Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Quick tip: clamps help transport lumber

I discovered that if you have a roof-rack, you can affix boards to it very quickly using a [quick] clamp. This saves time fooling with straps & rope. Just make sure it's tight and won't wiggle.

Taking a couple of french cleats over to a friend's house for installation (on his car). We just saved 5 minutes we can use to decipher concrete anchors at the local home center.
You might still want to use one strap as a safety. Make your own decision on this. I'm not guaranteeing it's safe in every case and you must take responsibility for your own decisions--but this has worked well for me on a half dozen occasions.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fitted but loose, a compromise

I recently decided to keep a small plane handy in the top till of my tool chest, but didn't want it banging around with the other tools, going dull or losing it's settings. Neither did I want to "french-fit" it into a permanent part of my tool chest. Sure, I reach for this tool often this month, but that could change.

So I landed somewhere in the middle, making this protective "plane coaster", which fits the tool but isn't nailed down. It protects the blade and provides a little elbow room (not my elbows, hypothetical miniature bronze plane elbows).

I made it out of a scrap of 1/4" aromatic cedar. It was from a pre-tongue-and-grooved board of the sort you can line closets with. There wasn't much to it. I traced the plane footprint onto the wood with a hobby knife, and excavated with a small router plane. I also made a small, probably unnecessary relief for the blade. I like it because it's a visual indication of which direction the plane should face on its way back to its home. I slathered the whole thing with the same camellia oil I used on the plane post-honing, and I really like the way it looks.

As luck would have it, the "coaster" fits snugly enough to stay attached when you lift the plane by the body. We'll see how that changes with the seasons.

By the way, this is the "violin maker's plane" from Lie Nielsen, though I'm using it as you might use any block plane.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not quite a Nicholson

I have been struggling with a mess on my workbench for a little while during some shop reorganization, but today I found myself looking at a clean bench and realizing I have never posted about it. You may be familiar with the Nicholson style bench as popularized by Chris Schwarz, and nicely demonstrated by Mike Siemsen. This is basically the front corner of that set on some sawhorses. It's a fraction of a Nicholson ("Farthingson"?).

This bench-top is completed by some adjustable sawhorses, a spare plank, and lots of ballast.
Many woodworkers with voices on the internet sound like they speak from experience when they recommend figuring out your working style before building a fancy bench. Well, that's what this is perfect for. It's actually my second bench. The first one taught be a lot, but was too rickety and really meant for a child.

This one came about because I needed something I could make in a hurry and clamp to a kitchen island to provide a stable place for me to work with 3 friends. I soon realized I could put in on sawhorses and have a temporary bench better than what I had. I am planning on getting around to building a "Roubo" style bench in the near future (that's what the ballast is for), but this is really a perfect & simple way to get on with some projects while learning my preferences. Adjustable height sawbenches really take the cake.

And it couldn't be simpler to build. I screwed some 2x lumber together in an L-shape, then went over it with my jack plane (be sure to sink those screw-heads). I used some small blocks and screws to hold the benchtop to the sawhorses, and used an extra board for more surface area (not leveled with the main top).

Even the dog holes are easy, thanks to a healthy dose of procrastination. I used a marking gauge and dividers to lay out dog holes, but I didn't drill any except the few I needed at the moment. Whenever I need a dog hole that's not there, I grab my brace. I've been using this for over a year now, and there are still dimples in the front waiting for an auger to come along and make them [w]hole (sorry--punning is a disgusting habit). I just haven't needed them in that spot yet. And it's not tiring at all to drill one or two holes at a time.

I've got no vises (or even a crochet), and I do occasionally want for them, but for the most part this bench is great. 3/4" holes are incredibly versatile when aided by the vast array of accessories available today. A thicker top might be nice for holdfasts, and vises would make certain operations faster. I've figured out the bench height I like. So essentially I'm able to work efficiently now, and I know exactly what features I want in a more permanent bench.

You can do a lot without vises. For the picture I loaded it up with pretty much every accessory I have.

The best part is that I can store it on a lumber rack if I need to get it out of the way.

I recommend this bench design if you are just getting started, and you like the idea of being up and running in a couple of hours.

Heck, you can always turn it into a full-fledged Nicholson later if you have a free weekend.

Open frame for squares

Recently I bought a beautifully made double square from Chris Vesper. It got me thinking about how I always feel like I am on the verge of dropping small tools off my narrow (temporary) workbench, and how close I come to to tool abuse taking things in and out of the the tightly packed measuring section of my tool chest. Having been inspired by seeing the Studley tool chest in person, I decided to build a small open frame to hold the square, it's spare blades (rulers) and a couple of related tools.

Frame, en situ. And yes, I do see the irony of putting precisely made measuring tools in this thing with hardly a square corner in it.

And before anyone accuses me of comparing my work to Studley's, I'll say that my workmanship is far, far, worse. And my design is a bit more practical for my use. So this is very different. But we can all learn from Studley when it comes to space efficiency.

Dovetailed frame from padauk and maple tool supports.

I had some scraps of padauk and maple, so I fooled with layout for a bit then got to work.
Wasting away material after tracing the tools. This is tremendously more efficient when I limit myself to exactly one mallet whack for each time I place the chisel.
I made a ton of errors chopping out all the waste at different depths. I just kept going and tried to recover as best I could. I think I used ca glue to recover from about 6 different overenthusiastic chisel blows. But I measured myself mainly on whether to tools fit, and it turned out OK.

I knew this miniature router plane would be handy! In the background you can see a repair in progress--I scabbed on a little block to the other narrow support after I accidentally sent the wrong chip flying.
The design is a small dovetailed frame, with cross supports that have cavities to hold each tool. There is a cavity for every blade for the double square, plus a place for the square itself. This way I can put the square away regardless of what blade is in it at the moment.

Tracing the dovetails of the cross-supports and checking the layout.

Fortunately, my bench hook provided a nice backstop for chopping out these dovetails.
These must be the easiest kind of dovetails to chop out, since it's long grain and can be approached across the grain. Padauk is fairly tame to work with too, except for occasional splintering.
I noticed along the way that some of the color of padauk is alcohol-soluble. I use grain alcohol often to make endgrain easier to work. When I shot all the parts to length, the padauk streaked my block plane's sole purple! It also made an orange splotch on the maple. On a whim, I decided to dye all the maple this way. I scattered some padauk chips on the maple parts and sprinkled them to the point of mild intoxication, then rubbed the chips all over the parts. It looks weird with all the purple and orange, but I'll take weird over boring any day.
Clearly no other woodworkers were around to stop me.

This is what happens when maple gets drunk with padauk. It could have been worse.

After cleaning up the surfaces and applying one coat of danish oil, I'm ready to put this frame to work.

 The end product is functional, convenient, full of mistakes, and totally weird. So, perfect.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

French cleats are done!

I finally finished putting all the french cleats on the wall. Of course, the real challenge wasn't putting a few screws in the wall, it was all the cleaning/organizing I had to do to get to my walls. (Also moving outlets and waiting for paint to dry) I'm glad it's done so I can stay a lot more organized. It also should make it much easier to temporarily clear the floorspace so I can get the concrete flattened (I want to wheel things around).

You see clutter. I see less clutter than before.
While I'm feeling good about having this done, I thought I would share pictures of a few more hangers that may not have appeared on the blog yet. Most of it is crude but functional. I like to get it built quick:
Belt sander resting on a dowel while cord wraps around blocks.
RO sander & cord hanging in notches. This piece of plywood is glued into a groove that I made quickly with a plow plane.

I skipped the classic shelf/pin combo and just went for adjustable dowels to hold my [power] sandpaper. A set of dividers for spacing and a bit of paraffin on each dowel makes this easy.

A hook to hold my jigsaw. Holes for dowels were drilled after the main stack was already glued and dried, since that's the easy way to do this.

My friend Matt made this nice "cup" holder when he was visiting one day. (I was finishing up the cleats). Thanks, Matt!

These weird broom holders work well on pipe clamps because of their slightly rough surface. But I recommend throwing the plastic backer away and using 3 flathead screws for each hook.

I cut up an old shelf (that was on the pre-cleat wall)
 and put cleats on the back. Unlike the others, this one has hooks on it.

A pair of clamp racks doubles as a temporary lumber rack. Hands down the easiest thing I've made for the cleats.

I made this hanging panel with a strip of cleat on the back so I can cut off a piece any time I need another hook.

These are the two jigs that I made to install the cleats. The left one is a spacer, set to 1 foot. With the aid of a small clamp, it was also my third hand when hanging cleats. On the right is a nail in a chunk of cleat with a plumb line hanging on it--it saves a lot of time with the studfinder.