Tag Archives: projects

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.

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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.

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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

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It’s not Handworks

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But there is a free event that is hand tool related in Memphis, TN this Saturday (May 16, 2015) at 10:30. I will be giving a demo called “making a spatula from firewood” at the woodwork shop.  I know that spoon carving is all the rage, but spatulas are fast and easy.  There is no bowl so I carve the whole thing with a draw knife.

The Saturday demo’s are a great format and are always fun.  I’ve done a few on hand planes and I’m always surprised by how many people show up.  Must be because it’s free.

Anyway, I asked Mrs Rita if I could do something different this time and she encouraged this.  If the demo generates enough interest she may offer it as a Monday night class.  How would you like to leave a Monday night class with something you made that night?

So, if you can’t go to Handworks this weekend, come to the wood work shop and commiserate with some like minded folks.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

 

 

Recap errors and how I “fixed” them

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The dresser is complete and finished, but what about the rest of the story?  What happened in the background that caused me problems?  Mistakes.  Lots of mistakes.  With this post I’ll attempt to be transparent with my biggest mistakes and recap how I “fixed” them.  Maybe it will help someone else in their moment of frustration.

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1 – With a previous post I showed how to fit an out of square back.

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2 – In another post I showed how to fit drawer fronts to non-square drawer openings.

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3 – Mortise/tenon malalignment in the vertical divider.  Fix described in a previous post.

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4 – Splits in the vertical divider.  Fix? I planed both sides of the board (inside the case) smooth enough that the drawers did not stick during use.  The splits are still there, but not visible unless the bottom drawers are removed.

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5 – I also fixed a drawer front that was too short.  One word – veneer.  Can you see the thin piece of wood glued to the top of the drawer on the left?  Look closer.  While fitting the drawer front I removed more than planned.

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I found a thin strip of color and grain matched cherry in my scrap pile.

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I glued the “shop made veneer” on top of the drawer front (yay for blue tape and liquid hide glue).  After a little clean up with a plane it was almost invisible when viewed from the top or front.

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6 – One more fix.  On one drawer I plowed the groove for the bottom too high (3/4 inch from the bottom rather than 1/2 inch).  That would have been easily fixed by make those slips 1/4 inch taller and the back of the drawer 1/4 inch shorter, right?  Well, I forgot about the back until after the drawer was glued up.  It’s no problem to fix this with hand planes.  I used a rabbet plane to remove that 1/4 inch.  Thankfully the bottom pin was really big so the joinery was not compromised.  This drawer will not be quite as deep as it’s mate, but I bet it will never be noticed.

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I think I did this 18 inch wide cherry board proper justice (side piece).  It determined the size of the case.

I did get a couple of things right.  The design proportions look good to my eye, the dresser fits in our bedroom, and it holds lots of clothes.  I was also able to make good use of some extra wide, beautiful cherry.  All-in-all, the project turned out great despite the multitude of mistakes.  My wife is happy with the piece and doesn’t know about any of these errors.  Hopefully, I will have the presence of mind to avoid the temptation of pointing out these errors to anyone who compliments the piece.  If you build things, you know how difficult it is to avoid these conversations.

“That is a really nice ____.  Did you make it?”

“Yes. Thanks, but I really messed up the ____.  Can’t you see it there, and here, and there?”

“Oh… yeah, I guess so, but it’s still really nice.  I would love to have one.”

“Thanks, but I really wish I would have taken more care here, and not missed this here…”

Next time, do yourself a favor and stop with “Yes, thanks”.  Your friends really don’t want to hear about these modest mistakes.  They just want to know if you will build them one for free.

Bob Jones

My Favorite Finish

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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.

 

fire

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.

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– 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.

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

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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

Complete this dresser!

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These final bits and pieces will become slips and muntins (centers) for the drawers.

In my last post, I mentioned that my drawer sides are only 3/8 inch thick.  It is a traditional English technique that looks great when the drawers are open and makes the drawer lightweight.  You may think that is way too thin for a full sized drawer side, and I suppose it would be if I didn’t add slips.  The slips double the bearing surface of the drawer slide and house the groove that contains the drawer bottom.

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Slips are easy to produce using a plow plane to make the groove (left) and a jack plane to make it the right size and add the user friendly radius to the top inside edge.

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End gain view of a slip (left) and muntin (right).  The muntin is especially useful for wide drawers because the bottom can be made of two smaller pieces.

Charles H. Hayward said that the parts of a drawer that can come into contact with hands should be rounded as a courtesy to the user.  I planed a radius on the corner of the slips and muntins that will be exposed in the final product.  The radius is not controlled, just made about right by hand and eye.  Making this radius with a jack plane is very fast – be aggressive – no fine shavings here.

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Blurry in the background is a wedge that kept the slip groove in-line with the drawer front groove.  Another approach is to form a tenon on the front of the slip.  Either approach is fine.

The slips are glued and clamped (or cramped for Hayward) to the drawer sides.  I hope you can see (on the left) that the slip is a little proud of the drawer side bottom.  After the glue cures, I plane the slip to be flush with the drawer side.  It only takes a couple of passes with the plane.

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I think a small smoothing plane works well for final fitting of drawers.  Remove enough wood so that the drawer slides easily in the case and then remove no more.  A tight fit looks nice.

With the slips in place, it is time for the final fitting of the drawers.  There should not be much to do since each piece was individually fit to the case already.  Holding drawers while planing can be a challenge.  I clamp boards to my bench that hang over the front edge of the bench.  The drawer then rests on those boards without any required clamping.  It is simple and effective.  To plane the front of the drawer, spread the clamp boards out.  Done.

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The end of this project is now close enough to smell the Boiled Linseed Oil.  It’s all details from here.  

The drawers need a stop so that when they are pushed in they will not go deeper than the front of the case.  In the image above I’m marking the thickness of the drawer front on the bottom of the case.  I’m going to glue a small slip of wood right behind that line.  It’s thin enough that it will not interfere with the drawer bottom, but it will stop the drawer perfectly flush with the case front.  There are other ways to do this, but this method is very simple and easily adjusted with a rabbet plane.

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Like I said before, radius or at least soften the edges that can contact the hands of the user.  A spokeshave works great on the inside and outside edges of the drawer sides.

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With the drawers complete and fitted, I went back to work on the top.  Here I am planing the sub-top because it needed a little flattening.  It didn’t come out as flat as I would have liked, but I made up the difference on the underside of the top.  Remember, when working with hand tools every piece of wood need not be straight/flat/level, they only need to fit nicely and look straight/flat/level.

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Here I’m finally fitting and trimming the real top.  That overhang will be sawn off and cleaned up with a sharp smoothing plane.  I’ve come a long way from the land of 10,000 decisions.  Next stop, finishing.  I’m too excited to sleep.

Bob Jones