bookmark_borderGarden Owl

Several years ago, I ordered something from the Lee Valley tool company and they included a sheet of gift wrapping paper with the order. On the inner surface of the paper were plans for a decorative owl you could make. I was looking through some stuff around the workbench the other day, and I found these plans. I’ve had some surplus half-inch thick pressure-treated plywood sitting around, and been wondering what to do with it. So, these two thoughts clicked together and I decided to get that round TUIT spinning.

Lee Valley Garden Owl

After using the band saw to cut out the pieces according to the pattern, I sanded the pieces to remove the fuzzy edges, then applied some oil-based stains that I have sitting on the shelf, and some white paint. Next, I glued the pieces in place and put in some 23 gauge headless pins to add a little mechanical stability, especially at the base where it’s an edge-to-surface butt joint. The next day, I sprayed it with a couple of coats of polyurethane, and that was pretty much it.

This is more of a craft project than a serious woodworking project, but it was a fun way to spend a few hours in the shop. Not everything has to be serious. My wife thinks it is cute, but it doesn’t really keep the doves off the patio. I’m hoping it might keep them from flying up into the windows, though.

Except for the band saw and the spray finish, this would be a good project if you are trying to keep a handful of youths busy for a while. Some of the smaller and rounder parts are a pain to cut, but it’s not precision work, so you can kind of fudge it. The gluing and painting could be done by anybody of any age and skill level. If things come out a little crooked that just adds character. The only vital joinery is where the base attaches to the owl.

If I make another one, I might use the router to round over the front edges of each piece to give it a slightly softer look. I like the way the stain gives the parts definition, and cover up the greenish hue of the plywood, without covering up all of the the grain and making it just look like plastic. I’ll have to see if there is enough surplus for one or two.

bookmark_borderBlue Stripe Hitatare Sugata

I completed this project back in early May of this year. I wore it to War Practice and to court at Pennsic, but I am only just now getting around to documenting it. Sorry I didn’t get any pictures of me actually wearing this outfit. Anyway, I wanted a less-formal and lighter-weight hitatare than my others. This one is made from a mid-weight linen, instead of the heavy-weight linen and hemp from which the others are constructed. I painted some white stripes on the fabric so that it wouldn’t look like a bedsheet. Here is the view from the front:

The assembled hitatare sugata

From the back, you can see that there are also stripes in the back, and that the hakama do not have a koshi-ita panel on the back. Some hitatare of late period had these panels, but since I do not tend to add them, this garment does not.

The hitatare sugata from the back

The sugata part of this post’s title of course means basically “outfit”. The hitatare itself is the upper-body over-garment. You have to make the body panels quite long if you don’t want the tails pulling up out of the hakama waistband.

The hitatare alone

Here is a close-up of the painted stripes. I have stopped using the “Jacquard Neopaque” acrylic fabric paint for most things, and I have switched over to “Jacquard Textile Color” fabric paint. This does not have the same vinyl-esque feel as the Neopaque, but it works well and still resists bleeding into the fibers. I applied the paint after the garments were constructed, so the stripes would match across the seams.

The stripes

At the sleeve ends, the sleeve cords run through “belt loop” style attachments. There’s a hitatare in the Kure red book that uses these attachments, and I have found them to be durable.

A hitatare sleeve end
“Lower-Class Samurai” on page 29 of the Kure red book

Here’s a close-up of one at the bottom of a sleeve. You can clearly see that I have not bothered to braid my own cords yet for this outfit. It uses store-bought cotton braid. The belt loops are made by starting with a rectangle of fabric that is twice as long and four times as wide as the eventual loop. The ends of the rectangle get folded in to the center, followed by the sides getting folded in to the center. The loop is then folded in half along the length to make a short 4-layer strap, and stitched along the long edge to hold it closed. Stitching it on to the garment seals the ends of the loop.

Detail of the hitatare sleeve

Similar loops are at the cuff end of each leg. I only put loops on the outsides of the pleats, so they hold the pleats in place. I’m not sure if this is historical or if the exemplar just has narrower legs.

The hakama cuffs

I also made a kataginu that matches the hakama so that I don’t have to roast if it is very hot. A kataginu is basically a sleeveless hitatare.

The matching kataginu

So there, now I have four hitatare sugata. This one went through the post-Pennsic laundry without falling apart, so I consider it to be a success.

bookmark_borderBento Refinishing

Eleven years ago, I made this hexagonal bento box in a class taught by Pittsburgh’s Tadao Arimoto. At the time, I did not know much about making bento lunches, so the box mostly sat on a shelf as a display piece. It waited patiently for me to expand my studies of Japanese culture to include food, and for me to start shopping at the Tokyo Japanese grocery enough to develop a menu for lunch. Back in 2019, I started making bento lunches to eat at work, and I discovered that the box was not sealed! I got salad dressing all over the tablecloth, and had to use plastic bento boxes for my lunch.

A year or two ago, I sanded the inside and outside of the box to smooth out the uneven epoxy surface. The box sat in this state for a couple of years, still waiting for me to make time for it. This summer, I finally cleared off the workbench for a couple of days so that I could mix up some epoxy and refinish the box.

These are the pieces of the box. One lid, one base, and two rhomboid containers that fit inside the base.
Here are the smaller containers inside the base, ready for filling.
Add the lid to close the box. It falls slowly because the tolerances are tight.

It’s completely sealed now. I could probably take soup in it. The lid edges are almost the full height of the box, so it might not even spill very much if tipped. Even though I don’t go into the office at all these days, I made lunch at home and served it to myself in this box because I believe you should always let things fulfill their purpose.

Hana Goshoku onigiri; pickles and salad; togarashi tofu, roasted mushrooms, and kamaboko; lotus root and roasted eggplant.

bookmark_borderSmall Tabletops for Folding Stools

So, I’ve made a bunch of these Shogi folding stools, and I thought it would be handy if I used up some surplus lumber to make a small tabletop that would turn a stool into a table.

I didn’t have a real plan, so I just cut two pieces of 1-by-8 and edge glued them together to make a square, then I nailed some miter-cut 2-by-4 trimmings around the edge to make it into a tray. A little polyurethane and it was ready to go. It was fine, but I realized (too late) that if I’d made it rectangular instead of square, then the rim pieces would slide down over the ends of the stool pieces and it would never slide off.

It took me some time to get around to executing my brand new plan and make a second tabletop, but I finally declared this project done when the second coat of polyurethane was dry. You can see that making it just a little larger makes it a lot more secure.

It almost looks like a real table, and not just a tray sitting on a stool.

bookmark_borderShibori Clothing

A few of us did some shibori dyeing in the garage recently. The last time we hosted this, one of our friends brought a bunch of white cotton clothing she had found at the store. After that, I made some shirts from cotton muslin so I’d be ready for the next time we did dyeing. That was like two years ago, but better late than never. Here is the ensemble of both shirts.

The brown shirt kind of looks like an accident in a bleach factory, but the pattern is much more interesting in person. I used my famous pajama pattern, and even rememebered to do the top stitching in cotton thread so it would pick up the dye, After laundering, I opened the button holes and sewed on some buttons.

The blue long-sleeve tee shirt looks a little more tie-dye traditional. I basically scrunched the shirt up sideways and then put a bunch of rubber bands down it to hold it together. I like that it came out symmetrical and smiley. There were actually two different kinds of blue in the dye bath, but I think the “peacock” blue really took precedence.

bookmark_borderUtensil Box from Cherry Planks

We had a plastic bin at the back of of kitchen utensil drawer that held chopsticks and other miscellaneous items. I got tired of having to dig for chopsticks, and my father had coincidentally gifted me with some cherry grilling planks. We love cherry wood here, and I wasn’t going to just set fire to it, so it’s projectin’ time.

I made a box that’s as wide as the utensil drawer, and a smaller tray to hold chopsticks so that they do not just fall to the bottom and have to be dug out. This construction turned out to be a little too tall, so I shaved some off the top and eventually cut the bottom completely off. Here are the pieces.

The tray slide back and forth, or it lifts right out for easy access to the utensils underneath. Of course we have more stuff than actually fits in the bin, but that can be moved elsewhere.

I finished the whole thing with some salad bowl oil finish, which only takes 3 days to dry, but makes the wood look attractive.

Learn to make things, because people who buy things are suckers.

bookmark_borderEboshi for Gwen

I neglected to post about this at the time, but back in March when we were getting ready for my sweetie’s elevation, I made three more eboshi for our friend Gwen.

Of course, Gwen has been camping with Kaminari for years and has several eboshi, but nothing deemed nice enough to wear while heralding an elevation. So, I made three more for them. One floppy nae eboshi, one linen tate eboshi lined with heavy interfacing, and one mesh tate eboshi for summer wear. The mesh eboshi has a silk band for the extra-fancy.

bookmark_borderStool from Maple Board

My local Woodcraft location had some ambrosia maple cut-offs on sale for a reasonable price, so I picked up a ~5 foot long ~7″ by 1.5″ board and had to decide what to do with it. For the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about seating, so I decided to make a simple stool. Ishitani Furniture posted a video about making some 3-legged stools, and I thought about that, but I was not sure I had enough material for two stools. I decided to make one 4-legged stool.

I cut the board into two pieces. One 16″ piece I ripped into four leg pieces. I knocked the corners off those pieces with the intention of either using them as octagonal legs and later cutting tenons somehow, or turning them round. Then Chris Schwarz posted a video about turning tenoned chair legs on a lathe, and I decided to unpack the lathe and give it a try.

The legs came out about 1.375″ in diameter, with a 1″x2″ tenon turned on the end. Given that I am not super experienced at wood turning, and that this is the first time I have used the lathe in about 4 years, I think it went pretty well. They are not perfectly even, but the lathe makes everything perfectly round and smooth.

Next, I used a long, straight bit in the router to joint the edges of the board, then I used the same bit to cut a 1/2″ wide by 3/4″ deep slot into one edge of the board. I cut the board into two ~21″ long pieces, then cut a 1.5″ wide spline from some half-inch thick oak stock and used it to make a splined butt joint between the two pieces. I probably could have just glued the two edges together, but I wanted to try the splined joint, and the extra strength makes me feel better about sitting on the stool.

After letting the glue dry, I scraped off the squeeze-out and sanded it smooth. Then I pulled out a drilling guide and set it for ~10 degrees. I drew a 45 degree angle in from each corner, and clamped the drilling guide to the underside of the seat. I probably could have done this on the drill press, but I would have had to set up a jig to get a repeatable position on the seat. With the guide, I could align the guide to my pencil line, flush the corners of the guide with the edges of the board, clamp, and start drilling. I was using a 1″ Forstner bit to cut the mortises for the legs, so trying to do this by hand without a guide was not a good idea. Schwarz uses auger-tip spade bits for this job, but I hate spade bits with a passion, so that was out. Boring a 1″ hole at a 10 degree angle through a 1.5″ thick board was an athletic experience, but a little camellia oil in the hole kept the friction down so I was cutting and not burning my way through.

Then, I beveled the edges of the seat with a trim router. Normally, I soften the edges with a 1/8″ round-over, but I decided to go a little more angular and I’m really happy with the way it looks. The contrast between the angular seat and the round legs really works for me.

When I started to insert the leg tenons into the seat mortises, I realized it was going to be a very tight fit. I had thought that I would have to notch the tenons and wedge them into place, but as it was I needed to hammer them in and they are not coming out any time soon. Once the legs were in, I trimmed the tops of the tenons flush with the seat, and the bottoms of the legs parallel to the floor. Finally, a generous dosage of hemp oil finish.

That’s why you see it here in my drying cabinet/furnace room. I applied the oil before thoroughly reading the label and finding out that it takes a month to cure. All over but the waiting, I guess.

bookmark_border14th-century Japanese Toolchest Mark 3

I have been putting off the next step in this long-running experimental archaeology project more because I wanted to work on it at a particular event than because of my normal level of procrastination. I planed down the 1by lumber months ago, then I cut and assembled the chest at Aethelmearc War Practice. I started this project working on the Mark Zero “proof of concept” chest at War Practice back in 2018 or 2019.

Anyway, this is the fourth try at making a tool chest that looks like one you can see in the Kasuga Gongen Engi-e. This emaki illustrated scroll is from the 14th century and shows scenes from the history of a Kasuga shrine, including the shrine’s construction.

To better match the size and look of the Kasuga chest, I started with 1×6 lumber instead of the 1×8 I used on the Mark 2. It’s only about 39 inches long instead of the fifty-something inches of the Mark 2. I also used the thicker battens like I discussed, which I think worked out well.

Here is what the four chests look like laid out in a row:

I think I really have the look now. The size an proportions may not be exactly right, but it’s pretty much there. I’ll maybe work on a few tweaks at some point in the future.

It’s long enough that I can get some of my longer saws in there, just deep enough that things don’t get buried under several layers, and still wide enough that some of my organizer tills fit in there sideways to keep things from sliding around.