General

Circle of Life

One of my very first woodworking projects was a king-size bed frame.  Made from Hard Maple and Douglas Fir, there wasn’t a single proper joint init.  Just glue, screws and corner brackets.  I built it over a couple of weekends from dimensional lumber (my only woodworking tool at that point being a miter saw).  I recall it being much too tall.  Between frame, box spring and mattress, it was probably 38″ off the ground.  Getting in and out of bed was a minor acrobatic feat.

But, god damn, was I proud of that bed frame.  the design sprang from my mind and was made reality by my own hands.  Little did I know it would be the first step down a figurative rabbit hole of my newest (and current) obsession.

Alas, the bed did not survive one of my moves.  It was permanently disassembled back in 2014 and, since then, pieces (like the stretchers) were re-purposed for other furniture projects.  And all along, the main pieces of the frame (four hard maple 5/4 x 8’s, each over six feet long) sat in the corner.  Too slathered in dark stain and polyurethane to ever be useful, I thought.

Until now.

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I’m pretty sure the glue will hold at this point.

With Spring now sprung, it’s time for serious woodworking again.  Those four hard maple 5/4 x 8’s are now eight hard maple 5/4 x 4’s.  And they are quickly becoming ready for laminating.  Probably into into a single 40 x 16 slab to form the top of a sharpening/grinding station.  But, for now, I’ll leave them at full length and see how thick the final lamination can be.

And the great circle of life begins anew.

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Shattered Dreams

I should know better than to get my hopes up.   Reading Ingenious Mechanicks psyched me up to make a minimalist workbench.  Something with a slab top, through tenoned front legs and splayed back legs.  Then I found this lovely chunk of pattern grade 16/4 Honduran Mahogany at my local Downes and Reader lumberyard.

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Pattern grade, indeed.

The slab I found was overall 124″ long, at least 14.5″ wide at every point and a full 4.5″ thick.  It had almost no cupping or bowing along its length, and no through checking.  The ends were even nearly square.  It seemed like the perfect piece of wood for the task, as I could get both the slab top and the legs from the same piece.

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Every bit of this board is usable.

But then I unloaded it from the trailer.  And could lift it by myself.  It turns out that there is more to wood than just its Janka hardness.  Honduran Mahogany exceeds Douglas Fir in hardness (which I confirmed while at the lumber yard), but apparently isn’t that great in the density department.  The bench would have been far too light for any serious planing activities.

At least I got a full refund.  Which I will put toward a Brooklyn Re-Co red oak roubo kit (sans stretchers, though).

My near mistake has made me more cautious.  Before I invest in a slab of soggy, urban red oak, I will laminate a 20″ wide top (as close to 96″ long as I can) from my glut of home center Douglas Fir 4×4’s and figure out the correct angle for the back legs.

And after that is built, I will probably sell my current workbench.

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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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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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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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Incremental Improvements

It’s been a few weeks since I had enough time or energy for writing about woodworking, let alone doing any actual woodworking.  But those few weeks ago I managed to advance my tool chest project quite a bit, by adding the lower skirt.

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It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a huge part of the project.

Fitting a skirt is never easy.  A goberge (seen below) was enough to close the gaps on the front and back skirts.  But I somehow managed to mess up one of the shoulders on the back lower skirt, resulting in a decent gap at the back left corner.  I don’t think there is a structural issue, but I plan to drive some slotted screws at each corner through the end skirts, just in case.

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Also, don’t make a goberge from soft wood.  It’s a nightmare to fit.

I’m trying to make this thing entirely with materials on hand, so the tray runners are a mishmash of hardwoods.  The bottom runner is ash, leftover from the sitting bench project.  The middle runner is home center hobby board red oak that was once upon a time going to be a floorboard for another till.  The top runner is some re-sawn 4/4 red oak from another lumber yard.  I forgot how gross and unstable kiln dried red oak is.

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This stuff curled right back up once re-sawn from 4/4.

The runners are glued flat against the inside wall, so the cupping after re-sawing turned out to be a good thing.  A de facto spring joint closed up nicely with some screw clamps.

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O! to own more screw clamps.  This had to dry completely before I could do the other side.

For the top tray, I will add a fourth runner: some drawer tape.  It’s just ultra-high molecular weight, low friction plastic with adhesive backing.  But it does work wonders to prevent wear on the soft pine walls.

Next up, if I ever find the time, is the top skirt, following which I will paint the carcase and attach the chest lifts.  I’m going ultra-lazy on this one and making a plywood raised panel lid.  Then it’s just tills, tool racks, and sliding trays.

Sounds easy, right?

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