My Tripot: Shaping the Exterior

Fascinated with the form of the tripot, and interested to see what was involved in making one, I have started my own. I couldn’t think of a better way to understand and appreciate it than to make one myself.

Loosely following an article in Woodwork by Hugh McKay on his process of making a pentapot (five vessels in one), I began work on my own.

First, I played around with a sheet of paper and a compass to lay out the overall sizes of the three vessels for my tripot. I wanted their diameters to be significantly different for interest. Since most of the shaping is done on the lathe, I knew that I needed the other two pots to clear the lathe bed when any one was mounted on centres. That limited the overall size of the piece I could make. I figured that it was also important that the three pots meet in the middle, and for the walls to not overlap so much that, when hollowing them out, the cavities would meet.

Once I had a layout that met my criteria, I transferred it to a piece of 1/4” MDF which became my template. I’m not sure this was really necessary, but it was one of the steps McKay used in the creation of his pots (the template did help me when I needed to start again… more on that later).

I chose a chunk of black locust about 8” thick. At the bandsaw, I squared up the blank, ensuring both ends were parallel to each other. I carefully positioned my template on the end grain, avoiding any checks, bark, or knots that could have compromised the strength of the tripot.  With a short screw in the centre of each circle representing a pot, I fastened the template to the black locust. Carefully, I cut to the lines using my bandsaw.

Next, I determined how tall to make each pot. I had to remember to accommodate for some chucking wastage at one end, where the screws would go in to hold the face plate. Again, following the recommendation of McKay, I used a drill press and forstner bit to remove the bulk of the waste. Boring into the end grain of a hard wood was not quick, and the results were not especially clean, with stalagmites and brad point divots abounding. I quickly cleaned up the resulting surface with a hand saw and chisels.

To profile the exterior, the pot could not be simply spun on the lathe and a gouge be presented to the work unless you were impossibly good at quickly applying and removing the tool as the other two vessels off-axis came around at you. Instead, shaping is done with a router with the work mounted on an unplugged lathe. This required some jigging.

I created a plywood platform that got mounted to the lathe bed. For my smallest router, which I had chosen to use for the shaping, I built a cradle to hold it securely in line with the lathe’s axis when resting on the platform. Lastly, I cut a template for the router to follow.

For a clean cut, ease of control, and long reach, I chose to mount a 1/4” up-spiral solid carbide router bit in the trim router. With a pot screwed to a faceplate and mounted on the lathe, I used the router to estimate where to position the template to remove the minimum amount of material, while creating a fully shaped vessel without flat spots. I clamped the template with a pair of clamps and got ready to start routing.

My left hand was on the wheel controlling the rotation of the lathe, and my right hand moved the router on the platform. Taking shallow bites, I slowly worked my way around the pot as far as I could. It took patience and focus to take only small bites, and to keep the router firmly on the platform. Several times, the router caught, tipped forward, and ended up carving deep holes in the side of the pot, requiring me to re-adjust the template to remove the divots. In the end, I ended up deciding that there was not going to be enough material left to make it worth continuing.

I started again. This is where that template came in handy. I simply screwed it to a new piece of locust and cut it out again at the bandsaw. After determining the height of the pots, I cut across the tops of the pots with a coarse handsaw, then split away the waste with a chisel and mallet. This was much quicker and cleaner than using a forstner bit.

At the lathe, I took the shaping process much more cautiously. Analyzing my previous failure, I realized that I would have a better chance of success if I: clamped the router to the platform to avoid tipping; didn’t use a spiral bit to prevent the bit from wanting to pull itself into the work; used a router bit with a short cutting length and a bearing to keep the cutting part from engaging with the other two vessels; and screwed the template securely to the platform. I took all these precautions for the second attempt.

In this video, I describe my setup, and demonstrate the shaping method.

My process worked well, and the extra precautions I took were worth the effort.

After routing all three pots as much as I could, there were a few spots that the router couldn’t access. I cleaned those up with skew chisels and carving gouges.

Next up: hollowing!

Make a Polygon Marking Gauge

Heptagonal Marking Gauge

Wheel marking gauges are great layout tools, but their round face means the tool has an annoying tendency to roll, which sometimes results in finding it on the floor with a chipped cutter. By reshaping the outside profile of the tool’s face, it stays put and adds a touch of flair.

This simple improvement takes about 30 minutes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Buy, download and print the Polygon Marking Gauge Template ($4 CAD) on a sheet of letter-sized paper;
  2. Select between the heptagon, octagon, and nonagon (7-, 8- and 9-sided polygons) and cut it out, staying safely outside the template;
  3. Cut a hole in the centre of the template slightly larger than the wheel of your marking gauge with a sharp brad-point bit or hole punch, using the concentric circles as a guide;
  4. Separate the marking gauge head from the other components, if possible;
  5. Adhere the template to the face of your wheel marking gauge with spray adhesive or double-sided tape using the concentric circles in the middle of the jig and trim any paper extending beyond the face of the gauge;
  6. Shape the face to the desired profile with a metal file or a stationary disc or belt sander. Note that you do not need to remove material up to the lines – having an even distance from each line is enough to ensure an even profile:
    1. If using a file, clamp the gauge head in a vise and file one facet at a time, rotating the head after completing each facet;
    2. If using a stationary sander, hold the gauge face-down on the machine’s table set at 90-degrees to the abrasive. Work slowly, checking your progress frequently and being mindful of the potential heat build-up;
  7. Remove the paper template and soften the resulting sharp edges with a file or fine sandpaper; and
  8. Check that there are no stray filings or other bits of metal inside the marking gauge head before reassembling your wheel marking gauge.

That’s it! I love the look of my polygon marking gauge, and how it doesn’t roll around on my bench (or off my bench!) It’s an easy modification that sees an immediate improvement. I encourage you to give this a try. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have, and send me pictures of your completed gauge heads!

Maple Trestle Table, Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top; and
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop and starting off by routing the edge with a template bit to make the table’s edge square and even. #flairww -10:40 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The danger of bits with shank-mounted bearing is that the bit can be tipped into the workpiece. #flairww -10:42 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

atully1 @FlairWoodworks what’d you decide on the cavity? -10:43 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Nothing yet. RT @atully1: @FlairWoodworks what’d you decide on the cavity? -10:47 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ll leave that gouge alone for now because I still haven’t decided how I’m going to profile the edge. #flairww -10:47 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s amazing how the grain glows! #flairww-11:04 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve turned the slabs over and planed away some of the rough surface to see what’s underneath. #flairww -11:33 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve decided that I’ll use countertop connectors to hold the two slabs together and allow the table to be taken apart for ease of moving. #flairww -11:35 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to establish two flat areas on the bottom for battens to keep the tabletop flat. #flairww -11:36 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Lunch time! #flairww -11:54 AM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Back from lunch. Today, lunch meant mowing the front lawn, repairing a bicycle tire, visiting with my uncle, and eating a cookie. #flairww -2:24 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

GenWoodworks @FlairWoodworks well at least you got to eat something … Lol -2:26 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks That was a good cookie! #flairww RT @GenWoodworks: @FlairWoodworks well at least you got to eat something … Lol -2:26 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to make a template from this piece of plywood to rout the flat surface for the batten. #flairww -2:30 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I installed a template guide and straight bit in my router and measured the offset. #flairww -2:40 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks With this dimension known, I can figure out how much wider to make the template. #flairww -2:40 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I ripped the plywood into three strips, the middle one being the width of the slot, then cut off the ends. #flairww -2:51 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I installed a 6mm bit and cut mortises for Domino tenons. #flairww -3:03 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I like how the Domino tenons fit snugly so I don’t even have to glue the template together. #flairww -3:04 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Pocket holes would also work. *GASP!* #flairww -3:04 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

Tooltutor what IS the stigma with pocket holes? Is it “cheating”? RT“@FlairWoodworks: Pocket holes would also work. *GASP!* #flairww” -3:06 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Well, it’s not Festool. It’s also not wood joinery. RT@Tooltutor: what IS the stigma with pocket holes? Is it “cheating”? #flairww”-3:07 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

DyamiPlotke @Tooltutor @FlairWoodworks let there be no shame with pocket screws. -3:12 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve got the jig set up and placed shims under the router before bottoming the bit to set the depth. #flairww -3:14 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Here’s the first pocket done. #flairww-3:20 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

DyamiPlotke: @FlairWoodworks what’s the pocket for? -3:25 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s for a batten on the underside of the table. The legs attach to it too. #flairww RT @DyamiPlotke: what’s the pocket for? -3:26 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

DyamiPlotke @FlairWoodworks ah. You’re recessing the batten for aesthetics? -3:29 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Mostly to get a truly flat surface. #flairww RT @DyamiPlotke: @FlairWoodworks ah. You’re recessing the batten for aesthetics? -3:29 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The two battens may actually be the most important part of this table. #flairww -3:31 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I needed to roughly flatten the area before clamping down the template. #flairww http://t.co/1lof2pNE -3:35 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Okay, I need some actual lunch now. #flairww -3:47 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

prevailingcity @FlairWoodworks I’m loving seeing this thing come together. -10:26 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks for that, Jake! RT @prevailingcity: @FlairWoodworks I’m loving seeing this thing come together. -10:26 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

WVWoodshed This is excellent! I am really enjoying the tweets, blog entries and project photos a lot!!! Thanks!!!!! -11:23 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Glad to hear it! RT @WVWoodshed: This is excellent! I am really enjoying the tweets, blog entries and project photos a lot!!! Thanks!!!!! -11:24 PM Apr 22nd, 2012

What’s next?  Why, Session 6 of course!

Maple Trestle Table, Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring; and
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop! #flairww -10:39 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I swept the shavings from my surfacing session into a pile.#flairww -11:09 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I started laying out possible feet for the trestle table, but I need to first determine the width of the top. #flairww -11:24 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s no fun lifting the slabs onto sawhorses by myself so I cleared the floor. #flairww -11:28 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I laid down strips of wood on which to lay the slabs and allow clearance for my fingers! #flairww -11:29 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I must be crazy to be building such a large table in my shop.#flairww -11:33 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I need to cut the pieces to join them together so they look something like this. #flairww -11:39 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks As much as I like the continuation of the main bole, it would make seating awkward. #flairww -11:43 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The drawing bow is a great tool. The strap holds the curvature. I just wish I had a longer one. #flairww -11:44 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I hold down the drawing bow with one hand and transfer its shape with a pencil in the other. #flairww -11:47 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I work one short section at a time to avoid flexing the drawing bow with pressure from the pencil. #flairww -11:48 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks A pencil line can be hard to see so I draw a squiggly line on the waste side using the drawing bow as a stop. #flairww -11:49 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Standard jigsaw blades aren’t long enough to cut these 2-1/2″-thick slabs so I bought longer blades. #flairww -11:56 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The black blade is about 1/4″ too short. I have to use the loooong blade which is 6-3/4″ long overall. #flairww -11:59 AM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I elevated the slab using I-beams (H-beams if you’re French) to provide clearance for the blade. #flairww -12:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I got the idea of I-beams from my buddy Serge. He’s said to be the most prolific tipster! Serge’s blog#flairww -12:07 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m not sue why, but I’m a little nervous about this cut. Here goes! #flairww -12:10 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I decided to redraw the cut line with a black marker before making the cut. I feel a little less nervous now. #flairww -12:16 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One cut down… #flairww -12:24 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I pretty much ignored my layout lines and just cut a smooth curve. #flairww -12:27 PM Apr 19th, 2012

(I recorded this video to show what a cut in 2-1/4″ thick Western maple is like.  I used a Festool Trion PS 300 EQ Jigsaw which draws 6 amps with a Trion S145/4FSG blade set for a maximum orbital stroke for a quick cut.  Duration – 0:55)

FlairWoodworks This is the bade after one cut. The teeth at the very top are a little blue from heat build up. #flairww -12:30 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The saw seemed to cut more slowly with it set for a full orbital stroke than none at all. #flairww -12:32 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My curve was pretty even except for this bump. #flairww -12:35 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It was at the bump that my cut was the most out of square. I’m not sure what happened there. #flairww -12:37 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I broke a blade. I have no idea why I broke. The cut seemed to be going fine. Any ideas? #flairww -12:55 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks your lucky you have a festool jigsaw, if you had a normal one that “out of square” would have looked like a 30 degree bevel! -12:50 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster My old jigsaw didn’t even have enough power to cut 2″ maple. #flairww -12:57 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha!! I take back my comment about the saw cutting more slowly on full orbital than none… I read the scale backwards. #flairww-12:59 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks heat weakened metal? -1:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I don’t think so. It didn’t bend, it broke. It’s still as straight as an arrow. RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks heat weakened metal? -1:06 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks why does it look so black right above the break -1:08 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I believe that is from the carbide guides. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks why does it look so black right above the break -1:09 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks ohhhh… then I’m clueless -1:11 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks so does this mean your S.O.L until you get a new one? -1:12 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I bought a pack of 5 for $30. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks so does this mean your S.O.L until you get a new one? -1:16 PM Apr 19th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks Im that Guy that would only buy 1 and then be running back out after it broke #lame -1:20 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I got interrupted by a half-hour phone call. Back at work now.#flairww -1:40 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is coming along nicely! #flairww -1:48 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m working on designing and building a jig to cut the joints. The plywood pieces will serve as the guides. #flairww -2:03 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Pretty nice-looking for a quick and dirty jig. #flairww -2:15 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m set up to joint the first mating surface of this slab.#flairww -2:35 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is a better angle at which to work. #flairww -2:37 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Oops. I forgot that I had planned to use the jig and a template bit in a router to joint the mating surfaces. #flairww -2:49 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My biggest template bit isn’t long enough to make the cut in one pass. #flairww -2:56 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks This is as far as I can work with the router. I’ll finish by hand. #flairww -3:02 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I could remove the plywood to gain more depth, but it is my reference surface and the angle of the router might change without it. #flairww -3:03 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I forgot to close the drawer before routing. I also “forgot” to use a Festool router with dust collection. #flairww -3:05 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m using a chisel to pare away the waste. The routed area provides solid registration. #flairww -3:09 PM Apr 19th, 2012

HighRockWW @FlairWoodworks I can laugh only because I have done the same thing before… -3:12 PM Apr 19th, 2012 RT FlairWoodworks I forgot to close the drawer before routing.

FlairWoodworks One surface done. #flairww -3:15 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The second surface is now jointed as well. #flairww -3:26 PM Apr 19th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Lunch time! #flairww -3:27 PM Apr 19th, 2012

Keep reading!  Session 4 is the next instalment.

Construction of “Table with a Twist” – Part 3: Top and Finishing


This is the third post on the construction of my Table with a Twist.  The first post covered the making of the legs and the second post covered the aprons.

The tabletop was the last main component to be made.  I had selected a premium piece of figured maple which I milled to about 42″ x 12-1/2″ x 1-1/8″.  As usual, I focused on proportions over even numbers.  I knew that a rectilinear top wouldn’t suit the overall design of the table so I planned to introduce some curves.  To ensure the top was symmetrical, I made two templates from my favourite template stock – 1/4″ MDF.  One template was for the front edge and the other was for the ends.  The back was left straight.  I cut the templates out using my bandsaw and used a stationary belt sander to smooth the edges.  Then I traced their shapes onto the maple top and used the jigsaw to cut close to the line.

After securing the templates to the top, I used a template bit to finish the profile.  The large-diameter bit made a very smooth cut and took large shavings, even on the end-grain.

After shaping the top, I set it on the base to see how it looked.  The 1-1/8″ thick top was too visually heavy and adding a small chamfer or round-over would not have been enough to lighten the top.  To make the top look less chunky, I chose to bevel both the top and bottom.  But instead of using the same profile on each side, I used a standard 45-degree chamfer bit on the bottom and a low-angle panel-raising bit on the top to create a wide bevel.

To attach the top to the base, I used wooden buttons.  I cut them on the tablesaw and drilled screw holes with the drill press.  Can you see the mistake I made?

After having completed the first batch, I noticed that the grain was oriented the wrong way.  With the grain running this way, the tongue, to the right in the picture, could have easily broken off if stressed.

Once I made the new buttons with the grain oriented properly, the power tools were retired.  Next, I gave everything a careful look over and lightly sanded all surfaces with 180x sandpaper.  Before finishing, I cleaned the wood by wiping it down with alcohol.  The last step was to apply a couple coats of spray-on polyurethane followed by wipe-on polyurethane to build up a protective, scratch-resistant finish.

I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of the table.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the process as much as I have.