Ah for feck’s sakes…

I only just finished digging that sodding thing out!


And I’ve not been getting much done in there thanks to subzero temperatures and public transport making the work commute into anything up to a six-hour-a-day nightmare (yes, a foot of snow won’t slow down Canada, but Canada spends more on their snow clearing hardware and people than we spend on Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Spin Unit…). Mostly I’ve been putting together new tools for some things I’d like to try, namely stringing and carved arcading. So for the stringing, I already have the dead fancy radius cutter from lie nielson (probably the most bling tool I own), and a small perspex scrap to give it a pivot point when working on some of the usual designs:

But I haven’t got a straight line cutter because I figured I should be able to make one, they’re basically a marking gauge, see the lie nielson one:

Fancy, but basically just a marking gauge. So I ordered a spare blade from the lie nielson cutter to skip the whole metalworking bit because hell, learn one thing at a time. Then I laminated two scraps of white oak, cut and squared a stem from another scrap and chopped a mortice (and a rabbit on the base). Some test fitting, adding the blade in a little recess and…

Mind you, it doesn’t work. The mortice isn’t good enough so the beam isn’t at right angles to the fence, so the blade gets dragged along while skewed so you don’t get a nice thin cut line, you get a wider scratched mess. I think I’ll take out the beam, add a brass strip inlaid on it for a bearing surface and use the brass thumbscrews I have here as a lock. And I’ll remake the fence from a single thickness scrap piece of something; it’s too thick to cut a mortice accurately through (at least for me). Some guide blocks when morticing will probably help too. It’s not hard, but it does take a mite more care than I used on the first try.

Also, I’ll need to cut strips off the veneer to make the stringing, and I was finding my marking knife wasn’t up to it and neither was my heavier stanley boxcutter, both would be fine for a few inches and then wander off the line following the grain. So I got this:

Think pizza cutter. But with a tungsten carbide blade. It’s normally used for cutting cloth for quilting. Doesn’t get dragged off to either side by the grain as much as a normal knife that’s embedded in the grain would because with the wheel, the cutting surface is constantly coming out of the wood so the material hasn’t as solid a grip on the blade (which is precisely why we use these for pizzas and the like). Tested it already and it works like a charm. My veneer on the other hand, is too thin; I need to source better material, which I’ve had some pointers on from the UK forum.

And for cleaning out the stringing lines before gluing in the stringing, a dental pick is a pretty decent tool and dirt cheap on ebay. You get the oddest looks in the office when it’s delivered, mind you…

….but the looks you get when you order the syringes for putting glue in the stringing grooves surpass anything I’ve seen so far 😀

I also had to restock on glue and got a bunch of liquid hide glue in a sale on ebay so that should be all the glue I need for the next year or three (it’ll go off before I get through all of it I’m guessing). So I think I’m set right now for everything but the veneer for stringing; I’ll sort that out while I fix the straight line cutter and then start experimenting.

Meanwhile, Peter Follansbee did a nice blog writing up how he does carved arcading; I’d like to give this a go myself, it looks like fun:

It’s just damn pretty in walnut. And it looks terribly complex when finished, but like a lot of this period’s carving, it’s all geometric and done by leveraging the characteristics of tools rather than being some kind of sculpture that relies on twenty years of experience (which would be harder to try).

I do need to get one or two gouges that are larger than what I currently have so I got a nice three-quarter-inch one for a few euro off ebay again:

And between that and one that was a present from an old friend, had a go at the basic core elements to see if it was even possible (here in an oak scrap rather than walnut):

It’s somewhat easier than the v-tool work that I’ve been practicing (and not getting hugely better at, though having better sharpening kit is making a difference):

Something else to get back to, when I dig the shed out again…. this whole thing of letting the north pole melt and turning off the north atlantic current and ruining the climate is playing absolute hell with my shed time…

It’s not even for the birds!

Offset shoulders

Started off with a quick check of something for Ralph who’d had a minor mishap over on Accidental Woodworker with his #044.

Ouch. Cast part weakness strikes again 🙁

For Ralph, my #044’s rods are square to the fence to within 0.05mm (my thinnest feeler gauge):

And square to the skate to the same tolerance:

And there are gaps around the rod in the fence holes. It’s hard to gauge how much by because my feeler gauges are flat and don’t cope with tight radii well, but it looks somewhere around 0.1mm.

There is a discernible line around the rod in the plane body, but no discernible gap and I can’t get even the tip of the 0.05mm feeler gauge in there.

Incidentally, I normally have the fence rods a few inches proud of the body of the plane like that because its spot on the wall sees it stay in place using both the rods and the secondary fence on the plane:

Hope that helps Ralph.

That done, I set out and marked off the lid frame parts and ripped them out with the bandsaw. It’s not that I don’t like ripsawing, it’s that it’s awkward in a confined space and for rough cuts there’s no great advantage to it. When I have floorspace enough for a sawbench, that may change. For now, a few awkward noisy moments at the bandsaw — and I do mean awkward because it means standing in an 8″x8″ square in the corner between the sander behind me, the vice to the left of me and the dust collection and power cord in front of me, feeding the work through the blade. It’s not quite dangerous, but it’s not my idea of fun either.

That done, out with the plane and clean up and true up the edges and that’s the frame parts set – I’ll crosscut to size later.

First, a quick check of my lid idea; sit the lid on a quarter-inch spacer, butt a frame part against it and take a peek at what will be the cross-section of the lid (sortof) to be sure it’s not horrible.

Eh, it’ll do I think. On to the tenons…

…with just a quick stop to go to the post office and pick up a few new toys 🙂

Some new punches for the whole 17th Century New England carving idea, and a pair of gouges that were going cheap for the same plan; and some brusso hardware that was going for a bit under quarter price. Shame Rutlands didn’t have more of those to be honest, I tried to get more but that was the last one in stock.

Mental note – when knocking punches into a thin piece of material for your reference block, don’t hit the damn thing too hard…

Oh well. On to the tenons…

Started with the long rails at the back and with the shoulder lines. Nothing special here, just come in by an inch, nick it, then use the square to mark off the shoulder line all around the piece. Then the cheek lines get set by taking the chisel I chopped the mortice with and setting the mortice gauge width with it:

Pretty standard stuff, and you’d think that you’d just line the gauge up with the inside of the groove and away you’d go…

Problem is, that doesn’t work because my mortice isn’t the same width as the groove, which is my fault; I assumed that if you have a three-eighths iron and a three-eighths chisel, they’d be the same size. Welcome to one of the quirky features of old imperial-measurements tools – there’s no guarantee that an inch chisel is an inch wide because with old chisels widths were kindof a best-effort sort of thing. When people in the last three countries in the world to not use metric (and the few others who are officially metric but use imperial overwhelmingly in common usage, like the UK) start saying stuff like “who can remember 25.4mm? 1 inch is so much easier to remember! Who makes a 25.4mm chisel?” they’re sortof forgetting that nobody ever used to make a 1 inch chisel either. They’d make almost-an-inch chisels and nobody cared (or cares now) because you set the gauges with the chisel and most of the time nobody cared if the chisel was 1 inch or 1.032 inches because you cut pieces to fit other pieces and so long as they did, the exact size of the groove or mortice didn’t matter. The only time it really causes a problem is things like this where you build things assuming that something called a 1-inch chisel is the same width as something else called a 1-inch iron and it isn’t.

So when I found my morticing chisel wasn’t the same width as the groove, I nudged the mortice up against the wall of the groove away from the face to reduce the chance of something blowing out while chopping the mortice. So now that I’m cutting the tenon, I need to shove the tenon over a bit so that the groove on the rail lines up with the groove on the stile so the panel can fit, like so:

This is obviously not ideal. Next time I build one of these, I’ll pick an iron that matches the chisel and I’ll position the groove a bit more conservatively even if that means cutting the joints and then planing the stiles and rails down to final size after the stressful bits of grooving and morticing are done. But that’s next time. This time, I marked off the cheeks and then sawed them in the vice as normal and moved on to cutting the shoulders.

First use of the japanese saw bench hook in anger (and it works well). The shoulders are cut using something Richard Maguire was talking about in his latest video series and on his blog; the face shoulder is cut right on the line, but the non-face shoulder is cut on the wrong side of the line deliberately:

This is a bit cack-handed and it’s offset too much at the back (but that doesn’t matter hugely). If done right, you’d saw the face shoulder on one side of the line and the back shoulder on the other side of the line with maybe a kerf or two of a difference between the shoulders. You get an asymmetric tenon as a result:

And now when you drive the joint home, the back side does not close up at all:

But the face side – and this is the point of this – is very tight and clean:

And because there are four of these joints in a square, when it’s all assembled and drawbored, all the joints are in tension and so they resist racking as a whole as well. Now I’ve not done a great job here (though all but one of my joints tonight fitted off the saw, which was nice), but even so I’ve got nice lines on the face sides with less effort than normal, so this technique’s a pretty useful one.

Back frame done…

And front frame done and by this point it’s 2300h so I knock off for the evening. Looking at the frames together to get an idea of what the final size will be was encouraging.

They match up well enough.

You can tell that the original sizes for rails have changed quite a bit because I had to remake them. I am wondering if that will affect the sides…

Some fettling may be required. Hm. I do have some room for that but not a huge amount. Also, I know it looks too tall and spindly but that’s because the horns (those bits marked X) haven’t been removed yet and won’t be till near the end (they strengthen the piece during construction).

Even after removing the horns on the legs, I’ll still have quite a bit of material to play with to get the overall proportions fettled.

Some of those joints are pretty decent – even the back shoulder gap is quite small if you don’t go overboard on the offset and you still get the tight face joint as a result.

However, if you do go a bit cack-handed…

Yeah, not so good. Structurally fine, but messy as a messy thing. Not entirely sure how to handle this. I might have to make a frame to go on top of the box itself to mask that off (and the lid would then hinge off that frame). Kindof like edge banding does for plywood. Not sure. I’ll see later.

First though, I have to finish the tenons tomorrow by doing the side rails.

And then there are a few more jobs…


  • 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 away inside corner on stiles
  • Cut edge floorboards to fit around stiles
  • Possibly build face frame for the top of the chest
  • Assembly
  • Hinges
  • Finishing



Nocturne because all day today I was Chopin’, see?

Yeah, well. It was funny in my head.

Anyway, today was mortice day.

That’s my normal way of cutting mortices. The piece is over (or close to) the vice leg (which is thicker than the other workbench legs for just this kind of reason), rather than held in the vice because that way you don’t have to crank on the vice until the steel creaks so your piece doesn’t slip while you’re wailing on it. The holdfast method is just better, faster, and causes less hassle. The clamp and other pieces of wood only come out when the mortice is close enough to the edge that I worry about blowout; and really I’d like to get one of those traditional dual screw woodworking clamps to use instead.

The idea would be to clamp around the piece so the clamp’s on either side of the mortice and then holdfast down either the piece or the clamp. Bit more convenient. But I haven’t found one for sane money yet. Oh well, no rush, the current approach I’m using works fine. Four three-eighths mortices per leg, just under three-quarters of an inch deep and inevitably there’ll be some breakthrough between the bases of pairs of mortices but that’s okay (the tenons will have chamfered ends and I can cut them a hair short if needed), so sixteen shallowish mortices but close to the edge of the pieces, so you can’t just wallop away without thinking.

Also, I’m loving the morticing chisels. They’re almost overkill on mortices this small but they’re so much easier to keep from twisting and so much more controllable.

Anyway, it took me just over two hours in three sessions today to get it all done.

And no blowout, no accidental through-mortices, everything’s fine. And I remembered to leave the horns on the stiles this time to prevent blowing out at the top of the pieces, so yay.

Tomorrow, I start on cutting haunched tenons, and if I get enough done I might drill the drawboring holes and start on making pegs.

I didn’t get to the lid parts today. I might mark out and rip those out tomorrow first, use the bandsaw over lunch when it won’t bother anyone.


  • 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 away inside corner on stiles
  • Cut edge floorboards to fit around stiles
  • Assembly
  • Hinges
  • Finishing

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.

New toy…

So my old power drill died. Or more accurately, its batteries. Six hours charging, twenty minutes of charge held with no load, or one 3.5mm hole in inch-thick poplar. That’s NiCad for you, just not great for occasional use. And last time this happened, it worked out cheaper to buy a new drill and use its batteries, which was exceptionally irritating. So I figured enough; I’ll get a new drill and move up to the new lithium ion batteries and maybe down in size to the newer smaller drills. I don’t use my drill that often, and when I do it’s for quick small holes or driving screws faster than the cordless screwdriver does – which basically means jigs and mounting stuff on the shed walls. So for stuff like that, the new 10.8v and 12v sized drills seem way more suited:

That’s the Bosch PS32, their brushless 10.8/12v drill. Except they’re pricey, and just before I bit the bullet, I came across a sale in Woodies where the larger 18v Bosch was on sale for €100, which was half what most places charge and frankly so low that I delayed for ages trying to figure out what was wrong with it. But in the end, even though it’s not exactly what I wanted, the price was too good, so I gave up looking for a better PS32 price and bought the GSB today.

And it’s not bad. Solidly built, well balanced, and while it has a larger collet size than the old PSR, it’s physically smaller (and lighter, if only by 40g when the batteries are in):

Plus, moving up a grade (from green to blue 😀 ). Which is nice.


Now, to actually use the sodding thing…

Under pressure…

What idiot scheduled this christmas lark? Gah.

Started with some bandsaw time. Ripped the bottom part of the cupboard to width and set that to one side, then took all the bandsaw box blanks and cut those. By the time I was done, it was time to pick up junior from his last day of school for the year. Then it was time to sand…

Only 80 grit so the dust wasn’t so bad and that’s the bulk of both the bandsaw mark removal and the initial shaping done. There will be more sanding to come though. However by now it was time for (a) lunch and (b) a trip to the post office and then into the Big Schmoke (Dublin for the non-Irish readers) to meet up with a friend who’s a wood turner (along with a few other things, hi Tom!) to pick up a commission which will be an xmas gift. Photos to follow, it’s a lovely piece of work but super top secret squirrel for now.

Then back to sanding. 120 grit this time to get the initial finish and refine some shaping.

This is not my favourite part of this process. It’s dusty. That’s a green jumper, not an artisanal bleached thing. And that’s with the dust extraction running but I suspect an adapter isn’t correctly sized. Some ebaying to do to fix that one properly (I can’t just duct tape it because the hose is constantly swapped between bandsaw and sander). But the boxes came through okay and one or two might be nice.

BTW, that trip to the post office…

Set of six complete (and wound up in immediate use so yay).

A #4 round. I was looking at the whole hollow and round set thing and most of the experts on this agree that you should start off with four – one hollow and round each in two sizes. Those sizes depend on the size of the furniture you build, and for me, 4s and 6s should be the most useful, with occasional excursions to 2s and 8s. These things aren’t that expensive if you buy second hand and not in matched pairs, which obviously isn’t the best but frankly I don’t have room for any of this anyway so I’m not quite willing to throw a thousand quid at a half-set when forty will get me the ones that’ll do 80% of the work. And complex mouldings can wait for a while. Beading planes would be nice, I can think of a few places I’d use those, but I do have a few ways to make beads at the moment between the #055C and the scratch stock. But if I see something nice on ebay I might jump for it. And snipe bills might be handy too, but again, when they come up on ebay. That’s the plan anyway. I did have one exception from that plan which arrived today, the new record-setter for “oldest tool in the shed”:

It’s a reeding plane (ie. two beads side by side which lets you cut an infinite array of beads for decorative effects). Triple boxed no less (those light-coloured insets are boxwood, which is much harder wearing than the beech of the main body). Which might explain why it’s still in usable condition even though it dates from somewhere in or around 1850.

The thing’s 167 years old. Give or take a year.

And it was twenty pounds sterling.

I guess antiques just aren’t valued all that highly…

Anyway, on with the work.

Awkward finicky glue-ups for the bandsaw boxes (one of many glue-up stages because a few of these have awkward build processes due to my bandsaw having a silly small depth-of cut limit of 75mm).

And then time for dovetails.

Just stood up the carcass and did a bit of humming and hawing and making sure I was happy with which board went where and which way up it faced. Then out with the sticky dots.

Nice little trick from David Barron that one, makes it easy to keep track of what end mates to what end and what side is on the outside.

Picked a joint at random, got out the tools and marked up.

And after cutting the saw cuts, out with the new tool, a dovetail alignment jig (this one’s a bit sheddy with all the screws and plywood and glue, but if it works…)

You get the idea, though the rebate is getting in the way here a bit – normally both boards would butt up against the fence to align, but here the critical alignment is on the inside shoulder of the rebate (or I’d just flip both boards over). So it gets a bit more finicky. In fact I might not use it for the rest of the joints because of that, but the idea itself is grand.

So it works reasonably well. I’m worried about it racking the carcass a bit though. We’ll see. I did have to wrap it there because I could saw out the pins and cut out most of the waste with the fretsaw but chopping the remaining waste after 2300h is a bit of an anti-social thing to do in a housing estate on a Friday night. Sleep, and hopefully an early start in the shed to try to get stuff done tomorrow. Time’s getting on and I might have to resort to power tools for one or two jobs I’ve been wondering about. Oh well.


Happy Solstice!

Shortest day of the year so least work done. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Started off with presents – some arrived yesterday but I couldn’t get to them and some arrived this morning, so yay!

Not Moore&Wright, but cheap and cheerful. I’m trying to cure myself of my combi-phobia. Is Moore&Wright. Offset calipers for scribing lines parallel to an edge. Nice idea. 3″ Record clamp. I have 2″ and 4″ ones, figured it’d be useful to see if something in between was useful.And a 2″ clamp because it was going in the lot. Another 2″ one that was in the lot. At a fiver, cheap. Have a few of these already and they have a habit of being useful.And a pair of 4″ clamps (I have three, I’m always needing a fourth. There’s another still in the post because I know the minute I have five I’ll need a sixth). I don’t like painting wood with latex paint much, it’s a bit meh. But I saw a nice guitar or two being done by the Crimson Guitars mob with these water-based stains and there was a cool demo panel they did with them that I had an idea for:

Might be able to replicate that. We’ll see. On with the presents…

A six and seven hollow to try a decorative element I’ve been playing with…

Shows promise; needs more work though. Don’t need this till later so that’s fine.Nice V-tool. I bought a tiny little one from proops last week for two or three pounds and made a rudimentary handle for it, sharpened it up and it was useless. It must have been meant for a power carver tool or something. This one however, without any sharpening, was miles beyond that:

Proops on the inside, Mattheison (the new one) on the outside. Soooo much better. Still needs work, but that’s for another day.

And then the biggie…

Frame saw! 700mm blade filed rip, compared to the ryoba’s 300mm. so you can see why it would have an advantage. This is the English pattern frame saw, not the French one with the blade in the middle, but for resawing this shouldn’t make any real difference. The blade length obviously will (the French pattern ones can be four feet long or more); but shed has a problem with French pattern frame saws…

Specifically, there’s not enough room for a full throw on a 700mm blade (the handle is in contact with the wood store there); a 1200mm blade would require a small window be cut in the wall of the shed… but even I’m not ready to do that. As it is I’ve had to move a few pieces of wood around in the store.

So obviously, this needs testing in something other than pine (which was the first test cut).

Poplar, 9″ by 4″ thick. Took 12m 30 seconds including a bit of faffing about moving plywood out of the way and all that, but I figure that’s built in fudge factor. So how does that scale up? I have a few 5″x15″ pieces and 6″x17″ pieces along with the 7″x16″ top/bottom plates.

So I thought volume removed might be a good guide; that’s the saw kerf times the square area cut through, and the kerf won’t change so just look at the area. Should be 0.347 minutes per square inch, right? That means the 5″x15″ pieces should take about 26 minutes each. Yikes. Okay, let’s give that a go.

Holy crap. An hour. It took a sodding hour. I mean, it’s a lot less effort than the ryoba was and maybe I just need to get the swing of it, but a stinking hour…

Cut quality is okay. Ryoba’s better but then it’s a finer plate. Maybe I need to sharpen the saw? The teeth are sticky-sharp but maybe they just need a touch-up.

So how long does it take to thickness off that quarter-inch by scrub plane? 15 minutes. And that’s to thickness and flattened and with the twist taken out. I ditched the saw idea for the sides and thicknessed them by scrub plane as well. And I had to mill another piece because the side I had sawn went from three-quarters of an inch sawn to half-inch when smoothed out enough to use. Gah. So that’s the shelf 😀

That’s the downside of the thicknessing approach really. You convert material into waste at a fair clip. That floor was clean this morning, that’s all from today.

But we have all the parts milled and squared and I could get started in on joinery at last.

Enter the rebate plane again, and I took a quarter-inch by one inch rebate off the backs of the sides.

Then out with saw, chisel and router plane and I cut the housing joint for the shelf.

Even got to use my side rabbit plane to trim the joint a bit. Slightly fiddly but…

Sorted. Fairly late at this stage and I started on the top and bottom which will be dovetailed into the sides. They needed a bit of treatment on the shooting board and then I realised I hadn’t cut the bottom to width yet (doh) so I marked out for that and I’ll hit the bandsaw in the morning and do that and the box blanks I have lying around.

And then I’ll make up that Japanese saw hook and get to dovetailing.

That was it in the shed for the evening; had to hit the kitchen to make gravlax for the family xmas dinner. Pretty simple recipe.

Take your fresh salmon trimmed and de-pin-boned to your liking. Measure its weight. Now mix a quarter of that weight in salt in a bowl with an equal weight of castor sugar and an equal weight of grated beetroot. cut a lime into wedges and fillet out the pulp and discard it; cut up the rind to small pieces and throw that into the mix. Now throw a good sized bunch of dill (chopped) into the mix. Put the salmon into a sous vide bag or lay it on some clingfilm or use tupperware, just keep this contained because beetroot is a great dye. Douse the salmon in the mix, then wrap it in your chosen containment method and put it in a secondary containment tray, put another tray on top and weight that down and then put the whole assembly in the fridge for a few days. Turn the fish upside down daily. Three or four days should do it. Then you remove, rinse off the salt/sugar/beetroot/dill mix and pat dry; slice thinly and serve on blinis or however you like to eat smoked salmon because this is like that only tasty.

Also, whatever you do, don’t put it in the fridge and relax for an hour and then remember when writing up the recipe for the blog that you left the dill sitting on top of the counter and the mix was missing a key ingredient because then you have to reopen the bag and chuck everything into the bag and squish it around a bit and get covered in beet juice a second time and you’ll have an opening in the glove that lets the salt in to find the four or five small nicks you got from the chisel and cleaning the throat of the fillister plane earlier.



By the way. Meet our new breadbin, courtesy of TK Maxx. Made from bamboo.

Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Or does that crooked joint at the top of the tambour drive your fingernails into itchy mode as well? The whole top hasn’t even tried for a square joint with the sides. It’s a good ten degrees out.



There’s nothing for it, I’m going to have to make a better one, aren’t I?

A day in the shed

So because I spent 2300 to 0400 on Friday night and 0900 to 1830 on Saturday working, I get a TOIL (Time Off In Lieu) day. Which I took today for reasons like waiting on The Plumber Who Never Showed Up. The plan was to spend all day in the shed. But since it hit -3C overnight, first things first.

Earl Gray, hot. With milk just to tick off the purists. And aren’t cast iron Japanese teapots nice? It’s the little things…

So with the shed at a balmy 3.5C, time to get to work, First, put the last coat of osmo on the tabletop and now I have to make some room and get the tabletop off the bench so I can get to it.

It’s not ideal, but needs must. And yes, I do need to clear away that rubbish in the wood bin, but this isn’t the countryside and neighbours wouldn’t take well to a small bonfire. Or for that matter, any fire involving wet MDF. I can’t blame them for that, I’d be miffed at needing a respirator in my own back yard as well. But I digress.

So the legs have been sanded down, given a last coat of the oak tea, let dry for five minutes so that right now the surface is damp to the touch but not actually wet. Time to apply the vinegar&iron solution…

That never gets old. It’s so dark it’s messing a bit with the camera’s auto-white-balance thingy, but it does that to the Mk1 eyeball too.

It’s a little… grubby looking close up. No worries. This is just the first stage, and I’m a bit oddball in that I like that pin-stripe-trousers thing the grain’s doing there. Dunno why, it just looks nice to me. However; now we give it about ten minutes to keep reacting (those were taken about 4-5 minutes in).

And after that time, we paint it in more oak tea, let it dry for five minutes, then more vinegar and iron solution, dry for five minutes, and then a last coat of the oak tea. At this point, it’s about as dark as it’s going to get in the time I have available (it will continue to react for the next 10-12 hours anyway and get darker as it does).

Wake up, time to dry.

They’ll go a kind of dusty purple in the next hour or three; that’s expected.

And now I have some time and a shed with a free bench….

I have an idea here. Trust me.

…or maybe not. I gave up on this idea here; I’ll come back to it over the holidays, but I can’t get it done today and I’ll just mess up the other things I’m working on. I guess recognising this kind of thing and giving up early is a good skill, but it still irks me.

Anyway, I do have something else on my to-do list for today:

Ug. Machines. And they’re ganging up on me now. Yes, it’s bandsaw box time. First though, I have a plan for that bandsaw…

Remember these? Going to fit the smaller ones.

Remove the older, larger thrust bearing.

Gunky! Now replace with the new smaller bearing.

The washer makes it look off-center, but it’s fine. The whole lego-part thing is great with these. Now for the lower thrust bearing, which is more awkward because of course it is. It’s not like being underneath the table would make it awkward enough, you also have to remove the entire assembly to replace the bearing.

Why is the lower post adjustable when you can’t reach it but the upper one isn’t? Le sigh.

Well. That explains a few noises. So much for sealed bearings.

And done. Modified thrust bearings, replacement teflon blade guides. And why go to all this effort? Three-eighths inch blades. Stronger than the normal quarter-inch blade, so you get better straight cuts on long rips (the main reason for having this bandsaw in the first place). But you can’t install them on this bandsaw properly with the normal thrust bearing – the normal bearing shoves the blade forward if you put the teeth gullets in the middle of the bandsaw wheel like you’re supposed to:

Put the leading edge of the bandsaw on the crown of the wheel like that and it has the most tension and thus is the most resistant to buckling when you shove wood into it; but you don’t want the thrust bearing rubbing on the back of the blade when you’re set up like this or the blade will behave oddly. With the new bearings, there’s just enough clearance (maybe 0.2mm but that’s sufficient).

And yes indeed, it does now cut much better than before with this blade, tracking straight down the pencil line instead of doing a drunken walk from one side of the line to the other and leaving you jockeying around the piece to try to minimise the amount of planing you’ll need to get it set afterwards.

And so, on with installing my redneck fence and starting into the bandsaw box by cutting off the back.

BTW, sanding with the triton sander is waaaaay less scary than sanding with a belt sander under a holdfast on the bench, so +1 for that, but they are out and out liars of the most bare-arsed kind when it comes to noise level ratings. If I turn this thing on and shove my fingers into the spinning belt, sanding off all my fingernails, nobody outside the shed would know because they’d never hear me over the noise of the sander. Hrmph.

Still, works. Going for a vertical format box here.

Glue-up tonight, more sanding tomorrow, some oil and a coat of shellac and done.

One box, all the clamps. How many clamps should I bring to the glueup?

And I’ll leave it there. I’ll try to get another coat of osmo on the legs tomorrow morning before work and another in the evening and if I can, that should be the table complete. I’ll assemble it, take a few photos, and then pass it on to its intended recipient.

Honestly, I’m not screwing around with the photo here, it actually is black enough that it’s confusing the camera’s not-so-clever white-balancing.

Standing upright

Last few days have been the first really cold ones of the year. -2C to -3C in the shed. And work was… somewhat excessive in the last few days so tonight was the first time in the shed in a few days and a to-do list was waiting. So…

Ran a slightly larger drillbit through the aprons to give some flex room for the bolts, and flattened the top of the aprons (I also spent a half-hour before this with the scrub plane and #5 flattening the underneath of the tabletop and hand-cutting the panel to width to trim out the worst of the bandsaw wobble).

The stainless steel inserts arrived on Thursday in the post, thankfully. Seems everyone makes these in zinc-plated steel, but actual stainless is a bit hard to find.

Bit of faffing about getting the legs centered on the tabletop, then putting in the drill bit and thwacking it to mark the drilling point with the drill bit (it’s a brad boint bit).

And now it’s time to drill the holes for the inserts. Look closely enough and you can see the marked point.

El cheapo drill bit depth stop so I don’t drill through the table. I have a fancy one for auger bits, but for drill bits, it’s blue tape time. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh. Right. Well, at least I noticed the shavings were shoving the tape backwards before I chased it right through the table.

Who says calipers aren’t good for woodworking? Check length of insert with calipers, get automatic depth gauge setting on the other, stabby end of the calipers. So I drilled the rest of the insert holes, stopping to poke the stabby bit in the hole until I had my depth.

Then it was time to realise that Richard Maguire had gotten inserts that you put a hex key directly into in order to drive home, but these sodding things need a bolt put into them and you drive them home with that. And since they’re going into a blind hole, the bolt has to be shorter than the insert. I managed to find some short M6 bolts (they came with the Triton sander as the bolts to bolt it down to the table with but I had my own), but they were too long. So. Time to break out my metalworking setup 😀

This is my metalworking setup. It’s a Record Imp, which I got back in February. It’s a nice lightweight metalworking vice designed to be clamped to a bench by people who didn’t need a full-size machinist’s vice. And it has nice features – you can bend pipe with it, you have a small anvil at the back and a striking surface (that small round thing just behind the jaws) and so on. Plus, it’s old – it’s a later model so this wasn’t made in the 1930s but it would have been somewhere between the 1960s and early 1980s, before Record went downhill. This is a small vice, but it is not a toy vice. I’ve screwed and clamped it down to a scrap piece of inch-thick oak, which then gets holdfasted to the bench.

So I clamp the bolt in the vice, mark off the length I want, remove the insert from the bolt, then fire up the dremel with a cutting disk (it’s a 6mm bolt lads, if I fired up the angle grinder it’d be like firing a sandblaster at sponge cake) and nip it off.

And now, just because we can, out comes the file and the tap-and-die set…

File off the sharp bits left by the dremel, recut the start of the thread after the file’s mangled it. Then thread the bolt into the insert and get out the socket driver.

Now, pick up that 14mm long insert, in a shed where it’s around 6-7C, slip with your fingers and drop it down behind the bench into the sawdust and shavings.

Swear profusely.

Get out the magnetic-head telescopic torch thing…

Right. Enough faffing. Paste wax to the threads and drive it on home.

Nice. Now we just do that with the other three…

Why is it spinning so easily on insert #2?

Ah, shite.

Apparently my bolts are made of particularly firm cheddar.

Mole grips to unscrew the insert, pointy thing to screw the bit of the bolt still stuck in there out the back of the insert (glad I didn’t get the blind inserts now).

Okay. Prep another bolt. Repeat all the steps above. Keep going, but be more careful this time.

Shite! At least I felt it go this time and stopped fast enough to be able to unscrew it in one part. Prep another bolt…

Felt this one going before it snapped. Definitely cheddar.

At least all four are in now. I might come back if I can find a non-cheese bolt and drive them below the surface later. For tonight, that’ll do.

Bolts in, and they fit (they’re a bit less than drop-in, but wood moves, blah, blah, blah, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

That’s a pleasant sight 🙂

Out with the MDF board at this point for a flat surface and check the rock – the front left leg there is about a millimetre out. Plus the feet are all at 12 degrees to the ground because geometry, so I mark off a flat on each leg, disassemble the table and even the legs up. And I leave it there for the evening. I’ve been up since… well, I was in work till around 0400 this morning after getting called around 2330 on friday, and I was back at work just before 0900 until 1730. On-call sucks sometimes. Oh well. There are worse complaints.

I have to shape the feet and thin the table edge and do the final smoothing of the tabletop and legs (cabinet scraper time!), all of which are finesse tasks so I’ll leave them for tomorrow, and I can be starting the finishing by tomorrow evening which is a good timetable for this.

Oh, and I also have a custom scratch stock profile to file. I’d rather do this with a hollow plane, but I don’t have hollows and rounds and I know (a) how much a set costs and (b) how much space one takes up 😀 So that’s not happening for a while. Hell, that was why I got the #050C combo plane, but alas I didn’t get the special doo-dads to let it act as a hollow or round 🙁  I’ve got an eye open, but the problem with the combiplanes is that they came with a lot of bits and doodads, and that was in 1930. You can’t keep both socks together for more than six months before you’re suddenly looking at lefty pining for righty who is has returned to the fjords; what odds that someone will have all 53 pieces from the original combiplane box that they bought in 1933?

So obviously, I just need to get a set of hollows and rounds.

looks up prices

passes out

Holy crap. I could buy two cars (second-hand) for the price of a set. Sod that. I wouldn’t have the room to put them anywhere anyway and the larger ones are all for things I don’t have the physical space in the shed to build.

But on ebay, unmatched planes (“harlequins” apparently, in a rare example of nice naming) are way less expensive – you can pick them up for a pound apiece in some cases. So I’ll probably wind up buying one or six hollows/rounds/beading wooden planes over the next year. You don’t need all that many for the kind of stuff I do. I might start with one that matches the profile above, which is drawn to match one of my gouges to do some decorative carving work.

I guess I’ll just have to try my “build something and sell it to pay for the wood” plan this year to let me do that 😀



I actually managed to tick off almost every line on the to-do list for the week by Sunday night for a change. Before doing any “real” work though, I had to get the new interlopers off the bench. It’s been a while since I did framing-level work with 2x4s, but it’s like riding a bicycle…

…downhill on a wet slope towards a brick wall while blindfolded.

But since I didn’t care what the end product looked like, it was fast enough work…

Rough as 10-grit sandpaper, but it got them off the bench and me back to it. I might make something less… industrial at some point, but for now…

That’s the table legs profiled and rounded on the back (the front has to wait until the frames are glued up). Next to drill the holes for the tabletop attachment screws and that needed my big cordless drill…

I quite like that drill, it’s in magnificent condition for something that’s getting on for 70.

It is, by the way, a nice luxury to have a brace that’s dedicated to countersinking holes. You wouldn’t think it, but you tend to use it a lot…

And glueup. Hide glue again, hence the hot water bucket (hide glue and Irish winters don’t mix well). And that’s where I left it on Saturday evening.

On Sunday morning, I took off the clamps and things looked okay, so I got the tabletop up onto the bench and marked off the final sizes. Not much trimming needed in width, really just straightening up the edge there, but a good three inches came off the length because otherwise the table would be tippy.

I did try using the bandsaw to do the rough-cut there but it *really* didn’t like my new experimental bandsaw guides…

Teflon rod instead of the steel rod that had been there. Oh well. I might just have been overloading it with torque in the piece because it was so large it was almost unmanageable, so I’ll test it on some smaller pieces later and either leave or replace the teflon guides with the originals.

With it trimmed to size (at least roughly, the end grain is going to need a final session on the shooting board), it was on to smoothing the tabletop. Oddly the #4½ wasn’t getting it done even after touching up the blade on the diamond stones; I had it set to a really high cutting angle last time I was working with it, on some sapele; I guess it’s just not biting on the oak as a result, though I’m not sure why not. Oh well, out with the #4 instead and that got it done quite nicely. It’s not fully done; I want to use the #5 to smooth the underneath a bit, and attach the top and then I’ll come back and finish up the smoothing work on the top.

Then on to the next project and picking out the wood from the board to match the plans. This will be a blanket chest – if you know what that is, the scale might seem strange, but there’s a reason for it (just run with it being a very small chest for now). I had a 9×30″ oak board that I could get all the rails and stiles from, even if it has a nasty bow a few inches from one end; but I want a final thickness of three-quarters of an inch and it’s just over an inch now so I can get that bow out. The posts I already had gotten from some 8/4 oak at the end of last week.

The bandsaw might be fussy but it does let you get rips done fast… even if you then have to spend a while with the #5 to get the edges back to being clean again.

Just trying to get a feel for the overall size there (it will be smaller than this – the joints aren’t cut and the oak’s not thicknessed yet). There will also have to be panels, this is just the frame, but one thing at a time. And I have an idea for the floorboards as well.

Finally going to get to use the pigsticker on this one 🙂

All the grooves cut in the posts. I’m wondering whether to thickness the rails and stiles before or after grooving. I’m leaning towards after. I didn’t dive into the morticing either, it’s too late in the day at this point for that, I’d wind up morticing the wrong groove somehow.

So, last job of the day, glueing up a blank for another bandsaw box.

An offcut of walnut from a long rip that went badly (you can just see where the saw wandered there). It’s a bit small for anything else really, but for a bandsaw box it’s grand. Also, walnut. It’s basically cheating using this stuff (and at nearly €90 per cubic foot, it’s definitely pay-to-win cheating).

And I’ll leave things there for the evening. The last piece of hardware I need for the table should arrive on Monday, and I might be into the finishing before the end of the week if I’m lucky, as well as making progress on the chest and the bandsaw box.

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