small projects

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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Getting on with it

Having admitted defeat, it only took me a little while to literally and figuratively pick up the pieces.  After salvaging the wooden peg on the failed face vise for use as another wooden screw, I had a choice: put the jaw aside for a rainy day, or use it right away.  Well, you know what they say: nothing gets the blood flowing like hand-ripping American hard woods of greater than 2″ thickness.


Or, whatever.

I ended up with a board that is 3.25″ wide, 18.25″ long and 2″ thick.  A single pass through the thicknesser to clean up the saw cut and all that’s left is to cross cut it and glue it up.


I’ll figure something out for the board with the holes.

What am I making, you ask?  I’m making that crochet, with the wooden screw.  Like I should have the first time before wasting five hours on a face vise that doesn’t hold.


So far I’m at about 30 minutes, including the ripping.

All that’s left to do (after easing the corners) is drill and tap the hole in the beam and pre-drill for the lag bolts which will mount it to the face of the benchtop.

I’ve got a surprise planned for the hub on the wooden screw.  Much more understated than the last time.

But that will have to wait for now.


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!


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.


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.


Lock and Load

I’ve been rapid fire finishing smaller projects, in the hope of clearing out some space in the shop. 

First, I finished (literally and figuratively) my travel-size tool chest. It’s not a coffin. 

But I would be okay being buried in it.

Then, I completed the first of two Japanese saw horses. The second one is in process, and I will probably make two more in short order. 

I will skip the bevel on the feet next time.

Next, the rolling cart for my new Craftsman tool chest went together rather easily. It’s solid, if unspectacular.

I plan to add a saw till under the lid with rare earth magnets.

Finally, a hanging corner shelf for my bedroom was an exercise in directional planing. After some espresso stain, it may become an upcoming Basic Project.

I’ve never had studs to screw into before.

There are a few other things to clear out as well, but nothing woodworking related.  The shop feels less cluttered, at least. 


Head Over Heels

Every time I get to a certain point on a project, I ask myself the same question: should I stick with the plan or go in a completely different direction?

I had built this whole project with the idea of putting the video game cases on the bottom and the drawer for controllers on the top.  But that would be stupid, because the drawer would be above eye level.  My solution: flip it 180 degrees.  So it goes in a literal different direction.


Because why not?

The cleats are more for hanging than anything, and it’s not like they are asymmetrical anyway (having foregone a french cleat in my design).  With the drawer on the bottom, the bottom shelf can immediately be used for holding controllers (because the cleat acts as a stop).  Plus, the game cases fit so tightly on that shelf it doesn’t matter whether the clean (which is also a stop) is on the top or the bottom.

Problem solved.  Not it just needs some paint, before I whip up two more as presents.


Small Victories

Sometimes I get a little impatient in my woodworking.  Case in point, a random dovetailed pine box I had always meant to section off for nail and screw storage.  Instead, it’s become a rabbeted and nailed box.


Most of one, anyway.

But I started nailing it together before I cut the rabbets for the dividers.  Lucky for me, I had a stroke of genius: make a single shelf (for a drawer) and hang it on the wall.  And what do you know, it not only fits console game cases on the bottom shelf, but the drawer will be large enough to hold console game controllers.


Amazing how that works out.

Since I had already nailed on two sides before I started cutting the rabbets, I couldn’t use a chisel other than in the vertical position.  My solution: use a block plane blade.  Surprisingly, the joint fits tight enough for the application.

I will post some pictures of the finished project when I’m done.


Basic Project: Rabbeted/Nailed Box

Today’s basic project, a rabbeted and nailed box, is a sub-project of my new traveling tool chest.  Although I alternate between through dovetails and rabbets/nails for carcases, when it comes to sliding trays for tool chests, I always go for rabbets/nails.  It’s faster, holds almost as well, and is a great way to practice hand-cut rabbets.  The project can be scaled to any length, width or depth you desire .  The tray pictured below is 8″ wide and 22 1/2″ long by 4 1/4″ high (4″ not including the tray bottom).


Easy as can be.

moving fillister plane (with scoring spur) is great for cutting cross-grain rabbets, but I still enjoy the hell out of hand-splitting rabbets.  Hand-splitting is definitely not faster than using a dedicated plane, although in my experience it can be more accurate both in terms of depth and shoulder squareness.

Materials and tools for this project were as follows:


Carcase ends:  4″ x 8″ x 5/8″ eastern white pine
Carcase sides: 4″ x 22 1/8″ x 5/8 eastern white pine
Tray Bottom: 8″ x 22 1/4″ x 14″ red oak
Carcase Nails: Dictum 40mm door nails
Bottom Nails: Tremont “Fine Finish” cut nails
Hide Glue


Wide chisel (I used 1″)
Chisel Mallet
Marking Gauge
Router Plane (if you don’t have one, you can just use a chisel)
Dividers (a ruler and awl will work just as well)

After you’ve prepared the pine stock for the carcase, first set your marking gauge to the thickness of the carcase sides.  Mark the inside face and the sides of each end board.  Then reset your marking gauge to exactly half the thickness of the end boards and finish laying out the rabbets on the end boards.  Chop the rabbets with the wide chisel, same as when making a dado.


Until your relief cut gets down to the line.

Next, split the rabbets, just like you would with a tenon.  Keep an eye out for grain direction and don’t be afraid to leave a little bit of waste to paring away later.


It’s nice to use a metal vise once in a while.

When you are reasonably close to your gauge lines, break out the router plane.  I recently upgraded my small router plane, which I unboxed just for this operation.  Set the depth to your gauge line and pare the rabbets to depth.  A chisel works just as well if you don’t have a router plane: just go slowly and pay attention to your depth lines.


An huge upgrade from my previous small router plane.

At this point, you should have all four rabbets cut and parallel, resulting in two identical end boards.  If for any reason the shoulder lines on the two boards aren’t identical, pare down the shoulders until they are.  Cut the carcass sides to length, square up the ends and get ready to glue and nail the boards together.  Pre-drill your nail holes and assemble the carcass with glue and the 40mm door nails.  Three at each corner should do the trick.


Level the seams if you have to (I did).

Once the glue is set, it’s time to attach the tray bottom.  A bit of glue on one carcase side will control the direction of expansion and contraction.  Assuming the tray carcase is leveled, clamp the tray bottom and tray together (against the bench) and pre-drill your nail holes every 3-4 inches or so.  I like headless cut nails for tray bottoms, so be sure the nail is oriented with the grain to prevent splitting.


Add nails along all four sides.

The ends of a tray bottom in a tool chest extend slightly beyond the ends of the carcase (for clearance when sliding), but you should at least level the bottom to the sides of the carcase.  If you are making a stand-alone tray, skip the overhang and flush the bottom perfectly to the carcase on all four sides.

And there you go.  As Christopher Schwarz would say, when done right nails are not “second class joinery”.  They can be beautiful and functional.  And very quick to throw together (the above box took less than 3 hours, including stock preparation by hand).



New Sharpening Jig

It was time to make another depth stop jig for use with an off the shelf Eclipse/Record-style sharpening guide.  My current version of the jig, made of 2×3 offcuts, is way too bulky for carrying around in my traveling tool tote.  I don’t freehand sharpen my plane irons, so this is an essential piece of shop equipment for getting consistent edges across multiple sharpening sessions. I did not make one for chisels, though, because I freehand (or machine, if available) sharpen my chisels.


The sharpening guide in question shown in the middle.

I had considered making this a “Basic Project”, but it’s been done so many times I don’t want to take credit for the plans.  This new version is just a variation of Christopher Schwarz’ design.  Please note that if you don’t use the Eclipse/Record-style of sharpening guide, the depths listed below won’t work for you (but the numbers can be adjusted to fit whatever sharpening guide you use).


Instructions for the full-size, benchtop style seen top left.

There is no real joinery in this project, which I love. Each stop block is CA glued in place and tacked with brads once the glue is set.  What makes this project a little tricky, however, is the need for perfectly square edges. Once you have a straight reference edge (planed or factory, if using sheet goods), the shooting board really gets a workout squaring the ends of the stop blocks and the base board.

I could not find a link to the instructions pictured above, but the depths are as follows:

  • 25° = 54mm
  • 30° = 40mm
  • 35° = 29.5mm
  • 40° = 21mm
  • 45° = 15mm

One thing I didn’t realize before this build was how quickly CA glue sets on white pine (spoiler alert: VERY quickly).  Even so, CA glue does not have great shear strength, so pre-drilling the brads was important.  Two brads per block seems to be more than enough.


I put the depths I use the least on the underside of the jig.

I eschewed the 1mm shim on a string for creating 1° microbevels (seen in the full-size instructions pictured above).  Mainly because using the same metal ruler I use for the David Charlesworth Ruler Trick works just fine.

It may only be quartersawn white pine, but this thing should last forever.  And if the CA glue gives way, I’ll just scrape it off and use hide glue (the nails will guide the block into place again).  Or I could preemptively drive a third, larger nail into each block and be done with it.