Tools for the Kitchen Workshop

By Jim Gerrish

Everything in The Wizards' Journal #27 is made from Balsa wood or Bass wood. I personally prefer Bass wood, but must admit Balsa Wood is easier to cut and because of that, there may be times when Balsa wood is preferable to Bass wood. What's the difference?

You can see the difference and feel the difference. Balsa wood is pressed together from sheets of balsa and has a more grainy lines, which may be of different wood shades. It is also a bit rougher to the touch (although it can be sanded smooth) and lighter in weight than Bass wood. The sheet between Qua-Fiki's hands is Balsa.

The sheet above that (on the right) is Bass wood. It looks a bit more like plywood, being cut from a single log, with knot holes and everything. The surface is smoother to the touch, and it is a little heavier in weight and also a bit stronger than Balsa. I will usually recommend Bass wood over Balsa wood, but keep in mind that all the projects can be made from either wood, so it is your choice, more than mine, that is important.


  • Balsa wood or Bass wood sheets. Available on-line HERE, or from your local craft store. Study the e-Book first to learn what sizes of wood you will need for each separate project.

  • Gaffer's tape – Occasionally we will use this for hinges. It is available in a variety of colors, but for most of our purposes, white or black gaffer's tape will do.

  • Masking tape- We will use this in construction to hold pieces of light wood together until the glue joints have finished drying. You'll need lots of inexpensive masking tape. As far as we are concerned, it all is reusable or repositionable as we modern crafts people say.

  • Paint – use latex paint for easy clean up. You’ll need a large can of flat black paint, and smaller cans of colors for decorations. For smoother finishes, use spray paint. Don't forget to wear a mask!

  • A metal yardstick or meterstick for measuring and drawing straight edges. You'll want a metal one for helping you cut the wood in a straight line without cutting your measuring straight edge at the same time. Razors are sharp!

  • Some bricks and clamps to hold the wood pieces in position while they dry.

  • Wood glue.

  • Various plastic containers (margerine tubs, plastic tops of packages, etc.) These are useful for mixing glue and paints, etc.

  • Hole punches are useful for making spots for dice in paper that are then glued to the wooden dice. The more primative way is to draw around a coin on paper and then cut out the circle with scissors.


  • Razor Knife and other razor tools for cutting the wood. Dollar Store razor knives are fine.

  • Drill bits for hand drilling. No power tool needed; you'll twirl it with your fingers. You can buy these, or make one from a drill bit and gaffer's tape wrapped around the shaft for a handle.

  • Pumpkin saws (coping saw blades with handles) are needed for cutting scroll designs inside wood.

  • Sandpaper. No need for an electric sander; you can do most of it by hand.

  • Sharp Scissors for cleanly cutting gaffer's tape, cutting paper and trimming the edges of soft wood. You need sharp sewing or hair scissors, not the big clunky kind.

  • Cheap sponge brushes or kids' paint brushes from the Dollar Store. Spray paints for fancier projects.

  • "L" brackets and Corner brackets are inexpensive ways to insure accurate 90 degree corners in boxes. Just tape on the brackets with masking tape while the glued project is drying.

Other stuff:

A place to work and be messy. A nice flat surface for cutting, painting and taping. I used to use a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of inch plywood on a couple of saw horses out in my back yard. Now I prefer glass top outdoor tables because I can cut thin wood with razor knives right down to the glass surface and not leave a scratch on the hard glass. If working in a back yard shop, you'll need to bring everything indoors overnight and you won't be able to work when it rains or snows. That's when it's good to be able to take over some space in your kitchen. Your wood storage area has to be especially dry all year round, or the thin wood will begin to warp while waiting for your next project.

Jim has a Book all about building Illusions (and some Illusionettes) from PVC Pipes. It is available HERE!

Jim also has some books about building tricks and illusions from hardboard, but those require power tools. Still, once you have built a box from Balsa or Bass wood, you might want to make a more permanent version from hardboard or plywood. Those books can be found HERE!

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