My wife does not just sew, but she is a seamstress who likes to do tailored garments. She recently returned from a couture sewing class where she fell in love with the seam stick. It is a wooden half-round about 18 inches long that allows ironing the backside of a seam without the risk of making an impression of the seam's edges on the good side of the garment. Previously she used a ham, which is a firmly stuffed cloth tube; but a ham, even one of a small diameter, does not allow the edges of the seam to fall away untouched by the iron in the way a seam stick does. When she returned home she asked me to make a seam stick for her. I had some 1 1/4 inch diameter fir closet rod on hand. The problem is to rip it so the end product is what was planned. Ripping round stock is always a challenge no matter what kind of saw is used. This Instructable is a combination woodworking project and sewing Instructable.
Step 1: Why Freehand Sawing Is a Bad Idea
It is tempting to make a straight guide line on the length of the closet rod and saw it by hand with a bandsaw, or perhaps a common carpenter's hand ripsaw. Invariably, your wrist will roll a little on the bandsaw table so the surface that is supposed to be flat actually has a twist in it. The twist might be small and the seam stick might still function, but it really is not what you want for the end product. It is also possible for the handsaw to wander from the line without noticing it.
Step 2: Make Two Blocks With a "V" Notch
Mark and cut two blocks from 1 x 2 firing strips. Make them about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. Cut a "V" into the center of the long side. There is no need for great precision. That will be corrected later.
The second photo shows how these two blocks will cradle the closet rod later.
Step 3: Restoring Some Precision
Use a square to align the bottoms of the "V" notches. Make a mark on each side of the "V" for drilling holes. (One of the marks will be under the square as shown here.) See the yellow text box. Drill holes for drywall screws into the narrow edges of the two pieces with the "V" notches. See the next step, too.
Step 4: Mark and Drill Some Old Plywood
My plan is to attach the closet rod to the underside of an old piece of plywood. Then I will attach a guide fence and rip the closet rod with an electric circular saw. I marked a straight line near the edge of the plywood. One screw for each block will be on this line. Mark for the other screw. Repeat this process near the other end of the closet rod.
Step 5: Mount the Closet Rods to the Plywood
I drilled the screwholes in the plywood a little larger than the holes in the "V" blocks so the screws will drop into them freely. I also countersunk a little for the screwheads. I measured for the center of the closet rod on each end and transferred the mark to the top of the plywood. Here you see the plywood hanging over the ends of two sawhorses. The plywood is clamped to the sawhorses. Here I am measuring for the depth of cut I will need on the circular saw to cut through the closet rod, but still not cut the "V" blocks. The plywood to the right of the line will be sacrificed as waste.
This paragraph is an update. It would be helpful to use some hot glue on the left side (as per the photo) of the closet rod where it meets the plywood at both ends of the rod because the rod has more and more probability it can move as the cut grows longer. After the cut is finished, break the half stuck by the glue loose and clean any glue from it.
Step 6: Set the Rip Fence Guide
This is a full view of my setup. The saw is resting on a straightedge piece I use often. I aligned the saw's blade with the center of the line that marks the cut to be made. Then I measured the distance between the fence and the line. I measured to make the distance between the line and the fence equal to that dimension at the other end, too. I clamped both ends of the fence. Check that the blade aligns with the center of the closet rod on both ends when the saw's base is against the guide fence.
Step 7: Make the Cut
When you are certain the fence is properly aligned, make the cut. The scrap will not fall away because the "V" blocks are still screwed to both pieces of plywood.
Step 8: Sand and Use
If all goes well, when you are finished you will have two equal or nearly equal half rounds sawn from your closet rod. Both will have a nice flat, straight surface on the bottom side. Sand them smooth and sand enough to remove any dirt or stains that might migrate to the fabric of a garment when under a hot steam iron. You will have an extra seam stick to give to someone as a gift, too.