Years ago I found a set of vintage teak toaster tongs that I gave to my parents for my Dad's daily morning toast times. When I was home this past month I was reminded of what a great idea they are (SAFETY FIRST!) and set about to make myself a set. Here's how to make your very own and save your fingers the 'OWEE!' of future daredevil toast removal tactics.
Step 1: What You'll Need
The following is what's needed to make ONE tong set:
- a piece of hardwood at least 2" x 9" (grain running long ways) x 3/16" thick
(I used walnut but you could also use maple, ash, birch, oak, or poplar)
*There are places online that you can buy hobby wood that is already the thickness you need it, which would save you a bunch of cutting/sanding. One good one is:
- a piece of hardwood (same or different variety) at least 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 5/16" thick
- print out of toaster tongs pattern (pdf provided below)
- wood glue
- ruler or measuring tape
- 2 small clamps
- butcher block oil
- 1x sheet each of 320, 220, & 120 sand paper (not pictured)
- paper towel (not pictured)
- double stick & masking tapes (not pictured)
- table saw (not necessary if your starter wood piece is already squared)
- table saw
- disc sander
Step 2: Squaring Up Your Scrap Wood
If you're like me and have chosen to use an odd shape of wood that was kicking around the shop, it's a good idea to square it up before getting started. (* You could also use the band saw for this, I just needed practice on the table saw.)
IMPORTANT: You want the wood grain to run the length of your piece. (like pictured)
Step 3: Cutting to Size: the Tong Arms
Measure the piece you've prepared for the tong arms to be 8 3/8". Using the band saw, cut to size.
You will now be cutting off a 'long way' slice that is 3/16" thick and at least 2" x 8 3/8", so mark the 3/16" using your pencil and ruler.
Set your fence and when cutting, please use a push stick to make extra sure that your hands are safe. If you have a re-saw blade for your band saw, that would work even better than the standard one I used.
*REMINDER: There are places online that you can buy hobby wood that is already the thickness you need it, which would save you a bunch of cutting/sanding. One good one is:
Step 4: Sanding Your Tong Arm Wood
To sand such a thin piece of wood, I like to use double stick tape to attach it to a thicker piece of wood (aka 'handle'). This saves your finger tips from losing a few layers of skin and makes the sanding process easier.
Start with the 120 grit paper and gently sand until all visible marks are gone. Try to use even pressure when sanding so that the finished product has uniform thickness. Once all marks are removed, next up is the 220 grit for a few passes, then the 320 grit as a smoothing finisher.
Once the first side is done, gently remove your thin piece from the 'handle' and repeat the above steps for the other side. You will be left with a lovely thin and smooth sheet of 'tong arm' wood.
Step 5: Cutting Your Tong Arms to Size
Measure and cut two 'tong arms' that are just under 1/2" wide using the band saw and a push stick.
Step 6: Sanding: Part Two
Using the 220 grit sand paper, clean up the edges of your tong arms. Do 2-3 finishing passes on the 320 grit paper.
Tape the two arms together using masking tape so that the ends line up as best as possible.
Using the 220 grit sand paper or a disc sander, lightly sand both ends of the arms, removing as little material as possible, so that the ends are even.
Step 7: Cutting Your Center Piece
Measure your center piece wood to be 1/2" thick and cut to size using TWO push sticks. Now use the disc sander to clean up and square the piece. You should end up with a piece that is approx. 1/2" to 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 1/2".
Step 8: Shaping Your Center Piece
Using the disc sander (or sand paper and tons of elbow grease), sand the center piece to be the exact thickness of your tong arms when standing on edge (like pictured). Be sure to keep checking against the tong arm as you remove material. The disc sander can chew off more material than you'd expect.
Then carefully sand the piece into it's final tapered shape. (Like pictured. See pdf print out for measurements.)
Make sure there's a nice close fit between all three pieces.
Note: The final measurements of all your pieces don't have to be exactly the same as mine as long as they all match up with each other.
Step 9: Sanding: Part Three
Before gluing up the pieces, you'll need to lightly sand the two inside edges of the center piece (using 320 grit) as these will be too hard to access once glued into place.
Step 10: Get Gluing!
Using a good quality wood glue, evenly spread a thin layer on the ends of the arms that you will be gluing to the center piece. Clamp all three pieces together as pictured, making sure that the set is lying completely flat on your work surface. Let dry for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Step 11: Unclamp and Smooooth It Out!
Remove the tongs from the clamps. It's possible that the pieces may have shifted slightly in the clamping process, so you'll need to re-square up the end. Use the disc sander for best results, or sand paper if that's what's on hand.
Tear a small piece of 320 grit sand paper off of your sheet and use to soften all the edges of the tongs, removing any roughness or potential for splinters.
Step 12: Oil 'em
Using a high quality butcher block or wooden salad bowl oil (available at most kitchenware or hardware stores), squeeze a good amount onto a piece of paper towel and apply a generous coat to all the surfaces of the tongs. Let sit for five minutes.
Step 13: Buff 'em!
You are now the proud owner of a toaster safe bread/bagel/english muffin removal device! Nice work!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Step 14: Toaster Tongs in Action
Look at them go...