30 Minutes: En Garde!



My tool cabinet needs a little reorg. It’s not in disarray, but my hand tools have grown in number and I need to rotate a few things out that I don’t use very often.

One I find myself using frequently is a drawknife. It’s an old Fulton #8 I scavenged at a garage sale. I restored the handles a few years ago (not to beauty, but to function), sharpened it, and I use it all the time. It lives in the middle of the tool cabinet, which means I have to move it to reach my bowsaws and cabinet scraper. Not ideal, but you get the picture.

The problem is that it’s viciously sharp. That thing could decapitate Godzilla. A month or so back, I reached in to get something and knocked it loose. It fell across the index finger of my right hand – a huge drop of (maybe) three-quarters of an inch, at best. And it almost laid my finger open to the bone. It’s really sharp. So no more edged tools in the cabinet without guards.

IMG_9556Today’s 30-minute exercise: Make a guard for the spokeshave that might save me a trip to Primacare. I scrounged an old leather belt, cut it to length, folded it in the middle, and punched holes around the long edge and up the side. I took a piece of black leather lacing, and sewed it together, sealing the ends of the running stitch with some hide glue. I glued a small neodymium magnet to the inside of the back, and when the epoxy set, put it on the blade with the magnet holding it in place.


From now on, I don’t have to juggle a humongous straight razor when I’m reaching into the cabinet. That’s in the good column.


  • Time: 25 minutes.
  • Cost: Old belt, leather shoelace ($0.00 USD).
  • Satisfaction: Good.

Take that last 5 minutes to empty the trash and sweep under the workbench.

Ross Henton

September 2019

30 minutes: Clean Blades

30 minutes? Clean your table saw blades. Remove that resin and gunk. They’ll cut better and burn less.

Put them in a plastic tub. Spray them with Simple Green. Wait 5 minutes, scrub them with a brass brush. Repeat if necessary. Dry carefully. Wipe lightly with a non-staining oil.

  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Cost: Plastic tub, brass brush (or scrub pad), Simple Green ($0.00 USD). What? You don’t keep Simple Green around your shop? Silly rabbit.
  • Satisfaction: Moderate (now), high (later).

You still have 15 minutes. Do another one.

Ross Henton

September 2019

30 Minutes: Planing Stop

It’s time to start a series I’ve been considering for a while. I always alternate large projects with small ones – it gives me breathing room, and lets me get things out of the way that otherwise fall behind. Cleaning, storage, and so on. Sometimes I look around and realize I feel like doing something small… But what? The projects I outline here will be the small in-between tasks that keep the shop running.

My planing stop is the knock-through variety common to modern Roubo-style benches. Mine was a minor triumph: big honking mortise, made of mesquite (like most of my other bench furnishings – and I nailed the fit. It taps out with a hammer, and never slips.

I’ve considered an integral flush planing stop like the one discussed on Paul Sellers’ blog for a long time. But I won’t make permanent alterations to my bench without a lot of consideration. Especially anything that breaks up the simplicity of it. I realize that’s silly, but still. The Holy Grail of the lowly planing stop is the blacksmith-forged one Christopher Schwarz writes about.

But I wanted to play with one and see if I like it. I saw one built into a rectangular bench dog, and I wanted to try one attached to a round dog on my bench.

So in my allotted half hour, I hacked out a piece of soft steel from an electrical junction box, ground the edges, and beveled the front edge. I clamped it in a vise and filed teeth on it. I sawed off the flattened top of an existing oak dowel bench dog, and put about a 2 degree angle on it so the front of the stop lifts off the bench slightly. Drilled a hole in the bench dog, drilled a hole in the stop, took a pass with a countersink, screwed it on, and done.

Place the end of the board you’re planing against the teeth. The thickness of the plate is perfect to give you safety space so you don’t run your plane into it, but grabs the workpiece perfectly.

Grab a plane and go to work. It may be necessary to set a secondary stop to the side of the board if it decides to swing around the post. The jury isn’t in yet.

  • Time: 27 minutes.
  • Cost: 2″ of scrap metal and a piece of wooden dowel ($0.00 USD).
  • Satisfaction: High.

Ross Henton

September 2019