Don't laugh... It was my first time :) Would like some advice on how to do it better.

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Forum topic by AngieO posted 09-11-2013 07:47 PM 2240 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1267 posts in 2344 days

09-11-2013 07:47 PM

Ok. So… I’ve been making this shoji frame (room divider) for my mom. (Thanks to JSB for the plans and video). I had it all ready to stain and finish. My mom and I had discussed what she wanted for the inside panels. BUT… I decided to bring her over and show it to her before I went any further… JUST TO BE SURE. LOL

Here is what I had.

But once she got there she decided she wanted to fill the open panels differently. She is a quilter and she wanted to put a quilt block in each one but wanted to put it in as if each opening was a frame. But… I already put it together. So I wasn’t sure what to do. So what I did… UGH… was the hard way. I got my plunge router that I use for free hand stuff out and a straight bit and a mortising bit out and I played around with making a rabbit. Well… All I can say is THAT SUCKED!

Yesterday I went to the local hardware store that is going out of business. They have entire store for 50% off. So I went and checked out their router bits. Yep… there it was… a 1/2” rabbiting bit with a bearing. I want to say the brand is Vermont something. But I work for a chimney service and I have lots of calls on Vermont Casting stoves today so that could be totally off.

But again.. already assembled. Pocket hole screws. But on the rails I went ahead and made my rabbit. Wow! Much better and cleaner look than what I was doing before with no bearing and free hand. And this was actually the right depth. Much quicker!!!

But I ended up with this.

So when it came time to make my corners square… that’s when my LACK of hand tool skills showed up.
I got my chisel out and tried to hack away. Of course… I quickly realized how dull it was.

This is the mess I created.

I know I know! But it was my first time. Any advice or tips would help. And of course I did get my file out and attempt to sharpen my file. Never did this before either.

I did however get better. LOL.

I know what I will do next time. But help a girl out and tell me some things that are obvious that I haven’t thought of. LOL

Oh… and I did practice on a scrap piece to mortise my hinges. FAIL Any suggestions on that would help too. I have a mortising bit. And I have a plunge router. But it was horrible.

25 replies so far

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1267 posts in 2344 days

#1 posted 09-11-2013 07:54 PM

Oh… bit was Vermont American. Actually worked really well. I had wrote this article earlier and I guess didn’t hit “Post”. Since then I’ve ended up going to the store and got another rabbiting bit. This one is 1/4” instead. I couldn’t get the rails (Probably not using right terms, oh well… you guys know what I mean. LOL).

As you can see… I couldn’t do the short pieces because of the pocket holes. I think the 1/4” bit will actually make it but should I just leave it like it is? Not sure if that will affect the stability of it if I go in and rabbit some more material out. As it is she can pop the hard board covered with the quilt block in just fine.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19005 posts in 2764 days

#2 posted 09-11-2013 07:54 PM

do a search on “scary sharp”. You’ll need to sharpen your chisels, and that’s a good inexpensive way to start.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View chrisstef's profile


17759 posts in 3203 days

#3 posted 09-11-2013 08:01 PM

Another idea is to scribe the cut line with a razor knife so you have a spot to start your chisel. It’ll help you out in getting a nice square corner too.

Keep after it Angie. You got the drive. LJ’s will help with the know how.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2682 days

#4 posted 09-11-2013 08:08 PM

I’ve got no expertise with routers just yet, but on the chiseling end of things I have a lot of practice. Is that pine you’re working with? Chisels have to be as sharp as possible because pine is so soft, the fibers would rather bend and break rather than be cleanly severed.

When you said, ”And of course I did get my file out and attempt to sharpen my file did you mean sharpen your chisel? If so, that’s not the way to go. An inexpensive and very effective way to sharpen chisels (and plane blades) is the scary sharp method. And stropping with leather and chromium oxide is an awesome way to keep the edge fresh and mirror sharp.

So the above advice is only there on my guess at a possible typo. If it doesn’t apply and you already know this stuff, sorry.

Also, I think this sort of question probably belongs in the Woodworking Skill Share forum. This is most decidedly not off-topic. :)

-- Brian Timmons -

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Don W

19005 posts in 2764 days

#5 posted 09-11-2013 08:08 PM

just out of curiosity, how come you didn’t route all 4 sides?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View BJODay's profile


527 posts in 2140 days

#6 posted 09-11-2013 08:15 PM

I’ve used Vermont American drill bits. They work very well. I’ve never tried their router bits.


View kdc68's profile


2691 posts in 2474 days

#7 posted 09-11-2013 08:17 PM

+1 Don W and chrisstef.....using their suggestions both in conjunction would benefit you and your project….
sharp chisels are a must and scribing a line with a razor knife will cut the wood grain and leave a crisp edge as well

A jig like this is helpful for mortising hinges. You would use a mortising bit with a bearing guide. You can make the jig and use it over and over again for that type/size hinge. You will still need to square the corners with a chisel though, but the bulk of the mortise is removed by the bit


-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Don W's profile

Don W

19005 posts in 2764 days

#8 posted 09-11-2013 08:18 PM

Vermont American is a pretty common brand. Not bad, but not top of the line. I believe Home Depot, True value and those types of places typically carry them.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View natenaaron's profile


442 posts in 1994 days

#9 posted 09-11-2013 08:18 PM

+ whatever on get those chisels sharp sharp sharp. As a newbie myself I had to learn the hard way. A sharp chisel is so much nicer to work with. My life got so much easier after getting the Veritas Sharpening System. No more screwing up angles. There are a lot cheaper options out there but I like this one.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3111 days

#10 posted 09-11-2013 08:28 PM

Since I cut the crap out of my hand with a 1/4in chisel maybe 6wk ago, I’ll say this… BE CAREFUL!

FWIW, I jammed the chisel through the butt of my palm. Almost a trip to the ER.

The only thing I can figure that I did wrong was holding the piece I was working on the far side. In other words, working the chisel toward the other hand. That is a big no-no. Always work the chisel AWAY from any and all body parts. Use a vise, dogs, hold-downs, etc. to hold your work piece so that you can always work the chisel away from you. Just my 2-cents.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View hoss12992's profile


4081 posts in 2090 days

#11 posted 09-11-2013 10:11 PM

A few things you may want to consider.
1) I am a firm believer in a corner chisel. They are relatively cheep and save ALOT of time and head ache. They make cutting square and clean corners really easy

2) A pattern router bit is def worth its weight in gold. The easiest way to route in hinges, is to make a template, just some scrap wood and a clamp or two and BAM, you got it, like KCD68 has pictured above. Again much easier and alot less headache.

3) Another possibility that you may want to consider is a inlay router bit set. The bearing pops off and on. These can also be used for mortising out recesses for hinges as well as other things, and also give you the ability to add some amazing inlay into your future projects. I use mine alot for things other than inlay. They are really easy to use and with a good template, to produce seemless inlays.

The piece that you are working on is a great start and seems built to last and Im sure will look great. Just a thought, but maybe a small round over on the corners to soften the edges a bit. Just a thought on that one.

I look forward to seeing what you decide on this project and seeing it finished

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21712 posts in 3302 days

#12 posted 09-12-2013 01:05 AM

Yup, you need sharper chisels, but you could have put a radius on the frame going in there and not needed to cut it square at all. My dad always said” there is more than one way to skin a cat!”..ever heard that before??

The other thing is, that even though the way you have it looks ragged, the frames inserted in there will cover up most of it.

Chalk it up to learning and remember it for next time!! That is how you acquire a good assortment of bits, too!!!!!!!!!!!

You sure get in a variety of projects. Variety is the spice of life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and you learn on every one of them!

Oh Angie, get an MLCS catalog, They have good router bits at good prices and the shipping is free. When I need one, I stop the job , call them and have it in a couple days… no tax… no shipping…. just the cost of the bit!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2344 days

#13 posted 09-12-2013 01:21 AM

I did do a scribe line. But not until after the first two. LOL

BTimmons. You are correct. I meant that I got my file out to sharpen the chisel. It did help. But it’s not as sharp as I think it needs to be. And… I did move it to that forum. Thanks!

Don W… If you see the pic in the first comment… I didn’t rout the other two sides because of the pocket hole screws. I’m still wondering about using the 1/4” rabbiting bit to do just that. I’m just curious if leaving that little wood between the outside edge and the screws will affect anything. This isn’t going to be weight bearing or anything so I wasn’t sure. So I haven’t started on the other two frames yet.

Yep the bits were Vermont American. And they actually seem to do a pretty good job so far. The Mister Hardware in this little town I live in is going out of business which is why I bought them there. 50% off.

Horizontal Mike… YIKES!!! You are not supposed to do that. I will be careful though. I’ll probably be thinking about that when I get the chisels out.

Hoss… I like all the suggestions you made. I do have a set of three roundover bits. I think they are 1/4”, 1/2” and 3/4”. Plus I have a roman ogee. I thought about either rounding over the edges or using the ogee. But basically waiting to hear what the “boss” says after I finish the rabbiting. (boss being my mom lol). And that corner chisel… that is something i definitely want to get. :)

Jim… I could get in a lot of trouble with a catalog full of bits. My eyes start to glaze over. LOL. Like a kid in a candy store. And yeah… with the way she want’s it… you won’t be able to see the ragged edges. It was definitely a learning experience. ANd I did the last 6 corners in the time it took to do the first one. I’m getting better. What do you mean by “put a radius on the frame going in there”?

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2344 days

#14 posted 09-12-2013 01:24 AM

Oh… and I TORE UP my shop tonight. I had a freezer given to me. Smaller than the old one I had out there. It’s sadly the only place I have to put it. But I am getting ready to buy half a cow so I needed it. It was last minute and I tore things up to make the space for it. I know it’s wrong… but it makes me very sad to share my shop with the freezer :’(

Anyhow… I am heading back out to clean up after the mini tornado that just went through there. Thanks for all the links. When I get done I will look up the scary sharp method and the other one. I briefly looked at the strop… looks very interesting.

Yeah!!! I cant wait to try this out tomorrow. :)

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3168 days

#15 posted 09-12-2013 01:43 AM

You going to be painting that?
If you are, remember that a little caulk before the paint will smooth over a lot of oops.

Think there is even a saying for that:
A little caulk before we paint,
makes our work look like the piece of art that it ain’t.

Or something like that.

A good chisel is almost as hard as most files.
You probably noticed the file just wanted to slide right over the chisel and not cut.

The scary sharp method, as mentioned many times already is a great place to start.
Just pick up a single 12” x 12” granite floor tile at HD. They are about $5.
If you find one on display that has a chipped corner they will probably give it to you.
You will need some spray glue or rubber cement.
Then get some silicon carbide sand paper. The black stuff. Sometimes called wet/dry paper.
You will need grits from 200 to as high as you can find.
Another great accessory is a fixture (guide) to hold your chisel at a constant angle while honing.
And that is it. You can Google scary sharp to see tons of instructions.

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