Thursday, February 6, 2014

Coat & hat rack

 Here is a wall mounted rack for coats and hats that I made recently with help from some friends. The actual construction and joinery is only mildly interesting, but there are two things about this that are a bit unusual:
1.) The design itself is somewhat unique.
2.) Most of the joinery was mortise-and-tenon joints cut with hand-tools by people who don't even consider themselves woodworkers.

First, let's talk about the people.

A few of my friends and I get together regularly to have "work parties", where we help each-other with household projects, and learn new skills. In the past we've routed cat 5 cords, floored an attic, and done some light landscaping among other things. Recently I decided to get the group to slow down and produce something a bit more polished. I set up some semblance of a workbench on the kitchen island using two 2x? boards. I showed my friends how to chisel mortises, mark out the tenons and saw to a line. The joints had to be somewhat accurate, but not perfect, because they were to be wedged. I played the role of quality assurance, teacher, and found a few moments to cut some joints. As a group we did the joinery for 9 pegs, and only produced one tenon that was beyond repair. This was a lot of fun and proved that woodworking (with hand-tools, no less) is nothing to be intimidated about.
Now, onto the design, starting with requirements.
It all started with a shaker peg board I had been using for coats. You know the sort. One narrow board with a bunch of round pegs in a row. It's all to easy to pile too many coats on a peg. It's hard to get the coats to stay on, and when they do, they hide other coats and hats. Worst of all, the pegs fall out. You might say that their overloaded (and that's true), but the round tenons also contribute to the problem when they shrink to ovals and cause glue failure. I grew to loathe this simple peg-board and hatched an idea of a better replacement.

The new model would have to have:
* A way to hold coats so you can see them all at once.
* Pegs that won't fall out.
* A place for hats and scarves
* Plenty of room for 2 people's gear, and room for guest's coats
* A small footprint to fit the space (no more than 11" depth)

The solution was as follows:
I hang the coats on hangers, facing forwards. I mounted the pegs and hanger rods with fox-wedged mortise and tenon joints, forming a mechanical lock.
It's made of oak (for the pegs and border), ash & scraps of a random exotic (for the hanger-rods), and a combination of birch plywood and poplar for the main panel. Poplar strips behind the plywood allow for deeper mortises where needed.

All of the dimensions came directly from the use case. My wife and I planned it by mimicing the motions of hanging things on the wall, and marking the positions with tape. The shape of the pegs and hanger rods was also strictly form follows function, which is why the pegs look like little canoes that cradle the thing they are holding.

I'm not going to bore you with all the construction details and procedures. There are some dowels joints to hold the border on, and for the front lip of the hanger rods. I did a lot of the shaping with a stationary sander, but also used a spokeshave.
So far I really like using this coat rack. I have been able to take the coats of guest a couple of times, which fills me with satisfaction.
Is there a lesson here? Maybe:
* It's satisfying to re-think a design from the beginning, even for something as simple as a board with pegs.
* Woodworking is a pretty easy and fun thing to share with beginners, especially if you pick the right project. I'd recommend picking something that demands accuracy or polish, but not both at once.

Thanks to Amanda, Matt, Aaron, and Kevin for all your help!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

File handles from a bare-bones lathe

These are a couple of file handles I turned from cocobolo scraps the other day. I needed some for a set of saw files and wanted something smaller than typical so they could fit in the tool roll. Also, if you have a lathe, it seems silly to buy something this simple. 

I have a lathe, but only barely. It's a grizzly "hobby lathe", and I wouldn't recommend it to most people. The tool rest isn't very solid and the drill holder required modification. It came with the wrong size wrench too. However, for a guy like me who doesn't have the space for a real lathe and a workbench in the same shop, this contraption that I can hang on the wall is pretty satisfactory.
I screwed the extruded aluminum base to a scrap of 2x10 which can be solidly clamped to my bench. There is an external speed control hooked up, but it has not yet proved necessary. My one and only lathe tool at the moment started as the tool-that-which-shall-not-be-named, but I ground the useless rasp teeth off and turned into a skew chisel that needs sharpening after two minutes of use.

Nevertheless, it worked fairly well and I am very satisfied with the result. I can see why people like turning. Nearly-instant gratification, and no joinery to mess up make for a fun experience.

   While I've got saw filing on the brain, I'll just mention that my first impression of the gramercy saw vise that just arrived is very positive. The only two previous occasions on which I've tried filing my own saws taught me that awkwardly clamping the saw to the end of the bench is the hardest part. Now I am expecting saw filing to be fairly quick and painless.