I got it one piece at a time

But I sure hope it turns out better than the Pshyco Billy Cadillac. P1-1 Most of the pieces needed for the 6 drawers of my dresser. I’m working on the drawers of my eternal dresser project.  This is the point where I’m either going to finish this or burn it for heat.  The drawers are made up of 9 pieces each x 6 drawers = 54 pieces!  That may not seem like a lot to someone who is feeding pieces of wood through a drum sander and router jig, but when you are working each piece to size with planes and joining them with saws and chisels, it takes a while. The best description that I have read on making drawers was written by the excellent Charles Hayward in Cabinet Making for Beginners.  He covered the topic so well that any further writing is unnecessary.  However, since that book is long out of print, I will hit some of the highlights. P1-2 P1-3 Get all of the pieces to rough size.  This means making boards 1 inch or more too long and 1/8 inch or more too wide.  Why oversize?  Because every piece needs to be perfectly fit in it’s place in the case.  If you can do this with your tablesaw, feel free.  Here I marked the final size of each piece in it’s place, then continued the mark with my panel gage. P1-4 P1-5 I final fit each piece with a hand plane and I check the fit often.  Accurately sizing each piece makes fitting the assembled drawers fast and accurate.  During this final fitting I make adjustments for any out-of-squareness of the case (especially drawer openings).  I generally fit the width (height) of each board, then mark the length (on right). P1-6 I fit the drawer fronts following the same steps as with the sides.  Remember, my drawer openings are not perfectly square, so the drawers fit the opening.  If anyone studies my dresser with an engineers square, I’ll kick them out of my house. Drawer sides are best made from quarter sawn materials.  Unless you want to use white oak or cherry, QS material is really not available.  For this dresser and my chest of drawers, I made my own QS stock.  To do this, I bought a really wide cypress board that was cut near the pith (center) of the tree.  I cut it into drawer sides (length and width) and resawed 2 sides.  It worked pretty well since the sides need to be 3/8 inch thick and the original board was 5/4 (1.25 inches) thick. Once all 4 pieces of a drawer are fitted to the case, plow a groove at the bottom (inside) of the front.  Not actually on the bottom, go at least 1/4 inch up.  I made mine 1/2 inch from the bottom because these drawers are really deep and that makes it easier to hide the groove within the (dove)tails on the front.  Speaking of, I will not cover dovetailing the drawer, except two points. P1-8 1 – The back is shorter than the other pieces, to allow the drawer bottom to slide in place.  It is level with the top of the drawer. Remember this when laying out the drawer. P1-7 2 – Before you dovetail these parts that you have milled perfectly, PRACTICE on scrap!  Here is my first practice joint.  See any problems?  I practiced on 2 more to brush up on my technique before sawing my real parts.   P1-9 With the 4 corners dovetailed, it’s time for glue-up.  I clamped my front board to the workbench and that seemed to help the process.  I liked the benefit of the thin sections of the front being supported while I hammered the sides into place. P1-10 P1-11 Check the glued-up drawer for square.  Check the length of the diagonals (right) and flatness (left).  Apply pressure to perfect the form.  Careful now.  Once it is square and flat, leave it alone for the next +8 hours. Phew! With all the drawers joined together it’s time to make the final bits and pieces, but that will wait for the next chapter. Bob Jones

Bench Plane Classes – On the kitchen table

plane_class1

Recent hand plane class / demo taught at the kitchen table.

I’ve posted about the hand plane classes that I teach over at the woodwork shop in Memphis, TN.  I normally teach in their workshop on a sturdy bench that is much too tall for hand plane use.  For the most recent classes I decided to use their “kitchen” type table in their showroom.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked as a workbench.  The top is flat and just the right height (or a little low which is better than a little high).  The only downside is mass.  While using a Jack plane a student had to keep the table from walking across the room.

We actually had 2 classes in about a month.  Both classes went great.  I’m always a little surprised when people come back to take the second class.  I guess they figure they got their money’s worth in the first one.  Thanks to my friends at the woodwork shop for inviting me back.

plane_class2

Here is the Mr Lucky.  He won the hand plane giveaway.  Maybe that is what keeps people coming back?  Get that Stanley tuned up and ready!

Back to the point of this post.  A good workbench has a flat, solid top that is shorter than waist level.  What, you don’t have a workbench?  Go to your kitchen.  Attach some battens to your table with quick-clamps and get to work.

plane_class3

Hopefully you can see the battens that were used as stops.  This method works well and is how I built my first couple of projects before my Roubo bench.

Speaking of classes, I’m making my schedule now for next year.  If any woodworking groups in Alaska, Hawaii, or Europe need a hand plane class and are willing to pay for travel, I’m open.  Just sayin’.

Bob Jones

 

 

Bench Plane Class Tomorrow Night (Aug 25, 2014 in Memphis, TN)

teacher

I know this is last minute notice, but if anyone in the Memphis area has 3 hours free tomorrow night, you should come to The Woodwork Shop, in Bartlett, TN.  Get the details on previous classes here.

This is the “intro” class where we talk all about bench planes.  We talk – it’s not a lecture.  I’ll go over what to look for in vintage and new tools, how to grind the blades, and how to hone them.  We will then cover how to use these tools to take lumber from “rough to ready”.

grinder_class

Everyone will have the chance to learn free hand grinding on a meat powered grinder.  It is safe and fun.  From student feedback, this is the most helpful part of the class.

As always, if we have 6 new students or more, I will give away a Stanley bench plane.  It’s a Number 4, Type 11, ready to be tuned.  Don’t miss it!  If you read this and then come to my class, let me know.  I have a small gift for the first person who does.  Oh, and I will bring some chisels and drawknives for sale, too.  The DTC is going to be pretty full.  I hope to see you there.

Bob Jones

Greg_lasers

Building a bench in a weekend

 

Have you ever taken a weekend woodworking class?  I hadn’t before this month.  I made the drive up to Nashville, TN with a friend to build a bench with Greg Pennington.

Greg-teaching Greg-tenon_cutter

Greg was a great instructor and kept no trade secrets.  His unique techniques made the process of joining the legs and the top much easier than I expected.  I had to do very little math, which helps reduce errors.  I was a little surprised that he uses the 5/8 inch Lee Valley tenon cutter that I mentioned in my last post.  Apparently that tool is not just for rookies like me with no lathe.  Greg gave lots of tips on how to use mine more efficiently, which I will share in time.

Greg_lasers

Greg has updated traditional alignment techniques by using lasers in several steps of the process.  He has described it on his blog.  I really liked using the lasers and plan to us them whenever I get done with this monstrous dresser project. No update on the dresser, but I’m making progress on it.

Bob-lathe

I was able to turn for the first time – what a nice lathe that OneWay is!

At the shop

Hanging out at Greg’s shop was a blast for a woodworker (I’m eating a camp style dinner on the shop porch).  

Ok, the highlight of the trip was staying in the shop.  Yep, I slept in the loft on my camping cot.  Greg and his family were gracious hosts and let my friend and I stay in the shop all weekend.  It was a great environment and I was able to play in the shop from the time I woke up until I was too tired to move.  The environment of the shop was perfect for working.  I missed my family, but I was sorry to leave.  If only my family would be willing to uproot and live in the bunk house. Hmm…

Project_complete

Completed benches and happy students ready for the trip back to Hernando, MS.

What’s the most valuable thing I got from the class? Confidence. Greg took something that I previously thought was really complicated and unpacked it into understandable pieces. This type of joinery is still not simple, but it is now obtainable. Thanks Greg!

Bob Jones

Book

Book Review – Going with the Grain, Making Chairs in the 21st Century

Green_work

I haven’t made much progress on my dresser recently, and it is mostly because I’ve been dabbling in some green woodworking, following the instructions in Mike Abbott’s book, Going with the Grain, Building a Chair in the 21st Century.

Book

This is really more than a book review, it’s also a process review.  The author of this book, Mike Abbott teaches green woodworking courses in a magical woodworking Neverland in the UK and has for many years.  In this book, he has documented exactly how he teaches the art of building chairs from green wood.  And I do mean EXACTLY.  This is a picture book that is detailed beyond any other woodworking source (DVD’s included) I’ve ever seen. This book was designed to show anyone precisely what to do in building a chair with green techniques and why they should.  Typically, I’m far too prideful to follow any published plans too closely, but while reading this book I decided that Mike made his process look so easy that I had to try it just like he teaches it.  He lays out the whole process from the perspective of someone who has no tools and no experience building anything. It starts with the tools required (probably obtained for less than $300) then moves in to building a shaving horse with construction grade lumber.  To his credit, he skipped the token 2 pages on sharpening tools.  He covered that in his other book (Living Wood), and there is tons of sharpening instruction freely available online.

 

Reading

One day I expect I will build a pretty, hardwood shaving horse.  In the meantime, this version that took me 2 hours to build is no compromise on functionality (only looks and comfort).  I built it 100% to Mike’s specifications, including a hardwood pin, which is the first thing I made using the shave horse.  I’m not publishing a how-to here because that is well documented in his book (you should buy it).

Club

I then turned to the next page and made a club (in the trustworthy hands of my nephew) with a piece of red oak firewood, again following his step by step process. The dabbling that I have been doing now is learning to use my froe and drawknife to make the first furniture project in the book – a footstool.  I thought this simple little stool was beneath me, but I decided that since these green techniques were new to me, I should start with the stool.

Stool_parts

I haven’t finished the stool yet, but I’m close.  Here’s all the pieces that I have so far.  I’m waiting for the rails/rungs to finish drying out so I can knock them into the legs. I rate this book as excellent for how-to instruction and highly recommend it to anyone considering building chairs.  Even if you think you want to saw chairs out of kiln dried lumber, this book is a great source and may convince you to find a fresh cut log instead.

Enough glowing, there are 2 problems opportunities with the book.  First, it was definitely written for woodworkers who love their Queen.  Almost all sources listed are UK based and all dimensions are given in metric (most have conversions given in Imperial).  If you can’t convert units (1 inch = 25.4mm), try Google.  (Apparently a new 2nd edition corrects this.)

One plus for North Americans is easy access to the only proprietary tool he recommends, the Lee Valley 5/8 inch tenon cutter.  So, living in North America actually makes it easier to follow this distinctive teaching.

The second issue is that he generally goes from the tree in the woods to completed chair in a week or so.  Why is that a problem?  Mike “turns” tenons while the wood is very green and plans for them to shrink into ovals (like a naturally wedged M&T).  This is fine and good if you are working with wood that is still dripping wet, but what about wood that is semi-green, or closer to dry?  I’m currently working with some cherry that I quartered a few months ago, and I’ve tried to keep green.  In my experimenting so far, this wood does not shrink up as much as Mike teaches, but he shows what to do in this case.

FYI – I’m working on a modified technique for semi-green wood.  I’ll post it here if it works (and if it doesn’t). After I finish the foot stool, I hope to build a few bar stools for our kitchen and then a spindle back chair (or 6).  Both of these builds are covered in this book in plenty of detail.  I’m really enjoying the process of green woodworking.  There is just something great about dominating a massive log with a wedge and maul, then finessing firewood with a froe and drawknife to yield the pieces needed that makes you feel like you can make anything.  That’s a powerful feeling.

Bob Jones

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