The People Have Spoken

What good is a wooden eating spoon?

If you ask the people who frequented my Etsy shop since its inauguration two weeks ago, not much. So far among the tally of items sold: cooking/serving spoons – 10, eating spoons – 0.

Redbay eating spoon.

It’s a bit of a shock to the system for an old spoon carver like myself. I’ve surrounded myself with an Instagram feed and Facebook Groups that include a daily abundance of carved spoons. I’d estimate that 90% or more of the spoons that I see on social media are eating spoons.

It makes sense if you’re a carver. Cooking and serving spoons are big. They take at least two or three times as long to carve as an eating spoon, and they take up a commensurate quantity of space in the kitchen. Once you get the spoon carving bug, you’ll probably start out with a few cooking spoons before quickly realizing that they’re going to consume every junk drawer in the kitchen if you don’t start giving some away. Sure, a few of the prized specimens will remain in the vase on the counter meant for oft-used utensils, but you’ll quickly settle on your favorites and the rest will stored in a dark corner, forgotten and forlorn.

Eating spoons, on the other hand, take up little of both your time and space. You can turn out a rather nice one in an hour or two. Unlike cooking spoons, for which a single spoon will suffice to prepare and serve an entire meal for the family, eating spoons are used in quantity. They’re cheap to ship and easy to carry to swap meets, so they make a convenient currency among spoon carvers. Most spoon carvers, therefore, will quickly switch from carving cooking spoons to mostly eating spoons.

But we forget, sometimes, how strangely the rest of the world views us and our wooden eating spoon habit. I know, sometimes it seems as though the whole world is carving spoons, but trust me: That’s just another social media bubble that we’ve created. “Normal” people think wooden eating spoons are weird. Eating spoons should be metal. They should stack neatly in a flatware tray, not lovingly displayed on a wall rack. They should have shiny polished bowls, not gently faceted surfaces from the hook knife. To “normal” people, the wooden eating spoon elicits imagery of a peasant sipping watery porridge from a communal bowl. It’s a relict of a bygone era.

The wooden cooking spoon, meanwhile, reminds people of grandma’s chicken and dumplings. Or grandpa’s peanut brittle. It feels nostalgic, but not antiquated.

The irony, of course, is that many of the most talented and creative contemporary woodworkers I know are spoon carvers. Check out the work of Maryanne, Amy, or Adam if you don’t believe me. My own work may not compare to theirs, but I can tell you that few things bring me as much joy as eating a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream with a little birch spoon that I carved for myself at Greenwood Fest three years ago.

Honestly, I think a wooden eating spoon is a bit like good beer or bourbon: You probably won’t like it the first time you try it, but if you’re motivated to like it, it’ll soon be one of those simple pleasures in life that you’re not likely to want to give up (and unlike beer or bourbon, you’ll not find yourself half-naked and surrounded by empties in the back of a pickup truck if you have one too many wooden spoons). Geez, I’m a terrible salesman. To conclude this subtle sales pitch, my little menagerie of eating spoons are patiently awaiting new owners. I’m rather proud of them. I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I do if you give them an honest try. But I must confess, I doubt if I’ll be carving many more. As far as I’m concerned, the people have already spoken.

A Simple Tool

Make a Windsor chair, and you’ll find yourself mounting a lot of 2″ stock on the lathe. Mount a lot of stock on the lathe, and you’ll probably find yourself wishing for a fast and accurate method of marking the centers.

I’ve used several different methods for marking centers, and never found one that I considered satisfactory. If you have squared-up stock, you can mark an “X” across the diagonals to approximate the center. It’s quick, but more often than not you’ll find that your stock is somewhat less-than-square, in which case, it’s inaccurate. If you’re using riven stock, it’s not an option at all.

Another method that I have used is taking a small compass and guesstimating the center, moving the central leg about until I find the proper center point. This is more accurate, and it works even for riven stock, but it’s also slow – and you end up with multiple center points (though I always try to mark the “correct” point more deeply) which can be confusing. A better solution is in order.

I came up with this simple tool:

Center Gauge

To use, just center the tool on your stock with your fingertips, and give it a good whack with a hammer. You’re left with a perfect dimple, right in the center, that makes alignment of your blank on the lathe a snap.

Center Gauge in Use

Center Gauge Mark

I assume the tool is pretty intuitive, should you wish to make your own. Just pop a blank on the lathe and turn it to a cylinder of the appropriate diameter (2″, in my case). Make sure the bottom is perfectly flat or slightly concave, so it will be easy to center on your spindle blanks. Then drive a nail into the center (the tailstock conveniently makes a dead-center dimple) and clip it off about 1/8″ proud.

Center Gauge Nail

I made mine pretty with some fancy turned decorations and a coat of oil, but a simple cylinder would suffice. I figure a pretty tool will be less likely to get confused with a scrap and tossed into the kindling bucket when it’s inevitably dropped in the shavings.

This is the quickest and most accurate center-marking method I’ve ever used. It works just as well with riven stock as it does with sawn, and it will tolerate maybe 3/8″ of variation in the thickness without much loss in accuracy. They’re so quick and easy to make, it’s not a problem to make another center marker, for say, 1-1/2″ stock or any other thickness that you commonly use.

Sole Discretion

The topic of plane soles – as in smooth vs. corrugated soles – is one that often evokes impassioned opinions. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to crop on woodworking fora as often as other touchy subjects – like, say, sharpening or SawStops. Many users have no preference one way or another, but those who have formed a opinion typically view corrugated soles with a level of contempt normally reserved for laser-guided handsaws.

Paul Sellers has made his opinion known:

…corrugated soles grab shavings, especially super-thin ones that cling to the grooves of corrugated soles. Even flat soled planes do this. The problem inherent to corrugated soles is the grab and mush up in the grooves and on subsequent forward thrusts, damage the surface you are supposed to be smoothing. No craftsman I ever knew favoured these planes…It also damages corners and edges of wood when you start to plane angles such as chamfers or form bullnoses to things such as box lids, window sills and stair treads.

Yikes. Sounds like something I’d like to avoid. So what’s the point of the corrugations in the first place? Paul addresses that as well:

The corrugated sole was produced in Bailey pattern planes for a period with the intention of reducing the surface area of the sole to further reduce the friction of the plane on the surface being planed. Indeed it does do that…

Paul is actually kinder to corrugated planes than some other authors, who opine that corrugated soles do nothing to reduce friction, making them worse than useless. Well, I have been using the three planes pictured below for the past several years, so in the name of good fun, I would like to offer my contradictory assessment:

From top to bottom: Craftsman No. 5, corrugated; Stanley No. 6, smooth; and Stanley No. 7, corrugated.

Aside from the Stanley No. 4’s that you see peeking into the upper right corner of the photo, these three planes chew up the bulk of the shavings that are produced in my woodshop, and they have done so for quite some time. The No.7 is my most recent acquisition (from 5 years ago), while the No. 5 is my oldest companion (the first decent hand plane I ever owned, from 10 years ago).

So without further ado, here are a few unfiltered observations about the performance of these tools, with regards to the sole:

  • The corrugations do indeed drastically reduce the friction; I can easily use the No. 5 and the No. 7 without wax, whereas the No. 6 is nearly impossible to push once the wax wears off.
  • I don’t necessarily view the additional friction of the smooth sole as a bad thing. It’s just a gentle reminder to wax your stupid planes.
  • I rarely/never have an issue with shavings clinging to the corrugated soles. This is very likely related to the fact that I rarely/never make “super thin” shavings with my corrugated planes. The No. 5 is set up as a fore plane; it has a strongly cambered blade for hogging off meaty shavings, often cross-grained. The No. 7 is used almost exclusively as a jointer, for truing up edges; the blade is sharpened straight across, and it takes substantial shavings that curl up into neat, tight spirals. There’s simply nothing to get caught in the corrugations. None of my smoothing planes have corrugated soles, but I can certainly see how this might be an issue with their tissue-thin shavings.
  • Finally, I’ve never had much of problem with the corrugations damaging chamfers or bullnoses. For one thing, I would never use my jointer for this task (no use pushing more weight than necessary). And secondly, if I do use my fore plane (AKA No. 5), it’s only to hog off the bulk of the waste; I would inevitably follow with the smoothing plane set to a finer cut to tune up the edges.

In summation: Corrugated planes are fine for most situations. I think they’re particularly well-suited to jack planes/fore planes that take the coarsest shavings and can benefit from a little friction reduction. I would personally prefer a smooth sole for smoothing planes, but if I found a great deal on a corrugated No. 4, I certainly wouldn’t pass it up. For try plane/jointer planes, I don’t think it makes a nickel’s worth of difference either way. Just be aware that with the more massive smooth-soled planes, you’ll definitely need to keep the sole well-waxed, which is frankly a habit that you should get into anyway.


Repairing a Stanley Plane Handle

Today, I eschew my usual verbosity in favor of a pictorial:

Stanley Handle 053
A plane handle in sore need of repair.

Stanley Handle 055
The horn must be repaired in two spots. I flatten the first break with a sharp, wide chisel and select a rosewood scrap for the repair.

Stanley Handle 056
Superglue is my glue of choice for rosewood totes. It forms a strong, invisible bond, and it hardens on rosewood within 5-10 seconds. Use plenty of glue – the excess will squeeze out and you can clean it off later.

Stanley Handle 057
Saw the excess off of the patch.

Stanley Handle 058
Shape it with the chisel.

Stanley Handle 059
Now to address the horn itself. Flatten as best you can with the chisel.

Stanley Handle 060
If need be, you can resort to a bit of sanding to flatten the break. Place some 180-grit on a flat surface, and carefully rub down until you get a clean, flat glue surface. Careful not to tip the the handle at all, or your surface will be less than flat.

Stanley Handle 061
More glue. More rosewood scrap.

Stanley Handle 062
Sketch out the shape of the horn, then saw away the excess.

Stanley Handle 065
A carving knife, a chisel, and a rasp shape the patch so that it blends smoothly with the original wood. You can see that my patch covered the old nut-hole. I’ll open that back up with a small drill bit and a rat-tail rasp.

Stanley Handle 066
A bit of sanding blends everything together and removes the old finish. Now, the lower break must be addressed.

Stanley Handle 067
This was a relatively clean break, so I simply glued it back in place after a firm cleaning with a wire brush on both surfaces. Any gaps at the edges can be filled with additional superglue and sanding dust.

Stanley Handle 069
The lower repair is invisible after sanding.

Stanley Handle 070
Finally, the whole tote gets sanded to 220-grit and oiled. When it dries, I’ll follow this up with a coat of shellac, which I’ll buff out to a nice polish.

Good to go for another century or so. Total elapsed time from start to finish? 30 minutes. Don’t be afraid of the broken totes, folks.

A few notes on the choice of glue for these repairs: I usually see people recommending epoxy for rosewood handle patches. I dislike epoxy for this purpose for two reasons: The slow setting time means that you must clamp the patch somehow, which is always awkward and prone to shift. Cyanoacrylate (superglue) sets up so fast that you can simply hold the piece in position until it hardens. Secondly, epoxy is basically impossible to remove, so if the repair ever fails, it’ll be more difficult than necessary to fix. Cyanoacrylate dissolves in acetone, so it is easily removable. Regarding the strength of superglue? In my opinion, the roughest handling this tote should ever face will be during the cutting, rasping, and sanding of the patches. If the glue holds up to that treatment, it should certainly hold up to normal use. I’ve had a Stanley No.4 with a repaired handle in constant use for the last decade with no signs of problems, so I’m quite confident in the longevity of this repair.

Things That I Didn’t Buy

So I was driving home on Sunday afternoon, my hatchback and floorboards overflowing with a newly acquired fleet of bronze and iron, my wallet convulsing with pain. I passed an antique store. A really big antique store. I did a U-turn.

Now, before you go about staging an intervention for me, let me assure you that I wasn’t remotely interested in buying more tools. I do, however, enjoy the opportunity to see what kind of furniture awaits. Rural southern “antique” stores tend to be light on the antiques and heavy on the dumpster salvage, but you never know.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, but the pleasant surprises will have to wait until tomorrow. Today, I’d like to direct your attention to some tools that I didn’t buy on Sunday.

For example, I didn’t buy a kinked, black-spray-painted keyhole saw  with mismatched replacement nuts for $12:


I didn’t buy a rusty, plastic-handled handsaw for $35:


And I most definitely didn’t buy an “economy” brace with a chuck of questionable adequacy for $75:


I wasn’t sure whether to admire the booth owner’s ambition or feel sorry for his ignorance. More of the latter, I suppose.

I did see one tool that was at least interesting to look at (in a different booth): a mahogany-handled ripsaw with a steel plate on the cheeks and domed brass nuts. I’ve seen one like this before that was in much better condition, at twice the price. I believe these things were often branded for specific hardware stores. Could be a beauty if it was cleaned up. But no, I didn’t buy it. My Disston 6 PPI No. 7 still works just fine, thanks.


How Many Tools Does a Man Need?


I’ve made efforts to simplify over the past few years. It happens in fits and starts, usually two steps forward and one step back. When I began accumulating woodworking tools, more than a decade ago, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I would ever want to get rid of a tool.

“He who dies with the most tools wins!” “You can never have too many clamps!” Woodworking forums are rife with kind of nonsense – especially those devoted to hand tools. Maybe that’s because hand tools can multiply more slowly and seemingly innocuously than power tools. You don’t need to immediately find a place in your toolchest for that handsaw or chisel you picked up for five bucks. Just drop it in the bucket with all the others, you’ll fix it up…eventually.

But what if you don’t? What if you walk into your shop one day and realize that all of the free time you’ve spent haunting flea markets and antique stores in search of a deal have robbed you of time you could have spent actually building things? How many hours could you have practiced your craft, becoming more intimately familiar and connected to the tools that you already own? What if those forsaken tools yield, not a well-loved and well-stocked shop,  but a shrine of guilt that plagues your conscience ever time you set foot in what should be your place of respite?

I have found myself facing this situation on more than one occasion. I typically deal with it by going on a tool restoration binge. Saws, chisels, and planes get de-rusted, handles get cleaned, repaired or replaced, and blades get sharpened. Slowly, the hours that I spent collecting the tools become insignificant in comparison to the hours that I spend restoring them.

Then comes a decision: Keep, or sell? I am not a collector. I don’t need five 1″ chisels (which is the number I am currently sporting). The problem is, of my five 1″ chisels, I have only ever used one of them on a regular basis. The others were never in proper shape, until this week. My regular user happens to be the ugliest of the bunch – the plastic-handled Irwin in the middle. I’ve had it for 10 years. I know that it’s a perfectly good chisel. But how can I sell the other four (more attractive) chisels without ever giving them a fair shot? What if one of them takes a freakishly keen edge and holds onto it for twice as long? How can I deprive myself of the opportunity to find out which of these chisels is the best?

1-in Chisels
From top to bottom: Henry Taylor bevel-edge chisel with boxwood handle; Charles Buck firmer chisel with octagonal beech handle; Irwin bevel-edge chisel with blue plastic handle; unmarked firmer chisel with elm handle; and Ohio Tool paring chisel with elm handle.

These are the games that my mind plays with me when I have too many tools. Owning too many things (whether it be clothes, shoes, dishes, tools, or toothbrushes) is antithetical to my world view. Yet most of the time, I just live life on cruise control, gleefully indulging my caveman collector instinct. Especially when something is a bargain. And then one day I look up and realize that I’m spending more time accumulating and maintaining my things than enjoying my life. And upon that realization, I begin enjoying life much less, until the balance is restored. I am not a minimalist, by any means, but with each passing year I try to be more fully cognizant of my relationship with my stuff. It has become clear to me that I am almost always happier with less of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go build something out of wood – something that requires a lot of chisel work – so I can figure out which of these beautiful damned things I can be rid of.

I Split Off More Than I Could Hew

A couple of weekends ago, I had a minor incident while hollowing out a large shrink pot. (What’s a shrink pot, you ask? Luckily Dave Fisher covered that topic a couple of weeks ago – click here). I thought I was being clever by using a chunk of maple too knotty for spoons or kuksas for my shrink pot. Turned out to be a costly error. I got one of my favorite gouges stuck in a knot, and it shattered as I was trying to persuade it loose.


The gouge was a vintage Swan that I picked up for $5 at an antique store in Louisiana. Hard to replace (at least for that price).  I determined that there was enough steel left to grind it down and put it back into service.

The tricky part here is trying to cut down to good steel without getting the blade too hot and ruining the temper. I took a hint from a blacksmith friend and stuck the gouge through a potato to just below the lowest point of the break.


The potato acts as a heat sink, so you can grind as needed without getting the steel too hot. I used a cutoff wheel on my Dremel to cut off the bulk of the waste, and the potato worked as advertised – the steel never even got hot to the touch.


Of course, I still had to reshape the bevel at this point. I do this with a deft tough on the grinder. I prefer an 80-grit white Norton stone for this task. It runs considerably cooler than the cheap hardware-store gray stones. I also prefer to do the final shaping on the side of the stone rather than the face. This allows me to get either a flat or slightly convex bevel. I find that a concave bevel is counterproductive on a carving gouge. It tends to cause the tool to dive into the wood uncontrollably. A slightly convex bevel helps the tool slice into and out of the wood.


A steady hand and a gentle rolling of the gouge against the side of the wheel produces a neat bevel that requires very little finishing work with stones and a strop.

The freshly ground bevel

The bevel after honing and stropping

The inside of the gouge required some attention as well. This old tool had a fine layer of surface rust and some minor pitting to go with it. To remove the pitting, I first turned a small hardwood dowel, slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the gouge, and cut a small kerf along the length. Chuck the dowel into a cordless drill. Slip a narrow strip of 220-grit sandpaper into the kerf and wrap it around the dowel. A bit of masking tape helps hold it in place. Now you can use your custom “stone” to hone the inside of the bevel and clean up the pitting.


I find it easiest to hold the gouge in a vise, using two hands to guide the drill. It can get away from you if you’re not careful, but a nicely polished interior is your reward. You can quickly buff the edge to a perfect shine by charging the dowel itself with honing compound and power stropping.


I now have a functional gouge once more – but I will admit it doesn’t have quite the same balance after losing more than an inch of its length. Time will tell how much use this gouge will see in the future.

Do Your Cheeks Have Dimples?

A couple weeks ago, I posted about making a new carving axe from an old carpenter’s hatchet. The axe has gotten quite a workout since I made it, and I couldn’t be happier with it. One curious feature of this old axe head is a couple of dimples on its right cheek. I’ve seen similar dimples, years ago, on the back of a chisel. I can’t remember who first told me about their purpose, but I suspect many of my readers already know.

Spoon Blank (4c)

One clue about their purpose lies in the form of a faint color change in the steel about 3/4″ from the cutting edge. This line demarcates the change between hardened steel and the softer steel.

Spoon Blank (4b)

The hardened/unhardened steel combination is found in many tools, from chisels to knives to plane blades, but it serves an absolutely critical function in a striking tool such as an axe. The cutting edge must be quite hard to remain sharp after repeated blows into wood, but unfortunately there is a positive correlation between hardness and brittleness. If we made the entire axe head hard enough that the edge stays sharp, we also increase the likelihood that the blade will crack during use. On the other hand, if we make the steel soft enough that brittleness is not an issue, we also resign ourselves to a blade that will not hold an edge for more than a few minutes. The solution? Combine a soft but malleable steel body with a hard but brittle edge. The softer steel supports the harder steel to create a superior tool.

There are many ways to accomplish this task. Traditionally, a blacksmith would forge weld a piece of tool steel within a wrought iron sandwich to make an axe head. This works well and yields a robust blade, but it’s also labor intensive (and therefore expensive). The modern method is to forge the entire axe head of tool steel, then harden only the outer edge of the blade. This is the method that was used for my axe.

So what does this differential hardening have to do with the dimples on the axe cheeks?

Notice in the picture above that the smaller dimple is located well within the hardened steel area, while the larger dimple is located just on the other side in the softer steel.brinell

Those dimples are the vestiges of hardness testing done by the manufacturer to confirm that the axe head was hardened to certain specifications. In modern parlance, we tend to refer to steel hardness on the Rockwell scale. The higher the number, the harder the steel. Chisels and plane blades may measure around 60-62 Rockwell hardness. Axes will be a bit softer to remove some of the brittleness – 55-57 is typical for a well-made axe. Saws are softer still, since they must be sharpened by a steel file, rather than a stone, and “set” (that is, the teeth bent by a specific amount to either side), which a harder steel would not allow. A hardness of 50-52 is normal for saw steel.

Hardness is measured by forcing a very hard object (often diamond or tungsten carbide) of a specific size and shape into the object to be tested using a specific amount of force. The size of the the depression that is created provides a measurement of the material’s hardness. In the case of my axe, the depressions indicate that the object used for testing was spheroid, which means that a Brinell hardness tester was used. The formula for determining harness using the Brinell test is:


Which is a fancy way of saying: the smaller the indentation (Di), the harder the steel. So, looking again at the dimples in my cheek, we see exactly what we would expect. The dimple near the cutting edge is smaller (and therefore the steel is harder) than the dimple right behind it. It’s pretty intuitive, actually. Unfortunately, we don’t know the diameter of the indenter (D) or the force used by the test (F), so we can’t estimate the hardness using the information available to us, but still…Go science!

I can anectodally state that the steel in this axe head is quite good. I would assume that a manufacturer that cares enough to test its blades is probably more likely to be one that will make a good blade in the first place. So, do any of your cheeks have dimples?


Turn a carpenter’s hatchet into a carving axe.

You’ve probably seen them stuffed piles in the cluttered tables of an old antique store or flea market. Kicking around your grandpa’s barn. Maybe you keep one in your camping gear (like my Dad does) for driving tent stakes and splitting kindling. I’m talking about the once-ubiquitous carpenter’s hatchet. These little guys were useful for trimming odd bits of wood to size or driving the occasional nail, but most carpenters these days wouldn’t know how to trim a piece of wood with a tool that didn’t have a cord or a battery pack, so these things mostly languish unused in forgotten corners.

I’ve had a carpenter’s hatchet head kicking around my toolbox for who knows how many years, always meaning to put a handle on it but never quite getting around to it. I’m glad I waited, because I finally figured out what to do with it.

For the last five years, I’ve been using a Gransfors-Bruks hunter’s axe  that I picked up for $50 (used) for spoon carving. It’s a great little axe, but the handle is about six inches too long so I always have to choke up when I use it. It’s not a convenient length for packing up when I want to do a bit of spoon carving away from home, either. Something needed to be done. I though about buying a new, smaller axe, but good ones don’t come cheap. Then I remember my old carpenter’s hatchet:

sunrise 003

It’s a terrible shape for spoon-carving. The hammer head places the balance too far back, the wide blade gets in the way of your fingers when you want to choke up on the handle, and the straight bevel makes it difficult to carve curvaceous spoon profiles. No problem though; I own a hacksaw.

The hammer head is the first to go.

sunrise 004

Next I turned my sights to a nice cutout for my fingers when I need to choke up on the handle:

wood 006

At this point, it’s still pretty rough-looking, but twice as functional as it was 15 minutes ago. I couldn’t resist prettying it up a bit with some work on the belt sander and some 220-grit hand-sanding. I also re-ground the straight cutting edge into a gentle curve:

Christmas 2015 045

That shiny look is nice, if that’s what you’re into. I know better than to think it would look like this for long, though. A clean metal surface like this is a magnet for rust when carving green wood. I gave it a soak in diluted vinegar overnight to tone down the shine.

Christmas 2015 046.JPG

Much nicer, in my opinion. All that’s left to do is give it a handle. I shaved some riven hickory to an octagonal shape, then dried it in my kiln for a couple of days before hanging the head.  I also darkened it up a bit more (and added some more rust protection) with some cold gun blue:

Axe 016

Not bad. But how does it work?

Very nicely. Very nicely, indeed.

Axe 020

I’ll admit, it will take some getting used to the shorter handle after 5 years of used a sub-optimal size. I think once I get the hang this one, though, it’ll easily be my favorite carving axe.

So, what have you got to lose? Hatchet heads like these are $5-10 at flea markets and on eBay. Maybe you’ve even got one in the junk drawer of your shop (like I did). A couple hours of work is all it’ll take to turn that forgotten tool into a fine carving axe!

One More Tool for the Windsor: A ‘Galbert’ Travisher.

As I was carving the seat last week, it became apparent that it would be difficult to achieve the surface quality that I was after by going straight from the inshave to the scraper. I really needed to add a travisher to my arsenal. I really can’t afford to buy one, and I had been hesitant to make one. It’s a complex tool, and the resources for building one from scratch are mostly nonexistent, so I was afraid I would be unable to make a functional tool without ever having seen one in person.

Ultimately, I realized that there were few other options, so I would just have to make my own. Elia Bizzarri sells travisher blades for the very reasonable price of $30, so I ordered one from him and in a few days it was at my doorstep. I was very pleased with the quality of the blade. The steel is substantial, and it comes with the bevel very well-ground to the proper angle. It’s not honed, but I can do that myself, no problem. It even comes with the threaded inserts and machine screws necessary to attach the blade to the wood – all I had to supply was the wood (I have plenty, just ask my wife!)

I started by googling “Galbert Travisher”and clicking on “Images”. This gave me a wide range of different shots that I could base the design on. I kept the images pulled up on my phone while I worked in the shop. It was a big help to have a handy reference for just about every angle of the tool, almost as good as a measured drawing.

Next I had to choose the wood. I thought about making it in Osage-orange to give it a little bit of bling, and because it’s incredibly hard-wearing. I quickly dismissed that idea, though, because I was afraid I would mess up my first attempt, and if I was going to mess up, I wanted to do it with a wood that was easy to work. I settled on cherry instead. Cherry is quite a bit softer, so it may wear out faster, but I figure if I have to make another body, I’ll do from a harder wood when I’m confident that I know what I’m doing.

Now, on to the build. It’s best explained in pictures, so my commentary will be minimal:

1-Cherry Planed
I started with a nice piece of 8/4 quartersawn cherry. A bit thick, really. 6/4 stock would probably be fine.

2-Travisher Layout
Having no pattern, I just used the blade itself to lay out the curves.

3-Travisher Sawing
I used a jigsaw to cut out the lower half of the travisher. I left the top intact to give me something to clamp while I fine-tune bottom.

4-Travisher Fairing
I used a spokeshave to shape the sole to match the blade.

5-Travisher Curve
Pretty close fit.

7-Travisher Throat Sawing
Then I laid out the throat and used a backsaw to define the sides.

8-Travisher Helper
My shop buddy wanted to help, so I gave her a ryoba saw to cut some kerfs in the waste section.

9-Travisher Throat Paring
Then I used a wide chisel to pare the throat smooth.

11-Travisher Blade Recess
With the throat smoothed out, I cut out a recess on both sides where the blade will be seated.

12-Travisher Screw Marking
Then I marked out the screw-holes,

13-Travisher Screw Inserts
Installed the threaded inserts,

14-Travisher Blade
And screwed the blade in place. I did a bit more refinement to get a consistent reveal around the throat. Once everything looked, good, it was time to shape the body.

15-Travisher Handle Drawknife
After sawing out the top with the jigsaw, I lost my flat reference surfaces, so work proceeded with the drawknife.

16-Travisher Handle Carving
Then I faired the whole body and cut the chamfers with my sloyd knife.

17-Travisher Complete
And there it is. A finished travisher.

Once the tool body was complete, I still had to sharpen the blade. I won’t go into detail here. Claire Minihan has already done that, and better than I could. With the blade razor-stinking-sharp, I re-installed it and gave the tool a test drive. I had to do a bit more fettling with the sole to get the proper reveal (the blade must project slightly above the sole, but not too much) and curve (the sole must be angled slightly so you’re able to carve a dished profile front-to-back).

Before long, I had the tool cutting oh-so sweetly. It’s a treasure to hear the sharp ‘snick’ of a finely honed blade slicing through wood.

18-Galbert Travisher at Work
Lovely, curly, consistent shavings are the fruits of a finely tuned tool.

19-Travisher Silky Surface
And the surface quality ain’t bad, either.