Accompanying Side Table: Legs

Of course, this project is long past due. Part of the delay has been uneasiness regarding reaming the mortises into the top, which I had to practice again in order to get a proper result, part of it was cutting out the top in the first place, part of it was not knowing how I would approach the legs, but most of it was just not having the time or motivation to go down to the shop and get something done.

Eventually, I figured out what I wanted to do with the legs, which are sort of a “one-stepped taper thingie” in order to complement the daybed legs. I started with octagon-profile legs, and then cut it down to this:

I’ve improved my efficiency on these. After getting two adjacent sides flat (not necessarily square), I can do almost all of the rest of the initial work on the bandsaw. Getting down to the octagon is easy; first you get a rough square profile, then use the V-track thing to help knock off the corners.

Then, for the tapered tenon, adjust the bandsaw so that you can cut near the sides of cylinder that encloses the tenon. The bandsaw is great because you can cut partway, pull out, rotate to the next facet, then cut the next one. After sawing off the sides, I use a rasp to make the profile round and to final size, and then it’s ready for the tenon cutter. This might sound a little complicated, but it’s easy in practice. Perhaps I could make a video of it.

In any case, once I have the initial piece above, I put it in the vise and go to down with the rasp:

Of course, I don’t use just any rasp for this rough work–I use the Shinto saw rasp for most of it.

I use a big English chisel to cut the step between the thicker and thinner parts:

I guess I could make a shaving horse and do this work with the drawknife and spokeshave, but I wonder if it would save me any time. It takes me 10-15 minutes to shape a leg like this, which seems pretty acceptable for a hobbyist like myself.

Of course, I managed to screw up the first leg that I shaped (by cutting the shape 90 degrees to what it was supposed to be relative to the growth rings). I hemmed and hawed a bit over what to do there, but in the end, I decided to remake the leg. It didn’t me much time.

So the legs are shaped and fitted, and the top is also to rough shape:

In theory, this project is almost done. I need to shape the edge of the top, smooth off the legs, glue and wedge in the legs, apply finish, and cut the legs to length. That’s pretty standard stuff, with no problem-solving (figuring out methods and shapes and such).

I’m looking forward to being done with this. I have another video lined up and ready to shoot, but I don’t think I should do that until this is at least in the finishing stage.

Accompanying Side Table: Design

“It’s been a slow couple of weeks in the shop,” as many blog posts would say. My current project is theoretically a quick one: A simple staked side table to accompany the daybed. In true half-slacker fashion, I already have the top glued up and the board for the legs milled:

(Yes, I used the multiwedge to flatten both halves of the top, and have not yet touched the top again with a plane since glue-up.)

I have a design, and even made a half-scale model/mockup to see if it was reasonable:

I also have a full-size template for the top that I just need to tape up and trace to cut out the top.

So, in theory, there’s just a little bit of measuring, gauging, cutting shapes, leg-making, reaming, and tapering to do before this can be called done. I really don’t know why I’ve been dragging this one out. It’s mostly been a matter of not finding the impetus to go down to the shop.

Ah, such a common refrain.

The Multiwedge Planer Sled: Inspired by Hand Tool Methods

There seem to be several little camps when it comes to stock preparation methods. There are those who rive arrow-straight oak with a froe and plane it down, the hand plane exclusivity evangelists, the hand plane to flatten/thickness planer on rest, the “hmm, maybe hand planes and a big bandsaw” types, the machine heads who won’t use anything but jointers and planers, the various router sled types, and then, of course, the people who mostly do hand work, but keep a huge jointer in a separate area as a dirty secret. You know who you are.

Doing it completely by hand taught me a lot of things, and switching to a hybrid approach with a thickness planer saved me some time. I’ve never really been religious about stock preparation, so this discussion might start to seem a little out of place on this blog, which is mostly about hand work.

But something inside of me wasn’t satisfied with a few things. First, I wasn’t thrilled about flattening stuff by hand anymore. Second, I didn’t want a jointer. Finally, I wasn’t enthusiastic about my thickness planer being such a one-trick pony. I’d read about planer sleds that could flatten boards, but when I looked into them, I wasn’t too impressed. There was one overriding problem: Holding the work conveniently, yet securely.

Still, the sled idea sat in the back of my mind. I kept thinking to myself that there must be a reasonable way to get a board to stay in place, and that some sort of traditional approach to workholding might work. Maybe double wedges? But how? Finally, about a year and a half ago, something went off in my head and I had a basic design. I built a prototype. Surprisingly, it worked. I was then able to refine it some more.

So without further ado, here is my video describing the multiwedge planer sled.

A video might seem a little unusual for me, but I really felt that it was the best way to illustrate the sled.

I really hope it will be useful to someone else as well. It’s been great for me.

Sharpening Station

Sharpening has been a sore point ever since I moved into the current shop. I had a good spot next to a sink in the shop, but didn’t have any kind of stand or surface to put the stones. So I ended up putting them on a counter on the near-opposite side of the house. This was an unfortunate situation, not just because I’d have to ramble all the way over there every time I wanted to sharpen something. The lighting was bad, the mess I made over there was atrocious, and its temporary nature made me unwilling to organize further.

I had originally intended to make a freestanding sharpening station to put next to the shop sink, but every stand that I made ended up unscrupulously co-opted. Finally, I realized that instead of a stand, I could just put some strong shelf-like brackets into the wall there, making it more of a built-in. It would theoretically be less work than another stand. Then I gave myself some additional “motivation,” saying that I would not sharpen another tool until the sharpening station was in its rightful spot, though I am unsure if this was a good idea or not.

I started by installing a sheet of drywall into the wall framing (it was bare before), and painting it white so that it would reflect light. Then I got to making the brackets themselves:

These are sort of mini-timberframe-like things in southern yellow pine. I decided to use drawbores for the shelf support joints, but didn’t bother on the brace joints. (I do not want to talk about how long I spent making those pegs.) There are two stiles, each with upper and lower shelf supports.

I made a stretcher to go between the upper supports so that the upper shelf would be very strong and resistant to movement and racking (this is, after all, where the work would be done). When I glued and drawbored everything into place, it looked like this:

I was somewhat unsure of how easily it would install on the wall, but it turned out to be easy enough when I used double wedges off of a support on the floor to get the stiles plumb and the brackets level:

Each stile is screwed directly into a stud behind the drywall in three spots. After a bit of stress-testing, I was satisfied that the top brackets were up to the task, so I added some crappy plywood shelves, put my stone holder and other stuff on the top, infrequently-used supplies (or otherwise questionable purchases) below, and called it done:

The stone holder is attached to the upper shelf, which is in turn screwed onto the brackets. This should eliminate any kind of slippage without the need for anti-skid pads. Bottles with water and camellia oil are on the overhang to the right, and my two honing guides are behind the stones. There’s even a faux-backsplash that’s nothing more than a leftover piece from a home renovation project.

Then I sharpened a chisel quickly to make sure that I had a functional setup. Anticlimactic, as intended.

Small Chest: Finished

My plan for the small chest project was to try to be like the cool kids and paint it with milk paint. I figured that it would just take a few days for the paint, then I could put down the varnish topcoats and maybe be done with it in, say two weeks. Since it’s now two months later, you can probably guess that it didn’t really go as planned.

I’ve now figured out that I need to either practice more with milk paint, or just not use it at all and use alkyds or acrylics, which I know a lot better. I kept freaking out about all of the weird stuff that milk paint does, and tried to use water in the same way that you’d use a thinner for varnish and oil paint. I did manage to get the chest body done in the first shot, but I screwed up the lid so badly that I decided to sand down and start again. That didn’t work out as planned, because although I knew that milk paint was really tough, I didn’t quite understand how tough. Eventually, I got it smooth enough and fumbled my way through the lid again. (Detailed descriptions of my sulking sessions have been omitted.) Perhaps I would have liked the lid to come out perhaps a little bit better, but this thing will wear anyway.

With that behind me, I attached the lid and loaded it up with my desk crap:

This includes rulers, shears, letter opener, a usb drive, and a screwdriver in the top till, most frequently-used camera stuff in the lower till, with chargers, cables, and who-knows-what-else in the bottom. In this respect, it is a success; this is exactly what this thing was supposed to hold, and my desk has a lot more space now.

I did not decorate the underside of the lid. I probably don’t care.

Closed, it looks fairly humdrum. Perhaps a lighter paint than “driftwood” would have made it pop out a little more (and made it easier to paint).

I haven’t bothered to put on any handles. This is small enough that you can grab it by the lower dust seals on either end without much difficulty. If this gets annoying, I’ll add handles. Also, no lock. I’m a little torn about this one. A lock would be traditional, but wouldn’t have much purpose, and I’d probably lose the key and have to watch a bunch of lockpicking videos to open it. A latch might be better.

It doesn’t have a stay chain or cord. However, keeping in mind that the built-in stops at the rear of the upper dust seal can get mangled with use (there’s a Fitzian blog post on Lost Art Press about that), I glued a cork/rubber pad to the impacted end:

This is just a leftover scrap of the “crubber” that came with my Benchcrafted Moxon Vise hardware. This might not actually work, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to try.

So that’s done and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. Come to think of it, I recently finished my latest book and wrapped up a couple of other projects. But let’s not call it completion season just yet. I have at least three other active projects that are in the “overdue” category.

Quickie: Planter Stand

Among my various tasks for the past couple of weeks was making a stand for some pots and planters. This isn’t a raised bed meant to hold dirt by itself; it’s more of an enclosed shelf. It was not a complicated project, and it’s done:

I used cut nails to attach most of everything. I’d originally intended to completely eschew glue, making this a very nail-ridden project, but alas, I used glue to make a wide enough shelf, and to attach the shelf supports to the bottom insides of the long rails (the shelf lifts out for easier cleaning, or something like that). It just seemed easier to do it this way.

This is cheap construction wood that I had lying around (one “hem-fir” 2×8). There are several knots that I just banged out rather than wait on them to fall out–I didn’t feel like planing over them. Probably the most time-consuming part of this was just getting all the bits and pieces cut out and milled to profile.

It’s now in use, with plants inside as intended, and I consider this out of my hands now.

Beware the Southern Yellow Pine Demons

I’ve been making a stand for the shop that will hopefully get most of the boring tools in one spot. The idea is that there will be shelves or drawers or something below that I can use for stuff like auger bits, forstner bits, countersinks, and that sort of thing. On top, I can put my small old drill press. Think of it as a boring hand-and-machine combo.

I’ve been making it out of southern yellow pine because it’s cheap and I have enough on hand. The downside is that some of my stock is really tough. I chipped my mortise chisel so badly that I had to regrind. Twice. And it’s not like I was doing “frowned-upon” levering or anything.

All of the mortise-and-tenon joints for the frame are done as of today, yielding this:

The victimized (yet ultimately victorious) mortise chisel is in view here.

Confession: After slugging it out through six tenons with my tenon saw, I did the remainder of the tenon cheeks with the bandsaw. Eh, nah, I’m not sorry about that. Some of the latewood in that stock was just ossified granite, and I needed to get this thing done.

In any case, test-fitting everything seems to yield a thumbs-up:

It’s in clamps now, in the glue-up stage. I still need to make the top. Time to scrounge to see what I might have lying around.

This is actually the second in a line of stands like this that I’ve made, with the first done not too long after I first moved to this shop. That one is not quite as “refined” because I didn’t really bother to prepare the stock uniformly, and the legs are just 2x4s instead of the square posts that I made by laminating 2x stock for this new one.

Perhaps if I didn’t have a bunch of yellow pine lying around, I would have gotten some lighter-duty construction wood to make this from–it probably wouldn’t matter, except for weight.

Tools Corralled

This may not be the most exciting conclusion in a two-part tool organizational feature, but here’s what I cobbled together:

Referred to by a friend as a “bench hanger-on-er,” I’m going to call this the “tool corral” on my auxiliary bench. It’s really just a platform with two areas for tools. The first and most obvious is the box, which was hastily assembled and glued to the platform on the near side only (take that, seasonal wood movement). I have no idea if this is going to be even halfway durable, but at least it looks somewhat better than a plastic bin screwed down to the platform, which was my other idea. As you can see here, the box does not protrude above the benchtop, so in its unloaded form, it doesn’t get in the way of anything big that might overhang the bench.

The space to the left is a little less obvious when empty, and consists of a bunch of expanded kerfs that I (hastily, of course) made with the bandsaw. Then I “closed up” the edge by just gluing a strip of wood (in the same grain orientation) to the underside. This is for bladed measuring tools. I modified the near one by stuffing most of it with a strip of wood. Otherwise, one particular square would always tip and drop through.

I could have gotten more adventurous by adding a few spaces for chisels to hang in the front, I guess. Maybe I’ll still do that; I certainly don’t have any qualms about bolting on something else to this already-questionable affront to workbench aesthetics.

So here’s what it looks like in use:

I was originally going to build something to hold the pencils upright, but laziness got the best of me.

Except for the wax (for which I found another home), It sucked up every last tool that I’d previously complained about. Built using only scrap wood, I think this should suffice until I build a chest. If there’s anything I do like about it, it’s the way that the squares fit neatly and mostly out of the way. When I use the traditional-style tool rack on the back of my main bench, it always seems like the squares are either getting in the way of something, hogging space, or in danger of dropping through because the opening on the rack is too wide.

Small Chest: Construction Complete

With the shell pretty much done, the three main tasks I had to complete on the chest project were the till runners, the sliding tills, and minor lid tidbits (hinges and attaching the upper dust seal).

The till runners were easy enough to make, but when it came to attach them, this was one of those times when I really had no idea what I was going to do. ATC and other sources say to nail or screw, then glue them on, and I guess it makes sense to use nails or something to serve as clamps (it’s not like they’d be useful for mechanical strength). But in my case, I wasn’t sure which nails or screws would work.

And then I somehow remembered the idea of a “go-bar” that’s often used to hold surfaces in place when gluing. So I made some spacers to reference off the bottom, cut an oak scrap strip to appropriate length, and tried it out on the lower till, first as a dry run, then with glue:

This worked, so I did the same thing on the upper runners. This time, though, I needed to use more strips and some battens because there was a much larger surface to glue:

I should mention that the runners are made of ash, except for spacer sections of the upper runners in white pine. The only real reason I did this is that I didn’t have wide enough pieces of ash ready to go in order to make them entirely with ash, so I figured that I’d try gluing up what I had on hand to some white pine to see what happened.

There are only two sets of runners because the plan was for only two sliding tills on this chest (recall that it is not intended to hold tools; I have specific ideas for what should go in here). The larger lower till is around 5″ in height, and the upper is around 2.75″.

Tills are just dovetailed boxes, and dovetailed boxes are straightforward:

They have ends made of ash (for wear resistance), with the lengthwise sections in white pine. The bottoms are 1/4″ yellow-poplar. I disobeyed ATC and other sources, going with panel-in-groove bottoms. Nailing or screwing them would have probably been OK, but again, these are a little on the small side. However, I did use 1/8″ grooves and cut a rabbet on the bottom so that the bottoms would still sit flush and not waste any space:

I also didn’t care to close up the grooves on the ends of the tills. These are invisible when installed in the chest, so I care as much about that as I do the rears of drawers.

The final little bit of construction was to fit the hinges:

The bench-on-bench strikes again. It was really nice to be able to slide down the rear (the first time I’ve done that since I built it), put this thing flush on the top, and work at this height. This went fine, and just to annoy everyone who needs an annoyin’, I used Robertson-drive bronze wood screws. (I don’t think anyone will actually notice, though.) The only real complication with the hinges (the British-made ones from Lee Valley) were that for some reason, the countersinks were too small for the screws (despite being advertised to work), and I had to expand the countersinks. Glad I had a HSS countersink.

With the lid hinged on, I was finally able to attach the upper dust seal to the lid, round off the top of the mating lower part, and put everything together:

Yep, only two hinges. That’s fine for something this size.

Closed, it looks like this:

So now pretty much all that remains is to prep it (sand), paint it, and put some stuff in it. I suppose that I might also put some batten strips on the bottom. Stay chain? Eh. Huh, would nitrile-infused cork be a possibility on the rear of the stops?

Tools on the Loose

I’ve got a dumb problem that’s been lurking for years (with the exception of when everything was in storage). It’s this:

I use these tools regularly, yet I have no regular places to store them. So they inevitably end up lying on the bench. I only managed to isolate them because I just finished most of the small chest build, and cleaned up everything else.

I’ve decided that I should fix this. The long-term plan is to make a “Dutch tool chest” that should end these kinds of shenanigans once and for all, but I’m waiting on the Fitz Treatise because I haven’t thought about how to approach it. Besides, waiting to see what she writes seems like a lame enough excuse to put off building it for a while. In the meantime, I’ve started building a stopgap thing that will hopefully take care of it in the interim. It will not be a “drawer off on one side” that you see in some old illustrations–I promise that it will be far more idiotic.

What I wonder is, how does this even happen in the first place? It’s not like these are uncommon tools. I’ve just had a really hard time finding the way I’d like to store them.