Better Late than Never

I’ve come very late to the Japanese tool box party.  I already have a traveling tool chest, so up until recently, making this tool box would have been a purely intellectual exercise.  But a dear friend of mine is starting the house hunt, and every good home needs a good tool box.  Plus, it was his birthday recently.

I dug into my pile of reclaimed mahogany for the case.  Although nominally 3/4, the stock gets to about 5/8 when tried and trued.  This should make the case light enough overall. While the recipient is not likely to use the tool box for woodworking tools, I roughed out the dimensions based on my traveling kit of tools (seen below).  The interior dimensions of 8″ x 17″ are enough to fit a No. 5 plane, a couple of medium backsaws, brace and bit, and eggbeater drill.  8″ tall may seem a bit excessive, but after piling in a tool roll, mallet, hammer, nails and other miscellany, the tool box would be quite full for my purposes.  And don’t forget, it loses 5/8″ or so of height due to the lid being inset.

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That’s my “new” No. 5.  It has quickly become my favorite plane.

Cards on the table, I’m pretty sick of dovetails and their finger joint cousins.  The design calls for recesses at the ends will house the wooden handles.  So this was a perfect application for dadoes and nails.  A tightly-fitting housing joint can be just as satisfying as their interlocking counterparts.  And the tactile feeling of cross-grain shavings from a freshly-sharpened router plane is divine.

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Glamour shot of the joint after glue and nails.

Each joint, which was fit to require hammer persuasion, gets glued and secured with die forged nails from Rivierre.  I took great care to properly size the end grain during the glue up.  Taken together, the tight joint, the careful glue-up and the reinforcing nails form a very strong joint that will hold up to any wear and tear this box will likely see.  And it’s pretty from the outside.

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I keep track of french marks to steam out before finishing.

I don’t have any 1″ mahogany scraps and didn’t feel like laminating any, so I instead used Eastern White Pine for the wooden handles.  There is a slight bevel on the underside of each, which helps get a firm grip.

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Just a couple of degrees, for comfort.

The case ends were somehow slightly proud of the handles, so I shot them down to flush.  It was awkward on the shooting board and uncomfortable to hold the plane.  I still have the bruise on my palm from the wing of the plane sole.  Never again.

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The crochet is perfect for final fettling.

More on it next week, but I have since attached the case battens and prepared the lid and lid battens.  It’s unclear to me what to use for the bottom boards.  I can certainly resaw some 1/4″ mahogany.

But that starts to feel like actual work.

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Harlequin Baby

Warning: DO NOT image search the namesake of this blog post.

For a while now, I’ve been rehabilitating a Type 15 Stanley No. 5 smooth bottom bench plane. After a couple of hours of work, it’s as pretty as I’m going to make it.

Other than my Veritas scrub plane, there are officially no modern bench planes in my tool chest anymore.  I really like the lighter weight of the antique planes (as compared to their modern counterparts).  If one of the modern makers made new versions of these lighter planes to the precision specs they do for their Bedrock copies, I would be all over it.

Even after scrubbing, there is some of the patina on the sides.

This No. 5 is intended to be a worker and, suffice to say, it’s a bit of a harlequin. The sole and frog are original. As is the cap iron. The blade, however, is salvaged from my Type 17 Stanley No. 4 smoothing plane (which now has a Veritas replacement blade and is my main smoothing plane).

It’s not a pretty grind, but the frog is perfectly flat.  And it’s a bedrock frog!

The lever cap (seen above) is scrounged from another Stanley No. 4 (a Type 10, I think). The lever cap that goes with this Type 15 exists, I just haven’t cleaned it up yet.  It has a chip at one corner so I’m in no rush to expend that much elbow grease.

The knob and tote are replacements as well. I source wooden replacement parts for planes from Greg Droz.  He does a great job and his prices are very reasonable. They both fit first try without any fettling.

Honduran rosewood, which is beautiful enough for a worker.

The sole of the plane is in very good shape and didn’t take long to de-rust or flatten. This is a jack plane so I didn’t obsessed too much. In fact, I only took it to 80 grit (which, admittedly, had worn to probably 120 grit by the end) on the granite slab.  There is a very slight hollow around the mouth that can be seen below. If the spirit ever moves me, I may dress the sole a bit more. Maybe to 220 grit and perfectly square on the shooting side.

I’m pretty sure this plane was well-used before it came to me

But I now have no place in my tool chest for my well-loved WoodRiver bench planes (No. 4No. 4 1/2 and No. 5 1/2).  They have served me well but I’d be happy to part with the No. 4 for $100 and the No. 4 1/2 and No. 5 1/2 for $125 each.  UPDATE:  ALL THREE PLANES SOLD.

If interested, shoot me an email at theapartmentwoodworker@gmail.com and I can send pictures.  They are all in used but otherwise perfect condition.

This is the first of a few sets of extra tools that I plan to sell off.  I am not a tool collector, per se.  But I do have some extra tools, which are pretty much only good for cluttering the shop and procrastinating when it’s time to sharpen.

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Just Look at That

The process of leveling the feet on the staked low workbench was not as straightforward as I hoped.  Marking each out with a pencil on a block of wood and sawing to the line was not the problem.  Cleaning up the cuts, however, was an exercise in managing flex of the legs as they are planed and beveled.  I ended up using a block of wood in a holdfast on the face of one workbench leg as a backstop.

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The rake and splay is a little catywampus, but could be worse.

Like most of my workbenches, the very first workholding added is an aluminum planing stop that is secured with 3/4″ pegs in dog holes.  This one is left over from my old clamp on workbench.  I plan to make a palm planing stop to fit the same dog holes, but this will do for now.

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No other dog holes yet.

I figured that a lap joint would be a good start to woodworking while sitting.  A dear friend needed a replacement support for his bed frame out of some straight-grained douglas fir.  The face grain stock preparation was pretty easy (plane a section, scoot back, plane another section) but edge planing could have used some lateral support from pegs.

Cutting the dado in the long piece was quite easy, as was crosscutting the shoulder on the mating piece.  But the cheek cut was anything but. I don’t think low benches with no workholding at all are conducive to splitting or paring (my preferred method for bone dry douglas fir).  I should hog out a sawing notch and make some softwood wedges (softer than poplar, at any rate).

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A close up of the joint.

My next trick will be adding a series of pegs and notches, but only after the bench pulls duty as seating for a get together.

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Something Original

I haven’t had much of an intellectual boner for woodworking, lately.  For whatever reason (probably Monster Hunter: World), it’s been tough to get down into the shop.  But I seem to be coming out of the malaise and first thing on my list is finishing the low, staked workbench.

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The one on the right is still a bit ragged.

The slab has been S4S for some time.  The mortises for the legs were already bored.  But not owning a lathe put a damper on my momentum all those months ago.  But no longer.  This thing is getting built.

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Ever good cylinder starts with an octagon.

Making round tenons without a lathe or a tenon cutter is very much a trial and error process, consisting of three basic steps.  Step one: crosscut the shoulders and then saw the tenon to a rough octagonal shape.  Step 2: split down the length of the tenon with a chisel to get it as close to the reference circle as possible.  Step 3: Rasp the tenon until it fits in the mortise all the while maintaining square down the length.

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Admittedly, that step 3 is a bit more involved than the first two.

The first leg I made went straight to step 2, and some wily grain gave me a slightly conical tenon on one side.  It should be okay (the defect is not load bearing), but I will for the rest of my life worry that the leg will fall out of the mortise. At which point I will make another one.

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With my new octagonizing jig!

I have absolutely no idea if I kerfed the tenons far enough down for permanent wedging.  By going 3/4 of the way, though, the end of the fully seated wedge is still fully inside the thickness of slab. But judging by how the wedges on the first two legs each drove in and seated just fine, I think it will be okay.

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Cards on the table: I still have two legs to go.  It takes about an hour and a half per leg from ripping to thickness to final wedging.  I’ll try and get it done this week, but no promises.  In any event, it has to be done in the next two weeks, because I’m having company and need the extra seating.

I stand by my statement that a workbench like this would have been great for when I first started apartment woodworking.  So much so that I’m going to make a second (smaller) version in a few weeks and give it a try.  Maybe with one of those side twin screw vises that Christopher Schwarz put on his eight-legged bench.

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Circle of Life

One of my very first woodworking projects was a king-size bed frame.  Made from Hard Maple and Douglas Fir, there wasn’t a single proper joint init.  Just glue, screws and corner brackets.  I built it over a couple of weekends from dimensional lumber (my only woodworking tool at that point being a miter saw).  I recall it being much too tall.  Between frame, box spring and mattress, it was probably 38″ off the ground.  Getting in and out of bed was a minor acrobatic feat.

But, god damn, was I proud of that bed frame.  the design sprang from my mind and was made reality by my own hands.  Little did I know it would be the first step down a figurative rabbit hole of my newest (and current) obsession.

Alas, the bed did not survive one of my moves.  It was permanently disassembled back in 2014 and, since then, pieces (like the stretchers) were re-purposed for other furniture projects.  And all along, the main pieces of the frame (four hard maple 5/4 x 8’s, each over six feet long) sat in the corner.  Too slathered in dark stain and polyurethane to ever be useful, I thought.

Until now.

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I’m pretty sure the glue will hold at this point.

With Spring now sprung, it’s time for serious woodworking again.  Those four hard maple 5/4 x 8’s are now eight hard maple 5/4 x 4’s.  And they are quickly becoming ready for laminating.  Probably into into a single 40 x 16 slab to form the top of a sharpening/grinding station.  But, for now, I’ll leave them at full length and see how thick the final lamination can be.

And the great circle of life begins anew.

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Shattered Dreams

I should know better than to get my hopes up.   Reading Ingenious Mechanicks psyched me up to make a minimalist workbench.  Something with a slab top, through tenoned front legs and splayed back legs.  Then I found this lovely chunk of pattern grade 16/4 Honduran Mahogany at my local Downes and Reader lumberyard.

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Pattern grade, indeed.

The slab I found was overall 124″ long, at least 14.5″ wide at every point and a full 4.5″ thick.  It had almost no cupping or bowing along its length, and no through checking.  The ends were even nearly square.  It seemed like the perfect piece of wood for the task, as I could get both the slab top and the legs from the same piece.

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Every bit of this board is usable.

But then I unloaded it from the trailer.  And could lift it by myself.  It turns out that there is more to wood than just its Janka hardness.  Honduran Mahogany exceeds Douglas Fir in hardness (which I confirmed while at the lumber yard), but apparently isn’t that great in the density department.  The bench would have been far too light for any serious planing activities.

At least I got a full refund.  Which I will put toward a Brooklyn Re-Co red oak roubo kit (sans stretchers, though).

My near mistake has made me more cautious.  Before I invest in a slab of soggy, urban red oak, I will laminate a 20″ wide top (as close to 96″ long as I can) from my glut of home center Douglas Fir 4×4’s and figure out the correct angle for the back legs.

And after that is built, I will probably sell my current workbench.

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Winging It

I am usually a meticulous planner.  Projects go through many iterations of drawings (nearly always to scale) before the design is finalized.  I know, down to the 1/16″, what each part should be.  I live my everyday life much the same way.   Then, just like in my everyday life, I throw all of that planning right out the window and have at it completely by memory.

But the two-toned console table project is extreme even for me.  I have no written plans or cut list.  Just two measurements to work from:  (i) it needs to be 33″ tall overall and (ii) the hairpin legs are 18″ tall by themselves.  The width of the table (21″) and its depth (12″) was dictated entirely by what scraps of 5/4″ x 12″ Eastern White Pine were laying around.  The height of the dovetailed carcase (15″) was derived through exceedingly complicated mathematics that I will not bore everyone with by reproducing in print.

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Reverse engineering at its best.

One detail I like about this project is the case back, which is shiplapped mahogany that is rabbeted into the case.  I don’t own a proper plow plane, so I pulled out a restored 7/8″ tongue and groove plane to plow the groove.

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Takes a little getting used to the grip so you don’t cut yourself on the opposite blade.

This project also gave my moving fillister plane a real workout cutting all the rabbets and shiplaps for the case back.  It performed very well, but needed a quick resharpening before the end.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I’m not super pleased with the roundovers on the individual back boards, though.  My No. 4 hollow dug in a bit on some swirling grain, and I’m grateful this part of the project will be covered in books or shadow most of the time.

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I like high fantasy, science and woodworking.

All that’s left to do before assembly is to rabbet in the mahogany inlay that will form the groove for the sliding door.  There should be just enough room for a 3/4″ wide inlay (perhaps 3/8″ deep, to accommodate the groove from a 3/4″ tongue and groove plane.  I have not decided on whether the door will be pine, mahogany or something else.  I want it to be light in color, so perhaps some bookmatched quarter-sawn maple with particular hologram figuring.

And, because it’s funny to me, I took a picture of the box with tools in it.  I am sure this will infuriate everyone who thinks all I make is tool chests (and they’d be right, really).  I may one day pull off the hairpin legs and slap on some chest lifts and a lid.  But that day is not today.

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This thing is beefy and large enough to hold a basic set of tools.

The table is destined for my office at work.  Some books and a crystal decanter with a set of single old fashioned glasses, methinks.

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Mixing it Up

I’ve been cutting some very English-style dovetails (i.e., thin pins) lately.  So for a new scrap bin project (i.e., a mid-century modern side table), I decided to mix it up a bit.  This project goes in a decidedly-Eastern European direction, with pins and tails of even size (other than the half pins, which are about 1/2 the pin/tail size at the base.

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I left a little extra width on the mahogany and will plane it down later.

Eastern White Pine and Mahogany are interesting woods when intertwined with dovetails.  One is very soft, the other is just hard enough to take advantage of it.  Hard enough, as well, to let me correct a mistake.  I got my wires crossed when marking the waste on one pin board and my first couple saw strokes were on the wrong side of the line.  I caught myself in time for it not to be fatal, but it would not have been so if I hadn’t gotten into a recent habit.

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Mahogany’s interlocking grain is also helping here.

For most of my time cutting dovetails over these last five+ years, I’ve set the base line at pretty much exactly the thickness of the mating board.  This shortens cleanup time on the finished piece, allowing me to sometimes take a single pass with a smoothing plane on the finished box.  But ever since the carcase glue-up on my English floor chest, though, I’ve changed my technique and intentionally set the baseline with an extra 1/8″ or so.

For whatever reason, my baselines on that English floor chest were too shallow by about 1/16″ all around.  This meant a significant amount of actual stock removal on the assembled carcase just to bring everything flush.  It was no fun whatsoever.  So as a happy byproduct of my new practice, the kerf shown above is not deep enough to show after the pins are flushed.  Or at least it won’t show once the tail board is dressed on both sides before glue-up.

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Here’s a better look at those beefy tail recesses.

I made a slight miscalculation on the design of this piece.  There will be two grooves cut in the pine pieces to accept a single sliding door (half width).  But pine is far too soft for the groove to hold up over time, so I need some way to reinforce it.  Perhaps I can inlay some mahogany and then cut the groove in that.

We’ll see.

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Basic Projects: Wooden Straight Edge

It’s been a very long time since I did a Basic Project.  But on this snowy day in February, I think it’s a good time to pick them up again.  This time, it’s a wooden straight edge that is a long overdue project for me.  I admit I only got inspired to make this because I saw it on the blog of the By Hand and Eye guys.

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Hanging holes for convenient drying.

This one is pretty straightforward (teehee).  It’s a single piece of wood, approximately 33″ long, 3″ wide and 5/8″ thick.  I used a piece of mahogany with particularly straight grain, but any piece of reasonably stable, straight-grained wood of approximately the same size will do.

There is also a very short tool list:

  • Hand plane, the longer the better
  • Combination square, any size
  • Rip cut saw, preferably panel
  • Pencil and a ruler

Start by planing one side of the board straight and out of twist.  This reference face is very important to the overall project.  Clearly mark it with a face mark and a direction arrow, so you can keep track of it in the future.  Then bring the opposite face reasonably into parallel with that reference face.  Exact precision is not essential on the opposite face, however.

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Flattening a board with a try plane is easy mode.

Then bring one edge into square with the reference face, as straight as you can (but we’ll fix it to be perfectly straight later).  It’s not essential for the ends to be squared.  Just measure up 1″ from the straight edge and then cut an angle on each end.  I used 15°.  You could leave it at that, but remember that wood exchanges moisture with the air through its end grain.  That means the more end grain that’s exposed, the more stable the straightedge will be.  So let’s now taper the whole straightedge along its length.

Measure 2″ up from the reference edge on each end and mark it with a pencil.  Find the center point along the length, measure a few inches out from either side, and draw a line between each of those points and the marks on the end.  Saw down each line and clean up the tapers up with a plane.  It is not essential for these tapers to be perfectly square, but do your best.

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This cut exposes additional end grain.

And that’s it for the main shaping.  Break the arrises all around and bore a couple of hanging holes, about 2″ in from each end and 1″ up from the reference edge.  These hanging holes are more my preference than anything.  They make the straightedge easier to grab.  An alternative would be to use a gouge to cut a couple of fingertip grooves.

So all that’s left to do true the bottom edge.  If you’ve got a known straight edge (like a metal straight edge), just use that.  But if you don’t have a straight edge, you can use a trick that I saw on Lee Valley (which is apparently a Christopher Schwarz article).  Lay the square down and trace the edge, then flip it over and see how well you did.  Any undulations will be apparent.  Plane them down and do your best to keep it square to the reference face.

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Without the hanging holes.

That’s it.  Slap on a coat of boiled linseed oil and you’re ready to go.  A 36″-ish square is pretty easy if you have a No. 5 or No. 7.  But if you only have a block plane or a No. 4, perhaps start with an 18″ square.

In any event, check it now and again to see if it’s gone out of square.

 

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Moving On

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must let go.  Circumstances change and priorities shift.  And so, it is with great regret, that I am relinquishing my old workbench to my parents.  It will live a new life as a kitchen island.

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All cleaned up, as much as it can be.

The bench is, after all, home center douglas fir.  A toothed planing stop and holdfast holes are no good for a kitchen surface, so I plugged them up with what I had on hand.  Red Oak dutchmen and dowel rods.  I did my best to select clear wood when laminating the top, but douglas fir isn’t the most uniform of woods. So all in all, for the sake of cleanliness, it should get a coat of paint on the top.  

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Knots, dutchmen, dowels, CA glue and wood putty.  Not really that food safe at the moment.

I did leave the two post holes for an aluminum planing stop, though.  If I ever need to do woodworking at my parents’ house, it would be great to have a functioning workbench.  And a planing stop goes a long way toward a functioning workbench.  I still think this would have been a fantastic work bench to have in my old apartment.

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The paint will cover up some minor defects in the wood as well.  

This workbench has been largely redunant for a long time.  So I’m glad it will find a good home and free up some room outside my workshop.

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