Today I was making wooden mice, a new batch of church mice. I call them church mice because they are made from pine reclaimed from old church pews. I don’t often use pine for turning, but this stuff is excellent quality hard pine, with its narrow annual rings showing it was from old, slow grown trees. I don’t know how old the timber is. It’s hard to find modern pine of this quality.
The process of making wooden mice starts with cutting up the wood into small blocks. I drill a small hole in one end. This serves as a location for the lathe centre and later the tail will be glued in this hole.
Turning the mouse
The block goes on the lathe and I turn it to a cylinder with a spindle roughing gouge. I prefer a shallow flute roughing gouge.
Then I cut in with a parting tool to make a clearance for the spindle gouge to work. This is not an essential step – many turners would go straight to the spindle gouge – but I find it helpful.
Below is the result of the parting cuts. I make a small chamfer on the sharp edge of the small disc that remains on the left. If I don’t do this, sometimes it catches the back of my thumb like a little spinning sawblade when I do the sanding!
I can then round over the tail end and form the body and head with a small spindle gouge.
After sanding and parting off at the mouse’s nose with a skew chisel, the lathe work is complete. It doesn’t take long to make a roughed-out mouse. The mouse is far from finished however.
The next stage is to sand a flat for it to stand on, which I do with a bench-top belt sander. Then I apply finish, which needs time to harden properly. Then I buff the mice to a shine. When buffing, I hold the mouse against a cloth wheel that spins very fast, and if I’m not careful the wheel grabs them and hurls them to the floor.
I made a little tool to prevent this – a short steel rod, set in a handle (actually an old golf ball, they make good handles for things like this), with the end turned down to fit the hole for the mouse’s tail. I insert the rod into the unfortunate mouse, then I have something to grip it by. Next, I drill holes for the ears, glue in the ears, which I punch from thin leather. Then I fit the tail. The last stage in making wooden mice is to mark the eyes. The church mouse is ready for my wooden mouse page and then, if you buy it, a new home.