Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saw Bench

Unintended Consequences

I don't know if it's a law, but there's this thing called unintended consequences. That's where you do something with the intention of fixing something and wind up breaking something else. You know, like when you send food to a starving country and the farmers in the next country over go out of business.

I've got this problem where I have to wear a shirt with pockets in order to carry my glasses and a pen or pencil, and then they're always falling out when I stoop over any way. And if I try putting them in my pants pocket they get broken and bent. So this rules out wearing most T-shirts when it's warm. So I'm thinking about how handy the overalls that the old men wore must have been. Organizers in their own cosmos so to speak. A place for everything including your chaw. Not that I chew.

I haven't had a pair of overalls since I was a kid so I went down to the dry goods store to look at them the other day. I really like my Carhart pants and their version of the overall is pretty cool with the reinforced knees and tan color. That duck cloth has proven to wear well too. But they didn't have my size and besides, they were fifty bucks. So I went a counter or two down and found the Brazos brand knock-offs for half the price. I'm in a devil may care mood that day, so what the heck, I buy me a pair of those and a few boxes of ammunition for good measure. (You can't have too much ammunition on hand, besides, it's better than gold in hard times.)

Well, I spent about nine hours in the shop yesterday (finally finished that saw bench I started and built the little bride a wall and doorway for her shop) and marveled at how handy my pencil was and how comfortable and breezy I felt. But towards six o'clock I started to become painfully aware of a little unintended consequence that never in a hundred years would have crossed my mind: apparently all the movement under the bib of those cosmic organizers abraded the ends off of the nipples on my chest. I didn't need much of an excuse to change out of my saw-dusty clothes last night because my man-boobs were on fire.

Barely able to even wear a shirt this morning, my little bride was teasing me, "do we need to buy you a bra?" Well, no, but I may need to tape them or put bandaids or something on them next time... Actually, my theory is that if I had worn a plain T-shirt under them instead of one with a big silk-screened logo on it, I might have been okay. Sometime after I heal up, I'll give that a try.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Comfort Tools

One of the blogs I read had a posting, "Daddy has a saw problem." And you may or may not want to admit it, but I think many of us find tool buying a comfort compensation. I have lots of addictive behaviors. I can eat with the best of bingers. I can drink most folks under the table. And I get enormous amounts of satisfaction from buying tools.

After my failure with the saw bench, I went tool shopping today and brought home a few odds and ends. Believe me, I feel better.

I found this one really cool tool dealer that had all of these things. In fact, everywhere else I went was bust.

First there was this great set of auger bits. It even includes the adjustable hole bit for doorknobs. And they are sharp. Yes, I couldn't wait to get them home and try them, drilling several holes in my work table. I'm like a kid that way.

Then there was a really cool saw set that adjusts to the number of teeth per inch your saw has. It was only six dollars so I figured I should get it. The tool-man asks me if I have a saw vise to use it with. Well, no, do you have a decent one? Yep, out comes a pretty decent user for only $19.00.

Lastly, there was a cool hewing hatchet for only $16.00 and I had to get it even though it's left handed. Anybody out there got a right handed hewing hatchet they want to trade?


One of the great joys of this cabinet shop project is learning as I go. And don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up, but my first attempt at a saw bench was a disgraceful failure. This should be a really simple project, right? I mean this is something you would have your apprentice do to get his chops.

Maybe it would help if I had anyone besides the internet to show me how to do these things.

Doing my due diligence, I went and looked at pictures and plans from some of the big dogs and little dogs on the net and thought maybe a sort of hybrid between Schwartz and the plywood one would be really cool. It would if I had me some mad tight sawing skillz to begin with. But making due with what I have, I cut and chiseled out a fabulous ten degree angle with sliding dovetail sides to fit my legs in. I gotta say, I was really pleased with myself when I got done.

Then I sawed and pared out the "tails" doing my best to figure the ten degree corresponding angles. This too turned out really nice and I kind of hurt myself patting me on the back. Then disaster struck.

I tried to put the two pieces together. Wow, that really sucks. You look at things like this and realize how much paying attention in high school math might have paid off years later. Oh well. I guess I need to go to plan B, but I'm not sure what that is at this point. All I know is it most likely won't involve ten degree angles.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leg Vise

I picked out a scrap piece of oak and planed it down for my leg vise. I used my make-shift clamping system with the holdfasts and my work table.

I gave up trying to thread my dowels and broke down and bought an old wooden screw clamp with one inch diameter screws. This will be strong enough for the leg vise and if it's not, I'll figure something else out.

I attached the screw through the front vise board and the front left leg and screwed it into half of it's original clamp.

Then I used an 1.5" forstner bit to wallow out behind the screw head, chopped a little trench to get it started, and pushed a piece of dowel through the screw to hold it to the front vise board.

I took a piece of 1 7/16" dowel and drilled holes about every inch in it. I drilled a quarter inch hole through the edge of the face board, going through the end of the dowel and pinned them together with an oak dowel. I found a little piece of steel bar to use for the adjustment. This way I can let the base of the vise out if I clamp wider objects.

I couldn't wait to try it. It clamps boards just fine. I think this is going to make finishing the other vise on the end much easier. Things are progressing faster and faster...

Son2 tries it out and planes a pine board.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bench Part II

So, the next thing I needed to do on the bench is install the tool tray and the bread board ends. I sawed down about 3/4" and chiseled out a rabbet around the ends.

Then I chopped out, (what do you call it?), a mortise to fit on the ends,

cut a dado and fit the bottom of the tool tray to the left side board. No glue, just friction to hold it. At this point I have the end boards temporarily screwed into the bench so I can get accurate measurements. Of course that didn't mean that I cut it correctly on the first try, but at least it was long and I could trim it down instead of the other way around.

Each of the end pieces and the tool tray are pegged in place with octagonal cut oak pegs.

Then I cut the ramps and fitted them into the ends of the tool tray.

Finis (except for the vises - stay tuned.)

(remember you can click the pics and make 'em bigger if you want to...)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Work Bench

I decided to go with the good, fast and cheap bench that consists of laminating 2-by southern yellow pine boards into a thick and hopefully durable bench. I followed the advice of only gluing one board on at a time. In order to get fairly clear lumber, I bought 2x10's and ripped them in half. I used a cheap little detail roller to roll the glue on and left it soaking in a bowl of water between uses since I'm waiting at least a day between glue ups.

Sometimes I waited longer than 24 hours if it turned off cold. Or if I got discouraged trying to figure out what my next step was going to be.

Honestly, I agonized over how I was going to cut the dovetail shaped mortises for the legs to attach to the top. Realistically, I should have gone with something simpler but that's what I really wanted from an aesthetic standpoint. Just my reluctance to commit to this cost me at least a week or two.

But at last I had the top as far as I can go until I do the tool tray and vises, so I figured it was time to attach some legs. I layed out the mortises for the stretchers.

And then chopped them out with my largest mortising chisel. I bought the set of C.I. Fall mortising chisels because they were about half to 1/4th as much as the higher priced mortising chisels.

I may have found out why they cost less. I should mention that this is the first time I've actually cut mortises and maybe I don't know what I'm doing. No, really. I probably don't know what I'm doing, but I split the handle pretty bad by the time I had four mortises chopped. And, due to my lack of experience, I split two of the legs trying to fit the first tenons in. I guess you're not supposed to force them. You can see the split on one of the back legs in the photo, but it still seems to be holding the table up well enough.

The leg joints turned out to be acceptable, and I planed the top flat over a period of a couple days. You can believe me when I tell you that after you have chopped the mortises in four legs, sawed the tenons, and planed for about forty five minutes, you really become aware of the muscles in your arms. And this awareness heightens the next day. I felt like Popeye. My arms felt that big.

Here's a pic of my son sawing the first board on the new bench with the bench hook he helped me build. This is really good exercise and I hope to do it often enough to get in shape. Not building benches, but building something. I'm trying to decide what my next project is going to be.