In Chris Schwarz Blog, Personal Favorites

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I was worried this would happen. Some of the entrants to our contest to build a tool from an Altoids tin built tools that actually worked. Sigh. Woodworkers are so practical.

We’re also practical. And so the winner of our contest is Tom Bier, who built a working router plane from an Altoids tin. The tool is impossibly clever , you open the lid to store the iron and thumbscrew. Heck I’d buy one.

Here’s Tom’s account of the construction of the tool:

“I never would have come up with this if I didn’t have a box on my desk with one of Lee Valley’s small router plane blades in it. I was just going to punch a couple holes in the tin and ziptie the blade in place, but then I realized it wouldn’t take much to make it functional.

“There’s a small piece of brass to hold the blade and a piece of mdf to support the can.  And since I’m not going to tear off the lid, and the mdf is big enough I thought I might as well cut out notches for the blade and setscrew and have a self-contained router, right?  The brass and mdf are epoxied into the can so it’s pretty solid. The wood shavings in the last photo were cut with this actual router plane.”

Tom wins the unbound printer proofs to my new book “Handplane Essentials.” When he sells them on eBay, likely he will be able to send his kids to college with the proceeds (it should cover about four minutes of tuition).

There were some other great entries that we’d like to show you. Take a look:

Ethan Sincox made this sliding bevel gauge, which won our hearts as the best-looking tool of the bunch. Heck I’ve seen bevel gauges that were made out of flimsier raw materials.

Roger Savatteri built this working drilling jig for making perfectly plumb holes. The bushing is held in place with a resin infill. And the resin is etched with alignment lines so you can position the thing on your work.

Steve Spear sent us several “tools” he made , but the best one by far was the always-dead-on digital bevel reader.

Kevin Hurbanis also sent us a photo of a working tool: This is a working offset gauge for scribing lines parallel to an edge. Pretty clever.

Rob Hanson of Evenfall Studios makes shooting boards for sale, so he naturally built a shooting board using one of the really big Altoids tins. Yes, that’s a honking piece of ebony on there.

Kevin Bosse built a light-duty woodworking vise. Sweet!

Chris Bowyer built this handsome marking gauge.  Fill this box with resin or MDF and I bet it would work, too.

And James Quinlivan sent us this one, which I have titled, simply: “Screw Bad Breath.”

Thanks to everyone who entered!

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 4 comments
  • Bill

    Are you going to post photos of the entries? I bet some of them were a hoot. I love the table saw digital angle reader. That one cracks me up every time.

  • Charles

    Wow, everyone did a great job!

    When I first saw the contest my first instinct was to make a side rabbet plane, my second was to take a nap. I never go with my first instinct.

  • Mike Holden

    Chris, et al,
    Could this have been the inspiration for your contest?

    Lots of Altoid tin(novations) there.

  • Ethan

    I must admit, I’d probably buy one of Tom’s routers, too.

    Just so I can update my resume… is this "First Runner Up" or "Honorable Mention"?


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