I knew I would have to be patient, and finally after a 6 month wait my Chopstick Master has arrived from Bridge City Tool Works

And it is as beautiful as a tool can possibly be made.


At approximately $US200 (plus postage), it is not exactly a cheap way to get some eating utensils.  But it is designed to do one job as perfectly as possible (as all BCTW tools are), and it does just that.

Now before you completely loose your mind over the price for making chopsticks, let me point out that it does come with the BCTW HP8 handplane as part of the kit.


If you were planning to get this plane on its own, BCTW sell it for $US250.  Yes, you read it right.  By buying the Chopstick Master, I actually bought the HP8 plane for $US250, and got the rest of the chopstick master kit for -$US50!  That to me is a very reasonable price.

(Ok, I am sure there is some false logic in there, but that is what I am telling myself!)

So how does it work?  You can certainly watch the videos from my original post, and I would really encourage you to read the story about the process that resulted in the invention of the Chopstick Master by John Economaki.

What it boils down to, is a jig that accurately holds the chopstick blank at the required angle for a block plane to shave a taper.  That’s it in a nutshell.  But there is more to it than that, and the devil is in the details.  After shaving 2 faces, the final two won’t cut, as they need the blank held at a different, higher angle.  The Chopstick Master has this second setting and away you go again.

The blank is held at an angle, so the plane makes a shearing cut, and uses the entire width of the plane which is clever in itself.

The blank is then turned 45 degrees, and the last 4″ or so is shaved again, producing the octagonal bottom end.

What really makes a chopstick though, is the pyramidal finial on the top end.  The original jig needed a saw blade to cut that, but the 2nd gen (which I have) positions the chopstick so the handplane cuts each face of the finial to form the perfect pyramid, and nothing beats a planed finish.

It took me a little longer than the promised 5 minutes to make my first set of chopsticks, but that was from reading the instructions, and making sure I got it all right.  Before long, I had a pile of very fine shavings, and two near perfect chopsticks.  I have no doubt the next pair will be even better now I have it all worked out.

The jig comes with a red insert, which is used to make Chinese chopsticks, which is 5mm diameter at the bottom (I wonder if the colour was deliberate?)  I also got the 2mm insert (green), which allows you to make a Japanese choptick.

The combination of disposable chopsticks used in China and Japan (alone) is over 69 billion pairs a year.  That is 2.55 million m³ of timber, or 38 million trees.  A YEAR!!!!!

Interestingly, a single pair of quality, reusable chopsticks can fetch anywhere from $1 (for an every-day chopstick), to over $100 based on the finish, material, and decoration.

I can see more chopstick making in my future!karatekid.gif

A Comment

It is great to see Bunnings have stepped up with the demise of the competing Masters stores.

Went in tonight to buy about 20 sheets of 2400×1200 3mm MDF.  Couldn’t get a park in the store because they had filled all the parking bays with their trailers (it certainly wasn’t closing time).  Then went to get the sheets – they had 2.  When asked if there was any more, it was “that’s all we have, what can you do?”

Asked if I could get the equivalent in smaller sheets at the same price “nup”.

Back to the old days it seems.  Didn’t take long.

Portable Extraction

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Festool CT36L dust extractor.  It has the handle and the overhead boom arm for the vac tube, and just does its thing as well as I’d want.

The only negative I’ve had, is when I do want to use my tools out of the shed – whether that is in the house, or off site.  It is a big bugger!   Even moving it around the workshop if I did want to use it on the other side of the shop (given mine is becoming increasingly cramped), I found I was just not using it when I should.  Lazy.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 1.19.35 PM.png

So I’ve been investigating the options.  Still sticking with Festool for my solution.  I love it, and can’t find a reason to change (yes, I know $$), nor am looking for one.

I will admit, I have a couple of Ozito vacs in the workshop.  One doing dust extraction from the CNC, and the other from the Kapex.  I would have put a Festool CT17 on the Kapex, but no long life bag!  But I am getting ahead of myself.

So I wanted a unit that had auto start and stop (all Festool have that), and would be regarded as portable.

That gave an initial list of

CT17, Mini, Midi, CTL SYS mini

Next, long life bag, because as much as I will spend money on Festool, I hate spending money on dust extraction bags, especially when they are $10 a pop.  I am sure there is plenty of false logic there, but so be it!

That dumped the CT17 – it was close – it was the cheapest, was small and portable, had variable speed, but the lack of a long life bag was a deal breaker.

Now I had 3, with quite a cost range, and different features.  If I didn’t already have the CT36, then the midi would have won hands down, but it covered more criteria than I was wanting for this unit.  And in the end, the CTL SYS mini won out.

It is a weird machine, in that it doesn’t look like a vacuum.  It looks like a systainer.  In fact, it is a systainer! In fact, 2 systainers.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 1.00.29 PM.png

The top one is the cable store, and vac tube garage.  The bottom one is the dust extractor.  The only negative, it doesn’t have variable speed.

Other than that – very portable, and I can combine it with other systainers for off site work (such as my TS55 circular saw).

down-s-ctlsys-584173-a-24a.jpegI haven’t made too much use of it yet – I have my sander plugged into it currently, it starts, stops, sucks, and isn’t really any louder than the sander so it seems good so far.  I’ll make more comment on its performance when I have had more experience with it, especially as the dust bag fills.

I could couple it up with a cyclone unit, such as the Oneida, but that would start to work against why I chose this unit over a Mini or Midi.


Picked the unit up from my usual Festool dealer – Ideal Tools.  You can chat to Anthony, get some advise, order it and it turns up with free delivery, often the next day (or so!)  Rather dangerous! 😉

Welcome to 2017

Happy New Year y’all!

To start, a bit of a recap, as 2016 was an interesting year all round.  Global events aside, of which there were quite a few, but there were plenty of developments in the local arena as well.  

2016 saw the demise of Masters after running a very curious head-to-head campaign with Bunnings.  It also saw the Woodworking Warehouse disappear, and the bones of both got well and truly picked over.

I took some long service leave and the family had a tour of western USA for a month – awesome trip!  We got a new shop-dog, who is proving a lot of fun.  Keeps stealing things from the shed though – mainly offcuts, but occasionally I find all sorts of things scattered in the backyard.

While I technically started in 2015, The Toymaker (OzToymaker) started last year, including a modest Etsy store, which has been really interesting to develop.  Still small at this stage (and it may stay that way), but it has been a different outlet for my activities.  The rush to Christmas was particularly interesting, with sales going from one or two per week, to one to two per day, up to one or two per hour in late November/early December. 

I continued to write articles for The Shed magazine, although I may take a sabbatical from that soon.  Still, my favourite build from last year was the dog house – pleased how that came out.

Really, too much to recap an entire year, but let’s just say it has been interesting.

So on to 2017, and there is sure to be lots coming this year as well.  My daughter has her 10th birthday, and a few months later, Stu’s Shed will also turn 10.  That is a lot of blogging!

I’ve been doing some work with Sass & Spunk Styles in 2016, and expect there to be a lot more happening in that space in 2017.

I’m sure there will be some new additions to the workshop, and some departures.  I really need to move some tools out, that are not getting sufficient use, and some new ones in.  I’m hoping to upgrade the drum sander soon (yes, that has been the plan for some months now), and there is the potential of adding another CNC to the workshop, but will see how that goes.  As to departures, that is not finalised yet, but there are definitely some machines at the top of the list for consideration.   The gain in space in the workshop would definitely be welcome.

2017, let’s see what you have to offer!

Inside the tin box

While we suffer through the heat of summer in our tin sheds (whether insulated or not!), here is a little reminder about how hot another tin box can get on a sunny day.

The family car.  Good for getting around, but really bad as a ‘secure’ place to leave kids or pets locked inside, even for a short time.

This was a full, unopened can of coke.

That would take some doing, and a pretty high internal temp in the car.


Haven’t had a chance to post for a long time unfortunately 😦

It isn’t much, but this Banksia caught my eye.  Love the texture of the bark.


Quite the collaborative effort.  Plans from MakeCNC.com. Cut on a Torque 9060 CNC from 3mm MDF. Painted by Jeanene Slabbert.  Photographed by Kara Rasmanis.

I give you, the Pegasus!

Toolversed Rating

Toolversed is one of the newest tool review sites, that came online at the start of 2016 according to this press release

It seems to primarily focus on tools available through Amazon, which is not so useful for those of us down under, as I don’t think we can buy anything other than books & DVDs still (but that may have changed).

They recently did a review of woodworking blogs, and Stu’s Shed was chosen as one of the top 25, although there were some notable exceptions in the list.  

Decided to have a look around the review site, see what was being found.  Being US based, I wasn’t surprised I didn’t recognise many of the brands, but there were categories I thought some of the brands I like would have made the list.  Festool?  Doesn’t make the grade, not for sanders, nor drop saws or anything else for that matter.  Didn’t even make the review list.

Try again: Triton? Well at least the brand made a minor appearance, as one of the belt sanders had been looked at (and not surprisingly, well down the list).  Surprised their router didn’t make an appearace.

Sawstop? Nup.  Apparently the best tablesaw is a Dewalt portable, and the best portable is a Bosch.

Powermatic? MagSwitch? Incra? Woodpeckers? No, x4

Jet?  Finally, found one where Jet managed to make a hit, as the best wood lathe.  Nova / Teknatool, especially the DVR XP? nup.

Bummer.  Hopefully the range of what is reviewed will continue to improve- at this stage it seems to be only Amazon-based.  However, seeing as the US can seemingly buy Festool through Amazon, I’m surprised it didn’t get more of a mention.

Carbatec Sale

A 3 day sale at Carbatec has just gotten underway, and while I tend not to mention sales, I’m making an exception in this case as the catalog is worth a look.

Prices are up to 50% off, and while noone cares when the items at 50% off are obscure bolts etc, some of the sale items in the 50% bracket include the Nova DVR XP lathe.  Seeing as that is normally over $3 grand, if you were interested in an awesome lathe, that becomes a bloody good price.

Let your fingers do the walking, and see if there is anything tempting!

Sass & Spunk Styles

Been doing quite a lot of product development for Sass & Spunk Styles recently, which is interesting.  

You can check them out on Facebook – search for “Sass & Spunk Styles”

They can definitely style their product photos better than I can! There are some lessons I can learn from there.

He is a snap I took yesterday of a part of their stand at a local market.

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