I’ll occasionally buy tools from Bridge City Tool Works, a US-based company that custom-designs and builds a wide variety of very unique and exquisitely crafted items. I say ‘occasionally’ because more often than not, they’re prohibitively expensive but I do respect their work; their planes are nothing short of art.
One system they released last year is the Chopstick Master, a device which allows you to take a square blank and perfectly plane the gentle tapers of a chopstick. It’s an interesting concept but I was not impressed with the final product; it’s gotten rave reviews otherwise so maybe it’s just me. In any event, I figured I’d attempt to build my own.
There aren’t too many tools needed for this project. A table saw and/or router table is needed to make the base and sled as well as a hand plane to integrate into the final product. A measuring device which is calibrated in Metric is a good idea as well; In my case, I used a digital caliper to measure the depths of the channels.
I also had a small supply of 1/4" brass rod on hand which came in handy for a few of the components.
We have a short series of operations which need to be applied to a blank to get the look we’re seeking. We want a chopstick that tapers from a square on one end to a perfect octagon at the tip, with a 4-sided pyramid on the back end. To do this, we must do the following:
1. We need to refine the size and length to be a perfect 7x7x270mm block.
2. The primary taper must be made on the first two sides, i.e. plane 1mm away from 2 adjacent sides so the blank becomes 7x7mm on one end and 6x6mm on the other
3. The taper must be made on the second pair of sides, reducing the blank to 5mm at the tip
4. The edge tapers must be cut to create an octagon at the tip.
5. The pyramid finial needs to be added to the top. This is a 30 degree, four sided point. To do this, we’ll construct a block with the required negative tapers so that the blanks can be inserted and planed to the final dimensions.
The plan is to use a stable, thick block of wood with a separate channel precisely milled to support each operation. We’ll also need a sled to hold a small plane which will do the cutting while not destroying the block or the blanks.