Big Projects

Like that Scene in ‘Office Space’

Life has been fairly hectic lately, but I found some time over the weekend to paint the finished Dutch tool chest.  Seeing has how I’ve been working out of a black tool chest (albeit a Craftsman 40″ mechanics chest) for a while, I kept the theme by painting the Dutch tool chest black.  What I didn’t keep, however, was the expansive footprint.  The shop feels so much more open now.   The smaller footprint will allow me to move my workbench further away from the back wall.

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The area from the trash can to the door used to be completely filled with tool chest.

I am very pleased with the overall result, although I have two minor complaints about my execution of the design of the Dutch tool chest:

  • The fall front really needs to be made from something quarter- or rift-sawn.  I made the mistake of using two flat-sawn boards that have cupped wildly (despite the battens) and expanded as the humidity changed over the last month.  It’s less visible now that it’s painted, but I will eventually throw a temper tantrum and remake the fall front .  The locks will be reusable, and I’ll try and salvage the nails from the battens.
  • I don’t think having two fully open compartments below is correct for my tool set.  I’m not sure I’d have evenly divided it into three, but I need to test a shallow drawer first and see how things work out (more on that later).
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If I could turn back time, I’d paint the case before attaching the lid.

Figuring out how to efficiently store everything is still a work in progress.  I have plenty of room for hanging things on the walls (e.g., a block plane holster like Mr. Schwarz) and still need to make the under-lid till for my crosscut panel saw.  There seem to be nooks and crannies everywhere to stash tools.  And I should probably remake the inner saw till from a harder wood as well.

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Quite a bit of real estate on the inside walls.

All of that said, I’m really pleased with how this has worked out.  Even if it ends up being a non-permanent solution, I’m glad for the experience.  This is something I definitely could have (should have?) made for my apartment.  I’d love to make the smaller version as an intellectual exercise, but I have many traveling tool chests kicking around and there is so much still to make for my living quarters.

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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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Almost Too Deep

With the negligible exceptions of squaring the ends and boring a few more holes (for holdfasts or otherwise), my workbench is officially done.

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Maybe one more pass with the jointer plane as well.  

After the new benchtop extension, the workbench is officially 22.5″ deep (plus 1/8″ or so in places along the still-rough back edge).  I know I will eat these words sooner rather than later, but 22.5″ almost feels too deep.

My last workbench, the Stent Panel (i.e., stretcherless) knockoff, was only 19″ deep.  Before that, I worked primarily off a 10″ deep clamp-on slab with two planing stops and holdfast.  And before even that, there was my Milkman’s Workbench.  See here for a size comparison of the two.  I got all the way back to the middle of 2014 for when I last had a workbench deeper than 19″ (it was 23.75″).  That’s a long time ago.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it again

I promised everyone pictures of pegs going into holes, so here you go.

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This one actually broke off in the hole during the glue up.

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Spacers work well after a bit of finessing.  

Are you sick of phallic double entendre yet?  Me neither.

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Real Bench Extension

After a couple months of acclimating, I surfaced the 12/4 ash board which will form the rest of the benchtop. It had almost no twist, but even with a bit of cup, I still ended up with over 3″ of total thickness. But as you’ve probably observed, that’s still about 1″ thinner than the main benchtop. 

What’s worse than a tool tray? A really shallow tool tray.

I have a solution, though.  Some Douglas Fir spacers will raise the back board up to the same height as the rest of the benchtop. A little higher, actually, so I can plane everything into flatness. I used DF because while it will ding and mildly conform to any irregularities, it’s still tough and rigid. Eastern White Pine would compress too much over time, methinks. 

I will probably leave the back edge rough, until I don’t. 

I plan to glue the back board to the main benchtop, so here is the question: do I glue the spacers to the back board, or just screw them on (so I can replace them later)?  In any event, I want to add some alignment dowels into the short stretchers that will keep everything in order.

I have a process for that, which I’ll detail in the next post. 

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What the Hell am I Doing?

It’s no secret that “Mythbusters” is one of my favorite shows. I’ve probably seen each episode, other than the really gross one with the earwax candle, five times. And I’m very fond of ruining party conversations with “Well, actually, the Mythbusters tested that and…”. Damn me and my science.

One of the recurring themes on the show is the “What the Hell are We Doing?” moment, where one of the hosts realizes how absurd a turn the experiment has taken. I had one of those moments yesterday.  Having just finished the saw till for the new chest, I realized, all at once, that it’s stupid to make this a tool chest.

Seems to work pretty well, though.

It’s not the right size for my tools and I already bought lumber for an anarchist’s tool chest clone. But I glued in the saw till anyway, because I couldn’t help myself.

This is dumb and I’m dumb for doing it.

But I came to my senses after two lower runners and a saw till.  Blanket chest, it is.  At least I can skip the frame and panel lid (or at least the dust seal).

Trust your instincts, folks.

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