The Card Scraper Wallet

Many woodworkers agree that the secret weapon of smoothness is the card scraper.  But there are many different opinions on the best way to store a set of card scrapers.  (If you’re unfamiliar with this tool, it looks too simple to work: a thin plate of tool steel whose edge has been rolled over into a microscopic hook which serves as a fragile but effective cutting edge.)  I’m not here to get into an argument, but to share an effective way to store your card scrapers.

Nearly a decade ago, I acquired my first set of four card scrapers.  To keep them together, I sewed a little wallet for them out of some canvas scraps.

Card Scraper Wallet 6-10 - 2

It took me perhaps an hour to put the whole thing together.  As sewing projects go, it was pretty straightforward, requiring only three pieces of cloth, some thread, and a sewing machine.

Card Scraper Wallet

I’ve acquired a few more card scraper since then.  The fabric is a little grimy now, but it holds and organizes the scrapers as conveniently as ever.

Card Scraper Wallet

It folds right up into a tidy package that fits neatly into any corner of my tool chest.

The advantages of card scrapers are that they are cheap, effective, and easy to use.

Walnut Mantle 8-2019

When the edge is prepared correctly, they will produce beautiful shavings and leave a finish-ready surface on dry hardwood.

But the downside is that the cutting edge is fragile and deteriorates quickly in use.  So it’s best to have several scrapers prepared all at once for big scraping jobs, like the fireplace mantle I’m working on above.  It’s also best to store all the scrapers in one place where the edges won’t get damaged by bumping up against other tools, and where they won’t be exposed to excess dust and humidity, which is a main cause of rust.

My scraper wallet answers all those requirements.  It contains several scrapers (20+ at the moment!) all in the same place.  It keeps the dust off of them, and it puts the cutting edges out of harm’s way.  After years of working out of this scraper wallet, I couldn’t think of a way it could be improved.

Except that maybe I could have made it bigger, so as to hold even more card scrapers….

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Flattening Your Oilstone Is Really Easy

While sharpening some blades this afternoon, I finally got sick enough of my dished oilstone to actually do something about it.  I’ve had this double-sided (soft/hard) Arkansas stone for probably 5-10 years and have never flattened it.  The soft side especially just kept getting more and more dished every year.  But I kept putting off flattening it because I’ve got an old belt sander in pieces stored away, and I always figured I’d eventually put the sander back into working order, and then the first thing I’d do would be to flatten my oilstones.  Today I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

I decided to dress this stone the old-fashioned way: by hand.  Buts it turned out, flattening this stone was really easy and really fast.  (It took me longer to write this blog post than to actually flatten the stone.)  Here’s how I did it:

Step #1: Find a flat-ish surface and attach a long roll of coarse sandpaper. 

I’m a big fan of the Klingspor bargain boxes of sandpaper rolls, and I happened to have a roll of coarse sandpaper sitting right there on my workbench.  I located a relatively flat stretch of real estate on my workbench and affixed one end of the sandpaper roll with a holdfast.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

This length of sandpaper was over 3′ long, and I used the whole length.  (If you don’t have a holdfast, consider using a staple gun.)

Step #2: Push in one direction, turn, and repeat. 

You will be tempted to just rub the stone back and forth on the sandpaper.  Don’t.  That will create a convex surface, not a flat one.  Instead, just push the stone down the length of the sandpaper, lift it up at the end of the stroke, turn it around, and repeat.  Turning the stone every stroke or two helps you keep everything nice and flat.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

When the sandpaper loads up with dust, you can replace the sandpaper.  Or, if you’re a cheapskate like me, just vacuum or brush the dust off and keep going.  I probably cleaned the dust out of the sandpaper four or five times during this process.

Step #3: When it’s flat, stop.

Once the old surface has been completely removed, you can stop.  The stone is as flat as it’s going to get.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

Depending on how dished the stone is (and on how hard the stone is), it may take you 10-15 minutes of work to completely flatten the stone.  But in the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty fast.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

A little bit of oil brings out the color variations in the natural stone.  It’s ready to use again! (I did also flatten the other side of this stone, which is hard Arkansas stone, and that took a little bit longer.)

Is the stone now absolutely-professional-level-within-a-millionth-of-an-inch-over-the-entire-surface flat?  Nah, probably not.  But it’s MUCH flatter than it was before, and that’s what matters to me.   And it took me only about ten minutes from start to finish.

If I had known how quick and easy this job was going to be, I wouldn’t have put it off so long!  I might just make this an annual routine maintenance job.

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Folding Outfeed Table for My Bandsaw

I don’t enjoy working with powered machines nearly as much as I enjoy working with hand tools, but I do rely a lot on my bandsaw for cutting down big pieces of wood into smaller pieces.  My main bandsaw is a 14″ Steel City saw, which has the capacity to cut material that’s almost a foot thick.

I use this bandsaw especially for sawing sections of logs into boards, which is very difficult to do if I don’t have adequate outfeed support for the workpiece.  (I’ve tried balancing a long board on the bandsaw’s table alone.  I didn’t get good results.)  If you do a lot of long rips, and especially resawing, consider putting a similar outfeed table on your bandsaw.

Here’s the outfeed table I came up with:

Bandsaw Folding Outfeed Table 2019

I had looked around online for designs for a bandsaw outfeed table and found very little (maybe I was looking in the wrong places).  The outfeed table I envisioned needed to meet two main requirements:

  1. It needed to attach to the saw itself, mainly for stability.  You can buy free-standing devices for outfeed support, but I doubted their ability to adequately support the kinds of workpieces I’ll be putting through this saw.  And besides, they cost money, and I was pretty sure I could build something with stock I had on hand.
  2. It needed to fold up flat against the saw.  Space is at a premium here, and I have a couple tools all crowded into the same space.  So a folding table is a must.

I eventually settled on a design in which legs are attached to the sides of a solid table with long wood screws so the legs can pivot.  The legs stand on a little riser to keep the table co-planar with the band saw’s table.  (That’s the one little compromise I had to make with this design.  If the legs were long enough on their own, they would be too long to fold up alongside the table.)

The outfeed table itself is just glued up out of 2X stock I had lying around.

Bandsaw Folding Outfeed Table 2019

After the glue was dry, I leveled it off with a jack plane.  I didn’t need a perfect surface, just something that workpieces won’t catch on.  And at least I got to use a hand tool on this project.

The table is (about) the same width as the bandsaw table, and it’s as long as the distance from the underside of the table to the floor, or really a hair under.

The only mildly challenging part was attaching the table to the rails on the bandsaw table, which required drilling through the rails, inserting a wooden spacer, and attaching hinges with bolts and stop nuts.  (Depending on how your bandsaw table is constructed, you might have to modify the hinge placement/attachment process.)  Bandsaws produce a lot of vibration, which can shake nuts loose quickly.  I think the stop nuts will hold, though.

Bandsaw Folding Outfeed Table 2019

The wooden spacer had to be just thick enough to put the top of the outfeed table at the same level as the top of the bandsaw table.  It took me a couple tries to get it exactly right.

Bandsaw Folding Outfeed Table 2019

The table folds down perfectly.  With the table down, I can wheel the saw back up against the wall if I need extra space.

Bandsaw Folding Outfeed Table 2019

I had to position the cross-member on the legs so that it cleared the housing for the belt and pulley.

I haven’t yet stress-tested it with really heavy material, but it works just fine so far on light-duty cuts.  If the legs turn out to be too spindly (they’re only 3/4″ thick) I’ll replace them with some thicker ones.

In the meantime, I have some sections of pecan logs that need to be sawn up into proper boards.

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Want to Carve Spoons? Use a Template

On a spoon-carving forum I read, the question of templates comes up frequently.  A lot of spoon carvers say they “just wing it,” or as others put it, “just see what the wood wants to be.”

Now, there’s no question that woodworking of any kind requires a certain amount of negotiation between the woodworker and the wood.  Certain pieces of wood have certain features that will nudge a thoughtful woodworker in certain directions.  But it’s important not to let the wood always be the one in charge.  Because, as one astute forum member once remarked, “what the wood really ‘wants’ to be is a stick.”  To turn it into anything else (like a spoon), you have to be willing to impose your will on the material.

I’ve made a lot of spoons over the past few years, and I’ve handled quite a few made by other woodworkers.  In my kitchen, I’ve used the spoons that I and others have made.  That experience has taught me something about the importance of templates–which is to say, about the importance of careful design.

Spoons carved by “just winging it” aren’t usually very good.  Unless l you are very experienced (or just have a preternaturally good eye for this sort of thing), just winging it will result in something between not-quite-right and fairly-useless about 90% of the time.

There’s a pretty narrow range of dimensions beyond which a wooden spoon becomes less than comfortable to use.  If an eating spoon is too long, it doesn’t balance correctly, but if it’s too short, your hand ends up getting dipped in the soup.  If the bowl is too narrow or too shallow, it doesn’t hold enough food.  Too deep or too wide, and it’s hard to eat out of.

I haven’t reduced any of these dimensions to numerical values, and I’m not going to.  I arrived at my own templates by trying to use some of my first spoons to cook with and considering why I didn’t like them–too long, too short, too wide, too thick, whatever.  I also observed what I liked about the one or two spoons that I found myself reaching for over and over–the bowl was the right size, the handle was the right shape, the whole thing was the right length, etc.

Eventually I traced out a couple of my best spoons and made myself some templates so I could replicate my success.  Because ultimately, that’s what a template helps you do–succeed repeatedly–instead of just finding new ways to fail.

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(Templates can be made out of anything you can trace around–a thin piece of wood, a bit of paperboard, or even a piece of plastic cut out of a milk jug.  I often put the date on mine, just for fun.)

Using a template does not take the joy out of spoon carving.  It just releases you from having to do the design work and the carving work all at once.  When you do the design work first, even if that’s just sketching out a few pencil lines freehand on the face of a bit of wood, you liberate yourself to focus on the carving itself once you put your knife to the wood.  (There is great freedom in being able to do just one thing at a time instead of many things all at once.)  And if you find that you need to depart from your intended design, you can always do that, too.

If you want to make good wooden spoons, a pencil is the first carving tool, and one of the most indispensable.

Posted in Carving, handicraft, Musings, skills, Wood and Woodwork, Woodenware | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Make Your Own Drawer Pulls?

I had finally assembled this dovetailed, built-in shoe cabinet for my kids shoes, and it was time to consider the hardware.  (This post is not about building the shoe cabinet, though I give a few construction details at the end.  Hang with me, here.)  Without thinking much about it, I drove out to the local Lowes and picked up eight drawer knobs for about $2 each.  There were a nice antique brass color, which I thought would look nice up against the pine cabinet.

IMG_9986 2

But before I got around to attaching them to the drawer fronts, my wife and I had one of our periodic sit-down-with-the-household-budget sessions, and it made me rethink my decision to buy the knobs.  Why should I go out and buy something if I might be able to make my own version with materials I already have on hand?

Because–let’s face it–I’ve been shaping small pieces of wood to my liking for years now.  I have saws, planes, and carving gouges.  How hard could it be to fashion a few drawer pulls out of some scrap wood?

As it turns out, not hard at all.  It was, in fact, one of the easiest parts of the whole project.  I made a couple of prototypes out of a section of 2X4 and showed them to my wife.  She critiqued the design and dimensions, and we settled on something we both thought would complement the cabinet.

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I was surprised at how simple it was to make these things.  When it came right down to it, four drawer pulls took me under an hour to fashion.  (This post is not about how to make them, but the process was simple.  I used a 1″ wide carving gouge to carve out the inside.  Then I used a saw, handplane, and spokeshave to round over the ends and top edges.  Making them all out of a single piece wood ensures they are perfectly matched.  Dimensions are 1″ thick, 1 1/2″ tall, and 5″ wide.)

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I was able to make each pull wide enough that only one is needed on each drawer.

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I screwed them on from the back using wood screws.

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Each one is perfectly fitted to the human hand.

So, to answer the question in the title, there are several good reasons to make your own drawer pulls.

  1. You can make them to match your work perfectly.  Making them from offcuts from your project ensures flawless grain/color matching.  Or you can use a contrasting wood of your choice.  You could even laminate woods of several different colors for a psychedelic effect.  (I briefly considered making these from a darker wood for contrast but then decided that the prominent grain pattern of the southern yellow pine needed no further contrasting elements.)
  2. You can make them whatever size and shape you want.  Are your hands exceptionally large or small?  Scale them to your own personal comfort.  You can make them narrow or wide.  You can round the corners or make them perfect squares.  You can make circular pulls if you really want.  The dimensions can be exactly suited to the piece you are building.
  3. They cost you little more than time to make, especially because you can nearly always make them from scrap wood you already have lying around.  Unlike money, we all have exactly the same amount of time to spend, and we get a new supply of it every day as long as we live.  Turning time into money which we then spend on things is often an inefficient process–better to spend your time directly on producing a thing and cut out the money altogether.
  4. Making your own pulls frees you from the limitations imposed on your work by mass-production and arbitrary fashion.  You don’t have to design your work around the hardware that large corporations happen to have made available to you at the moment.  You don’t have to embellish your custom-made work with mass-produced hardware that looks just like the hardware on ever other piece of furniture out there.

If you are enough of a woodworker to build something that needs handles and/or pulls, then you are enough of a woodworker to make your own.

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(And if you’re just reading this in hopes of getting more construction details about the shoe cabinet, here are a couple more shots that shows how each drawer tips out.  The carcase is made of 1X8s dovetailed at the corners.  The drawers fronts are each made of glued-up 2X8s.  Drawers are dovetailed, and there’s a solid bottom captured in a groove.  The sides come only about 2/3 the way up the fronts, and the backs are just two rails dovetailed into the sides.  The drawers rest on rails screwed into the inside of the carcase.  The “hinge” at the bottom of each drawer is just a long finish nail, and there’s a cord that prevents the drawer from tipping too far out.)

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So anyway, I’m taking the knobs I bought back to the store for a refund.

I may never buy drawer pulls again.

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One Last Bedstead

When my youngest child–my only son, R.–finally outgrew our old toddler bed (which I had originally built for his older sister, and which had then been passed down through the siblings to him, and which I eventually gave away to a young family in town), it was time to make him a twin-size bed of his own.  Like all the bed frames in the house, it needed to be affordable to make, it needed to be disassemble-able, and it needed to be robustly built because I intend it to last through R.’s teenage years.

Southern yellow pine is an excellent wood for this kind of project–cheap and very strong.  I had a few 2X8s and 2X10s stored away for this project.  Every time I get lumber at the local home center, I buy one or two extra boards–the clearest, straightest ones I can find.  They come in handy for projects like this.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

R. is just big enough that he wanted to help me break down the stock.  I started the cut, and he almost finished it.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

One of his sisters also wanted to take a turn.  She insisted on finishing her cut.  Then they let me make the rest of the cuts myself.

The design of the frame is fairly simple, but I’ve never seen anything else quite like it, so I suppose it’s my own design.

The head board is joined with mortise-and-tenon joints, and the panel is solid boards, shiplapped and screwed into a rabbet from the back.  The screws are set close to the middle of each board and put into oversize holes to allow for wood movement.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

Here is the dog taking temporary shelter under the partially-finished headboard.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

One of the cats found the workbench comfortable.  And he didn’t even seem to mind having tools and workpieces set on top of him.

Anyhow, back to the joinery.  The headboard and footboard are solid pieces, joined with mortises and tenons.  The side rails, which also support the mattress, are joined to the headboard and footboard by big lapped dovetails, secured by carriage bolts.

Cutting dovetails on the ends of long boards is an adventure, to be sure.  Once the tails are cut, I use the tails to lay out the sockets on each side of the headboard and footboard.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

After I sawed the lines on each side as much as I could, I used a bit and brace to remove most of the waste.  The rest I split out, and then I trued up the bottom with a router plane.  The resulting socket still looks pretty rough.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

But it looks a lot better when the tail fits perfectly the first time.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

After applying the finish (lacquer) and letting it dry thoroughly, I assembled the joints and pinned them with carriage bolts.  Stop-nuts on the bolts keep everything tight.

The undercarriage that supports the mattress is a set of 2X6s laid loose across battens screwed to the inside of each rail.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

R. enjoyed drilling the pilot holes for the screws that attach the battens.

After bolting everything together, we set the mattress on top to see how everything fits together.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

I think he likes it, although we did have to do some serious room-cleaning to make space for the bed.  As you can see, it’s a very small room, so I made the bed high enough that he can store things underneath in plastic tubs.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

Then, as soon as we had the bed in place, his sister M. came in to help him arrange things.  She likes “staging” rooms.

He was more interested in making faces a the camera.

R Bed Frame 6-2019

So there you go–that should be the last bed frame I have to make for quite a while.

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A Beginning Woodworker’s Toolkit

If you want to begin doing woodworking with hand tools, it’s hard to know where to begin.  There are so many woodworking tools on the market.  A beginner’s tool kit need not be large, and you can do good work with only a few basic tools.  I posted the following list here on my blog nine years ago, and I still think it’s a good list (with a couple additions at the end). 


When I began working wood in earnest, I had almost no woodworking tools.  I owned a circular saw, an electric drill, a couple hammers, a tape measure, and a helplessly dull hand saw.  Then I took a couple courses in hand-tool joinery at the School of Woodworking at Homestead Heritage in central Texas.  There I was taught to cut three basic joints using ten hand tools.  In preparation for the first class, the instructor distributed a list of basic hand tools that would be used in the course.  My skills have developed a lot since then, but I still use many of the same techniques I was taught there.  I have modified the list based on my own needs and practices, and I offer it here as a way to begin working wood.

Smoother in Shavings 2012 - - 3

Woodworking doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, although it frequently is.  You can build most anything you need using the tools below.  Of course I now have more tools than this, but these are still the tools I reach for most often.

  • An accurate combination square.  Get a good one.  Most hardware store brands are inaccurate.  PEC squares, such as the Lee Valley and Woodcraft brand, are a good value.
  • A set of chisels: 1/4”, 1/2”, 3/4” and 1”
  • A layout knife.  A utility knife or Exacto knife is adequate to begin with, or you can make one.
  • A marking gauge.  Eventually you will want several, including a mortise gauge.
  • A dovetail or gents saw (Crown is fine)
  • A carcase saw.  This is a small backsaw, usually 10”-12” in length.  A vintage saw, such as a Disston or Atkins, is an excellent choice.
  • A regular hand saw, 8-12 ppi, filed for crosscuts.  Again, find a good vintage saw, such as a Disston or an Atkins.
  • A small hammer for tacks and joint assembly.  A ball peen or small claw hammer works well.
  • A solid joiner’s mallet.  Buy one, or make your own.
  • A handplane.  A used Stanley, such as a #4 or #5, is a good choice.
  • A jointer plane.  Again, a used Stanley #7 is excellent.
  • A flat-bottomed spokeshave.  A vintage Stanley 151 works very well.
  • Sharpening equipment: coarse abrasive, fine abrasive, and a strop.
  • A box Band-Aid Tough Strips.  $3 at Wal-Mart, and worth every penny!

It is imperative that you have functioning sharpening equipment.  The most expensive tools in the world are useless if they are dull.  It is generally recommended that you put your money into a good layout square and a good smoothing plane.  Many good tools can be found used and at lower costs than they can be bought new.  Look especially for used saws, hammers, and planes.  However, used tools must often be cleaned and/or repaired before use.  There are several excellent guides available for those who wish to learn to restore vintage woodworking tools.

No debate is more intense in the hand-tool world than the ongoing debate on sharpening materials and techniques.  My advice is to pick one method and stick with it until you master it.  Here are some options for sharpening.

  • For starters, try the “Scary Sharp” method, which uses sandpaper on a hard, flat surface.  Oil stones, waterstones, and diamond stones are also great choices.  DMT makes a 2-sided coarse/fine stone, which is a good economical choice for diamond stones.
  • A strop is a piece of leather glued to a flat piece of seasoned hardwood, and usually rubbed with an abrasive compound.  Lee Valley sells a very good honing compound.  The strop both polishes the edge and cleanly removes any burr left from the coarser abrasives, resulting in a smooth, keen edge.
  • Taper files for sharpening saws, and a saw set.  This is not an immediate need, but at some point your saws will get dull, and you will have to either sharpen them or replace them.

As I read over my original list, I have only two additional tool recommendations, as well as recommendations for books that weren’t available when I made the initial post.

  • Clamps.  You will need to clamp your joints together as the glue dries.  (Did I mention you will also need wood glue?  Any wood glue on the market will be fine.  Don’t over-think this one.  And don’t buy too much at a time–the small bottle is just fine.)  The most versatile clamps for a beginner are pipe clamps.  Get the kind that work with 1/2″ black pipe, and buy lengths of pipe as you need them.  You should have at least four pipe clamps to begin with.
  • A workbench with a vise–a woodworker’s vise, not a machinist’s vise.  You don’t need a big, fancy bench at first, but you do need something that is sturdy and heavy enough that it won’t wobble or scoot across the floor in use.  There’s nothing wrong with screwing together 2X6s from the lumberyard.  (2X6s tend to be better quality than 2X4s and aren’t any more expensive inch-for-inch.)  Good dimensions are 6-8 feet long, 2-3 feet deep, and 32-34 inches tall.

And that brings me to books.  One of the best investments you can make in this hobby is not in tools or wood but in information.  Before you build your first serious workbench, buy and read Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use by Chris Schwarz.  You will learn all about what a workbench can and should do, and you will avoid many pitfalls in design and construction.

Lastly, as you continue to build your tool kit, it will be worth your time to buy and read The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, also by Chris Schwarz.  The book isn’t cheap, and the writing style is pedestrian, but you will not find a better single-volume guide to selecting and using hand tools any time soon.

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How to Build Carpenter Bee Traps (That Look Nice)

Down here on the Gulf Coast, we have a lot of insect problems–mosquitoes, termites, fire ants, you name it.  Another common pest here is the carpenter bee, which is not at all aggressive, and a good pollinator to boot.  But carpenter bees also bore holes into exposed wood on decks, porches, and railings.  They are especially attracted to fresh wood, and they will even attack treated wood.  Over the course of a summer, they can significantly weaken a wooden structure.

Fortunately, carpenter bees are easily trapped due to their fatal weakness: they are unable to fly straight up, so if they fly into the top of a tall, narrow cylinder, they can’t get out again.  This weakness can be exploited by building a simple trap.

Carpenter Bee Trap 2019

I have seen many varieties of these traps around town.  Most are crude, homemade affairs, but a few are commercially produced.  They all work the same way.  This one is my own design.  It’s made of cedar, first because cedar is pretty weather-resistant, and also because carpenter bees are very fond of freshly-cut cedar, though mainly the white sapwood.

I began with a pile of 1/2″ thick cedar scraps and some mason jars.  I like the 16 oz. jelly jar in particular.  It’s tall and narrow, just the thing for trapping these bees.

Carpenter Bee Trap 2019

The box itself is about 4″ wide and 5″ tall overall (with a longer board on the back for mounting), but exact dimensions aren’t critical.  1 1/4″ long nails hold everything together.  Drill 1/16″ pilot holes for each nail to prevent splitting the wood.  (Each box will need 20 nails, so be sure you have enough.)

Here’s your cut-list:

  • 3″X3″X3/4″ pine, hardwood, or cedar (for the bottom)
  • 9″X3″X1/2″ cedar (for the sides)
  • 8″X4″X1/2″ cedar (for the front and top)
  • 8″X4″X1/2″ cedar (for the back)

If you can get only 3/4″ thick cedar, this is a great time to practice thicknessing your stock with a handplane.  Cedar is extremely easy to plane down quickly.

Carpenter Bee Trap 2019

I began with the bottom of the box, which is 3″ square and has a hole the size of the inside diameter of the jar’s ring cut into it.  (I drilled a 1/4″ pilot hole, then used a coping saw to cut the hole.)  I find that any 3/4″ thick pine or even a hardwood works great for the bottom, as it’s protected from the elements.  Because eight nails will pierce this bottom, it’s best to use a wood that doesn’t split as easily as cedar does, but you can use the cedar if that’s all you have.

Next, I cut out the sides of the box. You don’t really need to go to the trouble of cutting out a slanted roof, but since these boxes are going to be hanging on people’s porches, I want them to look nice.  And shedding water is not a bad thing for longevity, either.

To make the sides, I began with a board 9″ long and 3″ wide.  I measured 4″ in from one end on one edge, did the same from the other end along the other edge, and then drew a diagonal line across the board, connecting the two marks. Then I cut the line out with a handsaw.  No protractor, no measuring for angles.

After that, I measured out another piece for the front and top: 9″ long by 4″ wide.  Holding it up to the short end of one of my side pieces, I marked out the angle on the edge of what will be the front, just by eye.

After carrying the line across the face, I made the angled cut with a handsaw.  A bench hook is very helpful for making this cut.

The part that’s left over will be the roof, and it already has a perfect angle cut in order to sit up flush with the long, backing board.

I nailed the front onto the sides first, and then I nailed the sides to the bottom.  Make sure you nail only into the long grain of the bottom.  If you try to nail into the end-grain, too, you’ll split it.  After that, I nail on the back.

Before you put on the top, bore the three holes for the trap–one in the front and one in each side.  I use a 9/16″ auger bit, and since the cedar does split easily, I started with a 1/8″ pilot hole for the lead screw.  Bore the holes nearer the top of the box than the bottom.

Now nail the roof in place and drill some pilot holes in the top of the back board for mounting.  Finally, get ready to attach the ring to the bottom.

Use a larger nail to punch four pilot holes around the ring, and then nail the ring to the bottom.  (Discard the lid that came with the jar.)  You may need to use a nail set to drive the nails all the way in.

It also helps to drive them in at an angle instead of straight up and down.

Carpenter Bee Trap 2019

Now screw the jar into the ring, and the trap is complete.  This took me about half an hour from start to finish.

The effectiveness of the trap does depend on good placement.  Watch the bees for a while, and place the trap where they tend to linger.  It will probably be up near the ceiling and/or under the eaves.  Soon the jar should be full of dead bees, and you’ll be able to empty it out at the end of the season.

Carpenter Bee Trap 2019

I have two of these traps on my porch, one on each end, and while one of my traps was full of dead bees in a few weeks, the other one hadn’t caught a single bee.  That’s real estate for you–location, location, location.

Posted in Boxes, Build-Alongs, Gardening, Tutorials, Wood and Woodwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ancient Crafts in the Modern World: Book Review

Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, by Alexander Langlands, Norton, 2017. $26.95  Amazon link

You may have noticed that there’s a handicrafts revival going on.  Every month there seems to be a new craft market to shop at, another friend picking up a crafty hobby, and a new DIY social media celebrity to follow.  For most of us, it’s just one more curious little corner of modern life.  If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, then this is nothing new, but if you’re the sort of person who wonders what this whole handicrafts revival really means, I have a book for you.

Langlands Craeft 2019

Alexander Langlands is an English archaeologist who has spent the last few years attempting to recreate a number of traditional handicrafts, both professionally for BBC reenactments and in his own home-life in England.  His book is both the story of his adventures in handicrafts and a defense of doing things the “old-fashioned” way.

He begins by defining his keyword, “cræft,” as “wisdom that furnishes the practitioner with a certain power,” which may sound more political than it really is.  (There is, of course, a political element to the book, but Langlands consistently avoids politicization.  It’s a little like reading Wendell Berry without the polemic.)  Each chapter focuses on a different kind of handicraft that Langlands has explored.  There are predictable topics like weaving and basket making, but most of the topics will come as a surprise to American readers—haymaking, skep beehives, thatched roofs, stone walls, and even ponds for watering livestock.

Langlands Craeft 2019

This is not a “how-to” book, and there are few detailed instructions.  You have to read it like an adventure story.  Our hero, the author himself, comes across as a fairly average person at first.  Although he does have a significant lineage (his Scottish grandfather made wooden golf clubs), he is not distinguished by any exceptional talent or social status, but only by his curiosity about his surroundings, his persistence in the face of difficulty, and his willingness to take chances.  He sets out to escape the soulless drudgery of modern, technological life and rediscover older, more meaningful ways to live.

There are episodes detailing the arming of the hero—he discovers a secondhand suit of Harris tweed, and he learns to use a shepherd’s crook.  There is an encounters with a wise old counsellor—an old shepherd called Mr. Mudge. There are even numinous objects that, if not exactly magical, definitely have that sort of appeal to the reader—an apple left on an attic rafter is still eatable after being rediscovered six months later.  As an American, I found this English hero especially attractive: like the prototypical American, he finds himself in a strange, forbidding landscape and must learn to make his way in it if he can.

Langlands is also an explorer who becomes a homesteader, and as an archaeologist, he is also something of a time-traveler, taking us back into earlier ages to discover not only what people did in order to live, but also how and why they did it that way.  Often, people in the distant past made choices based on the simple availability of materials.  One of the most important themes of the book is that good materials for crafts are all around us—as they always have been.  It’s a different perspective on the current trend toward “locally-sourced” foods and goods. Instead of deciding ahead of time on what he needs and seeking out goods that are “locally sourced,” our hero repeatedly finds himself looking around his local landscape for solutions to immediate problems in his house and garden, and he often finds it necessary to adapt traditional methods of working to the local materials at hand.  The book has encouraged me to take a look around my own neighborhood for materials I can experiment with using in my own handicrafts.  Rather than bemoan the lack of locally-grown walnut and maple, I can learn to appreciate the locally-available pines and cypresses.

Langlands Craeft 2019

The book’s only major drawback is the lack of pictures or illustrations.  While Langlands is an excellent wordsmith, and many of his descriptions are both technically precise and visually evocative, I would not have understood a number of his passages had I not first read an older book called The Forgotten Crafts by John Seymour, which is a richly illustrated book about all manner of traditional handicrafts.  I highly recommend getting Seymour’s book and reading it alongside this one.

Langlands Craeft 2019

Amazon link to reprint of the Seymour book.

 

Posted in books, Reviews, Wood and Woodwork | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Building A Frame-and-Panel Interior Door

If I had a backup career in woodworking, it would be making doors and windows for historic homes.  It’s not that I especially enjoy making such objects more than others.  (I’ve never even made a window sash.)  It’s that it’s virtually impossible to buy an interior door that looks like it belongs in an old house.

I thought about that a lot over the last few days.  For years, I had been meaning to replace my dining room door:

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I really don’t need to explain why, do I?  Between the dog, the cats, the kids, and time, this door could almost be seen through.

I could have just gone down to the home center and bought another hollow-core door, but I don’t think it would have held up any better than this one did.  Furthermore, my dining room walls are paneled with beautiful, antique knotty pine, so I decided to build a door from similar pine that would fit into the aesthetic of the room.  After drawing out a few different designs, I settled on something that would be simple, sturdy, and pleasing to the eye.  An additional consideration is that this doorway provides almost the only airflow between two big areas of the house, so when the door is closed, the HVAC can’t recirculate air from this part of the house.  I decided to include a small air vent in the bottom of the door to accommodate airflow when the door needs to be closed.

Here’s a preview of the results:

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

From here on out, I’m going to let the pictures tell the story as much as possible and keep the text to a minimum.

Stock Selection and Preparation

I had laid up several southern yellow pine boards for this project months ago.  The bandsaw helped me cut them to width, but after that, nearly everything was hand work.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I made a whole garbage bag of wood shavings at this stage.  When the knots are minimal, this wood really does plane down nicely.

Grooving

The frame-and-panel construction requires grooves around the insides of the frames.  The grooves will eventually guide me in placing my mortises and tenons.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

My Veritas small plow plane performed exceptionally well here.  Using the conversion kit (with the extra skate), I plowed grooves 1/2″ wide and 3/8″ deep.  The extra skate kept the plane very stable in the cut, even in reversing grain.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

My daughter managed to get an action shot.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

This plane makes so many cool shavings!

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

The younger kids love to play with the “wooden springs.”

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

The cat, on the other hand, is not so sure.

Mortise and Tenon

The most exacting work in this project is cutting the tenons and the mortises.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I’ve always been a tenons-first kind of guy.  In southern yellow pine, when the grain is straight, you don’t even need to saw the tenons out.  Just saw the baseline with a backsaw and split out the tenon cheeks.  It’s faster (and a lot more fun) than sawing them.  Just don’t try to split off the entire cheek at once.  Split off half the waste, then half again, until you can only pare to the line.

I used the tenons to lay out the exact locations of the mortises.  These mortises are about 3″ deep and 1/2″ wide, which is too big for me to chop.  Instead, I bored out most of the waste with an auger bit.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

With mortises this deep, it’s critical that you bore straight down.  With the work up on the bench, it’s too easy to tilt the bit and brace to one side or the other.  So I put the workpiece on the floor and straddled it to keep it steady.  Sighting down the groove, it was pretty easy to keep the bit straight up and down.  The real trick was to place the holes so they just overlapped each other.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

Then I squared up the mortises with chisels.

A lot of woodworking articles/books will say things like “now square up the hole with a chisel.”  Well, it’s not quite as simple as the books make it sound.  First I used a 1/2″ chisel to chop down across the end grain on each end of the mortise.  Then I used a broad chisel to pare down each side.  Finally, I used a narrower chisel to pick out the waste pieces.  Repeating the process three or four times got me down to the 3″ depth I needed on each of the eight mortises in this door.

The bottom stile of the door is so wide that it requires a double tenon, which is an added complication in getting everything fitted just right.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

If all goes well, the tenon should go all the way in with only hand pressure.  It shouldn’t wiggle around in the mortise, but it need not be a piston-fit either.

Panels

I used my bandsaw to rip down two panels to about 5/8″ thick, then planed them to a (somewhat) consistent thickness.  That operation got me another garbage bag full of shavings.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

The dog got to enjoy the shavings before I swept them up.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

After penciling out the depth of the bevels on the panels, I started planing them down with the joiner plane set to take a heavy cut. I planed them to finished depth with the smoothing plane.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I used an offcut with a groove (saved from my tenon cutting) as a “mullet” to check the fit.

Assembly

With the joints cut and the panels shaped, I was able to check the overall fit.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

At this stage, I bored the holes for the drawbore pegs, one or two per tenon.

I also realized that I had cut the panels just a little bit short, either because I mis-measured or because I cut on the wrong side of the line a couple times.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

The solution was to glue spacers into the bottom groove in order to raise the panels up just a little bit.  That should keep gaps from opening up during dry weather.  It was already unusually dry for this time of year, so I don’t expect the door to shrink much.  Our normal weather is extremely humid.  But wood does still shrink a little over the years, so you have to plan for it regardless of the current weather.

The only part of this door that isn’t pine is the drawbore pegs, which are red oak.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I’ve tried using other hardwoods for drawbore pegs, but oak is by far the best.  It’s tough enough to pull the joint closed without breaking, but it rives cleanly enough to make a straight-grained peg quickly.  I split the pegs out, then pared and planed them to the right thickness, pointing the ends with a knife.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

Drawboring mortise and tenon joints without glue is so relaxing compared to gluing up an assembly.  There’s no rush at all.  You can take your time and make sure everything is coming together exactly right.  There are no clamps to fuss with, and you don’t have to wait for any glue to cure.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

It’s a beautiful sight (to my eyes, at least) to see a drawbored assembly come together.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I use my dovetail saw to trim the pins almost flush.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

Running the spine up against the wood keeps the teeth just clear of the surface.  I trim them down just about flush with a handplane.

Holes, Hanging, and Finish

After all that work, it was a little painful to cut out a large hole in the bottom stile.  At least this was one of the easiest operations to complete.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I bored a series of holes in two corners.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

Then, using my narrowest handsaw, I sawed out the waste.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

I had always wondered why I kept that pencil-thin handsaw around.  Now I know!  I then screwed a vent cover over both sides of the hole.

I put a couple coats of satin polyurethane on it (rattle can application) and let it dry overnight. Just to clarify, this was about day 3 or day 4 of the build.  I worked on it for a few hours a day over about a week of vacation.

With the door construction complete, it was time to make even more holes in it.  First I mortised in the hinges.  (Sorry, no pictures–I was in a hurry at this point.)  Hanging a door is awkward but not as difficult as some people make it sound.  I was able to use the brass hinges from the old door and thus keep their original mortises in the door frame.  Setting the new door in the door frame and raising it up to the right height with wedges underneath, I marked the location of the hinge mortises on the new door with a marking knife.  Some careful chisel work got the hinges in exactly the right place.

Last, I installed the handle–also a part salvaged from the original door–which had taken on a nice, antique patina over the years.  You can’t buy that look at the store.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

My brace and bits have done a lot more work on this project than I anticipated.

And that brings us to the hung door.  I did remove the door jamb and re-fit it snuggly around the door, as this door is a slightly different thickness than the previous one.

Dining Room Door Build 3-2019

In five or ten years, the pine will have naturally darkened and match the color of the surrounding paneling perfectly.  I’m happy to wait.

 

Posted in Build-Alongs, Home Improvement, Kids, Wood and Woodwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments