That was Easy!

So it only took about an hour to knock together the bulk of the new crochet.

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Still haven’t made that screw hub.

Before I bolt it to the benchtop, however, I’d like to test a theory.  Crochets without screws work via a wedging action.  Even though mine has a screw, I’d still like to test out a wedge.  So I’m making a softwood insert.

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This is not the actual insert, but you get the idea.

I’ll likely just nail the wedge in place.  If it works, great.  If not, I’ll pry it out.  And when it wears out, I’ll pry it out and replace it.  And wear out, it will, because it’s Eastern White Pine, a species I picked over Douglas Fir because it won’t mar the work.

Does any of this sound crazy?  It’s starting to feel crazy.

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DIY Bench Dogs

The dog holes on my workbench are 1″, to accommodate my Crucible Tool Holdfast, which I love more and more each day.  Well, except the legs, which use 3/4″ dog holes to accommodate my Gramercy Tools Holdfasts.  I love these holdfasts as well, but they have been relegated to deadman duty.  So when it came to time to get 1″ bench dogs, I had two choices: (i) drop $100+ on four metal dogs or (ii) spend $6 on an oak dowel and follow the instructions.  My woodworking budget for the week was already spent on quartersawn 8/4 white oak, so DIY bench dogs won out.  Three only took about half an hour to make, and most of that was sanding to fit.  I’ll add the bullet catches when they arrive this week.

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I used a bevel gauge to ensure the angle is exactly 2 degrees (not really).

Like any good project, I bloodied myself a bit making these.  60 grit sandpaper is basically sharp pebbles glued to a piece of paper, and my left thumb now looks like a miniature Freddy Krueger came after me.

Like I always say, if you don’t bleed for (on?) the project, it’s not real woodworking.

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Getting on with it

Having admitted defeat, it only took me a little while to literally and figuratively pick up the pieces.  After salvaging the wooden peg on the failed face vise for use as another wooden screw, I had a choice: put the jaw aside for a rainy day, or use it right away.  Well, you know what they say: nothing gets the blood flowing like hand-ripping American hard woods of greater than 2″ thickness.

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Or, whatever.

I ended up with a board that is 3.25″ wide, 18.25″ long and 2″ thick.  A single pass through the thicknesser to clean up the saw cut and all that’s left is to cross cut it and glue it up.

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I’ll figure something out for the board with the holes.

What am I making, you ask?  I’m making that crochet, with the wooden screw.  Like I should have the first time before wasting five hours on a face vise that doesn’t hold.

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So far I’m at about 30 minutes, including the ripping.

All that’s left to do (after easing the corners) is drill and tap the hole in the beam and pre-drill for the lag bolts which will mount it to the face of the benchtop.

I’ve got a surprise planned for the hub on the wooden screw.  Much more understated than the last time.

But that will have to wait for now.

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Glamour Shots

Does anyone remember glamour shots?  Those airbrushed-to-all-hell personal photos that could make anyone look good?  They were like the Barbara Walters interview of photos.  I’m sure they still exist, because human vanity still exists.

I ask for a very specific reason (and the title of this post is not arbitrary).  I finished the front vise on my new workbench.  And it’s beautiful.

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Soft focus and natural light only.

Aesthetically, it’s everything it’s supposed to be.  The lines are clean, the color match on the jaw and hub are fantastic, and the walnut handle offers a nice contrast.  And look how perfectly it cinches down to the benchtop!

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There is even a bit of wain to give it a rustic look.

But looks aren’t everything.  Truth is: the vise doesn’t work very well.  There is too much play in the maple guide peg, so the vice wracks in all directions.  It works okay with wide stock that can sit on the screw and the peg while I work an edge, but it’s useless for cinching narrow pieces at the top of the jaw.  It also works okay as a crochet for very wide stock that extends below the bottom of the law, but the maple peg wedges itself in the guide hole (like a holdfast) and it’s a pain to free up.

Could I find a metal collar to tighten the guide hole, or otherwise fiddle with it some more, and make the vise work better?  Probably.  Will I?  No.  It’s a sunk cost at this point.  I can re-purpose the jaw for something else and there is nothing wrong with the screw (although I would bet the hub gets trimmed down before it sees use again).  There’s a reason the vise nut is attached to the bench with only hide glue.

One of the hardest things in woodworking, and in life generally, is admitting failure and moving on.  My attempt at a completely wooden front vise has failed.

My heat gun and I are moving on.

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New Face Vise

The one thing I’ve been without since I switched away from my Milkman’s Workbench is a true face vise.  A Moxon Vise is great for dovetailing and tenons, but it’s no good for everyday edge planing.  And while I prefer the tactile feedback of edge planing against a planing stop, it’s not feasible all the time.  I had planned on a simple crochet for my new workbench, but I remembered my threading kit and I figured I’d go for something a bit more elaborate.  Even if it is just a glorified crochet.

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Not yet completed, but you get the idea.

My face vise consists of four main parts: (i) an 8/4 maple nut, bored with one threaded hole and one clean hole; (ii) a 14″ long wooden screw, threaded from a 1.25″ hard maple dowel with a Beall Tool Company threading kit, which grabs the threaded hole; (iii) an 12″ long, 1.25″ hard maple dowel (unthreaded), which acts as a parallel guide in the clean hole in the nut; and (iv) an 8/4 ash jaw, bored with two clean holes, at 18.25″ overall.  The vise works on the same principle as a shoulder vise: the clean dowel, which is glued into the jaw, keeps the jaw from spinning freely while the screw clamps down.

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One, two, three, four.

Or, rather, it will work once I add the hub to the screw.  I don’t have a lathe, so I’m not sure yet what the hub will look like yet.  Part of me wants to make a simple octagonal hub (not unlike a Lake Erie Tool Works Moxon Vise).  Another part of me wants to go whole hog and make a circular hub with a garter and a handle passing through it (like a proper twin screw face vise).  You guys know me pretty well and can probably guess which way I’ll go.

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I’ve been saving this piece of ash for a proverbial rainy day.

Aside from the hub, the other process I haven’t worked out yet is how to attach it to the bench.  My strong inclination is to hide glue the nut to the underside (flush to the edge of the benchtop) and reinforce it with some angle iron.  I may one day replace this with a proper twin screw face vise, and I like the idea of being able to remove the nut without damaging it.  And there is still some assembly to do (I don’t have any epoxy, right now).

All of that will have to wait, though.  There is an American Football game to watch.

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After Further Review

A funny thing happened today when I woke up and went into the shop. Calipers in hand, ready to measure for the plug I was going to make, I decided to give it one more shot. I positioned the holdfast to the left over a scrap of wood, and whacked it with a sledge. Nothing.

Undeterred, I gave it another whack, this time holding the shaft steady as I drove it in. It felt like it seated a bit. After a third whack, it felt like it was grabbing. The fourth whack, it set tightly. Hmm.

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It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.

And it works pointed right as well.

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This is not a political metaphor (yet).

I guess the trick is to hold the shaft steady as you drive it in. So, much less sad than yesterday, I bought a corded drill and made a plumb jig to bore the remaining holes (seen above).

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Much like ‘Murica itself, this drill was assembled here with foreign components.

It’s always good to sleep on it.

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Putting On a Brave Face

It only took me a week to ruin my new workbench.  I’m trying to put on a brave face, but it’s no use.   I can’t even look myself in the mirror, I’m so ashamed.  I drilled the first holdfast hole in the bench, and it’s not plumb.  And it’s the hole farthest to the left.  The one for mortising over the leg.  I’ve got woe.

It’s entirely my fault, too.  Instead of reading the directions for my Crucible Holdfast, I chucked the recommended 1″ WoodOwl augur bit in a modern, three-jawed hand brace.  I was blown away by how easily the WoodOwl powered through the wood.  So much that I lost focus and canted the hole back to front.  I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t over 2° off plumb back to front (although negligibly canted left to right).

The directions recommend a corded drill and jig to keep the bit plumb.  Corded (I think) because (in my experience) the wobble of a brace and bit always results in an overlarge hole as it reams itself with every sweep of the brace.  Jig because it’s difficult to keep a bit that large from going out of plumb, no matter how little wobble you impart.  I utilized neither.

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I took a vanity picture during the process and can see the cant in the shot.

The result: the holdfast only holds in a 60° sweep pointed at the front edge of the bench.  It won’t grab at all when oriented lengthwise, either left or right.  It could be worse, but it still makes me sad.

I’m debating plugging the hole with epoxy and a 1″ oak dowel (plus an ash dutchman on the show face).  But that feels like a temper tantrum.  I should probably sleep on it another day.

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Something Old, Something New

The point at which you first install workholding on a workbench is a bit thrilling.  The bench transforms from furniture to functioning tool.  Even if the workholding is just an aluminum planing stop.

 

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Final flattening of the bench only took about 30 minutes.

I have been enamored with these Lee Valley-Veritas planing stops for some time.  I tried a toothed planing stop on my previous workbench, but I never really liked it.  Unless I needed the extra 6 inches or so of benchtop, I always went back to these aluminum stops. They are low profile and easy to install (requiring only two 3/4″ dog holes).  And they can be cut to perfect length.

This time, I even remembered to space the holes so they’d line up with a row of tail vise dog holes, if I ever install a metal front vise as a tail vise.  I mean to, eventually, but I only have 12″ from the end of the benchtop to the top stretchers, so I’d need a pretty compact front vise.  Before I do, though, I’m going to try working with just holdfasts and does’ feet.  I hear it works pretty well.

My first project on the new workbench will be that plant stand I was making last year, which is very similar to a previous prototype.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: working home center spruce is such a joy.

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Ain’t She a Beaute?

So I have a new workbench. It’s really pretty, if I do say so myself.  With any luck, it will be there last workbench I ever make.

Soft focus like a Barbara Walters interview.

Made of air-dried ash, it’s a monster, even without the shelf and the benchtop extension (both to come soon). The slab is 92″ x 15″ x 4″, the legs and top stretchers are 3″ x 4″, and the lower stretchers are 1.5″ x 4″. Why only 1.5″ thick?  Because the lower shelf will be supported by some 1″ x full-length brackets glued and screwed to the inside faces of the stretchers. And it’s all I had leftover on the pile.

It’s important to me to show how the slab and the frame are held together. There are two blind mortises on the underside of the slab, to match two stub tenons on the front legs.  The top stretchers form the inside shoulder of the tenon and support the slab (which, when put into place, went “thunk” and has stayed put). Much like the subconscious inspiration.

I did use a door shim to wedge the right-hand tenon.

I would be remiss not to note that the tenons for the long stretchers are only about 1.5″ long, but they are both glued and drawbored. I feel confident that is sufficient for the heaviest planing strain.

The last tenon, cut at my Stent Panel Workbench.

I’m very pleased with how the bench came out, but I will admit one complaint: how the long stretcher shoulders look. I rounded over the corners of the legs, and the long stretchers are in plane with that. You can see the problem. I will probably get over it. Probably.

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There are a few crimes to hide, but this isn’t supposed to be fine furniture.

I haven’t decided on what type of planing stop to use, but I’m leaning toward a Veritas aluminum stop like I use on my current bench. It will span the entire width of the slab and doesn’t mar the work like a toothed stop would. But it uses a different-sized hole than my Crucible holdfast.

More in a few days when I square the ends of the benchtop and attach the bottom shelf.

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Of Proverbial Lights and Tunnels

On every new project, there is a point at which the project passes from being a pile of boards to an actual thing.  It’s a magic moment that never fails to make me smile.  I hit one of those points over the weekend, while transferring the length measurements for one of the long stretchers on my new workbench.

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For the first time, to me anyway, it looks like an actual workbench.

There is one more long stretcher to surface, and four mortises and tenons to cut, but with any luck, the bench will be functional by Sunday.  Then it will just be a question of boring holes in the legs (for Gramercy Holdfasts) and in the benchtop (for bench dogs and my Crucible Tools Holdfast).

I’ve never made my own bench dogs before, so I’ll be excited to try it out.

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