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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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recycle, Reuse, Reflect

A while back I picked up a beat up old tool box at a garage sale.  The proprietor had a price of ten bucks on the box with all the contents.  The box didn't have much in it so I mostly bought it to examine the construction.  Here is the tool box:
Red Tool Box
I don't usually post such large photos, but wanted to show the construction details of the tool box.  The corner joints are all finish nailed with no glue.  A simple leather strap held on with roofing nails serves as a handle on each side.

The guy selling it told me his grandfather made this toolbox and used it.  He did not know what trade he was in.  The contents consisted of some large cold chisels, a homemade dowel plate and two beat up saws.  Here are the contents of the box sans hand saws:

Notice that the remaining paint on the tools exactly matches the toolbox.  There is no other personalization on the tools or box so my assumption is that the original owner/builder used the red paint to mark the stuff as his.  By all means offer any alternative theories below.

Here is one of the saws:
The saws were well used and kinked in multiple places.  They aren't even worth practice sharpening.  Also, note again the red paint on the handle.

The best 'find' in this tool box is the dowel plate.  One of the holes is even threaded for whatever purpose; I'll use it to thread dowels if need be.  The other tools I tossed into my large Craftsman chest dubbed the Island of Misfit Tools.

After examining the toolbox, I was about to chuck it after the saws into the garbage heap.  For some reason I hesitated and kept the empty box around.  I don't know who built the toolbox.  I have no connection whatsoever with it's history, but it occurred to me that I could be part of it's future.  My oldest son found the perfect use for this old toolbox:

All of my small sanders fit perfectly in the box.  Now the big red toolbox is going to be home to all of my small sanders.  The previous owner could care less, the builder may or may not be pleased that this box survived the years to arrive in my care.  All I know is that now whenever I need a sander, it should be in the obnoxious red box on the back shelf of the garage shop.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Civil War Folding Table: Finished Is Finished

I know the blog has been neglected for several months, but I have not been idle in the shop.  I have a good excuse, I think.  Highland Woodworking is interested in my writing from an amateur's view.  My writing time has been spent on more in depth stuff for them; they may or may not accept the work for publication.  Either way there is more content for the blog, eventually.

Today we are going back to the Civil War folding table from Woodworker's Journal.  The last entry on the Civil War table is here.  The table build was unintentionally stretched out in the following blog posts:

     That'll Do, Pig. That'll Do
     Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor
     A Peek Into The Sausage Factory

Here are before and after pictures of the finish:

 The finish is 3 applications of Danish Oil in Natural color.  The oil was left to cure for about 40 days.  After aging, I lightly sanded with 400 grit paper and a brown paper bag.  On top of the oil is bleached dewaxed shellac.  The top has four coats and the rest of the table has three coats of shellac.  The table was rubbed with a brown paper bag between coats, except for a very light hand with the 400 grit paper after the first coat of shellac.  The final touch is two coats of Johnson Paste Wax applied to the top.

Here are the rest of the pictures from final photo shoot.

I think I have enough material to make another similar table.  The decision as to folding legs is still up in the air.  If you peruse the previous blog posts, you'll find I have a set of legs that were 'ruined' by a silly design decision that I made; the goal is to use these expensive experiments elsewhere.

I encourage any woodworker to tackle this project.  It is actually quite an easy thing to build with both power and hand tools.  You might want to look for a lighter wood.  This table was built with White Oak and Padauk and consequently is very heavy.  The mass is good for me as I don't intend to sling this around like a big box store 20 dollar card table.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Dutch Tool Chest Completed

Completed, but with an asterisk.  The hinges for the top are still on back order.  A till for two joinery saws will be installed on the lid after the hinges are installed.  I also plan to mimic Chris Schwarz's block plane holster found in his published Dutch tool chest.

Empty Carcase
This post is meant to be a 'How I Did It' commentary.  As usual, I don't profess to be an authority on woodworking in general, and Dutch tool chests in particular.  To the left is the completed carcase built to the large chest plan found in Popular Woodworking, October 2013.

I did the glue up of the carcase alone.  I used run of the mill Titebond wood glue to join the dovetails at the bottom of the chest.  I had some difficulty getting the shelves into their dadoes and the glue was pretty well set up by the time the clamps were on.  The carcase was out of square so I forced it square and nailed a cross brace across the back.  The shelves are only nailed in from the outside with no glue.

The carcase settled in slightly out of square (about a quarter inch) when the clamps and cross brace came off.  I did what I could to force it back to square when I screwed on the front plate.  The back consists of inexpensive home center carsiding because it is already tongued and grooved.  I screwed and nailed on the carsiding level with the bottom of the chest.  I left the sides protruding beyond the chest on both sides to account for being out of square.  I then planed the end grain level with the chest side.  I never planed nearly three feet of end grain before and found that it was not as easy as I'd hoped, but not as hard as I'd feared.
Full Chest
Above is the full chest.  The top is organized, but I just threw a bunch of stuff into the bottom to clear some space on the table.  The personalization of this project is all on the inside, and then mostly in the top.  Here is the top full of tools:

Organized Top Of Chest
A previous post stated that there would be two rows of tools in the tool rack.  However, the plan changed when I finally started playing jigsaw puzzle with the planes.  The space was designed from the bottom up.  And I still ended up with a second tool rack.  There are 12 tools in the rack at the top right of the photo; here is a close up:
Secondary Tool Rack
However, I'm getting ahead of myself.  The space was designed from the bottom.  Painstaking tolerances were achieved for the planes by using circular calibration disks, washers for short.

Bare Bottom
Almost Done
The strips of wood are all from the scrap pile.  The left and right have a rounded over strip that the planes rest on to keep the blade off the bottom of the chest.  David Charlesworth is always placing his planes similarly in his videos, thus I'm simply emulating a Master.  

I often hear the reasoning for a plane kickstand is to keep the blade from getting dull; I believe the real reason is to isolate the cutting edge from a moisture retaining material (wood) to prevent rust.   

Getting back on track.  The wood strips are held down simply with glue.  I used screws and weight to hold them down while the glue was setting.  In the photo above the screws are coming out after the glue is set.  The screws came out to minimize metal to metal contact.  I ascribe to the philosophy that tools should always touch material softer than they are as much as possible; also, I hate sharpening.

Here is a close up photo that was just too cool not to post:

Close Up Of Tool Separators
The tool organization is designed to merely prevent contact with surrounding tools during ingress and egress (put'em n take'em).  This Dutch tool chest will not be traveling further than the basement shop and is not designed to protect during transport.

Here is a picture of my Lee Valley brass mallets in action:

Mallet Clamp (TM, Copyright, R, by me)

Gravity At Work
 The photo with block plane is a till for my dovetail saw.  It was fairly simple to make.  The kerf was started in a miter box and then finished with the saw itself:
Miter Box To Start Till Kerf

Saw To Finish Saw Kerf

I made two custom brackets for the tool rack.  The first holds a small square, the second a marking knife.  They both started from a block of wood (doesn't all our stuff?) before joining the tool chest.
Raw Knife Holder

I like this shot of the mounted knife holder.  I have a crappy camera, and worse skill when it comes to photography, so my standards are pretty low.

I will be building a second chest and a saw buck to complete my basement shop storage.  My idea of a saw buck comes from Ron Herman of Antiquity Builders.  It is a wood box that holds a complete set of handsaws.  Unfortunately, I neither have, nor wrote down what Ron deems a complete set of hand saws.  My box will be a simple rectangle about 28-30 inches tall, 10 or 11 inches wide and 7-8 inches deep with enough slots to hold 7 or so saws.  Apologies in advance for half-assing Ron's design.

Here are a couple more pictures that I took of the chest.

Tool Rack Looking Left

Tool Rack Looking Right
Look at the individual tool holders on the sloped left and right panel in the above two pictures.  I thought about custom making the sloped holders.  However, it seemed to me to be a lot of work with very little return.  These clips are often part of pre-mounted sets of tool organizers that you find in hardware stores and home centers, but you never see them offered alone (I don't, at least).  Certainly they would never be found at the exact slope you would need for any particular project.  I don't know the industry term for them beyond "spring clip" so there wasn't much success to be had on the friendly neighborhood Internet search engine.  I contacted a manufacturer, Gibson Good Tools, for retail sources of their product.  A very prompt reply from a nice sales person named Leigh offered to ship direct product in lots of 100 or more, and some retail sources.  I do plan to take them up on their offer of mass quantities if and when I start reorganizing the garage workshop.  In the meantime, I'll go with retail since I'm not building two dozen Dutch tool chests.

I don't know why I didn't think of this to start, but I found (because Leigh told me I would) the needed clips in the proper quantities at McMaster-Carr.  I don't know if you are acquainted with McMaster-Carr, but they are the type of operation that if a company starts making Splendiferous Widgets at 8am and you call McMaster at noon to buy them, by 3pm they will have photographs, SKU information, and a shipper tracking number for you.  Here are the clips I purchased:

1 1723A21 Tool Holder, Zinc-Plated Steel, for 3/8" - 5/8" Tool Diameter, Packs of 10
2 1722A41 Tool Holder, Nickel-Plated Steel, for 3/16" - 3/8" Tool Diameter, Packs of 10
3 1722A42 Tool Holder, Nickel-Plated Steel, for 5/16" - 3/4" Tool Diameter, Packs of 10

Only one of the smallest clips were used in the tool chest (line item 1).

Again referring to the two photos above.  On the left you see my three custom Grace screwdrivers and an inexpensive countersink driver that the origin of which I don't remember.  The right side features most of my set of Grace woodworking screwdrivers.  I fit seven of the 8 Grace woodworking drivers in the tool chest.  The tallest, for #14 screws, would not fit by just a smidgen.  I could modify the wood handle to make it fit, but I really like the way Grace drivers feel in my palm and don't want to risk losing that feel.

The spacing for the clips is all by eye.  I mounted examples of each purchased clip on a piece of scrap.  From there I tested which clip fit which tool the best.  The last step was to fill the chest up and eyeball what fit where on the sides and screw in the clip.

The last post on the construction of this chest will come when I finally get the hardware for the top.  I'll probably have the second one built before that happens!