Planning the Shop Floor

The next step in building up a shop in the garage is to put in a wood floor. The floor will server two purposes: 1) provide a more comfortable surface to stand/work on, and 2) provide some insulation against the massive heat sink that a concrete slab is. I got my basic floor idea from Fine Woodworking #216, their annual Tools & Shops issue.

The basic idea is to create a frame of pressure treated 2x4s that is surrounding rigid foam insulation of the same thickness. On top of that, tongue and groove plywood that is screwed into the 2x4s.  I plan on using 3/4″ OSB instead of plywood, simply because it costs half as much per sheet. This is my initial swag at the layout of my frame:

The 2x4s are set 24 inches on center (right to left) and 32 inches on center (top to bottom). I have the shorts alternating every two rows, so each 4’x8′ sheet is supported all along its edges. By alternating each pair of cross braces, I keep the seams of the sheet goods from running continuously across the width of the garage.

Here are the steps I’m planning to take:

  • Seal the concrete with epoxy
  • Glue the 2x4s to the floor with construction adhesive
  • Attach the 2x4s to one another with either nails or pocket screws
  • Progress from the back right corner, one width of rigid foam at a time to the front of the garage
  • After each pair of rows, set and screw the OSB to the 2x4s
  • Wash, rinse, repeat

With a couple of small deviations around the one corner, that should do it. I do have a couple of questions I hoping the more experienced among you might be able to answer:

  1. Given that I’m sealing the concrete with an epoxy, do I need sheet plastic anywhere as an additional moisture barrier?
  2. Do I need to do any taping and/or spraying to seal the pressure treated 2x4s to the rigid foam?
  3. In the FWW article, the author nailed the 2x4s to the concrete with a powder-actuated nailer. Is this really necessary?
  4. I plan on running some branch circuits to the center of the room. I was thinking of just routing a channel through the 2x4s and rigid foam to run the wires. Is that a good approach or is there something else I should do?
  5. Having the OSB sheets line up in the center of the 2x4s means I’ll have 1 3/4″ between the end of the first sheet of OSB and right wall. What should I do here? Should cut this first 2×4 in half so the OSB is against the wall? Maybe add a 2×4 “baseboard” on end and shift everything over 1/4″ to the right?
  6. This garage, like most, slopes down towards the front. Should I shim the front of the subfloor so the final floor is level? I’m leaning towards yes, but am open to contrary opinions.

If you have any comments or answers, please leave them below. And thanks in advance.

A Different Kind of Greene (& Greene) Woodworking

A few weekends ago I made a journey up to cozy Manchester, CT for quite the woodworking trip. The day started off quite well, with traffic allowing me to get from Northern Virginia through New Jersey in a scant four and a half hours. It then took me two and a half hours to get half way across Long Island.

The geographically inclined amongst you are probably wondering why I made Long Island part of my drive to get to Connecticut, especially given its lack of roads north over the sound. The answer is quite simple – a quick visit with Dyami Plotke of The Penultimate Woodshop. The etymologist in me knew I was going to like Dyami from the moment I saw the name of his blog and I confirmed that fact at last year’s Woodworking in America conference. It was a short visit for dinner and a little time to check out his shop (top) and the bastard wall cabinet progress (bottom):

That detour proved a nice appetizer to the weekend. For my final destination I made my way over to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking for Darrell Peart‘s Greene & Greene Details I Workshop. Darrell usually teaches in the Pacific Northwest and hasn’t made it further east than Indiana prior to this opportunity. When Darrell first announced the class last fall, I registered as soon as CVSW had the forms on their website. The two day class works through constructing a sample piece that incorporates several classic Greene & Greene details from his book.

The sample is effectively the corner of a table that features:

  • Blacker brackets
  • Breadboard construction
  • Exposed ebony spline
  • Proud ebony plugs
  • Cloud lifts
  • Leg indent detail

This class started off on a great note, where Darrell spent a couple of minutes introducing himself then stated he teaches & learns best by doing – so we got right to making some sawdust. The first detail we worked on was the leg indent detail.  This was one of the few times I was able to get a few action shots during the workshop. In this picture is another great part of this workshop – I knew some of the other students! Pictured below (from left to right) are Mike Morton of M. Scott Morton Furniture Design & Construction, Nik Brown of the Digital Woodworker, and my balding head:

About 30 hours after these pictures, after a lot of routing, sanding, and polishing – we had each created one of these:

If you are interested in the steps for each of these details, pick up Darrell’s book or seek out one of his classes. I would say that the class gave me two things – 1) A hands-on approach to see how each of these details is created, with instruction that extends what is in his book, and 2) the confidence to know that I can make things like this. Hopefully Darrell will be back out east to teach his Details II class!

The Next Challenge – A Dovetail A Day

Several weeks ago I came across a one of Chris Schwarz’s blog posts where one of his reader’s had followed his path in cutting a dovetail joint each day. This struck me as a great idea for my crazy self-challenge of the year. Cutting dovetails by hand is a skill that I’ve wanted to improve for some time, but had only made minimal time to actually practice. As Frank Klausz has said – if you want to be good at cutting dovetails, go cut dovetails.

For the first dovetail of the year, I found a suitable piece of scrap red oak I had about the shop and cut two half pins and a single tail:

A few thoughts on this joint:

  • The Lie Nielsen dovetail saw I bought at this past Woodworking in America cuts so much nicer than the crappy $20 big-box store saw I had before. I expected that to be the case and am pleased to have confirmed as much.
  • It was nice to use the new bevel gauge that my wife got me for Christmas. I didn’t measure the angle, I just found something pleasing to my eye and marked it on both sides.
  • I don’t have a marking gauge. I need a marking gauge. I do have a “Happy Birthday” coupon from Woodcraft burning a hole in my pocket, so this might be the use.
  • The fit is decent, but not great. It took more than hand pressure (i.e. my mallet) to snug together.

Some thoughts on this exercise as a whole:

  • I will use up this scrap of red oak. While those joints are getting cut, I’ll go buy a board of poplar or pine from the BORG to use as practice stock for the remainder of the exercise.
  • I don’t plan on creating a blog post for every day’s joint, but I will establish a separate page on the blog to display all the joints and the occasional thought.
  • I’ll move through a progression of single through dovetails, to multiple through dovetails, to half blind dovetails.
  • In no discernible pattern, I’ll play around with the size and angle of the pins.
  • I started this joint cutting pins first. At some point I’ll cut tails first too. I refuse to engage in a religious debate about this.
  • I need to sharpen my chisels.
  • My current work-holding options suck for cutting dovetails.  I don’t have a bench, so I have to resort to clamping a hand screw clamp to my table saw to do the sawing. I haven’t figured out a good way to hold the piece to chop waste yet. This will have to get remedied.
  • I don’t know how long I will run this exercise. At least a month. Maybe longer.

I know I’m just adding to an already lengthy to-do list, but I think it will be worth it in the long term. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

What Happened to the Fall?

Had everything gone according to Hoyle, you would have seen several posts over the past few weeks walking you through the steps as my Build Challenge entry was progressing. I did make some progress, such as roughing out the legs on the bandsaw:

but I just didn’t make enough time for the shop over the past two months to complete the project.  One major distraction in October was the arrival of this little guy:


It would be unfair to blame it all on little Michael. Really it comes down to me not woodworking to deadlines.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d remember that I finished my daughter’s crib in time for her 9 month birthday (yikes). Given that I’ve blown the challenge deadline, I’m going to readjust my priorities in the garage.  A big reason for this is that the garage is a complete mess. Beyond the normal “tools are strewn because I’m working,” I’m completely out of space. I need to fix that before any large scale projects can really be attacked.

For the next couple of months, here are my priorities in the garage:

  • A small Christmas gift – I’d already started working on this project some time ago, but now it gets repurposed for the holidays. I can’t get into any more details, because the recipient has been known to read the blog ;-)
  • The design challenge – The other thing that has slipped over the past 60 days was my effort to post one design a week in 2010. Barring a manic effort over the next few weeks while I’m on paternity leave (see the above picture), I won’t get to 52 designs. I’m already up to 25 ideas, so I’ll surpass a design every other week for the year. Let’s see how many I can actually get posted.
  • Resawing local cherry – Back in August, I picked up some cherry logs from a friend who cut down a few trees in his yard. Some of logs are quite wider, so I can’t run them all through the bandsaw. I recently won an auction for a lot of several hand saws, including a couple of very coarse rip saws. Once I have the widest of the logs cut, I can try out the resaw blade the BC Saw & Tool sent me a few weeks back.
  • Build challenge table – There has been a ton of great feedback and support for the design I put together for the build challenge, so I do plan on finishing the table. I”m just putting in on a slight back burner for the time being.
  • Tool clean up – In addition to the saws I mentioned above (need some sharpening), I have a ton of planes that need varying degrees of tuning. Some will be keepers, some to resell, all in need of some love. I should add shop clean up here. I need to rearrange some of my larger tools. I need to get some better storage arrangements as well. It also wouldn’t hurt to run some more circuits off my new sub-panel.
  • Ammo crate – Lost in the last few weeks was the project I was working on before the build challenge started, my ammo crate.  The stackable trays are complete, but I need to still make the outer crate.

You’ll notice that list involves a lot of things that don’t necessarily have to be done in the shop. That is highly intentional; my shop is my non-climate controlled garage, which gets fairly cold during these up coming winter months. I have a small space heater that can make it bearable to work in the garage, but only for spurts. These are also just a list of short term projects.  I still have a large pile of southern yellow pine 2x6sthat are aching to become a Roubo bench. There are also a few unique boards that are still searching for a project. My summer project was going to be an entertainment center for my basement, which is still a huge need. On top of all that, there are several ideas from my design challenge that I definitely want to bring to life.

Thanks for sticking around this long. This post has been cathartic, after failing to meet the deadline for the build challenge. I’ve found that lists seem to make it easier for me to be productive, so here’s to hoping for quite the working winter. Lots to do, so I need to get to it…

Layout and Dimensions

This has been a highly productive week, where I got shop time Monday (took the day off to recover from WIA), Friday afternoon, and today. Those shop sessions gave me enough time to prep and dimension almost all of the stock for this project. I started on Monday with the 8/4 purpleheart for the outer legs of the table:

I was so excited that I had fit all four legs on the width of the board, I went right to cutting the board in half, so I could fit each part on the jointer:

It was only after making a few passes on the jointer that I realized my mistake. First, if I wanted to double-up the cuts and make two legs from one blank, the layouts would need to be aligned in both height and orientation.  Second, either the blank would have to ride on the curved surface I just created or I would have to layout the template on that curved surface. I was not convinced  with my ability to do either safely or repeatably, so I needed to readjust. Thankfully I over-bought stock for this project and I could still use these two blanks to make one leg each.

Friday afternoon/evening was spent mostly at the jointer and table saw. Right now, I only have one 220V outlet in my garage, so there’s some plug swapping between the jointer and the planer. For this reason, I made a concerted effort to do all the dimensioning up to the point of needing the planer. So by the end of Friday night, I had a lot of hard maple and purpleheart that was S3S. In addition to that stock, I had a lot of confusion; I wasn’t sure how to proceed.  This led me to spending a decent amount of time creating a checklist for each part that I was going to work on today. This was hugely beneficial, not just for the direction I was giving myself, but also for the mental exercise of thinking about each piece without standing over a tool.

With a clear plan for this afternoon, I was able to crank through my steps and complete a ton of the prep work for my challenge entry.  I got my head on straight and created the blanks for the table legs:

I also dimensioned most of the hard maple that will make up the sides and the shelves for the outer drawer assemblies:

Here’s the glue-up for the sides of the inner drawer assemblies.  The plan is to make the curves out of this 8/4 walnut:

but I’m still undecided on whether I’ll make those cuts at the bandsaw or nibble away at the tablesaw, changing the height of the  to create the curve shape. I’ll cross that bridge later; if anyone has a strong opinion about it, leave a comment.

I also glued-up the three panels that will comprise the top. First, the two wings made of curly maple:

And some more walnut for the center:

Tomorrow I foresee a lot of work at the bandsaw cutting the curves in this design.  After the Bears game, of course ;-)

Tick Marks to Templates

Design sketches – checks. Materials – check.  Now it was time for some serious shop time.

For the complex curves that I had in several places on this piece, I knew I would need a few steps between my initial sketches and putting a blade to the wood.  My first step was to make some larger scale drawings of individual parts of the piece. From there, I wanted to create some plywood templates to ensure consistency in the repeated forms. I don’t know of anywhere that sells 1/4″ plywood with gridlines printed on it, so I had to make my own.

The grid lines provide two things: 1) a measure of distance – I spaced the lines 1/2″ apart, and 2) a way to transfer my previous drawings, one grid square at a time. My scale on the larger sketches I did was the same as these grid lines, so transferring the shapes to the plywood was a snap:

Some quick work at the band saw and I had several templates cut and ready for primetime:

In addition to getting these templates created, I started doing some layout work on the 4/4 maple board I have. It will be used for the outer drawer assemblies, so the primary shape I wanted to orient was the side pieces (lower left, above). I noticed on the maple that there were a few spots with some interesting cathedral grain near the center of the board. I’ve marked those areas for the outer sides, so the rising grain follows the sloping curves. It’s hard explain, so I’ll make sure to get some pictures as soon as I get the boards planed.

I did some shopping this weekend as well, picking up some SealCoat shellac and Transtint dye, so I can get the grain on the curly maple I’m using for the top to pop. One thing I still need to pick up is a white pencil, so I can mark up the walnut and purpleheart and still see the lines!

Hopefully, I’ll get some of the real wood cut before Woodworking in America next week.

Build Challenge Materials

Last weekend I went to my favorite hardwood dealer and purchased the majority of my lumber for the Build Challenge:

In this picture we have:

  • 4/4 & 8/4 Walnut: The 8/4 walnut will be used for the center of the top and the curved sides of the center drawer assembly. The 4/4 walnut will be used for the center drawer front and shelf
  • 4/4 Maple: This maple will be used for the outer drawer assemblies
  • 4/4 Poplar: This poplar will be used for the drawer boxes and supports
  • 8/4 Purpleheart: This is easily my favorite board I bought that Saturday. I just love purpleheart, especially an 8/4 slab such as this. This board will become the leg assemblies.

Unfortunately, Vienna Hardwoods didn’t have much in the way of curly maple and not a whole lot of 8/4 maple in general. This led me to what is becoming my second favorite hardwood dealer, Northland Forest Products. The only thing keeping them from being my favorite is their lack of exotic species (did you see that slab of purpleheart?!?).

In their stack of “8/4 Curly Soft Maple” I was able to find this beauty:

Check out the curl on this baby:

I only really needed about half of the board for this project, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask them to cut it in half.  I’ll just have to think of some other project to make from that beauty!

The Sawdust Chronicles Build Challenge 2010

It’s September 1st, which means we’ve come to the kick-off of the Build Challenge put on by Rick Waters over at The Sawdust Chronicles. I listened to the kick-off podcast twice today, trying to get a feel for this year’s theme of the challenge: Surface.

If you are unfamiliar with TSDC’s build challenges, you can check out this year’s rules. It’s also worth checking out the results of last year’s two challenges: the 30-Day and 60-Day challenges from last spring and fall, respectively.

As I was listening to the podcast this morning, I came up with a couple of possible ideas for my entry to the challenge. They are just initial, rough ideas – I can’t even fully formulate them into good sketches yet. If nothing else, they will give me fodder for my design exercise. Give today’s podcast a listen. If you have the time over the next few months, I highly recommend participating.

Serving Up a -BANG-

When I was putting together my initial plans for this crate, I knew that I wanted to have a couple of trays that stacked one upon the other – even though I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish that. I knew I had to embed the handles of the lower trays into the upper trays, otherwise the crate would be too tall. I also wanted to make the handles easily accessible, which pretty much ruled out putting them on the sides of the trays.  That left a handle on the center divider.

I felt that a slowly sloping curve would be a good balance between how much of the handle would need to be embedded in the tray above and the strength of the handle. To layout the handle, I went to my set of French curve templates:

With the outline of the handle, I needed to draw the cut-out to actually grab. I traced two 7/8″ diameter circles from a drawing template, then used the French curves to connect them:

I cut out the divider for the bottom tray (that doesn’t need cut-outs for a lower tray) on my band saw, then used it to layout both the upper and lower curves on the other two dividers. I rough cut both of those as well:

While I was making the curved cuts on the band saw, I had a bit of a revelation. On almost every other cutting tool, you mark the cut line then take the blade to the line.  But when cutting curves on the band saw, I find the reverse to be true. When I bent my head around the idea of taking the line to the blade, I had better results getting those curves cut, especially near the points of inflection on the curve [/math nerd].

In order to get them to the same shape, I chucked a sanding spindle into my oscillating spindle sander drill press to sneak my way up to the line. I clamped all three handles together to make sure they all took the same shape:

Which turned out nicely:

On one of the handles, I drilled through the cut-out areas to clear most of the waste away. I did the rest of the shaping with a couple of files:

Once I had the handle cut-out in the shape I wanted, I set about making the other two handles match. I clamped the formed handle back on top of the other two and put a pattern bit in my router.  Using the formed handle as my pattern, I cut through the other two pieces.

With the top of the handles cut, shaped, and matching – it was time to turn my attention to the box that I wanted to use to form the tray sides. As seen below, I clamped up all of the center handles and long tray sides together to cut the fingers on my table saw:

I chose to gang up all of the long pieces and cut them the same basically because there are more long pieces that will get box joints.  The long tray dividers get box joints that will be fit into through mortises on the short sides, to help distribute the weight when you pick up the handle.  The short tray dividers have a straight end because they will only slip into a dado. After gang cutting all of the long pieces, I custom cut each short tray side to mate with specific long pieces. After some fiddling with each mating joint, paring to make small adjustments, I got some decently fitting box joints:

After all the finger joints were cut, I turned my focus to cutting the grooves for the tray bottoms. When it comes to cutting a groove, I trust my table saw slightly more than my router table for sneaking up on a groove/dado – especially when the width is not a standard dimension. Yes, I know, I need to get plywood width router bits. They are on the Christmas list ;-)

I set the table saw blade height to 3/16″ (approximately half of the plywood’s thickness) and set the rip fence to establish the bottom edge of the groove with this first cut.  After running all 12 box sides over the blade, I moved the rip fence slightly to increase the size of the groove. After the third pass I started testing the fit of a bottom in my test piece, adjusting the rip fence subtly until I had a good fit, which you can see below:

That picture also confirms another reason I’ve been excited about this project – the plywood I’m using for these trays is reused from the crates that crated my new jointer and planer when they were delivered. As you can imagine, there was a lot of it. I’m just glad I’ve found a use for some of it.

Once I had the grooves for the tray bottoms cut, the rest of the joinery would be quite custom to each piece. I cut a long dado in each tray bottom to give me another strong glue surface for the lone center divider that is also the handle. Another dado was cut in each long tray side to hold the short dividers.  The interesting cuts that remained were the mortises for the through box joints on the handles.  I marked the fingers on each short side and drilled through the center of those squares with a slightly undersized drill bit. After the hoels were drilled, I squared the corners with a chisel and adjusted the mortises until I got a good fit for each side.  I wasn’t sure how they would finally turn out, but I’m happy with the look:

Last weekend I got the first tray glued up and into clamps. The next day, I noticed a terrible error with my assembly:

D’OH! I hadn’t allowed clearance for the lower handle in my short divider. I made the correction in the other tray before I assembled it, but I was left to determine a fix for this first tray. I don’t have a coping saw with a wide enough to use on this already glued tray, so I went rumaging through my tools. I came across the gardening equivalent of a hack saw:

I couldn’t use the the whole saw, but the blade presented an opportunity. It is large enough to hold easily, but has a thin set. I was able to saw a kerf on each side of the wood I needed to remove, using the bottom and the long divider as guides:


With the kerfs cut, I chopped out the waste with a chisel, similar to chopping out the waste of a dovetail joint. Because of how I created the lap joints that connected the dividers I wasn’t going to have much material left on the short divider, so I had to be careful once I got to the top of the waste. After a bit of fiddling with the chisel, I had the waste removed. This left me my three stacklable trays:

This was not the end of my fiddling though. Apparently I did not properly measure the height of the handle curves, so I need to perform some more paring. The depth at the top of the handles was pretty close, but futher out from the center of the handle was preventing the trays from seating firmly upon one another. A few more minutes with my chisel and I was finally able to stack them solidly:

Overall, I’m happy with how the trays came out. I only had two big mistakes. In addition to the short divider issue chronicled above, I also cut the groove for the drawer bottom on the wrong side of one of the long sides. Fortunately I had milled an extra of each side and divider, in case this had happened. After some light sanding, I’ll be ready to get back to the crate itself. I’d like to get the crate finished this week, so I can devote all my shop time to the Build Challenge put on by The Sawdust Chronicles, which starts September 1st.

The Day in Shavings – 23 August 2010

This is the first tray out of the clamps and I have two others in clamps (I need more clamps) as we speak.  Once those are out, I can come close to considering the stackable trays complete. However, I noticed a huge problem with the first tray I put together that I was thankfully able to correct on the other trays before glue-up.  Here’s a photo that actually shows the problem:

Anyone see the problem? Once I figure out how to fix it without destroying the tray, I’ll put all of this into a post describing the whole tray-making process – along with a couple of mistakes I had to fix along the way.