Exotic Chopsticks

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This article is from Issue 53 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Use scrapwood to elevate your next Asian-themed dining experience.

The only thing that beats sitting down with friends to a tasty spread of Asian food is showing off your utensil-making skills. Here, I’ll tell how to make four pairs of showy chopsticks and complementary rests that will surely start the dinner conversation.

Use a rabbeted pushblock to safely trap the blank against the fence when making the kerf cuts.
With the blade just above the top surface of the blank, rip the individual chopsticks to width.

To taper-sand each chopstick to uniform shape, use a strip of wood to safely press the stick onto the sanding belt.

Make the sticks

1 Resaw and plane 3⁄4ʺ-thick × 12ʺ-long boards of contrasting species to 5⁄16ʺ thick. From the resulting resawn halves, cut two chopstick top and bottom blanks to the sizes noted in Figure 1. (I chose wenge for the chopstick tops and figured maple for the bottoms. Note, also, that you need about 1ʺ of width for each pair of chopsticks.) Cut scrap stock to the same thickness for test-cutting.

2 Using a flat-top grind (FTG) blade that delivers a flat-bottom kerf, cut centered kerfs 3⁄8ʺ deep along one edge of the scrap stock to verify the kerf cut is centered before cutting the workpieces. Now, slot the mating edges of the top and bottom blanks to house the spline, as shown in Photo A. (I taped a piece of hardboard to the saw table to serve as a zero-clearance insert and fashioned a custom pushblock with a 5⁄16ʺ rabbet.)

3 From a third wood (I used a 3ʺ-wide piece of bloodwood), cut a pair of 3⁄4ʺ-long splines to fit the mating kerfs in the top and bottom blanks. The spline stock grain should be running the same direction as the blanks’ grain. Test-fit the splines.

4 Spread glue on the splines, in the kerfs, and on the mating edges of the top and bottom blanks. Insert the splines and lightly clamp the top and bottom blanks edge to edge. Wipe off any squeeze-out. Later, sand the glue-up surfaces smooth.

5 Using a glued-up blank as a guide, set the rip fence the same distance from the blade as the blank’s thickness (5⁄16ʺ). Now, with a pushblock, rip individual chopsticks from the blanks, as shown in Photo B.

6 At the stationary belt sander, sand each chopstick face along the lower 6ʺ, as shown in Photo C, tapering this section from 5⁄16ʺ to 1⁄8ʺ at the end. Maintain soft flat surfaces while rounding or easing the corners. A caliper comes in handy for checking for consistency from stick to stick. Compare all chopsticks for uniformity in shape. Finish-sand each chopstick to 220 grit by hand, easing or softening the corners.

7 Apply finish to the chopsticks. (I used General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish. Refinish as needed, and remember to always hand-wash chopsticks; never run them through the dishwasher.)

Give ’em a rest

1 Cut a piece of hardwood stock to 1⁄2 × 2 × 9ʺ. (The extra width and length is for safety during this five-step operation. The stock should be at least 2ʺ wide to keep fingers a safe distance from the saw blade.) Make a copy of the Rest Pattern, and adhere it to a piece of stiff cardboard or hardboard for a template. Cut it to shape.

2 Use the rest template to lay out four rests along one edge of the workpiece. Bandsaw or scrollsaw the curves, cutting just outside the line. Sand each curve smooth with a drum or spindle sander.

3 Make the 30° miter cuts along the laid out edge of the blank, where shown in Figure 2. (I did this at the bandsaw, but a fine-toothed handsaw would also work.)

4 Using your tablesaw and a zero-clearance insert, bevel-rip the laid out edge 1⁄2ʺ in on both faces at 10°, where shown in the End View in Figure 2.

5 Rip the 1⁄2ʺ-wide tapered section from the edge of the blank to free the four rests. Sand each rest smooth and finish.  


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