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.