My next major project (and first furniture project) is a coffee table for a friend’s surprise wedding present. The coffee table design is my own and includes beads on a few different parts…..buuutttttttt I don’t have a scratch stock or beading tool…YET…
scrap hard maple
1/4”-20 thumb screw (1-1/2” long)
an old cross cut saw blade
I’ve never threaded wood before, so I wanted to take a “test run” on a piece of scrap first. So, I grabbed a cut off of hard maple and got to work. The steps to make the test piece were:
- drill a 7/32” hole about 1” deep.
- cut a kerf about 1/2” deep in line with the hole (using a cross cut panel saw)
- carefully thread the thumb screw until I could see it passing through the kerf from the side
I had to repeat these steps 3 times, because I kept underestimating the strength of the screw + new threads (over overestimating the strength of the maple). I cranked it down pretty darn hard on the first two tests and split the wood. To be fair, I was using a little piece of scrap. So, there wasn’t a whole lot of “beef” to add strength to the piece.
After I learned my lesson, I moved on to making the cutter. I used a pair of tin snips to cut off a piece of an old hand saw blade about 3/4” wide x 1-3/8” long.
I used a diamond stone to flatten both sides and joint one edge. After it was flattened (at least along the cutting edge), I used a small ceramic stone to polish it up a bit afterwards. By the way, I love having my old bench to sharpen on. Before I built my new bench, I used to sharpen on the concrete floor of my shop to save my old bench top from metal shavings and slurry. :)
I installed the basic flat cutter into the test piece and used it to scrape a small rabbet in some scrap yellow pine to test out how tight the thumb screw needed to be. I really wanted to test it before I got into shaping the cutter since it seems like there’s a fine line between not tight enough and too tight with this tool.
Next, I freehand drew the shape of the bead I had in mind (about 1/8” wide / deep roughly) with a Sharpie marker. Then, I used a round file to shape the cutter. After the bead shape was cut out, I used a flat file to take the small burr off the sides that the round file created.
I installed the newly-shaped cutter into the test stock, grabbed a few pieces of scrap yellow pine, and started cutting beads. It took a few tries before I got the hang of it. I’ve never used a scratch stock or beading tool before. One thing I had to learn was to start the bead with light pressure and a low angle. This made it much easier to get the bead straight at the start; which made finishing it cleanly much easier. I feel like a dummy for not thinking to go with light pressure and a low angle at first; since that’s the same technique needed to get a clean cut started with a hand saw.
Here are some pictures of my first three attempts at cutting beads. The first two are on opposite sides of the same piece of scrap yellow pine.
The third bead was cut on the side of a larger piece of scrap pine.
Now that I’m satisfied with the basic function of the test piece, I’m going to make the “real” one. I’ve got some larger pieces of scrap hard maple that I hand planed and glued up earlier today. I just need to mill it 6-square, drill the hole, cut the kerf, and thread the thumb screw in. As for the cutter, I’m going to polish it up better using my water stones and clean up the bead’s shape a little with my round file.