tips and tricks

Walking on Sunshine

I had intended to call this post “Let there be Light: the Revenge”, but thought better of it in the end. But the point is the same: proper illumination is an integral part of doing quality work (woodworking or otherwise).

It’s not pretty, but I don’t want to hardwire any fixtures yet.

By now, that I swear by these LED light bars is not news. But as always happens, there is some finesse in the hanging. To hang properly, the hooks in the ceiling should be about 45 inches apart. But in the orientation I desire, that meant hanging on studs 48 inches apart. Too far for just the S hooks to reach.

My solution? Twist some leftover coat hangers from the Roman Workbench mockup.

And I got to use my electrical pliers!

Each is about 5 inches long and much sturdier than the thin wire that originally came in the box. Nothing fancy, totally free, and quick.

The simplest solutions are always the best.

And now I can see what I’m doing. And isn’t that really the point?

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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 All to See

After clearing a few little projects around the home, I turned back to the ash sitting bench I’ve been [slowly] making.  The design includes a 10° rake on the back legs and that means one thing: angled mortise and tenon joints.  One of my favorites.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’d like to talk about mistakes.

 

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I’ll wedge that gap at the top, no problem.

The cross rails pictured above are a different thickness than the legs.  This means that while the mortises are centered in the legs, the tenons are not centered on the rails.  So keeping track of the reference face for the mortise gauge on the rails is SUPER important.  And, of course, I messed it up on the very last tenon.  Nothing would be square without a fix, and I’d prefer not to make another rail unless I really have to.

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The saddest “spot the diffrences” puzzle ever.

In the past, when I’ve pared tenons too thin, I glue on veneer of a similar hardness wood to build it back up.  Like the leg tenons on the Stent Panel workbench.  So why not use the same trick to build back up one of the tenon cheeks, then widen the mortise on the rail to accept the fatter tenon?  I grabbed an offcut from one of the tenon cheeks and glued it back onto the tenon.

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Say what you will, but these squeeze-style clamps work well for light clamping tasks.

After the glue set, I pared the patch down to the correct depth.  Then I reset my mortise gauge and widened the mortise to match the fatter tenon.  Net net, the joint is tight and the reveal is even (as shown in the first picture above).  And because I didn’t lose any of the original tenon’s thickness, the joint is still as strong as it would be had I not messed it up in the first place.  Once glued and drawbored, the joint will last forever.

Of course, none of this was necessary to share.  But I don’t keep anything from you guys.

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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?

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Saw Till, Part Deux

I should have mentioned it in my previous post, but it is no accident the new saw till is made from 3/4″ pine.  I didn’t want to waste time and materials on a hardwood version until I confirm it worked within the space.  And working within the space seems to be the most important part of the Dutch tool chest.

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Next up: red oak.

The saw till debacle brings up a larger point about the importance of spacing.  I did not measure my own chisel handles (Narex, which are about 1 3/8″ wide) before spacing the 1/2″ holes in the tool rack.  I took Chris Schwarz at face value on the 1 1/8″ spacing, and I have since suffered for it.  My chisels only fit the rack when turned 90°.  Live and learn.

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What proper spacing looks like.  

The lesson is this: trust, but verify.

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I Think I Figured It Out (Thank You!)

Thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions about why a leg wasn’t seated squarely in its joint.  After quadruple checking my combination square for squareness (it is), it turns out the culprit was human error.

First, the shoulder isn’t perfectly seated after all.  The mortise canted ever so slightly inward, but the toothed underside of the benchtop hid the minute gap between the slab and the shoulder of the mortise.  I corrected  this (with a bit of paring inside the mortise) and the joint still (thankfully) fits very snugly.  The canted mortise was about 75% of the problem.

Second, there is a very slight hollow where I was resting my square.  It must be left over from traversing the underside of the benchtop.  It runs down a couple thou toward the mortise, which doesn’t really show with a long straightedge across the whole width.  But with a small machinist’s square, it’s plain as day.  Not worth fussing over, I think.

Oh well.  At least I got blog two posts out of it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Why I Can’t Have Anything Nice

I’m pondering a new feature on http://www.theapartmentwoodworker.com. A weekly “Things I Learned This Week” segment. Cautionary tales for the small space woodworker.

This week’s entry: when driving nails into unsupported face grain, pre-drill as deep as you can.

For the new travel tool chest, I nailed on the rot strips (instead of screwing them on like I would normally). The nails (Tremont fine finish) are about 1/4″ shorter than the combined thickness of the rot strips and the floorboards, prior to setting. Wanting the nails to bite hard, I only pre-drilled the rot strips themselves and not the floorboards. Fine finish nails taper dramatically, so it should have worked.

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And it looks fantastic from this angle.

What actually happened was each nail pushed fibers up and through the floorboards, splintering the face grain. Not a structural issue, but an annoying cosmetic blemish.

As a result, the tool chest floor is getting an adhesive-backed cork lining.  They say the sign of a good woodworker is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to hide the mistakes made.

As an alternative to further pre-drilling, I may next time drive the rot strips first, before attaching the floorboards to the carcase. That should eliminate any unsupported fibers and give me the fastening power I’m after.

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Short Cuts Make Long Delays

For an upcoming project, I need perfectly flat, perfectly straight stock.  But I only need 1/2″ thickness out of 3/4″ boards.  So I’m taking the laziest possible approach: skip planing.  But because the boards start off too thin for true skip-planing, I am pulling a page from the planing sled handbook and using blue tape to fill the hollows.

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If I had a super power, it would be “cutting corners”.

Each outside edge is planed perfectly straight and without twist, and the blue tape will ensure the board rides to the planer table evenly and without pressing flat.  Thereby, one side of the board will be made perfectly flat.  With the tape then be removed, the board can be flipped end over end and sent back through the planer for perfectly parallel faces.

Speaking of parallel faces, I apparently left my winding sticks at my parents house, hanging off my old workbench.  I needed some for the above skip-planing.  So I made some out of scrap 3/4″.

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About as basic as they can get.

At 1.5″ x 15″, I’m sure they will get re-purposed for actual furniture.

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Let There Be Light! (Part Deux)

When the electrical failed in the external workroom at my parents’ house where I keep my thickness planer, my choices were clear: learn electrician stuff or build an improvised lighting rig.  No stranger to DIY illumination solutions, I chose the latter.

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Not bad, for using only what was on hand.

I had nearly forgotten about these LED floodlights. Each is 15W and approximately 1.5lbs. They aren’t great for directional lighting (they’re meant for use with a diffuser), but the four together provide enough illumination to thickness plane and rummage around without tripping over myself.

The board holding them together is a scrap of 1/2″ x 3″ red oak, with six 1/4″ holes drilled through it to accept the four lights and two threaded eyes (leftovers from the original arbor rig in my apartment).  I thought about using a scrap 2×4, but that seemed overkill and I didn’t have one available in my apartment, anyway.  If the board does sag over time, I can always replace it with something more rigid.

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The essence of apartment woodworking, all in one camera frame.

The line is 3/8″ marine rope from the boating center.  Whatever line I don’t use for hanging this rig will go back to its original purpose: a stay for the lid on the traveling tool tote.  Lastly, the power cords are bound together with some hook and loop zip ties and run to a one-to-four power cord splitter.

I love these little DIY rigs because they solve real problems with the minimum of materials.  Plus I get to play gaffer and pretend like I know movie stuff.  Best of all, I should be able to see again while I’m thickness planing.

I’ll take a picture on site over the weekend and post it to twitter.

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