The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A new tool

A few months back I converted my daughters bunk bed to a single bed. We had been remolding/redecorating my daughter’s bedroom, and the top bunk would interfere with a ceiling fan among the other changes we were making. The conversion was temporary as we had already ordered a new bed, but I still wanted it to look nice until the new bed arrived. During the rebuild there were several instances where I could have used a small, handheld countersink. I made do without one, but I decided that I would get one the next time I needed it.

As it turns out, a few weeks ago I did need one, but rather than purchase it, I decided to try and make one for myself. I had all of the parts needed handy: about 2ft of an 1 ½” oak dowel that was leftover from a closet rod, a handful of copper pipe endcaps in assorted sizes, and of course the countersink, which is a Craftsman brand. An interesting (at least to me) side note regarding the countersink is that I remember almost exactly to the day when I purchased it, which was the week of St. Patty’s day, 1998. I remember it so vividly because on St Patty’s Day I was told that I was being “promoted” from assistant press operator to press operator at my former workplace. There were two items we often used on the press but never seemed to have: an 1 ¼” open ended wrench and an 18 inch breaker bar (both of which I still have); I decided that if I was going to be operator of the press those two tools would be in my toolbox. So I went to Sears Hardware and purchased them. So why did I buy the counter sink? That memory is a bit more hazy, but I do recall needing to make a repair to the neck of my bass guitar, so that was likely the reason it came home with me.

Making the handle for the countersink was fairly easy. I clamped the dowel into the leg vise and used a tapered tenon tool to remove a good portion of the material, making it easier to finish the job with a chisel. I then sawed a shoulder to seat the ferrule, which was a ½” copper pipe cap. Sawing that shoulder was a bit tricky, I was able to use a marking gauge to create a cut line, and I then used a bench hook to sort of “spin and saw”. Thankfully it worked, and I pared the wood down to get a slight friction fit for the cap. Initially I had a very tight fit, but because I wanted to use epoxy to permanently fasten the cap, I loosened it up a touch to give the epoxy a place to expand. Just before I applied the epoxy, I put a little furniture wax on the handle just above the shoulder to help ease the clean up of any epoxy that may have spilled out. I then set it in a clamp to dry overnight.


handle shaped

The handle shaped with the shoulder added to the tenon.

The next morning I checked the cap and everything looked great. I did a touch more shaping with a spokeshave and sandpaper which was mostly experimenting with the shape of the top of the handle. When I was happy with the result I moved to the most critical operation of the construction: drilling a perfectly vertical hole for the countersink.

The shank of the counter sink is exactly ¼ inch in diameter, so I had to drill a ¼ inch hole into the ferrule. But, I wanted the fit to be tight, so I only went through the ferrule with the ¼ inch bit, and into the handle I used a 7/32 inch bit. I clamped the handle into a vice and used a speed square to help me guide the drill; happily it went smoothly The fit of the countersink was very tight, so tight that I needed (as of now) no epoxy to hold it. I did a half-dozen or so test “sinks” and the tool worked well. Maybe at some point after a lot of use it will loosen, and I will need to epoxy it in, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

ferule attached

Some more shaping done and a test fit of the bit.

After just a touch more sanding, refining, and clean up, I applied the finish: 5 coats of Sam Maloof poly/wax blend; a coat applied each day, with 24 hours of drying time and a light buffing in between each application. I think the tool looks great; it isn’t nearly as refined as the Lie Nielsen version, but it isn’t completely utilitarian either. Obviously if I didn’t have the necessary tools and parts already it would have been much easier to purchase this tool, which is fairly inexpensive (they generally cost between $20-$40).

finished tool

The finished tool resting against the unfinished in-shave.


The tools used to make the handle.

The next challenge will be making new handles for a very old in-shave that my Father-in-Law found in the barn on their family property in upstate Pennsylvania (I am not making this up). When he gave it to me the tool was completely covered in rust, and the handles were rotting away. It took a lot of work, but I was able to remove a good deal of the rust and reestablish a bevel. I also managed to salvage one of the handles to use as a template; I have some maple blocks set aside to use as the replacements. It should be a pretty interesting attempt, I just hope it is worth my time.

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