Category Archives: Hand Tools

Inlay Tools With A Twist

IMG_0012 copyLast week I shared the two oval designs, one of which I planned to use on my tall clock. Which did I choose? I selected the oval drawn using Freddy Roman’s method from the Popular Woodworking Magazine article. The other oval looked almost pointed when routed. But with choosing Roman’s method, there was, of course, a problem.

If you have followed any of the work I’ve done with string inlay, you know that I prefer to use a heated pipe section to bend my string – I have tried to use a solder iron, but have found it much more difficult.

Take a look at the finished oval shown the photo above. Look closely at the round ends. Those ends are way smaller than any pipe section I have in stock. I shot over to my favorite hardware store for a new section, but found nothing acceptable. Was I resolved to use a solder iron and power through? Don’t think so. This is when they say you should think outside the box, so I did.

IMG_0009I went to my shop drill bit drawer and found a new method to bend small rounded sections of inlay. Could an old twist drill bit do the trick. I had to give it a try, so I locked the bit in a pair of vise-grips and heated away. Cool thing is that the bit – due to its size or to its solid body – was quicker to heat. That made the task that much faster.

I went about the bend just as I would using anyone of the steel pipes: wet my string pieces slightly, backed the bend using a piece of metal strapping salvaged from a lumber shipment that came to the shop, heated the bit then bent my string. Everything worked perfect. In fact, four bends later my inlay was ready to install. All I had left was to taper and fit the ends to try and hide the joint.


If you have string work in front of you that has small tight bends, give this technique a try. It works.

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Filed under Hand Tools, Inlay, Jigs, Shop Tips

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

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.

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Filed under Hand Tools, Shop Tool

A Move Toward the Dark Side

This week I found myself moving toward the dark side. I installed bench holes so I could use a holdfast. Why a holdfast? I am working on a piece that has 10 drawers – 10 hand-cut dovetail drawers. I couldn’t stand the idea of turning an F-style clamp that many times, so I opted for the holdfast.

To use a holdfast meant that I needed to add a couple through-holes to my bench. (My Shaker-style bench has a bank of drawers underneath, so I did not drill the original holes completely through the top.) For this operation I used a plunge router and 3/4″-outside diameter router bit. When I posted this technique while at Popular Woodworking Magazine, I didn’t include where I found the router bits. I will not make that mistake again. I have two sources for 3/4″ up-cut spiral router bits. The first is Lee Valley & Veritas (item #86J01.42). A second source is Woodcraft (item #03K53). Also, the holdfast is from (Here’s a link)

Below is a short video that shows the process. It is too easy!

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Filed under Hand Tools, Routers, Shaker, Shop Tips, Video

Portable Spray Booth & Combination Square Video

I’ve had a couple questions about my spray booth when it appeared in a couple blog posts a while back. Before I tell you about my booth, let me tell you how I sprayed in the past.

For a short time – about 11 months – I had an actual spray booth. Before that I confiscated a room, installed an overhead fan that was ducted nearly ten feet to an outside wall vent and called that my spray room. (The exhaust fan wasn’t much help.) And when I began woodworking in my two-car garage, I used a 20″ box fan – it wasn’t explosion proof, either – set in a window. Also, none of these so-called booths had an explosion proof light. No, I’m not flirting with danger, I just do not think all the safety crap is necessary.

Today I have 1500 square feet to work in and my booth is a setup toward the front of my shop. (You can see it in the opening photo.) Still no explosion proof light, and no direct exhaust fan. What you do see is an old aluminum show booth to which I have packed the curtains away and hung inexpensive tarps to keep over-spray to a minimum.

You can see light streaming in from the right-hand side of the booth. That is a larger overhead door that I can open or closed depending on the temperature and weather condition. I also have a 48″ drum fan to clear the shop of unwanted fumes – I’m in an industrial-type setting.

If you’re interested in a booth like mine (who wouldn’t be) you can pick up the entire boot for around $217. You would need four 8′-0″ uprights ($15 each), four base plates at $64 and three adjustable drape supports that would run you $26 per support. The supports allow you to setup your booth between 6 feet and 10 feet wide. The same sizes are possible in depth. Three 8 x 10 tarps are maybe $15. Oh! I need to add in a set of shower curtain rings to hang the tarps. That pushes up the price a bit. Hey, it beats a cardboard box.

At the beginning of August, I wrote about a #21 Combination Square. Read the blog here. In the blog, I included that I had purchased one of these squares and would share video sometime in the future. This is the future and below is the video. Enjoy.
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Filed under Design, Hand Tools, Questions, Shop Tips, Shop Tool

Know Your Combination Square

Photo from the BCTW site

If you read this blog weekly, you know that I am not a hand-tool aficionado,  but I do enjoy, work with and appreciate quality tools. One of my favorite hand tools is my Bridge City Tool Works CS-6 combination square. (It’s a tool I have to keep close tabs on huh, Dave.)

While teaching a class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking (CVSW) last month, one of the students brought in a combination square with which I was not familiar. (Surprised?) As you can see in the photo below, what caught my attention was the slotted blade – what I considered as normal for these tools is a grooved blade. As I played with the square, I realized that the blade would not slide out of the handle, but would pivot.

I disassembled the square to take a look at the mechanism used to hold the blade. The lock pin on this square is different from new combination squares in that it has a hook at its end instead of a nub (located about mid-shaft) that fits into a groove. The hook feeds through the round cutout at one end of the blade slot – which is also where the blade is set to pivot. As you tighten the nut, the hook slips into the cast body to hold the blade from falling free. Just as with today’s combination squares, a tight nut secures the blade.

I went to the Internet in search of information. I found a Stanley catalog from 1953 that showed a square similar to the one the student had at CVSW. The information lead me to believe this was a Stanley #21 combination square. (A #22 square has the grooved blade.) As I looked at the catalog page I noticed a slight variation in body design from the cataloged tool and the one I saw at CVSW. In the photo below, the square on the left is an antique #21 found at Jim Bode Tools and is now part of my tool inventory. The one on the right is a new square found at

To me the body of the square from class looks exactly like the body of the new square. I doubt the school square is a Frankenstein tool with a new body assembled to an older blade and lock pin, so I am left to assume the slotted blade square from class is a newer version of a #21 combination square. This is where I turn to you. If you have additional information on a Stanley #21 combination square, please use the comment section below to add to my knowledge.

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In my search, I also found a Stanley #21 combination square that has a 9″ blade. Below is a photo of this tool from Jon Zimmers Antique Tools.


Filed under Hand Tools, Shop Tool

Quick Design Tip & Tombstone Doors

The two book-matched slabs pictured above are panels selected for my secretary tombstone doors. Take a look at the different arrangements. Which pairing looks best to your eye, right or left? Your response, for furniture construction, should be the pair on the right. Know why?

When you look at furniture, you should try to direct eyes inward toward the middle of the piece, then upward. As you look at the left pairing, your eye is drawn toward the middle of the panels due to the grain. However, as you follow that grain up the panels your eye is pushed away from the center as the grain flows outward.

The right pairing clearly has the opposite effect. As you travel up the panels your eye is continually directed toward the middle. This is correct for period design.

Make a Tombstone Panel

In order to highlight the panel’s grain features and to find the best look, I position my completed frames on the slabs, then slide the frames around the panels. Because I was working with a pair of doors, I lined the two up side by side and worked to match the grain as best I could. When I had things set, I drew around the inside of the frames to mark each panel. The final step to layout was to offset each line, including the arched top, by 5/16″. Panels were then cut to that size.

To raise the panels, I turn to a router setup. This where using power tools makes the most sense, but there is also hand work that needs to be done before tombstone panels are complete. A router bit leaves rounded inside corners. It cannot create sharp turns. To finish up the panels, use a straight edge to pencil in the square shoulders, and a compass to set the round portion.

Using a sharp chisel, set the lines just drawn to a depth that matches the reveal found on the balance of the panel. Pare away waste until the reveal is set. Next, after a line is struck down the slope and set in with a chisel, work the square portion back to your line by continuing the profile into the corner as shown in the left photo.

To complete the rounded portion is a bit more tricky in that the profile is continued into the corner, but the area has to be on a continuous radius. Again, sharp chisels are a must, and you need to watch grain direction, too. (I also found that having a couple carving gouges – almost flat carving gouges – are great to set the rounded reveal lines, and to work nasty grain if necessary.) I’ll get the area as flat and clean as possible, then I’ll finish up with sandpaper.

Below you can see how the doors and panels look with construction complete, but without finish. (You can also see the completed fretwork discussed a couple weeks back.)

One additional note on my panels. Some tombstone panels achieve more than 180 degree bend, which looks unnatural. Others achieve the 180 degree half circle, then extend straight down a bit more in order to connect with the shoulders. I find both these examples distracting. To work out details prior to any shop work, I turned to SketchUp. I designed the panels to have a full half-circle radius at the inside edge of the raised portion, then work outward to arrive at a layout for the top rails. Sometimes a little planning goes a long way.

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Filed under Design, Hand Tools, Power Tools, Shop Tips