WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Make Your Own Woodworking Tools

Make Your Own Woodworking Tools
by Mike Burton

Fox Chapel Publishing: 2006
Paperback, 122 pp., $19.95
ISBN 1-56523-306-9

     Simpler than you think! I was recently shown how to sharpen an allen wrench for scraping under the rim of a turned bowl, and how to insert it into a ferruled, shop made handle. Mike Burton's book opens a whole world of new possibilities for a woodworker's tool arsenal.
     Burton discusses steel and how to scavange it, cutting, shaping and polishing it, measuring temperatures, swaging and upsetting it. In 'Tools without blacksmithing,' he discusses shop made knives, chisels, skews and gouges from drill rod stock. With 'Simple blacksmithing,' he makes tools with a vise, a torch and a hammer. For heat treating, he describes how to build a charcoal forge out of a wok. He discusses sharpening shop made tools and how to use a bench grinder and a belt sander, what angles to set the bevels at on different types of tools, and how to 're-tool' a pair of pliers to better hold round stock while heating it.
     Burton writes with a sense of humor throughout, saying his methods produce serviceable tools, and if you want them pretty, well, you have more work to do. He also suggests using the wife's kitchen oven for tempering steel. While waiting an hour with home-forged tools on a cookie sheet in the oven, he adds that you might mix up two loaves of bread and let them rise, saying you'll likely be rewarded for your thoughtfulness.
     There is more to this book than forging steel. The author is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer, showing how to pour concrete in a bucket with telescoping pipes to use as an adjustable tool stand, how to make a leather upholstered stropping wheel and run a one-inch belt sander off it, and he has suggestions for shop mallets, tool handles and ferrules. His scavanging talents are amazing. He makes scrapers from band steel, small gouges from concrete nails, chisels and skews from drill rod, V-tools and skews from old circular saw blades, and guides the reader step by step through forging a range of sizes in turning gouges. He has even made micro-tools from the stays of an umbrella and reshaped spade drill bits into all manner of things.
     After a thorough discussion on safety and equipment requirements, the qualities of steel and how to work with it, Burton has four projects to get you started. Few things are more pleasant than doing woodworking with your own handmade tools. And with Mike Burton's very practical approach, it really is simpler than you might think.

. . . Barb Siddiqui