Mr_Green1

Lessons from Mr Greene

Mr_Green1

This plane tells a story from a craftsman who I suppose “retired” a long time ago.  I’ll call him “Mr Greene”.

Mr Greene worked in a shop full of bungling builders who saw no fault in borrowing the tools of the better craftsman.  What hack wants to sharpen his own dilapidated tools, anyway?  Disgusted with their self-serving ways, Mr Greene set out to save his tools from their careless hands of ham.  Engraving his name on his tools wasn’t enough protection – this only helped reclaim his tools upon close inspection.  Mr Greene needed to take a more drastic approach.  With no small amount of reservation Mr Greene disassembled his tools and with care made a mark that would be easily distinguished as his and his alone.  “Now I will be able to spot my tools from across the shop should one of these careless hacks remove it from my workbench.  That will show them.”  Mr Greene inspected his handiwork and rather liked the bold new look.

Mr Greene’s plan worked exactly as intended.  Whenever his tools were in the hands of a hack, he knew it immediately and was able to fetch them before any serious damage was done.  Soon the careless co-workers stopped stealing his tools altogether, knowing it would be folly under his watchful eye.  From that fateful day with paint, Mr Greene’s tools stayed in good order, and no doubt his relationships with his co-laborers were aided by his precaution.

Mr_Green2

Underneath the bright green paint lie the bones of a solid plane that was once well tuned.  I’ve inspected 100’s of vintage planes and most are unusable in their “as found” condition and generally show no evidence of ever being tuned or used by a conscientious carpenter.  This plane is different.  As I found it, the frog was actually well seated in the body.  The blade was dull and pitted from years of neglect, but at the last sharpening was properly ground and had evidence that the back was flattened at some point (this is rare).

I acquired this plane from a rust hunter to be my backup smoother in case I drop my user #4.  I have done nothing more than a light cleaning and I expect I never will.  I wouldn’t want to mess with the legacy of Mr Greene.

There are at least 2 lessons to be learned from this plane.

1 – If you are remembered after “retirement”, it will be by what you leave behind.  Will your legacy be a messy life, messy relationships and evidence of lazy living?  Or will your legacy be one of self control, stewardship, and serving others?  I’m speaking of more than tools.

2 – If you work in a shop with others who are less considerate, paint your tools a really obnoxious color.  When one of your shop mates picks up your tools it will be obvious from across the shop and you can rescue it from the clutches of the bungling builder…

Bob Jones

 

Road-ready Dutch Tool Chest

It is time to finish the Dutch Tool Chest.  I just signed up for my first real woodworking class this August.  I’m going to build a small bench with chair maker Greg Pennington.  It’s not about the bench, it is about learning more green woodworking skills, learning compound joinery, and learning to turn on a lathe.  The bench will be a nice bonus.  This class is the encouragement I needed to complete my Dutch Tool Chest.

DTC_outside  Finished_closed

Racing stripes are guaranteed to make your chest 20% faster.

Monotone was too boring, so I added stripes.  They are a 3:1:2 pattern, which I’m sure George Walker would approve of. I painted the whole chest with Kilz, then 2 coats of white trim paint, then laid blue tape down to create the stripes before painting the whole chest maroon.  I topped it all off with a couple of coats of clear poly.  I guess I have a dozen coats of pain(t) in all.  It’s excessive, but it looks nice and shiny.

DTC_hardware

Hardware after a 24 hour vinegar bath.

I took the cheap, zinc coated hinges and handles off and soaked them in vinegar for 24 hours.  They still look like cheap hardware, but now with a matte finish.  It’s a small improvement, but worth the tiny amount of effort required.

DTC_inside

This rack will hold a surprising number of tools. 

I also needed to finish the tool storage.  I think this shot shows most of it.  The rack consists of a 3/8-inch thick stick against the back wall, a few spacers to create a 3/8-inch open slot, and it is topped off with a 1 1/2-inch piece of Swiss cheese.  The holes are located at 1 1/4-inch centers, which is a little more spread than some.  I don’t like my food or my chisels to touch.

DTC_Sawnest

The 3 vertical pieces of the saw nest are not exactly easy to attach inside the chest.  I nailed them to a couple of scrap sticks (thanks Lowes) and then tacked the whole assembly in place.  It should be stable enough to hold the 4 hand saws that I use most often.

I did depart from the instructions in the PWW article by making the chest longer than described.  I did this so that my full length Stanley handsaw would fit inside the chest.  I probably should have stuck with the plans and purchased a shorter saw.  Longer chests are heavier (maybe too heavy) and harder to move by oneself, but I can manage.

I’m proud that my tools can now travel without the shame of being kept in an unfinished pine box.  If you would like to join the class, sign up now.  Greg said there was only one open spot as of today.

Bob Jones

Thank you, Pinterest

Hook_shelf_1

Thank you, Pinterest, for a constant flood of ideas for cute-sy type projects that the softer side of my household enjoys.  Original design is not a strength for my lovely wife, but she knows what she likes when she sees it and that is where the power of Pinterest shines through. Lindsay regularly shows me pictures of home decor ideas and says, “I really like this, would you build it for me?”  Unfortunately I am compelled to decline most of the time because the projects she finds would either cost too much or just wouldn’t fit in our regular sized house (a high percentage of Pinterest pictures come from Southern Living caliber houses).  But every once in a while she finds something and I get to say, “Yeah, I will do that for you.”

Hook_Shelf_2

Pop projects (from Pinterest or other sites) don’t interest me.  I like to spend my limited shop time building solid wood furniture that needs no stain or paint.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m not building things for everyone. I build things for me.  I expect furniture (or other decor) to be durable, timeless, well proportioned, functional – you get the idea.  Lindsay just likes things that look nice and make her life more comfortable, like most Pinterest followers, I suspect.

I didn’t photograph a proper build-along with the hook shelf, but here is a little guidance for construction.

 Hook_Shelf_3

Drafting with thin sections of wood and a sharp chisel is more fun than pencil and paper.

I based the proportions for this shelf on hooks that I bought from my friends at the woodwork shop.  You can order them from Rockler.  Because I can not cut my own complex molding (yet), I picked up a piece of crown molding from the home center that I figured was about the size that would look right.  I then sawed a few thin sections of wood and played with the pieces to get the dimensions that looked about right (no drafting on this project).

The joinery is not pictured.  I planed a shallow rabbet on the bottom back edge of the shelf to fit the back.  This rabbet makes assembly an easy job – try nailing two boards together like this by yourself and you will see the purpose of the rabbet.  I then nailed the crown molding in place, caulked the joints, and painted with regular household trim paint.  After the paint cured I screwed the hooks in place and hung it on the wall using these neat hangers.  I think the end result looks nice.

Hook_shelf_4   Hook_Shelf_5

I added a detail of hand planed moulding at the bottom and top edges of the shelf board.  I did this loosely based on the instructions in Matt Bickford’s excellent book on the topic.  It’s a great read even for those of us who don’t currently own moulding planes.  The best part is that rounds like this can be made with just a rabbet plane and a little patience.  Notice the facets that are apparent only if you look closely.  That is the sign of making a round surface from a straight edge tool.

Even though Pinterest has a very girly feel, I will confess to visiting the site more than once.  It is a powerful search engine that produces a visual flood of images that are often more relevant than a Google image search.  I dare you to search for something related to furniture building or woodworking.  Search specific terms and you may be surprised at the quality of search results delivered.  Warning – Before browsing, make sure no guys are looking over your shoulder when searching there – they may revoke your man privileges.

Bob Jones

I thought you were a woodworker…?

Built_in_after

We just had these cabinets built for our living room.

The title of this post is the most common response I hear when people see our new built-in cabinets and find out that I did not build them.  Why on earth would a “woodworker” pay someone else to build custom cabinets?  Because it made sense, that’s why.  I don’t like to build this style of cabinet and it would have taken me a very long time, so I would have been frustrated and annoyed during construction.  By farming out the construction and to a custom shop we got just what we wanted and fast.

Built_in_before

Before the “pro” showed up we cleared the wall of all obstacles.

Built_in_unpainted

Installed in a day.  Amazing, from my timeline.  At this point I took over (with help).  Paying a good painter is expensive and painting didn’t take very long.

This is not my trypical how-to type post.  I’m posting this to show that I do not DIY with every home project.  I limit myself to the projects I enjoy or the ones that I can not afford to hire out.  Maybe since this is finished I can go back to real furniture projects.

Bob Jones

Windsor Chair Kits Now Available – Everywhere

Windsor_01

Is this chair factory made or handmade?  Both.  Keep reading if you are curious to learn more.

The best way to describe this project may be Frustration Free Furniture Restoration.  This is counterintuitive, I know.  The words “furniture restoration” remind me of sanding, staining, repair, and headaches.  It is just not for me, thanks.  A long time ago, I refinished a cabinet for my wonderful wife.  That project went so poorly that I sold my profile sander and swore to never refinish another piece of furniture, but a recent post on Woodnet may make me eat those words.

Windsor_02

The “refinished” chair

Justin, a fellow Mississippian (transplant), posted some pictures of a Windsor chair that he completed in a day.  The project was a mix between a rebuild and a refinish.  From the pictures I hope you can see why I was impressed with his handiwork and requested permission to blog about it.

Windsor_03

The “kit” (after a quick demolition) – a chair that Justin originally described as “clunky”

Justin started his project by selecting a chair that he found in an antique store.  In Mississippi, “antique store” = piles of junk, stored indoors.  He liked a few things about this chair; it was inexpensive, the spindles were made from straight-grain stock, and the crest rail was steam bent – not sawn or laminated.  With the proper subject (aka – kit), he began by knocking the chair apart.  Reportedly, all the joints were loose so this was not a violent process.

Windsor_04

Original (left) and refined (right) spindles

After the chair was reduced to a pile of pieces, he put the legs and larger spindles in his lathe.  Those were reshaped to match styles of other chairs that he preferred.  The smaller, straight spindles were resurfaced with a spokeshave, adding facets that can only be a result of a skillful hand guiding a sharp edge tool.  These two steps were pure genius in my book.  All of the pieces now look (and were) hand finished and he eliminated the need for sanding.

Windsor_05

Major reshaping of the crest rail

Not stopping there, he reshaped the crest rail with some judicious saw cuts, chisels, spokeshaves, etc.

Windsor_06

Next up was deepening the dish of the seat with a gouge, scraper, and sandpaper.  This makes a big difference in appearance and should make the chair more comfortable.

Windsor_07

What Windsor chair seat can be shaped without a drawknife?

Windsor_08

All of the hand finished pieces ready for assembly

With all of the pieces “refinished” (actually reshaped) the chair was ready for reassembly.

Windsor_09

The chair – reassembled and painted with red milk paint

One more construction note.  The joints were loose when he started, so epoxy was required to make the joinery stable.  Justin highly recommends a slow curing epoxy.  Assembling one of these chairs takes time and fast setting adhesives makes the process more stressful.

Windsor_10

The red was nice, but the end result is a step up

Add to the red milk paint a coat of black shellac and judicious rubbing and Justin has a really nicely finished chair.

There are at least three great points with this approach to a “hand made” Windsor.  First, there were no special tools required.  Making a Windsor from scratch requires a significant investment in specialty tools (tapered reamers and such) that many woodworkers are not willing to buy for making one or two chairs.  Second, all of the joinery was pre-cut, which eliminated the most time consuming part of any scratch built project.   Third, no sanding away the old finish.  No further explanation needed on that point.  Thanks to the “kit”, Justin was able to take the chair from a loose collection of pieces to “finish ready” in a day.

Windsor_11

Good spindles = chance of a good kit

Are you wondering how you could begin a project like this?  The primary ingredient is a good starter chair (AKA – the kit).  Look for a chair with as many traditional details as possible – round, delicate spindles for the back (rather than flat or bulky) are a good indicator. Many factory-made Windsors have leg turnings or construction details that are a significant departure from traditional design. These chairs should be a avoided if you want a traditional look.  Also look for components that were made from straight-grained hardwood (maple, beech, or oak are really nice).  Finally, it is best if the crest rail was steam-bent (look for continuous grain all the way around with no layers like plywood).

If you find the right chair (or one close enough to it) and the price is right, snap it up, knock it apart, and get to work.  Enjoy the refinish with minimal (or no) sanding required.  I may even give furniture refinishing another go now that Justin has shown me a method that does not require a profile sander.

Bob Jones

A stable foundation for the Dresser (Part 2)

base_example

It is hard to tell in this picture, but the rails of the base are flush with the sides and front of the (previously built) cabinet.

The most difficult operation in building the base is getting the rails to the correct length.  The rails of the base are supposed to be flush with the case on all 4 sides.  Note to self – Next time use some under or over hang because getting components “flush” is tough.  I sized mine by marking the components in place on the case, but I think there should have been an easier way.

With solid wood construction wood movement must always be considered.  In this instance, the sides of the dresser will expand/contract with the seasons, but the base will not.  If you don’t understand wood movement, here is a great book on the topic.  This movement is allowed by using “buttons” to connect the base to the case.  These are handy little things that screw to the bottom of the case and fit into hidden mortises in the rails.  They are sized such that they clamp the base to the case.  Again, Robert Wearing described these very nicely.  By making the mortises in the side rails larger than the buttons, movement is allowed and the case will last for many years.

I made my buttons from a short, but wide board.

P2-01-Buttons_1 P2-02-Buttons_2

A rabbet plane forms the tongue of the buttons.  After flipping the board, I marked out each button in the row, and drilled the holes for screws.  I used a counterbore for the Lee Valley cup washers that I like so much.  After this step the buttons were freed from the board.

P2-03-Buttons_3

I asked my shop assistant to carefully stack as many buttons as possible.  Careful now…

P2-04-Buttons_4

How many buttons does it take to connect a case and base?  I don’t really know.  Robert Wearing said that it was better to have too many than too few, but I probably went overboard.

All of those buttons needed a home, so out came the mortise chisel again.  With all the practice making full sized mortises, these little ones were fast and easy.  The mortises on the side rails were chopped a little wider than the buttons to allow wood movement.

I chose to form a very large arch on the front rail as the only real decoration in the whole dresser.  It matches the style of the bed and chest of drawers I previously made.

P2-05-Arch-1 P2-07-Arch-3

Drawing this arch was a real challenge.  I tried to use my trammel set, but I needed an arch with a radius of more than 9 feet, so trammels were no match.    I decided to make due with a straight edge and bowed yardstick.  I knew the location of 3 points – the middle and both edges – so I connected the dots with my straightedge.  Then I added a curved line with a bowed straightedge.

P2-08-Arch-4 P2-06-Arch-2

It took a few attempts and free hand work.  More than once I needed to erase my progress and start over.

P2-09-Arch-5

I eventually gave up on the pencil work and finished “drawing” the arch with a saw and rasp.  I’m a big fan of my Gramercy hand cut rasp (10 inch 16 tpi).  Yes, it is expensive.  Yes, I would buy it again.  There is no need to use a spokeshave here because the rasp leaves a surface that is nice enough considering it will never be seen.

P2-10-Glueup-1 P2-11-Glueup-2

Time to get ready for glue-up.

Because the legs are 1/8 inch outset from the case, I chose to finish plane the rails prior to assembly.  I then used tape to make it easy to clean glue squeeze out.  Blue tape works great for protecting the show surfaces.  I glued up the base while it was positioned on top of the case because the main thing is sameness – not squareness.  What do I mean?  If the case and base match, then a small amount out of square will never be noticed.  If, however, the base is perfectly square and the case is not – something is going to look ugly.  With the base in place on the case I adjusted the base to fit the case (feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme).

P2-14-Glueup-5

Clamps are awkward in a glue-up like this.  I use corner spacers (big dowels) and rope.  Pressure is applied by twisting a long stick to get the rope tight.

P2-12-Glueup-3 P2-13-Glueup-4

Once the glue cured, the base was removed and I finish planed the case.  All visible case surfaces were finish planed.  I find the front to be most difficult because of the perpendicular grain directions of the dividers.  Skewing the plane helps to narrow the effective width of the blade.  Work slowly and carefully.  This needs to be done now because planing will not be possible later due to the legs being proud of (sticking out from) the case.

P2-15-Cleanup-1 P2-16-Cleanup-2

Finish plane the legs of the base, too.  This means leveling up the top of the legs and rails and finish planing the show surfaces of the legs.  Use clamps, battons, or stops as needed.

P2-17-Cleanup-3

I don’t care for block planes.  I find bench planes easier to hold.  Here I am softening the corners of the legs with a small bench plane.  I forget what size it was, because that doesn’t matter.

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Just a little more wood to remove.  I added a chamfer to the bottom and top of the legs.   Here I am marking the chamfer out all the way around the bottom of the leg.

P2-19-Cleanup-5 P2-20-Cleanup-6

Making a short chamfer is easy work with a wide and sharp chisel – easier than with a block plane for sure.  Keep your hands in contact with the leg to increase control.  See the curly shaving?  That is a sign of a sharp chisel that is in control.  The resulting chamfer is clean and sharp.

P2-21-Assemble-1 P2-22-Assemble-2

I put the base back on the case and marked the screw hole locations for the buttons.  I think everyone knows this technique for hole location marking, but I’ll repeat for good measure.  Put the button in place, insert a drill bit through the screw hole, tap the bit with a hammer, expand the indention with an awl (if you choose).  Hole located.

P2-23-Helpers

That’s all folks!

It is finally time to install the base.  Sorry, no picture of the assembly because I could not get a good photo of this big piece in my small shop.  I’ll work that out before the next installment.

Bob Jones

A stable foundation for the Dresser (Part 1)

The process of constructing the base I’m building now is very well described of one of my favorite woodworking books, “The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing. His book makes any additional writing completely unnecessary and redundant so I should stop this post right here, but because that pivotal text has not stopped the 1,000’s of books and articles on the topic since it was published, it will not stop this blog entry either.

base_example

My previous project – the base of the dresser will hopefully look like this.

The base will have 8 pieces in total; 4 legs and 4 rails.  The components will be joined by mortise and tenon, which is a fun joint to make with chisels and saws.  I don’t understand the barrage of products available to make a square hole in a piece of wood.  Making a mortise with a good chisel is fun and “easy” with good technique and a little practice.  I’ve gotten ahead of myself – let’s go back to the start.

The legs are about 2 inches square.  I laminated the legs from 1 inch thick stuff because I wanted all the visible wood to come from the same tree and I didn’t have any thicker stock.  Laminating pieces this small is not very fun with planes.  I did my best to get the laminated surfaces dead flat such that the two pieces do not rock when stacked together.  I took extra effort to arrange the pieces in a way that the grain flows like a solid piece.

Work the legs and rails to the right sizes.  Leave about an inch of waste on the top of the legs to be sawn away after the mortises are chopped.  I sawed tenons first and then chopped the mating mortises, but I don’t think the order in M&T stirs nearly the controversy as Tails or Pins first dovetails, so pick your pleasure.    Here are a few pictures of the process.

Base_Tenon_1

Mark out the tenons however you like.  I use my Veritas wheel gauge with the mortise wheels, plus a 6 inch square with a knife to mark the shoulders.  Notice one shoulder (the inside) is thin.  This is perfectly ok.  You really do not need an inside shoulder at all.  The important distances are the outside shoulder depth (which controls the rail offset from the leg) and the tenon thickness.  This technique saves time because all of the rails need not be the same thickness.

Base_Tenon_2

Here I am preparing for a “second class saw cut” (according to Robert Wearing) by notching the lead in corner with a chisel to give the saw an accurate place to start working.  You may also notice the kerfs for the tenon shoulders – I like to crosscut my tenon shoulders first.

Base_Tenon_3

For the tenon cheeks – saw the diagonal corner – then flip and repeat from the other diagonal – then finish straight across the tenon like I am here.  Remember to saw on the WASTE side of the line.

Base_Tenon_4 Base_Tenon_5

I lopped off the ends of the tenon with a chisel – it’s faster than rip sawing and more fun.  One well placed blow takes care of 90% of the waste, then I remove the last 10% with more caution.

Next I make a square hole with a chisel.  I think body positioning helps with accuracy, but I don’t recall reading this anywhere else.  Rather than flinging your arms around, try manipulating the chisel with your whole body.  I think it helps keep things straight.

Base_Mortise_1

Use hand pressure to push the mortise chisel just into the wood to define the mortise.

Base_Mortise_2

I’m sighting down the edge of the workbench and the chisel to keep the chisel and hole vertical.

Don’t be scared to smack the chisel.  Old pictures (really old) show joiners standing straight up and holding a mallet over their heads.  If that is really what they did then they made an impact!

I use the “down and back” mortise technique.  I start at one end and remove very little in the first plunge.  I go down the length of the mortice and the depth at the same time.  By the time I am to the far end, I am also at the full depth.  I then work my way back the the end where I began.

Base_Mortise_3  Base_Mortise_4

Clear the waste after every plunge.  The “right” way to do this is lever the waste forward (into a void) and then pull back on the chisel to lever the chip(s) out.  Notice how my whole body is moving forward and back.  I’m not pushing very hard, but I think this helps keep the chisel straight compared to just moving my arms.

Base_Mortise_5

The more mortises I chop, the more aggressive I get.  Here is a shot of the waste that was removed in a typical plunge.

Base_Tenon_6  Base_Tenon_7

I trial fit each M&T separately.  If the joint is too tight, the easy thing to do is thin the tenon with a router plane.  Notice I’m using downward pressure over the rail – not the side where it is unsupported.  After the tenon fit to my satisfaction, I chiseled a small chamfer around the tenon edges.  You should be able to do this by hand (no block plane required).  If you can not do this by hand then sharpen your chisel and practice!  This skill will make things easier later – but you’ll have to wait ’til my next post to understand that.

Bob Jones