Apr 02 2012

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Toothbrush Holder

We needed a new toothbrush holder. Our old one, a clear plastic tube with duckies floating in a mysterious blue liquid, was leaking. Also with it’s tiny holes, it just couldn’t hold the thicker handle toothbrushes that my children use sometimes use. I thought, “I could actually make a something useful on my lathe,” so I decided to build a toothbrush holder that actually held our toothbrushes properly.

I didn’t want to make any boring old holder, I wanted my creation to have some flair, so I started the project ripping up some purple heartwood and maple scraps into strips. First I ripped four thin purpleheart strips using my thin rip jig, then I ripped two maple strips, twice as wide as the purpleheart. In hind sight, the result looks somewhat like a racing stripe.

Before gluing, I jointed the edges of some walnut scraps for the field, then I sandwiched the maple and purpleheart between two chunks of walnut and glued the entire mess together to make the turning blanks for the top and bottom of the holder.

Once the glue was dry, I marked one of the blanks to be the smaller bottom and the other to be the wider top. I cut out both blanks on my scroll saw and then mounted the bottom blank to the lathe plate. I wanted this piece as thick as possible to make it heavy enough to make the holder stable. I rounded the blank and then cut a rounded groove in the bottom to catch the end of the toothbrushes. I left the center somewhat higher than the sides to try and give the piece a more 3D appearance.

Then I mounted the top of the holder to the lathe plate. Since you’d see both sides of this piece, I was careful to position the screws in a place where a toothbrush hole would be drilled. I left the the underside of the top flat, but I made a  7/8″ wide groove in the top for the toothbrush holes. Again I tried to make the center higher than the edges, but since this piece is thinner than the bottom and I didn’t want the center to stand out as much.

I measured the thickness of my children’s many toothbrushes and found that they were all under 7/8″, so that’s the size of Forstner bit I would use, but how was I going to drill evenly spaced holes on a round object that wasn’t flat? I was originally going to make four slotted holes, but then I remembered my geometry. I could take the radius of a circle and walk it around the perimeter exactly six times — six evenly spaced holes.

Once I had the holes drilled I was able to use a 1/8″ round-over bit on the flat bottom side to relieve the edges of the holes, but since the top part wasn’t flat, I couldn’t do the same on that side. I ended up rounding over the hole edges on that side with 100 grit sandpaper until I got a smooth radius.

To connect the top and bottom I turned a spindle out a chunk of the same maple board that I used in the top and bottom. I turned the bottom and the top of the spindle down to 5/8″ diameter and made the shoulder angled at a 92º angle or so that the ouside would be flush when the pieces were mated. To make the spindle less boring, I tried adding some decoration while I was still on the lathe. One thing I’m going to remember for next time I turn any sort of spindle is to be more aggressive and exaggerate the details a bit while I’m turning, because as you sand it down to the final finish, the piece loses a little detail.

I drilled a 5/8″ stopped hole in the bottom and a 5/8″ through hole in the top to accept the spindle. Then I used hide glue to glue the pieces together. Before removing each piece from the lathe, I sanded them down through a series of 100, 150, 240, 300 grits and 0000 steel wool. Of course I needed to go back and touch up the ares where I drilled in the top. I finished the piece with three coats of oil/urethane mix and three more coats of just urethane, I didn’t want to go to many coats and get that plasticky appearance, I just hope I gave it enough coats for the wet environment.

I also have a few more photos from the process in my Google+ photos.

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