Author:
• Monday, January 02nd, 2017

panel gauge with pencil

Sometimes, directly gauging a pencil line gives all the accuracy you need. Here are some options of various degrees of ease and precision.

Plain old #2

In the wooden stem of most gauges, you can drill a hole, saw a kerf, and locate a tightening screw to bind the walls of the hole around an installed ordinary pencil as I have in my panel gauge, above.

In the case of this panel gauge, the pencil cannot be gripped close enough to its point to allow the step in the fence to ride on the surface of the board. A simple solution is to hold a temporary shim block under the step to keep the stem parallel to the face of the board and the pencil in good contact with the surface.

A pencil holder is available as an option in the large Hamilton gauge.

Naked lead

For a more precise pencil line in smaller scale work, install a 2 mm drafting lead in the little groove that held the conical steel marking point, as described in the previous post. Gently tighten the screw. Now you have a pencil marker at the end of the stem where it is easy to see in action, as discussed in part 1 of this series.

2mm leads in marking gauge

Sharpen the lead to a bevel point on 220-grit, or finer, sandpaper. HB lead with a light touch works well. 2H wears better but leaves a less prominent line.

Incra dinka doo

Incra T-rule

The Incra T-rule easily scribes pencil layout lines to very accurate absolute measurements in 1/64″ increments. Set the point of 0.5mm mechanical pencil lead in the desired hole and simply slide the fence along the edge of the board.

Combo square

Slide the stock of a combination square, large or small, set to the desired length, against the edge of the board as you hold a pencil point against the end of the blade.

square as marking gauge

It is a must to somehow clamp the work piece for these last two methods.

Look, only hands!

Simplest of all, hold a pencil in your hand and stiffen your extra fingers against the edge of the board so they act as a fence as you slide your hand along to mark the line. This is surprisingly accurate and suffices for many tasks.

hand gauge

Use a light touch. Also, beware of the possibility of splinters on a board with a roughsawn edge, especially in species such as wenge or Douglas fir.

As with everything else in woodworking, have a repertoire of tools and methods at your behest, and choose those that effect the ease and precision appropriate for the task. That is much of what is skill is about.

Next: mortise gauges

Author:
• Monday, January 02nd, 2017

panel gauge

These conical and half-conical markers are strictly for use along the grain. There they make a wider groove than a knife point that is easier to see on its own, and easier to fill with a pencil to improve its visibility.

panel gauge

I keep the half-conical marker installed in my panel gauge because it is a bit easier to pull through the wood than a full conical point, and its flat face makes one side of the groove nearly square. For marking out the width of a panel, it is slightly better to orient the flat side of the marker toward the fence (and the keeper wood) and thus the bevel will be in the waste wood.

half-conical point

As a further refinement, you can rotate the point to make the flat face angled slightly away from the fence in the direction of travel of the gauge. This will help pull the fence toward the edge of the board similarly to the Japanese cutting gauge discussed in part 1 of this series. I usually like to pull the panel gauge.

A panel gauge has a stepped fence that keeps the long stem parallel to the face of the board and square across it. However, this prevents you from tilting the fence – and the marking point – as you would with a regular gauge that uses a point marker. Thus, it is all the more helpful that the half-conical point offers less resistance.

To make the fence ride easier, I attached PSA UHMW plastic to the vertical and horizontal working faces. In use, clamp the work piece and use your second hand to support the marking end of the stem so it does not catch and wander.

using a panel gauge

The conical point is handy for general work. It can be ground to a slimmer tapered point to slightly reduce resistance in the wood. These can be made by grinding the shank of a 5/64″ (2mm) drill bit. The half-conical point is more difficult to make and to find. Mine came from a very old gauge.

marking gauge

These marking points can be easily mounted to the end of the wooden stem of most gauges by simply sawing a small kerf and then refining it with a needle rasp. Locate a pan-head screw, or better, a lath screw, so a flat area on the underside of the head sits over the apex of the cylindrical portion of the marking point, thereby gripping it.

As I am demonstrating below with a mortise gauge, tilt a gauge that uses a conical marking point toward the direction of travel to make the marking action smoother. This avoids jumping, digging in, and inaccuracy.

using a mortise gauge

Next: some options for gauging with a pencil

Author:
• Sunday, January 01st, 2017

Titemark gauge

Is there a gauge that works well both across and along the grain? Yes, but there are compromises and it depends on the wood. What we are looking for here is an all-around gauge.

For this, I suggest the Titemark gauge or one of the gauges made by Jeff Hamilton of Hamilton Woodworks. The Titemark has a round blade, while the Hamiltons use a fingernail-shaped blade. I have used the Titemark in my shop for many years. I do not own a Hamilton gauge (on my wish list), however, I have used them – they are excellent – and I use a Hamilton blade retrofitted into a Cullen gauge, as shown above.

In any case, it is the properties of the blades that are the focus of this discussion. Here are close up views:

Titemark gauge

Hamilton gauge cutter

Let’s consider how these blades perform in a fine, diffuse-porous wood like cherry and a coarse, ring-porous wood like oak. Mahogany and walnut would be somewhere in between on the spectrum.

Across the grain

Both cutters work well across the grain in cherry and oak. The fingernail cutter more readily bites deeper. By the way, I prefer to push or pull, not roll, the Tite-Mark gauge, and then use a slight roll only near the end to meet a layout line. Neither easily bites a line as deep as the Japanese V-point gauge, nor are they as easy to bring up to a layout line.

Along the grain

The round and fingernail blades work fairly well marking along the grain in cherry. In oak, however, the line is difficult to see and can be especially obscure on a quartersawn surface.

In all woods, the marked lines with both blades are thin; the fingernail blade is the better of the two. You can improve visibility by running a fine pencil point in the groove, though the pencil can sometimes jump out of the groove, especially in oak. Therefore, I generally prefer a conical or half conical point for medium to large scale marking along the grain. They make a bigger groove that is easier to see and easier to fill with a pencil line.

Still, it can be tough to smoothly mark a long visible line along the grain in oak even with a slim conical point. I find that the most practical solution is to mark directly with a fine pencil or lead point. In a later post, we’ll discuss options for that.

For detail work, including along the grain, such as marking out for hinges, the rounded cutters are just fine. I especially like the Tite-Mark’s micro-adjustment feature for this work.

For situations where you want the bevel facing away from the fence to keep it in the waste, such as when gauging width to rip a panel, a reverse bevel cutter (bevel facing away from the fence) is available for the Tite-Mark (see photo above). The Hamilton blade can be installed with the bevel facing either way.

The Tite-Mark gauge affords an excellent sense of control with your fingers right up against the trumpet-shaped back of the fence. The small Hamilton gauge gives a similar sense.

It should be noted that Woodjoy makes a compact gauge with a V-point, and Lie-Nielsen makes a panel gauge with a V-point. I do not have hands-on experience with these but each has its cutter at the end of the stem, which is good, and of course, both companies make great tools.

In summary, I suggest the Tite-Mark or Hamilton gauges as good all-around gauges with the reservation that one gauge is not ideal for everything.

Next: conical markers

Author:
• Friday, December 23rd, 2016

marking and cutting gauges

In this series, we will take a close look at gauges, sorting out their useful features and subtle refinements. Though basically simple tools, they deserve our attention because it is awfully difficult to do fine work without clean and accurate marking out.

Notice the common feature among these gauges: the point or cutter is at the end of the stem. I prefer this because it makes the marking action easily visible. The starting and stopping locations, and the depth of the mark are plain to see. This feature also makes it easy to set the gauge to an edge or mark in an existing component of the construction.

Most of the available gauges, like the one below, have the point (or cutter) placed well in from the end of the stem where it is less visible. True, tilting the gauge in use, as one should, can give you some view of the point if you push the gauge, but not much if you are drawing the gauge toward you. True also, depending on the situation, attention may be better paid to the registration of the fence against the edge of the board. Still, in my view, it is better to always have the option of easily seeing the point.

marking gauge

The mortise gauge is another matter in this regard, which will be covered later in this series.

I have modified the two gauges on the left in the photo at the top. Leftmost is a Japanese gauge that originally used a cutting knife but is now a 12″ panel gauge. Second from the left, in the back, is a modified Cullen gauge. In front is the Titemark gauge. More on these later in this series.

On the right in the photo at the top is a wonderful Japanese cutting gauge that is just about perfect. This is the gauge I always use for dovetailing. It has a broad, beefy fence that is easy to grip in varied ways. The hard exotic wood inlay glides smoothly on the work piece and resists wear.

Japanese cutting gauge

The knife has a modified V-point with the bevel toward the fence, which places it in the waste wood. This gauge is primarily used on the pull stroke. Accordingly, the plane of the face of the knife is slightly angled away from the fence on the side near you. (See the side-view photo, below.) This tends to draw the fence inward, helping to keep it snug against the edge of the work piece. This angle does not at all reduce the quality of the cut.

blade angle

I much prefer to avoid leaving gauge marks in finished dovetails. One way to do this is by making the gauge cut shallow but I prefer to eliminate that variable by gauging the cut only where it is needed and thus where it will be automatically eliminated. This goes for tails and pins. This way I can gauge a substantially deep cut, which helps when chiseling out the waste, and not worry about having to later plane away any marks.

The short arm of the V-point is very helpful to bring the cut up to the penciled tail lines and the squared pin lines by nudging the gauge forward.

cutting gauge for dovetails

The laminated Japanese blade takes a very sharp edge and holds it very well.

I bought this gauge about 15 years ago, as best I recall, but similar ones are quite expensive now. Suzuki-ya sells a model with double blades, Iida with a single blade, and Tools from Japan sells a much less expensive double-blade model without the V-point, but perhaps that could be worked in by the user.

One more thing. I clamp the work piece for any major gauging such as dovetail and tenon layouts. It makes no sense to me to do the cool, casual whip of a gauge across a work piece that is grasped with one arm, like we see in some videos. Gauging is important, just like sawing and chiseling, so it is worth the time and effort to clamp the work piece.

Next: Is there a gauge that works well both along and across the grain?

Author:
• Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

inlay banding

Here is another product that I think you will appreciate knowing about, which I alluded to in the previous post. It is inlay banding made in North Carolina by Matt Furjanic, sold on his website Inlay Banding.

This is beautiful material made with precision from highly select, solid hardwoods. Only some of the narrow outer stripes are made from veneers. Most of the bandings are about 1 mm (3/64″) thick – enough to work with as real wood instead of as curled up, long potato chips like some other bandings. Lengths are generally 36″.

These bandings consist of all face-grain wood, not end grain, so they look great and finish beautifully and predictably. This also makes them easy to work with. They glue well into the slot and pleasantly scrape flush to the surrounding wood. By the way, scraping works much better than sanding for flushing, especially for banding containing ebony, which tends to muddy the lighter woods if sanded.

They come in a wide selection of patterns, mostly low-key. These will enhance your projects and not be obtrusively glitzy.

I knocked together a long plywood box to safely store the bandings in my shop:

storage box for inlay banding

Matt also sells guitar bandings, stringing and stock for line-and-berry work, federal shaded fans, and very select thin stock for making your own inlay materials. He also does custom work, and sells some great looking boxes, which, of course, feature inlay bandings.

This is the best inlay banding material I have found. This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. The last paragraph of another post explains why I present these reviews.

One more thing. Some woodworkers may balk at including woodwork made by someone else in their pieces. This makes no sense to me. Virtually all of our work contains elements made by someone else, such as hinges, handles, locks, other hardware, and glass. And don’t forget the finishing materials. It is how you use these materials that counts. Even aside from this, we have had lots of help, starting with the guys who cut down the tree, drove the trucks, milled the log, and so forth. I am happy to add expertly-made inlay such as this to my work.

Author:
• Sunday, December 18th, 2016

business card holders

You’re a woodworker. Alas, you have less money than you would if you were not a woodworker and thus expended your effort on more remunerative activity. And Christmas is around the corner.

The dilemma is apparent. The solution, of course, is the woodworker’s solution to everything: you can make things, so make something.

To happily fit the bill, I designed and made these business card holders. The rabbeted front section is edge joined to the back plate, 4 1/8″ wide. The angle of the base is 8°, which is also reflected in the top edges. The primary wood is curly Claro walnut, finished with an oil-varnish mix. The mountainous inlay banding (maple, ebony and sapele) is all face grain, available from Inlay Banding.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.

Category: Ideas  | 4 Comments
Author:
• Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Very Super Cool table saw fence

How cool is this table saw fence? The answer is in its name: Very Super Cool.

The Saw Stop cabinet saw that has been in my shop since 2005 is still a great machine but the Biesemeyer-style fence that came with it has never measured up in quality. The fence’s travel and locking mechanisms are very good but the fence face is simply not straight enough for the precision I demand and which the saw is otherwise fully capable of delivering.

The relatively flexible MDF-plastic laminate fence face is tightened against the painted metal fence body, which is not machined. This has frustrated my many attempts at shimming to create a true, flat fence.

True, the work piece bridges hollows to some extent but there are still inaccuracies and unpredictable effects at the beginning and end of the cut, depending on the length of the board. Bottom line, the results were wanting.

Enter the VerySuperCool fence. Its prime and great virtue is the incredibly flat and true one-piece, machined, aluminum extrusion fence, 40x80mm in section. Testing with my two-foot Starrett straightedge, both faces were flat everywhere within one thou. Amazingly, the faces are also parallel within one thou, which comes in handy for using the fence on either side of the blade, or for a jig that slides over the whole fence.

Very Super Cool aluminum extrusion

Now I can trust that when I ride a work piece with a nice straight edge against the fence, the cut edge will be just as nicely straight. What a relief.

The fence slides wonderfully smoothly and locks without creeping as the handle is tightened. The hairline cursor is easy to read accurately if you want to cut to an absolute dimension or repeat it.

The set up procedure is eminently logical. The maker walks you through the details with very understandable You Tube videos available via his website. The result is a fence parallel to the blade and square to the table that is adjusted to lock solidly.

The slots in the extrusion can be used with a variety of manufactured and shop-made add-ons, limited only by your ingenuity. Below is shown a simple end stop for cutoffs attached with bolts and T-nuts, using no clamps.

Very Super Cool T-nuts

The VerySuperCools Tools fence was developed and is made in the USA by Allan Little. The personal attention and service I experienced were just what one would expect from a small independent company like this one.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. I write this sort of review for two reasons. First, I want to present my experience with beneficial excellent products that may be unfamiliar to my fellow woodworkers. Second, I am in awe of the work of inventive entrepreneurs like Allan Little, Mark Harrell, Ken Rizza, Tico Vogt, Kevin Glen-Drake, and Bob Zajicek, all of whom make products I have reviewed on this blog. I want to support them and urge you also do so. They help make the world go around and America great.

Author:
• Wednesday, December 07th, 2016

DAP Rapid Fuse for Wood

Last year, I wrote a series on this blog about the characteristics, performance, and practical applications of Nexabond, an excellent cyanoacrylate glue formulated specifically for woodworking.

Since then, the developer of the glue, Sirrus, Inc., has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with DAP Products, Inc. The Nexabond 2500M (medium set time) formulation in now marketed as DAP RapidFuse Wood Adhesive. The product is no longer sold as “Nexabond.” The slow (“S”) and long (“L”) set Nexabond formulations, which were less useful and less popular, are no longer available.

DAP RapidFuse Wood Adhesive is sold in .85-ounce (about $6) and 4-ounce (about $10) bottles. It is widely available, including at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and True Value Hardware. The shelf life of Nexabond 2500M was pretty short in my experience with it – a year at best, and maybe even 8 months or so in a warm shop, as I recall.

DAP also markets RapidFuse All Purpose Adhesive, which, according to Sirrus, is also the Nexabond formulation. I do not know how or if the “All-Purpose” differs from the “Wood” version. The very same technical bulletin shows up on the DAP website for both products, and the listed applications are essentially the same. I suspect the two differ, for marketing, in name only. In that case, either could also be used in the shop as an all-purpose CA glue. Interestingly, Home Depot and Lowe’s currently sell the Wood version for 50¢ more than the All-Purpose in the .85-ounce sizes.

It is good news that the Nexabond formulation is once again available. It is a very useful glue for woodworking.

Category: Tools and Shop | Tags:  | One Comment
Author:
• 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.

Author:
• 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