Monthly Archives: January 2012

Marilyn’s Miterbox

Marilyn over at the She Works Wood blog mentioned recently that she’d picked up a miterbox that needed a little TLC.  I volunteered to lend a hand, so let’s get this knocked out.

Marilyn and already scrubbed the grease and dirt off, and disassembled it.  Bless you, that made my life much easier.

There are two broken parts I needed to repair.  One of the stands has a mounting tab broken off, and there is also a crack through the main part of the miterbox where the wood platform is supposed to attach.  You can see the broken foot in the picture, the crack in the main part is hard to see (and harder to photograph) until it’s cleaned up.

First things first, let’s get rid of the antique paint and rust.  My weapon of choice for this sort of thing is a bead blast cabinet.

Cleaning this part, the main casting, was the most time consuming part of the whole job.  This is cast iron, and fairly porous.  The paint and rust is down in the pores and would have preferred to stay there.  Me and the glass beads had other ideas.  Now that it’s clean you can clearly see the crack in the base.

Cleaning the rest of the parts was the same exciting operation, with one exception.  The two posts that hold the saw need to be a nice, slop-free, smooth fit into the uprights.  They look like they were chromed or perhaps nickel plated originally.  I didn’t want to bead blast that area, but I wanted to make sure it was smooth and clean.  I used some white lightening rouge  and a spiran-sewn buff to polish off any burrs and discoloration.  I didn’t overdo it because I didn’t want to mess up the fit.

Then I masked off the polished part and bead blasted the rest.



Masked & ready for blasting:

After everything is clean it’s time for repairs.  I really, really (really) prefer to work on clean parts.  Here is the crack in the main casting.  I opened it up with an abrasive cutoff wheel.  The crack goes right through the attachment hole.

Then I TIG welded it using Silicon Bronze rod.  Some people call this Heli-Brazing.  Cast iron can be welded, but it can be fussy too.  Silicon Bronze rod is very strong, at least as strong as the original cast iron, and should make a good solid repair.

Here is the repair after grinding.  There are a couple of tiny pits in the bronze, but they match the pits in the cast iron.  I’ve heard cast parts described as “structures made of sand, inclusions and gas pockets joined together with molten metal”.

I welded both sides, and also welded the edge of the mounting screw hole.

Last step, fixing the foot.

This actually isn’t too bad.  The way the break happened the foot still sits level, so I just need to graft on a new tab.  Usually I layout the repair part, grind it to shape and weld it on.  Since it was so small in this case I decided to weld on a larger piece and then finish it to size.

I used a piece of hot rolled steel about 1″ square.

It looks klunky for the moment, but it will work out well in the end.  Welding on a tiny part can be problematic, if it shifts just a bit in welding (and it will) then it won’t look right.  I ran a bead of Silicon Bronze across the top, flowing it into the joint.  Then I welded the sides, and across the joint on the bottom.

I ground away the bulk of the bead so it would match the transition on the other feet.  Then I flipped it over and painted the bottom of the repair with Dykem layout fluid.  I clamped the good foot to the repair, scribed the shape onto the repair and used a transfer punch to mark the location of the mounting hole.

Which show just what needs to be removed to make this foot match the other three.

A little quality time with the disc grinder and we have a fixed foot.  Note that the original foot next to it is a tad shorter than the one I scribed from, there is a lot of variability in castings.

That was fun.  I like tools.  Now I want a miter box…



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The Sad Saw, Part 3 (Not So Sad Anymore)

OK, it’s done.  Well, maybe a few more coats of Tried & True on the handle.

When we left off a few days ago I’d used up 3 files re-toothing the saw, starting with cutting starting notches in using a spacing template.  I ordered more files from McMaster-Carr, and they were waiting at home after work.

Initially I thought to cut finer teeth on the first 2 inches – which is why those teeth are further along — but along the way they ended up evening out with the rest of the teeth.  I got all of the starting notches pretty accurately spaced out, although there were maybe 3 spots where where one tooth was off a little.

I filed every tooth, trying to even it out checking from the side of the saw plate, and from above.  I was looking for discrepancies in the depth of the gullets and in the flat left on the top of each tooth.  That helped even things up and kept me from over-filing in any one area.

Then jointed the teeth lightly – until I had a flat on all of the tips of the teeth – and painted the teeth with some blue Dykem.  Then I filed each tooth one stroke.  Then I went from end to end looking for flats that were different widths.  I filed these even, applying pressure to either the face or the back of a tooth depending on which direction I thought it needed to move to even out the flats.  Then I jointed it with just two strokes, applied more Dyekem and filed again, keeping my strokes even for an entire pass, then adjusting teeth as necessary to even out the flats.

One more jointing, just a single stroke with a mill file, more Dykem and I filed every tooth the same amount, leaving just the tiniest hint of blue on the tip at the most.  I set the teeth, inked the tips of the teeth a final time and filed them all to a nice sharp point.  Looking at the teeth close up I can see some small discrepancies, but the tips of the teeth are all  in the same plane, the toothline is straight and it feels sharp.

I gave the handle nuts a quick polish and assembled the saw for a test drive.  It’s filed 10ppt rip, because I wanted a fine rip panel saw.  I made several test cuts in a piece of 4/4 white pine, and also in 1/2″ claro walnut.  It cuts great!  It leaves a smooth edge, no tear out on the backside and tracks straight.  I’m really pleased.

I know the teeth could be made more even, but it cuts twice as good as the Vaughn pull saw I have.  It’s really comfortable in my hand, and the length is nice.  I’m also thrilled to be cutting something thinner than 5″ after doing all that sawing on my workbench project.


I’m still in the process of putting more finish on the handle; I just applied another coat, which is still wet, before this picture. I want about this much sheen when it’s dry.  Probably two more coats.

But it’s officially a “user” saw now, and it lives in a pile with my other saws.  It’s time to build some proper saw storage.



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The Sad Saw, Part 2

I made a little progress on the Sad Saw today.

I put a coat of Tried & True oil/varnish finish on the handle.  This is the first time I’ve used this product, and I was surprised at how thick it is.  It’s the consistency of molasses.  Or maybe corn syrup.  The instructions say to apply a coat, let it soak for an hour and then wipe it all off, letting it cure for 24 hours.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Probably two or three more coats to get the results I want.

I worked a bit on the saw plate while the first coat of varnish was drying.  First I sanded both sides with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper and WD-40.  I just wanted to have it look like an old sawplate, with a little patina.  I went for a brighter finish on the D8, but this project is really about learning to sharpen (and re-tooth, apparently) an old saw.

Next I needed to do something about the wavy toothline.  Hey, I know…let’s cut it off.  I used a shear because I have one.  You could do this with an abrasive cut off wheel, a grinder, aviation snips…lots of different way.

But, Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that black junk on the saw plate?  Didja miss cleaning a spot?

No, actually that is Dykem.  It’s layout fluid, basically dark blue thin lacquer.  You can scribe through it to make accurate, clear layout lines in metal.  It’s the metalworking equivalent of a marking knife.  I laid out a decorative nib and round over at the front of the plate.

Then I grabbed a file and started removing the extra metal.  I’ve done a bit more refining to the shape since this picture was taken, but this is essentially what it looks like.

Now comes the hard part, re-toothing the blade.  I’m pretty nervous about this step because no matter how pretty I make the saw look, if it doesn’t cut well it’s useless.

I printed off some tooth spacing templates I found on the Norse Woodsmith blog and used those to start filing in the new teeth.  I made a couple of mistakes in the spacing, but I think as I file in the teeth I can correct that problem.  If necessary I can lightly joint the toothline and fine tune some more.

I bought 3 files, and by the time I had all the teeth roughed in they were dull.  It’s not that long of a saw (anymore), so this surprised me.  They aren’t clogged, but they don’t cut properly anymore.  Next time I’ll use some lubricant on the files and see if that helps.  I’ll pick up a few new files so I can finish the saw plate off.

I probably spent 45 minutes roughing in the teeth, and I’m sure I’ll spend the better part of another hour getting them all shaped correctly and even.  I want a power tool for this step.  I found this video of a Belsaw-Foley Retoother in action.  I want one, although finding one with all the attachments at a reasonable price might be tough (Jeez, I hope my wife isn’t reading this…)

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The Sad Saw, Part 1

I started out on the road to hand tool woodworking with an inexpensive pull saw from the big box store, then I restored a Disston D8 and had Dr. Phil at Bad Axe sharpen it.  Now I’m Hooked on Hand Saws(TM).  I won’t bore you with the saws that have recently feathered my saw nest, but I decided that I needed to learn how to sharpen saws myself.

Currently all the saws I have are razor sharp, so I needed something to practice on.  Again, eBay to the “rescue”.  I got this gem for under $20 with shipping.  This is the picture from the eBay listing, but I added the red line.

The price was right.  It’s a Diston with brass fasteners and a nice handle that looked to be in good shape.  The blade, no so much.  I actually didn’t notice that the toothline was so far out from being straight.  It’s worse in person.  The tip is also bent slightly.  The bent tip isn’t a huge concern because my plan was already to shorten the saw an inch or two — I want to make a “panel saw”, with a fine tooth rip pattern.

Here you can see the disaster that passes for a toothline.  The heel and toe are resting on the surface, there is at least 1/4″ rise in the middle.

Before the saw arrived I was thinking that I’d re-sharpen and re-shape the teeth, but after looking at the saw it really needs to be re-toothed.  I’m thinking that I’ll scribe a straight line from the heel to the toe and shear it off, then file in new teeth.  But first I think I’ll sleep on it.

I don’t know how well you can see this, but about 2″ back from the toe there is a distinct bend in the blade.  It could probably be straightened, but I’m pretty sure I’ll just shorten it.  If I shear the toothline so it’s straight the tip of the saw will come to a point anyway, shortening the length will mean less metal to remove along the working edge.

I really like the shape of the handle.  It’s not in terrible shape, although it has it’s share of nicks and dings.

So, after work tonight I disassembled the saw.  I striped the handle with lacquer thinner and steel wool.  That got a lot of dirt off, and the tiny bit of finish that was still on the handle.  Then I sanded out the worst of the nicks and chips, and gave the handle an overall sanding with 220 grit.  There is a little loss of detail in the carving, but it’s not as extensive as the picture makes it look.

And finally I dropped the handle in a bad of “danish oil” to soak for a few hours.  I’ll pull it out later and let it dry overnight before putting some varnish on it.  I used a similar procedure on the handle for the D8 that I restored and it really seemed to bring out the color in the handle nicely.  Tomorrow, time permitting, I’ll start on the saw plate.

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Planing the Last Face of the Workbench Top

A couple of weeks ago when I started on this workbench project I had essentially no experience using hand planes.  Looking back, this has been a great learning experience.  I feel pretty confident now that I can get a surface true with just hand tools.  Planing the first two edges to glue up the first section seemed to take forever, but ya gotta start somewhere.  I ended up adding a #8 jointer plane to my kit because I was having trouble getting the edge flat with just my #6.

As I’ve worked more with the planes I’ve gotten a better feel for which tool I should be using at any given time.  At this point I have one face flattened, and all four edges square and straight.  Time to flip it over and start on the last face.

The first thing I did was to find the thinnest area of the top, and then draw a guide line all the way around the edges.  The goal is to plane down to this line so that I end up with a consistent thickness.  I used my combination square to do this because my marking gauge was too short.  I need to make a panel gauge, it’s on the list of projects.

The next step was of course to work across the face with the scrub plane (“traversing” according to Moxon, Schwarz, et. all).  The alignment between the glued up beams was off on one of the beams by about 1/16″, so I brought that down first, then worked across the entire face to remove the rough exterior.

I worked in sections, here I’ve finished the first 1/2 of the bench top.  It’s really gratifying to take of big, chunky chips like this.

After traversing with the scrub plane I worked lengthwise, with the body skewed to the direction of the plane.  My goal was to remove more material, but have the plane read more of the surface to keep from getting out of control.  I’m watching my red thickness guide line, and checking with my straightedge.  Note that the near corner (bottom right in the photo) is marked off so I avoid it.  That is the thinnest part of the bench and I want to bring the rest of the surface down to that.

I worked as much with the scrub plane as I dared.  In hindsight, I could have gone further with it, but as I get so many grooves on the surface I get concerned about overshooting the mark.  So I switched to the #5 jack plane that I restored working first across the surface, than at about a 45 degree angle, then along the length of the surface.  In the picture you can see the marks from traversing the surface.  With a little wax on the sole the plane just flys over the surface.  At first it’s just cutting the tops of the grooves, then it starts taking large shavings as it removes the troughs from the scrub plane.

I worked everything down close to my thickness line.  The line isn’t as accurate as I’d like, but I’ll check measurements as I get closer.  At this point the top is approaching the correct thickness, but has an uneven surface from the heavy work with the jack plane.  I also used my #6 plane a bit, it covers more of the surface and I have a slightly cambered blade in it.

Finally on to the #8 jointer plane.  At this point I’m fairly out of breath (read: gasping for air), but the surface is coming together nicely.  I’ve been working it lengthwise, with the body of the plane slightly skewed.  I need to work out a few small problems, which will probably require working it at 45 degrees with the #8.  But I’m beat, and it’s dinner time.  Three sides and one large face planed, plus shuttling my son to various activities and helping him with his Math homework makes for a full day.  Frankly, I think the homework took more out of me than the planing.  “We” don’t like homework.

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Veni, Vidi, Planie

I came, I saw, I planed.  And planed.  And planed.  Lots of planing today.

After squaring the two ends I stood the workbench slap on edge on the pseudo-bench and marked the areas of the rip-sawn edge that weren’t square to the true face.  To support it I clamped offcuts from my leg blanks to the slab and the pseudo bench.  Remember that the pseudo bench is also clamped to a 150 pound cast iron angle plate to dampen the wiggling.  Very Rube Goldberg.

Here you can better see the areas I marked that were out of square from the true face.  I pretty consistently had the rip saw canted slightly.  It was about 1/8″ off along this edge, but mostly straight along the length of the rip.  The dark spot at the far end is from some oil I’d put on the saw blade to protect it.  I used wax on the saw plate, and I’ve started using was on my plane bottoms — I was really surprised how much of a difference it makes on planes.

I peeled off the extra material with the scrub plane, working lengthwise.  That is pretty much effortless.  I switched to the low angle jack with the toothed blade and flattened the knots and high spots.  Then on to the #8 jointer plane to flatten things out.  That is pretty much not effortless.

As I worked I checked that the edge was square to the true face, square to the two ends that I’d planed up this morning, and straight (using the same 10 pound straight edge…I gotta get something lighter!)

The blue tape at the far end is a small chunk that I chipped out, and glued back in.  After the glue dries I’ll go over the edge once more to make sure everything is clean.

I just have the one face of the workbench slab to flatten, I’ll have that done this weekend for sure, and if I hustle I may have time to cut some practice leg joints.


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Squaring the Ends

My next goal is to learn how to saw better. Plumb and square, ideally at the same time.  I just spent 45 minutes squaring the two ends of my bench that were cut less than perfect with my low angle jack plane.  Less than less than perfect.  I’d rather not do that next time.

I used the toothed blade to rough in the ends and then finished with a regular blade.  I checked square to the true face and the true edge, marking the high areas in red pen and planing those down.  I worked it 99% of the way there with the toothed blade so I only needed to smooth things out using very light cuts with the regular blade.

Working the ends when they are vertical (and having the weight of the plane working against you) is harder than when the surface being worked is horizontal.  At the same time I can’t imagine standing it on end and working six feet up in the air to avoid that!

I’m happy with the results, although I expect to smooth everything again after I fit the legs and do the final assembly.  I’m heading back out to plane the other long edge (the one I had to rip to get to the width I wanted), then the last face.  The legs need a few more weeks to dry out, so I have time to make some practice tenons on the offcuts.  I also ordered a wooden vise screw from Lake Erie Toolworks, which will take about a month to get here.  Maybe I’ll have time to start another project in the middle of finishing this one…great.

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Rarest Woods

John Economaki is the head guy at Bridge City Tool Works.  I check out his blog from time to time, and recently he announced a contest to identify the Rarest Wood in the World.  The idea being to come up with a creative entry, John’s “Mirror Maple” pretty much tells the story.

I’m a sucker for these kinds of contests where the goal is to do something creative and the barrier to entry is low.  Things like “Make Something from a Two-By-Four” get me every time.  I generally don’t enter, between work and family obligations I have little enough time to play in the shop and I seem to have a plethora of projects vying for my time already.  But still, I enjoy thinking through possible entries.  The entries need to have a stand built to John’s specifications, common and latin names and short description.

My first thought was something like “Detroit Ironwood” featuring a small, rusty car part.

Corrodious Ferum, extremely hard and dense, flourishes in urban climates with significant snowfall and salted streets.

Then I thought about “Western Yellow Beech” with a vial of sand and a few tiny shells.

Avalonius Funicellous, Weather resistant and popular for decorating outdoor events, often found with marine inclusions

Still thinking.  Generally my friends know to run when that happens.  What are your thoughts?


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Wet Legs

The 6″ x 6″ doug fir that I picked up for my workbench legs is green and fairly damp still.  I don’t have a moisture meter, but it feels damp which is certainly too wet to cut the tenons on the ends.  I rough cut four legs.  Three of them I cut 2″ oversize, the last one I cut only 1″ oversize.  Why?  Beats me, it certainly wasn’t on purpose.

This was a good chance to get some practice in with my restored, resharpened D8.  I marked out the line all the way around and sawed in from all sides following my lines.  The cuts were OK, and I didn’t obsess about it because I’ll be trimming them in a few weeks when they stop dripping.

I took a hint from the book The Joiner and The Cabinet Maker on sawing these.  I put my apprentice to work:

Background noise courtesy of the milling machine.

I got all of the legs cut down and while I’m waiting for them to dry I’ll practice cutting the tenons on the offcuts.  Meanwhile, I have more planing to do on the benchtop.


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Ripped Off

No, no one has taken advantage of me, but my workbench top is the right width now.

I cross cut the second end of the bench.  Twice.  The first cut I wasn’t happy with, so I laid out a second cut 1/4″ over.  It was better, but still not quite perfect.  I can track the line with absolutely no problem, but keeping the saw square to the face is eluding me.  I suspect that it’s posture and practice.  Cutting thick wood like this exaggerates the problem too.

Then I laid out the long rip cut.  I was pretty apprensive about this.  I read on where Matt spent an hour ripping an oak plank so I kind of expected it to be a long, sweaty grunt.  It wasn’t.

I’m using a Disston D8 with the thumbhole handle that I bought from Mark at Bad Axe.  It’s like 5.5ppi at the toe going down to 4.5ppi at the heel.  It started easily and tracked really well.  I could tell when I sawed through a big knot – the sound was a little higher pitched, but the saw plowed right through it without a hitch.

As I cut I checked to see if I was holding the saw plumb — I wasn’t.  I changed my stance and grip to try and correct it with limited success.  I was only off a few degrees each time, but on a thick cut like this that is too much.  More practice.

One thing that was a HUGE problem is that my pseudo bench was wiggling around.  It was ridiculous, and it’s definitely worse.  I had to stop and take care of that before I went on.  I thought about trying to cross-brace the legs but settled on using my giant angle plate again.  This is a 150 pound hunk of precision ground cast iron.  I clamped it to the pseudo bench and it tamed the worst of the wiggling and scooting.  At least for the bench, my son is just going to have to grow out of it.


In truth, this was much easier than throwing that #8 jointer around.  I sawed at a steady pace, kept my grip loose and never broke a sweat.  I tried some different hand grips and tried standing in a few different positions.  I had time to try a lot of different grips.

But before I knew it I had the cut done.  It wasn’t hard, or an ordeal (or perfect).  I have a date with my planes this morning to clean everything up before I flatten and thickness the last side of the bench top.

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