The Gates to the Food Forest


Well, here they are. Two nice garden gates. Just need a bit of cutting big sticks into little sticks and putting them together. I decided to go with Douglas Fir because, well, its very cheap. But if you get into a fresh bunk of it there are some really good pieces.

Its been drying for a couple months now. It always amazes me how wet framing lumber is these days. As if trucking it by a kiln is the same as kiln dried. So it sits and dries and warps up a bit. Using 2×4 is intentional as well. I know you can get some good pieces of vertical grain from either side of your average 2×12, but 2×4 almost always have tighter grain these days. No more old growth big timber in the construction lumber market.

Each piece is marked at the end for what I will use it for. If I’ve learned one thing about what craftsmanship means as a woodworker it is orienting the grain. Or rather, a sensitivity to the material that allows each piece to find its best potential. You work with what you have and make the best of it, literally.


It was very hot today and I really enjoyed working barefoot with my feet on the cool concrete floor of my shop. In permaculture there is a saying, “the problem is the solution”. The problem is that you want to punch yourself in the face when you drop a tool edge on concrete. The solution is sitting on the cool concrete while you work, at the planing board, staying cool through the summer, and not dropping your tools.

You know, I’ve never heard of Japanese shokunin using winding sticks. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s just one more thing I don’t know of yet, but they sure are handy. My warpy sticks become straight, with the help of a 24″ Spiers infill jointer. Would you believe somebody I didn’t even know  just handed me this plane? But that’s another story. Oh, it came to me decked out in the obligatory white paint flecks, a universal constant for antique tools in the western world. I hear in Japan old tools come with red paint flecks.


And then I became distracted thinking about cutting angles on scrapers. My test scraper is an on Nicholson file, with the end re-quenched to get it glass hard through at the end. I sharpened it on my 220 grit white grinding wheel. The saw plate is probably around RC 44-46 so take it for what its worth when it comes to Japanese saw plate. An 86 degree angle was pretty similar to what I first tried with my carbide scraper. The little curls of metal you see resulted from the corners of the scraper digging in, not good.


At seventy degrees the scraper finally started to feel like it had bite. The volume of material I was removing increased two fold, and almost all of it was nice curly shavings and not small flake. The cutting edge works smoothly at about 20 degrees from the saw plate, no galling at the edge like the carbide scraper. Much different than the high angle I am used to when scraping cast iron.


At sixty degrees the cutting edge was very nice for the the first few strokes, and then promptly dulled. I’m definitely thinking of making a few scrapers.


This is the goal. It was obvious I needed the control and leverage of the drawknife style handles. I’m deliberating now between making a handle from flat stock and a cutting blade from OF steel that can be screwed on to the handle, or going the full way and trying my hand at forge lamination.  I’d rather have a usable tool than an over-heated piece of badly laminated tool steel.  Either way I’ll need to make a Japanese bellows  and pick up some fire brick to get be able to heat treat a chunk of steel that size. I’ve used an prop-oxy torch for smaller heat treating, but its quite limiting if you want to heat something larger than a small carving knife, and not at all good for forging work.


The work continues. Tomorrow is cutting and planing the kumiko, probably get a good start into the rail/style layout, and then into the kumiko joinery.  These gates are going to be big, 4’x8′ side by side.

I can’t think of a better way to enter the new food forest than a beautiful hand-crafted set of gates.

2 thoughts on “The Gates to the Food Forest”

  1. I was looking at your second photo and wondering why it looked strange to me. Then I realized….the piece of wood is at the wrong end, he’s using a (beautiful Spiers, BTW) push plane….haha. How far I have fallen.

    You have no idea how wonderful this is, finding someone else who is actually interested in the quality of their metal shavings! To me, it is fascinating! I also had lots of galling using a carbide tool bit, but O-F(Old-File) steel made for a smoother action. In the prior post, Sebastian linked to the Japanese saw maker, and you can see the enormous pile of beautifully curled shavings that are next to his sen-dai area. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? And…all of that stuff gets used somewhere else. There is very little waste.

    I haven’t tried HSS or D/M/whatever steel yet, but my friend gave me a couple of old planer blades that are interesting enough that they might make good Sen blades. My next Sen’s will be simple tool bits, screwed to the drawknife style body you show. I haven’t tried forge welding tool steel yet, and am slightly apprehensive, but what the hell. A tool bit welded to a mild/wrought body, then two holes for screws. A totally separate handle assembly. I tried making a couple of single piece Sen’s, like a drawknife, but the hassle was working the long shape into the forge. Very awkward, but I had a small forge.

    I was amazed at the ease of generating welding heat, using crap cement bricks from Walmart and a hair drier, blown through the a tube. An $8 bag of lump charcoal can get you started. It sucks to use (lots of burning sparks, burns slow, etc), but it will make you appreciate your home-cooked pine charcoal that much more.

    The main thing is to start. I held off on blacksmithing for 20 years, thinking that I needed this, that, etc ( surprisingly perhaps, the one thing that I would buy when starting out, would be a pair of tongs. Anything, just have some tongs when you start. Vice grips are a misery!). It was when I got interested in the Japanese tools…then the tool makers…..that I saw how such incredible, wonderful things could be made through such simple means. Fire, fuel, steel and water….oh, and air. All things breath.

    I want my 20 years back.

    1. Ha! Yes, planing beam used with push planes. And I have a Roubo style bench hook on the left side too. As you probably know, its actually a pretty shoddy setup compared to a bench, not enough mass, and it lacks the backing of a Japanese planing beam against a post or wall. But I’ve been using it to good effect for a couple years now thinking, I’ll build a real bench soon, soon. I love my Spiers jointer, its can produce a surface flat enough for boards to stick together, not that they stay that way for long. Its too heavy though! That mass is great when planing hardwoods, but the plane can’t travel.

      At this point I probably won’t buy another western style push plane. The only thing that has stopped me from using my kanna for more than smoothing is lacking a naga-dai-kanna. I realized that’s not really a limitation either, I can use the 65mm blade and chipbreaker from my smoothing plane and make a new 16″ jointer. I split some dai blocks with a froe from elm about six months ago, but they really need another year or more to season. I’ll probably just use some scrap oak flooring and laminate up a dai block. But I need to make an Osaehiki-Nokogiri.

      What is this never ending list of things I must make? Contentment.

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