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Oriental Hand Tools

Japanese Toolbox-Progress 1

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 9:26pm

odate-toolboxToshio Odate outlined the construction of a simple toolbox in his book, “Japanese Woodworking Tools:Their Tradition, Spirit and Use“.  It’s a simple affair nailed together with built-in handles at each end and an ingenious sliding lid.  An elegant and inexpensive solution to storing and transporting tools.  The design is very scalable and can be adapted as required.  It’s also quick and easy to build.  Making it an ideal storage solution for both the beginner and experience woodworker.  I’ve done a little research trying to discover when this type of toolbox came into use, but have yet to pinpoint any definitive time period.  A Lumberjocks member who goes by “mafe” compiled some information and photos of Japanese toolboxes that’s well worth a look.  At any rate, this is where I’m headed with my toolbox build.

I started, same as I always do, with a proportional drawing.  The drawing shows the basic construction and some suggested proportions for individual parts as they relate to the whole.


A couple of things to note.  One is the handle thickness.  Odate shows in his book that the handle is 1-1/4″thk, in a subsequent article he calls it out to be 3/4″thk.  So it’s not all that critical for the construction.  jptbdwg-1However, it is critical for comfort.  The average distance from the tip of a finger to the first knuckle is ~1″.  So a handle that is over 1″ thick allows for a full fingertip grip and is far more comfortable.  The second point of note is material thickness.  It’s very tempting, especially when using surfaced home center lumber, to use the boards at the thickness they are at.  Put forth the extra effort and thin down the lid and the bottom panel.  Weight is critical when it comes to a toolbox.  Thinning these down from 3/4″ to 1/2″ may not seem like a lot, but it will make a big difference in the overall feel of the toolbox.

jptbdwg-2The only deviation from the general design presented by Odate that I have made, is to install the end pieces in a shallow housing dado.  This is not for strength, but to ease the assembly of the box.  If you have ever tried to juggle pieces that are only butted together and join them with nails or screws, then you know what a hassle it is.  Hopefully the housing dado will be just enough to both index and hold the pieces so I can easily add the required screws.

With my drawing in hand I headed to the shop and started work on the full-scale shop drawing that I will be building this toolbox from.  I don’t have a specific set of tools that I’ll be either storing or transporting in this box.  As such, my size requirements are fairly minimal.  I want the box to be large enough to accommodate a #5 jack and a #4 smoother end-to-end.  I also need it to be large enough to hold my ryoba saw.  That should give me plenty of space to carry what I need.  So I began the full-scale shop drawing by laying out the side elevation of the box.  I established the height by simply laying my plane on the drawing and adding a little bit of wiggle room above the highest point of the plane.  The length was established in the same manner by laying the #5 and the #4 end-to-end and adding a little breathing room.

jtb- - 7

Finally I checked the saw against the established lid opening to ensure that it would go into the toolbox without issue.

jtb- - 8

The width of the box was determined with even less science than the height.  The widest board I can get at the home center is a 1″x12″.  Which will actually yield an 11″ wide board once I dress the edges.  So 11″ it is.  The remaining elements were established based upon the proportional drawing.  Obviously you could take this to the nth degree depending on your needs and carefully size the box to hold a specific set of tools.  This is a very scalable design after all.  The point being, size the box to fit your needs.

That’s it.  The size of my toolbox is established and my next stop will be the home center for some lumber and screws.

Download instructional PDF drawing: Japanese Toolbox

Intro Greg Merritt

Cape May, NJ. No Chinese artists here.Bummed, because I was...

Giant Cypress - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 9:38am

Cape May, NJ. No Chinese artists here.

Bummed, because I was looking for a nice scroll painting of bamboo.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 20-Complete

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 05/03/2015 - 10:54am

I’m calling it done!

Over the last several days I have been adding the finishing touches to Hillbilly Tansu #3.  Primarily, the actual finish.   I used several coats of Tried & True Original which is a mixture of polymerised linseed oil and beeswax.  I’ll add additional coats over the coarse of the next year or so.  I know that sounds like a lot of work, but I like the way the finish looks as well as the non-toxic nature of the finish in both the raw and the cured state.  How many finishes do you use that you would let a five year old help you to apply?  Once the finish had dried I buffed the entire tansu with synthetic steel wool and a soft cotton cloth.

This project had a few experiments/challenges involved in it.  Early on in the planning stages I knew that I wanted to incorporate walnut for some of the drawer fronts.  I also knew that this would become an exercise in high contrast between the walnut, pine and the birch ply.

hbt2-46In a previous tansu I used cherry for the outer frame with pine and birch for the remainder.  These woods compliment each other with red and orange tones throughout.  The walnut with the pine and birch however, would quite literally create a contrast of black and white.  Although there is a slight orange undertone.  This meant that placement of the walnut and thus pattern would be of paramount importance.  There were several approaches that I could have taken.  I could have simply grouped the walnut together and created a block of walnut and pine drawers.  I don’t believe that would have created much visual interest though.  What I chose to do was two-fold.  I used the walnut to anchor the drawer bank at both the top and the bottom.  I used two walnut drawers at the bottom to add visual weight to the piece.  The remaining walnut drawers were arranged to strengthen the asymmetric pattern of the remaining drawers.   The entire look of the tansu would be different if I had chosen a different arrangement.

Another challenge the walnut presented was with the decorative elements.  I knew that my Hillbilly Inlay would not show up very well on the walnut and thus would be very subtle.  So I needed to keep the pattern for the inlay work subdued so the it would not become overpowering on the pine drawer fronts.  The wood burning shadow line detail that I added to the perimeter bead worked out well in both the walnut and the pine.

I used a new drawer pull design on this tansu.  Obviously based on an iron ring pull.  I made these by laying up grommets in #120 tarred nylon, made solid with CA glue, and attaching them to the drawers with lanyard knots tied in #72 tarred nylon.  I then added an area of texture with a home-made punch directly behind the ring.  I did this knowing that this area be subject to wear every time the pull is grasped.  So the texture should serve to camouflage any cosmetic issue down the road.  I extended this texture, along with a stylized walnut leaf pattern, on the uppermost drawer front and on the lid of the sliding box/drawer.  I further tied in the texture element with the decorative element on the drawer dividers.

I’m quite happy with the way that this tansu turned out.  Both in design and execution.  There are errors of course.  99% of which only a wood worker would notice.  Still, I see them.  I also know that is part of being a woodworker.

My son will be taking procession later today once he clears an area for its installation in his room.  I hope that it will become one of his treasured possessions and that he will keep it with him as he travels though life.

On with the dog and pony:

hbt3-121 hbt3-123 hbt3-126 hbt3-125 hbt3-124 hbt3-130 hbt3-131 hbt3-132 hbt3-120 hbt3-119 hbt3-118 hbt3-127 hbt3-129 hbt3-128

Greg Merritt

At the Alters of Flat, Smooth and Texture

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 4:12pm

I’ve been working wood off and on for well over two decades now.  Since day one I’ve worshiped at the alters of flat and smooth.  Everything I read and saw told me that finished surfaces should be just that, flat and smooth.  In the early days I didn’t have a clue about hand planes.  I would buy surfaced lumber from the home center, cut the joinery and sand everything until I had what I thought was an acceptable surface.  I went thru a lot of sandpaper back then.  As I progressed and built skills, I learned to use hand planes and how to sharpen.  My surfaces continued to improve and I used less and less sandpaper.  However, the goal continued to be flat and smooth.  I’m at a point now that I can produce a glass smooth surface on just about any piece of wood.  Long grain or end grain, neither is any problem.  The funny thing is, I don’t really like it all that much.  At least not for every surface.

At first I thought my dissatisfaction must be due to the quality of my surface.  So I continued to explore planing methods, sharpening and surface prep.  Still the feeling persisted.  Then I began to wonder if my dissatisfaction had something to do with my working in predominately softwood.  So I concentrated my efforts on prepping and polishing softwood, pine in particular.  Still, I didn’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling about flat and smooth.

Along the journey I became aware of the polissoir.  Don Williams, while working on/with the translation of Roubo, began to experiment with this simple polishing tool.  Tightly bound broom corn treated with beeswax, the polissoir works great on hardwood, but is far less effective on softwood.  It was my interest and work with the polissoir that led to a discussion with a fellow woodworker (thanks Frank) and during that exchange I came across the uzukuri.

The uzukuri is a Japanese tool made after the same fashion as the polissoir.  It, like most things in woodworking, is available in differing grades from coarse to fine.  By the way, Roubo’s polissoir is the same way.  Broom corn just happens to be the popular fiber widely utilized currently.  Anyway, the uzukuri can be made from reed, grasses, roots or horse hair, depending on the level of coarse or fine desired and is a tool designed specifically for softwood.  While the finer grades are meant to burnish and polish the wood, the coarser grades of the uzukuri are for abrading.  The “aha” moment happened when I realized that list bit.

uzukuri-exmplThe density between early and late growth wood can be quite different in a piece of softwood such as pine.  The uzukuri was created to take advantage of and to enhance this feature.  The coarser grades of the tool are used to abrade away the early (softer) growth wood.  Effectively raising the grain pattern of the late (harder) growth wood.  The finer grades of the uzukuri are then used to burnish and polish the board.  The result is a very smooth, but tactile and lively surface.  The best way I know of to describe the effect is to liken it to driftwood.

I purchased a cheap corn broom and dismantled it to create a version of the uzukuri to experiment with.  I found those experiments quite encouraging and really liked the surface effect.  So much so that I saved my nickles (damned inflation) and blew a large chunk of my woodworking budget on buying proper uzukuri in coarse, medium and fine.

So with my new tools in hand I created the sample pieces below.  I need a great deal more practice, but you should be able to get an idea of the effect.  There is no finish on these samples.  Just the surface created by the technique.

L-R-home made, coarse, medium, fine Standard pine #1 Standard pine #2

I found the process quite easy and intuitive.  The uzukuri is used, like sandpaper, with the grain.  By altering the pressure I was able to control the effect on the wood.  The result is quite pleasing to both my eye and my hand.  I do believe that this technique will bring another dimension to my work.  While not for every surface, I anticipate using this technique for a large portion of my surface treatments.  So I haven’t completely changed my religion.  I’ll still be worshiping at the alters of flat and smooth, but texture has been added to the pantheon.

What I need now is practice.  My next project is a toolbox.  In an earlier post I droned on about how it was just a box and didn’t need to be “pretty”.  But…I can’t pass up the opportunity it provides for practicing this new technique.  Large flat surfaces that do not need to be cosmetically “perfect”.  It doesn’t get any better than that for practice.

Greg Merritt

Fine tune a Handplane’s Back Iron - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Giant Cypress - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 11:08am
Fine tune a Handplane’s Back Iron - Popular Woodworking Magazine:

Christopher Schwarz:

For me, the goal with my smoothing plane is to set it up so I can ignore the grain direction of a board or a glued-up panel.
There are many valid ways to do this.

It’s nice to see that Chris’s analysis of smoothing planes and managing tearout are similar to mine. It makes me think that I might know what I’m doing.

Chris goes on to provide a quick and easy way to set up a chipbreaker on a smoothing plane, along with an excellent video. Well worth reading and watching.

Episode IV: A New Hope

Giant Cypress - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 6:18am

The hollow on the back of a Japanese chisel is there to help with sharpening. The first step in sharpening a chisel is to flatten the back of the chisel with your sharpening method of choice. The back of a Japanese chisel is made with a very hard layer of high carbon steel, which is harder than most western chisels. To flatten the entire back surface of a Japanese chisel would be quite difficult because of the hardness of the high carbon steel layer. To get around this issue, a hollow is deliberately created by the toolmaker so that only the area near the edge and the perimeter of the back needs to be flattened, which saves a lot of time and effort.

This technique isn’t limited to Japanese chisels. Back in the day, when western chisel makers were forging a piece of steel into a chisel, one side of the piece of steel would always be slightly concave due to the forging process, and that side of the steel would become the back of the chisel.

Of course, western tool manufacturers have gotten away from the traditional methods of making chisels, so this practice has fallen by the wayside. Or so I thought, until last night.

The high school student whom I’m helping to make a bookcase was over at my shop, and brought some chisels to sharpen. He’s at the point of the project where he is starting on the joinery, and needs sharp tools for this part, of course. He brought over the chisels he had: a basic set of DeWalt chisels that he picked up at the local big box store.


He set about flattening the back. After only a few minutes using a waterstone, he stopped to check his progress. Here’s what we saw.


Although it’s not taken to the same degree as a Japanese chisel, there is clearly a slight hollow in the center of the back of the chisel relative to the edge and sides, even though this chisel is from a lowly set of inexpensive chisels that are available at your local home center. There may be hope for preserving traditional methods of toolmaking in western tools after all.

Then again, these chisels were made in China, so we’re back to Asian toolmaking again.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 19

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 5:59pm

Genius, lunacy or somewhere in the middle?  Committed, yes.  Needs committed???


Part 18 Greg Merritt


Although I really like and prefer Japanese hand tools for most...

Giant Cypress - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 3:58am

Although I really like and prefer Japanese hand tools for most woodworking, I do have some machinery. This 10″ jointer/planer combination is one of the machines that I have. I spent yesterday replacing a stripped gear in the mechanism that raises and lowers the planer bed. This required a few rounds of turning the machine upside down, disassembling some parts of the machine so that I could reach the gear, reassembling the machine, and turning it upright, only to find that I needed to turn the machine upside down again because something didn’t align correctly when I put the machine back together. With the weight of the motor, this gets old quick.

Although I do very much like my jointer/planer combo, tuning up hand tools is so much easier. Hand tools FTW, again.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 18

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 6:20pm

Over the past week and this weekend I was able to acquire the needed material and complete the construction of the remaining three drawers.  I was also able to cut, fit and install all of the drawer bottoms.  There is nothing new in any of those process, so I spare you the boredom of the play-by-play.  Instead I’ll bore you with the play-by-play of adding some of the decorative elements.

The first decorative element I added to the drawer fronts was a perimeter bead.  Pretty simple to do.  The inner portion of the bead is formed with a flat head screw installed in a block of wood.  The remainder of the bead is formed with a plane and a little sanding.  That’s the long grain beads.  The end grain bead requires a little more effort, but not much.  The screw is used as a gauge, then the inner wall is knifed in.  A chisel is then used to remove the waste to form the inner portion of the bead.  The outer portion of the bead is completed in just the same manner as with the long grain.

Gauge the end grain bead. Cut the inner portion of the long grain bead. Knife in the inner wall of the end grain bead. Chisel out the end grain waste. Shape the outer portion of the end grain bead with a skewed plane. Shape the outer portion of the long grain bead. Clean up with a little sanding.

With the bead in place, I then installed the holes for the drawer pulls.  The drawer pull will be installed 15mm above center on the drawer front.  More about that later.  Since this will be the same on all of the drawers, I set a pair of dividers to make my life easier.  So all I needed to do was to find the center of the drawer front then use the dividers to locate the hole for the pull.


I also wanted to add a textured area below the drawer pull.  Since I already had the dividers set, I used them to scratch a circle to delineate the area to be textured.


Then I drilled the hole for the pull and used a countersink to clean an ease the edge of the hole.

hbt3-106 hbt3-107

I then made a decorative punch out of a scrap piece of steel.  A little file work was all that was needed to have it ready to work.


The punch is then tapped with a hammer to create texture.


I repeated the above process for all of the remaining drawer fronts.  With that done it was time for a little Hillbilly Inlay.  Don’t act surprised, you knew I was gonna’.  I developed a new pattern for this build.  It is created with two gouges and a knife.

Pencil in the 45's from each  corner. Create the inset.  Dividers ensure consistency. Large gouge sets the perimeter. Smaller gouge adds a little flare. Knife in a few lines. Finally rub in the coffee.

I still need to take the wood burner to the bead trench to create the perimeter line on the drawer fronts.  I think the black line will also help to tie the pine in with the walnut.  Still a good bit to do before the finishing process can be started.  Even so, I couldn’t help but wipe a quick coat of BLO on a couple of drawer fronts to get a sense of what they are going to look like.  It’s a crappy photo, but gives the general idea.


Greg Merritt


Article Series on Japanese Joinery

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Thu, 04/23/2015 - 9:33am

If you have an interest in Japanese joinery or joinery in general, then I would like to point you to an article series by John Bullar.  Mr. Bullar is writing this article series about Japanese joinery for:

Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine.

Mr. Bullar begins the series with a look at Japanese tools as well as pointing out that a person can execute these joints with traditional western tools.


Photo used with permission of Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine. Also note the article title in the lower left corner… Just saying…

Let me say this, there is nothing magical about Japanese tools.  They are just tools and are solely dependent upon the skill of the user.  Now I’ll admit that their exotic nature is what first drew me to them.  The quality of the steel and ergonomics is what really hooked me.  The Japanese chisels and saws I absolutely enjoy using.  The kanna (plane) however, I’m not that enamored with.  More of a short coming on my part than of the tool.  Of that I am certain.  The joinery portion of the series focuses on the actual joinery regardless of the tools used to create them.  Enough of that tangent.

jp_joint-fc-01Mr. Bullar then continues the series by introducing categories of joints and showing their construction.  Mortise and tenon, corner, right angle and splicing joints have been covered thus far and all are quite applicable to furniture construction.  Even if your interest is not in Japanese style furniture, the joints can be adapted to several other styles.  At the very least the series will expand your thinking as to ways wood can be joined together.

jp_joint-fc-00The joinery examples in the series can be challenging.  Working thru and building samples of these joints, however, can help to improve your layout skills and cutting accuracy.  Ultimately improving your projects regardless of whether or not you actually use these specific joints.

I’ve quite enjoyed this series and look forward to the next installments.  The only quibble I have is that there is little information as to the actual layout of the joints.  There is more than enough information to get you started, but I would like to see the process for sizing and proportioning the elements of each joint. Just a small detail that I would like to see added.

This is my first look at Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine as well and I have found the other topics covered equally informative and enjoyable.  This series and the magazine as a whole are well worth a look.

*all photos property of Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine and used with permission.

Greg Merritt

If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, go out and rent/stream/watch it...

Giant Cypress - Thu, 04/23/2015 - 3:18am

If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, go out and rent/stream/watch it however you can. It’s terrific. The movie is about a boy and a inflatable puffy robot who monitors your health. It takes place in a futuristic version of San Francisco, and the boy, Hiro Hamada, presumably is of Japanese descent.

The screen capture above shows a nice little woodworking Easter egg. Hiro has inadvertently activated Baymax, the robot, and has managed to wedge himself into the gap between his bed and his desk. Check out the joinery detail. Quite appropriate for an Asian kid’s bed, I would say.

(Thanks to Barry Dima for the tip.)

apperceptions: giantcypress: I was away for a few days...

Giant Cypress - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 3:08am



I was away for a few days chaperoning my son’s middle school camping trip, and came back to find that there was a lot of buzz about a video where people were making chopsticks with a hand plane and some jigs. I assume this was it.

Similar, but no. The ‘buzz’ has been about bridge city toolworks jig demo. See also the Lost Art Press article.

Just in case anyone didn’t get my joke in my original post, thanks to apperceptions for providing the appropriate links.

Flooding the Zone

Giant Cypress - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 7:38am
Flooding the Zone:

Lockhart Steele, on why geeking out about the minutiae of something is not necessarily a bad thing:

I always try to tell the newest editors at Eater, Don’t be afraid to follow your own obsession. Obsessions are, by nature, really weird. Obsessions are things when you look at a person and you’re like, Why are they into that? Like, What do they see that I don’t see? And what you’re trying to do by covering your obsession is to suck at least one other person down your own personal rabbit hole of being really, really, really into this one thing.
We generally don’t explain obsessions when we start them, and we certainly don’t explain when we end them. Choire Sicha, who’s the old editor of Gawker and who now runs The Awl, had the greatest phrase in Internet history, which was: Never complain, never explain. And that is all you need to know about how to do everything on the Internet.
Never complain—so when people are mad at you or people are throwing stones at you, or people are saying things like, Hey, you must be getting paid, you never respond. You never need to. And you never complain about what’s going on. Your work speaks for itself. If a reader can’t figure out what you’re doing, or it upsets them, or they think that it’s really fundamentally stupid that you’re writing about this thing all of the time, great news—they don’t have to read your publication. It’s a free world and our publication is here for those who are amused by it. So we will never explain why we were obsessed with something; it should be self-evident. If it’s not self-evident to you, there are many other food blogs out there, and perhaps Eater’s not the one for you.

In woodworking discussions, often someone will make a comment about how maybe we should stop obsessing over the details of a process and just get back to woodworking, as if there was a choice to be made between the two. And although I ran across this article just recently, I would have a thought along these lines.

Sometimes its Just a Box

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 4:25pm

My next project will be a “Japanese” toolbox.  I know, I know Chris Schwarz is building one too.  I feel like a Johnny-come-lately or a bandwagon jumper with this, but I assure you that I am not.  I have been kicking this one around a while and I’m now getting to the point where I’m just about ready to start it.

odate-toolboxIf you are hoping for intricate joinery, expensive wood and custom hardware, you might as well stop reading now.  There won’t be any of that.  I’ll be closely adhering to the design that Toshio Odate outlined in his book and a subsequent magazine article.  These style toolboxes were never intended to be works of art that advertised the ability of the workman that built them.  They were made with readily available material and nailed together.  Essentially a crate with a sliding lid meant to store, protect and transport tools.

In his book “Japanese Woodworking Tools:Their Tradition, Spirit and Use”, Odate describes the toolbox that was typical of the craftsman that he knew.  It’s a simple thing, nailed together.  It does however have an elegance to it.  Odate goes on to explain that

“…I believe that the sight of a shokunin carrying on his shoulder a beautifully painted and carefully joined toolbox would provoke me to an overwhelming sense of awkwardness.”

I find that statement to be quite poignant.  The Japanese craftsman is more than capable of extremely complex joinery, but they see no reason to employ any of it when building their toolboxes.  It would be out of place if they did so.

In the current woodworking world it seems the three most popular topics are tools, workbenches and tool storage.  Vast quantities of ink and electrons have been and continue to be devoted to this “holy” trinity.  I believe that latter two are a direct result of the rise in popularity of hand tools.  If you are going to work with hand tools a workbench suddenly becomes important.  As you acquire hand tools you need a place to store and protect them.

Personally I think we have become a little too romantic in the way that we look at hand tools and how we sore them.  I fully appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a traditional joiners chest with inlay and fitted compartments, I just don’t feel the need or desire to build one.  I don’t read any power tool blogs, but I doubt that you will find many, if any, posts on mahogany, raised panel boxes for storing circular saws.  Why then do we go to such extremes for storing our hand tools?  I’m not saying one way is right and the other is wrong.  I’m just trying to take a practical approach.  All I need is a sturdy, functional box for storing, protecting and transporting a few tools.  The last thing I want is to build a box that is so precious that I am afraid to use it for its intended purpose.

In the coming weeks I’ll post a general design drawing that covers the basic construction of the tool box.  I say general because this box is designed to be sized as required.  I’ll then cover how I go about arriving at the size for this particular toolbox.  Once the size is established, I’ll make a trip to the local big box store and buy the cheapest wood that will fit the bill and a couple of boxes of screws.  Yep, I said screws.  I’ll not be picky about what type of drive they are either, phillips, square or slotted.  I’m sure these boxes were originally put together with cut nails.  Cut nails used to be the standard.  They can still be had, but are expensive.  The standard today is wire nails and they are worthless for holding  wood together.  Their smooth shanks have no gripping power.  They may be fine for the construction trades but not for this type of application.  So I’ll be using screws.  They are readily available, hold well and are reasonably inexpensive.

So the wood is cheap and it will be screwed together.  However, each piece, as well as the whole, will be built with all the skill that I can muster.  There is never an excuse for shoddy work.  Surfaces will be planed, ends squared on a shooting board and hard edges chamfered.  Pieces will be fit together to the best of my ability.  I fully intend for this toolbox to last a very long time and I will take pride in its construction…..

even if it is just a box.

Greg Merritt

I was away for a few days chaperoning my son’s middle school...

Giant Cypress - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 10:58am

I was away for a few days chaperoning my son’s middle school camping trip, and came back to find that there was a lot of buzz about a video where people were making chopsticks with a hand plane and some jigs. I assume this was it.

Episode 42 – Saws in the Shop

Giant Cypress - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:28am
Episode 42 – Saws in the Shop:

Here’s an excerpt from Glen Huey and Chuck Bender’s discussion on hand saws on the 360 Woodworking podcast:

Glen: I’ve got a saw that has no back on it that I use for cutting off pegs and crap like that.
Chuck: It’s not one of those Japanese things, is it?

Chuck delivers that last line with a tone of voice that I can only interpret as jealousy.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 17

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 04/19/2015 - 6:33pm

My high hopes from yesterday for building the remaining three drawers, were quickly dashed this morning.  I could have sworn that I had enough 1/2″ stock remaining for the last of the drawers.  Alas, I was mistaken and a different form of swearing took place.  Instead of making a trip to town I chose to use the last of the available material to build one drawer and then began work on the drawer bottoms.  I also completed the sliding lid for the drawer/box.  I’ll slip off to Lowes tomorrow on my lunch hour and pick up some 1/2″ stock.

Drawer bottoms aren’t that exciting.  Size to fit and install.  I like to glue the bottom to the drawer front and in a couple of places along the sides.  I can get away with this since the plywood moves very little if any in response to humidity changes.  Bamboo pegs are installed at the rear and then a few glue block are added to the bottom to add rigidity and prevent any rattling.


The sliding lid for the drawer/box I made from 1/4″ stock.  I wanted to be sure that the lid would never interfere with the fit of the box into the tansu.  I planed a simple bevel on the lid until it slid freely into the grooves.  Then a little extra shaping of the ends.  The lid still needs a finger nick to make it easy to slide open.  I’ll also be adding some Hillbilly Inlay for decoration.  I’m thinking some sort of walnut theme is in order.



Part 16 Greg Merritt

HB Tansu #3-Progress 16

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sat, 04/18/2015 - 7:47pm

…and then there were three.

Almost every evening this week I was able to spend at least an hour or so in the shop.  The sum total of that effort netted me two additional completed drawers.  Not as much as I had hoped for, but progress all the same.  All of these drawers are relatively small.  So at first glance, small drawers should take less time.  The reality is that a drawer is a drawer is a drawer.  They all have four corners that require joinery and grooves for bottoms.  Sure, very large drawers with additional dovetails will  take more time.  But average size drawers all eat up the same amount of time no matter the length or width.


I would like to draw your attention to the smallest drawer with a walnut front.  This drawer is a little different and took a bit more time to execute.  It is actually a removable pencil box with a sliding lid.  Much like the other pencil boxes that I have made only with a slight variance in the joinery.

As I have worked on and used these tansu I have begun to think that some of the drawers should actually be treated as removable trays and/or boxes.  I’m actually considering building a tansu with a separate removable case of drawers.  It just seems to make sense that the drawers should be removable.  Thus providing storage that can be taken to a table or similar.  Worked out of and then stored away again in the tansu proper.  Now I’m not saying that all of the drawers in a tansu should be this way, but maybe one or two key elements of a tansu.  Anyway, long story long.

The smallest drawer with a walnut front will be a removable box with a sliding lid.  So the joinery should reflect the fact that the box will be in full view when it is removed from the tansu.  Lapped dovetails in the front and the rear.   A sliding lid box is a simple thing to build and it’s also very easy to make a mess of it.  So in an attempt to keep myself straight I first plowed both grooves in each side piece.  One for the sliding lid and one for the captured birch ply bottom.  I had one small scrap of walnut left that was just large enough to make the rear of the box.  This was a one-shot deal.

The dovetails were marked out and sawed as per the usual.  The tricky bit is to get the rear piece to set flush with the bottom of the lid groove.  Since the groove is already in place, it’s very tempting to drop the saw into the groove.  Don’t!  Trust me on this.  A gap is what you will end up with.  Instead I sawed as close to the edge as I could and then trimmed the remain sliver of wood away when I chopped out the other waste.


Note the sliver of wood next to the groove on the right.

All of the parts milled and ready for assembly.


Assembled, glued and pegged.


My hope is that I can build the remaining three drawers tomorrow.  That will leave the fitting and installing of the drawer bottoms over the course of the coming week.  Next weekend I’ll begin adding the decorative touches.

Part 15 Greg Merritt

These kids have been playing together since they were four. Here...

Giant Cypress - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 3:18am

These kids have been playing together since they were four. Here they are playing “Smooth Criminal”. Check out the “Billie Jean” break.

And it goes without saying that these are four Asians who rock.


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