Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Today ends the first year of woodworking for me. One year ago, my wonderful wife gave me a tablesaw and it began a year of learning and new friendships online. Who knew that this was where it would take me!

I've learned a lot of basic techniques and have begun to settle into a hybrid landscape of power and hand tools. I have also begun learning how to explore creativity, but expect that this particular avenue of learning will encompass the rest of my life

I'm going to start selling some of the stuff I make next year and even be open to taking commissions. I've registered my website, but am not yet ready to announce the name. You'll just have to wait for the launch!

Anyhoo, I want to keep this brief as I'm currently enjoying the company of my family in Halifax and it's our daughter's first Christmas.

So, where-ever you may be, from my family to you and yours, have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Merry New Year!

(one of my top Christmas Movies - Trading Places)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When Life gives you Lemons ...

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Canadian Home Workshop show. It was my first woodworking show, but to be truthful, it was more of a power tool show than anything else. Sure, there were a couple of workshops and Rob Cosman was there demonstrating his plane craft, but for the most part there were power tools as far as the eye could see.

Along with a block of redwood and a plane blade from Rob's stand (I want to try my hand at making a hand plane. Kari, I'll be coming to you with questions!), I had picked up a core-box bit for my router as I wanted to try my hand at making router bowls. I figured I could make a couple as Christmas gifts

For my first bowl, I decided to actually make a round segmented dish. About 13" in diameter and split down the middle.

Everything was going pretty well until after I had routed out the recesses and band-sawn the outside circumference. I needed to route the outside and inside edges to give a round-over effect but having dismantled my home made router table (it had finally warped beyond usability) I opted to do it free hand with the bowl clamped down to the bench between dogs.

Routing the bottom edge went fine. Routing the first recess also posed no problem. Routing the 2nd recess however, I slipped and the router bit ended up cutting deeply into the side. Twice. Realizing what I had done, I turned off the router, set it down and resisted the urge to pick up the piece and hurl it to the concrete floor. I'll admit that I muttered a bit and stared at the dish in sinking dismay.

It was ruined.

Fit for kindling.

.... Or was it? Something told me to pick up a chisel and just start carving. For the next little while, I chipped away at the dish. To be truthful, I totally lost track of time and just followed my instinct being mindful of the grain so that I wouldn't tear the wood. Pausing only to give the chisel a couple of swipes on the sharpening stone.

It was pure Zen.

When I was done, what I saw reminded me of sand and how it can erode away at man made structures if left unchecked with the desert claiming half of the city, but the other half still in good order. Hence, I give you the dish "Erosion".

I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished. It may not be the next Mona Lisa, but I've grown by refusing to bow to defeat just because of a minor setback. What was to be a straight forward dish has been turned into a work of art that I could never duplicate 100%

Do you have a story where you took the woodworking lemons that were handed to you and turned it into lemonade? Leave me a comment and let's chat about it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Practice, Practice .. I see the light!

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but a reasonable fax simile.

One of the recent lessons in the Hand Tool School is making bench hooks. There was a practice lesson that leads up to it on flattening boards which I had dutifully completed on an off-cut of walnut. I had some trouble with plane tracks from my jointer, so I decided to do it again

After nicking off the corners on my jointer plane and a sharpening session on my jointer and smoother, I started by hollowing out the middle of that same walnut off-cut with the jointer and then proceeded with the flattening and then checking with the winding sticks. Thankfully, there were no plane tracks to deal with. Happy day!

Satisfied, I moved on to my smoothing plane and after a couple of trial passes, I had the blade carefully centred and was happily taking the thinnest of shavings.

3-4 passes later, I decided to double check the flatness and saw something I had never seen from hand planing or from sanding. I had been looking at a fairly low angle and lost it when I moved away.

Picking the board up again, I sighted down the board and I happened to have a bench dog in view just beyond the end of the board. Here is what I saw.

Yep, a reflection of the bench top and the dog in the face of the board. I'm guessing that people have seen this before, so I'm not going to compare it to the feeling one gets when they see the Mona Lisa in a cheese sandwich, but I was pretty impressed that one could attain this level of finish without actually even applying a finish!

So, while I may not always do the rough dimensioning by hand depending on timelines, I am a full on convert to finishing with a hand plane whenever possible. Just think of the possibilities on applying a film finish. French polishing requires a completely smooth surface. Even applying poly might take less coats with a surface prepped like this. Too bad this will become my sawing hook, ha!

Tell me about the revelations you've had in your woodworking journey. Let's discuss!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Practical vs Beauty

Not all things we make have to be beautiful. Sometimes we make jigs or appliances for the shop that are quick and dirty to get the task at hand done.

This was the case today. Not for the shop however but for inside my home. As many of you know, I have a daughter. She in fact just turned 8 months old this weekend and is one of the 2 reasons for my happy existence. This morning as we were in our routine before church and she logged almost 3 laps around the living room.Visions of guarding the stairs to prevent a headlong tumble filled my head.

The time has come to start putting up the safety gates.

My boss had some baby gates that were destined for the landfill and he had asked if i wanted them and I thought why not? They'll come in handy! They're wooden gates (yay!) that have hinges to swing them aside when not in use. The problem was how to mount them in the needed location. There are stairs coming down into the living room and right next to them are the stairs going down to the basement. A set of iron pickets and wooden railing separated the two flights (typical of homes built in the 70's). There was no place to mount the latch point to keep the gate closed.

Had I not been spending my free time woodworking these past 10 months, I probably would have been searching the local borg for another solution. Or else making such a hack job as to lower the value of neighboring houses.

Instead, I put my knowledge to use to make 2 sets of clamping blocks from some scrap cherry. 1 block of each set was quite plain, but the other required routing a rabbet on 2 opposing edges to prevent lateral movement. The 2 blocks would be fastened together between two bars with screws providing the clamping force (it is supposed to be temporary after all!). All edges were softened with my block plane to prevent any little fingers from getting 'owwies'.

Finally, they each received a bath in thinned bullseye shellac and set out to dry. A light sanding after about an hour and another coat wiped on this time. I love how quickly shellac dries! I was able to get both sets of clamping blocks built and installed with the gates in about 3 hours.

changed my mind. All things made from wood can be beautiful, even if they're not meant to be. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 Minutes

Today's post isn't about woodworking. Today is the day we set aside 2 minutes to remember our vets and our fallen brethren. I'd like to share something a little more that many have seen, but many more will not. A few years ago, my wife and I were on vacation and driving around the Cabot trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. We came upon a viewpoint that was breath taking.
There was a memorial stone. Only about 3' high with a bronze plaque on it. The inscription read:

They will never know the beauty of this place, 
see the seasons change, 
enjoy nature's chorus . 
All we enjoy we owe to them. 
Men and Women who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas.
Dedicated to the memory of Canadians who died overseas in the service of their country 
and so preserved our Heritage.
As you were.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sawbench - I cant blame my tools

So, this week was taking what we had learned the previous week from the Hand Tool School on hand sawing techniques and putting it into practice. Taking what is essentially a 5 board bench design and splitting the top in two along the length for a ripping slot.

This was a fun exercise because having a proper saw bench was on my list of needed shop tools. It's not much fun stooping over a recycling bin that wants to collapse from your weight bearing over the middle of the long edge. I attributed this for my issues with staying plumb all the way through my cuts. After all, who wants to admit a shortcoming in skill?

I won't go into the details of how it's built but what I will mention is what I wished I had done differently. The overall length is about 3' with the legs 6" in from the ends. I should have put the legs within 3" of the ends because ad I'm sawing, I find that I put my weight on the end at some point and the bench wants to tip like a see-saw. My only concession to power tools for this project was to use a drill to fasten the stretchers to the legs and pocket screws to fasten the top.

After finishing, I decided to do the practice exercises again. What a difference to have a stable surface! I'm able to cut to a line, but am still having problems with staying plumb all the way through the cut. I (being right handed) put my left knee up on the bench to hold down the work piece, and have a feeling that I am leaning too far out as the cut leans out (with the tip of the saw closer to the bench than the handle). It's not drastic and it starts out plumb but about 1/2 way through, it starts to lean out of square.

I guess it comes down to me and more practice.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rambling Quickie #6

There's plenty going on in the shop this week. With the Stanley 80 Scraper, it's on a bit of a holding pattern until I can figure out what to do with the blade. It's not going to be possible to get it pit free, but I was able to get a hooked edge onto it. The only problem is that it's either no burr at all or one that seems so severe that it only grabs at the roughest of woods. Although it may be a setup problem as well. I need to look further into that one. The rust is almost completely gone though with a little naval jelly in the screw holes taking care of that.

The rascal was giving me such a hard time with setup that the name Finn came across in whispers as it glided across the face of an almost finished board without taking so much as a dusty shaving. Those of you that are fans of Huckleberry Finn will know what I'm talking about.

There's also the Hand Tool School which was launched a couple of weeks ago by Shannon of  The Renaissance Woodworker and I've completed the first 2 practice exercises. Winding Sticks and Hand Saw practice.

The winding sticks were fairly easy as I had been practicing my hand plane techniques after watching the Hand Plane Basics video (reviewed previously) a few times. I also used fairly tame grained wood (cherry with walnut and ash for inlay), so I went easy on myself. The inlay exercise using only a chisel was interesting, but I don't have a plow plane, so I couldn't have cheated anyway without enslaving a few electrons.

The hand sawing I did today, was just practice exercises. 10 cross cuts, 10 rip cuts and 1 resaw cut. At the end of it my arm was dead! But I did learn to cut to a line a little better, but more practice is required. I think the hand tool deities would be pleased. Although, I think I would lose about 1/8" if I were to hand plane my resaw cuts to flat and parallel.

The next project is due to be a Saw Bench, and I'm looking forward to completing that one as the recycling bin is just not very strong or suitable as a saw bench. It will actually be useful even in my power tool projects because when I rough dimension all of my lumber, I will cross cut my boards either by hand or use a jigsaw depending on my mood. I'll save my next sawing practice session for after the saw bench is complete so that I can have a non flexible surface to rest on.

Finally, I picked up a new blade for the band saw and reviewed the Band Saw setup video on The Wood Whisperer site (actually, it was still in my iTunes) and gave it a test by resawing a 5" wide piece of walnut that I've been saving to make my first box with.

There's actually one more project I'm working on, but I'll blog about it later ... say ... after Christmas!

Shannon's not the only one with Woodworking A.D.D!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Old Tool and a New Feeling

A couple of days ago I was trolling the tools section of Craig's List as I tend to do every couple of days and came across a listing for a Stanley #80 cabinet scraper. Having enrolled in Hand Tool School under Shannon's tutelage (AKA The Renaissance Woodworker), and having read Chris Scwarz's blog on these particular scrapers, I decided to buy it for $30.

Today I picked it up. I was expecting it to not be in the greatest of shape. My expectations were met.

The japanning is quite flaky, there's quite a bit of visible rust and one of the screws was not turning by the force of my fingers.

When I got it home, I disassembled it and wiped down what looked like rusty oil trapped between the blade and the clamping bar. A thorough inspection of each of the components revealed a tired (as Dyami of The Penultimate Woodshop put it after posting this pic on Twitter) and frankly not well cared for implement of wood working.

The sole was almost completely covered with rust and pitting; The blade was likewise in rusty shape, but not as bad due to the hardening maybe. I was able to make out a stamping on the blade and to my delight, the blade is Canadian made.

The clamping bar was pretty clear, but I was unable to find the patent numbers to determine the estimated manufactured time.

What really worries me however is the rust within the threaded holes. I'm not sure how to clean them up. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know. I'll also be trolling the forums for advice as well.

After giving everything a wipe down, I proceeded to take my Dremel with wire wheel to deal with the any loose flakes of rust. It also proved to be quite efficient at cleaning up the threads on the 3 thumb screws.

Laying out a piece of glass, I looked at the body of this tired old scraper and wondered. What stories could you tell? How were you held? How many hands have you passed through? The scraper remained silent. Almost as if in a sullen despair saying, "Don't waste your time on me. I've been given up on and I've given up."

I started with 120 grit to start flattening the sole and realized that the pits were not going to go away that easily. "See?" it whispered, "I'm not worth the effort."

Undaunted, I removed the sheet of abrasive and replaced it with 80 grit. A squirt of oil, I went back to patiently working the sole back and forth. Taking my time so as to ensure that even pressure was maintained. Checking my progress, I found that the pits were gone! I began working my way up through the grits - 120, 180, 240, 320, 400, 600 and 800. Oiling each sheet before starting and wiping off the sole between each grit. Maintaining the slow deliberate pace of strokes across the abrasive.

It was at about this time that I almost felt a quiver. As if the scraper was slowly realizing that it had found a caring home once more and would be put once again into the service for which it was designed. Finishing with 1000 and 2500 grits, it (and I) was satisfied that the sole was sufficiently flattened.

A touch of paste wax for protection elicited a secure sigh of relief for the protection from further rust.

At this point, I had been working for about 2 hours and was quite satisfied that I was making good progress. I carefully laid the parts into a neat arrangement on my workbench and had to break for the evening as I was getting hungry and wanted/needed time with my wife and daughter. 

My tools have never spoken to me in the past. They always seemed content to do the task for which they were designed. Now I have this scraper that almost seems to be begging to get named. I exchanged some twitter messages with Brian. His tools have spoken to him for some time and you can read about it on his blog Extremely Average. So I asked if tools communicated over distances to which he replied that they did and that the scraper is deserving to be named.

I have to say that I am honoured to begin this restoration process (and hope that eventually I return it to its former glory) and am at a bit of a humbled loss on what name to bestow upon it.

Brian, if you're reading, ask your clan of tools (particularly Guy, Wayne, Mario and Maurice as they may be distant relatives) if there is already a name attached or if they know of him.

Tomorrow afternoon I tackle the blade. I hope it's salvageable. Oh, if anyone knows how to look up the patent numbers on the clamping bar, please let me know as I would like to know how far back this scraper's history goes.

P.S. I forgot to link to Brian's Blog. Although it is on the right side, it's still a faux pas that I've now corrected! Sorry Brian!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meeting a couple of fellow guildies

Wood working as a hobby is usually a hobby spent for the most part in solitary. Well, this past Saturday I had the pleasure of being invited over to Ian's (AKAWoodcanuck) shop and meeting Ian and his friend Adam. Adam and Ian are also members of The Wood Whisperer Guild.

Adam and Ian
There was much oo-ing and ah-ing over items that Ian brought back from Woodworking in America and discussion around ongoing/past projects, shop setup and WIA in general. I had a wonderful time poking around Ian's shop and just generally talking about woodworking. Yes, that in itself counts as woodworking because stuff related to woodworking was learned :-).

Got some ideas on shop organization, but also realize that Ian's shop evolved to this state over time. It's not something that happens overnight.

Thanks again for the invite Ian!

Author's note 10-19-2010: Ian has his own blog as well. Be sure to give him a visit at WoodCanuck's Blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review - Handplane Basics DVD

As a woodworker learning on my own, I have to rely on a number of resources to get information. The internet is my primary source of information. However, there are times when the number of techniques and differences of opinions is simply to varied from forum to forum and even within the forum itself (or other online sources) to be of any use. It's not because there are wrong techniques. It's more what people have found work for them.

One area that I've found this to be the case is on hand planes. Which ones to use, sharpening techniques, methods of use. I had been stuck in analysis paralysis for a while until a Popular Woodworking email came to my inbox. It wasn't the weekly email, it was an ad for their store. As a recent subscriber, I thought I would take a look instead of just deleting it. One of the items on display was Woodworking Magazine's "Handplane Basics - A better way to use bench planes".

I thought, "Why not?" After all, Chris Schwarz is not only a great woodworker, he's known for his ability to communicate ideas. Check out his entries in one of Popular Woodworking's blogs if you haven't already. If you have, you know what I mean.

Oh so shiny!
 So I broke out the plastic and placed my order. Within 2 weeks, I had it sitting on my desk. I popped it into my DVD drive and sat back with a bowl of popcorn.

That was a couple of months ago. Since then, I've probably watched it about a half dozen times. The content is really outstanding. Chris takes the time to acknowledge that there are many right ways, but this is an instructional video for someone who has really limited experience (like me) with hand planes.

The content is broken down into 3 basic sections. Hand planes and their anatomy, setting up planes for use (including sharpening) and basic use in preparing lumber from rough stock to ready for finish without the use of a card scraper or sandpaper.

One thing that put me off somewhat at first was the fact that Chris demonstrated on pine. In my experience so far, I thought he made it look deceptively easy. After all, it's a lot harder to push a plane through ash or mahogany. Isn't it?

Well, after putting my planes through the paces (with a properly learned sharpening technique that I won't get into - that's another topic for which the techniques and tools are endless!) I have to say that with a properly sharpened plane blade, the wood will cooperate far more easily than with one that doesn't have a finely honed edge. So I retract my disappointment.

Another thing that put me off in the beginning was the fact that he talked only about bevel down planes. Being a bevel up owner (for my smoother) I was disappointed until I found out that there is an article on the dvd that you can read on your computer that point out the differences between the bevel up and bevel down. How you use them is essentially the same otherwise. Again, I retract my disappointment.

Although I'm not getting paid for writing this by either Popular Woodworking Magazine or the Schwarz himself, I have to say that this was a worthwhile purchase and recommend it to anyone that is starting out on hand planes but doesn't have a hand tool mentor to lean on.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bookshelf a la Matt Part 2 - Finished!

Today I completed the assembly of the bookshelf. It's been quite a month since my last post on the bookshelf and I won't bore you with the details of my non-woodworking adventures. Let's say that there was some good and some not-so-good. C'est la vie.

Most of what you're reading about occurred over 4 weeks, so I'll ask your pardon if I gloss over some details. If there's anything you'd like to hear more detail on, please let me know by leaving a comment and I'll elaborate in a future post.

My next step was to route the stopped dados for the bottom and middle shelf. I set up an edge guide for my router by gluing a 2x2 to a piece of 1/4" plywood followed by a pass with the router to create a clean edge exactly the right distance from the 2x2. Because I was using a 3/8" bit, I had no worries about starting to wander away from the edge guide. For a 3/4" dado, there was plenty of wiggle room. Once again, yours truly forgot his camera, so no pictures of the process. I set the 2 sides beside each other back to back so that I could cut the entire dado and be in perfect alignment on both sides. Except that on the bottom piece, I routed all the way through to the front. So much for the stopped dado.

I did get it right on the middle and that was the critical one as I planned on having the shelf stop about a 1/2" shy of the front which is a bit of a design change from my sketchup pic in Part 1.

Milling Completed

Cutting the rabbets
A few days later, I took the boards that would make up the ship-lap back and cut them to their appropriate width of 4". From there, I used a 3/8" rabbet bit with my home made router table (which I had almost thrown out, but decided to wait - incidentally, it works great being clamped down to my workbench) to cut rabbets on opposing faces.
All cuts completed
Finally, I used a chamfer bit to add a bit of softness to the corners so that the gaps between the boards would look more natural. I guess in the summer when the boards swell, the gaps may close, but in the winter, it gets dreadfully dry around here and I expect that the gaps may widen to about 1/16". Or so says my Woodshop Widget app. Dialing in the router to cut the rabbets exactly .25" deep was fun. I don't have a router lift, so I would make a test cut, check, adjust, repeat and after about a dozen attempts, I deemed it close enough. The chamfers were much easier to set up. Not bad for 1 nights work.

Knot stabilization

The next time I got out to the shop, I routed the rabbet around the inside of the sides, top and bottom - again on the router table - it's just easier than trying to balance the router on a 3/4" thick edge. I found that using green tape on the top side of the board to mark where to stop and start cuts on the side pieces invaluable. The rest of my time was spent sanding everything to 180 grit and I ended my day in the shop by doing some knot stabilization using epoxy. This is part of the joy of working with off-cuts from the lumber yard, but I think that knots give the wood some character and the grain some life. Sure it's a pain to hand plane, but I think the end result is worth it. Just mask off the areas around where you need to apply the epoxy (and tape the bottom of the knot if it goes all the way through) and apply. I had to go over some of the areas twice as the epoxy had settled into the deep recesses of the knot and left a hole in the surface. The first application sealed the knot however and it didn't happen a second time.

A few days later, I assembled the outer shell of the bookshelf using epoxy as my glue of choice. I would have used wood glue, but I had to use bricks as my downward pressure on the assembly because I had only 2 pipe clamps that were long enough. Well, I would have used the wood glue on the dovetail joint in the top because dados all have end grain at leas on 1 of the mating surfaces throughout the joint. Because of the weight that the shelf would have to hold, I decided that epoxy was just a better choice.
All that was left was applying finish, inserting the middle shelf and attaching the back. It was the Home Stretch!

Nice figure! Applying sealing coat
 The boards were all of varying shades and just putting a coat of shellac on it just wouldn't do. I didn't want to just cover it up, I wanted the grain to remain visible. So taking a method I picked up from Charles Neil during the last guild build, I applied a single coat of shellac cut to 1 lb and then followed up with either 1 or 2 (depending on the piece that was having the stain applied to it) coats of water based stain wiping off after 3-5 minutes of sitting with the stain on. Finally, I applied 2 coats of the same 1 lb cut of shellac (The Woodshop Widget rides again!). I of course sanded with 600 grit after every coat of finish except the last where I used 800 grit.

Today I attached the middle shelf again using epoxy before I started my regular day job and let it set over the course of the day. This evening, I fastened the ship-lap backing using my pass-lode cordless nailer using my pull saw's blade (the back edge) as a spacer (I would hazard a guess at 3/64" thickness). I then brought it in, and introduced my daughter to it.

I can't say for sure, but she seemed pleased and that is all a father can ask for.

It's more than enough.


Waste Not, A session in Resawing ... by Hand

It's been a couple of weeks since I started my bookshelf project. Life sometimes has a way of interfering with the shop. So while life is returning to normal, and I expect to finish that project soon, here's a post about my attempt at hand resawing from late in the summer.

I've always wanted to try my hand at box making, but resawing lumber is not something to snicker at and I've always been of the mind that one would need a proper band saw to do it. It's hard to get rough lumber at the dimensions needed to make those delicate but delicious looking boxes.

I do have a bandsaw which is woefully underpowered and I swear I traumatized it the last time I used it trying to resaw some pine.

I really hate to run 4/4 stock through the planer until it reaches that 1/2 or 3/8 thickness (thin min thickness my planer manual recommends not exceeding). It's just such a waste of material. Also, you can't get that 4 corner match without resawing.

One evening not long ago, I decided to try to do it by hand. I have a 9 TPI panel saw - yes, I know it's not the optimum saw for the job - the best I had at the moment.

I had an 18" piece of 5/4 maple with mineral deposits that I thought would be perfect for my first attempt. So I set it up in my vise on an angle after scribing all the way around with a marking gauge and a pencil.

Taking the saw I carefully started my cut. I would cut part way, then flip it around, cut some more and then flip it end for end and repeat the first 2 cuts. Back and forth several times, I got quite the workout and in the end, I had 2 half inch boards. More or less. While I did manage to stay on the line with this method, I took a 1/4" off in some places and less in others. In other words a very rough cut. I know there are better tools out there, but the local Borg doesn't carry them.

If you have any thoughts on what might make this a better experience until I can afford a better bandsaw, please feel free to leave me a comment!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Children's Bookshelf a la Matt - Part 1

As a preamble, let me say that I know I originally wanted to try to publish something 2-3 times per week. Fact of the matter is that I only get out to the shop 2-3 times per week and for a couple of weeks after finishing the workbench, I spent a week reorganizing the shop. I disassembled my old bench and now the warped plywood is sitting in a corner waiting to be taken to the dump. The sanitation department wouldn't take them on garbage day. Boo! The other thing that's been keeping me from publishing anything is that my daughter who will be 6 months old this weekend is far more interesting with the pace at which she is learning about the world. If only I could pick up wood working skills as quickly! I'll spare you the boredom of being the proud father gushing with what noises she can make or how quickly she's growing... let's get on with the post.

One of the things about taking on a hobby such as woodworking is that loved ones may ask that you build things for them. When it's a spouse that's asking, it may be called a 'honey-do list'. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate being asked to make something. It gives me something to challenge myself with.

It was originally thought that we should have some shelves to put up on the wall. Not quite knowing the best way to go about it, I did some research, and hanging bookshelves seem to be somewhat rare in the internet community. The ones that were out there, were not in the style or of the magnitude that was originally envisioned. I decided that maybe I was out of my depth on this one. Sure, designing something from scratch is an option, but being new to woodworking, I don't feel ready for that. Without the experience to know what wood is capable of, I was afraid that I would make it either too light and thus dangerous to place books on or overengineering it with the result of it looking very chunky.

After some discussion, a smallish 2 shelf floor standing bookshelf was the design to go for. Portable, easy to build and not that heavy. Walnut. I had some 6' lengths stacked under my bench. Not enough, but a starting point. Well, the starting point was the design. After some more interenet searching for inspiration, I decided to model it after the bookshelf Matt (from Matt's Basement Workshop) built back in the summer of 2008. It's not quite the same, but looking at the sketchup drawing, you will definitely see the similarities. Dovetailed top, stopped dados and ship-lap back.

A quick trip to the lumber yard for some walnut offcuts and I was ready to go. I was also eager to try out my new 6" jointer.

What? Oh yeah, well, it isn't new, but seeing it listed in CraigsList, I couldn't pass it up. I have tried to flatten and thickness by hand, but was left exhausted and unsuccessful. I don't plan on giving up practising, but the convenience is nice to have. Especially for the particularly harder woods like purpleheart (which I have worked with) or wenge which I hope to work with someday ... But I digress.

A test board went wonderfully. I had already spent some time ensuring the fench and beds were in tune with the blades.

The sides were milled to just under 3/4", the shelves at 3/4", the top at 5/8" and the back pieces to 1/2". Well, the first milling was to 5/8" and then I let those pieces sit for a week before milling down to a 1/2".

The dovetails for the top and sides were next on my agenda, and over the course of a couple of evenings and Saturday afternoon, I managed to get them completed. I even cut one set pins first and the other set tails first. After having run through the exercise both ways, I have to say I preferred the pins first but I guess it's all in the setup on how you transfer the layout from the cut pins to the tail board or vice versa. Oh, because I didn't refer to the drawing when laying out my first set, I ended up with a layout other than what was in my drawing. When I looked at it after, I had to laugh, but was able to adapt and it's now a 'design feature'.

One thing I did come across was an issue of tearout at the middle of the board. I had set up the board onto a sacraficial surface and clamped a vertical surface above on the layout line as a reference to ensure I was chopping vertically. After chopping halfway through - relieving the chips as I went along, I would flip the board and chop down from the other side. When there was only 1/8" of waste left, the remaining waste would snap off pulling fibres out from the end grain leaving a gaping cavity. I know this wouldn't be seen when assembled, but I wondered if there was a way to prevent that from happening. So I put the question out on Twitter. I don't have a lot of followers, but Steve from The Taylor Garage responded and we chatted back and forth. The solution I ended up implementing was to chop from one side until there was only 1/8" left and then flip the board over and make light cuts until it sheared the fibres completely away. My delight at this immediate improvement was manifest as I did a little sitting jig on my stool. Not only improvement in skill, but taking a little more patience and care to do the final cuts a little slower instead of mauling away with a war hammer on an Uruk hai (Yes, a Lord of the Rings reference - I'm such a geek).

Meanwhile, I've also glued up all of the shelves. Each one is made up of 2 boards. More out of the necessity to use as much materials already on hand than anything else. These are pretty straight forward. Gluing up right after milling meant a minimum use of cauls to squish the glue around.

Next week, I will tackle the stopped dados, the rabbet and maybe even the assembly. Let's see how the week goes and how much I (willingly) get distracted to play with my daughter.

Matt's Basement Workshop - Episode 284 - Child's Bookcase Finale

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lumber Bench Diary Part II

Life's been pretty busy lately. Taking care of a 5 month old will do that sometimes. Between work and family and getting out to the shop, I'm pretty beat at the end of the day. Here's a catchup on what I've been doing since my last post.

Evening 4 (Aug 9) - Filling a void in my ... bench
Not a lot got done today. The glue from Saturday went fine. There were some minor gaps between the sections in a couple of places, but nothing major. This top is as solid as a rock. It's not as heavy as maple would be, but seeing as I'm a one man show, I am greatful. I mixed up some epoxy and filled in the gaps as well as one knot hole where the knot had vanished leaving a 1/4" hole. Probably from the last pass of the planer. My phone was out of charge and I had left it inside. Sorry, no pictures.

Evening 5 (Aug 11) - Needing a base
They say the foundation is the most important part of any structure. Experience with my old bench verified that for sure! Today I cut down all the lumber to length for the legs, rails and shelf slats. Doesn't sound like a lot, but 21 pieces of lumber were piled at one end (or leaning against) of the completed bench top by the time I deemed it was too late to be running loud power tools. Again, my phone (which incidentally is a better camera than my digital camera) is dead and up in the office charging. Piles of lumber aren't exciting to look at anyway. Unless they're in one's own shop!

Evening 6 (Aug 13) - More power planing!
I planed all of the pieces to 1 3/8" thickness tonight. My ears are thankfull for the hearing protection. Although with the heat and humidity, I think my respirator may need a day to dry out from the sweat accumulated inside. I did manage to get a bit further. Although it was too late for more loud power tool use, I did manage to rip the leg boards down the middle and get them glued up. I did all 4 legs in one set of clamps. If you do this, make sure you put a piece of wax paper in between each leg. If you don't and you're as liberal with your glue as I am, you may find yourself with a mini slab!

Day 7 (Aug 14) - No holes in my theory! - Mortises
I was dripping all over the place but I pressed on and tried to make some progress anyway. The plans call for the tenons to be cut at this point while the glue in the legs are drying. I don't like doing the tenons first as I find it easier to sneak up on the fit easier on the tenon rather than trying to make an exact match on the first try. The glue in the legs are dry anyway. So I decided to practise a little and make a test mortise. Using a 1" forstner bit, I hogged out a path for a 5" long mortise and then cleaned it up with the chisel. The results were rather lack luster. Unsightly waves were shaved almost to smooth. Going further would cause the mortise to open to more than 1" and still not look very clean (The mortise was also threatening to fill up with sweat). I've done mortises using my router in the past and they look much cleaner. I know you never see it again, but I prefer a clean fit. The router gives better results not only from appearance, but in ensuring a vertical mortise wall. Chiseling leaves it to chance that the walls may flare in or out. In is fixable. Out is a disaster!

After laying out my mortises, I hogged out the bulk using my drill press and forstner bit to the required depths of 1 or 2 inches depending on the mortise. Then (after drying out my safety glasses thoroughly) I broke out the router with edge guideand the monstor long bit and shaved down the sides. A little chisel work on the corners was all that was needed to complete the job. I love working with hand tools, but I appreciate the clean look of my router trimmed  mortises as well! I got all 4 legs done this way in decent time (at 3 mortises / leg).

Evening 8 (Aug 16) - Experimenting with Tenons
Forgot my camera again. By the time I was done this evening, I was too tired to go back into the shop and I was feeling lazy also. Tonight, I cut all my tenons. Let's say it was a bit of an adventure! The shorter pieces were done on the table saw using my dado stack. Nothing exciting there. The long 47" rails (49" with tenons) were a bit more challenging and required a bit of ingenuity. I don't have a tenon saw yet, and have been on a bit of a power tool kick of late. Out came the router again. Cutting a 3/16" depth isn't that difficult. cutting it 1" wide is impossible on its own. My first attempt turned out disasterous. trying to maintain a router level with the face of the board while overhaning the centre of the bit 1" out from the edge is an exercise in futility. The bit ended up going too deep. Of course, I wasn't doing this on a test piece despite being an experiment. Stupid really. Someone recently said that the most important tool is patience. Does that ever hold true.

After I finished looking at the board in dismay for about 2 minutes I began to think about how to fix the problem.  I took another board (one of the slats that had been milled to the same thickness) and placed it perpendicular to the long rail, but out from the end about 3/4". Looking down on it, it would have looked like an L shape. This provided the required support to get to the correct depth while supporting the router base on both sides. Of course, I had to cut an extra 1/4" off the tenon that I screwed up adn glue a 3/8" thick piece of wood to the cheek of the tenon. I then came back with the router one last time and machined the tenon to the correct thickness.

They say a good woodworker is one that can fix and learn from his mistakes. I won't claim to be a good woodworker yet. I think experience is a key as well.

The final thing that I did this evening was to glue up the sides of the base. The long rails won't be glued in, rather they will be fastened using the 6" long bed bolts. But that's for tomorrow.

Evening 9 (Aug 17) - Final assembly of the base
Not taking my camera with me is becoming a bad habit. I guess focusing on the job at hand is what's most on my mind.

This evening, I completed assembly of the base. I drilled the counter sink for the heads and washers of the bed bolts using my 1" forstner bit and followed that up with drilling the shafts for the bed bolts as deep as my brad point bit would go with the leg attached to the rail. I then took the leg off and drilled to the required depth in the rail.

Woes unto me!
My bench hath been wounded!
Once this was done in all 4 legs, I took the rails and began milling out the slots for where the bed bolts would have the nuts attached. At first, milling to the recommended depth wasn't deep enough to hold the washer because the original plans call for a 5/16" washer. A 3/8" bolt will not fit through one, so a 3/8" washer is really what's requried. The washer would not fit deep enough for the bolt to slip into. A little deeper ... no, not deep enough. A little deeper ... eh? I heard a slightly different sound like when you break through the other side with a spinning router bit. I turned off the router, unclamped the piece and moved the board aside. I ended up milling right through the leg into the top of my bench!

That hurt! (I took this picture later on)

At least I got the rest of the base completed and assembled. I need to sulk for a while.

Evening 10 (Aug 19) - Dog holes and the bench vise comes out
Tonight I laid out the Dog holes and drilled the first row. You really need to pay attention to where your legs are going to end up before you start drilling or you might find yourself laying the top with a dog hole right over top of a leg or rail. I also spent time gluing up 2 boards that will make up the chop of the vise and laying out where the vise will sit. Being a right hander, the traditional place is on the front left corner. I decided to use the same SPF lumber for the chop. Although I know hardwood is better for the chop, I wanted to use the SPF for practise on laying it out and ensuring I get a good alignment before I try it on hardwood. Ask me again next year if I've changed it out for maple.

Day 11 (Aug 21) - More dog holes and the vise is installed
The instructions that come with the vice are perfect. with the template to lay out the holes for the movement, it couldn't have gone any easier. I also drilled out the remaining dog holes and took the a chamfer bit to all of the holes to break the edge.

Finally, I put in a dog hole on the vice chop. My drill bit is not long enough to go all the way through. Visions of losing a dog down that hole danced in front of my eyes followed by a vision of me having to sink a fortune in dogs at the Lee Valley store as each one dropped into the chop never to be seen again.

Nuh Uh! Not going to happen! Okay, now that I've snapped out of that nightmare ...

Taking a forstner bit to the front of the chop, I drilled down to the depth of the dog hole and cleaned it up with some sand paper. I reached in and without pushing the dog all the way in, I checked to see that I could reach it and push it back out. Success!

Evening 12 - The end is in sight!
A momentous occasion! I got the top attached to the base. Because SPF is light relative to maple, I was able to man handle it onto the base with only minor difficulty and attached it with 6 lag screws. The other thing I did was to hand cut the sides of the bench to uniform length. That was about it for the night as my arm was utterly destroyed in the process. All that's left to do is to install the shelf slats and rag on a couple of coats of oil.

Oh, then there's the removal of the old bench, moving the new one into its place and taking it for a test drive with my hand planes which I'm eager to put to the use and capability for which they were intended. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lumber Bench Diary Part I

Day 1 (Aug 4) - Return to Power

Today I began my evening by selecting the best of the boards from my pile. It's been so humid the last couple of weeks and I don't expect any relief soon, so I think the boards have sat long enough. They're not going to get any drier. Some of the boards have loose knots, so I set them aside and I will stabilize them with epoxy later.

I decided against the A-frame style of legs. I don't think I could pull off the angled mortise and tenon joinery at this stage. With my 10 best boards selected, I cut them to 71" length and dragged out the power planer and planed them all down to a thickness of 1 3/8". SPF is remarkably agreeable to the blades of my Ryobi planer and there was very little tear out.

With limited time on my hands this evening, I ripped 4 of them in half and ran them again through the planer to 3 3/8" width. They're nice and straight to begin with, so no need to rig a sled.

With the stresses released through the ripping and planing process, I wanted to be able to glue them up before calling it a night and pushing the planer aside, I laid out my clamps and it all went together easy as pie. I barely had enough glue, so it will be off to the store to get some more after work on Friday. I need to use some clamping pads on the next section however as I dented the wood wherever I applied clamping pressure.

Day 2 (Aug 7) - Lather, Rinse Repeat

I bought another bottle of glue today and a foam roller to help with the glue spreading process. Starting the above process all over again with another 4 boards, it went much quicker and smoother this time with the foam roller. To save the roller, I put it into a small pan of water. I think an ink roller would do the job better, but have to make a trip to the stationary store to see if I can get one.

Day 3 (Aug 8) - One more time! & ARGH! I need more clamps!

One more time with the ripping, planing and face gluing of boards. Only this time with 4 pieces instead of 8.

Later in the evening, I ran all 3 sections through the planer one last time to reduce the amount of time that I would have to spend flattening the bench upon completion. With all 3 sections to uniform thickness, I proceeded to do the final clamp up. Wouldn't ya know it! 5 of my clamps (including the 2 parallel clamps that were also being used as support rails) were too short! I ended up using the 3 F clamps that you see in the picture above plus 2x 6' pipe clamps for the ends. While the Parallel clamps were too short, I still needed a level support rail. My solution? take the clamp heads off and store them someplace safe. The bars themselves were long enough, but not with the heads attached. Huzzah!

One thing to note. The sections of bench become very rigid and stable once glued up. clamping the 3 sections together took considerable force to get a little glue squeeze out. I may have to invest in 3 carriage bolts if it doesn't hold together. Sorry I don't have a pic of it at this time, but my next post will contain the results of tonight's glue up and the unclamping process.

Keeping my fingers crossed tonight as I sleep!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The $175.00 er ... $234.00 Workbench

I'm a bit of a gamer. Not that I have the time to game really. Between family/friends, work, woodworking and blogging (not necessarily in that order), there's little time left. When time permits, I play Lord of the Rings Online (or AKA LOTRO) and my 'toon' (or avatar/character) is an Elven Hunter. One of the things beyond adventuring that keeps the game interesting is the ability to engage in crafts of the period. My toon is -of course- a Woodworker by trade. One of the stipulations of engaging in this craft is that it must be performed at a workbench. Sometimes my toon has to travel a great many miles to get to one. I guess there were no plans for portable benches in Middle Earth.

The benches in the crafting halls of LOTRO are massive but simplistic.

My bench on the other hand is simplistic and light. While trying to dimension a small piece of Ash, the whole table rocks back and forth, the top slides around unless clamped to the sawhorses and the dog holes are oblong from he type of abuse which plywood is not designed to take without support.

It's time for a new bench. While I can't afford to make it from maple or even poplar, I found an article on Popular Woodworking's (link) site written by the Schwarz himself on building a workbench from construction grade lumber, 8 bolts, a vice and some dogs for 175 samolians.

The lumber list calls for 8 pieces of 2"x8"x12'. So, off to the orange Borg cube I went. It's less than 1/2 km away - way too convenient for a store that drives me nuts. They didn't have any lumber in 12'. There's 8', 10', and 16'. I decided to go with the 8 footers. Of theses, they only had about 20 pieces and only 12 of them were acceptable and needing 16 of them meant multiple trips.

They also didn't have any 3/8" #16 bolts in the 6" length. This required a trip to the local Brofasco.

2 days later, I had all of the material piled in the garage. I only have to wait for the moisture content to equalize and pray that any warp is limited. I think it will be okay. It isn't Southern Yellow Pine as is called for, but the local equivalent labeled as SPF (meaning spruce/pine/fir).

 My acquisitions included a trip to the Lee Valley store (AKA woodworkers Mecca) to pick up a bench vise, a Wonder Dog and a pair o bench dogs. All totaled, the cost breaks down as:
Lumber $93.28
Bolts/washers/nuts $15.00
Large Front vise $75.00
Wonder Dog $37.50
Bench pups $23.50
Total cost (before tax) $234.28

Okay, so it's not $175.00 . The article was written on Feb 2, 2007 and I'm working with 8' lumber instead of 12', so I need twice as many. This also gives me the opportunity to potentially play with the design a bit and maybe use legs on angles (like a roof truss) instead of square. It's a thought that I'll have to play about in Sketchup with before I make my decision.

While I think about it, Middle Earth needs defending and my woodworking hunter needs more practise with his chisels.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anticlimactic Endings, Anticipation of New Beginnings

Colds in the summer time really bite. It's been almost 2 weeks that I've had this malady. I think I got it when we went to a party for the daughter of my wife's cousin held at a children's party places. The type where there's all sorts of things for kids aged 2-10. Bouncy castles, rocking horses and pizza for all. Plus all those grubby little hands from all sorts of kids with their advanced immune systems that carry viruses that the average adult with 1 child or less are ill-equipped to combat.

For about a week, I found myself tiring quickly and on medication that will mask the symptoms. I think really that the virus just goes into hiding, resting until the medication wears off to renew its onslaught. I've felt better, but I've felt far worse as well.

I've felt good enough now over the last week (with just a lingering cough and humidity/smog triggered asthma) to resume my work on the cabinet. While I was sick and refusing to mix medication with power tools, I put the time to good use and first did some research on options. I discovered that centre mount drawer slides were the least amount of work and would not compromise quality.

Having learned some from my experiences, I decided to query the good people that hang out on Lumberjocks as to the best way to mount them. Lumberjocks really is a great community and it didn't take long to get the information I needed. A single board running up the centre of the cabinet with some support rails mortised into it running from the back to the front in which to mount the fixed part of the slide.

Today I finished the cabinet by adding the drawer hardware. While I feel relief that the first project conceived in the shop is done, I know that there will be modifications needed. A door perhaps over the hangers section; and, doors over the shelves. Maybe add pull out boxesor the bottom cubbies? It's really a bit of a let down to know that a project you want to consider done is not really quite done.

For now there's other priorities. Like building my workbench. Anticipation once again is rising!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It Ain't Half Hot Mum!

I've never actually seen the show or maybe I have and I was just too young to really understand it. Maybe I confused it with MASH. Maybe the heat is just getting to me.

Our area has had it pretty good over the past several years. Until now. In fact, we're in the middle of our first heat wave in 3 years. I actually don't remember it getting this hot since the summer of 2005 when I met the wonderful woman who would become my wife, and I mean that Literally (this is a PG blog after all). It's been 35 C and with the humidex, feeling into the mid 40's. You almost need a knife and fork to help with digesting the air before you breathe it.

It's nice to have the sunny weather as last year it seemed like April most of the summer - raining mostly on weekends. This is a bit of an extreme however and a fellow woodworker in Texas called me a Canadian lightweight. Well, if I'm a lightweight, so be it. With Scandinavian origins and being accustomed to the average temperature being less than 30 C, this heat wave is driving me out of my shop and into the comfort of my air conditioned home. I tried to do some hand planing tonight, but within 2 minutes, I was dripping all over the work piece. No pics, sorry. Don't want to gross anyone out.

I'm totally jealous of any of you with A/C in your shops or if you have your shop in the basement

This weather's not supposed to break until the weekend. It won't be cool, but it will be a little more seasonable.

Stay cool my friends.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lesson Learned - Proper Planning

Geez, I was cheesed off today. After about a week of forced inactivity due to the tendinitis, having what I thought was an incredible day, I came across a factor that I didn't plan for in the Nursery cabinet. Note, piss poor planning can be the same or worse than not planning at all. Hear my continuing saga where if I had planned properly, I would have this project completed.

The day started with sleeping in until 9. When you have a three and a half month old baby, sleeping in, no matter how late is a wonderful luxury. After some breakfast and about an hour of playing around on the computer, I thought it was late enough on a Sunday morning to begin running power tools without rousing the neighbourhood into tarring and feathering me. It was already 27 degrees Celsius with a forecast high of 34 before the humidex. So I opened up the the main door and the back door to the garage to allow a breeze to flow through. Luckily there was one. I prefer not to drip sweat onto my project.

A week ago, I blogged a bit about the frames of the drawers being completed. They've sat in the shop all week waiting for the bottoms to be made. I decided upon solid bottoms as I thought it would be good practise. The first panel had been glued up yesterday. Gluing up 3 boards of 1/2" white pine was not a taxing task and I was hoping that the shoulder would be able to indulge me today.

The idea was to create a beveled edge drawer bottom I scribed a line across the face to where I would cut one side and I used my Japanese pull saw to make the first cut (I've really fallen in love with the pull type saws and look forward to getting one for joinery). I mostly managed to stay on line, but a few swipes from my bevel up plane took out the visible hills where I wandered. With 2 edges now at right angles to each other, I was able to make the other 2 cuts on the table saw to get it to size.

Marking the lines on the bottom, and the edges, I proceeded to use my smoothing plane to get the bevels to proper size. I found it important to sneak up on the fit and go back a couple of times and take a few more swipes with my plane before it slid neatly into place. I stepped back to admire my handiwork.

It was perfect .... or so I thought.

That's right, you see a typical lightweight drawer slide that I was planning on using sitting along the edge where it should be getting installed. This particular drawer slide calls for #8 screws to hold them to the drawer body. If the head were to get any smaller, it would slip through the mounting holes. Problem is that the groove for the drawer bottom is only 1/4-1/2" off the bottom of the frame. Screwing the rail to the drawer would cause it to drive into the drawer bottom which would cause the bottom to be locked in and not allow for wood movement. With the changes in humidity between winter and summer, there could be as much as 1/4" of movement which would be very bad.

One solution for this would be to use different hardware. My options turned out to be very limited due to the size of my cabinet. At 15" inner depth, I would have to either stick with what I've got or go overkill and use heavy duty hardware. For something that is designed to hold clothing, I didn't want to pay $20 per drawer for slides. So I came up with another solution that I thought would fit the bill. Adding a strip to the outside to allow the drawers to have their hardware mounted without endangering the bottom. I even had plenty of 1/2" scraps. I was thinking, "Cut to size, add a profile to make it look nice and glue to the drawer side. Et voila!"

All was once again right ... Guess again!

I guess I was a bit hasty in determining the needed dimensions for the drawer. Here's part deux of my piss poor planning. My drawer opening on the inside of the face frame for the drawers is 22 1/8".


Argh! The drawer slides require a 1/2" on either side! My drawers are 22". I fail again.

After kicking myself in the rear a few times (metaphorically, I don't bend that well any more), I did a search for various drawer slide options on how I might overcome this issue. Bottom mount drawer slides seemed the best bet, but most of what would work for me was looking to be in the $35 + range. A non-option in my opinion.

I am determined to not simply turn my work into waste by trashing my drawers and making new ones. That leaves me with one last viable option. Web frames. This is going to be fun (read NOT) as the cabinet itself is already built and in place. The picture to the left is the space I'll have to work within. At least the cross rails can be removed as they are only fastened in with pocket screws.

At least I'm laughing at myself. I'm also learning that cabinets are a lot more than slapping a few pieces of plywood together and making pretty drawer fronts. God help me when I decide to tackle building a chair! I'm no longer cheesed with myself as I have to look at this as a learning experience.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are ever planning on building a cabinet, make sure you plan for everything. You are including doors? Pick your hinges. You're including drawers? Find out what hardware you want to use and make sure it will fit into your plan. I started this as my first project in January and I'm having to make adjustments along the way because I didn't plan properly.

(Queue announcer) Tune in next time to see what else the Novice Wood Rambler failed to plan for. Will our intrepid hero put the drawer faces on backwards? Will he notice? Will he get his web frame in?

P.S. Happy 4th of July to all my friends in the U.S.