Daybed: Shaping the Platform

All of that fussing around with making those clamps has finally gotten me ready to get started in earnest on my next project: a daybed/”couch”-like thing for an area of the house that currently has zero furniture. I had a sort of “vision” about how I wanted it to appear one day, and knew that I had to build it before someone else in the house bought one, because what I imagined seemed pretty neat, at least at the time. And when I read what Roubo had to say about them (yes, it’s in there), I became more convinced.

I wanted this to go a lot more quickly, but getting the large platform glued up took much longer than I had wanted–I had to make a whole bunch of stuff, including the clamps, before I could get to where I am now.

The first operation on the glued-up platform (after planing it off) was to shape it. I started with the ends, which are to be semicircular. I don’t have any trammel points to make a beam compass for such a large radius, so I just drove a couple of small nails into a board at the appropriate distance and used that to scribe it out:

As made, the radius of this improvised beam compass was a little too much, but to correct it, I just tapped one of the nails to bend it inward. I marked over the scribe line with a pencil.

Then there was a curve to lay out on the front. I guess I’ve been watching too much “Tally Ho,” because I tried to imitate Leo’s curve marking with a batten tacked into place:

I wasn’t sure if this would work, but it did. There were a few options for curve shape, mostly dealing with the tangent angle at the point of inflection in the middle. I chose a fairly mild one.

So I had one side done, and to do the other, I traced that side’s lines onto some of the paper that I use for making patterns, then cut along the lines on the paper, flipped it over, and transferred the lines to the other side of the platform.

Then it was time to start removing wood. I always get a little nervous the first time I cut into a panel (especially one that I’ve spent so much effort on gluing up), but it had to be done:

I removed as much as I could with a saw, working my way around the ends and trying to get as close as possible to the line. The cuts on the long grain were more challenging, so I used a drawknife to get rid of most of that material:

I finished the initial shaping with my Shinto saw rasp, and had this:

The front curve was somewhat tricky because it’s concave; I sawed a relief cut in the center and took out most of the waste with the drawknife and a chisel. (Note: Southern yellow pine is not particularly easy to use a drawknife on, but there’s worse.)

It came out as planned. Pay no attention to the ugly knots in the middle; those will not be visible with a cushion on top. I would have preferred clear wood, but due to multiple factors (the proximity of the nearest source of large southern yellow pine, the inconveniences of the source at the time that I went to buy it, not to mention the obnoxious process of picking through the pile alone on a steamy hot day in the middle of a pandemic), I settled for straight, mostly-quartersawn boards that would yield a clear perimeter, which is the only part of the wood that will be visible.

There isn’t much remaining work on the wood to do. I have to make the legs and the railing, do the final profile of the edge, and finish it. During finishing, I’ll make the cushion (hopefully I’ll have some sort of an idea about what I’m doing there).

Roubo-Style Panel Clamp Tweaks

After I made my panel clamps, I’ve now used them several times and have been able to work around some of the issues that came up. Here’s a partial shot of the latest project getting its final glue-up (this is big–roughly 7×2 feet (2130x610mm) in area:

I have four clamps–three long ones and a shorter one that I made earlier as sort of a prototype. I used all of them on this project.

Let’s address the the two comments that on speculation of “stuff that might go wrong” that I got last time.

First, Lionel asked if glue squeeze-out is a problem; can you glue the work to the clamps? The answer is yes. I said that if this were a problem, I’d just wax the insides, and that’s exactly what I did. The wax eliminated the problem.

Then, Matt asked if I used a single wedge, would it tend to wear/dent stuff into the pegs? I tried it, and it does indeed mush into the pegs (especially when they are southern yellow pine).

On that note, I wasn’t terribly happy with the way that the single or double wedges were working. In particular, all sorts of things can happen when you try drive them in:

  • The force of the mallet blow can shift and tilt the entire clamp over just a bit.
  • On double wedges, it can be tricky to hit one wedge without loosening and dislodging the other wedge.
  • On double wedges, it’s pretty easy to hit them so that they go askew of each other, and then they can slip out.
  • If the clamps are too close together, it can be difficult to find enough room to get your mallet strike started.
  • Fussing around with the wedges during glue-up (especially when you don’t have anyone to help you) takes precious time. The liquid hide glue that I use gives me a little more time, but still.

One of the speculative ideas that I had last time was I could add a hook to the upper wedge, so that I’d only need to hit one end of it. I did this, with one other change:

I planed a groove into the top and a matching tongue into the bottom with some old wooden match planes I picked up in Alameda many years ago. (Note to self: regrind those plane blades, they’re in awful shape.) This eliminates the slipping askew and generally makes it much easier to get the wedges set up.

With that in place, it was much easier, but I still had some difficulty finding the room to set the wedges at times, and didn’t really have a feel for how much I was tightening the joints. So I came up with this dumb hack to do the final tightening:

Even though using a little F-clamp like this might look like it could back the hook off of the peg, it hasn’t happened to me in practice; it just shoves the lower one into place. In any case, this made the job a lot easier.

In addition, I made new pegs out of ash to discourage dents from forming in them. I suppose that I could do that with the upper wedges as well, but that hasn’t caused any problems (after all, the upper wedges aren’t supposed to slide).

So now what do I think of using them?

Overall, I’m pretty happy. One of the things that I like the most is that you perform glue-up against a wall with the work sitting on its side. This makes it a lot easier to get things in place, and it’s also relatively easy to do a dry run of the glue-up and clamping, or at least get a good idea of what’s going to happen. Once you have everything in place, you can easily check both sides by just tilting it one way or the other. And because it’s already against a wall and not on a bench or anything, you don’t have to move it afterward to reclaim your space.

More Messing with Tapered Tenons

My plans today were to get the legs onto the stand that I’m building. Things did not quite go according to plan. The first impediment was that I haven’t been too content with the way you use the tenon cutter, and it came to a head today. I prefer to twist the stock into the cutter rather than twist the cutter around because it’s easier to keep it centered that way. Unfortunately, it’s not really easy to put the tenon cutter into a vise or something to keep it put. Not like it’s easy to twist the cutter, either, mind you.

So I picked up a squared-up ash cutoff, put a rabbet into one edge, and screwed the tenon cutter into the opposite edge (it has holes and little half-moonish registration standoffs to help with the attachment):

Then I can just put it into the vise, with the rabbet registering on the benchtop. The result is that (in theory, at least), you can hold the stock parallel to the benchtop and bench front to keep it in the right place:

With this system in place, I was still having problems. The tenon cutter isn’t large enough to engulf the whole octagonal profile of these legs. I was doing a rough shaping with the drawknife and saw rasp to get a cylinder to shove into the tenon cutter, with a little transition area to the outer surfaces. I determined that you need to be fairly precise about the size of that cylinder. I’d made it too small, which resulted in tapered tenons with a long rough unshaped area between the tapered part and the transition to the octagon:

This happens because the transition area eventually meets the end of the tenon cutter and cannot advance any more. This wouldn’t happen if the tenon cutter were larger than the stock being worked (which would be the case for most cylindrical legs), or if I wanted to do a more gradual transition (assuming that I were actually good enough with a drawknife to do that). Even though this 9/16″ version isn’t the largest tenon cutter that Lee Valley offers–the 5/8″ keeps selling out too quickly–it wouldn’t make much difference here.

I decided to cut new transitions farther back in the stock and make newly-shaped cylinders bigger in order to bring the tapered part closer. Something tells me that this would be a lot easier with a lathe, but I don’t have one of those. I’d been putting it into my tail vise and just whacking away with a chisel, but the end would keep sliding around too much. So I interrupted myself again and made a stop with a mouth on one end that I could secure into two dog holes (to keep it from swiveling around):

This worked. As a bonus, you don’t need to secure it with the tail vise this way, making it really easy to turn the stock around so that you can work on all of the facets.

With this aid, I was able to shape everything a bit better and use the tenon cutter again. This made for a much nicer result:

I’m not worried about the 1/4″ between the transitions and the tapered part (this is the distance between the tenon cutter’s blade and its end).

Unfortunately, I spent so much time fooling around with these little shop aids and trying to figure out the best way to use them that I didn’t have any time to ream the holes for these things today. Oh well.

About Those Wire Hanger Models

One small project that’s been lingering for a month or so is a narrow stand to hold some decorative stuff (such as a plant or worse). I planned to make a three-legged round-topped staked version. The difficulty is that the proportions don’t really conform to most furniture projects, so I wasn’t really sure what would look halfway decent.

Fortunately, there is a solution, described in The Anarchist’s Design Book, also referenced in a recent LAP blog post. You make a quickie half-scale model to see if it works, and if it does, transfer the angle(s) from that. So I made myself a little r = 2.5″ top and set about getting some wire hangers to dismantle in order to mock up the legs.

That’s where I came across two problems. First, there’s sort of a shortage of wire hangers in this house, and an acute shortage of ones that aren’t bent all to hell, which would make it difficult to get a halfway accurate resultant angle with the long legs that this project requires. Second, I had this difficulty: How would I get a better feel for how the legs would look meeting the top, as well as the overall weight of the legs, taking into account some of the thickness? I also didn’t know what length of leg I wanted.

So maybe I don’t have a lot of straight wire hangers around, but I do have a lot of narrow offcuts of wood lying all over the place. I decided to try drilling a hole in the end and stuffing a smaller piece of wire hanger in there:

And then, I wasn’t sure of the inset from the edge where the legs should be attached. Again, because this is not a chair, I wasn’t really sure what might be appropriate. So I drilled two sets of holes in the top so that I could play with both:

At least the sightlines for this thing are really easy to determine.

With this in place, I attached scale 30″ legs in the outer holes to see how this would look:

As I suspected, it was awkward. There were problems viewing from different angles and the proportions are also a bit unfortunate. I tried putting the legs into the inner set of holes, and that was also strange.

So then I tried scale 26″ legs, attached to the inner holes:

This seems to work better. It looks like a stand, I guess. Hopefully it does not look like a stool, though it might actually be able to perform that function.

In any case, before getting the resultant angle, I just tried fixing the wires in place with “Shoe Goo” to see if I can keep them from wriggling around so much. (Others use epoxy, but I don’t have any of that right now.)

The Roubo-Style Panel Clamp

This was going to be my year for getting enough clamps: I was to troll the tool sales and estate sales to get what I’ve been lacking. Then you-know-what came around, and that plan whimpered and died. As fate would have it, I’ve got an upcoming project that requires more clamps than I have.

Perhaps I was fortunate that I was reading the Roubo translation from LAP recently, and of course Roubo talked all about clamps. He described a panel clamp made from two boards that he called “twins.” He said that “the use of these tools is excellent,” and his recommendations are not to be taken lightly. OK, whatever, it looked reasonable, so I wondered if anyone in the 21st century had made them. I should have guessed that Don Williams had done it; here’s his blog post. There’s a snippet of the Roubo plate in there. Also, keep in mind that even though we’re calling them “Roubo clamps,” we don’t really know how the form evolved over the years to the form he described.

The construction of these is simple enough that it was definitely worth trying. I grabbed some southern yellow pine 2x4s and put a bunch of holes in:

Hand tool disclaimer: I used my drill press. Sure, I could have used my brace, but it would have taken a lot longer, and this is one thing that a machine actually does really well.

The holes are alternately offset like Williams did. It seemed like a good idea at the time. He used a mortising machine to make 1/2″ square holes. I planned for 3/4″ pegs, and I didn’t like the idea of using round pegs, so I needed to square up the holes. With no mortising machine of my own, I just went at it with the biggest mortise chisel that I own:

Thankfully, these don’t need to be appearance-grade. And yes, I chopped halfway in from each side, and yes, there’s something underneath the wood to keep from putting (any more) nicks into my bench.

This was something of a chore, but not awful. After that, it was simply a matter of resawing, making the pegs and wedges, and before long, I had three twins:

I tested them on some boards that were lying around:

These seem to work well. I pounded the wedges in pretty hard. Using them requires some acclimation, so I guess another reason to use liquid hide glue is so that you have enough time to put them on. Although I’m using double wedges here, I might change to single ones for the simplicity.

Being southern yellow pine, I think they’ll be strong enough. Roubo describes beefier things: roughly 4-5 inches wide, and 2 inches thick (but is this per side or for both twins?). His described mortises and pegs are 1.5 inches wide–four times the volume profile. But from what kind of wood would he have seen these made? Oak would be very strong for the pegs, but its tendency to split cleanly might be something of a concern for the twins. Beech wouldn’t have that kind of problem. Or what if it were a wimpy sort of thing?

Oh well, I don’t think that’s something I need to concern myself with that until I manage to break these.

Quickie: Back Door Shelf

A secondary title would be “A Study in Overthinking.” There’s a spot near our back door where we’ve been wanting to put up a small shelf with some knobs or hooks or something underneath. I decided that it wasn’t worth procrastinating any longer, so I grabbed a piece of eastern white pine, flattened and thicknessed it, and set out to do the actual construction. At first, I thought that I’d make some sides as brackets and use cut nails to put the whole thing together (too much “Anarchist’s Design Book,” you see).

So I plowed a groove into one of the boards that was to be the back. This would accept the shelf:

I had to do this in three stages because (a) I don’t have many blades for the plow plane, and my widest one was a little too wide, and (b) I failed to think ahead that I could have just thicknessed to the width of that wide blade. When you’re overthinking, you wouldn’t accidentally want to think of something that makes sense, right? At least I rejected the sliding dovetail idea.

Then I quickly evened out the bottom with a router plane, and got to fitting the shelf into the back. At that point, I tossed the nail idea out the window because it was faster to glue the thing in place:

The remaining work would be to make the sides that would act as brackets. I was still planning to nail those on, but then I realized that because I glued it, this thing was probably already stronger than it needed to be. There was the option of omitting the brackets altogether and letting the shelf “float,” but I didn’t think that look would fit the intended setting.

My first thought was to just make diagonal braces dovetailed into the rear and top, but partway into making the brace, I decided that this was a dumb idea. It helped that I was feeling lazy. I ended up just mitering the brace with no additional joinery, and just glued them on:

I didn’t even bother to use clamps. In other applications, this might strike one as flimsy, but remember that the purpose of these is decoration. I’m not timber-framing. Still, I did prepare the mitered surface with thinned liquid hide glue before the normal (liquid hide glue) application.

For what it’s worth, I did try knocking them off after the glue dried, and they didn’t budge.

And so here’s the result, edges broken and ready to be painted (at least, I think I’m painting it):

Now I’m destined to overthink the paint. (I think it’s supposed to be white.)

Building the Staked Sawbench from the ADB

While building whatever it is that I’ve been building up until now, I’ve always had this feeling in the back of my head that I’ve been ignoring a type of construction that might be pretty useful. And this sort of hit home when I read through The Anarchist’s Design Book recently. I have to admit that I’ve always found the idea of round tapered tenons to be a little dodgy-sounding, but I didn’t have much faith in my reasoning. This kind of joinery is the basis for many kinds of chairs that seem to hold up just fine. When a lot of real-world evidence contradicts you, it’s probably not good idea to try to bend your mind to ignore that reality.

In the book, it doesn’t look all that complicated. I got to thinking, “Well, I could do that.” I ordered a tapered tenon cutter, a reamer, and picked up a piece of 8/4 red oak from the lumberyard. It was at least worth trying the first project in the book, the staked sawbench. I’ve been wanting to build a second sawbench for a while now, so what did I have to lose?

I started by gluing up the top of the sawbench (you’ll see that later), then worked on the legs. I picked the worst part of the board for the legs, saving the nice straight stuff for other projects. It seemed that, once dimensioned square, I’d want a reasonable way to get an octagonal profile, so I first tried to tack a leftover from the sliding deadman track onto an old sticking board to get some sort of channel for the leg to rest in:

This worked:

But it wasn’t great. The leg tended to slip off of the sloped edge. I decided that it was worth making something better than this 5-minute hack.

I came up with a new sticking board-like thing with a proper channel (what are these things called?):

Simply put, this worked far better. The end is held in place with one dog that also serves as a stop for the work:

This is easy to do when you have round dog holes; you just bore a hole in the far end of the board to accept the dog. I clamped the whole thing in place on the other side with the tail vise.

I can use this for holding cylindrical stuff as well, but there’s one more advantage to this. Notice how the side is flush? This means that I can also use it in my bandsaw:

Since we’re hand-tool oriented here, we won’t dive deeper, but it should be clear enough that you can use the bandsaw to quickly rough out the profile, then move the whole mess over to the bench and finish it off with planes.

With the legs profiled, it was time to get them shaped at one end in order to use the tenon cutter. This was new territory; I decided to start with a drawknife that I’ve had for some time but never really had much use for:

The tenon cutter could almost fit at this point, but it still needed some rough shaping and I’m not confident enough with the drawknife to go too crazy. This is the point where I turned to my Shinto saw rasp, which turned out to be just the right thing.

I got the first one made in spite of going at it blind (other than seeing it in the book):

Getting the tenon straight was a little disconcerting (you can test it by putting it in a reamed hole and turning; if it wobbles around, it’s not straight). I eventually found that if you hold the tenon cutter in a vise or clamp or something, you can get pretty good results by holding the leg from the other end and turn, like you would a pencil sharpener. This works because you’re keeping a steady angle. You might find that the leg can want to shift to a different spot as you’re starting out. Let it do so; it’s shifting to the center.

I need to do more experimentation on the best way to keep the tenon cutter fixed and getting a stake to line up more easily at the beginning. I also found that if you rub a little wax on the tenon before you start, it makes for a lot easier job (and a lot less noisy). But the good news is that making the tenons got a lot faster as I got used to it.

Then it was off to reaming the mortises, which I’ve also never done before. I started by clamping the top to my first sawbench with some standoffs, then using a regular auger bit with the “sliding bevel resultant angle” method to bore the initial hole. Then it was off to reaming in much the same way:

This process, like the tenons, takes a little bit getting used to, but gets much faster as you get accustomed to it.

I’m not sure about that reamer. In the preceding photo, I’m using a 12-inch sweep brace, but the shank of the reamer is pretty soft and gets dinged up, and the chuck on this brace doesn’t hold it that well. I switched to a brace with a Millers Falls “Lion” chuck, which is better, but I’m still not thrilled with it. This reamer is really meant for power drills. For hand braces, especially this big one, something with a traditional square-taper shank would put my mind more at ease. I wonder if the power tenon brace adapter that Lee Valley sells is the right size.

In any case, I had the test fit ready in what seemed like no time:

Yes, Roubo would have a fit at the way I put the heart of the tree on the inside for the one edge of the top, but Roubo didn’t have southern yellow pine. This would be a disaster with, say, beech, but SYP is far more stable, and I did it this way to make the grain directions align in a certain way.

At this point, I decided to just jump off the deep end and glue it up right away. I could have planned ahead a bit better there. I decided that I would use a chisel to split the tops of the tenons to accept a wedge, so I didn’t put a kerf in there, but it didn’t dawn on me that I would need to bang the wedges in at the same time that I glued the legs in place… until I reread the book a little more closely. I didn’t even have wedges made, so there was a mad rush to make some wedges and pound them in.

So I don’t have any photos of that process. But I do have a finished sawbench now:

The hardest part, I think, was finding some way to hold the legs while sawing them to final length. I ended up clamping them to the end of my bench, but in retrospect, I might have done better by just clamping them to my original sawbench.

This seems to have gone OK, especially for the first time through. I really had no idea what I was doing here. The legs really line up well. It looks decent. I was especially happy about how quickly it went together. Really, this was just a few hours in the shop for a couple of days. Best of all, it seems to work, which should be a really big help when cutting down those really long boards.

With this behind me, I feel like perhaps I might be capable of making a chair one day. But there are other things requiring my attention in the immediate future.

Router Plane Box: Finished

I’ve been picking away at pieces of the router plane box and finally glued in the last bracket (the one for the fence) yesterday:

I took off the clamp today and did a test-fit of the tools:

That went surprisingly well. Both planes fit in there with no problems; I have room for a few more blades as well as the small router plane (if I ever get it). I could also fit the miniature router plane inside.

During this project, I also added a wooden lining to the fence. It’s the same privet that I used for the new mallet, which should be fairly hard-wearing.

For whatever reason, I made a lid consisting of a frame and a floating shiplapped panel. After gluing that up, I cut a rabbet along the bottom so that it can fit onto the top of the box:

After trimming the dovetails and such, I had a finished box:

Or rather, I had a complete, unfinished box. I normally leave shop projects unfinished, but for whatever reason, I decided that I wanted to apply tung oil to this thing. That turned out to be a messy affair, because I couldn’t get the cap of the bottle open, pried it off, and ended up splattering some of it around. Oh well, the bench now has a slight oil reapplication.

That takes some time to cure, but at least I don’t have to do anything else. Time to move on to the next thing. And no, it will not be a box for my plow plane, tempting as that may be.

Router Plane Box Preparation

I’m sort of in between projects right now, plotting out my course for the next couple pieces of furniture, so I’m not working on anything particularly big. But something in the background was bugging me.

A few months ago, Lee Valley sent out a promotion for a box for their router plane. There were two sides to this. First, they were offering a pretty good option for someone who wanted a box for their router plane. Second, they were trolling us, because they talked about how it might seem questionable to offer a wooden box to woodworkers, and that, hey, if you want to make your own, maybe this will get things started.

I have to admit that I did like a few things about the design of the box, so I decided that I would make my own and rip off elements of the design. So I started by making a dovetailed box out of eastern white pine (haven’t smoothed off the ends yet):

This is what I was sawing in the latter part of my lame epic video on restoring a saw.

For better or worse, I fitted a shiplapped panel bottom in grooves around the bottom. I can’t seem to resist panels.

Then I had to start working on the blade storage rack. I decided to just cut a bunch of square holes on a shelf with a glued-on bracket:

This will cause the blades to point to the back at a 45-degree angle. I only did it this way because it was easier to cut holes in this orientation. (Doing square holes like this in white pine is relatively easy.) Later, I added holes for the hex wrenches and the sharpening aid bar thing.

Now, I need to:

  1. Make the bracket for the fence.
  2. Make brackets to keep the plane in its spot (and probably the medium router plane, as I just bought one of those).
  3. Deal with the lid.

I’m hoping that I’m not spending too long on this, but on the other hand, ever since I got that router plane, I haven’t had a good place to put it.

Surprise Video: Restoring a Saw

So I’ve been working on a secret project. I’m done and can now share it. It’s my first video, where I restore a saw:

It’s action-packed, of course: Rust removal, refinishing, saw sharpening, cutting dovetails, and macro photography. Could you ask for more? (Other than some real action…)

If nothing else, you get to see a saw that isn’t terribly common. And features a really grotty medallion: