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Recently, when I was cutting up some prototypes for the feet of my workbench on the band saw, I ended up with some interesting offcuts. I liked the shapes, especially when I sandwiched them together because they were perfectly symmetrical, so I threw them aside instead of in the garbage. They were made of an aromatic cedar so they smelled nice, too. I got four blanks per foot, so I quickly built up a little stash.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning off my workspace, a bit of inspiration hit me when I picked up one of the pieces. I walked one on the offcuts over to the sliding miter saw, and dialed in the blade height so that it would not plunge through my wood, but stopped a half-inch or so from the bottom. I cut a dado with two passes, utilizing the laser on the saw so that I ended up with a lengthwise swath just under 3/16″ wide.

So far so good.

Then I took the piece over to the oscillating spindle sander and sculpted the ends so that they resembled a whale tail. Because the cedar is so soft, the sander sculpted the tail very quickly. At this point, I also turned what was the flat edge of the wood into the spindle sander. This was an organic piece, so it didn’t look right to have any straight lines. In the end, it also allowed the piece to step up off of the table and essentially gave it four feet, bringing the project full circle.

As you can see from the photo, the dado is the perfect width to hold two 5″ x 7″ pieces of plate glass and a photo. Before installing the glass, I sanded the piece to #220 grit, and finished it with some boiled linseed oil. All in all, the project took 20 minutes, and I now have a unique picture holder made from beautiful wood that was destined for the trash bin.

–Ajax Alexandre

p.s. – I also cut a dado in another offcut that went across the grain, but I felt it made the picture holder take up too much real estate on my desk. Also, I preferred the dado going with the grain because the base is entirely under the glass, making it feel supportive.

If you enjoy sculpting wood into organic shapes, be sure to check out my class Liquid Joinery, and Charles Brock’s class Sculpting by Hand and Power at our Woodworking in America 2011: The Ultimate Joinery Weekend at the end of this month in Greater Cincinnati.


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Showing 4 comments
  • tombuhl

    Ajax, I hand’t gone over the class list yet, despite registering quite some time ago. I now have two on my list.
    Wonderful piece.
    I love using those offcuts.

  • woodmagnet

    I love the way the shape flow(er)s Ajax. And
    it’s a nice save from the c.o.bin too.

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    Pretty cool Ajax!


  • tsstahl

    Given the connotation of “whale tail”, I’d have gone with dolphin tail.

    Thanks for the laugh.

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