The Day in Shavings – 31 March 2010

I haven’t been able to get much time in the garage lately, so I’ve only made a little progress on those candle holders.

Yesterday I put the chamfer on the tops of all the sides of the holders using a bit in my router table. I have a 45′ chamfer bit, but only one.  I came to realize why a woodworker needs so many sizes/variants of the same tool. The candle holders call for a chamfer on the inside of the top edge, which gives the top a nice reveal. The plans have that chamfer extending half the thickness of the side – but mine won’t quite be that “deep” because my chamfer bit isn’t that big.  I realize I could go to my hand planes to finish the chamfer, but my desire to adhere to the plans isn’t great enough for me to figure out the proper work holding to do so [/benchless guy].

These candle holders have a shelf that supports the candle inside them, about half way up the stand. I made up for the lack of a stacked dado set by using a simple stop block and my normal table saw blade to make the dado. I set the saw fence at the proper distance so the blade would cut a kerf at the bottom of the dado. I then lined up the top of the dado and clamped a stop block in place on the auxiliary fence I made for my mitre gauge. I cut those two reference kerfs, then make several passes to chip away the rest, in a similar fashion to how Norm Abram makes his tenon shoulder cuts.

I also cut the mitres for assembling the holders on both edges of each side. This is significant in that previously I had never made an angled cut on my tablesaw; the blade had always been perpendicular to the table top. Happily the “preset” on the angle adjuster was pretty good, so I didn’t have to do fiddle much to get a 45′ cut.  The fence took a little more time to adjust, as I was getting used to figuring out the distance between where the fence was and where the blade would exit the top of the piece.

The most difficult part of the setup was safety. As I was cutting one of the test pieces, I noticed the wood wanted to ride up the blade, off the table.  After immediately stopping the blade, I went to work affixing a couple of homemade featherboards to the fence to hold the piece flat. Because my finished dimensions are only 4″ wide, the featherboards now presented a pushing problem. I was very nervous using a push stick because now there wasn’t any room to the right (the featherboards) and putting my hands to the left would put them closer to the blade.  I eventually (albeit slowly) pushed the pieces through with a skinny push stick, with only the featherboards providing downward force. There was some burning, but nothing the card scraper won’t be able to handle.

I know I’ve been behind on posting new designs/drawings. Rest assured, I have several ideas I want to sketch up, I just haven’t gotten around to spending time with the paper and pencil.  What little I’ve done is to start thinking about the layout of a low entertainment center I need to build for my basement. That design will definitely get built.

Wow – I didn’t expect to write all that. Maybe it should have been a “full” post with some pictures…

Christmas Gifts – Domino Box

While I was working on the set of dominos for my parents, I was also working on a box to hold the set.  I liked the idea of box joints, but really liked  the joints Marc Spagnolo created for the case of his Gagdet Station.

Based on the size and number of dominos I was creating, I had some basic dimensions to work with and settled on this sketch for my box design:

After several iterations (seen above), I decided on three fingers for the sides – each 3/4″ wide, with two fingers for the ends – each 9/8″ wide.  I liked not just the varied width of the fingers, but having an even number of fingers on one face and an odd number on the adjacent face.

I really wanted to go two-tone with the sides of this box and had previously purchased paduak and birdseye maple for the job. To create the extended box joints,  I created a jig for the mitre gauge on my table saw:

I don’t yet have a stacked dado blade set, so cutting the fingers involved several passes over the blade.  I used a stop block on both ends of the jig to set boundaries for how far to each side I could cut, then made passes over the blade, slowly moving the piece from one stop block to the other. I clamped opposing sides of the box together, both to decrease the number of cuts I was making and to create matching sides to make the fitting easier.

After several dozen passes of the mitre gauge, I was left with four close to fitting box sides:

On the table saw, I made a concerted effort to cut on the waste side of my markout lines – so I could custom work the fit of each set of fingers with a rasp. After fitting the fingers, I used the rasp to roundover the ends of each finger. I didn’t fully pillow the finger tips, but just broke the sharp edges enough to soften the profile.

With the sides fitted and shaped, I took my focus to the top and bottom of the box. For the bottom I used a piece of 1/2″ birch plywood. With my router table, I cut a groove on the inside of each side of the box.  On the maple ends, the groove went completely through end-to-end. On the paduak sides, a through groove would show on the outside of the box, so for the first time I [slowly] dropped a piece of wood onto an already spinning router bit. I was surprised by how smoothly that went – hopefully my over-anxiousness was the key to the safety of the operation.

For the top, I used another piece of the birdseye maple.  Again on the router table, I cut a rabbet on all for edges – allowing the top to rest within the opening of the box itself. For the pull on the top, I used a scrap of paduak.  I first routed a groove with a 3/8″ core box bit on both sides of the paduak, about 1″ from the end. Then I chucked a 1/2″ roundover bit and profile the edge on both sides as well. A couple of countersunk screws from beneath the top, some Titebond II, and my assembly was complete!

After I wrestled the box away from its clamp-monster, it only took a few brushed on coats of amber shellac to complete the box:

My First Close Call

If you looked close enough at my router table setup from my last post, you might a see a “mistake” I made while constructing my bookcase:


A closer looks reveals this was quite the gouge through the surface of my router table:


You might look at the location of the gouge and wonder “How on Earth did that gash end up there, given where the router is attached to the table?”
– Yes, this was made with a router bit.
– No, it wasn’t from the router mounted to the table.

I had decided to route the dados to hold the shelves in the sides of the bookcase because the sides were large (about six feet tall) and I don’t own a dado blade set for my table saw – so it was easier to take the tool to the workpieces than vice versa. I had a 3/4″ straight bit in my plunge router and had clamped a piece of scrap wood to my router table to test the depth I had set on the router.  I started to work the router through the scrap piece and things didn’t feel right at all (Signal #1).  As I kept pulling the router towards me (Mistake #2), I started to see sawdust that looked nothing like the plywood I was cutting (Signal #2) and everything was shaking more than it should have (Signal #3). After all this I switched the router off, but then lifted the router off the work piece to see what was wrong (Mistake #3).  I was instantly greeted by a loose router bit flying past me, as it came completely detached from the router. As it turned out, Mistake #1 was not properly tightening the collet.

You can see from the picture above I routed a pretty deep gouge almost all the way through the table surface.  I managed to knick the mitre gauge slot in the process, which in turn chipped one of the blades on the straight bit.  I’ve keep the broken bit as a safety reminder to myself and I’ll post a picture of it once I find it in the mess I call a garage shop. Thankfully through all of this, no one was hurt. But you bet I triple check the collet each time I use my router…

Baby Crib – Take 1

The first bold step I’ve taken in this new hobby of mine was to declare that I wanted to build our first child’s crib myself, rather than buying something prefabricated; even Ikea “building” wasn’t good enough for me.  Like most projects (from what I gather) of a part-time garage woodworker, my timeline for completing the crib has slipped a little bit.  Our little bundle of joy:


is now a little over two months old and still sleeping in her pack’n’play – a situation that Mrs. ShopOwner is none too pleased about.  I figure if we aren’t “almost done” by the time the child is three months, I should have no trouble finishing the crib because I’ll likely be sleeping in the garage.

Back to the crib.  When we were searching around for ideas plans, we found a few that struck our fancy and finally decided on this U-Bild set of plans that we ordered from Rockler:


Right now I’m just focusing on the crib itself, and not the hutch that is also spelled out in the plans. Over several weekends, I’ve methodically been cutting all of the pieces to size, out of I don’t know how many board feet of 1″ red oak and three different thicknesses of plywood.  In fact, I’ve cut all but one of the necessary pieces I need for the project.  I would have all of them cut, but I made a few mistakes this past Sunday which will require me to go buy more 3/4″ oak plywood.  In the meantime, I decided to start shaping what will be the rails on the sides of the crib.

The plan doesn’t call for any edge rounding, chamferring, or other rounding of any of the surfaces, but I dedided I wanted something a little smoother – something with a little more character to give the impression that I didn’t just follow a set of instructions from start to finish.  Originally, I had planned on using my new Porter-Cable bullnose router bit to do the shaping, so I would only need to make two passes on each piece of wood.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the 1/2″ collet for my router, so I ended up using a roundover bit with a 1/4″ shaft.  The bit worked great, I just needed to make twice as many cuts. I set up my router table:


using a featherboard I fashioned out of a scrap of plywood:


This was quite handy, as I didn’t have to worry nearly as much about keeping the workpieces against the fence as I would have needed to without the featherboard. Another nice thing about this setup is that there are two switches, one on the router itself and one on the router table. It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing I have to turn it on in two places before the bit starts spinning.  I got everything in place, safety goggles on, my shop vac dust collector running, and began making sawdust.  108 passes over the roundover bit later I had a nice set of rails ready for sanding:


I’ll spend a good deal of time on each rail with various grits of sandpaper, smoothing out the edges and taking care of a few burn marks along the way.  Thankfully these pieces don’t need to be identical (length aside), so a few dissimilarities should add character to the piece.  At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.  The marks on the end grain are centering marks for this plan’s favorite joinery method – wooden dowels.  Drilling each of those holes is a pleasure I’m trying to put off for as long as possible.