Saturday, February 14, 2015

Today I'm A Strapping Lad

This weekend I'm finishing up a Roorkee chair from Lost Art Press's book on Campaign Furniture.

I've built in a lot of different styles over the years, from Shaker and Craftsman to Mesopotamian River Valley and beyond, but this is my first piece of campaign furniture. This is the only thing I've worked on that has made me want to spey cast for steelhead, take a cape buffalo, pull in a marlin on a handline, and win the 24 hours of Le Mans. Simultaneously.

Actually, the only reason I'm building this chair is that my twelve year old nephew caught a glimpse of it on my monitor last year and begged me to help him build one. How could I say no?

The other reason for the build is that Schwarz has an uncanny knack for making me want to build nearly everything he builds. I can't explain this. I think he may have slipped me a mickey in his basement a couple years ago. All I remember is a glass of yellow liquid, some guy who looked like a genie, and glitter.

After assembling the ridiculous amount of extra tooling,  hardware, and cow skin needed to build this ridiculously expensive thing, I realized I'd forgotten to buy an essential tool. The leather strap cutter.

So this morning, a day after our latigo arrived, I headed out to the shop to whip up my own cutter. I took a peek at how the commercial ones are made, then started to make my own.

Here's what I came up with.

After rooting through my hardware bins I couldn't find any metal bits for locking the adjustable arm. So I simply cut an angled mortise and fit a wedge. Quick, easy, and it holds perfectly. I love wedgies.

The arm itself is just two sticks of beech, screwed together at one end with a 3/16" beech spacer.

To the business end of the arm is fit a #2 Xacto blade. I simply clamped the joined arms in a vise and cut about 1/2" deep with a Dozuki. The kerf of the saw was just a tad less than the thickness of the blade, which I simply pressed into place. It's held only by friction. The cutting force is completely against the bottom of the kerf, so the blade stays put just fine. We cut about 20' of straps today with the tool.

The arrises in the slot we relieved with a knife so the leather can enter easily. Likewise, the ends of the arms are scooped out on the entry side to help guide the leather at the beginning of the cut, which was for us the trickiest part of getting the cut started.

The body of the tool was mortised out after turning the handle down on the lathe. Then we sawed and planed one side flat to act as the fence.

The tool works great and took less than 2 hours to make. And lots of that was spent rooting through my hardware bins looking for stuff I didn't use.

I don't recommend you waste your time on building one of these, since the commercial ones are fine (so I read) and only cost about $25. But if you forget to buy one like I did, know that you can throw a perfectly good one together with stuff you likely already have laying around the shop.


  1. You'd think you'd have had enough of wedgies between elementary school and high school.

  2. I'm not sure what the most informative part of this post is, the making of the tool or the fact that Schwarz owns(and wears) a genie outfit with glitter after drinking.

  3. Perhaps a new tool for the Benchcrafted arsenal? Not glitter, it's Pixie Dust. If not a genie, then . . .

  4. True the commercial strap cutters are inexpensive, but having made a few of the woodworking tools that I use in my shop it is endlessly more fun and satisfying just using those tools.

    Commercial strap cutters look cheap. Yours is something I would happily have out on display for a customer to see.

  5. Really? No recollection of the pink feather boa?

    1. I didn't mention it because I kept it, and wear it on a regular basis.

    2. I didn't mention it because I kept it, and wear it on a regular basis.


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