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!

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!

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.

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 ;-)

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!

Cleaning, Space, and Dovetails

I didn’t really build anything today, but it was a productive day in the shop.

I did a lot of cleaning and rearranging in the garage. I got all of our house paint cans off the floor, on to a shelf – which allowed me to sort and neatly stack all of my larger scraps of wood. Getting those pieces stacked opened up a space in the front corner of the garage for my new jointer. This in turn gave me enough room to walk around the garage easily, something I haven’t had since the jointer and planer arrived.

Speaking of the planer – now that I had room to maneuver I could attach the infeed and outfeed tables to it. For anyone who has to level cast iron tables, try this method:

1) Joint one side of a 2×4 sized board flat, then cut it in half
2) Clamp the jointed sides to the fixed table
3) Clamp the wing you are attaching to those boards
4) Apply the bolts and set screws

With enough clamping pressure and a flat/jointer surface, you should get the wings perfectly lined up.

With all this free space, I was able to actually vacuum up the floor and provide my aunt with another bag of sawdust for her compost heap. There’s something a little zen about a clean and organized shop – I just need to work on doing this often, instead of a whole lot of work every couple of months.

I didn’t want to leave the shop without creating some sawdust, so on my organization bent I decided to create a simple rack to hold all my recent router bit purchases. I had a piece of 1.5″x1.5″ pine that was part of the crate that housed my planer. I drew a crude center line down the length of one side and set to marking the hole locations.  I was going to use a forstner bit to drill the holes, so I used it to lay them out as well.  Because I have a varied/piecemeal set of bits, I couldn’t just drill evenly spaced goals if I wanted to maximize the space on the board. I think the results turned out nicely and it was nice to use some of the scrap I had lying around:

After the router bit rack, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the shop, but I didn’t want to work on the candlesticks, because I knew my remaining time in the garage was short. I decided I needed more practice cutting dovetails.  I wanted to cut more than one, so I grabed a short piece of 3/4″ plywood that was about 4 inches wide.  My previous practice dovetailing was only a single tail, two half-pins and I wanted to cut a couple of tails.

I’ve done a few of these “practice” dovetails and the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need to take them seriously if I ever plan on improving. Nonetheless, practice is better than no practice. I’ll get there eventually!