apartment woodworking

Winging It

I am usually a meticulous planner.  Projects go through many iterations of drawings (nearly always to scale) before the design is finalized.  I know, down to the 1/16″, what each part should be.  I live my everyday life much the same way.   Then, just like in my everyday life, I throw all of that planning right out the window and have at it completely by memory.

But the two-toned console table project is extreme even for me.  I have no written plans or cut list.  Just two measurements to work from:  (i) it needs to be 33″ tall overall and (ii) the hairpin legs are 18″ tall by themselves.  The width of the table (21″) and its depth (12″) was dictated entirely by what scraps of 5/4″ x 12″ Eastern White Pine were laying around.  The height of the dovetailed carcase (15″) was derived through exceedingly complicated mathematics that I will not bore everyone with by reproducing in print.

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Reverse engineering at its best.

One detail I like about this project is the case back, which is shiplapped mahogany that is rabbeted into the case.  I don’t own a proper plow plane, so I pulled out a restored 7/8″ tongue and groove plane to plow the groove.

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Takes a little getting used to the grip so you don’t cut yourself on the opposite blade.

This project also gave my moving fillister plane a real workout cutting all the rabbets and shiplaps for the case back.  It performed very well, but needed a quick resharpening before the end.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I’m not super pleased with the roundovers on the individual back boards, though.  My No. 4 hollow dug in a bit on some swirling grain, and I’m grateful this part of the project will be covered in books or shadow most of the time.

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I like high fantasy, science and woodworking.

All that’s left to do before assembly is to rabbet in the mahogany inlay that will form the groove for the sliding door.  There should be just enough room for a 3/4″ wide inlay (perhaps 3/8″ deep, to accommodate the groove from a 3/4″ tongue and groove plane.  I have not decided on whether the door will be pine, mahogany or something else.  I want it to be light in color, so perhaps some bookmatched quarter-sawn maple with particular hologram figuring.

And, because it’s funny to me, I took a picture of the box with tools in it.  I am sure this will infuriate everyone who thinks all I make is tool chests (and they’d be right, really).  I may one day pull off the hairpin legs and slap on some chest lifts and a lid.  But that day is not today.

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This thing is beefy and large enough to hold a basic set of tools.

The table is destined for my office at work.  Some books and a crystal decanter with a set of single old fashioned glasses, methinks.

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Mixing it Up

I’ve been cutting some very English-style dovetails (i.e., thin pins) lately.  So for a new scrap bin project (i.e., a mid-century modern side table), I decided to mix it up a bit.  This project goes in a decidedly-Eastern European direction, with pins and tails of even size (other than the half pins, which are about 1/2 the pin/tail size at the base.

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I left a little extra width on the mahogany and will plane it down later.

Eastern White Pine and Mahogany are interesting woods when intertwined with dovetails.  One is very soft, the other is just hard enough to take advantage of it.  Hard enough, as well, to let me correct a mistake.  I got my wires crossed when marking the waste on one pin board and my first couple saw strokes were on the wrong side of the line.  I caught myself in time for it not to be fatal, but it would not have been so if I hadn’t gotten into a recent habit.

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Mahogany’s interlocking grain is also helping here.

For most of my time cutting dovetails over these last five+ years, I’ve set the base line at pretty much exactly the thickness of the mating board.  This shortens cleanup time on the finished piece, allowing me to sometimes take a single pass with a smoothing plane on the finished box.  But ever since the carcase glue-up on my English floor chest, though, I’ve changed my technique and intentionally set the baseline with an extra 1/8″ or so.

For whatever reason, my baselines on that English floor chest were too shallow by about 1/16″ all around.  This meant a significant amount of actual stock removal on the assembled carcase just to bring everything flush.  It was no fun whatsoever.  So as a happy byproduct of my new practice, the kerf shown above is not deep enough to show after the pins are flushed.  Or at least it won’t show once the tail board is dressed on both sides before glue-up.

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Here’s a better look at those beefy tail recesses.

I made a slight miscalculation on the design of this piece.  There will be two grooves cut in the pine pieces to accept a single sliding door (half width).  But pine is far too soft for the groove to hold up over time, so I need some way to reinforce it.  Perhaps I can inlay some mahogany and then cut the groove in that.

We’ll see.

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Basic Projects: Wooden Straight Edge

It’s been a very long time since I did a Basic Project.  But on this snowy day in February, I think it’s a good time to pick them up again.  This time, it’s a wooden straight edge that is a long overdue project for me.  I admit I only got inspired to make this because I saw it on the blog of the By Hand and Eye guys.

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Hanging holes for convenient drying.

This one is pretty straightforward (teehee).  It’s a single piece of wood, approximately 33″ long, 3″ wide and 5/8″ thick.  I used a piece of mahogany with particularly straight grain, but any piece of reasonably stable, straight-grained wood of approximately the same size will do.

There is also a very short tool list:

  • Hand plane, the longer the better
  • Combination square, any size
  • Rip cut saw, preferably panel
  • Pencil and a ruler

Start by planing one side of the board straight and out of twist.  This reference face is very important to the overall project.  Clearly mark it with a face mark and a direction arrow, so you can keep track of it in the future.  Then bring the opposite face reasonably into parallel with that reference face.  Exact precision is not essential on the opposite face, however.

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Flattening a board with a try plane is easy mode.

Then bring one edge into square with the reference face, as straight as you can (but we’ll fix it to be perfectly straight later).  It’s not essential for the ends to be squared.  Just measure up 1″ from the straight edge and then cut an angle on each end.  I used 15°.  You could leave it at that, but remember that wood exchanges moisture with the air through its end grain.  That means the more end grain that’s exposed, the more stable the straightedge will be.  So let’s now taper the whole straightedge along its length.

Measure 2″ up from the reference edge on each end and mark it with a pencil.  Find the center point along the length, measure a few inches out from either side, and draw a line between each of those points and the marks on the end.  Saw down each line and clean up the tapers up with a plane.  It is not essential for these tapers to be perfectly square, but do your best.

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This cut exposes additional end grain.

And that’s it for the main shaping.  Break the arrises all around and bore a couple of hanging holes, about 2″ in from each end and 1″ up from the reference edge.  These hanging holes are more my preference than anything.  They make the straightedge easier to grab.  An alternative would be to use a gouge to cut a couple of fingertip grooves.

So all that’s left to do true the bottom edge.  If you’ve got a known straight edge (like a metal straight edge), just use that.  But if you don’t have a straight edge, you can use a trick that I saw on Lee Valley (which is apparently a Christopher Schwarz article).  Lay the square down and trace the edge, then flip it over and see how well you did.  Any undulations will be apparent.  Plane them down and do your best to keep it square to the reference face.

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Without the hanging holes.

That’s it.  Slap on a coat of boiled linseed oil and you’re ready to go.  A 36″-ish square is pretty easy if you have a No. 5 or No. 7.  But if you only have a block plane or a No. 4, perhaps start with an 18″ square.

In any event, check it now and again to see if it’s gone out of square.

 

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Moving On

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must let go.  Circumstances change and priorities shift.  And so, it is with great regret, that I am relinquishing my old workbench to my parents.  It will live a new life as a kitchen island.

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All cleaned up, as much as it can be.

The bench is, after all, home center douglas fir.  A toothed planing stop and holdfast holes are no good for a kitchen surface, so I plugged them up with what I had on hand.  Red Oak dutchmen and dowel rods.  I did my best to select clear wood when laminating the top, but douglas fir isn’t the most uniform of woods. So all in all, for the sake of cleanliness, it should get a coat of paint on the top.  

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Knots, dutchmen, dowels, CA glue and wood putty.  Not really that food safe at the moment.

I did leave the two post holes for an aluminum planing stop, though.  If I ever need to do woodworking at my parents’ house, it would be great to have a functioning workbench.  And a planing stop goes a long way toward a functioning workbench.  I still think this would have been a fantastic work bench to have in my old apartment.

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The paint will cover up some minor defects in the wood as well.  

This workbench has been largely redunant for a long time.  So I’m glad it will find a good home and free up some room outside my workshop.

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A Tour of the New Tool Chest

My English floor chest is, for all practical purposes, complete.  I must still attach the lifts, paint the lid and add some ring pulls to the sliding trays, but it is now at max tool holding capacity.  I’ve organized the trays and am calling this one good enough.

The bottom tray is sharpening and boring tools, plus a tool roll of gouges and specialty chisels.  In the middle are my every day hammers and tools that do not see every day use (e.g., rasps and planemaker’s floats), as well as my largest chisels.  Up top are every day marking tools, plus a block plane and extra bench dogs.

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I never thought I’d see the day.

Down below, the well is separated into three main areas.  At the front of the chest, a saw till at the front that holds both back saws and hand saws, and a tool rack that holds chisels and other important pointy tools that lend themselves to 1/2″ holes bored on 1 1/2″ center.

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I now have room for the router plane container that Jim gave me.  

In the center, general storage for my bench planes (Nos. 3, 4, 5 1/2 and 7), plus my spokeshave and scrub, chisel, small router and shoulder planes, as well as a panel gauge.  The No. 3 is very much a specialty plane in my tool chest, used solely for delicate smoothing tasks.

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I still think the saw till eats up too room and should be broken up into two different tills.

In the back, a typical moulding plane till for my modest set of hollows and rounds (2-8), two tongue and groove plans, my shop-made fillister plane and some other bits and bobs.  I plan to expand my moulding plane collection through a combination of rehabbing existing planes and making new hollows and rounds (hence the new set of planemaker’s floats).

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I’m probably going to move the calipers up to the trays.

In addition to new moulding planes, one thing my tool chest is definitely missing is a drawknife.  I have vintage versions of both a small and a large drawknife, but I don’t dream of using them until I get a way to sharpen them safely.  In my case, a Benchcrafted Drawsharp.

In the meantime, though, a spokeshave will have to do for rounding parts.

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Surprises at Every Turn

One of the most (if perhaps not the most) treasured tool in my tool chest is my vintage Stanley Bedrock No. 7.  I’ve had it for a bit less than year and I love it more and more every day.  It was a gift from my late godfather, and it is a joy to use.

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No idea if the red paint is original.

I’m generally familiar with the dating criteria for ordinary Stanley planes.  But I hadn’t looked into the history of the Bedrock variants.  Until last night.  Turns out, my No. 7 is a Type 2, built between 1898-1899.  It’s not my oldest tool (that probably goes to the firmer paring chisel I recently restored), but it’s still in great shape for its age.

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One patent here.  One patent on the lateral adjustment lever.

Despite hanging on a basement wall for however many decades (it has a hanging hole), the plane had minimal rust (no pitting) and the sole was still very flat.  It merely required a wipe down with mineral spirits, a replacement iron (Veritas A2 from Lee Valley), a quick re-peening of the lateral adjustment lever, and a few passes on the granite slab with 220 grit sandpaper to be fully functional.

I don’t know how much use it got originally, but it gets used every day I’m in my shop.  If it came down to it, I am 100% certain that it’s the only bench plane I would keep.  They really don’t make ’em like they used to.

And, for the record, I sharpen my No. 7 with a slight camber.

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Start to Finish

There is nothing like a good deadline to get the creative juices flowing.  The adrenaline rush of getting it done, right at the wire, is divine.  And deadlines have a way of helping me see through the fluff and get to the heart of things.  In this case, I had to advance my floor chest enough to move everything out of my Dutch tool chest (so that I could gift it to a friend who was coming into town).

Tool chests are all about keeping dust off the tools, so it starts with a lid:

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3/4″ birch plywood, because I had some on hand.

And then a seal around the lid to lock out the dust:

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The nails at the corners are to reinforce the actual dovetail joints

Next stop is reinforcing the lid with another 1/2″ of plywood:

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Easiest raised panel, ever.

And finally, adding a second sliding tray so pretty much eveything fits comfortably in the chest.

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Still cluttered, but less so.

Even without the third sliding tray, this chest is in good working order.  A few tools (like my rasps) are still in a safe place outside the chest, because I don’t want them grinding against each other while it’s still more piling than organization.

I’ll build the last tray, paint the lid and attach the lifts this week.  Then I will have no excuses not to begin working on the upstairs bathroom vanity.

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Assembled like Dovetails

There is a very specific admonition in the December 2015 Popular Woodworking article on the Japanese Sliding-lid Box.  It says “Hand-cut finger joints have to be assembled like dovetail joints.”  I had never cut finger joints before, so this warning never registered with me.  Until last weekend, that is.

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Still in keeping with my “half tails” motif.

Above is a finger joint for the saw till in my ever-progressing tool chest.  There is no shoulder on the pin piece, so I figured it would assemble like a lap joint (by pressing the two pieces together when already overlapped).  But when I tried, the joint did not fit together.  Just before grabbing a chisel to fiddle with the pin recess, I remembered, randomly, the warning in the article from over 2 years ago.  So I tried assembling it like a dovetail joint.  And it fit.  Perfectly.  With no gaps all around.

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More reclaimed mahogany for my enjoyment.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had something register without actually registering.  I’m continually surprised by how efficient the human brain is at absorbing and cataloging for indeterminate future use.  But I’m glad it did, as any further fiddling would have ruined the fit of the joint.

As for the saw till itself, while the execution is sufficient, I am not super pleased with the design.  At 7.5″ wide, it’s designed to hold eight total saws (coarse rip panel, fine rip panel, cross cut panel, cross cut tenon, rip cut tenon, dovetail, large rip cut tenon and a soon to be purchased large cross cut tenon).  But the large rip cut tenon felt too crowded with the others (even without the large cross cut tenon) to pair with.

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When spaced out, it’s not quite so bad.

I think I need to divide the saw till in two: one for panel saws and large back saws, and then another for small back saws.  Regardless, the next iteration definitely needs some slightly-refined kerf spacing.

Like in my dutch tool chest, I’ll leave the saw till loose (with only some abrasive sand paper on the bottom to keep it from sliding around too much).  I worry that the long tool rack on the front wall will occlude my dovetail saw, so I want the ability to scoot is around the well as needed.

But for now, it works and I’ll move on to the aforementioned wall rack (for which I’ve refined the spacing of the 1/2″ holes a bit since the dutch tool chest).

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Passage of Time…

… as marked on the fence of a shooting board.

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Almost 2 years since the last time I squared it up.

It’s been a while since I last posted, and I missed my usual grumpy New Year’s post.  In penance, I’ve kept with the half tails motif on my recent dovetails.  This time for the large sliding tray in my English floor chest.

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Fear me, fancy lads!

Two more sliding trays to go, plus wall racks, a saw till and a lid.

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Extreme Heresy

In making a little box to hold a Christmas present for a friend, I took the opportunity to experiment on how best to offend all the woodworking purists at once.  So I came up with half tails on the sides and a giant pin on the front and back.

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In 5/8 reclaimed mahogany when the box is only 7 x 7.

The bottom is rabbeted into the sides only, and oriented so the long grain runs front back.  I did this to avoid cutting stopped rabbets on the front and back.  The mahogany in question is very old and very dry (read: prone to chipping).  What looks like a gap on the bottom left shoulder above is actually just some cosmetic chipping.

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There was a little piece of metal somewhere in the wood that nicked my jack plane blade.

I have a bunch more of this reclaimed mahogany.  Most of it has cupped somewhat, and it comes to about 5/8 thickness when re-tried.  It’s good practice on hardwood dovetails and will be the accent wood in my new tool chest.

Merry Christmas, and whatnot.

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