Making Wooden Combs

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Tonight, something a bit different.

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I’ve been planing out the White Ash for the piece of cabinet work I’m building, but the exigencies of modern reality have me hustling to make a buck, traveling for work. So I’ll save the talk around planing out big hardwood panels for another time, today I work on something small and precious.

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How about making a wooden comb?

So, I needed a comb to be able to trim my beard recently. I had given my normal comb to my mother in an emergency that involved her combing stinging honey bees out of her hair, bless the woman. She had gone and swept up a swarm of bees this spring from our hives that I was too frustrated to deal with, in a difficult spot on a bush close to the ground. Would you believe I’ve yet to be stung by a honey bee? But my mother was stung a bunch in the face, and needed a comb to get the bees out of her hair, for some reason long hair easily tangles them up (and they were trapped inside her veil).

Now that its winter again I need a comb for the all important facial hair, but she kept my comb, and what is a woodworker to do? Go out and buy a comb? Hell no! I’m a twenty first century kind of guy, I like to think could make you anything from a house to a tooth brush, so here goes.

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Layout on Boxwood with ink, nice on the eyes. Beautifully dense wood by the way, I lust after larger pieces of Boxwood.

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I used a really cheap ryoba pull saw to cut the teeth of the comb, needing a health width of kerf. I used a spacing between cuts of 3/32″. If I was making a larger comb for hair I might go for 1/8″ between cuts.

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Then the teeth of the comb were tapered to a point with the help of abrasives. I actually used a belt sander with a 36 grit belt to quickly shape the profile, hand sanding is slow and meticulous work.

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The teeth of the comb after sanding, each and every one! Finished out to 220 grit.

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And then given a couple of coats of paste wax to make them shiny, people like stuff that’s shiny.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave it at that. After all, there are possibilities inherent, design possibilities that must be explored. I have a bunch of thin pieces of different tropical hardwood lying around, time to put it to work!

Here’s one of them, with a strikingly red dust from sanding. Looks like the color oxidizes to an almost deep purple hue, I don’t suppose anyone knows what this is? I’m afraid to hazard a guess, I didn’t buy this lumber, someone gave it to me.

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But it makes a nice looking comb, that’s for sure.

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Well shit, that’s not good enough, I’m a joiner after all, how about a comb with some joinery? Lets solve the fundamental problem of grain direction in a comb.

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I had to make the comb a bit thicker than I want to, at 5/16″, for the sake of the joinery. I’m limited because my smallest chisels are 1/8″ for cutting a mortise or dado. So lets join this up with a tiny sliding dovetail! I’m not sure, again, what the wood on the left is, but the comb teeth I made out of boxwood, very smooth stuff.

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Cutting such small joinery is a good challenge.

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But the results are satisfying. Time to open an Etsy store? I have lots of ideas for quick craft items like this. I’ve made plans to travel to Vermont for a couple months this coming January and cut a frame with Mark Grable for his forge. To that end my focus has to be working enough to be in the sound financial position to get out there and back. So its a hustle, everything counts. I have lots of the stuff I’ve made up for sale in my local market, fiber tools, shoji, even my fuigo, time to see what sells!

2 thoughts on “Making Wooden Combs”

  1. Looks nice!

    While looking through ideas for vises, I came across a Viking vise; you know how the japanese saw vise works using a hinge and a wedge? Same thing, only much smaller, was used for comb making in the Norse cultures, and there were many adjustable boat-makers clamps that also used this pattern. Might be useful for you.

    Next update, I might have to post a picture of my ornaments…I have about twenty eight cut out so far. Hoping to get my DBA soon; Etsy seemed nice, but I have heard all the mass-producers got ahold of the site, along with plain ol’ oversaturation.

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