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.

Saw Till: Dovetail joints, pieces

While waiting for the first coat of finish on the shoe rack to cure, I milled the pieces for the saw till down to size in preparation for the joinery. So far, I’ve only had time to finish one through dovetail joint, and get part of the way through the tailboard on the second:

The completed dovetail joints are on the bottom right (pinboard on the bottom, tailboard above it), and the new tailboard-in-progress is on the left. The other four pieces on the upper right are for the stretchers.

The pinboard (which will form the lower shelf) presented a small problem before I started out. I hadn’t noticed before, but it wasn’t really flat. So I thought about it, and flattened just one face square to the edges with my jack and jointer planes. In theory, the joint will be fine because the inside face is now flat–that’s the one you need to be square to the sides.

I cleaned off all of the surfaces with my smoother plane as well. I felt that it was probably a good idea to do that work on the inside faces before cutting the dovetail joints. I should have probably waited on the others, because I’ll probably need to do them again after I cut everything, but oh well.

It’s been a little hard to gauge my progress with these dovetail joints. I’m managing to cut them precisely, requiring practically no paring, but I feel that I may be cutting them rather slowly. It’s also been hard to find the time to work; I’ll only get 20-30 minutes at a time to work, then I have to do something else, like go to the unfortunate day job.

This wood, whatever it is, is pleasant to work with. I guess it’s Ponderosa Pine. Working is similar to Yellow-poplar. I’d like to find a good source of it, I think. My recent experiences with softwoods have been positive, which is interesting, because I never imagined myself using them much. They present challenges for your tools, sure, but they also seem to have a lot to offer.

This almost certainly won’t be done by the time I leave for a short trip to Pennsylvania this week. But the good news is that I’m going to Pennsylvania!

Saw Till: Plan

Eventually, everyone seems to build their own saw till, and I’m no exception, because that’s what I’ve been thinking about as I finish up the shoe rack. So after the requisite internet research (think Dan and company), and taking a million measurements of my saws, I have a plan for my own. It’s nothing fancy, but it is at least less silly than my tool rack:

These are the side and front views here, I suppose. The rest of the drawing, not shown, contains labeled component parts. I must apologize for how little this looks like a three-dimensional piece; I know how it’s supposed to look because I drew it, but that doesn’t help you much. Unfortunately, Google SketchUp isn’t available for Linux, so I’m using Inkscape. Oh well.

[Update: Here is the SVG file for the plans. You can download it; Illustrator, Inkscape, and other programs will edit it. You can view it in Firefox.]

Some of the features here include:

  • Open top, in case I get a 38″ King-Kong-sized saw or something.
  • Shelf on the bottom, for saw sets or dust.
  • Dovetailed bottom.
  • Wedged through tenons. I was on the fence about this, until I realized that I’d never done through tenons before, and that this would be a great project to screw them up on.
  • Optional small panel for the shelf.
  • Design requires just seven components.
  • Possible use of hardware for interchangeable slots.

I’ve got the side sections to width and length already.

Finished Tenon Saw, Tool Rack

Looking through my past posts, it seems that I forgot to post when I finished a couple of smaller projects.

First, remember the tenon saw handle that I’d been working on for nearly a year? Seriously competing for the world record of “longest time taken to get a saw handle done,” I finished it about a month ago and completed the saw:

It’s a 16″ blade, somewhere around 10TPI, if I recall correctly. I used it for the larger tenons on the shoe rack project. It took some getting used to, but I like it a lot. Larger saws such as this seem a little strange to use on tenons such as the 1.5″ x .75″ ones on the shoe rack, but it works fine.

The other little thing I was working on was a small tool rack to hold chisels and similar tools behind the workbench. I agonized over this for no good reason, looking at every tool rack I could find on the web and in books. Finally, I just slapped one together in about a half an hour:

And when I say “slapped together,” I mean it. The preceding photo doesn’t really illustrate how hard I’m trying to get the title of “lamest joinery ever seen in a tool rack,” so let’s get a closer look:

Yep, the rack consists of two long pieces of yellow-poplar/tuliptree not really even lap-jointed onto two small pieces of mystery softwood. I just planed them flat, put on some glue, and clamped tight.

The whole thing is fastened to the windowsill with two c-clamps. That’s partly because I’m being lame, but also partly because we rent this place and I don’t want to go around putting holes in everything in sight.

The important part about this is that it actually works; I finally have most of the junk off the workbench. It works so well that I’m considering making a second equally lame example.

Bench in new shop

Here’s a shot of the rebuilt bench in the new shop. I suppose it doesn’t look much different than the old bench, since most of the changes are on the side (big lower side stretchers and 2x thickness on the legs).

Yes, those are shavings on the top. I managed to do a tiny bit of wood prep on that piece of spruce or fir or whatever on the left (it’s mystery cheap softwood from Lowe’s, surprisingly not too bad).

Also, there’s a new bench hook over there on the right that I made a little while back before moving. Yay for bench hooks!

End of hiatus

I haven’t made much in the past few months because I moved. That’s always a pain. However, I now have a shop. This seems like it will be a pretty big improvement.

In preparation for the move, I rebuilt the base of my workbench. I replaced the legs with 4x4s, widened the depth of the side stretchers, and replaced the lower side stretchers with much larger timber.

No pictures at the moment, though. I’m still getting things organized. There’s a lot to do here.

Vise jaw liners

Yesterday, I put the roof rack on the car and got a big board of european beech at the lumberyard. And now I can’t believe that I spent most of the day making these silly liners for the vise jaws:

Beech, as it turns out, is quite a lot tougher than the stuff I’ve been working so far and it does not work as easily. Basically, ugh. I got the brilliant idea of resawing a board with my ripsaw, and well, now I know why people like to do that with bandsaws. Ugh.

Then I screwed around forever trying to do the surfacing until I finally wised up and sharpened my plane blades correctly. Sheesh. The good news about all of this, though, is that I finally got around to using one of my smoothing planes for its proper intended purpose, and it did a great job.

I suppose that more good news was that shooting the sides and cutting to length was really easy. Of course, something funny had to happen, and that funny was that the bosses for the machine screws that attach the rear lining are drilled off-center. This after all of the effort I put in to get the holes just right. Oh well.

Still left to do is fasten the front jaw and apply the finish, but this is pretty much done.