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Workbench side clamps are not something I think anyone would generally use on a daily basis, but when the job calls for the sort of clamping they provide, they do a great job. I think one of the reasons they were not used often is the time it takes to affix them to the workbench — usually requires the use of nuts and wrenches.
How can I improve the likelihood I will use my new side clamps?
The 3/8″ 5 star knobs I ordered from Rockler for my side clamps arrived yesterday and I gave them a shot.Side clamps with 5 star knobs
On the left you can see both knobs on the same side of the clamping block and on the right you can see one knob on the top and one knob on the bottom. Either configuration works well. With a 5 star knob you can easily loosen both knobs and remove one knob to move the block around.
The above tweak is not an earth shattering change but it does remove the need for a wrench and make it a little more likely I’ll break out the side clamps with the need comes up.
P.S. If you’d like to read up on how to build your own pair of side clamps you can read my earlier post on that topic here.
Filed under: Popular Woodworking, Portfolio, Workshop Projects, Writing Tagged: Rainford Workbench, Rockler, Side Clamps, Tage Frid, Tage Frid Workbench
In building my workbench I also built a simple traditional deadman to help support long boards at the bench.Workbench Deadman
This simple to build workbench accessory is as a great addition to any bench with a tail vise.Bill demonstrating the use of his deadman
If you’d like to learn more about this bench and how to build one for yourself, please check out my blog post on this topic over on the Popular Woodworking site here.
Filed under: Lost Art Press, Popular Woodworking, Portfolio, Workshop Projects, Writing Tagged: Bill Rainford, Continental Workbench, Danish Workbench, Deadman, Lost Art Press, Popular Woodworking, Tage Frid, Tage Frid Workbench
Have you used your side clamps lately? Wait, what are side clamps?Close up of the side clamps
Side clamps are a pair of adjustable wooden blocks that mount on the outside of a traditional continental workbench with one block mounted to the tail vise and one mounted to the fixed portion of the bench top. In this experiment the blocks are mounted to the bench via 3/8″ diameter, 6″ long threaded bolts and some shop made metal plates.
When building my Tage Frid inspired Scandinavian workbench I spent a lot of time looking at examples of Frid’s benches — some early extant examples in person, his Fine Woodworking article on his bench (FWW Issue #4, October 1975), the chapter in Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Volume 3 and various online searches.
In the FWW issue #4 diagrams and text there was a very brief mention of a set of ‘side clamps’. I couldn’t find any photos of these clamps online and they didn’t seem to make it into the book version of the bench. I was curious if they were cut to save space or if in fact they didn’t turn out to be useful.
I decided to build my own version of these clamps based on that lone diagram and experiment with them.
Building a pair of side clamps:
Using some scrap hard maple left over from the workbench I made two 1.75″ thick, 3″ wide and 4.5″ long blocks. I planed them and rounded over the edges with a 1/8″ radius router bit.Use a self centering doweling jig to start the 3/8″ holes
Next up was drilling a 3/8″ diameter hole through the center of the block, the long way. I started off the drilling by using a self-centering doweling jig (see photo above), and went as far as the bit would let me drill into the block. Then using that first hole as a guide I used a longer electrician’s style 3/8″ drill bit to drill the rest of they way through the block. (see photo below)Use a long electrician’s style 3/8″ drill bit to finish the centered hole.
With the woodworking complete, it was time do to some metal working to make a series of small plates that are used to affix the clamp blocks to the dog holes in the bench by way of the 3/8″ bolts. I bought some 1/8″ thick x 1″ wide zinc’ed steel bar at my local hardware store and cut them to 2-7/8″ long. (Note this is 1/2″ shorter than what Frid called for as I as felt 3-3/8″ would have too much slop/space. I also could not find 1/4″ thick bar stock, but think 1/8″ thick is still plenty strong for anything I plan to do with these clamps. Make sure to leave at least 1/4″ of metal on all side around the holes). I cut the pieces to length using an abrasive cut off chop saw, but a hack saw could also get the job done.Zinc’ed steel bar, cut to size, corners ground round and edge burs removed
I took the metal blanks over to the slow speed grinder and rounded over the corners and chamfered the edges a bit to remove any burs.Drilling all four blanks at once.
Next up I stacked/ganged up all 4 pieces and drilled 3/8″ diameter holes at the drill press. The pieces were held together with some strong tape and held in place against my makeshift fence via the scrap block in the foreground of the above picture. Make sure to use some cutting oil and make sure you don’t overheat the metal nor your drill bit. Also use some scrap underneath the blanks to protect your drill press table.Using a file to clean up and remaining burs and fine tune the work you did on the grinder
With the holes drilled out I took the metal blanks over to a vise wherein I made sure the bolts fit through the holes, cleaning things up with a rat-tail (round) file. I then used a flat mill file to clean up any roughness on the outside edges left from the work at the grinder.
Given my background as an engineer, and touch of OCD I decided to add some self adhesive cork to the sides of these metal plates that might come in contact with my bench topSelf-adhesive cork sheets
I cut the cork to rough size, affixed it to the plate and used a utility knife to cut off any excess around the edge and a 3/8″ drill bit to remove any waste inside the drilled out holes.Use a utility knife to clean up the cork around the edges of the plate and the 3/8′ drill bit to clean up and cork in the holes
With the metalworking completed, it was time to install the nuts and bolts and try out the clamping blocks. One bolt goes through the top plate, the wood block, the bottom plate and is secured with a nut or five star knob. (I ordered some knobs from Rockler but at the time of this writing they’d didn’t arrive yet, once they come I’ll add some post script to show the clamps with easier to use knobs in place.) The other bolt goes through the top plate, the dog hole, the bottom plate and is secured with another nut.Assembling a side clamp
Given the use of square dog holes on this bench, and the fact that that blocks are 1/2″ longer than the bench is thick, this allows the side clamps to pivot a few degrees in either direction. This gives you the ability to securely clamp some tapered or irregularly shaped pieces.
The blocks can be moved to different dog holes as needed or removed from the bench altogether. In testing these clamps on a few different items and shapes I found the blocks were surprisingly easy to use and held oversized items with ease.Large objects are easily held between these side clamps
The Verdict: (So far…)
It was a fun project to build and experiment with. These clamps are useful for specialized clamping needs, such as large items, re-working the edges of a drawer box, planing dovetails flush, and similar operations.
Do I think they will get used every day? No. Do I think they can do a few jobs that would be tougher to do on the bench-top secured via bench dog, hold fast, face or shoulder vise? Yes.
For the small amount of wood, metal and time it took to make these side clamps I think they were a nice addition to my workbench.
If you build some side clamps for your workbench, please share what you thought of them in the comments below.
P.S. If you’d liked to learn about the workbench featured in this post, please check out my related article in the February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine which can be found here.Popular Woodworking February 2017 Cover
Filed under: featured, Lost Art Press, Popular Woodworking, Portfolio, Workshop Projects, Writing Tagged: Go Go Go, Rainford Workbench, Side Clamps, Tage Frid, Tage Frid Workbench
I have some big news to share with everyone today, I’m proud to say that I am the process of writing a book for the Lost Art Press tentatively titled “Go, Go, Go: The Life, Influence and Woodworking of Tage Frid”Bill Rainford with his felling ax. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )
You can read more about my background and the premise of the book in this post I made on the Lost Art Press Blog here. It’s an exciting opportunity and look forward to sharing my passion for Frid’s work and Danish Modern furniture design.Bill standing next to his Tage Frid inspired workbench. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )
Related to the above book I’ve also written an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine on my Tage Frid inspired workbench which will be the cover story for the February 2017 issue which is coming out later this month. Once it is published I’ll be sure to share more related links and details.
UPDATE: The February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking is now out and you can read more about it or purchase it here on PopularWoodworking.com
P.S. A big thank you to Doug Levy for allowing me to share two of the excellent photos he took for the upcoming article. You can check out Doug’s photography work here. He also has a great series on New England Craftsmen here.
Filed under: Lost Art Press, Writing Tagged: Bill Rainford, Go Go Go, LAP, Lost Art Press, Rainford Workbench, Tage Frid
An early lesson in carpentry or woodworking in general is to take all of your measurements from a single reference face — this way you don’t get a bunch of accumulated errors that will throw everything off. It makes sense, but what do you do when measuring long distances? or uneven surfaces?
Let’s take a look at this 30 foot long foundation wall I am working on:A view of the tiered foundation
In order to lay out the mortises in the sills for the posts I needed to make sure they are in the correct location which was a bit of a challenge.
First off I had to go out and get a 35′ long tape measure. I bought a Milwaukee 35′ Magnetic Tape Measure from Home Depot.35 Foot Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure
Beyond the length this model has a few nice features I really liked. First and foremost it has a finger protecting stop which is great for people like me that tend to use a thumb as the brake and occasionally get pinched by the end of the tape slamming back into the case. It also has an 8-9′ standoff (distance tape can hold itself out before it bends), a magnet in the end, large hooks and an architect scale (total inches rather than feet) on the bottom of the tape and a supposedly limited lifetime warranty.Love that metal finger protector
I liked it so much I hope to get the 25′ model soon and will retire my Stanley and Stanley Bostitch tapes. You can find the 35′ model here. It’s a bit of a beast, so for everyday use I think the 25′ model will fit better in my tool belt.
In measuring the foundation I found out that its about 1/2″ shy of 30 feet. Other than that I’ve been very happy with how the foundation came out and across its width its consistently 24′ wide as expected.
Laying out the first two sets of mortises from the front of the building was easy and straight forward. The 3rd set is where it got tough as I’d have to bridge the vertical step in the foundation. In order to make that jump I cut a piece of scrap 2×8 and using a level and a square set it exactly on top of the center line for the 2nd set of mortises and clamped it firmly to the cast in place straps.Measuring and compensating for the different levels of the foundation
I could then pull the tape and lay out where that third set of mortises should be and also measure to the end of the building to confirm it matched what I got when just measuring the side of the foundation in a single pull. All the measurements lined up with what I expected, so that was good.Figuring our the difference between measuring off the common reference face vs from each end of the foundation
It looks like when the straps were cast in place the concrete contractor measured from the back wall of the building rather than a single reference face and I could see the 1/2″ off they were due to the overall length of the building being off. Thankfully the posts are sufficiently large (6×6) that this won’t be a visible issue.
This all goes to show the value of taking your time and measuring as described above, for if I didn’t do this and laid out the top plates as if the building was an even 30′ long and if I laid out that 3rd set of posts 10′ off the back wall there would be some major problems during the barn raising.
Take care and Happy Measuring,
Filed under: Timber Framing, Woodworking 101, Woodworking Techniques Tagged: Measuring, Reference Face, Timber Framing
Transitional planes are the pariahs of the woodworking world. The tool collectors don’t want them. Patrick Leach burns them in a funeral pyre. I’ve had a few over the years I got for a song and kept in the shop mostly for decoration.Cleaned up timber frame post
As I got more into timber framing and working with green timbers it dawned on me that these transitional planes — at least in the jack and jointer sizes might be useful for cleaning up timbers. The large wooden sole doesn’t rust the way a metal plane would when exposed to wet wood for long periods of time and you have a more or less modern Bailey style mechanism. The one annoying thing about the mechanism on a transitional plane is the blade advancement wheel spins the opposite way a metal plane works, but after a few minutes you get used to it.Bill using a traditional jack plane to clean up timber
For some timber frames I need to clean up and remove all the large circular saw or bandsaw marks. In a workshop or outbuilding being fresh from the mill is fine, but in a house all those rough surfaces can be a dust magnet or source of splinters.With a nice camber it makes quick work of dressing a green eastern white pine timber
On my jack plane I’ve ground a camber appropriate to a jack plane and take a reasonably heavy shaving. The work goes fast and I admit its fun to make a 25′ foot long shaving on some of the largest timbers.
At first I felt bad about using a plane from the 1870s for this sort of work, but if properly maintained it will have a surprisingly long life and I’d rather see this plane get used as opposed to being in a pyre or on a shelf.
At the end of the day I make sure to remove the iron and wipe it down with oil so it does not rust and I’ll usually give the sole a little more wax.Transitional Jack Plane in its new habitat
I can usually find these planes in surprisingly good shape for $10-35. If you’re willing to take one with more rust on the mechanism or a replacement sole you can likely get it for even less or even free from some dealers if you buy a few other items. The next time you are at a tool swap you may want to take a second look at a transitional plane and score yourself a good deal on a solid workhorse for your own timber framing or green woodworking projects.
Filed under: Portfolio, Timber Framing, Timber Framing, Tool Reviews Tagged: Rainford Barn, Stanley, Timber Framed Barn, Timber Framing, Transitional Jack Plane, Transitional Plane