Sand Bags

IMG_4068Sand bags are usually called upon in times of life-and-death seriousness; like for parapets and levees.  I have one in my shop that serves a less intense purpose.  The last few evenings, I have been carving and refining a walnut goose-inspired bowl that I roughed out a few weeks ago.  Especially when I am working with forms such as this, I find that a sandbag and a vise come in handy.

I suppose there are lots of ways to make a sandbag.  There might even be something commercially available.  My focus was to make sure it wouldn’t leak sand, which would be bad for the piece and the tool edges.

I re-used a heavy plastic bag of some kind that was used in a package I received (if I recall). I filled it with sand — leaving room for some give — and sealed it up tight with tape.  I put it into a bag (like a pillow case) I had stitched up from some suede leather, then stitched up the open end of the leather pouch.

It’s weight and ability to conform make it pretty versatile.  In the top picture, I am using it under the piece for support.


There is enough firmness for the holdfasts to grab, but not mar the corners of the wood.

My vise is just a small, but well-made, Record vise.  Several years ago I removed the smaller wooden jaws that I originally attached to it and put on these monster oak jaws. One might think this would put some weird stresses on the vise mechanism, but I have noticed no problems.  It is a pretty simple and cheap solution compared to twin vise screw hardware.

It works well for dovetailing and other woodworking operations too.  For stock that is too wide for it, a board and a couple holdfasts in holes in the front bench apron do the trick.


Feeding goose.


The oak board for the outer jaw had a bit of warp to it lengthwise. Perfect for grabbing at the unsupported end first where a little extra pressure is needed.



The most versatile vise (and, man, I need to relax those eyebrows!)

On another note, there have been posts this week on Peter Follansbee’s blog and the Lost Art Press blog about seating styles, and three-legged stools and chairs.  Chris made one with two legs in front and one in the back.  This oak stool I made about eight years ago shows another option — two in the back and one in the front.  Works great.  Around our house it is known as “the butt stool.”


This entry was posted in bird bowls, carving, holding, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sand Bags

  1. cheryl platt says:

    Love that you started a blog. Thank you..


  2. Cynthia Sartor says:

    I used a big bag of cheap white rice and covered it with denem cloth. Made two of them and they work great.


  3. Ty Thornock says:

    Great post! Work holding is always half the battle for me.


  4. Bill Palmer says:

    Hi David: What I love about your work is how I “burrow down” into the design elements. It happens when I look at certain pieces and “feel” them on different levels. Being a craftsperson doesn’t always allow the extra income to take classes, but I would surely scrape together the money to take a class with you. Do you ever teach?


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