big projects

Parallelogram

It occurs to, that even if the case isn’t square, as long as it’s out of square all around, it’s still a parallelogram.  And that means that a tray will still run okay.

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It’s very pretty.

I need to add a skirt and some wheels, but this thing just might work.

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Thanksgiving 2017

I originally wanted to title this post “What’s so ‘Happy’ about it?”.  But my mood is substantially better than a few days ago.

It may be belated, but I am thankful for cows.  Or, more specifically, leftover cow parts that get boiled into hide glue.  Without hide glue, my latest glue-up would not have been possible.

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It’s square to within 1/8″ both top and bottom.  The floorboards can do the rest.

You may have noticed that almost 6 months to the day after finishing my Dutch Tool Chest, I commenced making another tool chest.  An English Floor Chest, this time, based largely on the ubiquitous (dare I say, cosmopolitan?) Anarchist Tool Chest design. Because of the wood available to me, the case is only 23.5″ high, but I made up for that space by making the ends a full 24′ wide.

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I went with a very English ratio of pin to tail.

I am not exaggerating when I say the glue-up would not have been possible without hide glue.  From the time I knocked the first corners together to the time I set the diagonal clamps to bring the case it into square, almost 60 minutes passed.  I’m fortunate the heat was off in the shop, which probably bought me a few more minutes past the typical 45 minute max set time.  PVA would have seized long before I finished.

Because the case is still slightly out of square, I have to nail the bottom boards on first, before I can apply the skirts.  I hope to get both the floor nailed on and the bottom skirt dovetailed and applied before the week is out.  But that feels ambitious.

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Traveling Show

About a month ago, I visited a particularly close friend for the first time in a long time. We had a two-fold agenda: (I) develop a metal prototype for a woodworking bench appliance and (II) hang a new door and create a cat door in it. We accomplished both and had a great time. More on the bench appliance later.

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Everything neatly fits in the actual trunk of my car.

I mention it now because finally got to use my casket tool chest for its intended purpose: traveling with a set of woodworking tools. Although the wall rack leaves something to be desired (because of clearance above the rack), the tool chest worked wonderfully. I daresay it held a basic tool kit worth of tools: enough to make real furniture anywhere.

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It’s a bit of a “pile on” approach, but it works.

I was able to fit a No. 5 1/2 jack plane, block plane, rip tenon saw, chisel roll, hand brace, auger bit roll, egg beater drill, mallets and hammers, plus 8″ and 12″ F-clamps, all in the well.  Gauges, dividers and other miscellany fit in the wall rack.  I am especially pleased with how the till worked out.  My diamond plates and other sharpening accoutrements fit beautifully, and there is even room to spare for other marking and measuring tools.

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Almost like I planned it.  The plumb bob was a present for my friend.

I never did a full inventory.  I think the entire operation would have been streamlined by a till for the tenon saw, though.  But that’s a small complaint.

Just goes to show: sometimes the best-laid plans do work out.

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A Brief Flashback

My post the other day reminded me that I never actually posted this.

Once upon a time, as a supplement to my Milkman’s Workbench, I made what I called a “planing slab”.  It was 6 feet long, 13 inches wide and about 2 inches thick (after several flattenings), with a Veritas Inset Vise on one end.  It clamped to my dining table with angle iron, just like the Milkman’s Workbench.  And now, it has reached its full potential.

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Yes, that’s a second Japanese-style saw horse as well.

I had always meant to add a cleat to the underside so it could function like a Japanese-style workbench.  Nothing fancy, like the sliding dovetail shown in the source material.  Just dado and glue.  I used PVA, so I’m pretty sure it’s permanent.

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So tight, it needed clamp persuasion to seat.

The most important thing I’ve learned in this process is that the coefficient of friction on douglas fir is not significant.  A layer of adhesive-backed sandpaper on the underside of the slab in front of the cleat or (better yet) on the tops of both sawhorses does wonders to keep the slab in place.  A couple of F-style clamps holding the cleat tight against the front saw horse also work.

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There is Always One

I’m no stranger to angled mortises.  But I’ve never done staked furniture before, so when it came time to bore the through mortises into the Roman Workbench slab, I didn’t know what I was getting into.  I read and reread the entries in both The Anarchist’s Design Book and Roman Workbenches, and I think I nailed the sight line and resultant angles, but it was still a bit touch and go.

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The front two mortises look pretty good.

I should have done a test mortise because, as often happens, the first one is a bit wonky.  It’s not quite lined up laterally, and I can tell the rake is off by a few degrees.  Not just by eye, but also because it’s the only mortise that had any blowout on the top face. While I can fill in the chipping (and might even paint the top), there is not much I can do about the angle.  Luckily, it’s the back right leg, so I won’t see it day to day.

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There is always one.

So that means it’s just about time to make the legs.  Shaping the tenons without a lathe will be one challenge, but before that, I’ve got to rip down the legs.  By hand.  Out of 8/4 air dried red oak.  At least it will be a workout.

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I wish I had a table saw right about now.

Speaking of wishful thinking, it would have been great to know about the Roman Workbench form when I first started woodworking five years ago.  This seems like the perfect workbench for getting started in an apartment with a limited set of hand tools.  It’s easy to make and straightforward.  Hell, you could probably even make the top from a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood ripped four times down the length.

Plus, with an extra cleat on the underside, a Roman Workbench could also go up on saw horses and act like a Japanese-style workbench for added flexibility.  And flexibility is the key to apartment woodworking, in my experience.

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Like this, basically.

Oh well, coulda, woulda, shoulda, right?

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We Who Are About to Bore

A straight and square board, surfaced on all four sides is a thing to behold. When it’s 7 feet long, 11 inches wide and 2 inches thick, it’s down right beautiful. And that’s what I did over the weekend. It may be poplar, but soon it will be a Roman Workbench.

Little thin for a proper Japenese bench,

Like any pretty board in my workshop, though, it started out ugly and rough. But ugly and rough is how we like ’em ’round here (at least at the start). Then comes the Jack Plane.

My only complaint about the new floor is that it’s slick sometimes.

In my experience, the trick to flattening a wide, thick board is to start on the cupped aide and not get too overzealous. It’s very easy to plane a hump if you’re not paying attention. And that’s no recipe for keeping as much thickness as possible.

This is not a how-to on traversing . So my only other advice is to figure out where the twist is early in the process. It’s no good first taking out the cup then having to take out the twist. That’s likewise a recipe for losing more thickness than necessary. Once I have one side flat, I like to send it through the thickness planer. Others square an edge right away. Either works.

Then I tackle the edges. The goal is to remove only as much width as necessary. I try to square each foot or so to the face, then worry about overall straightness. On this board, I ended up only losing about 1/8″. A testament to the sawyer more than my planing skills.

So glad to have my 5 1/2 back in the shop.

The end result (seen in the first picture above) is a board that’s ready for joinery. And joinery, in this case, means big, round, wedged tenons.

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For the Love of My Tools

For almost a year now, my workshop floor has been bare concrete (other than a few anti-fatigue mats).  It’s not ideal for either knees or tools, and I hold my breath every time something drops to the floor.  But no longer.  My workshop has a wood floor now!

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Oriented Strandboard, as it were, but still.

After about 5 hours of work, and for the low, low price of about $350 (plus the lunch I bought my buddy from work), I no longer have to pray in slow motion every time a marking gauge or chisel rolls off the workbench.

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But I still put the anti-fatigue mats down.

The DriCore tongue and groove panels were super easy to install.  It’s night and day from the old concrete surface.  I even did the pine trim boards.  The room even feels brighter, now that the black concrete floor is hidden.  In case you forgot what the old floor looked like, see the contrast.

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$1.54 per square foot never felt so good.

For now, I will leave it bare.  I’d like to see how well it wears before I go overboard.  BTW, I know it’s been a full month since my last post.  I’ve been preoccupied with non-woodworking tasks, but am hoping to get back on the horse soon.

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Like that Scene in ‘Office Space’

Life has been fairly hectic lately, but I found some time over the weekend to paint the finished Dutch tool chest.  Seeing has how I’ve been working out of a black tool chest (albeit a Craftsman 40″ mechanics chest) for a while, I kept the theme by painting the Dutch tool chest black.  What I didn’t keep, however, was the expansive footprint.  The shop feels so much more open now.   The smaller footprint will allow me to move my workbench further away from the back wall.

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The area from the trash can to the door used to be completely filled with tool chest.

I am very pleased with the overall result, although I have two minor complaints about my execution of the design of the Dutch tool chest:

  • The fall front really needs to be made from something quarter- or rift-sawn.  I made the mistake of using two flat-sawn boards that have cupped wildly (despite the battens) and expanded as the humidity changed over the last month.  It’s less visible now that it’s painted, but I will eventually throw a temper tantrum and remake the fall front .  The locks will be reusable, and I’ll try and salvage the nails from the battens.
  • I don’t think having two fully open compartments below is correct for my tool set.  I’m not sure I’d have evenly divided it into three, but I need to test a shallow drawer first and see how things work out (more on that later).
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If I could turn back time, I’d paint the case before attaching the lid.

Figuring out how to efficiently store everything is still a work in progress.  I have plenty of room for hanging things on the walls (e.g., a block plane holster like Mr. Schwarz) and still need to make the under-lid till for my crosscut panel saw.  There seem to be nooks and crannies everywhere to stash tools.  And I should probably remake the inner saw till from a harder wood as well.

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Quite a bit of real estate on the inside walls.

All of that said, I’m really pleased with how this has worked out.  Even if it ends up being a non-permanent solution, I’m glad for the experience.  This is something I definitely could have (should have?) made for my apartment.  I’d love to make the smaller version as an intellectual exercise, but I have many traveling tool chests kicking around and there is so much still to make for my living quarters.

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Not Quite NASA Grade

I am pretty much finished with the new Dutch tool chest build. The lid went on fairly easily (with some fine-tuning) and I’ve stuffed it to the gills. 

Shown here, unstuffed but lidded.

I had contemplated French-fitting the upper compartment, but ultimately decided against it. This tool chest will not travel, so there is no great benefit to dividers. Instead, I used the extra room for a full saw till in the upper compartment, including panel saws. 

I didn’t​ make this thing 30″ wide for my health.

Pictured above in the saw till are dovetail, carcase, tenon, fine rip panel and coarse rip panel saws. I actually use three panel saws regularly, so the crosscut panel will stick to the lid. I say stick purposely: rare earth magnets will create the lowest profile till possible. 

I should talk about the main saw till for a moment, though. It took four tries to get it right, but I’m pleased with the final product  The first two failed for bad spacing, and the third revealed that dovetails are liable to split a saw till.  The final version (five slots on 3/4″ center) is rabbeted and nailed. Good enough for a tool chest. 

Simplest is almost always best.

There is much room remaining for wall hanging odds and ends. And I may also make a shallow drawer for the middle compartment to hold light, flat tools that don’t lend to piling (like rasps and a coping saw). 

But that’s for another day. 

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Back on Track

For various reasons, I have resumed work on the large Dutch tool chest.  It was pretty far along when first abandoned, needing only the fall front and the lid (and racks/tills).  I couldn’t justify scrapping it after so much work.  So I spent the day making the fall front.

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Some flushing still to do.

I was unsure how the wooden latch system would work.  It didn’t help using a material I’d never used before: home center poplar for the battens, latches and locks.  It wasn’t so bad (I chose only quarter- or rift-sawn hobby boards) and overall the alignment is pretty good.  I especially enjoyed cutting the shallow dadoes on each of the four latches by hand.

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Screws on the latches, nails on the battens.

Not so much for the shelf, however.  In the PWW article, there is no mention of the notches for the battens.  I should have realized I needed them, but didn’t.  I therefore  glued and screwed the lower lip and face board before I cut the notches for the battens.  There was barely clearance for a dovetail saw, and none for a coping saw.  I made due with chisel and router plane, though, and they came out okay.

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Live and learn, I guess.

Next up (before tills and racks) is making the lid.  But first, I must flush everything to the carcase.  A trim router should make quick work of any overhang on the face board and back boards, and I’ll bring the front and back edges into 30 degree plane with the sides via jointer plane.

But I’m out of daylight and motivation for now.

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