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This article was published in the Fall 2008 edition of Woodturning Design. 

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Spatula as 13 page pdf

Spatula

Introduction

Story

One of my co-workers (at my real job) is getting married. I made the monogrammed spatula in Figure 1 for her as a wedding present. My wife told me to include something to hang it up with because that picture is the only time it will get near a frying pan. She’s probably right, but it COULD be used normally—won’t scratch Teflon pans either. As long as you don’t used it to press the life out of hamburgers or soak it overnight in the sink it should last for years.

Figure #01. A Spatula with the wedding invitation monogram cut into the Blade.

 

I’m not going to include making the monogram in this article, but if you’re comfortable with a scroll saw or fret saw it’s easy enough. I used the computer font French Script MT in my CAD program. You can also arrange the letters in MS Word if you make each letter a separate WordArt picture and format them as Behind Text. Print the monogram out, attach the paper to the blade with Post-it Note Glue™, and saw away (before you attach the handle).

I've added a section on Monogram blades at the end of the web version of this article.

Design

The Blade, although thin, is surprisingly sturdy. It is four layers of veneer laminated together in a bending form. It’s not cross-grain like a plywood, but the subtly different grain directions in each layer make it split resistant. I’ve used this technique to make tatting shuttles for years and they’re very strong for their weight, even the sharp spike on one end (If you don’t know what a tatting shuttle is, ask your Grandmother, or have a look at my website:  www.DavidReedSmith.com).

 

The joint between the handle and blade is a potential week point. To reinforce the glue I wound on brass wire. As a bonus the wire lends a nice decorative touch. Force concentrates where the handle ends, so the contact area needs to be broad. But if the handle was simply turned with a wide end it would not only look funny, but interfere with getting the blade down flat on the frying pan for turning pancakes and the like. Conveniently a little multi-center or eccentric turning neatly solves this problem, again in a decorative fashion.

 

 

Bending Form

 

An Alternate Bending Form

 

 

The Bending Form can be easily cut from construction lumber on a bandsaw. There are a couple of potential problems with this approach. The first is that bandsaws, at least those owned by mere mortals, tend to leave a rough washboard surface that can imprint on the lamination. The second problem is that any curves on both halves of the form have to be concentric when clamped (see Drawing 1 for an illustration of this problem). If the total thickness of the blade is different from the bandsaw kerf, the curves won’t be concentric. Fortunately there is an easy simultaneous solution for these problems. And originally it’s meant to at least restore decorative appearance—namely Bondo. By smearing Bondo on both halves of the Bending Form and clamping it around something smooth that is the thickness of the laminate we get a Bending Form with smooth surfaces with concentric curves.

 

Drawing1:  The exaggerated curve makes it easier to see the kerf problem. The sides of the cut which are concentric on top, as cut, are no longer concentric on the bottom, when the gap is different than the kerf.

 

 

Layout & Cutting

Start by cutting a Bending Form Blank that is 4-3/4” wide and 5-5/8” long out of construction lumber, as in Figure 2. Stand the Blank on edge and draw a line that is 3-1/2” long and runs from the bottom third of the Blank on one edge and the top third towards the middle as in Figure 3. Draw another line from the vertex of the first line to the other edge that makes a 25° (or 155° depending on which way you measure) as in Figure 4. Now draw a fillet between the two lines as in Figure 5. I used a handy off-cut of 2” PVC pipe, which is conveniently a trifle larger than the diameter of the drum sander I used to sand the Blade after lamination.

Figure #02. The Bending Form Blank, a 4-3/4” x 5-5/8” piece of construction lumber.

 

Figure #03. The first step in laying out the cutting line is to draw a 3-1/2” line from the bottom third right edge to the top third middle of the Bending Form Blank.

 

Figure #04. The second step in laying out the cutting line is to draw a line from the vertex (end) of the first line to the left edge at a 25° angle.

 

 

Figure #05:  The third step in laying out the cutting line is to draw a fillet (arc) tangent to the two lines.

When the Blank is stood on edge to cut on the bandsaw, it is rather tall compared to it’s footprint on the table. To make it more stable while sawing, temporarily attach a buttress as in Figure 6. To do this cut out a rectangular block of construction lumber, apply hot-melt glue to one end and stick against the middle of the Blank while holding both pieces on a flat surface.

 

Figure #06. A waste block glued to the edge of the Bending Form Blank makes it easier to keep it perpendicular to the table and gives you a handle to hold on to as well.

Take the Blank over to the bandsaw and carefully cut out on the layout lines as in Figure 7. A fair curve is more important than staying on the line. Do keep your fingers out of harms way. It may look like I violated that precept, but the bandages on my thumb are actually from scraping it on some sharp edges on the sawdust access door on my table saw. Once the Bending Form is cut out of the Blank give the buttress piece a whack with a mallet to knock it off. [The typical surface left by an ordinary bandsaw blade is shown in Figure 8.]

Figure #07. Cutting the Bending Form.

 

Figure #08 The surface of the Bending Form left by the bandsaw. The ripples will be imprinted into the laminated Blade. You could just sand them off the Blade, but if you make more than one it’s better to fix the Bending Form.

 

Bondo & Assembly

Begin the Bondo process by measuring the total thickness of the number of layers of the veneer you’re going to use [as in Figure 9]. Then find something smooth and supple that’s the same thickness. I have used layers of cereal box cardboard, but I’ve been cutting out refined carbs (lost 15 pounds so far) so I had to use an extra catalog instead. I was going to measure 100 pages (or 50 sheets) and calculate how many I needed but 100 was pretty much right [as in Figure 10].

 

Figure #09. Measuring the thickness of 4 layers of veneer with calipers.

 

Figure #10. Figuring out the number of pages to include by measuring with calipers.

 

Lay the Bending Form on the paper and trace around it allowing approximately a ½” margin on all sides as in Figure 11. Cut on the traced line. You can use your bandsaw  or scissors if you have strong fingers or patience. Tuck the paper into the fold of waxed paper as in Figure 12. You can help keep everything together by inserting ONE staple in the margin of one of the corners near the fold. More than one staple invites wrinkles.

Figure #11. Oversize tracing the Bending Form onto the pages.

 

Figure #12. The pages have been inserted into folded waxed paper, and the sandwich has been stapled in one corner.

Set up for applying the Bondo [as in Figure 13]. You’ll need the Bondo and catalyst, a surface or container for mixing, something to mix it with, the Bending Form pieces, the waxed paper sandwich, and four clamps. Following the instructions on the can of Bondo, scoop out a blob of the filler onto your mixing surface and then squeeze out a good guess as to the amount of hardener needed. They actually sell plastic mixing tools that are the color you’re supposed get when the right amount of hardener has been added—but you’re not going to drive down a pothole infested street with the Bending Form so don’t obsess. Mix the hardener and filler together. You can use a putty knife, I used a scrap piece of acrylic [as in Figure 14]. Then spread the Bondo over the inner surfaces of both halves of the Bending Form as in Figure 15. You can use any left-overs to fill in drill holes in a wooden drill press table or the like.

 

Figure #13. The set-up for applying Bondo to the Bending Form.

 

Figure #14. Mixing the hardener with the Bondo filler

 

Figure #15. Bondo has been spread on the inside surfaces of the Bending Form.

 

Lay the wax paper covered paper sandwich over one half of the Bending Form, then set the other half of the Bending Form on top of that. The Bending Form should center itself longitudinally about the curve, but try to get it more or less aligned side to side. Clamp the form together gently and evenly with at least four clamps as in Figure 16, and let the Bondo cure.

 

Figure #16. The paper sandwich has been clamped between the Bondo coated Bending Form with four clamps.

When the Bondo is fully hardened (allow an hour or see the can instructions) remove ONE of the clamps, the one at the end where you started the 3-1/2” line. Drill pilot holes for some wood screws about 3/8” from the edge [as in Figure 17] (you’re drilling near the end of construction lumber, it will split without pilot holes). Insert the screws [as in Figure 18] and then remove the rest of the clamps, as in Figure 19.

 

Figure #17. With one clamp removed to provide access, pilot holes have been drilled for screws to temporarily hold the Bending Form together.

 

Figure #18. Screws have been inserted to hold the Bending Form together until it can be drilled for dowels.

 

Figure19:  The Bending Form has been screwed together.

 

 

While the Bending Form is temporarily screwed together, take it to the drill press and drill two 3/8” (or whatever fits your “3/8” dowel rod) holes, about ½” from the edge next to the screws as in Figure 20. Remove the screws [as in Figure 21] and throw away the sandwich. Return the convex half of the Bending Form to the drill press and re-drill the holes 1/64” larger as in Figure 22 checking to make sure the dowels will slide in and out easily. Cut two pieces of 3/8” dowel about 2” long and glue them into the concave half of the bending form [as in Figure 23] and then apply some wax to the exposed dowel [as in Figure 24]. After the glue cures, assemble the Bending Form as in Figure 25 to make sure the Form can be opened and closed without binding on the dowels. If it can’t, make the holes in the convex half bigger. You can trim away any Bondo squeeze out or side mis-match with your bandsaw if you like.

Figure #20. Drilling for dowels on the drill press.

 

Figure #21. After unscrewing the Bending Form to remove the sandwich.

 

Figure #22. Enlarging the dowel holes on the convex half of the Bending Form so it can slide up and down the dowels without binding.

 

Figure #23. Gluing the dowels into the concave half of the Bending Form.

 

Figure #24. Applying some paraffin to the dowels.

 

Figure #25. The completed Bending Form.

 

Blade

Laminate

Insert some cereal box cardboard or other suitable template material into the Bending Form so that it’s up against the dowels. Trace around the Bending Form on the cardboard [as in Figure 26] then remove the cardboard from the Bending Form and cut on the traced line. Trace the resulting Veneer Size Template four times onto your veneer, grain running the long way, and cut out the four pieces with scissors as in Figure 27.

Figure #26. Making a Veneer Size Template. A piece of cereal box cardboard has been inserted into the Bending Form up to the dowels, then the sides have been traced.

 

Figure #27. Using the Veneer Size Template to cut out the four pieces of veneer.

 

Cut out a piece of waxed paper big enough to cover both sides of the veneer and fold it over. Lay the veneer pieces on some newsprint and squeeze out some polyurethane glue on three of them. Spread the glue into an even layer with a thin piece of cardboard or plastic as in Figure 28. Flip the first piece with glue onto the piece without, then the second glued piece on top, last the third piece. Align the veneer pieces and insert them into the folded wax paper [as in Figure 29] so that an end grain side is against the fold. Open up the Bending Form and slide in the veneer sandwich, wax fold first, until it’s up against the dowels. Clamp the veneer sandwich in the Bending Form with at least 4 clamps, as in Figure 30, and allow the glue to cure. My Gorilla Glue label says it reaches 80% strength in 2 hours, but better to let it cure over night.

Figure #28. Spreading polyurethane glue on the veneer.

 

Figure #29. The stack of veneer inserted into folded waxed paper.

 

Figure #30. The stack of veneer in waxed paper has been inserted into the Bending Form and clamped together with 4 clamps.

 

 

 

Cut & Finish

After the glue is cured, remove the laminated Blade from the Bending Form. To cut out the shape of the blade you can follow Drawing 2 or draw your own shape. You can use the drawing to make a cardboard template and trace it onto the Blade [as in Figure 31], or copy the drawing and stick the copy on to the Blade with Post-It Note™ glue (or another restickable glue stick). Cut out the Blade. A scroll is safer for the Blade and your fingers, but you can use a bandsaw. Use a fine-toothed blade if you have one and feed at a controlled slow rate. Sand the Blade and round over the edges, except the tang. I used a pneumatic drum sander, but any drum sander or hand sanding will do. If the Spatula will see actual use, wet the Blade after sanding and resand with the finest grit and it won’t fuzz up so band when it first hits the dishwater. Figure 32 shows the sanded Blade.

Drawing02:  The Blade Pattern. Copy and glue or trace on thin cardboard.

 

Figure #31. The Blade Pattern traced on to the Blade.

 

Figure #32. After cutting out and sanding the Blade.

Handle

Turn

Copy Drawing 3, or draw your own Handle Plan. Cut out the plan on the red lines and use spray adhesive to stick the drawing to some suitable thin substrate. I used some 3 mm plywood from a box of Clementines. You can use a triangular file to nick the edge at the blue lines to center your pencil when transferring dimensions to the turning.

 

Drawing # 3.          The Handle Pattern. Copy and glue on to something thin.

Find or cut a turning square that is 1” x 1” x 11”. Use diagonal lines from corner to corner to find the center at each end. On one end, center the middle blue line on the bottom of the Handle Plan at the center. Use the other two blue lines to mark off two locations on the diagonal that are 3/16” from the center, as in Figure 33. Use a spring loaded center punch or other means to dimple the wood at the marks as in Figure 34.

Figure #33. Using the Handle Pattern to lay out the eccentric centers on the tailstock end of the Turning Square .

 

Figure 34:  After punching the marked centers

 

Mount the turning square between centers on your lathe as in Figure 35. It’s best to use a two prong drive center and a cone tailstock center. The end with three marks goes at the tailstock end—use the center mark for this mounting. Align the prongs of the drive center so that they’re penpendicular to the diagonal with the marks, which will make it easier when it comes time to remount the work eccentrically.

Figure 35:  The Turning Square mounted between centers.

 

Use a spindle roughing gouge to turn the turning square round [as in Figure 36]. Use the two right-most blue lines to transfer the locations for the bead and the end of the handle (while it might be prudent from a vibration standpoint to work on the fatter part of the handle first, it also makes sense to do the less familiar eccentric work early on rather than put a lot of prior work at risk). Use a parting tool to cut to 3/8” to the right of the bead, and 5/8” to the right of the handle end as in Figure 37. The generously long 5/8” stub serves both to keep the wood from splitting when you mount it eccentrically and to guide how deep to cut. V-cut and round the end of the handle slightly with the long point of a skew. Use a spindle gouge to turn the half cove at the end of the handle and the small step and flat area extending 3/8” from the bead as in Figure 38.

Figure #36. After roughing to round.

 

Figure #37. Parting tool cuts have been made to define the size of the end stub and flat next to the bead.

 

Figure #38. The stub, flare, and flat have been shaped.

 

Turn the lathe off and remount the handle using one of the off-center locations at the tailstock as in Figure 39. Give the spindle a turn by hand to make sure it clears your tool rest. Turn the lathe on and turn down the flared end using light cuts, until you start to cut the 5/8” stub at the very end. I used a skew as in Figure 40, but you could also use a spindle gouge. [The result is shown in Figure 41]. Stop the lathe again, remount the spindle at the other off-center location, and again turn down the flare until you start cutting the 5/8” stub—it will look like Figure 42. This may seem like a lot of trouble for a couple of quick eccentric cuts, but if you just wing it by setting the eccentric locations by eye and don’t have something to balance the amount taken off, you’ll not get symmetrical results.

Figure #39. Mounted off-center for the first eccentric turning.

Figure #40. Turning the flare while mounted eccentrically.

 

Figure #41. After the first eccentric turning.

 

 

Figure #42. After the second eccentric turning.

Stop the lathe and return the tailstock to the center mounting. Start the lathe and make parting tool cuts to 5/8” diameter at both ends of the hand grip, and a 3/8” diameter at the other end of the bead as in Figure 43. Roll the bead with your skew or spindle gouge. Reduce the diameter of the shaft between the grip and bead with a roughing gouge and then smooth that area and the grip with a skew or spindle gouge as in Figure 44. It may be getting whippy enough to chatter a bit at this point, but don’t worry overly, as I was able to later quickly sand out the chatter you may be able to see in Figure 44 with 180 grit.

Figure #43. Parting tool cuts have been made to define the diameters of the handgrip and shaft to the right of the bead.

 

 

Figure #44. The bead, handgrip, and shaft have been turned.

Add a mini-cove, or some other detail to set the grip apart from the rest of the shaft [as in Figure 45]. Use a parting tool to turn the finial down to ½”. It’s probably a good idea to provide a means to hang the Spatula. You could insert a cup hook or loop of wire on the end, but if you wish to use a loop of leather thong, drill a 3/16” hole in the end finial a little over half-way thru, as in Figure 46. Depending on the size thong you use you may need to adjust the size of this hole. Try to line up the hole so that it is perpendicular to the drive center prongs, as that way it will be hidden when the Spatula is hung up.

Figure #45 A cove has cut with a mini-cove tool to mark the transition between handgrip and shaft.

Figure #46. A hole for a hanging thong has been drilled into the finial.

Use a spindle gouge to finish up the details of the finial [as in Figure 47] and use the long point of a skew to nearly cut off the handle at both ends if you like. Sand the handle with progressively finer grit abrasive as in Figure 48. When you get to 320 grit or so, you may want to dampen the handle with water and resand with 320 so that the handle doesn’t fuzz up instantly the first time it’s washed. Before removing the handle from the lathe, apply masking tape over the bead and end flare to make glue foam-out easier to clean up.

Figure #47. The Handle has been turned.

 

Figure #48. After sanding the Handle.

 

Figure #49. Masking tape has been wrapped around the bead and flare to keep glue squeeze out off the Handle surfaces.

It's a whole lot easier to use Titebond II and omit the tape.

Remove the handle from the lathe and trim off the stubs with your bandsaw. Sand the ends smooth. Drill a 1/8” hole (depending on thong size) from the end to the hole you drilled earlier as in Figure 50. Apply masking tape to the flared end.

 

Figure #50. A hole for a hanging thong has been drilled from the end of the finial to the larger hole drilled from the side.

 

Slot

On an earlier version of the Spatula I made the slot by cutting a single kerf while hand holding it on the bandsaw. I then enlarged the slot to fit the Spatula Blade by what surely constitutes tool abuse, with abrasive wrapped around a thin metal rule. But to be myself, I must suggest making a jig instead. To make the jig, shown in Figure 51, cut a piece of construction 2x4 10” long. Joint one side, then cut it to 3” wide (to make the math easier) on the table saw. Angle your table saw blade to 45° and set the height to about 5/8”. Set your rip fence so that the distance from the highest tooth point on the blade is 1-1/2” as in Drawing 4. Run the jig thru the saw, then turn it around and run it thru again, standing to the side in case the blade grabs the freed waste. Cut a small cross piece 3” wide, and cut a small V in the middle of it with the bandsaw. You can attach the cross piece with wood screw, but I drilled 5/16” holes and each end and then drilled and taped the jig for 1/4x20 thumbscrews (having a box of originally100 of the now rusty things).

Figure51:  The Handle Slotting Jig

 

Drawing #4.           Setting Fence and Blade for making V-Block.

 

Clamp the handle in the jig, trying to clamp on the front end of the grip so that the flare makes contact with the sides of the V. Set your bandsaw rip fence so that the blade is a little off center to the V. Push the jig into the blade until it cuts up to the bead, as in Figure 52.  Pull the jig out, readjust the fence so that the blade is off center the other way and repeat the cut. Check the fit with your blade [as in Figure 53] and widen the cut as necessary. When you’re done it will look like Figure 54.

Figure #52. Cutting the slot on the bandsaw using the Handle Slotting Jig and rip fence.

 

Figure 53:  Testing the fit of the Blade in the slot

 

Figure #54. The finished slot.

 

Assembly

Dry fit the Blade completely in place in the handle, and apply masking tape over the exposed parts of the blade [as in Figure 55] to contain foam out. Spread polyurethane glue on the inside of the slot, insert the Blade, and clamp until the glue cures.

 

Figure #55  Masking tape has been applied to protect the Blade from glue squeeze out while the Blade is dry fitted into the Handle.

Figure #56. The Handle clamped around the Blade while the glue cures.

 

After the glue cures, remove the masking tape, and remove any remaining glue squeeze out with sandpaper or cutting/scraping tools. This tends to be a bit fussy, so if you’re sure the Spatula won’t be washed often you may wish to switch to an easier to contain, but less water-proof glue. Trim the Blade tang flush with the flat.

 

Mount the handle so that you can wind on the wire—the slotting jig is perfect for this if you clamp it in a vise or to your work bench. Select a drill bit slight larger than the wire you will use. I used a #60 drill and 22 gauge (0.0253”) soft brass wire. Drill halfway thru the handle at the bead end of the flat as in Figure 57, and drill all the way thru the handle at the flare end of the flat. Try to keep the drill perfectly perpendicular to the handle so that the drill exits right against the flare.

 

Figure #57. Drilling a hole so the wire can be wound on to reinforce the joint between Handle and Blade.

 

Cut off a couple feet of wire. Make a sharp right angle bend at the end of the wire, as in Figure 58, with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Insert the bent part of the wire and start winding it around the flat part of the handle as in Figure 59. Once you start winding, never release tension on the wire. When you come to the end, maintain tension with a finger over the wound wire on the underside and thread the wire thru the hole at the flare end as in Figure 60. Draw the wire down tight thru the hole, then cut off what sticks out [as in Figure 61].

Figure #58 To start winding on the wire, make a 90° bend at the end of the wire.

Figure #59. The bend in the wire has been inserted in the hole next to the bead and the first turn around the flat has been made.

 

Figure #60. To end the wire winding, maintain wire tension under the flat with your fingers while threading the wire thru the hole next to the flare.

 

 

Figure #61. Trimming the wire after pulling it tight.

Apply a finish of your choice. If the Spatula is to be used some kind of easily renewable oil finish would be appropriate. I used olive oil. You can insert both ends of a thong or leather lacing thru the hole in the end of the handle, knot the ends together and trim, and then pull the knot into the hole. [Figure 62]

 

Figure #62. The finished Spatula.

 

Tools & Materials

4 pieces of veneer, about 4-3/4 x 5-1/4

1”x1”x11” turning square

Figure 63

Figure 63:  Visual Tool List. From left to right-top to bottom:  Spindle Roughing Gouge, Skew, Spindle Gouge, Mini-Cove Tool, Calipers (round over the tips),  Handle Pattern, Blade Template, Veneer Size Template,  Abrasives, Center Punch, Dowel Rod, Bondo Filler, Bondo Hardener, Mixing Tool, Handle Slotting Jig, Bending Form, Polyurethane Glue,  Masking Tape, Waxed Paper, 22 gauge Brass Wire, Diagonal Cutters, Needle Nose Pliers, Drill Bits, Screws, Screw Driver Bit, Drill, Clamps

Author

David Reed Smith is a basement woodturner from Hampstead , Maryland . He is particularly glad to have finished this article, because he thinks he’s figure out a way to shoehorn a new bandsaw into his shop and has resorted to self-bribery to overcome procrastination. He welcomes comments, suggestions and questions at David@DavidReedSmith.com. He hopes to post some desperately cute versions of this project with the web version of this article.

Monogram Blades

Here are some patterns if you want to try cutting your own monogramed spatula blades.  I used a bench scroll saw (Hegner) but a hand fret saw would work just as well, although a bit more slowly.

A blade with a monogram.

 

If you download this word document, you can click on each letter in turn to change the letter to the ones you want.

 

A Heart shaped blade with a monogram.