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)


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:


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.


Thanks again, Chris!

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.

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.

Christmas Gifts – Potato Masher

My wife and I live in the Washington DC area, which contains a lot of people transplanted from all across the rest of the country. Because of this, we were able to have a lot of friends over for Thanksgiving a few years ago, on account of not many people with family in the area.  As we were prepping the feast for that day, it came time to make the mashed potatos, but Michelle couldn’t find the potato masher, which I swore we had.

Despite my best effort scouring the cupboards and drawers, I conceded that we did not have a potato masher. As penance for being wrong, I offered to buy my wife a potato masher for Christmas.  Each time a gift giving event would come around (Christmas, birthday, anniversary), I would repeat the now-running joke of buying her a potato masher. This Christmas, I turned the joke into reality.

I first got the inspiration for this utensil reading a post on Larry Marshall’s blog, Wood’n Bits Workshop, where he took a cheap, dollar store strainer and made it into a beautiful kitchen utensil. He chose three layers of redheart formed around the metal handle of the strainer; I went with two layers of purpleheart for this potato masher:

After gluing two pieces of purpleheart together for my blank, I squared the ends before taking it over to the bandsaw:

Here I have to apologize to the reader. I was working on this at the same time as the dominos and their box, during the rush to finish these Christmas presents. As a result, I don’t have nearly as many pictures as I would like and missed a few key steps in the process.

One of those steps was my work at the bandsaw.  I drew up a paper template in the shape of a perfecto cigar, then transferred that shape to one face of the blank. After trimming the two sides on the bandsaw, I used the template on one of the freshly cut sides and repeated the cuts – leaving me with the blank shaped on all four sides:

From the bandsaw, I move on to hand tool work to ease and round what were still some pretty sharp edges:

I don’t have a spokeshave (yet), but I do have a simple 4-in-1 rasp I used to work those edges. Between the four “grits” on the rasp and a few grits of sandpaper, I worked the handle into a smooth piece of wood begging to be held. Next was on to the finishing.  I decided to go with General Finishes’ Salad Bowl finish, wiping it on.

The nice thing about the potato masher is that it provided a perfect stand to hold the handle while the finish was drying:

After several coats (with some light sanding between each), I had to affix the masher to its handle. It was an irregular shape, but my strap clamp was ready for the job.  A nice slathering of glue in the hole drilled in the end, some pressure, and we’re almost finished:

All that was left was a simple bow to create that happy-wife effect:

Merry Christmas, sweetheart!

Christmas Gifts – Domino Set

Flipping through the weekly Rockler e-mail a few months ago, I noticed an ad for template for a set of dominos:

The set and that box struck a cord with me. My parents play dominos, so I thought this would be a great Christmas gift. The Rockler template for laying out the pips only went to a double six. I wanted a larger set and settled on creating a double twelve, which is 91 dominos total. I liked the contrasting woods for the dominos, so I sought out some 1/8″ walnut and oak to laminate together for the set.

The pieces I ended buying varied in size between the species, so I had to edge glue two pieces of the oak into a larger panel, using two cauls and my parallel clamps:

I set up the cauls and tightened the clamps ever so slightly on the panels before applying glue. Then I took the oak panels out, applied glue to the edges, and snapped them back into place between the cauls.  To keep the panels from bowing back up, I put my jack plane to a new use:

After getting the oak panel up to sufficient size, I slathered both sides in Titebond II and lined up the walnut boards.  I clamped the lamination between two scraps of plywood I had sitting around:


After some gluing time, I went through the process of getting the lamination dimensioned.

  1. Joint one side/edge flat on the jointer*
  2. Rip a parallel edge on the table saw
  3. Square the end at the mitre saw

* After jointing the first edge on my jointer, I realized that this probably wasn’t the smartest move on a piece that is only 3/8″ wide.

I ran my random orbital sander on each side of the panel through 120 and 180 grit sandings – to prep these surfaces before they got smaller and harder to handle:

Because of the size that I wanted to make each domino (7/8″” by 1 3/4″), so I decided to rip the strips on the bandsaw.  This not only was safer, but the kerf on my bandsaw blade is much thinner than the kerf on my tablesaw blade. After ripping the strips to width, I moved the fence and crosscut the strips to final length:

This left me with 91 domino blanks to use, plus a few extra – just in case something went awry. The next stop was to my pile of sandpaper.  I needed to remove saw marks from the sides as well as round all four corners. The results:

With all my blanks sized and surfaced, I turned to the face layout for each piece.  First I measured and marked the center line on each domino, chopping them with a few taps on a 1″ chisel. Next it was on to the pips, where I got my biggest assist from my wife.  Not only did she mark all the dominos after I finished chopping the center lines, but she drilled all 1092 pips in the set! Needless to say this project wouldn’t have been finished before Santa’s midnight shimmy without her.  A couple coats of shellac later and the set was ready to go:

Stayed tuned for part two where I delve into the box made to hold the dominos!

Christmas in November

For some time now I’ve been doing research and stashing away money for that rainy day when bandsaws fall from the sky. Yesterday, it got cloudy. I got my Powermatic 14″ bandsaw from the lumber guys over at WoodWorkersSource:



Due to its late arrival and the recent early sunsets, I couldn’t put it completely together last night. This afternoon I was able to complete the job:


Here are a few of my thoughts on the process:

1) Getting the motor set to the right height to keep the belt properly tensioned was a major PITA. I don’t know what would be an easier system, but trying to keep the motor balanced, while tensioning the belt, in order to tighten 4 bolts/nuts isn’t easy.  I actually had to lay the band saw on its side to get the correct leverage to properly set the motor height.
2) Despite the trouble getting the motor set, the rest of the assembly was pretty easy.  I spent a good amount of time getting the table balanced and level, but that was somewhat expected.
3) I actually managed to shear one of the bolts in half while tightening it! Thankfully, it was a bolt that holds the rear rail for the fence, so it’s not critically urgent to get another bolt.

Just to use it tonight, I made a couple of “curved” cuts in a scrap piece of wood:


The deal from also included a 6″ riser block for free, so I still have the project of installing it.  Something tells me that won’t happen until I actually need the resaw capability…