Ebony Dowels & Sharpening Concerns

Like all of us that work with wood and hand tools, maintaining a sharp edge on our tools is critical.  Through the years I’ve gone from oil stones and no jigs to water stones plus using jigs, and now diamond stones.  On the latest project where I retrofitted shelves into an antique armoire for a client I needed to bring that shelf edging flush with the pre-finished Birch plywood — sharp block plane ideal for that, however; the blade wasn’t quite sharp enough!  I’ve had Lee Valley’s Mk. II honing jig/guide for more years than I can remember and it’s always worked well for me.  Occasionally a plane blade would move a bit but it wasn’t a major issue.  However, it became an issue when sharpening this blade!  No matter how tightly those knobs were the blade shifted and was no longer square in the guide.  I looked at the guide very closely and here’s what I saw — a huge gap!  I was afraid it was time to invest another hundred bucks or so to replace it but decided to see if there was a way to re-align the holder.  After taking a block of wood and fitting it between the studs to protect them I was able to put it into a machinists vise and remove the gap.

So what caused this?  My thoughts are that when putting chisels, especially narrow ones in the guide that bar is bent when you tighten down.  I’d noticed that chisels especially tended to move in the guide no matter how tightly I cramped those knobs.  That’s why in June of 2015 I purchased the Narrow Blade Holder accessory Lee Valley came out with, p/n 05m09.09.  If you experience the Mk.II slipping check the gap!

Banded Shelves for Armoire

Once sharpened the plane worked great to level the banding on these shelves.  This was an interesting job.  Shelves are about 36″ long so did a tongue and groove banding on the front and back for strength.  After notching the corners they will fit into the antique style of sawtooth, adjustable shelf supports.  It was obvious to me that these had been cut by hand since each was slightly different.  Sharp chisel trimmed each support as needed.  My client was told the Armoire came from France.

The latest picture frame to be completed is this one for the painting titled:  When the Rooster Crows by Diane Eugster.   Love the painting, it’s one she did from a recent photo shoot in our backyard.

Australian Lacewood was chosen to not only compliment the over-all palette of the painting but also the texture of her brush work.  Notice that the bottom of the frame has more of those beautiful flecks and rays of the lacewood pattern and diminishes as it goes up which is the same as in the painting.

Creating the Octagon in doweling jig

The pegs are made from some of the Ebony keys reclaimed for a recent box commission.  The process starts by drawing the circle on the end of the key.  This gives me a reference point to begin planing the corners to create an octagon.  The piece is held in what I call a doweling jig.  It’s a simple bench stop design made of MDF with a V cut into it to hold the piece.  There is a piece inlaid at the end that acts as a stop.

After cutting the end with the dowel plate

After planing as closely as possible to the circle drawn on the end, the piece is started into the dowel plate to give an even better guide to plane to.  On smaller diameter dowels you can use a pencil sharpener to point the end of your piece.



Pounding through the L-N dowel plate


Once you get the piece as close as you can it’s time to pound it through the dowel plate.  I use a Lie-Nielsen one that I’ve inlaid into this block.  Just a side note, the block has holes that are slightly larger than the dowel being made.  This helps keep them aligned.  Ebony was a tough wood to turn into dowels this way, kind of wish I had a small lathe!  If you’re interested, I made a video of this process some time ago, here’s a LINK.


Wow, it’s mid-May; keep making sawdust!!

About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WoodworksbyJohn?ref=si_shop Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
This entry was posted in custom profile, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Picture Frames, Tool Sharpening and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ebony Dowels & Sharpening Concerns

  1. Jeff Branch says:

    I’ve never used Australian lacewood but I am going to try it ASAP. Beautiful work as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your compliment Jeff, the Lacewood is neat; some who’ve seen it thought at first that it was leather! You probably saw the blog where I mentioned cutting the mortise and tenon joints and mentioned those pesky little slivers it’ll give you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Making Custom Frames Summarized | Woodworks by John

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