Bronze Oak Leaf Down!


I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but have I got a story for you.

After a sudden, inexplicable, and super-scary health issue, I’ve been given at least a month off work.  I know; what’s the problem with that?

Well, sparing you all the gory details, let’s just say that the first couple weeks at home (after six days in the hospital) were difficult.  For now, I tire a little easier, and I don’t have 100% use of my right hand back just yet.  Forgive any typos; my backspace key is getting a workout.

The good news is I’m on the mend and getting stronger every day.  So what’s with the opening pic?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

Knowing that I was just 50’ from the happiest place in my own little wooded corner of the hills of southwestern PA, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the alluring smell of freshly-made wood shavings, a little sawdust, and the pleasing warmth of a cozy fire in the stove for long.  I lasted about two hours on my first day of at-home recovery.

The tool above is the result of my stubborn refusal to sit still and a gorgeous piece of +++curly maple, courtesy of my brother.  It’s actually been sitting in the shop long enough to be considered mine, but I asked permission for a small piece of it anyway.  I know; big of me, right?

Anyway, this marking gauge is on the cover of a magazine I’ve had lying around for a while, and it looked like the perfect small project to keep otherwise idle hands (hand?) busy.  Not too heavy, no dangerous machine setups, and great therapy for my new “dumbhand”.  Yes, my left hand has been promoted.  It turned out so beautiful I just had to share a few thoughts about it.

While I was at it, I built two.  I also have some really nice hard maple lying around waiting for a purpose, and, while not curly, also very pretty.


It was a pretty simple and straight-forward project; probably only an afternoon’s worth of work.  It took me a week.  Not counting shipping of all the parts.

I ordered all the brass, the knobs, and the cutting iron.  I choked a little on the prices of some of it, so I dragged my feet a bit, ordering parts in dribs and drabs.  I’m an admitted cheapskate, and I’ve not yet learned that I’m going to order it anyway, so just get on with it.


Anyway, I carefully milled the heads, drilled holes and inlaid the brass wear-strips.  The beams were a little more tricky.  I didn’t want to buy 5/8” dowels and deal with inconsistent dimensions, so I thought heck, I have a lathe.  Small piece of advice; don’t do that.  A lathe is not the best tool to make consistent dowels.  It took forever, and I looked like a crippled three-legged cat trying to pull it off.  I eventually resorted to hand tools to get it right.

The second beam, also a piece of curly maple from Bro, was made much more intelligently.  I milled a square, then an octagon, then kept knocking down corners with a block plane until round.  I finished fitting by inserting it into the head until it stopped, then pulling it out and scraping off the shiny spots.  The textbook way to make a square into a circle.  You’d think I would’ve known that with the first one.


I handplaned the flat on the beams to seat the brass pressure pad, milled the pressure pad, then waited on the brass knobs to come in the mail.


This is what the brass knobs looked like straight out of the package.  Decidedly UNSAT.  So, a little filing and sanding through grits up to 15 micron, followed by a buffing wheel, and I have something I would use.


These cutting gauges actually work pretty well, although there is a bit of a learning curve.  They’re not as user-friendly as my wheel gauge, but they do cut nice, clean lines across the grain.

I got the cutter from Hock Tools (price-choke), cut it into three pieces, and profiled the cutting edge.  The original piece called for a spear-point; very sharp, but very weak.  It was bent and nicked after just a few uses.  I took them both and ground a slight radius on them.  Easier to sharpen, use, and much stronger.


The maple one went in the tool chest, and this is the home for the curly maple one.  It’s really just a show-piece, but sharp and ready for use.  I’m not one for making baubles and bangles, but I needed something easy to do, and made an exception just this once.


Oh- by the way- you might have noticed that the knobs are on opposite sides of each gauge.  The original one had the knob on the right side.  Inattention to detail caused me to plane the flat on the wrong side of the plain maple beam, so I made sure I planed the curly maple beam correctly.  It turns out that the knob on the side facing the user (right-handed user) is easier for adjusting.  Just a tip from yer old Uncle Bronze Oak Leaf.

I’ll be going back to work soon, and this sad, pathetically slow pace I’ve been keeping in the shop will come to an end.  It’s been fun, but honestly, I’m ready to reenter the land of the living.

Bronze Oak Leaf out.

About Sam

Young, good-looking, manly--you get the picture. Novice woodworker with just too much rolling around upstairs to keep to myself. Random thoughts, philosophical questions, the occasional flash of insight or just dumb luck that needs to be shared with anyone who cares.
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