A great all-around kitchen utensil.
Here’s a great kitchen utensil you’re sure to find indispensable. These wooden tongs feature a unique spring tab mechanism built into a knuckle joint. The joint allows the tongs to be folded flat for storage. When the tongs are opened up, the spring tabs contact each other so the tongs want to spring back open (Fig. A). This is the same action found in those metal tongs used by chefs the world over. Tongs are perfect for everything from plucking corn-on-the- cob out of boiling water to fetching a trapped piece of toast from a toaster. Of course, they also shine as a salad server. It’s one of those projects you’ll enjoy using so much that you’ll make more as gifts for friends and family.
No doubt there’s lots of scrap wood in your shop just looking to be fashioned into something useful. Closed grain or semi-porous woods like cherry, walnut and maple make good tong material. The tongs are easy to make. There’s a little bit of steam bending, but even that is low tech and straight forward. Feel free to experiment with the length and width of the tongs for a variety of uses.
Create the Spring Tabs
Each half of the tong starts out exactly the same. Cut the two tong blanks (Fig. A.). Next, set your table saw to rip tabs on each blank (Photo 1). Mark the outer face on each blank and rip the tabs with the outer face up.
Cut two 1/2-in. long spacers to fill the saw kerfs at the end of one of the tongs. Glue and clamp them to the outer tabs only (Photo 2). Let the glue cure.
Measure down one inch from the end of each blank for the starting point of the bearing angles on each tang. Use a small hand saw to cut a 60 – degrees angle on the center tine of the tong with spacers. Then cut the two outer tines on the other blank (Photo 3). It’s necessary to insert a spacer to cut the center tab. Take care not to push the tab up too far or it may crack.
Next, fill a tray with two inches of hot water and submerge the blanks (Photo 4). Let the blanks soak for about half an hour. Pull the blanks out of the water and separate the tabs with a spacer (Photo 5).
Apply heat with a heat gun set on high for about 1-1/2 minutes. Keep the heat gun moving on all sides of the tabs to avoid scorching and to heat the tab uniformly. Leave the spacers in place and let each piece cool to room temperature. The spring tabs are now permanently set.
Assemble the Knuckle Joint
Clamp the two blanks together with the bent tines facing out (Photo 6). Measure down 1/4-in. from the end and then drill a 1/16-in. hole through all the tines.
Push a 1/16-in. brass rod (available at hardware stores) into the hole and cut it flush with a side cutter (Photo 7).
Finish the Tongs
Shape the round beveled end of the tongs with a belt or disc sander (Photo 8). Finish sand the tongs’ surfaces to 220-grit. Brush a liberal coating of walnut oil (available at health food stores) onto the tongs. Let it soak for 10-minutes or so and wipe them dry. Walnut oil is a completely non-toxic drying oil.
Unlike metal tongs, wooden tongs should never soak in hot soapy water or be put through a dishwasher. Just rinse with warm water and wipe them dry. Recoat with oil whenever they start to look “dry”.
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