Reamer, tenon cutter

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Project by Jeremymcon posted 06-07-2017 08:43 PM 1154 views 3 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have a Windsor chair project in the works. Lots of parts roughed out and drying after splitting them from a walnut billet. I have never built a chair before, but have been reading a lot, including a book from Peter Galbert which is just full of information.

So anyway, this is part of the process for that build. I made the reamer blade from a cheap compass saw, then turned the reamer itself on my mini lathe . Used a chunk of a walnut billet that was reasonably dry.

The matching tenon cutter is from a scrap of Sassafras, and I used the iron from an old wooden jointer plane as the cutter. It’s a bit primitive, but it worked fine! I made a test joint, and the tenon fit with a couple whacks with a mallet it really locked in place, even without a wedge! So that’s good news.

6 comments so far

View Elksniffer's profile


101 posts in 3569 days

#1 posted 06-07-2017 09:08 PM

Good job on the reamer and cutter, necessity is the mother of the build. Did you put two blades in the reamer and how did you cut and sharpen them. I made a similar one using a little T shaped hunting saw and I think I filed the blade square. It works pretty good but does plug with shavings. Galbert has a very helpful website too if you haven’t discovered it already. I have five windsors legged up and spindles shaped but got side tracked building a house. My experience putting a Windsor together is exciting as they assemble with some tension in the joints and I hold my breath each time. If you have any questions and need to talk it out, feel free to contact me


View Jeremymcon's profile


295 posts in 851 days

#2 posted 06-07-2017 10:44 PM

Thanks Jeff! I used a single compass saw blade, and filed off the teeth of the one side. Mine has about a 45 degree angle, ground with a grinder on both sides, then refined with a file, then sharpening stones. The blade is just friction fit into a slot in the reamer. It works OK – I’ve never used one, so I don’t know what it’s like to use a “good” one. But it cuts fine, a little slowly (which in my mind is a good thing, as I’ll be less likely to screw up a mortise that way), and it does clog, but I just remove it periodically and whack it on my bench to clear it.

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3038 days

#3 posted 06-08-2017 01:33 PM

That’s a very creative and ingenious shop-made piece of work. It’s not because there has never been such a tool but because you made it in a wood shop and not a tool shop and that it was also a one off piece of work. Nice work!

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View BenDupre's profile


681 posts in 659 days

#4 posted 06-08-2017 08:47 PM

This is really cool. I have been looking for a set like this on ebay. Pretty hard to find. Impressed to see how simple it is to just make your own. Can I ask what the taper ratio is? And the top/bottom opening on your tenon cutter?

-- The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. – George Bernard Shaw

View Jeremymcon's profile


295 posts in 851 days

#5 posted 06-08-2017 08:55 PM

The taper is about 6 degrees – exactly matches the taper of the compass saw blade I made the cutter from. I’ve read that the ideal angle is anywhere from 6 to 12 degrees. The mortise is a 5/8” hole (standard for Windsor chair legs, from what I’ve read, though I did consider doing a larger hole for a stronger joint) that I reamed with the reamer itself, leaving a small area of the level 5/8” hole on the exit side (didn’t ream the entire mortise, if that makes sense). That’s the area where the plane blade isn’t over the slot in the tenon cutter.

I bored and reamed the hole in a piece of wood about 2 1/2” deep, and then hand planed until I just exposed the top of the hole.

The idea for the reamer came from:

View Jeremymcon's profile


295 posts in 851 days

#6 posted 06-08-2017 09:01 PM

Oh! And fwiw, I actually made a similar reamer with a spokeshave before I acquired a lathe. It worked OK, but it was made from sawn ash, and the grain wasn’t perfectly straight. Ended up breaking from an area where the grain ran out. It was a little fiddly to do with a spokeshave though, as I was always finding areas that were a little too high where the blade wouldn’t make contact with the mortise.

The ideal material would probably be riven hard maple, but I just used what I had.

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