Category Archives: Toolmaking

Building a Jigsaw Table

Let me say it. I’m scared of table saws. I’ve had two old ones at some point or other, neither with blade guards, and they were the first things to go as soon as I need more room. I don’t even like using a circular saw.

I happened to find Stumpy Nubs book about building your own workshop machines at my local library though and in it he built a table to hold his jigsaw. I thought to myself that it could be useful, and since it has a guard over the blade it should be OK so I set about making one. Most of the timber is from the dismantled scroll saw table so it’s a bit damaged but is fine for workshop use.

I originally planned to have the jigsaw go this way, giving me a longer table for rip cuts but it wouldn’t fit on my bench in use so I changed it around

I attached four short legs to it, just long enough to elevate the jigsaw clear of my workbench but not so high as to make it hard to use

I cut the slot for the jigsaw and mounted it underneath with screws through the existing guide fence holes and a piece of wood over the back to hold it. I also had to cut a section of the back rail out to allow the vent port to go through it


I added a simple adjustable arm with a wingnut and a piece of PVC to go over the blade so it wasn’t all exposed

I ended up having to change the arm configuration as it kept vibrating loose, now it has two bolts and the actual arm has longer screws in it as well as glue. I also made a fence for it so I can do rip cuts.

It’s great in use. The bar at the front is so I can clamp it to my bench, otherwise it vibrates too much. The jigsaw isn’t mounted quite straight to the fence so I need to adjust that but I’ve already used it quite a lot with good results. The blade is a t-shank style so I can easily swap them without effort but the top does lift out if needed.

While I do have a scrollsaw, the heavier jigsaw blades work much better for some jobs. The don’t deflect as much as I’d expect but I may change the guard so there’s support at the back to stop any pressure on the blade moving it.

I’m really happy with this project and it doesn’t take a lot of space either.


Turning trash into a Chip Carving Knife

I blame Derek Cohen for inspiring this project. He’s a woodworker that I admire a lot but if I hadn’t stumbled across this post on his website I wouldn’t have thought that I could easily take an old plane blade and turn it into a chip carving knife.

Turns out the easy bit wasn’t quite correct but I did manage it!

I started with an old blade. I’ve bought and been given and got rid of more planes than I can count so there’s a few blades sitting around unused. This didn’t have a brand on it but a quick test on the grinder showed the steel was good.


I marked up the blade shapes I wanted. I wanted a pair of knives for chip carving so one is the chip knife and the other a stab knife.


I tried to cut then out with a hacksaw fitted with a hard steel cutting blade but it would barely touch the blade


Instead I ended up using a cutoff wheel in my dremel rotary tool. The wheel was a lot larger when I started than finished!


I got one blade free of the original blade


Then the second. Cutting a curve with a dremel is quite hard


They had a lot of rough edges so I put them in a little model making vice that belonged to my dad and using a combination of files and a grinding wheel in the dremel got them to a decent shape.


They cleaned up quite well, and I also roughed in a bevel for the chip knife. It still has a small hump on the back of the blade in this shot, I removed it with a course file before the next step.


I tried to cut a slot in a single piece of Tasmainain oak to fit the blade but couldn’t get a tight enough fit so ended up using two pieces of what is probably Meranti to form the body of the knife. I used a router plane to cut out the spot for the blade and glued the whole thing together with a glue called Weldbond which is meant to glue anything to anything and so far has done as claimed.


Once the body was glued up I drilled two holes through the blade to put pins through. The first drill bit I tried just wouldn’t go through the steel, this one I used is called a viper bit and went through it without effort.


Then I traced one of my existing knives as a pattern for the body


and glued and hammered two Tassie Oak dowels through the body and blade to hold it in place


Using a small flush cut saw I trimmer them to the same level as the body


and using a carving knife and rasps started shaping the body


You can see it get progressively closer to the final shape


then it’s finished and sanded.


I gave it a couple of coats of shellac with a stain in it and finished with beeswax.


While I wish I’d found a nice wood for the handle this was the only thing I had in the right size around the workshop and it feels fine in use. I’ve only begun chip carving so I’m not getting perfect results but I am pretty happy with the result. I’ll finish the other knife later on and post a picture showing them in use.

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.



Making Sharpening Stones


I don’t have a sharpening stone big enough for my wider plane blades, so decided to make a couple using sandpaper as the sharpening medium.

A trip to the big green box hardware store yielded a couple of black tiles, 200 x 100mm. They were 80c each. I also got some spray glue ($8.50)  and I had some wet & dry sandpaper already ($5). Total cost  for the project is under $20, less if you already have spray glue, which comes in handy for lots of workshop projects.

Firstly, assemble your supplies. Here they are on my portable bench, as I didn’t really want to risk excess glue on my main workbench.


Give the tile a thin coat of the spray glue, then give it a couple of minutes to get tacky.


Put your sandpaper on the tile, lining up the square edges of the paper as accurately as you can.


Turn it over and rub it on the bench lightly to make sure it’s smooth


Use a utility knife to trim the excess paper off and turn it back over. Give it half an hour to dry properly and it’s ready to go.


You can make these up in any grit you want, I made an 80 and a 1200 as you can see in the first picture. Something like an 80, 240, 300, 600, 1200 and 2000 grit set would be great to have, and would only cost you a little more to make.

In use, leave these dry, and use a stiff brush to clean them off occasionally while sharpening. They don’t need water or oil to work and last better without a lubricant. Remember to only pull the blade towards you when sharpening, otherwise you could snag the paper and tear it. When the paper is totally worn out, peel it off, clean off the old glue and repeat the process.

To test them out I hard a go at sharpening a 1 inch chisel with a good chip in the edge. Here it is before I started work on it


And here’s the same edge after about 5 minutes on each stone. I didn’t take the chip fully out this time, I will grind it out then resharpen this later, but you can see that it’s a much better edge than before I started. I was able to shave pine end grain with this chisel once done, where before I couldn’t even get it to touch the surface.


A cheap and easy straightedge

Did you realise that some of the major tool companies want over $50 au for a simple aluminium straightedge?

I made my own for about $8 by getting a piece of straight aluminium from the local hardware store and putting a hang-hole in it and it works great.

First, mark a cross on one end. Using the 45 degree angle on a combination square will do the job just fine, or you can use a centre finder if you happen to have one around. Then use an awl to mark the centrepoint.



To make it even easier to drill, use a centrepunch to enlarge the point you marked with the awl



Clamp the straightedge to the bench and drill the hole.



Then just to make it look more finished, use a countersink bit to chamfer the edges of the new hole on both sides



There we go, all done. It’s perfectly straight and took all of 15 minutes work!

Simple Oilstone Holders

I had a few spare hours quite a number of weeks ago, but wasn’t feeling great so didn’t want to do anything too strenuous. I ended up cleaning and making holders for some old oilstones I’d picked up over a year ago.

I didn’t feel like hollowing out a block so made them up of scrap I had laying around, mostly maple with a bit of meranti. Here they are with the pieces cut, just sitting together. The bottom piece is to hook onto the edge of the bench like a traditional bench hook, which helps it not to move when sharpening.

I was a bit worried about the sharpening motion knocking the ends loose if I just glued them, so used some brass screws to hold them in place. Brass because it looks nicer, I had some in the right size and if I ever put waterstones in place of the oilstones they won’t rust.

Here’s the end result, one holds a combination stone and the last a thinner, finer stone

Making a scraper shave

Well I’ve just finished testing out the new scraper shave I made. I think it turned out well enough, there’s a few places I could improve but it works as it should so that’s a good thing!

I got to use a lot of interesting tools on this one – rasps, scrapers, and to finish a lot of wax and a buffing wheel in the drill.

I’m going to make another at some point, this time with a Jarra body instead of the maple, and possible a brass mouth. It will also have through bolts with wingnuts instead of screws, as they will last longer. The next one will have a V cutout so I can use it to shape chamfers.

Total build time was about 3 hours including finishing.

Materials were

– 2 bits of maple (one for body, one for mouth)

– two small brass screws

– a piece of a 99c mitra saw blade

– Boiled linseed oil

– beeswax


Tools used were

– Jigsaw with a crosscut blade

– Curved rasp

– Cabinet scraper

– 320 grit sandpaper

– buffing wheel in the drill to polish the wax



What was once a saw…

In the previous post I mentioned the problem I’m having with too much ‘stuff’. One of the ways to deal with this is to take some of the excess and convert it into something you need but don’t have.

Last weekend I took an unwanted sawblade (cost 50c) and turned it into a couple of card scrapers. It’s good old steel and took a bit of work to cut, in the end the old aviation sheers did all the work when the jigsaw refused to touch it.

I marked out a couple of rectangles and cut them out. After that I filed the cutting edge flat, polished it with a stone then used an old firmer chisel to make the hook.

Not the prettiest tools around, but they work nicely. The smaller of the two will get a rounded end when I get time. I’d not used a scraper before but from the results I got trying these out I think I will be using them often.


A new carving mallet

One of the guys at my local woodworking group had recently turned some carving mallets for a few of the members. After seeing me admiring them he kindly offered to make me one if I could find a piece of wood I liked.

I got hold of a small length of spotted gum and here’s the results, safely housed in a new rack I made for it this afternoon.