Friday, January 27, 2012

Get Woodworking Week

Tom Iovino, of Tom's Workbench, has come up with a brilliant idea.
As shop classes are being discontinued in our schools, as people spend more time on the internet than working with their hands (I'm guilty of this one), and as the knowledge to build, repair, and swing a hammer is disappearing, woodworking bloggers are being called upon to help save woodworking.

Read about Tom's idea here. All next week, he'll post links to bloggers who are writing words of inspiration to encourage folks to put the mouse down and pick up a woodworking tool.

Nice one, Tom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Make A Joint Stool From A Tree

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee is now available from the Lost Art Press.

Preorder before the February 27 press date and get free shipping.

Why am I promoting this?

Do I get a free copy? No. Do I get a handmade joint stool by Peter Follansbee? No. Do I get homemade chocolate chip cookies for life? No.

I am promoting this for a purely selfish reason, however. The Lost Art Press prints the kinds of books that I want to read and I want them to keep printing them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Has Four Legs But Cannot Stand?

A workbench with no top!

But that's next on the list now that I've finished the joinery on the legs.

By the time I was working on the fourth leg I had managed to find a good technique for getting all faces square and flat.

I had been using floats, which worked great, but they left a rather rough surface.

By using a chisel, the surfaces are smooth, which will help them slide into the mortises more easily.

When squaring up the surfaces, I found that if you make your cut lines really deep, saw close to the line, then pare to the line all around the edges with a chisel, it's easier to remove everything in between.

I used a straightedge to check my progress. If you hold both ends of the straightedge and try to rock it like a seesaw, it will reveal high spots. If it doesn't rock, there are no gaps, and the straightedge rests on the cut lines on both sides, the surface is flat.

The tenon on the bottom has been
squared up. The one on top still needs
to be pared.

I worked on these legs for a long time to get them as square as possible. I believe I averaged about eight hours per leg.

If only I were able to be that focused at my job, I'd be a rich woman.

I used a router to clean up the outside cheeks. By sliding two legs together end-for-end, the router was supported on both sides.

Using the router was a welcome break from all that chiseling.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's Better Than a WIA Conference?

Popular Woodworking Magazine has answered the pleas from the West Coast. In addition to the regular show in Cincinnati, they're taking the event all the way to California!

I wonder how Megan's going to fit her workbench
in the overhead compartment....

Monday, January 16, 2012

News Flash: Maple is Not as Soft as Poplar

I had planned to build a poplar base for my Roubo workbench.

But wise friends talked me out of it, arguing that poplar would never hold up to the cherry top considering that the bench would be broken down for transport on occasion.

They were right of course, so I chose soft maple instead.

I started cutting the through-tenons and dovetails on the legs this weekend and figured I'd have all of them cut and squared up by end of day Saturday.

By Monday afternoon, two legs were finished.  And I have concluded that "soft" maple is, in fact, anything but.

Theoretically, the tenons and dovetails will fit snugly in their matching mortises, but not so tight that they can't be knocked apart.

This is going to be tougher than I thought. Maple is unyielding. So in order for all the pieces to fit, they must be square and flat.

In other words, I fully anticipate that there to be gaps in the joints once the bench is finished.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beefy Legs

Working with hefty boards requires a fair amount of handwork unless you have equally beefy machinery in your shop, which I do not.

So, after I glued up the leg boards for my workbench, I had to flatten one edge of each with handplanes before running them through my power planer. I had already flattened the faces by hand.

All legs were then power planed to final width and thickness: 5.5" x 4.5".

Next I needed to square up one end of each leg with a handsaw in order to start laying out the through-dovetails and tenons.

I followed Chris Schwarz' model for handsawing big timber to length.

Scribe a cut line on all four sides of the legs. Start sawing the far corner of one face, keeping an eye on your line both on the top surface and adjacent face of the board. When your saw reaches the corner nearest you, flip the board forward.

You now have a starting point for your next cut. Continue to saw this way, flipping the board forward after each cut, until you've connected the kerfs on all four sides.  You'll still need to saw out the middle, but your blade will follow the paths of the kerfs.

I was shocked at how well this method worked. If you lay out your lines carefully and saw straight, you can't miss.

The two 12/4 cherry boards that will become the benchtop sat in my shop for several weeks after I had flattened them by hand. This gave them time to get bent out of shape.

I'm not concerned at this point with the top of the bench, but the undersides must be flat so that they will rest evenly on the legs.  This meant more quality time with my planes, winding sticks, and straight edge.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Roubo Progress

If you're building a Roubo (or any other substantially sized) workbench, before you start laminating boards to make the beefy legs, the first thing you need to do is buy stock in your favorite glue. 'Cause you're going to use a lot.

For covering large areas with glue, I use a J-roller from the big box store.

It spreads the glue quickly and evenly. Just remember to rinse off the glue before it hardens.

As the glued-up legs dried, I started working on the two 12/4 cherry boards that will form the benchtop.  The boards were rough-cut, and I had already flattened and thicknessed both faces, so that meant truing one edge.

I used the longest straight-edge I own and an engineer's square to check my progress as I handplaned the board.

When one edge was as true as I could manage, I made a quickie marking gauge to mark the opposite edge for width.

It's made from two scraps and joined at a 90ยบ angle with screws. I drove a nail into the arm at the required distance, then filed the nail flat on the portion that faces the fence.

I rounded the opposing side of the nail to create a knife edge which produced a fine mark.

I scribed both faces of the board and planed to the marks.

My sawbench and task bench are the same height, so they worked well together to support the boards as I planed the edges. However, after an hour, my back was killing me due to the low height of the surface I was planing.

Curious, I measured the distance from floor to work surface. It was 28.5" and directly in line with the first knuckle on my little finger when I stood alongside the board. That's the distance that many books say is the ideal height for handplaning—in line with your pinkie.

My workbench will be 33.875"—the same height as my existing bench, and a height that I find comfortable.

If you're planning to build a workbench, this is a good way to determine the optimum height for you.

Lay a board across two benches and prop it up as necessary. Work at it awhile. Your back, legs, and arms will tell you if it's a good fit.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Weightlifting, Woodworker-Style

How I spent New Year's Day:

(And there's another stack around the corner.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Woodwright's Shop Episodes

In case you're looking for something to do this New Year's day, Season 2010-2011 of the Woodwright's Shop is online.

I just watched "Elizabethan Joint Stool with Peter Follansbee." Megan Fitzpatrick and Peter show the details in making the joint stool.

One point of interest is the undercutting of the inside shoulder of the tenon—saves time and ensures that the outside shoulder is tight against the mating piece.

Enjoy the episodes. Happy New Year!