Small Projects

Silly Little Details

I’m at a wedding this weekend and have workbench separation anxiety. So for the next few days, I’ll continue building an ash sitting bench in my mind. As of right now, I’ve got everything planed to proper dimensions and the top mortises cut in the front legs. It’s slow going, given everything else I’ve got going on.

I don’t cut many mortise and tenon joints. Not as many as I do dovetails, anyway. So it may be lack of skill on my part, but my mortises never seem to be completely parallel. To compensate, though, I cut my tenons fat: to tighter than piston-fit. This allows me to ease the mortise walls to bring the joint into parallel while still keeping an overall tight fit on the joint.

After all, what’s the point of making the stock straight and square (tried and true?) if the joint is crooked?

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The Worst Words…

… a handtool woodworker ever hears are “hey, would you make me a cutting board?” from a friend.  In my experience, cutting boards (especially the butcher block variety) are largely a way to turn scraps into revenue.  And more often than not, they tend to be made from hard maple (a P.I.T.A. to work with hand tools).

But this particular friend is a very close friend, and I had some leftover 2×6 hard maple from my old workbench.  And so, a rather utilitarian cutting board is born.

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I’m an adult and I can own a Nerf chaingun if I want.

I had thought about doing a “Basic Project” installment on this project, but there wouldn’t be much to it.  In fact, the hardest part was flattening the kiln-dried 8/4 hard maple.  Step 1: Laminate the board.  Step 2: Glue on four wooden feet.  Step 3: Break the hard edges with a plane, sandpaper or a trim router. Step 4: Apply foodsafe oil.

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It occurs to me that I always take pictures from the right side.

There is plenty left over for a second cutting board, if I so desire.  Which I will not.

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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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I Guess It Works

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I made a box.  A simple thing, really.  Four sides, with through dovetails at the corners and a bottom that is glued on.  All out of leftover, bone dry EWP from the home center.  For me, none of that is out of the ordinary.  What is, however, is that it has a lid.  And what a glorious lid!

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Okay, maybe not so glorious from the outside.

Both the bottom and the lid are single boards, rounded over on all four sides on both faces.  The lid, however, is not attached by hinges.  Instead, a batten and some buttons on the underside of the lid it keep it from sliding around.  Each is rounded over at the edges to help the lid slide into place.  It seems to work pretty well.

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All leftover Douglas Fir, which I hear is harder and more rigid than EWP.

I am certain that someone will tell me I did this all wrong, and it’s not a sound way affix a lid.  I’m willing to bet I won’t care, especially if I end up nailing on the buttons.

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Let There Be Light! (Part Deux)

When the electrical failed in the external workroom at my parents’ house where I keep my thickness planer, my choices were clear: learn electrician stuff or build an improvised lighting rig.  No stranger to DIY illumination solutions, I chose the latter.

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Not bad, for using only what was on hand.

I had nearly forgotten about these LED floodlights. Each is 15W and approximately 1.5lbs. They aren’t great for directional lighting (they’re meant for use with a diffuser), but the four together provide enough illumination to thickness plane and rummage around without tripping over myself.

The board holding them together is a scrap of 1/2″ x 3″ red oak, with six 1/4″ holes drilled through it to accept the four lights and two threaded eyes (leftovers from the original arbor rig in my apartment).  I thought about using a scrap 2×4, but that seemed overkill and I didn’t have one available in my apartment, anyway.  If the board does sag over time, I can always replace it with something more rigid.

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The essence of apartment woodworking, all in one camera frame.

The line is 3/8″ marine rope from the boating center.  Whatever line I don’t use for hanging this rig will go back to its original purpose: a stay for the lid on the traveling tool tote.  Lastly, the power cords are bound together with some hook and loop zip ties and run to a one-to-four power cord splitter.

I love these little DIY rigs because they solve real problems with the minimum of materials.  Plus I get to play gaffer and pretend like I know movie stuff.  Best of all, I should be able to see again while I’m thickness planing.

I’ll take a picture on site over the weekend and post it to twitter.

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What to do?

My car took longer than usual being serviced, and traffic was absolutely horrendous, so I didn’t make any workbench progress on Saturday. Instead, I spent some time dicking around with scrap 1/2″ x 3″ red oak left over from the tray runners on the medium tool chest. About 20″ total of flat and square stock was just enough for the carcass of a tiny dovetailed box.

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Shooting with a block plane on my counter. Not recommended!

When it comes to dovetailing in softwoods, as long as you can saw straight, fiber compression will do most of the work toward achieving perfect joints. In hardwoods like red oak, though, there is such a thing as too tight.  But if you go slow and apply some persuasion, everything can come together nicely.  And dovetailing in hardwoods is a great opportunity to determine if your dovetail saw needs resharpening (mine needed both sharpening and set, in fact).  Le sigh.

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Meh, I’ve done worse.

On a related note, the bench chisels in the background are my spare set (made by WoodRiver).  They hold an edge well and are quite balanced, but the side lands are way too thick for tight dovetail work.  Not like my Narex chisels (which are still at my parents’).  As a result, the tail recesses are not as neat as I would have liked.  But the carcass is finished.

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And sturdy as can be.

With the inside dimensions of only 3.75″ square, I would think it has potential as a keepsake box.  Or at least an adequate receptacle for collar stays and cuff links.

Stay tuned for the upcoming “Basic Projects” installment for this piece.  But first there will be more on the workbench later this week.

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