top of page
  • Fred

Helmet display stand almost complete!

If you're at all interested in woodworking, military aviation or coffee (both woodworking and military aviation are fueled by coffee, by the way, so they are intrinsically linked), you probably want to read this blog entry. There's nothing more in this entry about coffee, but I did drink some yummy Colombian today that I roasted last night on my Behmor 1600. That little coffee roaster is a true workhorse. I estimate that since I purchased it in 2009, I've roasted at least 500 lbs of coffee in it and it's still going strong.

On to the actual topic of the post: the helmet stand for my friend. I will not mention his name or give any hints about who it is other than he was an ROTC classmate of my wife who is from Maine and is a C-130 Navigator.

Quick recap of the commission: a helmet stand for an Air Force flight helmet. Made of wood with a plate on the front saying how great this guy is.

When we left off in the last episode, I had just cut the pieces out, shaped them a bit and drilled the holes for the mortises. I then marked the mortises...

...and chiseled the rest of the hol

e out to match the support column.

It's important to consider what part of the piece is going to be visible when it's on a desk or a table. You want to start the hole on the visible side, as it almost always ends up being the better looking side. You shouldn't just chop all the way through the board, but rather chop most of the way from the "show" side, then flip the piece over and try your best to match the hole up on the other side. I tried my best. I really did.

With a piece of scrap from the same poplar board, I began testing to see what kind of cuts I wanted to make in the ends of the support beam to accommodate the wedges. I tried a couple of different hand saws and ended up just using the table saw. The width of the table saw blade is 1/8 of an inch, so I was able to make two cuts in the 1.5 inch square support column. Remember to go WITH the grain. If you put wedges in across the grain, you're just asking for trouble.

The wedges I made were some scrap pieces of walnut I had left over from making some knife scales. I cut them to width and then hit the disc sander to give them a taper (thus a wedge shape).

Time to do the first wedged tenon! I did the bottom one first, since it won't really be visible. That's a good practice. You know... to practice.

Here's what it looked like after pounding in the wedges.

Then a little clean up and some work with the flush-cut saw.

I did the same thing on the top with the helmet support.

After flush-cutting the wedges, I reached for the sander to get everything really smooth and nice. Here's what the whole thing looked like after sanding and before finishing.

I sanded the whole thing to 220 grit and gave it a good rub down with mineral spirits to get rid of any sawdust. After the mineral spirits dried, I touched up any spots where the grain had raised with the 220 grit again. This time, after sanding, I gave it a good blast with compressed air to get all of the sawdust off.

Now it's time to finish and this thing will be finished! I used Watco Danish Oil, as I have been lately. One of the things I like about the Danish Oil is that it's pretty quick to get several coats. You apply a liberal first coat, let it sit for a half hour and wipe off any excess. A lot of the finish soaks into the wood, the stuff that doesn't just sits on the surface. You don't want that to dry like that.

After the first coat and wipe-down, it's ready for a second coat right away. And this time, you only have to wait for 15 minutes (since the wood isn't nearly as thirsty for finish as it was when it was unfinished). Wipe it down again, and it's good to sit overnight and really set up. I checked it again in the morning and there wasn't any oil on the surface and the surface felt dry to the touch.

The surface was dry, but not as smooth as I'd like, but that was all according to my (not so evil) plan! In addition to the two coats of Danish Oil, I added a coat of Johnson's Paste Wax. This is basically furniture wax and it's great for almost anything wood. It applies just like old fashioned car wax - wipe it on excessively, let it sit until it hazes, and buff it out with a clean cloth. Johnson's paste wax leaves a really nice smooth surface that is easily repeatable simply by adding another coat of wax every couple/few years.

Here's the finished product:

I was well pleased with how the wedged tenon on top came out. It's smooth and I think it looks cool.

With my flight helmet:

I dropped the stand of at the engraving shop (Ed's Awards and Engraving) this morning. I actually just met Ed at the gym last week at a spin class. He's a really nice guy and he told me that he had an engraving shop downtown. In two years living here, this is the first time I've needed any such work done. Pretty cool. Anyway, Ed called and said it was ready, so I'll pick it up and mail it tomorrow. Perhaps we'll see some photos of it with my buddy's helmet in his office.

Thanks for reading!

bottom of page