Sunday, November 14, 2010

Practical vs Beauty

Not all things we make have to be beautiful. Sometimes we make jigs or appliances for the shop that are quick and dirty to get the task at hand done.

This was the case today. Not for the shop however but for inside my home. As many of you know, I have a daughter. She in fact just turned 8 months old this weekend and is one of the 2 reasons for my happy existence. This morning as we were in our routine before church and she logged almost 3 laps around the living room.Visions of guarding the stairs to prevent a headlong tumble filled my head.

The time has come to start putting up the safety gates.

My boss had some baby gates that were destined for the landfill and he had asked if i wanted them and I thought why not? They'll come in handy! They're wooden gates (yay!) that have hinges to swing them aside when not in use. The problem was how to mount them in the needed location. There are stairs coming down into the living room and right next to them are the stairs going down to the basement. A set of iron pickets and wooden railing separated the two flights (typical of homes built in the 70's). There was no place to mount the latch point to keep the gate closed.

Had I not been spending my free time woodworking these past 10 months, I probably would have been searching the local borg for another solution. Or else making such a hack job as to lower the value of neighboring houses.

Instead, I put my knowledge to use to make 2 sets of clamping blocks from some scrap cherry. 1 block of each set was quite plain, but the other required routing a rabbet on 2 opposing edges to prevent lateral movement. The 2 blocks would be fastened together between two bars with screws providing the clamping force (it is supposed to be temporary after all!). All edges were softened with my block plane to prevent any little fingers from getting 'owwies'.

Finally, they each received a bath in thinned bullseye shellac and set out to dry. A light sanding after about an hour and another coat wiped on this time. I love how quickly shellac dries! I was able to get both sets of clamping blocks built and installed with the gates in about 3 hours.

changed my mind. All things made from wood can be beautiful, even if they're not meant to be. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


  1. When you develop the skill to work wood it opens up a lot of practical possibilities. The whole world starts to look differently. I like metal working for the same reasons. It lets me make some equipment for myself. Because being a hobbyist wood worker it is difficult to justify purchasing some equipment. Like I always saw the grinding tool rests and figured they'd be handy etc. etc. but they're just too expensive.

    So I made my own for cheap free!

    Tablesaw fence:


    Pretty much if it costs more than $10 I have to think long and hard ...

  2. Hi Paul, I agree that building one's own shop appliances can be very rewarding but sometimes I just want to move onto the project, so I'll just buy it. Sometimes anyway. :)


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