By Jim MacLachlan
Copyright 2017 by Jim MacLachlan
Published by Jim MacLachlan at Shakespir
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The above is the boiler plate recommended by Shakespir. Actually, you can freely distribute this document & even edit it according to your needs. I originally wrote it as a lesson plan for my daughter, but changed it quite a bit for this edition. I plan to make it freely available to anyone who wants to use it in multiple formats. Feel free to edit it to meet your needs, but don’t resell it & please keep the proper attribution.
READ THIS. I’m serious.
Use of any & all construction methods I describe or you think I allude to is at your own risk. I may use shorthand or do things that are dangerous. I’m not writing safety instructions since I don’t know what tools you’re using, your age, or skill level.
Working with wood is inherently dangerous. Anyone using any of the tools or techniques in this book is personally responsible for learning the proper methods involved. You assume all risks and accept complete responsibility for any and all damages and injury of any kind, including death, which may result.
Before using any hand or power tool with which you are unfamiliar, consult its operating instructions, and if necessary, seek instruction by a qualified person well versed in its operation and appropriate safety techniques. It remains up to you to make sure what you’re doing is safe. The joy of woodworking, rewarding as it is, is not worth the cost of getting hurt. Please keep safety foremost in your mind whenever you’re in the shop.
If you hurt yourself based on anything in this document, that’s your responsibility.
By reading further, you agree to the above.
I may include hyperlinks to outside sites & articles. I tried to only use stable, safe sites, but click on them at your own risk. Things change rapidly on the Internet & are beyond my control.
Oven Tool Plans 1
Warnings & Disclaimers 2
Table of Contents 3
Key Terms 4
Tools Needed 5
The Oven Tool 6
Drill & Cut 12
All measurements are in SAE units, although there aren’t many measurements & none are critical in this project. I live in the US where we still haven’t changed to metric for most things, especially not woodworking save for manufactured wood products we buy from overseas such as plywood. I’m not happy about it either, but I have no knowledge of standard metric sizes in woodworking. For instance, I don’t know if most woodworkers use a 12.5mm or 13mm drill bit for 1/2”.
I was deliberately casual in the way I wrote this & use common terminology. If you’re new to woodworking, this should help you better understand how informal plans & ideas are presented on message boards & in speech.
1” = One inch
1’ = One foot or 12 inches
1-1/2” = One & one half inch, the same as 1.5”, but decimals are rarely used with SAE board measurements since fractions convert easier & are what our tape measures show.
Board measurements are generally presented in thickness by width by length such as 1”×6”-16’. Often the unit identifiers are left out since they’re assumed. If you go to the store for a 2×4-8, you are buying a board that is nominally 2” thick by 4” wide by 8’ long, but the board is actually 1-1/2”×3-1/2”-8’ long.
(I hadn’t planned to include this, but recently saw that there is a [+ lawsuit against Home Depot & Menard’s+] because some folks are ignorant of standards that were set decades ago for very good reasons.)
When you buy wood from a retailer, you’re buying a dimensioned board, one that has been sawn, dried, & planed to a standard size, unless the board is called ‘rough’ or common usage dictates otherwise. For instance, I expect a fence board will be rough & probably green (not dry), so it will be a full 1”×6”-16’, but a construction grade 2×4 will be both dried & planed. That doesn’t mean it is finished, but it does mean it is pretty close to a specific size.
The 2×4 was cut from a tree leaving a rough surface with saw tooth marks in it. It is green (wet or full of sap) so it has to be dried. As that moisture is removed from between & in the cells, the board shrinks somewhat. While each species will vary, all wood shrinks more up & down through the grain (radial) than across the grain (tangential) & very little lengthwise (longitudinally). The Wood Database explains it well & has a picture [+ here+]. Pro Wood has a handy chart of the actual dimensions [+ here+], but where the nominal size shows 1-1/4”, you’re more likely to see it as 5/4 (pronounced “five quarter”) in stores.
The upshot of it is that no one is trying to rip you off. Rough lumber was often used in construction in the days of balloon framing & plaster walls, but today’s methods & materials work best with finished stock. If the dimensions of a piece of wood are critical; research & measure. Your ignorance is not the store’s responsibility.
Few tools are needed to shape the basic piece, just a drill with a 1/2” drill bit, a fine toothed saw, & sandpaper. Coarse files (round & flat) are nice to have, but coarse-grit sandpaper will work in their stead.
A hand drill of any sort will work & so will most types of 1/2” drill bits. I used a drill press with a Forstner bit, but explain how to use other sorts as well.
The saws I used were either a bandsaw or a scroll saw. A is a fine alternative. They’re inexpensive & will cut the curved handle as well as the short, straight cuts easily.
Sandpaper scratches the wood with chunks of grit. The lower the number, the bigger the grit & scratch it makes. Always start with the coarse grit, sand, then wipe the project clean before using the next smaller grit size so the larger pieces don’t hang around & make the job more difficult.
Sandpaper grit sizes are somewhat strange in their numbering scheme. Sometimes it’s alright to skip some grits, but that takes some experience. If you sand with 60 grit, which is about the same as the files I used, & then try to smooth that out with 220 grit you’ll spend a lot of time & effort doing a bad job.
60 grit is the coarsest sandpaper I keep on hand & I sand afterword with 80 grit, 100 grit, & usually 120 grit. Some skip the last & sand with 150 grit next, though. 180 grit should come next, but many skip it & sand with 220 grit, usually the finest grit used on bare wood. Some exceptionally tight-grained, hard woods can benefit by using one of the micro-grits (240 & higher), but usually that’s a waste of time. I use 320 grit to lightly sand between coats of finish. 100, 150, & 220 are a good basic set of grits to get started with. You might want to 60 or 80 grit on hand if you don’t have a coarse file or need to shape areas a file isn’t suited for. For instance, I use them to sand inside bowls that I turn.
Sandpaper can use a lot of types of grit, but I use aluminum oxide almost exclusively for woodworking. The type I buy has paper with a high cloth content in the backing, the grit sticks well, & it stays sharp for a long time. It lasts far longer than garnet sandpaper with its stiff paper backing. Aluminum oxide is also a very light color. Silicon carbide is great & has a lot of cloth in its backing since it is usually also made for wet sanding, but its grit is dark gray or black & that will show on most woods & in finishes. I generally only use it in micro-grits for metal work.
The oven tool is used for pushing & pulling the racks in a hot oven, so it’s a useful gift for the cook in the family. It’s a simple project that teaches a lot of basic skills nor are any of the measurements critical, so it is quite forgiving & allows some imagination that needs to balance against practicality.
I’m not sure where this design came from. My grandmother had something similar when I was little & I believe I saw this in a woodworking magazine or book I read several decades ago, too. I made several of these with my kids when they were little, so made this lesson plan from memory for my daughter when she was student teaching & needed a quick, easy project for her students.
The oven tool in this picture is made of ash without any finish. It’s about 1/4” thick, 1-1/2” wide, & a foot long, or 1/4”×1-1/2”-1’(12”).
Where you get the wood probably depends on if you are making up one or dozens. If you know of a place that does woodworking of any sort, they should have plenty of scraps that will work & will probably give you some for free. Ash is a hardwood & very strong, so if you get a scrap from a construction grade 2×4, a softwood, increase thickness to 5/16” or 3/8”. Size isn’t very critical. The finished project just needs to be sturdy, easily held, & fit easily between the wires on an oven rack. The oven tools below are about the same thickness. The top one is Black Locust that is 1/4” thick while the rest are 5/16” thick Sugar Maple. The other dimensions range widely from 1-1/4” to 2” wide & 14” down to 11” long.
I tried these out on my oven with a big dish of potato salad my wife had just made. Obviously, the oven was off, but the weight of the dish made it a good test. The top one, made of Black Locust, is too long when pushing, but it was easy & comfortable to choke up on it. I liked the feel of the bottom one the best, but it looks chunky. The handle on the next one up is the same length, but didn’t feel as good in my hand since it is thinner. The top maple one felt & looks the best all around, in my opinion. It’s 5/16” x 1-1/2” x 12” long. That said, I wouldn’t feel any was a bad gift once they’re sanded & finished.
Making several at once out of different woods reveals a lot about the working properties of each. Splintery, ring-porous hardwoods like oak & ash (Black Locust too, although you’re unlikely to find it. I have to make my own boards.) work a lot differently than a diffusely-porous wood like maple or a softwood like Balsam Fir, which is what most construction 2×4s are.
Wood paint stirrers are about the right length but too thin & a bit narrow. Two with their faces glued together might work & the handle would be partially made. They wouldn’t be my first choice, but might be fine for a young kid making a gift.
If you’re making a big batch for a class, untreated oak fence boards are a good choice. They cost $8 for a green, rough 1”×6”-16’ oak board (mixed red & white) from my local fencing supply company. I made a big batch once by cutting a board into 11 ½” sections (to get 16), cleaned the edges, ripped those to 1-1/4” or a hair more (4 per section), then ripped those in half (2) for 128 blanks. I had to reject a bunch due to knots, but there were more than enough for a few classes with plenty of extras.
The wood of a fence board is green, but dries pretty quickly once they’re cut up & stacked, especially if they have a fan blowing across them in a warm, dry area. Another option is to dry them in the microwave. Stack them crosswise & nuke them for a couple of minutes. Lay them out individually with good air circulation when done. Don’t microwave them for more than a couple of minutes to start or you might get a hot spot (smoky, flameless fire) in some. Check how hot they are, especially where they cross. It doesn’t take too long to dry wood this way. I do it all the time with bowls I turn, but I have a microwave in the shop for this purpose after smoking up the kitchen a couple of times. Obviously, if it can set wood on fire, it can also be too hot to touch, so be careful.
If using rough cut wood, clean it up first. You want smooth faces & edges. I usually just run it through the tablesaw & that’s clean enough. I wouldn’t sand at this point, even if the wood was rough, since the grit will dull my tools. The grain should go the full length of the piece, if possible. Knots can be a problem, but take a look at where they fall & how solid they are. They may be fine.
Start the project by using a scribe (compass) to find the center of the width & mark the full length. (A cheap geometry compass will work so long as it doesn’t expand or contract easily. Pictured is a carpenter’s scribe which has a wing nut on the back side of the hinge to lock it in place.)
The use of a scribe is one of the more important, basic skills in woodworking. Make sure the pencil is sharp & held with its point a little shy of the length of the metal point; about 1/4” less is good. We want to run the side of metal pin or its bevel along the outside of the wood, not the point. Then all we need to concentrate on is keeping the pencil perpendicular to the edge of the wood.
To find the center, set the scribe to about the correct distance & make small marks from both sides. If you can see 2 marks, set the scribe halfway between them & try again. You’ve found center when you can only see one mark no matter which side you start from.
Use the same setting to mark both ends. This will be the center of the hole drilled for the ‘push’ cut & the hanger hole in the handle. If your board was 1-1/2” wide, this mark should be 3/4” in, but a little more or less doesn’t matter.
Decide which end is going to be your push end. With this piece of wood, it doesn’t matter, but if you have a knot, it might. Measure 3” from that end & mark it on the center. (Alternatively, walking the scribe down the wood 4 times also works.) This will be the hole for the pull section.
Drill a 1/2” hole through all three marks. Since the wood is so thin, a hand drill can be used rather than a drill press. The hanger hole looks better a bit smaller, 5/16” or 3/8”, but the larger hole lets it hang on more utensil racks & makes it easier to pull off. Which do you want, looks or utility? It’s a question the woodworker often has to balance. If your piece is thinner, dropping to 3/8” holes might be a good idea, though.
[+ There are many types of drill bits.+] I’m using a 1/2” Forstner bit in a drill press. A piece of 1/2” plywood will support the far side of the cut so it will be clean. If you don’t have a Forstner bit, a brad point will also make a clean hole. Both of these bits are a bit special, though. Most people probably have spade (paddle) bit around. It will work, but drill partway through, flip the piece & finish the hole from the other side. That will help stop the wood from tearing out as the drill bit goes through.
If all you have are twist bits, you should pilot drill all the way through with a small (1/8” is good.) twist bit first before drilling with the 1/2” bit. This will guide the larger bit which might otherwise walk a bit. Keep the speed high & don’t push down too hard since this sort of bit will pull up the wood fibers. You want to make sure to cut rather than tear them up. Again, you’ll want to drill part way through, flip the piece, & finish the hole from the other side.
Mark the push end with lines scribed about 1/4” in from the edges. Draw lines from the outside of the hole to the marks as shown above on the far right.
Use a square to draw lines for the pull hole to the lower edge of the tool. You can also do this by eye with a straight edge or make up a template. The angle is what you think looks good & will work the best.
Cut both of these out, straight cuts with the outside of the blade just inside the lines. A little extra wood inside the hole is easier to sand flat than if the cut is on the outside. That requires reshaping the hole instead of the flat line going to it.
Lay out the handle end using the scribe set to 1/4” from the edge. (There is no need for the 4-1/2” mark. I’m not sure why I drew it on this one.)
I used pennies to draw the round corners. A quarter inch looks like quite a deep cut for the handle, but the wood is thin & oven racks can stick, so a positive grip is important.
I used a ½” band saw blade with almost no kerf, so had to sneak up on the straight part of the handle in the picture below. Cut as close as you can & then come back & cut the rest back in the opposite direction or bring it down to the line with a file. Don’t try to just cut down to the line right away & never force the blade to turn. You should just leave the line as I did in this picture. A little extra wood is easy enough to take off, but you can’t put it back on.
With the band saw, it is best to cut the long part with the grain first & then cut across the grain as it supports the wood better.
With most other saws, cut across the grain at the end first or you run the risk of snapping off the end if your saw blade binds. It is more important with these saws to go across & with the grain as much as possible, especially in splintery wood. The picture below is a scroll saw cutting incorrectly into the grain of Black Locust, which is very splintery.
As you can see, this is a mess. If I made the cut from the other direction, that wouldn’t have happened.
Round the ends of the push end a little. I drew some lines, but didn’t really pay attention to them & just let the saw nip a little off. Again, make sure to cut with & across the grain.
Now put the wood blank in a vice & clean it up with the files.
A round file or mild rasp is used to clean up inside (concave) curves while the flat one is used to smooth flat areas & outside (convex) curves. Hold the rasp at right angles to the face of the project to create a sharp edge & work with the grain. Both can be used to soften the sharp edges, but I let the sandpaper do that as the last step in finishing. That makes the rounding of the edges more even & the lines cleaner. Don’t worry if there are some bumps left behind on such as ash or oak. This is normal & those areas will be softened more or taken off by the sandpaper.
Finish completely with the files, before sanding. Never use a file on wood you’ve sanded unless it is thoroughly cleaned & even then, only do it if you really have to. Sandpaper grit will get stuck in the grain of the wood & dull the edges of the file quickly. A dull file is scrap metal.
Start sanding with 100 grit . Use a quarter sheet folded on itself 3 times. This way none of the grit faces contact another & it stiffens itself. Sand with the grain when & where you can. That smooths the best & shows the scratches the least. Don’t bear down hard on the sandpaper. It just makes the contact uneven, heaviest where your fingers are. It is best to use a or just a block of wood to support the sandpaper, but this is a small project that should be rounded for comfort.
I don’t like sanding, but it makes a lot of difference to the looks of the final project. Start by sanding the flat surfaces with long strokes & even pressure. Try to keep the edges as sharp as possible. Only round them over at the very end of the job. That way the rounding is even & more easily controlled.
This oven tool is made out of white ash, so 100 grit is all I needed to use to clean up after the files, although sanding with 120 grit & even down to 150 grit wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. Tighter grained woods such as maple, walnut & pine will benefit by sanding down to 220 grit.
Anyway, at this point the project is pretty much done save for the finish. Finishing isn’t strictly required, but wood will get discolored from foods, oil on hands, & dirt in general without it. It’s also a good idea to seal wood against constant & sudden changes in humidity. You must use a finish if you stain the piece.
I prefer not to use a stain, but a plain wood like ash often looks better with one. A thin coat of any kind of stain is fine so long as it is covered with the finish discussed below.
A cheap, easy stain to make is rust stain. I make it by filling an old mayonnaise or peanut butter jar with an equal mixture of water & vinegar that I soak a pad of steel wool in it for a couple of days to a week with the lid just cracked since pressure can sometimes build up. Time isn’t critical, so when I think about it next, I close the lid all the way, shake well, open, & pour the mixture through an old tee shirt into another container. I don’t use a really tight filter like those for coffee since they’ll stop too many of the particles & I won’t get much color. Shake well before using & about every 5 minutes thereafter. The rust settles out pretty quickly.
Rust stain is a water-based stain & works best if you paint it on in one quick, wet coat. Make sure to cover everything completely the first time because touching it up after it dries (It dries quickly.) makes it blotchy. If the wood is white oak, the stain can turn shades of black, gray, & brown as the tannic acid in the oak reacts with the acid in the vinegar. White oak isn’t as porous as red oak, which generally turns almost completely black, so test the stain out on some scraps to see how it will react & if you like it.
Let the stain dry overnight & then seal the wood with a couple of light coats of some clear finish like mineral oil or polyurethane. I’d use the latter if the piece is stained since it needs to be sealed off from the cook’s hand else it will bleed on them any time their hand is damp. Remember, it’s going to be contacting hot metal, so you don’t want much finish on it to burn off, but the first coat will soak in unevenly & make it look blotchy. A second thin coat will even out the shine.
Mineral oil should be applied heavily & let it soak in for 15 minutes or so before wiping off the excess. A second coat will often sink into some areas, especially the end grain. Again, let it sit for a while before wiping off the excess.
Polyurethane should be left to dry overnight between coats & lightly sanded with fine grit sandpaper (220 – 320) between coats. Buffing the final coat with a brown paper bag will knock off the dust nibs. I prefer that to steel wool which leaves bits of itself all over. If you do use it, make sure to wipe it well when done.
You can also woodburn, paint, or do all sorts of other groovy things to spruce up this simple project, but keep in mind it will be contacting hot metal oven racks that can be 500 degrees. The end will often be swiped against the hot metal which will peel off any thick finish & leave it smoldering on the grate, so it’s best to keep the finish thin & simple.
That’s it! You should now have an oven tool.
I grew up on a farm & own one now. Working farms are usually short on cash & a long way from town, so recycling is something I learned from the time I was born. We have the talent, tools, & materials, so we’ve made our own whenever possible. It’s not always as pretty as store-bought, but generally works as well.
If you find an error or have ideas & experiences to share, please [+ email me+] at or find me on . We can discuss working more in the group there. Admission is free & I’ll try to answer questions, but please remember this is a hobby project done in my spare time.
If you enjoyed this, take a look at some of my other books on .
The oven tool is used for pushing & pulling the racks in a hot oven, so it's a useful gift for the cook in the family. It's a simple project that teaches a lot of basic skills nor are any of the measurements critical, so it is quite forgiving & allows some imagination that needs to balance against practicality. It's a project I helped my kids make when they were little & my daughter taught several of her shop classes using these instructions as a guide. Only a drill, 1/2" drill bit, coping saw, & some sandpaper are needed once scrap wood of the proper size is obtained.