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• Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

woodworking jigs

The previous post reminds me to catalog the Wall of Boards in my shop, as this may be a helpful reference for readers.

The most essential is the shooting board on the lower right. I cannot imagine working without at least a basic shooting board. Of course, it is used for long grain as well as end grain shooting. Go to this post for a few tips on shooting.

shooting board

On the upper left is the least essential of the boards, but still quiet handy, the sanding shooting board, used with the Veritas Shooting Sander. It can save the day for small parts, thin pieces, and cantankerous wood.

shooting sander

Speaking of shooting boards, Tico Vogt’s Super Chute remains a staple in my shop. (It is stored on another wall.) I attached two cleats, shown in the second photo below, that allow it to be clamped in the tail vise of my workbench. This keeps the Super Chute super steady and allows me to put my weight behind the plane when needed.

Super Chute

Super Chute attachment

By the way, the incline does matter. The skew reduces resistance in the cut, despite the assertions of some, and this is especially helpful when working endgrain. The ramp also results in wider distribution of wear on the blade edge, saving some trips to the sharpening bench.

The jig for trimming tenon shoulders is on the upper right, and the planing stop board is on the lower left.

For those in the early stages of learning woodworking (and we’re all in some stage of learning), using jigs such as these will be an empowering step up in your work.

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• Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

handplaning thin wood

Handplaning thin boards, those less than about 1/2″ thick for most species, sometimes produces surprising frustration. The solution to many problems is to consider what is happening on the underside of the work piece.

I usually plane such wood, for example, a thin drawer bottom, on a very flat planing board with front and side stops only about 7/32″ high, or on a nice flat section of my workbench against a low-profile planing stop that inserts directly into the bench. This avoids distortion from the pressure of bench dogs and gives me a better feel for how the plane is meeting the wood.

planing stop board

The handplane sole acts somewhat like the feed rollers in a thickness planing machine. It presses on the flexible board and forces it downward to close gaps under the board. This effect varies, sometimes unpredictably, with the length of the plane and the skew angle of planing.

Suppose now we are trying to smooth plane the surface of a drawer bottom or panel and the underside is a bit concave. (Here I do not mean an even-thickness board that is simply cupped a bit.) A finely set plane will miss areas on the topside that are over the concavities underneath.

This is especially annoying if you are trying to clean up a few spots of tearout and the plane keeps missing them. The tolerances involved are quite small because in these situations the plane is trying to take a very thin shaving, say .001″.

shimming concave side

The solution is to be cognizant of the interaction of work piece and the work surface, and resort to good old shims. Sometimes I’ll use blue tape but more often just a few shavings stuffed under the board. or even some paper.

In fact, this little trick is handy even if the thin board is perfectly flat and you want to raise a small area to plane away a defect without having to plane down the whole surface just to hit the defect.

When using a shim, it usually is helpful to dog the board to keep the ends down and thus push up the shimmed area.

Note that if the work piece is of even thickness and just a bit cupped, this will usually not be an issue. The board will flatten against the bench as it is being planed, all areas will be hit with the plane, and the board will simply spring back to its cupped state when you are done planing. Within limits, that is not a problem because the panel will usually be easily coaxed into flatness by the frame or drawer grooves.

So, the real key in all of this is to not take your handplaning setup for granted but rather to be aware of the actual interaction between a finely set handplane blade, the plane sole, the work piece, and the work surface. With this awareness, it’s just a matter of common sense to diagnose and fix what otherwise could be vexing problems.

Category: Techniques  | One Comment
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• Thursday, November 24th, 2016
Thanksgiving

Wood
From trees,
Ideas
From a free mind,
Tools and a workshop
From our labor.

And hands to put these together
To make things.

Gratefulness builds happiness.

To make things
Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Category: Ideas  | Leave a Comment
Author:
• Monday, November 14th, 2016

lumber rack

This upgrade of the main lumber storage rack in my shop has worked out well. Manufactured by Slacan Industries, based in Canada, it is designed to hold underground cable but is sold to woodworkers by Woodcraft and Lee Valley as a lumber rack.

The formed-steel brackets, U-shaped in cross section, are available in 10″, 14″, and 18″ lengths. They freely insert at 1 1/2″ intervals into the rolled-steel channel wall straps, which come in 55″ and 24″ lengths.

The versatility of this rack is the main reason I chose it. The movable brackets of different lengths make it easy to adjust the rack as storage needs change. It is now easy to create room to store wood by category or to make a pile with spacers between boards.

This thing is mega beefy – all parts are made from 3/16″-thick steel. Fuhgeddaboudit: a single 18″ bracket is rated by Slacan to support a 300-pound load applied one inch from the outer end!

What you cannot forget about is properly installing the rack. I consulted a structural engineer to make sure the wall studs could safely hold the anticipated load of lumber in the way I would set up the rack.

lumber rack

I have limited room in my small shop so there are two 55″ straps spaced 16″ apart on studs, plus a 24″ strap for the upper two or three levels that are more heavily loaded. I attached the straps to the studs with Simpson StrongTie 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ structural screws (#SDS25312), using 1/8″-thick x 1 1/2″-diameter washers to bridge the large bracket-insertion cutouts; there are no dedicated mounting holes in the 55″ straps (and those on the 24″ straps are large).

lumber rack parts

The galvanized finish on the straps and brackets is rough. I used a bastard-cut mill file to quickly ease the top surfaces of the brackets and their connection tabs.

I bought the rack from Woodcraft on sale as a set, which had a few more parts than I needed but was still cheaper than buying individual parts. With more storage capacity, I now have to resist buying beautiful wood that I don’t need (yet).

Author:
• Sunday, November 13th, 2016

crosscutting lumber

So often I bring to mind the admonition from James Krenov in the Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, “Cross-cutting should always be preceded by careful thought.”

When divvying up rough stock for a project, it is those early crosscuts, often particularly the very first one, that so much determine the successful use of the wood, and in turn, the entire success of the project.

We tend to let our guard down at this early stage because the lumber is rough and the cuts are rough, so it seems like little could go wrong. We are not naturally in a precision frame of mind as when approaching joinery work. Moreover, it seems like there is so much wood now, maybe much more than needed.

But beware, these early breakdown crosscuts will in large part dictate the figure and color matching of the wood in the finished piece. After The Crosscut – the one that felled the tree – and the sawing and drying of the boards, these initial crosscuts in your shop are critical to the efficient use of your expensive wood.

As with most matters in woodworking, winging it is not often rewarding. So think it through with the measured drawings nearby, and tape measure and chalk in hand. Be alert. Look at the wood, study the figure and grain, find the defects. Make thoughtful decisions.

The eternal woodworking quest for a board stretcher remains unfulfilled, so I heed the advice of the master.

Category: Wood  | 2 Comments
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• Monday, October 31st, 2016

live edge wood

The rustic look of furniture featuring a live edge board currently has wide appeal, as it seems to draw a response even from those people who otherwise pay little attention to the intrinsic beauty of wood.

Here are two uncommon options for designing with live edge wood: let the natural “path” of the board’s live edge guide the whole structure of the piece or, similarly, determine the shape of just other components of the piece. The live edge can be followed loosely or closely.

In the small table above, the front rail in ash follows the general sweep of the live edge of the walnut top. As with other pieces, I carefully striped the bark and prepared the live edge to retain almost all of the organically interesting wavelets. Thus, the live edge follows the peaceful flow of the ash rail but also presents an exciting contrast in form.

The rail construction is a bent lamination. I worked out the angles and joinery in a full size drawing because they were trickier than I first imagined.

In the wall shelf below, I again preserved the undulations as well as the fine ripples in the curly big-leaf maple board. The pear drawer front is a rare specimen with exquisite flame-like heartwood. As seen in the second photo below, I matched its contour to the waves in the maple’s live edge.

live edge wall shelf

live edge design

The photos of this piece are a bit weak but the actual piece projects a distinctly “live” feel. I really let the wood “design” the piece.

These are just some ideas for working with live edge wood. Though they involve a lot more trouble in construction, the wood is inspiring and sustaining.

wall shelf with drawer

Category: Wood  | 5 Comments
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• Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

woodworking library

Wendell Castle once commented that often not enough time is spent designing a piece. The same can be said of researching a piece.

Unless you have previously executed something very similar, neglecting adequate research can lead to a lot of wasted effort building a disappointment. The research phase of a project should be enjoyable as the possibilities unfold and your woodworking knowledge expands.

Here are four categories that require attention. To illustrate the breadth of research sometimes required, I have used the example of a small wine box that I recently completed. This piece had very special significance and I wanted to approach it fully prepared.

1. Function

Almost all woodwork is functional. You do not want the beauty of a piece to belie an inability to do its job. Think of it this way: making a bat requires more than understanding wood and turning; you have to understand baseball.

I researched all the dimensions of the wide variety of standard Bordeaux and burgundy bottles to design a versatile cradle that would accommodate a range of bottles. I also had to learn about how wine should be stored long term.

2. Materials

This is not an area for guessing or shortcuts. Processes that are routine in one wood can be fraught with surprises in another species. What’s more, nearly every project involves several non-wood materials that woodworkers have to understand.

A few boards of gorgeous curly ovangkol (shedua) caught my eye. I had not worked with this species before, so I needed to explore the range of figure it had to offer to be able to choose top quality stock. I looked at objective data on its physical properties and movement characteristics. Most important, I did some practice sawing, chiseling, and planing to appreciate its working properties. It was surprisingly incompressible and somewhat brittle so there was very little margin for error in the joinery.

I considered lots of options for secondary woods, settling on wenge and a billet of killer figured redheart big-leaf maple. I trialed finishes, tested glues for special situations, and also researched leathers.

Then there’s hardware. Ugh. There are always oodles of options here, though often I am not happy with any of them and end up modifying or at least fine-tuning the best available materials.

woodworking research

3. Constructions

Almost every piece I make involves at least one modified or non-standard construction technique. It really helps to consider solutions that other woodworkers have used, though it is important to use sound principles and experience to distinguish good information from bad.

If you never venture from the conventional, you miss out on a lot of fun in woodworking, but you must build right, so do your research.

In this project, I could not find a satisfactory solution for a cradle that would snugly hold a range of wine bottle sizes. What I worked out is no marvel of engineering but I did have to sit at the drawing board for a long time scratching my head, and make mock ups, before settling on a solution.

4. Techniques and Tools

Similarly, every project is an opportunity to develop as a woodworker by learning new techniques and reinforcing skills that you have used before. A good woodworker should never be too proud to practice even those skills that were acquired some time ago.

And yes, there is also the excuse – oops I mean perfectly valid reason – to buy a new tool, which, by the way, has to be studied and tuned. In this project, because I did not do enough research, I needed the excellent Lie-Nielsen drawer lock chisels to bail me out, as mentioned in an earlier post.

In summary, researching function, materials, constructions, and techniques/tools is smart woodworking. Note to self: don’t cheat on your homework.

Category: Techniques  | 3 Comments
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• Tuesday, October 04th, 2016

miscellaneous thoughts

Two nearly magical things in the woodshop are sharpness and good lighting. They are easily neglected, yet you are instantly a better woodworker when you attend to them.

I think most of us have an inner Jobs – the idea guy who will not be bound by conventional limitations – and an inner Woz – the engineer guy who sweats the details to get things done in the real world. It is best to listen to both of those inner voices for meaningful, creative projects to get done.

It is just a matter of personal preference, but I keep my shop neat out of necessity since it is rather small but more so because the orderliness helps keep my mind clear while working.

What should you build next? May I suggest this: that which you really, really want to build; what powerfully compels you; what will have lasting meaning to you. And I bet that is not another box for your chisels – so skip that.

When you make a mistake, what you do afterward is probably going to have the greater effect on the project. Is this a bump in the road or a catastrophe? Pause and assess.

Parasitic vermin who rip off blog content to populate their bogus websites are thieves, plain and simple. Please do not patronize their sites.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hand tools, but I bet very big machines were used to fell the tree, saw the log, and so forth. Our essential reasons for using hand tools are largely different from those of woodworkers in the 18th century. My point is simply to keep things practical and avoid purism. We can improve on the 18th century.

Brace yourself, here is a Beatles-style song created with artificial intelligence. Yes, it is awful, because it is a conglomeration of formulaic snippets with no consequential cohesive structure, no grande ligne, and hence, no impact. That is a powerful aspect we humans can bring to a creative work. Don’t be artificial.

Being cognizant of whether you are shaping wood (e.g. squaring, flattening, cutting a joint or curve) versus smoothing the surface of wood, or both at once, is a simple habit of mental clarity that makes woodworking processes more directed and reliable.

I just do not get tired of wood; I love it. This too:

White Mts.

Category: Ideas  | One Comment
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• Sunday, September 18th, 2016

jig for trimming tenon shoulders

This simple jig gives greater control for trimming tenon shoulders and eliminates breakout of end grain at the back edge of the rail as the plane exits. I have been using it in my shop for many years.

A tenon shoulder is correctively trimmed with a shoulder plane used on its side and registered against the cheek and the shoulder of the tenon itself. The correction usually involves just a few critical strokes of the plane.

trimming tenon shoulders

The jig easily installs in the tail vise, clamps the rail quickly and firmly, provides the essential support at the back edge to eliminate spelching, and allows planing without obstruction. Two earlier steps in forming the tenon, sawing the shoulder and trimming the tenon cheek, can also be done on this jig by simply clamping the rail so the shoulder line is positioned a bit beyond the backstop.

The jig is easily made from 3/4″ MDF. The base is 15″ wide x 9″ deep. The main portion of the backstop is 13″ x 2 1/2″, laterally centered on the base and attached with glue and screws.

A 500-pound capacity, 6 1/2″-long toggle clamp with a large retrofit foot pad is screwed to the midpoint of the backstop. The depth and outward projection of the pad are adjusted according to the thickness and width, respectively, of the work piece rail. Other types of quick-set clamps could also be used.

tenon jig

Key features are the hardwood caps on the backstop. These are 2 1/2″ in the long grain direction and 1/2″ wide, and simply screwed to the ends of the MDF. Countersink, or better, counterbore, the screws deeply enough to keep them out of the path of the plane blade. Note that I have marked a line at the depth of the screw heads and drawn pictures of the screws in red as reminders of their presence. I would hate to run a plane blade into them.

By the way, I am right-handed and never use the left side of the jig but it is useful for lefthanders at classes and demonstrations.

tenon shoulder

For securing the jig in the workbench, a 1 1/2″-wide strip of MDF is glued and screwed to the front of the base where it will butt against the front of the bench. Further, a 4 1/4″ x 1 3/8″ x 3/4″ plywood cleat is glued and screwed to the base and front stop. The cleat fits into the tail vise, which is then tightened to secure the jig.

tenon jig cleat

To trim a tenon shoulder, align it with, or very near, the edge of the hardwood backstop cap. Plane the shoulder and continue the stroke through the cap as needed. Of course, the cap gets slowly depleted over time, as shown here, but it is easily replaced.

jig detail

I think you will find this jig increases your comfort and control in the precision job of trimming tenon shoulders.

Author:
• Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Veritas slow adjuster

Another thoughtful refinement from Veritas, this adjuster advances the blade in smaller increments than their standard adjusters. It’s a hit.

Veritas bevel-up (BU) planes use a Norris-style adjustment system, which means that one adjuster controls both blade depth and lateral alignment. In a lesser quality tool, this system could be balky but the design and execution by Veritas makes theirs function very smoothly.

Now, just for fun, the lead screw of the slow adjuster has 58 threads per inch by my count, which translates to .0172″ of linear blade advancement per turn of the knob. The increase in depth of cut produced per unit of linear advancement of the blade is represented by the sine of the blade’s bed angle, 12° in this case.

.0172″ x sin12° = .0172″ x .2079 = .0036″ depth of cut increase per one turn of knob

This works out to .0009″ or about 1 thou change in shaving thickness per quarter turn of the knob.

Veritas bevel-up smoother

This may sound like too tentative an approach but in practice this exceptionally smooth mechanism is not only precise but also pleasant to use. I am usually using the BU smoother for difficult wood where small differences in cutting depth really matter. I suggest Lee Valley use the slow adjuster as standard in their BU smoothing planes, or at least offer it as an initial option.

The Veritas bevel-up jack plane, on the other hand, is used for tasks that require less precision in the cutting depth, so there I prefer the original, quicker adjuster.

With the Norris adjuster, side set screws that control the blade registration near the mouth, lack of a chipbreaker, and an easily adjustable mouth opening, you can practically set up a Veritas bevel-up plane with your eyes closed.

Just as a reminder, if the handle and knob on my BU smoother do not look like the Veritas versions, it is because they are not. They are wonderful retrofits made by Bill Rittner of Hardware City Tools.