Making Kitchen Tools

Limitless Possibilities

Wooden kitchen tools can be made with just a few carving tools, or you can go in whole hog like I have done, and have a dozen or more tools to use. After all, the person who dies with the most tools, wins. Even though you’re still dead.

The bottom one, painted with some homemade iron oxide Swedish Red paint, is a traditional Swedish butter knife, though we mostly use those as jam spreaders. Multi-tasking is fine.

The middle one is my version of a butter knife, made from walnut. The finish is blonde shellac, which I also made, with the help of the bugs who laid the resin.

The spoon at the top is also walnut, with a food grade linseed oil finish. I made the distinction between the heartwood and sap wood part of the design. It came out nicely.

This is just part of a large set I am making for in-laws, as they gave me a stack of logs. MJ also has a niece who is renovating a house, and has a kitchen with nothing in it. That won’t last much longer.

Time to give a shout out to a great US tool company. Flexcut tools in PA make some great carving tools. These would have been much harder to make without their tools.

The folding carving knife was a present from MJ, and it has two blades of different lengths, but it insures her that she will have spoons and spatulas for life. The small drawknife is a recent purchase, but I used it on all those items in the picture. That honking giant bowl gouge took some time to find, and naturally it was being sold by my favorite woodworking store in Atlanta, Highland Woodworking. It’s a full 2″ wide on the business end, and will take out a serious chunk of wood. Bowl carving is in the near future.

Mallet, Part I–Dogwood Root Club

Seriously Hard and Dangerous

At the University of Alabama, I lived at the Men’s Honors Dorm, a somewhat notorious institution called the Mallet Assembly. It was home for everything from high minded intellectuals to infamous perverts. I prefer to think that I was in the former category.

So now I have undertaken several projects of making mallets. My first is every traditional woodworker’s dream, a splitting club ( aka, a maul), made from unbelievably hard dogwood root. The club is used to strike the back of a froe (pictured), which is a wood splitting tool. Mine happened to be made by the Amish.

One of our many thunderstorms this year blew over one of our big dogwood trees, and actually uprooted it. All I had to do was cut the root off with my old double bitted axe, and shape it right there on my shaving horse (also pictured), with a drawknife and a spokeshave. This club is full of heavyosity.

The first trial run was that piece of walnut, which it split with only four whacks. The second run was on some hornbeam, which is impossible to split. I did it anyway–after cutting through ninety five percent of the hornbeam log.

Cookbook Bench

Let’s Cook

MJ wanted a bookstand for our cookbooks that can be moved around in the kitchen, so I dove into my scrap pile and came up with some goodies. My total cost for new components for this stand was 9 1/2 cents.

Most people make these out of plywood, but I had some 1/4″ thick poplar boards in the scrap pile, along with some cherry pieces parts, and I made just a very few saw cuts. The molding on the front is actually some crown molding, which I grooved with an old Stanley 45 combination plane. I used the same plane to cut the bead at the top.

My contribution to the design was to drill eight holes in the base, and use handmade French nails as a means of keeping the books open. There are actually sixteen possible arrangements for the nails, to accommodate different sized books.

Because there are three different varieties of wood used, I finished it with a dark amber shellac, which was also made by yours truly. I did have some help from the lac bugs, which is where shellac comes from. It is also used in making candy like Raisinettes and Jelly Beans, so there is another food connection. I doubt that people who eat those even know that they are eating bug parts.

That’s it in action with one of my favorite cookbooks. You have to like a book that has both a cow and chicken on the cover.

Mailing It In

Egg Tsunami is Here

The two eggs on the left are from ISA Browns, the other three are from Barred Rocks. The Browns lay slightly longer eggs that are a little lighter, whereas the Rocks lay the slightly darker shorter eggs.

We had three eggs by nine this morning, and one was the first to be laid in the mailbox nest. The Browns are only beginning to lay, and according to the interwebs, they are egg layers supreme.

Here’s the mailbox again, for all the people who have worn out old farm stuff lying around. The size is XL.

Chickens like junk just as much as the flock of sheep in Shaun the Sheep.

Florida Man is Back!

When you allegedly get high on Meth, drive your Ford F-150 into the door of a liquor store in Alabama, and shoot the person who tries to help you, you must be a Florida Man. Such is life in the modern South.

Details, details, details. According to the Calhoun County, Alabama police, at 6.49 AM yesterday morning, a man from Panama City, Florida, ran his pickup into the Liquor King store on Alabama Highway 21. The manager of an Econo Lodge Motel next door came over to help him, and was rewarded for his good Samaritan behavior by getting shot in the leg by Florida Man. A woman who was also trying to help ran like hell to get away from the lunatic, and quite rightly so.

Florida Man was just getting started. He got out of the truck, and walked down the road shooting randomly, until he ran out of bullets. He then passed out in the middle of the highway, and stayed there until an off-duty cop came and arrested him. Florida Man was then taken to the local hospital for observation, hopefully in a different room from the person he shot.

Since liquor is a plant product, and meth is a cooked product (at least according to Walter White in Breaking Bad), I felt compelled to tell this story. That, and I get to quote the Sheriff of Calhoun County, who made the understatement of the century: “It’s a scary world that we live in.”

The Chicken’s New Address

So Much Depends on a Mailbox and a Red Wheelbarrow

To go along with our Shaun the Sheep themed chicken pen, we have added another addition to the junkyard. MJ had the genius idea of turning our old defunct mailbox into a chicken nesting box. One Bosch drill, and three deck screws later, and it was a reality.

No Envelope for this Bird

I just added some pine shavings, and five minutes later, the Barred Rock chicken we have named Broody Bird was in there. She got comfy in a hurry.

Our flock of eight has five nest boxes now, and I suspect at least one of the young ISA Browns has begun laying. We’re not going to have an egg avalanche–it will be more like an egg tsunami. I need to get them to raise the red flag when they lay an egg.

Child’s Rocker Repair

Almost Ready to Rock

Family heirlooms, if they can be reclaimed, should never be thrown away. My in-laws commissioned me to repair this probably homemade child’s rocker, which was found in a shed, and was in seriously rough shape. One back leg was broken, two slats in the seat were broken, and every joint was coming unglued. There is a good chance that MJ’s grandfather Richter, who was born in Germany, made this, as he was a master carpenter.

There isn’t much that isn’t completely rotten that can’t be repaired with a couple of bar clamps, a c-clamp, some fasteners, and half a bottle of glue. And then there is the ingenious part of the repair.

Animals at work

I needed something to brace up the broken slats, so I searched my scrap pile for the best item. Then there it was–a River Birch piece that had been peeled by a Beaver, that I found on the river. I thought, how can anything be more appropriate, to fix a home made rocker?

I shaped a nice curve in it with a spokeshave, coated the top with glue, and attached it with a couple of fasteners. It is a little crooked, but the slats were broken in different places, so I had to angle it ever so slightly.

If you are wondering why my 23 ounce framing hammer is sitting in the seat, it is my clamp to keep down the broken slats while the glue dried. That hammer was yet another present from MJ, who actually remembers sitting in this chair. With any luck, kids will still be rocking in this thing, a hundred years from now.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Two–Block Planes

The Best of the USA and the Bundesrepublik Deutschland

These are some of my most used planes. and two actually live in the tool tray on top of my work bench. They are that useful. To make this brief, they are a Stanley #60 1/2, a Stanley # 18, and an EC Emmerich wooden block plane with a sole of lignum vitae. Now it’s time for my closeup, Mr. DeMille. (Sunset Boulevard ref).

60 1/2

The least used is the Stanley 60 1/2 “low angle” block plane, though there is some debate over how low angle it actually is. It has an adjustable mouth, which is the key feature. The only reason it isn’t used more is the crappy blade that Stanley put on these planes. Therefore, it spends its time in my green woodworking tool bucket. I am eventually going to spring for one of those fancy Veritas plane blades, and at that point it will be look out, wood.

Germans, They are so Clever and Industrious

This beauty I would never have bought for myself, but I opened a package one Christmas from MJ, and there it was (She is of mostly German and Swedish extraction, and knows her woodworking tools). This E.C Emmerich block plane came with one bad mother of a plane blade, so no upgrade was needed. It’s built like a modern German Bundeswehr Panzerdivision, and cuts like it means business. It’s partner is hiding behind it, and that’s one of only three planes I have ever had in new condition–an old Ulmia Scrub Plane, which happens to be the only bench plane that I have personally purchased new. Those definitely live in my tool tray on the bench.

The Crown Jewel

This Stanley #18 knuckle joint plane gets a workout ever time I make something. Like all things over a hundred years old (such as myself), it has a secret weapon.

That Means Oil Hardened

Yep, that’s the extra thick and hard Lee Valley blade, made in Canada. Those things are worth far more than the money they cost. It does make this dingus as heavy as a sea anchor, but as my friend Torsten Fisch used to say, in his thick German accent, “Size matters. Bigger is better.” Of course, he did work for Mercedes.

Peter Hemings, Y’all

As this is Juneteenth, we should celebrate someone who was freed from slavery–Peter Hemings, head chef at Monticello. He learned to cook from his famous older brother James, and was such a master that President Thomas Jefferson would write from the White House for his recipes. Despite being enslaved, he was the half-brother of Jefferson’s wife. History is complicated.

Not satisfied with just that, Peter taught himself brewing, and became the head brewer at Monticello. He was so good at that that he was recommended to be an instructor for the brewer for President James Madison. Jefferson wrote Madison that Peter was “uncommonly intelligent and capable of teaching.” Apparently he could make great beer as well.

After he finally gained his freedom, Peter took up yet another trade–being a tailor in Richmond. It appears that the people of Virginia were both well fed and well clothed, because of people like Peter. My guess is he was the source of many of Mary Randolph’s recipes, from the famous 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife.

Hot Honey Mustard

Love some Sweet and Hot

Years ago, the best deli in Birmingham was in the tiny suburb of Cahaba Heights. The classic item was a turkey sandwich with a hot honey mustard sauce. I finally got the recipe for the sauce from them, and not much could be simpler.

Here are the grand total of the three ingredients.

Ingredients

12 ounces whole grain Mustard

8 ounces Honey

Powdered hot Mustard

Put as much of the last ingredient in it as you dare. This is also known as Oriental mustard, though ours came from Canada. It varies greatly in heat level, and as a menu at a Chinese restaurant we frequented used to say, “it gives you a pleasant burning sensation up your sinuses.” Fair warning.

Alas, the deli has long since closed, but hot honey mustard lives on, as does that pleasant burning sensation. That one is forever.