Monthly Archives: December 2013

Drawers for my Hand Tool Cabinet

A while back I made a giant wall cabinet to hole my hand tools.  It’s been a great addition to the shop and really reduced the clutter.  I designed in six little cubbies that I intended to fit with drawers.  This past week I finally got around to making them.

I’d originally intended to make the drawers using some simple joinery — either a drawer lock joint on the router table or some kind of dado and tongue using the table saw.  I even bought a special bit for the router to make that joint, but in the end I decided to dovetail the drawers for practice instead.

I’d only ever cut one or two half-blind joints previously, and that was in a class.  I got out my tools, sharpened my chisels, milled up some lumber for the drawers and I was ready to go.

Annnnnd, GO!

On your mark, get ready, GO!

I used 3/4″ Alder for the fronts, 1/2″ pine for the sides and back, and 1/4″ plywood for the bottom.  I worked really carefully and got a decent fit on both the half-blind and through dovetail joints on the first drawer.  I was feeling good.  I used the table saw to cut the grooves for the drawer bottom (my plow plane doesn’t have a “plywood thickness” cutter).  I cut the grooves cut and started assembling…and discovered that I’d cut the grooves in the sides in the wrong place…at the top instead of at the bottom.

Well friends, I was off to an inauspicious start.  I thought about cutting additional grooves in the right place.  I thought about starting over.  I thought about how far I could probably throw the drawer.  Then I flipped the two sides, side for side.  Guess what?  They fit.  The fit wasn’t as good as it was in the proper orientation, there were a couple of gaps, but they were snug and plenty strong.  Shrug.

It I had a couple of other mishaps along the way.  When I was paring out the back wall or one of the half-blind sockets on drawer number two it split off from the face.  I wasn’t using much force, this Alder had a lot of shakes/splits.  I think this is caused by improper drying.  I glued the chunk back on and filled the crack with wood putty.  It’s just a shop cabinet, after all.

I gang cut all of the tails, which I picked up from seeing Christopher Schwarz on Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Shop.  It made is simpler to get square cuts.  The let time I cut dovetails (pretty much every time I’ve ever cut dovetails, for that matter) the tail cuts aren’t square or consistent.  You can’t get a proper fit if the sides of the tails are tapered.  And it looks sloppy if the angle of the tail cuts isn’t at least somewhat consistent.  I don’t know if it was the new workbench, or if my sawing has just improved, but I pretty much nailed every saw cut.

Sawn Tails

Sawn Tails

Past attempts have involved a lot of trial and error fitting, paring dovetail faces and general futzing around to get them to fit together.  I didn’t have that experience this time.  I sawed to my layout marks, used a fretsaw to saw out the waste, and chopped directly on the baseline.

I picked up a trick in a youtube video by David Barron on chopping the waste.  If I had an 1/8″ or more waste remaining I chopped that away first.  Then I dropped the chisel in the baseline, made sure is was square and gave it a couple of taps, then I leaned the chisel over two or three degrees — away from the baseline — and chopped to about the halfway point.  Flip the board and repeat.  I had nice tight fits at almost all of my baselines with this approach, where in the past (with a lot of screwing around being careful) I still had bruised baselines.

Rear joint on one drawer

Rear joint on one drawer

 

Another Joint

Another Joint, the shadows almost look like gaps, but it’s tight everywhere except at the top of the leftmost tail

In addition to using “cabinet maker’s triangles” to keep my drawer parts aligned, I also numbered the joints as a backup.  Except for mis-cutting the bottom grooves on the first drawer I didn’t mis-orient and parts.

IMG_1263

Drawer Parts with alignment triangles and numbered corners

I’d intended to put some cheap knobs on the drawers and call it good.  Then I realized there was no room for knobs.  At the very least, they would interfere with the doors closing.  Rats.  I looked at some recessed ring pulls at the hardware store (and online), but at about $20 each that was too much cash for this project.

I thought about carving some recessed pulls.  I saw this in Fine Woodworking. I did 3 or 4 practice pieces, but they took too much time and were too inconsistent.  I wanted to get this done TODAY, thank you very much.

Experimenting with Carving Pulls

Experimenting with Carving Pulls

So I ran down to the hardware store and poked around.  I picked up six cotter pins and six welded steel rings.  For $7 total, with tax.  And a bag.  The rings are chromes, the cotter pins are since plated steel.  They had brass cotter pins, but I didn’t want to make my own brass rings, that would be a more attractive option. But I had to do something to make this look better.

IMG_1270

Hardware Store Booty

So I heated and oil quenched the parts, two cycles on the cotter pins, and three cycles on the rings.

First heat cycle, no oil quench yet

First heat cycle, no oil quench yet

Then a coat of wax and they were ready to install.  I drilled an 1/8″ hole, pushed the cotter pin in, spread the legs of the pin, bent the tips over and drove them into the inside of the drawer — just like clinching nails.  It worked well.

Home Made Pulls, Ready to Install

Home Made Pulls, Ready to Install

I rubbed in one coat of Tried & True Oil/Wax finish, and I was done.  They pulls look good to me, they were cheap and easy, and the drawers are a wrap!

Success!

Success!

Six Drawers

Six Drawers

Drawers prior to installing the pulls and finishing

Drawers prior to installing the pulls and finishing (the bottom drawer closest to the camera is the one I had to flip the sides, hence the gaps.  Hell, I just happy it fit at all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Candlesticks

Kolya has been making candlestick holders on our $75 lathe to give as Christmas gifts.  We’re down to the wire and I’m hoping the finish dries quickly on the last couple.  It won’t of course, but I can hope.

Lets to his own devices Kolya tends to make a cylinder with grooves, I’ve been pushing him to make more graceful shapes.

From the left, one in Black Acacia, one tall tulip-shaped holder in figured Redwood, two smaller tulip-style holders in Zebra wood (nasty to turn), a very tiki-ish tall holder in Claro Walnut and two shorter holders in some (still wet) exotic turning wood from Woodcraft.

As soon as the finish dries we'll wrap these up

As soon as the finish dries we’ll wrap these up

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Again with the Gumption Traps

When things are clicking in the shop there is no better feeling, and when they aren’t…well it’s not a great feeling.  I expect everyone has run into their share of share of shop frustrations.  Gluing a panel in backwards, chopping out the wrong part of a dovetail, plowing the groove for a drawer bottom in the wrong place (guilty, and recently!)

I know it takes the wind out of my sails.  Recently my 13 year old started a stained glass project, it’s a rendition of a Husky — which is his favorite breed of dog.  He was cranking away on it, he had all of the parts cut and fit and started applying the copper foil to the edges.  But he got in a hurry and didn’t double check the fit with all the parts. He started soldering it and it shifted around and got out of control.

He felt like a failure, and wanted to chuck it in the trash.  Having been there myself plenty of times (they have streets named after me) I coached him to not give up on it.  I shared some of my more spectacular shop blunders and encouraged him to fix the problems and finish it.

Monday he decided he was going to get it finished.  He pulled off all the the foil and solder, and started fitting the parts into a little frame I made him to help hold everything in alignment.  He had to re-make a couple of parts, and grind several parts to get a good fit.  Then he started foiling the parts again, and discovered a few spots that were too tight and had to do more grinding.  One of the pieces broke, and he cut out a replacement part.  One of the Husky’s eyes was a little too small, so he made another.  Then, he soldered it, added a patina and polished it.

It’s beautiful.  He did a first class job, and the result is something anyone would be proud of.  And, I think, he learned an important life lesson.

Kolya's Husky Stained Glass Project

Kolya’s Husky Stained Glass Project

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Forging a Hinge

I’ve been toying with making a “dutch tool chest” for a while, and lately I’m wondering if I could make my own strap hinges.  So I thought, since I had the forge out and hadn’t burned myself so far, I’d do a sample piece.

I started with some hot rolled steel bar stock, 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ (ish).  I drew out (thinned) one end, formed a hinge eye (sort of) and laid the thin part onto the back.  I forge welded that so the eye would be plenty strong.  Then I forged a little decorative lump on the other end.  It looks sort of like part of a hinge.

The stock is a little too thick for this scale hinge – I’m just working with scraps I have on hand.  When I set up the space to do woodwork I hauled away all of my scrap metal that I’d saved up for “someday” blacksmithing projects.  And no, I don’t miss it.

So, what’s the verdict?  I think I could make a pair of hinges.  A little thinner metal (1/8″ or maybe 3/16″) would work better.  I need to make a “tool” to help chap the hinge eye, these are called “fullers”.  I started incising a design, and decided I didn’t like how it was going, but I think it needs some ornamentation.

I’ll call it a firm “maybe”.  I have a design in mind, but I don’t have the chops to pull it off.  Maybe with some practice.

Eye roughed in, ready to forge weld on the back

Eye roughed in, ready to forge weld on the back

Yes, Virginia, that's HOT

Yes, Virginia, that’s HOT

Completed Eye and Forge Weld

Completed Eye and Forge Weld

Back of the "hinge" thingie

Back of the “hinge” thingie

Finished Hinge Part

Finished Hinge Part

 

 

 

 

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Forging a Striking Knife

I’ve been in a funk lately, too many things going on and not enough time in the shop.  Work has been particularly “interesting”, and feeling the need to correct my mood I decided to hit something.  Specifically, a piece of hot metal.

I haven’t done any forge work in years, and I’m an amateur at best, but this is a simple enough project and it was fun to knock out.  Start to finish it took less than an hour.

I started with a piece of 1″ wide by 1/8″ thick high carbon steel (1080).  That’s probably not the ideal stock size to make one of these, 1/2″ x 3/16″ or 1/2″ x 1/4″ seems like it would be better.  Or 1/2″ round bar.  I didn’t take a lot of in-progress pictures because I had a roaring hot forge going, and a thin piece of steel that would cool quickly if I wasted any time.

The process involves drawing out the point end by hammering on the edges, forging in a rough bevel, hardening and tempering, then sharpening.  When I tempered the blade I kept the cutting edge on a heat sink to keep it from overheating, and the temper line stopped short of the edge — you can see a difference in the metal on the back where I flattened it.

The knife edge is very sharp and should hold an edge well.  I’ll probably make another one and see if I can improve my technique a bit.

Forge Heating Up

Forge Heating Up

Drawing out the awl end

Drawing out the awl end

Finished Knife

Finished Knife

Back flattened

Back flattened

Closeup of the front

Closeup of the front

 

 

 

 

 

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Greene & Greene Tool Chest – Updated

Once I thought about the renderings I did last night I realized the missing details were bugging me, so I decided to update it with the missing bits.  It looks more finished to my eye now, although there are a number of things that I’d still want to tweak.  This is close enough for my purposes, and was a good experience getting familiar with SolidWorks 2011 — I had been using the 2009 version because of some other limitations.

So, what’s new in this version?

I added a simple base.  It’s a small detail, but I think it makes it look a lot more finished.  I changed the top so that it has breadboard ends with ebony plugs, and I added the same stylized inlay as on the front panel (silver wire with copper accents and abalone shell inlay.  I had to fiddle around to figure out how to get the abalone inlay to render, but I got it sorted out.  I also added handles on the sides for carrying, in the same style as the Bush Curio Cabinet, more or less.  It looks finished now, although if I build it one day I’ll need to spend more time futzing with the inlay design, and maybe a few other details.

There is a G&G Inlay class at the William Ng school this spring, I’d really like to attend that.  I’d better start saving my pennies.

Updated Model

Updated Model

Details

Details

 

More Details

More Details

 

 

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Greene & Greene Tool Chest

I’ve been toying with the idea of building a tool chest for a few years, every since I read Christopher Schwarz’ “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”.  I thought of building one just exactly as he prescribed, then later thought about a wall mounted option (which I build for the pure efficiency of it) and lately I’ve been toying with building a Dutch chest.  The original impetus was to store my tools, but the wall-mounted chest I build has been working really well for me.  The idea of building a dutch tool chest is just for fun, and possibly to give as a gift for a friend.

I joked about making a “Greene & Greene Dutch Chest” once, and the idea kinda stuck.  I thought I’d draw it up and see how it might play out.  I’d intended to incorporate more details into it, and I might play with it some more, but for now this is enough.

Will I build it?  Maybe, but it’s not high on my list.  I’d want to play with the design more to work out the kinks.

(these are high-res renderings – you can click on them for a larger version)

Dutch Tool Chest, ala G&G

Dutch Tool Chest, ala G&G

Inlay Detail

Inlay Detail

 

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