Full Chisel Blog

February 17, 2009

What a Grind

Filed under: Dovetails,Hardware,Historical Material,Of Interest,Sawing,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 4:06 pm

I am unhappy with my modern electric spinning coffee grinder, the results are fine powder and large pieces of coffee beans.  And being as I had a nice reproduction cast iron coffee grinder, I thought it was time to make a box and drawer to put it to use.

I planed the boards flat and smooth with a fore plane and shot the edges square.

Coffee Grinder

I cut all of the wood from a piece of blue stained pine.  I ripped the board to the width I needed, I wanted the box 4 inches tall plus the base piece.  The piece I ripped off, I used for the front cross piece.


I set up the dividers (compasses) to the 5 inch mark, to fit the underside of the iron top and it provided a uniform measure without consulting a ruler each time.  I scribed a line against a square and cross cut all of the parts.

Cross cut

I used the tenon clamp/saw to cut the shoulders of the front cross piece as well as the pins end of the dovetails on the back of the box.  That is a handy tool, but it wouldn’t cut all the way to the depth I needed, so I did that with a crosscut saw.


I need to make the drawer to hold the grounds, but that will have to wait.



  1. HI Stephen,

    Where did you get your holdfasts? Local blacksmith?

    Comment by wilbur — February 17, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Wilbur,

    Yes, I have three made by two different blacksmiths here in Utah. I tried to get him to make more but no luck yet, maybe this year.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 17, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  3. Hey Stephen;

    I’m going a little off topic here, but frustration is forcing me to ask you this. I’m doing some dados for new kitchen cabinets and I can’t figure out why a rabbet plane isn’t made and used for this type of work. You have to cut the shoulders anyhow, and you have to remove the waste, but why does conventional wisdom tell you that you have to remove that waste with a router plane, or what I was taught to call a tooth plane? Wouldn’t a 3/4″ rabbet plane be faster and more precise? I can’t confirm whether I’m right or not because the widest blade for the small plow plane I have is only 3/8″ and the two rabbet planes I have are 1″, so instead of quickly planing away the 3/4″ waste, I’m wearing my thumbs out pushing and pulling a #71 and a #271 around. Any suggestions regarding this, Stephen? (Naturally, all the dados are cross grained)



    Comment by Mitchell — February 18, 2009 @ 12:33 am

  4. Mitchell,

    They use to make dado planes with cross grain nicking irons in the common sizes of dadoes. I have owned a couple in the past and would probably buy one, if it were a usable size if I found one. However I find that it is almost as fast setting up a fence and sawing then removing the waste. You need to use a clamped on fence for dado planes anyway.

    I make the saw cuts with a clamp on fence, then remove most of the waste with a properly sized chisel then use a router plane to true up the bottom. Router planes are sometimes called ‘Old Woman’s Tooth’ plane but there is a bit of a difference in the cutters.

    You could use a shoulder plane but they don’t have cross grain nicking irons, so you probably need to saw the dado first.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 18, 2009 @ 6:20 am

  5. Real nice grinder Stephen! I’ve always thought about picking one of these up but I have been unsure about how fine they can grind. I happen to like real finely ground coffee which results in a stronger brew. If there’s one thing I’m picky about, it’s my coffee :).

    Comment by Bob Rozaieski — February 18, 2009 @ 7:07 am

  6. Bob,

    Yes, I too am fussy about my coffee, I have done a test with this one and it gets it plenty fine. It is available from Lee Valley at this link.



    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 18, 2009 @ 7:46 am

  7. Mitchell, if Steven would just modernize up to 1874 🙂 he would suggest a metal dado plane such as the Stanley #46. With its skewed (various sizes) blades, nickers and fence, it works very well. The more common Stanley #45 will also work but, since the blade isn’t skewed, it isn’t quite as nice on dados but it does OK and is great for grooving. Sure beats a router plane in most cases.

    Comment by Roger Nixon — February 18, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  8. Roger,

    I am somewhat limited in my scope, anything after the American Civil War isn’t of much interest to me. I do own some tools that are later but don’t currently own a 45 or 55. I have also removed the fence from a plow plane and ran it freehand down a double sawn dado slot. That was kind of rough, but it worked and stopped at the depth stop.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 18, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  9. I’ve been a home coffee roaster for about 7 years. I use a hand crank Zassenhaus grinder. The grind is consistent, just shy of what I’d consider ideal for espresso.

    One tip, clean the grinder with instant rice once a month or so. Just set a courser grind and have at it. Helps clean and some say sharpen the burrs.

    Thanks for posting such great and insightful info. You posts help me improve my own attempts at woodworking.

    My dog especially loves my experiments with hide glue 🙂


    Comment by Jim Campbell — February 20, 2009 @ 7:10 am

  10. Jim,

    Thank you for your comments. I too like to roast my beans on occasion, I have a Civil War era coffee grinder (which I bought at the flea market as a popcorn popper). I also roast the beans in an open pan but the fly skin is a problem.

    I have heard of the rice trick before about cleaning and sharpening. I know it works for cleaning, but I don’t know about sharpening, that is something I am going to look into.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 20, 2009 @ 8:02 am

  11. I understand, Stephen. I too prefer pre-Civil War woodworking but sometimes I am missing some things such as wooden dado planes (I just have one, a 5/8″). In this case, Mitchell was asking about dadoes in kitchen cabinets which is a little more modern situation.

    Comment by Roger Nixon — February 26, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

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