Laziness and Hand Tools?

A couple of nights ago I was out in the garage to work on the trim that would top the rails and footboard of Briana’s crib. One of the lessons (out of many) I’ve learned during the process of building this crib is not to cut everything ahead of time. The pieces I had cut a while ago were a few sixteenths of an inch short – all three pieces. So I ripped two new pieces for the long pieces and used one of the old long pieces to shorten for the cross piece.

Once I had the pieces ripped and cut to proper length, I realized that these would be pieces that Briana would be grabbing eventually.  I decided to I wanted to round over the edges, but had no desire to setup my router table. As seen before, my router table is one of those 15″x30″ prefab tables from Craftsman. When not it use, it gets piled up in a corner in the garage; this is especially the case when I have a huge project (such as this crib) taking up space.  I really didn’t feel like getting it out, clamping it to my bench table saw, and setting up the roundover bit.  As it turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Instead I clamped each piece of trim in my quad screw vise and grabbed my block plane:

This isn’t one of the pieces from my recent purchase, but a block plane I’ve had for some time. I just wanted a simple roundover, nothing too dramatic or deep, something to keep a sharp edge away from the baby.  I ran several passes across each edge, varying my angle slightly to keep a smooth surface. Even though it was stringy shavings, instead of wispy ones:

…there was still a simple peace in working the wood this way. A little sanding and this trim was ready for glue-up. With pieces that were covering such a long and wide space, I setup my clamps before applying any glue:

Turns out that was a great idea, because I would have been scrmabling quite a bit to get all these clamps in place:

Here’s a couple of close ups of the corner of these assemblies:

You can almost see the roundover detail on the trim in those shots.  Next step, I have similar trim pieces that wrap around the cabinet, rails, and footboard – holding those pieces to the base.  After that all that is left to make the crib habitable is a couple of coats of shellac. I should probably get back into the garage right now…

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!

So You’re My Uncle Joey…

… better get used to these bars, kids.

Assembling the rails for the crib has proved quite tedious. Without a dedicated assembly table, I’ve had to make due with my table saw table for marking and setup – which works fine until you have to slide longer pieces across the table, throwing off any hope of perfect alignment. Can close enough be close enough? Right now, the magic 8-ball points to yes:


I expected this glue-up to be difficult, so I enlisted the help of my wife.  With 13 rails and 52 dowels I certainly needed it.  Despite Kari’s Rule #9, my wife was a willing assistant. I can’t imagine getting this assembly laid out, glue applied, and clamped without the extra set of hands.  After some mallet pounding, a few curse words, and the obligatory gnashing of teeth we were able to get the rails glued and clamped:


The parallel clamps were a huge help, allowing me to crank down on the the pieces and fight my way through some not-perfectly-drilled dowel holes.  I have 26 more holes to drill in another board, then we get to do it all over again for the second set of rails!

Besides being closer to finishing this crib (and its finally starting to look like an actual crib), a huge benefit from tonight’s work was my wife coming to the realization that I need both more garage space and more clamps.  With Christmas just around the corner…

Quad Screw Vice?!?

As I’m dressing up the last few boards before assembling the crib, I decided to try planing off a few burn marks, rather than scraping them off. Holding the workpieces is my big problem. I don’t have a workbench (its on the list of projects) and honestly, I don’t have room for one right now. So when I want to do work that involves taking a hand tool to the work piece, I have to get creative. That’s how I came up with this “quad screw vise”


Just a couple of wooden handscrew clamps that I clamped to my workbench table saw.  Actually, I set the workpiece in both handscrew clamps, then clamped those the table top. With such a thin edge to work on (the side of a piece of 3/4″ oak) I had to be careful not to run my plane into the head of the bar clamp, but otherwise it held the piece well.


The downside of this exercise is that I discovered I need to work on my hand plane skills, specifically setting one up. The shavings I took were a little too thick for what I was trying to accomplish. So now I get to cut a new piece from stock and try again!

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!

Getting Jacked Up

Along with a batch of 50″ Jet parallet clamps that arrived this week, I also received my latest eBay find – a Stanley #5 Jack Plane:


This one was in pretty good condition – no large patches of rust, both handles are in great condition, no cracks in the base.  However, I was a little disappointed with the quality of the blade. So disappointed that I headed straight for my combination waterstone without taking a picture of the gouges.  Let’s just say it resembled the mid-Atlantic coastline more than it resembled a straight line.  One of the gouges had to be nearly 1/8″ deep.

Rather than go buy a new blade, I decided to give my hands a workout. I felt that keeping the current bevel (~30 degrees) would take forever to rub off enough of the blade to get below the gouges, so I took a more aggressive approach somewhere near 45 degrees. This got me past the rough spots, but left me with another problem: I now have a double beveled edge on my blade.  So after taking an eighth of an inch off the blade already, I got to work the correct angle out to the edge of the blade. A few hundred passes on the stone later and I had a sharp edge I was happy with.  Initially I thought my double angled approach would be easier/quicker, but in retrospect I’m not so sure.  Anyone have an opinion either way?

I haven’t had a chance to make any shavings with it yet, due to the other work I accomplished this weekend. I also still need to check the sole for flatness before putting my newest plane to work. But I’m quite happy with my collection growing on the cheap.

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.

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…