Big Projects

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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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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Traveling Show

About a month ago, I visited a particularly close friend for the first time in a long time. We had a two-fold agenda: (I) develop a metal prototype for a woodworking bench appliance and (II) hang a new door and create a cat door in it. We accomplished both and had a great time. More on the bench appliance later.

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Everything neatly fits in the actual trunk of my car.

I mention it now because finally got to use my casket tool chest for its intended purpose: traveling with a set of woodworking tools. Although the wall rack leaves something to be desired (because of clearance above the rack), the tool chest worked wonderfully. I daresay it held a basic tool kit worth of tools: enough to make real furniture anywhere.

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It’s a bit of a “pile on” approach, but it works.

I was able to fit a No. 5 1/2 jack plane, block plane, rip tenon saw, chisel roll, hand brace, auger bit roll, egg beater drill, mallets and hammers, plus 8″ and 12″ F-clamps, all in the well.  Gauges, dividers and other miscellany fit in the wall rack.  I am especially pleased with how the till worked out.  My diamond plates and other sharpening accoutrements fit beautifully, and there is even room to spare for other marking and measuring tools.

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Almost like I planned it.  The plumb bob was a present for my friend.

I never did a full inventory.  I think the entire operation would have been streamlined by a till for the tenon saw, though.  But that’s a small complaint.

Just goes to show: sometimes the best-laid plans do work out.

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Something More Fancy

Rehabbing a moving fillister plane I recently came into hasn’t gone so well.  About halfway through (i.e., trying to figure out how to get the iron back in alignment with the wear edges), I decided just to make another moving fillister plane.  Seeing as I never got around to the matching right hand version of the DIY rebate plane, this is long overdue.

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Here is where I am so far.

I’m sticking pretty close to the traditional design, even re-purposing the iron from the original.  But there are a few changes in my version, which I’d like to talk about.

Materials

The original is made of beech, a very traditional wood for planemaking.  My version, however, is made from quartersawn hard maple.  Also, instead of starting from a single 10/4 billet, mine is laminated from two 5/4 billets.  I rarely work in anything harder than ash, so hopefully, using hard maple will allow me to skip the boxing on the wear edge.

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Compare the two woods.

I also opted for the “use what’s on hand” approach for the wedge.  In this case, a piece of perfectly quartersawn 0.5″ red oak left over from the original shop-made rebate plane.  I think it came out pretty well.  Red oak has the added benefit being softer than the body of the plane, so the wedge will compress a bit for a perfect fit.

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It helps to have a pattern to work from.

Construction

Even had I started from a single 10/4 quatersawn billet, I don’t own all the planemakers floats I’d need.  For example, refining the wedge mortise without a side float would have been a nightmare.  So to get around this, I cut a shallow wedge mortise in the first billet and then transferred those angles to my miter saw.  When those two trapezoidal pieces were PVA glued onto the first billet, I had a full-depth wedge mortise.

But the wedge mortise on a moving fillister plane is closed, so closing it up meant using a dutchman.  A sliding dovetail shape might have been more structural, but the square shape allows me to remove the dutchman if I ever need to modify the wedge mortise.  I used hide glue for this joint (for reversibility).  Despite the sub-optimal color match, I’m pretty pleased with the fit and the results.

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Grain direction on the dutchman should match the body of the plane to avoid tearout.

The glued-in dutchman closes the wedge mortise and locks everything in place.  I was careful to remove any glue squeeze-out from the wedge mortise, but in the future, if I use this technique again, I will mask everything before gluing.  And I may add two screws to reinforce the patch.

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All closed up.

Most of what remains for the main body of the plane is shaping.  I must square the front of the plane, add the thumb rabbet on the escapement side and roundover or chamfer the rest of the hard corners.  Everything will be sealed with boiled linseed oil.  Also, I am 99% certain I will use a wheel marking gauge cutter as the scoring spur, rather than add a traditional wedged nicker.  That approach has worked well on the first incarnation.

After that, I’ll make the fence and depth stop.  Actually, I haven’t decided whether to include a depth stop.  But in any event, it’s time to buy some brass bar stock.

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There is Always One

I’m no stranger to angled mortises.  But I’ve never done staked furniture before, so when it came time to bore the through mortises into the Roman Workbench slab, I didn’t know what I was getting into.  I read and reread the entries in both The Anarchist’s Design Book and Roman Workbenches, and I think I nailed the sight line and resultant angles, but it was still a bit touch and go.

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The front two mortises look pretty good.

I should have done a test mortise because, as often happens, the first one is a bit wonky.  It’s not quite lined up laterally, and I can tell the rake is off by a few degrees.  Not just by eye, but also because it’s the only mortise that had any blowout on the top face. While I can fill in the chipping (and might even paint the top), there is not much I can do about the angle.  Luckily, it’s the back right leg, so I won’t see it day to day.

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There is always one.

So that means it’s just about time to make the legs.  Shaping the tenons without a lathe will be one challenge, but before that, I’ve got to rip down the legs.  By hand.  Out of 8/4 air dried red oak.  At least it will be a workout.

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I wish I had a table saw right about now.

Speaking of wishful thinking, it would have been great to know about the Roman Workbench form when I first started woodworking five years ago.  This seems like the perfect workbench for getting started in an apartment with a limited set of hand tools.  It’s easy to make and straightforward.  Hell, you could probably even make the top from a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood ripped four times down the length.

Plus, with an extra cleat on the underside, a Roman Workbench could also go up on saw horses and act like a Japanese-style workbench for added flexibility.  And flexibility is the key to apartment woodworking, in my experience.

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Like this, basically.

Oh well, coulda, woulda, shoulda, right?

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We Who Are About to Bore

A straight and square board, surfaced on all four sides is a thing to behold. When it’s 7 feet long, 11 inches wide and 2 inches thick, it’s down right beautiful. And that’s what I did over the weekend. It may be poplar, but soon it will be a Roman Workbench.

Little thin for a proper Japenese bench,

Like any pretty board in my workshop, though, it started out ugly and rough. But ugly and rough is how we like ’em ’round here (at least at the start). Then comes the Jack Plane.

My only complaint about the new floor is that it’s slick sometimes.

In my experience, the trick to flattening a wide, thick board is to start on the cupped aide and not get too overzealous. It’s very easy to plane a hump if you’re not paying attention. And that’s no recipe for keeping as much thickness as possible.

This is not a how-to on traversing . So my only other advice is to figure out where the twist is early in the process. It’s no good first taking out the cup then having to take out the twist. That’s likewise a recipe for losing more thickness than necessary. Once I have one side flat, I like to send it through the thickness planer. Others square an edge right away. Either works.

Then I tackle the edges. The goal is to remove only as much width as necessary. I try to square each foot or so to the face, then worry about overall straightness. On this board, I ended up only losing about 1/8″. A testament to the sawyer more than my planing skills.

So glad to have my 5 1/2 back in the shop.

The end result (seen in the first picture above) is a board that’s ready for joinery. And joinery, in this case, means big, round, wedged tenons.

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For the Love of My Tools

For almost a year now, my workshop floor has been bare concrete (other than a few anti-fatigue mats).  It’s not ideal for either knees or tools, and I hold my breath every time something drops to the floor.  But no longer.  My workshop has a wood floor now!

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Oriented Strandboard, as it were, but still.

After about 5 hours of work, and for the low, low price of about $350 (plus the lunch I bought my buddy from work), I no longer have to pray in slow motion every time a marking gauge or chisel rolls off the workbench.

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But I still put the anti-fatigue mats down.

The DriCore tongue and groove panels were super easy to install.  It’s night and day from the old concrete surface.  I even did the pine trim boards.  The room even feels brighter, now that the black concrete floor is hidden.  In case you forgot what the old floor looked like, see the contrast.

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$1.54 per square foot never felt so good.

For now, I will leave it bare.  I’d like to see how well it wears before I go overboard.  BTW, I know it’s been a full month since my last post.  I’ve been preoccupied with non-woodworking tasks, but am hoping to get back on the horse soon.

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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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