Category Archives: Tools and Shop Projects

Tools and Shop Stuff for Woodworking

Quick update and local news

A few readers have asked if I’m still alive and/or building things out of wood.  I’m confirming both to the affirmative.  Thanks for the notes!  I suppose an update is in order.

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You may have noticed that I just posted a lot of tools on my “for sale” page.  Don’t panic!  I haven’t quit woodworking and I’m not planning to die anytime soon.  I’m just reducing the number of tools that I have in my shop.  After my trip to a LN Hand Tool event, I’ve been hooked.  I’ve been switching over to LN planes (slowly) and I just haven’t been using the Stanleys as often.  I’m the type of person who can not keep things that I’m not using, so these tools can go to new homes if people will give me a fair price for them.

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In other news, I’m scheduled to teach another hand plane class at the woodwork shop in Memphis, TN on April 25.  Watch that date – it may change to May.  I hope lots of people turn out because the class is always fun.  I really enjoy introducing people to the experience of using a well-tuned plane.  I never tire of seeing the fun people have when they experience how easy it is to surface wood with a sharp iron and good technique.

Now, for the “update”.  What have I been doing?  My middle daughter (call her K) expressed an interest in robotics a few months ago.  Thanks Disney and Big Hero 6.  I didn’t need much encouragement to pursue this interest since it involves making things and learning about new stuff.  I decided that building drones would be a fun way to teach/learn robotics, so that has consumed most of my shop time recently.

airplane_1 Airplane_4

Daughter (K) and nephew (J) really enjoy their time at the local R/C airfield.

Naturally, I’ve been working on what is called “scratch builds”.  Designing and building toys airplanes is just as fun as building furniture, it’s just a lot more temporary.  One crash and they are done.  I’ve developed a reputation at the R/C airfield for trying crazy designs – that fly a little crazy.

Airplane_3 Airplane_2

I can testify that a french workbench is also an excellent workbench for other building hobbies.

Least you think that I’m done with wood – fear not.  I’ve been working on some “staked furniture” as described by CS in his excellent new book.  I’m reading it now and will post a review when I’m done.  Suffice to say it is excellent and the techniques he describes can make the process of building nice furniture faster and easier than you think.  Buy it.

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Recent experiemental builds – 2 stools and a staked sawbench

Here are 3 things I’ve built recently as experiments.  The sawbench (far right) is a test of strength.  The legs are only 3/4 inch diameter at the top.  I wanted to test the limits of this staked technique.  It can hold 200 lbs with little trouble, providing the floor is not slippery.  That’s impressive considering how spindly the legs and top are.  It is super light, which is helpful for this shop appliance.  The carved stool on the left was an experiment in carving a seat.  Not great, but still surprisingly comfortable.  The stool in the middle is my best so far.  I plan to build 3 more like it next.  I should be able to do a build series on it, so stay tuned.  I think that’s all I can type for now.

Bob Jones

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Laser guided drilling

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Yes, I use an electric drill.  This one has enough torque to break your wrist and as long as you have a source of 120V, it’s fantastic.

Last summer I learned a handy technique for free hand drilling and reaming from Greg Pennington.  It has taken me a while to replicate his setup, but I have it now.  I don’t own a drill press (anymore), but these two lasers make it possible for me to free hand drill holes with impressive accuracy.

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Twin guides.  Put them 90 degrees apart and you can accurately produce holes at any angle.  I made mine from scraps, but here are a few ideas to guide your own designs.

  • Make the base heavy to prevent them from toppling in use.
  • Make the guide tall enough that the lasers will wrap around the end of your drill.  I would make these another inch or two taller if I made them again.
  • The big wheel on the back is for angular adjustments.  Making the wheel big actually makes small adjustments easier.  Try it.
  • These lasers have magnets on the bottom, so attaching them to the stand is easy with a washer glued to the platform.

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“Calibrating” the drill

After the guides are made, it is time to “calibrate” your drill(s).  This means drawing lines on the drill that align with the axis of the chuck.  These lines will be the targets for the lasers.  To get an accurate alignment I chucked up a long section of 1/4 inch rod.  This gives a long reference for the center of the chuck.  I then aligned a laser to the center of that rod along its length and projected the line down the drill.  See the laser lighting up the center of the rod? That alignment took some time and patience.

Marking a clear line on the drill motor is another challenge.  I had a hard time finding a marker that would leave a fine, contrasting mark on the plastic surfaces of the drill.  After a few failures of pens and markers, a white gel pen from a massive internet based commerce did the trick.

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“X” marks the spot.  Notice the white lines from my gel pen vs. the laser lines. 

Here is a first person view of the goal – lasers that intersect your calibration lines (I’m off a little because I’m holding the camera).   With any luck, I’ll demonstrate how these are used to drill mortises in the bottom of chair seats, but it’s not quite time for that yet.

Bob Jones

Roubo Panel Gaguge – Build and Finish

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In the last post, I left off with the pieces needed for the Roubo Panel Gauge.  You see here the walnut for the body resting on the cherry for the arm.

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Here is a shot of the end of the arm.  I decided on a 5 degree taper for each side of the arm (10 deg total).  I don’t have a good reason for 10 degrees other than many people in chair making use 6 degrees and some use 12 degrees, so rather than debate who is right, I took the political position and went for the middle ground.  I don’t remember the exact dimensions of the arm, but it is close to 1 inch square and 20 inches long.

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Tapered mortises are more difficult to layout than rectangular ones.  I marked the first line, then used the actual bar to determine the location of the second one.  I suggest you make the mortise a little tighter than you think you should.  It is easier to open the mortise up a little than to close it.

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With the tapered hole marked out (see the white pencil marks) I used a mortise chisel to chop out parallel mortises.  The middle was then easily removed.  I considered using a drill to define the mortise, but I remembered the wise words of Mr Robert Wearing that drilling does not make mortising any easier or more accurate.  He sure was right.  Just go at it with a chisel and don’t be scared.

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The tapered arm fit perfectly the first time I tried the fit.  Yeah, right.  I pared down to the line with a super sharp bench chisel and fine tuned the fit several times to get it right.  The bar had a tendency to seat further on one side of the body, making the gauge look like a mess.  Shaving tiny slivers of wood here and there did the trick to level the arm out.  How did I know where to remove slivers of wood?  Move the arm around in the mortise with some force.  Areas that rub will show a little burnishing.  Remove the burnished areas from the mortise to get more consistent contact.

RPG_build6.

This was a good time to shape the curve of the body.  Notice the use of the leg vise to hold the body flush with the bench top for drawing the curvature. I don’t deal with full-sized prints.

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I sawed the body to rough shape and screwed in a 1/4 inch threaded insert at the top center.  These inserts are really simple to install and function better than a machine screw threaded directly into wood.  I faired the curves and rounded the profile with my new Lie Nielsen spokeshave – it is a wonderful tool.

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The body of the gauge gets a rabbet at the bottom of one side.  This creates the reference surfaces of the gauge, so do your level best to make the rabbet parallel to the body in width and depth.  A good marking gauge helps guide the final endpoints of the rabbet – don’t depend on stops built into the plane.  That rabbet completes the body.

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It’s time to add some flare to the gauge.  In the top of the arm I plowed a 3/8 inch wide groove to house a piece of brass.  The brass was 3/8 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.  This is a functional upgrade as well as aesthetic.  The arm is locked in place by a screw in the top of the body.  That screw would chew up the wooden arm if left unprotected.  The brass was epoxied into the groove and later sanded to clean it all up.

RPG_build11

The pencil holder is very sophisticated.  I drilled a vertical hole for the pencil that was 1.5 inches from the end of the arm.  Closer to the end of the arm I drilled a perpendicular hole for a screw that will be used to tighten the grip on the pencil.  To make the grip more effective, I sawed a kerf through the end of the arm into the pencil hole.

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The perpendicular hole received another threaded insert, but this one was considerably smaller (Number 8).  To get the insert in straight, I used a No 8 screw from the backside and manipulated it while driving with the screwdriver.  Getting the threaded inserts straight in the hole is the closest thing to a challenge in the process.

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Insert a General pencil (premium pencil made in the USA) and give your new gauge a trial run.  I’m really happy with the fit and feel of mine.  The brass in the arm gives it surprising heft and a classy look.

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I finished my gauge with one coat of Boiled Lindseed Oil and one coat of wax.  I may go back to using wax more often rather than 6 to 8 coats of oil.  It is fast, easy, and looks great.  The only offense is the smell of the wax, but it fades after a few days.

There are a few take-aways from this build.

  • Read old woodworking related texts when you can.  They are full of ideas that are waiting to be rediscovered and put back into practice.
  • Starting with your current project(s), build everything to the best of your ability.  This includes fixtures and tools for the shop.  Always do your best and your best will improve.
  • If you are new to designing your own projects, a good place to start is with small things.  You can either succeed or fail quickly and try again.
  • Complete a project from time to time to prove that you can see one through to the end.

Bob Jones

Roubo Panel Gauge – Design

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Let’s get the punch line out of the way.  Here is the finished panel gauge and the source of inspiration.  Now we return you to your regularly scheduled “how to build it” segment. Thanks for watching.

Between big projects I like to have a few quick wins.  Some would (rightly) call this stalling the next big thing, but it also lets me feel the satisfaction of completion more often.  I decided that my tool cabinet could benefit from a few upgrades and I started with my old panel gauge.

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My old panel gauge is no slouch, but it offers several opportunities for improvement.

This gauge is based in a classic and common style with a wedge-locked rectangular beam and a body with concave and convex curves.  It works and takes little time to construct.  The pencil is press fit into it’s home and the wedge locks the beam just enough to call itself locked. I was pretty happy with this little gauge until I read Roubo’s description of a good trammel gauge.

RPG_design1

Inspiration flows from every page of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible“.

Roubo described how wedge locked beams were the norm, but were fussy in use (my paraphrase).  He described his gauge as a big improvement with it’s screw lock and trapezoidal beam.  This made a lot of sense to me and after reading this I noticed that when setting my panel gauge I typically had to knock the wedge and beam in and out of place a few times to get the setting right.  Having no vision for anything better, I was satisfied with that.  Roubo changed my expectation of a well functioning gauge and I added it to my build list.

RPG_design3 RPG_design2

No, I don’t typically doodle in marker, but I figured it would show up better in pictures.  I have no interest in CAD at home.

I started the project by playing with designs for the body.  I couldn’t copy Roubo, because he actually drew a set of trammels.  I turned to “By Hand and Eye” for guidance on design.  I used their “module” approach to design and it was really fun.  Since this gauge is to be handheld, I made my handspan the module.  This set the length of the body.  The rest of the dimensions were felt out using a compass, dividers, and eraser.

RPG_build1

With the body designed, I went to my scrap pile to see what I could scratch up.  It looks like my new gauge will also be walnut and cherry.  If you think that is all I use, you are forgetting about cypress.

Bob Jones

A few good tools for you

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A matched set of Type 11 Stanley’s for today’s cheap, but discerning woodworker.

Not long after I started this blog, I opened a “for sale” page.  I closed that page after I sold all my extra tools.  Since that time I’ve hoarded gathered more great tools than I need (again) and reassessed my collection.  I can’t in good conscience keep all of these so I’m offering them up for sale.  See my for sale page for more info if you are looking for a few good tools to add to your shop.

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The whole bunch.  See anything you need?

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Ground, honed, and ready to cleanly shave some wood fibers.

All of these tools will be ready to use, right out of the box.  Check my minimal plane tuning post to see how I do this for planes.  I aim to remove as little history (patina) as possible to get the tools back to 100% functional.  All of the planes are tuned to a level that I would start using them.  That means the plane soles are flat enough, the irons are very sharp, the cap irons bed nicely on the irons, and the frogs are stable on the plane beds.  These are the things that make a solid performing plane.  I expect users will continue to refine them, based on personal preferences (honing angles, iron camber, flattening soles, refinishing) and the work at hand.

Satisfaction guaranteed on all of these tools.  Just don’t expect to win a nano-thin shaving contest with the planes.  You can certainly tune them to that level, but I do not because it is a silly waste of time. Work is faster when you remove more wood at once without tear out.

Consider this a fund raiser to help me attend HandWorks.  I’m not likely to attend in person, but I will virtually attend by placing orders with at least a couple of the participants.  Oh wait, maybe I shouldn’t buy any more tools.

Bob Jones

Lie Nielsen Hand Tool Event, Nashville

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I guess I should have sent out a notice before this event to help publicize it, but surely anyone who was interested would know before they read my little blog.

I attended my first ever Lie Nielsen (LN) Hand Tool Event last weekend.  LN does these events all over the country, but this is the closest they have ever come to Memphis.  Since the event was “free” it was pretty easy to justify a little road trip for my wife and me.  We made a fun weekend of it.  I got the LN event and she got a fancy dinner and a trip to the mall.  Spend – spend.

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Nice necklace, Scott.  He just made it of a really long shaving.

I think it’s great than LN invites other makers to their events.  This was a real plus for everyone.  Scott Meek (of Scott Meek Woodworks) and Josh Nava of Suburban Pallet were positioned at the front door.  It was fun to talk with both of them and try out Scott’s wooden body planes.  I don’t think I’m ready to give up my metal bodies just yet, but Scott’s planes are excellent.  He has a unique rear grip that felt great, but is hard to describe.  It’s kinda like shaking hands with a plane.  You just have to try it, but keep in mind that it is dominant hand specific.  Thankfully he had one left handed model for me to test out.  Scott was also showing a prototype low-angle spoke shave.  Sorry no pics, but it worked so well that I put myself on the list to buy one when he gets it all worked out.  It looked pretty similar to one that Bob R. is making now on his blog, but Scott is using hardware from Hock tools.

Josh was selling / making spoons.  As a failed spoon carver, I was impressed with his work.  Lindsay (my wife) was also impressed with his craft and bought a butter spreader at a good price.  Check out his website here.

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Sorry, no pics of the LN area.  I was too busy playing with the tools to take pictures.  You can find lots of those online anyway.

I also met a few LN reps that were really helpful.  First was Deneb Puchalski.  I’ve seen some of his youtube videos, so I recognized him right away.  In his videos he’s really controlled and level – not so in person.  He’s a colorful sort who enjoys a good argument more than I do (which is quite a bit).  He spent a lot of time answering all of my questions and trying to convince me that my Stanley planes and planing technique needed improvement.  I tried his technique, but was unconvinced.  His planes were more convincing.  I’m partial to my souped-up Stanley’s, but I see the advantages to the Lie Nielsen’s.  I think I may need one or two of them to know for sure, but I’ll have to find some extra cash for that experiment.

Another helpful rep was Keaven.  She’s a woodworker who works for LN (not just road trips).  She has a great blog at K.Willa.Designs. Her blog is a useful one for woodworkers because it covers topics that are adjacent to woodworking like refinishing and upholstery.  I’ve read a few of her upholstery posts and she has me thinking I could try that sometime.  Lindsay did say we needed a new couch. Hmmm

The real point of this post was to say that if you are ever able to attend one of these events, do it.  For those who can’t spare the time or cash to spend weeks at classes or tour distant tool showrooms, this is almost the only way to try out these premium tools without buying them.  Besides, these events are “free”.  There is no admission, but don’t expect to leave there with as much money as you brought with you.  I know I didn’t.  The tools were just too tempting.

Bob Jones

Thanks, Tim Manney

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For freely giving away your design of a great shaving horse.  I just finished building this horse and I have been breaking it in by shaving legs and rungs for a few stools.  This horse is a great improvement over my lumber horse (which is perfectly adequate).  Tim’s design is easy to build, lightweight, quickly adjustable, and grips like a gorilla.

This is not a how-to post from me.  Tim has already taken care of that here.  He has at least 3 posts on the topic and lots of other helpful info on his blog.  I certainly have enjoyed reading all of it (yes, all of it).

Here are a few mods I made from Tim’s horse.

– I used 8/4 cypress for the frame, legs, and platform.  I already had the cypress and it’s lightweight.  I hope it will hold up to normal wear and tear.

– The moving pieces are cherry/walnut from my scrap pile.

– I added about 10 inches to the length of the rails compared to Tim, but after using it a few hours I think shorter would work fine.

One warning – drilling the holes for the hinge pin is the most critical part of this build.  I do all my drilling free-hand (no press) and I messed up every hole the first time I drilled them.  It was a frustrating experience.  Usually I can free-hand holes to be close enough, but the tolerances on these are tight.  I ended up making improvements to my drilling setup that I will post about later.  If you have a drill press, this will not be a problem.

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I added a little leather to the leading edge of the head.  The leather is contained in a shallow rabbet on both faces with a radius to connect them.  No moulding planes here, just a jack plane following an arc drawn with a compass.  This method worked great.  I used lots of tape, spacers, and clamps to glue the leather to the head.  So far, so good.

Manney_horse_2

The seat was my first experiment into seat carving.  The convex contours were shaped with a draw knife and the concave contours were shaped with a homemade “gouge”.  I don’t own any seat carving tools to create a hollow, but I did have a beat-up 1 inch chisel.  I put a radius on the edge (maybe 4 inch?) and used it like a flat gouge.  It worked great for traversing the board (side to side) and left lots of shallow grooves that look fine to my eye.  I still need to add finish, but I’m having too much fun using it right now to stop and smell the oil.

Bob Jones