A Side Order of Shavings

I want to finish up plinth blocks soon, but meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the gift-giving season. I always seem to enjoy the holidays more when I make gifts.

One of my holiday side projects is a shavehorse, following the design so generously shared by Pete Galbert. David and I have been talking about building one for months now, once we finish some other projects. He’s been anxious for it, though, so I decided to sneak it in as a Christmas gift for him. It’ll give us some flexibility, letting him work on his projects while I work on mine. (He is, after all, a prolific maker of magic wands.)


David is a big fan of Galbert’s “smarthead” design, but I think I’ll make the simpler dumbhead first and if he feels ambitious enough, we’ll retrofit it with a “smarthead” together.

Since I don’t own dedicated chairmaking tools, my first tasks were to make a tapered reamer and a matching rounder. This weekend I made the tapered reamer, following Jennie Alexander’s plan, with a turned stock and a saw blade as a scraper. Alexander’s writing is not the kind you can skim, but I appreciate the generosity with which it’s offered. Case in point: it took me hours to figure out that the scraper blade stuck out both sides of the conical stock. I couldn’t figure out why it mattered whether the blade was tapered in width!

I don’t claim to be anything more than a novice at wood turning, but I’m incredibly lucky to have my grandfather around as a coach. He rescued me last weekend when my rough and pitted tail center threatened to burn away my workpiece. Not only did he demonstrate how to grind the tip of my tail center to reduce the friction, he also sent me home with a cup center that fit this project perfectly. The man is a treasure.

While dialing in the fit of the handle to the stock, I was reminded of why I’m doing this in the first place. We need a shavehorse! (Hopefully David won’t mind sharing his once in a while.) I plan to make it adjustable so he can continue to use it as he grows.

With the stock and handle of the reamer ready, I cut out the scraper blade and sharpened it with a 45 degree bevel and a burr.

my tapered reamer

Next up is a rounder with the corresponding taper, and then it’s time to make the shavehorse. Who knows? Maybe there will be some chairmaking in my future.

A Little Light Rust (Hunting)

The remains of Isaac blew through Kansas City last Friday and Saturday, bringing some much-needed moisture, and reminding us how lucky we can be. The sudden increase in humidity had me thinking about tools, though. I was out in the workshop Friday night, giving everything a wipe-down with jojoba oil.

Many of my tools are stored in a hanging tool cabinet. The cabinet started off as a traveling case my grandfather, Loren, built to take to woodcarving shows and meetings. For many years Loren was a fixture in the Kansas City Woodcarvers Club, sharpening tools for beginning carvers and teaching others to sharpen. He even wrote and self-published a book on sharpening in the ’80s, a volume that would become my textbook for everything from carving gouges (including a great treatise on the V-tool) to plane irons and chisels for joinery.

When my grandfather gave that case to me, I modified it to hang on a cleat on my workshop wall. I’ve reorganized it several times, even using it to store power tool accessories for the few years I tried keeping a hand tool shop in my basement. I moved everything back to the garage about a year ago, so it’s back in use for hand tools.

It’s a little crowded now, and looking up at it Friday night, I noticed one reason why. At some point I’d decided it was a good idea to keep two sets of bevel-edge socket chisels standing in parallel racks. I never use that back row of chisels, and the rack leaves little depth for anything else. These racks were made of two layers of 3/4″ plywood, one layer with graduated dados to receive the chisels. At some point I’d glued the two racks together, giving it a much more stable footing. It makes sense if you actually need all of that steel, but one set of bevel-edge socket chisels is plenty. Plus, it’s more steel to house and maintain.

Needing space more than redundancy, I took the chisels down and split the two racks apart along the glue line. I planed the back of one rack flush and attached it to the back of the cabinet with some carpet tape, which allows me to rearrange again at some future time.

(Editorial Note: The carpet tape turned out to be insufficient to hold up the rack of chisels. A few weeks later I came out to the workshop to find chisels scattered across my workbench. Luckily, none were damaged.)


The redundant set of chisels got a wipe-down with jojoba oil before I stashed them in a canvas tool roll and tucked them away, waiting for my son to get a little older.

Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Greg of rusthunter.com. Greg is one of those great guys in woodworking, dedicated to the craft and passionate about the tools. Not only does he have an impressive personal collection of tools, he’s also an officer in the Kansas City Woodworkers Guild
and makes a great ambassador for that group.