bookmark_borderEmbroidery Frame

One of our friends is really into embroidery. She has taken classes all over the place, gotten certifications from international guilds, and all that fancy stuff. For larger-scale projects, she has acquired a couple of oak embroidery frames. These are great, but it turns out they are not big enough for some of the projects she would like to attempt. Woodworking friend to the rescue!

Pieces for two frames

Each frame has four pieces. The pieces for the original are the shorter ones above. The pieces for my larger version are the ones below.

The pieces with the big mortises and the round middle portion are the rollers. You stitch the ends of the fabric to the twill tape along the rollers, and you can roll very long pieces of fabric up and work on them in sections. In the picture, I have not yet attached the tape to the rollers.

The pieces with many small holes are the stretchers. They fit through the mortises, and you put pins into the holes to keep the rollers separated and under tension.

Here is what the frames look like when they are assembled:

Assembled embroidery frames

You can see how much more workable area my copy provides. The pieces for the original frame are about 30 inches long, so she can work on panels about 2 feet wide. The pieces for my copy are 54 inches long, so she can work on panels about 4 feet wide. That is 4 times as much working area! I tried to make all the pieces interchangeable, so she will have even more flexibility.

Her original is made from oak. My copy is ash, which is a little less dense than oak but still strong, and less expensive. I started from a 1.5″-thick slab about 5 feet long, planed it down to the 1.25″ thickness I needed, and then rip cut the pieces I needed off of that. All the corners are rounded off with various router bits to make them more pleasant to handle.

The through-mortises in the rollers are rectangular instead of rounded, because I used a chisel mortiser and not a router. I had never done “rounded beam with square ends” thing before, so I had a little trouble with that, but I don’t think the problems are structural just cosmetic. I did get the hang of it eventually, but the first batch are a little shaky. I used the original stretchers as drilling guides for the new stretchers, so the holes are evenly spaced. I put two coats of Osmo PolyX on all the pieces as a finish. It’s the first time I have ever used PolyX, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

I did eventually get the tape for the rollers. I was just using a manual staple gun, so it was quite a lot of work to put a staple every inch on both rollers. My lines of staples are little crooked, but not too bad.

Twill tape stapled to rollers

Before anybody suggests it, no I will not make and sell these. I was happy to make one as a favor for a friend, but this is somebody else’s design I’m outright copying. I could probably come up with my own design if I needed to, but it would be pretty different.

bookmark_borderWarping Pegs

Many braiders who choose to work in silk buy premeasured bundles of silk threads. These bundles are usually designed to produce braids that are a good length for the obijime braids worn with formal kimono.

When sweetie and I braid, we are often aiming for other lengths, or specific colors that it is more economical to buy in bulk on spools. Then, we measure out our own bundles. Traditionally, this would be done on tall warping stands called bodai. We use a kind of mini-bodai that clamp to the edges of a table. I have made a few sets of these in the past, but I just made a nice set for Sharon.

Cherry Mini-Bodai

They are made entirely from cherry wood, except for the screws that attach the pegs to the bases, and the hookie thingies of course.

I bent the metal rod in a 4″ metal brake that I had to buy a 4″ bench vise to use. It was super easy doing it this way. The bends are exactly where I wanted them and used the mechanical advantage of the vise instead of brute force.

With the “2 and 1” pegs that i normally make, if you have a 4 foot table you can measure out 4′, 8′, and 16′ warps fairly easily. By making this “2 and 2” set, she can now add 12′ and 24′ to her repetoire for those longer or more complex braids.

bookmark_borderMark 2 14th Century Toolchest

Took a second swing at this project. Here it is up on sawhorses in my workshop/garage:

14th Century Japanese Toolchest

It’s huge! It’s 4.5 feet long and a foot wide. It fits in the trunk of my car ok if I fold the rear seats down, but it’s way too big. Probably at fault is my desire to use 1by8 for the sides. To keep the length in proportion to the height it’s just way too long. Maybe I’ll try again sometime with 1by6 instead. That would make it only about 40 inches long by my reckoning. Compare the image below with the original painting.

Toolchest with Lid Askew

I’m also pretty sure I should be making my battens narrower, and probably from the full 3/4″ thickness of board instead of my 1/2″ planed-down thickness. As a bonus, here is an image of all the tools I needed to construct this Mark 2 chest, stored in the Mark 1:

Tools to Make a Toolchest

There’s not much you need, really, to build a simple chest.

bookmark_borderBox for 1 Lantern

A while back I made a Lantern Storage Box to hold the six wooden frame lanterns that I made for camp. I had previously made a couple of lantern storage boxes to protect a couple of large frame lanterns, but this smaller cypress lantern had no box in which to be stored. Now it does.

Lantern Atop its Box

Anyway, it’s just an empty box, made of plywood. These were some of the last medium-size plywood bits I had around the shop. If I want to do more quick projects like this, I might have to start buying new plywood, despite the current inflated prices. The hardwood rim provides some reinforcement, and gives you something to grab as a handle.

Empty Lantern Box

There’s just enough room inside to insert this particular lantern. The lantern actually sticks up a little past the sides of the box. I just didn’t have four pieces that were tall enough. You might even notice that the thicknesses of the sides are not even the same. It hardly matters.

Lantern in its Box

Once you are finished placing the lantern in the box, you can add the lid. The lid is tall enough that it rests on the handle rails instead of on the legs of the lantern. It’s not a very tight fit. Normally, I wind up making lids too tight-fitting, but this one is kind of loose. I might add some kind of closure so that the lid does not fall off if the box gets tipped over.

Closed Lantern Box

I put some polyurethane on the outside of the box, to protect the lantern if the roof of our storage trailer leaks or the box gets left out in the rain.

bookmark_borderNew Older Japanese Tool Chest

Most of the Japanese toolchests I make follow the pattern established by Toshio Odate, which makes them very traditional, but very modern.

From Page 10 of Odate’s
Japanese Woodworking Tools

So what were Japanese toolchests like in the medieval period? Similar in some ways, but a lot less sophisticated.

From the circa 1309 emaki
Kasuga Gongen Genki-e

In this fourteenth century illustrated scroll, two apprentices take a break from working on the construction site of a new temple. One leans against a tool chest that is open, showing some tools inside. We can estimate that this chest is about 3 feet long, about 1 foot wide, and six or seven inches deep. The end handles and clever locking mechanism are missing, but the cross battens keep the lid from falling in. The wood seems very thin, represented by a single line whereas the battens are shown with rectangular ends. No joinery or fasteners are visible, which makes them something of a mystery. Butt joinery is used on the modern chest, so we can assume it was used here, too. No edge to the bottom of the box is visible, so the bottom piece is most likely fully captive. Nails are used on the modern chest, so it’s likely they are used here, though they may be wooden nails or pegs.

Here is my interpretation of the fourteenth century toolchest:

My New Older Japanese Toolchest

I ran a 6-foot 1×8 and a 6-foot 1×12 through the planer to shave it down to a half-inch thick. I cut the bottom, lid, and two ends from the wide wood. I cut the sides and battens from the “narrow” wood, ripping the 7.25″ width into 2″ battens. Then, I nailed it all together.

My New Older Japanese Toolchest, Opened

I deadened the nails for the lid, so it should hold together pretty well. The whole thing is 29 inches long, which was about the biggest chest I could make from the two boards with which I started.

What did I learn? My chest isn’t long enough, and it’s possibly too deep. The proportions just don’t look right. My battens should be made from thicker wood, and should be both narrower and closer to the ends of the lid. Because I used thinner wood, this chest is a lot lighter than a previous attempt. Very little wood is wasted, unless you count the one third of the lumber that got turned into shavings.

bookmark_borderMonitor Riser

first project of he new year! Sharon’s been asking for this for a while, and I finally got around to it. It’s a desk riser to boos her monitor a few inches so she can see the monitor over the laptop screen and have a place to stow her flatbed scanner when she’s not using it.

Sharon’s Monitor Riser

So yes, this is more left-over shelf material from the old house. I spent so much time staining and finishing these shelves that I could not bear to throw them away when we moved six years ago, and I have been cannibalizing them as pre-finished materials for little projects ever since,

this riser is 21 inches of pine 1×10 shelf supported by some 3.25″ lengths of 1×10 to make the riser about 4 inches tall. The “legs” are joined to the top using furniture dowels (left over from IKEA purchases) and a couple of brass right angle brackets to make sure it does not wobble. I added some stain and water-based polyurethane to the cut edges to give the riser a completed look. I even did most of the cutting by hand because it was faster than setting up the table saw for four cuts.

Sharon needed 17.5 inches between the legs to stow the scanner without kinking the cord, so the 18 inches I gave her is more than enough. So much classier and more useful than a couple of phone books!

bookmark_borderFrame Loom

I was on a Zoom conference recently with a bunch of braiders, and somebody was showing off a portable frame loom she’d made from dowels and plumbing fittings. It was compact enough to fit into the laptop compartment of her backpack, but she often had to display it to the TSA because of the copper elbow joins at the corners. I was pretty sure I could make something similar from just wood, so I did it just to prove my concept to myself.

All-wood frame loom

Mine is a little beefier than hers. She used 5/8 dowels, but I wound up using 3/4″ dowels and 1″ square rod. Mine is also a little larger than hers, at 12″x17″. This (for obscure reasons) is a very Japanese aspect ratio. There is no glue, so I could knock out the pins if any part needs to be replaced. Here’s a close-up on the joinery.

Pegged through-joins at the corners

I did use a drill-press and some fancy bits to make sure the holes for the joinery were straight and clean, but other than that it was all sawing to length and tapping together with a hammer. The materials were all purchased at a local chain hardware big-box store, so nothing too exotic.

bookmark_borderBox for 4×6 Index Cards

I use index cards for a lot of things. I used to have a printer that would accept 3×5 cards on manual feed, so I’d print out all kinds of useful information onto cards for handy reference. I even made a box to hold printed and blank 3×5 cards on my desk so that I’d always have them within easy reach. That printer is long gone, and my current printer will only take things as small as 4×6 cards. So, it was time for a new box.

Full 4×6 Box

A friend gave me some thin wood scants, I think they might be mahogany, and I had enough to make this box. There is no fancy joinery, it’s all held together with glue and 23-gauge pins. There is even a divider down the center to keep the clean cards separate from the used ones.

Empty 4×6 Box

It is finished with a couple coats of blonde shellac, which really brightens up the wood color and gives it some polish. I put some cork squares on the underside so that it won’t scratch up my desk. You might notice that it holds the cards in landscape orientation. Given the shapes of the wood pieces I had, it was actually more economical to do it this way than portrait. The 3×5 box was portrait, and made from cedar.

4×6 and 3×5 Boxes Compared

bookmark_borderStorage Box for Stickers

Over the past few years, I’ve had a number of custom vinyl stickers made by If you get on their mailing list, they send email every couple of months about specials, and for smaller stickers the price for a minimum order of stickers is usually less than $30. It’s kind of an extravagance, but sometimes the monthly special is for a set of colors that are useful for some SCA heraldry or other shenanigan. Anyway, having all these banded bundles of stickers around is starting to get annoying, so I built a box to organize them.

Box for 2.75″ stickers

I still have some thin wood scants left over from long-ago projects, so it was a pretty simple thing to split some to size and glue up a little box. The interior of the box is 12 inches long, 2.8125 inches wide, and 2 inches deep. There are no fasteners or fancy joinery. This box won’t see much abuse, so I’m hoping glued butt joints will be sufficient. The wood is kind of special, I guess. The label said it was mahogany. I think it was intended for the dollhouse building boom of the 1990s.As you can see, this box is nearly full, so I may need to make another one some time.

bookmark_borderOne Year of the Shourou

I assembled the bell tower back in August of last year, and finished up working on it in September. Since then, it has survived snowstorms, rainstorms, windstorms, cold, heat, and everything. It has made my sweetie’s front garden even prettier for a full year!

Here it is, surviving yet another deluge