Oriental Cherry & Walnut Box.

I made a 300 mm x 160 mm x 110 mm box out of 16 mm thick Cherry for a gift.  I used through dovetails for the box.  The lid was 11 mm re-sawn book matched Walnut.  The lid design evolved on it’s own to become rather Oriental in looks.  It’s the first time I’ve worked with Walnut, and I really enjoyed planing and chiselling it as well as the beauty of the grain.


Up to this point my sawing wasn’t progressing as I’m mixed dominant (right hand left eye), but after reading Jeff Miller’s’ “The Foundations of Better Woodworking,” I improved. Basically I twist my body to the left while holding the saw in my right hand.  This gives my dominant left eye a better line of sight.

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The bottom was grooved to fit a hardboard base which was covered with a leather-type paper used by bookbinders.


The lid seats in side the box so I made a template out of hardboard first, which was then used as the base for the leather-type paper.  Two Walnut strips were stuck onto the top of the lid to prevent it from falling in.

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I added a longitudinal piece to act as a handle and finished it with Danish oil & wax. The long side has allowance for seasonal wood movement and the two cross pieces are only glued in the central area for this same reason.

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Refurbished Robert Sorby Socket Chisel


I found this chisel in a very poor state with rust and pitting and a broken handle.  There are many antique chisels in my collection, most have been bought in batches and so many are not being used as there is a lot of overlap. Not so with this one.  I purposely wanted a socket chisel for chopping work due to its length. My main user set of chisels is the longer Robert Sorby 510 pairing chisels.  I prefer these longer chisels to the shorter socket designs as seen above and in the Stanley Sweetheart and Lie Nielsen range, mainly because of the thinner side walls.

Yet the shorter socket chisels are well suited for chopping out work, especially chopping out dovetail pins as their short length makes it easier to hold vertical and steady.  So my set of user chisels is 6 pairing and 3 socket (1/4″, 1/2″ and 1″).

The chisel featured here is a 1/4″ wide.  I cleaned as much of the patina and rust as I could and then lapped and sharpened the chisel.  My friend Leanne kindly turned the handle out of Hickory (Pecan Wood) and the finish was three coats of Shellac followed by two coats of Poly.

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George’s Box


I had a request to make a small box (70mm x 50mm x 50mm).  I read through my various books on boxes for inspiration, but a lot were veneered with no fundamental joinery used and I also wanted something original.  So with that in mind I decided on the box above.


I used Kiaat for the box and used a mitre joint with a hidden biscuit for strength.  I used the wood from one plank so the grain is continuous all around the box.


Apart from the radial arm saw used to cut the mitres and the biscuits to join them, the entire project was made with hand tools.

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For the lid I used 4.5 mm thick white oak which was joined using hand cut through dovetails.  Because I kept changing the design, the box ended up looking top heavy.  It was also not fitting snug to the box, so in order to solve both these problems, I placed some oak spacers inside the lid which both raised the lid for better proportions, and gave it a snug fit.

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The letter “G” was cut by scroll saw by my friend Astrid because my attempts looked like a bad case of Parkinsonism.  The finish was Danish Oil and wax.


Shaker Bench II

My previous post was on a project I recently made off a plan of a Shaker bench.  The author lengthened the bench and added a backrest.  If you refer back to that post you will read how I battled with the three way assembly due the sequence given in the plans.  So I decided to redo this bench the way I thought was more logical and of course easier to do.

I decided to leave the backrest out for a number of reasons.  I didn’t have enough wood, I was remaking this bench just to try and find a better way to assemble the sub-assembly which didn’t involve the backrest, and the original Shaker design did not have a back rest-par for the course for these ascetic people I suppose.

In fact I only had one plank of Poplar and one plank of Kiaat  (Pterocarpus angolensis) available.  So I decided to use the bland Poplar for the underside (legs and seat supports),  and the rich-grained Kiaat for the seat.

I started by cross cutting the Poplar plank to length with my radial arm saw-4 pieces for the legs and the remaining long piece for the seat supports.

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Above photos show single Poplar plank cross-cut into 4 short pieces (2 each per leg) and one long piece for the 2 seat supports.  The first photo shows the some offcuts sitting on the saw-bench underneath which are kept for testing the finish.

The pieces were then jointed and thicknessed.  My son developed an ingenious way to hold the dust extraction hose from getting in the way of the thicknesser outfeed table.  Basically an elastic tie attached to a tensioned cable at ceiling height:

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Then the bench end pieces which make up the legs were glued together:


These end pieces then had an arch cut out of them to form two legs and they will then be lap-joined to the seat support.  Again see the previous post for more on this.

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After the legs/side pieces were cut out, they were joined to the supporting seat supports. The lap joint was cut with a tenon saw and only a dry fit was done.


In the above photo you will notice that only the the seat support to your right has been joined.  You will also notice in both pictures how the seat support is not flush with the top of the leg/side piece, but is recessed by 12mm.  The part of the leg/side piece sitting proud will fit into a dado that will be cut into the underside of the seat, hence the three way fit that I referred to earlier.

Now we come to the part where I differed in my order from the previous bench.  Whereas the previous bench’s instructions called for the dado to be cut into the seat support first, I now took the whole dry fitted sub-assembly pictured above and laid it onto the underside of the seat.  I then marked out the dado directly and cut them.  This seemed liked the more logical (& esier way) to do things.  In reality it was much easier.

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I also added butterfly or dovetail keys on the seat for effect.  I made them from the same wood type so as to lessen the contrast. I placed four in a row along the centre line, two larger ones on the outside and two smaller on the inside. I used the Rockler jig to cut them out.

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Kiaat tears out very badly so I quickly gave up on the handplane and continued with the #80 scraper. I mixed fresh orange shellac and applied 5 coats with a brush and finished with one coat of diluted poly.  The shellac decreased the contrast between the light Poplar & darker Kiaat.

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On Thicker Plane Blades.

I bought a Lie-Nielsen blade for my antique Stanley #4 USA a few  years ago but always seemed to prefer using my Record 030 without really knowing why.

The other day I was trying to fettle the #4 because the shavings were clogging up in the mouth, something that never happened before.  I first lapped the chipbreaker on the back surface so that it seated flush with blade, and then I stropped the front edge to allow shavings to flow over unhindered.  This didn’t work.

I then tried moving the frog forwards and backwards-this didn’t work either.  Too far forward & the plane mouth closed up, and too far backwards and I couldn’t adjust the blade downwards-the adjustment screw reached its limit.

There was only one thing left to do.  I moved the chipbreaker further back along the blade, leaving a much larger gap.  This seemed to work fine, even though I’ve read that the gap has to be much smaller.  Maybe Stanley planes were not designed to take other blades?

Aside: In the background of the 1st picture is a Paul Sellers-inspired hand tool applicator.  take home-use machine (inorganic) oil only!

Box in Partridge Wood & Oak

Completed Box before finish.

Continuing with my love for making boxes, I made this from scrap pieces of Partridge Wood (Panga Panga) and White Oak.
The two short ends fitted into rabbeted sides and 3 nails were hammered in for support as well as looks.
The bottom was recessed into a rabbet and ship lapped.  There should be no significant wood movement on such a small piece so the ship lap was more for effect.
The Partridge Wood top was re-sawn and book matched.  Because it is an oily wood and thus difficult to glue, I first used a 2 part epoxy to glue the two pieces together.  Then I added two butterfly inlays for added support.

Completed Box after finish-those aren’t feet, they’re my dog holes.
I added a photo before the finish was added to show how the finish brings out the beautiful grain.  Finish used was the old faithful Danish Oil and wax.  Not shown is how the lid fits in place.  I used a shoulder plane to cut a custom rabbet all around to fit the not-so-perfectly-square box without rattling around. 

It’s now the new home for my Record 043.

Toolbox for Leathercraft Tools.

In between projects and needed to practice my hand cut through dovetails, so I made this box to keep my leather-crafting tools.  I used South African Pine, which has a lot of knots but  is relatively cheap and easy on the tools’ edges.  I decided to make small trays of plywood that  stack on top of each other, as there are quite few tools and I didn’t want them to bang against each other.  The lid was frame and panel, the frame was mortice & tenon and the panel made from a local hardwood called Kiaat, was raised by hand with a Stanley #78 rabbet plane and a #5 Jack plane.

I cut the dividers for the tool trays with the help of my Bridge City Tools KM-1 Kerfmaker.  The next sequence shows the trays being stacked from the bottom up, first empty and then with the tools in place.  Finish with Danish oil and wax.

For the tray bottoms, some I left bare, others i covered in Skyvex-a nice thin imitation leather that bookbinders use, and some I stuck on some veneer offcuts.