Workbench v2: Leg Vise

With the large frame components done, I could now work on the bench’s vises. Like everyone else in the known universe, I got a Benchcrafted Glide leg vise for the front (thanks SWMBO!).

The installation is not what I’d call easy, but it’s not ridiculously difficult, either. The first step was to put the holes in the chop (a big chunk of beech I found in the pile), and the leg.

For the chop, you’re supposed to put a shallow hole for a washer around the screw clearance hole–a 1.75″-diameter hole. The only thing I had in that size was an expansion bit. Now, those bits are not known to be terribly good even in soft woods, much less something like beech, but thankfully, this thing needed be just 3/16″ deep, so I used it mainly for the cutting spurs to get the circle.

Now, the main screw clearance holes in the chop and the leg are supposed to be 1.5″ wide, and I didn’t happen to have a No. 24 bit, either. I was all ready to wimp out and turn to the dark side, and in fact, I’d brought the chop and the leg to my friend Jasen’s place to make use of his drill press and Forstner bit. However, while preparing, I poked through his box of auger bits and found a No. 24 Irwin solid-core bit. Arrangements were made to abscond with the bit, and so mad props to Jasen for letting me do so!

I used my 14″ sweep monster (a Millers Falls #730). For those of you who have never seen a bit this large, consider the following: The brace’s chuck was just barely able to hold the bit, and only because they tapered the shaft thinner near the end.

This is the type of job that you have to break out the squares to keep the bore straight:

This is a big job, and it was no small amount of effort to turn the brace. The most difficult part of it, however, was to keep everything straight while exerting enough force.

Once the hole was through, I knocked out the waste in the outer washer hole–my Veritas mini router plane struck again:

So, when everything was said and done, I had two holes: one fancy, one not-so-fancy, both big:

After this, it was off to mark, drill, and tap the holes to attach the handwheel and screw to the chop. This is a particularly tricky job–you really need accurately lay out and drill those holes. (Thank goodness for auger bits.)

Now, a suspicious reader may have examined some of the photos above and noticed that I was using a peculiar piece of sacrificial wood underneath the chop for blowout prevention and lead-screw continuity:

This might qualify as the dumbest use of cherry in history, but notice the check (actually, compound checks) in the center. This precluded me from making a saw handle or something nice with it, but after I finished wrecking the center, I sawed off the usable wood on the sides for the Glide vise’s roller brackets:

This is sort of more silly luck than clever, I’d think–this offcut was the only thing I had around that wouldn’t require sawing up another board just for a couple of 6″ blocks.

I should also mention that with this bench, I am not trying to use a bunch of different woods to make it a showcase piece–I just want the thing to work. So, having now used three woods (the other two being douglas-fir and beech), I figured I’d use whatever I could find for the parallel guide, and I found none other than the last offcut of that nasty birch that I used as a secondary drawer wood on the second nightstand project.

Another thing that you may have noticed is that the hole in the leg isn’t horizontally centered. This is where I might eventually look like a goat, but I decided to try something a little different with this vise. Looking at the design of a leg vise and the diagonal one that Schwarz used in the “English Workbench” in his first workbench book, it dawned on me that the spot with the highest and most stable gripping power on a leg vise is directly opposite the parallel guide. On most of them, that’s in the center of the chop at the top, but that’s not where you would clamp a number of workpieces because the vise screw is in the way.

But on the diagonal vise, you don’t have that problem. So for better or for worse, I decided to put the parallel guide off to one side of the chop, and in doing so, move the “grip sweet spot” (or whatever you want to call it) off-center at the top of the chop, so that it wouldn’t be right above the screw. Here’s a shot showing the mortise for the parallel guide and a dowel leading to where that spot will be on my bench:

The off-center hole in the leg is part of the design. The idea is to place the spot with the maximum force somewhere around the area where the side of the leg meets the top.

In addition, by moving the parallel guide over to the side, I could move the guide’s clearance mortise in the leg over to the side. There, the parallel guide would slip neatly alongside the giant lower side stretcher rather than above or below, sidestepping one of the common issues when installing a leg vise.

It’s easiest to show this in the nearly finished installation:

Now, at this point, I should mention that more often than not, when you try to get clever, you end up shooting yourself in the foot (especially if you’ve never done this before). To put it lightly, this configuration does not come without difficulty. In addition to having to be extra careful with your layout, you’re also introduction an element of imbalance to a vise that really seems to have been designed to be horizontally symmetric. It goes without saying that when you go tinkering, the chop will want to lean in one direction, possibly binding the vise screw and sliding the parallel guide up against its clearance mortise.

To my surprise, it’s been working well so far. It took some fine-tuning, but the the parallel guide rollers, when set just so, seem to do a good job at supporting a good deal of the weight of the chop. The acetal bushing that comes with the Glide is also instrumental in keeping the chop inline. As an extra measure, I reduced the weight of the chop a bit by sawing off a bit of the lower right, but this may have just as well been to be able to use the offcut for something else.

I still might get burned by all of this, so let’s see what happens. I’m really due with this project–I also lucked out with the length of the vise screw and parallel guide. When vise is closed, they are about 1/8″ from hitting the inside of the rear left leg of the bench.

Now at this point, I have to make a confession: I used a power tool in the vise construction. It’s not what you might think, though. You see, the Glide vise requires you to tap threads in wood. Miraculously, I somehow already had the four taps required for the job (picked them up at a garage sale once but never used them), and I had everything I needed to drill the initial holes for all of the taps by hand. However, what I didn’t have was a tap wrench with a collet large enough to hold the two largest taps. At that point, I had to either buy another tap wrench or think of something else. The taps fit in a brace chuck, but the action on a brace can be a little bit too wobbly for this job. I decided that I didn’t have the stomach to go out and buy some (likely crummy) tap wrench for just this time, so I’d actually follow the instructions for the Glide for a change. I chucked the two big taps into my cordless power drill and threaded the holes with the dark side of the force.

It felt kind of dirty.

Workbench v2: Captured-Nut Mortise and Tenon Joints

With the legs made, it was time to move on to the stretchers. The method I used was a combination of knockdown and mortise-and-tenon joints. I first made the joints with very short tenons. These are primarily for quick alignment of the joint during assembly.

Then I bored holes square into the legs and had them come out right in the center of where the mortises were. (In reality, I did this before making the joints, but you get the idea.)

The idea is to slip a bolt into the hole and into a captured nut in the stretcher.

The trickiest step was to bore precisely into the endgrain of the tenon pieces. To do this, I assembled the joint, secured it with clamps, then went through the existing hole down into the tenon piece below:

I was surprised at how quickly the Jennings bit flew through the endgrain. I recall having a lot of trouble with endgrain when I did the first bench, but I suppose that having a halfway decent complement of bits and knowing how to sharpen them goes a long way.

Next was to make the mortise for where the captured nut would go. I hit it first with my Irwin 20 (1.25″) bit in my 14″-sweep brace (maybe you could call it the Irwin Workout from Millers Falls):

I didn’t go all the way–the captured nuts will not be visible from the outside of the bench.

Then I made one side of the hole flat for the nut and washer to register against. This was an easy job with a big “pigsticker” mortise chisel:

Finally, here is how the joint appears in the end with the bolt, nut, and washer in place:

If this looks a little ugly, it is. This side of the stretcher faces the inside, where no one can see it. Therefore, I didn’t bother with anything other than rough planing (especially important to me, given how quickly this wood dulls blades). The mortise shape is somewhat interesting, and that’s something to maybe file away. But on the other side (the face side), it looks like a normal (tight) mortise-and-tenon joint.

Next: Leg vise.

Workbench v2: Top, Legs

The past few weeks have primarily involved milling, milling, and more milling. Oh, right, there was also a trip to Pennsylvania. But after all of that excitement, I was able to glue the top. I used every medium- and heavy-duty clamp that I had for it:

Then I glued that piece of beech to the front, flattened the top, then flattened the bottom.

I’m not going to talk too much about this flattening and milling process because it was exhausting enough just to do it. The main reason was that the douglas-fir just ate up my plane blades–I constantly had to resharpen them. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it might have something to do with the hardened resin in this old wood. In any case, dull blades are next to useless on this stuff, and sometimes it takes a little while for it to dawn on you that you’re working with dull tools.

In any case, I was finally at the point where I could fit the legs. I’ve been thinking about the joints for the legs for a long, long time. I can’t say that I understand the monster through tenon joint illustrated in Roubo’s book. Schwarz only seems to say that “well, this is how it’s illustrated there, so that’s what I’m gonna use,” and that’s all fine and good, but I still don’t get it. Sure, you want a tenon, but should it really be through? That makes the top more difficult to reflatten. Plus, the through joint creates a weak point in the front left, especially if your wood over there is suspect to begin with. Roy Underhill illustrated what happens to that sort of thing at WIA.

Believe it or not, I like Underhill’s rising dovetail idea better for this kind of joint. Not that it’s any better with the weakness in the wood, but there is one property of it that I haven’t really seen anyone talk about in conjunction with a leg vise. If you think about it, because the top sinks down from the front, when a leg vise clamps something into place against any part of the top, it wedges the top into the leg.

As cool as that joint looks, I still did not want to use a through joint for my legs, so I just used angled mortises and tenons so that the top would still sink down from the front. I used a very slight angle (using the “eh, that looks about right” calculation with the sliding T-bevel), and before I started, I made a couple of guides to help. Here’s one that helped me guide my brace and bit as I wasted most of the mortise.

After boring and chopping out most of the waste, I registered the chisel face against this guide to pare out the sides at the angle necessary.

One advantage of making mortises this large is that you can shove a T-bevel into the mortise to verify that you got the side correct:

Here’s a finished joint (this time for the rear of the bench). It’s only a little more than an inch deep, and I do not plan to use glue, but I figure that the mass of the top will be more than enough to keep it in place:

If I’m wrong, I’ll use fasteners to wedge the joints into place.

It was a fine sight when I completed all four joints for the top:

These joints, however, didn’t really take much time (despite having only my fine-toothed joinery saw available to cut the tenons). Sure, I had to be a little more careful with the angles on the joints, but compared to process of preparing the top that I’d just been through, it was nothing.

Next up: Getting the stretchers in place, and installing the vises.

Making a New Mallet: Thagomizer Jr.

My trusty mallet, Thagomizer, has really been taking a beating in the last year. I think I’ve had to glue it back up about four or five times now. With some extra time on my hands, it was time to build a replacement.

I liked a lot of things about the mallet, but did some silly things when I made it. The handle turns out to be a little too short, and for whatever reason, I put a finish on it. I guess I was on a varnishing kick back then; come to think of it, I really didn’t have anything else to varnish at the time. (I used rottenstone on this? Really?)

However, what interests me most is the question of if I could make a new one last longer. Everything on the original was very durable, except for the top of the head. It picked up a habit of splitting late in life. My first step was to take a good look at what had happened:

Notice that the face has become concave after repeated pounding. The fractures are all mostly in the top 1/3 of the head. I suspect that what’s going on here is that smacking something (like a holdfast) on the upper part of that concavity put a lot of shear force along the top, and that’s why it did what it did. Back in this post (way back when no one ever read this blog), I explained that I wasn’t going to put a bevel on the top because I was being lazy. So perhaps those bevels aren’t there just for show, and I knew one thing that I needed to do in the new one.

Because I didn’t have any really thick stock at the time, I built the old mallet by face-gluing pieces of wood. That turned out to be pretty durable, so I did the same thing this time, using the same trick to get the hole in the middle, except that I was considerably less meticulous about it:

I used a bunch of scrap wood this time (but from the same board as the old Thagomizer!), and decided that I cared only to (sorta) align the pieces on the bottom of the head because I’d just be chopping off massive pieces anyway. This might look a little stupid, but not nearly as stupid as what I did for the new handle:

I had the perfect piece of scrap, but it was just a tad too narrow, so I glued another piece of scrap to the end to get what I needed (and sawed most of it away in the end).

So I had the head and handle parts glued up, and it was time to shape everything. Here again, I was considerably less meticulous than last time. I sawed most of everything on the head, did the final passes on the top of the head with my jack plane with the deep camber, and chamfered the sides with that plane as well. As far as the handle goes, on the last one, I’d been all enthusiastic about using a spokeshave. Well, that spokeshave enthusiasm doesn’t happen nearly as often to a man who has a Shinto saw rasp in his hand. (Save the spokeshave for more delicate tasks.)

When everything was said and done (in a far less amount of time than the original), I had Thagomizer Jr.:

The top of the head is beveled down, the corners at the top are considerably chamfered, and the handle is a couple of inches longer. The head weighs a little less than the original, but the extra handle length probably brings it to about the same weight, but with a different balance.

So I’m ready to start beating on stuff now. Here’s a comparison of the original and new one:

Time and use will tell if the alterations do what they’re supposed to do.

Update: I broke this one, too. I wrote a post about its replacement.

Five Years of Galoototron

It’s been five years since I made my first post on this blog. At that time, it was on Livejournal, and I was doing it just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Apparently, I’m still posting, so because it’s been a nice “even” number of years since I started, I figure I ought to do a review post because I have nothing better to do.

(You won’t see too many of these posts on this blog, so bear with me.)

Before starting, I should mention something about the name of the blog. It doesn’t mean anything. It was just something that rolled off my tongue. It is a dippy name, it’s difficult to remember, and I’ve always been open to changing it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything better at the time, and that condition persists to this day.

The first post is my introduction, but perhaps there’s a little more that I can add to it. At that point, I had never done anything resembling semi-advanced woodworking. In hindsight, this was a natural time for me to start because I’d finally gotten some measure of stability in my life after years of grad school, moving across the country, working in crazy environments, and living in cramped places. I’d moved into that particular San Francisco apartment not too long before. It was nice and roomy, I lived alone, and I finally had some extra time. Sure, I’d like to have started earlier in life. I didn’t, so there’s no point in thinking about that.

Regarding tools: I don’t know what was going on in my mind, but I must have been researching old tools quite a bit. For example, how did I know that I needed to sharpen my own saws at that time? My initial tool list wasn’t too far-off. I still haven’t bought a shoulder plane unless you want to count the mini Veritas version. And although I have a miter box, I haven’t used it (I haven’t even sharpened the saw). But I had one special tool right-on, and that was the Winchester handsaw I’d picked up (but never used) in 2003, three years before starting. It was a long time before I actually sharpened that thing, but ever since, it’s really been one of my favorite tools.

That a very common style of saw is special to me may provide some insight into the type of woodworking that I like to do now. I feel that I went after too many planes in the beginning, and did not realize the amount of work that saws do. In time, I began to appreciate saws more and more, and even made a few of my own.

I thought that I would be very project-oriented when I first started. I had the idea to make bookshelves–perhaps I believed that I’d make them within a year? I was wrong. I still haven’t made a set of bookshelves (I did make a prototype). What I did instead was learn the process of milling wood and basic joints. The first larger thing that I put together was my workbench, followed by tools such as my mallet and scrub plane.

But about a year and a half into the process, I slowly made a dovetailed box, and that got things rolling. Though I didn’t have much time to work on it, that box went together more smoothly than I expected, and I still use it. By this time, things were changing in my life, and soon enough, I moved from the apartment to a house that actually had room for a shop. I spent the first few months trying to get organized there:

Then I started to build projects in earnest. The first big one was the shoe rack, which took some time but ultimately was a success. That was followed by the prototype bookshelf, the stool, and the first nightstand–I did all three of those projects in less than a year. At the same time, I made some shop improvements such as the saw till.

Incidentally, I switched the blog to the galoototron.com domain about a half-year after I moved to this shop. It was September 2009, and this shoe rack post was the first on the new domain. Before the switch, no one other than some family and friends knew about the blog, but then I started to tell a few more people (such as Luke Townsley at unpluggedshop.com) about it. Suddenly a lot more people than I really ever expected were reading this thing. That’s about as far as I ever went to promote it, though, and I don’t have plans to change that. I do appreciate all of the comments that I get from fellow woodworkers.

In retrospect, the two years I had in that shop were pivotal. I went from dorking around with tools and wood on a somewhat irregular basis to building projects. I gained speed and confidence in my joinery. The shop itself had a lot to do with this. No longer did I have to be completely fastidious about cleaning up after each session–I could leave a small amount of shavings or sawdust on the floor and it didn’t matter. Because I had enough room, I could put down my work at any time and pick it up again whenever I had the chance. This helped me establish a work pattern; I’d come home from work and have fun with a project for as little as 10 minutes or as much as an hour and a half before finishing for the day. I could even do a little in the morning before I went to work.

Of the projects I built in that shop, the nightstand seems like an obvious choice for a favorite, and it is. However, the little stool is a co-favorite:

The nightstand was the last project I completed there. Then, in the span of a few months, life got really busy, and after that, I moved again.

The new place also had room for a shop but it was more “raw”–as part of a garage, I really had to work to define the space. The old shop had room for me to put tools on tables all over the place. It was mostly disorganized, but I sort of knew where everything was, so I managed. There was no room for that in the new shop. To make up for it, I was allowed to hang cabinets, racks, and hooks on the walls and ceiling to my heart’s desire.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the new shop organized quickly enough for my taste. Part of this was a chicken-and-egg problem; the tool cabinet is an example of this. My first task in the new shop was to get some of the tools on the walls, and I had to finish the cabinet so that I could put tools in there. Unfortunately, my tools were all packed away in boxes (from the move) that surrounded the workbench. I really had no idea where anything in particular was and I didn’t have places to put them temporarily.

At the same time, I also had more furniture to make. The second nightstand project kicked off this year, and it turned out to be far more complicated and time-consuming than I expected. (And I’m still working on it, but I’m almost done.)

Every now and then, I add to the wall storage in the shop. That situation isn’t fully resolved (see below), but it is much better. Things are getting done, and I have to say that I prefer the new shop to the old one.

Also, I’m making a concerted effort to work out some of the annoying little stumbling blocks that I have to deal with from time to time. The two biggest problems I come across are tool and project storage (both temporary and permanent) and workholding. I have plans to solve those soon.

Going forward with projects, I have a long list in front of me. The most pressing, according to those in the know, is an entertainment center. We’re also looking at the rest of the living room–coffee table, bookshelves, who knows what. With the exception of our couch, the living room furniture is crap and it makes sense to concentrate on that room. Whatever I do, I’ve decided that I’m not going to make anything as brutally complicated as the second nightstand project(s) for a while.

But then again, I may just make more complicated things. Here’s how.

The title of this blog is no lie. Everything I do is by hand, and that includes stock preparation. I didn’t go down this road out of principle or some other similarly silly reason. I did it primarily out of interest and necessity–the apartment I once lived in was no place for power tools.

Unfortunately, it turns out that flattening, thicknessing, and resawing by hand is a lot of work. A large majority of my time and effort goes into stock preparation. That’s not even mentioning how much time I spend sharpening plane blades as I go. It’s getting out of hand. I can flatten a board quickly now (and wow am I glad I learned), resawing isn’t so incredibly horrible when you keep your saw blade sharp, but that last step of getting down to final thickness is totally bogus when you have to repeat it dozens of times, even with my scrub plane that can take off 1/16″ at a time.

So I think I’m going to get myself a stupid lunchbox-style thickness planer sometime in the new year. I’ll continue to flatten stuff by hand–it’s a great way to get to know the wood and the board that you’re about to use–but when it comes to getting that other side down to something reasonable, I won’t think twice about feeding it to a machine. I’ve got furniture to build and I do not have the time to lollygag.

However, the blog remains the same. The preceding paragraph (I hope) will be the only mention. I don’t plan to write about it when it happens, and I’ll continue to do all joinery by hand.

At this point, it would be remiss not to mention that I’ve had help. Schwarz says that the modern woodworker works alone and I think he’s wrong. Even if one never meets another woodworker in person, and even if one never takes part on a discussion forum online, the modern woodworker has an incredible resource mass available. It’s sometimes easy to overlook that a person wrote what’s on your screen, and when you learn something from someone, that person is very much with you in spirit as you work.

And wow, have a lot of people been working with me in spirit in my shop. There are just too many to list, but I’d really like to thank anyone who’s written anything that I’ve learned from or even read.

Also, there are the BAGs (Bay Area Galoots). Several of you have really helped me out in more direct ways–lending me tools, giving advice, being generally cool, that sort of thing.

Now, back to the work on the new nightstand projects. Progress has been (inexplicably) made.

Tool Cabinet: Mostly Finished

While gluing up the tool cabinet, I noticed that the joint that wasn’t closing up properly was probably just cut too much. So rather than having to look at a hideous gap in the miter there, I cheated and glued in a little piece of scrap:

After trimming the face, it looked like this, which is probably good enough for me not to notice all of the time:

Hopefully, I’ve got enough practice at this now so that I don’t make this mistake again.

So after the carcase was together, I had to hang the doors. As I noted in my previous post, I’ve never done this before, so I thought it might be a good idea to practice. The Korn book explains how to do it fairly well, so I went through the motions and came up with this:

I’m glad I did a practice joint first, because I didn’t really have a solid picture of how the hinge fit into the mortise relative to the pin and how far the hinge would open. But after doing it, things really became clear. I now also have a better appreciation of the butt hinge and its versatility.

I didn’t take photos of how I made the above test because I felt a little tepid while making it. However, I did photograph the process on the tool cabinet. First, I figured out where the hinges were to go. I decided that I wanted three hinges per door to give it enough strength. Then I looked around at a bunch of doors around the house and looked at the proportions of the hinge placement. I didn’t come up with a formula (next time, maybe), but I determined that two inches from the inside “would not look sucky,” so that’s what I came up with.

To make sure that I didn’t cut a mortise in the wrong place (a favorite habit of mine), I first penciled on a little mark where one would go. Then, after making sure that those marks were actually correct, I scribed in the precise marks:

I used the little Lee Valley miniature marking gauge for the depth and height. The depth was set to the width of the hinge leaf, up to just a little bit shy of the center of the hinge pin–I really should have taken a photo of this. I set the height with the other end of the gauge, to a bit more than the leaf thickness. To get the ends, I scribed the near one first, then scribed the other by placing the hinge in place.

Then I knocked out most of the waste with a chisel. You can do the whole thing with a chisel, but I wasn’t feeling all that precise, so I grabbed my little miniature routing plane to go the bottom:

It seemed to turn out fairly well:

I completed all of the mortises for the inside, then I turned to the door. Again, I carefully penciled in the sides where the hinges were supposed to go. Then I wedged the door in place at a particular spot, and marked the mortise ends from the ones that I’d just made. This is a very similar technique to marking dovetails.

I didn’t have as much registration surface for the router plane on the edge of the door as I had on the carcase frame, so I clamped a couple pieces of scrap to the sides to give me more. This made it an easier job than the frame:

To drill the holes for the hinge screws, I eyed them with an awl. (Nope, I don’t have a center punch yet.)

After drilling the holes, I put in all of the screws, put the cleat on the back, and hung it on the wall. It looked like a cabinet:

There were a few little flubs–for example, I didn’t trust my lines in the mortises enough, and that was a mistake. Fortunately, it didn’t make enough of a difference to matter in the end, and what’s also fortunate is that I hopefully won’t make those errors again.

So it was on the wall, but didn’t have any tools yet. I fixed that yesterday, when I made a little bracket for my Taiwanese planes and added my Veritas low-angle block plane:

So the cabinet is now 1/6th full. I have to make little attachments for the other tools on the inside and the doors.

I’ll do that eventually. I have to get started on other projects now. Between the move and all of the other things that were going on in the past four months (which seemed like an eternity), there were times when I felt like I was trying to nail jelly to a tree. This project felt like it took forever. In reality, it was maybe half that, but I don’t want to have that feeling again.

Tool Cabinet: Door and Panel Assembly

Having fooled around long enough flattening my workbench, I returned to the tool cabinet project. I was close to being done with all of the components, so I decided to get the doors finished. The doors will consist of two frames, each with a long panel inside, and the first order of business was to make the grooves to house the panel. I started with the easy parts–the pieces where the groove goes all the way though, because I was eager to try out the Stanley #45 I posted about a while back.

This is the first time I’ve ever really used it for a project. It’s a heavy beast, but gets the job done far faster than the router plane that I’ve been using, and because I already had it set up as a 1/4″ plow plane, there wasn’t much fooling around with its adjustments. It even helped a lot for the stopped grooves, because it can cut partway, leaving the final work with the router plane and chisel easier because they have somewhere to track.

With the frame grooves made, it was time to cut the panel to size and fit them. I’d sized the panels slightly thicker than the grooves, so I decided to put rabbets around the edges to bring the rim down to thickness:

As usual, I did the bulk of the work with my #78, and finished it off with my Taiwanese rabbet plane.

Then it was time to test-assemble the door:

That seemed okay, so I made the other door, then shifted my attention to cutting the panels for the cabinet rear. They require edge-gluing, so I decided that it was time for a glue-up party for the panels and one of the doors:

It’s definitely starting to look more like a cabinet and less like a pile of pieces. The tasks that remain are gluing the other door and main cabinet, hanging the doors, and making the tool holders for the inside. This latter part will likely take some time to finalize, since I haven’t actually made up my mind about much of it yet, but that won’t stop me from putting what I have into use as soon as I can. Come to think of it, I’ve never really done doors with hinges, so this could be interesting.

Tool Cabinet: Frame Components

With the tool storage in a somewhat usable state in the new shop, I finally had a chance to restart the tool cabinet project last week. I finished the carcase before the move, so I’m left with the doors and some other odds and ends. I decided to start with the rear, which will have two cross-members to aid with mounting on the wall and internal tool arrangement.

After taking what seemed to be an eternity to size up the pieces, I made the first joint for the members in the back. Then I realized that it was the first joint that I’d made in the new shop, so I took a photo to commemorate the occasion:

That’s the wacky Taiwan-made chisel featured in this post, chosen this time by the ever-reliable “I was actually able to find that one” method. Though this joint was perfect in the end, I can’t say that it went without a hitch–for some reason, when marking out the tenon, I had set my mortise gauge incorrectly and just barely noticed in time. Unlike the saw till, I’ve decided not to use wedged or through joints here.

Okay, so that wasn’t terribly exciting, nor was it difficult. Soon it was time for the cabinet door frames. I made up my mind to use the mitered-face mortise-and-tenon joint for this application. The main reason is that I really would like some practice at this thing, and I’d much rather screw it up on a shop project than something I actually care about. Nevertheless, it seems to be going well so far:

The pile of components for this project is much larger than I anticipated:

I already had to go out to get more wood for it twice. Normally, this would be an incredible miscalculation, but since I can’t say that I’ve actually bothered to calculate, there’s probably another word or two for it that isn’t nearly as nice.

The shop seems to be usable. The intermediate state of the tool wall looks like this now:

The thing at the center top is a sort of shallow shelf-like thing that I made for the french cleats. The scrub plane just happens to fit on top, so I put it there because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The chisel rack is a reincarnation of the lamest tool rack ever built; for some reason, I brought it intact from the old place, and added cleats and screwed stuff into it until it actually fit on the wall. The space to the right is where the tool cabinet will eventually go.

And really, the cabinet can’t come too soon. This is what I’m dealing with on the benchtop right now:

Mind you, this was after cleaning up a bunch of stuff. There are tools in all sorts of weird places around the place and I keep getting nervous that I’m going to knock them over–I don’t have a lot of room to move around.

Oh yeah–thanks to Jasen, who lent me that Narex 3/16″ mortise chisel. For that size, I don’t have any of my own (yet).

[Edit: I didn’t notice at the time, but this is post #200.]

Workshop Move: French Cleats Installed

There’s been very little time to get the shop in order since the move. Between the day job, getting the rest of the house looking less of a total wreck, and some mandatory snowboarding last weekend, the only thing I’d managed was to string up the lights. At this point, I have to thank the designers of the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). I was able to string up five full-spectrum bulbs, each with the brightness equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb, combining for just over 100 watts of consumption and very little heat. The task would have been horrible with anything else because I don’t have the space for a big fixture, and the power situation in the shop is not terribly ideal, anyway.

My first order of business was to get the saw till up, and I decided to use French cleats to accomplish this and other tool-storage tasks. There’s been a lot written about these cleats on other blogs and elsewhere, but most of them talk about making them with the dreaded tbls*w. I will admit that the machine makes this particular task easier, but I don’t use one, so it was off to the races with what I had at hand.

The plan was to use the cheap 3/4″ thick mystery softwood that I’ve managed to collect. I originally thought that I would cut the bevel for the cleats with the chamfer attachment for my Veritas low-angle block plane, but I quickly realized that it cut far too slowly and the attachment wasn’t wide enough for such a large task anyway.

So I grabbed my little rip panel saw to remove most of the waste:

Though awkward (because I couldn’t get a decent angle of attack), it didn’t take that long. Next, I used my jack plane with the deeply-cambered blade to zap and smooth off most of everything up to the lines, and finally, a jointer to go up to the lines. The nice thing about cleats is that you really don’t have to be that precise with the angle.

In retrospect, I should have probably used my drawknife to rough it out, but unfortunately, I would have had no idea where it would have been, anyway.

The first cleat turned out to be pretty painful to make for a couple of reasons. First, I hadn’t secured my benchtop onto its base yet, so the top insisted on sliding all over the place. Second, because I managed to tweak my wrist a little while snowboarding a week before (as I said, you gotta do what you gotta do), sawing was a little painful, as was shoving around those metal planes. The biggest problem was that I just didn’t have full wrist strength.

Before long, the first cleat was made, and it was time to put it into the wall. I’d bought some big 3″ wood screws with Torx heads for this purpose, and I leveled and pre-drilled everything, so putting the screws in was going to be a piece of cake, right?

Well, not exactly; even pre-drilled, driving those screws was a lot of effort and I couldn’t twist my wrist hard enough, nor did I want to. So I dug out my handy-dandy brace driver bit adapter, put a T20 Torx bit in, and promptly realized that I had no idea where any of my braces were. This was just a recurring theme–needing a tool and realizing that it was in one of those boxes around me.

It took a long time to find a brace, but when I did, you can imagine the grin on my face when I pumped those screws into the wall with that thing. And there it was, the first cleat was up (note the Millers Falls 8″ sweep brace with the Lion chuck that I used, lying on the bench):

After securing the benchtop to the base, I made another one that day, but not without discovering a bunch of resin around a knot in one of the boards. (That sure made it easy to saw, let me tell you.)

Taking it up again today, I put up a few more cleats and put up the saw till:

I was thrilled with this development, because my goal for the weekend was in fact to get the saw till up on the wall. That thing is my single-most important tool container. After taking this photo, I made a few more tool holders and put them up.

I even found my drawknife, so I put it up on a cleat to celebrate. Next, I’ll put the chisels up, provided that I can find them.

Tool Cabinet: Introduction; Moving

My last post covered the weird joint I experimented with in a new project that I’ve been working on, a tool cabinet. During my last few projects, I’ve really gotten a feel for a set of tools that I use on a fairly regular basis but don’t have a real place for. These tools–marking gauges, measuring tools, some smaller planes, and the like–are always sort of hard to find because they’re lying about on a table next to the bench. So they’re hard to find, and they take up a lot of space. My saw till solved these problems for my saws, and my absurd chisel rack solved them for the chisels. I figured that a medium-sized cabinet would do the trick with these tools.

Going at probably the slowest possible pace for a woodworker, I finished the other three crazy joints in the carcase and test-fit the sides:

They basically fit (the lower right corner needs a little more adjustment), so now it’s time to think about what to do with the insides.

I already had the idea to put my Taiwanese planes inside. I grabbed about 3/4 of them and arranged them like this:

So, in all, they’d take about 1/4 of the space in the rear half of the cabinet. The front half will be sort of empty, because I plan to put on doors that are open most of the time, and these doors will have lighter tools attached (such as marking gauges and squares).

It’s all preliminary, but one idea that I’m going to carry over from my saw till is to have it reconfigurable. In other words, I’ll use screw inserts to hold the tool holders in place, so that if I decide that I don’t like some tools I’ve chosen for the cabinet, I’ll just replace them.

That’s all fine and good, but now I’ve got something else to do before finishing this: I’ve got to pack up the shop, because we’re moving. The next two weeks are going to be hectic. I’ve got more than half of my tools packed already, I believe.

There is, at least, some good news. The new place not only has space for a shop, but I’ll also be able to hang stuff on the walls. So my saw till will have a spot, as well as the chisel rack and this new cabinet (once complete). I’ll also probably be able to hang some eggbeaters and a few other things. Right now, my boring tools are pretty disorganized.

I also might build a new bench. However, that’s looking a little farther into the future.