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Space-Saving Chisel Rack

February 7th, 2014 by

WJBlog_LHein_ChiselRackUprightGood chisels deserve good storage. If you regularly set a chisel down unprotected on the bench top, it could easily be nicked several times a day. Each time it gets nicked, it must be resharpened, which takes valuable time. Not only does resharpening take time, but good chisels are expensive, and every nick in the edge could cost you 50 cents. Aside from the hazard to the chisel, an exposed chisel edge also presents a serious hazard to hands and fingers. Obviously, making a chisel rack is time well-spent. Not only does it keep the chisel and your fingers safe, it dramatically reduces the time you spend hunting around for the chisel you need.

Many chisel racks use a rigid design that holds the chisels upright all the time. That design WJBlog_LHein_ChiselRackBoxprotects the blade well and makes it easy to grab a chisel when you need it, but it uses a lot of space. Another common storage method is to keep the chisels flat in a box. This is more compact and provides protection to the chisel handle, but when the box is open it leaves the blades less protected than the upright design. I wanted something that combined the best features of both designs, so I built a folding rack that stands up when I need it and folds into a box when I am done. It gives the chisels and my fingers maximum protection, is small enough to fit in my limited space, and enables me to quickly grab a chisel when I need it.

Make the Rack
The part that holds the chisels is the same as the upright part of a rigid rack. The most important feature of this piece is that the chisel should not touch the bottom of the slot. In most shops, grit will accumulate in the bottom of the slot and nick the chisel edge if it is allowed to touch it. WJBlog_LHein_ChiselUprightMost chisels get thinner towards the end, so this is easily accomplished by making the slot longer than the flat part of the chisel. Find a 3/4″ thick board, cut it to 1-1/4” longer than your chisel slots, and mark the places for the chisel slots on the face. Leave 1/4” between slots and 3/8” between slots and the edge of the board. Use the chisel to stop the cut where the edges and ends of the slots will be. This helps to keep the cut you make from bringing splinters with it from outside the desired area. Slowly cut down until the slots are as deep as the thinnest part of the chisel. If the flat part of the chisel is tapered, cut the slot to match. When you have all three slots right, cut a 1/4” thick piece of wood to the same size as the board and screw it on the face with the slots. We now have what looks like the upright part of a normal chisel rack, and we need to make a box for it.

Make the Box
Find a board the same width as the chisel holder. Measure the length of the chisel holder with chisels in it and add 3-3/4″. Cut the board to this length. Now cut two 2” wide boards to this same length and screw them to the sides of the first one. Cut two small pieces of wood as wide as the WJBlog_LHein_BoxSlatInProcesschisel rack and 2” long. These will be dovetailed into the ends of the board to keep it from splitting. You can dovetail them to the sides as well or just use screws. The next step is to add a way for the chisel rack to stand up and fold down. I considered using a hinge, but I did not have a suitable one on hand. Instead, I put a slot at one end that holds the chisel holder upright. It is locked in place with a pin. Cut a piece of WJBlog_LHein_ChiselRackPinwood as wide as the chisel holder is thick and 1-1/4” long. Stand the chisel holder up against the end of the box, push the block of wood against it and mark where it goes. Take out the block, pre-drill screw holes, and screw it in place. Mark a location for the pin on the end of the box where it will not hit any screws. Because the chisel holder is 1-1/4” longer than the slots, it is impossible to hit a slot. When you have found the right location, drill a hole for the pin. I used an ordinary 16 penny nail and a 9/64″hole. Although the nominal size of the nail was .131, there were burrs near the point that needed to be removed before it would fit. Unless you possess a set of hole-shrinking drill bits, you should make enlarging the hole your last resort.

WJBlog_LHein_CClampSome kind of knob for the pin is a nice touch. Take a 1” length of 3/8” diameter dowel and cross-drill a 1/8” hole through the middle. This assumes that your nail has a diameter of about  .131”. If it is different, use a drill bit that is about .006” smaller than your nail. Since you are cross-drilling a round dowel, It helps to start the hole with a machinist’s combined drill and countersink. Drill in with this until the countersunk area is larger than the drill you will be WJBlog_LHein_ArborPressusing. This ensures that it will not wander. When the hole is drilled, press the nail through. You can do this with a C clamp and a piece of pipe or with an arbor press.

At this point, you could declare the chisel rack complete, but I decided to add a lid. This is a simple matter of a suitably sized board, two hinges, and a latch. My main reason for the lid was that I have limited shelf space. WJBlog_LHein_ChiselRackBoxOpenWith the addition of a lid to keep the chisels in the box, I could add a hanger and hang the box on a hook. This completes the chisel rack. Now, not only do you have compact protection for your expensive chisels, but you can live by the motto that “The edge is never dull.”

Complicated But Cool

May 10th, 2013 by

This may be the most complicated woodworking project we’ve ever seen — but man, is it cool. (Just make sure you’re standing back when some of those secret compartments open!)

WJ Reader Ideas Needed: Raise the Bar (By Adding Some Wood!)

April 8th, 2013 by
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Among woodworkers, there are some projects that are “classics” — whether the woodworker in question has built them or just has them on a mental “someday” list. Sometimes, it seems as if nearly everyone has built, or wants to build, a guitar, a wooden boat … or a bar for the basement.

If that woodworker was participating in the “Raising the Bar” program of George Dickel’s Tennessee Whiskey, they’d be building a pretty fancy bar. It might, for example, include using whiskey barrels for barstools — or even the front end of a classic car for the bar front.  Those are just a couple of examples from the real-life teams competing in this event, which is now a film series on Hulu .

Team bar-building? Competition? Yep, and there’s a chance for Woodworker’s Journal readers to get in on the action, too. Tell us your ideas for what to add to this bar to make it cooler — anything from specific types of glasses to specific types of stools — and, if your idea is chosen as the winner, you could see your idea come to reality. (Here’s a thought from your editors: since you’re Woodworker’s Journal readers, we’d suggest something made out of wood.)

Further details? OK. First, the backstory. Whiskey company George Dickel’s slogan is “Handmade the Hard Way.” It refers to their 25 employees personally overseeing every step of the distillation process. To promote that slogan, they partnered with the producers of such TV shows as “Deadliest Catch” and “Storage Wars” to film six teams of real-life craftsmen — woodworkers, metalworkers and more — building bars at the 2012 American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri. Each team had just eight hours to build what they thought would be an impressive bar. “Most of my projects take exponentially longer,” said Kansas City woodworker Kirk Brown. “You can’t make anything really well, really fast, just like you can’t make whiskey real fast.”

Some teams went in with design ideas; some didn’t. They had access to some handheld power tools — like a circular saw, jigsaw, planer and battery-powered drills — and they brought some of their own tools. “I brought a hand plane,” Kansas City woodworker Kirk Brown said, “and thank goodness, because we ended up using it when we plowed over the cord of the power planer.”

Afterward, producer Thom Beers’ Original Productions company turned each of these builds into a video for the Hulu series. And public relations company Taylor Strategy assigned each of these teams to a partner publication — randomly, you will notice. Which is perhaps why the assigned “Woodworker’s Journal” team is one that incorporated no wood into their build, except the stand for metalworker Kyle Moody’s anvil. (Not that we’re bitter.)

Moving on. Each partner is soliciting ideas from our own team — that’s you, Woodworker’s Journal readers — for additions that will “raise the bar” further for our assigned bar. Examples? Replacing the glass in a traditional shot glass with redwood (a shot wood?). Or adding rockers to the bar stools. Or … ? We’re waiting for your ideas, which will be submitted to Taylor Strategy on Monday, April 15. They’ll be judged on a) originality and creativity; b) representation of true American craftsmanship; and c) the “cool-ness” factor: something you’d want to show off to your friends.

Whatever’s picked as the winning “Raising the Bar” item will actually be made, in a set of eight. If it’s a Woodworker’s Journal team item that wins, they’ll send us the eight items — but we’ll share with our readers. We promise.

So, watch the video of “our” bar (and the other ones, too, if you’d like — some of them incorporate wood) and send us your ideas for additions. You can share in the comments to this blog post, on our Woodworker’s Journal Facebook page, or by emailing us at Let’s “raise the bar” on (woodworking’s) creativity!

Memories of George

May 1st, 2012 by
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I was reorganizing some paperwork the other day, when I ran across a file that contained letters, manuscripts and notes from master wood finisher George Frank. I worked with George when I was an editor at Fine Woodworking magazine. I was originally assigned to work with George because he and I were both Hungarians and so could converse in our native tongue. Over the years, George became not only a treasured colleague of mine, but I also kind of became his adoped grandson; he had no male children of his own. George passed away nearly 15 years ago, at the ripe old age of 94.


March/April 2012 Issue Preview

March 5th, 2012 by
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March/April 2012 Issue CoverRob Johnstone gives you a sneak peek at the March/April 2012 issue, which you’ll find on newsstands soon, including the following:

Downdraft Sanding Cart
Working from a series of mock-ups and prototypes, the Woodworker’s Journal staff has designed one of the handiest build-your-own downdraft tables you’ll find, with features to hold your wood steady and, of course, confine the dust.

Stickley Hall Table
A particularly stunning piece of wood and some simple pocket-hole joinery combine to create a classically Arts and Crafts styled table (which knocks down for transport).

Simple Knife Block
Done totally on the table saw, this weekend project will provide you with handy homemade kitchen storage.

Tool Review: 1/4″-Sheet Sanders
Sandor Nagyszalanczy takes palm sanders in hand to review what’s out there on the basis of factors like power and sanding performance, ergonomics and ease of paper change, plus dust collection.

Today’s Shop: Benchtop Router Tables
Benchtop router tables have grown up: Chris Marshall takes you through the features that put today’s tables on an even playing field with the big boys.

Rust-Oleum Gives Woodworker’s Journal Sneak Peek

November 14th, 2011 by

Group Shot from Rust-Oleum VisitIf you’re one of those dyed-in-the-wool loyalists when it comes to the types and brands of finish you use, it might seem like there’s not much new that could (or should) be put into a can these days.

But if it seems like there isn’t much new “under the sun” when it comes to stain and varnish, sometimes all it takes is a new player in the market with some fresh ideas.


AWFS Tool Show: WJ as Official Blog Partner

July 25th, 2011 by
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If it’s summer in the woodworking world, it must be time for tool shows! Last week, your intrepid Woodworker’s Journal editors were off to AWFS (the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers) 2011  show in Vegas — for which we were the official blog partner!

Click on over to for new tool insights and other news from the show, with videos that make you feel like you were there along with us!



And the Winner Is …

July 5th, 2011 by
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November/December 2010 Issue CoverThank you to all who participated in our June Father’s Day Giveaway here on the Woodworker’s Journal Blog. The woodworker who won the one-year subscription to the print Woodworker’s Journal was Rich, who left the comment

“I love the moment when I realize that the pile of parts and pieces I have so diligently been working on have come together as something that was only seen in my mind’s eye.”

We agree, that’s a pretty cool part of woodworking – and so were all the other great aspects you shared of what you like most about woodworking.


Making Sawdust: The Weird Way

June 29th, 2011 by
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It all started with a cry for help.

Early last year, I read an interesting entry on a foresters’ forum. A reader explained that she was given a wooden chainsaw-carved bear by her father. A few days after she received, it she noticed that it was growing “hair.” Lauren wrote, “I noticed some things growing out of the sides of the bear that look like little white strings, about 2 inches long. I got a broom and brushed them off, and within 2 hours of me brushing them off, they had already started to grow back!” She had no idea what was happening with her new gift, and most of the good folks who replied didn’t either. Most of them guessed it was fungus of some sort. They were close, but it was far too early to call it a fungus. Confused yet? (more…)

Father’s Day Giveaway From WJ!

June 17th, 2011 by

We’re taking a little break from our regular routine here at the Woodworker’s Journal Blog to shake things up a bit. We’re adding some great new authors to the blog, bloggers who’ll be enlightening you on a regular basis about topics like wood finishing, wood species and wood, well, in general.

If you’re a reader of the Woodworker’s Journal print magazine, you’ll likely recognize the names of our newest blog contributors: finishing expert Michael Dresdner, silviculturist (that’s a tree scientist) Tim Knight, and woodworking and tool expert Sandor Nagyszalanczy.

If you’re not a reader of the print issue — well, you’ve got a great chance to check it out! One commenter on this blog post will win a free one-year subscription to Woodworker’s Journal. (Don’t worry, current subscribers: if you’re picked as the winner, you’ll get a free year added to your current subscription.)

So, while our Father’s Day offering is not a cheesy card implying that you, your dad, your brother, or anybody else you might happen to know would be likely to nail your thumbs together in the shop, we still hope you’ll appreciate our effort to celebrate the big day all the same. (And if you’re the wrong gender to be a father; that’s A-OK with us. Hey, you had a father somewhere along the line, right? It’s all good.)

How do you qualify to win this giveaway? It’s so simple! Just leave a comment on this blog post, telling us your favorite part of woodworking. If you haven’t posted on our blog before, you’ll be asked to enter your email — which won’t be published, but will be how we’ll contact you if you’re the winner. We’ll use a random number generator to choose the winning comment after the giveaway closes at midnight Central Daylight Time on June 29. We’ll contact the winner by email, and they’ll have 72 hours to respond, or another winner will be selected. We’ll let everybody know who won in another post on this blog.

You can keep coming back here to check us out, or you can sign up to receive blog entries by email or RSS feed by clicking here. We’re a friendly bunch here at the Woodworker’s Journal Blog — editor in chief Rob Johnstone shares tales like how a simple idea to plant some spring seedlings led to him building a full-fledged garden cart; field editor Chris Marshall has shared more than once about his super-popular miter saw station; and we even showcase projects readers like you have built, like this nifty apothecary cabinet. Sometimes, our staff does things like participate in a Guitars for Vets guitar build, and we share that experience here, too. All of that, plus our new regular blog columnists, add up to some great woodworking reading.

Whether you win this giveaway or not, we hope to see you around!