Small Victories

Sometimes I get a little impatient in my woodworking.  Case in point, a random dovetailed pine box I had always meant to section off for nail and screw storage.  Instead, it’s become a rabbeted and nailed box.


Most of one, anyway.

But I started nailing it together before I cut the rabbets for the dividers.  Lucky for me, I had a stroke of genius: make a single shelf (for a drawer) and hang it on the wall.  And what do you know, it not only fits console game cases on the bottom shelf, but the drawer will be large enough to hold console game controllers.


Amazing how that works out.

Since I had already nailed on two sides before I started cutting the rabbets, I couldn’t use a chisel other than in the vertical position.  My solution: use a block plane blade.  Surprisingly, the joint fits tight enough for the application.

I will post some pictures of the finished project when I’m done.


A Familiar Sight

With the floorboards now flushed to the case on the traveling tool tote, I’m at a critical juncture.  Should I finish the dovetailed skirt, or do I fit the tray runners?  Obviously, the runners, but not for the reason you’d think.

The walls of the carcass are only 11/16″ thick.  But the cast iron chest handles I’ve selected take 1″, No. 12 screws.  The case is becoming unwieldy, so in order to attach the handles I need the extra thickness from the runners.  After the handles are attached, I can apply the skirt, add the rot strips and paint the carcass (Tuscan Red this time).    Then I’ll turn to the sliding tray, wall rack and battened lid.

But in the meantime, I only have two wooden clamps and the hide glue needs to dry.


I Had Almost Forgotten

It’s been a struggle putting together a design for a workbench.  Not because I don’t know what I want to make, but because I need to figure out the best way to make it by hand from construction lumber.  I have about 60 linear feet of Douglas Fir 2×10’s that will become the frame, and I plan to laminate over a dozen Douglas Fir 2×4’s for the top, but creating a step-by-step plan has been elusive.

And for me, that means taking a step back from the theoretical and diving into some practical research.  And what could be a better practice run than those Japanese-style Saw Horses I’ve always wanted?  And what better place to start than the feet, which are a perfect scale analogue for the laminated workbench legs?

Each foot is approximately 24″ long and consists of two boards.  I don’t have any 2×4’s, but I do have some 2×8’s and a panel saw, so here we go!

Step one: rip a 48″ 2×8 into two lengths of 2×4, then crosscut to 24″ each and reassemble in sequence.


Hand sawing gets the blood pumping.

Step two: carefully mark where the boards meet, and stack each right board on top of the corresponding left board without changing orientation.


This ensures consistent grain direction, just like a single board.

Step three:  surface plane the two faces where the boards will meet, then square up one edge to each reference face.


And mark carefully.

Step four: thickness plane each board to S4S and prepare for glue up.

[Picture not found…yet.]

Before I actually glue up the feet, though, I should create the mortises for the legs by cutting dadoes in the reference faces.  The bottoms are already square to those reference faces, so there is no reason I can’t cut those joints in advance of thicknessing.

The legs, btw, will be made from approximately 30″ of Douglas Fir 2×6.  But that, along with the top and bottom cross rails, is for another day.


The Clamp I Use Most

Apartment woodworking is mostly about making due.  But that can be said about much of woodworking.  And finding the right tool for the job is important regardless of square footage.


The clamp I use the most is not a clamp at all.

I’ve talked about alternative clamping styles before.  I’ve even showcased the machinists granite slab as a clamping apparatus before.  The reality is, sometimes a heavy, flat rock is much easier than an actual clamp.

When (for example) I need to glue back down some face grain that split while cutting a dado, I could use a parallel jaw clamp.  Or I could just put a big rock on top of it.  More times than not, I opt for the latter.  Because if I’ve done my job and my joints are square, weight is as good as mechanical clamping pressure.

Speaking of dadoes, these are for a three-board sushi tray from leftover pine.  If the sizing is okay (about 7″ x 15″), I will likely make a couple more from a tougher wood.


No stopped dadoes, this time.  My masochism knows some bounds.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


I am a Terrible Hypocrite

But what else is new?

Less than a week after swearing off the old planing slab, I decided to rehab it anyway.  I need a suitable work surface for the upcoming workbench build, and it just so happens that my best option had been lurking in the background of the shop.

It also just so happens that I need a pair of sturdy sawhorses as well.  So when I stumbled upon some awesome internet plans for Japanese-style saw horses, I knew it was time to get the slab back in shape.  After flattening and straightening by hand (seen above), the slab was skip-planed to just over 2 7/16″ thickness.


It’s been almost a year.  This thing had better not move anymore…

With a usable work surface of 71 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ (net of the heavy roundovers hiding some edge fracturing that occurred during flattening), the slab is not quite full size for a Japanese-style workbench (at least not according to this article).  But it should be good enough for preparing the legs and rails for the new workbench.  I even reinstalled the inset vise.

In lieu of a joined planing stop, I utilize an aluminum planing stop like the one I currently use on my smaller maple slab.  I also think I’ll skip the sliding dovetail on the cleat and just friction fit a cleat into a dado (with some beefy screws as reinforcement).  Seems like the sensible thing to do.


The planing stop is not yet hack-sawed to width.

One day, I may lag bolt the slab to a trestle base and add a tool tray, but in the meantime, I just need some Douglas Fir 4×4’s for the new saw horses.


Would You Believe It?

Crossing another one off the list is such a great feeling.  I’m very pleased with how the plant table ended up.  It was my first experience with Milk Paint, but it certainly won’t be my last.


I have since touched up the drawer sides to cover the exposed wood.

Start to finish, each coat took about an hour to apply.  First, a thick base coat of Seagull Grey (which got me a strange retweet from someone on Twitter who apparently retweets every bird-related tweet; very meta). Second, a thinner top coat of Antique White.  Both from General Finishes, purchased off Amazon.

It’s a smaller piece, but it’s quite open, which meant full coverage on every surface, both inside and out.  Only the drawer has any bare wood, as it would not have fit the runners with the extra thickness from the paint.  A good problem to have, I guess.

Milk Paint is easy to apply, dries quickly and seems to be rather forgiving.  A light touch with 320 grit knocked down the nibs and I even got a bit of a distressed look around the dovetailed corners.

I have much of both colors left over, so I expect several upcoming projects will be Seagull Grey or Antique White.


I Think She’s Ready for a Paintjob

After much delay, the drawer for the dovetailed plant stand is done. It’s about time, too, as the table has been finished for a while.


It’s so hard to get things done.

I think part of the delay was caused by apparently sharpening the 1/2 inch blade on my router plane slightly out of square.  That made the rabbets on the drawer a PITA to get perfectly parallel.  In the end, the glue up/nailing took some coercion.

The drawer fits snugly on the sides, with no wracking whatsoever.  I imagine it will wear down against the runners overtime , so I set the nails slightly.  The vertical fit is not so perfect: about 1/16 inch between the top of the drawer and the underside of the tabletop (due to removing the slight twist in the fully-assembled drawer).


But the balance is good, even when fully-opened.

I don’t have a picture, but the 1/4 inch birch ply drawer bottom fits into a groove I plowed with my router plane.  It was also a PITA, but you make due in an apartment woodworking shop with what you have.  The router plane fence attachment worked fine, but the fence itself could be wider.  I’ll attach a wood extension.

I ultimately decided against adding a veneer to cover the rabbets, partly because of laziness but mostly because the piece will be finished with Milk Paint.  I think a base coat of Seagull Grey, a single top coat of Antique White, and some paste wax will do just fine.

It’s a function piece, after all.


Words to Cut Joints By

Admittedly, my previous post was a bit harsh.  Without any remorse and sans even one iota of apology to the douchenozzles in question, I concede that things got a little out of hand on Friday.

I like to keep it pretty highbrow around here, so let’s talk about one of my favorite joints: the cross-lap joint.


The cross-lap joint is all about precision.  In its simplest form, two pieces are joined to form an overlapping “T” through two dadoes.  Each dado must be precisely sized to snugly fit the mating piece and (usually) the combined depth of both dadoes is equal to the thickness of one of the pieces.  This precision is achieved, first and foremost, through careful layout.

For me, the most accurate way to mark each dado is to scribe an initial line with a marking knife and, leaving the square in place, use the mating piece to transfer the dado width.  I tend to mark my dadoes about 1/64″ narrower than the mating piece when working in softer woods.  In harder woods, it might be only a few thousands of an inch.  I then transfer the width lines to the sides and scribe my depth line normally.

Unless the boards are wide (6″ or more), I will use a tenon saw to establish the outside walls and then chisel out the waste to just above my depth line with stabbing motions.  On twider boards (or in the case of stopped dadoes), I may only establish the show faces of the walls with a saw and the do the rest by chisel.


I always wear safety glasses when paring in this orientation.  

After test fitting for snugness (and paring down the walls to the scribe lines, as necessary), I then fine-tune the dado depth with a router plane, taking very shallow passes until I hit my scribed depth line.  Rinse and repeat for the other dado, fine tuning dado depth to ensure the pieces are joined flush.

When done right, and used in the correct orientation, a cross-lap joint can have mechanical strength and may require little reinforcement.


The first dado in process.

The cross-lapped pieces above are the base of a small plant stand.  Assuming I accurately locate the through-mortises on each of the legs to evenly distribute the vertical load, the cross-lap joint won’t require any reinforcement.  Assuming.


I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Or, rather, a lack of plan.  Over the weekend I finished the bulk of a console table which will support two medium-sized plants.


Out of River’s reach!

It’s a super simple build and I never even made a drawing.  Three pine boards, joined at the corners by dovetails.  I added a single rail that is [haunched] stub-tenoned to the sides.  After gluing, I plan to pin the stub tenons with some cut nails, which should be a sufficient substitute for drawbores.


It’s like adding an apron to a workbench.

I think with thicker material I could have done without the rail.  But the boards are less than 3/4″ all around and wracking under the load of two heavy plants is a big concern.  Also, the rail will serve as a drawer stop (more on that below).  I’ve only done a dry fit so far, and the thing is solid as a rock under load, thanks to the tightly-fit dovetails.


Way more tails/pins than I’m used to, but I think it’s my finest work so far.

Perusing ideas for attaching the drawer, I came across a Lost Art Press CAD drawing for a staked table with drawer.  From the illustration, it looks like the wide and shallow drawer rides on two L-shaped runners that I assume are dadoed into the underside of the tabletop.   This should work well for my similarly wide and shallow drawer.


I’m not inclined to over-complicate things.

I haven’t made the drawer yet, but I’d rather hang the runners first and then worry about drawer size.  In fact, I will cut the dadoes, assemble the carcass, then attach the runners, then worry about the drawer.  I think that’s the right order.

And the drawer, for variety, will be rabbeted and nailed, rather than dovetailed.  With a wider drawer front to cover the runners.


It Comes in Waves

I’m taking a long weekend to recharge the batteries a bit.  What better way to unwind than to jump right into some asymmetrical dovetails?


Quite the grain match, huh?

The above board is the tabletop for a 24x24x12 console table.  The top will overlap the sides about an inch, which will permit me to eventually add a drawer, flush to the top.  That’s the point of the straight pin on the left.


If it will support itself across 24″ when half-fitted, it’s a tight-enough joint.

I need the table now, so I’ll add the drawer later.  Which is good, because I don’t have any idea how to attach it.  One step at a time, I guess.