Oct 16

Pressing diversions

Someone at work asked me today if I could make a cheese press (perfectly ordinary question). At first I thought they meant something a bit fancy like one of these:

Which is doable, but a little time-consuming and I have about six other things on the go at the moment, but then they explained no, they meant like this one:


Now that’s all pretty and stuff, but basically it’s two planks, three bits of threaded rod, a few nuts and a handle. How hard could that be? So I said I’d have a go. I had some offcuts of 2x4s from the bench that were around a foot long and the cheese jar thingy they had wasn’t that big, so I figured this could be reasonably easy…


Few small offcuts – I figure resaw the 2x4s to 4x1s, glue up two for a panel for the base, use one for the crossbar at the top and take that 2×2 and get a handle out of it. If nothing else, it’ll be some practice with chisel and spokeshave that’ll be handy for the crib later. So I clean them up on a face and edge with the jack and mark off a mid-line for the saw and get going.


I’ll say this much for pine – it’s a pain for knots or fancy joints, but it really does saw easy.


Mind you, helps to have a good saw. Today, this thing was a line-following machine…


Did I mention how critical that wedge was though?


Okay, nice clean resawn boards. With a pretty knot-pattern too.


Must try to keep that in as a feature, it’s too nifty not to. Resawed the other board as well, then took the first two and bookmatch planed the edges for a butt joint and gave them another swipe with the smoother to spring the joint, and glued up.


Look, I know the glue brush is a fancy gadget, but screw it, it works better than looking for scraps of timber all the time and the glue peels right off when it’s dry. I like the thing. I’m a little worried that the bristles won’t last and they’ll come off as I pull dried glue out of them, but meh, I can live with it. The other end, the glue paddle thing, is the normal primary school glue spreader design and you can get packs of 50 of them for pennies on ebay if it comes to it.


Hmm. I think the alignment drifted by a mm or so during the clamping. Or the kerf was wider than I thought. Oh well, still not too shabby.


And some very rudimentary roughing out for the handle. More work there yet, but I want to get the nuts and threaded rod and stuff before doing too much, so I know what size the holes will be and where they’ll go exactly. So I set it all aside there for the moment and went back to the slats for the crib and marked up the blanks for resawing.


At that point I drew a line under it. Only an hour in the shed (late start), but I might get that press done over the weekend. Have the electrics to do as well though, and the weather is finally forecast to be dry enough to paint the shed. Might have to make that the priority, there won’t be many opportunities between now and winter to get that bit done.

Oct 16

In camera

So I was trying to get a nice photo of a piece of the grain on one of the spars last night that had slightly hinky grain and which had torn out even on the smoothing plane, but which the card scraper had done a lovely number on. The camera on the samsung S4 phone I use was just not picking out the detail very well. Then today a workmate (thanks Gary!) loaned me his Canon 450D to try out. Holy crap. I used a Pentax SLR a few decades ago, and one of the Fuji not-quite-a-DSLR camera a decade ago for photos of target shooting stuff, so I knew the DSLR was going to be good, but seriously, holy crap it’s just in a whole other category.

Here’s the un-post-processed images of that tear-out patch of grain (I’ve just resized the image to the same 1200×800 size in both).


Normally I have to play with the cameraphone images quite a bit to sort out white balance and colours and so on (and it’s not always possible to get it right), but the canon gets it right off the bat. And the detail is so much better.


Spent the shed time this evening taking the 72″ ash board I had, and rough-cutting 30″ out of it…


…marking that out with the slat template…


…and ripping it down to make four slat blanks…


img_9350aThe ripping did not go so well this time. I’m pretty unhappy with it in fact, and I’ll only just be within tolerances when the slats are resawn and prepped. Finished up by planing the blanks around to make the marking up easier tomorrow.


You can see why I’m unhappy with that ripping!

I did notice some very nice grain in one of them though, I must remember to keep it on the top side of the slat in the assembly:



Oct 16

8 out of 1

So I was wondering if ripping the 8x1x30″ board down to four 2x1x30″ laths and then resawing those was the better way to go. And now I know.


Yes indeed. Much more accurate resawing, the worst variance was yesterday’s 2mm deviation, and much less sweat involved either (I’m not saying it’s easy you understand, just easier…)

So that’s twelve slats down, eight to go, and now I have to ponder whether I break down the 60″ board I have into two 30″ boards and use one of those and have the other in reserve and save the 34″ for something else; or if I use the 34″ board for the last eight slats and keep the 60″ in reserve. I’m leaning heavily to the former on the grounds that I’m going to do another timberyard run later this month.

I also got to try out some new tools. So I used slat #1 in that pile as a test run earlier, but even with my smoother on the wispy setting, I couldn’t get rid of all the tearout on the slat, there was one portion that had awkward grain. I did have a plan for this, but first I needed to make a jig for a file.


I don’t care that it’s not vital and I don’t care what Paul Sellars says about dogs and end vices, I think that thing is great 🙂 It would have been a right pain in the fundament to do that routing job against a planing stop and the face vice was warping the wood slightly (this is yet another on the list of JigsIWillHaveToMakeABetterOneOfLaterWhenIHaveTime 😀 ).


I haven’t had a task for this little guy either, I knew I’d be using it on this project so I bought it earlier off ebay, but it’s been languishing in a box ever since. Perfect for this though.


Few minutes with a smoother and a pair of thin wedges because it’s not perfect but who cares, it’s a pine jig, and I had a fence for my file and I could get on with sharpening my card scrapers. I do have a #80, but I cleverly took out its card and put it somewhere safe, so I’ll have to go digging to find it again. Till then, we do it by hand.


And wow, does that work. Almost exactly as advertised, and I think the slightly-more-fiddly-than-I-was-expecting bit was down to a poor sharpening job rather than the tool (the cheap chinese burnishing tool I have is, I think, not a burnisher as the card scarper was grinding small gouges into it…). I am going to need a better burnisher, but this puppy’s getting used on the project for certain and definitely earns itself a place on the wall.


You can just about see in that awful photo the part where the grain gets squirrelly, and that was tearing out in both directions with the smoother – with the card, it’s now glass-smooth to the touch even though it still looks squirrelly.

Tomorrow: on to the last eight slats…

Oct 16

Smaller steps worked

So, after taking the three new bevel-edged chisels and my new ⅜” mortice chisel (needed for the mortices for the slats’ tenons) to the 80-grit paper (I’ll do the stones and stropping tomorrow), it was on to taking the four ripped down 2x1x30″ ash boards and getting going on the resawing. I ran over each on four sides with the jack and the smoother to get a more square board, then gauged a midline down the edges of the board and penciled the gauge line for visibility, cut a starting notch with the chisel on the end grain and started in with the ryoba at a slow and steady pace. Leave dido singing away into one ear, and flip the board every other chorus line, and the saw just followed the line itself most of the time.


In fact the only times it drifted, the saw went from this nice sweet noise:

… to a horrid vibrating, shuddering noise and was a pain to hold onto. Which is a nice sort of warning mechanism I guess. Also, the shiny saw blade is damn useful – you can check the reflected edge in it, and so long as it looks like the edge behind it (as in, so long as the two edges seem parallel), you’re tracking fairly straight.


It’s an old trick, but it’s a useful one. The first of the four slats deviated by less than a millimetre at the worst point and the cut was nice and clean:

2016-10-03-21-20-19aAnd the second cut did wander by nearly two millimeters at the worst point, but that’s still well within the tolerance for this job, so that’s four slats from two boards.


I did find it was really necessary to wedge the board as I resawed, to stop it clamping up on the blade – the moment it did that, the saw wanted to wander off and follow the grain line and not the gauge line. So I wound up using a long splinter of plywood from the floor, but in the opposite sense to how you’d normally wedge these things:


But it worked, it kept the saw moving freely and now I have four more slats done. Twelve more to go and I’ll get to the other two 2x1x30 blanks tomorrow. If all goes well, that’ll give me four more slats and I’ll just need eight more (but I’ll have two 8x1x30 boards out of the ash I have to give me those and with plenty spare as margin).

A bunch of bits for the shed arrived today as well, but I probably won’t get to add them in until the weekend (it’s the sockets and things to tidy up the electrics in there – it’s never going to run more than a few lights and a radio and an oil-filled radiator to keep the shed above freezing during the worst of winter, but I’d rather have actual sockets on the walls even if they’re only a fancy extension cord instead of an actual ring on the mains, just to keep it tidy and protect the wires in case I’m moving stuff in there and I wallop the wire with a board or something).

Also, this arrived today:


One wallpaper stripper, plus hose, plus a ten metre length of six-inch diameter thick polythene tube. Some of you have guessed what this is for already 🙂 The rest will have to wait – I have a fair bit of work to do with forms and prep before I can play with this…

Oct 16

Weekend work

Not much progress on the project this weekend, the shed to-do list won this time. Started by getting the chisels off the bench and onto the wall in a very rough holder that I plan to replace later:


And it’s a good thing I plan to replace it because I was leaning over to the last screw on the left (there’s junk on the floor in the way) and slipped and squeezed the trigger on the drill driver:

2016-10-01-20-21-18aThis is the problem with power tools 😀

I knocked up a quick bench hook to match the shooting board, they’re nothing fancy but they’ll work for now:


And a few dogs with some of the bullet catches I got from ebay:


I also had a few of the latest bits off ebay arrive:


I was too sick of the mess from the titebond, so I got the silicone brush/tray/kit/thingy from rutlands. Wait for glue to dry, peel off from silicone, get on with it. Hopefully, anyway. I’ll find out for sure next week.


And a small set of three bevel-edged chisels for dovetail work (dovetails with a firmer chisel are a bit difficult). Came with a small gouge as well, which is a nice to have sort of thing. Dull as a bowling ball though and the previous owner had made a dogs breakfast of sharpening them the last time, with heat discolouration spots all over the shop and the edges were basically serrated. Not even 80-grit sandpaper would be enough to clean that up, so out with the grinder:


About 30-40 minutes of careful work and occasional mistakes and swearing and more work to fix them, and I had some cleaned-up edges at around 25 degrees (these are for paring, not wailing on with a mallet, so I wanted the lower angle);


Not perfect at all and that half-inch needed more work after that photo, but I have a straight primary bevel on all of them now and I’ll do a proper sharpening from 80-grit paper up through the stones to the strop next week. I might also tweak that chisel holder more. I don’t like it and it’s not staying (same for the plane holder), but I have actual projects to do that will take priority over stuff like that for a while.

For example, I also have four 2x1x30 boards to resaw down for slats during the week, and if I get through those I’ll probably cut down the 60″ board I have in reserve to two 30″ boards and start ripping one of those up for slats as well. A perfect result would be getting 8 slats from those 2x1x30s I have ready, 8 more from another 30″ board, and leaving me a 30″ and a 34″ to use for things like side panels (but that’s not critical and the slats are; I can buy more ash easily enough, it’s not the most expensive wood in the world just yet — though give the ash borer beetle in the US and that Russian fungus that’s throughout the EU and UK some time and it will be as ash will be extinct 🙁 ).

Oct 16

Smaller bites

So, take two. After the mess of the first board, I’m going to try this a different way. I started by surface planing the next board just to clean it up, and then marking out the slats with the slat template before resawing it:


Continue reading “Smaller bites” »

Sep 16

Low yields

Well, poop.

The idea was, take a 30″ long, 8″ wide, 1″ thick board of ash, and resaw it into eight 30″x1¾”x⅜” slats.


But I made such a bad job of the resawing that three of the slats aren’t usable (they’re way too thin thanks to the disston saw wandering), one is marginal, and of the four I can use, two have a small (around an inch in size) spot where they drop below the ⅜” mark.

Bah. At least I can use the three write-offs for testing finishes and the like.


Four down, 16 to go…

Sep 16

The united church of hand tools?



That was just a wee bit more shrine-y than I was thinking of!

Continue reading “The united church of hand tools?” »

Sep 16


Thing about having a workbench is, you work on it. And thing about having tools and working on a workbench is, the tools wind up everywhere because you don’t stop and put the tool you’re using away immediately as you’ll be using it again in 90 seconds or less. So the bench gets… cluttered. So tool storage in an accessible place is a must. Hence all the tool cabinets on the walls of those fabulous wealthy shops on the youtube, and the existence of an entire industry of book publishing devoted to the topic of building toolboxes and the like.

2016-09-26-20-12-30aClutter. Harumph.

Well, I’ve got a wall in front of me, so that’s where the most commonly used tools need to go, and the biggest and most space consuming are the hand planes. I liked one youtuber’s solution to storing those, so I built one. It’s based around having a lump of wood with a curved rebate cut out of it (the curve is simple enough that two saw cuts and a bit of chisel work gets it in less than five minutes by hand, it’s actually faster than doing it by machine).


Then you screw that plywood backer to the wall and viola, a holster for a #7 plane.


Of course, now you’re trusting a reasonably hard to replace plane to a chunk of pine, some wood glue and a few screws, but I’ll probably make something better in solid wood later. I mean, I have six or seven record bench planes, I think a single backing plate, some rebates, some shaped dividers and maybe some thin bridging material across the dividers could make for several side-by-side holsters that would be stronger than this one. But later… first I have to reclaim bench space to build the new holders 😀

Sep 16

One down…

So I need to make something like twenty slats for the new project. About 30″ long, about three-eighths of an inch thick, or roughly 750x10mm – in actual fact the measurements are specifically “from the top of the drawer box to the height of the mattress plus enough height so a six-month-old couldn’t reach up, grab the top and haul themselves out of the cot”, so metric vs imperial isn’t even all that useful, but such is the way of things if you make stuff to fit I guess. The average length of a six-month-old from toes to shoulders is around 44cm-ish btw, though that’s for the average and it varies by several cm in both directions – there are charts for this sort of thing but they’re not hugely useful, because they don’t have a chart of how high an obstacle determinedly self-destructive newborns can get over. I’m going for around 30cm/1′ from the top of the mattress, which gives me a slat length of around 28″ish when finished, so 30″ is a decent rough cut length.


The plan for last weekend was to make one slat, which would almost be sacrificial as I’d be testing the process along the way, building jigs and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. So the starting point was a 30″ long, 8″ wide, 1″ thick board of nice ash.

2016-09-21-14-06-40aIt’s that short wide one at the top of the pile nearest the camera there. And that saw is where I started with the resawing. Japanese saws are fantastic at cutting through thin material or crosscutting – it whipped through those boards in that photo in nothing flat. But resawing is a pig of a job, you’re effectively cutting through thirty inches of eight-inch-thick board (which just happens to be an inch wide). It took all of Friday evening and half of Saturday morning to do that. And half-way through I switched from the Japanese saw to a western rip saw (I think it’s an old Disston, but it’s second-hand and the plate etch is long gone). I stopped to run a saw file over the teeth a few times as well before I started.

And no, the western saw wasn’t better. In fact, it was terrible, but that’s because the plate had a bow in it that I didn’t notice at the start. I need to straighten that thing out before trying it again. The next board I resaw, I’m going to rip to 2″ wide lengths first, then resaw each of those. It’s more cutting, but I figure resawing a 2″ wide board will be easier than an 8″ wide one. I may even take photos – this time I was too busy sweating and swearing at the Disston. But eventually I got the board split, and the half resawn by the ryoba was nice and relatively clean; but the half done by the Disston was a messy disaster. Instead of two almost-half-inch boards, I had one that was just over ⅜” thick and one just over the half-inch mark. Lots of planing needed, so I will probably get four or five slats out of that board at most instead of the maximum possible of eight. I have two 30″ lengths cut and a 34″, and two more I can get out of the other 5′ long ash board I have, that gives me a maximum of forty slats I could make. The design says twenty are needed, but I want some room for wastage. The ash I have is set aside just for slats for right now; anything left over can get used for other things (I might make it into the drawer if I had enough). The frame is walnut, I have more than I need for that, and I have some poplar for the drawer, so I have enough material. The real risk is that I’m running low on swear words to use on the saw in the process and I might wind up repeating myself.

So after resawing the first board, I ripped a one-and-three-quarters length off the three-eighths-ish board (gauged by finding a piece of wood that looked like it was the right width for a slat and then setting that aside and using it as a template), which was a much faster and easier job, and then I looked at how to get it to the right thickness. I found another piece of hardwood I had (I have a largish box of off-cuts that are one to two feet long from here for uses like this) which looked like it was the right thickness – about three-eights of an inch or to be exact about it, “thin enough to not be chunky whilst being thick enough to not look overly delicate as a slat”. I ripped that down into four 1cm-ish-wide lengths, and used them to build a Paul Sellers-alike thicknessing jig (it looks like this one, but the original video is behind a paywall) with a length of plywood and a pair of 2x1s (I have a small stack of these lying around after building the bench):


2016-09-25-12-20-38aIt’s very simple in use – put slat blank in the middle, put plane on top, push back and forth until the plane no longer takes shavings (the thin slats on either side hold the plane off the work at that point). Optionally, flip the blank over half-way through process. End result – one slat, planed to uniform thickness with the twenty others you’ve done. I think that part of the process we can say is solved at any rate.

Then I took the test slat, tried flexing it to check for actual strength (it’s fine unless the baby has been exposed to gamma radiation and is angry at something), rounded over the thin edges with my record 60½ block plane, cursed at some tearout on one side and added “dig out card scrapers and sharpen them” to the list of things to do, and then built a shooting board to plane the ends:


…and then cut a test tenon at the top to see how awkward that job was going to be.


Answer: don’t do this on the day you resaw and plane everything, come at it fresh on a new day. It’s doable, but it requires finesse and I had none of that at all after the resawing. I’ll have to resharpen my chisels – and maybe even wait for the new old chisels I just bought to arrive as they’re more delicate ones intended for this sort of thing while the ones I have are designed to be big and beefy for chopping out holes in big-assed lumps of timber – and I also need to use my better saws for this job.

Actually, which is my better saw? I have a few at this point – a small set of japanese ones from dictum, and from ebay a Disston and a smaller S&J rip saw, two S&J panel saws, a honking great tenon saw (from the days when they meant it when they categorised these things), a carcass saw and a dovetail saw. All the ones off ebay are older than I am. Actually, as far as I can tell, several of them are older than Ireland is and at least one is from the 1800s. For fits and giggles, I sharpened the carcass saw to test:

2016-09-25-11-46-17aAnd I put it up against some of the japanese saws:

2016-09-25-11-46-11aFrom left to right that’s the oldest ryoba I have (on the ripping side, which is its worst facet, it’s far better on the crosscut side); the newly sharpened carcass saw; the dozuki saw; and the newer ryoba (the small new one, not the godzilla-killing thing I got for the bench). We have a definite winner in the dozuki for the role of dovetailing, but I think the test needs to be re-run.

Firstly, my saw sharpening was a bit perfunctory, and done with an old saw file I have my doubts about, I’d like to do it properly, but that might entail taking a bastard file to the teeth and redoing them from scratch, so I need to think about that – I’d need to make a very basic jig or two and also buy a junior hacksaw to reestablish the teeth right, which is a longish job but would let me recut the diston to 4tpi which might help with the resawing. I do have a new saw file on the way though, so I guess that’s where I’m heading anyways…

And more importantly, I didn’t test all the saws. So I guess at least I need to redo this with the same stroke count (or cut length) for comparison, and with all of the saws. And while the dozuki is probably the best choice for dovetails and similar fine work, the other saws are definitely not for the bin; I’d hate to try to resaw thirty more inches of ash with a dovetail saw…

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