Making tools: Compass


With all us stuck at home I thought that now would be a good time for me to start a series about making your own tools.

Thus thinking back… When rocks were soft etc. I’m asking myself what was the first tool I made.

It’s a large compass. Everyone in the shop had one. They were all very obviously made by the guys out of wood scraps and a few pieces of hardware.

You can get small compasses at lots of hardware and tool suppliers, and at stationary stores. (“Stationary stores” makes it sound like most stores are mobile???). And you can now get good big ones from some specialty tool suppliers. But back then you couldn’t. And trammel points are great for huge circles, and we can make them too. But not today.

Many that I saw at the time had bigger than 12″ legs. But since then I’ve seen smaller ones.

This build is very simple, it can be done with either hand tools or power tools.

Let’s look at mine to see where we wish to end up.

Select a scrap of nice wood. You can use crap wood but you will be using this for years so I suggest you go with something nice. You can make both legs out of one piece of wood all at once or make them separately… I’m going to use some crap to show you 3 different ways because I don’t need a new one right now.

The scrap needs to be as long as you want the compass legs, and as thick as you want them and twice as wide plus a little for the saw kerf, or not…


The quickest way is to draw a centerline down the wide face, make a mark @ 3″ from the end (all the way around) that will be the pivot end.  Drill a hole for a small bolt @ 3/4″ from the same end on the centerline. Saw from the far end to the 3″ mark. Rotate 90 degrees. Draw a centerline on the edge of the pivot end. Saw on this line down to the 3″ mark.

cut on the 3″ line very carefully with a hand saw or a band saw. You need to cut from one edge to the center line and only half way down on both sides to make this work, look at the photos for clarification.

Set the legs in a bench vise so the ends are pointing up. drill a hole that is a tight fit for a pencil in one leg. there are lots of ways to mount the pencil. this is quick and easy. if the hole is a little too tight split the leg with a saw up a little past the bottom of the hole, if it’s too loose wrap it wit a piece of paper.

Pound a small nail half way into the middle of the other leg. cut off the nail so it’s sticking out at least 1/4″ and sharpen it to a point.

Take a pencil stub you have sitting around (we all have pencil stubs right?), sharpen it and push it into the other leg until the tip is even with the nail.




You will need to take the corner off the legs where they collide. 

use a small bolt and a wingnut if you have one, or a regular nut if you don’t, and washers to unite and tighten the pivot point.

You are done.





This makes a slightly nicer looking joint.

Same criteria for your material width and thickness, but you will need twice the length. So cut two lengths of your material the length you want your legs (pivot to point plus space above the pivot).

on Both parts: Draw a centerline the length of the face, come in from one end @ 3/4″ and drill a hole for the pivot bolt on the centerline. Make a mark on the centerline about 4″ from this end all the way around.



Set it (them) on edge and mark the centerline of the edge on the pivot end down to the 4″ mark and across the end and down the other side to the 4″ mark. you need another mark @ 2″ down on each end as well… then on both sides of each draw lines from the 2″ mark on the edge to the 4″ mark where it meets the centerline.

Here is a tricky thing now, both these pieces need to be identical (not opposite) when you are done. So you will be flipping one over.

So while you have them looking the same scribble on the waste area (see picture). I don’t care if you pick the left or the right just keep them both the same. it’s scribble down one side of the CL and on one face of the pivot area.

Saw up the waste side of the leg and out the side along the bevel line between the 2″ mark and 4″ mark.




Flip it and put it in a vise or a bench hook to saw the diagonal on the other side. ONLY half way down!!



stand it up on edge to saw the rest of the waste in the pivot area away.

insert point and pencil as previously described. here this is with my old one opened up.

You can clean this up and pretty it up as much as you like.


Instead of using saws and chisels to make this joint we are going to use an auger bit of some sort to outline it. You can use a spade bit, a Forstner bit or an auger bit.


Mark a line up the center face of your stock.








Drill half way through with the boring utensil you chose.







Very carefully saw from the side to the hole and not into the hole (top), and saw off the opposite leg as waste (bottom)





And very carefully whittle away around the hole with a very sharp chisel or knife, very very sharp… (yes I have used “very” too many times here)


As you can see the pivot will be the center mark from your Auger and this will make a very nice “rule joint” when you have cleaned it all up

clean up and insert points as desired.




Be Well, Stay Well


How to make a Scratch Stock

Hi All;

The subject came up of how to make a scratch stock, so I decided that would make a good post!

Scratch stocks have been used for a very long time. Indeed scratching and scraping to make things from wood has been a technique forever.

You can search the interwebs and find all sorts of fancy ones. sometimes I think people invent fancy ones just to put something in a magazine that doesn’t look like junk you should toss in the fire.

here are some of mine:


They pretty much all look like something that should be tossed. BUT they all work just as well as any that anyone else has ever made… and they are simple and easy and fast to make. Having a bandsaw and a drill press will make this faster but are NOT necessary to make a good one.

I make 2 types: one made from one piece of wood. and one made from 2 pieces of wood.

the one piece type: take any scrap, 3/4″ or thicker.  1 1/2″ wide more or less, 4″ or 6″ long or somewhere in there. (I hope you are getting the idea that none of the measurements are important)

Layout something like this….

scatch stocks 1

Stand it up on edge and saw the line up the edge first. you can use a handsaw or a band saw. doesn’t matter to me.

Then saw the other two lines and end up with something that looks like this:

scatch stocks 4

take a bit of old scrap steel from any sawblade (handsaw,  hacksaw, bandsaw, I use a broken 1″ bandsaw blade for stock because when you have such a blade you have a lot of stock for these and other scrapers),and cut out and file a blade to the molding profile you want to make. Make sure that the profile is made/filed clean and square with very sharp corners, any rounding of the edge and it will not cut.

Insert it into the slot that is the first saw kerf. position it @ where you want it. you will be using the face of the step as a guide fence.

scatch stocks 7

and insert a screw or two if necessary. (at least one is usually necessary).

You are ready to go!

The other way I make them is a bit more complex, and it helps to have a drill press but that is not vital…

Take 2 pieces of any stuff (I usually use 1/2″ stuff for this) and clamp them together, face to face. Drill 3 holes to pound 1/4″ dowels into.

scatch stocks 2

Pound the dowels in, you want a tight fit. no glue! use a hand plane to dress up the outer edges if they are not lined up.

Saw out a step like you see in the sketch, just like the other ones. Do not take the 2 pieces apart to saw out the step, just saw right through both at once.

Add the cutter (you’ll need to use a chisel to pry the two parts open a little), add screws just like before.

scatch stocks 8

And again! You are good to go!

scatch stocks 10

have fun, be well

count your fingers!


go devils


These small scrapers have other names, but I know them by the name of G0 Devils, because you can go like the devil with them.

2 spokeshaves and 3 go-devils

You can buy some really nice ones (rosewood and brass) from Veritas Tools, but I obviously made my own and that is what I am going to talk about today. I made these before anyone was making them commercially, did a little research, they are no harder than the spokeshaves to make. And you don’t need to buy any purpose made blades.

first the flat one…

You’ll need a piece of wood, something nice and hard, about 11 x 1 x 5/8 inches. I used Osage Orange. the Handle shape is not critical. You could leave the whole thing rectangular if you wanted to. I just happen to like this shape.

Since it is a hooked scraper type of action on the cutting blade we can make the blades perpendicular to the bottoms. We’ll tackle the flat bottomed one first:


Here it is disassembled.I made a recess to fit the throat plate. And a further recess to very closely fit the blade… but just a Hair shallower than the thickness of the blade so that the throat plate will clamp it down well. I drill and tap holes for the machine screws in the body. Then squirt some CA glue in there and re-tap when the CA sets up.

The tricky part is the throat plate. at the mouth, it needs to be @ 1/32″ open. nice and close, if it’s too wide the shavings will fold over and jamb up. If it’s too tight same thing. just right and they flow up and out the throat. you can also see there that the throat is wider at the top. It doesn’t want more than a 10 degree slope. just a bit to prevent friction from again causing a jamb.

Keeping the same throat geometry on the rounders is a bit trickier.


If you look at the Photo you will see what i mean, you still need to keep the throat @ 1/32″ all the way around or else it will jam up. But because of the curve, the throat ends up looking a bit odd. and because the curved cut wrinkles the angle needs to be a bit steeper

Once the body and front plate are done you can cut a piece of sawblade to fit. (if you didn’t start by doing that) and blue or magic marker it , clamp it in place and scribe the curve onto it. I use a Dremel tool to cut out the curve, file and burnish the edge. and you are good to go!

be well. count your fingers!


Tapered reamers

Hi again!

Did I mention I love making stuff? I do I really really do just love to make stuff, mostly out of wood. I also love the tools… I have too many of them.

Long before I learned how to make Windsor chairs (from Mr. Michael Dunbar) I had read I needed a tapered reamer for the leg sockets. So when I came across a Bung hole reamer (which is tapered @ 10 or 11 degrees) I bought it and figured out how to sharpen it and make a hole with it. I never used it to make anything with. I have acquired another, smaller, one. I never made anything with it either.

Then (decades ago now) I traveled up to New Hampshire (not for the primaries) to attend a chairmaking class at the prestigious Windsor Institute. The Sack Back Chair class is/was the required first class. And I bought all new Spoon bits and a new tapered reamer just for the class. I really enjoyed that class. I cannot enthuse too much over how much I liked it there. (I also reforged two trashed drawknives, one into an inshave and one into a saddle knife. I had a couple of good drawknives and spokeshaves.)

Mr. Dunbar at the Windsor Institute uses ( advocates the use of? ) a steel reamer with an 11 degree angle. Several other people who teach Windsor chair making advocate using a 6 degree taper on their reamers. Here is my Fred Emhoff reamer: it is an excellent tool and still works great!


The question is; WHY? Why is there no agreement? Even historically there was no agreement on how the leg sockets should be. Some had legs in blind holes (holes not all the way through the seat) with straight sides and fox wedges. Some made them with straight bored holes and a shoulder on the leg to prevent the leg from pushing through. And some makers used tapered leg tenons into tapered sockets. I suspect that even originally the tapers did not match from one maker to the next, since the reaming tool would have been made by the local smith and then the chairmaker would have made his legs fit what he had.

The reason I’m getting into this is on account of a spinning wheel I am repairing.


It’s joints are all tapered, and none of them are 11 degrees. They scale out close to 7 or less. Thus I am making a pair of 6 degree tapered reamers very like those described by Jennie Alexander and Curtis Buchanan on their websites, out of wood and an old sawblade. Why a pair? I need several holes tapered that are @ 1/4″ on their small end so I am making a mini one as well as a full sized one. Here’s the mini in progress: for more on it’s making visit me at Lumberjocks.


I hope that Mr. Dunbar will forgive me but I may have to try making a chair with them too… just as an experiment to see and feel the differences.

be well , be safe


PS: the Windsor Institute is closing its doors this year. If you ever wanted to take a class there hurry! your time is up! I am sad in that I will now never be able to take more classes and get Knighted 😉

I had imagined that he might sell the school to someone of his students so that IT would carry on after he retired. But it seems not to be.

I hope his retirement suits him well.