

You can never have too many clamps

This may not be entirely true, but the more woodwork you do the more clamps you’ll need. I ended up with every single quick-grip and small f-clamp I own on a project a while back, and could have used a few more.

The other day I happened to be in the right place at the right time and picked up a bunch of the new 300mm Crescent Connect clamps that had been heavily discounted.  My local hardware store had them on display for many months as a new item, then reduced to half price when they weren’t selling, then I happened to be there as they hit the discount bin and I managed to talk them down even further. They are good clamps, and were priced well even at full price so I’m not sure why more didn’t sell but I’m not complaining.

This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a large number of quality clamps at a big discount, the first time was when my local store stopped stocking Bessey brand clamps and got rid of their entire inventory. I always regretted not buying more of those so grabbed as many as I could this time around.

I also ended up with some vouchers over Christmas so added more 150mm Irwin quick-grips to my collection. I’m reaching the stage where I’ll need to build more racks, but again, I’m not complaining about that either!

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and the new additions

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