Custom Box to Protect a Portable Winch

Progress on the 21st Century Writing Desk was put on hold while I built a customized wooden box to protect an expensive piece of equipment for a friend in the tree business. (This kind of friend is good to have if you’re a woodworker!)

He had recently acquired a portable winch which, while seemingly well-made, contained a number of parts that were liable to get bent or broken in the back of a truck. To further compound the issue, the winch wasn’t particularly stable, and it didn’t take much imagination to see it tipping over when turning a corner.

The objective was to make a sturdy, but lightweight box to protect it in transit. Function was first priority, and it didn’t have to look particularly nice or involve fancy joinery.

I started by milling Douglas fir, which he had provided, down to roughly 1/2″ thick and ripped the boards to a uniform width of 4-1/2″. I cut them to length which resulted in an inside dimension of about 16-1/2″.

Using 4 mm Domino floating tenons, I reinforced the butt joints and assembled four boxes measuring 4-1/2″ x 17-1/2″ x 17-1/2″ in a pinwheel fashion where one end of each board was exposed.

Custom Winch Box Open

I didn’t want to rely on the Dominos to hold the box together, so I stacked and glued the layers in a way that interlocked them. The edge-to-edge glue joints were plenty strong, and with the Domino joints interlocking between the layers, there was no way the box was going to come apart.

Simple Interlocking Joinery

To install the top and bottom of the box, I used simple battens attached to the sides of the box above and below the floating panels. I then worked out the shapes and sizes of a few strategically placed blocks that supported the winch and allowed it to be easily lowered in or removed.

Custom Winch Box Top

I trimmed out the box with strap hinges, draw latches, a rope lid stay and rope handles.

Custom Winch Box Closed

Lastly, I added skid feet to help protect the box and allow it to slide more easily into the back of a truck.

This was a simple design with a simple purpose.

I made a custom box for a torque wrench a couple years ago, too.

Don’t be a Wing Nut

Don’t be a wing nut – wear them!

No self-respecting woodworker dresses up with off-the-shelf accessories. Add some flair to your wardrobe with these custom-made cuff links featuring stainless steel wing nuts.

I made the first pair myself a few years ago, and I am always looking for an excuse to use them.

$50 + $10 shipping and handling within North America (contact me for rush or international shipping).

Click here to order.

Cuff Links

21st Century Writing Desk – Designing the Base

So, with the top done, my next step was to design a suitable base for it. I went to my computer and started playing with designs.

I had an idea for a base that consisted of a pair of rectangular frames and cross members. However, none of the variations that looked good to me.

Slim, tapered legs looked much more fitting.

21st Century Writing Desk10 Because the legs were so thin and delicate, stretchers were added to provide additional strength and stability.
21st Century Writing Desk11

A rear stretcher provided further resistance to racking and flexing.

21st Century Writing Desk12

I wasn’t happy with the placement of the rear stretcher in relation to the side stretchers, so I lowered it to the same level. Arranging the stretchers like this presented some challenges with intersecting joinery in the legs, and I wanted to maximize strength while minimizing the size of the components.

21st Century Writing Desk14

Lowering the rear stretcher another 3/4″ gave the joinery more strength, but it wasn’t enough.

21st Century Writing Desk15

Positioning the rear stretcher 1-1/4″ below the side stretchers seemed to provide a good balance of aesthetics and strength (room for joinery).

21st Century Writing Desk13

The last change I made was to reduce the height of the aprons that support the table top, as seen in these last three images.

21st Century Writing Desk18a 21st Century Writing Desk18c 21st Century Writing Desk18b

I’m happy enough with the design to start building, but there are absolutely no guarantees that the finished table will look like the one in the drawings!  Stay tuned…

21st Century Writing Desk – Making the Top

Last week, I saw a picture of a roof top that resembled a wave.

House with wave roof by Jules Gregory

House with wave roof by Jules Gregory

The roof prompted me to ponder the question: does a tabletop really need to be flat? Running with that notion, I carved this maple sample, dyed it black and waxed it to increase the sheen.

Carved Sample

I was really pleased with the sample, (and so was everyone to whom I showed it) so I decided to use the carved pattern on a table top. I glued together two mahogany boards and began carving texture into the panel using a #7/10 gouge.

Carved Panel1

The surface felt so good under my fingertips.

Carved Panel2

After two-and-a-half hours of carving, I had completed the 12″ x 25″ panel. During that time I did a lot of thinking (and tweeting). I came up with the idea of calling it the 21st Century Writing Desk.

Carved Panel3

So, with the top done, my next step was to design a suitable base for it. I went to my computer and started playing with designs.

End Grain Yew Cribbage Boards, Part 1

Earlier this week, I began work on a new cribbage board. The section of Pacific yew didn’t look like much at first.

Pacific Yew Log

I wanted to include this protrusion.

Keep this Limb

And wanted to exclude this chainsaw cut.

Exclude this Chainsaw Cut

I screwed a straight piece of wood on to one end of the material and used a scrap of wood to angle it parallel to my desired cut line.


Since the screws bowed the once-straight piece of wood, I used a handplane to restraighten it.

Straightening Fence

I set my bandsaw to make the cut furthest from the screwed-on fence.

Ready to Band Saw

This was the result of the first cut.

First Cut

And this was the result of the second cut after repositioning the fence.  At least the bottom cut was flat.

Second Cut

I sanded the top side smooth with 80-grit abrasive.

Top Sanded

I mixed up some West Systems epoxy to fill some of the voids. After mixing, I set it aside for about half an hour to thicken.

IMG_20150913_123427942Although most of the bark came off quite easily, a few stubborn pieces didn’t want to let go. I carefully used a block of wood and a mallet to remove them.

Removing Bark

While waiting for the epoxy to further thicken, I decided to cut a second cribbage board from one of the off-cuts.


I then sanded the more attractive side smooth with 80-grit abrasive and placed the two pieces face side up on some brown paper to protect my bench from any drips of epoxy.

Two Cribbage Boards

Using a spatula, I carefully applied the epoxy to the areas I wanted to solidify, focusing on small checks.

Epoxy Applied

Then I waited for the epoxy to dry.

By the way, I shared my progress live on Twitter, using hashtag #FlairWW.  Follow me @FlairWoodworks.

Making a Long-Blade Marking Knife

A couple of years ago while working on a chair, I found myself needing to lay out the position of the seat slats on the centre rail, which was basically a cross-lap joint. Normally, I’d use my marking knife for this operation, but due to the thickness of the components, my marking knife wasn’t able to reach.

So I grabbed an old chisel and quickly ground a spear point on the end to make my marks, then proceeded to complete the project.

Recently, Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement hosted a hand tool build-off on their forum called Building Together: Hand Tools. I decided to make a long-bladed marking knife to complement my two short marking knives (shown on left of photo).

Marking Knives

I think that at some point, somebody used the chisel with a steel hammer without a handle in the socket, so the inside taper had a lip. Since I wanted a handle for the marking knife, I started by filing the taper smooth.

Filing Taper

I lapped the back on my 120-grit diamond stone, which was my coarsest.

Lapping Back

I applied blue layout fluid to the back of the knife and used my regular woodworking tools to lay out the shape of the knife point.


With my bench grinder’s tool rest at 90 degrees, I ground the profile of the knife. Then, I tilted the tool rest and ground the bevels.

Grinding Profile

I selected a piece of dogwood with interesting grain and mounted it on the lathe.

Blank Ready to Turn

I turned a taper on the end, and test-fit it frequently with the knife socket.  By rotating the handle in the socket, I was able to see where it was rubbing.  I removed those parts and kept checking the fit until the parts mated well.

I used an existing handle for shaping inspiration.

Shaping HandleI shaped the handle and sanded it up to 180-grit on the lathe. At this point, I used a hand saw to cut off the handle and hand-sanded the end.

Parting-Off Handle

I applied a coat of oil to bring out the grain.

Finished Handle

To complete the knife, I removed tarnish from the blade with a Rust Eraser, lapped the back of the blade to 600-grit, and ground the bevels flat (mostly for aesthetic reasons).  I finished sharpening the knife with a leather strop charged with honing compound.

Long Marking Knife


How to Perfectly Assemble Mitre Joints

In my last Craftsy blog post, I covered techniques to cut perfect mitres. If you’ve ever made a mitred joint before, you probably discovered that cutting them accurately can be finicky, but assembling them was downright agonizing.

However, with a couple of tricks and the right clamping tools on hand, and some practice, assembling mitres can be a smooth and stressless process. I also describe various fixes for common cosmetic problems where the two parts meet.

Read Frame-Worthy Work: How to Perfectly Assemble Miter Joints on the Craftsy blog.

How to Assemble Perfect Mitre Joints

Sadly, this is my final article for Craftsy, as they have decided to abandon woodworking indefinitely. I will still, of course, be posting regularly here on my blog. Have you subscribed yet?

Cut Perfect Mitre Joints

Early on, I regarded mitre joints as difficult and finicky, so I often used other joinery that I could execute more easily (even dovetails) instead. But once I figured out a good process for making mitre joints, I found them to be no more difficult than other joinery, and certainly quicker than dovetails!

My latest article for the Craftsy blog explains the steps that I take to cut perfect mitre joints, as well as things to watch for that can cause you problems.

Read Cut Perfect Miter Joints in 3 Steps on the Craftsy blog.

Craftsy - Cut Perfect Mitre Joints

A Relaxing Day Off on Canada Day

Today, I’m doing whatever I please
so I set up my horses under the trees.

My workpiece is happy, content in the shade –
these perfect conditions I wouldn’t dare trade.

Finish goes on easily. I’m in no rush;
I make slow, deliberate strokes with my brush.

The urethane flows nicely and quickly dries
before it bears witness to footprints of flies.

I’m almost done now and the sun is quite near
so I clean up my brush, then head for a beer.