Duck Head Business Card Holder

This is a weird little item, created from a bit of walnut I had no idea how to use: I friend gave me some duck body and head blanks. As I’m not a carver, I’m still figuring out how to use these. For one duck head, however, I decided it was a nice shape for a business card holder. I made this for a colleague who transferred to a new job. As we work for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, it occurred to me that the duck head shape had a bit of an ocean wave flare to it. So that’s what I hope it evokes.

Here’s the starting point: a duck head blank. In the background, you can see the bodies I have yet to decide what I should do with.
The duckhead was a bit too thin for a stable card holder, I reckoned. So I added walnut strips to the front and back. It adds a bit of complexity, but I was determined to make this work.
Cutting the notch for the cards was just a matter of eyeballing it.
And cleaning it up with some chisel work.
I added a nice bottom wavy curve.
And sawed it out. The final shaping was with my files.
Here’s a view of the final card holder. I got ahold of a lapel pin from the place where we work, cut off the back, then cut out a hole to fit it nicely.
Here’s the front view with some sample cards. I think it turned out quite well!

Simple Ulu Handle

Woodcraft sells a simple Ulu knife kit. A while back, I picked up five of them because they were on sale for something like half off. Not much to these. Just a blade and some optional rivets. The only mildly difficult part is creating the tiny little mortises where the handle will sit.

I neglected to take a photo when creating the 3/64″ deep mortises, but it’s pretty easy to do with a tiny chisel. I could have used a tiny router plane. Someday, I may pick up on of those.
After I rough cut the shape I wanted with a bow saw, I switched to my miracle files from Auriou (as I call them) to shape it well. These files are expensive because they are handmade in France. They are worth every penny.
Nothing fancy, but functional. This handle is from a scrap of bubinga. I made it extra thick and nicely rounded, as it was a gift for a person with large hands.

Sector Build

a wooden sector
Completed Sector

What is a Sector? Here’s an excerpt from Lost Art Press, where free instructions and template are available to download:

If you haven’t heard of the sector, it probably means you aren’t an artillery officer or a ship’s navigator working in the 17th century. An invention attributed to the great astronomer Galileo, the sector was a calculation instrument comprised of a pair of hinged plates engraved with a variety of scales that – coupled with a pair of dividers – enabled the operator to calculate proportions, polygons, trigonometric and numerous other table functions.

— Lost Art Press

While I could have made one out of paper and laminated it, I decided to make one out of scraps of poplar.

I started with a print-out of the template from Lost Art Press and used it to transfer the shape of the tool to the wood.
I used a Japanese saw to slice it up.
A bow saw and some file work made quick work out of shaping it.
For the rounded top where the two sides of the sector are attached, I used some carving tools to carefully reduce the width. Then I drilled a hole through each piece to fit a brass screw I had on hand.
With the paper template as a guide, it was pretty easy to map out the lines and points on the wood. Then I used a punch to mark the points. These points are where the compass registers to make calculations. The markings are done with sharpies.

That’s it. Not much to it, really. But what an incredible tool for laying out stock and accomplishing other dimensioning. Someday, I may splurge and get a professional model. I found this beautiful Sector from Acer-Ferrous Toolworks that is both pricey and beautiful. Here’s another lovely Sector from burnHeart.

Linux on an iPad

Pop! OS on an iPad

I recently “upgraded” an old 2009 Macbook Pro with Elementary OS, a fantastic Linux distribution. This led me down the distro hopping path, exploring way too many different Linux distros on my primary 2013 Macbook Pro using Parallels.

Then it occurred to me that to try out Linux on my iPad, just for kicks. Turns out it works great, provided you have a tool to run virtual machines and a Luna Display adapter. Above is a screenshot of my iPad displaying Pop! OS via my Macbook. Maybe this isn’t the most useful thing in the world, but it’s pretty cool to use my Apple pencil on Linux.

As an aside, my forays into Linux have been so enjoyable that I’m strongly considering switching to a System76 machine when my Macbook Pro kicks the bucket. I hope to hold out until System76 launches their first in-house designed laptops.

Ergodox EZ and Arrow Keys

I bought an Ergodox EZ Glow ergonomic mechanical keyboard in 2019 and I’ve grown to love it. It took me some time to adjust to a split keyboard, and even more time to nail down my personalized layout across three different programmed layers. The unmarked keys on the board did not take as much time to adjust to as I thought they would. I purchased the black model with Cherry MX Brown switches, and upgraded to Blue Zilent switches and gray/blue keycaps. Dreamy.

But after months of using this keyboard, there was one thing I could just not get used to: switching layers to get to the arrow keys. I never realized how often I use arrow keys until they weren’t easily accessible. My solution was to get a tiny six key customizable keyboard from TechKeys. It fits perfectly in between the two keyboard halves. In addition to the arrow keys, I programmed the top left and right keys with an extra shift and space, because it’s often quicker to tap the tiny board when arrowing around. I think it’s an amazing set-up.

Now I just need to get some custom keycaps for the tiny board. I’m currently using leftover keys from my Vortex Race 3. Why two mechanical keyboards? I have a standing desk station and a sitting desk station. I use the Vortex while sitting, the Ergodox while standing. Excessive? Perhaps. But the Ergodox is not the easiest keyboard to move around, so this works for me. Plus … I just love mechanical keyboards. It’s a bit of an addiction.

Sloyd Bench Hooks

I made some handy bench hooks based upon the teachings of Sloyd (which I don’t know much about, but discovered is quite an interesting thing). Actually, learning about Sloyd may be the most interesting thing about this project. Anyways, these bench hooks are really useful to hold wood of different lengths on the bench for, say, cutting dadoes, or to hold up long pieces level when crosscutting on the hook I use for sawing, or for holding wood for paring. 

slab of hard maple
I started out with a scrap of hard maple. Bad choice. This made a quick project into a several day project, because the wood was like granite. 
I cut out 12″ blocks and surfaced all the edges with a hand plane. Then measured 2″ from each end, marking the center points, then drew a line from that point to the far corner as seen here. Once I had the layout, I sawed in a bunch of relief cuts with a carcass saw.
two sloyd hooks in rough form
Here’s a shot of the two hooks, with the surfaces ready to be chiseled out.
Finished surface of one sloyd hook
Here is one finished surface. To get to this point, I chopped out the sawed parts with a bevel-down chisel, then pared down to my line with chisel and block plane. You can see the unfinished bottom surface here. This is a rinse, repeat operation for the other surfaces.
Finished bench hooks
To finish off the hooks, I rounded the corners with rasps, so it’s easy to hold with the hand. I also used a card scraper to get the show surfaces as flat and smooth as possible.
The hooks seemed a bit slippery, so I lined the bottoms with cork (secured with hide glue). Now they’re ready for use.

Fly Rod/Reel Case Build

Over the past few months (July-September 2018), I created a display case to hold a fly rod and reel for the Potomac Valley Fly Fisher club, of which I’m a member. The fly rod/reel this case is designed to display is raffled off once a year. The person who wins the raffle gets to use it for one year. The prize comes with a small book to log fishing experiences. At the club’s annual banquet, the person who used it for a year gives a short presentation of his or her experiences. 

To get me started on this rod/reel case, I was provided with some photos of a similar box from a fly club in Pennsylvania. That rod case has been in circulation since 1963! I like to think that the display case I made will also be in circulation for many decades to come.

a stack of unfinished walnut
Before: I started out with a stack of tongue and groove walnut panels. These are offcuts and rejects donated by a neighbor used in an 80s project to panel a living room in walnut.
finished case
After: this is the completed case, showing the interior.
finished case - exterior
And here is the completed case, showing the interior.

The following is a log of how I made the case. What this doesn’t show is how much trial-and-error was involved in the process. I spent a lot of time testing out different ways to hold the rod and reel in place, in particular. It also doesn’t show how much help, guidance, and inspiration I received from fellow woodworking members from the Hand Tool School.

Stack of walnut boards ripped and planned.
I used a 5tpi rip saw to cut the boards in half and to cut off the tongue and grooves. Then I used a #7 plane to get the panels to proper thickness.
Cutting boards to length with crosscut carcass saw.
I used a crosscut carcass saw to cut the boards to length.
cork liner on base panel
The bottom of the case was lined with cork, which I glued on.
cork liner installed, showing rabbets on side panels
Once the cork liner was in place, I measured the total thickness of the bottom panel. I then used a plane to get the total thickness to 5/16″. This is the size of the blade I used to cut the grooves for the side panels. To cut the grooves, I used a Veritas combination plane.
Paper sketch of dovetail set-up
I sketched out the dovetails on paper before I started cutting. I decided to go with half-blind dovetails. I used two dividers because one is set to step across the end grain and the other was set to mark the distance from the edges.
End panel with pencil marks for dovetail cuts
I marked out the tails first, then cut them out with a dovetail saw and 1/4″ chisel.
marking out the pins
Once I had the tails cut, I marked out the pins using a dovetail knife. I secured the bottom panel here in a Moxon vise.
sawing pins of dovetail
This is a shot of cutting out the pins. For half-blind, I cut at a steep angle down to my lines.
Chopping out pins with a chisel
Then I chopped out the pins with a 1/4″ chisel. It was a delicate, time-consuming affair.
Rough half-blind dovetail fit together
Here’s one corner completed, showing the half-blind dovetail up close. I color code each part of the project so I can keep track of how the different pieces fit together. Note that I also cut my grooves through because it’s just so much easier. I plug the groove holes at the end of the project and they are barely visible.
carcass assembly
This shot shows all the dovetailed corners connected up, without the bottom panel inserted so the bottom grooves are visible.
A rip saw and a thin strip of sapele
Next, I started working on the lid for the box. I used sapele for the mitered frame of the box lid, mainly because I ran out of strips of walnut! I cut the strips of sapele to size with a rip saw.
cutting miters
I used a miter box I made in 2017 to cut the mitered corners for the box lid frame. Here, I’m using a Bad Axe tenon saw.
using a plane to finish edges of panel
This is the inside panel of the box lid, which will be framed with sapele using mitered corners. Here, I’m using my #7 to finish up the long edges.
shooting ends of panel
Squaring up the edges of my panel using a shooting board.
box, all dry fit together
And here is the box with everything dry fit, showing the completed box lid with the miter frame in sapele and the panel in walnut.
fly rod laid out on bench
Next up, I had to figure out how to secure the rod in the box. Here, I’m laying out the rod sections on scrap wood to see where to place the inserts in the box that will hold it in place. I used sapele for the inserts (to match the mitered frame of the box lid) because I thought it balanced it out nicely with the contrasting walnut.
inserts that will hold the rod
And here are the inserts that will hold the rod. I used double-sided tape to hold the rod pieces in place on these blanks, then used a pencil to mark out the lines. I used a marking gauge to figure out how deep to make each groove.
filing out the rod holding grooves
I used Auriou rasps to file out the grooves to hold the rod in place. These rasps are expensive, but they are so worth it.
tapping thread in wood
For the center insert that goes in the box, I threaded the wood. Why I did this will be apparent in the next photo.
Center insert with holding arm
This is the center insert with the threaded hole. I used a brass thumb screw here from McMaster-Carr to attach a small swinging arm. This arm keeps the four rod sections held firm when locked down.
making a dowel
Next, I made a 1/4″ dowel, which is used to hold the reel in place in the box.
dowel attached to box, used to hold the reel
Here is the dowel attached to the inside panel of the box. I glued a small rare earth magnet to the end of the dowel. For the reel, I’m holding it with a reel seat blank, in which I  also glued a magnet. When the reel seat is slid down onto the dowel, it locks in place with the magnets so to hold it securely in place.
Interior of box with rod and reel in place
Here’s what it looks like when it’s all put together, with the rod and reel locked in place.
chisel cuts for butt hinge mortise
Now all that’s left i installing the hardware. Here, I’m cutting a mortise for a butt hinge. I used Brusso hinges for this project and they are worth the money. I started out with some gentle chisel cuts. The depth of the hinge mortise is set with a marking gauge.
router plane for butt hinge
Then I used my router plane to smooth the bottom of the hinge mortise after I chiseled out most of the waste. I slowly crept up on my lines and dry fit the hinges many times to ensure a tight fit.
butt hinge in place
This is one of the butt hinges in place after the mortise was completed.
All hardware in place
And here is the box with all the hardware attached. In addition to the butt hinges, I installed small box ball clasps from Woodcraft to hold the box closed. The chain support is from Rockler.
completed box
I finished the box with two coats of Osmo wood wax.

Making some Sloyd hooks today. My mistake was choosing a scrap of hard Maple. I’m getting a workout. #handtoolschool

Finished my fly rod/reel box! I’ll soon post a “how it was made” article, for posterity.

Fly rod case coming together. I’ll do the inside parts next. #handtoolschool