Jim McConnell (‘The Daily Skep’) Debuts in the August PopWood


I’m delighted to welcome to the pages of Popular Woodworking Magazine James “Jim” McConnell, whom you may know from his blog “The Daily Skep,” where he writes thoughtful and engaging posts, mostly about hand-tool woodworking. Jim worked out of a power-tool- dominated shop for a number of years, before being seduced by a vintage Stanley jack plane, and binge-watching sessions of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop.” Now, he’s a committed […]

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How to Make Wood Pencils

This is one of those projects I've been thinking about for a long time and really glad I followed through on. I couldn't be happier with how they came out. These were made by routing a very small groove into two pieces of wood to hold the graphite and glued together. I tried to have continuous grain to hide the seam and it worked pretty well. I sanded a hexagon shape into each pencil but it's not really noticeable because as I was doing some final sanding they rounded out. The shape is still there and the pencils don't roll off the table but the shape is not as noticeable as I was expecting. I did want them to be super smooth and have a "fine woodworking" feel so I thought the final sanding was necessary. Adding polyurethane and dipping the end in paint was the icing on the cake.

All of these pencils were made in a day. After doing one batch I feel like I could make them even quicker the next time around. These would make a great craft show seller since a handful could be made all at once keeping the final price down and I think I could make them even more eye catching by choosing different color paints for the ends.

If you make any yourself be sure to Tweet some photos to me so I can share them with my audience. Be safe! Be Passionate and Make Something!

Tools and Supplies

hand made wood pencil

cutting on tablesaw

Step 1: Cutting Pencil Blanks

Cut two thin strips of your favorite wood. Size doesn't matter yet as we'll be cutting down to size in a later step.

routing on router table

Step 2: Route Groove

Using a v-groove bit route a very small channel in each piece. This will be used to hold the pencil lead.

pencil leads

Step 3: Drawing Leads

For the graphite I'm using drawing leads I picked up from Amazon.

gluing up pencil blanks

Step 4: Gluing Up

Add plenty of wood glue to each half and insert the drawing lead in the groove.

clamping up wood

Step 5: Clamp it Up

Now clamp tightly and let dry for at least one hour.

cuting small pieces on tablesaw

Step 6: Cutting Down to Size

Now you can cut your pencil down to size. I found an existing pencil and used that as my size guide.

cutting to length on  tablesaw with sled

Step 7: Cutting to Length

Then cut the pencil to length. Here in the photo I'm cutting all my pencils at once.

sanding pencils

Step 8: Sanding

Using a jig with adhesive backed sandpaper and two pieces of wood angled at 120deg, I sand some angles to create a hexagon shape.

finishing with polyurethane

Step 9: Finishing

Optional: add a coat of polyurethane to bring out the beauty of the wood and add a bit of protection.

dip in paint

Step 10: Dip in Paint

Optional: Dip the end in white paint for a decorative look. I angled my dip for an added effect.

sharpen pencil

Step 11: Sharpen Your Pencil

And finally sharpen away! I did find that some exotic woods are very hard and takes a bit of force to sharpen.

home made pencil handmade wooden pencils

Cutting Boards: The Best Finish

The best finish for a cutting board is no finish

A seemingly never-ending question concerns how to finish cutting boards. You don’t need any finish on a cutting board. Water won’t hurt it and no finish will keep water out anyway after a few knife cuts. Nor will the finish continue to look nice after numerous knife cuts. If the cutting board begins to warp due to the water contact on just one side, turn it over and it will […]

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Dado Joints by Hand

Dado By Hand 1

Making joinery by hand is a satisfying process, so I thought I’d share a method for hand made dado joints. In the early days of my apprenticeship we would practice joints on short ends of pine, getting used to the tools and working through the steps required to make a joint by hand, but without the pressure of thinking about an actual project. Getting excellent results was important and that’s […]

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Use ‘Gun Blue’ to Instantly Blacken Hardware


I use blacksmith-made hardware whenever I (or my customers) can afford it. But if you’re on a budget or have hundreds of pieces of hardware for a project, it’s time to visit the gun store. My favorite way to blacken steel, iron or even zinc-plated hardware is to brush on a thin coat of liquid “gun blue” – typically a combination of selenious acid, nitric acid and cupric sulfate. If […]

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The New Made Old: Antiquing Wood


Antiquing Wood This article originally appeared in the June 2007 of Popular Woodworking under the title “Antique Barn Finish.” by Troy Sexton pages 78-83 This is the furniture finish that fooled our local auctioneer, a man with 30 years of experience selling antique furniture and farm equipment. I had bought a mower from the auctioneer and he was dropping it off at my workshop when he spotted one of my […]

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