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)

TenonCloseUp

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:

ShortStretchersInSitu

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.

LongStretchers

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.

FlowerBed

  • 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.

RaisedBedGardens

  • 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.

HappyKnifeHappyWife

  • 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.

BenchProgress

  • 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:

first-tenon2

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

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

S4SWalnut

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.

CloudLiftTemplate

Layout

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.

EarlyChiselWork

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.

OneEndFinished

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:

keyhole

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.

KeyholesRouted

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.

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.

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!

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.

Planning the New Year

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you’l know that I’m terrible with deadlines or timeliness, at least when it comes to woodworking and blogging. So a mere three weeks into the new year, I have my 2011 summary and plans for 2012.

If we jump in the WABAC machine and head to November 2010, you see a plan I laid out to get my shop into better order. That idea was quickly put into chaos three weeks later when I had my accident at the jointer. It was a sufficient mental trauma that it was quite a while before I did anything in the shop. One thing did happen though – I got the shop organized.

Back in late May, we moved to larger house which included a larger 2-car garage destined to be my shop. As seen in my last few blog posts, I put an insulated wood floor in the garage, along with a couple of electrical circuits below the floor. I have the big things in their final positions:

I finished moving the tools into position the Friday before Christmas, which brings us up to 2012.

For this year, I have three specific woodworking projects that I’d like to complete:

  • Arts & Crafts Hanging Bookshelf: My wife asked for a new cabinet in our kitchen to hold her cookbooks. I volunteered to build it for her. It seems like a good project to both get used to my new work flow in the shop and to get back in the groove of building something, before I jump into…
  • Roubo Bench: I have had the wood for some time now, so I’m going to jump in with everyone else at the Wood Whisperer Guild and finally build my bench.
  • Entertainment Center: I’ve needed an entertainment center for my big screen plasma TV for some time now. I also have a receiver and some external speakers I want to hook up, but I need a place to put them. I have some initial sketches, but those are likely to change as that project approaches.

So that’s the plan. I hope you’ll stick around to see the projects come to fruition.

Turn for Troops 2011

This past Saturday I visited my local Woodcraft to participate in “Turn for Troops” as part of Veterans’ Day Weekend. I’ve never jabbed a sharp rod into spinning wood turned before, but I had an inkling that I might enjoy it. This seemed like a great opportunity – a little instruction from some experienced turners and the resulting piece is off to a good cause.

Spent a bit of time working on getting the blanks round before attempting any shaping of the wood. I think things turned out well. I didn’t want to get too fancy on my first pen:

A few pointers on how to assemble a pen kit with the press and I had a finished product.

Hopefully this will make some soldier, sailor, airman, or marine’s day.

Gottshall Block 2: Electric Boogaloo

If you follow the Popular Woodworking Editors’ Blog, you might remember Bob Lang writing a series of posts about a hand tool exercise called the Gottshall Block. The block is an exercise in layout and handwork, the idea being to take a rough sawn board and create this object, that has specific dimensions and contains most types of joinery, by hand.

When first reading the series of posts, I thought that this was an interesting project for refining a woodworker’s skills. I consider myself a hybrid woodworker, but right now I definitely lean to the power tool side of center. I’m also a bit of a smartass, so I thought to myself “Why not try to make one of these with just power tools?” Here is the result:

I was true to the “power tool only” constraints I placed on myself for this exercise. Here’s how I cut each part:

  • Front Edge & Bottom Face – Jointer
  • Top Face/Thickness – Planer
  • Back Edge, Rabbet – Table Saw
  • Mortise, Dados, Gain – Hollow Chisel Mortiser
  • Concave Curve – Forstner Bit
  • Convex Curve – Spindle Sander
  • Miter – Miter Saw

I have to thank Matt Gradwohl of UpperCut Woodworks. I don’t own a hollow chisel mortiser and he was kind enough to let me use his when I was visiting Seattle back in late July. We also  jointed and planed the board in his shop.

I have a couple of thoughts on my choices of tools. I cut the rabbet with my normal blade on the table saw, a la Norm Abram, chipping away at the wood. If my shop wasn’t in complete disarray (and I wasn’t butted up against my self imposed deadline of finishing this before Woodworking In America) I would have used my stacked dado set to cut the rabbet.  That would have likely left a smoother cut. The convex curve would have been cut on the bandsaw if it were larger, but the amount of wood that needed to be removed was so small that the sander was enough for the whole cut, not just the finishing.

The one place that I wasn’t able to get great results with just power tools was the inside corners of the gain:

The way I approached this cut was to plunge with the mortiser down into the face of the board at the inner most shoulder of the gain. Then I flipped the board on edge and plunged down the “length” of the gain. This gave me crisp lines on the face of the board, but the inner corners are a mess. I tried to clean some of it up with the smallest router bit I had, but that didn’t go very well. Perhaps if I had the world’s smallest router bit with a bearing, it could have worked. As it is, this is easily the most sloppy part of the block.

I’ll be bringing this with me to Woodworking in America this weekend – hoping to get Bob to sign it for me!  If you want to check it out, find me milling about during the conference and come say hi!