Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Workbench Legs part 2

 I had another long weekend to work in my shop again due to the Christmas holiday landing on Friday. We didn't do much to celebrate but I did spend a few hours cooking on Friday. I made ham, corn casserole, scalloped potatoes, and shredded Brussels sprouts. It came out quite adequate.

Saturday I started working on the joinery for the legs. This amounted to a dozen mortises overall. Two in each leg for the side rails and one in each leg for the long front and back rails. I thought about making a router jig but most of the mortises need to be 2 inches deep. That is a lot of work for a router bit and since I don't have tall bits I'd have to add a router extension. Instead I decided to drill out most of the waste with my drill press and finish the mortises with a chisel.

Turns out drilling out a dozen mortises with a forstner bit takes a lot of time and generates a fair pile of wood chips. I did set up a roller stand to help support the end of the leg that didn't fit on my table. It took a fair bit of strain off my arms trying to hold the leg in place while drilling the mortises. Drilling mortises on my drill press was a learning experience. I've probably done it this way before but never to this extent (number, depth, length). It was a lot of work.

After drilling a couple of the mortises I switched to cleaning out the mortises.  I started with what I figured was the most traditional approach which was to clean out the mortises by chopping vertically down the sides to remove the waste left by the Forstner bit and to square the corners. My chisels aren't sharp yet - yes I know, I even have a sharpening station - so this work was brutal. It was hard going and left the mortises kind of messy.

I did one or two mortises this way and sitting on my shop stool thinking about how many more hours of mortise chopping I had left staring at the tenon on one of my rails I though about how maybe it would have been easier to make the bench with loose tenons. I could have just rounded over the loose tenons so they'd fit the mortises. Then I remembered that I have in the past just rounded over the tenons without using loose tenons.

The other epiphany I had was that since I was using a Forstner bit to drill out the waste I could overlap my holes a bit more and reduce the amount of waste that I subsequently had to chisel out. By drilling every 1/8 inch or so I was able to reduce the walls to just being slightly rough rather than having a lot of waste to remove between holes. This meant I could take my chisels and run them the length of the mortise smoothing the sides instead of having to chop down. Combined with no longer needing to chop out the ends to square up the mortises these two saved me a lot of work.

The last thing that I did that saved me work was after the mortises were clean, remove waste from the tenons with my shoulder plane rather than trying to widen the mortises. This was relatively easy work and went pretty quickly. Relatively quickly meant that by the end of the day on Sunday I had my all my tenons fitting in my mortises and could stand up the legs to see how they looked.

So how did they look up close? Well, I know that there are some pretty ugly tenons and mortises hidden under the rails. Some of the shoulders on the rails don't fit super tightly against the legs. They also look done. Well, done enough to start putting glue on them.

So I did.

Last night I ducked into the workshop for a few minutes and glued the side leg assemblies together. It was halfway through gluing up the first leg that I realized I'd meant to drill the holes for the long front rails before gluing the legs together. I figured if I was in for a dime I might as well go in for a dollar. I finished gluing up the first side and then glued up the second side.

I'm thinking that using my roller stand I can keep the legs level on the drill press table. I'll use a small bit to mark the location of the bolt holes by drilling from inside the mortise to the outside of the leg. I can then use that mark to drill the bolt head mortise and the 3/8 inch through hole. 

I'm kind of hoping to get some time in the shop this week before the New Years weekend. One of my friends is having a weekend long virtual New Years party and I want to be able to spend some time visiting with friends. I'll still need to spend time in my shop over the weekend if I want the bench finished this week but every hour I spend ahead of the weekend gives me an hour to spend with friends.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Workbench legs work running over schedule

 Nope, I didn't finish the legs this weekend. I could have, and I should have but I didn't. You could say, the work on the legs is running over schedule. Get it? Running over schedule...


I relaxed and thought about a couple of other home improvement projects. One of the things I am finding is that being trapped in my house, little things I've been living with for years are finally getting on my nerves enough that I feel like I need to fix them. I didn't do much of anything in the shop on Saturday. I did however do a bunch of shop thinking...  Basically, thinking about projects and making plans. Thinking about how quick and fast the work will go once I get up and go do it... I'll go into those sometime later as it is now Monday evening and I am still thinking about some of them.

Sunday I fixed the kitchen door that leads to our garage. The door handle latch has been sticking for months, maybe years at this point. It wasn't sticking that bad but every now and then it would stick in the "open" position and the door would swing open sometime after we'd walked away. Not the best when you've got cats who are willing to go explore the garage and beyond. Anyway, I just took the handle apart, sprayed a liberal amount of WD40 inside and on the latch. Seems to be working. While I had  screwdriver next to the door I tightened the screws in the deadbolt.

Where was I?

Oh right, working on the workbench legs.

But first, vises...

I've been mulling over what I want to do for my workbench legs and for the vise.

The first semi-critical decision is what kind of vise to I want on the table. This is a decision that can be changed later but I figure it will save me headache if I design the table to accept the vise I intend to put on it. My main two choices were a face vise or a leg vise. Sure, there are other types of vises: wagon vise, tail vise, shoulder vise, crochet, etc. 

I don't need a shoulder vise as those are specialized vises. I don't think I want or need a tail vise. Sure, one might come in handy now and then but I am pretty sure I can substitute hold downs and other solutions in lieu of a tail vise. Wagon vises look cool but I don't think I need something that complicated on my first bench. A crochet looks really cool and is a very tempting option. It would certainly work if I thought my primary use case was going to be edge planing long boards but I'm thinking it is as likely that I'm going to have more use cases for clamping than edge planing.

So, face vise vs leg vise. The plans I am using recommend a $75 Veritas face vise. Unfortunately that vise has risen to $110 since the article was written. There is a Yost brand face vise on Amazon for $80, or a Yost brand leg vise screw for $50. I'm not a penny pincher but I am frugal. I'm willing to spend more money for quality tools when I think the difference will be significant; however, I try to buy the least inexpensive tool that will do the job. The Yost brand vises have very good reviews, I think they'll do. I ordered the leg vise this morning, hopefully to be here in a couple of days.

With the type of vise sorted out I need to make sure it'll work with my bench. The plans call for legs that are 2-3/4 inch square. The Yost screw requires a 1-1/4 inch hole. I don't really want to take that much wood out of the leg. It'd probably be fine but I'd rather not take the chance. What I am going to do is make the top part of that leg a little wider to accommodate the vise screw. I tossed around a couple of ways to describe the wide bit at the top of the legs: hips, thighs...  None of them sounded right. Then my wife called them jodhpurs and that description fits.

 The last detail is how to fasten the legs to the benchtop. The plans call for attaching a cleat to the top of the legs and screwing through that into the top. That'll work to hold the legs to the top but not particularly add any strength. Many of the YouTube bench builders will mortise their legs into the benchtop. This looks super strong. I think I am going to go with the cleat screwed to the top. It's simple and quick. If it ends up not providing enough strength I can always rebuild the legs and mortise the new ones into the top.

After picking out the segments for the leg pieces I decided to cut them to rough length then send them through the planer to get them flat and smooth. I did send a couple of the boards through the jointer but the long front and back rails were already pretty flat. Those I just sent through the planer. Then I sent everything through the planer to get it to the right thickness. 

The basic legs got glued up individually but I figured I could nest the two jodhpur legs together on one wider blank.

Square legs

Jodhpur legs

I'd make a joke about not having enough clamps but clearly I do have enough.

After letting the legs dry up for an hour or so I took the clamps off and cleaned up the worst of the glue drips and spills. I'd really hoped to be able to square them up but the glue was still sticky enough that I was afraid I'd make a mess of my power tools. The downside of being able to do multiple large glue ups is that when it is all done you need to put the clamps away.

The last thing I took care of was to create a template for the jodhpur legs out of some 1/4" masonite I had lying around.

Today I cleaned up my leg blanks by running them over the jointer to clean up one of the glued edges then over the table saw to get the other edge clean. The square legs got ripped down to size. The jodhpur legs got marked out, then I cut as much of the legs as I could using my table saw, then finished the cuts on my band saw.

I didn't get a picture of the leg blank with the jodhpur legs all laid out but you can probably imagine how I nested them from this picture.

That's all 4 legs. The square ones on top and the jodhpur ones on the bottom. That's pretty much the orientation they were in when I cut them out.

After getting them trimmed and sanded I switched to working on the rails. I usually do mortises first; however, the plans call for cutting the tenons first then using them to lay out the mortises. So I trimmed all my rails to length using my spiffy new sliding miter saw. It did a spectacular job.  I did use a stop block taped to my workbench for the side rails. The long front/back rails I just marked, checked to make sure they were the same length, then trimmed the one that was slightly longer.

The last step to prepare the rails was cutting tenons which I did on my table saw with a dado stack. The shorter side pieces worked out fine. The longer pieces were more of a challenge. I probably need to wax my table saw top. I should have put a better extension on my miter gauge. Regardless it all worked out in the end.

Unfortunately I didn't think about the dog holes in the top before cutting the long rails to length. I need to go back and do some math to make sure the rail length isn't going to force me to cover a dog hole (well, I'd recut the rails to make sure that doesn't happen). This is only possibly an issue because I deviated from the plans when it comes to my face vise. The plans call for a cast iron face vise which includes a wide overhang on the left side of the bench to accommodate it. With a leg vise I should be able to move the legs closer to the ends so I lengthened the front and back rail to widen the stance of the bench. Unfortunately I didn't think about the dog holes when I trimmed the long rails. 

No worries. I can always cut them shorter and it will just work out.

I had really hoped to get the workbench finished over this last weekend. Unfortunately, again my vision of how quickly I would breeze through the work didn't match reality. It's a good thing I don't have to do woodworking for a living. Anyway, I have hopes I can get it finished this coming long weekend and maybe even get one or more side projects finished.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Workbench and laptop stand

 I was all excited about making even more progress on my workbench this weekend. In my head, it was pretty much already done. I thought through all the preparatory steps, decided how I wanted to build and attach the legs, What kind of vise I was going to put on it. It was all perfect. Then I remembered I needed to pull the wood in from the garage where I was storing it...  Right... Then I need to let it sit in the workshop for a week or two until it is acclimated to my shop humidity.


So, I finished my planning, picked out the boards I am going to use for the legs then moved them from my garage to my basement. They're sitting in my basement "acclimating".

Other than that I spent some time yesterday cleaning up my shop. I swept the dust from under where my outfeed table normally goes, put the outfeed table back on the outfeed side of my table saw, put tools away and generally tidied up the shop.

I leveled the sawhorses my new workbench top is sitting on, and thankfully that removed all the "rock" from the top. I used my 4 ft level to check the top for flatness and fortunately it is more or less flat. unfortunately it is a little dished out. There's a low spot in the middle which spells a lot of flattening for me in my future. I took a couple test passes with my bench plane and it worked sort of okay. I did get some tear out so I think what I need to do is use my new sharpening station to get that plane blade scary sharp.

That summed up my day yesterday. I should have done more but I didn't. What I really wanted to be doing was working on my workbench legs; however, I couldn't because the wood wasn't ready.

Today I remembered that my other weekend project was going to be building a laptop stand.

My day job is being a software engineer. This gives the benefit in these days of Covid-19 to be able to work from home. I've been making small improvements to my workspace which is a desk on the side of our guest bedroom. A few months ago I switched from using my laptop keyboard to a USB keyboard. Then I switched my primary working monitor from the laptop to a second monitor. Then I got a third.

My digital desktop is now in good shape but unfortunately my physical desk space is now quite crowded. The laptop doesn't help because it's a normal laptop as opposed to one of those fancy tablet laptops. I cannot "fold" it up to hide the keyboard so it takes up additional desk space that is "wasted". The other problem is that it is lower than my two monitors so when shifting between displays I have to look up, then down, then back up again.

This doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal; however, it's that extra step you have to take between two woodworking machines you use all the time. That little extra bit of effort adds up over time and since I am working 40+ hours a week in this space I should try to make things more efficient.

So I came up with a plan. If I lifted my laptop on a stand my monitors would all be on the same level and I could use the space underneath for storing my pads of paper, pens, and other miscellaneous office supplies. I even came up with a project vision.

Okay, so it isn't a super precise engineered drawing but a lot of my projects start this way. A rough sketch with some rough dimensions. The rough dimensions allow me to get an idea of how feasible the project will be. Gives me something to looks at when I am noodling around construction decisions. My next step is to start making more detailed sketches.

The one on the left was my first one. It was while making that one that I thought about what I would want to put in the drawers and realized that I had just not quite enough space to put my small note pads on the left and a large 8.5x11 pad on the right. The sketch on the right hand side is my second and final drawing. I changed how I was going to join the pieces. In the first one the sides were trapped between the top and bottom pieces. In the second one the construction is a little more traditional and I have the top and bottom slotted into dados in the sides.

When I headed into the shop today I briefly considered making it as Adam Savage would. He'd but joint everything with some wood glue and then pin nail it together. It would be a little quicker than my normal techniques and probably plenty string enough. But! I am a woodworker and making good joints doesn't take that much longer than slapping something together. Now, I am not trying to say Adam Savage is not a talented fabricator because he is. However, he is also a product of his background where there is not value placed on making projects "furniture" quality. Props need to look good enough to look good on screen and last long enough for the filming to complete.

So I calculated my parts sizes accounting for tongue and groove joinery.

The rectangle on the bottom was representing a piece of 1/2 inch baltic birch I'd found to make the stand out of. I drew it out so I could think about how I'd take my pieces out of it to minimize waste and hopefully leave me the most useful piece of left over plywood possible. (I ended up cutting an 11 inch wide piece 60 inches long. That leaves me a 2ft x 5ft piece of plywood left and gave me a smaller piece of scrap.

I took that piece and cut it down into my parts.

Then it was installing a 1/4 inch dado stack in the table saw and cutting all my grooves.

Then I added a sacrificial fence and cut all the rabbets / tongues. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of that separate but I do have one of the dry-fit case.

That's my shoulder plane photo bombing on the right hand side. A couple of the joints were just a touch too tight so I used the shoulder plane to shave down the tongue until it fit snuggly in the grooves. Once the dry fit looked good I glued and clamped it.

Yeah, that might seem like an excessive number of clamps; but, I have them...  may as well use them. While the glue on the case was drying I made a couple of drawers for the left side.

 I found a math error too...  Math is hard... When I was splitting the height on the left hand side I split it in half. What I forgot to account for was that the bottom drawer loses the thickness of the drawer bottom vs the top drawer which did not. That means that my lower drawer is about 3/4 inch deep and the upper is about an inch. They'll still hold things.

After making sure the drawers fit, I added a stop block to keep the drawers from sliding out the back. It was a scrap piece of white oak I had left over from my weapon mounts I made in the spring. I thought it was going to be perfect but I need to come back and shave 1/16 inch off of one side so the drawers can shit completely. Maybe I'll do that later. I also softened all the sharp edges by rounding them over with a sanding block and some 120 grit sandpaper.

The drawers are made from 1/4 inch baltic birch plywood. I glued them together using CA glue and an accelerator spray. The top drawer is held in place by extending the drawer bottom into grooves in the sides. The drawer pulls were parts I had in my stash. I'd gotten them for some earlier project and then decided to not use them. I'd thought they had a normal machine screw but they actually had a tiny hanger bolt but not tiny enough. It would have stuck through the front of the drawer. So, I roughened up the back and super glued them to the front of the drawer. If they come off I'll try something else.

This is probably a good time to talk about my new favorite glue. In a lot of the YouTube videos I watch the builders will use CA glue for jigs and things they need to finish quickly. Michael Alm uses CA glue in the same joint as wood glue using the CA glue to clamp the pieces together until the wood glue dries. I got some CA glue and some accelerator to try it out. I've used it a couple of times already to make jigs and on the dust chute behind the new sliding miter saw. Making these drawers was probably my largest use to date. I think it's going to be plenty strong and my drawers were done in minutes without needing to figure out how to fasten clamps to the fiddly pieces.

I had the stand in place briefly but it was the first time I'd spent time around it without my dust mask on and I could smell the CA accelerant. I didn't want to stink up our living space so I took it back into my shop. Hopefully it will blow off by tomorrow and I can bring it back up and start using it. I'll try to remember to get pictures of it in place.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Workbench Top Assembled

 Yesterday I had my day job to do, dinner to prepare for my wife, and then I spent the evening playing Mass Effect 3 with some friends of mine. Yes, I know the game was release almost 10 years ago; however, I still like it. I like that the multiplayer is cooperative. The playstyle also is one I like. Most of all, I got pretty good at the game. I can - have in the past - completed the hardest level of multi-player by myself without help.

Anyhoo, all that meant no woodworking yesterday. Today I didn't have to work my day job so after sitting around all morning and making lunch for my wife I headed into the basement.

Step #1 was to clean up the small block (5 of the 2x4s) and two of the large blocks (10 of the 2x4s). As a recap, I'd already cleaned up one face of all the small blocks by running the faces over my jointer. The large blocks are just two of the small blocks carefully glued together. Cleaning up just involves getting the bottoms flat by running them through my planer.

I'd tested my infeed on Wednesday but today I actually put it to use. It worked out spectacular. The blocks didn't need any additional support on the infeed. I was able to get each block started by setting it on the infeed table and in the mouth of the planer, shove it halfway through the planer then run around to the other side to pull it through.

The planer was able to keep the blocks moving while they were in the middle third but in the first third, needed some help pushing them in and on the outfeed, there was no support so I had to lift and pull to keep them tipping the planer and keep them moving. I was able to take about 1/16 inch on each pass. It only took three or four passed to get each block flattened.

After getting all the blocks flattened and thicknessed I started gluing them up. I test fit the three pieces to figure out which edges were the best match. I got one good match and one adequate match. I considered trying to pass the adequate and/or poor matches through my jointer again but decided the joints weren't going to turn out any worse than the ones I already had.

Since my shop floor is not flat which made my saw horses probably not parallel I glued one large block to the small block vertically rather than horizontally. I spread glue on the large block then set the small block on top. I slid the small block back and forth a number of times to get the glue sticky. Once I felt it had some grab I started clamping. 

The above picture looks like it is missing a clamp on the left hand side on the end. I had one there. I just removed it before I thought to take the picture.

I gave the glue 20 or 25 minutes to dry then removed the clamps, scraped the glue, then repeated the process with the last large block. I did need to upgrade to all larger clamps.

I then had to take a break to rake leaves.

I have a maple tree in my back yard that doesn't even start dropping its leaves until mid November and doesn't finish until early December. Normally I don't get a chance to take care of these leaves until spring by which time they've killed parts of my lawn. I had a beautiful day today and I didn't have to work so I took advantage of the weather to clean up the leaves before the whole lawn killing part.

That took a few hours but afterward in the few extra minutes I had between ordering our dinner from a local Thai restaurant and picking it up I removed the clamps from the workbench top.

It's looking pretty okay. I'm thinking/hoping that gap on the left is just my uneven shop floor. If not, I have a lot of hand planing and flattening in my future.

I'm glad I'm making my first workbench out of douglas  fir. Hardwood would probably have cost me $1000 vs the $250 the fir cost. Most of the issues I've come across so far are related to joints not gluing up perfectly. The majority of those are me trying to glue too many pieces at once. The others are me not getting my edges perfectly flat on the jointer...  probably...

The problem with these really large blocks of wood is that they are heavy and I have the physique of a typical software engineer. The blocks are heavy enough that they are difficult to manage on the jointer and get a clean edge. I think on my next workbench I'll make sure to get a friend to help me.

I've got some planning to do. I looked at the face vise specified in the plans and it's increased in cost from $75 to $110. In the big scheme of things, that's not too expensive for a wood working tool; however, I've been wanting to make a leg vise. I was thinking of getting started with the face vise and then maybe upgrading to the leg vise later but now I am thinking I might just go straight to the leg vise.

I was already planning on widening the legs on the table. The plans call for the legs to not come all the way to the edge of the worktop. This won't work if I am ever to add a leg vise. The other problem is that the plans call for 2-3/8 inch legs. Unfortunately the Yost leg screw will require a 1 1/4 inch hold which will take more than half the width of the leg. I need to decide if I want to beef up all the legs, just one leg, or perhaps come up with some other way to fasten the vise to the table. If I was making an English Jointer's bench like Rex Kruger's I could just fasten it through the apron.

Anyway, that was all my progress for today. I got my top glued up. Hopefully more tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Temporary Planer Stand

 Tonight I took a little time in the workshop. Right before dinner I ran down and glued up two more of the small blocks into one large block. After dinner and some TV I went down and cleaned the glue squeeze out off it. I was disappointed. I did better on the first one. The second small block glue up had a lot more squeeze out and I didn't perfectly align the two blocks. One side lined up quite nice, the other was off by about 3/32 of an inch. Not horrible but I was hoping for better. I'm going to have to do better when I glue up the three pieces into a full top.

While waiting for that glue up to dry I decided to build my temporary Planer stand.

This was a quick and dirty build. I took some rough measurements and decided that a 24 x 24 inch top about 32 1/2 inch tall stand would work out. My scrap 2x4 happened to be 32 inches long so I left them as is for the legs. I cut a couple of other pieces of scrap and stretched them across the top using some 2 1/2" wood screws to fasten the rail to the top of the legs. After making two leg pairs I tied them together with some more 2x4 scrap.

I threw a lot of screws into it but as probably everybody reading this is thinking, it was a little wobbly. As it would cost me around $600 to replace my planer I really didn't want to trust it to the new stand yet. I grabbed a piece of pine construction grade plywood and ripped it into four 2" wide strips. I screwed these at an angle across each pair of legs. I found a piece of MDF that was not quite large enough to cover the entire stand but was big enough to hold up the planer. I screwed that to the top of the stand with some 1 5/8 inch deck screws.

After adding the gussets and the top the stand was super solid. I don't think I'd get on top and dance on it but I did lay my weight across the top and it didn't wiggle. Good enough to hold up my planer anyway.

The temporary stand lowers the planer so that I can use my table saw outfeed table as a staging area / infeed table. The out feed would be my table saw but my shop floor is so uneven that the table saw is about an inch short and the infeed table is just perfect. 

I ran my first large block through as a proof of concept. I can only take very small bites but it does work. I thought I needed the back of the large block levered up; however, I actually needed to remove it for the block to be at the right orientation to go through the planer.

Next time I get into my shop I need to plane the bottoms of the two large blocks and my final small block then a cleanup pass across the tops, then they all get glued up into one large top.

I did try to use my new sliding miter saw to create half laps of the 2x4s. It didn't work as well as I wanted. I think there must be another adjustment I need to make in the saw. Or maybe I need to offset the work from the fence. Anyway, the blade didn't cut all the way to the back of the 2x4 leaving a curved ramp in the back. Since I don't have infeed support on the left of the blade it was also feeling very awkward and unsafe. I ended up just cutting off that test piece and face screwed all the pieces.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Hand Tool Workbench Progress

 Very little progress over the last two days. I had yesterday evening free; however, I hadn't slept well the night before so I didn't get up off the couch to do anything in the shop. Tonight I had a half an hour so I dashed down and glued two of the long blocks together.

And yes, I used enough clamps this time that I shouldn't have to worry about gaps. If there are any it'll probably be because the boards weren't jointed perfectly flat. I did tune my jointer a number of years ago to make sure it was planing boards flat but I haven't checked in a few years to confirm it's still flat. Boards have been mostly flat enough for me.

Speaking of my planer, it got a bad chip in the blades a number of years ago. Long enough ago that I don't remember how it happened. It must have been something bad to put through the planer because it also dented the cast iron infeed table. Because of this chip in the blades my planer leaves a small ridge on everything that goes through it. 

Normally I just follow the normal flattening procedure, joint one face, send through the planer until the opposite side is flat. Then I'll send the jointed face through the planer to clean up the jointed face. In this case I didn't want to send the blocks through the planer any more often than I had to. They were heavy enough and awkward enough I didn't want to risk breaking something. Instead I just cleaned up those faces with a sanding block and some 120 grit sandpaper.

Back to this glue up, I was happy that I got a good squeeze out without having buckets of glue dripping to the floor. 

The lower stress of only needing to glue two boards together was also quite nice. I really should have done the first set that way. Glued the boards into pairs, then the pairs into quads, then this step gluing them into sets of eight. As Yogi Bera always said, hindsight is 50-50. (Actually I don't think Yogi Bera ever said that but it is certainly the kind of thing he would have said.)

I got the one glue up clamped (see above picture) then I needed to clean up and get ready to play Sentinels of the Multiverse with some friends. After getting cleaned up I did go scrape the glue from the surface. Looking pretty good so far.

I might duck downstairs tonight after we're done or more likely tomorrow morning. 

The other thing I've been pondering is how I am going to get these double blocks through the planer. If it was not Covid I'd consider asking a strong friend to come over and help out. Since it is Covid, that's a non-starter. I thought about building in-feed and out-feed tables but that'd be a lot of work. I think what would be smarter would be to build a temporary planer stand that put the planer at the right height to use my existing benches. That decided I went and found some scrap 2x4 that I think probably came from demoing the back wall in my workshop for the dust collector closet. I could probably go find out but I don't care. They're some pretty ugly 2x4s but they'll work to make a one-use stand.

Maybe tomorrow if I get sleep tonight!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

New Project: Hand Tool Workbench

 I finished the sharpening station so I can start a new project!

Yes, I know I started the picture frame project and haven't gotten back to it yet. It's because my frames sucked. They had huge gaps in the corners and didn't look good. They're going to be tossed and re-made. I think I might need to rebuild the jig I used which would be annoying to say the least. Anyway, that project is on hold. It'll be easier once I can make my hand tools sharp and have a bench to use them on.

Good sounding excuse, right?

Anyway, I think I've mentioned in previous posts that my winter project for this year is going to be a hand tool workbench. Why do I specify hand tool workbench and how is it differentiated from other types of workbenches? Can I use power tools on it? Am I going to build it with hand tools?

To answer the easy questions first: I can use power tools on it, I am going to use hand tools but mostly power tools to build it. The more involved question is what differentiates a hand tool workbench from any other kind? I am calling it a hand tool workbench to differentiate it from an electronics bench, a power tool bench, and a general purpose bench. It's going to be heavy enough to stay in place when using hand planes. It'll have dog holes so I can use stops and hold downs. It'll have a face vise and a deadman to help support long boards when edge planing.

Workbenches are actually very simple. They're a large(ish) flat surface held off the ground by some legs that are hopefully solid enough to keep the bench from wiggling when stressed. There are a ton of videos on YouTube on how to build a bench. Most of them are fine. Some are not. My bench is going to be in the model of a traditional European bench. Yes, I've heard of English Jointer's Benches...  I don't want one of those right now.

Mine is going to be made out of Douglas Fir. Compared to a hard wood it is relatively cheap. Compared to pine it is relatively strong and heavy. I do need to worry about sap but I am hoping if I hit any pockets I can seal them in with some shellac or other finish.

I have plans... Popular Woodworking $175 Workbench

I also have a book by the same author: Workbenches from Design and Theory to Construction and Use, Christopher Schwartz.

I bought the lumber for my bench from a local Home Depot back in the end of September. I'd pulled out my trailer for this trip. Unfortunately it took me weeks to get the trailer road worthy but that's a whole other story.

All 2x8's...  Most of them were 12 ft long; however, a couple were 16 ft long but those I cut in half using my cordless Makita circular saw. The 12 footers I extended over the tongue of the trailer as much as I could safely. The rest had to extend over the back.

When  I got them home I tried to select the best five or six out of the lot and cut them in half and carried them down to my workshop. In the process I think I tore something in my shoulder but now, a little over two months later it doesn't really hurt much anymore. They've been in my basement leaning up against a wall since then acclimating to my workshop humidity.

Yesterday I started milling those boards to be the top of my workbench. I started by ripping them in half until I ended up with a pile of 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 70" douglas fir boards.  I was about half way through the stack when I started thinking that maybe I should work on just half of them at a time. In Christopher Schwartz's article he recommends milling and gluing the board on the same day to reduce their chances of twisting, warping, and cupping as their internal stresses change after being cut.

I decided to rip the entire lot. I regretted that decision multiple times afterwards. After ripping the boards I then had to send them over the jointer to get them flat and square on at least one side. I flattened one face on all the boards, then using that face made the edge of the board flat and square to the one face. The next step was to pass all the boards through my planer to make the opposite face parallel to the jointed face, then passed them all through one more time to get the jointed face smooth.

If I'd done both jointer steps on each board I could have minimized the amount of stacking and unstacking. If I'd stopped after a half dozen or so boards I could have started gluing them into blocks. Regardless, I made a lot of saw dust.

I made a lot of sawdust.

And I made a lot of big boards into smaller flatter boards.

These smaller flatter boards get glued up four at a time into blocks. Before starting the glue up I sorted through the boards finding the ones with the clearest grain on the top. The bottoms are various levels of ugly but that's the bottom. That just has to be flat enough.

Yes, I used a lot of glue. I actually hadn't thought ahead well enough and didn't have enough in my shop. After gluing up the first block I had to make an emergency run out to my local store and bought a gallon of glue. With all the woodworking I do, one medium sized bottle each of Titebond I and Titebond III will normally hold me through a woodworking season. I'm guessing I used a quarter of a gallon getting all five blocks glued up.

I got all five blocks glued up Saturday afternoon and evening. Yes it did drip all over my floor and make a mess. No, it wasn't too bad to cleanup. I just used a paint scraper today and popped all the drops off the concrete then swept them up and threw them away.

I regretted deciding to do them in sets of four. The glue was quite slippery and made it difficult to get enough clamping pressure to keep the tops of the middle board aligned. I ended up giving up and just let them line up how they wanted. I think if I am ever to do this again in the future I'll glue them up in pairs, then glue the pairs together. It would triple the  number of clamp-ups I would need to do; however, it would be a lot less stressful and probably better quality. I'd just want to start earlier in the day so I would have time for the additional glue-ups to dry.

Today I used a paint scraper to get as much of the glue off the block as was convenient. I didn't go to town with the scraper but I did try to get the biggest chunks off before working them with better tools. Once the blocks were kind of clean I passed the side that's going to be the bench surface over the planer. After all of them were flat I trued up the fence on the jointer and passed them all over the jointer until one of the sides was flat and perpendicular to the top.

All this jointing created as much sawdust as the original cleanup of the faces and edges. Oh so much sawdust. I noticed at the end of the day Saturday that the bags on my dust collector were getting full. Today I took twenty minutes or so and swapped the bags. I don't remember when the last time I did this was but I do remember drilling holes in the bottom of my garbage cans to let air in while pulling out a full bar. This worked perfectly. Getting the bags out of the cans was easy and combined with catching that the bags needed to be changed before they overflowed made the job not fun but also not a huge chore.

Getting back to the woodworking, after getting two sides off the block flat and perpendicular I swapped tools and switched to my planer and made the opposite face of my block parallel to the jointed face. This was actually quite difficult. The blocks are manageable by one person (me) but are awkward to get into the jointer. The weight makes it hard to get a feel for how they are feeding into the planer. Regardless I got through them.

The above picture is actually five separate glued up blocks. Three of them got shoved to the back of the sawhorses to get them out of the way, two of them are stacked. Since the bottoms are uneven and the thicknesses are not consistent anyway, I think I'll be able to get a better glue up if I do it this way rather than flat.

It's already starting to look like a bench though!

Over all my glue-ups came out okay. Not perfect but okay. I had a couple of spots where there were gaps. I think if I had glued the boards in pairs and then glued the pairs I probably would have avoided them. Makes me a little sad but this is my first bench. I figure there will be others and I'll do them better.

This is one example. I think there is one other gap in the middle of the glue up and then another glue up that has split ends. I'll probably leave them alone. If they ever start bothering me down the road I'll mix up some epoxy and fill them in.

This is pretty much where I left the project today. I'm ready for the next glue up but the cleanup step after that is to pass the double block through my planer. I'm a bit nervous about that though. The single blocks were awkward enough to do on my own that I am afraid the double blocks will be unmanageable. I'm considering trying to build an extended infeed table so I don't have to lift all the weight while also trying to feed it into the planer.

I'm going to give it a day of thought and see where I am tomorrow evening.

Oh, I almost forgot! My foresight to add a cover to my miter saw dust collection chute proved worth the effort today.

Without the cover that bottle of glue would be gone. It's only a bottle of glue but it could have been a more expensive tool too. Definitely going to keep that shut unless I am cutting things on the miter saw.

Note: This blog post contains links to products on Amazon. This is not an affiliate link. I do not gain any benefit from you using it. I've not received compensation of any kind for this link or my mentioning the book.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Sharpening Station Finished! Almost!

 The sharpening station is officially finished.  Almost!

I had a long weekend this week. Last Wednesday I put the last coat of polyurethane on the door. Thursday morning I attached the hinges then attached the door to the cabinet. Then I added the handle to the door. It might have been smarter to add the handle before putting the door on the cabinet but that's not the way I did it.

With the door back on the cabinet I lifted it back down to the floor. Once on the floor I waxed all the drawer runners and drawer runner grooves. Sliding the drawers back into the cabinet was night-and-day compared to pre-waxed. They glide so smoothly and easily. I have to admit I slid them in-and-out for a few times each just to enjoy the nice fit. I'm very happy with my shop-made slides.

After appreciating how pretty my piece of shop furniture looks I moved onto measuring and cutting out the back. I used some of the remainder of the 1/4 inch Baltic birch to cut out a back, sanded it at 120 grit sandpaper. I didn't bother starting at 80 grit and I didn't bother jumping up to 180 grit. It's the back, it'll be fine. The biggest benefit of sanding the back was that I "erased" some of the scuff marks and dirt.

So, why the "Almost!"? Well, I'm still trying to decide if I want to put a shelf on the right hand side or perhaps some more drawers. I don't have a lot of desire for more full extension slides. I have some but there's an opportunity cost to using them and I can not think of any use cases where the value add would offset the cost. There's also a door latch. The door is not swinging around loosely so I'm not certain a latch is needed. I have several choices in my parts bins but I'm not sure it is needed.

I think in both cases - shelf and door latch - I will take a wait-and-see approach. If I have problems with doors swinging around as I move the cabinet I'll add a latch. If I find something that could be stored on a shelf or drawer in the cabinet I'll add the shelf or drawer.

So, done for now. Maybe more drawers or shelves later as I find a need to store things with my sharpening station. But project complete!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sharpening Station Door Polyurethane

 Not much to report. 

Helped a friend of mine over the weekend not buy a table saw. He's just getting into woodworking and was looking at buying a Rigid job site saw that was on sale and asked me for advice. Unfortunately I have almost no experience with these kinds of saws. And by these kinds of saws, I mean anything smaller than a cabinet table saw. 

My first table saw was a right tilt Grizzly 1023. I don't remember the letter designation but I bought it 20 years ago so I'm sure the specific sub-model isn't being sold anymore. It was a pretty basic saw; however, it was solid, worked reliably and was plenty strong for all the things I needed to do with it.

It also had a very nice fence. Locked in the front and the back so it was super solid and had no chance of moving or flexing under pressure. Unfortunately this is the same feature that led me to get rid of the saw. I was cutting some 1/4" plywood panels for a shop cabinet. In setting the fence I didn't notice that the wheel that rode the back rail had gotten a chunk of wood lodged in it. This cause the back of the fence to not slide over fully and then it got locked such that the back of the fence was closer to the blade than the front.

Yes, it got quite exciting when the plywood shot back at me. No, I don't know how close my hand came to the blade. My pride and my stomach that took the hit from the plywood that was flung back at me was all that got injured. However, it shook me and made me reconsider if I wanted to keep doing woodworking. I thought about only using my 14" bandsaw and giving up my table saw. I even tried it for a while (weeks, months, I don't remember).

I then decided that I did want to keep doing woodworking as a hobby and that my hands were worth the price of a Saw Stop. That's when I upgraded and sold my table saw to a guy in Indiana that worked at the same place my dad did.

Anyway, I've had two saws. A low-end professional grade Grizzly and what I'd consider a professional level Saw Stop. I've used my friend's Grizzly cabinet table saw. I have had one experience with a lower end table saw. It was horrible. I don't remember the brand but it was a $100 bench top unit. It was struggling to rip 2x4s. The fence was super inaccurate and never locked down parallel to the blade naturally. Not the best experience.

Needless to say I wasn't a great help in evaluating the mid-price contractor and job site saws. I wasn't that impressed with this Rigid saw. It was all plastic including the top. It wasn't even entirely enclosed. I couldn't figure out if there were adjustable 90 degree and 45 degree stops. The display model was missing its fence so I couldn't really evaluate that. The top was tiny; however, that is endemic to these types of saws. The blade tilt mechanism did move smoothly.

It's just that the saw was listed at $550. The current Grizzly 1023 is around $1300. I just personally couldn't see spending half the price of a good low-end professional saw on something plastic. I suppose if you don't have that additional $700, or you don't have the space, or cannot get 240 volts then perhaps a job site or contractor saw would be a reasonable alternative to nothing. Though, I'd argue that perhaps you could get away with nothing.

Table saws excel at breaking down plywood, cutting dados, making large cove cuts, ripping and cross cutting lumber, and a number of other things. However, most of those can be accomplished with a track saw. Now that there are non-Festool brands making these you can get one for less than $500. I'm pretty sure Rockler sells a table that helps make track saw cuts more repeatable. Dados can be made with a $50 router from Harbor Freight. Both of those tools take up less space and routers are much more versatile in a shop.

Anyway, I since I didn't say, "Wow, this is a great deal, you should buy it!" my friend passed. At least until I got an email this morning saying that to get past his indecision he was going to make his wife buy it. All I can say is she's a wonderful person to support her husband in his hobby.

I did get my sharpening station door into the finishing room yesterday and tonight was the second coat of water based poly. I had a few drips on the back but I shaved them off with a sharp chisel. When I was done tonight I tried running the brush over the bottom edges to reduce the dripping. We'll see how that works. Tomorrow night will be the third and final coat. Then I'll hang the door and add the door stop.

I still have to cut and polyurethane the back for the cabinet. There's no rush because there isn't space in my new finishing room for it and the door. I'll get to that this coming weekend when I have more time off from work.