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!

Starting the Shop Floor

I was finally able to make time (and avoid bad weather) to start installing my shop floor. I had previously moved all of my tools to one side of the garage. I had also cut all of the foam insulation to proper width.

There have been two things I didn’t fully anticipate: 1) How much I would be on my knees, and 2) How much the Tapcon drilling & driving would suck the juice out my hammer drill batteries. The first was remedied by my wife running to the local hardware store to buy some construction kneepads. The second is currently be rememdied by my battery charger, which is why I’m sitting here writing instead of drilling & driving :-)

The progress has been slow, but I feel like I have a good path forward. Hopefully I’ll get to more tomorrow.


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!

About One Half of an Inch

I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post for about five months. It hasn’t been an active avoidance, but rather something unconscious about not writing down what happened. I knew I had a bit of a deadline for getting this out and now that Safety Week is upon us, I have to put this all together.

I’m sure some people have noticed that I haven’t blogged much since last Thanksgiving, and that is directly correlated to a reduced amount of time in the shop. What many of you might not know is that the reduced amount of time in the shop is the result of a serious accident I had the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I’m hoping that this post will be a catharsis for me and give you both a warning and possibly a new way to look at things.

First, the Story:
That Sunday I was working on a Christmas gift. I had some long grain miters that I had cut (a long time ago) on the table saw that just weren’t coming together tight enough for my liking. I decided I would kick the fence of my jointer out to 45 degrees and make a light pass to clean up (and hopefully fix) the joint. As I was pushing one piece through the cut, I felt a tug on my left hand and that arm was thrown back across my body. Before sensing anything else, I had enough time to think to myself “Wow, I just had the closest call ever.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as I came to realize upon looking at my left hand and seeing blood oozing out of what used to be the tip of my pinky finger. The details of the next couple of hours aren’t important except to say that the jointer had taken the fingernail and distal phalanx of my left pinky finger. Thankfully (as odd as it may seem to say that at this point) the pad of my finger survived mostly intact, so the hand surgeon was able to fold that up to close the wound, saving some of the finger’s length. Don’t worry – I don’t have any gory pictures to show you; I didn’t even look at it until the stitches had been in for over a week. After a bunch of healing and physical therapy, I’m left with this:

Things really aren’t that bad. In the grand scheme of things, if you were forced to lose part of one of your hands – you would choose to lose the tip of your pinky finger on your off hand. My biggest issues came not from having a shorter pinky, but rather from unlearning the work-arounds I had adapted while I was bandaged up.

Now, the Moral:
It would be easy to simply state “Use push sticks or pads at the jointer.” While this is true, it something we’ve all heard a million times and consciously ignore from time to time. Instead I want to bring your attention to the mindset that put me in this situation. When working with the jointer, I’ve always used push pads when jointing the faces of a board. While some have suggested that might not be necessary, I’ve yet to see anyone suggest it isn’t safe.  When jointing the edges of boards, I tend to use just my hands to hold & guide the piece over the tool, which I think is also common practice.

This is where the world got a little gray (before it got really red): If you are working on a 45 degree bevel, are you working on the face or the edge? In my mind, I was working on the edge of a board, which lead to my relaxed workholding, which lead to my accident. I really think that is the lesson to be learned from my ordeal – when you are working out of square, whether it be on curves or non-orthogonal angles, take a moment to think about how that change in orientation could affect the safety of your task.

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!

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!