The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

John Maki

Added to museum: 2/10/10

Miniature vintage woodworking tools from a small shop

John Maki displays a selection of full-size vintage tools as well as the miniatures he has made using them as models. (Click photo for larger image.)


John Maki has created a large selection of miniature tools. Here they are displayed in front of a full-size vintage plane for size reference. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)


John Maki illustrates how a small shop outfitted with high quality but relatively inexpensive precision miniature machine tools can turn out a lot of really excellent work. John is also a member of the newer generation of craftsmen who is not afraid to integrate a computer into the tool mix, doing some of the more complicated parts using CNC. John recently visited the Craftsmanship Museum and dropped off a DVD containing photos of his work. We were quite impressed with both the quality and quantity of what he has produced and think you will be too. John uses an assortment of fine hardwoods, ivory, steel and brass in his miniature creations. They are complete down to the miniature engraved numbers and maker’s marks or logos. He has duplicated in miniature all sorts of tools including planes, saws, measuring tools and engraving tools. While many collectors spend their time searching for pieces that others have made, John prefers to create his own slice of tool history in miniature by making each piece in his collection himself. Below he tells about how he got started and how he goes about building his miniature tool collection..

John Maki—A Hands-on "Tool-a-holic"

I have always been a “hands-on” person, with two afflictions. First I am an admitted tool-a-holic! If it has a sharp edge or a motor, I have to have one! Second, I love detailed miniature things… beginning as a youngster with scale-model airplanes, later the collection of miniature cameras, a short stop at miniature steam engines, and then on to scale-model woodworking tools.

I have also enjoyed a technical curiosity which led me to electrical engineering and a career with 3M Company. Their diverse product lines and the exposure to multidisciplinary technical teams provided constant learning opportunities eventually leading to various management assignments in product and process development laboratories. Through exposure to mechanical, chemical, electrical, and software engineers, and associations with tool and die makers and manufacturing engineers, I developed an appreciation for the need to continually develop my own understanding of broadening technology.

When I retired I wanted to further challenge myself and set about to learn the fundamentals of a metal lathe and a mill. I eventually bought a set of tabletop-sized machine tools from Sherline and began looking for opportunities to put the tools to work. I planned to build steam engines but soon found that they required lots of time to complete, needed a boiler, and eventually required some kind of a machine which could be powered by the combination. The effort became way too complicated and seriously stretched my attention span.

Fortunately I ran across an article on Paul Hamler and his miniature tools. The light came on! Although I didn’t have space (or available cash) to acquire a collection of desirable classic tools, I could build a reasonable facsimile in a small and manageable scale. I therefore set my target at 1/3 scale copies of classic European woodworking tools of the Victorian period, with the materials of choice being ebony, cocobolo, brass, ivory and steel.

It was a perfect solution! I could have my own collection of classic tools, in miniature scale, made using a small lathe and mill. Further, the material cost was almost nothing! And I was able to produce a finished tool in 20 to 100 hours which fell within my personal concentration span.

During the past six years I have created about 50 different tools, all for my own enjoyment. In the process I have met some great people…including an opportunity to spend personal time with Paul Hamler and Al Osterman. Both of these individuals generously shared their time and expertise and keep me inspired.

A selection of miniature planes on a handsome display box. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Although I am not now and will never be a fine machinist, learning to use a mill and a metal lathe has forced me to develop a whole new thought process. I have learned how important it is to carefully study and record the design of the target tool and then plan the entire machining operation before making the first cut! As I developed a more sophisticated understanding of scale modeling, I added a CAD system and linked it to a new CNC controlled Sherline mill. Using this CAD-CAM system, I am now able to design a tool on the computer and send the information to the mill which precisely cuts the complex curves associated with many of the Victorian designs.

Shop Layout and Tools

My shop is in a single 12 x 16 foot room with a great view of Puget Sound. Nearly all my work is done using the Sherline tools, which are complemented with a small precision Byrnes table saw and a 12-inch Craftsman band saw used for “rough” cuts in wood and brass.

John's shop overlooks Puget Sound. The computer to run the CNC mill can be seen in the lower right area of the desk with the keyboard and monitor in the first photo. The black Craftsman tool chest offers both a work surface for the manual and CNC mill and storage for tooling. To the right are a Craftsman bandsaw plus a Byrnes "Model Machines" table saw and thickness sander. When working on miniatures, it doesn't take a big shop to contain all the tools you need. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Full-size tools or photos provide data for the miniature tools

About 1/3 of my miniatures were copied exactly from original examples. I have found I can justify buying an original example of a unique, complex tool which provides accurate dimension and construction details. When I’ve finished the miniature copy, I have been able to re-sell the originals with little or no financial loss, although I do keep some of the nicer ones for size comparison.

The rest of my tools are based upon photographs from books, auctions, or museums. This approach is much more difficult since the photos are often taken at some odd angle which defies accurate scaling. Further, I have not yet found a way to get inside a photo to see exactly how the tool went together. However, photos are often the only option when the original tools can only be found in museums.


To see more of John Maki's tools, visit his web site at

Here are several examples of John Maki's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

A French coachmaker's plow plane in full size and miniature.
A Wedge-arm plow plane in full size and miniature
A full-size and miniature Engraver's ball
A miniature Henry Disston and Sons rip saw, the original of which came from Philadelphia, PA. It is true to the original down to the markings.
A French Drill with beveled gears and hand crank. A plate at the end of the handle allowed the user to lean his chest on the drill to apply extra pressure to make the cut go quicker.

An Erlandsen ivory spool bow drill in full size and miniature.

A Norris style smoother. It's hard to tell, but this is the 1/3 scale model, not the full-size original.
A set of brass and ivory plumb bobs in 1/3 scale
A Spiers miter plane with dovetailed sole plate just 3-3/4" long.
A plow plane with brass thumbscrews and other brass details
An Ultimatum brace made in ebony and brass.

A dual marking gauge by Barrett. A Scrabble tile puts its small size in perspective in the second photo.

A French coachmaker's plow plane is shown next to a fountain pen for size comparison.
A head beader by Windsor. The original patent drawing provides needed detail for the miniature version.
A Lancashire pattern plane
Here are four marking gauges that display an abundance of beautiful detail in dark hardwood, bright brass and steel. That's not an oversize $2 bill--the gauges are that small in 1/3 scale.
A wood and brass plow plane and a brass Norris-style smoother. A US dime gives size scale.
A full size and 1/3 scale router
Various tool sets. The first one is displayed on a CD for size comparison. (A CD is 4-5/8" in diameter.)
A wedge-arm plow plane is displayed next to a jeweler's loupe for size comparison.

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New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

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This section is sponsored by

Makers of precision miniature machine tools and accessories. Sherline tools are made in the USA.

Sherline is proud to confirm that John Maki uses Sherline tools in the production of his small projects.

To learn how your company or organization can sponsor a section in the Craftsmanship Museum, please contact


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