DWE's Woodwork Page

I only did two years of woodwork in school and we were never taught how to do joints in any systematic way. So I went on a basic woodworking course at West Dean which gave me enough to get started. West Dean is a most excellent place for all sorts of courses. So far, I've done woodwork, framing, lino printing and leaded glass work.

As soon as I came back from West Dean I practiced my mortice and tenon joints since we only had time for a demonstration of how to do these while we were there. I think I got the hang of them.

A table

It was a good job that I had practiced my mortice and tenon joints since one of my first projects was a table which needed eight of them. The reason for making a table rather than buying one was the usual problem of finding a table in a shop of the perfect dimensions.


After marking out with a knife and a marking gauge, saw away most of the wood and finish off with a chisel. You will need to cut off the shoulders of the tenon as well - I don't have a picture of that.


After marking out with a knife and a marking gauge remove the unwanted wood with a chisel.

Top tips:

  1. Mark your chisel with some tape to indicate how deep you want to make the mortice. It's very embarassing to make a hole all the way through your piece of wood.
  2. Place some padding underneath your piece of wood. The chiselling will put a lot of force on it and if it ends up resting against something hard, it will mark unless protected.
... and the final product. BTW the far leg is fixed at right angles to the base. It's just the perspective that makes it look askew (honest).

Trevor the Trebuchet

While on a Belle France cycling holiday in the Perigord I visited Castelnaud which had a full-sized trebuchet from a design by Konrad Kyeser. In the gift shop they were selling models of this. I had to get one.
Note tube of chocolate mini eggs in the first picture - they are the perfect projectile.

Blanket box

My next project was a blanket box. For this, I wrote a separate page.

Art box

A simple box for storing large drawings. You put in pieces of hardboard to act as separators. The box is made of MDF and jointed with biscuit joints.

Clamping a round table

A friend of mine wanted a table repaired. The problem was how to clamp the table since the curved edge made the clamps slip off. The solution was to cut some wood to the correct shape and use them as buffers.


Friends of mine were off to the States and asked me if I wanted some wood they had. These were blocks of mahogany about 3x3x26 cm. I said "Yes, please!". I didn't quite expect to find that there were more than 5000 of these blocks. What's really interesting about these blocks is the variety in the wood. Some are hard and solid, others light and soft. After finishing with a few coats of Danish Oil (and matt varnish for protection), the wood looks quite spectacular.

So what do I do with all these blocks? The original owner was to going to make a big wine rack out of them. Then my friends acquired the blocks and were going to try their hand at parquet flooring. My main use is to join the blocks together with biscuit joints and then make stools and tables from them.

A small table

Tables need longer legs than stools. So if I am to use the blocks for these too, I have to join them together. I also bought a simple lathe that is powered by a standard drill. This is ideal for simple work such as making table legs.

The blocks are not quite the same size. The cross sectional dimension varies from 31 to 33 mm. Initially, I just joined them up and let the sander get them level. This is really tedious and sometimes the blocks don't have square edges, so your "board" is not very flat (unless you sand it to submission).

So some preparation does pay dividends. Since I can't afford a thicknesser and my planing skill is not so good that I can get a perfect 30x30 mm cross section each time, I designed a jig that would fit my hand plane and help me get my desired cross section. In the end I got tired of all the planing, so bought a cheap powered planer and built myself a bigger jig.

Ideally, I still want a thicknesser/planer (and enough room to store all this kit! - the kitchen is not big enough).

Top for rubbish bin

The top of my rubbish bin broke and I couldn't get another red one (needed to match colour scheme of kitchen). So I decided to make one using MDF and some bright red gloss paint. Most people don't realize that it's home made and think that the top is made of plastic.

Yin yang boxes

This is an ongoing project and not a huge success. I joined a number of my blocks together and, using a template, tried to cut out the required shapes using my small bandsaw. To be honest, my bandsaw is not up to much and the blade tends to wander a bit. Many of the mistakes are having to be fixed with filler and much sanding. This is very tedious.

Waste paper bin

I'm very happy with the outcome, but I don't think I'll be doing this again in a hurry. Too much like hard work.

First start with the ubiquitous mahogany blocks. Then split them in half. This time my band saw did come up with the goods, but I did have to make another jig for my power planer to get them all to the same thickness. This also gets rid of the band saw blade marks.
Using a mitre saw, cut each piece in half. This cut should be angled so that the outer edge had a 120° angle. Use the stop on your mitre saw so that each piece is exactly the same length. Using a biscuit jointer, cut slots in the pieces so that they can be aligned properly while being glued.
The first piece has to be glued held together gently by hand, since any form of clamping would make the pieces slip against each other. This is the top piece and doesn't have slots cut into the top edge! Afterwards it's clamps galore!

Remember to alternate the handedness of each layer.

You do this until the last i.e. bottom, layer. Then start sanding the inside. This is a lot easier without the bottom fitted. You would think that with all the pieces being the same width and having used biscuit joints to align the whole thing, that there wouldn't be much sanding to do. Wrong. Things slip during clamping and a lot of awkward sanding is required.

The final layer has a groove cut into the inside part of each of the six pieces. This allows some hardboard to form the bottom. It is quite fiddly to get this in place while trying to glue this final layer onto the rest of the bin.

Round off the edges with a router and then do lots more sanding. Finally apply 2 coats of Danish Oil and some matt varnish to finish off the project.

Another small table

This time it's round.

Segment Table

Light Pulls

Yet another use for the mahogany blocks.

Dafydd Wyn Evans / IoA / dwe@ast.cam.ac.uk
Last update 18 January 2011