Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sharpening Station Sliding Shelf and Drawer Slides

Yup, another post about the sliding shelf. I ducked into the workshop for a little bit last night and took a closer look at what was going on with the sliding shelf. It looked like my clever plan for gluing up the shelf didn't provide the accuracy I wanted and the top didn't glue to the rails perfectly straight. The rails didn't appear to be off as much as it looked like in the pictures but I decided to redo it anyway.

This time I decided to make a box using tongue and dado joints.

The joints are super sloppy because I didn't care enough to set things up super accurately. Not all the tongues are the same size. Not all the dados are the same size. It'll be fine. I left one end of the box "open" because there is a hand hold in the front and I needed to leave room for fingers.

I tried dropping it into my cabinet and shockingly it didn't fit. Actually it wasn't that shocking. I'd kind of expected this to be the case. My "drawer" box is square but unfortunately the cabinet opening isn't perfect. The front of the case is about 1/32 inch wider than the back and the front is what I used for sizing my cross pieces. Since the back is narrower than the pieces it doesn't all fit.

I think I'll just run it through my table saw and trim that 1/32 inch off one of the sides. The slides probably have enough "slop" to account for the small amount of oblique angle on the two slides. If not, I can shim the front of one of the slides to bring it back into parallel. It'll be unobvious. 

The other thing I did last night was to lay out my drawers for the left side of the case. This is a 1:2 ratio.

I wanted more thin drawers since deep drawers can waste space and when stuff gets piled in them things get buried. This is mostly just so I can get an idea of how I'll break the space up into drawers. As I build them and install them I may very well change my mind on exact heights.

After laying out my drawers I realized I had not milled sufficient slide material out of white oak. Since I didn't like the job I'd done on those anyway I dug into my scrap bin and found a bunch of poplar. Instead of cutting it to rough size and then running thin strips through my planer I just cut them to to size on my table saw (3/8 inch x 1/2 inch). I'll probably sand them a little bit before installing them.

Yeah, I know poplar isn't the best choice for long wearing wooden drawer slides but I don't see these getting so much use they'll wear out. It isn't like this is a dresser that'll have drawers opened and closed multiple times a day for decades. It'll be fine. If you're looking

Or if not, since I am planning on screwing them in place and not using any glue I'll be able to replace them with maple or some other hard wood when the time comes.

That was a lot of work for only an hour in the shop. Of course it was redoing most of the work I'd gotten done on Sunday but that's life.

Oh, I almost forgot. I had a minor shop injury on my table saw. It is the best kind of injury, small enough to not be significant but serious enough to remind me to pay attention to what I am doing. I was ripping the thin strips for the drawer rails and during a lapse of attention I let the wood lift on the blade which caused some minor kickback. My hands were still on the wood so it didn't go flying but it did jam my right thumb. I've probably done the same operation a thousand times with larger pieces of wood where gravity played a larger roll in keeping it rooted to the table saw but with these light strips there was a much higher tendency to lift and push backwards.

Having a Saw Stop table saw is not an excuse and I certainly don't treat it as an excuse for sloppy technique. I treat the saw as I would any other table saw without the safety feature.

I finished my rips on the drawer runners paying much more attention to holding them down with my left hand while pushing with my right. No serious injury and a sharp reminder to pay attention to what I am doing.

So next is "fixing" my sliding shelf box, attaching it to the shelf and then installing it. I'll also be milling out the parts for my drawers and assembling them. I'm almost definitely going to use tongue and dado joints on the sides. I'm strongly considering cheating and just gluing the bottoms on and not using grooves. It will give me a little bit more space in the drawer and will be plenty strong for the weight of things I am going to put into the drawers.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sharpening Station Trim and Sliding Tray

Again, I didn't get a lot done this weekend in the workshop. I did however, get my trailer fixed... again... I replaced the right side hinge that allows the trailer to be folded. This wasn't a super complicated operation but it took a little time. I've got to say I am a little disappointed with Harbor Freight. Yeah, I hear you...  Harbor Freight? Yup, I have a folding trailer from Harbor Freight. I'm not disappointed with the quality of the trailer. I am disappointed with their spare part fulfillment. I ordered two sets of hinges so I'd have a backup set in case I torqued them again. Unfortunately instead of sending me four front hinged and four back hinges they just sent me 8 front hinges. The difference between the front and the back hinges is that the back half the hinge has a bend in it that allows it to wrap around the outside of the front hinge. Without that the hinges cannot slide past each other when the trailer folds. Karen, the woman I talked to on the phone, was very nice and sent me another set of rear hinges. Unfortunately they were just another set of fronts. I'm betting someone miss stocked the parts. Anyway, I cut two of the extra hinges in half and used them as big washers so I could get the trailer put away. Very happy with my Harbor Freight angle grinder that I used to cut the hinge.

I also made some Braciole...  I used Wegman's recipe which doesn't look like any other Braciole recipe on the internet; however, it still makes a decent meal and can be frozen for later cooking. 

I also mowed leaves. That took a bit of time. I've got three maple trees in the front and a half dozen in the back. I also get a share of my neighbor's maple leaves. 

At least I wasn't just sitting on the couch watching YouTube videos. Not that I haven't spent entire weekends doing just that, I prefer when I can look back on a weekend and mark off things I got accomplished.

This weekend's woodworking started with adding the missing trim to the back of the sharpening station top. I didn't grab a photo so I'll point it out in a later post. Since I was milling an offcut into the top back trim I also milled a bunch of 1/2 inch x 3/8 inch x 16 inch pieces for drawer runners. It was Saturday evening and it was getting close to my bedtime so I just cut the back molding to length and glued and clamped it on.

Today I focused on making the tray for holding the Tormek on the right side of the cabinet. I don't know how often I'll store it inside the cabinet vs on top but I wanted it to be easy to "put it away" easily in case I notice it is getting dusty sitting on top. Or more likely if I want to use the top for something else (like sharpening with water stones.

My tray is going to ride on full extension slides. Unlike the trays in my workbench this one is basically going to be a sliding shelf without sides. However, to ride on side mounted slides it needs to have sides to screw the hardware to. I'm going to put them underneath the sliding shelf with the shelf covering the drawer hardware. 

Normally when I am building drawers I do a lot of exacting measuring and careful cutting to get the drawer to fit inside the opening minus the thickness of the slides. In this case since the "sides" are just going to be runners glued to the bottom of the shelf I came up with a shortcut.

It's kind of hard to see in the photos but I am using the case for alignment. It's upside down. The shelf is sitting on the bottom of the case. I used the actual drawer slides to fit the tray sides and added a couple of spacers to make sure the sides stayed vertical. Some glue, a few clamps and Bob's your uncle

After an hour I pulled it out of the clamps and added a white oak front to the tray. That'll help keep the sides from buckling in, will provide a hand hold for pulling the shelf out, and will hide the hardware when the tray is in the cabinet.

Okay, it needs a little fitting but it fits. The sides are there underneath. You just cannot see them because that's the way it is designed.

I made the hand hold in the front by using a 1 inch Forstner bit to define the two ends, drew lines between them and used a jigsaw to connect them. I rounded over the inside and the outside of the opening with a 1/4 inch round over bit in my router table.

I'll come back later this week and do some trimming on the sliding shelf so that the gaps around the shelf are even and it slides in and out easily. I'm a little afraid it is too tight but it's also just a couple of pieces of plywood. Next one I'll make looser than it needs to be and I can shim the slides to get a good fit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Sharpening Station upright and proud

 No, I don't know what the title of this post means... I haven't done any work on the station tonight...  I did get the puppy outside to play with Jackson our neighbor Bernadoodle (Berner + Poodle), cooked my wife dinner (pan seared tilapia, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and Texas Toast) and watched some television. I did a really good job on dinner.

Front to back: Ripley and Jackson

This post is mostly because I took a couple of minutes before our Tuesday Sentinels of the Multiverse game to grab a couple more pictures of the sharpening station and I figured I'd share them now.

 This is the station up on its wheels showing off the trim in the front. There is supposed to be matching trim in the back but I forgot. Unfortunately my game is going probably until close to my bedtime so there wont be time tonight to duck into the shop, mill the piece and glue it on.

Yup, those are my shop pants hanging in the background of that shot. I have separate clothes for the workshop so I don't get glue on my everyday wear. It also helps segregate the dust and keep it in the workshop.

In the photo immediately above you can see that there's a little bit of a gap behind the rubber mat. That was supposed to get filled by more white oak trim. Unlike the front trim that is hiding the plywood edges this trim is going to sit on top of the plywood. The cabinet back will hide the plywood edges and itself be covered by the white oak trim on top. I'll try to remember to get a photo of that when I add it and the back.

I grabbed this photo because I mentioned yesterday how much better the t-nuts looked over the hex nuts I used initially. I still think they look better. I could have used threaded nuts but those are much more expensive and overkill for a shop project.

Anyway, that's all for tonight. Next steps are:

  • Drawers on the left
  • Shelves on the right
  • Sanding the case, easing the edges
  • Finish the trim around the top
  • Add a back
  • Add a door on the right covering the shelves

Monday, October 19, 2020

Sharpening Station starting to look like a cabinet on wheels

 I got surprising little work done on the sharpening station considering I had a long weekend. I ducked down into the shop Thursday night and got the panels sanded before I had to make dinner. It went pretty quick and there weren't any surprises. When I was sanding the plywood - the case top and bottom - I hit the faces where it joins to the side pretty hard with 80 grit sandpaper. This solved my problem with the tight fitting joints. They fit perfect.

Since everything was fitting I added glue to the joints and clamped everything up. Good joinery is awesome and everything came out perfectly square without any fiddling.

Friday I had to work and Saturday I had a lot of errands to do so I didn't get any shop time in. I did however get to Home Depot Friday evening to pick up some lag screws and t-nuts to help fasten the wheels onto the cabinet. Saturday I worked on putting my trailer back together - and promptly broke it again, had a doggie play date, mowed, stopped by a friend's house to help him identify tools he'd pulled out of his dad's basement... I did stuff...

Sunday I got started by routing a lip in the back of the sides so I can fasten a plywood back later. I left room behind the top, bottom and middle divider but I forgot to put a stopped rabbet in the sides. I threw a rabbeting bit into my router and started routing it out. I found the 7/8" edge a little challenging to keep the router balanced on so I added a scrap piece of poplar to give myself a little wider of an edge to follow.

The rabbeting bit didn't quite make it into the corner but a little quick chopping with a chisel made the corners all pretty.

After getting the rabbet for the back done I marked and drilled holes for my wheels. I thought about using t-nuts but realized I'd bought the wrong size. I'd bought 1/4 inch t-nuts but the mounting holes were 5/16 inch. I had 1 inch bolts so since they were going to stick through the bottom anyway I mounted the wheels with 5/16 inch x 1 inch bolts and nuts.

Yup, pretty ugly. I don't remember if I showed the wheels before but those are the wheels I am going to be using in the above photo. Yes, they are light weight and cheesy but this is a small cart so they should be fine. The entire cart probably weighs 20 pounds right now and even loaded up probably wont be over 100 lbs.

Unfortunately I had a surprise while adding the wheels. I was using my socket wrench to tighten down one of the nuts and when I bumped my hand into the side it moved. Gently knocking it with my hand popped the entire joint loose. Apparently I forgot to glue one of the joints in my rush Thursday night. 

Fortunately my glue is pretty runny so I was able to separate the joint just a little then squeeze a lot of glue into the back and let it dribble down to the bottom. A few clamps to bring everything back together and problem solved. Unfortunately I had a lot of glue squeeze out and it kind of made a mess I am going to need to come back and clean up.

This was the end of my working on the case for Sunday. I made some progress but not as much as I had envisioned.

Today (Monday) I went back to Home Depot and picked up some shorter 1/4 inch bolts. I figured I'd try the 1/4 inch t-nuts. On the first t-nut I drilled out holes for the prongs but on all the subsequent ones I just pounded them in. I know I've had problems before with the prongs bending over in the past but that might have been hardwood vs plywood. I was careful and had no problems. I even had almost enough lock washers for all the bolts. I was only short by two and if I remember and it is convenient I'll pick up more and add them before the cabinet gets full.

The inside looks much better with the t-nuts versus the hex nuts. I didn't get any good pictures of them but I'm sure they'll show up again when I start working on the inside of the cabinet.

I'd thought I would use some leftover cutting board to make runners for my drawers. Cutting the first one went fine. I cleaned up the little burrs and the cut edges with my low angle block plane. Unfortunately things started going sideways at that point. The blade started getting hot and was melting the cutting board rather than cutting it. Eventually my Saw Stop detected something wasn't right and shut down. It's a couple of hundred dollars if the brake fires so I figured I'd stop and switch to wood runners. Very sad but they should work fine.

I thought about calling it a day at that point but then I figured I should at least get something glued and clamped so I can have something drying overnight. So I picked some scraps of white oak to make the front trim from, planed it to thickness and ripped and cut it to width and length.

This stage worked okay but it again pointed to my sloppy job gluing the case Thursday night. The top/bottom setback wasn't consistent in all the corners.

It is sad but also relatively easy to fix. I might try using a hand plane or maybe I'll just sand the heck out of it.

This is where I left it for the evening - had to stop to make cheese steak sandwiches for dinner. I'll probably not be able to find any time tomorrow night but maybe I'll get back into the shop Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Sharpening Station Starting to Look Like a Cabinet

Saturday was a short workshop day but I wanted to get the side panels sanded and the frames glued up so I could do joinery work on Sunday and that's pretty much how the weekend worked out. Sanding the panels was pretty quick work. I'd already sanded them on my open ended drum sander to flatten them after glue up so all I needed to do was hit them with 80, 120, and 180 grit sandpaper on my random  orbit sander. With that done I glued up the side panels and checked them for square.

I really love the stub tenon and groove joinery method. With clean shoulders the panels just come together square naturally.

Since sanding and gluing didn't take that much time I started thinking about the next step which was going to be cutting joinery for the top and bottom panels. The grooves holding the top and bottom panels were going to be stopped grooves 1/2 inch from the top and the bottom. 

Making the joinery symmetrical made things easier in a couple of ways. First, I didn't have to worry about right and left as the panels could be flipped over or spun to fit. Second, I could use the same setup for cutting the top and bottom grooves.

Stopped grooves call for using a template and a router. With only 1/2" between the top and bottom and the panels I needed a special template to clamp in place. I finished up my Saturday getting that made with some scrap plywood glue and staples.

I ducked back into the basement in the evening to scrape glue.

Sunday I got most of the afternoon in the workshop. I did have a hard stop of a puppy play date late afternoon but I still had a number of hours to get stuff done. 

With the panels all glued up the next step was to cut joinery. I found a piece of cabinet grade maple veneer plywood offcut in my workshop that looked to be big enough to get a top and bottom panel and maybe the middle divider. I cut it to rough size then used an off cut to space my templates.

Top edge template

Getting the template spacing set

Full setup

Router setup

Stopped groove

Squaring end of groove

The pictures above do a pretty good job of showing my process. The template for the top/bottom edge was a piece of 3/4 inch plywood glued and stapled to a 1/2 inch piece of plywood. The 1/2 inch ply was cut to be 1/2 inch wider than the 3/4 inch so when I glued them together I just aligned on of the edges. Then when I clamped it to the top of the panel the top edge of the groove was automatically set without me needing to measure.

I set the width of the groove by taking an offcut and wedging it between the two halves the template. This is a really effective technique for getting a groove the exact width of your plywood. There are couple of effective table saw techniques for getting good fitting grooves but they all require more setup effort. If you've just got a few grooves to cut, this is the way to go.

You can see that I had a pencil line about 3/8 inch down from the top. I set my router bit depth by eye because I didn't really care exactly how deep they were. Since I had cut the plywood a little over-sized I would be able to cut it to fit later. I routed the grooves in two passes making sure the bearing was riding against the template on the first cut. I've made the mistake in the past of not checking and just routing into my template. 

These are stopped grooves so I again made a pencil mark and used my eye to determine when to stop. This isn't fine furniture it is a shop project, and any small sloppiness in the length of the groove will be hidden after I put trim covering the plywood edges.

After routing the grooves I had rounded ends so I pulled out my chisels and chopped the ends square. I used my cheap chisels that I had been using to practice with my Tormek. It went pretty smoothly.

I test fit the top and bottom panels then trimmed them to size.

My plans called for an off-center middle panel but after thinking about it I realized if I centered the middle panel I could use a dado blade in the table saw and do both panels with the same setup. I don't have pictures of this step but it is really the same process as cutting the grooves in the rails and stiles. Basically set the table saw fence so the blade takes out the middle of the dado. Flip the piece end-for-end and run it through again. You now have a centered dado/groove. If it isn't wide enough, nudge the fence over a hair and make another two passes. Repeat until the dado/groove is a perfect fit.

The only tricky part of this approach is remembering that any distance you move the fence is doubled in the width of the dado / groove.

Since this is a table saw technique it really only works on through cuts.

After all my joints were cut I did another dry fit.

This is only a dry fit. Friction is holding it together. Turns out my technique for getting a tight fit on the stopped grooves was a little too good. I could sand the grooves a little wider but I think that instead when I am sanding before the next stage of gluing I'll just hit the panels a little harder along the edges and see if that makes them fit better. If I happen to sand through the veneer it will not be that big of a deal because it will either be inside the cabinet, under the cabinet or even on top it will be covered by a rubber mat.

This is where it is at. If I can get some workshop time tomorrow night I'll do my sanding and maybe gluing. I haven't been able to get into the workshop during the week the last month or so but there's always hope.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sharpening Station

As I mentioned in my "weekly" post I started on my sharpening station this weekend. It was a little bit of a journey to get to this point. I've been using my New Yankee workbench as a bench for the Tormek sharpening system. It works but has a couple of inadequacies. 

Primarily the issue is that it is too tall. The position required for grinding chisels and plane irons requires you to be above the Tormek. With the Tormek on my 35" bench I need to stand very close in order to control the grinding which is uncomfortable and I keep bumping into the wheel and getting wet.

The other issue is that the sharpening process with the Tormek is wet. It is a water wheel after all and water gets around and my New Yankee bench is covered in mdf which doesn't handle water well.

So I have several goals for the sharpening station: 
  • Water resistant
  • Shorter (the Tormek branded stand is 30")
  • Storage for sharpening supplies (including the Tormek accessories)
  • Mobile (needs to not be a stationary obstacle in the shop)
I bought a rubber mat for the Tormek. It was kinda pricy at close to $50 but once I got it I wasn't disappointed. This will be the basis for my waterproofing. I'll use this to cover the top of my station. It is large and heavy but it isn't "sticky" enough to not slip around on plywood. I'll "fix" this problem by building the stand with a lip around the top to hold the mat in place.

My initial plan was to build the sharpening station entirely out of plywood but then I'll have plywood exposed to water. I plan to put polyurethane on the station to help protect it from moisture but that'll only go so far. I've got a lot of leftover white oak from my Mission-style Dresser and it is rot resistant. I initially thought I would just make the lip out of the white oak but after thinking about it I decided I could make the entire sides out of it using a frame and panel technique. If I didn't have a load of mediocre quarter sawn white oak that I'm never going to use I would use plywood for this but I have it, I'm never going to make a "fine furniture" project out of white oak again so I may as well use it here.

So, at this point I had general dimensions...  The rubber mat is 13 1/2 inches by 21 inches so that defines the footprint of the stand. The Tormek branded stand is around 30" tall so that'll work for me too. I knew that I was going to make the sides out of quarter sawn white oak in a frame and panel configuration. 

I've got a plethora of casters just sitting around. I've got a set of light-duty 3" casters that will be perfect for a smallish cart. 

I was noodling around whether I wanted drawers or shelves inside the cabinet. I was a little worried about wide drawers not working smoothly. Shelves would be less utilitarian than drawers as stuff tends to just get shoved around on them in an unorganized fashion. In my sketching of different ideas I decided I could split the cabinet area and put drawers on one side and shelves on the other. Further I could make one of the shelves into a tray that rides on full extension slides. Then I can store the Tormek inside the cabinet when it isn't in use.

Yup, that is the full design. It will be plenty to work from. I thought about using this as an excuse to learn Google Sketchup. Then I realized that my current pencil and paper drafting is working just fine for me. I suppose if I cared to sell my designs I'd learn Sketchup but for now I'd rather be doing woodworking. Also, my pencil and paper is super portable.

Also yes, I realize I drew the stiles and rails backwards. It bothers me a little bit, but only a little bit.

So the sides will be 27 1/2 inches tall with a 1/2" lip at the top and the bottom. They'll be 15 inches wide to account for the 13 1/2 inches of the rubber mat plus 3/4 inches each for the front and back rail. Counting the rubber mat and the casters the top will be about 29 3/4 inches high. The total width for the cabinet will be 22 1/2 inches. That's 21 inches for the mat plus about 3/4 inches for each side.

I have dimensions written down for most of the major pieces but I'm going to be cutting most of them to fit so they're really just there for approximations. To get started I needed to know how wide the sides needed to be and that dimension is fixed by the size of the rubber mat. 13 1/2 inches plus 1 1/2 inches for the lip, or 15 inches. The height needs to be 30 inches finished height minus 3 inches for the casters plus 1/2" for the bottom lip (this will make more sense as I get further through the project). That math gives me a side height of 27 1/2 inches.

I started by pulling out one of my remaining white oak boards and cut two lengths that were about 25 inches long. This is easier said than done. The board was quite heavy being wide, thick, and long. Also, the middle of the board would have put me in the middle of my old workbench so it was quite awkward getting it into my primary shop. Once there I didn't feel like wrestling it onto my miter saw so I broke it down into smaller pieces using my Makita cordless circular saw. I really like my Milwaukee circular saw but the Makita has become my go-to saw because of its convenience.

I resawed the panels using my table saw taking multiple passes from each side. I then flattened them on my jointer and thicknessed them in my planer before gluing them up into panels. 

I dressed one edge of the boards I had cut out for the rails and stiles then cut them to rough length and width before flattening them on my jointer and thicknessed them in my planer. I believe that's about where I got to by Saturday dinner so I set the boards aside for the evening.

Sunday I sanded the panels flat. I considered sending them through the planer but I was afraid of chipping so instead I used my open ended sanding drum. I'd done a pretty good job gluing the panels flat so it only took three or four passes to get them good enough for shop furniture.

After getting the panels flat I cut the rails and stiles to final width and length. After that it was just a matter of getting grooves cut the entire length of the rails and stiles to fit the panels and cutting the stub tenons on the ends of the rails. I cut the stub tenons just a wee bit short so they wouldn't bottom out in the groove and a little thick so I could use my shoulder plane to tune them to a snug fit.

This process worked out fine until I realized that I needed to be a little more careful when trimming the stub tenons. Removing too much from one side would result in the rail and stile not having flush faces. Well, better to learn this lesson on shop furniture.

In any case after trimming the panels I dry fit everything and it is looking good.

I realized during the dry-fit process that I'd glued my book matched panel upside down. Oh well...  again, it is shop furniture that I am banging together quickly. And yet another lesson learned. I'm not going to fix it because I'd have to make a whole new panel. Also, it is shop furniture. It'll be fine.

One of my friends who is just getting into wood working was asking me recently about how stub tenons and groove joinery worked so I got a close up of the joint between the rail and stile.

This is a favorite joint of mine. It is super simple to make and holds up well for reasonable amounts of stress. The flat grain glue surface of the sides of the tenon to the walls of the groove provide excellent holding power. It is easy to cut on the table saw and really only requires two setups, one to cut the groove and one for the tenon.

Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten. I still need to sand the panels and the other hard to reach parts before gluing them up. Then I'll cut a couple of stopped grooves to hold the plywood top and bottom shelf and then a full width dado in the top and bottom to hold a middle divider. And then Bob's your uncle. All that will be left then is building some drawers, a tray on extension slides and a shelf and some trim. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Stay safe out there, wear a mask, keep physically distant, and stay in touch with your friends. Give them a phone call to let them know you are thinking of them. It'll make them happy and it will make you feel good and less isolated.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Covid 19 week 29 - What's going on!

We're in week 29 of our Covid lockdown. Things have been looking pretty good in NYS in general; however, I just heard on the news today that several boroughs of NY City have had a large uptick in reported cases. I haven't looked closer yet; however, I just got news last week that my company will not ask us to return to the office before January. That's not terribly far off but it is a wait an see type of situation. Also, it was announced just this week that President Trump has tested positive for Corona virus and has been taken to Walter Reed Medical Center. Me, my wife, my dog, and all three of my cats are doing fine.

Next, why haven't I posted anything in the last month? Well, first...  it is summer and I don't do very much woodworking in the summer so not a lot has happened in the last month to talk about. Also, my new Dell laptop broke and yes I could have used my old laptop but it's slow and getting kind of flaky.

I was picking up my new laptop when the processor fan started making a horrible grinding noise. I quickly shut it down but the next time I booted it displayed an error screen saying the processor fan was not responding appropriately. Fortunately with some emails, on-line chats, and phone conversations the Dell first tier support sent me a box for shipping my laptop back to them. About seven days later I got my laptop back in perfect working order. Very happy with the Dell service (even though their first solution was updating the BIOS).

Anyway, I have gotten a few things done in the last month. I decided I'm going to build a hand tool workbench for my winter project this year. I pulled out my trailer to pick up lumber for the project, fixed it, broke it, then fixed it again. I picked up lumber for my workbench project this year. I picked up general purpose lumber for my winter shop projects. I started learning how to use my Tormek. And finally I started working on a shop cart for my sharpening system.

Hand Tool Workbench

I've been wanting a hand tool workbench for a number of years. I've been trying to learn how to use chisels and hand planes but not having anything reliable to hold down my work pieces has been a hinderance. Eventually I want a nice hardwood workbench with a leg vise and a tail vise...  but that's what I think I want. Having no real experience with workbenches I just think that's what I want. My plan is to build an inexpensive bench that I can fit a front vise and a tail vise to and hopefully learn better what I want for my ultimate workbench.

Christopher Schwartz is a workbench aficionado and has written several books on the matter. He's also written several articles for Popular Woodworking while he was editor there. One of the articles he wrote was how to build a workbench for $170 and I decided it would do. Of course that article is several years old. Also, he lives in the south where he can get Southern Yellow Pine. I had to settle for Douglas Fir and since there were a fair number of knots I bought extra. All-in-all I spent around $200 on lumber for the project. I haven't bought any vice hardware yet so my final price tag will be a bit higher.

The only real drama that happened on the trip to get the douglas fir was someone else in the store who wasn't wearing a mask who for some reason wanted to stop and talk to me about my purchase. I managed to be polite while wishing he'd go away. Also, I was wearing my own N95 mask. If you aren't wearing a mask, don't go up to strangers and talk to them!

I broke down some of the lumber and carried it down to my workshop. The rest of the lumber I wanted to leave in my garage but I also needed to get it out of the way. I made a dozen or so quick supports I could screw to the 2x4 studs along the back of my garage and got the remainder of the wood up off the floor.


I purchased a Harbor Freight 1720 Super Duty Folding Trailer several years ago when I sold my pickup truck. It has several good aspects and several unfortunate aspects. The biggest positive for me is that when I am done using it I can fold it into thirds and stand it on end. It fits into a footprint of about 2 ft x 5 ft. I have a niche in the back corner of my garage that it fits into perfectly and I can still fit my Forrester in my spot. 

The biggest downside is that it folds. It's heavy enough that when I am folding or unfolding it I am lifting weights that are within my ability to lift but if I slipped I would get hurt if it fell on me. It is also quite awkward for a single person to either fold or unfold. (The directions actually specify that it's a two person job and should not be done by a single person.)  I make it manageable by tying the back half the trailer to a rafter so I only have to lift the front half the trailer. However, this weight is also part of the problem. The amount of force to rip apart the trailer wiring is much less than the force to fold the trailer so if it catches on anything it gets ripped apart. I've had to fix the trailer wiring a half dozen times generally when the outside temperature is under 30 degrees F.

When I went to unfold my trailer for this wood pickup I noticed that somehow the hinges on the left side of the trailer had gotten torqued. I figured I would still be able to use the trailer until I got the hinge fixed but like every time I get the trailer out the lights didn't work. It's kind of a pain to crawl under the trailer to debug wiring issues so I folded it back into its vertical configuration. I debugged and fixed the lighting problems and figured I'd be all set to go to the lumber store. I'd missed my window for Saturday as they close early but figured I'd go Monday after work. I tried to prepare ahead of time by unfolding the trailer on Sunday so I'd be ready to go right after work. In the process of unfolding the knot in the rope holding the back came untied and the back half the trailer came crashing down smashing the right rear taillight. 

It was a dumb mistake and it was my fault. Of course the lights I'd just fixed no longer worked. When I tried refolding the trailer to get to the wiring I found that each time I was folding and unfolding the trailer I was just making the hinges worse. I ended up needing to take the hinge off and bolting the front and back half the trailer together. Also, the lights were still broke so instead of going to the lumber store I made a trip to Harbor Freight to purchase a new trailer light kit.

I ended up replacing the entire wiring harness. This time I soldered all wiring connections, added dielectric paste and used heat shrink tubing around each of them. Also, I had previously purchased some 2-wire weather proof connectors that I used to connect the front and back half the trailer. My plan is to disconnect the two halves the trailer before folding it and reconnecting them after unfolding it. This will require going under the trailer but I also bought a mechanics creeper from Harbor Freight so it isn't that big of a deal anymore to get underneath the trailer while it's unfolded.

It was actually quite pleasant working on the trailer in 60-70 degree F weather vs the 100+ degree F weather I originally assembled it in and the 20 degree F weather I had to fix the wiring in. 

Oddly the second most annoying thing about the trailer is that it is all bolted together. This is mostly only a problem because the frame is also the ground. Most of my wiring problems were related to having an open ground because one or more connections were loose. Also, to get the original wiring job to ground I had needed to thread copper wire around several of the bolts to get the front and back half the trailer to make a connection.

Fortunately one thing making all the wiring easier is a test box I'd made that allows me to plug my trailer into a 100 v wall outlet to test the lights. It would have been a nightmare if I'd had to hook it up to my truck each time I wanted to test it.

All in all I think I spent about three days futzing with the trailer and it still isn't completely fixed yet. To get replacement hinges I needed to mail order them. The box showed up Friday but instead of sending me front and back hinges, they just sent me two sets of front hinges. This wont work because the back hinges have a bend to them allowing them to fit around the front hinge. Karen, the woman I talked to when I called them about the incorrect order, was very nice and put in an order for replacement hinges. I'm figuring there is at least a 50-50 that I'll get the wrong hinges again.

General Purpose Lumber

What's general purpose lumber? Well, I like keeping a small amount of walnut, maple, red oak, and poplar hardwoods and baltic birch plywood in my shop. It's cheaper to just keep some around than to need something and have to run to the lumber store. Especially if it requires putting the trailer together.

So, I bought enough maple to make several more magazine boxes. I also picked up a single board of red oak and walnut and a couple boards of poplar. I bought a couple sheets of 1/2" and 1/4" Baltic birch. I don't have plans for them but I'm sure they'll get used for jigs and the such. I wanted to pick up some 1/4" MDF but they were out. Apparently it is one of the things that is hard to get.

The Tormek

I started practicing using the Tormek on my old cheap chisels and a plane blade I'd ruined trying to learn how to use water stones. It was day two and I got to use what I thought was the funniest accessory they'd included in the box. When I was unpacking it I found a yellow plastic "wallet" that when I opened it I found it contained a dozen or so band aids. Hilarious...  Then on day two or three of using the Tormek I accidentally dragged the back of one of my fingers across the plane blade I was sharpening while reaching for something else on my workbench. It initially just looked like a little scrape but by the time I got to my paper towels I was dripping blood.

I wasn't too proud to use one of the Tormek supplied band aids. I did finish what I was doing, then when I was all done cleaned the wound and put on a better band aid. I'm not sure when it happened but at some point many years ago I got tired of never having an appropriate band aid for whatever wound I had so I have an extensive collection in my medicine cabinet.

Anyway, back to the Tormek...  I really need to write up an individual review for this but suffice it to say for now that I am liking it. It does tend to get water splashed around it. My 35" tall workbench is also too high to work at it comfortably. When grinding chisels and plane irons you need to be "above" the tool and since I am only 5'10" that means I need to stand closer to the tools and I kept bumping into it. It doesn't hurt, you can touch the wheel while it is spinning. I did get wet though and it felt awkward.

Tormek makes a stand that is currently selling for almost $800 (USD) on Amazon. But, I am a woodworker. I can make my own stand. I spent a number of weeks noodling around what I wanted in my stand and I came up with a final set of plans this last week. My stand is going to be 30" high (like the Tormek one). I'd originally thought to make it entirely of plywood but when considering the amount of water that might be around it I decided to wrap the top with white oak. After deciding to wrap the top in white oak I thought that I may as well use some of my leftover white oak from building my dresser to make frame and panel sides. The inside is going to have drawers on wooden (UHMW plastic) slides on the left half and shelves on the right half with a pull out tray where I could store the tormek if I wanted to.

This weekend I pulled out one of my leftover boards and turned it into two panels and rails and stiles. They're all milled but I still need to finish sand them and glue them up. I could use some watco danish oil to make them looked fumed but that seems a bit extravagant for a workshop project. Yes, I see the irony in saying that when I am using quarter sawn white oak. But I really didn't like the experience of working with it so that makes it scrap lumber and I may as well make something out of it rather than just let it sit taking up space.

In Summary

I've not necessarily been doing that much wood working but I have been preparing for being able to do a winter's worth of projects. I still need to get the trailer fixed so I can get my wife's parking spot back but if they don't send me the right hinges this time I'll figure out some way to get the trailer folded and make it work. I am really looking forward to having sharp hand tools and a workbench I can use them on.