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Wooden Spring Tongs

??A great all-around kitchen utensil.

By David Radtke

Here’s a great kitchen utensil you’re sure to find indispensable. These wooden tongs feature a unique spring tab mechanism built into a knuckle joint. The joint allows the tongs to be folded flat for storage. When the tongs are opened up, the spring tabs contact each other so the tongs want to spring back open. This is the same action found in those metal tongs used by chefs the world over. Tongs are perfect for everything from plucking corn-on-the-cob out of boiling water to fetching a trapped piece of toast from a toaster. Of course, they also shine as a salad server. It’s one of those projects you’ll enjoy using so much you’ll want to make more as gifts for friends and family.

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No doubt there’s lots of scrap wood in your shop just looking to be fashioned into something useful. Closed grain or semi-porous woods like cherry, walnut and maple make good tong material. The tongs are easy to make. There’s a little bit of steam bending, but even that is low tech and straight forward. Feel free to experiment with the length and width of the tongs for a variety of uses.

Cut saw kerfs in each blank to create the spring tabs. Set the fence to cut the outer kerf on each blank first. Then, reset the fence to cut the inner kerfs. Clamp a stop to the fence and keep the same face up for both cuts so each tab is equal in length.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Glue spacers to the outer tabs. Place small pieces of paper next to the spacers to avoid accidentally gluing them to the middle tab. Use water resistant glue.

Cut 45-degree bearing angles for the spring tabs with a fine crosscut saw. Cut the middle tab on the tong with the spacers and the two outer tabs on the other tong. Use a piece of scrap to lift the middle tab for cutting.

Soak the blanks in hot water for about 30 minutes. Place a weight on the wood to keep it submerged.

Set the spring in the tabs by inserting a 1/8 in. spacer between them and applying heat. Use a heat gun on high and keep rotating the tong to prevent scorching.

Clamp the end of the tongs together with the bent tabs facing out. Drill a 1/16-in. dia. hole through the tabs to create a pivot point for the knuckle joint connecting the tongs.

Push a brass rod into the hole to hinge the knuckle joint. Cut the excess rod to length with a wire cutter. File the ends flush. This will flare the ends of the rod and lock it in place.

Open the tongs so the spring tabs are engaged. Then push the tong halves together. Shape the outside faces on a belt sander. Gently rock the tongs as you sand to produce a slightly rounded bevel on the ends.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2008, issue #136.

July 2008, issue #136

Purchase this back issue.


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