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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hovarter VX-20 Available For Pre-order

I am very skeptical when it comes to--just about everything.  Heck, the title of Pragmatic Woodworker should give a clue as to how calculating I can be.  Part of my skepticism is:

     A) try not to ever do anything first
     2) do not conform to the pack, and
     iii) never spend money unless you know what you are getting

The Hovarter VX-20 is the exception that proves the rule.  I was hooked on this unit merely from recommendation and marketing video (youtube).

I've already placed my pre-order to avoid the rush.  Head on over to to be part of the pack clamoring for this new vise.  :)

I will definitely report on my experience with the VX-20.

I've decided the VX-20 is going to be the center piece (well, left of center) for my new bench.  One of the features I'm drawn to is the quick release mechanism.  The new bench will have a leg vise on both front legs.  I don't want to buy two vises, and I don't want two on at a time.  However, I would love to quickly move the vise from one leg to the other to accommodate the handedness of any operation.  The VX-20 is the only thing I've seen that gets close to my imagined nirvana.

Handedness of any operation?  You see, I was born sinister, cursed to feel the world in my right mind: I'm left handed.  I've learned to do many many things with my right hand.  This handedness issue comes up a lot in woodworking.  Almost every operation has a mirror image of itself as part of completion.  Things like dovetails and tenons generally like to be bilateral in form.  In my world, I often switch hands to achieve bilateralness.  Moving work between sides of the bench is a fact of my woodworking life.

Hopefully I'm not thowing money away on a rose colored vision of the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Box Problem

I recently received a new tool--a Lie-Nielsen tongue and groove plane.  I was moving things around in the toolbox to see where the new tool could live.  In the process I realized I have a box problem.

I have a number of Lie-Nielsen boxes that I can't seem to part with.  Pictured above are boxes spanning literally years.  The small box at the top right is a chisel box and is about 3 years old.  The chisel sits in the rack of my first Dutch tool chest, but the box now houses my small files.  The middle box holds a router plane.  The tool and cardboard box go into the Dutch tool chest.  On the left is the new tongue and groove plane; still looking for a home.

I haven't even had a chance to use the T&G plane--it's killing me.

There are also a couple more chisel boxes laying around.  Lie-Nielsen is by far a minority of my tool collection, yet I have all these silly boxes.  I think it is time to part with ages old cardboard.

Boxes for sale!  Get your small cardboard boxes here.  Get 'em while their hot, people!

Monday, August 18, 2014

When A Recess Becomes A Hole

I've been working on another Dutch Tool Chest, but this one has some surprises.  So, SURPRISE: this Dutch chest has a drawer!  Shocking, right?  Every good showman and politician knows to cover with hype what is weak or boring.

What isn't hype are the pulls I purchased for this chest.

Tonight I was doing some test fitting.  The pulls are meant to be fully recessed.  The problem is that they are just shy of 3/4" deep--the same depth as the wood.  I'm too cheap to redo all the front parts in 5/4 wood, which leaves me with a hard choice.  Either I get new pulls, or mount these above the drawer front.  Here are a couple photos to illustrate.

 I'm mostly posting these so I have place to refer to them as I try to decide which way to go.

I"m tempted to go ahead and risk the tight tolerances and mount the pulls anyway.  The chief problem with that approach is the screw length.  The screws have to be filed down to fit the remaining wood.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Roubo Plate 11 Bench Joint

I'm doing some practice Roubo bench joints before the real thing.  I chose to cut the mortise and then fashion the tenon to fit.  In Christopher Schwarz's The Workbench Design Book, he demonstrates the process by cutting the tenon first.  I haven't tried Chris' way yet, but I think I'll give it a try.

Shaping this tenon to fit the mortise has been a very long process.  Part of the problem is me.  I've never done this joint before so I've been very tentative in the shaping process.  The successive test joints will be done more aggressively.

Crafting the joint mortise first is like doing a Rubik's Cube.  All 8 faces of the tenon have to be evaluated by eye to see where material needs to be removed.  The same can be said for the opposite process, but the grass seems greener on the other side.  At some point I'll do a tenon-first version of the Roubo joint and hopefully remember to report on it.

I spent nearly four hours of shop time getting the first joint snug.  Shape, test, shape, test, shape, test....

Eventually, the completed joint is arrived at:

Angelic Chorus "Hallelujah!"

One, down.  Three more to go.

One thing I did learn doing this joint that I didn't see in the Workbench book, or online when I googled the joint is to undercut the tenon toward the 'base'.  During repeated test fittings it occurred to me that under cutting by a few thousandths of an inch would not hurt the structure at all and would actually help me seat the joint.

Once I decided to get more aggressive in shaping, and to undercut, things went a lot smoother with the first test joint.

I started off the second test joint earlier this evening.  I think I may have been a tad too aggressive, though  But that is fodder for another blog post.  :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Emergency Splinectomy!

I wrote recently about a spline jig here.  In that post I remarked that the hole in the jig was a mistake. Well, I found during the following experience that the hole was a spot on modification.  Did I get lucky, or is there a real woodworker deep down trying to get out?

Getting back on track now.  With my arm now more recovered from shoulder surgery,  I moved on to gluing the frame that needs the splines.

Here is the frame:

The joints are simply mitered and glued.  The glue is what this post revolves around.  I used Titebond Hide Glue, in the photo just by happenstance.  The frame was glued up and put into a ratcheting strap clamp for about 36 hours.  After coming out of the straps, the frame was propped against a 55 gallon garbage can used for 'quality' scrap wood.  There it sat waiting for me to get more strength in the arm, but the glue had other plans.

The 55 gallon scrap bin is in sight of the table saw--easy throwing distance is a must.  The garage shop is not air conditioned so when it gets too hot or too cold, I try to avoid the garage.  However, I was in the garage futzing around while it was still early and cool.  As the day got hotter I moved on to more sedate activity.  I was using the table saw as a desk while putting together a task sequence for another project (new saw bench design).  There I sat staring in the distance pondering some obscure point of the project until the SOMETHING'SNOTRIGHT alarm went off.  I focused closer only to see the miters of the frame literally start to fall apart.  I estimate the temperature in the shop at the time to be in the upper 80's Fahrenheit.

I know hide glue is reversible, but I had no idea that the temperature for doing so was so low.  I grabbed the frame before complete separation and managed to get it on a flat surface.  The only thing I could think of was getting the splines in ASAP with regular yellow wood glue.  Since time was of the essence I used what was immediately available.  The table saw was set up with a 1/2 inch wide dado.  Rooting around in the scrap bin produced some White Oak left over from the Civil War folding table.

I put corner clamps on three sides of the frame and the spline jig on the fourth:

The spline is in the foreground of the photo above.  The block holding the rest of the uncut splines is off to the right.

I used the jointer and my number 5 to get the white oak down to half an inch.  I opted for a tight dry fit to keep the corners together until the whole was ready for glue.  Then it occurred to me that I could glue and set the spline while still in the jig.  A little patience was all that was required to keep unsatisfactory amounts of glue off the jig.

The splines were going to be quarter-inch slats of either Wenge or Rosewood, depending how far I could make what I have stretch.  The best laid plans of mice and men...

The frame is now splined and glued with a single half-inch wide White Oak chunk on each corner.  I have a lot more work to do bringing the splines flush, and the aesthetic opportunity is gone.  On the plus side, I don't have to worry about separation now, or in the future and paint is as good as stain on this kind of project.  The next task to overcome is where to get tempered glass or plastic big enough to cover the 43 X 27 opening.

I also am rethinking when and where to use hide glue. I freely admit to jumping on the bandwagon of hide glue just to see what all the hype was about.  Experience can be a cheap education.

EDIT:  Here is a photo I forgot of the jig ready to go over the blade:

Monday, June 16, 2014


Zebrawood is exotic, expensive, and pretty much useless to me.  I suppose a longer explanation is in order.  A while back I found a good deal on a Zebrawood off cut.  The plan at the time was to use it for knife scales.

I have a jig setup that is used with knife blanks from Woodcraft.  The Tanto style is my favorite knife Woodcraft carries.  The jig is for use with a router.  The Zebrawood speciman I have was not at all router friendly.  Almost immediately the wood began to splinter and disintegrate under the brand new router bit, ruining the scale blank.  I tried changing the bit speed, climb cuts, gentle nudging, and soft curses to no avail.  The Zebrawood was too delicate for power tools.

Files and rasps are generally meant to be finishing tools.  Which translates into 'you can do all your work with them if you have enough patience'.  A coping saw and patience with the aforementioned tools were the last resort.  I did manage to finish the knife scale, but it looked too crappy to permanently affix to the knife.

The rest of the Zebrawood off cut sat under my workbench for nearly two years, until today.  I'm still recovering from shoulder surgery so my usefulness in the shop is limited.  My three kids are having no more of being pressed into service for my hair brained projects.  We (they) have been building shop furniture, shelving, and jigs for when full usefulness of the arm returns.  However, cutting one small off cut even smaller is well within my purview.

There is another Dutch tool chest in the project pipeline and it needs the locking wood slider thingies.  The last one used Walnut off cuts.  The next chest is going more exotic and using Zebrawood to lock it.  Don't tell anyone, but the wood is tough, but stringy and will probably break if modestly forced.

The wood did not succumb to power tools much better this time around.  At least the cut was mercifully short on the table saw.  The finishing was done with a random orbit sander.  Some folks will think it dumb to use an exotic off cut for a utilitarian invisible piece of a project.  I guess I don't care:  I had the wood, it was the right size, and cannot serve the original purpose for which it was purchased.

The next Dutch tool chest will have an African flair to it.

Here are the unimproved locking bars:

Just one more quasi finished part to throw in the corner until I get my arm back.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dance A Little (Impromptu) Jig

I found a need for a spline jig.  Normally I check my print sources and the 'Net for examples or advice on whatever I'm doing.  Tonight I was too impatient to wait and threw together a spline jig, or what I think a spline jig should be.

I guess it is more correct to say my son was too impatient.  I have a shop assistant for a while due to shoulder surgery.  We are working on a back lit box to display his vintage movie posters (and a project for the blog once I get my arm back).

Here is our creation:

The two halves are mirror images of each other.  I put the hole in so I could see what was happening.  The first test proved my thinking wrong.  I can't see a darn thing except the frame in there.

The splines are going into large shadowbox  frames.  I made the support boards tall enough to get a good clamp hold on the frames when in the jig.

The jig will live long enough for the current couple of projects, but something more durable will have to be made for the future I think.

Links to more useful spline jigs are certainly welcome below.  Typing is still a strain, so it is off to the couch for an ice pack.