Making a straight edge out of Sapele wood

Really, you ask?  Why would you make a straightedge out of wood when you can buy a metal one at a big box store.  Tsk, Tsk the man has lost it you say.

Actually, just like winding sticks are something you should build yourself and not buy, building your own wooden straightedge has some advantages over a store bought metal one.  If you drop it on the floor (and you know you will) the metal one can chip or suffer some other damage but chances are you can’t repair it.  If a wooden one falls on the floor, you can repair it.  Yes we can! (Bob the Builder reference).  But the real benefit is that is yet another reason to practice woodworking and make something with your hands.

In this project I learned how to you rasps to remove lots of material quickly and shape the curved portion of my straight edge.  It started with a 3ft long piece of ‘Sapele” (Sapelleee), commonly referred to as african mahogany.  I chose the sapele on purpose as I wanted a hard tight grained wood that would withstand my clumsiness in the shop.

The rough shape.

I started carving out a handle after cutting the slight taper from the end of the handle to the edge of the board on both sides.  Ironically the board is 3 feet, 3 and 7/8 inches long,  Should I cut it down to 3 feet?  Too late I kept it that length so I can have a slight overhang on a 3ft board.

Here’s a better picture of the handle underway and the length of the board also shown below.

Not bad for using just hand tools.  At this point I decided I was done and put a coat of tung oil on it and let it sit overnight.  However…

It turns out the handle grip was too narrow, so I went to the drill press and made it slightly wider and deeper with the forstner bit.


Bigger, and deeper and easier to pick up.  I didn’t want the handle to go through but I did get awfully close in the top right corner of the handle.  Look how narrow that wood is!  But thankfully it is sapele and this stuff is like iron.

The finished product below:

Not bad.. except for the slight detail shown below.


I ran out of sand paper and the makes of the forstner bit are clearly visible.  I tried chiseling them out with a goose necked chisel but Sapele is too hard even with my japanese chisels.  So I decided to leave it until it bugs me enough to fix it or not.  At least now I have a nice straight wooden straight edge that I can I say I built.



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