Sep 17

French cleats and bench grinders

So I’ve said once or twelve times that I needed to do something about this stuff in the shed:

The little air compressor proved useless for shellac and stuff so it’s moved indoors to the lab for future mucking about with airfix models with junior and the like. The dremel, well, that’s handy for stuff so it still lives there, but the grinder was just a pain in the fundament. It’s on an MDF base with a small cleat on the bottom for the Black&Decker Workmate to grab onto (or the vice on the bench these days). So I finally got round to fixing that up and getting it out from underfoot.

Smaller base, cleat at the front end to act like a bench hook and a holdfast at the back keeps it nice and stable (the base tends to cup a bit, I don’t think it’ll last forever). Pulled the stone on one side (the finer grit stone because if I need that grit, I just use sandpaper for the scary sharp method or I use the diamond stones – I’ve never used that fine grinder stone since I got it) and put a wire wheel on there to help clean up rust off some older tools. The wire wheel wouldn’t fit in the guard, so I lost it.

If that cleat looks familiar, it’s because you’ve watched woodworking videos on youtube in the last decade. It’s a french cleat with a matching cleat on the wall.

So now it’s out from underfoot and positioned perfectly to remove an eyeball as you enter the shed. Who really needs to look to the left though?

May 17

Cleared the bench…

Finally got the last of the tools off the bench and onto the wall by building a small holder for the drills from a hardwood offcut and some recycled plywood. And managed to get a rebate and some stopped dados in as practice 😀

The shed is now finally looking like a proper workshop. I mean, it’s not done yet – the western saws need to go up on the wall too (another magnetic tool rack for them I think, and mount them below the japanese saws – lidl didn’t have any left so ebay it’ll be), and I do need to do something with the grinder and the airbrush, which will probably mean french cleats of some kind and probably redoing the mounting board for the grinder. But for now, it’s not too bad.

Yeah, okay, there’s a huge mess to the right hand side. That’s a bunch of boards rough-cut down to components for some small tables I’m going to build, and they’ve accumulated crap on top of them as any flat space does. I’ll have to tidy up the shed during the week.

But at least now I can work on something that’ll actually leave the shed instead of living there until I recycle it 😀

Oh, and a new moisture meter and thermometer as well. No huge reason for one, I just came across it while buying something else on aliexpress and it cost just under two euro shipped so what the hell.

May 17


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…

Apr 17

Tooltris continued…

As I mentioned last time, it’s a nice problem to have, but it’s still nicer when you solve it 😀

So it’s mostly a conventional plane rack, with a few quirky bits for the non-bench planes. Here’s the map:

Bench planes make up most of the area, with the T5 over on the far left because of its handle, the blocks below that because that was all the room there was, the compass plane sitting on a shelf, and the various plough planes and rebate planes and router planes in various holders, and the spokeshaves on hooks.

Nicked the general idea for this from here. Though mine’s less fancy 😀

The #044, #043 and #055C plane housings are just pegs and small boards or cutouts in the frame to keep everything aligned. Gravity does the rest, along with the extra friction from the felt. The #043 mount might need some more work but it seems okay for now. 

The #722 mount looks like this but there’s a small cap across the top to bridge the gap now. Works very well if I do say so myself.

And the block planes get small cubbies, but with a bar in front of each one to ensure the plane is at a steep angle; that way I can stack four in that space without coming away from the wall too much.

The spokeshaves and the #080 were a bit easier to build 😀

I still have to build the chisel racks (I have a nice idea for those) and there’s a small area for screwdrivers and such as well, and I want to have a space for the spare irons and the blade sets from the combination planes up in that top right corner; that has to be built yet as well but it won’t be anything fancy.

All that’s not complete either, there’s the toe cap for the bench planes and a header to add, but I wanted to mount it on the wall first:

24 5mm screws, because only five of those are in studs. And it is a lot of cast iron. But it seems okay so far…

Anyway, with it on the wall, I could add the toe cap:

More glue and screw construction here, this isn’t going to win awards, it’s shed furniture. A bit of felt along the top as well, because I’ll attach a header in front of that to make a shelf:

And done. Had to fettle the ends of the shelf a bit with the spokeshave, but it fits, and more glue and screws later, here we are. Everything fits. I still have space for a #08, which I’ll get as soon as one in decent condition shows up on ebay for less than the price of its weight in platinum, and for a #02, which won’t ever show up for as low a price as its weight in platinum, but that’s collectors items for you. I’m holding its space for when I find one going for €5 in a car boot sale 😀

Things are starting to get a bit tidier at last. I still have to sort out the drills and the saws though. I’ll probably move the fret and coping saw from where they are now over to the left side, put the drills where they are now and put the saws beneath them and the hammers. Or I’ll put the drills on the front wall of the shed, behind me as I face the bench. Not sure yet. And of course, now that everything has a place, I’ll buy something else that’ll need more room than I have, like two more braces.

Not to mention the breast drill that’s still in the post…

But next job is definitely going to have to be that chisel rack. The chisels have gone back into a tool roll, and using those things is a pain in the fundament…

Apr 17

Blinded by the light…

So the SI unit for “brightness” (this isn’t exact, roll with it) is the lux and you can measure it with lightmeters (or a lightmeter app on your smartphone if you live in 2017). A really dark and stormy overcast day is around 100 to 200 lux as is your typical home lighting (my kitchen table, for example, sees 140 lux as I’m sitting here). Sunrise or sunset is around 400 lux. A well lit office can be anything up to around 500 lux. Noon on a typical cloudy Irish day is around 1000 to 2000 lux.

Earlier today, I hooked up the third LED T8 in the shed (the one I fitted yesterday):

At my workbench, the lightmeter now reads 2400 lux.

It’s now brighter inside my shed than it is outside my shed at noon on most Irish days. I might possibly have gone a little far.

(BTW, the T8s cost about €30 each off ebay and claim to draw 44W each and should last for a few years. So yeah, I’d recommend them)

Apr 17


So I came across this goop watching Crimson Guitars recently (I don’t want to build guitars, I just find the woodworking part fascinating while finding the music part kinda meh).

Basically, take this plastic (which comes in little balls like styrofoam packaging), put a few tablespoons into hot water (60C/140F is where the magic happens) and it goes from hard white solid to transparent goop. Fish it out of the water with a spoon, give it a second or two to cool down so you can hold it without third-degree burns to your fingertips, and now you have something similar to mala (or plasticine or playdough or silly putty or whatever you grew up with); only when it cools down, whatever shape it’s in it sets up hard in.

When it’s back to being hard again, it’s a hard white plastic that you can saw, drill, file, tap (no idea how much load it’ll take though) or otherwise work. And when you’re done with it, put it back into hot water and it goes back to transparent goop again and you can reuse it. No idea how many cycles you’ll get from it, but I’m up to three or four so far with no sign of degradation.

So how’s it useful in the shed? Well, I use LED T8s to light the shed. Or more accurately, until last weekend I used one. Then the second one arrived last weekend and now I use two.

Thing is, when I ordered that second one, I accidentally ordered two of them. So I wanted to fit the third T8 and in between the other two is the only viable place left. But the roof has no handy single flat surface there (if I picked either of the two flats I’d get uneven light distribution and I’d go spare). So I need some blocks cut to the angle of the roof and attached so that I have a horizontal surface to mount the light to.

But I don’t know that angle, it definitely isn’t something nice like 30, 45, 60 or 90. It’ll be 57.423 degrees or whatever hastily-nailed-together-8-by-6 sheds use. So out with a few tablespoons of thermomorph, let it go transparent, cool back to translucent, and then shove a wodge of it into the roof angle (you can see it above in that picture).

And then when it cools, take it down and let it cool fully to harden fully.

And there’s your angle. Now take your saw and cut it in half so you have a flat face to present to the wood, and mark off the angles.

And now you just saw down the lines, then crosscut into two blocks, and start drilling pilot holes for screws and countersinks.

Then screw the blocks to the roof…

…and the mounting clips to the blocks…

…and then clip the T8 into the clips.

And done. No faffing about with cut-and-test-and-cut-and-test-and-plane-and-test-and-plane-too-much-and-test-and-curse-and-start-over-again.

Yeah, you could probably do this with a bevel as well, if you had a small 2-3 inch size one, but the thermomorph can get into small awkward spots a bit better than most bevels. Plus, as Ben Crowe was showing in that video above, you can replicate curves and other odd profiles just as readily as straight line angles.

And you can get different brand names as well (Multimorph, Polymorph and so on) as well as dyes in case you don’t like white, or even food grade versions of the stuff. And near-infinite shelf life too. So definitely some stuff to have handy in the shed from now on.

Apr 17


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.

Mar 17


So I’m still cleaning down the shed from the cot (finally got all the shavings under control…) but yesterday an officemate (hi Gary!) was looking at MassDrop (think “what to get for the rich geek who has everything” with a pricetag to match) and specifically at a wrist rest. For those who don’t type all day, it’s something to rest the wrist on while typing:

If you type all day every day like a lot of software engineers do, this is a pretty necessary thing or you wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve had that, it’s not fun (it’s why I’ve used kinesis ergonomic keyboards for twenty years).

So the specific one Gary was looking at was wooden, and nice enough if a bit simple:

I mean, it’s not some gel-filled cushion, it’s not articulated, it’s just a shaped plank of wood. Walnut maybe? Fourteen inches wide (the width of a MacBook Pro) and about three inches deep.

They’re charging $95 for it (or they were, it’s not for sale any longer). I nearly choked on my coffee. I told him that was insane, that it was a lump of wood and not worth it and that I could knock that up in my shed in twenty minutes from an offcut. So he said “prove it”.

That’s how I keep getting myself into these things. You’d think I’d have learned by now.

So I go home, I find a piece of walnut offcut (in this case it was a length intended to be part of the cot frame but a bad rip cut and a waney edge made it unusable for that), I cut out a 14″x3″ piece from it (I don’t even take the time to lay it out) and skim plane it to clean off the rough-cut furriness. Then I plane one face and edge to square, and shoot the ends square from that. I don’t bother with the other edge or face because they’re going to get shaped anyway. And I cut the corners curved on the front using my new toy that just arrived from Dictum today:

Well, I have a project or ten in mind that will involve dovetails and I want to try sawing out the waste on the pinboard instead of chopping it out because that took a bit longer than I thought it would on the cot drawer. I need a better place for it to live though…

I also need to finish tidying up, and one of the next shed projects is tool storage. But for now…

And from there, I get out the spokeshave and round over edges and I use the jack plane to cut a quick chamfer on the front edge and then go over everything with the spokeshave again to get it all nice and smooth, and I hit the ends with some sandpaper for a few seconds to get the last little bits around that knot on the left front side.

Total time from start to here was about 25 minutes or so (I was faffing about a bit with the new fretsaw). With machines, that’s two tablesaw cuts, two mitre saw cuts and a run-around on a router table, so maybe three minutes?

It needed a little finish and I had the dregs at the bottom of the shellac jar to hand so…

One coat on by brush, then in for a cup of tea and a bit of Richard Maguire’s latest sharpening video while it dried. Then out to the shed again, some steel wool to knock back the first coat of shellac and rag on a second. Back to the house for more tea and Maguire, and half an hour later I take the offcut piece of felt I had from lining the cot drawer and cut a small piece out of that and spread it and the underside of the rest with contact cement from the end of a tube left over from putting leather on the bench vice jaws.

Let that get tacky for ten minutes, then press the two together and trim the excess. And then a final coat of briwax on top for the shiny.

By this point I realise I’m foostering so I draw a line under it and wander back in from the shed. Total work time is about 30-35 minutes (with something like 90 minutes of waiting on finishes while watching videos and drinking tea in there too). And the test fit worked:

And it doesn’t just work on my laptop, it works in production*:

So $95 versus €2. Hell of an exchange rate, even when you count the three minutes it’d take to make with machines, labour, marketing and so on.


*That’s a joke for the other IT people btw. 

Feb 17

Drying day.

My original plan was to make the drawer today, but that plan didn’t take into account things like drying time on glues given the current low temperatures. Titebond PVA glue would be grand, but hide glue is something I’m still figuring out, so I’m giving it lots of margin for error. Especially as I found today that I almost had a major error during the glue-up; the use of a mallet to drive the top crossbar and back support into the mortice put torsion stress on the two end joints, as I knew it would (stupid mis-steam-bent upright) but I thought it’d be safe enough.

Nope. Small (1.5cm long) crack right there. Not critical; the wood is now stabilised by the glue and it’s holding well; but enough to give me a moment of thinking “wow, that nearly destroyed a week or so of work without the raw material available to do it over…”

I might just try to get a little glue in there and clamp it closed tomorrow, just to be safe.

Meanwhile, the rest of today went on getting the frame out of the shed onto the assembly table in the late afternoon, getting all the clamps off and holding my breath to see if the glue had cured (it had), and doing the last bits of trimming on drawbore pegs and the like. And then the last coat of shellac got touched on in a few places to cover some scratches and once that had dried (it dries fast outdoors), I moved it back into the shed as it was dark outside by now, and got the first coat of osmo going.

Just ragging on a thickish first coat here, in two parts (you can see the contrast here between the untreated side panel and the just-treated top panel). The plan was, on with the first ragging, leave for 30 minutes, rag off the excess and immediately on with another ragging, wait 30 more minutes, then rag off the excess again and leave to cure until tomorrow evening. Then tomorrow, I’ll take 400grit paper or wire wool to it, and rag on a thinner coat, leave for 30 minutes, then rag off the excess, then leave to dry until the next day, and we’ll do at least four coats of that.

In the meantime, I’ve a drawer to make up as well.

Also, this is WAY TOO BIG to be doing in this shed…

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Last minute fettling and foostering.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

Feb 17


Y’see this happy chap? It’s from startwoodworking.com btw, it’s surprisingly hard to find a good side-on photo of how you use a hand plane. You’ll notice that he’s pushing the hand plane along the wood using his leg muscles more than his arm muscles, by leaning into the plane as he pushes it. This is normal, natural movement that you do any time you push an object that isn’t sliding round like a greased pig in a swimming pool.

Do you see what else he’s go there?


This is the shed at the moment.

Lean into the plane? I’m doing well if I can reach the shagging thing at the moment.

*sigh*. And I have to thickness drawer sides, which means taking off wood, half a millimetre at a time in a 2cm-wide strip. Over a whole board. Evenly. By about eight millimetres. Gah. See this thing?

This is a dewalt 735 planer thicknesser. It costs nearly €700 if you’re silly enough to buy it in a shop in Dublin where the prices are usually 50% too high. And if I had the room to store it, I would have bought two of them by now. I mean, finish planing, that’s one thing. It’s awkward, but even on the largest panel in the crib it was doable.

Granted, you need the card scraper in places and it’s a pain having nowhere to stand at times.

But thicknessing, that’s a whole other story. There’s no finesse in that, it’s just lots of pushing through wood and hoping it ends soon. Christopher Schwartz was right, the first power tool you should get is a planer thicknesser. It’s just that they’re also bloody loud. This is not a machine that endears you to the neighbours if you use it at 2200h on a worknight. It’s about as loud as your wife finding you feeding the neighbourhood cat. To the blender.

I mean, ideally, I’d resaw the boards to thickness, but honestly, I’ve had enough of that. The ryoba is just not up to the job if the plank is more than two or three inches wide, and I’m still waiting for saw files to sharpen the western saws I have but so far they’ve just not made the task any easier. A bandsaw might, but (a) where the hell would I put it, and (b) bandsaws that can resaw an eight-inch-wide board are not like bandsaws that are just used for cutting curves; they are not small things. You have to use wider blades for reasons that involve clearing a kerf, physics and metallurgy, and those wider blades need larger wheels in the bandsaw to cope with bending radii, and that leads to a big freestanding monster of a machine.

So basically, I’m stuck inside the limits of the 8’x6′ shed. At least for now. But every so often, it’s helpful to complane (see what I did there?) about it.

At least the top panel is finish planed and one of the drawer sides is now thicknessed.

And the final coat of shellac is on the mattress platform and on the rear upright.


So not a totally wasted hour or two in the shed.

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Finish plane top panel
  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Assemble and glue-up and drawboring of everything.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

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