Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sharpening Station – Sketckup Model Done (ish)

I spent some time playing with Sketchup tonight.  Most of my time went int o figuring out scenes, layers and animation.  Honestly, that seemed really quirky.  In the end I was able to create copies of parts and place them on different layers, they I could adjust colors, add dimensions and so forth on each scene.

First, the overview of the project.  Green marble remnant for the top.  I added a single drawer to hold my stones, jigs and so forth.

Sharpening Station

The drawer is designed with through dovetails and an applied front because it needs to be wider than the body of the drawer to cover the metal slides that will attach to the top supports.  It’s still a work in progress.

Exploded View of Drawer

An exploded view, without the drawer or top.  All of the wood is big-box store green 4×4 or 4×6 doug fir timbers – because it’s cheap.  The materials for this, including the granite scrap, should come in at about $100 total.

Exploded View

The top supports and the feet are slightly different lengths — by 1.5″ — because of the bullnose on the piece of granite I got.  The feet are the same as the width of the granite remnant, 26″, while the top supports are the same as the underside of the remnant without the bullnose, 24.4″.  To keep the feet centered under the granite top I had to set the mortises for the front legs back the same amount as the width of the bullnose, so they aren’t symmetrically spaced on the foot (but are on the top support)

Foot Dimensions

I’m not completely satisfied with the placement of the top stretchers, which fit into the half-lap dovetail pockets on the top supports.  If I made the top stretchers thinner and narrower they could move out toward the ends without interference from the leg mortises or the end details.  I’ll probably have to eyeball this in the shop to decide the best approach.

Top Dimensions

Top Stretcher Dimensions

Leg Dimensions

Now I just need to get back out in the shop and finish making it.  I have a tough time getting out there after work – it’s a pretty long day here after getting my son off to school, driving an hour-plus each way to work, and putting in a long day at the office.  I need another vacation already!

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Sharpening Station – Sketchuping

I’d hoped to get an hour in the shop last night, but work conspired against me.  I did have a few minutes to start modeling the details for the foot of the sharpening station.  This is the kind of thing that CAD is great for, being able to lay out critical dimensions and make sure the proportions and positioning of components is OK before making firewood.

I’d originally intended the “feet” to be 24″ long, but my granite is 26″ wide.  So I’m going to make the feet the same width, and the tops slightly shorter at 24.5″ to allow for the bullnose on the granite.  After I drew this I realized that I have to move one of the mortises in by 1.5″ so that it will work with the shorter top pieces.  See what I mean?  Much easier to figure this out in software than to make a mistake and not discover it until too late in the shop.

First Draft of the Foot

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Sharpening Station, Part Two

I made some good progress on my sharpening workbench today.  Not as much as I’d hoped, but I definitely got my cardio workout in today.

I planed all of the “four by four” stock square.  I thicknessed it to all be whatever was the smallest dimension after squaring two sides – which turned out to be 3.25″ because just one piece was that thin.  I ended up taking almost 3/16″ off of two sides of all for the rest of the stock.  This was harder than it should have been because of the knots and the grain reversal around the knots.  Traversing with the plane (at about 45 degrees to the length) usually works out pretty well.  I used that approach here but I had trouble securing the board so it wouldn’t move.  Where the grain was straight I could peel chips off lengthwise.  I had to retract the blade a little to make this work.

Chunky Shavings and my Scrub Plane

Out of curiosity I decided to measure the shavings.  From the scrub plane I was getting chips that were regularly > .030″ thick.  Generally .034″ to .036″.

Scrub Plane Shaving

After I wasted away the bulk of the material I switched to my Stanley #5, set for a fairly aggressive shaving.  The blade in it is ground straight across, with just a hint of camber to reduce plane tracks.  But it’s not a curved edge like some guys use to waste away material.  I use it to level out the furrows from the scrub plane and get everything close to the layout lines for the thickness.

Stanley #5 Shavings

Then I switch to my #8 jointer plane, taking a slightly less aggressive shaving than with the #5 – but still close.  Once I’m getting a full width shaving across the board I lighten up on the cut and fine tune the face so it’s flat and true to adjacent reference face.  With the jointer plane set for a lighter cut I measured it at .004″.  On ocassion I’d lighten the cut just a bit more to get wispy shavings to fine tune a couple of spots.

Fine Shaving from the #8

After working my way through both feet and both top supports I had a great idea — why not bandsaw the excess off?  I was timing myself, it was taking about 10-12 minutes per-face to do the 3rd and 4th sides.  Most of that time was spent hogging off the extra material  Unfortunately my blade has a small kink in it , so the cut on one side is kind of ragged and it doesn’t track as well as it should.  I’ll have to order a new blade tonight.  And yes, my bandsaw is sorta overkill.  I used to have two 14″ deltas.  One was the metal cutting version, and the other was the standard woodcutting version with a riser block.  I sold both and bought this one from a local machine shop.  It was made in 1945 and worked in a Navel shipyard.  It has hydraulic-everything; blade tension, post adjust, table tilt, and table feed.  I like old machines though.

Bandsawing the Waste

After several hours I ended up with all eight pieces prepared on four sides.

It’s OK to be Square if You’re a Board

Four Legs, Two Feet, Two Tops

Now I need to figure out the end treatment for the feet and tops, then I can move on to the joinery.  I made a template, but I’m not happy with the shape.  It’s close, I just need to adjust the proportions.

First Template for End Design — Not Quite Right Yet

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Sharpening Bench

Hey, I’ve got a great idea!  Let’s start a new project!

I drew up an idea for a dedicated sharpening bench last week.  Marilyn pointed out that the top should really be waterproof (as I’m going to be using waterstones), so I’ve been watching craigslist for a cheap piece of marble or granite.  One showed up that looked like it would work (26′ by 42″) and it was pretty cheap ($60), so I went and picked it up this morning.  I wish it didn’t have the uneven edge on the left side.  I looked into what it takes to cut and polish granite and it looks like a lot of work and mess.  I may try cutting it myself, both because I know it will always bug me and because I eventually want to remodel my kitchen one day.

Hunk of Green Granite

I stopped by the Home Despot on the way back and picked up the rest of the materials I’ll need.  3 green Douglas Fir 4″ x 4″ posts and some wood to make a drawer.  I’d rather use something nice for this, but at $7 each it’s hard to beat.

Wood for the Base

I rough cut all of the fir for the base to length, when I realized I’d miscalculated the material slightly – I didn’t have enough for the stretchers to go between the two trestles.  Actually, I’m glad because I think I’d rather use 4″ x 6″ material for that.  One more run to the hardware store tomorrow morning – maybe I’ll see if they have a diamond blade for cutting granite. while I’m there.

This is a rough mockup of one end of the base.  It will be about 7″ shorter than this of course because the two upright legs will be tenoned into the horizontal parts.  I’m aiming for this to end up the same height as my new workbench.

Trestle Mockup

I started processing the stock to size.  It took maybe two hours to get this all true on two adjacent faces.  I still need to plane it to thickness (oh, joy!) before I can start cutting the joinery.  I did this with my #5 and #8 planes.  The blade in the joiner was getting dull, and has a nick in it from hitting knots.  So first thing tomorrow (after feeding the dogs, cats and bunnies) will be another trip to the local big box store, then some sharpening, then I can finish preparing the stock and start on fitting the joints.  I *think* I can get the base mostly done tomorrow if I really crank on it.

Two feet, two top supports and four legs.  Dang, it looks like I planed an off-cut too.  Well, that’s embarrassing.  Yes, that’s my aluminum winding sticks hiding in the background.  The finish on my new fancy ones I made yesterday isn’t dry yet.

Obligatory Picture of Shavings

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Everything is Cricket

I set my workbench legs outside while I swept up my mess in the shop. This little guy was checking them out, they seemed to meet with his approval.


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Winding Sticks

So I can check the winding sticks off of my project list now.

I’ve been using two 1″ square bars of aluminum, which work great, but they don’t have any class.  Last week I picked up a small piece of mahogney — no idea which species, I chose it because it was the least pretzel-like.  It totally annoys me to pay premium prices for S4S lumber and still end up with bowed, cupped and twisted stock.  Where is the justice I ask you?

I spent way too long planing these pieces flat and to thickness.  For some reason I really struggle with long, narrow bits of wood.  Just the face sides, the edges are no problem.  I re-sharpened my plane blade and checked to make sure it was properly set up.  I checked my “technique”.  I eventually got them whipped into shape.  Some days power tools like a jointer and planer sound like a really good idea.

Small aside: I should have bought the Tormek wet grinder.  I thought “I have a small bench grinder, I’ll just pick up a Norton 3x wheel and a Veritas tool rest”  And a wheel dresser.  Surprise, after buying two 3x wheels (at $45 each) and the tool rest (another $45ish) and the tool holder for the rest ($30 maybe?) I discovered that my bench grinder had gone quietly into that good night.  Quick run to the hardware store for a new bench grinder at $45 (actually it took almost two hours because I got stuck in traffic), only to discover that the Veritas tool rest hits the bracket for the factory tool rest…so I cut it off.  Then I realized that the Veritas rest would really prefer to be used with an 8″ bench grinder because of its size and where the bevel ends up on the wheel.  So I’m into this setup for over $200 and I still have to make a stand for the grinder.  I tried this setup out today with everything clamped to my welding bench.  I’m not impressed with the results.  Sigh.  I get a far superior “grind” using my Veritas sharpening fixture on a stone.  It’s too slow though.

After the distractions of blade grinding, I got back to work and got the stock square on all six sides.  Then I laid out a bevel and planed it in.  I inset gold perl dots in the center of the winding sticks to aid in positioning them on the center of the board, and I inlaid two little squares of gold perl in the top corners of one winding stick to help sight things in.  Sanding, wipe with water, lightly sand to remove the raised grain, and I applied a splash of dark red mahogany aniline dye.  And a coat of oil/varnish.  I’ll lat that dry for a day or two and then give them a coat or two of shellac.

New Winding Sticks

Gold Pearl Inlay

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Screwing Up

I cut all of the joinery on my workbench legs, with only one major problem.  One of the inside tenon faces had some extra material, which I tried to pare off.  It split badly instead and left something of a mess.


I have been using a float-like file for tuning up these inside faces, I should have stuck with that.  I used it to smooth up the torn out area so I could see what I had to deal with.  Not pretty, eh?

I thought about just bringing the outside edge down to the same level, but that would have leave the tenon too thin visually — closer to the front edge the taper was even worse.  So I decided to glue in the shim and re-shape the tenon face.  I sawed off a thin slice from one of my offcuts and planed one face smooth.


Then I slathered everything up with a healthy dose of Titebond III and left it clamped overnight.  I had enough clamps, how often does that happen?

Clamped and Sitting in the Sun

Then I went to town with my float and smoothed out the face.  It’s flat and true now.

Flat and Square!

The repaired tenon came out great, and the thickness is right on the money.  One of the other tenons came out about 1/8″ thinner than the rest – but it’s square and flat.  I think I’ll use wedges from the top (and a slightly oversize mortise just on the top 1″ or so) to make up the difference visually.  I think I’m OK on strength either way.

Next I need to square up the stock I have for my stretchers, then I’m blocked on the bench until I can con someone into coming over to help me lift the bench top onto my temporary workbench.

Leg Joinery Complete

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One Down, Three to Go

I spent a few hours cleaning up the shop, then spent a few hours helping a buddy work on a Cigar Box Guitar project.  He can play, I can saw and sand.

But in spite of that, I made a bit of progress on my workbench.  Baby steps, but I feel like I’ve finally stepped over the line in the sand.  I marked out all the joinery, plus drew in a giant cabinetmaker’s triangle to keep things lined up. Or maybe it’s a giant “caution” sign. Time will tell.

Ready For Sawing

I clamped the first leg in my shoulder vise, which is kind of a token effort.  It mostly didn’t move.  I pared in notches for “second class saw cuts”.  It’s pretentious, but I’m working my way up to second class.

Notched for “Second Class” Saw Cuts

I used my “Roubo Beastmaster” from Bad Axe for this.  It was a eBay score last year, and I’ve finally been able to put it to use.  My benchtop is 5″ thick, and this reaches all the way to the shoulder with maybe 1/8″ to spare before the stiffener hits the end grain.  It cuts pretty aggressively.  It’s work, but way less work that slinging the #8 Stanley around.

First Cut

I cut all of the shoulders first, then ripped the cheeks.  The tenon cheeks.

Everything Sawn

Then I had to get the hunk of waste out of the middle.  I chiseled in the actual shoulders, then used my giant mortise chisel to chop and pop.  I chopped down about a 1/4″, then chiseled in from the end grain to split out the waste.  It went pretty quickly.  I think that’s a 5/8″ mortise chisel, I haven’t measured it.  I don’t have a 1.25″ mortise chisel. but it would make a nice conversation piece.  By the way, I absolutely love that hammer, I picked it up based on Paul Seller’s recommendation.  I refinished the handle (it had stickers on it, and some kind of spray clean) and put a hard yellow face on one side, and a soft grey face on the other.  It’s got plenty of heft.  I use the yellow face to drive chisels, and the grey face to tap dovetails together.

I’ve decided that my regular chisels SUCK.  They are “Sandvik” brand, and they don’t hold an edge at all.  I sharpened my 1″ chisel, including a polished micro bevel.  25 degree primary bevel, 30 degree secondary bevel.  I could shave with it.  I tried just out of curiosity, and have a tiny bald spot on my arm to prove it.  “Woodworker Pattern Baldness” I think it’s called.  Regardless, before this leg was done not only was the chisel dull, it has a dozen tiny nicks in the edge.  The mortise chisel on the other hand was still sharp.

Chopping Out the Waste

I checked the faces and shoulders for square, they were pretty close, but I did need to tune them up a little.  I used a shoulder plane, my #4 smoother, a paring chisel and a couple of files/rasps.  I have one file that has teeth like a float, that worked the dest, and left a nice finish too.

Three More to Do

Tools of Mass Destruction, Laid for Tomorrow

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Canary Pine Test Drive

One of the (many) projects on my laundry list is a traditional tool chest.  I need a place to store my hand tools, and I don’t have any available wall space for a hanging cabinet.  So, toward that end, I’m always on the lookout for the “right” wood for a tool chest.

Ideally, 24″ wide clear pine, for cheap.  Flat would be good too.  I’m not having a lot of luck on that front.  I could use the white pine planks from the big box store and glue up the width I need, but every time I look at that option I see cupped, twisted and bowed boards with lots of knots.  I think those price out at around $2/BF so at least the price is right.  With enough digging and enough visits to enough different stores I could probably get straight enough boards without too many knots.  Southern Lumber has clear pine boards, but at $6/BF it’s a bit spendy – and it’s not all that straight to begin with.  And not to get off on a rant, but it’s absurd that the 1″ x 12″ boards they sell are 13/16″ x 11 1/4″.  Someone seriously needs to fix that, especially when the wood is sold by board foot.  I was buying some rough sawn claro walnut recently, and the guy measured the boards for pricing at the thickest point, the widest width and the longest length – including end cracks and non-square ends.  Seriously?  But I digress.

Long story short, a local speciality wood store has had a stack of “pine” for sale for a year.  It’s marked down to $3/BF right now.  This is not the sort of place that carries pine or fir, they specialize in exotics.  This pine is heavy and dense, so I asked the guy there about the species.  Turns out it’s “Canary Pine”.  It seems pretty dense and resin-heavy.  But would it work OK with hand tools?  I picked up a 12″ x 25″ scrap the other day to see how it would work.

Canary Pine Scrap, 4/4, 12″ x 25″

I didn’t spend a lot of time checking for a straight piece – I was driving my Mini Cooper so I went with the smallest piece they had.  It turned out it to be pretty badly twisted, I’ll need to look more closely at the full size pieces before seriously considering this for another project.  I tried planing the edge, it cut really nicely and left a polished, smooth surface.  The shavings smell really nice too.

So I decided to try to make something out of it.  Something small of course, with the hope that cutting it down would make it simpler to get the pieces flat.  Man, it was really badly warped.  Even cut down it was a workout to get the pieces dimensioned.

I’m going to make a “Shaker Candle Box” along the lines of what Paul Sellers shows in his book/DVD.  I made some small adjustments to the dimensions in my head to accommodate the size of the stock.  I decided to use the two edges for the sides and ends of the box, and use the more colorful area for the top/bottom.  I also sharpened the pin in my panel gauge to more of a knife edge and that helped it track straight and not follow the grain.

Marking out for the box sides, 3 1/4″ wide

I sawed the two sides free.  It’s surprisingly hard wood for pine.

Ripping Material for the Box Sides

Besides the twist, there were some fairly deep cross-grooves in the stock that took a lot of work to remove.  I got the material for the sides/ends flat and thicknessed to 1/2″.  It felt like I was chasing “flat” for a long time.  I seem to have trouble with long, thin, narrow pieces in general.  The shavings smell really nice (did I say that already?), especially from the brown areas which seem to be saturated with resin.  In fact, later in the process I planed a rounded edge and wanted to sand it a little to remove the tiny little plane facets.  In the brown area it was impossible, the resin would just gum up on the surface and I had to rub it off with a rag.  Maybe I could have cleaned it with solvent first?

Sides/Ends Thicknessed

This isn’t a very complex project, so I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow on every saw cut and plane stroke.  A couple of things that worked out really well though:

Cabinet Maker’s Triangles

Marking the sides and front/back with triangles like this made alignment foolproof.  I never had any concerns about whether things were oriented in the right direction.

Cabinet Maker’s Triangles

Hamilton Tools Marking Gauge

This was only the second time I’ve had a chance to use my new marking gauge from Hamilton Tools.  It works like a champ, I could layout the baselines for my dovetails with the 1/2″ stock laying glat on the bench.

Hamilton Tools Marking Gauge

Bad Axe Thin Plate Dovetail Saw

I used my thin plate (.018″) dovetail saw from Bad Axe for this.  It saws really nicely (yards better than I can saw, truth be told).

Nice Thin Kerfs! Watch the Line Joe!

Rob Cosman Dovetail Marking Knife

I’ve used my Cosman marking knife twice now, and I like it a lot. I use it to transfer the tails to the pin board, and it’s flawless.  I have a Blue Spruce knife too, which I like a lot for laying out joinery, but I haven’t tried it on dovetails.  I suspect it’ll work well, but I’m so pleased with the Cosman knife for this I haven’t had the incentive to try it.

Dovetails fit and ready to assemble

The joints came out fairly nice, I’m at least not embarrassed by them.  I had to do more paring to fix up sawing problems, but this worked out well.  In White Pine I could have hammered the joints together and it would have compressed OK.  This material is waaaaay to hard to pull a stunt like that.  Also, the Canary Pine really does’t like to be planed “against the grain”.  It’s very straight grained, but if you go against the grain at all it will chip out badly.  Even with a sharp blade and a fine set.  Weird.  I know the box looks like dime store white pine, but it’s a least twice as dense, maybe four time as dense.

Dvetailed Box, Ready for the Top and Bottom

I cut, flattened, thicknessed and bulnosed the piece for the base.  The rounding over of the edges used a planing technique from Paul Seller’s videos, and it works well.  The basics are to first plane a 45 degree chamfer maybe half the thickness of the board wide.  On the end grain you have to hold the plane at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the cut and use a slicing motion so you don’t tear out the ends or chatter.  Once you have the chamfer hold the plane almost flat to the face and start planing, raising it a hair with each stroke.

I put a bead of glue on the bottom edge of the box, set it on the base with a weight and left it to dry overnight.  I have to go in to work today to make a presentation to the big shots (who don’t understand the word “vacation” apparently, but since I readily agreed maybe I don’t either).  Then I’ll dress out the last bit of the pine for the lid and fit some hinges.  Should have this finished in another hour or two in the shop, then I can get back to my workbench project.  Or another distraction.  Hard to say.

[house lights go up while I fire up Powerpoint to get ready]

OK, Presentation is finished and presented.  I’m back on vacation.  I glued the base to the sides.  Yes, I know it’s a recipe for wood movement problems, but this is how it’s shown in Paul’s book – and who am I do disagree?

Box Glued to the Base

The darker areas of the wood were really loaded with resin.  They were oily and wet, in fact.  The fat red stripe here is actually translucent.  I had to take my plane apart and clean it with acetone.  I couldn’t sand any of the areas that had color because the resin just gummed up on the surface.  I tried cleaning the wood with acetone before sanding, but still no dice.

Gummed Up Smoother

I rubbed one coat of “Tried & True” oil/varnish finish on the outside of the box.  I’ll probably put another coat on tomorrow, I’d like this to have a nice gloss (it won’t take much).

The best part?  The candles we have in the drawer fit just perfectly!

So, what’s the verdict on working with Canary Pine?

On the plus side, it’s far more substantial than the big box store white pine.  It’s in a different league.  The red striping looks nice.  It saws and planes nicely, with the exception of the resin buildup on the planes.  My chisels didn’t care for it, but they aren’t great chisels.  I stopped in the middle of dovetailing and re-sharpened them, and by the time I got to the hinge recesses they had nicks in them again.  I wan’t even pushing them.

On the negative side, it’s a lot more work, and for a painted tool chest this seems like it would be a waste of nice material.  I’d be concerned about edge gluing it with all the oily resin.  Plus, at least this piece was really badly twisted and had some checks and cracks.  If the longer stock they have is in better shape I may pick up a couple of boards to make a shaker cabinet like the one Roy Underhill did in two recent episodes.

Finished Box

Finished Box, Lid Open

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Kolya’s Kandlesticks

We had a family get-together to go to Sunday, for two of my niece’s birthdays.  I picked up a couple of hunks of Redwood Lace turning blocks at Global Wood (on sale, $4 a pound) and turned Kolya loose on the lathe.  I really like this setup, he can do it all himself with just a little supervision.  And he did a really nice job I think.

Hand Made by Kolya, Tried & True Oil/Varnish Finish

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