Tag Archives: finish

Roubo Panel Gaguge – Build and Finish


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


My Favorite Finish


I think the semi-gloss sheen of cured BLO is just right for natural finish, solid wood furniture.  

My favorite finish hasn’t changed in years and that is probably because I haven’t tried many others.  I’m a low risk maker who prefers to stick with a process that has worked for centuries rather than any product that was mixed from unidentified ingredients.  A steady regiment of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) and elbow grease is just the ticket.

I’ve already written on this topic, so read that entry first.  In the time since that entry, I have picked up a few additional tips that have given me more consistent results.



Thanks to my father-in-law for battling the blaze.

– Do not throw your oily (wet) rags in a garbage can.  They WILL ignite.  I lost my (plastic) garbage can this way.  It wasn’t even a hot day.  Since that incident, I dispose of my oily rags in a water filled ziplock bag.  

– After applying finish, try to wipe off everything you just applied.  Seriously, use more than one dry cotton rag and try to wipe it all off.  A thick layer of oil will gel and make a tacky surface.  A tacky surface will need to be removed with lots of forceful rubbing of a fine abrasive until the surface is no longer sticky.  Paper grocery bags and abrasive pads work for this salvage procedure but sandpaper is nearly useless because it will clog very quickly.


– Apply 6 coats of oil or more.  Don’t skimp on this just because the surface looks nice after 2 coats.  It will look much better after 6 coats (or more).

– I wipe the whole surface with a rough cotton towel as the first step of applying a new coat and again as the last step after I have dried the new coat.  This process takes a lot of wiping, but it is not tiring because you do not need to use a lot of force, just a lot of motion.

– Do not apply a new coat if you suspect the previous coat is still wet.  If you have the slightest suspicion that the previous coat is uncured, walk away for at least 24 hours.  Coating over a layer that is not fully cured guarantees a tacky finish.

– Expect this process to take a few weeks.  Sure, there are faster finishes that will work for less patient craftsmen, but I built this dresser over the course of a year and I don’t mind if it takes me a month to get the perfect finish.


The dresser, all finished and ready to be filled with clothes.


The dresser adds the next piece to the bedroom suite.  All that’s left is to replace the department store night stands, but I’ve other projects higher on my build list.  Think green woodworking.  

I hope you have enjoyed this build along.  Writing it up has been a lot of work, but fun.  Who knows, by the time I get ready to build another case piece I may need to refer to my own instructions.

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.


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.


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.


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

Closing thoughts on the Dutch Tool Chest project

mag article

I know I did not include enough information in these posts to build the DTC, that was not my purpose.  Read the article in PWWM, it has everything needed.  I just wanted to document my build.  On that note, here are my closing thoughts on the project.


Will I ever “finish” the chest?

That’s relative.  I may paint it one day, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I will probably add more tool storage to the inside as I have need to transport more tools, like saws.


What about the size of the DTC?

The size of the DTC is great.   I made mine a little longer than standard, but shorter would be fine.  It’s small enough to be moved around by one person and big enough to hold the most important tools with no wasted space when full.

Should a beginning woodworker tackle this project?

Yes.  This is a great “entry level” project to hand tools, or just woodworking in general.  The chest will teach you lessons in all of the most important skills for furniture building; board selection, milling lumber, case joinery, case glue-up, nailing, hardware installation, and on and on.


Would you build this chest again?

My Dutch Tool Chest has a purpose – a nice packing crate.  It should serve that purpose very well and it required minimal effort to construct.  My DTC is not intended to be “permanent” tool storage, protecting tools from years of dust. It is not intended to showcase my skills as a builder.  That’s what my tool cabinet does for me.  If I needed something more portable for definitive storage, I would build a traditional chest.  Like my wall cabinet, that chest would be made from nice hardwood, premium hardware, inlay, and include fitted tool storage.  I built my wall hanging cabinet this way and may still build a portable version one day.  Time will tell.

Bob Jones 

‘Tis the Season…

For making crafty gifts for loved ones.  What woodworker out there doesn’t enjoy giving gifts that were produced by their own labor?  I certainly do, but my biggest challenge is finding useful projects that don’t take 10+ hours to complete.  Here is one solution – a simple hand planed cutting board.


Around lunchtime I had a rough sawn plank.  Before dinner I had a finished cutting board.  Not bad, I think.  Let’s walk through the process.

Since I’m working with hand planes, wider boards are better (no width limitation).  Wide boards do not require lamination, so it saves time and looks great.  The hardest part of this project is finding nice boards that are 12+ inches wide.


This is a great chance to use an off-cut from a previous project.  Warning! Don’t the make cutting board longer than 23 inches.  Anything longer will be difficult to put inside a kitchen cabinet.  This cutting board ended up being about 12 inches wide, even though I would have preferred 14 inches or so.  Hey, when working with scraps you can’t be picky.


Sighting under a straightedge in several positions is one way to check for flat.

I used a jack plane to get the board “jack flat” on both sides.  “Jack flat” is flat enough that the board is not rocking around on the bench.  This rough board was pretty well warped, wrinkled, cupped, bowed, and twisted so it took me a while.  Why bother working with such a mangled board?  The grain and color of the wood were worth it.


The bottom edge of longer planes makes a handy straightedge.

Next, I brought out my jointer plane, or in this case, my #6.  I planed a slight hollow on both sides, hoping that it would allow the board to warp a little in service and still touch the countertop at the corners making it feel stable in use.


With both faces flat (or slighly hollow) and parallel, work the end grain.  For lumber like this I hold the board in my Moxon vise and shoot the end grain with a smoothing plane.  Use a really sharp and smooth plane. Work to a pencil line, not a knife line.  This surface needs to be pretty, not super accurate (it’s not joinery).


Joint the long sides after the end grain.  Working in this order should clean up any blown-out grain from the end grain shooting (why planing end grain is called shooting is beyond me).  With a rough cut surface I always start with my jack to make the work faster, even on edges.  Here I am starting with the jack before jointing it with my 6.

CB-8-mark_chamfer CB-7-mark_chamfer

To pretty up the cutting board and make it look lighter, I decided to chamfer the underside.  Mark the chamfer with a pencil, not a knife.  Pick a chamfer angle that looks good to your eye.


To plane the chamfer, I used my number 6 again.  I sharpened it before working the end grain, as shown here.  Watch both lines closely and try to sneak up on both at the same time.  I do this free hand.  I completed the chamfer with my smoothing plane.  These chamfers are on the underside, so they don’t have to be perfect, but aiming for perfect is great practice.


Finishing supplies include a smoothing plane, cotton rag, and mineral oil (intestinal lubricant – yum).

Once the chamfers are complete, use the smoothing plane to break all of the edges.  “Break the edges” means to run a plane it over each sharp edge 5 or 6 times with a finely set blade.  You don’t want to visibly round the edges, just make them dull enough to be easy on your fingers.

Pick your favorite food safe finish and apply by the instructions.  I really like Mineral Oil.  Just wipe it on and let it dry for about 24 hours.  Tell the recipient to keep some mineral oil in the kitchen and re-apply regularly.  If you want a finish that’s more resilient and sealing, do some research on the topic.  Meanwhile, this thing is ready to be gift wrapped.


I think the chamfer really lightens the look of the board.  With such a quick project completed, use your spare time to give some woodworking lessons to your little helpers.

helper-1  helper-2

“No, put your hands here.  Listen to me – I’ve done this at least once.”

Bob Jones

Complete the Dutch Tool Chest


I call this complete because I got it to the point where I needed it and I’m leaving it alone (for now).


The top front board was nailed in place.  Only time will tell if seasonal wood movement split it.

front_3  front_5


I installed the fall front after the top front board.  I thought it would be easier to work on the latches and catches for the front before I attached the back.


About the back – I had a semi-original idea.  I went back to the home center to seek inexpensive, clear stock that would be suitable.  What I found was processed tongue and groove pine boards.  Talk about easy!  I cut them to length and attached them to the case with screws.  The only watch-out is to lay them all out before ripping the top and bottom boards to width. If you use a whole piece at the bottom, you may be left with only a 1/4″ wide piece needed at the top, and that is poor craftsmanship.

back_2 back_3

I chose to bevel the front board after I nailed it to the front.  Feel free to bevel it first.  The ends were planed flush with the sides after the glue dried.  Be sure the nails and screws are below the surface of the wood, otherwise you will scar your plane.

 hinge_1 hinge_3

Lid hinge install.  I marked the holes with a pencil with the hinge in place, then mark the center of the hole with my awl.  I really like that pointy awl.


When working alone, find a way to keep the lid in place while marking screw locations.

After the front and back was installed I turned to the lid.  I used super cheap strap hinges.  I turned them “inside out” based on the countersinks, because I wanted the hinges on the outside of the chest with no mortises required and the hinges would not rotate far enough the other direction.  I think they look right nice.  I used battens on the underside of the lid rather than breadboard ends because it was much faster.  I think it is a fine compromise for this shipping crate.


What about handles?  I decided that I liked the feel of large, fixed handles rather than the more common type that swing up for lifting.  I did not like the thought of the handles being held in place by only 3/4in long screws, so I doubled the thickness by gluing scraps to the inside of the case behind the handles.  I let the glue dry before screwing in the handles.  I am confident this makes the handles more secure, and hopefully it will prevent splitting of the case (near the handles) which is commonly seen on antiques.


Handle placement – I made it up.  I was about to attach the handles in the center of the chest, as they “should be”, but I thought it would be more comfortable to carry the chest if the handles were raised.  This position also made it easier to attach the reinforcing blocks, so I went for it.  It feels pretty natural to lift the chest with this handle placement.


After all this, I made some interior places to keep tools and called it done.  Paint yours if you like, but I really need to get back to my dresser project.

Bob Jones

Finish – A one trick pony


When it comes to finishing a project there are literally 1,000’s of options. Take your pick.  My pick for the last several years is Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO, on the web).  I have used it on everything that I have built in the last few years. Workbench, tool cabinet, chest of drawers, chairs, benches, a table…  In the picture is everything that you need except the rubber gloves:  a can of BLO, a couple of cotton rags, and a wide mouth jar.  There was an excellent article written on this in Woodworking Magazine (I think the one with a “tricky stool” on the cover).  It is a great read.

Here is the process.

1 – Plane the surfaces clean (or sand them to 220 or so).

2 – Wipe on a good coat of oil.

3 – Wait ~10 minutes and wipe it all off.  This is the most important step.  Wipe all excess oil off the surface.  Any thick spots remaining will gel up and not be nice.

4 – Wait 3 or 4 days or until the surface is dry to the touch.

5 – Repeat steps 1 thru 4.

Stop when you are happy with the surface.  I have found that 6 coats looks real nice.  The article that I mentioned suggested 12 coats.  If you don’t have the patience for multiple coats, then do one coat of BLO and then use a mix of BLO, turpentine, and beeswax (equal parts of all three).  That builds faster and leaves more of a matte finish.  I like it almost as much as 6 coats of BLO.