Stamp of Approval

It’s just a small problem to tackle: a wooden stamp holder with serious desk appeal. Here's how some woodworkers “thought small.”

Click here to jump ahead to the frog stamp holder.

Click here to jump ahead to the bunny stamp holder.

First-Class Classic

by Diana Thompson

Step up to the scroll saw to create this round hardwood box with an ornamented lid. Its clever but simple construction might surprise you. 

This box is made of black walnut, my favorite hardwood. It’s quite dense, and cutting a 1¼"-thick piece on the scroll saw can be difficult. I put clear packing tape on the bottom before cutting to lubricate the blade and help prevent burning the wood. I used a #5 single-tooth blade for this job. A reverse-tooth slows down the saw action when cutting thicker pieces, but works great for cutting the box top and bottom. 

Use plenty of adhesive to apply the “box sides” pattern to a piece of 1¼" x 3" x 3" stock. Cut around the outside lines, leaving the pattern glued on and the inside line intact for later use (Fig. 1). 

If your pieces do not come out perfectly round, shape them on a disc sander. Just be sure to keep the piece moving as you sand to avoid having flat spots.

You’ll need a piece of ¼" x 3" x 10" stock for the remaining pieces. Cut out the box bottom from the pattern. 

With a 15/64" drill bit, drill the center hole in the box bottom only three-quarters of the way through. (If you happen to go all the way through, all is not lost. The dowel will show on the bottom, but that’s no disaster. Just don’t turn it upside-down!) 

Remove the pattern.

Apply a small bead of glue to the underside of the box sides and clamp the box bottom into place (Fig. 2). Allow to dry at least an hour. 

Once it’s dry, cut around the interior line. Your box will look like Fig. 3. 

1. Carefully sand the box sides smooth inside and out with 200- and 400-grit paper after cutting.   
2. Make sure the hole you drilled in the box bottom is toward the inside. Use more than the two clamps shown here. 

3. Cut on the interior line, through both thicknesses at once. The discarded piece is shown on the right.

Apply the “lid underside” pattern to ¼" stock. Drill a small blade entry hole and cut out the center section of the lid underside only. Do not yet cut up to the outside line, drill the center hole or remove the pattern. Set the center aside for later use. Apply a small bead of glue to the underside and clamp the piece to another piece of ¼" stock (Fig. 4). Allow to dry at least an hour, again using more clamps than are shown here. Once the piece has dried, cut around the outside line in the same manner as you did the box sides and bottom.

Place the center back into the lid underside and the drill the center hole all the way through both pieces with the ¼" bit. The center section can now be discarded and the pattern removed.

4. Cut roughly around the oustide line  on the underside of the lid before gluing it to another piece of stock.
5. Make sure the top and bottom of your stock are level before drilling. 

6.  For the second cut, clamp the blocks together, but not so tightly that they interfere with the blade movement.

7.  Mark the dowel ¾" above the lid before trimming to size.

Fold the knob pattern along the dashed line. Apply adhesive to the reverse side and wrap it around two sides of a ¾" x ¾" x 1½" piece of stock. Place the block into the drill press vise upside-down (Fig. 5). Mark the center and with the ¼" bit, drill 3/8" deep.

With a #5 blade, cut one side of the pattern (Fig. 6). Gently pinch the block together and place ¾" cellophane tape around it to hold the knob inside the block. Cut the other side of the pattern in the same manner and remove the knob from the block.

Twist the dowel into the bottom hole of the box, making sure it is snug in the hole and doesn’t fall out when turned upside-down. Place the lid over the dowel and make a mark ¾" above the lid (Fig. 7). Cut the dowel at this mark. 

Check to make sure the knob will sit down over the dowel and flush to the lid. Adjust the length of the dowel as needed. Lift the lid off, leaving the dowel in place. With a small brush, apply glue to the inside of the hole in the lid. Slide the lid back over the dowel. Apply glue to the protruding dowel section, inside the knob, and the base of the knob. Slide the knob onto the dowel. Allow the assembled box to sit overnight to ensure it is securely glued into place. 

I used sandpaper to soften the sharp edges around the lid and the box bottom just a bit. Sand the entire box with 220- then 400-grit sandpaper. Wipe off the dust with a damp cloth or tack cloth. Apply a wood sealer if desired, then sand again and wipe the dust off once again. Apply several coats of a clear finish of choice, sanding between coats with the 400-grit sandpaper. I’ve used Krylon Crystal Clear finish.

—Diana Thompson is a pattern designer and woodworker who has written several books on scroll sawing.

Leapin' Letters

by John Garton & Joe Adkins

Ribbit! John and Joe use power carving tools to make this funny frog, but you can carve it by hand if you’d rather. 

Cut out all the pieces on the proper stock thickness using the patterns. Make sure the grain is going in the right direction.  

Sand the inside circle smooth, then cut out the bottom section of the center piece in the dotted lines. 

Glue these two pieces to one side piece (Fig. 1). Remove excess glue after clamping. Once glue dries, glue the second side piece on to form the cavity for the stamp roll. Allow the whole assembly to dry, then glue front leg pieces on both sides (Fig. 2). Make sure these pieces are located as far back as they can go on side pieces and they are glued facing the proper direction.

After the glue has dried, sand flat the bottom part of the top piece. This will make for a tight joint. The pivot point and hinge for the frog is a 

1" x 16 galvanized nail with a flat head, but don’t connect the two pieces yet. The pressure applied to the joint and nail while carving can cause it to loosen. So do this later after some initial carving and sanding.

1. When gluing the center to the first side, make sure to leave open the mouth/stamp slot.
2. Double-check that the frog’s legs are facing the proper direction. It’s easy to get them on backwards.

Mark guidelines on the blank, and with a rough-cutting rotary tool remove wood from areas of eye, nose, mouth, front legs and back legs. Round over throat and belly, beginning to form a ball. Mark where the top portion of frog meets the bottom and carve the flippers on the rear legs. You can use a ball bit to remove wood between toes, leaving a ridge for toes and a web between them.

Mark a line to be undercut from below the mouth’s lower jaw back around head, over shoulders and dow  n the back. This will distinguish the head from the rest of the body. Cut the eyes with an outward slant so frog isn’t looking straight ahead. 

The frog looks better with bulging eyes. Make an inverted U-shaped mark on the eyes, and cut away enough wood from around the U that it stands out from the rest of the eye. Round the U over to form a bulging eye inside a socket.

Extend the mouth to the sides with a slight upturn at the end.

Your frog is a brave little fellow, so give him a backbone. Carve an elongated V, starting at the base of the eyes and meeting at the tail. Then extend the jawline (previously mentioned) back and down following alongside the V. This will give you three ridges and plenty of backbone to face rising stamp prices.

Undercut the front legs from the knees and cut three fingers into the hand. Add nostrils and dimples to the face. 

Give the carving a good sanding.

To attach the bottom to the top, find the center on the backside of the bottom piece and measure about ¼" in from the back edge. With a small drill, make a hole just large enough for the nail. Make the nail fit tightly.

Turn the piece so you’re working with the underside of the bottom piece. Countersink another hole halfway down the previously made hole. Make this hole just large enough for the nail head.

—John Garton and Joe Adkins are self-taught woodcarvers living in Petersburg, W.Va. See more of their work at  

Carving profiles pictured at 50% of final size.

Lettuce Hold Your Stamps

by John English

A simple bunny silhouette and a brass screw that doubles as an eye and a pivot point make this a perfect project to make with a kid. 

The idea for this box came from my youngest son, who suggested the image of a bunny nibbling away at a string of stamps. Being an obedient parent, I found a photograph of a rabbit, played with it on the computer and created the silhouette pattern. The concept is a simple bandsaw box, which is in essence a block of wood that is sawn apart and then re-glued.

I began construction by face gluing a couple of pieces of ¾" thick hardwood to create a blank that is 1½" thick. It should be large enough to attach a photocopy of the pattern to one face, using a spray craft adhesive.

Next, I sawed the box to shape 

(Fig. 1). Then I reached for the bandsaw fence to remove both faces (Fig. 2), leaving a body that is a minimum of 1" thick.

I drilled a hole through the body for the roll of stamps, using a 35mm Forstner bit (Fig. 3). This is the same bit used for European cabinet hinges, and the hole is centered on the circle that denotes the rabbit’s hind leg. Then it was back to the bandsaw to cut the rabbit’s gullet, a continuous line from the mouth to the stomach, through which the stamps will travel. This should be kept as straight as possible to avoid snags. I also created a small funnel where the stamps leave the stomach, just to avert potential hang-ups.

1. Feather the edges with numerous short cuts so the blade doesn't bind in tight corners.
2. The body of the rabbit can be cut wide or narrow to accommodate stamps or address labels.

3. Center the hole on the circle that denotes the rabbit’s hind leg.

4. Glue only one face to the main body of the rabbit.

After gluing one face to the body (Fig. 4), I checked how the stamps fed (Fig. 5). It’s better to fix or rebuild around a problem now, than after the project is complete.

Following a thorough sanding, I predrilled for two 5/8" brass dome screws for the eyes. The bit was about two-thirds the diameter of the screw. Then I re-drilled the hole in the door eye, making it large enough for the screw to pass through, applied a couple of coats of spray lacquer, and installed the screws when the finish was dry. The rabbit’s right side is a door through which he can be reloaded with a new roll of stamps.

–John English has written or co-authored four woodworking and how-to books, and publishes Woodezine, an online woodworking magazine. 

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