The only thing difficult about building this workbench in two days is not building the whole thing in only one day.
I had only about four or five hours of shop time today because we’re packing up our oldest daughter to head off to college on Monday. Despite this, and going to three record stores and a pizza dinner (A Tavola, my favorite), I had to restrain myself from just building the whole workbench start to finish today.
This morning I broke down all the stock with a circular saw, jointed all the boards’ edges with a jointer plane and glued up the top. Then I ate a jelly doughnut.
I clipped the corners of the front and back aprons with a handsaw and then glued a 1×10 spacer to the inside of each apron. This spacer, which is an idea I swiped directly from “The Naked Woodworker,” is one of Mike Siemsen’s moments of pure genius on the DVD. The spacers add rigidity and set the location of the legs.
Then I removed the machine marks from the legs and drilled all the holes for the knockdown hardware. The surface-mounted tee-nuts are a snap to install. They press into a 31/64” pilot hole; prongs stop them from rotating. Then No. 6 x 1-1/4” screws make sure the tee-nuts never fall out when the wood shrinks. I was impressed by how easy these metal bits were to install.
And when I cinched up the legs to the aprons with 3/8” x 3” hex-head bolts and 3/8” x 1” washers, the assemblies were rock solid.
Note that the order of assembly here doesn’t appear logical at first. But I have a good reason for it. More on that tomorrow.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
Part 3 of a British Introduction to Japanese Planes
This is the third in a short series on Japanese planes. I am doing this to get to the bottom of an interesting, very simple but highly developed tool for creating polished surfaces.
My son plays rugby with Harry Hood. Harry’s parents have this exquisite oak drop-leaf dining table. The surface of which is highly polished but has never seen abrasive paper. As the evening sun comes in low through the window you see the plane strokes across the tabletop. Wide, smooth, with no tear-out, straight-ish. You can see someone who “knows his onions” who really knows how to do this, has made that tabletop, fast and well.
This is what we are looking for. The answer will be partly in the timber, air-dried and mild, partly in the setup of the plane and partly in the hand that wields it. I can get 90 percent there now, it’s this last bit that drives me nuts. Europeans have used metal planes for only the past 120 years; I wonder if the old sharpened steel wedge in a block of wood can do a better job?
I am typing this with lacerated thumbs gained from careless handling of Japanese plane irons. I thought that 35 years experience of sharpening would have protected me, but no. WATCH OUT. We are now onto Sharpening, a subject that has had more wordy nonsense written about it than almost anything I can recall.
Let’s begin with definition. A really sharp edge is the junction of two polished surfaces brought together in such a way that LIGHT FROM A SEARCHING RAY OF SUNSHINE WILL NOT LAND UPON THAT EDGE. The light in this situation will pass either side; the edge is just too sharp to allow light to land there. You test your edge with your eyes – looking hard, searching for that glimmer of light on the edge that betrays it. Turn the blade this way and that, find the light, examine the edge. If you see NOTHING on that edge, hooray. IT’S SHARP. A fine dusting of sparkles tells you it’s not sharp. Or not sharp enough for me.
We Europeans sharpen differently to the Japanese. We create a polished back like they do; they make this easier by hollowing out the back of plane irons and chisels so all you are flattening is the outer edges. The front bevel we grind, then hone a micro-bevel at the cutting edge. We do this to save time. The Japanese hone the whole bevel and they proudly display the laminated steel exposed by their honing.
Laminations are partly to make honing easier again. The hard cutting edge is forge-welded to a softer iron.They like to use pre-World War II anchor chains for this as it has a different, softer, quick-sharpening structure compared to modern steel. Look out for a steel with small black flecks in it. It’s very highly prized in Japan, but not here.
To hone these blades I went “their way” and worked the whole bevel. The bevel should be pretty flat to sit well on the stones. But some of them were not. I have now bought a small collection of planes and irons some 40 years old as well as couple of “new old stock” planes which have been in a store but unsold for up to 30 years. The old stock have some evidence of minor rust damage and light degrade, but if you choose the right one it seems to be the way to go. I have enjoyed having tools set up by skilled makers much my senior. They each tell me part of the story of how to do this, but there are a few small problems.
A “new old” blade takes me a few minutes of well-practiced work to set up, an old one may have come from a skilled and much-revered grandfather. Or, and you don’t really know what you are getting on eBay till it’s too late, from a less-than-careful sake-sodden owner whose careless workmanship leaves you with a tool needing a full half a day to get sharp.
Honing demanded a careful sensitive touch. No place here for those dreadful honing guides. You hold it in your hands and work it on the stone. First, get the stone flat, really flat. We use a granite slab with #180-grit wet/dry paper. Put some water on the paper, then rub the stone on the wet/dry paper. You know it’s flat when the surface is an even colour.
Holding the blade with the bevel flat on the stone and working back and forth without rocking and changing the angle takes care, a light touch and lots of slurry. Use the Nagura stone that comes with some high-end stones to help clean the stone and create a polishing paste.
This “going through the grits” is essentially polishing. We start with #1,000 grit to turn a burr, but go through #3,000, then #6,000 and on to #10,000. General sharpening might skip #3,000 and #10,000, but we are being careful here. We are a Japanese waterstone workshop; most of our stones are manufactured by King or Ice Bear. We have stayed with this method because it is fast efficient and relatively inexpensive.
This last qualification is changing now as we are now starting to use natural mineral stones imported from Japan. They are very, very interesting, and I will talk about these another time.
Watch your thumbs. Mine were cut quite badly not once but twice when wiping the blade clean, something I have done routinely every day but probably not with edges like this.
Filed under: Handplanes, Personal Favorites
|Made of Wood. How Can This Not Be Fine Art?|
Three things happened to me when I lived in Paris off and on for a decade in the 1990's. First of all, I sat at the feet of Pierre Ramond and sucked up all the valuable knowledge he was happy to throw at me. Secondly, I got to meet many of the most important furniture and museum...
|Made of Wood. How Can This Not Be Fine Art?|
Three things happened to me when I lived in Paris off and on for a decade in the 1990's. First of all, I sat at the feet of Pierre Ramond and sucked up all the valuable knowledge he was happy to throw at me. Secondly, I got to meet many of the most important furniture and museum conservators as well as discover their suppliers, like Patrick George. However, the most significant aspect of those travels was being accredited by ecole Boulle to receive their students in my workshop for a "stage" of work.
|"The Shack" by Patrice Lejeune|
In total, I received 18 different marquetry and ebeniste students, and each one was a valuable experience for both of us. They got to work in an American workshop. They got to live in San Diego, which is, in my opinion, one of the nicest places in the country to live. I got to speak French and teach as I worked. It was wonderful, but terminated suddenly when Pierre retired in 2000.
|"White Cockatoo" by Patrice Lejeune|
I had just about given up on having any other workers in the shop at that time. After all, I had worked alone for 30 years and I had a comfortable routine.
|"Gaetane" by Patrice Lejeune|
|"No Child Left Behind" by Patrice Lejeune ($50 shown for scale only)|
The short answer about the visa is that it was time consuming and expensive. Believe me. First of all, I had to prove the "equivalence" of his education and that he would not replace an American worker who could do the same work. As to his education, we spent a lot of money hiring a professional search team and they could only find one school in the country which would provide his education: the American School of French Marquetry in San Diego!
|"3ism" by Patrice Lejeune|
|"Four Different Aspects of a Nebulous Thought" by Patrice Lejeune|
He now has his green card and is a full partner in the business. He has really contributed to our success and the level of our work has been dramatically increased, since we both criticize each other's work and we are both obsessive about perfection. Sometimes at the expense of cost and deadlines...
|"Dance Muse" by Patrice Lejeune|
There is one thing that Patrice has done here that I would never have thought of. He has made modern marquetry art. Lots of it and in many different styles. He has also pushed the process of marquetry into a new direction with new techniques that he developed. He has also won awards and sold several of his pieces.
|"Circle of Life" by Patrice Lejeune|
In France, where marquetry has a long and respected tradition, there are often shows in different parts of the country which feature marquetry "art" and these shows are well attended by the public. Readers of this blog should know by now that I consider marquetry, and specifically Painting in Wood, to be a fine art. Unfortunately, the history of this field in this country is that, unless you glue it onto something functional, it is not appreciated. That means that if it hangs on the wall it never sells.
|"Cherry Blossom" by Patrice Lejeune|
That is a crime. Art made of wood is just as beautiful as art made of oil and canvas. It takes just as much talent. It should be considered, at least, as "mixed media" which is a legitimate form of art, and can be quite valuable.
|"3ism #2" by Patrice Lejeune|
That is why I thought it was time to post some of Patrice's work. After all, it hangs on the walls of the workshop and school, and I get to enjoy it every day. I thought I would share it with you.
|"Summer in the City" by Patrice Lejeune|
In particular, he has developed a series of contemporary mosaic designs which are abstract. They are new and colorful and evoke images of modern life.
|"Tide at Torrey Pines" by Patrice Lejeune|
Finally, in case you like dogs as much as I do, here is a portrait of a dog in wood.
|"Oreo" by Patrice Lejeune|
I posted recently about how the top of the “Spider Table” I made 15+ years ago had developed a bad cup from the sun hitting the top surface and bleaching it out. This caused the z-clips to pop out so the table was loose, and it was rocking on the base. Not great.
I sanded the top to remove any traces of the old finish (and stains and deep gouges), and led it face down on the garage floor for a week. I misted it with water on both the top and the bottom once or twice during the week.
Yesterday I checked it, and guess what? It’s flat (well, flat-ish). The cup is completely gone, although there are some small waves in the surface. But it’s hugely better, the pictures don’t do the improvement justice. I can do a bit more sanding today to smooth out the surface and get rid of the coarse sanding scratches, then layer on more finish. I start with linseed oil, and probably spray a shellac topcoat next weekend.
A customer from Italy recently asked me about an apparent bow along the toothline of his new backsaw. He wondered what would cause this and is it a concern? Should he have it fixed and what would it cost?
Lots of things can cause a backsaw blade to warp…being dropped to the floor, bent in over-zealous thrusting, improper storage…these are nightmares to the SawWright. And that’s just the tip of the causal ice berg. Believe it or not though many backsaws are warped from the moment they’re made, and are delivered that way to the customer….like my Italian friend above. Machine tooth punching (or even manual tooth punching of old) almost always warps the saw blade due to the tension created by the process. So it’s very common to buy a saw and find it warped when new.
Ya…I know, it sucks. You just plunked down $150 to $300 on a brand new, high-end saw only to open it up and find its warped!!! But honestly, I don’t think it matters. I’ve tuned up and used hundreds of new and old backsaws and found the tolerances required for true cutting to be amazingly broad. In fact, many of my favorite user saws in my own till are far from arrow straight at the toothline.
Take my dovetail saw for example…
It’s a Groves & Sons from the golden age of Sheffield…probably circa 1870 and I love it. But the toothline is anything but straight. I laid a machinists straight-edge across the side of the saw blade at the teeth and found that it bowed over 1/32nd of an inch along its length. Now that might not sound like a lot, but over a short 9 inch toothline, its akin to a woodworking potato chip. When sighting from the heel to the toe, it is quite a striking wave. When I first rehabbed the saw a few years ago, I did my best to true the back and blade, but small dovetail saws are the most fussy in this aspect. I’ve found that the thinner the saw blade, the more difficult to manipulate the tension and effect a truing. So I let it be.
But the saw cuts as true as any…and to the full depth of the blade…
How’s that? Should a warped backsaw cut a warped line?
Maybe not. I’ve seen many, many warped backsaws cut perfectly straight, just like mine. I’m sure all the engineers and techy types could explain why. But I’m not really interested in the why…I am simply thankful that the reality exists.
So should you automatically fix a warped backsaw? That depends…make a cut with it, and I say if it cuts true, it is true.
Det første arbeidet eg gjer på den nye høvelbenken er å høvle golvbord. Eg brukar skottbenken til å høvle kantane og pløye borda så det er berre flasken som vert høvla på høvelbenken. Golvborda er saga 5/4″ (32 mm) tjukke og med rot/topp avsmaling. Høvelstoppen på benken fungerte fint på dei fleste borda, høvelen gjekk fint over. Eit av borda var kuva og vinna under tørk. Når eg høvla i bakkant av benken og la trykk på høvelen så løfta bordet seg i framkant og smatt over høvelstoppen. Det har truleg ikkje skjedd med ein benkehake med klør? Det er neppe veldig vanleg med så mykje kuv i bord som ein skal høvle.Eg rigga til skottbenken og høvelbenken på denne måten i verkstaden. Slik den står no har eg lyset bakfrå når eg høvlar på høvelbenken. Det er upraktisk når eg skal bruke rettholt for å sjå om bordet er høvla flatt. Neste runde eg skal høvle vil eg snu høvelbenken. I bakgrunnen står den gamle høvelbenken og har funksjon som avlastingsbord for golvbordhøvlane. Foto: Roald Renmælmo Arbeidshøgda på totalt 75 cm på benkeplata verkar å passe veldig bra for å høvle flask på golvbord. Eg kjem godt over emnet og får lagt trykk på skrubboksen når eg høvlar. Det var best å trekke benkeplata heilt ut på kanen av bukkane slik at eg fekk gå mest mogleg fritt på sida av benken. Spesielt på sletthøvlinga er det bra å sleppe å bli stoppa i høvlinga. Foto: Roald Renmælmo Sletthøvling av golvbordet. Den store slettoksen er i tyngste laget å dra aleine men når han er stilt fint nok går det bra. Benkeplata er ikkje tung nok til å stå i mot når eg legg kroppen mot kanten under høvlinga. Plata vandrar litt sidevegs. I lengderetning ligg plata ganske stødig men flyttar seg litt. Det er mogleg slike benkar helst bør vere faste til ein vegg for å bli heilt stabile. Likevel er det ikkje eit kjempestort problem at benkeplata flyttar litt på seg. Det går heilt fint å høvle på den. Foto: Roald Renmælmo
Samla sett verkar benken veldig godt til høvling av golvbord. Det er fint å kunne stå i riktig høgd og høvle. I denne arbeidshøgda kan eg variere mellom ulike grep på okshøvlane og det er ein kjempefordel når ein skal høvle mykje material. Ein blir fortare sliten om ein må halde høvelen på ein bestemt måte og ikkje kan variere. Det kan tenkast å vere ein fordel å få festa benkeplata, anten til ein vegg, eller til bukkane? Høvelstoppen var ikkje optimal for å fungere med bord som var kuva. Å kunne lagre material under benken på denne måten kan vere praktisk. Ein får utnytta golvplassen betre.
Arkivert under:74-76 cm, Bruk av høvelbenk, Framtang utan skrue, Høvelbenk utan fast understell, Roald snikrar høvelbenk, modell Helberg i Bardu
I was loading up for the Letter Carving class I’m teaching tomorrow at Rockler, and I was struck by the pile. I guess I like to carve things…
In the back is the inside of my Anarchist Tool Chest Lid, emblazoned with “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” A practice board for my Tudor Rose class and my Shop Sign all finished up.
Then there is my six sided box, one of my first carved boxes with the “arc” style design and my tool tote.
I’ve been thinking about making a “Dutch” tool chest, but I’ll need to find some good wide Poplar boards because carving pine is crap. And I certainly can’t NOT carve it. I have a reputation to protect.
I am considering another carving class in the fall as well.
… but certainly blogging quietness.
I’m in the midst of the critical phase where I am weaving the final threads and honing the organization of the VIRTUOSO manuscript. I spent yesterday and today working into the night on the chapter on Studley himself and the winding path the ensemble took to arrive to us today.
That means I have completed the first draft of the introduction, the biography and provenance, the tool inventory with commentary (well, mostly, I have some questions to answer with the microscope in a couple of months), the chapter on the bench and vises is more than half done, the section on Studley’s Masonic heritage is due in a day or two from Spider Johnson, I have a good start on the woodworking-popular-culture chapter, and the conclusion is finished.
I hope to have the first draft complete enough in a week or so that I can send it to Narayan so we can start 1) picking out the mere multitude of pictures from the book from among the bazillion we have, and 2) outline the photographic and informational needs we have for the upcoming final trip.
Making the tenon comes straight from watching Phil Lowe work, which was the original genesis of the four-stroke tenoning exercise. You'll recognize much of this procedure from that exercise.
After marking out the tenon on the end of a rail, saw rough shoulder and cheek cuts 1/16" away from the line. On the coarse-medium-fine scale of operations, these are medium cuts; they don't have to be exact. Then pare with a paring chisel exactly to the line; this is the fine work that gets the joint to a snug slip-fit, properly aligned.
The critical measurement on a rail is the distance between the tenon shoulders on the ends. The actual length of each tenon depends on the depth of the mortise it will fit into.
The tenon should not quite bottom out in the mortise. You need to leave some room for glue, otherwise the hydraulic action of the glue will keep it from seating all the way.
Use a square or ruler as a crude depth gauge; no need for actual numeric measurements. Fit it into the mortise, then transfer this depth to the end of the rail, backing it off by up to 1/8" for glue space. If you've marked measured shoulder lines on your rail, mark the tenon length from this point.
Bottom out the end of the square in the mortise and pinch it to gauge the depth.
Shorten the depth measurement by about 1/8", then mark this on the rail end as the position of the shoulder. If you already have a shoulder measurement marked, mark it from there.
Knife the shoulder line squared all the way around the rail. This needs to be a very careful marking job, because it will determine how well the shoulders of the tenon seat against the stile. The knife line actually forms the surface cut in the wood, establishing a crisp shoulder line.
The key to this is making sure that the body of the square is always held against a marked reference surface, either reference face or reference edge (you did mark your reference face and edge when you squared up this stock, right?). Double check this every time you put square to wood.
Always set the knife in the last line and move the square up to it. That ensures there's no error in the positioning of the square.
Make each line with several light strokes of the knife. If you try to make it in one deep pass, it's easy to knock something astray by using too much force.
Knife the line in several light passes. Note the knife is cutting on the waste side of the line, with the square held against the reference edge.
To continue the line around, place the knife in the previous line, hold the square against the reference face, and slide the square to the knife. On this edge, the reference face is on the far side, away from me.
On this other edge, the reference face is on the near side, so I have to reverse the knife and square.
If you've done everything carefully, the last line will meet up with the first line at the final corner, forming a continuous line all around.
Mark the cheeks using the same gauge setting you used to mark the mortise (you kept that setting, right?). Again, one of the keys to precision is holding the gauge against the reference face of the rail.
Drag the double pins on the gauge back from the corner in several light passes, holding the gauge firmly against the reference face. Don't let the pins get pulled off track by the grain.
On the end grain, mark down from the upper corner...
...and up from the lower corner.
Darken the lines for visibility with a pencil sharpened to a chisel point.
Sawing The Shoulders
Hold the rail in a pair of bench hooks and saw rough shoulder cuts 1/16" away from the knifed shoulder line, just down to the cheek lines, using a crosscut backsaw. Also saw shoulder cuts on the edges, just deep enough to break the surface and leave a kerf for later. These saw cuts don't have to be pretty, so you don't need to make a knife wall for the saw to follow.
Crosscut rough shoulders with a back saw. Here I use the tip of my thumb as a guide to position the saw about 1/16" from the knifed shoulder line.
This is what it should look like after sawing the shoulder on each face, 1/16" from the knife line in the waste. The main thing is not to saw any deeper than the cheek lines, which would weaken the tenon.
Saw the edge shoulders just enough to establish the kerf.
Sawing The Cheeks
Holding the rail angled in the vise, saw rough cheek cuts 1/16" away from the gauged cheek lines, using a rip backsaw. Saw diagonally down one corner on both cheeks, then flip the piece around and saw the other corners diagonally.
Then straighten the rail up in the vise and finish the cuts straight across, removing the cheek waste. Again, these cuts don't have to be pretty, they just have to remove the bulk of the waste.
Saw diagonally down one cheek to the shoulder cut...
...then the other cheek.
Flip the piece and saw down the other corners. Don't worry if the two cuts on each cheek don't meet.
The resulting cuts. Not a particularly pretty job, but it doesn't need to be.
With the rail upright in the vise, saw down the remaining wood in each cheek. You may need to hold the scrap in place to keep it from snapping off. If it does, that probably won't hurt anything. In fact, if the grain is cooperative, you can actually chisel the cheeks off roughly, straight down the end grain.
Saw down the remaining cheek.
The resulting rough cheeks, ready for the four-stroke chisel technique.
Paring The Cheeks
This is where the practice from the four-stroke exercise comes in. This is the fine precision work that will determine how well the joint fits. Go back and do that exercise if you haven't tried it. It also shows how to check the cheek for flatness.
If the tenon is longer than the width of your paring chisel, make one or more crosscuts in the remaining cheek waste down to the cheek lines, dividing the tenon up into lanes that you'll pare independently. You can actually make these cuts when you do the rough shoulder cuts.
First stroke: pare across the cheek to the midpoint, removing half the remaining waste thickness. Observe carefully how the grain responds so you'll know how to handle the final strokes. Note that I've crosscut the tenon into two lanes that are narrower than my chisel; you can just see the cut line.
Second stroke: pare across from the other side to meet the first stroke.
Fourth stroke: after having pared across exactly on the marked line from the other side for the third stroke, paring across on the line to remove the final bit of waste.
First stroke on the opposite cheek, where you can see how much to leave for the final paring. You can also see that I repeated the four-stroke technique on the lower lane of the near cheek.
Second stroke on the opposite cheek.
Lay the flat back of the chisel across the cheek and see if there are any high spots. Carefully pare these down even with the rest of it using a skewed sideways sliding cut and pushing the chisel end with your thumb.
Push the skewed chisel sideways with your thumb across any high spots.
Cutting The Tenon To Width
Orient the tenon properly with respect to the mortise and mark its width from the mortise. This fits the tenon exactly to the mortise. Saw down the tenon with a ripsaw to remove this waste. You may need to crosscut it a bit more at the shoulder to meet this cut.
Hold the tenon end up to the mortise and mark the actual width.
Saw down this with a ripsaw. Careful, it goes fast!
Crosscut any last remaining bit to remove the waste.
Paring The Shoulders
The final trimming is to pare the shoulders down at the knifed shoulder line. This will be very visible and will affect how the rail snugs up against the stile. Remove this waste a little at a time, using the corner of the chisel progressively along the shoulder. If that corner starts to dull, come from the other direction using the other corner.
Set the corner of the chisel in the scribed line and push straight in to cut the shoulder cleanly to the tenon, then flick the bit of waste off. Rest the edge of the chisel on the already-pared shoulder as a reference to keep it flat.
Continue around to the tenon ends.
Turn the piece around in the vise and do the other side.
If there's any junk left in the very corner of the shoulder, clean it out by paring across, then in.
Chamfer The Tenon
Chamfer the end of the tenon so that it slides in smoothly without catching on the mortise walls. This also makes it easy to trim the tenon length if it bottoms out too soon in the mortise.
Angle the chisel and choke up on the end to chamfer the edge with a skewed cut.
Repeat on the opposite edge.
Come in from each end and pop the edge off.
The fully pared and chamfered tenon.
The opposite cheek.
If the tenon bottoms out in the mortise, keeping the shoulder from snugging up, pare across the chamfered end to shorten it. Alternatively, you can deepen the mortise a bit.
Test fit: the shoulder doesn't close up all the way.
Pare across the tenon end from one side...
...then the other, meeting somewhere in the middle.
The slightly shorter tenon.
Test fit: now the joint closes up tight, with no visible gap.
A good fit means that the tenon slips together with hand pressure, and then is snug enough to hold together when you pick it up. It shouldn't be so tight that you have to drive it together with a mallet; that will just split it. It shouldn't be so loose that the rail falls out when you pick up the stile.
Either situation can be corrected, but it's time consuming. A tight tenon can be pared very carefully to fit. A loose tenon can be repaired by gluing a new cheek on, then paring it back down.
When slipped together and held up by the stile, the rail should not slip out.
A snug slip fit.
The other important thing is the joint should be flat. The rail should not be twisted when the stile lies flat, and the rail should lie in the same plane as the stile.
Either of these conditions can be corrected by selective paring, but every little bit you remove loosens the fit.
The rail and stile lying flat in the same plane.
After glue up and the glue has dried, cut the horn off (remember that extra length on the stile?), then carefully plane the end grain in from the corner flush with the rail edge.
This method appears to be time-consuming, but it's not. The sawing is very fast, because it doesn't require that much care. The paring is fast because there's only a small amount of material left to remove. You'll find you can develop a fast, efficient rhythm with a high degree of control to produce consistently snug joints.
Practice this by making a joint, then cut if off and start again. Repeat 10 or 20 times until you've got it down.
If you want to learn to fit a tenon right off the saw, you can still use this method to practice careful sawing. Once you feel you can saw well enough, you can omit the paring step. Either way works, use whichever is most efficient and enjoyable for you.
A stool is not very functional without a seat. As brought up by one of my friends in a comment, I will be carving a tractor style seat for the stool. It is a little intimidating but I have to begin carving.
I began preparing wood for the seat and after several frustrating minutes trying to get a good fit realized that I was using the wrong tool. Swapping from a Stanley #4 to a #5 it only took a couple of swipes to flatten the ends and make a perfect match. I have been doing so much finish planing lately that I didn’t think about the advantages of a slightly longer plane.
While the glue dried, I went ahead and glued up the stool.
It takes a lot to get me up at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. But the “Barn sale. Tools…” ad worked like three cups of coffee. Still, my lady doesn’t share my enthusiasm for rust hunting, so to entice her, I described it as an adventure. And if by “adventure” you take that to mean that I promised to buy her breakfast along with the hope of finding vintage treasure that would appeal to her, then you’d be right.
Three people entered the sale before us and damned if one of them didn’t ace me out of a Stanley #5. The very offender was looking at the woodies when I tippie-toed next to him to slip this one off a high shelf for inspection.
It had a crack near the handle due to shrinkage over the last century. And the previous owner had replaced the cap-iron bolt with a brass one that was too long. So he carved a space out of the back of the wood wedge to accommodate it.
Still, I figured that for $5.00, the iron alone was worth the price.
Tuning for use
The plane is 22” long, a perfect length for a try plane. I work with rough and resawn stock a lot. Since I don’t have a bandsaw, my resawn faces can be pretty rough. So after using a highly-cambered foreplane, I remove the foreplane’s scallops, and flatten the faces, with a medium-cambered try plane.
For an excellent discussion of iron camber (when to do it and how much) Bob Rozaieski’s article on the subject is a must read.
Now I could use my Stanley #7 as a try plane, but it weighs over 8 pounds versus the woodie’s 6 lbs. That adds up over the course of truing surfaces. Moreover, I’ve configured #7 as a jointer, meaning that the iron is sharpened straight across with zero camber. It won’t get as much use in its role as a joinery plane, but when I do need it, it will fit the bill. Go here to read a detailed treatise on the differences between a try plane and a jointer.
Truing the sole
Placing a straight-edge along the bottom of the sole revealed a disappointing gap of about 3/16” at the toe and heel. I was worried that I’d have to remove a lot of material to flatten the sole—nearly ¼” of an inch. If that had been the case, I would have “resoled” the bottom afterward with some beech to make up the difference.
After securing the plane upside down in a vise, I used my #7 to true the bottom. It was set for light shavings and made quick work of truing the sole without removing too much material.
Dressing the iron bed
In order for the plane to perform properly, and free of chatter, the iron edge must be fully supported near the tip. However, when the iron was seated, I could easily slip a piece of paper between it and the supporting bed. To properly bed the iron, I followed Bob Rozaieski’s podcast tutorial.
The iron bed was so crusty, and uneven that I resorted to using a curve-cut mill-tooth file to remove it while leaving a smooth finish.
I also cleaned up the sides of the mouth with a toothbrush and mineral spirits to remove the dirt and crud.
Afterwards, my paper “feeler gauge” no longer slipped between the bed and iron.
Securing the tote
The tote was a little loose, and wobbled a bit from side to side.
Apparently the previous owner had the same issue because there’s a screw through the front of the handle into the plane body.
My preference would have been to remove the screw, then reseat the handle securely using hide glue, as Bob Rozaieski suggested to me in an email response. However, the screw would not budge. So I squeezed hide glue into the open “slit” adjacent to the handle on one side and into the shrinkage crack on the other. Now the tote is secure.
A bunch of iron work
The mating between the iron and cap iron needs to be tight enough so that try-plane thickness shavings can’t get caught between them. My test fit showed light between the two surfaces. To address this, I started by flattening the back of the iron to a mirror finish. That way, any adjustments I made to the cap iron would be relative to a “flat” reference point.
Mating the iron and cap iron
To do that, I followed Ryan’s method to flatten the underside of the cap iron. And while I was at it, I filed the cap iron bolt so that it barely extends beyond the surface of the iron it mates to.
Cambering the iron
The key to flat surfaces with a try plane is a medium camber to the iron. Using an iron with zero camber will leave track marks on the face. By contrast, a medium camber will leave gouges shallow enough for a smoothing plane to remove.
To camber the iron, I mostly followed Ryan’s tutorial here.
By “mostly” I mean that I did not rig a pen on a length of string to scribe a 12.5” arc across the tip of the iron. If you’ve never done it before, I suggest that you do. If you’re going to get into cambering blades it’s essential that you get this experience under your belt. Telling you how much to camber your iron won’t guide you nearly as much as doing it yourself and experiencing the results in use.
That said, I’ve found that when I grind to a scribe line, I end up with a heavily cambered iron that is more appropriate to a foreplane/jack plane than to a try plane. So now, to get the lesser camber, I very gently freehanded it on the grinder.
So I started in the middle of the iron and pushed it towards the spinning wheel until it ever so slightly engaged it. Keeping a very light touch, I arced it to the right being careful to keep the arc shallower than my senses told me to. Then I did this to the left, and alternated to the right then left, until I had a perceptible camber. When I put the edge to a ruler, the camber was much larger than my eyes perceived it to be, but noticeably less than that of a foreplane. Perfect.
Test cut #1
After securing the iron with the wedge, I made a few adjustments and put the plane to some pine.
The plane definitely takes some nice shavings. However, what I thought was a secure wedge, consistently came unseated during use. Upon closer inspection, I concluded that it was not original to this plane. It’s too narrow for the throat and side abutments by a full ¼”.
Making a new wedge
Bob’s tutorial on making a new wedge made the experience easy.
I would add that while the original wedge was too narrow, its angles were correct. Meaning that the wedge did mate securely with the cap iron and abutment faces (not sides.) So I measured the angle with a protractor…
…and transferred it to the wedge blank. That worked like a charm and now the new oak wedge keeps the iron secure in use.
It was a lot of work bringing this tool back to usable shape. But I learned a lot and look forward to using my new try plane on projects. Not a bad trade for the Saturday morning sleep minutes I lost. And of course, the real treasure of a weekend breakfast with my lady.
© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.
Last night I processed image files until the wee hours as I waited for word that Mike Siemsen’s new DVD “The Naked Woodworker” was ready in our warehouse. We’re still working out a few little bugs, but it will go up for sale in the store no later than Monday.
Meanwhile, I woke up this morning with crossed eyes – I couldn’t bear to look at a computer screen. So I got a jump on the knockdown Nicholson I’m building this weekend. It’s based loosely on Mike’s design in “The Naked Woodworker,” but it incorporates some knockdown bolts that are both super-easy to install and robust.
Judging from the comments on an earlier post about this bench, there is some confusion about how these work. They aren’t like threaded inserts. I’ll have more details tomorrow or Sunday when I get to that part of the project. I think you’ll see why these tee-nuts are superior to other solutions out there.
I’m not doing everything like Mike does on his DVD, as you can see in the photo above. Mike assembles the legs with screws so you don’t have to have clamps. I have clamps, so I put those to use this afternoon.
So I’m not fully naked. To the great relief of my neighbors.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
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So, where was I? That’s right, trying to sort out the details on the joinery on the Craftsman-styled bookcase I’m designing.
I had the overall structure together, and I’d just shortened the through-tenons. Originally the tenons we about two inches narrower than the bookcase was wide, so they nearly cut the case sides in half. That would have been an unfortunate moment in the shop when I realized that, right?
So I changed the single wide tenons into two narrower tenons, and that took care of that. But I still had the niggling concern about the overall strength where the wide pods joined the main unit, and to a lesser extent the strength of the center unit. Except for the through tenons, the other shelf-to-sidejoinery was just short stub tenons. And in they configuration, most of the glue area is long grain to end grain, not ideal. So here is where we left off:
My concern is that there isn’t enough structure to keep the side pods from pulling out of the center unit, the only thing keeping it there are the 3/8″ long stub tenons on the ends of the shelves, back splash and toe kick. The solution, I think, is to put some mechanical strength into that joint. The best way I can think of is to substitute a sliding dovetail joint for the stub tenons.
The decision to add this joint gives me loads more confidence in the structure of the design, but it also sets off a small panic attack because it’s not at all forgiving in terms of fit. If it’s too tight it won’t go together — or worse will seize up during assembly. If it’s too loose it won’t have the strength it needs. There can be a lot more slop in a hidden tenon.
So the first thing I did was go look at how people make this joint. It could be done with hand tools, but I doubt I’ll do it that way. So the more common approach is to use a dovetail bit in a router to cut the slot and shape the flared tenon. I looked at bit sizes and found a Whiteside bit that will make a large enough cavity without having to re-set the alignment to cut the groove wider. When I do this, I’ll remove the bulk of the waste with a straight 5/8″ bit in several passes. Then I’ll use the dovetail bit just to cut the walls and a shaving off of the floor of the groove. I drew up a diagram of the joint in 2D to check out the router bit geometry and make sure it will work as I hope.
Once I’d figured out the process (at least the theory of the process) and finished talking myself into this change I updated the CAD model. I removed the stub tenons on the two middle shelves in the sides and in the center unit, and added the dovetail. I added the dovetail slot in the case sides and fixed up the model as necessary. The top and bottom shelves on the side pods still have through twin tenons on one end and stub tenons on the other end. I could change those to sliding dovetails too, but I don’t think it’s necessary structurally, and the setup would be slightly different because of the stopped rabbet for the back. I might still change those, I’ve been know to reverse myself on occasion.
This is the view of the back of the unit, with the ship-lapped back removed.
There are a couple of other “tweaks” to the design too.
The top profile on the back splashes now has an elliptical arc, I think this is a nice improvement. Ralph (Accidental Woodworker) nudged me in this direction. It was something I wanted to try, and I’m glad for the shove. It sorta wakes things up.
The doors are different now too. I made the stiles and top rail wider by a quarter of an inch, and the bottom rail wider by a full inch. I think the wider bottom rail is an improvement. I added hinges and pulls – although I just made these pulls up, I don’t think you can buy them. I’ll almost certainly having something similar but different (and commercially available).
The arc in the top of the back splashes looks more subtle than it is in this view. In a straight-on view is more apparent I think. Aesthetically, I don’t think I’m missing anything by omitting the through-tenons on the middle shelves. I’m feeling pretty good about the overall visual impact and about the structural integrity of the unit. I don’t think I have any problematic wood movement issues, and except for the sliding dovetails there isn’t anything too concerning in the construction. The through tenons worry me a bit I guess, that might be fussy.
What’s left in the design? A few details, mostly. I want to add pins through the edge of the case sides to lock in the through tenons. I want to try adding ebony pegs to the doors at the joints. I want to play with adding an inlaid design in copper and pewter to the back splashes. And I need to design the stained glass panels for the doors. Finally, I need to develop a set of plans that I can take out to the shop too – but that fairly simple since I have the whole think in 3D CAD, it’s just plunking parts on pages and organizing the dimension callouts.
We’re excited yet saddened with our preparations for the January 2015 Working Wood Symposium. This will be the first symposium since its inception in 1999 that our director, Jay Gaynor will not be present. The Working Wood Symposium was Jay’s baby, and it’s not going to be the same without him. Jay was excited with the theme of desks and the pieces we had chosen.
Entitled ‘Desks: The Write Stuff’, the program will feature four very different desks presented by Bill, Brian, Ted and I, as well as a Seymour ladies writing desk with tambour by guest presenter Robert Millard.
Bill will be presenting the earliest piece, a Philadelphia scriptor. The maker, Edward Evans did us the favor of stamping his name and date, 1707, on the inside of the case. Turns out that it’s the earliest dated Philadelphia case piece! This will be an interesting exploration.
Ever heard of a southern block front? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. We’ve got a beautiful example in our collection, probably by a Norfolk, Virginia maker. Brian has been dressing out stock for his presentation of this desk.
These two pieces are quite a contrast with some of the urban English cases being made in tidewater Virginia. I’ll be looking at the Galt desk and bookcase in detail. There are some interesting structural and aesthetic refinements that we’ll be exploring.
Finishing out this century is an exquisite Seymour ladies writing desk with tambour. The federal period is Robert Millard’s niche. Below is a piece from Robert’s web site, americanfederalperiod.com. We’re still canvasing museums for the particular piece to present.
As always there will be a lot of action, good food, camaraderie, tools, tours and entertainment. The full program will be posted in a couple of weeks on the Colonial Williamsburg web site. Till then, in the words of Jay Gaynor, “keep calm and carry on”.