There seem to be several little camps when it comes to stock preparation methods. There are those who rive arrow-straight oak with a froe and plane it down, the hand plane exclusivity evangelists, the hand plane to flatten/thickness planer on rest, the “hmm, maybe hand planes and a big bandsaw” types, the machine heads who won’t use anything but jointers and planers, the various router sled types, and then, of course, the people who mostly do hand work, but keep a huge jointer in a separate area as a dirty secret. You know who you are.
Doing it completely by hand taught me a lot of things, and switching to a hybrid approach with a thickness planer saved me some time. I’ve never really been religious about stock preparation, so this discussion might start to seem a little out of place on this blog, which is mostly about hand work.
But something inside of me wasn’t satisfied with a few things. First, I wasn’t thrilled about flattening stuff by hand anymore. Second, I didn’t want a jointer. Finally, I wasn’t enthusiastic about my thickness planer being such a one-trick pony. I’d read about planer sleds that could flatten boards, but when I looked into them, I wasn’t too impressed. There was one overriding problem: Holding the work conveniently, yet securely.
Still, the sled idea sat in the back of my mind. I kept thinking to myself that there must be a reasonable way to get a board to stay in place, and that some sort of traditional approach to workholding might work. Maybe double wedges? But how? Finally, about a year and a half ago, something went off in my head and I had a basic design. I built a prototype. Surprisingly, it worked. I was then able to refine it some more.
So without further ado, here is my video describing the multiwedge planer sled.
A video might seem a little unusual for me, but I really felt that it was the best way to illustrate the sled.
I really hope it will be useful to someone else as well. It’s been great for me.
Sharpening has been a sore point ever since I moved into the current shop. I had a good spot next to a sink in the shop, but didn’t have any kind of stand or surface to put the stones. So I ended up putting them on a counter on the near-opposite side of the house. This was an unfortunate situation, not just because I’d have to ramble all the way over there every time I wanted to sharpen something. The lighting was bad, the mess I made over there was atrocious, and its temporary nature made me unwilling to organize further.
I had originally intended to make a freestanding sharpening station to put next to the shop sink, but every stand that I made ended up unscrupulously co-opted. Finally, I realized that instead of a stand, I could just put some strong shelf-like brackets into the wall there, making it more of a built-in. It would theoretically be less work than another stand. Then I gave myself some additional “motivation,” saying that I would not sharpen another tool until the sharpening station was in its rightful spot, though I am unsure if this was a good idea or not.
I started by installing a sheet of drywall into the wall framing (it was bare before), and painting it white so that it would reflect light. Then I got to making the brackets themselves:
These are sort of mini-timberframe-like things in southern yellow pine. I decided to use drawbores for the shelf support joints, but didn’t bother on the brace joints. (I do not want to talk about how long I spent making those pegs.) There are two stiles, each with upper and lower shelf supports.
I made a stretcher to go between the upper supports so that the upper shelf would be very strong and resistant to movement and racking (this is, after all, where the work would be done). When I glued and drawbored everything into place, it looked like this:
I was somewhat unsure of how easily it would install on the wall, but it turned out to be easy enough when I used double wedges off of a support on the floor to get the stiles plumb and the brackets level:
Each stile is screwed directly into a stud behind the drywall in three spots. After a bit of stress-testing, I was satisfied that the top brackets were up to the task, so I added some crappy plywood shelves, put my stone holder and other stuff on the top, infrequently-used supplies (or otherwise questionable purchases) below, and called it done:
The stone holder is attached to the upper shelf, which is in turn screwed onto the brackets. This should eliminate any kind of slippage without the need for anti-skid pads. Bottles with water and camellia oil are on the overhang to the right, and my two honing guides are behind the stones. There’s even a faux-backsplash that’s nothing more than a leftover piece from a home renovation project.
Then I sharpened a chisel quickly to make sure that I had a functional setup. Anticlimactic, as intended.
I’ve been making a stand for the shop that will hopefully get most of the boring tools in one spot. The idea is that there will be shelves or drawers or something below that I can use for stuff like auger bits, forstner bits, countersinks, and that sort of thing. On top, I can put my small old drill press. Think of it as a boring hand-and-machine combo.
I’ve been making it out of southern yellow pine because it’s cheap and I have enough on hand. The downside is that some of my stock is really tough. I chipped my mortise chisel so badly that I had to regrind. Twice. And it’s not like I was doing “frowned-upon” levering or anything.
All of the mortise-and-tenon joints for the frame are done as of today, yielding this:
The victimized (yet ultimately victorious) mortise chisel is in view here.
Confession: After slugging it out through six tenons with my tenon saw, I did the remainder of the tenon cheeks with the bandsaw. Eh, nah, I’m not sorry about that. Some of the latewood in that stock was just ossified granite, and I needed to get this thing done.
In any case, test-fitting everything seems to yield a thumbs-up:
It’s in clamps now, in the glue-up stage. I still need to make the top. Time to scrounge to see what I might have lying around.
This is actually the second in a line of stands like this that I’ve made, with the first done not too long after I first moved to this shop. That one is not quite as “refined” because I didn’t really bother to prepare the stock uniformly, and the legs are just 2x4s instead of the square posts that I made by laminating 2x stock for this new one.
Perhaps if I didn’t have a bunch of yellow pine lying around, I would have gotten some lighter-duty construction wood to make this from–it probably wouldn’t matter, except for weight.
This may not be the most exciting conclusion in a two-part tool organizational feature, but here’s what I cobbled together:
Referred to by a friend as a “bench hanger-on-er,” I’m going to call this the “tool corral” on my auxiliary bench. It’s really just a platform with two areas for tools. The first and most obvious is the box, which was hastily assembled and glued to the platform on the near side only (take that, seasonal wood movement). I have no idea if this is going to be even halfway durable, but at least it looks somewhat better than a plastic bin screwed down to the platform, which was my other idea. As you can see here, the box does not protrude above the benchtop, so in its unloaded form, it doesn’t get in the way of anything big that might overhang the bench.
The space to the left is a little less obvious when empty, and consists of a bunch of expanded kerfs that I (hastily, of course) made with the bandsaw. Then I “closed up” the edge by just gluing a strip of wood (in the same grain orientation) to the underside. This is for bladed measuring tools. I modified the near one by stuffing most of it with a strip of wood. Otherwise, one particular square would always tip and drop through.
I could have gotten more adventurous by adding a few spaces for chisels to hang in the front, I guess. Maybe I’ll still do that; I certainly don’t have any qualms about bolting on something else to this already-questionable affront to workbench aesthetics.
So here’s what it looks like in use:
I was originally going to build something to hold the pencils upright, but laziness got the best of me.
Except for the wax (for which I found another home), It sucked up every last tool that I’d previously complained about. Built using only scrap wood, I think this should suffice until I build a chest. If there’s anything I do like about it, it’s the way that the squares fit neatly and mostly out of the way. When I use the traditional-style tool rack on the back of my main bench, it always seems like the squares are either getting in the way of something, hogging space, or in danger of dropping through because the opening on the rack is too wide.
I’ve got a dumb problem that’s been lurking for years (with the exception of when everything was in storage). It’s this:
I use these tools regularly, yet I have no regular places to store them. So they inevitably end up lying on the bench. I only managed to isolate them because I just finished most of the small chest build, and cleaned up everything else.
I’ve decided that I should fix this. The long-term plan is to make a “Dutch tool chest” that should end these kinds of shenanigans once and for all, but I’m waiting on the Fitz Treatise because I haven’t thought about how to approach it. Besides, waiting to see what she writes seems like a lame enough excuse to put off building it for a while. In the meantime, I’ve started building a stopgap thing that will hopefully take care of it in the interim. It will not be a “drawer off on one side” that you see in some old illustrations–I promise that it will be far more idiotic.
What I wonder is, how does this even happen in the first place? It’s not like these are uncommon tools. I’ve just had a really hard time finding the way I’d like to store them.
Earlier, I’d spewed some psychobabble about making a new shooting board, and I finally followed through on it. After reading through all of the relevant articles in “The Woodworker Volume IV” book and thinking through the inadequacies of the board I made a long time ago, I got to work and came up with this:
The articles all generally said to build it out of a “hard wood.” This makes sense for the stop, and the attachment to the top, because you can easily flex it out of true. However, most of the hard woods that I have on hand are flatsawn and I am worried about seasonal movement. So I made a base out of quarter(ish)sawn yellow pine, and laminated a thinner piece of maple to the top. I don’t know if the base will be durable enough for all the metal that will be sliding on top of it, but we’ll see.
The bottom has a stop for butting up against the bench, and I made that bench stop just a bit smaller than the gap that my tail vise can open, so that I can lock it in place with the vise. I attached this with threaded inserts, with the thought that I could easily change the location if it didn’t work out:
Here’s the shooting board in the vise position on the bench:
So far, so good. Here it is in use:
Yeah, I’m still using a low-angle block plane for shooting. Maybe I’d like to get a specialized chute board plane or miter plane sometime. For now, this works.
The “eagle-eyed” may have noticed the small chamfer that I’d planed to the bench stop’s interior face:
This allows for hanging the shooting board on a french cleat:
I retrofitted that modification to my bench hook on the right.
I made another shooting board, this as described in “The Woodworker” for (basically) jointing smaller work. Having no experience with that kind of board, I decided to make a quickie prototype in “hem-fir” to see what I could learn from it. I have nothing to share about this at the moment; I’m planning out improvements for the next version.
I’ve been interested in the idea of a so-called “Moxon” vise or bench-on-bench setup for a while, but there have been many other projects that have taken precedence. The idea of a higher sawing position for smaller cuts just seems like a good idea. Over the summer, I asked a group of woodworking pals what they thought of it, and I got some feedback including “just do it, you won’t be sorry.” Also included was a bookbinder’s finishing press treatise/rant from our friendly neighborhood bookbinder who stated that (among other things) if I really wanted to make something specialized for woodworking, I should go for bench-on-bench. Since there’s a near-zero chance of me wanting to get into bookbinding (sorry, Tom), I decided to go for bench-on-bench.
Unlike Joe’s elegantly-finished vise, I decided to go with the ever-sturdy southern yellow pine for most of the construction, and ordered the Benchcrafted hardware. As usual, the hardware sat for several months while I dealt with other projects.
There doesn’t seem to be much consensus on the construction of bench-on-bench, so I decided that I would stick to the “every one of these is different” rule and make a solid inverted “U” shape for the top and front/back, with some stretchers along the bottom. The stretchers are not for support, but to provide a way to clamp it down. Here are the parts ready for final glue-up:
This is, of course, upside-down. I waited to glue on the rear because I felt the need to do that along with the stretchers. In addition, I used a loose tongue there (with the appropriate diagonal-grain configuration) not for strength, but to keep the top aligned with the rear during glue-up. This might be the first time that I’ve used this kind of joint.
There wasn’t too much to do after that. The next step was fitting the chop:
The chop is a 4/4 piece of soft maple. The Benchcrafted instructions suggest a configuration with the vise nuts for the fixed chop recessed inside, so for no good reason (other than stupidly not doing it the quicker way on the drill press before gluing the front on), I traced the nuts on, and chopped out the waste:
Then, I chamfered the top of the front chop, added the “crubber” (the cork/rubber gasket material that BC includes with the hardware), and did a quick rubdown with some tung oil:
You can see that this is currently clamped to the bench with C-clamps on the stretchers. I suppose that I could add dog holes in the bench and use a threaded rod or something. but this seems OK for now.
I added one more component: a slide-up stop at the rear. Here’s how that looks in the “partway up” position:
It can extend higher, and is held in place with a couple of threaded levers. I’m not sure if adding this was a good idea or not, but the main reason I put it there was to try to get some bench hook functionality. For example, when doing the crosscuts to remove the waste from tenons, I thought it might be handy to take the work out of the vise and lay it along the back. Ditto for using it to stop a piece when cutting a small groove leading to a knife line with a chisel.
At worst, if the stop doesn’t prove to be useful, I can just stow or remove it.
Here’s one final view, with the vise holding a board in “dovetailing” configuration:
This seems to hold securely. I did several test cuts and nothing appeared out of the ordinary. It does seem much more comfortable than stooping down to my (low) main bench to cut stuff. The auxiliary bench that I’m using here might be a little on the top-heavy side now; I do want to add more weight to the bottom. Happily, this should be soon, with one upcoming project that will use this new tool.
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.
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:
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.
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.