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Je ne sai quoi Woodworking

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Updated: 56 min 29 sec ago

My second commission – part 11

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 5:51am

15/3/2017

As promised we will look into the process of jointing, gluing, and inserting dovetail keys into the top of the table in part eleven of our journey.

The rest of this particular chronicle can be found here.

The Kershout boards in the picture below were prepared up to this point towards the end of last year and has since been kicking it with my 1969 MGB in a separate garage.

The first task is to arrange the boards as best as you can with regards to colour matching and balancing out defects. This is where you whip out your artistic licence. This is after all a tribute to the legendary George Nakashima.

I took the opportunity to see what the trapezoid leg would add to the overall look. The top looks very light in colour (in this picture), but I can assure you that it will be transformed to a very dark reddish brown once the finish is applied. The Kershout dovetail keys contrasts exquisitely with the lighter Witpeer boards that makes up the trapezoid leg. I also like the darker lines created by the defects on the leg. It was strategically place to balance out from an aesthetic point of view. We will see later in this post how the reverse of the mentioned timber combination has a similar effect with regards to the top.

As you can see here my bench really came into it’s own working on the edges of these boards during the jointing process. I first prepared the edges so that they were close to the desired configuration, which is a very slight bow in the length.

Then the boards are clamped together with the two edges that will mate (so to speak) flush with each other and folded much like book-matched pieces before opening the “book”. This nifty trick leads to a cancelling out of the minute error that might arise in squareness of these edges with regards to each other. This technique is sometimes referred to as match planing.

Didi gave me a few pointers.

The Kershout is so ridiculously hard that I had to resort to using an alternating attack with my Lie-Nielsen low angle Jack plane armed with a toothed blade and a Shaw’s Patent Sargent no. 14C armed with an aggressively cambered blade.

Once the artillery softened up the enemy, I moved on to this shop made jointer plane to finish off the job.

I find my Festool Domino to be a very useful tool to keep the edges flush during glue-up.

It has become my custom to do only one of these edge joints at any one time given the short window to get the job done in our dry climate. Each joint is then left in the clamps for at least 16 hours. In other words, I tend to leave the glue-up for my final task each day. It is usually done at around 17h00 and left over night until around 09h00 the next morning.

Repeat.

Ditto.

Ready for the final glue-up.

I had to buy a set of 1.3m long 1″ pipes for my pipe clamps in order to do this final glue-up. Of course, as you would expect, my 1.2 meter wide assembly table was too narrow to accommodated the clamps for this glue-up. The situation therefore necessitated some problem solving on my behalf.

As you can see here a piece of wood (for each of the bottom clamps) was cantilevered off the edge of the table held in place by a clamp through a dog hole. Oh! … and yes, in case you wondered, it is my daughter’s “Biscuit finds a friend”. My English is not advanced enough to indulge in such haute literate.

As I have mentioned before, a mere mortal tends to sweat like a Gypsy with a mortgage during our sweltering rainy season. Didi is the master of African Climate Control (aka toplessness).

… and Bob’s your Uncle.

I modified the strip of wood that links my trammel points to draw a curve to soften the appearance of both ends of the top.

Marking the location of the dominos like this helps to remember where they are when further shaping is done.

The waste was removed with an electric jigsaw. It is a crappy old Black & Decker that I bought many moons ago while still living in New Zealand. I do not use it very often to start with and do not recall ever calling upon it to munch through Kershout. As most things you do for the first time there were a few lesson to be learnt. These things (for lack of a better insult) cut on the pull stroke, which translates into a messy splitting out of fibres at the top edge. Therefore (in hind sight) it is desirable to have the bottom of the top facing the jigsaw when doing this job. Secondly, I realised that I used a blade that was too aggressive, which did not help either.

On the flip side, this indiscretion coerced me into a design tweak that might (or might not) add an interesting twist. You will have to wait and see just like me.

Another reason I chose this shape for the ends of the top, is to enhance the appearance of it being sliced from a massive tree trunk. The idea is that this shape resembles the end of a trunk that was chopped off by axe. If you imagine a board cut from a trunk like the one in the first photo below, it would probably resemble the top of my table as seen in the picture below. That is in my mind anyway, you might feel different.

Then it became time to fashion a few dovetail keys to stabilise the obvious cracks in the top.

I worked out how many is needed of each size.

Here I tried to work out where to place the keys with regards to my sense of (randomly planned) artistic balance. The picture below was not the final version that was decided on, but somewhere towards getting there.

For the design of the keys I chose an angle of 9º, which repeats all through the design of the table. This is an idea you might want to consider. You draw only one key, chopped off at different lengths, and write on the template the number of keys needed of each length. It is then cut out, traced onto the wood as many times as the key tells you and then you chop off the ends and repeat on the next sized key. This way they all have the same shape, but of different lengths in an attempt to add visual interest.

As so.

The keys were liberated from the above Witpeer board by means of a bandsaw.

19/6/2017

Another useful trick is illustrated below. Clamping a piece of scrap wood across the top to hold the dovetail key firmly in place while it’s exact configuration gets marked out on the top.

Drilling out the waste by hand in such hard wood is no joke. “Trust you me”, as they say around these parts.

Enter: Lie-Nielsen merchandise in tandem with my trusty shop made Assegaai mallet. I chose the mallet as I needed a bit more heft than what the so-called Je ne sais quoi Persuader can deliver. When working “stone”, the extra heft is a must.

The lazy winter sun give us a better idea of the warm colours of the Kershout as it infiltrates my shop during the late afternoon.

It seems as if this post is riddled with tips, so here is another one. In order to see the scribe line better, one can have a small torch lying on the top to cast a shadow into the line. On my bench this is usually accomplished by positioning the bench light in a similar fashion, but clearly this top is too big to take to the bench.

Once the key enter it’s mortise like this I stop refining the fit. The key is then clobbered home after a frugal application of Epoxy, which acts as lubricant as well as an adhesive. The clobbering is done with a heavy mallet furnished with a thick sealskin face (not pictured).

As you can see here (minus the heavy mallet).

One week later the keys were planed flush using the two planes pictured.

As you can see the Witpeer keys contrasts nicely with the Kershout, much in the same way as the opposite combination works splendidly in the trapeziod leg.

We will get into preparation of the top for finishing in our next riveting edition of this series.

Shaw’s (re)Patent

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 5:50am

25/5/2017

One day in May while sitting in my shop at the end of a long day sipping usquebaugh I found myself staring at this so-called Shaw’s Patent no. 5 Jack plane of mine. It is the Jack plane that I use for heavy stock removal, which means it ends up on the receiving end of some significant elbow grease. As a result, the plane tends to reciprocate the well intended elbow grease with fervent vesication of that part of my hand that flirts with the ribbed edge of the main casting.  It got me thinking that the plane could possibly be modified to amend this particular quirk.

You can read a post on how I restored it when I initially got my discombobulated mitts on it.

As you can see here, the slight design glitch with this Sargent plane is twofold. There is a lot of wasted space between the top of the tote and the lateral adjuster. Also the bottom end of the tote slopes downwards, which has the effect that the side of one’s hand tends to end up on the rib of the main casting. Thus a combinations of these two inadequacies coerce the hand of the user into a position much lower than what is needed.

As you can see in the example below, the bottom part of the tote on this Lie-Nielsen low angle Jack plane does not slope down, but runs parallel to the sole of the plane. This design element stops the hand from sliding down too far. I thought that the Shaw’s Patent could benefit from a tote that employs the same strategy. Together with that I could utilize the dead space between the top of the tote and the lateral adjuster by lengthening the tote, which would also aid the user’s hand to ride higher.

I found a piece of Kaapse Swarthout, that would not suffice for any other purpose. This is by far my favourite indigenous species for producing totes.

It was quite a mission to fashion a tote that would fit the plane and at the same time tick the desired design tweaks. I used a combination of the original tote, the Lie-Nielsen tote, and documents on Stanley totes to accomplish the task.

The final product looks like this. You can see how the top of the tote is now much closer to the lateral lever and the bottom of it has a parallel section to hold the user’s hand up. Another neat little trick I discovered is to cut a leather washer to sit between the sole of the tote and the main casting. It makes a huge difference to the feel of the plane when using it. The difference is hard to explain, but try it and you will know what I mean.

The changes to the tote also necessitated a tweak to the length of the tote bolt. Unfortunately it is a change in the more challenging direction i.e. making it longer.

While I was at it I also changed the knob. I prefer a flat section at the top of the knob for my thumb when gripping the front end of the plane with the rest of my fingers on the sole acting as a fence.

The final adjustment I made was to file down the part of the rib in question by about 1 mm and rounded it. After all that the Shaw’s (re)Patent works like a dream. If you prefer woodworking rather than tool tweaking, I suggest that it might be better to buy a Lie-Nielsen plane from the start.

A Table for a shebeen – part 3

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 6:08am

16/11/2016

The year is hurrying towards it’s inevitable end and the temperatures in my tropical haven are racing upwards at the same rate. The massive shift in ambient humidity that a good rainy season can induce always wind me up to get joinery that is supposed to last a really long time assembled during the driest part of the year. In my case that means before the end-of-year holidays, as the proper electric storm driven downpours tend to ignite a sudden hike in humidity around mid January. That is of course if we are lucky, because water has been in short supply in this sweltering savanna of ours.

For the purpose of this project I wanted to get the two leg-assemblies done before we leave for a hitherto tranquil spot on the Azanian south coast. Unfortunately the Zuptopian conglomerate has since done it’s utmost to “poison and destroy my brothers”, but let’s not dwell on the bane of my life while we could be discussing woodwork.

As discussed before, I prefer using Assegaai for my custom made drawbore pegs. I usually try and find a perfectly straight-grained piece before ripping strips on the table saw that are then fed to my Stanley no. 77 dowel making machine (not pictured). Unfortunately it is pretty much impossible to split (as apposed to rip) stock along the grain then using the no. 77 as you need perfectly square strips, but if you use fairly straight stuff it still turns out dowels that are far superior to the rubbish bought in local stores. I wrote in more detail on this process in previous posts.

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For the sake of trying something new I decided not to go with wedged through tenons as I did with the two workbenches that was built with similar sized stock. I am however partial to the idea of using wedges to ensure maximum strength. Therefore it was decided to experiment with wedges in a closed mortise. You will notice the kerf prepared for the wedge in the monstrous tenons. The sides of the mortise that needs to allow for the wedge to expand the tenon were adjusted. Then it is simply a matter of positioning the wedge in such a way that it sits in the entrance to the mentioned kerf while using pipe clamps to coerce the tendon into it’s mortise. That is of course followed by tapping the drawbore pegs home while the clamps are still in situ. The pictures below also show how I used my Festool Domino to cut the slots for the bits of wood that will fix the aprons to the top.

This was how the two leg-assemblies spent their festive season.

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16/1/2017

The drawbore pegs were then worked flush by sawing and hand planing.

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In order to mark out the exact location of the tenons of the two beams that link the two beams between the leg-assemblies (at an angle), I had to assemble the undercarriage.

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By clamping the linking beams at exactly the right angle, I was able to mark out the shoulders of the tenons.

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For some reason I found it very difficult to keep to the marked out lines while sawing away the waste by hand. It was the first time that I encountered this problem and still do not know exactly what was going on as I have done many similarly sized tenons in the same wood with the same saw?? Therefore I switched to the bandsaw for the rest of the work.

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I usually like to saw close to the line and hone in on it by planing the cheeks to a perfect fit.

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Marking out the location of the mortises.

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15/3/2017

Drilling out waste.

Removed the rest of the waste by vertical chopping.

Then it was time for the final glue-up of the undercarriage. I was very happy with how it came together and it sure is a robust construction.

The undercarriage received a few layers of Woodoc.

Before installing the undercarriage, the bottom of the top received a few layers of boiled linseed oil.

The pictures should do a better job than words to explain how the top was fix to the undercarriage.

Once that was done it became time to bring in some strength to get this baby to it’s feet.

Now I have to flatten the top by hand and trust me it looks a lot flatter than it is in the pictures below. I hope to complete this task before the end of the year.

North Brothers venturing south – PG

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 4:00am

17/1/2017

No, this is not the title of a cheap porn movie aimed at the well known niche market for this particular genre of cinematic gems amongst serial tool collectors. The whole family should thus be able to digest this post, however JNSQ Woodworkings refuse to be held responsible for any unforeseen ailments that might result from indiscriminate consumption of the material. Parental guidance is therefore advised.

On a more serious note, I would like to apologise to my great friend, fellow blogger and tool historian par excellence Robert “Bob’s your Uncle” Demers for not posting this much earlier in the year. After all he found me a freakin legendary example of 20th century American tool manufacturing.

After using a couple of different examples of eggbeater drills it became apparent that my stockpile of African hardwoods necessitates contrivances with either massive drive wheels or a favourably geared two speed setup or ideally both. To give you an example, my first eggbeater was a Wiktor Kuc restored 1938 edition Miller’s Falls no. 2. It is supposed to be an ideal allrounder for the frugal (more recently known as “anarchical” in the prevailing Schwarzian vernacular) woodworker, but it really struggles to drive anything larger than a ¼” bit in lumber from the Dark Continent.

Initially I thought this is simply how it is with these eccentric drilling apparatuses, until by sheer chance I happened to stumble upon a two speed no. 5½ B Goodell-Pratt with a positively massive drive wheel. These babies know how to roll, innit. The GP has more torque than my 8 year old daughter, except in her case it is spelled slightly different.

Given this revelation I set out to procure another torque-ative eggbeater to torment my hardwoods with. Bob was of course my first port of call and I explained my predicament in some detail. You can read his summation of the tool here, which (by the way) is a hell of a lot more informative than this post. He agreed to keep his well educated eye out for a suitable monstrosity. It did not take him long to find Utopia in the form of a two speed North Brothers no. 1545.

Bob refused that I reimburse him for the tool or the shipment cost and sent it on it’s merry southward journey at the end of 2016. Luckily it did not embark upon a protracted sub-Saharan voyage like a particular parcel several moons ago.  It arrived somewhat promptly, for trans equatorial pilgrimages, in mid January 2017. I did return the favour by sending him a locally made hammer, but clearly I received more value than he did.

It is only my second true North Brothers tool (as apposed to Stanley made attempts) and completely lives up to my very high estimation of this famous tool manufacturer. The low gear munches through anything Africa can throw at it and the considerable weight lends some advantageous momentum to drive wheel as well as a general feeling of old school quality.

The no. 1545 The NB no. 1545 with the GP no. 5.5B The NB no.1545 with a 1938 edition MF no. 2 The NB no. 1545 with it’s smaller cousin the no. 1530

 

I took the drive wheel off and cleaned everything I could reach. It presently purrs like a cat on crystal meths.

Thank you Uncle Bob I will cherish this gem as long as I have the privilege to do so and hope to pass it on to someone who will continue to do so long after both of us joined the choir invisible.

My second commission – part 10

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 5:35am

15/3/2017

My dear reader, I would like to apologise for my extended absence from the wonder world of virtual woodworking via the internet. You would find the reasons quite boring so let’s not waste any time nor effort ruminating on such drivel. This instalment of an apparently mammoth series will concern itself with the addition of the third and final layer of the so-called trapezoid leg. You can find earlier posts in this series here.

Seeing that the third layer would ultimately close up the internal workings of the whole construction, I took the opportunity to unscrew the second layer’s three ‘cross members’ (for lack of a better term). As you should be able to observe in the photos below, the old school mild steel wood screws received a coat of beeswax. This was accomplished by melting a block of wax in a small tin containing these traditional fasteners. The idea with this is that the wax should reduce the effort required to seat the screws and at the same time providing a layer that would resist future corrosion.

The screws were then seated after the surfaces that is supposed to be able to slide ever so slightly with the changes in ambient humidity over the years, were rubbed with beeswax. Whether this is useful (or possibly the opposite) I do not know, but I tried it anyway. Therefore I would urge you to ask someone who knows before following suite. Maybe some of our more experienced and properly trained cadres could assist in the matter.

Seeing that the plan was to fix the third and final layer using panel pins I had to fashion a custom punch to seat the nails below the surface of the wood. A short section of a round file which I picked up somewhere served perfectly well for this purpose. It was shaped carefully (not to take the temper out of the hardened steel) on a bench grinder to fit the head of the panel pin to a T. There are some picks further down to show the business end of my new redneck punch.

As is so common here in Africa, I also had to modify the panel pins somewhat to serve my purpose. In order to allow layer one and two to be able to move relative to each other, these panel pins had to stop short of layer one. In other words they should only fix layer three to the cross members of layer two. That was accomplished by snipping off the required amount, followed by resharpening on the bench grinder.

The two Kershout strips were fitted first, as they needed to be absolutely spot on given the fact that they mirror the spindles of the so-called Windsor leg. Kershout seems to enjoy spending time off  the Janka hardness charts (literally and figuratively) so it hard to say where it rates in comparison to better known species, but let’s just say it tends to take exception when a nail wants to upset it’s feng shui. For that reason I had to drill shank holes for each panel pin, which allowed the shank through and only caught the slightly wider head. This way the panel pins were more inclined to retain it’s linear configuration and the Kershout refrained from flexing it’s muscles.

As discussed in earlier posts, the third layer only needs to add another 8 mm for the trapezoid leg to reach it’s intended thickness of 44 mm. Therefore I decided to challenge my new bandsaw with fairly wide re-sawing in very hard Witpeer. Of course that also allowed me to introduce visual interest by means of a book-matched arrangement of the various pieces.

In order to do that I needed one flat, square and twist-free face side and face edge.

The resultant 8 mm stock were then fitted from the centre of the leg towards the outside. I again used the hitherto unproven technique of rubbing beeswax on the surfaces that is supposed to be able to slide.

I used a no. 78 and a no. 10 Stanley rabbet plane to cut the rabbets that hides the space allowed for movement.

The book-matched pattern is already vaguely apparent.

All the sides were then worked flush.

By hand plane along the grain …

… and by track saw followed by hand plane across the grain.

The small cavities created by seating the panel pins below the surface of the wood were filled with a concoction conjured up by mixing very fine wood dust (of the same wood of course) and epoxy.

Once the elixir had time to set I did a preliminary round of surface preparation.

As you can see the book-matched pattern is starting to emerge nicely. Once it receives oil it should be positively stunning.

Even the opposite side is starting to display a certain je ne sais quoi.

The edges were then treated to some hand beading to hide the laminations.

As you can see it worked a charm.

In our next instalment we will move on to laminating the various boards that was chosen (many moons ago) for the top.