I recently broke a pair of toaster tongs I’d been given. They looked very much like this set ($10):
Complete with the laser-etched phrase and magnet to grip a metal surface. Made from a single piece of wood, with thin tongs, one of the tongs eventually snapped. I generally stick to rough, practical carpentry, but saw these plans from Rockler for DIY kitchen tongs that made this finish carpentry project seem within my reach. And it was! Now I’ll have more confidence tackling polished projects going forward.
I’m very pleased with how mine ended up:
The Rockler plans are pretty good. I skipped the ornamental dowel and instead added a spare neodymium magnet I had lying around, but otherwise kept their specs. I didn’t follow in the instructions how I should square up the fulcrum piece, so my fulcrum trapezoid is not isosceles (symmetric). [I used to teach geometry and this is the first real-world use I’ve had for isosceles in years]. But this, and the other errors I made, are all subtle.
For materials, I used a scrap cedar 1×4″ I had on hand. The only thing I had to buy was a bottle of cutting board oil blend, which should be handy for other projects and reconditioning my cutting board.
A couple of takeaways from building the Rockler plans with my more limited tools:
You can do this with simpler tools. I don’t have a table saw or band saw. That was mostly okay, though a band saw would have sped things up.
I cut the small fulcrum piece with a miter saw, which was a little tricky. I first foolishly tried to trim an already-small piece and the saw sent it flying. I planned my second attempt better, so that the fulcrum piece was attached to the main plank until the final cut, making it safe and easy to hold.
I ripped the tong blades using a circular saw and its cutting guide/ fence, which worked fine. One power tool I didn’t end up needing was my orbital sander. I tried to use it to add the curvature to the ends of the tongs, but it was hard to control, so I gave up and used hand tools. Which was satisfying and gave me insight into the popularity of hand tools for finished pieces. I used a file and sandpaper to curve and bevel the tongs, and the slow speed at which they removed material made it easier to adjust the curve and reduced the likelihood of me slipping or over-sanding and damaging the piece. Almost like parking a large vehicle in a very tight space, slow and steady was the safe approach.
Take a shortcut by using a single board as stock. It doesn’t look as fancy as their contrasting piece, but then I didn’t have to match the thickness of the tong blades to the fulcrum – they came from the same cedar board. It was a tiny bit thicker than other scraps I had lying around and with no planer, aligning the thickness of two different woods would have been a pain.
Adding a magnet. I used a 3/8″ spade bit to drill a centered hole, then added a little Gorilla Glue and pressed in a magnet. Test the drill bit & magnet fit on a scrap first to make sure it will fit tightly. Gorilla Glue foams up as it cures; I added a little too much so had to wipe it up from the edges a couple of times in its first hour of drying. If you look closely at my “finished” photo above, I had a glue spot I hadn’t wiped up yet.
Overall, this was a fun, manageable project where I could sweat the details without it taking too much time. And I could make it with tools and materials I already had. The tongs turning out so well – much nicer than the ones they replaced! – increased my confidence in my ability to make high-quality finished wood projects.
When it’s safe to work in-person together, I’d be happy to show anyone local how to make these. And I might make some as presents in the future, especially if I can involve my kids in building them.