Paul Burri

Feb 162017

The Greek philosopher, Plato, was also a mathematician and he discovered and proved that there are only five regular solids. A regular solid is one that is made up of all the sides being made of one simple regular plane figure such as an equilateral triangle, a square or a regular pentagon. The five regular solids are:

  1. Tetrahedron made up of four equilateral triangular sides,
  2. Cube (or Hexahedron) made up of six square sides,
  3. Octahedron made up of eight equilateral triangular sides,
  4. Dodecahedron made up of twelve regular pentagonal sides,
  5. Icosahedron made up of twenty regular triangular sides.

Here is a picture of all five of them

These shapes have fascinated me for a long time and I decided that it would be an interesting project to make a set of these using different exotic woods for each face. The project required having to design and make two different fixtures to assure that every face was exactly the same size and that the side angles were also exactly the same. (The cube didn’t require any special fixture. I just used my normal table saw settings for that.)

Here are pictures of my five Platonic solids made from different woods. (Each face is about 1/4″ thick.) As an added “secret” touch, I added small beads into each piece before adding the final face. Each piece has the same number of beads as it has faces, so for example: the cube has six beads and the tetrahedron has four beads.






Apr 272016


As I have said before, my wife is constantly insisting that I have three of every woodworking tool ever invented. Of course that’s not true. There are many of them that I only have two of. (However, at last count I had 37 different chisels, 28 pairs of pliers and 19 sharpening stones.) Now please understand; I’m not one of those tool- collector guys who own lots of shiny new tools – but hardly ever makes anything with them. I assure you, all of my tools are well used – I usually have about five or six projects going at any one time – and all are kept sharp and ready to use at a moment’s notice.

In addition, I also have a usual complement of power tools – table saw, drill press, lathe, band saw, etc, etc. Not to mention all sorts of sanding, clamping, gluing, and finishing supplies and other goodies.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s this.

I was 86 years old on my last birthday in October. I’m still active and going strong and I keep saying that I plan to live forever. (So far, so good.) But I also know that one of these days, those tools will need to be looking for a good home – preferably with someone who will both appreciate them and use them with the care and love that I have.

I figure that my collection is worth somewhere around $30,000 and one option would be for my wife to sell them and enjoy the proceeds. Trouble is, she surely doesn’t know the value of most of them and wouldn’t know their fair market value. And it would make me turn over in my grave to have her sell one of my $45.00 chisels for 25¢ at a garage sale to some guy who would turn around and sell it for $2.00 at a swap meet.

Of course I’m sure someone will ask, “Why not pass the collection along to your children?” Neither of my grown children would be interested. Neither would any of my step-sons.

It has also occurred to me that another perhaps even better idea would be for her to donate the entire lot to some school or organization that would put it to good use training the future woodworkers of America.

I would love to hear from some of my fellow woodworkers out there about their ideas or suggestions for solving my problem. Thanks in advance.

Apr 082016

Fig 1 Walking Stick Collection-2 copy_edited-1

For the past several years I have been forced to start using a walking stick for better balance and stability. When people ask, I tell them that I get unsteady when I drink too much. That usually stops any further questioning. The first one that I made was a salvaged branch from our backyard apricot tree that finally died after years of supplying us with a bountiful supply of apricots. See number 2 in Figure 1. I took it everywhere with me and I was always getting compliments on it. That prompted me to get into the “business” of making walking sticks. I don’t make them for sale; just for my own use.

The next one that I made is number 1 in Figure 1. It is made from a length of 1-1/2″ diameter birds-eye maple Hollowood. Hollowood is 4-ply plywood tubing that I used to sell when I was in the custom branding iron business a few years ago. Sadly, the Hollowood company went out of business several years ago and the material is no longer available. I added a cast replica of a baby seal head and also a series of rawhide windings and some replica Indian feathered bells. The story is that the American Indians would convert the white man’s tin cans into small, cone-shaped “bells” and then decorate them with feathers. They make a nice tinkling sound when I walk with it.

Number 3 in Figure 1 is made from Manzanita to which I added a recycled brass-plated door handle. I think this is a great idea for making walking sticks. You can buy walking stick handles online but most of them are pretty expensive. Instead, I nose around in thrift shops and recycling centers. Many towns have companies that recycle all sorts of good stuff from old buildings. They usually have a good selection of door handles for only a few dollars.

Waiting to become walking sticks

Number 4 in Figure 1 is made from two pieces of unknown wood. The original walking stick ended at the large burl seen at the longer end of the stick. The stick never quite satisfied me and I later modified it by adding the smaller section on the left. I embedded some turquoise here and there and then I bent and formed a cast metal lizard to fit the stick and glued him in place.

Number 5 in Figure 1 is made of Manzanita and mahogany and probably took me the longest time to complete. I added the mahogany handle at the branch end of the stick. It may not be immediately clear, but there are three branch ends coming out of the handle. (One of them is “buried” inside the custom-carved mahogany handle). The handle itself has seven coats of black lacquer and is wound with alternating rows of black and white polyester cord.

Number 6 in Figure 1 is made of an unknown wood with a custom-fit tulipwood handle. The handle is actually made of three pieces – two pieces of book-matched tulipwood with a thin holly strip between them.

Each of my sticks has some different kind of handle on it. See Figure 2 for the way that I added a supplementary handle to the original stick that ended at the burl-like knob.

Fig 2 lizard handle

Figure 3 shows the detail of the stick with the mahogany handle.

Fig 3 mahog manzanita handle

Figure 4 shows how I used a beautiful piece of book-matched tulipwood to add a handle to the stick.

Figure 4 tulipwood handle

Lastly, see Figure 5 for the way I used a re-cycled brass-plated door handle as a handle for my stick.

Figure 5 Cane Handle

All of the sticks are branded with my personal maker’s mark that I use on all of my work. I also have added my email address to each of them with a pyrography pen hoping that it will be returned if I ever forget it somewhere.

In addition to adding appropriate handles to my sticks, I also try to add some kind of an interesting or unusual touch to each stick. See Figure 6 for how I emphasized the worm tracks I discovered on the stick when I removed the bark.

Fig 6 Worm tracks

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email Paul at