One of the things that we all learn while woodworking is that there are things that we can make to help us out as we strive to become better woodworkers. History has taught us that many times the answer to a problem can be as simple as using a little ingenuity to make our processes faster and more efficient. What did our woodworking ancestors do to make their life easier or more efficient while doing their jobs.They certainly couldn’t go to the local hardware store or go online to get what they needed. If for example they needed to make a perfect circle on a piece of wood they probably figured out that a string and a nail could be used to draw a circle but to make a hundred circles of the same size a shop made compass was better . So with that logic in mind I will show you a few of the things that I have made, and that you can make to help your woodworking experiences become easier, safer and cheaper.
The Groovy Jig
I like to add inlay accent strips on my tables and jewelry boxes ,which was no problem on flat straight pieces using a router table and straight bits. But when I attempted to do inlays on the outside edge of round and oval table tops that presented some serious challenges. I figured that I needed to use a slot cutting bit for the router but the one that I got was only good to make a 3/16” cut 1/2” deep. Most of my inlays are 1/8” thick so I came up with what I call the GROOVY JIG. It was simple enough to make and really takes all of the trial and error out of making grooves on any inside of outside cuts that I need to make. I started out by drilling an offset hole in a 1” dowel to accept the bearing of the slot cutter.Then I made a custom bracket to hold the dowel which then clamps to the router table. By rotating the offset dowel I can now adjust the exposed area of the cutter to the depth that I need.
The next photo shows the workpiece against the fence. Keep the workpiece perpendicular to the bit for uniform depth of cut. Once you make one pass through the cutter,flip the piece over and run it through the bit again to center the cut.
Pieces that I have used the Groovy jig to make inlays.
Shop Made Oval Jig
Ever wondered how to make a perfect oval? Well one day as I was looking through a woodworking catalog I saw
a little gizmo for $19.95 just for that purpose. Being the cheapskate that I am I decided to make one.The prototype worked all-right but by making a few modifications and a few different sized jigs I can now make any sized ovals or circles that I need for use in my woodworking.
Start by cutting a piece of 4/4 stock into a perfect square blank.The one I made is a piece of mahogany cut 5”x5” .On the router table route a 1/4” groove 3/8” deep in the center running in both directions. Flip around and do it again so that both grooves are perfectly centered.
Cut a piece of stock about a 1/4” wider than the widest part of the dovetailed groove. Move the router fence over so that you take out a portion of the stock on both sides to make the cams that will slide in the grooves. Sneak up on making the cams fit by adjusting the fence until the cams slide easily in the grooves.
The next photo shows the adjustable arm layout. A series of holes drilled 1/2” apart are used to determine the axis which the cams will follow to give the length and width of the oval. The larger holes are used to hold the pencil.
The next photo shows the assembled jig ready to go. I use double sided tape to secure it to the workpiece ,in this case cardboard pattern. This position of the arm gives 1/2 of the length of the oval.
Pieces made with shop made oval making jig.
Pen Blank Sled
On occasion I go into a pen turning frenzy where I usually turn between 10 and 20 at a stretch. One of the most annoying aspects of pen turning is whittling down a square blank on the lathe to get it to the proper size. Takes up alot of extra time readjusting the tool rest and having to sharpen the tools more often. I have seen other jigs to pre- round the blanks for sale, but being the cheapskate that I am I decided to make my own pre-turning pen blank jig.
I started by putting a dovetail in a scrap piece of walnut to hold the piece that the handle section and the removable tail section slide in. Next make the corresponding dovetail in the handle section stock so that it slides in the sled slot. I then cut the handle section from the tail section and formed the handle. Cut the tail section to allow a thru hole to be drilled for the pen mandrel. Glue the handle section in place on the sled. Glue small pieces of 80 grit sandpaper at each end of the mandrel thru holes to keep the blank from spinning.
Once the blank is loaded onto the jig, pressure is applied to the thumb lever and the cut is made . Then I retract the jig ,release the pressure, spin the blank 90 degrees,make the next cut and so on until the blank has been rounded.
Bandsaw Walking Stick
LOML wanted me to make her a new walking stick. Had to be a minimum of 44” long but my lathe can only take stock 40” plus she wanted it made from a couple of different woods and it had to taper from 1 1/4”- 1”.
Using what I had learned from making my pen blank jig I went ahead and made a new jig for making round blanks using my bandsaw. The jig had to be capable of holding the blank securely on the centers but at the same time allowing the blank to be rotated as it was passed through the saw. It also had to be attached to the fence of the saw to provide accurate cuts each time it was sent through and retracted, plus it had to be adjustable for different lengths and diameters of stock. Here is what I came up with. The blank is made from 2 pieces of bloodwood and 2 pieces of fishtail oak glued together to make a blank 1 1/2 sq x 44” long.
The stationary part of the jig attaches to the fence and has a groove routed that accepts the movable part that the blank attaches to and is able to slide back and forth along the entire length. The blank is attached to the supports using screws that are centered in the blank and are spaced using rubber washers to hold it from rotating while the cut is made. The taper is made by moving the far end of the blank support and securing with screws .
Once the blank is loaded onto the jig it is just a matter of slicing off a section then retracting, rotate ,slice and retract and so on until the blank is perfectly round.
The next step of the process was figuring out how to sand the roughed out blank to remove the saw marks. I normally would use the lathe for this step but because of the length of the blank it won’t fit so the next best thing is to make a sanding jig.
I began by making a mounting bracket to hold my electric drill which holds a 5/16” hex head driver.
A 5/16” hex head screw is then screwed into the end of the blank and acts as the center drive.
For the other end I used an old 1/4” router bit with a 3/8” bearing drilled into the end of the blank with the shaft end drilled into the support and secured to the bench.
After the set up is complete it’s just a matter of sanding through the grits until the shaft is smooth.
I went ahead and turned the knob for the top out of fishtail oak and bloodwood and attached it by turning a 3/8” tenon as part of the knob and drilling a 3/8” hole in the shaft.
So here is the finished Bandsaw walking stick. I still have to get a ferrule for the bottom and add a leather strap but this was a fun little project .LOML was very pleased. Think I’ll make a few more.