Book Holder Episode 1

This will be a thirteen-episode build series on how to make a book holder using only hand tools. After many years of not recording, this is my first video project, and I am optimistic that there will be many more to come. If you haven’t already, please show your support by liking and subscribing to my channel.

Make a Sticking board

According to the Oxford dictionary, the verb form of “stick” means to push, thrust, poke, insert, plunge, dig and probably many others. In woodworking it means to cut a moulding and to do it by hand. The easiest method is to use a benchtop appli- ance known as a “sticking board.”

A sticking board can be of any length, width and thickness. In its simplest form, it comprises a flat board and a fixed fence. A screw or several screws near one end of the board serve as stops. It can be fixed to the bench by clamping between dogs, using holdfasts, or various other methods. A sticking board doesn’t only serve to cut moulding by hand; it can be used when ploughing a groove or making a rabbet. I used mine to make my moulding planes, the entire set of which is not yet completed.

The “traditional” style sticking board has one seriously annoying flaw; it has a fixed fence like my old one here.

Rarely have I ever worked a board which was the full width of the sticking board, and if I did, it never was the exact width. Many times I would use offcuts to fill the empty space between the board to be worked and the fixed fence. I would do this trying to make the board flush with the sticking board’s front edge so the fence of my rabbet or grooving plane can utilise the edge of my workbench. Usually it would be impossible to make the work piece flush with the edge of the sticking board; instead it would over- hang. Depending on the thickness of the material being worked, inadvertently tilting the plane is a common problem and a square rabbet cannot be achieved.

A great solution is to build a new sticking board with an adjustable fence. I cannot take credit for this as my idea was spawned from watching an episode of The Woodwright’s Shop. I saw very briefly Roy using one, but unfortunately the camera angle didn’t reveal much. Nonetheless, it appeared to be a sticking board with an adjustable fence. I start- ed building on the fly.


My board is made up of hoarded scraps. Western red cedar for the base and pine for the fence. I knew one of these years I would find good use for the WRC. The adjust- able fence rides in tracks that are T slots I bought from Carbatec 10 years ago. The knobs used to fix the fence in position are part of a box set I also bought 10 years ago for making jigs. I’ve never found much use for it until now. Note to self: Stop reading catalogues.

Handy to have if you’re making a lot of jigs. I’m not sure if they’re still selling

While a sticking board can be any length, it has been said that a good size is about 8’ (2438mm). That is generally a good size for making lengths of mouldings, but unfor- tunately my bench is just under 6’ (1828mm). I made mine from the

length of a scrap I had on hand which happened to be the ideal length for my bench.

The base of my sticking board is: 35 ¾” x 7 1/8” x 1 ½” (908 x 181 x 38mm). The fence is 35 ¾” x 1 ½” x ¾” (908 x 38 x 19 mm). Optionally, you can install a hook on the front edge of the base of the sticking board A hook sits against the front edge of the workbench and stops the sticking board from sliding across the bench, much the same principle as in shooting boards and bench hooks. But it can also serve as a surface for the fence of a plane to ride against should you need to plow a groove or cut a rabbet.

I didn’t go out and buy new timber for the hook. Instead I went to a charity shop and picked up an outdoor table for $4.00. I don’t know what species it is and one of these days I’ll bother to find out, but it’s heavy and hard yet easy to plane. I’d hate to build a large cabinet with it; I think I would need a forklift to move it around. The dimensions are 35 ¾” x 2 ¼” x ¾” (908 x 57 x 19 mm).

Step 1.

If necessary, cut the base to length then plane flat both sides and square one edge. For the fence, rip 1 ½” (38 mm) from a board, cut it to length and plane it flat and square.

Step 2.

Make a couple of dadoes in the base for the T slotted tracks. Measure in 4” from both ends and make a knife line.

Holding your square still on the knifed line, butt the track against your square and mark the opposite end. You now have the exact width of the required dado.

Holding your square still on the knifed line, butt the track against your square and mark the op- posite end. You now have the exact width of the required dado.

Repeat chopping the sec- ond half and finish lev- elling the bottom of the dado with a router plane set to the thickness of the track and test the fit.

You want the tracks level with the surface. You don’t want the track proud of the base’s surface because it would interfere with the board being worked.

Step 4

Insert the T slot track into one of the dados and flush one end with the edge of the base. At the other edge of the base scribe a line on the T slot track. Saw to the line using a hack saw.

Clean up the edge with a file and repeat for the second dado. These Bahco files I bought from England really leave a beautiful surface and remain sharp. Admittedly though, I don’t use them very often, but I have used in the past the modern-day Nicholson files and they were very disappointing indeed. I wouldn’t recommend you buy them.

To glue the tracks in place I used Loctite AA 330. The glue comes with an activator and can be bought separately if need be. This is an ultimate glue for gluing metal to wood, The instructions are easy to follow. Spread glue on one surface and spray the activator on the mating piece. I didn’t need to use clamps be- cause the fit was good and tight; adding clamps wouldn’t have made a difference. Don’t be in a hurry to buy the Loctite, as it is expensive. Fish glue from Lee Valley will work just as well. I’m using the AA 330 glue until it’s expended; I bought it so I might as well use it

I left it to dry overnight even though I could have resumed work within 30-60mins.

Step 5

Install the hook. Remember this is optional so skip this part if you don’t want the hook. I cut the piece to length allowing a little extra for flushing the ends to the base. I used my own homemade version of liquid hide glue and clamped it overnight. To save time you should clamp this at the same time you install the tracks but I would highly recom- mend you don’t install the tracks until you’ve installed the hook and checked for square. This way you can plane the top square without fear of hitting the metal tracks. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Once the glue has cured, plane the top edge flush with the top surface of the base and check the front face of the hook for square with the base. This is critical; there is no compromising here. The reason is, when you’re planing a rabbet using a fenced rabbet plane (for example), it’s the face of the hook that the plane’s fence will register against. If that’s out of square then your rabbet will also be out of square.

Pre-drill some holes and reinforce the hook with screws.

Tidy the ends of the hook with your block plane

Step 6

Now for the adjustable fence. Place the fence on the base and flush up the ends by feel. Hold the fence immobile, locate and mark both ends of each slot onto the bottom side of your fence.

What we want is to transfer the exact location and width of the slots to the fence. Then we can locate the dead centre of the tracks and bore our holes in the fence precisely to meet up with the tracks. This is more precise than using measurements

 I use a brace and 29/64” brad point bit to bore the holes. The eggbeater drill isn’t ideal as it requires more torque to bore the hole.

Accuracy this time round isn’t all that necessary, but having said that, it is good practice to bore and drill accurately. It takes a long time to acquire skill, but without constant practice it takes no time to lose it.

I have chosen to omit from the article the type, length and quantity of screws used as a stop. Reason being, as there is no strict rule to use the measurements I have supplied and in particular to the thickness of materials, I could not justify adding those partic- ulars as your build will not be identical to mine. You may use thinner, shorter, longer,

wider or narrower stock and the length and number of screws I used will not pertain to what you may need in your build.

On another note my editor Matt McGrane has pulled me up on an important point that didn’t cross my mind. He wrote to me and I quote:

“I have a screw-arm plough plane and the arms extend a few inches on the side of the plane towards the adjustable fence. With a narrow fence, the plane’s arms can hit the fence’s knob, which interferes with the operation. The solution might be to use a lower knob or simply a nut.”

He is right. This would be an issue with all plough planes whether antique or new. You can avoid this potential problem by using Matt’s suggestion of using a hex nut or use

a wider adjustable fence. Having said that, the only time this will become an issue is if

your stock is ¾” or less and you had to bring the fence all the way forward to the hook. I believe this occasion would be a rarity and if it did occur then simply use the above solution as a temporary fix.
BLO used as a finish

How To Make a Hand-Engraved Hammer with Simple Tools

The video description is from the maker himself.

In this video I am showing how I made a simple hand engraved hammer without a forge or fancy tools. For the Hammerhead I have used a 25mm by 25mm steel bar (1” x 1”) and cherry wood for the handle, cherry is not ideal for hammer handles but it is beautiful and this hammer will get very light abuse, ideally hickory or ash wood is used.

Moisture Meters


Moisture meters measure the percentage of moisture or water in wood. Woodworkers use them to determine whether or not the timber is too wet or too dry to be used for furniture making. If the timber is too dry, glue bond failure may occur and if too wet again you may face the same problem. Using a moisture meter irrespective of whether you’re a hobbyist or professional is essential.
I admit that up until recently I haven’t owned a moisture meter and have to a certain degree worked wood successfully without one, but I emphasise the phrase “to a certain degree”. Not every timber I worked was without its problems of cups, warps and bows. Not every timber I planed remained flat the next day. Had I used a moisture meter prior to working that wood I at least would have been informed of its moisture content (MC) and would have decided then and there whether or not this timber is workable. However, not always is the MC the culprit, as I mentioned in the kiln drying article on the blog. If the timber isn’t dried correctly, it can form stress and regardless of its moisture content you may face hard times working with it.

Pinned versus Pinless
A pinned style includes two pins that are proud on top of the meter. These two pins are inserted into the timber either face or, more commonly end grain to take a reading. A small electrical current is passed between the points, and the amount of resistance is correlated to a moisture content. Moisture is a good electrical conductor so the wetter the wood the less resistance there is to the current. The accuracy of a pinned version is affected by the variances in the naturally occurring chemical composition of wood species, but isn’t as affected by the difference in density from one species to another.
A pinless version penetrates deep into the wood using an electromagnetic wave through the area under the sensor pad. This creates an electromagnetic field which the meter correlates to a moisture content. The real beauty of a pinless version is it’s non-destructive, which means there are no holes bored into your timber and it scans a much larger area than the pinned version.
The debate regarding the accuracy of the two versions has been ongoing for years with only ever one outcome, pointing favourably towards the pinned version until recently. With technological advancements, the pinless style has been shown to be just as accurate with the added benefit of being non-destructive. However, it always boils down to the quality of the device and there are many manufacturers out there producing both versions that range in price from $30 to $1000.
All companies, regardless of version will make claims that their meter is the best in terms of accuracy. Knowledge through research will make you better informed as to the accuracy of their claims.
So how do we know which manufacturer to choose? Well lucky enough for you I have done this research over many months and am providing a link for you where you can see for yourselves which brand is better than others. These tests were conducted by experts and the methods they used are described on the website. I urge you to thoroughly go through all the brands tested so you can make a truly informed, unbiased decision. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees even though the leaves are the same colour.
After extensive research of many, many brands I have opted to go with a Wagner MMC 220.

With this meter, you also receive a clip-on carry case. Yes, this meter is fragile – you cannot exert more than 2-pounds pressure and a drop from 4 feet or more will result in damage to the unit, requiring that it be sent back for re calibration. I thought I’d point that out straight off the bat. Other than that, according to independent moisture meter experts it’s accurate and measures moisture in the wood and not on the surface of the wood. It measures softwoods and hardwoods including tropical species. In the manual you receive, there is a list of specific gravity for most commonly used timbers. If your timber isn’t listed they also provide a link where you can find this information.
In summary a moisture meter is a must have for any serious woodworker. If you’re building once or twice a year and you purchase timber from a trusted source then it would be a complete waste of your money to own one because, by the time you get around to building your project your wood would have significantly dried and acclimated to your shop’s environment.

On the other hand, if you’re buying timber from privateers and not so reputable businesses (and I could name a few) then it would make good sense to bring one with you. Not everybody’s honest and not everybody’s claim of their stock being dry is true. So, having a meter for your own peace of mind is money well spent in my books.

Glue up correctly for a long lasting joint

For a long-lasting joint that won’t come apart one needs to know how to correctly apply glue.  Glue is strong, irrespective of whether it is hide glue, white, yellow or fish glue they’re all stronger than the wood itself.  While yellow is commonly known for its gap filling properties it’s actually not entirely true.  No glue is a gap filler, for a successful join each joint must be a friction fit with no gaps. 

Edge joint

The practice of edge gluing two or more boards to form a panel or a table top has been in practice for several thousand years.  Sprung joints aren’t new either and is still widely practiced.  The idea of a sprung joint is to form a slight hollow in the middle of the board’s edge so as to apply pressure on the ends to keep them tightly closed during seasonal changes.  That’s the idea and it works, but I’ve also edge glued without a sprung joint and as long as the two edges are perfectly straight making perfect gap free contact works just as well.  For the sake of time and efficiency sprung joints are a better alternative.

Sprung Joint
Friction Fit Dovetails

Friction fit joinery

Mortise and tenons including dovetails should be a friction fit requiring only moderate hand pressure.  To ensure everything comes together perfectly prior glue up a quick rehearsal is recommended.  Some woodworkers like Rob Cosman are confident enough that he never does a test fit of his dovetails as he believes with each fit your loosening the joint which is true, but it is better to side with caution than to find out later you’re not so good after all.  No pun intended. 

Clamps should only be used to hold a joint together while the glue is drying.  If you find that you’re using a lot of clamping pressure to force the joints to close, then you need to reexamine your joinery as to why this is happening prior to glue up.  During glue up sometimes you get what is known as glue freeze and usually a light tap with a mallet will remedy this problem. 

Best glue up methods

The best form of glue up is bonding long grain to long grain, end grain absorbs too much glue starving the joints creating a weaker bond.  Many modern-day furniture and kitchens are made from MDF and Chipboard, applying glue to either end grain or its edges is like not applying any glue at all as the wood (lets humour the mass manufacturers and call it wood) absorbs all the glue so they rely on dowels to keep them together.   This too isn’t a good practice either as your relying on tiny little sticks stuck in tiny little holes to hold everything together.  For mitre joints you have to apply glue to end grain and there is a little trick that works very well.  You allow the end grain to absorb the glue, then you apply some more and allow it to dry enough to form a film then apply some more, clamp it and leave it to set over night.  I’ve done this using hide glue as a test and I gave up trying to break it apart so it works.

Don’t be overly concerned on what type of glue works the best, they all work equally well as they’re all stronger than the wood itself.  Usually, the company that spends the most on advertising gets the biggest exposure but that’s as far as it goes. 

I’m a big advocate for hide glue and have recently become equally enthusiastic about fish glue.  I’m a traditionalist in one respect I like to practice ancient methods but I also have a slightly different outlook on these matters to other people.  I build by hand while others use machinery, I am of the opinion due to the current rise of automation that in 50 years time there will only be a handful of people building anything by hand, and in 100 years time there will be nothing built by hand.  So, my work will be far more valuable after I’m long gone than a piece made by anyone using machinery.  If for any reason my work needs to be repaired, I know that the glue I used which is hide glue or fish glue can be reversed, repaired and re glued, while others cannot and most probably no one will ever bother.  So, I feel it’s an obligation upon me to owe it to conservationists to continue with this practice of using animal protein glues in all my builds.

Glue is readily available in all stores and is inexpensive other than hide glue.  PVA glue has a shelf life of up to 12 months while liquid hide is two years, the granules if keep out of direct sunlight are indefinite and fish glue is advertised as a two-year shelf life but if kept out of direct sunlight in a cool dark spot can run into a number of years.  No matter what type of glue you use make sure it’s fresh, there’s no point in using glue that’s gone off and ruining your hard work.  I always make a fresh batch of hide glue if I’m going to use it that day and if there’s anything left over, I throw it away.  This may sound like wastage but comparing to the price of timber it’s a small price to pay.

Irrespective of what type of glue you use the work needs to be warm, yes you read that right, even if you’re using PVA.    In the past their labels read room temperature above 32f and others have read above 65F for a strong bond.  I haven’t seen this labeled for a long time on bottles but none the less whether or not they choose to label or omit it nothing has changed.  Glues usually takes 12 hours to set but in colder conditions you need to allow 24 hours to pass before you do any work with it.  With hide glue I will always allow 24 hours to pass and the same applies to Fish glue.  I guess the only real issue I have with fish glue is that the glue line reactivates immediately if your hands are damp.  I’ve noticed this the other day after using my waterstones.   As my hands were damp from being in contact with water, I felt immediate tackiness on the glue line.  This isn’t a problem as the water didn’t penetrate to break the bond, but I wouldn’t glue up a tabletop with it.  Spills and general cleaning will leave a tacky surface and that isn’t a good thing.

When applying glue to joinery apply a thin amount and spread it over both surfaces. On edge gluing apply an even thinner coat and use either your finger to spread it, roller or brush even a stick will do the job.  Don’t apply so little to where you will starve the join but enough to end up with a small bead of squeeze out when you clamp it.  If you apply too much glue not only, will it be messy and drip all over your clamps and bench top but it will be too slippery and you will have alignment issues.  Allow an hour to pass before cleaning up, some manufacturers state 30 mins minimum but I always allow an hour.  Use a chisel if you’re using PVA and a damp cloth if using hide glue, with hide glue you can wait the full 24 hrs.  Unlike PVA glue if left will not affect your finishes but water will clean it all off not so with PVA.

Spread even thin amount
Too much glue
A good bead line

Heat Treating O1

What is A2 steel

“A” stands for air hardening which means you don’t quench in any liquids but set it aside and allow it to cool down on its own. It contains .95% High Carbon a 1% Molybdenum, 1% Manganese, .3% Silicon, 5% Chromium, .15% Vanadium, .03% Phosphorous and the same for Sulphur.  Excellent edge retention is possible thanks to the Chromium Carbides that are mixed during the heat-treating process that makes it the most preferred cutting tool steel by tool makers.  However, the trade-off is that honing A2 steel takes longer and more effort than O1, it won’t hone an edge as sharp as O1 and the edge fractures quicker if the bevel angle is honed at 25 degrees.  To prevent the edge from fracturing Lie Nielsen recommends to hone the bevel at minimum 30 degrees but preferably to 35 degrees.  So, if you notice your blade isn’t cutting as well as it should be hone a steeper bevel.

O1 Tool Steel

O1 is a high carbon medium alloyed cold work tool steel with 1.1% manganese, 0.6 chromium, 0.6% Tungsten AND 0.10% Vanadium added to it with good hardening capacity.

The O stands for oil quenching.  Quenching in oil is recommended over water because it cools slower reducing the chance of cracking.  O1 also takes an edge better than A2 but will not stay sharp as long as A2.  So, the main difference between the two is; O1 sharpens relatively quicker than A2 and hones an edge sharper than A2 but the edge retention in A2 is better than O1.  Obviously thinner O1 blades that come with old Stanley planes will sharpen very quickly than the thicker modern A2 blades because their is less steel to hone which is why they’re still a preferred choice for many old-time woodworkers who know the difference between truth from fiction.  Thicker blades do not reduce chatter as advertised, instead they are a pain in the backside to sharpen.

Heat Treating Process

Grind your bevel and shape first, then whatever process you like to use as heat go with that, I used 2 blow torches.  You heat the cutting iron to about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (815deg. Celsius) you will know you’ve reached that temperature when it reaches a bright cherry red colour.  In my opinion, I think that a bright orange colour is a more correct description of it but that’s the word that’s been in use for a few hundred years now so I won’t rock the boat.

Once that critical temperature has been reached you plunge the iron into an oil bath.  I used peanut oil over motor oil as it has less tendency to flame up and apparently, it smells better but I couldn’t smell squat.  I even stuck my nose into it and still couldn’t smell any peanuts.  You can use a metal container or a glass jar, I used a glass jar that was fairly thick.  I think the thickness is important due to the heat build-up of the oil, you don’t want the glass shattering and spilling oil all over your bench so a Nescafe jar is ideal.

When you plunge the iron into the oil, plunge it in vertically and keep it upright vertically while you continue to plunge.  If you angle it in and stir it you could induce warpage, I’ve seen Tod Herrli stir it gently but it was still held vertically.

Now take it out and let it sit for ½-1 hr to cool down, be careful though as it is still quite hot so don’t touch it and don’t ask me how I know that.   This is the confusing part though, some technical websites say cool it in the oil until you can touch it with your bare hands and temper it immediately, others say let it sit depending on its thickness, so 1 hr for 1” thickness and then temper it.   Up to you on this one, I don’t know who is right or wrong here but as for me personally on the next one I will choose to let it cool in the oil and then temper it.


Tempering is the process of reducing the steels brittleness, if you didn’t temper it, the steel would shatter like glass if dropped on the ground.  You also wouldn’t be able to shape the edge nor sharpen it, your file would just skate over it.

Ever wonder how those martial arts experts were able to karate chop an iron in two, well you too can do that in its brittle state and that’s why we need to temper.

The temperature may vary according to the desired hardness and the hardness scale we are working to is the Rockwell C scale.  You see in every tool sellers’ description hardened to Rockwell C 60 or 62.  To reach that Rockwell C scale we need to heat up the iron in an oven to about 325 deg. F (162deg. C) for about an hour.  The iron will reach a light straw colour, you don’t want any other colour but that.  If you were tempering a knife then your Rockwell C should be about 55 -57 which is about 500-600 deg. F (260deg. C).  My oven only goes up to 260 degrees and there is no guarantee your oven is accurate.

If you can’t use your oven here’s the way I did it.  I held the flame back from the cutting edge and observed the colour change.  I withdrew the iron from the flame and watched the heat travel up the iron until it reached the edge during which a colour change was occurring.  Once the light straw colour was reached I immediately plunged it into the oil and then left it to cool in air.

I did skip an important part, after hardening clean and flatten the back to take out any potential warpage and clean the black oxidation around the cutting area up to the beginning of the tang.  It’s important to do that so you can observe the colour change during the tempering process.  Also get yourself a good magnet so you know you’ve reached the correct hardness and either glue it on wood or get one big enough you can hold by hand.  If you your burn fingers in the process you’ll live, don’t be wimps about it you won’t burn them second time round.

Shaker Stools 240 Mod


My exploration of seating continues with a couple of Shaker inspired stools.  Many, many moons ago, long before GPS, we made a trip to Nashville for a friend’s wedding.  We had very little money at the time and knew this would be the only trip for that year.  Unfortunately, our time in Nashville was less than pleasant, other than the wedding.  Anyway, on the trip home we began looking for any stop that would salvage the trip.  My wife scanned over the road atlas and stumbled on the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill just outside of Lexington, KY.  So, on a whim, we routed ourselves to the village.

We arrived late afternoon on a Saturday and were pleasantly surprised that they had overnight rooms.  As luck would have it there was a room available.  Not only that, they had a dining hall that served family style meals.  So, we moved into our room and walked to the dining hall and had a very pleasant dinner by candlelight.

The next day we toured the village and I poured over the furniture and buildings as far as they would let me.  This was long before I had any tools or even a shop space, but the desire, the desire to build was there.  The last stop before leaving the village was the gift shop and there I bought three little books of scaled drawings of Shaker furniture.

That’s a bit of back story, but I thumb thru these books every now and again for inspiration.  This time around the stools caught my eye.  Actually, the rocker has my interest, but I figure the stools will be a good way to get my head around the process.  These are simple stools and should nestle nicely with the kitchen island that I converted my old workbench into.

I like most things Shaker, there is an elegant simplicity in all that they built.  The one thing I have never been a fan of though is the woven tape seats.  Seats woven with muted earth tones are OK, but the brighter colours just look out of place to me.  So, my stools will have seats woven with fibre rush.  It looks simple to accomplish and I personally like the look. After playing around with the proportions and a little time at the drafting board, here is what I came up with.

Not too different from the original Shaker design, just tweaked slightly.  I’m building these stools with what I have on hand.  The legs will be red oak and the stretchers will be white oak.  The seats will be woven from fibre (paper) rush.  I’ve gotten off to start turning the eight required legs.  The goal is to crank out one leg after work every evening.  So far, so good.  I’m three for three. I’m actually getting pretty quick at it.  Quick being a relative term.  The story stick is a handy thing for this repetitive work too.

I deviated from the Shaker simplicity and added a single bead to the leg as well as a little wood burning.  You know I can’t not add some wood burning.  Just one more reason I would have made a lousy Shaker.

Progress continues on the stools.  Mostly one hour at a time after work each day.  This has become my basic workflow as of late.  Come home, check in and then out to the shop until dinner time.  Then grab as much time over the weekend as I can.  Anyway…

I managed to finish turning all eight of the legs (posts).  These are close to final shape, but I’ll most likely chuck them back into the lathe and change the shape of the taper to the foot.  I also completed the initial turning of all of the required rungs.

When I design a project, I tend to focus on the overall proportions and keep the details to a minimum.  I do this so as not to overly influence the final product.  I know this seems counter to the whole idea of design, but it’s what works for me.  My goal is not to crank out identical, production style pieces.  If I make a piece again, I want the proportions to be right, but I also want each piece, or series of pieces, to be unique.  So, part of my process is to work each element in stages.  Essentially designing on the fly through a process of gradual reduction.

Working this way would drive some folks absolutely crazy.  A lot of people like to have everything mapped out ahead of time.  For me though, I like having the details sort of evolve along with the project itself.  Sometimes I have an idea about the details from the start, but often I don’t have clue what will develop.  I find this to be particularly true with my wood turning.  A contributing factor is that I’m not all that confident in my developing wood turning skills, but I’m beginning to find my way.

The point of all that rambling is that my pieces tend to change as a project progresses.  The first change to the project at hand was to add a bead to the legs.

The rungs were next to fall victim to change.  I first turned all of the rungs to a simple cylinder and added the tenons.  I then set eight of them aside to become the top rungs around which I’ll weave the fibre rush seat.  The remaining rungs went back on the lather and received a taper on each end.

The final bit of modification was to the foot end of the legs (post).  During the initial turning I established the transition point of the taper to the foot, but left this area “fat”.  I felt they needed a little more grace and took cues from some Shaker examples to added a bit of life to the taper.

So now I have all of my wood bits ready to go.  Next up will be the drilling of holes and assembly of the frames.

With all of the parts complete, it was time to bore some holes.  There are (24) rungs which left me facing (48) holes that needed to be drilled plumb and square.  It’s not that difficult of task really, but one errant hole can mess up the whole works.  Actually, a little variance can be beneficial by way of adding tension into the frame.  Too much variance though will either split a post or make it impossible to assemble the frame.

So, I cautiously began marking out and drilling each mortise holes.  To add a little extra stress, I had to be diligent with my depth.  These are blind holes and need to be as deep as possible to form a strong joint.  I used a standard auger bit and had to pay careful attention to the lead screw.  Half a turn too far and the lead screw would come through the opposite side.  To control the depth of bore you can count turns, strap on a vintage depth stop contraption or, as I did, wrap a bit of painter’s tape around the bit.

The process was to mark out the centres by sighting across the post at the top and bottom locations and connect those with a straight edge to establish the intermediate location.

The best way I have found to hold an individual leg is to place it in joiner’s saddles and clamp it to the bench with a holdfast.

The drilling is straight forward, but I checked my progress with a square.

No matter how careful you are, sometimes the point of the auger makes it through to the other side.

Sometimes though, it validates your skill with the brace and bit.

And so, I progressed, first with individual frames and then the entire frame.

The glue up was a bit stressful.  It was a lot of parts to assemble and hot hide glue doesn’t wait.  I was given a few extra seconds though, due to the high temp (88F) in my shop.  So, no pics of the glue up.  All of my concentration was on the task at hand.

The glued frames with a second coat of Tried & True Original.  The first coat was applied while the pieces were on the lathe.  That first coat of the individual pieces saved me a good bit of work when cleaning up the glue squeeze out.

A note about the grain orientation of the pieces.  I set the rungs so that their grain was perpendicular to that of the posts.  I also set the posts so that none of the rungs inserted directly through the long grain of the post.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to weave the seats.

Now that the stools were assembled, it was time to tackle the seat weaving.

The material that I chose to use is fibre rush.  This is a paper product that imitates the look of natural rush and has been in use since the early 1900’s.  I had planned on researching and writing a thorough post on fibre rush, but Cathryn Peters ( has a “history of” article on here site that covers it.  Jump over there and have a read and then come back.  I’ll wait…

…to understand the weaving process I read through the articles on Ms. Peters’ site, bought a small booklet on the subject and watched a bunch on YouTube videos.  The most helpful video, by far, was Ed Hammond’s ( video.

Having prepared as much as I could, there was nothing left to do but jump in and do it.  So, I gathered my supplies and tools and settled in for a long afternoon.

The pattern is a simple over-under and progresses counter-clockwise around the stool.

While the pattern is simple, the nuances that are the hallmarks of skill and proficiency are not.  As with most hinges handwork, these must be earned with time on task.  Where to push and where to pull?  How hard?  How large a coil of material can I work with?  On and on.  The thing that I struggled with the most is how to handle and turn the coil as I weaved.  The loose coil of rush must be continually rotated, in the correct direction, else the strand will untwist and leave you with a string of flat paper.  I fought this all afternoon!  Constantly having to stop and re-twist the strand.

There is a rhythm that began to reveal itself as the afternoon wore on and I became more and more comfortable with the process.  Over the rail, up through the middle…over the rail up through the middle.  Even so, my progress was clumsy at best, but I managed to get the first seat completed.

This first seat is presentable and I’m confident that the next one will improve in both execution and speed.  This first round of weaving took me six hours!  I also woefully underestimated how hard this process would be on my fingers.  My thumbs and index fingers are raw and sore.  So, either tape or gloves will be needed for the weaving of the next seat.

I spent my evenings after work weaving the seat for the second stool.  I was a little more comfortable with the process this time and actually enjoyed applying the rush.

I’m happy to report that I gained a little speed and the weave looked much neater.  So much so that I dismantled several courses on the first stool and re-worked it so that there wasn’t such a marked difference between the two.  Not a dramatic difference, but it would have driven me crazy if I hadn’t fixed it.


Just about everything I have read or watched says that the fibre rush should be sealed with a couple of coats of clear shellac or something similar.  This adds a bit of durability and stain resistance to the seat.  So, I dutifully complied with shellac.

The first coat took a good bit of shellac and I was a little worried that the uneven appearance wouldn’t subside once everything was dry.

The first coat did indeed dry to an even, albeit, darker colour and the second coat went on quickly.  I also took the time to add one more coat of Tried & True original to the frames of the stools.

With that, I’m calling these stools done.

Either hubris or taking the blame.  Not sure which.

Installed into the kitchen.