Final Project – Knife Whetstones and Base


For my final project I chose to create a set of knife whetstones and a wooden base to hold and store them. Having no prior knowledge of woodworking, this project was an introduction to a completely new topic to me, and I needed a lot of help from the TAs to build the base. I didn’t expect to actually go to the CU Woodshop to get the wood, but it was awesome that James was willing to meet me on a Saturday and show me how to pick what to get. One unexpected challenge was that we needed to make a rip cut across the whole board and plane down the thickness. However, the shop said they wouldn’t be able to do that until Tuesday, which would be too late. So we just bought the board, and I had to change some dimensions of the design to account for this. Neil then managed to use a circular saw to cut the board into the right lengths, and he explained the whole process as he did so. Thanks to their help, I was able to finish the base, and I’m definitely proud of how it turned out. I also learned how to actually sharpen knives, and after using the whetstones I could definitely tell a difference! (Look at how thin the tomato slice is….. amazing.)

I established three learning goals for this project. In the later projects for this class I was getting bad at turning things in on time, so my first learning goal was to have the project done one day before it was due. I did manage to meet this deadline, but I finished my project on that day so it was cutting it close. I spent too much time in the planning phase that I only had a week or so to gather the materials and build the actual components, pushing up these steps to the deadline. 

The first design I made on TinkerCAD to get a better visualization of what I wanted

The second goal was to set up periodic benchmarks of progress to ensure that I completed the project incrementally rather than procrastinating up until the last minute and doing it all at once. At first I thought I was making steady progress by fully using class time to research designs and draw out my own. It turned out, however, that because I didn’t set up the entire benchmark plan, I lost track of how much time each step should take and spent too long planning. So I initially did complete the project in steps, but at the due date drew closer, I had to do a lot of things quickly and didn’t have as comfortable a buffer space between each step as I had envisioned. 

The last goal was to learn about a subject completely new to me in order to practice teaching myself new things and doing the research on my own. I chose woodworking because it is very practical to know, as you can use it to build furniture, hand carvings, home improvement structures, and all sorts of other things. Because it’s so useful and there’s so much to learn about it, I wanted to make this project a sort of introduction to it in order to continue learning after the class is over. I was definitely satisfied with the knowledge that I gained from this project, as both James and Neil were very helpful in teaching me the basic tools, terminology, and materials of the craft. 

Picking out the right board at the CU Woodshop

Overall I am really happy with my final project. I may have still procrastinated a little on it and not fulfilled every goal exactly, but I got the most important things out of it: 1) the project itself works as I can see the improvement in my knives, and 2) I got a good experience of learning about a new field and using more advanced materials in making things. I think the only further adjustments I would like to make to it is to add a clear varnish to the wood and to insert small rubber bumpers on the bottom of the tiles and the wooden base in order to prevent everything from sliding around. This project is meaningful to me because I will continue to use it after the class ends, and it has piqued my interest in pursuing these kinds of projects in the future. 

All the materials for the whetstones

Throughout the class, I have realized how much of a perfectionist I am, and how because of that I either go all-out on a project or I’m pretty unmotivated or discouraged from working on it. But ironically at the same time I’m a terrible procrastinator. So the repeating pattern often ended up being that I would plan out a huge grandiose idea and get super excited for it, but then would remain in that idealistic planning stage for too long until the deadline was too close. Then I would get stressed about executing the whole plan but nevertheless would do all it took to get it done; sometimes I made the deadline and sometimes I didn’t. But fundamentally, I hate making something I can’t be proud of at the end. The quality of the end product must be worth my time and effort, so I want to do everything it takes to make it good. 

One thing that I really appreciate about this course is that it has sort of brought back a side of me that missed having fun working with these kinds of cool projects. I actually enjoyed making different things as a kid, eg. knitting and crocheting, but I stopped as I got older because I just got too busy with school and other things. After three and a half years of computer science classes in my undergrad career, this kind of environment of creating things was really refreshing and fun to work in. I think this course has enhanced the kind of maker I personally am, as now I can make not just software and web apps but also tangible objects. After this class I think my future interests lie in working with sewing and textiles, and also potentially woodworking and furniture making. (Lowe’s is like….. basically a store for building your own Makerspace in your garage, hahah.) 

As for my understanding of what a maker is and what it means to call myself a maker, I think the foundation for being a maker lies in the mindset. Many times people might say, “Oh, why do you need to make that yourself when you can just buy it somewhere? You’d save so much time and money!” Sometimes that is the case and that makes more sense. But this course has taught me that the joy of making lies not in the product, but in the process of creating it. Joy comes from the inspiration and inception of an idea, the adjusting of mistakes as you go along through trial and error, and finally seeing your vision come to life and being proud of it. This is the process of making art. In addition to it, though, making things yourself allows you to use the things you’ve made for yourself and for others. And when you give things you’ve invested the time and effort into making yourself, they hold much more meaning to you and the recipient. 

I’ve had a lot of fun in this class, with both the creations I’ve made and the people I’ve gotten to interact with along the way. Thanks to all the course staff for this experience, I’m grateful I got to take a class like this before graduating. 

The final product: simple, functional, and elegant!