Assembled like Dovetails

There is a very specific admonition in the December 2015 Popular Woodworking article on the Japanese Sliding-lid Box.  It says “Hand-cut finger joints have to be assembled like dovetail joints.”  I had never cut finger joints before, so this warning never registered with me.  Until last weekend, that is.

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Still in keeping with my “half tails” motif.

Above is a finger joint for the saw till in my ever-progressing tool chest.  There is no shoulder on the pin piece, so I figured it would assemble like a lap joint (by pressing the two pieces together when already overlapped).  But when I tried, the joint did not fit together.  Just before grabbing a chisel to fiddle with the pin recess, I remembered, randomly, the warning in the article from over 2 years ago.  So I tried assembling it like a dovetail joint.  And it fit.  Perfectly.  With no gaps all around.

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More reclaimed mahogany for my enjoyment.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had something register without actually registering.  I’m continually surprised by how efficient the human brain is at absorbing and cataloging for indeterminate future use.  But I’m glad it did, as any further fiddling would have ruined the fit of the joint.

As for the saw till itself, while the execution is sufficient, I am not super pleased with the design.  At 7.5″ wide, it’s designed to hold eight total saws (coarse rip panel, fine rip panel, cross cut panel, cross cut tenon, rip cut tenon, dovetail, large rip cut tenon and a soon to be purchased large cross cut tenon).  But the large rip cut tenon felt too crowded with the others (even without the large cross cut tenon) to pair with.

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When spaced out, it’s not quite so bad.

I think I need to divide the saw till in two: one for panel saws and large back saws, and then another for small back saws.  Regardless, the next iteration definitely needs some slightly-refined kerf spacing.

Like in my dutch tool chest, I’ll leave the saw till loose (with only some abrasive sand paper on the bottom to keep it from sliding around too much).  I worry that the long tool rack on the front wall will occlude my dovetail saw, so I want the ability to scoot is around the well as needed.

But for now, it works and I’ll move on to the aforementioned wall rack (for which I’ve refined the spacing of the 1/2″ holes a bit since the dutch tool chest).

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Passage of Time…

… as marked on the fence of a shooting board.

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Almost 2 years since the last time I squared it up.

It’s been a while since I last posted, and I missed my usual grumpy New Year’s post.  In penance, I’ve kept with the half tails motif on my recent dovetails.  This time for the large sliding tray in my English floor chest.

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Fear me, fancy lads!

Two more sliding trays to go, plus wall racks, a saw till and a lid.

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Extreme Heresy

In making a little box to hold a Christmas present for a friend, I took the opportunity to experiment on how best to offend all the woodworking purists at once.  So I came up with half tails on the sides and a giant pin on the front and back.

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In 5/8 reclaimed mahogany when the box is only 7 x 7.

The bottom is rabbeted into the sides only, and oriented so the long grain runs front back.  I did this to avoid cutting stopped rabbets on the front and back.  The mahogany in question is very old and very dry (read: prone to chipping).  What looks like a gap on the bottom left shoulder above is actually just some cosmetic chipping.

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There was a little piece of metal somewhere in the wood that nicked my jack plane blade.

I have a bunch more of this reclaimed mahogany.  Most of it has cupped somewhat, and it comes to about 5/8 thickness when re-tried.  It’s good practice on hardwood dovetails and will be the accent wood in my new tool chest.

Merry Christmas, and whatnot.

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Incremental Improvements

It’s been a few weeks since I had enough time or energy for writing about woodworking, let alone doing any actual woodworking.  But those few weeks ago I managed to advance my tool chest project quite a bit, by adding the lower skirt.

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It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a huge part of the project.

Fitting a skirt is never easy.  A goberge (seen below) was enough to close the gaps on the front and back skirts.  But I somehow managed to mess up one of the shoulders on the back lower skirt, resulting in a decent gap at the back left corner.  I don’t think there is a structural issue, but I plan to drive some slotted screws at each corner through the end skirts, just in case.

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Also, don’t make a goberge from soft wood.  It’s a nightmare to fit.

I’m trying to make this thing entirely with materials on hand, so the tray runners are a mishmash of hardwoods.  The bottom runner is ash, leftover from the sitting bench project.  The middle runner is home center hobby board red oak that was once upon a time going to be a floorboard for another till.  The top runner is some re-sawn 4/4 red oak from another lumber yard.  I forgot how gross and unstable kiln dried red oak is.

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This stuff curled right back up once re-sawn from 4/4.

The runners are glued flat against the inside wall, so the cupping after re-sawing turned out to be a good thing.  A de facto spring joint closed up nicely with some screw clamps.

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O! to own more screw clamps.  This had to dry completely before I could do the other side.

For the top tray, I will add a fourth runner: some drawer tape.  It’s just ultra-high molecular weight, low friction plastic with adhesive backing.  But it does work wonders to prevent wear on the soft pine walls.

Next up, if I ever find the time, is the top skirt, following which I will paint the carcase and attach the chest lifts.  I’m going ultra-lazy on this one and making a plywood raised panel lid.  Then it’s just tills, tool racks, and sliding trays.

Sounds easy, right?

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Parallelogram

It occurs to, that even if the case isn’t square, as long as it’s out of square all around, it’s still a parallelogram.  And that means that a tray will still run okay.

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It’s very pretty.

I need to add a skirt and some wheels, but this thing just might work.

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Thanksgiving 2017

I originally wanted to title this post “What’s so ‘Happy’ about it?”.  But my mood is substantially better than a few days ago.

It may be belated, but I am thankful for cows.  Or, more specifically, leftover cow parts that get boiled into hide glue.  Without hide glue, my latest glue-up would not have been possible.

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It’s square to within 1/8″ both top and bottom.  The floorboards can do the rest.

You may have noticed that almost 6 months to the day after finishing my Dutch Tool Chest, I commenced making another tool chest.  An English Floor Chest, this time, based largely on the ubiquitous (dare I say, cosmopolitan?) Anarchist Tool Chest design. Because of the wood available to me, the case is only 23.5″ high, but I made up for that space by making the ends a full 24′ wide.

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I went with a very English ratio of pin to tail.

I am not exaggerating when I say the glue-up would not have been possible without hide glue.  From the time I knocked the first corners together to the time I set the diagonal clamps to bring the case it into square, almost 60 minutes passed.  I’m fortunate the heat was off in the shop, which probably bought me a few more minutes past the typical 45 minute max set time.  PVA would have seized long before I finished.

Because the case is still slightly out of square, I have to nail the bottom boards on first, before I can apply the skirts.  I hope to get both the floor nailed on and the bottom skirt dovetailed and applied before the week is out.  But that feels ambitious.

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Pluses and Minuses

I almost never buy tools off eBay.  Not used ones, anyway.  I usually stick to the “New Old Stock” variety.  So it was particularly out of character for me to take a leap of faith on a random Stanley No. 4.

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I think it came out okay.

The tool in question is almost certainly a Type 17 from 1942-1945.  It has a hardwood knob/tote and a steel depth adjustment knob, plus a heavier casting.  Its heft feels more like a modern Bedrock copy than a vintage Stanley.  I’m willing to bet this plane helped defeat the Nazis.

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You can really see the thickness of the walls in this shot.

The tool was either (i) well-loved and cared for in its former life or (ii) used a little bit and then squirreled away.  My vote is for well-loved and cared for.  There was a hanging hole in the heel of the sole.  All the arrises were carefully broken with a file.  The lateral adjustment lever showed signs of re-peening.  The depth adjustment knob was caked with sawdust. All the signs of a craftsman’s tool.

My only reservation is that the iron seems off.  There is just so much steel left.  It could be a replacement iron.  And the shape of the cutting edge was strange, with a very slight hollow along the width.  Not a hollow grind on the bevel.  The cutting edge itself had the opposite shape of a smoothing plane camber.  If it had been sharp, you could have beaded with the plane when it arrived in the mail.  Perhaps the skilled craftsman was two owners ago.

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Easily fixed in the honing process, though.

Also a surprise: the sole was very flat to begin with.  It took less than 30 seconds with 120 grit on the granite slab to get it as flat as it ever needs to be.  This is not exaggeration.  20 or so passes and it was flatter than most new planes.  And the sides were very square to the sole.  Another 30 seconds on the granite slab with a squaring block and it was good to go for shooting.

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Strange place for a hollow.  But completely harmless on a smoothing plane.

I was pleasantly surprised at every turn.  In fact, tuning was going so well, I developed the intention of making this one of my main worker planes.  But then, after all the scrubbing and sanding and honing, I moved the frog forward and extended the blade to take a thin shaving and what did I see?  Wood.  Lots of it.

It was like looking under the hood of an old car and seeing asphalt.  My heart sank.

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Tearout will always be a problem with this plane.

On a hand plane, the blade, in its cutting motion, lifts under the wood fibers.  As I understand it, the leading edge of the mouth presses down on the fibers while the blade cuts.  The wider the mouth, the more likely the fibers will lift and split ahead of the blade edge.  This is called tearout.

On a smoothing plane, you want the narrowest mouth possible.  The opening between blade and sole should be barely wider than the shaving taken.  A perfectly tuned and set smoothing plane can take a tearout-free shaving in any direction on even the most figured or swirling grain because of this narrow opening.  That is, the leading edge of the mouth applies downward pressure so close to the cutting edge that there is no opportunity for fibers to lift and split as the cut progresses.  No opportunity for tearout.

But with a mouth this size, this particular plane would eat figured food.  Literally tear it up and spit it out.  So, with a heavy heart, I have put this plane in the reserve bin (i.e., my Craftsman Top Chest).  But I will name it James, Jr., for it has a mouth so big that it ruins everything it comes in contact with.

Perhaps it will one day find life as a scrub plane.  It certainly has the mouth for heavy shavings.

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Small Improvements

What would be an appropriate inaugural project for the finished moving fillister plane?  How about a hardwood saw till for my dutch tool chest?

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I love the Veritas A2 replacement blade on my vintage Bedrock No. 7.

The prototype, which has performed very well these past months, is pine.  The new version is mahogany, a harder wood that I appreciate more and more and I learn to work it.  There will be a new home for the prototype.  And no, not the burn pile.

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The spacing is perfect so it will, if nothing else, persist as a pattern.

It occurs to me that without a tail vise, I probably need a sticking board for these types of tasks.  I did devise a way to hold down the work to cut the rabbets, involving a scrap of wood, some sandpaper backed plywood and a holdfast.  So, basically, a sticking board.

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That’s a Crucible Tool holdfast, btw.

Doing this project showed me that fine, cross-grain shavings may bind in the throat of the plane.  I’ve looked at other examples, though, and the throat size doesn’t seem to be drastically out of the norm.

It’s just something I’ll learn to live with, I guess.

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Front and Center

None of us are as young as they used to be.  I’m in my mid thirties now and I don’t stoop over the work as well as I used to.  As a mostly hand tool woodworker that dovetails more often than not, I’ve gotten accustomed to a clamp-on, twin screw vise (what many call a “Moxon Vise”) that raises the work slightly above the benchtop.  As my original twin screw vise was starting to wear out, I more and more just relied on my sort-of shoulder vise (it’s actually a crochet with a screw).  But that is not a permanent solution, unless I become a sit down woodworker.  And I’m far too fidgety for that.

So a more permanent solution has been born.

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Fine furniture, it ain’t.

My original inspiration was Jeff Miller’s benchtop bench.  At its heart, though, this is a twin screw vise with some extra work surface.  The work surface is 24″ long, 13″ deep (including the inside jaw) and 3″ thick.  Including the feet, it raises the work over 6″ off the benchtop, which equates to about 40″ from the floor.  That height is comfortable for me at 5’10”.

The vise has just over 24″ between the screws, and it opens to over 5″ wide.  More than enough capacity for things like saw vises and tenoning work.

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Very stable.

I like this form because it is so stable.  Many purist twin screw vises are tippy, both while clamping it to the workbench and when working at max extension.  Suffice to say, this one is not.

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Quite a bit of counterbalance to the vise jaws.

The new benchtop bench is admittedly Frankenstein-esque in its composition.  The work surface is four sheets of 3/4″ plywood.  The vise jaws are both 8/4 red oak (bone dry and lined with adhesive backed cork from the home center), as are the feet (with non-skid ladder tread applied to the bottom).  The wooden screws are 1 1/4″ hard maple, threaded with a Beall Tool Company wood threader.  The vise nuts are 5/4 ash.

The inner jaws are tapped to hold the wooden screws; the threads on the wood screws terminate for a tight lock to the jaws.  The outer jaws have 1 1/4″ clearance holes, drilled with a different drill bit that is slightly larger than the one used for tapping (but not so large that there is risk of wracking).  The vise nuts are also tapped with the Beall Tool Company kit.

You may have noticed how chunky the design is.  The source material has a lighter feel, but this is not a magazine piece.  Two recesses on each leg create trestles which are sufficient for clamping.  Any further aesthetics (including shaping the vise nuts) would have added to the build time.

Before the benchtop bench gets put to work, I’ll secure the feet (which are currently just glued on) with lag screws coming down from the top.  I also have not secured the wooden screws to the back jaw yet, as this is technically a prototype.  Securing the screws would take as little as a 1/4″ dowel through the inner jaw and the screw itself.  I may also add dogging capability.

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I also must chamfer the outer jaw all around.

This project was long overdue.  I have a ton of dovetailing coming up, which was a good excuse to finally get this done.  But more on that later.

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This One Goes to Eleven

No, not really.  It actually only goes to 15/16, but that’s okay.  I finished the moving fillister plane.  I’m super proud of the result.

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I have since added a coat of BLO and some furniture wax.

You may have noticed the black racing stripe.  In addition to texture for a better grip, the blank paint hides some nasty tearout from the grip recess.  Dammit, why do I always reveal my secrets?  At least no one will ever mistake my plane for theirs.

I should note that this version is in every way superior to my first attempt, unless you count a slightly too wide throat.  But with the skewed iron and a more refined escapement, it shouldn’t be a big deal.  After quite a few tests, regular shavings eject consistently, whether across- or with- the grain.  Fine, cross-grain shavings bind a little bit, but it’s nothing that can’t be cleared occasionally with a mechanical pencil.

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The angle is right, but it’s a little wide.

Other than the skew iron, there are a few improvements since the first iteration.  The scoring spur extends a bit further this time.  In fact, both the scoring spur and the iron are ever so slightly proud of the body.  This (I learned from Roy Underhill) is the key to a crisp and plumb shoulder on the rabbet.  The screws for the fence are also flush with the fence itself.

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I will eventually reinforce the slots with brass, like the version I copied.

I do not plan to add a depth stop to this plane.  I’ll just mark the depth and clean everything up with a router plane after.  That’s how I’ve been doing it for a while, and I find the traditional depth stop is not that reliable.  And a full-length depth stop may interfere with the escapement.

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So there you have it!

It’s still TBD whether I caught the planemaking bug.  I do have another 6 feet or so of quartersawn hard maple and I just picked up a bench grinder, so who knows what the future holds?

Rabbets.  The future holds rabbets.

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