bookmark_border“Smallest” Cypress Karabitsu Project

Way back in 2012, I made a regular size karabitsu entirely by hand from cypress 1×12. I developed a set of ratios that enabled me to design a karabitsu based on the width of the wood. The length of the lid is twice the width of the wood, and so on down. Later, I made a small karabitsu out of cypress 1×10, using the same ratios. I decided to make a pair of even smaller karabitsu out of cypress 1×8, planing the wood down to half-inch thickness because I had purchased a planer. I cut all the pieces to length, and started cutting the joinery, but then life intervened. The pieces sat in a box next to my workbench for at least a year. Then we moved. Then the peces sat in a box on my workbench for four years. It was time to complete this project and get these dang things off my workbench.

I cut all the joinery by hand, but I quickly gave up on doing everything by hand. I used a band saw to cut the legs, a router to shape the legs, a sander to smooth out the boxes, and a drill to make holes for the pegs that secure everything. I did decide to use rice paste to assemble the boxes instead of using modern wood glue. I used more hand-mixed blonde shellac for the finish, and now finally these are done.

Two Small Cypress Karabitsu

Here’s an image showing all four karabitsu stacked up, so you can compare sizes:

Four Cypress Karabitsu

I don’t know quite what use I had in mind for these when I started them. They might be useful for carrying one person’s worth of fest gear or something. I’ll have to make some braids for them. At least with two of them, they can balance at either ends of a carrying pole.

bookmark_borderCherry Surplus Box Project

Just in case you are under the impression that everything I do is always perfect, here’s a little project I had to make because I messed up my first try on the Sake Cup Box project. Sometimes I kind of “wing it” on projects, making decisions based on dimensions that are are penciled on cardboard boxes or post-it notes instead of sitting down to draw up formal plans and doing calculations. As you might expect, sometimes this bites me in the butt.

I made this box bottom, then when I tried it out with the dividers to check for size, I realized it was too small. I set it aside while I started over on a new box bottom, kept it aside while I made a lid for the Sake Cup Box, then I made a lid to fit this “surplus” box bottom instead of smashing it to bits in frustration.

Surplus Box Bottom

This time, the top of the lid is made from more strips of cherry, edge-glued together. I am getting tired of seeing this big stack of cherry scants in the shop, so this was a good way to use up a handful of them. The walls are also cherry strips, but I was able to get better glue joints this time, so there is no metal hardware. Hopefully, the whole thing doesn’t wind up smashed to pieces at some point.

Cherry Surplus Box

The floor is maple, resawn and bookmatched, but as this was my first try it is much more uneven than the floor of the Sake Cup Box. In a way, it’s a good thing this one was unusably small because the bottom it’s definitely not as nice.

The whole thing got the same walnut oil finish as the Sake Cup Box, because why not, so it also spent the last month in the drying closet. I’m no entirely sure what I’ll use this box for, but I am sure that I will use it for something. It’s big enough to hold 16 tama and some braiding supplies, and since it obviously matches the Cherry Marudai, maybe that’s what I will use it for.

bookmark_borderSake Cup Box Project

It spent a month in the furo, and now it’s ready to show off. This was one of my big projects last month, and it has been on my to-do list for a while.

Back at the SCA 50-year anniversary event, we purchased a dozen sake cups for a very good price from a merchant. Since a dozen is one box of cups, the merchant threw in the box so we could safely transport the cups home. This was just a cardboard box, so we have been keeping the cups in a plastic bento box ever since. The cardboard dividers between the cups got destroyed at Pennsic last year, so I made some new dividers from cherry, but still sized to fit in the plastic bento. Now, I have made the final box.

The Sake Cup Box

The top of the lid is made from some rough-sawn lumber I salvaged from Mr. Arimoto’s workshop during the restaurant furniture project. The walls of both the lid and the box body are made from off-cut cherry strips from making maurdai. I was having some trouble gluing the strips to the lid and floor pieces, so all the joinery is secured with brass escutcheon pins. This should also make it a little more durable. It’s finished with food-grade walnut oil, which is why it had to spend a month in the drying cabinet. That oil takes a really long time to cure.

Here’s what it looks like with the lid off:

Sake Cups in Box, with Dividers

The dividers are neither glued together, nor are they glued in. If I need this box for something else later, they will lift right out. The floor of the box is some resawn and book-matched maple that I had in the shop. I didn’t have enough or thick enough cherry left over. It started as 4/4 (roughly 1-inch thick) maple, so I resawed it to roughly half-inch thickness, then sanded it smooth and even.

Empty Sake Cup Box

I am really super-happy with the way this came out. It is significantly larger and heavier than the old plastic box, but it is also significantly classier.

bookmark_borderAttack of the Clamps

Making a couple of small karabitsu footed chests, and reached the stage of gluing the body of the chest together.

That’s a dozen clamps

It’s quite possible that if I was just better at cutting joinery, I woould not need quite so many clamps. Also, I’m using rice paste and not carpenter’s wood glue, so it takes hours and hours to dry fully.

Once the paste is dry, I can use pegs to fasten all the joinery, which includes securing the floor of the chest. This is the second of two karabitsu, so later this week I will be able to move on to the sanding phase.

bookmark_borderRosewood Armrest Coaster

Some months ago, in the beforetimes, I made an armrest coaster from walnut. This was nice, and well received, but we decided that another one would be handy. The local Rockler store was getting ready to move, and they had all their exotic lumber on sale. They had this rosewood board left, and Sharon loves rosewood, so into the basket and onto the todo list it went.

Rosewood armrest coaster

There are some cracks in the wood, and i tried filling them, with only limited success. It should not effect the structure, though. Most things about the construction were the same here, except I had to cut my own splines. I should have done that on the band saw instead of on the table saw. A bit of tape to keep the splines from falling into the saw after cutting made this much safer. The gluing went a lot better this time than last time. I guess I was more patient and more practiced. Anyway, here’s what it looks like in situ:

Coaster on armrest

A couple of doses of boiled linseed oil to seal the wood, and it’s ready to use.

bookmark_borderMasu, 1 Shou

Back in October of 2016, when I was in Japan for the TV show, I had a few “free” days in Tokyo when they weren’t shooting video and I could go do whatever I wanted. One of these, I walked from my hotel near the Shiba Daimon Gate up to the Tokyo National Museum, a distance of some three or so miles. One of the displays in the museum that day was a collection of wood and lacquer items. Within that display was a small collection of masu measuring boxes from the 15th century. Ever since that day, I’ve been wanting to recreate at least one of these boxes.

Masu in the TNM

Most people here in the West are familiar with masu as the wooden sake cups one sometimes receives with cold sake in sushi restaurants. That size, is a 1 gou masu. Five of the six masu in the TNM were 1 shou masu. They have ten times the capacity of a sake cup masu. A thousand gou is a year’s supply of rice for one person, called a koku. A shou of rice is about the amount a person might buy in the market for a family.

The way a rice merchant would use a masu is to dig into the rice bushel with the box, and lift out a mounded boxful of rice. Then, drag a rod across the top of the box to level off the measure, much in the same way a baker uses a metal spatula to level off a measure of flour. ! shou of rice is about 1.8 liters, usually described as “about a half gallon”.

Here’s a better picture of just one of the masu in the museum:

Probably the best masu in the collection

This image shows some vital details necessary for recreating this kind of 1 shou masu. The bottom is not captive within the walls, it is applied and extends to the full footprint of the box. This one shows significant wear, rounding off the bottom edges. The joinery at the corners is simple, more or less “box” joints, but with the huge half-height “fingers” I am used to seeing on boxes from this era. Interestingly, the joints “chase” around the box, and all sides are Z-shaped. The joinery is secured with two pegs per finger. The rim of the box is covered in copper strips. These strips keep the top edge of the box from being worn down by the rubbing of the leveling rod. the copper strips appear to be nailed on.

Anyway, it’s taken me some time to get around to completing my masu. First, I had to calculate the measurements needed to achieve the 1.8 liter volume. If I planed down some cedar boards to half-inch thickness, my walls needed to be (amusingly) seven inches long and three inches tall. I’m told that the actual volumes of the masu in this collection vary significantly, but whatever. I started working probably two years ago, ut the planed boards sat on my workbench until recently. I even got some sheet copper and cut it into strips, and that sat waiting too. My copper is about half as thick as the strips in the museum masu, and I think that the walls of the boxes may be thinner, but I do what I can. I was able to cut all the joinery by hand, and hand-drill the holes for the pegs using a yotsume kiri gimlet. I glued everything together with rice-paste glue, which may or may not be authentic, but is certainly closer than if I’d used wood glue.

Anyway, here’s my masu with its measuring rod:

I was even able to get copper-plated nails to attached the strips. It feels so good to finally complete this project after all this time. This kind of common object is the kind of thing my SCA persona would have been familiar with as a mundane object in the marketplace, so it helps me complete the mental picture of what his world was like. I can now hold in my hands something I’d previously only seen behind glass in a museum.

bookmark_borderBackpack Slipcase

I have these two things that I have been carrying around in my backpack for years, One is a slim plastic pencil case for miscellaneous adapters and cables. The other is a small Bluetooth keyboard for when I have serious typing to do on my phone. These coexist fairly well in some backpacks, but in others they just slide on top of each other and take up way too much space. I needed to make something that would hold them vertical, yet still make it easy to grab one or the other and pull it from my bag without having to undo fasteners.

The faces, once again, are thing plywood from the scrap pile. The dividers, and the floor you can’t really see, are half-inch by 1.25″ trimmings from 2×4. I have a bundle of these sticks from making the stands for the 7-Pearls Banner Project. Quick work to cut everything to size on the band saw, glue in place, then secure with brads from the nail gun. (This Ryobi cordless electric nail gun is probably one of the most useful tools I have ever bought from them. This model is a little finnicky, and they don’t sell it any more. I haven’t tried the newer models.)

The only fancy thing about this slipcase, besides its 100% custom nature, are the grab slots I cut to make it easier to actually grab the items. The keyboard box sticks up, but the pencil case totally disappears inside. If I ever stop using the cardboard box for that keyboard, its slot will be more necessary. Here is the slip case in my backpack:

Slipcase in Backpak

I’ve been wanting this for a while, so I’m glad I finally made some time to get this done.

bookmark_borderBand Saw Box

All my spare blades for the band saw have been sitting in an inadequate CocaCola crate for years. This state of affairs was becoming more and more untenable when I was switching blades back and forth during the shogi project. While I was waiting for some glue to dry on a more central project, I decided to rectify that.

Band Saw box on Band Saw Table

The faces are some 3/16″ plywood from the scrap pile. The sides and floor of the box are some 3/8″ plywood from the scrap pile. Some of these utility projects are basically just ways for me to justify having kept around these massive quantities of scrap lumber for so long. The whole thing is just glued together with butt joints and pinned with 18gauge brads from the nail gun. One slightly fancy thing about this box are the two finger holes that make it easier to pick up the box.

Anyway, the interior is a little larger than 12″ wide, by 6″ deep. This gives me plenty of room to slide in the blister cards that Lowes sells 93.5″ band saw blades on. Another slightly fancy thing is a bracket for holding the miter gauge. It’s always a challenge finding someplace to put that thing when I’m no t using it. You can see how nicely this box fits on the band saw table, making it difficult for these two items to get separated.

Some months ago, I reorganized the shop a bit to make it easier to get to the band saw. At the old house, the band saw was set up in the middle of the basement and was always available for little things like making useful boxes. I’m so glad I have this saw back where I can use it easily without having to move other stuff out of the way.

bookmark_borderTill for Stanley Chisels

A long time ago, I bought a set of six Stanley chisels on sale for $25. They came in a molded plastic case that was very handy for taking them places, but kind of inconvenient to have in a tool chest drawer. Recently, one of the latches broke off the case, and since these chisels rarely leave the house anyway, I decided to make a divided till to hold them.

Chisel Till in the Chisels and Scrapers Drawer

The floor of the till is some thin plywood from the scrap pile. The chisel handles are about 1.25″, so some 3/4″ thick 3/8″ wide scraps from the bin made good edges and dividers. These are glued in place, and then secured with 5/8″ x 18 gauge brads from the nail gun. The rail that supports the chisels blades is just some miscellaneous trimming from a 2×4 or something. It’s just glued in place since it’s not at risk of getting ushed over or anything.

Anyway, i’m pretty happy with it. We’ll see how well it does over time, but i think it will be fine. I actually worked on four things today, but this is the only one I completed, so cheers to it.

bookmark_borderIn the Furo

A furo is a “drying cabinet”. It’s where you put urushi lacquered objects to keep them warm and humidified until the lacquer has fully cured. Depending on the type of lacquer, this could take a number of weeks. In my case “furo” is actually short for “furnace room”, which is a nice warm room in the house that also contains the hot water heater.

I’ve been working on a couple of wooden box projects, and I decided to finish them with walnut oil. Walnut oil is a drying oil (like boiled linseed oil), but it contains no chemical drying agents like BLO does and is food safe. The down side is that it takes about a month to cure, so I can’t show these boxes as finished projects for some time.

Boxes in the furo

Both boxes are constructed primarily of 1/4″ cherry scants. These are off-cuts from trimming down the legs of the two cherry marudai I made. The floors of both boxes are bookmatched resawn maple. The floor of the smaller box is the result of trying to make the larger box and having it come out a little small due to lack of planning. The lid of the smaller box is more 1/4″ cherry that has been edge-glued into a single panel. The lid of the larger box is 3/4″ rough-sawn cherry salvaged from the scrap pile at Mr. Arimoto’s shop. Once the oil went on the raw surface of the cherry, the whole thing went deep and beautiful.

I’m going to try to resist the urge to peek in on them constantly. We’ll see how they look in a month.