Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tall Clock Oval Inlay

The Egerton tall clock I’m working on has two small oval inlays set into the waist-section face frame, so this is a perfect time to discuss and evaluate ovals.

In the period, channels for inlay were scratched into the surface using a compass, or something similar tool. Today we can work with a variety of tools, both hand and powered, to plow our grooves – hand work with a compass or inlay tools available from LeeValley & Veritas or Lie-Nielsen, and, of course, a router if you wish to power-up the process. But before you actually get to that step, you have to design your oval.

For me, ovals have been pulled from some type of computer drawing program, such as SketchUp. In the August 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, Freddy Roman ( wrote an article about the ellipse. More to the point, about false ellipses. What is the difference and why should you choose one method over the other? Here is my take on this. If you plan to scratch in your oval pattern, or to use a router attached to a trammel to swing an oval, You better understand and use false ellipses. If, on the other hand, you plan to make a pattern to guide your router setup, any old ellipse will do.

Which technique do I choose? That’s not as easily answered as you may think. Because I have my clock waist assembled just as shown in the opening drawing, I would be unable to scratch my ovals into position – in order to draw the flat arcs necessary to create the long sides of my ovals require that I set my compass point more than 5″ from the center of my oval and that area is not available. That, however, does not keep me from using Freddy’s method to develop my pattern which would guide my router. Another option would be to create a piece of veneer with the string inlay in place, then glue that veneer to my clock.

Let’s begin with a comparison of the two ovals. Above you can see a distinct difference in the two drawing methods. A false ellipse, shown on the left, has ends that are more rounded because a compass or inlay tool works on a radius. The oval on the right is drawn in SketchUp. It’s ends are more pointed and could not be grooved using hand tools alone.

I will refer you to Freddy’s article for the steps necessary to produce a false ellipse. (I worked through the layout for my ovals.) Here, I’ll share how I use SketchUp and Preview (a MAC program) to produce an oval. (Before MAC, I worked in Microsoft Publisher for similar results.)

The first step is to layout the perimeter of the oval you wish to draw, then use the Circle tool centered at the middle of your proposed finished oval. Pull the radius out to the long end of your oval – here that is the top and bottom of the oval.

Next, use the Scale tool to pull in one side of your oval. Repeat the step to pull in the second side, as well.

The last step in SketchUp is to export your drawing. (This process is shown with the drop-down menu.) The image is saved in a file on your computer.

Open your file in Preview or another similar program, then set the parameters to crop the image touching all four sides as shown.

Under the Tools menu in Preview, select “Adjust Size”, enter in your required size then click OK. (Note that the size shown is not the actual size I needed for my clock.)

After the size is established, click print. As the menu to print opens, you’ll notice there is an option that allows you to print to scale. Set the scale at 100 percent before you print.

You now should have an oval that fits to your required layout size. I take that print-out into my shop, cut it free then transfer the pattern to a piece of plywood to use with my router. Which design do I plan to use on my clock? I believe that when you are working with small or narrow ovals, your design should be a false ellipse because the other drawing process produces ends that are too pointed, almost unbelievable. However, when I work with larger ovals, I prefer the ends be not so rounded. What do you think?

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Filed under Design, Inlay, Shop Tips

Videos: From Woodworking in America 2012

From October 12 – 14, 2012 I taught three different sessions at Woodworking in America – West Coast in Pasadena, California. Two of the same sessions were taught at Woodworking in America – Midwest some three weeks later from November 2 – 4. During my sessions, I played short video clips that emphasized various points I thought important. After the conferences, I received many emails asking that I post these video clips on my blog.

If you attended one of my sessions during the conference, these videos make perfect sense. If, however, you did not attend my sessions, or even one of the conferences (Shame on you!), some of these short clips might not be all that they could be. But I think you could still garner a nugget of useful information. If you have comments or questions about the techniques covered in these clips, as always, add a comment at the bottom of the page. I will respond ASAP.

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Doors: Types, Tips & Techniques

The Mighty Dovetail

Finishes That Pop


Filed under Finish Techniques, Jigs, Joinery, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tool, Video

Woodworker Cartoon

Since I reintroduced this blog in January 2012, I have posted something woodworking related every Sunday. This is not Sunday,but this short video is woodworking related. One out of two is not bad. And it brought a smile to my day. It may do the same for you.

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Filed under Hand Tools, Uncategorized, Video

Router Surprise

I own a few routers. Most have cords, but I do have a router plane, too. Over time, I have come to use trim routers whenever possible. This past week while I was working on a bunch of mallet inserts, I made a discovery.

The photo above is of a small jig I created to rout a handle area into half of the assembled insert. A small block (each milled to the exact thickness, length and width) is slide into the jig then a pattern bit, installed in one of my trim routers, clears away the balance of the waste – this is step three of many steps to complete the inserts.

As each pair of routed pieces come out of the jig, I use a fractional dial caliper to measure the opening. In the past when I would make these pieces, I had measurements all over the place. I had to retract the bit depth every so often to keep the measurements within a usable guideline. It wasn’t clear what was going on. The router bit was not slipping – I have a phobia about this, so I make sure to install the bit and tighten the collet correctly. The adjustment was not a problem, but I had to keep an eye on things.

This week, as I checked each pair coming out of the jig, there was no adjustments made. From start to finish, pieces came out right. Of course, this caused me to wonder. Then it hit me. The only difference between this time and the other times when I made sporadic adjustments was the trim router used. Bingo, that must be the problem.

As shown in the opening photo, this time I use a DeWalt DWP611, which has become one of my favorite small routers. Previous times I used my Ridgid R2401. It seems my Ridgid trim router was slipping as I used it. Not the bit out of the collet as you may expect, but the motor was sliding down into the adjustable base.

I have to admit that I have used the dog out of my Ridgid router, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Until the DeWalt came along it’s the router I used for everything except pattern routing with a 3/4″-diameter bit. I use it so much that the bearings in my Ridgid are wearing out and the added vibration may be the cause of the unwanted slippage.

There is a fix for my problem and this is why I am bringing this to your attention. Under the clamp lock there is a nut that tightens to increase the hold. I have adjusted that nut and should no longer see any creeping of the motor. It’s important to check your small power tools on occasion just as you check your woodworking machines.

I am not going to toss my Ridgid.  No, I plan to use this router for regular routing of moldings and the like instead of operations that have critical measurements required. In fact, at $89 from Home Depot, I may purchase another to have in reserve.

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Filed under Jigs, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tool

Thank You Mr. Klausz

Woodworking in America – Midwest was in its opening day when a fine-looking gentleman woodworker stops by The Acanthus Workshops booth – of which I had commandeered a small portion (Thanks, Chuck Bender) – and picks up one of my brass-head mallets. Immediately Mr. Frank Klausz looks at me and says he is taking a mallet to use during his classes. My reply, “Have fun.”

The idea that Frank used a mallet is great. The fact that he, as he handed the mallet back yesterday after his classes, told me it was a “Very nice mallet”, was awesome. The fact that I am now sold out of the first run my mallets is sad. But fear not. I have a second run in the works and should have them in a couple weeks.

If you are looking to add a great mallet to your woodworking tools, this is the mallet and this is the time. Beginning on Tuesday – election day, so please get out and vote – I will adjust mallet pricing to reflect the deal that many woodworkers took advantage of at one of the two Woodworking in America shows. For the balance of November, you can pick up a mallet (handle and insert included) for $160. That’s a savings of $25. And your mallet will be delivered during the first week of December, if not earlier. What a great gift to give or receive. Click here to see products in my online store, including the brass-head mallets.

By the way, if you placed an order for a mallet in the last couple weeks, you will also get the price reduction.

Build Something Great!


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Filed under Hand Tools, Shop Tool