Small Projects

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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What is “Hand Tool Only”?

I spent the weekend at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina. I met Roy Underhill, used the giant dovetail saw and saw some awesome woodworking obscura (like a restored Barnes mortising machine).

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Proof I was there: A one-of-a-kind dovetail saw with my water bottle in frame.

I also learned to rive green wood and made a little dovetailed box from poplar and walnut. Not the best dovetails I’ve ever cut, but I’m not ashamed. It was a beginner’s class that my buddy wanted to take, so I only learned a couple of things.

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I finished dovetailing so quickly that I got to rive a walnut box lid.

Because it’s the Woodwright’s School, the big theme was “hand tools only”. I have tended lately to call myself a hand tool only woodworker. But I own three large machines for my shop: (i) a double bevel compound miter saw for cutting to rough length, (ii) a 13″ thickness planer for squaring edges and faces once I’ve hand planed two sides true and square, and (iii) a benchtop drill press for repeatable, plumb holes. All three machines are integral to my woodworking. I do not own a table saw or router table.

The only hand-held power tool that gets any regular use in my shop is a cordless drill driver. I also have a circular saw and jigsaw (both used almost exclusively with sheet goods) and a compact router set for quick-and-dirty chamfers and roundovers (or occasionally flush trimming).

So does that mean I’m fibbing when I claim to be a “hand tool only” woodworker? It depends on what I mean by “hand tool only”.

I cut the overwhelming preponderance of my joints with the saw, chisel, brace, and plane. I say overwhelming preponderance because sometimes the drill press or drill driver pulls brace duty. So I draw my own personal line at using machines for joinery when making furniture. That is what makes me, in my mind, a “hand tool only” woodworker.

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A Small Oversight

I’ve been on a shop appliance kick lately, including some necessary upgrades for the workshop itself. In addition to finally hanging some proper lighting, I also added a parallel clamp rack to the side wall. I have two more such racks; I just need some more washers to hang them correctly.

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Much harder to knock down, now.

I also felt it was time for a tool rack on the back side of the workbench, a la Monsieur Roubo. With a scrap of 1/2″ baltic birch and some pine offcuts, I knocked together a rack that gets the spacing right for my chisels and other everyday tools.

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Holes on 1 5/8″ center are just right for Narex chisels (rather than the 1 1/8″ in my tool chest).

I am 100% certain this would have been a 20-minute job if I owned a table saw. Instead, it was about 2 hours of planing, spacing and gluing (not including drying time), but the result was worth it.

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That block plane is a clamp.

There is only one problem: I never squared the back edge of my workbench. Time to debate whether to remove the top from the frame so I can square the back edge, or just attach a wedge to level out the surface.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make a “Basic Project” out of it.

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If it’s Wobbly…

then you should have put a stretcher on it.

 

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A bit more spindly than I expected.

I thought the drawbored mortise and tenon joints would be enough, but the ash sitting bench has turned out to be a bit wobbly.  So paraphrasing Queen Bey, I’ve decided to retrofit a stretcher to back legs.  In my world, “retrofit” is a synonym for “lap joint”.

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It’s times like these when I’m glad my workbench is apron-less.

A friction-fit lap joint can be very strong.  Between the long grain-to-long grain glue surface and the mechanical strength of the intersecting joint, it can be nearly as strong as a proper mortise and tenon joint, even without a metal fastener.

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It’s so pretty.

Because the joint will never be seen, though, I may add a slotted screw to each joint for a little bit more lateral support.  Or perhaps a walnut peg, to mimic the other drawbored joints in the piece.

There was some subtle twist in the entire assembly, so I’ve left the joint clamped for the full 24 hours.  That will give me time to think about whether to screw or peg.

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It’s almost like I meant to do it.  And now it matches the table a bit more.

The only other remaining question is whether this one stretcher will be enough.  I’d prefer not to add a second stretcher to the front legs.  I tend to cross my legs at the ankles when I sit, and that stretcher would get in the way.

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For All to See

After clearing a few little projects around the home, I turned back to the ash sitting bench I’ve been [slowly] making.  The design includes a 10° rake on the back legs and that means one thing: angled mortise and tenon joints.  One of my favorites.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’d like to talk about mistakes.

 

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I’ll wedge that gap at the top, no problem.

The cross rails pictured above are a different thickness than the legs.  This means that while the mortises are centered in the legs, the tenons are not centered on the rails.  So keeping track of the reference face for the mortise gauge on the rails is SUPER important.  And, of course, I messed it up on the very last tenon.  Nothing would be square without a fix, and I’d prefer not to make another rail unless I really have to.

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The saddest “spot the diffrences” puzzle ever.

In the past, when I’ve pared tenons too thin, I glue on veneer of a similar hardness wood to build it back up.  Like the leg tenons on the Stent Panel workbench.  So why not use the same trick to build back up one of the tenon cheeks, then widen the mortise on the rail to accept the fatter tenon?  I grabbed an offcut from one of the tenon cheeks and glued it back onto the tenon.

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Say what you will, but these squeeze-style clamps work well for light clamping tasks.

After the glue set, I pared the patch down to the correct depth.  Then I reset my mortise gauge and widened the mortise to match the fatter tenon.  Net net, the joint is tight and the reveal is even (as shown in the first picture above).  And because I didn’t lose any of the original tenon’s thickness, the joint is still as strong as it would be had I not messed it up in the first place.  Once glued and drawbored, the joint will last forever.

Of course, none of this was necessary to share.  But I don’t keep anything from you guys.

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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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