More Clamps

Saturday afternoon brought an odd visitor.  I was downstairs watching football when I heard my dog bark, something he never does.  I ran upstairs to find a delivery on my doorstep that I had completely forgotten about:


Woodcraft had a clearance on these 3.5″ F-style clamps this past week and I had ordered 10. I was able to put them to immediate use, holding together some butt-joined shelf supports:


While we’re on the subject of clamps, I have once again run into a time that I needed more clamps, putting together the crib cabinet sides:


I had enough large parallel clamps to hold each side together end-to-end, but not enough F-style clamps to hold more than one panel together top-to-bottom. This one panel used all eight large F-style clamps I own, which means I had to wait for the glue to set on this panel before I could assemble the second.

The moral of the story?
I need more clamps!

Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

I haven’t spent much time in the garage lately, mostly because I made a huge mistake.  Remember how I had some alignment issues that I thought were purely aesthetic? It turned out to not be so.  When I tried to set the large panel that would serve as the horizontal base of the crib, I found out that it wouldn’t fit, because the panels inside the base weren’t set at the same height as one another.  Given I had already glued everything up, this meant that I had to break it apart, buy some more wood, and start over.

I haven’t had to completely start over, as many of the pieces I cut were unused to this point.  Thankfully, I was able to salvage a couple of the larger parts from the deconstruction to be reused.  Nothing was reuseable in place, but I was able to cut some of the smaller parts from the larger “scrap” pieces I now had.

One advantage to having to do this a second time is I already know how the first couple of steps are supposed to go – which allows me to move a little faster through the assemblies.  Another nicety of this assembly is getting to use my new Jet parallet clamps on the end assemblies:


I’ve now come to realize that you don’t fully understand the lack of clamping pressure you had on a previous assembly until you have the clamping ability you actually need.  Getting any kind of proper clamping was a stretch (pun intended) for the long axis of the crib base.  I have two Craftsman ratcheting band clamps that I was able to fit around the whole base, but just barely.  The straps are so taut that they vibrate like a stringed instrument.  I should take my guitar tuner out there and see what pitch they hit.


Now that I’ve made sure the horizontal base will fit and sit level, I can move onto assembling the crib rails next.

Framing the Crib

This weekend I took a break from commenting, to actually get into the garage and do some woodworking. I started Saturday morning with just a bunch of boards, but now I have a few pieces assembled that are starting to look like more than a random pile of wood.

The plans for this crib call for a ton of dowels (something I’m starting to lament). Given the first few holes I drilled, I knew I was going to need some help making the reciprocating holes in the second pieces of wood. Since there is a Sears Hardware right across the street, I headed there first in search of help.  I wasn’t able to find any dowels centers, so I decided to drop a couple of bucks on these:


That’s a pair of 3/32 inch drill bits, with 1/4 inch chucks. Since I’m using 1/4 inch dowels, I figured I could slip these guys into the holes I drilled, marking the second piece with the bit tips.  It sounded like a good plan, until I tried to actually fit the bits into the holes. Things were a little snug, to say the least – I wasn’t willing to force them in.  So this learning experience brought about a trip to my local Woodcraft store. Since this was my first trip to a Woodcraft (or any woodworking-specific store), I made a little list of things I wanted to peruse and likely buy.  Atop that list was a set of dowel center pins:


The set came with four pairs of varying sized pins.  Luckily for my project, there are a pair that fit into 1/4 inch holes as well as a pair that fit onto 1/4 inch dowels, allowing me to mark two sets of wholes at once. I picked up a handheld countersink bit (something I’ve wanted to get for a while) and a set of cabinet scrapers, from E. Garlick & Sons:


I’ve done quite a bit of sanding for this project so far (the crib rails), so I’ve been willing to try anything that would ease the amount of time I spend with grit in my hands.  These cabinet scrapers certainly fit the bill.  Right off the bat, I put them to use smoothing the outside of the butt-jointed legs of the crib.  Not only did it remove the slight lip caused by my less-than-perfect clamping, but the scraping left an amazingly smooth surface behind – a bonus I really had to experiece to believe! And, oh those wispy, sexy shavings:


Now armed with smooth boards and the proper marking devices, I began to assemble the pieces that will form the base of the crib.  The first part I worked on was the back of the base. It consistes of two horizontal board, doweled to a pair of legs, framing a sheet of plywood to cover the back.  The front is a matching frame, but without the plywood sheet – there are drawers planned for that space.  Here’s a view from what will be the inside of the piece:


And a picture of the front frame:


Given I’m assembling the first parts, I’ve offered myself the first opportunity to make a large mistake – which turned out to be an offer I couldn’t refuse*. Any one notice how there are about two inches of space on the front frame between the bottom of the legs and the bottom of the frame?  That same lift is supposed to be on the back piece as well, but I was in too big of a hurry when I started assembling.  Like I say – Measuring twice doesn’t help if you only think once.

As things stand right now, I’m willing to live with the aesthetic mismatch of the piece as it stands – especially since that part will be against a wall. Aesthetics aside, I had to deal with the fact that the piece of plywood covering that hole had to be arrange just so in order to fill the gap. If you look at things just right, you can see the slivers of light that make the gaps:


If I had made the frame properly, there would be about one inch above and below the frame to ease attaching the plywood.  As it is I have only adhered the sheet at the ends. I figure that I need to do some kind of sealing along those “gaps,” as well as putting in some angle brackets along the length of the plywood, to further secure the piece. If anyone has any suggestions on how to fix this problem (besides reworking the whole piece), I’m all ears – please leave a comment.

The sides of the frame were a little easier to assemble, being two frames of oak secured to a piece of plywood:


Each of the oak pieces will be drilled for dowels and attached to the legs (that are already part of the front & back assemblies).  On top of this will sit the massive 66″x33″ piece of 1/2 inch birch plywood.  Of course, that is all predicated on me clearing out enough floor space in the garage to actually assemble this.  That will likely prove more difficult than the slip-ups I’ve encountered so far.  I guess I better get to cleaning…

*No horses were harmed in the typing of this blog post.

Drilling for Dowels

Continuing on with the crib construction: This evening I drilled the holes in the crib rails for the dowel joinery.  The plans called for two 1/4″ inch dowels on each end of each rail.


I marked the lines on each rail before I rounded the sides on my router table. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been if I had to mark the lines after cutting the curves!

One bonus of having a floor-standing drill press is I can lower the table down enough to stand a 26″ piece of wood on its end, still having it fit beneath the business end of the drill press:


I dropped the table down, secured each rail on end with a wooden hand-screw clamp, then clamped that rig to the table:


This was looking like a solid setup, until I started drilling some holes. One disadvantage to buying a really old tool is that not everything works as well as it did when it was new.  The biggest problem I’ve found is that the clamps/hold-downs don’t grip as well as they should.  Both the table and the head unit will rotate around the pole, even when the hold-downs are tightened.  Because of this problem, not all of my holes lined up perfectly.

My rationalization: as long as I “perfectly” drill the reciprocating holes, this shouldn’t matter.  But that means I’ll need to figure out a way to really clamp those parts down so they don’t move. I can’t afford to screw up this next set of holes or the rails will look really shody.

That’s just the beginning of the tool maintenance I need to do before proceeding with the crib.  I also need to gussy up a block plane I recently bought.  There are some corner pieces I’ve already glued together that need some TLC on the edges. I can either sand and sharpen a block plane, which will fix many pieces going forward, or sand and sharpen just the pieces at hand.  I think I’ll choose the former – better ROI.  Not to mention my recently discovered disdain for excessive sanding…

Baby Crib – Take 1

The first bold step I’ve taken in this new hobby of mine was to declare that I wanted to build our first child’s crib myself, rather than buying something prefabricated; even Ikea “building” wasn’t good enough for me.  Like most projects (from what I gather) of a part-time garage woodworker, my timeline for completing the crib has slipped a little bit.  Our little bundle of joy:


is now a little over two months old and still sleeping in her pack’n’play – a situation that Mrs. ShopOwner is none too pleased about.  I figure if we aren’t “almost done” by the time the child is three months, I should have no trouble finishing the crib because I’ll likely be sleeping in the garage.

Back to the crib.  When we were searching around for ideas plans, we found a few that struck our fancy and finally decided on this U-Bild set of plans that we ordered from Rockler:


Right now I’m just focusing on the crib itself, and not the hutch that is also spelled out in the plans. Over several weekends, I’ve methodically been cutting all of the pieces to size, out of I don’t know how many board feet of 1″ red oak and three different thicknesses of plywood.  In fact, I’ve cut all but one of the necessary pieces I need for the project.  I would have all of them cut, but I made a few mistakes this past Sunday which will require me to go buy more 3/4″ oak plywood.  In the meantime, I decided to start shaping what will be the rails on the sides of the crib.

The plan doesn’t call for any edge rounding, chamferring, or other rounding of any of the surfaces, but I dedided I wanted something a little smoother – something with a little more character to give the impression that I didn’t just follow a set of instructions from start to finish.  Originally, I had planned on using my new Porter-Cable bullnose router bit to do the shaping, so I would only need to make two passes on each piece of wood.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the 1/2″ collet for my router, so I ended up using a roundover bit with a 1/4″ shaft.  The bit worked great, I just needed to make twice as many cuts. I set up my router table:


using a featherboard I fashioned out of a scrap of plywood:


This was quite handy, as I didn’t have to worry nearly as much about keeping the workpieces against the fence as I would have needed to without the featherboard. Another nice thing about this setup is that there are two switches, one on the router itself and one on the router table. It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing I have to turn it on in two places before the bit starts spinning.  I got everything in place, safety goggles on, my shop vac dust collector running, and began making sawdust.  108 passes over the roundover bit later I had a nice set of rails ready for sanding:


I’ll spend a good deal of time on each rail with various grits of sandpaper, smoothing out the edges and taking care of a few burn marks along the way.  Thankfully these pieces don’t need to be identical (length aside), so a few dissimilarities should add character to the piece.  At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.  The marks on the end grain are centering marks for this plan’s favorite joinery method – wooden dowels.  Drilling each of those holes is a pleasure I’m trying to put off for as long as possible.

The “Mandatory” First Project – Bookshelves

From the few things I’ve read, it almost seems like a right of passage to build a set of bookshelves as one of, if not the, first project as a woodworker.  The cliche wasn’t enough to dissuade me. It didn’t hurt that we had boxes and piles of books strewn across the house, either.  I was feeling creative, so I came up with this design:


Five shelves, angled side profile, and an interesting lattice work to keep books from falling out the back:


Being this was my first attempt at building, let alone designing, a piece of furniture – I ended up keeping things simple.  The whole bookcase (four feet wide, about 6 feet tall) was constructed from two 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/4″ oak plywood. The shelves rest in 3/8″ deep dados on each side.  The back lattice work is joined with half-lap joints, assembled separately, and then added to shelf/side assembly.

Although this piece is not something I could sell to anyone, I’m proud of how things turned out and what I learned from it all. I’ve picked up tips on tear-out, on the true width of 3/4″ plywood, on how my collection of clamps is woefully insufficient, etc.  My favorite lesson has become my motto in my garage – “It doesn’t help to measure twice, if you only think once.”

Update:  Here’s a picture of the bookcase in use: