Cutting Gauge and Yet Another Handle

I haven’t been working on anything major lately, but two little projects that I haven’t mentioned before are coming close to completion:

On the left, a handle made out of cherry. The template is identical to my apple handle, and the saw will be identical as well, except that it is filed rip instead of crosscut, so I will be using it for tenons and perhaps larger dovetails.

On the right, a cutting gauge made from scraps of beech. When complete, it will have a captive wedge to hold the arm tight, and some sort of wedged blade that I haven’t figured out yet. I’ll probably give it the same finish as my mallet.

Dovetailed box: Panel grooves

The next task for the box was to cut the grooves where the panel will slide in. The only somewhat appropriate tool I had for this task was my Millers Falls #67 router plane. This is more or less a copy of the Stanley router plane, but without the fence. Unfortunately, the fence is what I really needed. So I decided to make one. The first attempt was just a piece of wood attached to the bottom through the hole in the plane sole. That didn’t work very well.

I decided to get a little more serious about this, and made a combination shoe/fence out of masonite and a strip of yellow-poplar.

This was a nice excuse to use my overly expensive countersink to keep the brass screw heads below the various mating surfaces.

It’s still not the easiest tool in the world to use; to cut a groove, you must move the adjusting nut down between passes while keeping the blade in the same lateral position. You can accomplish this by doing the adjustment while keeping the blade inside the groove you’re in the process of cutting.

There’s just one bit that you can’t get with the shoe/fence attached, and that’s the very end of the stopped groove on the pinboards where you start the cut. There’s a “swimming pool-like” recess there that you need to cut deeper (see the first photo above at the bottom right). To get to that, just remove the shoe/fence and cut in the opposite direction. You don’t need the fence for this because the shallow groove that you already cut guides your blade.

So now I have the four sides and we’re nearly ready for assembly. It’s probably time to complete that bottom panel.

Dovetailed box

Unsure of what I was going to do next, and with little time to do it, I sat around doing very little for a while. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that making a dovetailed box will help me improve my technique. So at the most glacial pace imaginable, I milled a board, cut it to width, then cut out four pieces for the box sides.

Then this weekend, I made the joints. I was really slow at first, but gradually gained a little confidence.

That turned into “too much confidence,” because I sawed the wrong thing when making the tails of the very last joint, which screwed up a lot of things. After looking really stupid for a little while, I decided to salvage it by shortening the tailboards. However, if I simply made a new joint on the opposing tailboard, I would have had to shorten the pinboards too.

So I decided to just try re-making one set of tails by marking them out from its pinboard. It was a little unnerving, since I’d never done it that way before, but it seemed to work out okay. I’m slowly getting used to sawing straight with that little dovetail saw, though I have to admit that it’s a lot easier and natural-feeling with the saw I made a handle for.

The box was originally supposed to be 10 inches on each side; now it’s gonna be 9.5″x10″.

Next step is to make the grooves for the panel (which I’ve already milled but have not assembled).

First dovetail joint

Last week I did some milling in preparation for a dovetail attempt. Having fooled around with various things for a few days, I decided to finally give it a shot today. I followed the instructions in Korn’s book pretty much to the letter, and wouldn’t you know, I ended up with two pieces that looked like a tailboard and pinboard.

The most interesting part is that the pieces fit on the first shot. I sawed and trimmed the pinboard just up to the lines, and after the cleanup:

I decided that I wanted to glue and clamp it up, so let’s see how it looks once I plane off the ends (maybe tomorrow).

Apple handle and small tenon saw: Finished

I spent about a million years applying varnish to the handle, and despite many distractions, I finished and rubbed it out today:

Since I was on a roll, I decided to finish the job today, too. First, I cut off the old handle, filed out the notch where the back fits into the handle, and drilled the holes:

Finally, I filed off the rough edges, put the blade into the saw, and inserted the mounting hardware.

I haven’t had time to really test it out yet, but it seems to feel okay in the hand.

Apple handle: Hardware cut

Though I did this a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t had a chance to post it until now. I managed to acquire a small bench vise for metalworking, and bolted it to a board, which I then, in turn, clamp to the bench when needed.

This was necessary to cut the saw screw/nut hardware for the new saw handle:

I used a mini hacksaw to cut these “furniture joiners” down to size, and then a file to smooth them. Then I used a brace to bore the holes in the handle (holes not shown here, but I think you know what holes in a handle look like).

The handle is now in the finishing stage. I’m using a clear satin varnish. It’s almost done; I screwed up the last thick coat, so I’ll need to sand that level and apply one more, but I should have the end product ready next week.

Tenon practice

Because my latest saw handle project is now waiting for me to trim the fastening hardware down to size, I decided to practice sawing tenon cheeks. A lot of them.

Most of these kind of stink, but I got a lot better further on. I was using the 14tpi saw that’s my most recent addition.

So I felt, okay, maybe it’s time to give the mortise and tenon joint another go, to see how much it improved. And proceeded to mess up the first tenon horribly. But the second try at the tenon turned out as intended.

This may be the best one of these joints I’ve done yet, but it’s still a lot less than ideal. My plan now is to go back to the 20tpi dovetail saw for fine sawing like this. One upside of all this practice is that I’m now much better at using the finer saw. The 14tpi saw is far more difficult to control. The blade is too wide for such a fine pitch, and the blade is also very deep. So I’m going to redo the teeth on that one, down to 12tpi or 11tpi.

Apple handle: Start

I decided that since I had the momentum, and that since I had the drawing ready, that I would start a new saw handle, this time in apple. It will be for one of my small tenon/carcase saws, but I’m not sure which one yet.

First, I cut a piece of the board and fit the pattern:

Then I milled the board. Here’s one face flattened:

The entire board is mostly clear, but the pith runs near the center. So when I cut the piece out, the pith is on one side. This is, in theory, not a problem.

At this stage, it was evident that apple is unlike any wood I’ve worked with in the past. The grain is kind of wavy, but it’s not a problem with sharp tools. The grain is also very fine, and when planed, it is very smooth.

It was also unusual because I did not mill the board four-square. Rather, I made the faces trapezoidal, just taking care to get the edges square to the faces, and that the thing was of course of uniform thickness. Once that was done, it was easy to transfer the pattern to the wood.

I still used a coping saw to cut out the pattern, but I used a few other saws to mark out sections. This made sawing easier.

It still wasn’t super-fast, but again, I don’t have power tools. But I did finish sawing today.

Saw handle: Complete

I’ve been away for the last two and a half weeks. Just before I left, I put the final coat of finish on the saw handle. When I returned, I rubbed out the finish and put it back on the saw.

Everything turned out perfectly save one detail: I messed up the centering on the screw holes. Especially on the medallion. I could fix it, but I have two reasons not to. First, it serves as a reminder that I will need to practice that next time. Second, the saw itself is not worth it; I found out that the back is slightly bent. I don’t know if this happened recently or no, but it doesn’t really matter.

There’s also another good reason not to fool around with this one any longer–I want to get cracking on handles for my good saws. To that end, I bought a board of apple in Pennsylvania during my visit. It’s a pretty board and I don’t think I’ll want to stain it at all.

I also retrieved a brace from my mom’s place. The ratchet mechanism seized up, so I chucked in a sort of wide-bladed screwdriver bit, placed the blade in a vise, put in some wd-40, and turned. This freed it, and now it’s bleeding rust. Soon I’ll be able to give this one to a buddy.