Tips & Tricks: Issue 15

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This article is from Issue 15 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Woodworker’s Magic Trick

THIS WOODEN TOY IS A SURE conversation piece. You can explain its mysterious movements as magnetic lines of force or a woodworker’s magic fingers — or just let your audience engage in speculation.

To make this classic whittling toy, sometimes referred to as the “gee-haw-whimmy-diddle,” I used scraps of birch for the sticks, about 5/16" square and 10"-11" long. 

 The notches are spaced ½" apart on center, and they are about ¼" wide and 1/8" deep. These measurements are not critical, as they just establish the vibration of the stick. What is critical is that the hole in the propeller be larger than the diameter of the axle on which it spins. I used cardboard for my propeller (3¼" by about ¾" ) which has the benefit of being easy to trim with scissors to get the correct balance. And I found a thumbtack worked great to hold it in place.

Some makers of this toy control the changes in the propeller’s direction by rubbing a dowel or pencil across the notches while changing finger positions. However, I found that by holding the stick as drawn, with the thumb on one face and the index finger on the adjacent (not opposite) side, you can change the direction of the propeller without ever moving your fingers (this makes the “mystery” that much more subtle). Applying pressure with your finger but not your thumb makes the propeller spin in one direction, and by pressing with your thumb but not your finger it spins in the opposite direction. 

If the propeller will not change direction, you may have to adjust either the depth of the notches or the dimensions of the stick. Once you have your “magic propeller” working you’re ready to test it on your family and friends and maybe move on to other audiences such as fellow woodworkers.

—Hal Reymer, Denver, Colo.

Erasable Notes

I AM CONSTANTLY MAKING NOTES of measurements, shopping lists and cutting dimensions in my shop. When I built my shop cabinets, I made the door panels out of white 1/8" Masonite. I use dry-erase markers to make notes to myself for measurements, such as the spacing of drawers for a cabinet I recently built. When I no longer need the information, I simply erase, and I am ready for my next project or list. The cost of a good set of four quality markers is less than $10.

—Roger Gall, New Cumberland, W.Va.

V-Jig Centers Dowel Hole

IT’S HARD TO DRILL A DOWEL through its side by hand, but comparatively easy to do with a wooden V-jig. Cut a symmetrical V-shaped notch in one face of a piece of 1¼" or heavier stock. Square a line from the point of the V and drill a vertical hole through the apex. Then place the notch over the dowel and drill as shown here.

—Javan Franklin, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Economical Lumber Stickers

USE OF WOODEN STICKERS TO STACK lumber for drying will sometimes result in mold or bugs between the sticker and the lumber. Store-bought stickers work well, but are expensive.

An alternate solution is to use ¾" SCH40 electrical conduit, about $2 for a 10' section at a local home supply store. It can easily be cut into required lengths. Its advantages are: small contact area with the stacked lumber; very rigid; bugs and mold don’t find it tasty; sliding boards onto the conduit is very easy because they tend to act as rollers and are much easier than other types of stickers.

However, if the wood is going to be stacked on anything but level ground or the whole stack is going to be moved with a forklift, the roundness of the conduit will result in a pile of lumber that rolls onto the ground (usually into the only mud puddle within 100 yards).

To solve this problem, purchase 1½" conduit and cut it down the middle, making two stickers shaped like half circles. Make a jig using a scrap piece of 4" x 4" x 10". Bore a 1½" hole through the center of the 4" x 4" (unless you have a long bit, you’ll probably have to drill from each end). Raise the blade on your table saw to about 3" and cut a slot down the middle, bisecting the center of the bored hole. Next, attach the jig to the fence of the saw over the blade (make sure you cover the exposed blade completely). To use the jig, simply turn on the saw and feed the conduit through the hole bored in the jig. This will give you two stickers for the price of one.

—John P. Rose, Litchfield, Ohio

Sandpaper File Folders

IF YOU SOMETIMES WORK AWAY from your shop, my tip for storing sandpaper for easy transport may help you. I use a standard A-Z or 1-31 day folder. This is typically for holding a year’s worth or a month’s worth of papers in a separated file. All the papers are divided by grit size.

I print labels for all my existing sandpaper showing grit, paper weight and other description. I start with 50-grit and end with 2000-grit, leaving spaces between existing papers for additional papers to be added in the future, allowing similar grits to stay in the same relative area. When leaving for a job, a Velcro band tightly wraps the folder, and ALL my sandpaper follows me to the job.

—Fred Callus, Seanet, W.Va


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