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.

Front vise installed

After having trouble holding a board to cut a tenon, I decided that it was about time to install the front vise (a medium-sized Adjustable Clamp Company “Jorgensen” model; staying true to my time in Chicago, I guess). Not only did I need something better for holding boards vertically, but I was also sick of having the vise lying around in its box on the floor.

I installed it over a period of several days. First, I cut and milled birch shims that I needed because the benchtop is a little thinner than the vise depth. Then I determined the mounting hardware. Finally, I attached the front shim, then dragged the bench upside-down into the living room.

By today, I had all of the components ready, so I put everything together. Drilling the holes was a little tricky, but worked fine with my brace, and I was ready to go soon:

That sucker is heavy. Lugging the bench back into the “shop” was not altogether fun. I am a little unsure of how the front shim will hold up, but it should be okay–birch is very strong, and the front of the bench can support my weight (several times the vise) with no problem. Wood movement should, in theory, not be a problem with the screw clearances and slotting that I used. With all of the planes, weights, and other crap on the bench shelf, there’s no danger of the bench tipping over; the edge can still support my weight without tipping.

I mounted the vise across from one of the dog holes. I don’t know how much I’ll use its pop-up dog, but I figure I ought to have the option, since it doesn’t cost me anything.

Still left to do is line the jaws with hardwood so that it doesn’t mar boards. I want to line it with beech, because that’s what the top is made of, but I first need to find some beech. Sigh.

Small Planning Hiatus

I’m going to take a break for a few days from doing anything in particular. I have a few odds and ends to catch up on, including these wood-related things:

  • Figure out a way to mount the vise on the front of the workbench. Well, okay, I know how I’m going to mount it, but I don’t know what materials I’m going to use yet.
  • Affix the roof rack to my car, so that I can carry boards on it.
  • Drive to a lumberyard with said car (and rack) and get some roughsawn wood. There are a couple of sources here in the city, and since I’m just getting some fairly cheap wood, this should not be a big deal.
  • Wait for my newly-ordered waterstones to arrive, and practice sharpening on those.

It’s supposed to be hot here this week, so I don’t really want to work up much of a sweat anyway.

Workbench: Days 19 and 20

Last night, I marked out the dog hole calculations from the other day to the workbench top.

Then, this morning, feeling tanned, rested, and ready, I started boring the holes. I clamped my drill guide to the bench to drill a small pilot hole. Then I put my 3/4″ auger bit in the brace, and… UHHHH, wow, beech is just a wee bit tougher than that fir! Setting the brace to ratchet made the job much easier.

It took a while, because I was being extra careful to get all of the holes straight, but eventually got all of them done in a day:

I do not think that I would have been able to do those holes if I had not sharpened that auger bit. I also think that I may be able to do a better job sharpening it, but it’s not my primary concern right now.

So what are these things good for, anyway? Well, this:

The thing on the right that’s doing the clamping is a Veritas Wonder Dog™. The dogs on the left and background are the dogs that I originally made for the Workmate®. Not too surprisingly, they actually work a lot better in this bench. I still need to chop a face into the dogs.

Since I clamped that board in there, I thought, “Hmm, I wonder just how much better this is for handplaning?” So I pulled out my jack plane (that I hadn’t sharpened for a while), set for a thin shaving. Okay, I don’t want to ever try handplaning without a stable bench again. It was spiffy, to say the least.

I also bought a vise for the front today. I’ll need to do some measuring for that, but it’s not a pressing concern, and it shouldn’t take much time.