Out of Focus…Slightly Foggy Woodworker


“The difference between failure and success is often measured in nanometers, though sometimes it is measured in fractions of a second, on rare occasion is is measured in pints, which is confusing because then success is time, distance and volume, which means that it probably falls into the realm of quantum mechanics, and nobody wants that.”

-Gene Wollowiski, twenty three hours into a Scrabble and beer marathon, in which he was both leading and leaning, or more aptly listing off to starboard.  Sadly, this contest was being held on a boat cruising the Themes and he fell overboard minutes after making this memorable quote.  He had just played qanat.  These were his last words.  He was disqualified from the contest and forever remembered as a failure, both in drinking and spelling.

I love the word qanat and try to play it often in scrabble.  Which is why this would be one of my favorite quotes of all time, if it were real.  When I started to build my tiny walnut box, I knew that precision would be important.  To date, I have demonstrated an incredible ability for NOT achieving precision, which has been fine.  It wouldn’t do for making a nicely little box.  The angles must be exactly 45 degrees.

I have a manual miter box with a saw.  It was one of the first tools I purchased when I moved to the thriving metropolis of Martelle.  It does a good job, but would it do a  precise job?  The answer to that question is no.  My next step was to use my mind to try to over come the problem.  Each cut would start out at 45 degrees but would go awry.  I reasoned that if I set each piece into my sharpening jig and I would be able to flatten them into perfection.  My reasoning seem solid, the results were a disappointment.

I thought that maybe I could buy a more accurate miter box.  I envisioned one of those with the slots in it.  In my mind, the same one which had led me astray on the sharpening jig idea, pictured using my Japanese hand saws to save the day.  I hopped into my car and drove to Home Depot.  The 22 mile ride always gives me time to think about my project and my plan.  I turn the ideas over in my head and think about other options.

It occurred to me that many of my problems would be solved with a table saw.  I was not going to buy a table saw, so I dismissed the idea.  This got me thinking about other more mechanical ideas.  I do have a router table, which I love, perhaps they make a router bit that will cut a 45 degree angle?  I arrived at Home Depot and got the giant orange ladder stairs thingy and climbed up to the section where they have the Freud bits.  My theory proved to be right!  I bought a 5/8ths inch chamfer bit.

Now that I had my wunder bit, I needed to make a new jig.  I love making jigs.  I like dancing a jig on occasion, but I really like making woodworking jigs.  To the pile of practice wood I went, and found a delightful piece of oak.  The edges were pretty rough, so I used my No. 5 to plane the edges.  It only took a few second and made me happy.

Next I spent several hours with bits of wood, pieces of T-track, a little bit of chocolate cake, and the tiny bits of walnut.  The jig needed to hold the tiny pieces firmly, allow for safe and easy passes over the chamfer bit, and make it easy to create identically sized pieces.  Once I had the design worked out, I started to build it.

Building the Jig

Step one:  Route out a groove for the hold down block.  I used a 3/4 inch Freud bit and my router table.  This was the first time I really attacked a project with the table and I have to tell you, it is a really good table.  Up until yesterday, it was mostly just a really pretty table.  Now I know that I have a tool which I have confidence in.

Step two:  Route out a deeper grove for the T-track.  The T-tracks are 3/4″, which I knew, starting the project.  So all I had to do was position the fence and then raise the bit.

Step three:  Some dancing at how nice my groove looked.  I believe Jack Johnson ‘Bubble Toes’ was playing.  (This step is optional)

Step four:  Take two pieces of scrap wood from my dovetail practice pile and drill holes into them to create the hold down block.

Step five:  Create a stop block.  This block is placed behind the hold down block.  It allows one to make all the pieces the same size.

Step six:  Attach the do hickies to the bottom of the jig.  By do hickies I mean the little things that go into the router table track.

Step seven:  Sand everything so that there aren’t any sharp edges.

Using the Jig

Now it was done and ready to use.

Step One:  Unplug the router table, just to be extra safe.  I have a safety switch, but since I will need to be working in close proximity to the bit, I prefer that there isn’t any electricity available.

Step two:  pick the smallest piece in the group.  This is important for being able to end up with a set of uniformed sized pieces.  Install it in the jig, adjust the distance, and then tighten down the stop block.  This is for repeatability.

Step three:  run the piece through, if it looks good, which it did, then loosen the hold down block and switch out the pieces.  Only run one side of the piece through.  This is important.  I wanted to get perfect edges on one side of ever piece, before I then do the second side of each one.

Step four:  run the next piece through and repeat until all of the pieces have been done once.

Step five:  slightly move the stop block forward and run each piece through again, this time, cutting the other side.


When I was done I had four pieces which were identical in size, had perfect 45 degree angels and looked really nifty.  This jig is going to be incredibly helpful and I loved making it.  I feel like this was a hugely successful day.  If you looked at me…from a distance…without your glasses…though a bit of a fog, you might almost think you were looking at a woodworker.  I certainly feel like an out of focus, slightly foggy woodworker.  I think I may play some Scrabble and relax.