woodworking

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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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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First Church of Christ, Cabinetmaker

For some time now, I’ve had a silly little fantasy. I’d start my own church: the First Church of Christ, Cabinetmaker. We’d meet on Saturday afternoons and glory in the making of things. From the crotchety handtoolers to the hipster CNC’rs, and everyone in between, all would be welcome. 

The Jesus part would be optional, of course. I am Catholic, after all. The only mandatory worship would be at the sharpening stone.  We’d observe only the greatest commandment: do your best not to be a dickbag, at least not all the time.  And don’t borrow tools without asking. 

Any early converts?

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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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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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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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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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Mobile Command Center

I know I promised an inventory, but the first agenda item was making the English tool chest mobile. I wouldn’t dream of attaching casters (despite my willingness to pry off the old raised panel), so I made a low rolling base the chest can sit on.   It’s 3/8″ larger than the chest’s footprint all around and raises the chest to about 25″ overall. A perfect height for a floor chest (I’m exactly 5’10”).

Looks fairly proper from this angle.

The rolling base is rabbeted and nailed, which I felt was fine for it’s application and construction. Not only do the casters hold together the joints, but the plywood top is glued and screwed in place. Net net, this thing is never coming apart.

I love me some beefy rabbets.

The most important takeaway here is that mobility of the floor chest is vital. It’s taking longer than expected to scrape the old adhesive off the lid base.  Which means it’s taking longer than expected to add a new raised panel to the lid (a prerequisite to using the floor chest).   I may or may not have resumed the Dutch tool chest build.

But more on that next time.

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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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