Hatchet Woodworking

Ever since watching Roy Underhill hacking up logs with a hatchet on The Woodwright’s Shop, I’ve wanted to try my hand at it. Last summer, after two ash trees on my property succumbed to the ash borer and had to be cut down, I had plenty of wood to work with. I made this carving mallet out of one section of a limb.

Not the prettiest tool I ever made, but she does the job.
Not the prettiest tool I ever made, but she does the job.

Carving mallets are cylindrical, and made for driving chisels and gouges through wood. The idea is to allow the carver to work without constantly looking at his or her mallet, since it doesn’t matter which direction it is facing. They are usually turned on a lathe, but I don’t own one, nor did I want to pay thirty bucks for a mallet I could hack out of a log in my back yard. What I came up with won’t win and beauty contests, but it’s strong, being made from a single piece of wood.

The hatchet.
The hatchet.

I love the idea of making something with a single tool. It’s one reason I’m also attracted to whittling. In this case, truth be told, I actually used two tools. After roughing out the mallet with the hatchet, I did shape it some with a draw knife. Still, making something with just two tools isn’t too shabby either.

My drawknife.
My drawknife.

img_20170302_205915563_croppedYou can find lots of good videos on YouTube if you’re interested in carving with a hatchet. Here’s a good one on carving spoons that I drew inspiration from. It’s amazing how much control you can develop and what you can make with not much more than a hatchet.



My First Cigar Box Guitar

I kept a couple of cigar boxes on hand for years (please don’t ask how many) with the idea of making cigar box guitars out of them. I finally got around to it in early 2016. I used an article in Make: as my guide (available here online).

My first cigar box guitar
My first cigar box guitar

While I love to scrounge up cast-offs for my projects, I had to buy some new materials for this one, including guitar tuners, a stick of 1×2 oak, some fret wire, guitar strings, and the hinge I used for the tailpiece. Other parts, like the twig I used for a bridge, the nut (a bolt – ha ha!), and the box itself. I added a homemade piezoelectric pickup made from a buzzer element, which worked fantastically.

I had some trouble with the action being high, which is good for playing slide guitar, of course, but less good when you’re fingering. For the next iteration, I might experiment with angling the neck relative to the soundboard, kind of like a violin. But all in all, it sounds pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I donated this one to a charity auction, so I don’t have it anymore. But I do know its owner. Before I let it go, though, I had a chance to record a snippet of music. Love that edgy cigar box sound!

My DIY Cat Tree

What the heck to do with all that scrap wood? That’s been the question on my mind lately, as my garage space gradually gives way to more and more stacked wood of all sizes. Most of it is cheap plywood and dimensional pine of various sizes, so it’s not like I’m going to make any fine furniture with it. But how about a fine cat tree?


As is often the case, I credit my lovely wife with this idea. Taking her suggestion as an excuse to go out to the garage and start rummaging around (after a quick browse for design ideas on instructables.com), and I realized that along with lumber, there were enough shag carpet remnants lying around to make a fine tree. I also made use of a length of pvc that has been sitting around here for years.

I bought the manila rope to wrap around the vertical structure, but everything else came from the scrap heap. I used 150 feet of rope and it still didn’t go all the way up to the top. I decided to paint the pipe in order to avoid buying more rope.

A successful test prior to final finishing

The build went quickly, and the cats love it. If I had it to do again, I might make the base wider. The whole contraption is a little wobbly when a cat is moving on the upper steps, but it hasn’t been enough to deter them and I don’t feel there is a danger of it tipping.

Materials used included scrap half inch chipboard, a 2×4, some 1×4, a scrap pvc pipe, carpet remnants, drywall screws, and lots of staples. I bent the pipe using a heat gun. I used the 1.4s at the bottom of the pillar to stabilize. Otherwise the 2×4 had a tendency to sway a little too easily. The rope is 3/8″ manilla. I had to buy 150′ and that still wasn’t quite enough, but it makes for a great scratching post and seems durable. I painted the pipe with some paint I had on hand rather than buy more rope.

A Wind Chime made from a Floor Lamp

chimeSo the lamp died after being tripped over one too many times. I tried to fix the cracked bulb housing, but it was one of those things you can’t buy unless you buy a whole new lamp to go with it. As I unscrewed the pieces, they started clanking against one another very musically. My lovely wife suggested that they could be made into a wind chime, and that was all the prodding I needed.

I found some good info online, including this one. I also copied a smaller chime we had at the house. I found the pendulum at Goodwill and cut some hexagons out of scrapwood from the garage.


At this point I’m still playing around with the position of the pendulum, which is why you might notice a trailing end of string. This was the first really breezy day we’ve had in a while, and it made some music, but not a whole lot. I’m thinking of making the string longer to see if that will make the chime more excitable.

lampHere’s a picture of a lamp just like the one I used, except it’s a different color. I think both of these originally came from Target, though the one I just cannabalized was yet another Goodwill find.