Almost done…

So I had a 2330h callout last night after finishing in the shed and got to bed around 0100h; and then had another callout at 0430h that wrapped at 0530h and then went into work about 40 minutes later than usual because the last remaining scrap of the morning routine was blown out of the water when junior came down with a temperature (he’s caught the cold Claire and I have had for the last week). So I was a wee bit braindead for most of the day, came home early, and all three of us had an hour’s nap. After that, and another quick call for work (on-call is turning into much fun this week) and dinner, Claire and junior packed it in for the night and I headed to the shed to try to finish the chest.

Right, first order of business, those pegs need to be trimmed with flush saw and chisel.

A bit finicky in places, but mostly this was straightforward. There are still some dark lines in places where the pegs weren’t perfect, but the surfaces pass the fingertip test. With that done, the next job that had to be done in order was the floorboards.

But first, I wanted to take a minute to look at options for hinges for the lid to see if I could mortice in the hinges before finishing started.

I had gotten a few choices of hinge in the sales over xmas (and those are just the ones that would take the weight of a lid this size), but that oddly wasn’t making this much easier. I don’t like the shiny brass ones much, not on oak. They just look out of place, far too bright even against what the wood will look like when it’s finished. The bronze effect isn’t bad (and it’s definitely just an effect unless bronze sticks to magnets now), but that black effect one is I think the best match (especially as I think it’ll look blacker when I oil it). But I didn’t come to a final decision because the barrel of the hinge being where it is on those two means a cutaway at the back of the lid which is extra faffing about. Not the end of the world, but sod it, I don’t have to choose today so I’ll sleep on it. Unless work calls, of course.

Then I checked the levels of the sides against the front and back.

The top levels don’t match, they’re out by just over 2mm (all around). I suppose I could saw them down to match but there’s not a lot of point in that – the disparity will be hidden by the lid, which will have a dust seal around it. And it’d spoil the look of the carving.

The bottom levels don’t match either, they’re out by 4mm all around, but that’s useful – the front and back will hide the floorboards partially. It’s still a bit untidy though. Something to do better next time. And with that checking done, on to the floorboards. The width on them was mostly fine already, but the two outermost needed to have their excess tongue and groove removed, and had to be shaped to fit around the stiles.

Not a hard job, but time consuming because after the initial rough cut it’s a cycle of test fit and then adjust with chisels and test again until you’re sick of it 😀 And you can’t just hack it out or there’d be a great big gap inside the box letting you look down at the floor. Next time, I do the grooved side/front rails and narrower back rail with floorboards running front to back and nailed into the back rail, it’d be less work.  But eventually, they were fitting well enough to go with.

Next, prepping for nails – I’m going to use the Dictum cut nails for this, get that nice medieval-ish look in there even if it’s hidden away a bit. But the last thing I want at this point is splitting.

I was worried that the smallest drill bit I had in that index wasn’t small enough and the nails wouldn’t have any meat to grab onto, so I tried using my pin vice to hold a smaller drill bit and hammered some nails into a test piece.

Seemed to work well enough in cedar (but that collet was useless, I just put the 2mm bit in the chuck and the bosch held it just fine). But when I went to hammer in the first nail, there was so much resistance when the nail went from cedar to oak that I was worried the pilot hole wasn’t big enough to prevent splitting so I redrilled the oak hole with a larger bit and did that for all the other nails (2mm in cedar, then widen to 3mm in the oak, then nail the floorboard in place). The first board, the back one, also got glued to the back rail because why not. That edge is the only secured edge for that board and glue’s cheap (and it won’t be expanding across that joint, just away from it).

Might not be the best job in the world (that cedar really does look a bit too thick to me now, plus it’s western red cedar, and I thought it was cedar of lebanon when I bought it – doh 😀 ). But it’ll do.

And with the floorboards in place, the next thing is to cut the bottom horns off and to cut the legs to length and eliminate the small amount of rocking the chest has at the moment (it’s square to within 1mm corner-to-corner, but the legs are uneven by 3-4mm or so).

I keep a sheet of thickish MDF in the shed for this task (I don’t like to make stuff from it, but it’s handy when you need a really flat surface and aren’t going to load that surface). I put the chest on it, let it balance itself (two legs up in the air at this point by different amounts), and wedged them carefully, checking that the stiles were vertical when wedged (you don’t want to just shove the wedge in under one leg and wind up cutting the legs so the chest sits nice and stably at a cant). Then I picked out a piece of wood of suitable size and used it as a reference to mark off where to cut the legs to get them even; and then out with the ryoba and crosscut across the knife lines carefully. Hold your breath and put it back on its feet on the bench…

And phew. No rocking. Got it the first time, nice and solid. Well, next up is just removing the top horns. Already have pencilled in the lines, so away I cut with the ryoba…

Not bad. I went over it one last time with an eraser to remove any pencil marks and generally just tidy things up…

And out with the chisel and just chamfer the new sharp edges, make sure there’s no arises to hurt hands or anything, and did a fingertip check over the whole surface to see if there was any last little thing to take care of.

And that’s now ready for finishing.

I went over the edges and corners with some 240 grit sandpaper just to soften them a bit, and in some of the groove lines in the carving to clear out any last fuzzy bits, and the inside corners of the chest as well. Then I laid down some parchment paper (I’m not being prissy, but I have a lid yet to build so not dousing the bench in finish would be useful), decanted the last of my Osmo (Hmmm. Need more. Not sure where to get it fast enough. I may need to switch brands of hard wax oil which is never a good idea) and donned some nitrile gloves (because I have about fifty cuts in my fingers at the moment thanks to the #778).

First coat will be heavy and brushed on, left for 15 minutes and then the excess ragged off.

Nice. And now back inside for a cup of tea, and 15 minutes later I came back out and ragged off the excess, and it’ll cure overnight.

Gotta say, it doesn’t look too bad.

The project’s not done yet – I need to make a lid and install hinges yet. But still. Look! Pretty! 😀

And I do like how the carving draws the eye away from the imperfections in joinery and alignment 😀


  • Rip out lid frame parts
  • Groove lid frame parts
  • Cut lid frame M&T joints and drill for drawboring
  • Measure out lid panel size
  • Groove lid panel
  • Shape lid panel
  • Cut box tenons and drill M&T joints for drawboring
  • Groove bottom box rails for floorboards
  • Crosscut floorboards to width
  • Plane panels
  • Cut panels to final size
  • Bevel or rebate panel edges to fit grooves in rails
  • Plane away inside corner on stiles
  • Cut edge floorboards to fit around stiles
  • Clean up drawbore pegs and any missed glue squeezeout
  • Saw off top horns
  • Plane top of chest so all four sides are exactly level
  • When floorboards are fitted, stand chest on legs on a flat surface and mark off base of legs to eliminate any wobble
  • Cut legs to size
  • Shape legs
  • Assembly
  • Hinges
  • Finishing with Osmo (three coats at least)

Groovin’ right along…

The rails were all prepped and squared last night so today at lunch I hobbled out to the shed and started grooving them with the #044.

First off, checking the position of the groove and the shadow lines (if we have any) with the long rails.

Line up the reference face of the rail with the stile and nick the corner with the marking knife at the edges of the groove on the stile. Then use the marking gauge to run those lines around three of the four edges and reinforcing the lines on the edge with the groove using the cutting gauge. Then into the vice and plough the groove out with the #044.

But the inside edge is a bit rounded and ragged which could cause issues, so out with the japanese chisel (which I’m starting to enjoy using – it’s great for anything involving chopping but for paring it leaves a lot to be desired) and the narex to clean up.

And when the straggly bits on the bottom are cleared out and the inside edge is straightened up, a single pass with the #04 along the top to tidy up and we’re done.

Not every rail needed quite so much work (and I went back and fixed two grooves on the stiles the same way later). And with the long rails done…

…time for the short rails.

Same procedure as before, right down to the cleanup. By this point we’re through lunch, and a coffee break around four, and into afterdinner time, but:

Done. That’s the main carcass of the chest ready for the mortice&tenon joinery. But by now it’s too late to start chopping mortices (because of the noise and the neighbours) so something else needed doing. I still hadn’t picked material for the lid so I started picking through the timber store and found two short oak boards that are already prepped from an earlier build I didn’t pursue, they’ll do for the frame of the lid. For the lid panel I wanted a single solid piece of nice looking oak between three-quarters and an inch thick. Couldn’t find any offcuts, so…

Measured off slightly more than I’ll need and crosscut with the 300mm ryoba in the face vice, then skim-planed off both faces to see which side should be up. Sometimes that’s a hard choice. This time… not so much 😀

Three guesses which way’s up? 😀

Also, it lets me use up the end of that board that had a damaged edge – I won’t need the full width of the board for this. The idea is to have a frame-and-panel lid, but where the lid has a groove around the edge instead of a tongue so that the bottom edge of the groove acts as the tongue for the frame and the top edge of the groove is proud of the frame:

Of course, you don’t really need the groove on the frame, you could use a simple rabbet. I’ll have to think about that a bit. The panel does have to be grooved though, because I want to shape the half-inch or so that would be proud of the frame and I’d like to be sure the line between lid frame and lid panel is hidden away.

With the parts skim planed and set out (I’ll rip out the frame rails and stiles tomorrow), and the floorboards already picked out (I have some cedar for that), there was something I wanted to check, namely whether parts in the vice are definitely at right angles to the workbench top; that would explain the slight angle on the base of the 044’s grooves.

Nope, not even very close. That’s a tad disconcerting. I wanted to see if it was the vice jaw or the apron…

Seems like it’s both. Well, I guess I can’t think of the corner of the workbench as a square anymore. I suppose it’s not bad for cheap 2×4 material, but I do see the attraction of hardwood benches now.

That done, I laid out tomorrow’s job, wrapped up for the night and hobbled back indoors.

Tomorrow, we mortice!

Back to work…

So back to work today. Checked the thermometer in the shed before leaving the house around 0715 or so…

And given the ice on the decking outside the shed, I doubt that was the low point either. Must remember to put another layer of paste wax on the planes this week to prevent surface blooms of rust.

I figured it’d be warmer by the time I got home but by 2000h…

Hmmm. Uninsulated shed in the middle of winter. Such fun. Oh well, new toys!

Some trammel points and a new 3″ square from Proops (turns out, if you have a 4″ square, you shouldn’t drop it or you’ll have a 4″ not-square…).

And I wanted to see what all the fuss over Japanese chisels was about so I bought a fairly cheap second-hand one (came to about €15 delivered). 8mm, just over the quarter-inch size, nice balance to it, lots of surface rust though. Some sandpaper and some time on the diamond stones later…

It’s a nice little chisel, takes a nice edge (eventually, it does seem to be much harder steel). I don’t see much of a hollow on the back but I guess that’s fixable somehow. Really does feel well balanced in the hand, they always looked a bit awkward to me but when you’re using them it’s a whole other deal. Won’t know how good it is for a while, obviously, but so far so good.

Then some mucking about with the #080 scraper plane on the chest rails (it works!) and I started in on the grooving of the rails…

That oak has pretty grain, but it’s a pain to work with. Scrapers, scraper plane, tight-set #04 skewed with the cap iron clamped down a gnat’s whisker from the cutting edge, all the tricks needed here. Should have the rails done in a day or three, depending on work schedules, get some more practice in on the carving for the panels, and start cutting the mortices and tenons this weekend. Need to prep some more material as well for the lid. Going to do that in a frame-and-raised-panel style, but I’m not sure if the center panel should be oak or something else for contrast.

Scraping by…

Part of the tidy-up in the shed meant getting the scrapers off the little holder they were in and up on the wall…

And then the second thing was going through every single plane and chisel on the wall, going over all the unpainted parts with 600 grit wet&dry paper and WD40 to take off the surface rust, then rubbing briwax into the steel as a barrier against rust (renaissance wax would be better and some’s on the way). I’ll have to do this every weekend for a while to get the barrier layer set up properly.

I hate condensation. Gah.

There may be a dehumidifier in the shed’s future.


It’s been one of those weeks where you don’t get a huge amount of time in the shed, but the chisel rack is finally done. And I have new toys…

The breast drill was in spectacularly good condition for something made somewhere in the 1950s. And used too, there are small marks here and there on it that say this thing wasn’t living in its original packaging until now. And with it, that’s almost all the hand drills I want (I wouldn’t mind a small push-drill for very small holes, 2mm and below, but I don’t need that for anything in the immediate short-term future; but for some tasks, like alignment pins for glueups, a 2mm drill and toothpicks are useful). But for now, I have two eggbeaters, a full set of braces and the breast drill in between the two (there’s a progression through the drills depending on how big the hole diameter is and how hard it will be to drill – you start with the eggbeaters up to about 5mm, then the breast drill from 5mm up to about 10mm, then the braces from then on, using larger braces as you need more torque. There’s some overlap rather than hard dividing lines, but it’s a decent rule of thumb).
And I can have drills dedicated to countersink bits as well, which speeds things up.

And I bought some slightly more specialist gauges as well.

Up top, a grasshopper gauge, which gets used to mark things when the reference face is a bit awkward to get to, and on the bottom is a panel gauge for glued-up panels (made from mahogany so it’s fairly old as well).

But about that chisel rack. The idea was to try to get all the chisels I use up on the wall, along with the gouges, and the usual design, the one I used until now, has disadvantages.

So this is grand if you have space, but if you are limited to 18″ or so of width for the chisels, you can’t get quite so many in and while you can stack them as shown here, you have to stagger them out away from the wall, and there’s not much room for that in my shed. And they have a weakness in that there’s short grain between the holes, so unless you make them from plywood or a more durable hardwood, you can snap out the between-holes chunks pretty readily (either while making them or while using them). And most of my shed stuff is made from fairly cheap pine bought from wherever was handiest (so usually Woodies, and their pine is terrible). So I wanted a design that let me stagger racks without having to come out more than three or four inches from the wall and which avoided the short grain problem.

So here’s the idea:

You have a short length at an angle, you put small cut-blocks behind it to keep the chisels sliding to the left or right, and you have something on the wall that the edge rests on.

And now we just need the shelf-like things on the wall for the edges to rest against.

The edges are angled and covered with felt so that the edges hit them at around 90° and don’t destroy the edge too much. I also put some perspex in front of the chisel racks so I couldn’t accidentally shove my hand into five or six chisel edges if I wasn’t thinking and reached for a measuring tape while facing the vice or some similar whoopsie.

Now, time to load the chisels up.

(And yes, take the time to sharpen and strop each as they go in, because why not?). Bevel-edged chisels first.

Then the firmer chisels, including my new 2″ wide cast steel monster, which is very nearly a slick.

And then the four gouges (there’s room on that rack for a few more chisels yet).

And that’s that done. The racks are held in with screws and the frame they screw into is screwed and glued in place, so if I need to tweak the racks or add new chisels, that should be reasonably easy.
(Note the fretsaw and coping saw got moved on the wall and lidl were selling magnetic tool racks so I cheated and got the japanese saws all up on the wall beside the hammers – the western saws will go below them with the blades pointed down so there’s a “safe reaching zone” in the middle to stick your hand into to grab any of the saws).

And that’s almost all that now. Need to get the scrapers a new holder on the wall somewhere, the old one has gotten loose (well, it was five saw cuts in an offcut from a 2×4). And the drills all need to go up on the wall as well. I have an idea in mind for that, but where exactly on the walls it’ll go I don’t know yet.

But I also have a project I’ve been wanting to do (and gotten a little done on already) and part of me just wants to get the shed furniture bit out of the way as fast as possible and get on with that, but with all the tools in the way, that’s going to be a tad difficult 😀
Plus, having the saws and hammers literally at my fingertips has sped things up at the bench far more than I thought it would. So having the drills to hand would be worth the effort.

I just need to figure out where the hell they’re going to go, I’m running out of wall…


So, don’t get me wrong, I know this is a nice problem to have, but still…

Dovetailed and rebated border all glued up and fitted to the plywood panel, grand but now I have to figure out how to get all those planes on there and the chisels as well (the hammers will move to the side wall I think).
Also, leaving space for a Record #08 on the left, a Record #02 on the right and a Record #05 which I was absolutely certain I had bought but apparently I’d decided I didn’t need one because I had a #05½ and a #04½ already. Stupid sensible idea, that one.
Mounting might be interesting. I don’t think french cleats will help here, so I guess we’re down to a few dozen countersunk screws through the plywood and into the studs in the shed wall. But that’s an awful lot of cast iron…
BTW, I don’t expect much from knotty pine whitewood bought from woodies, but dammit, was I asking too much to expect that a 1.8m length of 43x12mm whitewood would be 1.8m of whitewood and not several 30cm lengths scarfed together? Good grief.

New toys…

Not been spending much time in the shed since the cot was delivered (and it fits, and Niece fits into it as well so yay!), but I have spent a few minutes on ebay. Or a few more than a few 🙂 There are still a few more things I want based on the fun of making the cot, but I have most of them now and I’m content to wait for decent prices&conditions on ebay. Especially since Brexit is about to take the price of tools on and throw them off a cliff…

Butt first…

Narex butt chisels. Or “American Pattern Chisels” if you’re (very) British. Basically, shorter blades and handles than the normal bench chisel:

When I was doing the dovetailing of the drawer in the cot, the chisels I had weren’t bad — but they definitely had some room for improvement and I’ve been looking at some Ashley Iles chisels for a while but they’re a wee bit expensive (over a hundred sterling or so for a set of six and there’s a bit of a back order wait because they’re handmade). So before buying those I wanted to try using a few different styles of chisel to get a better idea of what worked best for me; and Richard McGuire’s been an advocate of the smaller butt chisels for this kind of work so I thought I’d try them and there were two Narex chisels on ebay one day for about ten euro each. Narex aren’t the best in the world by a long shot, but they’re kindof the modern equivalent to Footprint I guess; decent working tools. So we’ll see if the style of chisel lives up to expectations over the next few months and then I can decide about whether or not to drop ten times that much on a set of “luxury” dovetail chisels. And I might buy a japanese chisel and an elliptical profile chisel as well if they show up cheaply, just to see if they suit me or if they just annoy me.

(Oh, and those things to the left on the top photo there are combination bottle openers/paint can openers. One will remain a paint can opener to save screwdrivers, and the other will get sharpened at the blade to use to clean the bottom of mortices, as a suggestion from Paul Sellars).

And from chisels for fine paring work to chisels for nailing pigs to walls…

Okay, so here I think I bought a bit more than I could chew. There were fifty-seven hand-cut mortices in the cot and while the ones for the slats were well suited to the firmer chisels I had, I got to thinking a proper morticing chisel would come in handy for anything much larger than a quarter inch or so. And then a few came up in a set on ebay for about twenty euro in total, split between two lots, so I grabbed them. And they’re terrifying. The scale doesn’t come across in the photos, these things are basically sharpened chunks of rebar. I can’t wrap my hand around the three larger ones fully. And the three-eights one has an overly loose (falling off really) handle with some woodworm attack and a split so I need to replace it. But these I think will be living in a box rather than on the wall. Especially the half-inch one. The thing weighs more than my hammer…

And finally got something to help sharpen my #071 router’s iron…

And something to help sharpen my western pattern saws…

And you can never have enough clamps of course…

Every schoolkid in Ireland probably remembers these, I know that’s where I first saw them. But the idea here isn’t to use this as a ruler, but as a sector. I’ll sand the markings off it and clean it up a bit, then remark it as a sector, following Christopher Schwarz’s suggestion. When I was marking out the dovetails for the cot, it took an age to get the sizes laid out and it was mainly done through trial and error with dividers; but a sector (which is in effect an analog computer, a bit like an old precursor to slide rules) would let me divide out the board correctly in a few seconds. Allegedly. We’ll see…

(And if it works, I might spend more than two euro including postage for a crappy old ruler and make one that’s less floppy)

You’ve seen this already, but since we’re mentioning dovetails, and since some new blades arrived today as well…

And this one’s a bit out of left field, and more to do with making the cheese press than the cot, specifically repairing it after Calum managed to break it. The Record 53A is a spectacularly good wood vice, but you can’t use it for metalwork really, it’s not designed for it. The Record Imp is a kindof  light duty tabletop vice, designed for use for small jobs. Think “Auxilary vice”, something you’d need before you start getting to the larger Record 4 and T5 mechanics and engineers vices, which are enormous behemoths of things. Maybe in a larger shed, but in my one, this is a better fit, especially as it costed €35 instead of €150 😀

Speaking of fit, it doesn’t – the bench top is too thick. So I need to make a board with a batten that it’ll fit and which I can clamp in the 53A or secure with holdfasts, and I can clamp the Imp to that (and bolt it to it as well probably).

And lastly, two new slitting gauges because I’m sick of having no option but to keep a piece of scrap about to note the settings for my wheel gauge; as a solution it works but you’re always going to get some small errors creeping in. The real solution is to have more gauges, and they’re not hugely expensive (usually you’ll get this kind for somewhere in the €25-35 range and you’ll find them for less if you’re willing to wait – both of these cost me €20). The top one is a new Marples model and it feels just lovely in the hand. I’m wondering if the rosewood will shrink away from the brass in the face; we’ll see. The lower one is an I.Sorby model from somewhere before the 1960s which looks better in the hand than it does in the photos, it’s really in lovely condition. Both are slitting gauges (or cutting gauges? Unless you only think of the lovely japanese versions of these as slitting gauges) with knife blades rather than pins because I’ve used pin style marking gauges and I just don’t like them that much, I much prefer the edges on the wheel gauges. Maybe if I refiled the pin’s heads to a more knife-like profile… but then, I’d have made a slitting gauge then, wouldn’t I? This way I just get what I want from the start 😀

Next up, I have to start getting these things stored. There are a few things to do in the shed over the next while, getting tools up on the wall and doing general shed maintenance stuff and the like, and then I have an idea for the next building project, but I’m waiting on some bits that I’ve ordered (without a lathe, there are some things I can’t make myself).

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