Buh-Bye

Carl’s Woodworking is moving. Not figuratively. Not virtually. But physically. Lock, stock and barrel. I’ll be packing everything up and moving from sunny Arizona to sunny California. It’s only one state to the left but life will likely be different for me there. I don’t know if I’ll be scoring any workshop space in our new digs. And if I do, I don’t know what I’d do with it.

After all the stuff that’s gone on this past year my inspiration and desire for furniture building is at an all time low, evidenced by what I have reported on recently. Our furniture and upholstery business is down the tubes. I’m this close to selling off some of my tools. Thankfully I got the Anarchist’s chest completed so I’ll have a place to keep all my handtools. The Festools got put into their Systainers today. My half-dozen pneumatic staplers will most likely be the first things to show up on eBay.

Since my wife left the hospital I enjoy spending more time with her instead of hanging out in the shop. She has needed a lot of my help with her recovery these past six months and I expect that won’t stop since she’ll likely have another surgery before the end of the year. Our move to California will put us closer to her family which will save them all the trips they made to Arizona last year to help out. Life changes, you have to adjust.

So, I’m wrapping up the blog. As anyone that’s done it knows, writing a blog is a time sink. It will be nice to get some of that back. I’ve not done that much lately anyway. The only thing in the hopper that I haven’t gotten to is “Robo vs Roubo”, an article about a workbench design that utilizes F-clamps, Pony clamps and T-tracks. Probably better if it’s left unwritten wouldn’t you say.

For my final castoff I’ll leave you with this, “What’s the difference between a workbench and a professional woodworker?”

“A workbench can support a family.” Buh-bye

- Carl

Vises For Workbenches With No Vises

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know how I’ve always questioned whether you need to have permanently attached vises on your workbench. While I included a leg vise and a tail vise when I built my bench, I recently made changes and stopped using them. That’s not to say that vises aren’t important.

Before removing my leg vise I built a Moxon style vise using F-clamps to provide the clamping force. This vise works great and was perfect when cutting the many dovetails for the carcass of my Anarchist’s Tool Chest. You might notice that I’ve instituted a couple of modifications to the original build. I used to use F-clamps to clamp the vise to the work-top. I found that my Gramercy holdfasts work as well and are quicker and easier to set up. I also replaced the wooden screw handles with epoxied on knobs. They don’t stick out as far and give me greater torque than the skinny wooden handles did.

The Moxon is the go-to vise when I need to work the ends of wide boards or panels. But it is heavy to move around and large, it takes up the better part of my workbench when I have it set up. It is just plane overkill when I want to work on a smaller piece of wood. What I need is a different vise for that stuff. Back in the day, what I wanted was a shoulder vise like Frank Klausz had on his bench in Scott Landis’ The Workbench Book. I never got around to building a shoulder vise into any of my workbenches precisely because I felt it would be in the way any time I wasn’t working the end of a smaller piece of wood.

Since I’m hooked on mobile vises I thought that now would be the perfect time to design a shoulder vise that I can set up on the bench when needed and remove when not. This is a Sketchup model of what I’ve come up with. Again, I’m using an F-clamp for the power. Maybe I need to write a Jorgensen recipe book, this is like the third thing I’ve designed using these clamps.

I started with a 36″ bar clamp that I had laying around then used a hacksaw to shorten it to 12″. This one is part of a set that I bought at discount but it never held properly, it would slip when tightening the screw down. I was determined to correct that problem and use it in this project. Close examination reveals that the notches on one side of the bar that are supposed to keep it from slipping were not only machined shallow but off center of the bar. A triangular saw file corrected this and now it hold tenaciously.

I cut out the chops and the end cap with a 20º angle on one end, just for looks. Then stacked and drilled a mortise through them all for the bar. I used 4″ wide cherry and soft maple for the parts because those were scraps I had.

Beams across the top and bottom and everything held together with screws. My top beam is 10″ long but could have been shorter, the bottom is 18″ and could have been longer. The open slot on the end cap isn’t a mistake. If you’ve used F-clamps before you know that the bar bends and twists this way and that when you apply clamping pressure. Leaving the slot open lets the bar do as it wishes. Here, my design is holding a board while I saw a tenon. Holding power will benefit from some leather attached to the chop faces.

This vise’s specialty will be holding parts when cutting dovetails. In this regard it is virtually perfect…

ohhh nooo…the top beam interferes with your saw when cutting the left-most pin. Hum…maybe I’ll need to redesign that.

This is a Rev.01 prototype. Next one will be even better.

- Carl

Green With Envy

After last week you probably thought I was done with posts about tool chests but I have to leave you with these parting shots of my chest in its finished state. As I said before, I shouldn’t have painted it in the first place, however having done so here is the result. I was wanting a kind of traditional looking mat green so I started with Milk Paint’s Tavern Green thinking it would do the job, photos of which there are none. I finished up with Olympic Premium Interior Dark Sage and I’m absolutely satisfied with how it came out. My camera changed the color, it’s a little darker green than in these pictures. Though it looks great now word is that latex paint won’t hold up as well as milk paint. Only time will tell if this was the right choice.

Several weeks and more than 100 photos getting this built has been an investment of time and energy but one, I believe, will be well worth it. Having a place for all my tools, handy to where I’m working means a lot. Way better than how I started out with them shoved into a lower cabinet, out of sight and hard to reach. My future woodworking activities may be in question but locating my woodworking tools isn’t.

- Carl

Tool Chest Wrap Up

Having completed my chest it’s time to “load ‘er up” with tools. See here for a list of my handtools that will go into the chest. I’ll be working out of the chest so I want to arrange things in an orderly fashion. My bench planes are in the bottom till. A couple of cut nails in the side make hooks for my spokeshaves. Other, less used tools will probably find their way into this till in the future. I always wanted all my various layout tools to reside in the top tray for easy access so that’s where they are.

For the most part, the second tray holds boring tools. Because of its size my egg-beater drill landed in the bottom till.

In the third, deep, tray I put all my specialty planes. This arrangement will no doubt be fluid throughout the course of using the chest as my tool locker. When I move, other tools, such as my carving chisels, will get added so that everything stays together and nothing gets lost.

The chest loaded with tools is heavy, it needs wheels so I don’t have to drag it across the floor when I move it around. For the moment, and rather than turn it upside down to mount casters, I slipped a furniture dolly under the chest. It fits exactly between the battens on the bottom as though I actually planned it that way.

Now that the chest is on wheels, I can’t count on resting the lid against the wall so I added a chain to prevent it from flopping. The kind I got is called plumbing chain so it shouldn’t rust on me. You have to attach it way forward on the chest so the upper tray can make full travel, but you probably knew that.

These crescent cut-outs let me grab one of the lower trays with a finger when I need to pull it out without disturbing the trays above. It saves on hardware not having to put on pulls and is just as effective. Though the bottom tray could use a larger cut-out, it’s an optical illusion, the size of the cut-outs is the same.

At this point when building your own chest, if yours looks anything as good as mine does, walk away before you cause yourself untold pain and misery. You can learn from me here. In The Anarchist’s Tool Chest Christopher Schwarz says tool chests should be painted but I say don’t. Why should you? People that come into your shop will never ask why you didn’t paint your tool chest. But if you do paint it then they will forever ask, “Why that color?” Not only that, it’s lots of work that most of us woodworkers don’t find to be that much fun. Mine isn’t without flaws but certainly looks good enough for everyday shop use, should have left it that way.

{No picture available due to extreme ugliness}

Say you have disregarded my ranting and decide to go ahead and paint your chest, don’t use traditional milk paint as I did. This is the first time I tried this stuff and I hate it. It produces a thin spermy coating that’s blotchy and dull. Using water as a thinner makes it less attractive to any non-porous areas such as knots, polished end-grain, and fillers. Perhaps the Milk Paint company’s Extra-Bond would help in this regard so get some and use it if you go this direction.

Now that my tool chest has got this unnatural Popsicle tint to it I’m headed to Lowe’s for some House Paint.

- Carl

Building The Trays

While I was at Lowe’s earlier I picked up some of their boutique 1/2″ thick poplar wood (they call it “Project” wood) for my tool chest’s trays. For the shallower trays I got what they call 3″ wide which is really only 2-1/2″. This is actually the perfect size for these trays, after putting on a 1/4″ thick bottom the trays will be 2-3/4″ tall to fit in the 3″ space with a 1/4″ left over. What I got for the deeper one was 5-1/2″ wide. Adding a 1/2″ thick bottom would cause this one to be too tall so I ripped off 1/4″ from the edge of each of the pieces making the combined height 5-3/4″ to fit in the 6″ space.

Enough of the math, let’s get started on MORE DOVETAILS. These will be mini’s compared to all the ones I did for the shell and skirts but require no less attention to detail. I start off by cutting the boards for the sides 9″ long and giving each end of them a 1/16″ rabbet prior to laying out and cutting the tails.

When sawing out the tails I double up the boards in the Moxon vise. With them clamped up this way I can really blast through the cuts and was feeling a little like Rob Cosman whipping out his “3-1/2 minute” dovetails.

Once the tails were done I cut the front and back boards to length so that they just fit on their respective runners.

Then cut the sockets on the end of these. Just so you know, I’m really not as quick as Rob is at cutting dovetail joints. I have to take a lot longer to get mine looking nice as his. Once they do they get glued up and left overnight.

After cleaning up the corners it’s a matter of planing the outer ends little-by-little until the tray frames drop into place. They should be tight to prevent binding but still easily slide back and forth.

In his book I don’t recall Chris Schwarz talking about putting a bead on the bottom edge of the trays but they clearly have one in the photo at the beginning of chapter 19. I think this simple bead looks nice as well as creating a break between the side of the tray and its bottom. So, I dig out my homemade bead scraper that I used before and go to work on the trays. Only the front and back edge, mind you. No sense putting a bead on either end, you won’t see it. While my bead looked smallish on the edge of the dust seal it’s size is perfect for these trays. Sorry the photo above doesn’t do the bead justice, and I didn’t take but one.

Finally, it’s time to attach the tray bottoms. I just know some of you are going to balk at my use of plywood instead of the, as called for, white oak slips but I don’t care. I think plywood will give you just as good, if not better, performance and you’ll not have to worry about wood movement or that slit running down the middle of your trays. Since I used red oak for the runners, I thought red oak would also look good for the tray bottoms. Lowe’s sells 1/4 sheet sheets of the stuff at a reasonable price. I used 1/4″ on the two top trays and 1/2″ for the deep bottom one. I laid a small bead of glue around the edge of the tray frame then attached the bottom piece with my pneumatic brad nailer.

Lastly, drop them into place. Now is a good time to make sure they slide the way they are supposed to before you load them up with tools.

- Carl

Runners

The next thing I want to do is build runners on either side of the shell for the trays to ride on. The runner for the bottom tray is already made and installed as seen in my previous post. It comes from a piece of scrap red oak I had laying around from a prior project. This runner projects 1″ out from the side which will leave a 1/2″ ledge for the bottom tray to ride on since it’s the largest one. Up from the bottom runner I want a 1/2″ thick piece for the middle tray followed by another that’s a 1/4″ thick for the top tray. These will form 1/4″ runners for the two smaller trays. According to the plans, the width of the 1/2″ thick runner needs to be 6″ and the 1/4″ one 3″.

Instead of getting lumber that I’d need to resaw and thickness by hand I purchased pieces of  boutique red oak from Lowe’s. This stuff is ridiculously priced but it’s actually cheaper than me driving across town (roughly 60 miles round trip) for a slightly less expensive board, not to mention the time saved not having to squash it down to size.

It should be simple to buy some 6″ wide and 3″ wide boards that I cut to length to get my runners. Oh, if life were so simple. Stuff that’s marked “1/2 x 6 x 24″ is precisely 1/2 inch thick but only 5-1/2 inches wide. Why it’s that way I don’t know but it pisses me off that no matter what you are expected to lose a 1/2 inch of width when buying lumber, like your 3-1/2 inch wide 2×4′s.

Enough with ranting and get to building. What this means is that I have to make up the 1/2″ difference somewhere. I could have bought different boards. I could have changed around the tray heights but I didn’t want to have to do that. What I decided was to make a little 1/2″ square piece out of the scrap that I have. This worked okay and didn’t take that long to rip out and surface smooth. Notice that this runner is notched to fit around the tool rack.

Conversely, the thinner piece was available as “1/4 x 4 x24″, or a 1/2 inch oversize, so I had to rip a sliver off it.

Now that everything is cut to fit it’s a quick thing to tack them in place with the pneumatic nail gun.

The last thing is to tack on a small block that will stop the middle tray from slamming into my tool handles. The bottom tray is already blocked by the tool rack itself.

Now, if I just had some trays…

- Carl

Tool Chest Guts

I’m back from vacation and want to get my tool chest finished up. The problem is that the temperature has been north of a century everyday here in the Valley of the Sun. And it’s not even Summer yet! The only time to work in my garage/shop is mornings before it gets so hot that I fear for heatstroke. But my mornings have been committed, however today I found my freedom and began working on the innards.

It took a little brain warping and some mock-up to get everything arranged properly. I wanted to have a tool rack (something Chris Schwarz did not include in his). The tool rack needs to rest on the bottom tray runners and the sawtills (not shown). The tray runners need to rest on corner supports and the sawtill wall. It’s all a little confusing at first but comes together before long. Once I’ve gotten out all the individual parts and made sure they all fit inside the chest it doesn’t take very long to knock it all together.

I made a run to Lowe’s and bought some of their S4S poplar off the shelf. Back home I built the sawtill wall out of two pieces glued together to give me an 11″ high wall. While this was drying I cut out the tills, ganged together, on the bandsaw. You might notice the enlarged notch on one of the slots, it’s for my tenon saw. The extra blocking that’s glued to the tills will help support the tool rack. Assembly was greatly sped up when I broke out the pneumatic nailer.

I nailed the wall to the tills and dropped the assembly into position in the chest. Then I nailed in cleats to hold it in place. I didn’t actually nail the sawtill assembly to anything, it will be held in place by the cleats and the tool rack once it’s installed.

The 4 corner supports are already nailed in place and the tray runners are attached on top of them. I made these runners out of some scrap pieces of red oak I’ve had laying around.

The tool rack is made by nailing the first piece to the shell wall. Then nail on some 3/8″ thick spacers. Then attach the outer piece. Now see how the sawtill is all locked down.

I want to try out the chest now by loading it up. All my saws fit nicely. The tills are at the maximum spacing to still hold my tenon saw. They are shifted slightly to the right of the chest leaving some additional space at the other side. My other backsaws fit in the tool rack.

As well as my chisels. I routed out notches in the rack for the chisels with a 1/2″ Forstner bit in a hand-held power drill. Don’t even start on me about using power tools.

My plane collection barely fills the back side of the chest. I’m still thinkin’ out what should go in here and how to best use this space.

- Carl

Proud Papa

I’m getting close to finishing this chest and I’m starting to feel like a Proud Papa.

The next thing to do on the lid is to build the dust skirt. Here I’ve milled out enough from my dwindling supply of Poplar to go around the lid.

Adding a dust skirt does mean cutting more dovetails. But it’s only another four and by now I know how to cut them perfectly, or at least I know how to hide my mistakes well.

I’m absolutely amazed that I’ve laid out and cut my dovetails correctly every time. After doing so many you’d figure I’d get something wrong, at least once. None of the dovetails are backwards and all the cuts have been to the proper side of the line. I’m not saying that my tool chest is perfect in every way. I’m saying it’s virtually perfect.

Before I nail the skirt on permanently I knock off the extra bits at each corner. Since I made the frame of the lid oversize, so it would overhang by about 1/16″ all around, the sides of the dust skirt now stick out beyond the sides of the dust seal. I’ve got to remove about 1/16″ of material until everywhere is even.

Then I nail the skirt onto the lid. Maybe I should have also glued it on but I didn’t.

It’s satisfying to see the lid and shell come together. See how the skirt on mine goes all the way around the lid closing in even the back side of the chest to keep the dust mites from getting in that way. I’ll be hinging the lid to the dust seal instead of the shell the way Schwarz did it.

Before cutting hinge mortises though I need to take care of making that bead around the top edge of the dust seal that I put off earlier. In his book Chris Schwarz says to use a 3/16″ beading plane to make it. I don’t have any moulding planes yet, much less beading planes. Another way to make a bead is with a scratch beading tool like this Veritas one. Better still, the one from Lie-Nielsen. If you think about it these tools they are nothing more than fancy scrapers — I’ve got scrapers! I took an old, unused one and attempted to drill a 3/16″ notch in one corner. But I didn’t actually get what I wanted because the bit would caught the edge of the metal and kicking it out. It’s hard to drill on the edge or corner of anything, as you well know. Filing the notch would have just dulled its edges. So, as you can see, I did make a notch in the corner of the scraper but it isn’t a full 3/16″. The resulting bead looks pretty good to me, just not as large as I might have wanted. Lesson, next time I want to make a 3/16″ beader, start with a 1/4″ drill bit.

Now you could be wondering how I’m going to go about using this scraper since it doesn’t have a fence like a proper beading tool does. Doesn’t matter! Set the corner of the notch on the corner of your work while lightly forcing the tip into the surface. Drag it back and forth a few times and it will cut the bead to the full depth of the notch. Once the tip has made it’s mark it will continue on the same path without running off course. You might get some scrape marks from where the corner rubs the top side of the dust seal but that can easily be dealt with with a block plane.

Laying out and cutting the hinge mortises in the lid is straightforward. After wasting away a good bit of wood with the chisel finish the bottom up nicely with a small router plane.

But I’m not able to use the router on the dust seal mortises so I do my best with chisel alone.

I learned long ago not to fit hinges using your final screws, usually the ones provided with the hinge. Reason? When fitting a door or lid you mount and dismount the hinge, sometimes several times, so the screws you use are going to get chewed to hell. I found I had a supply of small screws the same size as the ones supplied only shorter. If you don’t already have some, run out Ace and pick some up. They make all the difference.

Traditional looks aside, I’m not fond of slotted heads in small, soft metal screws, especially with this antique finish. Here is an un-retouched picture of what they look like on my box. Perhaps I just don’t know how to hold a screwdriver.

A mighty nice looking tool chest, if I say so myself. I now need to finish up the innards but first I’ll be taking a week off to VACA.

- Carl

Building The Lid Panel

I built the panel for the lid out of two boards joined together. After planing a flat edge on each one I glued them together without using any clamps, just setting one on top of the other. If done right, this gives a nice tight seam with no worries of bowing the panel by using excess clamping pressure. After the glue has dried overnight I planed the faces flat and smooth making sure the inner side gets its final polishing.

Then I get groovy with the panel, running one around each side. This time I’m referencing the groove 1/4″ from the inner face so this groove and the groove in the frame will mate properly. Cutting the end-grain goes very well once you get past the initial rough surface.

To arrive at the proper length for the panel I measured the distance inside the frame in the long dimension then added 1/2″ . Since my grooves are 5/16″ deep this leaves a combined 1/8″ extra space for movement. That’s plenty since the panel won’t be expanding in length anyway. I measured the same for the panel width but only added an extra 3/8″ this time leaving a combined space of 1/4″ for expansion. Even though there are charts and formulas I always feel like I’m guessing at the amount to give for wood movement.

The plan called for a round-over on the top edge of the panel but I don’t own any moulding planes so I put a simple chamfer around the edge instead. I didn’t mark it off, simply did it by eye until it looked right. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this. Following a few test fits and tweaks I glued the laps together and left it overnight.

- Carl

Building The Lid Frame

Building the frame is really straight forward. After getting out the individual pieces from my raw stock I planed the faces to a “good nuf” finish and took them all down to a 4″ width before cutting a 1/4″ groove along the inner edge of each piece. I referenced this groove 1/4″ away from what will be the outer side of each frame piece.

As I talked about in my previous post, I’m going to use a simple lap joint at each corner. So after laying the pieces out on my actual tool chest shell and marking them I cut the shoulders. Next I removed the waste half of the lap. Forget sawing, it’s much easier to simply sheer away the bulk of the waste with chisel and mallet.

Here is what you see looking right down on top of your work. The perfect tool for this job, if I had one, is a big wide chisel referred to as a slick but a 1″ (largest that I have) chisel worked just fine. Unless you’ve got really straight-grained quarter-sawn lumber be careful that the sheering doesn’t follow an unruly grain and undercut the joint taking off too much material.

Once the bulk of the wood has been sheered off it’s time to use my large router plane to level the face of the lap. I used scrap cutoffs to bridge the gap when plowing away the excess wood. Doing the first part of the lap is simple. The trick of this is getting the router plane depth set right for the second part so that you get a nice even lap where the two cross.

Perfect means all the laps are even with no gaps at the shoulders and about 1/16″ overhang around the outer edge. Mine’s virtually perfect.

- Carl

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