woodworking tools

A Small Oversight

I’ve been on a shop appliance kick lately, including some necessary upgrades for the workshop itself. In addition to finally hanging some proper lighting, I also added a parallel clamp rack to the side wall. I have two more such racks; I just need some more washers to hang them correctly.

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Much harder to knock down, now.

I also felt it was time for a tool rack on the back side of the workbench, a la Monsieur Roubo. With a scrap of 1/2″ baltic birch and some pine offcuts, I knocked together a rack that gets the spacing right for my chisels and other everyday tools.

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Holes on 1 5/8″ center are just right for Narex chisels (rather than the 1 1/8″ in my tool chest).

I am 100% certain this would have been a 20-minute job if I owned a table saw. Instead, it was about 2 hours of planing, spacing and gluing (not including drying time), but the result was worth it.

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That block plane is a clamp.

There is only one problem: I never squared the back edge of my workbench. Time to debate whether to remove the top from the frame so I can square the back edge, or just attach a wedge to level out the surface.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make a “Basic Project” out of it.

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A Loving Home

A package came in the mail on Saturday.  James over at The Daily Skep was gracious enough to gift to me the box he made for his custom box for a Veritas Large Router Plane.  I am happy to say the box now has a new home in my tool chest.

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Fits very nicely.

For those who haven’t seen it before, it holds the plane itself, the fence and some additional blades, with a sliding lid.  I am particularly fond of the bits of veneer that hold the plane in place in the well.  It feels very Dutch tool chest-like in its own way.

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I seem to have one more extra blade than James.

Thanks very much, James.  By the way, if you’re not a reader of The Daily Skep, you should be.

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Baby Steps

Having acquired a 19th century English joiner’s chest from my godfather, and somehow managing to get it into the back of my car (with my father’s help), I was faced with the great challenge of getting it out of the car and into the workshop (without any help).  After pulling out the tills and most of the tools , it was still too awkward to lug into the house.  Saw benches and rolling dollies to the rescue.

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Ignore the lawn.  My landscaper was scheduled for the next day.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the overall dimensions are 37″ long, by 22″ wide by 19″ high.  Subtract 1.5″ all around to get the true size of the carcase.  That makes it somewhere between the full Anarchist’s Tool Chest and the traveling variety.  That’s a long way of saying it is every bit large enough for my entire set of hand tools.  And that’s a very long way of saying I’ve officially abandoned that large Dutch tool chest I was building.

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I was pretty close too.  And yes, I realize I went overboard with the screws on the bottom lip.

The chest clearly needs some cleanup work, but I have no reason to believe I’m not up to the task.  But before I get too far along that route, I think an inventory is in order.

More on that next time.

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To Cherish, Always

Last week, I learned that my godfather is very ill.  While we are not particularly close, we’ve always gotten along, and I recently learned he is a woodworker.  I went to visit last weekend.  Just to see how he was doing, and maybe check out his workshop that I’d heard a little about.  What transpired since has literally changed my life.

When I went downstairs into his basement workshop, the first thing I saw was a beautiful metalworker’s vise on a sturdy tinker’s bench.  I admired it and took a picture. Next to that, in the corner, was a joiner’s chest, buried beneath a pile of expired (and ostensibly leaking) West Systems epoxy containers and 30 years of dust.

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I’ve seen worse.

It was immediately apparent that the raised panel on the lid was not attached properly, having split long ago in many places.  In striking contrast, the miters on the lower skirt, nailed at the corners, remained perfect. And both the dust seal and the upper skirt had well fitted metal banding, creating a double rabbet on the dust seal.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I opened it.  Turns out, this is no ordinary tool chest.

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Never judge a tool chest by its split raised panel.

My godfather was willing to part with it, and I have since brought the chest home with me.  What will follow is my journey through restoring the chest and the tools inside, and making it and them my own.  And hopefully learning more about the chest, its maker and my godfather.

More to come.

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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.

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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.

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Glamour Shots

Does anyone remember glamour shots?  Those airbrushed-to-all-hell personal photos that could make anyone look good?  They were like the Barbara Walters interview of photos.  I’m sure they still exist, because human vanity still exists.

I ask for a very specific reason (and the title of this post is not arbitrary).  I finished the front vise on my new workbench.  And it’s beautiful.

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Soft focus and natural light only.

Aesthetically, it’s everything it’s supposed to be.  The lines are clean, the color match on the jaw and hub are fantastic, and the walnut handle offers a nice contrast.  And look how perfectly it cinches down to the benchtop!

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There is even a bit of wain to give it a rustic look.

But looks aren’t everything.  Truth is: the vise doesn’t work very well.  There is too much play in the maple guide peg, so the vice wracks in all directions.  It works okay with wide stock that can sit on the screw and the peg while I work an edge, but it’s useless for cinching narrow pieces at the top of the jaw.  It also works okay as a crochet for very wide stock that extends below the bottom of the law, but the maple peg wedges itself in the guide hole (like a holdfast) and it’s a pain to free up.

Could I find a metal collar to tighten the guide hole, or otherwise fiddle with it some more, and make the vise work better?  Probably.  Will I?  No.  It’s a sunk cost at this point.  I can re-purpose the jaw for something else and there is nothing wrong with the screw (although I would bet the hub gets trimmed down before it sees use again).  There’s a reason the vise nut is attached to the bench with only hide glue.

One of the hardest things in woodworking, and in life generally, is admitting failure and moving on.  My attempt at a completely wooden front vise has failed.

My heat gun and I are moving on.

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After Further Review

A funny thing happened today when I woke up and went into the shop. Calipers in hand, ready to measure for the plug I was going to make, I decided to give it one more shot. I positioned the holdfast to the left over a scrap of wood, and whacked it with a sledge. Nothing.

Undeterred, I gave it another whack, this time holding the shaft steady as I drove it in. It felt like it seated a bit. After a third whack, it felt like it was grabbing. The fourth whack, it set tightly. Hmm.

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It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.

And it works pointed right as well.

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This is not a political metaphor (yet).

I guess the trick is to hold the shaft steady as you drive it in. So, much less sad than yesterday, I bought a corded drill and made a plumb jig to bore the remaining holes (seen above).

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Much like ‘Murica itself, this drill was assembled here with foreign components.

It’s always good to sleep on it.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Forging New Paths

New to me, at least.  I’m cleaning up a vintage saw.

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And ruining my nice ash table in the process.

This Simonds saw, a 12ppi crosscut panel saw, came to me through a family friend (a godparent, in fact).  The plate was lightly rusted, with little pitting (and none near the teeth).  Sandflex hand blocks and some elbow grease quickly led to a passable shine.  And the Etch even survived the rust removal process.  The plate was slightly breasted along the toothline: unclear to me if the breasting was OEM or a product of uneven filing over time.

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Made from 1901 to 1926, according to teh interwebs.

The handle is also in excellent shape, if slightly paint-caked around the plate.  There is some chipping around one of the saw nuts (probably my doing), but otherwise, the finish is consistent and no work was needed.  I may ease the top tongue on the handle to fit my hand better, but I’d like to see how it works before I do.

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No lamb’s tongue, but whatever.

The only real problem with the saw was the teeth.  One side of the plate, the were filed much smaller than other.  My best guess is the crosscut filing was consistently done out of horizontal and without flipping the saw around between sides.  So my choices were: (i) file the teeth completely away and start all over or (ii) reshape the saw into a 6+ tpi rip saw.  There is a great Paul Sellers tutorial on recutting saw teeth, but a 6+ tpi rip saw will fill a gap in my tool chest.

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Notice the sharp teeth on the left even after heavy jointing with a flat file

I’m not finished with it yet, but I think reshaping was the right choice.  I already own a 10 tpi rip pattern panel raw (which is great for all-around work, including cross-cutting to rough length), but my only other rip pattern panel saw is 4.5 tpi (too coarse in my experience for hardwoods).  This saw will almost split the difference and give me a more aggressive option for hardwoods and softwoods alike.

And worse comes to worst, I’ll file them flat and start all over again.  There is plenty of plate left.  Either way, I’m going to need a new 7″ slim file after this.

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Fleam On

From time to time, I make woodworking resolutions.  Maybe “resolution” isn’t the correct work; perhaps “aspiration” is more appropriate.  A less pedantic version of me would just say “goal”.

My most recent woodworking resolution is using my crosscut tenon saw more often.  Which is secret code for “learn to sharpen my crosscut tenon saw better”.

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I put these lines on the new saw vise for a reason…

For some time now, I’ve relied almost exclusively on rip-pattern saws for both ripping and crosscutting.  It’s true that crosscutting with a rip-pattern saw leaves a ragged edge, but most cross-grain cuts also get a knife-line (or gauge-line) to establish a clean shoulder.  Any raggedness from the saw sits below the visible shoulder line (or is cleaned up when paring to said line).  And I’ve gotten quite good at rip-pattern sharpening, making it even more efficient.

But crosscut saws exist for a reason.  The different tooth geometry really does matter in some applications (e.g., through dadoes).  So I am retraining myself to sharpen a crosscut-pattern.  I have a feeling there will be some tooth jointing in my future.

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