Thursday, December 8, 2016

Intro To Hand Tools Downloadable Videos

7 parts. Nearly 60 segments. 12 hours of video.

I'm very pleased to announce that my 7-part course Intro To Hand Tools is now available in downloadable video form at Popular Woodworking Magazine's

Each part consists of a series of segments, for a total of 12 hours of video instruction.

Learn how to use these and other hand tools.

Part 1: Welcome! is available for free on their YouTube channel. It covers general introduction, a quick summary of the tools, safety, and details about the types of handsaws and handplanes.

The remaining 6 parts are available for purchase at $4.99 each:
For a detailed guide to the segments in each part, see this blog post. There are nearly 60 segments in all.

This brief video shows what's covered in the course:

This is Part 1:

This 7-minute video is a free sample lesson on rabbetting, showing just a few of the methods covered in the longer lesson in Part 4:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

LN Event 2016 Shackleton Thomas And Terry Moore Scraper Sharpening

The Queechee Gorge near Woodstock, VT, on the drive home, beautiful even on a gray day.

Friday and Saturday, October 7 and 8, I demonstrated hand tool techniques at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Shackleton Thomas, in Bridgewater, VT, run by Charles Shackleton, furniture maker, and his wife Miranda Thomas, potter.

Also at the event were Matt Bickford with his wonderful wooden molding planes, book, and DVD, and Isaac Smith of Blackburn Tools, selling saws.

I was promoting my Intro To Hand Tools online course at Popular Woodworking University. See this blog post for a full episode guide, tool list, and sample videos.

And newly available, the course parts can now be purchased individually as digital downloads from Popular Woodworking's online store, along with my recorded webinars and digital magazine issues containing my articles.

I also had my copy of Nick Offerman's new book Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop, which is now available. You can read my review of it here.

My setup, with workbenches, boxes of tools, Nick Offerman's book, and large-screen monitor in the background running my trailer.

I did my usual ad hoc demonstrations as people asked questions and I offered to let them try anything they saw on the workbench.

Two things proved especially popular: Terry Moore's scraper sharpening method, and Yoav Liberman's gouge sharpening method (where I add a concave surface to the block, and use it with my in-cannel scribing gouge). Both of these tools present particular sharpening challenges, so people are eager to see effective methods.

I must have sharpened my scraper 15 times over the two days. Since I had only brought white pine, Lindley Brainard, the shop manager and one of the Shackleton Thomas furniture makers, let me pick a few nice pieces of hardwood from the basement scrap pile so I could demonstrate real scraping.

The results were glorious. I produced a cloud of white, brown, and reddish shavings in maple, walnut, and cherry as people watched and tried it for themselves. I really should have gotten a photo. You could have stuffed a nice comfy throw pillow with the pile of feathery shavings.

I've included Terry's method below, because I've gone through at least 5 other methods before I settled on this one, and it's worth sharing.

Pizza With The Shackletons

As I mentioned in my post about last year's event, Charles is the cousin of Ernest Shackleton, who accomplished one of the greatest feats of leadership and survival of the past hundred years. If you're not familiar with the story of the Endurance, take some time to read this.

Friday afternoon, Charles came through and invited us all to pizza at his house. My wife and I joined the caravan following Lindley's car up the narrow winding roads in the hills above Bridgewater to an absolutely spectacular spot. The entire valley lay before us in magnificent Fall color as the last rays of the sun dropped below a cloudless horizon, a fire crackling in the firepit in the yard.

I expected this to be a delivery from one of the local pizza parlors. But no! Nothing so mundane. Miranda had made up dough and toppings, and we each made up a pie. Then, Charles shoved them into the stone oven built into the giant fireplace in the living room of their antique Colonial house. Because, of course, that's how you have pizza!

Along with the LN crew and some of the Shackleton Thomas employees and spouses, Charles' brother Arthur and his wife, artist Carol Booth were visiting from Ireland.

Charles Shackleton baking a pizza. The fire was actually orange, not purple!

It was a magical evening, the kind that lives in your memory forever. There we were, enjoying pizza fresh from the hearth in a home with a deep connection to history, with a group of happy woodworkers. I probably had too much wine as I basked in the warmth and companionship of new and old friends.

Our Accommodations

My wife and I spent Friday and Saturday nights at the lovely Deer Brook Inn just down the road in Woodstock. Innkeepers Phil Jenkins, Win Coffin, and Reba Burress provided excellent food and service.

Phil bought the inn this past Spring after having previously owned the beautiful 1842 Inn in Macon, GA. You can read a nice article about the new ownership here.

Terry Moore's Scraper Sharpening Method

This is actually an article I did for the Guild Of New Hampshire Woodworkers' quarterly Journal. I've made one addition to the original text regarding burnishing, as noted below. This is the exact procedure that I showed people, and it worked every time, with great repeatability.

Fig 01.jpg
Fig. 1: Using a freshly sharpened card scraper to thin down walnut strips to 1mm for practice bending violin sides.

I've recently taken an interest in making violins by hand, and after having watched a number of videos and read several books, I was very happy to see a meeting of the Granite State Luthiers at BJ Tanner's workshop in Manchester.

The topic of the day was sharpening. Several attendees demonstrated their setups for sharpening chisels and plane irons. I showed freehand sharpening a chisel on oilstones with my portable sharpening station. Terry Moore demonstrated sharpening a card scraper. This was the one that stood out for me.

Terry is a founding member of both the Guild and the New Hampshire Furniture Masters, with decades of experience. This is why I love being a member of the Guild. Amateurs and hobbyists like myself get to mix with and learn from masters of the art, who are happy to share their knowledge. Terry graciously gave me permission to write up his method.

Sharpening is challenging enough for beginners, but scrapers are downright voodoo mystery. I collect scraper sharpening methods like I collect planes and chisels, always eager to acquire another one. I've settled on one that produces good results.

But when I tried Terry's method in my own shop, I found it far superior. The proof was in the gorgeous fluffy shavings I was able to produce on a variety of hard and soft woods.

The method I've been using isn't all that much different from his (and in fact all the methods are pretty similar), but he's distilled it down to bare essentials that quickly produce superior results. Simple, fast, effective, and repeatable. That's an almost magical combination.

Scrapers are valuable tools for furniture and cabinet makers, but they're absolutely essential for luthiers. In addition to flat surfaces, stringed instruments have a variety of simple and compound curves that must be rendered smooth and fair. Scrapers are the final tools used to produce these graceful satin surfaces.

Instruments also require very thin materials. Violin sides need to be 1 mm thick. Planing stock this thin can be difficult. It's very easy to damage the piece.

Scrapers can be used to thin down the stock after it has been resawn and planed flat at some more manageable thickness. In addition to being able to take very fine, delicate shavings, scrapers can take them at very controlled points. This allows you great precision in fine tuning the thickness.

Even a simple scraper, just a rectangle of metal, has an anatomy. It has two long edges and two short edges. Because it has some thickness, each long edge will actually be sharpened to two working edges, one on each side of the scraper, front and back. So you up end with four sharp working edges. A working edge is called a hook, because you draw the metal out to a tiny hooked cutting edge.

Terry's method, like most others, consists of three stages: filing, honing, and burnishing. The trick is in the details. He's a believer in keeping it simple, not turning it into a religion. A quick sharpening and then back to work on the wood.

You can adapt this slightly to the tools you have. Like Terry, I’m honing with a fine India stone (oilstone), but this should work with any kind of stone.

One step common in most other methods that he doesn’t do is lay the scraper down and burnish the old hook flat. He simply files down past it in the filing stage, which all the other methods do anyway.

Fig 02.jpg
Fig. 2: The tools: scraper, wooden holder, chunk of fine India stone, mill bastard file, and burnisher (with or without handle).

The first key point is to mount the scraper in a vise. Terry demonstrated on a metalworking vise. I use a face vise with a simple wooden holder as a clamping aid. It's just a length of wood a little longer than the scraper, roughly square in cross-section, with a slot sawn down most of the length. Slip the scraper into the slot, then clamp the holder in the vise. It concentrates the clamping force to keep the scraper from slipping in the vise.

Fig 03.jpg
Fig. 3: Slip the scraper into the holder and clamp the holder in the vise.

I have a T marked on the holder to show the top front orientation. The T mark helps you keep track of which of the four hook edges you've worked on, although Terry's simple procedure makes it pretty easy to keep track.


Using a mill bastard file, file the top edge of the scraper to remove the old prepared edge. Terry used a draw-filing motion. Filing should take 10-20 seconds.

Hold the file oriented across the top at an angle to the length of the scraper. By aligning the file teeth visible on the top side with the edge of the scraper, you know that the cutting teeth on the bottom side are properly aligned across the edge to cut the metal.

The key point is to hold it dead level, so that you file the edge flat, square to the sides. Run the file sideways down the length of scraper with moderate pressure. You should feel it start to bite and remove metal. Take enough passes to be sure you’ve removed the old hook edge, 5-10 strokes.

Fig 04.jpg
Fig. 4: With the file level across the top edge, push it sideways along the length of the scraper.

Fig 05.jpg
Fig. 5: The file needs to be dead level so that it files the edge square to the sides.

Every 5 or 6 filings, joint the scraper to maintain the straight edge. Hold the file level and oriented lengthwise along the scraper. Run the file down the length of the scraper for several strokes.

Fig 06.jpg
Fig. 6: Holding the file level, lengthwise along the scraper, joint the edge flat.


Using a fine oilstone with a little oil on it, hone the top and sides of the scraper. Honing should take 20-30 seconds total for the top and both sides.

Lay the stone across the filed edge oriented roughly diagonal to the length of the scraper. Again, the key point is to hold it dead level. Run it down the length of the scraper for several passes, 5-10 strokes, shifting it around to spread the wear across the surface of the stone. The goal is to remove the file marks, leaving polished metal.

Fig 07.jpg
Fig. 7: Holding the fine stone level, run it up and down the filed edge several times.

Now hone the front side. Lay the stone flat across the front face of the scraper and move it back and forth along the length for a few passes, 5-10 strokes. Repeat on the back side.

Fig 08.jpg
Fig. 8: Lay the stone along the front side of the scraper and run it back and forth across the length.

Fig 09.jpg
Fig. 9: Hone the back side.

The result is that the thin top edge of the scraper and the front and back faces meet at square, sharp corners down the length of the scraper. These will be the cutting edges.


This last step is where things tend to go wrong. People are usually able to file and hone the edge straight and square without any problems, but burnishing is the voodoo part.

Burnishing turns the hook on each long corner of the scraper edge, drawing out the metal to its working edge. The problem is that people tend to overdo it.

As Terry points out, most people have a long burnisher with a handle. That means they’re able to apply a lot of force and leverage as they run the burnisher down the edge. But this just ends up over-turning it. Then they compound the problem by making multiple passes.

This is the secret to Terry's method. He has a short, stubby burnisher that he prefers to use, but with a long burnisher he showed how to choke up on the end, mimicking the stubby shape. The key point is that you use just the end of the burnisher with moderate direct pressure, not heavy leverage. Burnishing should take less than 5 seconds total for both sides.

Fig 10.jpg
Fig. 10: Hold the burnisher in your hand...

Fig 11.jpg
Fig. 11: ...and choke up on it, leaving only the end exposed.

With the burnisher in your hand, hold it near the end to leave just about an inch exposed. Take the tip in your other hand and set the small exposed portion of the burnisher on the edge of the scraper at the near end. 

This paragraph is the addition to the original article, adding the step of burnishing flat across: Holding the burnisher level, flat across the edge, push it along the length of the scraper for one quick stroke. Zip! Don't use too much pressure! Just light hand and finger pressure. Set the burnisher flat on the far end, and pull it along the length of the scraper for another quick stroke. Zip! That's it, zip, zip, just two equal, flat strokes in opposite directions to slightly mushroom the edge out to each side. The residual oil from the stone provides lubrication for the burnisher. Then do the same thing, but with the burnisher tipped over each face of the scraper.

Tip the burnisher down over the face of the scraper by about 5 to 10 degrees; you may need to experiment a bit to find what angle works best for you.

Fig 12.jpg
Fig. 12: Hold the tip in your other hand and set it on the edge of the scraper.

Fig 13.jpg
Fig. 13: Tip the end down somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees.

Push the burnisher along the length of the scraper for one quick stroke. Zip! Set the burnisher on the far end the same way, and pull it along the length of the scraper for another quick stroke. Zip! That's it, zip, zip, just two equal strokes in opposite directions.

If you curl your fingers into hooks and pull them up the face of the scraper, your fingernails should catch on the tiny hook edge you've just turned. Don't run your fingers along this edge, it's extremely sharp!

Fig 14.jpg
Fig. 14: Hook your finger and pull it along the face of the scraper toward the edge. Your fingernail should catch on the hook.

Now burnish the second edge, on the back face. You can leave the scraper as is or spin it around in the vise. Two strokes, zip, zip. That's it.


Now flip the scraper over in the vise and repeat the process on the other edge. This is where the T mark on the wooden holder helps you keep track of which edge and face you're working on.

Fig 15.jpg
Fig. 15: Flip the scraper in the holder over and repeat on the second edge.

Time required to do the entire scraper is 1-2 minutes. This is so fast and simple you should never hesitate to do it if you feel the scraper isn’t performing as well as it should. Have your scraper sharpening kit ready to go at a moment’s notice so it doesn’t feel like a chore.

Testing The Scraper

Setup a piece of test stock as if you were going to plane the surface. Hold the unsharpened short sides of scraper in both hands and use your thumbs to bow out the center. This bow cambers the cutting edge; experiment with various degrees of bowing.

Set the bowed edge on the workpiece with the scraper straight up. Start tipping the scraper forward and moving it forward. At some point between vertical and 45 degrees, you should feel the hook edge bite into the wood. Experiment with a few degrees more or less tilt to find the best bite.

Then with moderate pressure, run the bowed scraper at this tilt angle down the length of the wood. Lean forward with your whole upper body as you extend your arms.

Your response to this action should be GOOD GOD LOOK AT THAT! The scraper should produce amazing fine fluffy rolls of shavings similar to those from a fine set smoothing plane. It should NOT just be producing dust.

Fig 16.jpg
Fig. 16: The fluffy rolls of shavings on a piece of mahogany after the above sharpening.

Lean back, returning the scraper to the near end of the piece, and take some more shavings. Don't scrape repeatedly in the same spot, or the bowed edge will scrape a divot into the wood.

Spin the scraper around and flip it over to try all four hook edges. Don't be surprised if they all perform a little differently, requiring different degrees of bowing and tilt to work effectively.

Turn the board around and try it from the other direction. On a flat surface, scrapers often work just as well in either grain orientation. That's less true on angled or curved surfaces. In general, you went to scrape with the grain, down the slope across it.

Test the scraper on several different woods. Softer woods tend to fuzz up unless the scraper is very sharp. On hard tropical woods, it's like shaving glass.

What If It Doesn't Work?

What if your results aren't as advertised? What if all you get is dust, or unimpressive shavings?

Dust from the scraper is a sign that it’s not sharp enough (also a sign that it needs to be resharpened). Try again, and pay particular attention to the key points.

Poor shavings are a sign of either poor sharpening, or poor use. First, experiment a bit more with the bowing and angling of the scraper. Bow it more heavily, tip it down further. Once you're sure it's not a usage problem, try sharpening again.

As simple as the procedure is, it may take a few attempts to get it right. Some details are very objective: filing and honing square across the edge, and honing along the sides. You should be able to hold the file and stone level on the edge and flat to the sides easily without any kind of guide, but there are also simple guides available if you're still having difficulty.

And it doesn't hurt if you use more pressure or strokes than necessary with the file or stone, you just may end up removing a little more metal than you need to. Overdoing it won't hurt. The only mistake you can make is using too little pressure or too few strokes. Once you've adequately filed and honed, you should have two good sharp corners along the edge.

But other details are much more subjective. Specifically, the angle and force of the burnishing. Remember, two strokes, zip, zip, at an angle 5 to 10 degrees down from level, with moderate pressure. Not enough angle, or not enough pressure, will fail to turn enough of a hook. But overdoing it is a real mistake. That will over-turn the hook.

Achieving the right hook is a delicate balance and takes a little practice. The hook itself is a delicate and subtle thing. There's that voodoo again!

You can slightly unroll an over-turned hook by laying the scraper down flat, standing the burnisher up at an angle with the tip caught in the hook, and lightly drawing it down the length of the edge. That may salvage a sharpening job.


You can often get a couple of burnishings out of an edge before having to go all the way back to a full sharpening, although this method is fast enough that a complete resharpening is easy.

First unroll the hook entirely flat. Lay the scraper down flat and lay the burnisher down flat across it. Draw the burnisher along the edge once or twice. Now if you run your fingernails across the scraper to the edge, they won't catch.

Mount the scraper in the vise and repeat the burnishing. That should restore a usable hook.

You can do this a couple of times, but eventually metal fatigue and wear will reduce the hook to an unusable state. At this point, resharpen the scraper completely.

Practice Session

Take an hour and repeatedly sharpen, test, unroll, re-roll, and re-test the scraper. Invest the time to completely resharpen it two or three times, with multiple burnishings in between, as you explore the limits of the tool.

By the time you're done, you'll have significantly developed and refined your skill. You should notice a definite improvement in the effectiveness of the scraper and your efficiency getting it there.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Nick Offerman's Good Clean Fun

Nick Offerman's Good Clean Fun with my travel toolboxes at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Shackleton Thomas Furniture, in Bridgewater, VT this weekend.

This past week I got the opportunity to review Nick Offerman's new book Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop, published by Dutton. It goes on sale October 18.

Most people know Offerman from his role as small-town functionary Ron Swanson on the TV show Parks And Recreation, whose desk trinkets include a Claymore antipersonnel mine facing anyone approaching his desk.

But woodworkers know him from his Fine Woodworking articles as a fellow woodworker who has a nice side gig as an actor and humorist.

Ok, you probably mainly know him from the show as I did, and were tickled to find out he's also an honest to goodness woodworker, running the real business Offerman Woodshop. I was just as tickled to get the opportunity to review his book.

This is his third book, the first one that is wholly about woodworking. His two previous books were Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living and Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers.

He writes with a reverently irreverent style. If Mark Twain had been a woodworker, this is the book he would have written. Informative, yet informed by a dry and acerbic wit.

His reverance is for the craft and the skill. Yet he doesn't take himself too seriously. Much of the character of Ron Swanson is clearly imbued with Offerman's true self.

The book is a combination of brief autobiography, woodworking knowledge (including a great chapter on wood, with an excellent analogy for understanding grain and wood movement), profiles of woodworkers he admires and those who work in his workshop, and projects. There's a lot of solid, practical information.

Plus, as it says on the cover, assorted tomfoolery. It's all good clean fun, with some recipes thrown in to enjoy while you're having it.

I always love finding the connections between people, and I'll point out a few here. Some tenuous, but they bind us together nevertheless with a sense of community. That's another strong theme in the book, community.

Offerman got his early woodworking knowledge from his Dad. That ability to swing a hammer got his professional woodworking career started as a scenic carpenter in the theater, and he admits to an affinity for scenic carpenters in his workshop today.

One thing that's clear, he's on the same page with most of the woodworkers I know who value working with your hands. And lament the loss of that in our present society and educational system. And wish to restore that capability. That's the first connection I'll note. Right there with you, brother.

Nick squaring up the leg mortises in the Berry Stool project. Photo by Josh Salsbury, courtesy of Dutton.

Inspiring people to learn how to do things with their hands appears to be one of his main goals in writing the book. That's just as clear, based on his choice of profiles and projects. I'm also very happy to see Offerman promote and encourage the work of others in his profiles. The book isn't just about him. Like I said, it's about community.

Among the profiles is Mira Nakashima, daughter of the late George Nakashima, who specialized in Japanese-inspired works featuring live-edge tree slabs. In 1976, I lived two towns over from Nakashima's workshop in New Hope, PA, and would often ride past on my bike. Those were the days when schools still had shop class, and as a high school student I loved woodshop. I would see the sign and wonder what they did there, but never stopped to find out. Of course, that's just random coincidence.

Another profile is Chris Becksvoort, the "modern master of the Shaker style", as Ron Swanson giggles with glee in one episode of Parks And Recreation. I've had the pleasure of watching Becksvoort demonstrate techniques at several Lie-Nielsen Open Houses in Warren, ME.

The strongest connection among the profiles is Peter Galbert. I've demonstrated at several Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events where Peter and his colleague Claire Minihan have also been presenters. I think of Peter as an inventor as much as a woodworker, for his innovative tool designs. It was Peter who taught me how to finesse a wooden spokeshave to vary the shavings from light to heavy, and watching his YouTube videos led to an order of magnitude improvement in my lathe turning skills.

These are people worth learning from. The profiles are all interesting reading as Offerman outlines what he admires in them. There are some good tidbits of professional woodworking business knowledge thrown in, and some inspirational surprises.

Here's the full list of profiles:
  • Laura Zahn
  • Jimmy DiResta
  • Mira Nakashima
  • Christian Becksvoort
  • Bear Mountain Boats: Ted Moores and Joan Barrett
  • Laura Mays
  • Peter Galbert/North Bennet Street School
  • Garry Knox Bennett

Josh Salsbury clamping the top of the Jupiter Side Table project. Photo by Christine Fuqua, courtesy of Dutton.

The projects span a range of skill levels. Nakashima-style slabs feature in several of them, that's clearly a major influence in his shop. Even the simplest ones impart useful knowledge to entice the beginner, and there are a number of nice projects to engage the interest of more experienced woodworkers.

The styles are contemporary, reflecting what I would consider a California esthetic, considering the strong influences of James Krenov and the College of the Redwoods among the people profiled, similar to the work of David Marks.

The methods of work are a combination of machine and hand tool woodworking. There's also a bit of metalworking that would be fun to explore. Even if the designs aren't to your tastes, these make good projects to acquire skills you can apply to other designs.

In addition to furniture-making techniques, there's information on finishing and ebonizing, and strategies for avoiding or correcting mistakes. If you're interested in working with big natural-edge slabs, there are several tips for working on them.

My favorite project is the slingshot dining chair by Michele Diener. Chairs are a particular challenge, because they take a beating. They have to survive being kicked, pushed, dragged, and bumped daily for years, yet not collapse under someone sitting on them. Meanwhile they have to be comfortable and lightweight.

Here's the full list of projects:
  • Matthew Micucci: Pop Top
  • Krys Shelley: Pencil Holder
  • Matty Micucci: Kazoo
  • Krys Shelley: Whisky Coasters
  • Nick Offerman: Berry Stool
  • Josh Salsbury: Jupiter Side Table
  • Nick Offerman: Beaver Tail Paddle
  • Rick Offerman: Scrappy Birdhouse
  • Jane Parrott: Craftsman Lamp
  • Matt Offerman: Slab Cribbage Board
  • Thomas Wilhoit: Claro Walnut Slab Table
  • Michele Diener: Slingshot Dining Chair
  • RH Lee: Slumber Jack Bed

Nick shaping the blade of the Beaver Tail Paddle project with a Lie-Nielsen Brian Boggs spokeshave, one of my favorite tools. Photo by Josh Salsbury, courtesy of Dutton.

If the excellent project drawings cause a ping of recognition, it's because they're by John Hartman, an illustrator for Fine Woodworking magazine, among others.

Before the last project, the book finishes up with an assortment of recipes contributed by the shop denizens for their lunches and cookouts.

That final project is another interesting one, a knockdown bed. I always find knockdown furniture fascinating because it goes together and comes apart like a puzzle, yet has to be sturdy in use. That poses significant challenges in design and execution.

Nick will be going on a book tour from October 17 through November 5 if you'd like an opportunity to see him.

Tour information, courtesy of Dutton.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Two Stones And A Strop, part 3

The portable leather sharpening kit rolled up.

(Go back to part 2)

Here I'll show how to make the portable leather sharpening kit. Leather is a good material for this because it's tough, flexible, easy to work with, and stiff enough to keep things steady on the bench in use. The leather I used is from a half-side piece of Blacksmith side from Crazy Crow Trading Post. I also make my strops from this leather.

The kit unrolled, showing coarse and fine India stones and strop. 

The stone holders are made from 3/4" pine, excavated from solid pieces. I selected stock that was effectively quartersawn. They have a 3/4" border on each side, and 1 1/8" on each end. For 8" x 3" India stones, that comes out to 10 1/4" x 4". The strop is made from 1/2" plywood, sized to match.

For the main holders, I planed the stock down to 1/2" thick. These stones are 1/2". I excavated 1/4" deep recesses in all the holders, so that leaves 1/4" of stone above the holder. The loose center holder is 3/4", with a recess on each side.

Roughing the main holders to thickness with a wooden jack plane. With the iron set for a heavy cut, this is about 30 seconds of work.

Flattening them with a #7 jointer.

I outlined the recesses with a marking gauge, then excavated them with a router plane. This might seem like a lot of work, but it goes easily in this pine. Just take it a layer at a time, don't try to hog it all out once. The quartersawn material excavates very nicely.

I did the work on my bench-on-bench to raise it up and save my back. This is much more comfortable standing upright.

Excavating the recesses lengthwise with a router plane.

Trimming up the end waste crossgrain.

Chopping down the endgrain with a chisel to do the next layer.

After excavating, cleaning up the edges. Be careful not to use too much pressure and split the piece along the grain. You want the stones to fit snugly. Make the excavation just a hair too tight, then enlarge it one shaving at a time.

Cleaning out precise endgrain corners.

The excavated pieces.

Using a holder as a template to mark out the strop base.

Sawing out the base. Plywood cuts easily with a crosscut saw. A ripsaw catches in the crossgrain plies and tears them.

Shooting the plywood edges to clean them up.

I did all the leather cutting with a chisel. A sharp chisel slices it like a hot knife through butter. To glue the leather and wood, I used contact cement, then rolled it with a J-roller. The cement and roller are available from home centers in the laminate section.

Using the strop base as a template to layout the strop leather with a white pencil.

Using a chisel to slice out the leather, just a hair large. There's a scrap underneath as a cutting board.

Brushing contact cement onto the leather and wood. This needs to dry for half an hour before putting them together.

Lining things up to work out the general size of the leather.

Marking out the side and upper and lower edges of the leather. Remember that there will be spaces between the wooden parts, so make it long. I cut it the same way with the chisel.

Easing the edges of the center holder so that it fits over the stones easily when I close up the kit.

The holders with the stones in place so I can figure out final spacing on the leather.

The contact cement is ready. The dividers hold the pieces apart to allow me to position them precisely. Then I pressed one end in place, slid the dividers out, and pressed the rest down, stretching it as I went to avoid wrinkles.

Applying even pressure all over with the J-roller. This needs to be flat, with no lumps.

Trimming to precise fit. The chisel chops down through the leather easily with hand pressure.

Lightly marking where the edge of the first holder will be.

Brushing contact cement on the back of the holder and its position on the leather.

After letting it dry, positioning the holder on the leather. I pressed it and rolled it like the strop.

With the first holder folded over in position on the stack, using my fingers to evenly space out the side. There needs to be enough slack that the center holder slides onto the stones as you roll it up. Don't make the corners tight.

Brushing on contact cement for the second holder. The blue masking tape works well, I should have thought of that before I did the first one.

After the cement has dried, positioning the stack. I added the screwdriver as an additional spacer I could pull out to press the first end in place. I rolled this afterwards.

Spacing out the second side to figure out where to position the strop. I cemented it in place like the stone holders.

Trimming the edges precisely.

For the snaps, I used a hardware store snap kit and a leather punch. An awl makes a nice improvised punch.

Punching holes for the snap bases.

Using an awl to make the center hole, where the punch wouldn't reach.

Setting the snap bases.

With the kit rolled up, tapping down with a mallet to mark where the snaps line up with the flap.

The marks in the leather.

Now that I know where the snaps will end up, laying out the flap. I made the flap end 3/4" past the centerline of the snaps. I cut the remaining leather off with the chisel, punched the holes and set the snap caps.

The completed kit sitting atop the matching miniature Japanese toolbox.

The sharpening kit and miniature toolbox make a nice portable setup that can be tucked into a larger toolbox. Both fit nicely in the hands.