Monthly Archives: December 2012

Making a Turnscrew, Part 1

I spent a few hours sweeping and cleaning in the shop, it needs a lot more work, and I have some major reorganizing plans in the works.  More about that another time — but suffice it to say I have some new shop space in the offing that I can dedicate to woodworking.  Before that I have a lot of cleaning and organizing, and at least two dump runs in front of me.  I’ll leave that until next year (tomorrow).

One of the back burner projects I’ve had in mind for a while is to make a turnscrew — basically a fancy screwdriver.  I saw one on eBay earlier this year that was stunning, it had neat filework along the sides.  I should have saved a picture of it because now that I want to make one I can’t find a really nice looking one to emulate.  This one is for sale on Jim Bode Tools:

Turnscrew for Sale at Jim Bode Tools

Turnscrew for Sale at Jim Bode Tools

The basic elements are a rounded, bulbous wooden handle (some had flats to keep them from rolling away), a flat blade that generally tapers in width and thickness from the handle to the tip, and s metal ferrule on the handle.  I had most of the junk I needed to make one laying around.  A piece of 1″ wide by 1/8″ thick hot rolled 1095 high carbon steel, a small block of wood for the handle and a bit of plumbing leftover for the ferrule.  The dowel will be part of the mounting setup.

Parts for the Turnscrew

Parts for the Turnscrew

I started by stripping off the mill finish on the steel and daubed it with some blue dykem (layout fluid).  While that was drying I drilled a 3/8″ hole in the handle and chucked it up in my lathe.  I’m really liking this lathe, best $75 I’ve ever spent.  I just eyeballed the shape, checking it with my hand periodically to make sure it was about the right scale.

Roughed In Handle

Roughed In Handle

I sanded the handle up to 400 and slathered it with oil/varnish mix and left it to dry.

I laid out a centerline on my steel, then striped in layout lines for the tank and blade.  The tang is 3/8″ wide (to fit into the 3/8″ hole I drilled) and the blade tapers from the width of the ferrule to about .300″ at the tip.  I used a belt sander with a 50 grit belt to hog off the material.  You could use a hacksaw or bench grinder.

Layout the Blade

Layout the Blade

Here are the main parts laid out for a glamor shot.  I’m liking it so far.

Main Parts Mocked Up

Main Parts Mocked Up

The handle feels great in my hand.  I’m not sure what the wood is, some sort of figured hardwood turning block I got at the wood store.  It’s lighter and finer-grained than Walnut, but darker than Maple.  The color is going to look good with the copper fitting.

This Needs Several More Coats of Oil Finish

This Needs Several More Coats of Oil Finish

I used the belt sander to begin to taper the thickness of the blade, then switched to a slow speed disc sander with 180 grit paper .  I need to do just a bit more on this still.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but I think it improves the look in a (very) subtle way.

Tapering the Blade

Tapering the Blade

I’m not sure about the final finish on the blade.  Maybe a sanded satin finish, although a blued finish would be nice.

Almost-Finished Blade

Almost-Finished Blade

I have several things left to do still.  Filing the slot in the copper cap, fitting the tank and dowel fillers into the handle, adding the filework decorations, heat treating the blade and shaping the tip to fit a screw.  I should be able to finish this up in a couple of hours tomorrow.

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Shaker Stool – Finished

The Shaker stool is finished and ready to sit on, but I can’t bring myself.  Yet.  I’ll get over it.  But I love my stool.

After lopping off the extra material where the tenons and braces stuck out with a saw, I evened (is that a word?) everything up with a plane and sanded it with 220.  I gave it two coats of diluted clear shellac.  Sanded with 320, and gave it one more coat with undiluted shellac.  I rubbed it with wax and 0000 steel wool and it feels amazing to the touch.  Very silky smooth.

There are a few gaps on the diagonal braces.  They all fit really tight structurally, but here and there I have a little gap.  Those braces are the hardest part in my opinion.  Next time my plan is to lay out a template with the notches and end bevels – allowing for a little overhang for trimming.  Then I can mark out all four braces, and use the template to check my work as I saw and pare the notches.

Finished Bench

Finished Bench

Finished Bench

Finished Bench

Finished Bench

Finished Bench

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Shaker Stool Construction

Recently Ralph at the Accidental Woodworker did a blog post on making a Shaker Stool based on a class he took with C.H. Becksvoort.  Fine Woodworking also published an article on the same stool project this month.  It looked like a fun project (and it had better be, because I don’t want to tell anyone I’m having trouble enjoying my stool).

I had some left over white pine from making the tool chest for my my brother-in-law Jay, so I thought this would be a good skill-practice piece.  It’s not a great piece of wood, even allowing for the lousy nature of this genre of wood to begin with.  It is badly cupped and has a slight twist.  There isn’t enough wood here to plane it straight and flat, unles I plan to make paper airplanes out of it.  Now that I have my excuses properly established, we can move on.

I knifed in all of my cross cuts, avoiding the knots as best I could.  You probably can’t see it clearly in the photo, but for one of the cuts I knifed in a double line to allow for the saw kerf.  I got this trick from Paul Sellers, and it seemed to work well.  I eliminated a lot of tear out between the adjacent pieces and gave me lines to plane both parts to.  After cross-cutting I also had to rip the boards to width, which let me get rid of all of the edge knots but one.

Raw Material

Raw Material

Annnnd, we’re done…

All Done!

All Done!

Just kidding.  This bench is a lot more complex than that.  In fact, the main reason I wanted to make it was for the practice cutting joints.

The first order of business was to layout and cut two dados across the bottom.  I screwed up the first one and made it too wide.  I’m not 100% sure how I did that, but it probably boils down to being careless.  I used a marking gauge to layout the outside edge of both dados, and pared up to this line creating a Paul Sellers’ “Knife Wall”.  Then I fit the leg against it, and knifed in the other side.  Done properly this should give a tight, accurate dado.  In this case I’m one for two.  In Baseball I’d be batting .500 and and could get a MLB contract, in woodworking that puts me squarely in the “rank amateur” category.  Think about that.

After cutting the two dados I needed to cut two through mortises in line with the dados.  I cut the tenons on the legs first, then used this to transfer the locations of the ends of the mortises.  I used the marking gauge to lay out the outside edge of the mortises on the top, and just gauged the width using the  actual tenon.  It worked out pretty well.  I didn’t try to “chop” the mortises using a chisel across the narrow width – I was afraid it would just split the wood and make a frayed mess.  Instead, I removed the waste in the same way I did the dados.  I chiseled across the grain and pared up to it to create “knife walls”.  I worked from both sides, and the waste mountain in the middle just dropped out nicely.

Shopping Mortises

Chopping Mortises

So far, so good.  One loose dado, one tight dado and four tight mortises.

Mortise Test Fit

Mortise Test Fit

Marking out the arch for the legs was simple, although cutting with a coping saw was a near disaster.  The cut wandered all over the place like the new Hobbit movie, “An Unexpected Journey”.  I ended up doing a lot of rasp work to get the curves right.  I need a better saw for cutting curves!

Layout the Curve for the Legs

Layout the Curve for the Legs

The next step was really time consuming – cutting and fitting the corner braces.  I followed the instructions in the magazine, cutting all four to length first.  I think it would be easier to hold on to them if I left them long at this stage, but the instructions for laying out the notches are based on them being the right length.  This approach worked OK, my biggest problem was getting the notches cut, squared and evenly spaced.  My saw cuts were all a little off, and having a longer length at that stage would probably make it simpler to hold them in the vise and get a good approach with the saw.  So I did a lot of paring with the chisel, to get the cuts square to the faces of the brace, and to create a square inside corner.

In the end I was mostly successful, but there are a few gaps in the assembled bench.  It reminds me of my first attempt at dovetails, and not in a good way.

Angle Braces

Angle Braces

To fit the angle braces to the bench I dry assembled the legs and top and clamped them together against a cast iron angle plate.  These things are very accurate for woodworking – even the cheap ones that you can get from Harbor Freight and Enco.  I picked up several from Enco on sale a few years ago for maybe $20 each.  I’ve used them to make machining fixtures for the CNC mill, and on occasion to help out with a wood project like this.

I eyeballed wach brace, and knifed in the cuts.  I sawed the shoulders and split out the waste, paring up to the depth layout line I made with my marking gauge.  I set the gauge slightly shallower than the thickness of the braces so I could plane them to be flush.  I caught a lucky break in that the one edge knot I was stuck with is eliminated by this brace!

Fitting the Braces

Fitting the Braces

Last thing yesterday I glued up the assembly.  I used some scraps of Purpleheart to wedge the tenons.  I wasn’t going to clamp this, but one of the angle braces wasn’t seating as tightly as the rest, and even with the wedges in the mortises the top still had a slight tendency to cup.  So I started adding clamps, and ended up with something kind of scary looking.

I’m going to head out to the shop in a bit and remove the clamps, plane off the protrusions and decide if the assembly is good enough for a coat of shellac.  If not I may end up trying out some milk paint on this project.  Either way, it will be off my bench today so I can get back to work on my workbench project.

Add Clamps and Go Out For Dinner

Add Clamps and Go Out For Dinner

PS: and yes, that is a Lie-Nielsen box hiding in the background.  Santa was good to me this year, more about that another time.

 

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Squeezed in One Last Christmas Present Project

Kolya and I double-teamed one last project for my wife.  She likes to write with fountain pens, and had a blotter on her wish list.  I tried to order the one she had on her list, but it was out of stock.  So I ordered the refill pad, and decided to make one.

It was pretty simple.  I had a walnut bowl block that was about the right size, so we cut it to size and squared it up.  Kolya made a cardboard pattern for the curved face.  I roughed it in with a saw and thought I’d save some time by using a stationary belt sander to shape the curve.  I’m not sure I actually saved any time – I think I could have faired in the curve just a fast with a block plane.  And it would have been easier to keep straight.

Once we had the face shaped, we ripped off a 1/2″ slab, drilled a hole and set a threaded insert in the bottom part.  The way it works is the blotter paper fits on the curved face, and the ends wrap about the end of the wood and are pinched in place by the top block.  We just had time to slather on one coat of Tried & True varnish oil, then we had to wrap it.

I could probably describe that better, but I’m tired now.

Assembled Blotter

Assembled Blotter

Disassembled Blotter

Disassembled Blotter

And finally, here is the collection of candlestick holders Kolya made for various people.  He’s really enjoyed making things on the lathe.

Candlestick Holders by Kolya

Candlestick Holders by Kolya

 

 

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Early Christmas Haul

We did our gift exchange with my brother and sister in-law last night. They got me a really interesting book on chair making and an amazing bird cage awl. Thanks guys!

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Grandpa’s Tool Chest, Pretty Much Done

I decided to go with the Cherry Danish Oil basecoat and Orange Shellac topcoat.  Between applying finish, sanding, sharpening tools for the chest and running a few errands that pretty much used up the whole day.

This was my starting point, sanded to 220, edges chamfered with a block plane.

Bare Naked Wood

Bare Naked Wood

I applied a coat of Cherry Danish Oil with a foam brush, and tried to work in in, especially into the light areat.  It’s really weird how some areas just won’t take the finish as well as others.    The entire front of the chest is one board, but half of it soaks up the finish and the other half doesn’t.  Weird.  I wiped it down with a clean cloth and let it dry off for an hour.

Cherry Danish Oil Basecoat

Cherry Danish Oil Basecoat

Then I built up two or three coats of shellac, thinned 50% from the can, which I guess makes it a 1.5lb cut.  I was trying to build up some color.  I left that to dry for three hours while I ran to the hardware store for some 400 grit sandpaper (which they didn’t have!) and did a few other errands.  Then I sanded the chest with 320 grit just enough to take the texture out of the finish.  Finally I brushed on one final oat of undiluted 3lb cut shellac.  I’m letting that dry overnight, in the morning I’ll rub it out with 0000 steel wool and wax it.

Shellac Top Coats

Shellac Top Coats

I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out.  The finish really seems to glow.

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Grandpa’s Tool Chest, Part 3

I managed several hours in the shop yesterday and was able to pretty much finish the fabrication of the chest, just leaving the finishing.

The first order of business was to flatten the lid, which is glued up from two boards.  I worked across the grain to level them, then lengthwise to remove the marks from cutting across the grain and the last few little low spots.  Then I pulled the blade back and made passes until I gut full-width whisky shavings.

Why didn’t I use my LN #4 for this?  Two reasons, the main one is that I still get inconsistent results with it.  I have a really hard time setting it up to take a whispy shaving (while it’s dead simple with the #8).  I don’t get it, the next time LN is in town I’m taking the plane in for Denab to look at it.  The other reason is that it fell off of the bench the other day, and landed right on the front tote, which took the full force of the impact.  No other damage to the plane, but the knob and it’s mounting screw are toast.  I’ll have to order a replacement knob after the holidays.

Flattening the Lid

Flattening the Lid

And of course I had to use my muscle bound buddy to fill in the gaps in the knots.  I used the same stuff to fill the nail holes in the skirting.  I’ll be interested to see how this looks under the finish.

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Stoopud Knot!

Muscle Clad Buddy

Muscle Clad Buddy

In the past hinge mortises have been worrisome for me.  Well, my ability to make the accurately, has been a concern.  The last several sets I’ve done have come out pretty well.  First, I position the lid on the case, and strike a knife mark across both the lid and the chest for the outside location of each hinge edge.  Then I use a marking knife to outline the position of each hinge on the case edge and bottom of the lid. and my marking gauge to mark the depth.  I pare up to the outline marks like you would for a “first class saw cut”, then chisel them deeper and pare to the mark again until I get to the full depth.  Then I pare away the hump in the middle until I get to my depth line.  Then I finish it with a router plane.

Hinge Mortise in Case

Hinge Mortise in Case, Will it Fit?

All four mortises came out great, and they even lined up exactly as they should.  I had to run to the hardware store to get longer screws, these came with 1/2″ long screws which didn’t seem like enough.  I used 5/8″ screws on the lid and 1″ long screws on the case side.  I also picked up some light gauge brass chain and screw eyes to make a support for the lid when it’s open.

Yeah!

Yeah!

Then I fit the upper skirt.  I glued and nailed it to the lid.  The corners are mitered, glued and cross-nailed.  And of course I countersunk the nails and my muscle bound buddy filled in the nail holes after the clamps came off.

Upper Skirt in Place

Upper Skirt in Place

I made a chisel rack for inside.  I just marked out the spacing, sawed across the grain to depth and chiseled out the waste like a dado.  The chisels are Wood River (Woodcraft store brand) butt chisels that were on sale for $29.  The online reviews were surprisingly good, although they need serious work on the backs to flatten them.  They are surprisingly not sharp out of the box.  I’ll need to tune those up today while I wait for the coats of finish to dry.

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Pretty, But Dull

I mounted the chisel rack inside, and added a saw till.  Next time I do this I’ll use screws to hold the slotted bots to the cross piece.  Nailing into them (while they were sliding around making a mess with the glue) was a pain.  They are too springy from the relief cuts to be able to nail into nicely.

Saw Till and Chisel Rack

Saw Till and Chisel Rack

Here is the mostly-finished tool chest.  I have a few little details left.  A bit of sanding, breaking the edges of the top skirt with a plane, adding the top stays, and of course the finish.  Should be able to do that all this morning.

It may not be apparent from the pictures, but it’s big.  Not as deep as the regular anarchists too chest, but I just checked the dimensions of the “Traveling Anarchist’s Tool Chest”, and mine if 4″ shorter, 3″ wider maybe 2″ shorter.  It’s big enough that we’re certainly not taking my mini to the in-laws tomorrow.

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Tool Chest

Tool Chest

Tool Chest

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Grandpa’s Tool Chest – Choosing a Finish

I’m nearly ready to put some finish on the tool chest.  I made up some sample swatches to try different finished.  The topcoat is going to be shellac, but I’m considering putting some color under it.

Any opinions or favorites?

I’m leaning toward either just the orange shellac, or maybe a base coat of “cherry” danish oil, t0pped with shellac.

Finish Sample One and Two

Finish Sample One and Two

Finish Sample Three and Four

Finish Sample Three and Four

 

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Grandpa’s Toolchest, Part 2

Christmas is fast approaching, and as a none too subtle footnote I actually only have until Saturday night to finish this tool chest as we’re getting together with my brother-in-law’s family for our gift exchange on Sunday.  Plenty left to do, and I actually have one more present in mind that I’d like to make after this.  Or two.  Shoot, I’m doomed.

Yesterday I got a few hours in after taking care of work.  The first order of business was to get the bottom installed, but I couldn’t wait to see how the dovetails looked after a bit of clean up.  The circles on the tails are where I used a piece of dowel rod to drive the tails home.  The glue seemed to grab too soon, I think I didn’t have enough on the surface so it was drying out quickly.  But overall it’s mostly gap-free, and they should look good after I plane the sides down a bit.

Initial Clean-Up on Dovetails

Initial Clean-Up on Dovetails

I’m doing this tool chest the same way Chris Schwarz has shown for his Anarchist’s Tool Chest, although I won’t be dovetailing the skirts.  I’d like to have tried that approach, but I’m concerned about the amount of time it would add.  I cut half-laps for the bottom boards.  I kept them pretty straight and square as I was working, but still used the little shoulder plane to tune them up.  One or two passes on the shoulder removed any little problems.

Cutting Half Laps

Cutting Half Laps

I had to tweak the depth stop until I got a good fit up between adjacent boards.

Good Fit!

Good Fit!

Then I cut a bead on the left side of each joint as a decoration.  This is a sample cut on a scrap as a test of course.

Beaded

Beaded

Finally I nailed the bottom boards to the shell.  I pre-drilled holes for the cut nails, and angled them slightly (like dovetails).  I really like these nails.

Nailing the Bottom On

Nailing the Bottom On

I used four nails per board, it seems very secure.

Check Out My Bottom!

Check Out My Bottom!

I planed up material for the bottom skirt, although I neglected to take any pictures.  I mitered the corners, nailed and glued it on, filled the nail holes and beveled the top edge.  If I’d taken a picture of the skirting installed it would look like this, but with the skirting of course.

Ready for the Skirt

Ready for the Skirt

I was almost out of time for the evening, but I jointed and clued up two boards for the top.  The top is a major deviation from the ATC design, instead of a frame and panel it is a flat board with a skirt.  More like a boarded blanket chest.

Two 1 x 12 Boards Jointed

Two 1 x 12 Boards Jointed

In The Clamps

In the Clamps

So, what’s left?  At least these things, although there are a few other small things I’d do if I had time.  I have to say, I’m jealous.  I need to make one of these for myself next.

  1. Plane lid, cut to fit, add skirting, hinges and a support strap
  2. Interior: small chisel rack, saw till, maybe a sliding till if I have time
  3. Exterior finish.  Shellac, maybe with a stain or dye.  I started a finish sample board yesterday
  4. Clean-up and sharpen a Stanley #4 I bought on ebay to go in it
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Grandpa’s Toolchest

Lost Art Press recently printed an English translation of Grandpa’s Workshop.  I bought three copies, one for my son and the other two for two of my nephews.  In the book there is a simple tool chest; I was inspired to build a simple tool chest for my brother-in-law for Christmas.  Hopefully he’s not secretly reading my blog.  The visual I had in mind was another chest inspired by by the same book.  This one is built by  Archer Burbank, age 6.

Archer's Chest

Archer’s Chest

I like the simplicity and size (of the chest, I don’t actually know Archer, although he looks to be a cute kid).  So of course I immediately ignored those two things as I started building one as a Christmas present.  I set the size based on one of the standard “golden ratio” sizes (13″ tall x 21″ wide x 34″ long), in part because with a 1 x 12 and an applied bottom and lid I would end up at about 13″ tall.  It’s a wonder I get through the day in one piece.

So that’s the story of why the chest is so big.  The complex part boils down to wanting the practice dovetailing.  If I’d nailed it then I’d be done by now.  I tried to work carefully, and timed myself on different parts to get a sense of how long it takes me to cut and fit dovetails.  I was cutting tails (or pins) on one end of one board in about 12 minutes.  Layout, sawing, chopping.  No way it that going to set any records in the Hand Tool Olympics, but my goal was to get the best fit possible.

Chopping Tails

Chopping Tails

Sawing went just fine, thank you very much.  I have plenty of room for improvement, but all of my tail cuts were square and followed the line reasonable well.  I haven’t been sawing out the waste, instead I’me chopping right on the baseline and paring away some of the waste for chisel clearance.  After sawing my first step is to pare away a small chip in front of the baseline.  Then I register the chisel in the baseline and give it a light tap, and repeat paring up to the baseline.  At this point I can use a solid hit with the hammer, and I repeat this until I’m about 1/2 way through.  Flip the board and repeat on the other side.  This seems to work really well for me.

Tails Paired

Tails Paired

A sharp chisel makes this so much easier.  I nicked my finger when I went to brush away a chip and touched the chisel with my left middle finger.  I had to stop and grab the masking tape to keep from bleeding everywhere.

Tails Cut

All Tails Cut, Time for Pins

Transferring the tails to the pin board went really smoothly.  No slipping, and I’m still really liking my Cosman dovetail makring knife.  I sawed all of the pins next to the layout line, and in a few places was a little wide of the line and could easily pare to the line.  I tried to sneak up ion the fit.  I probably left it a little too tight as it was a struggle to glue up.  Live an learn.

Pins Transferred

Pins Transferred

Test Fit - Almost There!

Test Fit – Almost There!

Gluing up wasn’t as smooth as cutting and fitting.  It was a little rushed and sloppy, I need to work out a better process for that.  I’ve since planed up the joints, I have a few gaps at the baseline because the glue set up before I could get everything driven/clamped into position.  Nothing terrible though, this is going to be nice!  Times a-wasting.  I have to nail on the (shiplapped) bottom make the lower skirt, lid and some internal bits.  A chisel holder, saw till and sliding till.  Or whatever I get done by Saturday night..

All Glued Up

All Glued Up

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