Valentine Candy Dispenser

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This article is from Issue 33 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Give a sweet to your sweetie.

Designer/Builder/Writer: Robert J. Settich

Overall dimensions: 7⅞"w × 4"d × 6"h

This Valentine’s Day, give your sweetheart this shelf-top sweet heart. With its mirror finish, this sleek sculpture begs to be touched and surrender a candy treat with every turn of the arrow. Fill the dispenser with Red Hots (also called Cinnamon Imperials) for good results.

The two-step lacquer finish used is similar to a high-quality automotive finishing. The process involves applying the paint followed by a clear lacquer topcoat, and then polishing the surface. If you haven’t achieved a perfect showroom finish before, the small scale of this project makes it an ideal learning experience.

Note: See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide for supplies used in this project.

Make the heart front and back

1 Cut a 3/4 × 51/2 × 12" maple blank for the front/back (A) as shown in Figure 1. (You need this length to trim planer snipe.) Joint the faces square to the edges.

2 Next, set your table saw’s rip fence to center the blade in the thickness of the blank. Raise the blade 1" above the table and rip along both edges. Keep the same face of the blank against the fence for both cuts. Raise the blade for a cut 2" deep, and repeat the process (Photo A).

3 Complete the resawing with your bandsaw, as shown in Photo B.

This core prototype shows the dispenser mechanism.

4 Thickness-plane the two blanks to 1/4" and crosscut each to 51/2" long.

5 Make two photocopies of the Full-Sized Pattern, Heart Core and Front/Back (Figure 2) on page 44, and spray-adhere one to the front blank, aligning the wood grain with the arrows. Hold the other pattern to a window or light box and transfer it to the back face of the pattern page, including the fill hole. Adhere this “reverse” pattern to the back blank. Drill the 1" counterbore 1/8" deep with a Forstner bit. Drill the 6mm hole through the blank for the rare-earth magnet. Finally, drill the 1/2" fill hole through the blank. Epoxy the magnet into place.

6 With the patterns in place for the front and back blanks (A) saw along the dashed line, leaving a margin past the solid line. (You’ll rout these pieces to final size after assembly to the core (B).) Strip off the patterns and set the blanks aside.

Resaw the blank on edge with a carefully controlled rip, using an auxiliary fence and pushblock.

Complete the resawing on your bandsaw, guiding on the table-sawn kerfs.

Drill and shape the core

1 Cut a 3/4 × 5 × 51/2" maple blank for the core (B). Make a photocopy of the pattern in Figure 2 on page 44 and adhere it to the blank.

2 Set your mitersaw to 18° and make the two cuts shown on the pattern.

3 Extend the centerline of the upper and lower shaft holes to the edges of the blank. Measure to the center of the blank’s thickness, and mark that centerpoint on the centerline you just drew.

Carefully position the blank when drilling the two shaft holes to help ensure that they align.

4 Chuck a 1/4" brad-point bit into your drill press, and clamp a tall fence to your drill press table. Clamp the blank for core (B) to the fence, and drill as shown in Photo C. Repeat for the other shaft hole.

5 Extend the centerline of the 1/2"-dispenser hole to the edge of the blank, and mark its centerpoint. Using your drill press, drill this hole 1" deep.

6 Bandsaw or scrollsaw just outside the solid line for the core (B). Sand to the line, removing any saw marks for a smooth and square edge.

7 Drill a blade-start hole through core (B), and then remove the waste from the core’s middle.

8 Insert a 1/4" dowel through the shaft holes to ensure that they align. If the dowel doesn’t rotate freely, use a round file to remove wood that causes the binding.

Make the arrow parts

1 Cut the rotor (C) to length, checking for an easy fit into its location in the core (B). Mark on this dowel the edges of the ramps from the upper candy storage bin. Cradling the rotor in a V-block on your drill press table, drill the 1/2" hole 1/2" deep where shown in Figure 2.

2 Drill the holes in the ends of rotor (C). Use a handscrew clamp as shown in Photo D to hold the rotor for drilling.

Check that the rotor is square to the table before drilling the holes.

3 Make a copy of the arrowhead (D) and feathers (E) from Figure 2 and adhere the copy to a 1/2 × 11/2 × 31/2" maple blank. Transfer the centerlines of the holes to the ends of the blank, and drill the holes. Cut the arrowhead and feathers to shape and sand them to final smoothness.

4 Cut the head shaft (F) and tail shaft (G) from a 1/4" dowel rod. Form the nock at the end of the tail shaft by drilling a 1/8" hole where shown in the patterns, and then use your scrollsaw to remove the waste. Touch up the nock with a needle file.

Set the flush-trim bit so that the bearing does not dip into the shaft holes. Be extra careful when routing around the dispenser hole.

Time for a test fit

1 Place the rotor (C) inside the core (B), and then insert the head shaft (F) and tail shaft (G) into the ends of the rotor, as shown in the Figure 2. Rotate the assembly to check for any interference, and sand the rotor or core to remove problem areas. The long ramp area of the core can be fragile, so work carefully.

2 Clamp faces (A) to core (B), and again turn the rotor to check for interference. Correct any problems and then disassemble. Rub the ends of the rotor with wax, and also wax the contact areas inside the core. Buff lightly with a soft cloth to remove any excess. Temporarily replace the head and tail shafts (F, G) with 2" lengths of scrap dowel.

Note: During the next few steps, you’ll occasionally need to remove a dowel from the rotor. Don’t remove both at the same time, or you’ll lose the rotor in the heart.

To hold the plug for drilling, use a drill press vise or a wood handscrew clamp.

Glue and trim the faces

1 Glue the front/back (A) to core (B), making sure that the 1" counterbore on the back faces outward. Apply glue sparingly in the areas near the rotor (C) to minimize the risk that squeeze-out will seize it or the temporary shafts. Make sure that the entire perimeter of the front and back overhangs the core. (It’s also a good idea to turn the rotor occasionally while the glue sets to ensure it doesn’t stick.)

2 Chuck a flush-trim bit into your table-mounted router, and trim the perimeter of the front/back (A) flush with core (B) as shown in Photo E. Set the height of the bit so that the bearing does not dip into the shaft holes. The bit won’t reach into the sharp inside corner of the heart, so you’ll need to trim this area with a chisel.

3 Touch up the perimeter of the heart assembly with a sanding block, ensuring that the edge is square to the front and back (A).

4 Chuck a 3/16" round-over bit into your table-mounted router, and rout the perimeter of the heart assembly. Sand to 220 grit.

Position your jig on your sander so that the disc’s rotation pulls the base against the plywood.

Make the plug and base

1 Chuck a 1" Forstner bit into your drill press, and clamp a 1" maple plug (H) to drill an arc into its edge as shown in Photo F. This arc provides space to get a fingernail under the plug to remove it.

2 Face-glue two pieces of 3/4 × 41/2 × 41/2" maple to make a blank for the base (I). Unclamp after the glue dries, and, with a pencil and compass, draw a 4"-diameter circle on the blank. Bandsaw just to the waste side of the line.

3 Drill a 1/2" hole 3/4" deep at the centerpoint you used for drawing the circle. Drill a 1/2" hole into a piece of scrap plywood, and insert a short length of ½" dowel to make a jig for your disc sander. Advance the jig toward the abrasive until the base just touches the disc, and clamp it in place. With the disc spinning, slowly turn the base round as shown in Photo G.

4 Chuck a 1/2" round-over bit into your table-mounted router, and progressively rout deeper cuts to shape the top perimeter of the base (I). Finish-sand the base up to 220 grit.

5 Referring to Figure 1, cut the 1/2" dowel to length and sand a 1/8" round-over at its top end. To do this, simply chuck the dowel into your drill press and use a sanding block. Don’t glue the dowel in place yet.

Create a high-gloss finish

1 Drill a ¼" hole in a scrap board, and insert one of the shaft dowels to support the heart for spraying and drying. Note that the dowel in the base is also red. Spray on the first color coat and lightly sand the heart and base with 220 grit to remove any nibs. Then wipe with a microfiber cloth to get rid of the dust. Lightly sand the second and subsequent color coats with 400 grit.

2 Mount the arrowhead (D) and feathers (E) to scrap dowels for their color coat. After painting, glue the arrowhead to head shaft (F) and feathers to tail shaft (G). Align the feathers and nock as shown in the opening photo (page 42). Mask the ends of the shafts that are glued into rotor (C).

3 Spray on three to four coats of clear lacquer. As before, sand with 400 grit and dust between coats. After the final coat, lightly rub the arrowhead and feathers (D, E) with 0000 steel wool for a flat finish.

4 Wet-sand the heart and base, using paraffin oil or mineral spirits as a lubricant. Start with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper, and then proceed to 600, 800, and 1200 grit. Refer to Photo H to see the surface you’re aiming to achieve. Watch the sanding swarf to ensure that you haven’t sanded through the clear coats to the color. If that occurs, clean the piece and apply more coats of clear lacquer.

5 Sprinkle pumice onto a felt block moistened with paraffin oil and polish the surface with a light touch, as shown in Photo I. When the finish refuses to become glossier, repeat the process, using a fresh felt block with rottenstone. Finally, buff the finish with an unused dry side of a felt block. Two thin coats of paste wax will protect the finish and increase the gloss.

Wipe away the oil to check your sanding progress. Aim for a uniform matte surface with no shiny spots.

As the mirror finish begins to glow, use lighter pressure and less abrasive.

Final assembly and taste test

1 Clean the heart’s interior with a few blasts of compressed air.

2 Prepare to glue the arrow assemblies (D/F and E/G) into the rotor (C). Apply wax to the part of the shaft that contacts the core (B). Snip the cotton from the end of the swab, and use its “stick” to apply glue to the holes in the rotor. Insert the arrow assemblies, making sure that the surfaces of the arrow and feathers are in the same plane. Gently turn while the glue sets, so the assembly doesn’t stick.

3 Referring to Figure 1, glue the dowel into the base.

4 Test-fit the fill plug (H). Referring to the Plug Detail accompanying Figure 1, you may need to use a knife to square the plug’s tapered tenon so that it fits into the counterbore. Tap in a 1/4" upholstery tack to mate with the magnet.

5 Fill the heart by laying it on its front face, and pouring the candy through the fill hole. Replace the plug (H), and hold the heart upright while turning the arrow to dispense the candy. The dispensing mechanism—like love itself—produces the best results with a light touch and a bit of finesse. If you encounter resistance when turning the arrow, reverse direction. To clear a tough jam, invert the heart and shake gently. Store the heart on its base.  

About Our Builder/Designer

Robert J. Settich has written six books and scores of magazine articles on woodworking and home improvement topics. Many of these have featured his photography and original designs. Bob’s latest book is Built-Ins (Taunton Press). He lives and works in Gladstone, Missouri.


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