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.

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.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Today marks the second anniversary of this blog. Two years ago I starting writing about the tools I had (and didn’t know enough about) and the bookshelves I just finished, hoping that someone would be interested. As it turned out, enough of you have been interested, for which I’m far too grateful to express in words.

The anniversary comes up at an interesting time, as the Taylor Garage has recently become much larger! We recently moved (within the local area) to get another bedroom, a lot more land, and some more shop space for yours truly. I have an amazingly supportive wife, who has given me the entirety of our two-car garage to work with as a shop space – provided I leave an open path from the interior door out to the driveway. This reboot has given me a great opportunity setup shop with some forethought and do things right. This is my initial envisioning for the shop layout:

I’ll get into the details of the layout, flooring, wiring, insulation, etc. over the coming weeks. I did reach one milestone yesterday – the county inspector signed off on the additional 200 amp panel that was installed in the garage!

This is the first step in many to getting the “New & Improved” Taylor Garage up and running. I hope you’ll stick around through this build and the ones that follow. Thanks again!

My Pseudo-Decision to Become a Galoot

(Editor’s Note: A recent change has conspired to keep me here in DC instead of moving. Thank you everyone for the input nonetheless! – SJT)

For someone whose first major woodworking tool was a Craftsman table saw,

the decision to become a galoot is not made lightly. I haven’t come to this place in my woodworking because of some zen connection with a plane or dovetail saw, nor am I doing so to pimp Shannon‘s Hand Tool School. Actually, I’ve come to this decision simply because I’m moving. I’m not just moving across town for more shop space, but my real job has me hopping the pond over to Germany for the next couple of years. As much as I love my table saw, bandsaw, 8″ jointer, and 15″ planer, I just don’t think I’m going to have the floor space (or the shipping weight allowance) to bring those toys tools back and forth across the Atlantic.

If there is one place where hand tools completely dominate their powered bretheren, it is in size. In a box that would hold my bandsaw, I could fit every plane, saw, chisel, etc that I own a few times over – so this first decision is pretty much a no brainer. (Sidebar: It would seem perfect timing to take Chris Schwarz’s tool chest class in Germany in June, except I would still have to get my hand tools over there first!) I plan on bringing most of my hand tools with me, but that leads me to one big question:

What should I do with my large power tools? I see 3 possible options:

  1. Sell all of them and buy new ones when I get back to the states
  2. Store them for the ~3 years I’ll be overseas
  3. Some combination of 1 & 2

Right now I’m leaning heavily towards #1, with a speck of #3 sneaking in every couple of times I debate this with myself. What are your thoughts? If you had to “let go” of your power tools for a few years, would you sell them or store them? Let me know in the comments!

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.

A Crate Full of Bang!

After a long time of drawing and working on the garage, I finally got to work in the garage – a chance to put steel to wood again!

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I joked that if it was a girl, I would get to buy a gun (behind, the door, her daddy kept a shotgun).  This past Father’s Day, my wife made good on that joke, buying me a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun:

So I decided I needed to build this project to accompany the shotgun – an ammo crate. I bought ~10 board feet of white ash for this crate, but it was rough cut, so I needed to get my planer and jointer setup to prep the stock:

Despite having the tools set up, I still had a big problem – no 220V outlets in my garage. This lead to my first major upgrade to the garage – a subpanel:

After paying an electrician to install the subpanel, I felt confident enough in my DIY ability to run the branch circuit myself:

Now with somewhere to plug the machine, I could get to prepping the stock. for this project. The plan for the crate calls for it to be almost 14 inches tall. That 10 board feet of ash I bought came in the form of two ~7.5 inch wide boards, because I couldn’t find any extremely wide boards at my lumber supplier. This will require me to edge join the two boards in order get box sides of the proper height. 

I crosscut the boards for the crate sides on my miter saw, slightly oversized, making sure to keep the pieces in order so the grain will wrap around the box continuously. Cutting the boards to rough length will also help in dimensioning the stock, as it should be easier to flatten 8 shorter board than 2 very long boards. The next step was to go throught the process of prepping the four sides of the stock: 1) Joint the edge, 2) Joint an adjacent face, 3) Plane to thickness, and 4) Rip to width. After 8 boards going through that process, I was left with two things – 1) Several nice, smooth panels:

And 2) a whole lot of shavings/chips/dust:

The next step in prepping the sides of the crate was to edge glue the matching boards. As I previously alluded to, I wanted to try several new techniques with this project. The first new idea is to use Gorilla Glue for gluing these panels:

I have never used a moisture cured glue before, so the process was quite foreign to me.  With my standard Titebond glues, you just apply the glue to both surfaces and clamp up the piece as soon as possible.  With this type of glue, you apply the glue to one surface and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. You then dampen the mating surface, and then apply the clamps. I might need to get a clock or timer in the Garage, because I had to resort to singing to myself to approximate the open time for the glue. So after 20 minutes of “Losing My Religion” and “Flagpole Sitta” left me with a break in the action:

After giving those glue joints 24 hours to dry, I squared up one of the ends with an auxilliary fence on the miter gauge of my table saw:

Because of the height of the fence, I can’t pass it completely through the table with the blade gaurd and splitter still attached.  I decided to deal with that and keep the safety devices attached:

I used this setup to take just a schosh off of one end of each board and ensure the two glued board have that common, square edge.  This was one of the reasons I intentionally cut the boards long, so I could make these fine adjustments.

That’s all I’ve worked on the crate sides  to this point. I don’t want to cut them to final length just yet, because I want to wrap them tightly around the trays that will rest inside the crate. Tune in next time for the beginning of the construction of those trays!

Southern Hospitality

A couple of weeks ago I had a three-day training class down in Charlotte, NC. My wife decided to make a vacation out of it and picked me up when the class was done, from which we drove to the Asheville area to visit some friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This gave me two different woodworking tales to take from the long weekend:

1)In Pisgah Forest, NC I got this chance to meet local cabinetmaker John Dillon of Wood Crafters, Inc. John’s shop is in a barn that actually dwarfs the small house in front of it. In the center of the shop are two old Powermatic table saws, one with a single blade and the other dedicated to the stacked dado blade. The saws sit at opposite corners of a large work surface so that the out-feed support of one table is actually the right wing extension of the other saw.  The other large tool I noticed in the shop was a really old, 18″ General band saw. 

The feature of John’s shop that most caught my eye was the wood. Racks of wood. Shelves of wood. Wood in piles. Wood in the barn lofts. Wood under tarps outside. John had thousands of board feet of all kinds of wood: maple (spalted, figured, and otherwise), cherry, chestnut, pine – and that was just what I noticed.  As it turns out, living in the Blue Ridge Mountains has a few advantages if you’re a woodworker. Mainly, he gets almost all of his wood for practically free.  He doesn’t have a large plot of land that he’s clearing; people bring wood to him!  Most folks who know him (it is a small town) will bring him whole tree trunks that they have cut down – for free!  All he has to do is pay a guy who has a portable saw mill (similar to a Wood Mizer) who makes those trunks into boards for about $0.30 a board foot.

The thing that kept me from leaving fully green with envy was John’s graciousness and generosity. There I was, some kid (relatively) wandering around his shop while he’s trying to complete a beautiful cherry cabinet for a kitchen commission he was building – yet he took time to talk to me, to answer and ask questions. He was also extremely giving person, as he asked if I had room in my car to take a couple of pieces of wood home with me.

A cross-section of a spalted log:

and a plank:

of amazingly figured maple:


While we were talking, he had asked if I owned a draw knife (I do) and mentioned that he was curious about getting one. With a couple of quick searches on eBay and a few weeks for shipping gave me the opportunity to return the kindness he showed me:

2) If any of you are on Twitter (follow me!), you may have noticed Kari Hultman of The Village Carpenter tweet a link to a new blog about workbenches: Bench Vice. The author of Bench Vice (and Wood Therapy) is Tim Williams, a woodworker in the Asheville, NC area. Some readers may notice that Tim is the designer of the Joinery Bench that Chris Schwarz blogged about a few months ago. When he’s not building his own pieces or teaching at the Asheville Woodworking School, Tim gives free demos at Asheville Hardware – a local Rockler reseller.

The weekend I was in the area, Tim was giving a demo about hand planes. By the time I got to the store, Tim was well into tuning a block plane that one customer had brought to the demo. After some time lapping, sharpening, and the other fiddling Tim had explained how to make a $40 block plane perform like one that cost five times as much – which is what that gentleman now possessed. Tim ran the whole gamut of bench plane topics: what the numbers mean, how they are different, what order to use the planes, etc. After a while, Tim and I started talking about benches: his Joinery Bench and how it came about, my plans for a bench, and his love for twin screw vises.

Those serendipitous trips made for a quite a wonderful weekend – and that was all before the actual vacation part!

Hand Plane Gloat

On a pretty regular basis (while my wife isn’t watching) I comb through my local Craigslist ads looking for various things for the garage, tools and wood mostly.  In fact my drill press and the southern yellow pine that will end up as a workbench were both found on Craigslist. It doesn’t hurt that I’m willing to drive quite a ways for a good deal; each of those purchases was ~40 miles each way. Monday night I was doing my trolling through the Craigslist search engine and came across an ad for a set of hand planes – mostly Stanley Baileys, from #3 to #6, 30 planes and some extra parts – $300!

Upon seeing the pictures and the price, I proceeded to run (don’t walk) to my nearest e-mail client and send the seller a note asking if the lot was still available and if so, when could we arrange to meet for the transaction.  A half-dozen e-mails later, we had settled on Tuesday evening.  The kicker was the seller lived on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. I live and work near Dulles International Airport.  For those of you not familiar with the Washington, DC metro area, here’s my driving path for the trip:

An almost complete circle around the DC Beltway in the late afternoon/early evening would be enough of a deterrent for most people, but I decided to duck out of work a little early to see if I could beat the beltway. I left right around 3 PM and started my trek east.  Other than a couple of cars stopped on the inside shoulder near Bethesda, I seemed to have beat the beginning of the evening rush and the drive was smooth.  Knowing I was plenty early (the seller wouldn’t be home until after 5:30), I stopped at the Barnes & Noble to pick up a couple of books to read to pass the time.

I started reading Ron Hock‘s The Perfect Edge:

I also picked up (too be read later) Tom Fidgen‘s Made By Hand:

Once I was able to meet up with the buyer, I had no problem paying the asking price.  The lot of hand planes contained these planes in good condition:

Stanley Bailey #6 (2):

Stanley #5 1/4:

Stanley #5 (4):

Stanley #4 (3):

Stanley #3:

Defiance by Stanley #4, Millers Fall #8, Fulton #4C (2):

Stanley Handyman H1204 (2):

Stanley #378 w/ most of the fence:

Stanley #78 (3):

Sargent #198:

Unknown #78:

Stanley #110:

Stanley #118 (2)

Stanley #220 (3):

The purchase also contained these planes in not so good condition:

Stanley Bailey #6:

Unknown #5 – one and a half of them:

Stanley Bailey #4, Shelton Standard #4, Unknown #4:

Stanley Bailey #3

All in all, I’m ecstatic with the find.  The next step will be to start tuning them up. Other than sharpening the blade, I’ve never attempted any major tuning or repair of a plane.  I found these instructions documenting one person’s steps.  Does anyone have any other tips and/or links?

The plan is to tune them all up, keep some of them to round out my collection, then sell the remaining hand planes to help recoup some of my initial investment.  I’ll make sure to document the steps I follow here in the blog.

Here’s to some whispy shavings!

Bracing for a Whisper

I feel like I’m this close to being finished with Briana’s crib, having only a few subassemblies left to complete before getting the whole thing together. I’m currently working on attaching the rail assemblies to one of the ends. Each set of rails is attached to the end assembly with four dowels.  I had previously drilled the holes into the end, but hadn’t yet used my dowel centers to mark and drill the matching holes in the rail assemblies.

Getting each mark set was easy enough, but the battery on my cordless drill was completely drained. Not to be deterred, I decided to dig out a gift from my father-in-law*:

I expected the brace to get the job done – drilling the holes. What I didn’t expect was the shock of actually hearing the wood shear. Not only that, but how that seemed to speak to me – a whisper that was previously drowned out by the whirring of an electric motor.

I’m not going to win any cat fights in the near future, but I’ll certainly be trying.

*I’ll have another post soon about each gift I was lucky enough to receive this holiday season.

Santa’s Supply Shop

Thanks in part to some of exhortation from Tom, this week I paid a quick visit to my local hardwood dealer, Vienna Hardwoods, to pick up a few new species for the garage.

Up to this point, I’ve only worked with red oak hardwood, red oak plywood, and birch plywood.  Time to add some natural color and interesting grain to my repertoire.

First – the big board of the trip, a nice piece of birdseye maple:

birdseye1  birdseye2

Some 8/4 and 4/4 walnut pieces:


A nice wide piece of purpleheart:


And finally a very orange board of paduak:


All of these pieces will contribute in some way, shape, or form to various Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately, these gifts will be heading to some of the readers of this blog, so I can’t go into further detail at this time.  But fret not – I’ll make sure to take pictures for future posts.  I expect a flurry of posts to appear during that last week of December.