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Gift Chocks 101

By Martin Heller, EAA 186

Gift chocks

April 5, 2011 – Need a gift idea to thank chapter supporters? These chocks cost about $3-$5 each when you produce them in quantities. A few people and a wood shop can nearly complete more than 100 chocks in one afternoon. There are delays while waiting for the paint to dry (two coats) before threading the rope and tacking on the plaque, but within four days, you can have years’ worth of supply on hand.

Materials:

  • Wood: Each foot of 2-by-4 provides four chocks. Plan for extra as big wood knots render parts unusable. 
  • Rope: Use cotton or nylon, either 5/16- or 3/8-inch. You’ll need 13 inches of rope per chock.
  • Paint: A quart should cover 100 chocks, double-coated. Yellow is the most recognizable color.
  • Plaques: If you have artwork, there will be a setup charge. I’ve gotten good results and service from Rallye Productions, which costs less than $250 for 100 plaques and postage.
  • Tack nails: Buy after you have the plaques in hand to match the hole size.
  • Electrical tape (half roll of 3/4-inch or 1-inch): Prevent the rope ends from fraying when cutting and threading.

Here are some tips to speed up the assembly process.

Cutting the wood: First cross-cut the 2-by-4s into even lengths of 3 or 4 feet. You’ll be making several passes on the table saw.  For safety and ease, it’s best to make the lengths manageable.

Set a table saw blade at approximately 40-degree angle and cut off all four corners of the board. (Save the cut-off material for making paint racks.) Once you’ve cut the corners on all the 2x4s, reset the blade to 90 degrees and cut the 2-by-4 into 2-by-2 lengths.

Using a chop saw, set a 6-inch stop and dice the 2-by-2s into 6-inch lengths. Voila! You have your chock stock.

Notching and drilling the chock: Ideally, use a dado blade the width of the rope to make a 3/8-inch notch along the side of the chock. Another method is to use a drill press and create the hole, then use a band saw to remove and square the opening. While there are several ways you can make the notch, just be sure to think about the cutting blade so you don’t prematurely paint the chocks red.

It helps to have three drills set up; one drill (optional) has a 1/8 or 3/16 bit to start the pilot hole. Drill this hole centered on width, 1 inch in from the non-notched edge of the chock. Use a 3/4-inch to 1-inch wood bit in a drill press to make a 1/2-inch depth hole on the bottom side of the chock. This creates the space for the rope knot. Use the third drill with a bit slightly larger than the rope size to drill completely through the existing hole (from the top). If you use the same bit as the rope size, you’ll have to force it through (read:  extra work, no benefit).

Painting: Use a belt sander (table-mounted, preferably) to clean up rough areas and ink prints on the chocks. It will show if you don’t. Spray paint is good if you’re making just a few chocks, but for large quantities, brushed paint saves a few dollars. Plan on painting at least two coats to cover the wood grain patterns.

Rope time: Pull the rope taunt and wrap electrical tape tightly three turns to make one band every 13 inches. Having a template saves a bunch of measuring. Now cut the middle of the taped bands to provide the individual rope segments. One method I found helpful in threading the chock is as follows:

  • Tie a knot in one end and put it in the notch. 
  • Feed the rope around the chock and down through the hole. 
  • Mark where the rope comes out of the bottom hole inside the chock. 
  • Take the knot out of the notch to give you working room to make the other knot to end where you just marked the rope. 

With a little practice you’ll figure where to make the knots so that there is a slight stretch to keep the chock rope tight. Be sure to consider which side to put the rope on in order to hide any wood knots or cutting blemishes.

Plaques: I’ve found 3/4-inch-by-3-inch plaques work well. Be sure to order them with the holes pre-punched. For the extra 10 cents, the holes are clean and accurate. I made a little drill hole template out of aluminum to be able to quickly line up and pre-drill the holes in the chock for the tacks.

one right, you can push the tacks in by hand using a thimble or the back of a screwdriver instead of a marring hammer.

Get a little classier by drilling a hole for a writing instrument. You can also make them 8 inches long and make the rope length longer to pair two together for functional chocks. If you’re making them for RV pilots, you might want to use 2-by-3 boards instead so it will clear under the low wheel pants. They also make good desktop remembrances for first solo, new certificates, or aircraft completion. I made a set for my aircraft support team.

There you have it: an inventory of personalized “thank you” gifts that reflect aviation with the personal touch, thanking those who have supported your chapter.

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