Not Quite NASA Grade

I am pretty much finished with the new Dutch tool chest build. The lid went on fairly easily (with some fine-tuning) and I’ve stuffed it to the gills. 

Shown here, unstuffed but lidded.

I had contemplated French-fitting the upper compartment, but ultimately decided against it. This tool chest will not travel, so there is no great benefit to dividers. Instead, I used the extra room for a full saw till in the upper compartment, including panel saws. 

I didn’t​ make this thing 30″ wide for my health.

Pictured above in the saw till are dovetail, carcase, tenon, fine rip panel and coarse rip panel saws. I actually use three panel saws regularly, so the crosscut panel will stick to the lid. I say stick purposely: rare earth magnets will create the lowest profile till possible. 

I should talk about the main saw till for a moment, though. It took four tries to get it right, but I’m pleased with the final product  The first two failed for bad spacing, and the third revealed that dovetails are liable to split a saw till.  The final version (five slots on 3/4″ center) is rabbeted and nailed. Good enough for a tool chest. 

Simplest is almost always best.

There is much room remaining for wall hanging odds and ends. And I may also make a shallow drawer for the middle compartment to hold light, flat tools that don’t lend to piling (like rasps and a coping saw). 

But that’s for another day. 

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Back on Track

For various reasons, I have resumed work on the large Dutch tool chest.  It was pretty far along when first abandoned, needing only the fall front and the lid (and racks/tills).  I couldn’t justify scrapping it after so much work.  So I spent the day making the fall front.

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Some flushing still to do.

I was unsure how the wooden latch system would work.  It didn’t help using a material I’d never used before: home center poplar for the battens, latches and locks.  It wasn’t so bad (I chose only quarter- or rift-sawn hobby boards) and overall the alignment is pretty good.  I especially enjoyed cutting the shallow dadoes on each of the four latches by hand.

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Screws on the latches, nails on the battens.

Not so much for the shelf, however.  In the PWW article, there is no mention of the notches for the battens.  I should have realized I needed them, but didn’t.  I therefore  glued and screwed the lower lip and face board before I cut the notches for the battens.  There was barely clearance for a dovetail saw, and none for a coping saw.  I made due with chisel and router plane, though, and they came out okay.

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Live and learn, I guess.

Next up (before tills and racks) is making the lid.  But first, I must flush everything to the carcase.  A trim router should make quick work of any overhang on the face board and back boards, and I’ll bring the front and back edges into 30 degree plane with the sides via jointer plane.

But I’m out of daylight and motivation for now.

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Mobile Command Center

I know I promised an inventory, but the first agenda item was making the English tool chest mobile. I wouldn’t dream of attaching casters (despite my willingness to pry off the old raised panel), so I made a low rolling base the chest can sit on.   It’s 3/8″ larger than the chest’s footprint all around and raises the chest to about 25″ overall. A perfect height for a floor chest (I’m exactly 5’10”).

Looks fairly proper from this angle.

The rolling base is rabbeted and nailed, which I felt was fine for it’s application and construction. Not only do the casters hold together the joints, but the plywood top is glued and screwed in place. Net net, this thing is never coming apart.

I love me some beefy rabbets.

The most important takeaway here is that mobility of the floor chest is vital. It’s taking longer than expected to scrape the old adhesive off the lid base.  Which means it’s taking longer than expected to add a new raised panel to the lid (a prerequisite to using the floor chest).   I may or may not have resumed the Dutch tool chest build.

But more on that next time.

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Baby Steps

Having acquired a 19th century English joiner’s chest from my godfather, and somehow managing to get it into the back of my car (with my father’s help), I was faced with the great challenge of getting it out of the car and into the workshop (without any help).  After pulling out the tills and most of the tools , it was still too awkward to lug into the house.  Saw benches and rolling dollies to the rescue.

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Ignore the lawn.  My landscaper was scheduled for the next day.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the overall dimensions are 37″ long, by 22″ wide by 19″ high.  Subtract 1.5″ all around to get the true size of the carcase.  That makes it somewhere between the full Anarchist’s Tool Chest and the traveling variety.  That’s a long way of saying it is every bit large enough for my entire set of hand tools.  And that’s a very long way of saying I’ve officially abandoned that large Dutch tool chest I was building.

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I was pretty close too.  And yes, I realize I went overboard with the screws on the bottom lip.

The chest clearly needs some cleanup work, but I have no reason to believe I’m not up to the task.  But before I get too far along that route, I think an inventory is in order.

More on that next time.

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To Cherish, Always

Last week, I learned that my godfather is very ill.  While we are not particularly close, we’ve always gotten along, and I recently learned he is a woodworker.  I went to visit last weekend.  Just to see how he was doing, and maybe check out his workshop that I’d heard a little about.  What transpired since has literally changed my life.

When I went downstairs into his basement workshop, the first thing I saw was a beautiful metalworker’s vise on a sturdy tinker’s bench.  I admired it and took a picture. Next to that, in the corner, was a joiner’s chest, buried beneath a pile of expired (and ostensibly leaking) West Systems epoxy containers and 30 years of dust.

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I’ve seen worse.

It was immediately apparent that the raised panel on the lid was not attached properly, having split long ago in many places.  In striking contrast, the miters on the lower skirt, nailed at the corners, remained perfect. And both the dust seal and the upper skirt had well fitted metal banding, creating a double rabbet on the dust seal.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I opened it.  Turns out, this is no ordinary tool chest.

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Never judge a tool chest by its split raised panel.

My godfather was willing to part with it, and I have since brought the chest home with me.  What will follow is my journey through restoring the chest and the tools inside, and making it and them my own.  And hopefully learning more about the chest, its maker and my godfather.

More to come.

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For Those About to Rock

I’ve spoken on the matter before, but a good workshop soundtrack does wonders.  My absolute favorite album to woodwork by is “Day and Age” by The Killers.  I can go an entire day in the shop with that album on repeat.  I’ve gotten really into Florence + The Machine lately as well, and Matt and Kim continue to be a guilty pleasure.  [I know I’m late to the party and I don’t care].

I mention it because on the docket this weekend I begin work on the frame for the RH-inspired bathroom vanity.  First on the list is hand-ripping about 16 feet of quartersawn 8/4 white oak to to rough width.  And I find a good beat (and a very sharp saw) is the key to controlled saw strokes.

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All from one tree board for best color match.

The boards are all about 9″ wide, hopefully enough to get four 2″ wide boards from each.  My plan to ensure I do is to make the first rip and leave the 4.5″ wide boards to sit for a couple hours.  If the wood behaves, I may true and joint the 4.5″ wide boards (to at least S3S) before doing the second set of rips.  I have every reason to expect it will behave; it’s air-dried and quartersawn.

I also need to do something about my lumber storage situation.  But that’s a problem for another day, once I clear out some of my pile with a few spring projects.

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The Worst Words…

… a handtool woodworker ever hears are “hey, would you make me a cutting board?” from a friend.  In my experience, cutting boards (especially the butcher block variety) are largely a way to turn scraps into revenue.  And more often than not, they tend to be made from hard maple (a P.I.T.A. to work with hand tools).

But this particular friend is a very close friend, and I had some leftover 2×6 hard maple from my old workbench.  And so, a rather utilitarian cutting board is born.

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I’m an adult and I can own a Nerf chaingun if I want.

I had thought about doing a “Basic Project” installment on this project, but there wouldn’t be much to it.  In fact, the hardest part was flattening the kiln-dried 8/4 hard maple.  Step 1: Laminate the board.  Step 2: Glue on four wooden feet.  Step 3: Break the hard edges with a plane, sandpaper or a trim router. Step 4: Apply foodsafe oil.

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It occurs to me that I always take pictures from the right side.

There is plenty left over for a second cutting board, if I so desire.  Which I will not.

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To Bleed

Some part of me goes into everything I make

Most days, I pour but a portion of my soul into the work of my hands

But sometimes, an arris or edge takes a literal part of me

A drop of blood to help the glue cure

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Like a horcrux made of Eastern White Pine.

A poem, by The Apartment Woodworker