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This article was published in the June 2013 (#43) edition of Woodturning Design.

Scissor Holster as 5 page pdf

Scissor Holster

The Scissor Holster.

Introduction:  I imagine most of us, whether at a brain storming session, a design class, or a demo, have been urged to "think outside the box".  Even ignoring the self-contradictory phrasing of exhorting creativity in a thoroughly banal way, I don't find this to be especially helpful advice.  It's sort of like telling you not to think about elephants.  The subconscious usually doesn't work on demand.  What you need instead is a bigger box.


The more methods and techniques you know, the more ways you can combine them.  Theoretically the increase is exponential.  One technique you can use to make your box bigger is the Lost Wood Process, where part of a turning is "lost" either by cutting away, or by using a temporary waste block.  However, the examples of this process that I've seen are rather daunting for a first time try--how many of us will risk all the work in turning a hollow vessel with a first time technique?  This article is about making a scissor holster which is hopefully a much less risky, baby steps if you prefer, introduction to the lost wood process.


A customer (let's call her Stephanie) who bought one of my needle cases, asked me if I could make a holder for embroidery scissors that she could hang around her neck.  Even sent me a couple of links with examples.  But a way to turn a scissor holster without unnecessary bulk wasn't immediately evident, as scissors are so much wide than they are thick.  But as I had just been using the lost wood process to make a sphere into a fish body, within a day or so I had the idea of using the lost wood process to get rid of unnecessary bulk and add design interest as well.


Briefly, a blank is glued up of two prime wood pieces and a waste wood block using temporary glue joints.  The resulting blank is mounted between centers and a tenon turned for chuck mounting, then step drilled to make a recess.  The drilled blank is then mounted on a mandrel and turned.  The temporary joints are then separated, a magnet added to hold the scissors in, and the prime pieces glued permanently together.  Lastly eyelets are made and glued into the holster. 


Preparing the Turning Blank:  To start the scissor holster, first prepare the turning blank.  You'll need a waste block that is 1-1/2" wide, 3-1/2" long, and .4" thick.  The .4" is a fairly critical dimension.  The mating surfaces should be smooth--band sawn isn't good enough.


The prime pieces should be 1-1/2" wide, 3-1/2" long and 1/2" thick.  The inside surface should be smooth like the waste block.  In the pictures I'm using some laminated stock made of Maple, Cherry and Walnut, then cut on a 15 degree angle.  It would be sensible to try the project first with solid wood such as maple--in fact that's what I did.  The blanks are shown in Fig01.


Fig01:  The pieces that will make up the turning blank.


The prime pieces will be glued to the waste block with temporary joints.  In the pictures I'm using blue masking tape and Titebond glue because cleaning up the temporary joint is nearly effortless.  If you would rather, use a traditional paper joint with kraft paper and glue.  I suggest you use a non-waterproof wood glue to make the joint cleanup a little less of a hassle.  Put blue masking tape on the mating surfaces of the pieces  as in Fig02, and remove some of the coating of the tape with 180 grit or so abrasive to get better glue adhesion.  Spread a thin layer of wood glue on one surface of each of the mating pair and then clamp the blank together until the glue cures as in Fig03.  Be at least a little fussy about alignment, particularly if you try the laminated stock.


Fig02:  The setup for gluing the temporary joints.


Fig03:  Clamping the temporary joints.


After the glue has cured, remove the clamps.  Trim the end of the blank on the table saw--this will let you clearly see the extent of the waste block and find its center more accurately.  Locate the center of the waste block at end of the blank and make a small dimple at the center as in Fig04.


Fig04:  After trimming the blank and locating the centers.


Drilling the Recess:  Mount the blank between centers on the lathe using cup centers at both headstock and tailstock as shown in Fig05.  Cup centers grip the whole blank end instead of trying to pry the temporary joints apart.  I'm using a homemade safety drive in a 4-jawed chuck because I'll want to use the chuck for the next step.  The starting dimples should let you find the centers easily.  Turn the blank round and with a tenon at one end as in Fig06.  It's prudent to cut gently so as to not put the strength of your temporary joints to the test.


Fig05:  The blank mounted between cup centers.


Fig06:  After rounding the blank and cutting a tenon at one end.


Mount the blank in a 4-jawed chuck as in Fig07 and mount a combined drill and countersink or other centering drill in a drill chuck in the tailstock.  The rigid, non-deflecting combined drill and countersink will let you start a true hole.  Start the lathe at a slow to moderate speed and advance the tailstock ram until it starts to cut.  Pull the ram back and check to make sure the hole is centered thickness-wise in the waste block.  Adjust the mounting in the 4-jawed chuck if necessary, as you want the hole to really be centered. The combined drill and countersink is rigid enough to create a new center if required.


Fig07:  Starting the hole with a combined drill and countersink.


Now mount a 3/4" drill in the drill chuck.  Drill 1" deep with the 3/4" drill as in Fig08.  Mount a 5/8" drill in the drill chuck and drill 3 deep as in Fig09 (measured from the front of the blank).  Step drilling is necessary to leave sufficient wall thickness to hold the magnet.  After drilling remove the blank from the 4-jawed chuck.


Fig08:  Drilling with a 3/4" drill.


Fig09:  Finishing the recess with a 5/8" drill.


Turning on a Mandrel:  Mount a piece of hardwood   1" square and 4-1/2" long between centers and turn a 3/4" Diameter x 1" tenon on one end.  Mount the tenon in your 4-jawed or collet chuck and turn a mandrel to fit the drilled scissor holster blank.  There should be a full width collar at the chuck end, 1-1/4" of 3/4" diameter next to the collar, and 2 of 5/8" diameter at the end  away from the chuck.  Now test the fit of the drilled blank on the mandrel.  Unfortunately a slightly oversize mandrel exerts a whole lot of leverage to pry the temporary joint apart.  Over come this by clamping across the temporary joint while trying the fit as in Fig11.  If you remove too much off the mandrel you can always shim it back with a little (blue) tape.  Slide the blank on to the mandrel and pin it in place with the tailstock as in Fig12.


Fig10:  The turned mandrel.


Fig11:  Testing the fit of the mandrel with a clamp backing up the temporary joint.


Fig12:  The blank mounted on the mandrel.


Down near the tailstock, establish the minimum diameter (so you can mount the magnet) of 1-1/8" with a parting tool as in Fig13.  Turn gently, as the temporary glue joint is getting narrow.  Use a spindle roughing gouge to even out the surface of the blank, then start turning the inboard end of the blank.  Use a skew (or a spindle gouge if you prefer) to turn a slightly rounded face on the end of the blank.  Then turn a 1/8" cove near the lip with a mini-cove tool (see or the Fall 2005 Woodturning Design) as in Fig14.


Fig13:  Set the minimum diameter of 1-1/8".


Fig14:  Turn the face of the blank and a mini-cove.


Now reduce most of the blank to the minimum diameter with a spindle roughing gouge, turning gently.  If you do start to hear the ominous tick-tick-tick of a temporary joint preparing to fly apart, reinforce one end with tape and turn the other end.  Then swap the tape to the turned end and finish turning the blank.  Use a spindle gouge to turn the transition between the end near the cove and the minimum diameter.  Smooth out the rest of the blank with a skew.  The result is shown in Fig15.  Note that if you use a laminated blank like mine you should only cut with the skew from left to right.  Use a skew or spindle gouge to round over the bottom end of the blank.  Reduce the nub to less than the waste block diameter as in Fig16.


Fig15:  After smoothing the body of the blank with a skew (or spindle gouge).


Fig16:  After rounding over the bottom and reducing the nub diameter.


Sand the blank with progressively finer grits as in Fig17.  If you prefer to finish the blank with a friction polish you can do that now, as in Fig18, as the nub will disappear when the waste block is removed.  Remove the blank from the mandrel.


Fig17:  After sanding.


Fig18:  After polishing.


The Non-Lathe Details:  Split apart the temporary joints using a putty knife or utility knife as in Fig19.  Then clean up the joints.  If you used blue tape just peel it off.  Wipe with mineral spirits and a rag if there seems to be any adhesive residue.  If you used a more traditional paper joint dampen the paper and then scrape it off.  You might try putting a cabinet scraper style hook on a utility knife blade as in Fig20 where I'm using hardened steel (screw driver shaft) to burnish a hook.  Burnish the hook so that it will scrape when the knife is drawn towards you--this way you can hold the blank in your left hand, brace your right thumb on the end of the blank and squeeze your right hand to draw the scraper along the blank.  Fig21 shows the blank halves after removing the temporary joint.


Fig19:  After splitting the temporary joints apart.


Fig20:  Burnishing a hook on a utility knife blade to scrape off paper joint residue.


Fig21:  The cleaned blank halves.


Mark one of the halves for installing a magne as in Fig22.  Lay the scissors on the blank half as far down as it will go and mark a position about 3/8" to 1/2" from the tip of the scissors.  Then clamp a V-block to your drill press table centered on a 1/4" Forstner bit.  Support the blank half in the V-block and drill down slightly more than the thickness of your magnet as you don't want the tips to actually hit the magnet.


Fig22:  Marking the location of the magnet.


Fig23:  Drilling a recess for the magnet.


To glue the magnet in place, put a drop of CA glue on a piece of blue tape (to protect your work surface).  Put the magnet on the end of a steel rod (I'm using the hex key for changing jaws on my Oneway Stronghold chuck), dip or roll the magnet in the glue, and insert into the recess.  Fig24 shows the set-up for this.


Fig24:  The set-up for gluing in the magnet.


The blank halves are now ready to be glued together.  Spread a thin coat of wood glue on one half and clamp together as in Fig25.  It's a nest of clamps because clamping parallel to the joint keeps the halves lined up while the usual perpendicular clamps bring the halves together.  Remove the clamps after the glue cures.  You may wish to sand the edges lightly by hand or with a drum sander to remove sharp or slightly mis-aligned edges.  You can touch up the finish after sanding by rubbing briskly with a rag dampened with your friction polish. 


Fig25:  Clamping the blank halves together.


Just as a gun holster needs belt loops to be hung from a belt, a scissor holster needs a way to be hung from a necklace (or chatelaine is you're feeling fancy).  Make two eyelets from 2" long pieces of  20 gauge brass wire.  Clamp the end in a vise.  Bend a 0.15" or so diameter metal rod into an L shape and chuck up the L in your drill.  Put the other end of the L in the clamped loop of wire and turn on the drill to wind the wire into a spiral with a circle at the end as in Fig26.  Remove the eyelet from the vise and repeat to make another.  Trim both to the same length with diagonal pliers.


Fig26:  Making an eyelet from brass wire.


On scrap wood, make a few tests to determine what drill size gives you a good fit.  Now make a starter dimple for the drill as in Fig27.  I used a homemade tool, seen in Fig27.  I use the same tool when mounting spindle stock between centers. It is made from a 2-1/2" masonry nail mounted in a handle and sharpened.  Push in and twist at the same time at the bottom of the mini-cove where the halves meet.


Fig27:  Starting the drill holes.


Using the starting holes, drill into the case.  The inside of the case comes to a hard to see inside point, so don't worry too much about drilling through.  Now glue the eyelets in by dipping the ends in CA glue and inserting into the holes.  The inside isn't completely invisible so don't insert the wire into the recess.  Fig28 shows the set-up for gluing in the eyelets.  Fig29 shows the completed Scissor Holster.


Fig28:  The set-up for gluing in the eyelets.


Fig29:  The completed Scissor Holster.



3-1/2 embroider scissors.  For a few, just go to JoAnns or the like.  If you want a bunch, try buying wholesale from

1-1/2 x 3-1/2 x .4 waste block

2 each 1-1/2 x 3-1/2 x prime wood

20 gauge brass wire







Combination drill and countersink

3/4 drill

5/8 drill

4-jawed chuck

Drill chuck

Cup drive center

Cup tailstock center

Spindle roughing gouge

Skew and/or spindle gouge

Mini-cove tool

Electric drill


Drill to match eyelet diameter





Author:  David Reed Smith spends probably too much time trying to make his technique box bigger in his basement in Hampstead, Maryland.  This article, along with many others, will be available at  He welcomes comments and questions at




The author thinking outside the box.  Or is it just a bigger box?