Table Saw Taper Jig

Taper jig using the table saw fence as the guide

Other than my crosscut sled, this straight edge/ table saw taper jig is the accessory that I use the most with my table saw. I love how simple it was to build, and how many versatile applications it has proved to have in my shop.

What does a taper jig do?

A tapering jig does just what the name implies. Whilst running a board through a table saw using only the fence, it is impossible to cut more wood from one end of the board and less from the other. The taper jig allows the user to cut a varying amount of wood (typically on two sides with most furniture) with the use of a movable fence attached to a sled.

Tapered table legs
An example of tapered legs on an end table

The design

There is a tonne of plans and examples of these types of jigs on the internet – from super-advanced with all the bells and whistles, tracks, clamps, and angles – to very simple hinged designs.

hinged tapering jig
And example of a manufactured, hinged tapering jig. (photo from Eagle America)

When I set out to make my table saw taper jig, what I was really in need of was a straight edge jig. Since I don’t have a jointer and I use a lot of reclaimed wood for my projects, I needed something that I could use to create a straight edge on one of my boards, so that I could then flip it and run that edge against my table saw fence to create a board with both straight and parallel edges.

So, I knew needed a straight edge jig, but I also knew that I was going to be doing some tapered legs for an upcoming coffee table build. This is why, instead of building a simple straight edge jig AND then later having to create a simple taper jig, I decided to go with a design that could accomplish both tasks.

Homemade tapering jig

I’m not sure where this particular design originally came from, as I’ve seen several people build similar designs. The most in-depth video I have found on this type of taper jig is from King’s Fine Woodworking.

If you haven’t seen his videos or checked out his site, I definitely recommend it. He has very informative and well-presented projects and plans.

It’s a simple design consisting of a base, a fence and three slots – one in the fence and two down the sides of the base to allow for a type of swiveling motion with the fence.

My jig varied from King’s design in one key area, and that is that I didn’t use a runner at the base of the sled. Instead, I used my table saw fence as the guide for the jig.

I did this for two reasons:

The first is that, because I wanted to also be using this jig to joint the edges of boards, I didn’t want to have a fixed capacity for the jig. Having the sled use the mitre slot as a guide meant that if I had a particularly wide board to straight joint, I wouldn’t have the room. Using the fence as the guide allows me to simply move the fence back in order to cut wider boards.

The second reason is due to somewhat of a laziness/cost factor. I didn’t want to purchase more metal runners, and I haven’t had the greatest luck with wood runners lasting any amount of time in the Australian weather.

The build

For the base of my jig, I chose a piece of 18mm BBC ply that I had left over from my waterfall bedside table build. I’ve seen other builds from MDF or thinner plywood – but I think the best material is always what you have on hand that will work for a project. 😉 I have definitely been bogged down on occasion with waiting to do a project until I had the ‘perfect’ material. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as they say!

cutting the base of the tapering sled

I wanted a good amount of length and width in order to, as I mentioned before, accommodate for various sizes of wood. In the end, the length of my sled is roughly the length of my table saw and the width is 400mm.  These are the dimensions that worked best for me, both in terms of the materials that I had on hand and the applications that I wanted to use the sled for. I have seen numerous sleds with a much thinner base in terms of width, but for the purpose of straight edge jointing, I wanted to have a wider base for my boards.

Cutting the slots

After cutting the base of the sled and fence to size, it was time to cut the slots that would allow the fence to move and accommodate for hold-downs.

planning the slot layout for a tapering jig

I decided where I wanted these slots to be based on moving around the fence at various angles.

marking the slot positions on the base of the taper jig

I’m sure there are specific calculations, but this worked for me and didn’t take too long.

I marked where I wanted my slots and then used a Forstner bit to drill a hole at the start of each slot – only to the depth that I would be routing my slot. I have a fixed based router and I prefer to drill clearance holes as opposed to tilting the bit into the wood – to each their own if you would like to skip that step and opt for tilting instead.

drilling a clearance hole before routing the slots

A t-bolt sitting in the drilled recess
Just deep enough to recess the head of the bolt 🙂

I then used a straight edge piece of plywood as a fence and routed a wide slot with a 20mm mortising bit, just deep enough to allow the head of the bolt to not protrude, allowing for the sled to slide smoothly across the surface of the table saw.

Routing a groove for a t bolt

I followed this with a drill bit and put a hole the size of my bolt in the centre of this slot and completely through the wood.

Drilling a recess for the straight bit

Then, leaving the straight edge guide in place, I changed to a straight bit and routed a channel through the base of the sled.

Routing a slot in the base of the tapering jig

I then repeated this method to route the slot in the top of the fence for the hold-downs.

Routiing the slot in the fence of a tapering jig

If you don’t have a router, you can also cut these slots with a jigsaw!

And that was it! The build was complete! Talk about easy.

Taper jig with hold down clamps

If you’re interested, I used these hold down clamps from Powertec. They are relatively cheap and work great!

Using the jig

To use the jig, I simply place the sled on my table saw top just
touching the blade, then lock down the fence. Taper jig using the table saw fence as the guide

I tested on a scrap piece of 75 by 35 treated pine. Not an ideal leg piece, but again it’s what I had! I marked the shoulder of the leg where the taper would begin and then marked at the base of the leg how far I wanted the taper to extend.

cutting a taper on a table saw taper jig

I then lined up my marks, the shoulder at the top, and the taper at the bottom of the jig, set the fence, and clamped everything in place.

Aligning the bottom of the taper to the edge of the taper jig

After the first pass, I flipped the piece and unclamped the bottom of the fence in order to move it in to accommodate the newly acquired taper. Normally, a two-sided taper is done on two adjacent sides. This approach would be even easier as the fence wouldn’t need to be moved at all after the first cut. Simply rotate your leg ninety degrees so that the cut face is up, and then run your jig back through the saw. Since my test piece wasn’t a square piece, I simply tested putting tapers on two parallel sides. 🙂

cutting a taper

Easy done, two-sided taper.

For straight edges, the jig is super simple and effective. I simply place whatever wonky edged board I have on top of the jig and clamp it so that a continuous edge is hanging over the side of my sled. I then run this through the saw, remove the board from the jig and place my freshly cut edge against the saw’s fence to create a straight, parallel-sided board.

This view from the bottom of the jig shows the piece protruding over the edge of the sled.

edge jointing with a taper jig

straight edge from the taper jig
The best jig in my shop?

Well, look, my crosscut sled is probably my most used jig, but this is definitely one of my favourite jigs, and I use it all the time to straight joint boards either before a glue-up, or to clean up rough, reclaimed lumber for a project. I’m definitely glad that I spent the extra time to build a jig that could do both tapers and straight edges as it’s saved me loads of time and space in my small workshop!

Do you have a favourite design for a taper jig? Let me know in the comments!

 

Ryobi Nail Gun Review | Airwave 3 n 1

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

I purchased the Airwave 3 n 1, a Ryobi nail gun and stapler combo, about a year ago.

The following review and conclusion is a personal opinion derived from my use of the tool. Other’s may have different experiences, but I have tried to be as thorough as possible with the use, features, and my personal experience with the Airwave.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

When I originally purchased this tool, I really just needed a brad nailer – but I was lured in by the “3 n 1” capability that Ryobi touted – an ability to shoot both C Series and C1 series brad nails as well as 6000 series staples. Did I need a stapler? No. I can count on one hand, using half the fingers, how many times I have opted for staples over nails or screws, but look, it had three capabilities in one – so why not? I’m sure I would start using staples more if I had a good gun, right?

Specs

Model Name: Ryobi 3 n 1 Brad Nailer/Stapler

Model number: RA-NBS1664-S

Power source: Compressed Air

Weight: 2.46kg

Brad nail range: 15-64 mm

Staple range: 16-40 mm

Magazine capacity: 100 x nails/staples

Working Pressure range: 4.8 – 8.3 bar (70 – 120 psi)

Ergonomics

This is not a small brad nailer. It comes in at 2.5kg, which isn’t the heaviest on the market, by any means, but for some reason I find the balance all off.

In my use, I have found this nail gun big and unwieldy for its applications. On paper, the size and weight aren’t much different to many other brad nailers, but for some reason, it just doesn’t feel easy or comfortable to use, for me. This may be because I am comparing it to other guns that are just brad nailers, and I am cognizant of the fact that this gun is trying to fit three different applications into one body.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 with self-oiling connector
Note: The self-oiling connector at the bottom is an aftermarket add on that I purchased and doesn’t come with the gun.

As for the actual firing – there isn’t too much kickback and the trigger has a relatively nice, even feel when pressed.

The handle itself has a good, rubber coating that improves grip.

Features and Kit

The Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 comes with a carrying case, a variety of brads and staples, as well as a small oil applicator. I really appreciate whenever a tool comes with a case, so that’s a bonus for me. It is also nice that it includes the small oil bottle – pneumatic guns really need to be oiled at every use!

The gun also features a depth adjustment knob which allows for a more precise setting directly at the gun when driving in your nails.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 depth adjustment knob
The depth adjustment knob is easy to access just in front of the trigger

The depth adjustment works in terms of making sure the nail gets driven far enough into the wood, but it doesn’t keep the anvil of the gun from marring the wood – more on that below.

Use

As far as driving in brads and staples the 3 n 1 works as it should. As I mentioned above, the depth adjustment works well, and I find that I can set nails and staples to ensure that they don’t blow through my project. I have had no problems thus far with jams or misfires, but there is easy access through a lever at the front of the gun to allow for simple removal of jammed nails.

Jam removal on the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1
Easy access to the top of the gun for jam clearance

The tool works well in both hard and softwoods provided you spend some time adjusting your air pressure at the compressor, the depth adjuster at the gun, and testing on some scrap beforehand.

Assembling drawers with glue and brad nails

The magazine is easy to load and allows for easy changing between staples and brads.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 magazine

Because the 3 n 1 has a wide head to accommodate for staples, it is sometimes hard to accurately pinpoint where your brad nail will end up – I definitely prefer brad nailers with small noses that allow you to see exactly where you will be driving your nail into.

Wide tip of the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

There is one big thing that makes me regret my purchase of this nailer/stapler combo – and that is the marring of the wood from the anvil.

I believe the biggest negative for this tool isn’t specifically a problem with Ryobi’s version, as opposed to it being a problem with all types of brad/stapler combos.

When driving in a brad I have been unable, on a consistent basis, to eliminate the unsightly marring of the wood. After trying several different settings, I took to the internet to try to find a solution and was dismayed to find many people struggling with the same issue.

Staples marring in wood from the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1
marring in the wood from the staple anvil

This seems to come down to the fact that the anvil which drives in the staple is the same anvil that drives in the brads. This means that instead of having a nice hole through which the nail has been driven, as you would in a regular brad nailer, you are left with a long staple mar in the wood.

There have been suggestions that I have found to help eliminate this – such as not placing the head of the gun directly flat on the surface of the wood and instead holding it at a slight angle to eliminate the full surface of the anvil connecting with your project. However, after trying many of the different suggestions, I’ve been unable to have a consistently good result and therefore cannot use the gun on any surfaces that will be visible. This effectively eliminates the usefulness of the brad nailer in terms of front-facing pinning applications. A small hole is easy to fill and relatively unnoticeable in the finished product – a long-staple hole, on the other hand, is a different story.

 

Conclusion

If you are predominantly working on surfaces that aren’t being seen or don’t need a fine finish, then this gun is a pretty good deal for having the capability to drive two different types of brads as well as staples.

However, if you want the true capability of a brad nailer, (ie. nice, easily filled nail holes on front-facing surfaces) this isn’t the tool for you.

If I had to go back, I would have simply purchased a brad nailer itself as opposed to the combo tool. Staplers aren’t that expensive, and I don’t find myself using them that often to have sacrificed the convenience of a good brad nailer.

In fact, I disliked the staple marring so much, that I did recently purchase the Ryobi cordless brad nailer, and am much happier with it. Look out for a coming review on that!

It doesn’t always pay off to get a tool that can do many things okay, but none of them well – and that’s the exact case with the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1.

Do you have this tool? If so what are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments!

Modern Bedside Table with Waterfall End Grain

Modern plywood waterfall grain bedside table

I recently built two modern bedside tables to surprise my partner when she returned from a trip overseas. I wanted them to feature sharp corners with a waterfall grain and found a great plan/idea from pneumaticaddict over at buildsomething.com using plywood. Instead of laminating two pieces together, like she did, I decided to go with a thinner version using a single sheet, both for ease, cost, and prefered design.

Tools/Products I Used

1 full sheet of 18mm plywood (try to find a sheet that has a thick face veneer, and I didn’t and lived to regret it – more on that below)

Circular saw with straight edge guide/track or table saw

Pocket hole jig

Drill/driver

Wood glue

Clamps

Drawer slides

Cutting the ply to manageable sizes

I purchased a full sheet of ply (2440 x 1220) from a timber yard and needed to cut that large piece down into manageable sizes.

I was lucky to have my friend, Kenny, here for the weekend – which made moving the sheet around a lot easier.

Cutting the full sheets of plywood down to manageable sizes

Using my circular saw, I cut a piece slightly larger than my finished dimensions. I found while cutting with my circular saw, I got a massive amount of tear out. This is when I realized that I had purchased a plywood with a very thin face veneer. For the rest of my cuts, I covered the cut line with tape, which helped to minimize some of the tear out, but didn’t get rid of it entirely. After cutting a slice roughly 405 x 1350, I cleaned up the edges to their final dimension on the table saw.

Waterfall Grain

Waterfall grain refers to the grain of the wood continuing over the edge, which gives it an awesome wrap-around look. To accomplish this, instead of just cutting the top and side pieces and then giving them individual 45 degree bevels, you cut a wedge from the underside of your long panel, with the aim of removing as little material as possible from the face of the board.

Because I was making two nightstands, I experimented with two different methods to do these cuts.

Marking the cut lines for a waterfall end grain nightstand
Measure and mark the lines for the inside of the bevels

The first was with my circular saw and track. I set the saw at a 45 degree bevel angle and lined up my track with the cut line.

Cutting  45 degree bevels with a circular saw

After this first bevel was finished, I flipped the board over, lined up my track and cut the bevel in the opposite direction. Cutting the 45 degree wedge out for a waterfall end grain

You should end up with a nice wedge out of the back of your board (I made sure to save this wedge – as it will be useful later!). I continued by cutting the next two bevels for the other side of the top and the right side of the table.

When finished, if you flip the boards and line them up, there should be very little interruption to the grains.

Showin g the perfect grain match on a waterfall end grain cut
Perfect!

For my second nightstand, I decided to try my table saw. It was essentially the same steps, but instead of having to line up the circular saw track, I simply was able to visually line up the bevels on the blade and run the board through next to the fence.

Cutting a 45 degree bevel on the table saw

Both methods worked fine, but I think the table saw was easier and less time-consuming.

Success!

 

Cutting the shelf and back support

Now that I had the top cut out, I could take the interior dimensions and measure for the width of the shelf and cut it to size. The depth will be the same as the sides and top, but the width will be measured to the inside of the bevel on the top piece

I just laid the rough cut shelf on the underside of the top and marked the inside of the bevel, then crept up on the cut until it was perfect!

Marking the inside of the bevel to get the width of the shelf

I also cut the back support/drawer cover at this point and put pocket holes in both this and the shelf for attaching later.

Pocket hole joinery for a shelfPockethole joinery on a nightstand shelf

Sand

Always a good idea to give your pieces a cursory sanding before attaching them together. This allows you to get to all the sides without having to deal with annoying, tight corners, etc.

Glue-Up

I’m about to do something controversial here. I’ve seen many people join beveled edges with splines, biscuits or pocket holes, but I opted not to use any hardware and to trust the glue, along with the back structural panel and shelf to hold this baby together.

I’ll let you know in a few months if that was a good idea, but it’s been three weeks and I have been knocking the hell out of the drawers (because I am generally an absentminded and rough person) and have observed no movement in them.

Before gluing, I taped up the seams to minimize glue mess and took the wedges that I had saved from the waterfall cuts to use as clamping cauls.

Taping up the seams before gluing

I put tape down on both the surface of the nightstand and the caul and then used super glue to bond the two together, once the superglue is dry, I can then use a clamp on the cauls to bring the beveled corners together.

Home made corner clamping cauls

I also have these nifty right – angle clamps that were super cheap on Amazon and actually work great for these types of glue-ups!

Cheap corner clamps that work well

Since I was avoiding any joinery, I made sure to put a healthy layer of glue on both pieces, then waited a few minutes for it to soak into the end grain before putting even more on. I wanted to make sure that there would be no areas left untouched by the glue.

45 degree bevel glue up

I then placed the corner clamps on and lightly tightened them to hold everything in place while I situated the clamps on the cauls. Before tightening everything up, I placed the shelf in its position, squared it up, and clamped it in place to ensure that the entire structure would remain square while the glue dried. Once the shelf was in place – I tightened everything down and left it overnight.

Annnddd unfortunately, I got distracted around this time of the day with a couple of beers and forgot to snap a pic with all the clamps on…. Typical Raff

Attaching Shelf and Back Support

The next day I was able to take the clamps off and easily attach the back support and shelf. I had been a bit nervous that when I screwed the support, as well as the shelf in, that I would see some movement in the bevelled corners – but I have been (so far) right about the strength of the glue, as there was no movement in the joined edges at all.

Using pocket hole joinery to attach nightstand shelf Using pocket hole joinery to attach back of nightstand

Filling and Sanding

If there is one thing I would change about this build, it’s the plywood that I chose to build it with. The face veneer on the plywood is so thin that it chips very easily and takes very little sanding to break through.

Luckily – there is such a thing as wood filler.

Chips in plywood
Chips in the back of the nightstand support
Chips in plywood being fixed with wood filler
Covered with wood filler
Chips in plywood fixed with woodfiller
After filler has dried and been sanded

I gave both nightstands a good once over with the filler in all the cracks and chips. It isn’t perfect, but it does look much better after it drying and getting a good sanding.

Varnish

After finishing with the filler and giving everything a nice sand to 220 grit, wiped the surfaces down and chose a nice satin water-based varnish to finish it with.

Adding acrylic paint to water based clear coat to tint

While water-based varnish isn’t supposed to amber as oil-based finishes do, the ply itself does tend to yellow over time. And, the water-based varnish isn’t known for making the grain pop at all – so I have found that adding a slight tint to the varnish with acrylic paints a good way to lighten any yellowing and really make things look great. I simply placed a few drops of red and blue acrylic paint into the varnish and gave it a good stir.

Using waterbased varnish to seal a nightstand
I got all set up outside and then quickly realised it was going to be too windy. The dining room table served well, and I was lucky my partner wasn’t home to see it, aha!

I love the clean, white appearance of the varnish on the plywood when finished – the tint really does mellow out any yellowing!

I put two coats on each nightstand, sanding to 360g between coats.

Drawers and Rails

While the varnish was drying, I was able to start on the drawers. I carefully measured the inside dimensions of both nightstands and chose a relatively shallow drawer of 75mm depth.

Cutting drawer side with Bosch mitre saw

After cutting the pieces to size, I cut grooves for the drawer bottom in each piece on the table saw. My drawer bottom was going to be 6mm MDF (something I conveniently had lying around, or I may have chosen plywood), so I only needed two passes on my 3mm kerf blade to have a perfect slot.

Cutting grooves for bottom of drawer on the table saw

With everything cut, I was able to assemble the drawers with glue and brad nails, attaching three sides before sliding in the drawer and attaching the fourth.

Assembling drawers with glue and brad nailsDrawer bottom in slot

For the drawer front, I used a white spray paint and gave it several coats, with the last coat being a finishing coat of clear spray.

clear coat on painted white drawer fronts

I then finished the drawers themselves with the same varnish as the nightstands.

Plywood and MDF drawers

Drawer rails

Now all that was left was to install the drawers! I installed the slides on the drawers and nightstands, careful to keep everything both horizontally and vertically in line.

attaching slides to a drawer

To attach the face of the drawer, I used plastic spacers to align it with about a 3mm gap at the top and 2mm gaps at the sides. I then clamped the drawer in place, predrilled, and countersunk screws from the back of the drawer into the face.

Handle

I’m still up in the air about whether I want to build a handle for them. I like the clean white look of the drawer face, but perhaps it could look even better with a handle to tie the drawer into the rest of the stand.

Let me know your thoughts! Handle or no? Circle or rectangle? Wood or metal?

Modern plywood waterfall grain bedside tableModern plywood waterfall grain bedside tableModern plywood waterfall grain bedside table

Antique Hand Plane Restoration | Acorn No. 4

Fully restored vintage acorn no 4

Little Nut is finally finished and in operational order!

Before photo of an acorn handplane being treated for rust with vinegarFully restored vintage acorn no 4

I purchased this little gem of an Acorn no. 4 hand plane several months ago at a swap meet. He didn’t look great at the time – severely rusty and completely unusable, but I was determined to see what lay under the grime and dirt, and perform a complete hand plane restoration on the little guy. I’m definitely happy with what I found!

You can read more about the research I did and Little Nut’s history here

Taking it apart:

Several of the components of Little Nut were severely rusted in place, and as such, I needed to figure out a way to remove them without damaging the soft metal of the screw heads.

I began by spraying them down with WD-40 in the hopes that it would soften some of the grime and rust and make for easier removal. It took several coats and lots of waiting, but eventually, they did loosen enough to remove without too much damage.

Removing the fitting screws from an acorn no 4 hand plane

Rust Removal

The next step was to remove the rust.
For this hand plane, I decided to try good ol’ fashioned white vinegar. I knew that a rust removing agent like Evaporust would be easier and potentially quicker in the long run, but I had never tried vinegar on a tool this rusted and was curious to see how it would work in comparison.

To remove the rust, I took the components of the hand plane and gave them a good scrub with a wire brush to remove some of the dirt, grime, and the easily removed large flakes of rust. I then soaked them in a plastic container filled with white vinegar. I left them overnight and came back the next morning armed with steel wool, sandpaper, and some wire brushes.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results! While it definitely took more effort (ie. manpower) to remove the rust, it did slough off fairly easily after the vinegar soak.

Vinegar rust removal for an antique hand plane restoration

With the components of the hand plane now more visible, I was able to assess the actual condition of the parts. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the frog, chip breaker, cap iron, and plane iron were in a condition that would be easily salvageable. I had been concerned about pitting given the severity of the rust across the plane parts, but I was happy to see that there hadn’t been much corrosion to the metal itself and the pitting was minimal.

You can read more on rust removal and pitting here.

Painting

The Japanning, which is a type of paint often seen on older hand planes,  was in poor condition, with it chipping in sections and being entirely gone in other sections. I knew I would have to remove the remaining japanning and repaint it.

I wanted to remove most of the original jappaning in order to get a good surface for the new paint to adhere to.
I used a chemical paint stripper to help with the process. This stuff was harsh! I ended up having to double up with a pair of surgical gloves as well as rubber kitchen gloves while removing the paint. It did its job though, and I was left with a mostly raw metal surface to add paint to.

Prepping to repaint the body of an acorn no 4 hand plane

While there are ways to re-japan the body of the plane, they often require several thin coats and then weeks of allowing the paint to dry. If this was a hand plane that I wanted to restore as closely as possible to the original, I would be keen on those methods, but I wanted to get this thing working as soon as possible! The reason that jappaning was used on plane bodies in the past was because it was a hard wearing type of covering that protected well from rust. These days we have enamel paint that does much the same thing.

Painting the body of an acorn no 4 handplane

I ended up choosing a black Rust-oleum enamel spray paint for the body.

After taping up everything that I didn’t want to paint, I sprayed several coats onto the body of the handplane. From my research, traditionally the front sole of the handplane is painted, but the back was not. I kept this detail in Little Nut, as I did want it to look as close as possible to what it would have orginally been. I also chose to paint the base of the frog at this point as well.

repainted acorn no 4 hand plane

The sole

For the sole of the plane, I took a known flat surface and used adhesive spray to attach a heavy grit sandpaper to it. I then ran the sole of the plane over the sandpaper several times in order to flatten it.

To check for flatness, I drew a crosshatch pattern on the sole of the hand plane before putting it to the sandpaper. After a few passes on the sandpaper, I could then check to see which areas were registering off the sandpaper and which weren’t. When I drew my last pattern on the base, sanded and checked, no marker should remain. At that point, I could start sanding at higher grits until I got a nice, polished sole for the plane.

Flattening the sole of a hand plane

Since I wasn’t planning to do any shooting with this hand plane I wasn’t too concerned with the sides of the hand plane body being perfectly square or flat. I simply gave them a light sanding on the flat surface until they were sufficiently polished.

Lever Cap

The lever iron on the Little nut was either chromed or nickelled and the remains of that coating were in poor repair. It took me a long time to try to remove what was left of the cracked chrome, but once finished I took 240 grit sandpaper and worked at the metal until I was satisfied that it was sufficiently smooth. I then proceeded to move up in grits until I settled on the last sanding with 600 grit.

Restored Acorn no 4 hand plane lever cap

Chip Breaker

The chip breaker was thankfully in pretty good condition! After the rust had been removed, I worked it through the sandpaper grits to bring it to a shine, and then put a new edge on it.

Restored Acorn no 4 handplane parts

Plane Iron

I was also super thankful that the iron itself seemed to have a lot of life left in it. It did have some pitting at the top, but largely inconsequential. After removing the rust and working at it with sandpaper to bring the shine back, I was able to see the original stamp. “Made in Sheffield Vanadium Steel” – Awesome!

Plane Iron Pitting

All that was left then was to grind it down to remove the single chip at the blade, and then give it a nice, sharp, new edge.

Now he really ZINGS!

Polishing

Another use for my little Ozito rotary tool! I used the soft cotton wheel with a polishing compound to really buff up the brass rear tote nut and the depth adjuster. They were so shiny you could barely look at them in the Australian sun after I was finished!

Totes

There were luckily no severe cracks or repairs in the front and rear totes. All that was needed was a good sand and several coats of boiled linseed oil to bring the life back into them.

Acorn no 4 hand plane totes being refinished

Finished!

As I mentioned at the start, I am super stoked with how this project turned out! It’s hard to believe that Little Nut started out so filled with rust that I could barely remove the fixtures or see any markings, and now he really shines.

Fully restored acorn no 4 hand plane

And he works too! Little Nut is light in the hand and really works in every way a little number 4 hand plane should.
Not a bad $25 spent at the swap meet I would say!

Restored acorn no 4 hand plane

If you want to read more about the advantages of old tools and where I personally find my vintage tools, you can read about it here.

Fully restored vintage acorn no 4

Thanks for following along on Little Nut’s adventures! If you have any questions or just want to complement Little Nut on his glow up, leave a note in the comments 🙂

How to Install Wood Laminate Flooring

wooden laminate flooring

The days of having to spend exorbitant amounts of money to hire a professional to install your new flooring are over. These days you can give yourself a beautiful brand-new floor in a day with the proper tools and knowledge at your disposal. I’m going to give you the knowledge today by walking you through the steps of how to install wood laminate flooring, what tools you need, and some tips and tricks along the way. Settle in, because, after this, you are going to have the confidence to get out there and do it, and then YOU are going to give yourself a huge pat on the back while sitting on your gorgeous new flooring with a well-deserved cold bevy in hand. Because you are a DIY star!

wooden laminate flooring

But, first, story time!

Before I begin, I’ve got a little story for you about the guy I first learned how to lay floors from, and a bit of the wisdom he passed on to me regarding DIY. So, if you want to skip ahead to the how-to, by all means, we’re all busy people, but I would be remiss if I shared the steps to install wood laminate flooring without also telling you all about Stole.

Several years ago, while I was living in Vancouver in a tiny basement walk-out on 13th and Cambie, I heard several loud noises coming from the upstairs apartment and outside. Naturally, being the nosey early 20 something year old I was, I went outside to investigate and found my landlord, along with an elderly, Eastern European man, unloading a truck full of wood laminate packs.

The Eastern European man was named Stole, and he was going to be completely gutting and renovating the upstairs apartment. Now, Stole was 76 years old, and I am not intending to be rude when I say that he also looked 78 years old. The upstairs apartment was accessed by a set of narrow stairs, essentially three floors up. I wondered how he was going to get along with doing everything himself, but figured if my landlord had hired him, he would be fine.

At this time, I was already dipping my foot into the DIY bug and had recently built a cabinet unit, along with several other pieces of furniture, specifically fitted to my tiny, basement apartment. Avu, my landlord, had seen these pieces and was aware that I loved crafting things. Several hours after hearing the noise outside, I got a knock on the door.

Avu, my landlord was there to ask if I might lend Stole a hand if he needed it during the renovations. Avu had known Stole for several years and had hired him for all of the repairs and renovations on Avu’s properties, but, he knew that Stole was slowing down, and this project might be a bit too big for him to manage himself.  I was, of course, game to get my hand on any tools and learn a thing or two.

And that is the story of how I first got to work with Stole.

At first, I was a bit nervous, I had been on several worksites before and, being a young, 5 foot 2 female, often suffered the brunt of jokes (at the best), a complete distrust for my capability to do the job at hand, or downright abuse (at the worst.) I didn’t know how an elderly gentleman would react to being helped by a young woman, in what has historically been a man’s field. But, I was wrong to worry, in fact, after my first day working with Stole, he told Avu that he needed to pay me more.

While working with Stole, ripping up floors, painting, grouting, cutting trim, and laying new floors, I got to hear his stories of how he ended up working as a handy man. He told me, in his slow, heavily accented English how he had immigrated to Canada in his mid-twenties sometime during the 1960s with his wife. He related how he didn’t know anything about the trades, and spoke very little English, but started off accepting small jobs from people here and there – fixing a doorknob, painting railings, etc. If he was asked to do anything he didn’t know how to do, he told me he would always accept the job, and then go to the library and research until he knew how to complete it. What a guy!

After the third day working with Stole, he brought me three books on carpentry, electric wiring, and plastering. He told me that these were books he purchased early on and read several times. Turns out, Stole taught himself everything he knows and recognised the same drive to learn in me. I still fondly remember at the end of the day, when Avu would drop by to see the progress on the apartment, and Stole would excitedly walk around the apartment, proudly showing off the things “Raiff (this is how he pronounced my name) did today.”

It is amazing what having someone who believes in your potential can do for you.

Stole ended up being one of the seminal influences in my life in regard to DIY, renovations, and general outlook on life, and I still regard the several weeks that I got to work with him as one of the most enjoyable work experiences of my life. And my favourite piece of his advice?

Please read this in the best Slavic accent you can:

“Ifv you don know how to do sumpsink – go to tha library ahnd find a boook to learn how to do it.”

Of course, I mostly use the internet now. 😉

So without further ado, here is everything Stole taught me on how to install wood laminate flooring!

Why wood laminate flooring?

Laminate has come a long way in the last several years. No longer the tacky, peeling, cheap-looking stuff that was plastered on kitchen floors, you can now find quality “snap and lock” laminate flooring that looks incredibly realistic and beautiful.

Here are some great reasons to choose laminate flooring:

  • It’s relatively cheap – in comparison to other flooring options, high-end laminate regularly comes in cheaper than higher-end carpet, and well below natural wood flooring. Furthermore, having the option to install it yourself, can save quite a lot as well!
  • It looks good! Laminate has come a long way in the last several years. It is no longer the tacky, peeling, cheap-looking stuff that was formerly plastered on kitchen floors, you can now find quality “snap and lock” laminate flooring that looks incredibly realistic and beautiful.
  • It’s hypoallergenic, easier to clean and isn’t prone to stains or mold
  • Quick and easy to install – no need for professionals, and the job won’t take you too long either!
  • It can last a long time – a high-quality laminate flooring can last between 15-25 years. Furthermore, if you manage to damage one piece, it is possible to replace the single piece without having to replace the entire floor.

Some quick tips before you begin

  • Once you have purchased your laminate flooring packs, place them in the room where they will be installed and allow at least 48 hours for them to acclimate before installing. This helps to avoid a surplus of movement after you have installed them. All laminate will expand or contract but allowing this time before installation decreases drastic movement.
  • As you lay the flooring, take panels from various boxes to vary the colour and allow for a more randomised, natural look.
  • Door jams
    • Instead of trying to awkwardly cut your laminate panels to fit around the jamb of a door, cut the door jam to fit overtop of your panels. To do this, place a piece of your underlay down on the floor with a piece of your laminate over top. Take a flush-cut saw or jam saw and simply cut through the jam and remove the piece. Your laminate will now slide beneath the jam and create a more finished, professional look than had you tried to cut the panel itself to fit.
  • Drop and Lock vs Angle Angle
    • There are two main types of floating laminate floors: the drop and lock and the angle angle. The difference between the two is the way the joints connect – and depending on which type you have, the installation will be different.  I will touch on the different ways to install the two types when I get to how to attach the rows together further on in this article. The important things is that you know which type you have, which should be listed in the product documentation or on the box.

The Process

What tools do you need?

  • Utility knife
  • Rubber mallet
  • Circular, table, or jigsaw (or handsaw if you truly want to work)
  • Tapping block
  • Pull par

If you don’t have these, there is a good package on amazon with a pullbar, tapping block, rubber mallet and a whole slew of spacers here :

Prepare the room

In terms of setup, you’re in luck if you have anything other than carpet as your current flooring. That’s because laminate can be placed over any substrate except for carpet.

If you have carpet, you’re gonna need to rip the ol’ sucker out – but do it with glee, because if you are replacing the carpet it’s probably high time it got chucked, amiright? And imagine how much easier it’s going to be to keep your new floors clean!

Clean and prepare the subfloor

Your floors need to be free of all the dirt and debris before you place the floor – laminate doesn’t do well with irregular surfaces so give it a good clean, and if you have any serious dips or irregularities, fill them with a leveling agent before continuing.

removing nails from subfloor

Trim removal

If you have trim, remove it before laying the wood laminate down. Use duct tape or some type of soft covering over your pull bar to avoid damaging your wall as you remove the trim.

If you are adamant that you don’t want to go through the hassle of removing it, you can also simply lay the laminate down and attach a quarter round trim to the existing trim after – it’s the arguably easier, but more expensive option.

Plan your layout and measure your room

There is a bit to think about when deciding the orientation of your panels. Generally speaking, the panels, if possible, should run parallel with the long wall in the room, or the direction of the light source/focal point when entering the room. This creates a long, uninterrupted look which makes the overall end result more pleasant to the eye.

If possible, it’s also best to have the panels running in the direction of the main doorway in the room. If all of these factors aren’t possible; however, just go with the panels running parallel to the long side of the room.

Once you’ve decided on the orientation of the panels, measure the width of the room from wall to wall, accounting for a 10mm gap on both sides (we’ll touch on this gap later, but it’s best to check the installation instructions for your specific laminate to determine what size gap is necessary for expansion. 10mm is generally enough, but some products suggest more.)

When you have the width of the room + the gap, divide this number by the width of your laminate panels. This will give you what the width of your last row of panels will be.

Ex – 600cm room width / 17.5cm width of panel  = 34.29 rows

Therefore: our last row will be .29 of a panel or 5.08 cm.

If you find the last row of your floor will be less than around 6cm, I would add the width of the last row that you got in the above calculations to the width of your panel and then divide it by 2.


(17.5 + 5.08) / 2 = 11.3cm

This will give you the width you should cut both your first and last rows to, which will create a more uniform look and allow you to avoid trying to lay a tiny sliver of flooring as your last row.

Put down the underlay

Underlay is essential for laminate flooring that doesn’t come with attached padding. It provides an even surface for your “floating” floor to sit on, gives support for the tongue and groove lock system, and helps with moisture control and reducing noise.

For concrete subfloor

If you are installing over concrete you will need to lay down a vapor layer as well as an underlay, some underlays come with a vapor barrier, and if so you only need the one product.

For padded laminate

If the laminate you are installing comes with padding – the underlay is unnecessary and will actually hinder the proper laying of your floor. However, extra care needs to go into preparing the surface that the laminate will lay on if you aren’t using underlay, as any irregularities can potentially cause the floor to not float properly and buckle at the seams.

Laminate floors with padding that are being installed over concrete will still need a vapor barrier – but make sure that you are installing just the thin vapor barrier and not an underlay with a vapor barrier included.

To put down the underlay, unroll it and run it in the same direction that the panels will run. Allow a bit of excess to run up the wall and use one of your laminate panels to press the underlay into the corners. Use a utility knife to cut off the excess against the wall. When your first row of underlay is down, immediately secure it by starting to lay your panels. As you lay your panels and begin to reach the end of your first row of underlay, unroll your second row. Make sure not to overlap the two layers as any unevenness can cause the laminate panels to buckle. You can join the two pieces with duct tape or another thin layer of tape.

Installing the first row

If your calculations during the planning of your layout require you to rip your first row to a certain width, you should do so now. When ripping the panels to length, cut so that the tongue side of the panel is the waste on each piece. Make sure you are cutting the same side on each piece! The tongue side, unlike in regular woodworking, is actually the side with the shorter extrusion.

For your very first panel, you should also cut the tongue off the short side of the panel that will jut against the wall.

Place your first panel with the cut side towards the wall and begin to assemble your first row. To attach the second panel at the ends, hold the panel at an upwards angle and insert the tongue into the groove of the first panel. Once the joint is snug, press the panel down to secure it in place. Continue building this row until you reach the last panel, ensuring there are no gaps in your joints.

Spacers

You have your first row of panels put together, minus the end piece. Now you need to place your spacers. Because all laminate expands, you need to leave a gap along all the edges to account for movement – if you don’t do this, your floor will buckle and the joints won’t sit properly!

Some packs of laminate flooring come with spacers, but if they don’t, check to see the manufacturer’s recommended expansion gap and use this size of spacer. Most laminate flooring that I have installed calls for at least a 10mm gap. The spacers can be strips of wood, plastic, store bought spacers or anything that fits the measurement.

At this point, take your spacers and place them at the starting end (the short side) and along the length of the wall, press your first row into place and measure the distance from the end of the row to the wall including the spacer. Cut your last piece to this dimension – but again make sure you are cutting the right end off! (can you tell that I made this mistake a few times? I am clumsy Raff, after all)

Your first row is now finished!

Offset your joints

If your offcut from the end of the first piece is longer than 25 cm, you can use this piece to start your next row. If not, cut a piece longer than 25cm to use as the beginning of your second row – ensuring that you cut off at least more than 25cm!

Installing Laminate Flooring

The length of this piece is important as you don’t want the joints in your rows to line up, and you want a large enough overlap. Part of the stability in floating floors is provided by the offset of the joints. Without it, your floors won’t have the same amount of strength to withstand buckling.

It also just creates a more natural look once the floor is completed – so don’t allow your joints to line up!

Start your second row

Slide the tongue of the second-row panel into the groove of the first row’s plank at an upwards angle, mimic how you attached the pieces end to end on the first row. Ensure there is no gap in the seam and press down to lock.

The second piece can be a bit more finnicky, and this where the installation differs between drop and lock vs angle to angle laminates.

For angle to angle, first attach the short side of the second panel to short side of the first panel using the same angle method as you used in the first row. Get the corner of the second piece as close as possible to the first row, and before placing the panel down, line up the long side seems. After placing the panel down, you’ll have to lift the panel slightly to close the gaps along the seam in the long side panels, tapping with your palm as you go if necessary.

For drop and lock, instead of attaching the short side first, you slide the long side of the second panel into the groove of the first row – then position the short side over top of the groove in the first panel of the second row and simply lock it into place. I think drop and lock is an easier installation, but it isn’t as common as angle angle.

Use a tapping block

If the seam still has a gap, some laminate panels require a tapping block.

Sometimes manufacturers will include a tapping block with the laminate panels – if they do, take advantage of it, as they will often be profiled to fit the grooves of the panels to minimize damage! In fact, if you don’t want to make a tapping block yourself, I would recommend purchasing one from a laminate floor supplier or Amazon – they aren’t expensive.

 

If you really have the DIY bug though, you can make a tapping block yourself by taking a scrap block of wood and creating a rabbet along the side that is slightly larger than the groove on the laminate panels. Align it along the long side of the panel over top of the groove so that you aren’t tapping on the groove itself.

To use the tapping block, place it next to the panel and gently tap it with a mallet until the seams close. You can also use this method on the short ends of the panels. Take care not to damage the grooves of the panels as you tap, gentle tapping is all that you need!

After tapping, go back to check that your spacers haven’t shifted and your gap is still sufficient

 

Keep going!

Continue this process, row by row, until you reach your last row, making sure to check seams as you go to make sure nothing has shifted out of place. It’s difficult to fix a seam three rows in if you progress without fixing it as you go!

Install the last row

If you did your calculations right, you should be able to cut your panels to the same width as your first row. Measure the width including the spacers to make sure, and then cut the groove side off of these panels.

Place your spacers and use the same methods as before to attach your last row panels to the previous rows, using a pull bar in the gap instead of the tapping block to pull the seams together.

Reinstall trim

The process of laying the floor is finished! You can now reattach your trim using finishing nails or, if you didn’t remove the trim, install round molding to the trim to cover the gap.

Make sure you are attaching the trim to the wall as opposed to the floor itself – otherwise all your hard work to account for expansion will have been for nothing!

Lastly, attach a piece of floor transition trim in the doorway, and you are good to go!

You’re done!

You’ve done it! Have a lie down on your brand new floor, crack a beer, and pride yourself in a job well done with your own two hands!

 

 

How to Paint a Sink

It is incredible how a bit of paint can transform something old and ugly into something looking brand new. Today’s article is on something that you might not immediately think of when you are looking for things to spruce up with the old paint bottle – a sink!

Read on for how to paint a sink in 4 easy steps!

My mother-in-law is currently in the process of trying to sell her house, and as every day goes by, she seems to come up with new, incredible, sometimes absolutely hairbrained ideas for sprucing the place up.

From using double-sided tape to fix her cinderblock wall (“I promise it will work, Raff”) to wanting to spray paint her floor – she is constantly looking for quick fixes, often ones that I have to desperately try to persuade her to avoid.

Recently though, she was adamant that she wanted her stainless-steel laundry sink spray painted. I was hesitant at first, based purely on the wearability of spray paint and how well it would hold up in the future, (and also because I didn’t think the sink was that bad in the first place) but I was persuaded, because, look, you don’t mess with your mother-in-law.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through the 4 easy steps to paint a sink, and the results we achieved, so that you can decide if it’s the right option for you!

Step 1: Clean it!

It’s surprising how much dirt, grime and grease can build up on a sink, so it’s important to remove all of these things before going any further in the painting process.

But look, a simple soap and scrub isn’t going to cut it here, buddy.

Methylated spirits used for degreasing a sink

Many stores sell cleaners with the specific purpose of degreasing, but methylated spirits (denatured alcohol for those of your in the US), which is also used in the automobile industry for degreasing metal parts and cleaning tools, will arguably provide just as adequate results for this purpose. I gave the sink a good scrub down with spirits and a scouring pad then wiped with a rag soaked in mineral spirits as well.

To be honest, after the clean, I thought it looked spruced up enough to leave it at that aha!

Paint prep for a stainless steel sink

Step 2: Scuff it up

Stainless steel is notorious for not being an easy surface to paint. This is because the shiny, smooth surface of stainless steel makes it difficult for the paint to fully adhere to it and causes chipping over time.

In order to help that stubborn stainless steel really bond with the paint, we need to scuff up the surface.

Scuffing up stainless steal with sandpaper before painting

I used a 240 grit sandpaper and went to town on the metal of the sink. Using a circular motion with the sandpaper, I ensured that I gave the entire surface a thorough scuffing. When finished it was much less shiny – which is exactly what we want.

Step 3: Prep Time

I always tell people that your prep time when painting (depending on the size of the job) is often greater than the time you spend actually painting – it’s good to expect this and be prepared for it. As it happens, my mother-in-law is impatient and didn’t see why it was so necessary, so it was a fight to even get the edges of the sink taped up, much less cover the walls and cabinets.

However, I stood my ground and insisted on the tape job – albeit a rushed one.

Prepping the surrounding area before spray painting

Spray paint isn’t ideal indoors, both from the overspray angle as well as the ventilation issue. I made sure to cover the surrounding areas in plastic, newspaper, and cardboard – opened the door, and aimed a fan for some ventilation.

Once everything was taped up, I gave the sink a quick vacuum and wiped the it down once more with mineral spirits to remove any dust or debris that had settled there. A tack cloth would also work for this stage, but I didn’t have one on hand.

Step 4: Spray it!

Spray paint can look amazing. The outcome, when done properly, settles into a smooth, uniform surface that looks like something factory-made. However, it can be a bit finicky! Which is why, if this is your first-time spray painting, I recommend grabbing a piece of cardboard, a scrap piece of metal, or anything you don’t mind getting ruined, and practicing on it first.

My recommendation for a project such as this is Rustoleum 2x Ultracover. This paint is advertised as a primer and topcoat in one and can bond to metal, wood, and plastic. I have always found good bonding from this product without having to use a separate primer – which significantly decreases the time spent on a project! For this project,  my mother-in-law went with a glossy winter grey colour.

Rust-oleum 2x Ultracover used to paint stainless steel
This is a can I had around the house, not the colour we used, but I forgot to snap a picture at while there, doh!

When spray painting, you want to ensure that you keep the bottle at an even distance from the surface being painted throughout the entire process. I find about 20 cm to be a good distance if no wind is present, but again, you should test first!

Remember: It’s in the body, not the wrist! 

Move with your body instead of your wrist as moving from the wrist will change the angle and the distance that you are spraying at. Instead of holding the nozzle down throughout, practice stopping the spray at the end of each stroke – this helps to avoid over spraying in the same spot.

spray paint

As always with spray paint, you want to do several thin coats as opposed to one thick coat. Because spray paint is so thin if you do a heavy coat you are bound to get runs – something that should be avoided at all costs!

Check the directions on the back of your bottle – but generally around 20 minutes, or after it is touch dry, you can add another coat.

I ended up doing three thin coats all within an hour and half of beginning the project.

Step 5: Clean Up

After the paint is dry to the touch, remove any tape and coverings. If you have any overspray, now is the time to try to clean it up with mineral turps. Ideally, you won’t have any if you have done your prep properly!

Results

I have done a fair amount of spray painting in the past, and so I’m aware of how great it can look, but I’ll admit that I was surprised by just how great the sink looked when finished. It came out beautifully, looks spiffy, brand new, and definitely helped to spruce up the room.

Spray painted stainless steel sinkSpray painted stainless steel sink

It remains to be seen how well the spray holds up to the sink being used and abused – but I think it will do nicely at least until a new sink can be procured.

Have you ever spray-painted a sink? If yes, or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

The Low Down on Rust | Best way to remove rust from tools

Rust on iron

If you have tools, you’ve encountered rust! Here’s the low down on what’s causing your beloved tools to rust, the best way to remove rust from tools, and the best way to prevent them from prematurely rusting in the first place.

You pop out to the shed, pick up your favourite chisel and see shocking red stains across the previously shiny metal.

You reach for your beautifully repaired hand plane and see perfect replicas of your fingerprints in a rusty shade of orange – marring the once polished sides of the sole.

Your trusty adjustable wrench no longer moves with ease because the shifter is gummed up with those dastardly, dusty, and grainy flakes of red.

Any of this sound familiar?

Rust is something every owner of tools will struggle with at some point, but there are ways to lessen the struggle and save ourselves from some of the frustration!

How does rust form?

When we say “rust” what we are actually referring to is an “iron oxide.” Iron oxide occurs when iron is exposed to both oxygen and moisture. This exposure starts an electrochemical process which changes the material at a molecular level – essentially the metal fuses with oxygen molecules and creates the new material – Fe2O3.

Iron oxide weakens the bonds of the metal – which is why when rust is bad enough, you can literally break a once solid iron bar with your bare hands.

Rust on iron

An interesting side note: When iron oxide is created it takes up more volume than the original iron, which causes it to expand or “puff out” on the original piece. If you’ve ever seen cracked concrete that has metal rebar exposed, it likely occurred because of the expansion of the metal as it rusted. This is called “oxide jacking.”

How long does rust take to occur?

The first thing that comes to mind for many of us when we observe a heavily rusted item is “wow, that must be old.” This is why it is surprising the first time you return to your workshop and see a brand new tool already working its way towards looking like you picked it out of a box of your great-uncle’s old tools.

But, the reality is rust doesn’t take a long time to form. If you leave your cast iron table saw top unprotected with a piece of green wood on it overnight, you can expect to come back the next morning and see a thin layer of rust already formed! (oops… again)

A great video from the Canadian Conservation Institute shows how quickly flash rusting can occur when exposing a simple iron putty scraper to moisture over a period of 4 hours.

Two types of rust that I watch for

In the case of my tools, and antique restoration, there are two types of rust corrosion that I usually look for to distinguish how much I can expect to be able to restore the tool to usable order.

The first is surface rust. This is the orange, dusty rust that can easily be brushed or scoured off with minimal effort. While some discolouration of the metal beneath the rust often occurs after surface rust is cleaned away, it rarely affects the strength of the underlying metal to a high degree.

Surface rust on iron

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if it is surface rust is to brush it down to the bare metal.

The second type of corrosion is the more nefarious type – pitting. Pitting is a concentrated type of corrosion that forms holes or ‘pits’ in the metal.

To really understand the process that causes pitting, let’s go back to what causes rust in the first place and dig a little deeper.

In order for rust to develop it requires an anode (for us, a piece of iron that gives up its electrons), an electrolyte that can move the electrons (water, humid air, etc), and a cathode (another piece of iron that accepts the electrons.)

In the case of pitting, the corrosion is caused by a lack of oxygen in a particular area of the metal, which causes this area to give up its electrons more readily (an aspect referred to as anodic), and the surrounding areas, which have a bit more oxygen, are readily accepting of these electrons (cathodic). Since rust already requires the above exchange of electrons, this localised form accelerates the progression of the rust in a very concentrated area.

Because pitting occurs in a localised area instead of over the entire surface of the metal and extends deeper into the metal, it is often harder to detect and much more damaging to the integrity of the piece.

The results of rust pitting on a cleaned up plane iron
This photo of my Acorn hand plane iron shows the effect of pitting after all the rust has been cleaned away. Notice all the pockmarks in the metal!

Unfortunately, once pitting has occurred the only thing that can be done to “fix it” is to remove the rust from the holes and then fill them with epoxy or weld.

This isn’t the greatest option for our hand tools – but depending on how special/expensive your tool is you might be apt to try it.

Rust removal strategies

There are many ways to remove rust from your tools – from harsh chemical removers to regular household cleaning products, to more in-depth procedures like electrolysis.

Great: Vinegar

For many of my tool restorations, I have used plain old white vinegar. That’s right, the same stuff you have in your cupboard for salad dressings, or beneath your sink for cleaning is also phenomenal for rust removal.

To use vinegar as a rust remover, I believe the best method is soaking the tools in a tub with pure white vinegar. Some people add salt to the mix, but I have never found this to be any more effective than just vinegar – which means it’s just an added, unnecessary step for me.

I’ve left rusted tools in the vinegar anywhere from a few hours to a couple of months (I got distracted, okay?).

Vinegar used for rust removal on hand plane parts after two months
Two months of vinegary goodness

A couple of months was TOO LONG (oopsy). While the acid in the vinegar softens the rust and makes it easy to remove, it also eats at the metal – so it’s important to check your soaking tools regularly and remove them when the rust is easily scrubbed off with fine steel wool or an abrasive pad.

The metal on a plane iron eaten away by vinegar
You’ll notice the edge of this plane blade has lost a lot of metal from the acid.

After removing the tools from the vinegar and giving them a scrub, it’s important to thoroughly wash them to remove the acid from the vinegar. I’ve given them a good rinse in water as well as a dip and scrub in baking soda/water solution. The water itself works fine, but the added baking soda helps to neutralize any excess acid and the bubbling also works at getting beneath any areas of flaking that were left over.

Before photo of an acorn handplane being treated for rust with vinegar
Before and after photo of my Acorn hand plane after the metal parts went through a vinegar treatment.

After photo of rust removal using vinegar on an acorn handplane

I’ve soaked my tools in vinegar several times and always have good results (except for the above mentioned time when I got distracted and left them for too long) – granted it might take a bit more scrubbing after the fact than the following methods, but it’s cheap and readily available.

Better: Chemical rust remover – Evaporust

There are many chemical rust removers on the market, such as CLR and naval jelly,  but the one I have personally used and observed others using with good results is Evaporust.

There are a load of great things about Evaporust, but my personal favourite is that, unlike the vinegar and many other products, it doesn’t use acid to remove the rust. Therefore, I’m not going to run into the same problem of it attacking the metal itself if I leave it a bit too long. It’s also reusable, which means I can use it for several tool restoration products without worrying about too huge of a cost. And, it’s not as toxic or harsh as many of the other products on the market – I still wear gloves when I use it (because I’m paranoid), but Evaporust itself states that gloves and eye protection are not necessary.  If you’ve ever used other harsh chemical removers before, you know how caustic they can be – so this is a great bonus.

To use it, I simply give my tools a cursory scrub to remove loose flakes of rust and dirt – I mostly do this so that I don’t have to spend time afterward trying to really filter out the liquid before storing it for my next use. I then place the tools in a bucket of the Evaporust, put a lid on, and wait. I’ve never had to wait longer than 24 hours for fantastic results. It does leave a dark residue on the tools, but some quick polishing removes it.

Does the added cost make it worth it over the plain old vinegar? If you’re only doing a few rust removal projects here and there, don’t mind waiting longer for results, and putting a bit more work into scrubing after the soak, then I think the vinegar is more than adequate for your purposes. For me, the Evaporust has saved a lot of time and hand power in my restoration projects.

Best: Electrolysis

I’m convinced that electrolysis is the ultimate rust removal method. While I’ve only gotten to see the results of this procedure twice in person, I am excitedly awaiting the day when I can pick up a battery or charger and am able to use it for all of my rust removal purposes.

The process of electrolysis for rust removal requires passing a small electrical charge through your rusty metal. This charge stimulates an exchange of ions while the tool is submerged in an electrolyte liquid, effectively stimulating the exact opposite chemical reaction seen in rusting.

diagram of electrolysis for rust removal
Please enjoy my artwork

I was initially turned on to this process when I was lamenting some very rusted auto parts that I was dealing with, and my mechanic pal, who had all the necessary materials, told me to come over to see some magic. Jeeze Louise, it was magic. The rust just sloughed right off my headers and oil pan. I was immediately hooked.

You’ll need a car battery charger, a plastic or glass bin or bucket, washing soda, and a strip of metal to attach to the positive electrode.


WARNING:

It’s very important to have a well-ventilated area for your electrolysis procedure, as the process creates hydrogen and oxygen gas, which are highly explosive if ignited. Ensure that no sparks or open flame are anywhere near the setup, and that no spills of water can come into contact with the battery.

Rust Prevention

So, we’ve cleaned all the previous rust off and our tool is shiny and clean and ready to go right? You set it down on the table and turn around for two minutes only to find a thin layer of rust already developing!

After rust removal, the bare surface of the metal is especially vulnerable to flash rust. That’s why it is important to immediately protect it from further rust.

Fully restored Acorn handplane
After fully removing the rest and restoring this beauty, we definitely want to make sure we keep it that way!

We know that the combination of moisture and oxygen with the metal is what causes rust to occur. So, in order to prevent that, adding a protective layer to the metal that stops moisture and oxygen from contacting it is necessary.

My go-to when finishing the rust removal process is to wipe my tools with Camellia oil. I apply the oil on a rag which I store in an old, metal Altoid box – this makes it easy to grab and use whenever I am finished with using my tools. Camellia oil, unlike other machine oils, doesn’t have the tendency to stain the wood that you’re working with, which is a huge plus! After using any of my planes or chisels, I always clean them off and then wipe them down with the oil-soaked rag before storing them.

For my table saw surface, I avoid the use of oil as it easily attracts dust, instead, I thoroughly clean the surface with mineral spirits and then apply a dry, silicone-free spray such as Bostik’s Top- Coat or Boeshield T-9, I’ve used both with good results that tend to last longer than a paste wax. After spraying, I give it a good wipe down with a paper towel and I’m good to go!

Proper storage of your tools is another good rust-preventive strategy. Ideally, your tools would be stored in an area with very little moisture exposure. However, since I live in an area with heavy humidity and no environmental control in my shed, I’ve found the silica-gel packs (those little packs that come in the packages of many products and have “do not eat” written on them)  to be a good way to prevent moisture from getting at your tools if you are storing them in boxes– toss a few in with them and the packs will suck up the moisture in the air.

The silica gel packs lose their effectiveness over time, but I find they work well if being changed out on a semi-regular basis, or after “reviving” the packs by heating them in the oven to dry them out once they have lost their effectiveness. Give it a try!

If storing your tools in the open air, I find the best way to keep them from rusting is to hang them – while trying to keep them from touching any raw wood – raw wood just loves to seep moisture out onto your vulnerable metal tools!

You can kick rust to the curb

Rust is something as a tool user that you will always be trying to keep ahead of.  But, now that you know the strategies to prevent it, and the ways in which it can be removed, you have the power to keep your tools shiny and clean for years to come!

If you’ve found this information helpful, or have any questions or comments on rust removal and prevention, please leave us a comment below!

DIY Magnetic Bottle Opener

I love a good bevy after work, and with a recent hand surgery coming up, I knew that twisting the tops off wasn’t going to be easy for a period of time. With that foresight in mind, I set about planning my perfect DIY magnetic bottle opener.

There were a few things I wanted from my bottle opener:

1. Magnets: Partly because I love magnets and partly because I dont like to go looking for the bottle cap after I was a bit too enthusiastic during the opening

2. Good, in-hand feel: I wanted smooth edges, soft corners and a perfect fit in my little hand.

3. Beautiful wood grain and contrasting metal: metal and wood are right next to cheese and pretzels in my favourite combos list.

As most projects go, with me being the clumsy crafter, I encountered a few hiccups along the way to my perfect bevy popper, but, in the end, it definitely deserves its place of honor in my bar.

Choosing the stock and drawing the template 

The first step was choosing an appropriate piece of stock for the body of the bottle opener.
I didn’t want just any wood for this special project, I wanted beautiful, relatively hardwearing – and most important scrap (so I didn’t have to go buy more) wood.

A piece of milled meranti
I had some leftover meranti from my magnetic shelf build and decided it would hold up well to the abuse it might have to endure. I cut the piece to rough size (200mm by 60mm) and then got about sketching up a template that I would use for eventually shaping the piece.

You can really choose whatever shape you want for this project – from a simple, spindle-shaped handle to a more complex shaped handle with several different rounded edges.

Having sketched out a design I thought I would like, I cut it out and traced the outline to the piece of stock.

Drilling the holes

The most difficult part of this build – especially if you don’t have a drill press – is drilling out the recesses that will act as the leverage for removing the cap from the bottle. You don’t want them too far apart or there won’t be enough leverage, and too much overlap will mean that you won’t be able to catch the edge of the cap and the back of the bottle opener at the same time.

If you look at a generic bottle opener you can get a relatively good idea of the spacing that you’ll need.

35mm Forstner bit in a Bosch drill
I used a 35mm Forstner bit for the first recess. Measuring 19mm from the edge of my template, I marked a centre point for my bit and clamped the board down before drilling. I used the depth stop on my drill to ensure that I didn’t go too far through and eventually ended up with a recess about 11mm deep.

Drilling the hole in a homemade bottle opener with a forstner bit

The next hole to drill was for the coin that would act as the lip of the bottle opener. I wanted the coin to sit flush with the body of the bottle opener and overhang the previous recess I had drilled by a few mm in order to create the lip. I had a lot of coins to choose from, but not very many drill bits to match.
I eventually settled on a 1000 Rupiah coin which came the closest in size to my 25mm Forstner bit.

fitting the coin in a homemade bottle opener

I was slow and methodical in this step – a bit of drilling, check the coin, drill a bit more – to make sure that I didn’t over-do it and set my coin in too deep. I did allow for a bit more depth than the coin to take into account the sanding I would be doing towards the end of the project.

The last hole that I needed to drill in the body would be for the embedded magnet I intended to use to catch the bottle cap after opening.

I had 10mm wide magnets that I had also used for my magnetic key shelves. Ordering these in bulk always means that when I have a project that might benefit from a cheeky magnet or two, I have some spares on hand.

I grabbed a 10mm drill bit and put a hole deep enough to hold the magnet and the wood filler that I intended to cover it with.

 

Cutting and shaping

With the initial drilling done, I was ready to move on to the fun stuff!
I roughly cut out the body of the opener along the template line with a jigsaw, giving myself a bit of leeway since none of the recesses were quite centred (A product of the very dull forstner bits and my shaky hands). This extra leeway meant that I could centre up the recesses during shaping.

I then set about shaping with my carving knives. I sketched a few lines on the handle to show where I wanted to take material from and set about rounding and shaping. This step is purely aesthetics and you can obviously shape it however you want!

Carving a handmade bottle opener

I found the sanding barrels of my Ozito rotary tool were a great option for final shaping!

Drilling the mounting hole for the coin

To drill the hole for the coin, I took my 25mm forstner bit and drilled a recess in scrap piece of wood. I then drilled a small hole through the centre of the recess. This setup meant that, in theory, I could place the coin into the recess, tape it, flip the board over and drill directly through the centre of the coin. Because my coin didn’t fit the 25mm recess perfectly, I had to eyeball it before I taped it in. It didn’t work exactly as I had hoped, but I think better than had I tried to do it by hand.

coin drilled through with a template

I placed the coin into a clamp and used a countersink bit to take off enough metal so that the screw head would sit relatively flush with the coin.

Using a countersink bit to flush a the head of a screw in a coinCoin with a a countersunk screw

Mounting the cap catcher

At this point, nearly everything was done, except for attaching the magnet. To do this, I placed a small drop of superglue into the hole and then pressed the magnet in, tapping it a bit with the head of a screwdriver and my mallet to ensure that it sat flat. Then I filled the hole with a wood filler that matched the grain of the wood. Had I not had this filler lying around, I would have just used glue and sawdust, or really any coloured wood filler – I think a contrasting colour might look nice as well.

wood filler and superglue being used to attach magnets into a diy bottle opener
Because the hole for the coin was slightly larger than I needed, I attached the coin and placed wood filler around the edges to make it look like it really wanted to be there.

allowing the wood filler on diy bottle opener to dry

I set it out in the nice, hot Australian sun to dry and…..

wooden bottle opener chewed by dog

Came back out an hour later to see that some terrible creature had ripped my poor bottle opener limb from limb.
It only took a quick look around to find the culprit….

Guilty dog after chewing a wooden bottle opener
The evidence still in her mouth! Please note, that they weren’t splinters, I did check 😉

Since Taco had apparently assumed that I had made her a wonderful new chew toy, it was back to the drawing board.

I followed the same steps, more or less for my second version until I got a bit rushed/somehow got distracted/had a complete space-cadet moment in which I moved the drill back for some reason before drilling the coin recess, probably because I wanted more work.

diy wooden bottle opener with mistake
OOPS

As a result, I drilled a very nice, unusable recess which didn’t overlap with the previous hole at all (+1 for clumsy Raff).
Luckily, my stock was thick enough that I could stand to lose a bit. So, I grabbed my orbital sander, sanded off that recess, and re-drilled to the depth of my coin, ensuring that I was definitely in the right spot this time.

I did the majority of the shaping for this one with my Ozito Rotary tool. The longer I have it the more uses I find for it, and I just love it!

Ozito rotary tool drum sander being used to shape a wooden bottle opener

Once all the drilling, cutting, and filling were done with this version, I made sure I placed it in a spot that wouldn’t be so tempting for Taco.

The finish 

Once the filler was dry, I sanded the excess off with a low grit, working my way up to a final grit of 360. As I said, I wanted a smooth hand feel.

Walnut wood stain and varnish used to finish a wooden bottle opener
After cleaning away the dust, I used a can of thinned walnut stain and varnish that I wiped on and left to dry.
Once dry, I gave it a bit of a buff with the 360 again and then put a second coat of varnish on.

DIY Magnetic bottle opener first test run

At that point, I eagerly awaited the moment when it was fully cured and I could truly test it out.

And lo’ and behold. It worked swimmingly.

Homemade bottle opener after its first test run

 

 

Hearing Protection for Woodworking

Woman wearing over ear protection

It’s time for a serious talk about ear protection! For a long time as a hobbyist, I was fairly lackadaisical with my hearing protection for woodworking purposes. If I needed to make a quick cut with the circular saw or do some pruning with a recip, it was often the last thing on my mind to grab the earmuffs from the shed. In addition, over the course of my time perusing the web for different ideas or tutorials I have seen countless videos and pictures of people operating heavy power tools without any ear protection.

There are a lot of things around this mid-life era where I’m at now that, looking back, I would do differently. I don’t want not wearing ear protection to be one of them.  Which got me to thinking about a lot of the questions that I’ve heard – what level of protection do I actually need when using my tools? Am I even doing enough work to risk damaging my ears?  Are noise-canceling earphones enough? This led to an OCD level deep dive into the research behind ear protection and dangerous noise levels.

So, if you want to know about hearing protection and don’t want to spend the hours and hours of time that I spent to understand it, here’s my summation of everything you need to know about hearing protection for the woodworking crowd.

Woman wearing over ear protection

How is sound measured?

When I began digging around to find what was an adequate amount of protection, I first had to find out how noise is measured and what a dangerous level of noise was – I mean, my dog , Taco, has a pretty loud bark, do I need protection for that too?

In the simplest terms, sound is measured in regard to its intensity or volume, which is measured as decibels. The decibel scale measures from 0, or the lowest sound our ears can pick up, to 180dB – which is the sound measured from the launch pad of rockets.

An important thing to know when considering hearing protection is that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. Unlike linear scales, where the value between any two points is always consistent, logarithmic scales rely on exponents.

For decibels, every 10-decibel increase equates to 10 times the corresponding lower number. 30 decibels is, therefore, ten times louder than 20 decibels and one hundred times louder than 10 decibels.

The A-weighted scale

In terms of hearing protection, we regularly use an “A-weighted” decibel scale (dBA).

Think of all the times you wanted your test scores bell-curved, and you’ll get a bit of an idea of what dBA is. Essentially, it takes into account the various factors related to how the human ear processes sound and frequencies. Because our ears have trouble picking up very low and very high-pitched sounds, A-weighted decibels and the machines that are calibrated to them, specifically measure for the range of sounds that our ears are actually sensitive to.  That’s why dBA is used as the primary measurement for environmental noise and hearing protection. It’s meant to be as accurate an interpretation of what our ears are truly hearing that the current research can get. When you see the safety warnings for certain levels of noise under The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (OSHA) they have always been measured as dBA.

What is a dangerous decibel level?

The risk of hearing damage in relation to noise levels has several variables. How loud the noise is, how long you are exposed to it, how much time your ears are given to rest between exposures, and your individual vulnerability to noise all play a factor in what a dangerous noise level is for you.

However, the Centre for Disease Control has listed a recommendation that anything over 85dBA should be considered levels of noise that are potentially harmful for hearing loss, and efforts should be taken to reduce the noise, wear protection, or limit exposure to it.

To determine what level of hearing protection you need, you need to know what dbA your specific environment is putting out, and the amount of time you will be exposed to it.

diagram from NIOSH showing the noise exposure exponential increase per dB raise
(Picture from NIOSH via CDC)

(For the purpose of this article from now on when I refer to ‘decibels,’ they are always A-weighted or dBA)

The recommendation is that any time you are exposed to noise over 85 dBA, you should wear ear protection.  In addition, you should never be exposed to any noise level over 140dB (as heard in gun shots and explosions – such as fireworks) as this amount of noise can cause nearly instant permanent damage. (I can see now why my poor dog, Taco, is so averse to fireworks!)

An array of fireworks that far exceed the safe limit for noise exposure
Fireworks can easily pass the 140dB mark, and depending on how close you are to them, can well exceed safe noise levels.

To put dangerous levels of noise into a more day to day perspective, if you listen to your headphones at full volume it can often exceed 100 decibels, which is enough to permanently damage your hearing within only fifteen minutes of exposure!

And look, I know we don’t all have the equipment to measure the sound level of our environment but if you are having to raise your voice to be heard from one meter away, or if a specific noise hurts/makes your ears ring then the noise may be capable of damaging your hearing. So, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

What dBA are my tools putting out?

Now that we know what a decibel is and how sensitive our weak, little human ears are to them, we can take a look at what some of our more common woodworking tools are putting out.

In a study titled “Noise Levels of Common Construction Power Tools,” written by Gregory Callahan of the University of Florida, a Porter Cable circular saw came in at a decibel of 92.7 when measuring its noise level from the ear level of the operator in the centre of a room.

Circular saw used with a carpenters square as guide

So, we can clearly see that our power tools have the capacity to be well above the safe decibel level!

An interesting note in this study also showed that using power tools in enclosed spaces, or in the corner of rooms dramatically increased the recorded decibels (in the case of the Porter Cable saw it was up to and over 114 decibels when measured in the corner of the room!) This was chalked up to the amplification of the room and the soundwaves bouncing off of close surfaces. This means that, when you have the option to use your tools in an outdoor space, it’s measurably better for noise reduction.

Most sound information I have found on power saws and planers puts them in the 100+ decibel range.

The answer then to “do I need hearing protection for my power tools?” is yes. Every time.  Exposure to noise and the damage that it causes builds up over time, and there really should be no reason to risk your future hearing for your laziness today. (Giving my former self a hefty slap on the wrist for that!)

What is adequate hearing protection?

We know that our tools can put out enough noise to be harmful, so what are our hearing protection options? In order to get to that, we have to know about the regulated rating system that is used to determine the effectiveness of each piece of hearing protection.

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)

If you’ve done any shopping for ear protection you’ve probably come across the acronym NRR, which stands for Noise Reduction Rating. NRR is a standard of measurement, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines the adequacy of hearing protection to perform its desired purpose – sound reduction in a working environment.

NRR label

The higher the NRR the better the noise reduction; and therefore, hearing protection that the specific product will provide. The highest current NRR measured in a product is 33dB

How is NRR determined?

The NRR that you see on the labels of all regulation hearing protection is calculated in a laboratory under very controlled settings. The test is the same regardless of where it is done. The NRR rating is calculated based on the average amount of reduction in noise that is provided by the hearing protection device when test fitted to at least ten different people, who are each tested at least three times. These ten different people don’t put the hearing protection on themselves – instead they are fitted by the laboratory team.

The above fact is important to note and is the reason that you can’t take NRR at its face value, because research has indicated that the laboratory results severely overestimate the actual real-world effectiveness of the device.

And that, my friends, is why we unfortunately have to do some math.

The MATH

Because the number seen on the NRR rating is the maximum
level of decibel reduction that was seen in the laboratory setting with ideal conditions, under the circumstances where the product is perfectly fitted and worn correctly, and with no outside environmental effects, we can’t just use the NRR number to calculate the total protection we are getting from a specific product in the real world.

A pair of ear plugs with an NRR rating of 25
Notice the NRR rating of 25dB displayed on these 3M earplugs.

For instance, if your hearing protection has a rating of NRR 25dB and the noise level of your environment is 95dB – wearing your ear protection doesn’t result in a decibel level of 70. To account for real-world conditions there is an equation we can use to determine an adjusted number that is a more accurate representation of the decibel reduction you may expect from your hearing protection.

(NRR-7)/2

To get the actual decibel reduction for the hearing protection you subtract 7 from the NRR rating and then divide the result by 2.  This number can then be subtracted from the environmental decibel rating.


Ex. NRR of 25dB and environmental rating of 115

(25-7 )/2 = 9

115-9 = 106 is the adjusted decibel level when wearing the protection.

NRR Subject Fit (SF)

Because of the variance that can be seen in the laboratory testing to real-world environments, new testing parameters have been introduced in some areas. In these tests the subjects themselves, as opposed to the testing staff, fit the protection.  In this way, some of the variance of user error is omitted from the test.

NRR (SF) is now used in Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil and is OSHA compliant as a new rating system that doesn’t require the above calculation corrections (No math, yay!). So, if you see an NRR (SF) label, you can subtract the number directly from the decibel rating of the sound you are trying to protect yourself from.

 

What protection should I wear?

Good question! If we know that many power tools can reach the 100dB range, we should be finding ear protection that is at least NRR29 which, given the above adjustments, would bring a 100dB sound down to approximately 89, and then doubling up with both in-ear and over-ear to bring that down further.

Unfortunately, doubling up protection doesn’t actually double the amount of protection. While there is conflicting information on the exact amount of added protection you gain from doubling up, most research simply adds 4-7dB of added protection to the NRR rating.

Which certainly does help, but not as much as you may have thought! Even so, leading health organisations suggest doubling up anytime the expose is over 105db.

This means, when you are using tools such as a table saw that can regularly go over 105dB, you should be doubling up for safety. Especially if you are using it for long periods of time.

And as for my earlier question of whether audio earphones were enough? I’m sure, at this point, you know the answer is no! Not only do they typically not provide enough protection, oftentimes people will up the volume in order to hear their music above the sounds being generated around them – which is dangerous in itself!

How to wear protection?

As always, a piece of equipment is only effective if it is used in the way it was intended.  Research has indicated that up to one-half of people who use hearing protection are receiving half or less of the potential NRR rating listed on their device. This is due to improperly fitted equipment as well as the protection not being worn continuously throughout the noise exposure.

Proper fitting of ear plugs for hearing protection
Earplugs should be inserted all the way in order to properly seal the ear canal.

Improperly fitted equipment won’t create a full seal and therefore will not protect against dangerous noise levels. This is why it’s important to always follow the appropriate instructions provided when fitting your chosen hearing protection! If you are wearing earplugs a handy way to check if your fit is proper is to place your hands over your ears – if the plugs are fitted correctly the noise level should not significantly change when you do so.

Over-ear protection should form a full seal around the ear. Glasses or long hair can easily get in the way of this and ruin the level of protection provided.

Lastly, it’s important to keep the protection on for the duration of the activity that you are protecting yourself from. Removing it even for a short while can drastically reduce the protection level for the entire time you are using it. Crazy, eh?

What does this mean for woodworkers?

It means that every time you reach to turn on the saw or spend some time with the power sander, you should also reach for the ear protection, and the ear protection you reach for should have adequate NRR and be properly fitted. We know from research that every exposure to dangerous decibel levels, no matter how long, can eventually add up to a permanent hearing loss.

It also means that I have something to say to a lot of the very popular crafters about their videos and pictures which lack hearing protection:

You have a platform that is widespread, and a reach that requires you to hold yourself to a certain standard.  By portraying yourself as an expert in your field, and by not practicing safe measures you are insinuating to your followers that it isn’t necessary for the hobby woodworker to make the effort to pull on a pair of ear protection before cranking up the saw. I really don’t want to have to start yelling at the next generation of hobbyists because they followed your example and now, instead of choosing not to listen to me, simply can’t hear me.

So, wear your PPE friends! 

This has been a friendly neighborhood PSA from your truely.

 

Homemade Wooden Christmas Gift Ideas

DIY hardwood magnetic keyholder shelves hung with wall anchors

With only a little over a month left until Christmas, now is the perfect time to get your hands a little dirty and start crafting up some gifts for your loved ones! I’ve compiled a list of 10 of my absolute favourite homemade wooden Christmas gift ideas so that you can stop racking your brain for ideas and get right to the building. This list includes simple, but beautiful projects that require minimal tools to complete – so that even a beginner without a slew of equipment can test out the crafting bug this holiday season.

But first:

Why homemade gifts?

Here’s the thing, buying gifts is fairly easy (If you have the money, that is. First-World problems, amiright?) You make a trip to the store, wave your plastic card and head on home with a sense of accomplishment for having finished your Christmas shopping on time.

In contrast, handmade wooden gifts  involve you giving something more valuable than your money – your time. They have the potential to be used for years to come and are, in my opinion, so much more valuable than any that you could spend hard cash on. As they say, time is money – and the time you pour into the projects you choose to gift is time truly well spent.

Sentimental value aside, homemade wooden gifts also have the potential to be more eco-friendly and less wasteful.

We live in a world of excessive consumerism. Every year billions of dollars are spent around the holidays, and if we are honest with ourselves, more often than not, those gifts end up being re-gifted, not used, or worse, thrown away within a short period of time.

(As a side note: I’m convinced that’s why candles are such popular gifts – they live out their lives in the perpetual cycle of regifting. Sorry to the friends and fam that may be reading this and are just now finding out where their gifted candles actually ended up. I’m sure it was to a loving home.)

So, in the interest of saving our planet from more plastic garbage and delighting your friends and family with a truly unique gift this year, I’ve compiled a list for you of simple, handmade wooden gift ideas that even a beginner can put their hand to.

Puzzle Piece Coasters:

I love this twist on the traditional coaster. Not only is it beautiful, it is also versatile. You can use a single coaster or put them together to act as protection for larger pots and bowls.

Wooden puzzle piece coaster

In order to build, you’re going to need a jigsaw or scrollsaw (you could get away with a coping saw if you are game to do it by hand) to cut the blocks – finish with some sandpaper and a good water-resistant varnish and your friends and family will be awed at this thoughtful gift!

While I find the hardwood look absolutely gorgeous, some people even use plywood – which can make the cost go down and still looks fantastic!

Wooden puzzle piece coaster made from plywood

Wooden Cheese/Charcuterie Board:

Everyone loves a good wooden cheese board or serving tray. And, the great thing is, you can make this as simple or intricate as you like.

You can choose to go about milling a piece of raw wood into a beautifully shaped piece, you can include routed corners, inlays, and epoxy rivers

charred wooden blank used as charcuterie boardLong wooden board crafted into charcuterie board

Or go the simple route and finish a piece of wood from the hardware store.
Either way, this homemade piece is sure to bring you to whoever’s mind is stacking it with all the cheese and cured meats at the next gathering.

The one thing to keep in mind, as with most things you’ll be using in the kitchen to potentially cut on, is to use a food-safe sealant such as mineral oil or a beeswax and oil mix when you finish this piece up.

Bedside Accessory Stand

We all know that friend or loved one whose items and accessories are strewn about the house haphazardly. This is the perfect gift of organisation for that person!

Again, the design can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be. Cell phone charging port, watch hanger, coin and ring tray – the great thing about homemade gifts is that you can think of the person you have in mind and make it perfect for them!

Bedside accessory organiser

Wooden Kid’s Toys

Have some nieces and nephews that already have way too many toys? Wooden toys are long lasting and have the special touch of having been made by someone they love. They may even turn into family heirlooms! I still have some of the wooden toys my grandpa made, which I’ll regift to my children one day.

Wooden blocks, puzzles, trains, cars, balls, rattles -the list is endless and kids love them.

Carved wooden children's rattle toy

I once carved this box with rolling balls out of wood for my two-year-old niece. She was quite enthralled and carried it everywhere with her, constantly flipping the box around to get the balls to roll from one side to the other.

PSA:
Important to remember with this gift is to make sure both the wood and any finish you may put on it are safe for kids to potentially put in their mouths!

Wooden Spoons

These were the first handmade wooden gifts I ever gave away – and I remember the feeling of seeing my mom’s eyes light up when she exclaimed: “you made this!?”
If you know someone who loves to cook, having a custom-made wooden spoon or spatula is an extra special gift that is sure to bring you to their mind every time they pick it up.

Hand carved wooden spoon
My first carved spoon – Forgive the grainy picture, circa 2009!

Carved wooden spoon with cherry heartwood

I used only a hatchet and carving knives to make my first spoons out of raw wood – but a jigsaw, bandsaw or scrollsaw and any blank piece of wood would make this project even simpler. Just make sure to research the type of wood to make sure it’s food-safe, and only finish with an equally food-safe oil 😉 My favourite food-safe finish is mineral oil. 

Necklace Stand

This is the perfect gift for the special someone who needs a better way to store their jewelry than in one giant heap which needs constant detangling. (Not me, I swear)
There are many designs online from super simple like this stand

simple wooden necklace stand

To my favourite – this tree stand that is both beautiful and useful.

Wooden necklace tree stand

Key Shelves

Since making these for myself, I’ve made several more to give as gifts and they are always a huge success. Just think of never having to hear “Babe, have you seen my keys?” ever again and you’ll dive into this project with some serious gusto.

DIY hardwood magnetic keyholder shelves hung with wall anchorsWalnut stained Meranti wood key holder shelf with rare earth magnets

Wall Art

If you have some friends or family whose walls need some serious love, wooden wall art is the perfect unique gift. Customize it to whatever their particular interests are or go with something abstract/geometric. It’s sure to take a place of honour on their walls and be a point of conversation every time someone sees it!

Wooden wall art

Picture Frame

This is another one that I often find myself gifting. Once built, find a special picture for it and give the person a truly sentimental gift that will always bring a smile to their face when viewing.

wooden picture frames

Bottle Opener

Got some friends or family that love popping bottles? This one is a unique, easy to make gift that they’ve probably never received before and will actually love. Especially because it’s handmade by you! Just make sure you choose a hardwood that can stand up to the abuse 😉

I’ve written about this little bottle opener project here!

Homemade wooden bottle opener

Hope you’ve found a few ideas here that suit your needs! If you have any go-to homemade gifts that aren’t mentioned in this article, let us know in the comments!