Nightstand: Panel and Groove Work, Router Plane Fence Changes

With the panels milled to thickness, it was time to make the grooves in the frame to house them. Normally, this isn’t such terrible work; I don’t have a plow plane, but I do have a router plane with a fence that I made and it works, just not as quickly as a plow. With this project, however, there were a few additional matters:

  • I needed an additional fence setting, because the grooves in the legs go at a different offset than the stretchers.
  • There are more than three times as many grooves to make in this project than my previous project.
  • All of the leg grooves are stopped on both sides.
  • Two of the stretchers have strange profiles.
  • Beech is much more difficult to work than the stuff I’ve used for other projects with panels.

I started by modifying my homemade router plane fence. First, I took it apart and replaced the wood screw fasteners with screw inserts and brass machine screws so that it would be easier to move around:

Then I drilled a few more holes at different offsets on the fence mount so that I could move the fence sideways. Here’s a view of the complete router plane and fence:

With this done, I did the grooves for the stretchers. These were mostly straightforward, except for the ones on the side middle. Viewed from one end, these have J-shaped profiles because they form part of the enclosure for the drawer. (I don’t think I will ever design anything like this again; I’ll just use additional stretchers or something to avoid complications like this.)

So first, I had to cut a groove about 3/4″ deep into the stretcher:

Then I scribed a line from the bottom of this to the proper height and sawed off most of the waste. The first time, I did it freehand (as shown below), but on the second one, I wised up and clamped a batten on top to use as a sort of guide.

Finally, I used a block plane to bring the side down to final height:

The stretchers were then out of the way, but the grooves in the legs remained, so I moved the fence on the router plane and did them.

The whole process took quite a long time. A plow plane would have made very quick work of the stretchers because those grooves aren’t stopped. However, the leg grooves were just slow going. There’s just a lot of constant time-consuming adjustment when you go progressively deeper on a router plane, especially an older one like this, where there is a little bit of play in the blade alignment. You have to be a little careful about how you tighten it. I imagine that the Veritas router plane doesn’t have this problem, but I’m not shelling out the dough to get one of those when I’ve already got one that works (I’d rather have a plow plane).

At long last, I was ready to start sawing the panels to size and fit into the grooves this morning. Turned out well; I now have the sides done (the back requires a glueup which is in progress):

I’m almost ready to glue up some of the frame.

Nightstand: Legs Milled, Bench Scraped, Etc.

Today, I thought I would have the opportunity to get a lot of stuff done on the nightstand. It turns out that I didn’t get quite so much accomplished, at least in terms of the project. The legs are now milled to profile, which is great, because they’re the longest pieces in the project:

Further evidence that I should really make a saw bench sometime is that I managed to scrape up part of the bench while ripping the board:

Yeah, oops. It’s cosmetic, of course, but it begs the question of how I managed to do that in the first place. Well, I had the board held down over the edge of the bench while I started the cut. On cuts like this, I tend to do the first 1/3 of the cut over on the left side of the vise, and then move the board over to the right of the vise when finishing the cut.

This would be a lot easier on a sawbench, especially without a stupid vise in the way. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that I just don’t feel that I have the time for at the moment because I have to concentrate on the current project. On the list of other things that I should do sometime is really redo my bench top–move it flush to the legs according to the Gospel of Schwarz, get the rear vise jaw flush with the front, and maybe thicken up the top. Maybe I’ll have time for the sawbench at least when I’m finished with the nightstand.

But after the legs were milled, it occurred to me that there was one little thing that I really did need to address at the moment, and that was my jointer plane. The one I’ve been working with up until now is a frankenplane of sorts–an unknown early-type Stanley with a type 6-8 frog, a kidney-holed lever cap, and a Hock blade. Well, that’s all fine and good, except that the tote is broken and the lateral adjuster is kind of woogie. It works, but it’s annoying and sometimes makes the hand ache.

So I could have made a new tote (I had previously glued it back together but that didn’t last) and tried to bang out the kinks in the lateral adjuster, but it turns out that I had a Millers Falls #22 (type 2, postwar) right next to it that I had wanted to use at some point. In fact, back when I had my handle-varnishing jamboree about a year ago, the tote and knob from this plane were happy to attend. But mostly, it’s been sitting in pieces at the bottom of the bench, looking kind of stupid.

I pulled it out and spent an hour or so scraping and sanding off the rust, got most of the surfaces clean (primarily by wiping it with camellia oil), oiled the threads, and put everything back together. Then, for the final touch, I stole the Hock blade from my old jointer and put it in. Bingo, a “brand new” jointer:

Nope, no sole-flattening or anything. Mostly, it was all about cleaning out the dead spiders from the inside of the frog and making sure that it works. Really, that’s all I seem to care about in these metal planes now, quite a difference from when I first started out.

Restoring an Ash Mortise Chisel

To make the joinery in the stool project, I’m going to need a fatter mortise chisel than my W. Butcher “pigsticker.” Fortunately, while trolling eBay a while back, bidding cheaply on every pigsticker I saw (and losing all of them), I managed to pick up two for about $13 each. When the dust cleared, I had a 3/8″ William Ash and a 7/16″ Samuel Newbould. Both needed work to get back into usable shape, but at least I didn’t have to make a handle for either.

For whatever reason, I picked the Ash to restore now, which had a lot of rust. In retrospect, I have no idea why. The Newbould doesn’t have much rust, but it does have some pitting near the tip, as does the Ash. And of course, that’s the worst part, right? So no problem with the slightly smaller chisel, right?

Well, that is, unless that one has a tip that is about as sharp as a blunt screwdriver, which is exactly what the Ash had. But I’m pretty hardheaded, so I resolved to reshape the bevel. However, even though this type of chisel is laminated and most of the metal is pretty soft, the cutting edge is always ridiculously hard. I didn’t want to spend years trying to muscle that off. For salvation, I turned to…

The world’s most horrible grinder.

Hand-crank grinders look cute and all, but I bought this Wissota thing for about 50 cents a long time ago, and after fiddling around for a long time trying to make it turn even halfway reasonably, I put it aside. Some of its many features include:

  • Grotesquely misshapen, hot-burnin’ wheel
  • Mismatched bushing/arbor
  • Missing tool rest (although this might not be such a bad thing)
  • Bent crank handle
  • Frozen nuts
  • Broken clamp knob

But for whatever reason, instead of going out and getting something reasonable, I put it on the bench and started fooling around with it. I managed to get the nuts turning, and when I tightened everything up and turned the crank, it started spinning with a groan. For lack of a better idea, I squirted a little WD-40 into the oil hole, and to my surprise, the noise went away and it turned freely.

So I put on the safety glasses, got a jar of water for cooling the blade, and went to work, using a clamped board as a tool rest. This worked well enough (gotta love those high-carbon steel sparks), and before long, I had an actual bevel on the blade. Whee.

Then I turned my attention to the chisel’s face. There was a lot of pitting near the tip on this one after some flattening:

Oh, how I hate dealing with this mess. It was off to the surface plate and the 3X sandpaper to fix this problem:

The sandpaper doesn’t stay aggressive on this steel for very long. After switching sandpaper about 5 times (note to self: get some 60-grit paper next time), I had finally gotten through the pitting, so I finished smoothing the face, then turned my attention to the bevel side.

I started with an Eclipse-style honing guide at first, but this chisel is just too heavy for that, so I just did it freehand. This worked well, and before long, I had a sharp chisel. But it’s not truly sharp until you use it to make sure, so I did just that on some beech:

Yeah, I’d say it works. I might remove some of that black oxidation on the sides at some point, but for now, I don’t think I need to. Anyone want to take bets on how long the handle will last?

One question remains: What will become of the world’s most horrible grinder? I might be able to make it work reasonably well with a decent wheel and a little tuning. Or should I get a new one? Grinders are useful things, no doubt about it; I just hadn’t really needed to bother with one until now.

My Sloped Gullets

Leif over at Norse Woodsmith did a recent post on sloped gullets. Strangely enough, I’ve been working on restoring a couple of saws lately, and about the time he posted, I was starting to sharpen one of them, an old Disston No. 7. I finished this morning and decided to take a photo of the result. Unfortunately, I don’t have a macro lens, so I can’t get much better than the following shot, and also unfortunately, I don’t think the angle is very good, because you can’t really see the bottom of the gullets too well:

In any case, take a look at the bottom of the brightly reflected edges, and you’ll see that the rear is higher than the front, especially on that tooth all the way to the left. This shot was taken straight from the saw coming off the file, so you can see some burr here and there. You can also see how difficult it is to judge the height and shape of the teeth here. In this shot, it looks like the teeth set towards the camera (the all-dark ones) are a little bit lower than the ones set away, but in reality, they’re all the same. It really is easier to tell by jointing the teeth and filing until the flats are gone.

I’d mentioned in a comment on Leif’s post that the angle I used for fleam and slope was not that great. On further inspection, it seems to be moderate. The fleam angle is 20 degrees and the slope is about the same. I think a 10-15 degree fleam and slope would be easier to file, and I plan to try it out on the other saw I need to sharpen.

All of this theory is useless if it doesn’t work in practice. Here is a test cut in beech:

It’s about what you would expect from a 6TPI saw that’s 26″ long. The important part is that it belches sawdust profusely when sawing, and with a controlled cut, you don’t get much tearout. And it’s always nice to get a 110+ year old tool working again.

Silly Honing Guide Tricks

After finishing off those last two projects, I had some time to clean and rearrange stuff in the shop, and as I was doing so, I couldn’t help myself from sharpening up a nice old W. Butcher chisel I got off of eBay a while back. I decided that I needed to reshape the bevel, so I put some Norton 3X on the surface plate and set up my Lee Valley/Veritas Mk. 2 honing guide. (I sharpen freehand for the most part now, but for shaping, I use the guide.)

As I was going to work, the blade did something that it sometimes does in the guide–it slipped and rotated out of square. This has been my only major gripe with the guide, and it’s going to happen with any top-clamping guide, especially with the narrower blades.

Then I thought of a way to make it stop, maybe. I took a small piece of very fine grit sandpaper (1500 in this case), folded it, and put it between the blade and the guide on the bevel side, where it wouldn’t affect the bevel angle:

And it no longer slipped around. Someone else has probably thought of this fix, too, they’ve had to.

(For the record, my only other gripe with the guide, a minor one, is that the knurled knobs are sometimes difficult to loosen. I’d kind of prefer something more like a wingnut.)

A D-8 named Sawthra

The last saw to be complete from the pile o’ handles I refinished a while back was a 28″ Disston D-8. The plan was to make it a replacement for the 7 TPI D-7 that I’d been using for a rip saw.

When I first got the D-8, I was somewhat ecstatic. The blade was pretty clean, reasonably straight, and even had its etch. So all I needed to do was refinish the handle, clean off the blade, and sharpen. Easy, right?

Well, I got to sharpening, and about halfway through from the heel to toe, my file started to make strange noises and didn’t want to cut the metal. Huh. It turns out that there was a roughly 8-inch length where someone had done something unholy to the teeth. They were hard, very hard. We’re talking “breaks the teeth off your file” hard here.

I wasn’t going to let a saw make a monkey out of me, though, and managed to work through the hard metal. It seemed to go about 1/8″ deep into the blade. After this, I was tired. Very tired. I thought, well, maybe I should name this thing “Sawzilla,” but quick research indicated that it wasn’t a terribly original name. So here is Sawthra, named after the slightly more obscure Mothra:

The Disston D-8 brings me to another thought I’d been having lately, namely, “wouldn’t it be great to have a brand-new D-8?” Then at Bagathon, I made a rather unusual deal with Larry that brought me this saw:

Notice anything familiar about this 24-inch Pax “No 1” panel saw? Like, maybe, that it’s a total copy of the Disston D-8, even down to the handle and the screw arrangement?

So I really do have a practically brand-new D-8 now. It makes sense, I suppose. The Flinn company tends to catch a lot of flak about its saws, in particular, that the handles aren’t as nice as century-old handles. But they do at least reproduce a true classic handsaw. The blade is taper-ground, for whatever that’s worth. Although I wouldn’t characterize the teeth on this thing as “sharp” (my little carcase saw currently cuts faster than this thing at the moment), they don’t look too bad, and probably need a little touch-up. I’ll wax the blade, like I always do.

The handle? Well, I’m not sure if I want to make a new one or not. To be honest, the handle isn’t that bad. But I always seem to end up making handles.

A Tale of Two Saws

Or, rather, two descriptions. I finally finished the pile o’ handles I was working on, and two of the saws on which they belong are complete:

The one in the back is a 28″ Disston No. 7. When I got it, it was filed at 4.5TPI crosscut. However, this pitch (and the saw’s handle) is far more suited for ripping, so during sharpening, I converted it to a rip saw. For the first time when simply modifying teeth on an old saw, I needed to add some set–there was practically none. Although the surface looks a little funky (strange corrosion patterns), it’s actually pretty smooth, and it tears through wood like a bat out of hell. I have wanted this saw to be complete for a long time. I’ll be using it a lot.

The other saw is a “Warranted Superior” backsaw from the 50s or so. There’s nothing remarkable about it. It’s not mine (it belongs to someone in the family), but I’ve had it for a while because it was in bad need of a rehab. The teeth had been nearly worn off in places. Nasty. So, after refinishing the handle and redoing the teeth, it cuts about as well as you’d hope it to. Interestingly, it’s been a while since I did crosscut filing; most of my latest projects have revolved around different varieties of rip saws.

Unfortunately, this thing was on my project list for a couple of years. Now I can finally send it back to its owner.

Mortise chisel: Part 2

I marked out the angles on the mortise chisel by “feel,” just by sort of looking at all of the pictures I’ve seen and guessing. With two sides cut away, it looked like this:

I cut out these sections with my larger rip saw. It would have taken forever with anything else. Then I used a block plane to smooth around the oval. I nicked the blade of the plane against the chisel bolster doing that. Boo. Grinding that stuff out is always such a pain.

Following the plane, I used a spokeshave to further smooth the oval shape, then, finally, progressive grits of sandpaper on a block to do the final smoothing. This sequence was quick.

A couple of oil/varnish blend applications later, along with the requisite sharpening, it was ready to use. Here it is with its first test mortise-and-tenon joint (upper left, not that stuff to the right):

It’s a lot of fun to use. Best of all, it’s fast.

Mortise chisel handle: Part 1

I’ve been jonesing for a “real” mortise chisel for a long time now. My obstacle, however, has been the irrational cheapskate inside of me. There’s been a lot written about the English “pigsticker” style of mortise chisel lately, and I’ve been trolling ebay for a cheap one or one without a handle. I finally got my hands on a handle-free sample a couple of weeks ago.

Made by W. Butcher, it has a strange width–something like 9/32″. This is close enough to 1/4″, I guess. Its cutting edge is laminated to a softer metal for the rest of the blade.

Unfortunately, it was dubbed at the tip when I got it, and it was a lot of work to flatten the back (I took the dubbing problem from both ends; shortened it slightly and flattened the rest off). You would think something that small would be easier to flatten, but the steel is really quite hard. I used Norton 3X sandpaper on a granite surface plate, grits 80 on up.

After doing this task, I set out to make a new handle per Derek Cohen’s instructions. Putting in the hole for the tang was a real pain in the ass:

The wood is yellow birch. We’ll see if it holds up. Next step is to shape it, then finish sharpening the blade.

Various handles and knobs

I’m in the process of varnishing four saw handles, a plane tote, and a plane knob. Here are half of the pieces.

As usual, I’m not being terribly speedy here. It’s been seven months since I started working on that tenon saw handle in the center. Things happen but I like to think that sooner or later, I get back to this stuff. (Especially since I’ve had the saw blade sharpened almost since I started on the handle and it’s otherwise ready to go.)

The larger hand saw handle in the rear is for a Disston D-8 that will become one of my new rip saws, somewhere at around 7TPI. This will be in addition to a No. 7 (I think) that’s going to be a larger 4.5TPI rip saw. The handle for that one is also in this batch, thankfully. Both of these handles were glopped over with some awful green paint that I needed to strip before the refinishing process started. What is it with the green paint?

The initial finish on these two handles was a mix of “colonial maple” stain, some satin polyurethane, and tung oil, for an oil/varnish blend (this makes the rays in the beech look nice). After a few coats of that, I’m now putting on satin polyurethane. I like the way that a top coat of polyurethane feels on the other handles I’ve done (as opposed to alkyd varnish and oil/varnish blends), and it seems to hold up better. It takes a little more effort to get polyurethane to look decent, but it’s not that bad.

I think I need one or two more coats on the handles.

The knob is from a Millers Falls #22 jointer plane that’s been waiting for restoration. I did not use the oil/varnish blend on this (or its accompanying tote), because the ray structure in this tropical wood did not seem worth bringing out. I may be done with the plane parts; I’ll evaluate that later.