Extremely Average #39: Creating the Cauls

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 02-10-2010 05:05 AM 2553 reads 4 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 38: Henry Wood Detective Agency: Tommy 'The Knife' Part 39 of Extremely Average series Part 40: To Build or Not To Build »

In Vol 28, No. 164, on page 6 of Woodsmith magazine is the article which describes the Adjustable Panels Cauls. It was sent in by George Johnson of Canton Oklahoma. They give the dimensions and I followed them somewhat closely. I visited my local Home Depot to buy the goodies I would need to make my cauls. I purchased (4) seven feet long, 1×2, in hard maple. I like hard maple. I also purchased (4) 36 inches long ½ x 3 inch pieces of Oak. I only needed one piece of the oak, but I wanted the other pieces for another project. So only buy 1 if you don’t want extra, and to be honest, I didn’t use the entire one piece either, I only used 18 inches.

As for the hardware, I came very close to making a tightening handle blunder, when I nearly bought a handle with the male threaded rod attached. This would have been a mistake. The handles need to be female which allow the threaded part of the 5/16th carriage bolt to pass through. Which brings me to the quantities of stuff I needed, the plans required 4 handles, 4 washers (I bought 8 to allow for losing a few), (24) #8, 1 ¾ “flat head screws (I bought a box). I also bought a box of 1 1/4” flat head screw, because I didn’t believe the instructions. The 1 ¾ looked way too long. They were not too long and actually worked wonderfully.

Being new to woodworking, I lack confidence, so I bought extra stuff, which I didn’t need. I then reinforced my fears when I purchased (3) 5” 5/16” carriage bolts and (1) 5 ½” carriage bolt. I blindly trusted the little bin that told me I was buying 5 inch, and it was very sneaky in giving me a 5 ½ bolt. I fixed the problem by buying (3) 5 ½” and (1) 5” the next day. So I have an extra set that will allow for thicker boards to be in my glue up. In the photos I used the 5 ½ inch bolt. I may buy some longer ones too. The reason one can’t just buy really long bolts is that the threads don’t go all the way down the bolt. If I had bought a 7 inch, I wouldn’t have been able to tighten them all the way down.

So here is how I built my cauls. I cut (8) 36” pieces of hard maple, using my Japanese hand saw. I was amazed at how quickly it cut through each piece, and how beautiful the cuts turned out. It was definitely the right tool for the job.

I like sanding. I have read that many woodworkers don’t like sanding their projects. It is considered drudgery. I took 2 pieces and clamped them into my vice and sanded the top to a nice rounded edge on the outside edges on the top side of the two pieces. My reasoning was, it was a waste of time to sand the inside edges, so I didn’t. I also didn’t sand the bottom edges, because I wanted them to remain flat. So I sanded up each pair. I used 80, 120, 220 grit paper and my mouse sander.

The next step was to cut off 1 ½“blocks from the piece of oak. My Japanese hand saw handled this task as well. The blocks are used as spacers between the pieces of hard maple. There are 3 spacers per caul piece (top and bottom) and created the gap that allows the carriage bolts to be threaded up through the top and bottom. It means that one is able to move the clamping handles in to the edges of the wood when clamping, to apply the most pressure onto the wood being glued up.

So with 12 pieces of oak cut, I stacked them together and sanded the tops, rounding the edges. This was done for aesthetics.

The next step was to screw everything together. I placed a spacer in the middle, at 18 inches and one on each end, set in 1 ½ inches from the edge. I have no idea why they weren’t all the way out to the edge, but in the article, that is how George Johnson did it, and it looked good to me. I then flipped the pieces of wood upside down, with the rounded edges on the table, and placed my oak spacers in the correct positions. Next I clamped everything together, before drilling pilot holes. I then used a countersink bit to drill out a bit of space for the flat head screws to set into the wood. To make my life easier I got out both of my cordless drills, using one as a dedicated pilot holes driller and the other for the countersinking and the screwing in of the flat head screws. ( I am not sure all of the verbs in the last sentence really exist, but I digress)

Once all of this was done, I just needed to cut some blocks to hold the carriage bolts. The instructions called for 3 ½ inch blocks, but I had a lovely piece of hard maple that was 12 inches long, so I went with 3 inches for each block. Yes it was a daring move, but I am not afraid to live life on the edge. I sanded the 12 inch block before I made the cuts. I also drilled the holes, first with a Fostner bit, then with a regular bit. This meant that after I cut them into their 3 inch lengths, they were ready to go.

The last step was to check the flatness of the bottoms of each caul section. I had focused on making sure that the tops were flat, because I intended to flatten any that needed it, using my router. There was only one that needed flattening, so I used my 2 inch flush trim bit. It is a really nice bit, made by Amana. I spent $128.00 on this bit. That seems like a lot, but I have already used it a bunch of times. And it cuts like a hot knife through brie.

When I finally assembled the cauls, they looked even better than I had hoped. Now I just need to find a project that requires a glue up.

-- Brian Meeks,

17 comments so far

View patron's profile


13524 posts in 2763 days

#1 posted 02-10-2010 05:15 AM

great tutorial , brian .

now you are on your way ,
to having your own hardware store too !

practicing as you go is a good concept ,
it leads to good work ethics ,
and focused work habits .
something that will pay dividends all along the journey !

well done !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Kacy's profile


101 posts in 2507 days

#2 posted 02-10-2010 05:19 AM

Great narrative and pictures, with only one major error—to a woodworker, there is no such thing as buying “extra” wood, no matter how much you purchase!

-- Kacy, Louisiana

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 2488 days

#3 posted 02-10-2010 05:19 AM

LOL…Good to know Kacy. Thanks for the tip.

-- Brian Meeks,

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2136 posts in 2531 days

#4 posted 02-10-2010 05:20 AM

Very nice cauls Brian. Thanks for the breakdown. Your attention to the small details show and your shop projects do have a beauty to them. Adding to my favorites to come back to.

A few years ago, there was a book published entitled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. After dealing with a number of system meltdowns because someone overlooked some small detail or another, I used to fantasize about the ways I would torture the author if I could ever get a hold of him. The sanding, the careful saw work, and the attention to those tiny details will make you an excellent craftsman.

Thanks for posting,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Kacy's profile


101 posts in 2507 days

#5 posted 02-10-2010 05:24 AM

Heck, I’ve got over 300 BF stickered in my bedroom (did I mention I have a great wife), and still I am looking at getting some more. No idea what I am going to do with some of it, but if I don’t rescue it, who will? lol

-- Kacy, Louisiana

View Gpops's profile


247 posts in 2866 days

#6 posted 02-10-2010 05:26 AM

Double nut on one end and a piece of threaded rod will solve the threads all the way to the end problem…

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 2488 days

#7 posted 02-10-2010 05:35 AM

That is a great idea Gpops!

-- Brian Meeks,

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 2461 days

#8 posted 02-10-2010 05:39 AM

Great looking cauls. So good that they beg another project. A nice wax paper dispenser to keep near by. Surely we don’t want to get glue squeeze out on our cauls, so we will put wax paper on the glue up to protect them.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3135 days

#9 posted 02-10-2010 06:14 AM

Brian, a few observations. purely my own feelings of course. Always buy extra nuts, bolts, washers etc. You can’t drive back to the store for the cost of another nut or washer.threaded rod is good, then you need to have more nuts and washers. I like to put the nuts and washers onto the bolts and have designated place, marked by size of course.You can by bolts that are threaded full length but they are pricey and I’ve not seen carriage bolts fully threaded, but,a small, modestly priced, (cheap) tap and die set will usually allow you to cut a few more threads fairly easily. Its also usefully to clean up damaged threads. Personally I hate slotted screws and just discovered today that some sizes of Philips flat head screws are available. Normally I prefer square drive which is available as wood screws. If you go to McFeely you will find these in just about and size that you are apt to use in the shop

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 2488 days

#10 posted 02-10-2010 06:26 AM

Oluf, that is an excellent point about the wax paper. Thanks!

rtb, I think you are right, I need to make some sort of box system for holding all the nuts and bolts. It is on my list. :-)

-- Brian Meeks,

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2999 days

#11 posted 02-10-2010 06:33 AM

Hey Brian A project a really good thing. a unique project that should be great for use in the future.

-- Custom furniture

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 3412 days

#12 posted 02-10-2010 07:52 AM

HI Brian, you’ve done an excellent job of describing this build in an informative, thrilling manner. I was on the edge of my seat the whole way calculating the inches in the 7’ maple to make sure there was enough for the eight 36” pieces and putting together the 1 51/2” bolt with the next days purchase and your previous comment about having two sets of bolts. Good save by the way. But, the part that had me about to come unglued (woodworking lingo there) was when I realized you were going after a perfect cut on the 12” maple to make the 4 3” blocks to hold the carriage bolts after already discarding the plans and reducing the length by over 14%. Did he realize there is thickness to a saw blade and the kerf would eat up some of the length? Did he compensate when he laid out the Forstner holes? Then, alas, all my worry was for naught because it probably wasn’t exactly 12” was it? Probably an offcut from one of the 7’ boards so there was more than 12” to start with. Whew! That was close. The only thing left is the dénouement about flattening one of the caul bottoms. What did you use for the straight edge and how did you line it up and make a router cut on such a thin piece of stock? Can’t wait for the sequel about your first glue up too. ;-)


-- Jim

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 2488 days

#13 posted 02-10-2010 08:00 AM

The kerf on the Japanese hand saw is very thin, so yes, each one is slightly less than 3 inches. The piece was almost exactly 12 inches, and was from the left over.

To do the routing, I layed all 4 pairs of caul tops and bottoms on their side, with the one that needed trimming in the front. I then clamped the 4 sets together. Then I clamped this group to my workbench. This gave me plenty of room to set my router on, so it was stable.

I intended to take about 1/32 of an inch off of one of the pieces of maple making up the caul bottom. The router flush trim bit’s bearing rested on the piece that was the guide, and then the bit evened the two pieces up. Because of the clamps the final 3 inches needed to be flattened with my 3” belt sander.

I hope that explains it better.

-- Brian Meeks,

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2756 days

#14 posted 02-10-2010 12:01 PM

A a very good tutorial blog Brian. I haven’t seen that style of cauls before, but I do think they are a very good idea and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of them. As a new woodworker I know you are concerned with following plans and dimensions carefully right now, and that is not a bad thing, but in time you will realize that it is the concepts that are important and being flexible with dimensions will often allow you to make things with the materials you have on hand instead of feeling you must go out to buy the exact hardware and/or wood needed according to the plan.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3244 days

#15 posted 02-10-2010 02:51 PM

Thanks for the reference on the cauls, Brian. These look pretty good. I haven’t been real pleased with mine so I may have to try these.

And you put together a well documented tutorial.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

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