Finishing a breadboard

I’m still focusing on getting through all the half finished projects and wood stockpile so every opportunity I get I try and get something completed and out of the way. I’d had this breadboard glued up for ages but it wasn’t flat so I kept putting off work on it. This is how it started, you can see the joins aren’t great and there’s glue spillout.


It does have a nice grain and even the marks add character


I’m not a huge fan of sanders, they are noisy and throw dust everywhere but I hit the board with my random orbital sander and got it cleaned up


It still wasn’t quite flat though so I used a jointer plane to take off the high points. I’d have used my jack plane but as usual I’d put off sharpening so it needed work and I was trying to get this done in a short period of time


I gave it another sand, then switched to a sheet sander and a higher grit to finish it off


A few coats of food safe orange oil and some buffing and it’s done. Tick that one off the list!




Restoring a pair of cabinetmakers screwdrivers

Back in my ‘It’s a tool so I must have it’ phase a few years back I bought these two cabinetmakers screwdrivers. I must have needed them badly because they’ve been sitting in the bottom of a box ever since.

I still haven’t decided if I want to keep them or not but decided to restore them and see how they turned out first. Here’s what they looked like to begin with


First step was to take the rust off. I’d long ago learnt that nothing beats steel wool. I’ve done citric acid, rust remover, awire wheel in my grinder and sandpaper and steel wool works just as well as any of them and it leaves a finish closer to the original one.


This is how they looked once done.


After cleaning, you can see the makers mark clearly on the larger of the two


On the smaller one, the ferrule isn’t seated properly and there’s old paint in the gap, I’d guess these had been used to open and possibly stir paint sometime in their life.


I used a small scraper to clean out the paint then gently tapped the ferrule into place. It already had dents in it but I was careful not to add more


I gave the handles a cleaning with 1200 grit sandpaper being careful not to remove too much of the original finish, otherwise the old steel and the fresh handle would look strange


I gave them a coat of shellac mixed with a walnut stain. It looks thick and not great to start with, but I wanted a thick coat to get into all old scratches


Fine steel wool cleaned up the shellac and a few coats of beeswax later they were done. I still need to grind the tips square to get them working properly again but they came up pretty well. I still don’t know if I’ll keep them but at least I can see what they look like now.


Making A Carver’s Bench Hook

As anyone who reads regularly knows, I’ve been doing some carving recently. Part of this comes from the desire to create something different and partly to use up the wood scraps laying around. My efforts have been mostly spoons and shallow bowls but the occasional other piece gets done as well. Up until now I’ve been using whatever way I could to hold them while I worked on them but when I was cleaning up the wood pile I found a scrap of 1/4 pegboard I hadn’t used. It wasn’t big enough to use in a cabinet so it was on the throw out pile until I happened to see a picture of a carver using a bench hook with a few holes drilled in it to help hold their work.

A light went on and I realised that if I cut the pegboard up and glued it into a block I’d have the base of the hook done. I figured it was a good way to use up the scrap and it would give me something useful at the same time. Total build time ended up being a bit over two hours including finishing and making pegs.

To start with I cut three pieces to the roughly the same size, glued them up and when dry I cut them to final size. I’d decided to use the back of the pegboard as it looked nicer and the textured surface could be helpful.


The next step was to cut a few pieces for the top as these stop the work moving. I’m right handed so the stops go top and left, if you were left handed you could put the left stop on the other side. I had another project being glued at the same time and it was at this point I stopped to think ‘I’m glad I have so many clamps’. I also cut and added the piece to make the hook part and attached it the same way. All of this is scrap pine leftover from other projects.


Once the glue was dry, I removed the clamps, put in a few nails just to stop them moving when in use and cleaned it all up with a scraper. I’ve got an old skarsten scraper that does a great job removing glue. I picked it up for maybe $3 ages ago and use it all the time.


The next step was to put a small chamfer on the edges. I used a block plane for what I could then finished with a chisel into the inside corner. I just happened to pick up my favourite 1″ chisel (funny that) and had to work pretty hard to get a shaving. Maybe I need to stop building jigs and spend some time sharpening!


After this was done then the whole thing gets sanded. I didn’t sand the pegboard totally smooth as I wanted to keep some of the texture for grip, but I wanted it to look nice. I know some people who think that a jig is finished when it works, but there’s not much difference in time and effort between ‘works’ and ‘works and looks good’ so I put in the extra effort.


Following on from the sanding, I gave the whole thing a coat of beeswax and buffed it to a nice shine. Then I cut some small length’s of 1/4 dowel to use as pegs and rounded the ends. Finished!!



I wanted to take some pictures of it in action to show you how it works though. Here it is holding a relief carving I’m working on. You don’t need the pegs in place for this as the frame stops the work moving. It’s really good in use, I was finding on a normal bench hook the work would slip sideways as I pushed a gouge into it but this doesn’t have the same problem. You would of course put the hook over the edge of the bench but that doesn’t make for quite as a good a photo ;)


It’s great for working on the bowl of a spoon. I normally hold the spoon and knife carve it, but the bowl normally give me trouble. Now with the pegs in place I can use a gouge to work on it without a problem. The pegs fit firmly into the holes and do a great job holding the spoon.



Lastly, it also works on really odd shaped work. This is a dolphin I’ve been working on and just by moving the pegs into position I can get it to any angle I need.



I’m really happy with the way it turned out and have already used it for a few more spoons since making it. Would I change anything about the design? Not at all. It works just the way I’d hoped. The only thing I may do is build some pegs with a piece on top that turns so I can lock a workpiece that doesn’t quite sit between pegs in place more tightly and that can be a project for another day.



How to clean up the wood pile

I’d imagine it’s the same for most if not all woodworkers. You buy wood, are given wood or the wood you already had somehow breeds and you end up with piles of it in every corner of the workshop. You cut it up and use it and all that seems to do is create more of it until it eventually takes over every surface and stops you working.

I’ve been trying to get my wood pile under control these past few weeks, and have been doing pretty well. Here’s a few bits of advice I’ve come up with as I worked through it.

1) Stop bringing in new wood immediately. The only way to start to get it under control is to stop the problem getting any worse

2) Discard anything that is beyond your power to use – anything too thick to cut or hard to work with the tools you have access to. If it’s good, try and sell it online but if it’s still there in a week or two get rid of it anyway. There’s often web sites where you can list it for free if all else fails, or if it’s good quality contact your local wood group and see if they want it.

3) Allocate wood to a specific project and cut parts. This helps you work out what you are going to use everything for and makes storage a lot easier. For example, I had a lot of short thin stock, so I cut out 30 spoon blanks out of scrap.


Then I went through and cut a pile of parts for ‘easy’ projects – Breadboards, Guitar picks, Drawer parts, Tool racks & Bowls. Masking tape and a permanent marker make it easy to label things and helps remind you what you’d planned for each piece of wood you’re keeping. It also impressed any visitors who happen to see it as they think you’re far more organised than you really are!


4) Sort small scraps

Start by putting everything out onto a flat surface. It will look like a huge mess but this way you can see everything you have


Sort it into types of wood. if you dont know or only have small amounts, into size will do


If you’ve found anything that can be bundled do so and put into the project area. Anything you can’t immediately allocate to a project should be bundled with the other piees of the same species or size. This keeps them from falling over on the shelf and lets you label them neatly for later use.



This is what this corner looked like when finished. Any semi finished projects are on the top shelf, parts labelled with species and planned use on the rest. It means that I can walk in, pick up parts for a project and make progress on them without wasting time thinking about what to do while in the workshop. It also helps when you only have a few minutes of time spare – I’ve finished 4 spoons just potting for 10 minutes at a time because once cut out I can just pick up a carving knife and shape a blank. If I’d had to get out the jigsaw and cut each blank every time I wouldn’t have even started on one of them.


The shelving unit holds the majority of what remains of my wood stock, there’s still a little bit of big stuff in the other corner to be dealt with – sheet goods and longer stock that I haven’t cut down yet, but it’s stacked neatly and the longer stock is in a bucket to keep it neat. It’s had the same process applied – labelled with the intended use and species, and so I know exactly what is available when needed.



I hope these tips give you some inspiration for dealing with your own wood pile.

Making small carving tools from scrap

I’ve been working on a relief carving of a freehand Tudor rose in Jelutong in recent weeks after going to a local woodcarvers meeting and being guided towards it as a practice piece.

I used their tools for the initial stages and planned to finish it with my own but when I got home I found I didn’t have anything small enough for the detail work inside the petals.

I’d read a couple of carving books where they talked about making your own small tools so decided to have a go. I’d read Mike Burton’s “Make Your Own Woodwork Tools” a number of times and he’d mentioned that street sweep bristles make good small tools. I work near a street that happens to be cleaned by a street sweeper so have picked up a decent collection of bristles over time but up until now haven’t had a use for them. I took one from my pile, gave it a quick going over with sandpaper to clean the rust off it and snapped it in half by bending it back on itself and then straightening it again until it broke.


I decided it would be easiest to shape the profile before I put them into handles so did that with a small file. The one on the right already had the shape of a skew so all I did was sharpen it a bit. The other had a small gouge shape filed into it and the outside shaped to match.



The next step was to make handles and as I had some dowel kicking around in a corner of the workshop that I’d salvaged from a wooden clothes airer it seemed fitting that I should use recycled wood to go with the recycled blades. I cut them to 11cm long which seemed about right for the blade after acouting for the bit that would be in the handle, and drilled them with my hand drill. If you want to mark the center of a dowel you can either use one of those plastic center finders, eyeball it and fix it when shaping or use a combination square and draw two lines at right angles to each other. I used the center finder since I had one handy.


The next step was fitting the blades to the handles. I used a glue called weldbond to do this and just put some in the hole and some on the blade before fitting them together. I’ve found it bonds wood and metal pretty well which is good because that’s what it claims to do!. Then I clamped the blade into the vice and tapped the handle a few times with a hammer to set the blade properly.



The next step was to shape the handle. My wife gave me a Pfeil carving knife last birthday and I’ve found that it really opened up my ability to shape wood. A few quick strokes and the handle had started to take shape



A few more strokes and a little sandpaper and it had really taken shape


All that was left was to give it a coat of beeswax to seal it and keep my hands from making it dirty and I had a finished carving tool. I did the other one the same way.



I put it to the test on the tudor rose carving with great results. It has a bit of flex in it but that can be an advantage when trying to make certain cuts and the recycled steel takes and holds a very good edge. I’m just glad I have a stockpile of it now in case anyone else decides to have a go making some tools of their own and it gets harder to find!

One final picture shows it in use, and you can see the find clean shavings it takes. I’m very happy with the result for both this gouge and the skew and may make more if I find a need for different shapes later on.



A visit to Timbertown

My wife and I recently spent a few days away in Port Macquarie on the northern coast of NSW. Most of the holiday was spent relaxing but we couldn’t be in the area and not take a trip to Timbertown, a recreation sawmill town in Wachope about 30m drive from where we were staying.


The first thing you see when you walk in is a huge wooden water wheel, restored by the Hastings woodworkers guild who have their clubhouse in the village.


There’s a few little galleries and recreations of things like a school, fire station and barber but the main attraction is the steam powered sawmill.


It’s amazing to me how they managed to move and cut such huge trees down to size. Here you can see them cutting a log into slices


The sign below reads “(2) Frame Saw. This vertical Frame Saw, carrying four blades, is used for breaking down the log into flitches. The frame is driven off the main shaft by a flat belt running on the drive pulley. The saw is disengaged by lowering the belt onto the loose pulley. The saw does 90-100 strokes per minute and the log moves through at a rate of 8-23 inches per minute, depending on the logs size”. For those like me who hadn’t heard the term ‘flitches’ before a quick google search describes them as “slabs of wood cut from a tree”.


That’s pretty amazing. That is a massive log and I haven’t seen too much electrical equipment that could handle that sort of workload. As a guide to size, that log was about a metre across.

There’s also the equivalent of a table saw, with a very large spinning blade that is used to break the flitches into boards. It’s all driven off the same engine from what I can see and is controlled by belts and levels. This blade would have been 60+ cm across.


There’s also a cutoff saw set in a bench where the boards are cut to length after being ripped to size. The blade is again huge and there’s nothing like a guard on it, just a handle to pull it across the wood being cut.


This is one of the blades from the table saw, and the machine used to sharpen it. It’s way too large to do by hand so the tool holds it and the spinning disc is moved onto the blade


There’s a little workshop downstairs, with a hand cranked drill press


and a large grinding wheel


The entire mill was great to see, it’s both very similar and very different to how we do things on a small scale in our own shops. Just make sure you don’t get chased by the bullocks on the way there!

Carving a shallow bowl (Part 2)

When I last had time to post, we were looking at how I’d carved a shallow dish. I’d roughed out the shape and sanded, but decided to make the bowl a bit deeper before continuing. Sometimes I like to work on something, put it away and let time guide me on how it should look and time was telling me to make the bowl deeper!



Then I smoothed the bowl using a card scraper, then sanded to 1200 grit with wet and dry sandpaper.


and the back was done the same way. The original wood used had a bad stain on it and I didn’t sand deep enough to remove it totally but it adds character so I left it this way.


Then I finished it with stain mixed into linseed oil


Here’s the finished result. I gave it three coats of beeswax later on but I’ll have to find the picture of that for a later post



Carving a shallow bowl (part 1)

I’ve had some meranti 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.


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


Using a coping saw, I cut one end to shape


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


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


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.


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


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


Then the other side.


Then I started shaping the ends


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.


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


and bottom


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!