Making Low-Profile Bench Dogs

One problem I’ve had with several projects in the past is that my bench dogs protrude from the bench just enough to get in the way when planing thinner panels (such as 1/4″ ones). I’ve gotten around this in the past with a number of kludges, but this time, I decided that I would do something about it before milling the nightstand panels. It seemed that it was possible to create a low-profile dog that would really grip well–one particular problem with planing panels is that they can slip off of dogs, so I wanted to avoid that.

I started by cutting off a length of 3/4″ hard maple dowel. For this kind of dog, a tough, hard wood is best. This particular stock was slightly more than 3/4″, so I had to thin it up a little with a spokeshave before anything else (the first use of my Taiwanese wooden spokeshave, yay!).

Next, I drilled a radial hole straight through the center with my trusty Millers Falls #2, then pounded a short length of 1/8″ dowel into that hole:

The 1/8″ dowel here is yellow-poplar, but it could be anything. It won’t be subject to very much force.

Then I did the following:

  1. Sliced off a piece at the top so that there would be a flat face for the work to abut against.
  2. Drilled a smaller radial hole perpendicular and intersecting the first hole (with my trusty Millers Falls #5, sigh, too many eggbeaters).
  3. Drove a brad through this hole from the back of the dog, just enough to jut out the front at the flat face just created.
  4. Hacksawed off the brad at the back of the dog, filed that smooth, then drove it into the back a little more with a nail punch.
  5. Sawed off the top of the dog to bring the top just above the smaller dowel.

That’s a mouthful, but this picture of the finished product should explain it all fairly well:

You can see that the idea is to push the panel being milled into the brad so that it won’t ride up.

I made two of these, and two without the flat face and brad. This latter type is mostly for auxiliary support when planing across the grain. Then I had to see if all of this effort was actually going to amount to something.

They work well. Here’s how they would look in use when planing straight along the grain (no vise required):

They really do keep the board in place, and you can see that they don’t obstruct anything–they’re just a little more than 1/8″ off the top of the bench when in a hole. A planing stop (with the same sort of brads, of course) could be useful for keeping the work from “jackknifing” when planing along the edge, but I found that repositioning is fast enough. A wagon vise would also be a great help here, but still unnecessary.

Armed with these new little doodads, I had just enough time today to make one nightstand panel from the board shown in the preceding image:

Sometimes, you just need to make a lot of shavings.

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.

New Dog Holes, More Milled Wood

I’ve been doing a lot of milling and resawing lately. My prototype bookshelf will use the following pieces of yellow-poplar that I dimensioned:

Yeah, I know, it’s not too exciting, it’s just some wood.

This stuff was quite cupped when I started out, so I had to do a lot of work with the scrub plane to get it flat. To do so, I decided to put a second row of dog holes in the workbench so that it would be easier to plane across the grain:

To use them, just add some dogs in the appropriate holes, as shown here by this evil piece of beech:

It’s been working well so far. I’m considering adding one more at the corner so that it really doesn’t have any room to move around, but it’s not important right now.

Why, you ask, is that board evil? Well, it’s from a piece of 8/4 stock, about 11″ wide. To get to the point of resawing it, I had to flatten one face. No problem, except when you don’t hammer in the scrub plane wedge enough. When that happens, the blade can pop out when you’re doing hard work. The overall consequence, then, is minor carnage. Ouch. I lost a few days of shop time from that.

In any case, this board is for another project that I haven’t talked about yet. I’ll post more details on it later.

Frame Saw: Resawing panels, repairs

One of the projects I’m starting now is a small bookshelf prototype that I’ll use to guide my way through building later versions. I’m in the process of milling the wood, and to make efficient use of the wood, I decided to resaw 4/4 boards so that I can use one slice for the sides and shelves, and the other slice for a panel in the rear of the bookshelf.

So it’s the first real-life use of my frame saw. It does fairly well; here’s a roughly 1/4″ slice that came off one board (this is Yellow-poplar/Liriodendron tulipifera):

The upper left looks slightly ugly in this shot, but it’s actually just two passes of a plane from totally flush. The result is actually quite good–very flat, no wandering of the saw. I seem to run into difficulty at the end of of the board, and I’m still trying to figure out ways to make that easier. Unfortunately, what didn’t help was the tension on my frame saw being too great for the hardware that I made to hold the blade in place, causing it to tear apart on one side:

Yikes. Well, okay, so I just chopped it off and remade the piece. I think this part is a little weak because of the recesses I filed for the itty bitty screws that I no longer use. I’m still not entirely happy with the arrangement, but if it holds, I’ll change my attitude.

Speaking of attitude, mine towards my front vise has been one of complete irritation for the past several months. I’ve had the endcaps held on at the very tip with screw inserts in the center with a machine screw to hold the whole thing in. Unfortunately, the insert kept coming out (because inserts don’t work well when inserted parallel to the grain, duh), the cap would come loose, and the handle would fall out of the vise. Of course, it would always fall out at an appropriately inconvenient time.

This was happening on only one side of the vise, and I finally fixed it for good today by relocating the insert to the side of the handle instead of the tip (you can see the hole in the tip at the right where the screw used to be):

I suppose that it’s fixed “for good” until this happens to the other end of the handle and I have to do the same thing there. Sigh. Why it took me so long to fix this is beyond me.

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.)

Saw Till: Finished

After the glue-up, I planed the sides of till flat. The dovetails looked fine, and the through tenons turned out a lot better than I thought they would:

The front stretcher is slightly proud of the edge, but I decided not to bother planing it flush. I had the last significant step ahead of me, one that wasn’t illustrated in the plan.

The saws have to rest in some sort of slots in the back of the till. I didn’t know how I was going to make these, but I knew that I wanted this part to be replaceable. There’s too much potential to want changes in the future, and what if I screwed up on my first shot anyway?

I don’t have any photos of this (and I’m not going to take it apart to take them), but the next step was to put some screw nut inserts into the upper two stretchers so that I could fasten saw rests.

Then I took a couple strips of the worst part of my cheap mystery softwood, screwed them together, and set out cutting the slots where the saws would rest. I clamped the two rests together so that I could saw the slots as a gang. My first attempt was just a simple kerf with my biggest saw. Here it is, on the left:

After a lot of frustration (and work with my keyhole saw), it was finally big enough, but I decided that I would need to do it differently. On the next one (at the right in the preceding image), I laid out an 1/8″ slot that I would take with two separate cuts. Despite the sloppiest sawing I’ve done in a while, this worked really well:

The slots are 1.5″ apart, and 1/8″ wide. The depth depends on the saw (the bigger saws get deeper slots).

Notice that the structure here isn’t very strong because we’re cutting across the fibers. I figured that this was okay, because the rests weren’t supporting anything. Then I saw how Derek Cohen used certain space in his saw till, hanging backsaws instead of propping them up. We’ll get back to that in a bit.

After cutting the second slot, I did a test-fit:

So far, so good. You can see how the rests are attached to the rear stretchers with machine screws.

I cut the rest of the slots, with some extra attention at the right side for backsaws, and prepared for installation. Most people would just screw something into the wall in their shops, but since we rent this place, I was looking for a way that wouldn’t require me to spackle and paint later. Luckily, I had this to work with at the left of my workbench (where my lumberyard is):

My plan was to be daring and hang the saw till from these rods. I bored a couple of holes into the sides of the till at the top, then strung up some twine from the rods, inserting it into the holes. Getting everything level was certainly a bit of a challenge, because the back does not rest on the wall. However, the total weight is an advantage; it doesn’t swing around much when you grab something.

Does the twine make the end result look more rustic? At this point, I’m just happy that it’s done:

I wish I had known about that hang-the-backsaws trick just a little earlier, because I probably would have planned to hang all of my small backsaws. This isn’t bad, though, because I was not originally planning to put any of those little saws in the till. Now they all fit in there, and I can always reconfigure it if I want to.

Saw Till: Glue-up

So I had all of the parts ready for glue-up, the clamps were in reasonable shape, and I had the time this morning. It was time to glue and assemble.

I decided that I’d use my Workmate as an assembly table again, but that I wouldn’t use its jaws as a clamp (because I figured that the till would be too wide. So to start, I cleared it and pulled it to the center of the shop (where I would have access to all sides), and laid out the clamps set to their approximate settings:

I put wooden pads (made from the tenon waste of the shoe rack project) on the big clamp pads and between the pins on the tail side of the dovetails where the other clamps would go. Magic tape was my weapon of choice here, since I figured that the bond only had to last for less than a half-hour.

So far, so good. I laid out all of the parts in order (right side as step one, then the bottom, rear and front stretchers, then finally the left side would be banged into those pieces all at once). I decided that it was time to go.

Applying the glue and putting the pieces together wasn’t so bad, though I almost forgot to put in the front stretcher, I got everything together to a certain degree.

Then I moved it to the Workmate and put on the clamps. It was a little quirky, and of course I felt like I could have used a few more clamps, but it all went fine and everything drew up well.

At this point, it was time to drive in the little wedges on the through tenons. At first, it went just fine–I used the strange plastic-faced hammer that I use as a plane hammer (it has a specific purpose, but I don’t know what it is). It was kind of fun to bang those little things in, and they seemed to be holding up fine despite some of them having checks. Thump, thump, klonk. I had glue all over my fingers, but I was making good progress.

Halfway through this process, I realized that I was in trouble. You see, despite having a math degree, it seems that I still don’t know how to count. Remember how I said I needed ten wedges and made thirteen? From where did I get that number? There were four stretchers, with two tenons each, two wedge kerfs per tenon. 4 x 2 x 2 = 16, not 10. I should have made closer to 20 wedges.

Remember also how it took me a stupidly long time to make those? How could I possibly make three more in the limited amount of time I had? (Remember that I’m using liquid hide glue here!) Well, I still had some wide wedges that were in a reject pile. I decided to grab a chisel and chop straight down on these “rejects” at the proper width and hope that the checks and grain wouldn’t make me pay.

The results weren’t exactly perfect, but in a minute, I had made three wedges that would fit, and that’s what I needed. I banged those in, looked over the joints, checked stuff for square, and then started to take pictures.

It would have been better if I would have had a clamp for that center dovetail, but I don’t have one. Perhaps a really big block as part of the cauls.

I found a check in the upper left corner (in the preceding photo, it’s on the right side at the bottom). Oh, drat it. It was a problem I was fearing somewhat, and I don’t recall it being there before. I may have accidentally banged up that corner when I was attaching the left side. It doesn’t make any difference as far as the functionality is concerned, and in fact, it’s likely that no one will even see it (it’s on the far side of the till), but I wish I’d been a little more careful. Actually, what I wish the most is that I could find out when it happened.

Now the glue is curing, and I’m waiting for the final steps, which will be to level and plane off the joints, insert the blade rests, hang it up, and put some saws in there. I will not apply any finish to the till, at least for the moment. This is one of those projects that needs to be complete.

Saw Till: Makin’ wedge kerfs

This is a relatively simple part of a wedged through tenon joint to make, but I was still wondering one thing about the kerfs where the wedges will be driven: How far from the ends of the tenon should they be? So I looked around to see if Korn had anything to say on the matter. He writes that it should be no more than a quarter-inch from the end, and made with a relatively thick-plated saw. So I decided to go to about 3/16″, and test to see if a wedge will fit into the kerf initially (without banging it in). Seems okay:

I opted not to drill the holes at the bottoms of the kerfs that another book says to do (I think this might be helpful if the wood were harder).

Then I did the other seven tenons, and I now have four stretchers ready to go:

Well, that’s nice. All of the saw till parts are now ready for assembly. In preparation, I also removed the huge layers of rust from a couple of heavy Hartford Clamp bar clamps (estate sale find) so that they won’t “rub off” on me or the saw till during assembly. About the only thing I don’t have are some cauls for the work, but I have plenty of scrap.

Glue-up will probably be tomorrow morning.

Saw Till: Makin’ wedges

I’m almost ready to glue up the saw till, but a few small details remain. Ten of them happen to be the little wedges that I’ll drive into the tenons at the end, so I sawed them out today. I decided to make them out of a little scrap of apple I had lying around in a box. The first step was to saw out the little sliver of the wedge shape:

And then, I had to cut the wedges to width:

For various reasons, this took a lot longer than it really should have. I had a really hard time holding this stuff steady as I was sawing at first, even with the bench hook. The scrap was too small to get a decent grip. The hook wasn’t at a good height (eventually solved with that riser block on the second photo).

There were also many checks in the wood, because this piece came from the end of the board. I convinced myself that this was okay, because the fibers only need to hold together until I insert them into the tenons and bang them home.

These wedges did eventually come out of the process:

The disheartening part was that after all of that work in the morning, I still didn’t have as many as I needed, so when I came home, I went to work until I had enough. I need ten of them, so I decided that I’d stop at thirteen.

In other saw till news, I cut a groove around the inside surfaces of the bottom back (on the sides, the bottom, and the lower stretcher). I also chamfered the edges that the saw handles will rest on.

I may break the edges of the chamfer a little.

Saw Till: Starting through tenons

The saw till is coming along now. I finished the dovetails before I left for my trip, but didn’t have a chance to work on anything else until I got back and started to get over the stupid cold I managed to get while I was in PA.

Yesterday, I had some extra time, so first, I reworked the shape on my mortise chisel because it was a little skew. Being laminated, it is easy to shape despite its huge size. Then I got down to business, making the first through mortise ever with that chisel:

Hey, that didn’t turn out so bad at all. Admittedly, I was a little more careful in setting up the mortise marking gauge this time. A little more care is in order for this wood, because it’s so soft that you can really dent it up if you’re not careful. Otherwise, you just do it the way everyone tells you to: Mark on both sides, chop halfway through, turn around, and chop the other half. And don’t chop the ends until you’re about finished.

With mortise angst out of the way, it was time to move on to tenon angst. The first one on a stretcher is easy. The second one is a little harder because you have to get the stretcher length just right. I marked the baseline from the dovetail pinboard (rather than measuring):

Yep, that’s the humiliating marking knife again. Not too optimal for this particular mark, but at least it worked.

(I also marked the mortise locations on the second board from the first, it seemed a lot more reliable than measuring.)

Then it’s off to the races with my new tenon saw:

Holy cow, look at how much camera time my hands are getting in their debut photo shoot. Well, I always told myself that if all my usual career options were dead, I’d still have the hand model option to fall back on.

With one stretcher done, it was time to do a test fitting of the pieces completed so far to make sure that everything was square and decent-looking. Shockingly, it was.

Woo, check out those stylin’ plastic-handled chisels. Well, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know I need a few more chisels and I really like a lot of the old ones I’ve tried, but the ones I have work fine for now, especially the yellow Lee Valley ones. I even have a few old ones that I like, they just need handles and sharpening, but I’ve just been too lazy to get them in order.

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