Roubo Progress – The Undercarriage

A couple of weekends ago our family visited some friends in Mechanicsburg, PA and helped Chris in his metal shop, working on a kit plane. You can check out our Saturday & Sunday progress. This past weekend, Chris’s family came to visit ours and he was able to return the favor in my woodshop.

On the docket: getting the stretchers milled, glued, and (hopefully) joined. I still had enough boards that were S4S from the mass-milling I did when planning for the bench top, so the heavy milling was already done. A quick swipe of an edge and a face at the jointer and we could start measuring. I decided to make all of the stretchers out of two boards laminated together. One board would be the distance between the legs, the second board longer than the first, with an equal amount of the extra length on each end forming the tenon. Saturday was composed of cutting the boards to length & gluing the pairs together to roughly form each stretcher.

Sunday we returned to clean those glue-ups. A couple of passes at the jointer flattened the side we tried to keep flush during glue-up (along with removing a little squeeze-out). From there we ran all four stretchers through the planer to make them all the same height. That doesn’t really matter for functionality of the bench, but it will making installing the shelf  easier, along with making the bench look better.

Once things were sized properly, we went to work on the tenons. The stretchers ended up around 4.5″ wide, so I decided to lop an inch off of each side of the tenon. I used my tenon saw to cut the shoulders, using each end of the shorter board as a guide. With all those shoulders cut, Chris took the stretchers over to the band saw to cut the tenons to width. I could have made those cuts by hand, but decided on the bandsaw for two reasons:

  1. It allowed us to both work at the same time, and
  2. I don’t have a good means to hold boards to work on their ends (I am still building a bench, you know)


With the tenons cut, it was time for some layout, starting with the short stretchers. I oriented the two legs with their end faces facing down and put the stretcher between them with its “short” half down. I positioned the bottom of the stretcher 3″ from the bottom of the legs then traced the tenon onto each leg.

From this point it was a lot of grunt work. We drilled out a lot of the mortise material with forstner bits and a hammer drill. From there it was a lot of chopping, prying, and paring with a few chisels. After getting four satisfying wooden thunks, we were able to put the short stretchers in place:


Up next is to layout and cut out the mortises for the long stretchers. The legs aren’t quite square, so I should be able to make the tenon lengths in such a way that the tenons don’t bump into one another inside each leg.


Thanks again, Chris!

2013 – The Lost Year

It is pretty easy to say that 2013 was a bit of a lost year. I only blogged twice last year and that was somewhat indicative of the amount of progress I made in the shop. The one “big” project I completed (Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack) I did blog about.

Despite the lack of posts there were a few other woodworking projects, fine and otherwise, that made varying levels of progress this year:

  • Flower Bed – In our back yard we had a pretty boring wall space beneath our breakfast nook. I happen to have some 4×6 beams that we dug out of the ground in the backyard (they had been used to line a swing-set area) that I could repurpose here. There wasn’t a ton of woodworking here – mostly cross-cutting to length and a handful of pocket screws to hold everything together.


  • Raised Bed Gardens – The flower bed above isn’t the only dirt-filled box I built in the spring. My family did a ton of vegetable gardening this year and I put together the raised beds to make that happen. We built four beds that measured 4′ by 12′. Those beds were put together from construction 2x12s, held together with corner stakes and deck screws. In addition, there are two 4′ by 4′ beds (on the right) that took a little more effort. I used the same reclaimed 4x6s mentioned above to build these. Those boards were resawn on the band saw, then edge glued to give me the desired height.


  • Happy Knife, Happy Wife – The other “fine” woodworking project I actually completed this year was an anniversary gift for Michelle. She really threw herself into the gardens this summer and wanted a knife to use for pruning and harvesting the vegetables. I bought a Damascus steel blade and added wooden scales to the handle. I used a cocobolo turning blank for the scales and an O1 steel rod for the pins.


  • Roubo Bench – I made some more progress on my bench build since I posted about my first leg tenon last March. I’ve since cut the top tenons on all four legs and hogged out all four mortises for them. There is still some fitting to be done (remember, these are the first four M&T joints I’ve ever cut for a project) before moving on to the stretchers. As can be partially seen in the photo, the bottom of the bench works fairly well as a bench itself as I’m working on bench parts or other projects.


  • WFC Easel – The walnut you see in the picture above was purchased to participate in the Woodworkers Fighting Cancer charity build. I didn’t complete the project in time to benefit the charity, but at this point I’m almost finished. There should be a blog post (I promise to post more in 2014 than I did in 2013) in the near future covering this build.

That was pretty much it for shop-related work this year. I hope to finish the last two bullets “soon” with the easel completion being imminent and the bench being a labor of love that will be finished when it is finished.

Confidence from Minimal Experience

I’ll get a bigger blog post out about the progress I’ve made on the Roubo, but first I wanted to share about my shop session last night.  I consider myself a hybrid woodworker, but my hand sawing experience is fairly limited. Beyond a few sets of practice dovetails, I haven’t done much sawing by hand, let alone joinery by hand.

Given that back story, what on earth would give me the impression that I should cut the tenons for my bench legs by hand? The answer – Two short sessions cutting a tenon at the Hand Tool Olympics at Woodworking in America. Not just the fact that I cut two tenons, but I got feedback and instruction after cutting them. This is the often overlooked portion of the Hand Tool Olympics, the ability to get people like Adam Cherubini and Bob Rozaieski to give you tips to improve your skills.

Special shout-out to Mike Siemsen, who makes the Olympics, as well as this picture below, possible:


Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack

First month of the calendar, first project completed – not that I expect to keep that pace up for much longer this year! A few months ago, my wife bought some old faucet knobs


with the intent of using them as the hooks on a towel rack. When she asked me for help with how to mount those knobs, I had an idea for some Greene & Greene details to frame out those knobs. I had a nice piece of 4/4 walnut picked out for this project


A couple of years ago, I took a Greene & Greene details class with Darrell Peart. Along with the experience of several different G&G details, I also brought home an MDF template for a simple cloud lift, which I used to layout both ends of the board.



With the cloud-lift layout complete, I could start working on the indent detail. The indents are a detail from the Blacker House dining room chairs. I’ve decided to widen that idea for each end of this rack. If I were making many of these indents (like multiple legs on a set of chairs), I would build a router jig to remove the waste. Since I’m only making this twice, I decided to handle it with my chisels.


I started by defining the baseline (as seen above), shallow at first and then deepening the cut. Once I had the depth where I wanted it, I started paring my way back toward the center of the board. After a few hours of chisel work (and some sanding), the detail on both ends was complete.


With the indent details complete, my next trip was over to the bandsaw. I cut just outside the lines to remove most of the waste. With the rough shaping complete, I reattached the template to the board with double-sided tape and finished the cut with a flush-trim router bit.

With the decorative shapes all in place, I had to work on the practical parts of the piece: how I will mount the knobs and how I will hang the rack on the wall. Mounting the knobs was the easier of the tasks. I knew I wanted the knobs evenly spaced across the board, so I marked lines one quarter, half, and three quarters the way across the board. At each of these marks I bored a hole with a forstner bit to bury the head of the machine screw that will hold the knobs. In the center of that hole, I used a brad point bit to drill a centered hole through to the other side.

To mount the towel rack, I took the opportunity to acquire another tool – a keyhole router bit from Whiteside tools:


The key (no pun intended) to using this bit is to only make it cut the hidden part of the hole. To setup up that cut, I first drilled a couple of holes. The first hole is the same size (or just slightly larger) than the diameter of the keyhole bit. Above it I drill a hole that’s the same size as the router bit’s shaft’s diameter. I cleared out the path between the two holes with some chisel work. With the path clear, I can now route up into the joint, using the carved path as a guide for the shaft of the bit.


Note: that is not a mistake next to the right keyhole; it’s a knothole in the board.

Now that all of the major sawdust was made, we were down to the finishing. I progressively hand sanded through 120, 150, 180, and 220 grit paper. Normally I would use my random orbit sander, but the indent detail required hand sanding, so it wasn’t much more work to sand everything by hand.

For the finish, I decided to follow the recipe prescribed by The Wood Whisperer in his step stool finishing video:

  • A seal coat of shellac
  • Several coats of 1:1 polyurethane:mineral spirits
  • Light sanding between coats
  • “Buffing” out the final coat with mineral spirits

After everything was dried, it was time to attach the knobs. I thought I had purchased properly sized machine screws to hold the knobs, but it turns out they were just a little to small. Rather than searching for the perfect screws at the hardware store, I decided to close the gap with two-part epoxy. A few drops in the knobs and on the threads kept the screws secured. A couple of hanger bolts in the wall and the towel rack is ready for use:

InSituFinalInUseEven though I started this project in December, it still feels good to finish the first project of the year so early in the year. It was an interesting challenge because it was a sculptural piece of sorts – there was no joinery, just removing the parts of the board that didn’t look like a Greene & Greene inspired towel rack.

WIA Midwest 2012 – The Classes

After a couple of weeks to reflect, this is the first of several posts to review Woodworking in America 2012 – Midwest, which took place in Popular Woodworking’s backyard of Covington, KY. Today we’ll look at one part of what makes WIA the “ultimate woodworking weekend” – the classes.

Due to things we’ll discuss in yet-to-come portions of this review, I didn’t attend as many classes at this WIA as I had in previous years. Thankfully I feel like I finally have a grasp on which things I personally will get the most from, unlike my class selection at the first WIA I attended back in 2010.

On Friday the first class I attended was Adam Cherubini‘s talk on Moulding Planes.

Adam discussed the use of hollows, rounds, and rabbet planes, along with some history on mouldings and how they were produced in period shops. Throughout the talk he was working on actually using the tools to stick a short crown moulding. I really enjoyed the talk and Adam’s presentation style.

Later in the day I caught the tail end of Jeff Miller‘s Furniture Design talk (along with Andy Brownell, who manages to sneak into the foreground).

I managed to catch the first half of the talk on Saturday morning. Overall it was a really good discussion of Jeff’s methodology for going from inspirational spark to finished piece. It was a lot like Michael Fortune’s design class from two years ago, but Jeff had a more personal touch, giving specific examples of his pieces going through the process – such as the chair above and stool below:

My Friday afternoon classes finished with Paul Schurch‘s Veneering & Inlay class. I had’t given much thought to veneers, let alone marquetry, in my work – but I have some thoughts about an inlayed design I want to put on my bench‘s leg vise chop, so I was intrigued enough to check out this class. On the surface, marquetry seems very like a highly technical and difficult to do – at least it did to me. If you listen to Paul talk about about it for more than 20 minutes, you’ll be convinced you could paint the Mona Lisa with veneers!

Saturday morning started off with me catching the first half of Jeff Miller’s design talk (see above). Once I had heard all of Jeff’s talk, I moved over to catch the second half od Keith Bundy’s Finials, Pulls, Knobs, & Tool Handles talk. It was nice to see the Ohio Valley Woodturners Guild step up and provide some turning classes at WIA Midwest. I don’t own a lathe (yet), but I know that turning is something that will get its hooks into me, so I appreciated this new subject being presented at WIA.

After lunch I went back to another Jeff Miller class – this one titled “Working Smarter.” The talk was a synopsis of Jeff’s recent book “The Foundations of Better Woodworking.” There were a ton of great quotes/snippets from this talk:

And arguably the most important quote

I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to get Jeff’s book, but after this class it’s definitely on the list of books to pick up.

Sundays at WIA are condensed, with only two time slots for classes. First up I had another turning class, this time it was “Bowls & Platters” with Dale Miller. As I look at what I would turn (did I mention I envision falling head over heels on love with a lathe?), I imagine making a lot of bowls. I’ve had possible bowls blanks for over two years without yet owning a lathe! Dale did a good job explain his processes for how he turns bowls, as well as some other techniques one could incorporate. Note to the PopWood brass – bring back turning to next year’s event!

My final class for the conference was Chris Schwarz‘s Furniture of Necessity. This talk was a working preview of his next book where Chris talks about the common forms of furniture that seem to pervasive and defy proper dating, due to their ubiquity. Chris talked about wanting the community’s feedback on these forms and has published his plan for a six board chest.

Overall there were plenty of great topics being covered, including a few that I didn’t have time to attend. The level of instruction was great and is just one of the reasons why I recommend attending Woodworking in America if you can.

Turn for Troops 2012

We’ll get back to WIA reporting & my bench soon, but first a timely post.

Like last year, my local Woodcraft participated in the Turn for Troops program, where customers can come in and turn a pen to send to a deployed service member. This year didn’t go as smoothly as last year – I blew out my first blank:

The second set of walnut blocks went much smoother:

On this Veterans’ Day weekend, it was good to be able to give something to those who risk giving everything for us.

Next time you come across a veteran, thank him/her.

WIA 2012 Midwest – Day 0

A few quick thoughts and pictures to whet your whistle for WIA 2012 Midwest this year.

I arrived in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday. After getting checked in to my hotel and the conference, I met up with Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench at the manager’s reception at the Embassy Suites. We sat down for a couple of drinks as a few old friends joined us as they arrived – Dyami Plotke of the Penultimate Woodshop, Ian MacKay of the Woodcanuck’s Blog, Sean Wisniewski of the Corner Workshop, and even Frank Klaus had a few drinks with us to discuss his retirement!

Before they locked up the convention center for the evening, we helped setup the Modern Woodworker’s Association booth in the marketplace. Of course Tom had to use that access to “test” the strength of some of the other booth setups:

We had a small reception/dinner with some attendees who were in town early, along with Mike Siemsen & the folks from his woodworking school who run the Hand Tool Olympics.  Mike had us beta-testing the unofficial 7th event of the Olympics, Nageltreffen.

It may look like nothing more than driving a nail into a board, but taking only single strokes with the hammer starting on the board and using the cross pein end of the the tool (!) makes it a lot more difficult – as did the adult beverages.

So far we’re off to a good start of the conference!

The Roubo Build Begins!

Do you remember almost three years ago when I bought ~500 board feet of southern yellow pine? I have finally gotten around to putting it to use. After moving this pile

six different places, it’s is time to finally make a bench out of it. One key (besides finally getting a large block of time) to getting this project going was the most recent acquisition for the garage, the Harbor Freight dust collector:

My shop vac has done a yoeman’s job in the shop, but it is in no way capable of handling the amount of chips I needed to create with my jointer & planer. I’ll have a post later on the DC and my plans for it.

Speaking of those chips, I made a metric crap ton of them. Actually, it was about 30 cubic feet of pine sawdust. After sorting the rough pile to pick out the pieces with the least twist, I jointed one face and one edge of all the “mostly straight” boards. I even found some cool mineral staining on some of the boards.

After a face and an adjacent edge were jointed, I planed each board to thickness. I didn’t bring every board to the same thickness, but rather planed just enough off to get a flat surface.

With those S3S boards, it was time to start my glue-ups. The plan was to do smaller glue-ups of four boards each, then combine those and see where my width would be. I chose the thickest boards I had left in order to reduce the total number of boards I would need for the top.

After letting the glue dry on three slabs of four board each, I had to surface the fourth side. I waited until after the first round of glue-ups  in order to reduce the number of times I was walking back and forth around the planer! I first ran each slab through until it was flat on that fourth face. Then I ran all three slabs through the planer to bring them to the same thickness, which was about 4.5 inches.

I had ~22 3/4″ of width when those three slabs were clamped together. Since my goal for the top is 24 inches, I needed a little over two more inches. That was more than any single board I had in the pile, so I planed to down my two skinniest boards to about 9/8″ each.

With all my pieces now ready, It was time for the massive glue-up. In order to best distribute the clamping pressure on the last two individual boards, I sandwiched each between two of the larger slabs. This left the whole top glue-up as slab – single board – slab – single board – slab, as seen above.

Next time I’ll talk about squaring off the ends and flattening that massive slab!

MWA – Mid-Atlantic Chapter Inaugural Meeting

If you’ve been keeping up with the woodworking blogosphere over the last year, you’ve likely heard of Chris Adkins‘s brainchild, the Modern Woodworker’s Association. The MWA’s mission:

Today there is a vast amount of information that can be found online through woodworking communities, forums, blogs, and other social media such as Twitter and Google+.  Through these online connections, woodworkers learn from one another and build camaraderie with fellow woodworkers.  In a sense, we all belong to a woodworking club, the online woodworking club. The Modern Woodworkers Association is a place for the online woodworking community to reinforce our online connections and create personal ones in local gatherings in many regions across the country.

The MWA sprung out of what is now the Atlanta chapter. Since that time, chapters have formed on Long Island, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Seattle. Today I’m announcing the first meeting of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Modern Woodworkers’ Association.

There is a ton going on around DC and Baltimore the weekend of May 5th, so our first chapter meeting will be a scheduled double-header.

  • Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Exotic Lumber in Gaithersburg, MD – Lie-Nielsen will let you get hands on with their tools Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-5. Also demonstrating will be Chuck Bender of the Acanthus Workshop, attempting feats like cutting Bermuda dovetails in cardstock! Attendence is free.
  • Fine Furnishings Shows at the Maryland State Fairgrounds north of Baltimore, MD – The Fine Furnishings Show is a great show where many local(ish) makers are displaying the great things they are crafting. It is a great place to get inspiration, see what’s “current” in furniture, and rub elbows with people who are living on our hobby. Tickets are $10 for a day or $15 for any two days. The show is Friday 4-8, Saturday 10-6, and Sunday 10-5.

The plan is to meet at Exotic Lumber at 10AM Saturday morning for the open of the LN event. Hang out, play with some great tools, sort through rooms full of lumber, and try to leave with money still in your pocket (efforts in futility). From there, those who are hitting both events will drive the ~45 minutes up to Timonium for the Fine Furnishings Show. The plan is to meet at the show at 2PM.

If you can make either event (or both) it would be great to connect offline! See you in Maryland.

Arts & Crafts Bookshelf – Designing

A few weeks ago, Michelle mentioned that she wanted a new cabinet for the kitchen to keep all her cookbooks. So as a bit of a warm-up project in my new shop, I offered to build her one. I decided I wanted to make something in the Arts & Crafts style, so I broke out my A&C books to look for inspiration:

I dog eared a bunch of pictures with notes about which details I wanted to include in this project. I ended up focusing in on the cover project from Woodworking Magazine #3 (Spring 2005) – Gustav Stickley’s #73 Magazine Stand.

I’ve decided to make a few adjustments and embelishments on Gustav’s design, mostly to fit our specific needs in the kitchen. I’ve adjusted the height and width, added drawers, and included some decorative mortises to the sides.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do for pulls on the drawers.

This weekend I finally got around to the initial milling of the cherry I bought for this project.

It felt really good to be in the garage doing some real woodworking.