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.

IMG_20170430_112842

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.

IMG_20170430_112917

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.

JPG

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.

IMG_20170218_094801

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.

JPG

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.

IMG_20170417_191043

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.

IMG_20170415_101445_01

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.

JPG

To Bleed

Some part of me goes into everything I make

Most days, I pour but a portion of my soul into the work of my hands

But sometimes, an arris or edge takes a literal part of me

A drop of blood to help the glue cure

wp-1490720322909.jpg

Like a horcrux made of Eastern White Pine.

A poem, by The Apartment Woodworker

Alone with My Thoughts

At my workbench, alone with my thoughts, I hew and shape, my vision translated to being.

But corners are cut and compromises made, as sacrifices to the constraints of time and space.

Though none would be the wiser, a portion of my dream gets cast aside like shavings from the plane.

And so I scream at the abyss, the work of my hands to outlast me and my vanity.

I make, but am not jealous of the thing, moving always to a new task.

wp-1489866322094.jpg

Finding beauty, in unexpected places.

A poem, by The Apartment Woodworker.

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.

wp-1489775913627.jpg

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.

wp-1489777990392.jpg

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

wp-1489777995653.jpg

Spacers work well after a bit of finessing.  

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

JPG

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. 

JPG

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.

JPG