With a few minutes left over at the end of the day, we made this oaken mallet to go in my toolbox at home.
Well, I'd say we have this one pretty well tied down. You can't even tell what it is, from all the clamps and the 25 pound weight. We call this "Son of Clampzilla".
While I was gone to the coast, Joe started work on this exquisite inlaid cedar box. It is close to being done. He just needs to cut off the top (he assures me there is no weight trapped inside), add hardware and finish. I told him as nice as the box is he should find some really good hardware for it. A rubbed finish would be worth the effort. He tells me making the inlay was not that hard, and he may make another box to this pattern.
I brought my board home and rubbed it down with cooking oil. Afterward, I decided that it should be tested. It works!
When I got to the shop today, Joe was in the process of making a cutting board from a piece of leftover cherry, too small to use for another project and too nice to burn. I suggested we come up with something better than a simple butt joint for the breadboard ends, so we decided to tongue and groove them onto the central section. Since we don't have the proper match planes we cut the joints on the table saw. The board came out well enough that we decided to make another very small one for me to keep on the boat. We made mine from hard maple with walnut breadboards.
I mentioned a maple benchtop and machinist's vise in an earlier post, and here they are, installed in the forecabin of my sailboat Terry Ann.
While I was at the marina, Joe built several more items, including these two boxes. The one in the back is poplar, showing the wide color variations the wood is known for, and the one in front is good solid oak.
There is still a lot of white space on the walls of the Smith's new house, and this corkboard, our third, fills some of it.
Since the earliest days of the woodshop, one goal has been to make decent, solid, useful furniture for young people who might otherwise have to buy pressboard junk from the big box store. This crate is something Katie asked for. At her age, she can expect to move every year of two, and the crate will be a safe container for valuables that she might not trust to a cardboard box. In between moves, it will serve as a bookcase. This is Joe's work, though I helped with the glue-up.
On the workbench is an inch-thick hard maple block that will serve as a workbench on my boat. The big Babco machinist's vise will be bolted to it, and the whole assembly will be secured atop a small bureau in the forward cabin of my boat.
Here is the second corkboard. There is a minor construction change that Joe and I agree makes it look better than the first - the corners of the frame, trim and shelf are rounded. I like the color of the wood, which we think is Douglas Fir. This one will go to Marcia. The first one, which we consider as the prototype, will stay in the shop. My hope is that we will make several of these, in various woods. I think they would sell easily at the Firemen's fundraiser, and I also think that friends who see one will want one.
Joe made a little crate out of cherry for a friend in the burn survivors' group. He took it to the last firemans' sale to deliver it, and somebody saw it and wanted to buy it. Deanna graciously allowed it to be placed in the sale to benefit the burned children's fund. Joe made another one for her and this time I hope he will deliver it at one of the group's meetings. The cherry comes from a bedframe salvaged from along the road. I haven't had much chance to work with it, but Joe tells me it is very easy to shape and sand. Add to that it's beautiful grain and color, and it is no wonder that it has long been one of the premier American woods for furniture. At $4.90 a board foot, we probably won't be buying any, but we'll pick it up off the side of the road every chance we get.
We don't actually sell anything but we still call it payday when we have a lot of work to finish at once. Here are nine items getting first or second coats of polyurethane. Most of this is Joe's work since I have been out of town for most of the month.
Joe built several things while I was away at the coast, including this box. He used a common technique for building boxes, glueing up all the sides, including the top and bottom, into a cube and then sawing all the way around to cut off the lid. During the glueing stage, he put a five pound dumbbell in the box, something we often do to keep the weight of the clamps from flipping the box off the bench. When time came to glue on the top, he forgot the dumbbell and entombed it inside the cube like some poor cat out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Fortunately, he was able to saw the lid off with the blade set just a hair over the thickness of the box walls and retrieve the dumbbell with no damage done.
We're close to finishing the cork board, which hopefully will be the prototype for several to follow. All it needs is a couple more coats of finish and then for the cork and backing to be applied. What made this project easy is that most of it is made from 1 1/4 by 9/16 inch pieces of varying lengths. We can mill out long sticks on the table saw, cut stepped rabbets for the cork and backer, and then cut individual pieces to length. The tray and trim piece at the top are different dimensions, but still out of 9/16 stock. Cutting these pieces to wrap around the frame is the only part of the job that takes any hand work or close fitting.
The best cork I could find was only 3/32nd inch thick, so we laminated two layers to get it up to 3/16. Not having glued cork before, we did some tests with yellow glue and contact cement. Each worked fine, so we decided to use the quicker and less noxious yellow glue.
We finished up a couple of projects today, putting final coats of finish on a shoe rack for Marie and a tool tote that I will take down to the boat. Last time I was at the boatyard I found my tools getting scattered all over the place, and maybe having a tote will help me keep them together. We have built at least ten of these totes, and this one went together fast and easy.
We started a new project, a cork board. I have high hopes for this to be something we might like to make as a regular production run. For the most part it is machine work with just one small step requiring hand work.
It's the city's bulky item pickup in Joe's neighborhood, and he drove around with Marcia scouring trash piles for good items. They found several decent pieces of furniture that can be restored or parted out. The basement is packed full of small dimensioned wood that will make good boxes, crates and racks. We still have plenty of cedar, West Salem yellow pine, hickory and poplar. In fact, I don't think we have ever had so much wood on hand.
Joe is very active with the local burn survivors' group. One thing they do is participate in auctions and sales to raise money for the Firefighters' Burned Children Fund. Joe has built and donated many items that have raised hundreds of dollars for the organization. Marcia crochets items for the sales, and they have been big sellers too. In appreciation, the Firefighters gave them medallions. Joe mentioned that I helped out on some of the builds and they sent one for me as well.
Yes, another Sellers Bench, in cherry. Joe did about 90 percent of this one and tells me that cherry is very easily worked. The source for all this cherry Joe has been using lately is a salvaged bedframe that somebody turned up. That's good because cherry at Wall Lumber is running $4.90 a board foot.
In addition to glueing up the Sellers Bench, we built a tool tote for me to take down to the boat, started glueing a shoe rack similar to the one we built Marie, and coated several items with polyurethane.
I made this cherry crate for a friend and took it, full of fudge, to the Fire Fighters' Burned Children's Fund spring sale. A shopper saw it and wanted it and paid $50 for it, so I am building another for my friend. I am so pleased that these crates have become so popular. They aren't too difficult to make, so I think I'll take one to each event and maybe won't bring any back home.
One of the reasons I like making things for Marie is she has a specific need to fill when she asks for something. Nothing gets pushed to the back of a closet and forgotten. Here is her little tray to keep her herbal teas organized, that we made last October.
Our first big project, finished three years ago to the day, was this cedar-topped table for Marie and Levi. It has served them well in three houses now and shows hardly a scratch in the polyurethane topcoat. No wobbles either.
The big pile of parts has been assembled and all that remains to do is to sand and finish. I got the general design from the July/August 1995 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. Felix Marti, the author of the article, made use of lots of identical parts - four identical legs, four shelves, several feet of molding that just had to be chopped to various lengths - to make for a quick and simple project. We dispensed with the formica shelf covering and used pegs through inserts rather than screws, but followed the directions in the article for the most part. The router jig for making dadoes that Felix designed served us well and was easier than cutting them on the table saw.
Big pile of parts for a shoe rack we are making for Marie. The four plywood shelves have holes in the corners for inserts that will accept dowels pinned through the legs. Trim pieces will cover the edges of the shelves. This project will rival Lars' rocker for most pieces, though it is much less complicated to build. We have materials available to make a second smaller one once this one is complete.
Last time I was in town we built this little utility box to hold bolts, nuts and screws. I took it to my boat and it has been very convenient. I need a few more.
We built a couple of these step stools a while back, dimensioned to use 3 linear feet of 1x12 apiece. This one is slightly smaller, dimensioned to use a small piece of oak left over from another project. Using mostly machine tools, we built this one in not much more than an hour one afternoon.
The teak first aid box got hardware today, and then a final, rubbed-on coat of poly.
The companionway steps we modified a few weeks ago are now installed in the boat. They will make it a lot easier and safer getting in and out of the cabin.
Most of what we have done lately has been related to the boat. We have stripped and started refinishing the main boom, built a mast spreader to replace one that had rotted, and started work on a trim piece for the companionway cover.
Joe built this small Japanese toolbox out of teak. We still have a bit of it left from the old garden furniture that Graham gave Joe a while back. If I ever find a source for salvaged teak, I will take all I can get. It is easy to work, strong, impervious to rot; the only drawback is that it doesn't adhere well with regular yellow glue, so we have had to learn to use epoxy.
Joe commented on how he looked back over the site and was amazed at how much production we had completed since we started the shop in September of 2013. Considering that this is only a hobby for either of us, and we can only give it a few hours a week, I have to agree.
A great day in the shop. First, the pleasure of seeing my dear friends Marcia and Joe, after a long absence. Second, starting and completing a project that will make my recently-acquired boat safer and more comfortable.
For the most part, my Alberg 35 Terry Ann is well-designed and easy to get around. But the entrance through the companionway and down the ladder to the cabin sole leaves a lot to be desired. As built, the first step down from the cockpit, through the companionway to the top of the motor casing, was 20 inches deep, then there were two steps down from there, each 16 inches. That first 20 inches is yet to be resolved, but today we rebuilt the motor cover to add a step so now there are three steps, each just under 11 inches. This was a priority since I slipped off a step a few days ago and took a painful fall. The project involved unbolting the bottom step and moving it down, then building a new one out of oak to go between the top and bottom. With Joe and I each working on different parts, we managed to complete this job in one afternoon.
I am going to paint the whole assembly white for visibility and add non-skid material to the top of the steps. For the drop from the companionway to the top of the motor case I will probably install steel brackets with a wooden step.
If all goes as planned, I will take ownership of a 50 year old boat in a few days and begin a refit. Having the right tools should make the job go easier. My boat toolbox already contains a big Estwing claw hammer, but a wooden mallet is better for some jobs. So we made one. The Estwing is a bit large to get into some corners, so we rehandled a small rock hammer from the old tool bin. I expect it will get some use.
We are in the finishing stage of the box to hold first aid supplies on my boat. The box is made of teak salvaged from old lawn furniture, and the initial coat of finish is a two-part epoxy sealer.
Another crate made from scrap material. This one is to keep some toys around my house for when Lars comes to visit.
Marcia's daughter Val is an adept scavenger and has brought us many pieces of broken-down furniture that we have either fixed or parted out. Val is generous with everyone, and recently found a set of fireplace implements to give a friend who needs them. Joe decided to make the gift even better by building a rack to hang them. All it is lacking is a little sanding and finish.
We finish most things in oil-based polyurethane, and I wondered how it would hold up to the heat from a fireplace. I found the following in American Woodworker, October 1998, page 22 - "Oil-based polyurethane is one of the most heat-resistant brushable finishes...The ones to avoid are the thermoplastic finishes such as shellac, lacquer and wax."
Graham gave us some teak garden furniture that was too far gone to restore, so we parted it out for other projects. We took a pile of slats from a table and sorted out the best and flattest to make into a first aid box for my next boat. First we went through and removed old fasteners and then washed it all down with TSP to get rid of years of grime and soot from sitting outdoors. After a good rinsing we let it sit for a few days to dry, and then I went to work with the plane, removing all the gray outside wood and getting down to good solid heart.
The clean, dimensioned slats had to be glued up to get larger pieces for the sides of the box. I read up on working with teak on the internet, and found that the reliable yellow glue that we use on almost everything is not suited for glueing teak. The wood is too oily, and epoxy works much better. The local big box builders' supply had about ten varieties of fast-setting epoxy but none of the slow-setting kind that I needed, so I ordered some from Amazon. I'm getting closer and closer to just ordering from Amazon first and cutting the local retailers out.
With epoxy in hand we started glueing up. The resin and hardener have to be mixed in correct proportion, and the wood joints need to be cleaned with acetone to lift oil off the surfaces before the epoxy is buttered on. Then the joints are lined up and pressed together, but not clamped hard like with yellow glue. After we did a few joints and got used to it, we found the epoxy easy to use. We had a failure or two, probably due to me mixing wrong or forgetting to clean with acetone, but in the end we had good solid parts to use. After we trimmed them to size, we tried breaking the trimmings and found that they generally broke across the wood, not across the glue joint.
The parts were used to build a cube the size of the finished box. Next step will be to saw all the way around the cube to detach the top from the body. Then we will add some internal corner posts and support slats for a tray to go in one end. After that, it will just be a matter of putting on an finish and adding hardware, but that is still probably a few weeks in the future.
Marie asked us to make a little tray to hold her collection of herbal teas. We had some ambrosia maple from Wall Lumber, and decided to use some of it for this project. It turned out quick and easy for something that looks good, and we'll probably do several more for the firemans' auctions. It's interesting how things have evolved. We started off making things for young people moving into their first homes, to keep them away from cheap press-board furniture, but now that everyone we know is equipped, we are making mostly items to donate for the auctions - plus Little Free Libraries.
Finally, I've installed the fourth Little Free Library that has come out of the woodshop. This one is now in the yard of friends in Walkertown, NC. I hope their neighborhood uses theirs as much as ours uses ours. This library is perched on a cut-off tree, I really like this look.
A small box that Joe built out of resawn wood from a section of scrap 2x4.
Several pieces got polyurethane coats today. In the front, Graham's bookshelf, behind that, a side table in cedar and a Seller's bench, and in the back, a couple of small boxes and a tea holder that Marie asked us to make for her.
Graham gave Joe a board of some kind of exotic wood that we have not been able to identify. Joe used it to build a Sellers bench. This is the natural color of the wood finished in polyurethane - not stained.
There's nothing like a set of big pipe clamps to make an easy job of glueing up a big project. Graham has given us his on indefinite loan, and the first use we put them to was glueing up an oaken bookshelf that Joe is building for him.
While I have been gone looking at a boat for the last week, Joe has been working. He finished the last details on the old teak garden chair that we have been repairing for a while, and put a coat of teak oil on it. I think it came out exceptionally well for something that was little more than salvage a month ago.
A couple more of Joe's recent projects. In the front, a crate to store and carry picnic supplies for the burn survivors' group. Behind, a cedar coffee table similar to the one we recently built for Marie.
This is the old teak garden chair we have been working on. It was built with a lot of mortises, screws and resorcinol glue, which was state of the art for outdoor furniture in the 1960s. Most of the glue joints have failed, and the tenons are loose in the mortises due to wood shrinkage. Wherever we can easily get joints apart, we are re-glueing with epoxy after sanding the surfaces and cleaning with acetone.
I took a fair amount of equipment off my boat when I sold it, and storing it all in my small condominium is going to be a trick. One thing that will help is to have plenty of stackable 16x20 crates. Here are two recent ones. "Boat Crate #1" contains a battery Charger, spotlight, canvas bucket, 120 volt fan, battery powered fan, battery powered work light, 120 volt heater, 30 amp to house power adapter, socket set, sheath knife, battery cell filler and 8 flares. "Boat Crate #2" is ready to pack.
This cedar box was one of Joe's solo projects last year, and after it sat around for a while he decided to donate it to a charity auction to raise money for the firefighters. It sold for a hundred and fifty dollars! It's a good feeling to know that people value the things we make.
We spent most of the afternoon working on crates. I sold my boat last week and have a lot of loose stuff from the lockers to store in my house until I get my next boat, so I am in need of several large 16x20 crates. The one pictured in glue-up is a smaller one, 16x10, that we started a while back. We completed one large crate today and have the parts cut out for another.
We came on an old teak garden chair that is in pretty bad shape, but almost any teak is worth trying to save. Most of the joints are loose but the main issue is one of the back posts is broken at the rail. We decided to epoxy the post at the break and reinforce it with a scarf. Here Joe is tracing out the shape of the scarf after we have inlaid it into the post. We will epoxy it in place and keep our fingers crossed that it will be strong.
Joe built this chessboard and box last week while I was at the coast. Next he will make pieces to go with it. I saw some pawns and rooks that he turned on the lathe and thought they looked good, but he wasn't satisfied and wants to try cutting some out on the jigsaw. Either way is going to be a lot of time and work. That's true of most things worth doing.
Val found this old slide leaf table somewhere. It looked bad, covered in grime and rust, but when we started cleaning it up we found that the enamel top was still in good shape. We had to replace some wooden parts and sand a lot of rust, but eventually got it in shape. The old sliding mechanism was too far gone for us to fix on one leaf, but we got the other working tolerably well. Joe painted the legs and wooden base and made it look good cosmetically.
This old dresser has been in the shop for a long time, used to store small tools and supplies. Joe recently picked up two old file cabinets on rollers that will be good to store that kind of thing, so we decided to clean the old dresser up, repair it and give it to Lars. New drawer bottoms and back made it solid, and we added stops to the drawers so Lars doesn't pull them all the way out of their slots. We can't get much of a read on this old thing. It's crudely constructed and the sides make it look like the whole thing was cut in two at one time. It's either a home-made job or from the lowest of low end brands from its time. But it's wood, no pressboard, and it is still better than cheap Wal-Mart furniture. No ornamentation of any kind, but Marie likes the leaf-shaped pulls - clocked, as you see - we learned that from Chris.
We've been building a lot of trays and crates lately. I personally don't like plastic or cardboard boxes for storage so we came up with the idea of building wood crates in full, 16x20 inch, half, 10x16, and quarter, 8x10, footprints. That makes them easily stackable. These two low crates or trays are 10x16, built to Joe's design to utilize die board for light duty requirements. Here one tray holds my rope and canvas supplies and the other holds sharpening tools. Joe has built several to non-standard dimensions to custom fit available space in their new camper van.
Joe has been helping friends Graham and Judy clear out their old family home and move to a new house that will be easier for them to keep up. In exchange, Graham has given Joe his vintage Shopsmith, a multi-use woodworking machine. Joe set it up in its lathe configuration and has experimented with it, making a knob for a box. I told him he could make me some ash fids if he was looking for a project.
And the next project is - a sliding leaf enameled table that Val found on the side of the road. It looked pretty bad at first but the top cleaned up nicely with just a damp cloth. We replaced some of the woodwork and moved the hardware over, but the metal slides are in bad shape. Joe is going to try sandblasting them. If we actually get the mechanism to work, I'm going to suggest going full bore on fixing this piece up, painting the steel legs in glossy black and the wooden frame in appliance white. That ought to give it a real 50s vintage look.
These tables were popularized by Ingram-Richardson of Beaver Falls, PA in the 1930s. The company specialized in enameled products, mainly auto license plates, but they had a major sideline in household items which they marketed as "Porceliron." Ingram-Richardson remained in business into the mid 1960s.
In the background is another Little Free Library, the fourth to be built in Joe's basement shop.
This is the third little free library out of the woodshop, placed in High Point NC with friends who feel as strongly about the need to encourage reading as we do. We hope that it brings as much satisfaction as ours. Another little free library is in the works for friends near Walkertown NC.
A friend gave Joe this old finger-jointed box. Most of the joints were loose but nothing was broken. We started by brushing off as much of the dirt as we could and then scrubbing with a heavy solution of Murphy's Oil Soap. We soaked the hinges in penetrating oil and then started re-glueing joints. One narrow slat from the bottom of the tray was missing and Joe will have to make a replacement.
I will be away from the shop for a few weeks. Check back in late June to see how the renovation of this old box comes out.
Joe put another coat of poly on Marie's coffee table and I took it home with me to have it ready to deliver this weekend. What can I say, it came out way better than I expected. I was afraid the lines were too blocky and primitive, but it looks good in my simply furnished living room. It will look just as good in Marie and Levi's living room, I'll wager.
Joe installed Betsy's Little Free Library a few days ago at the school where Betsy used to teach. Another friend had asked for one but changed her mind, so that library will go to one of Joe's cohorts in the burn survivors group. And a 4th library will go to another group member.
Lars is hard on furniture and Marie's coffee table is showing signs of coming apart at the joints, so we decided to build her a new one. I am going out of town for several weeks, so I designed something that we could build quickly, and make strong enough to stand up to a growing boy. To make up for the nondescript lines and simple joinery, we used heavily figured yellow pine, much of it salvaged from an old shed in West Salem, for material. The top is glued up of four pieces, and the legs are laminated one by twos to make them two inches square. The shelf is made from two lengths cut out of a nice board that we picked up at Wall Lumber recently. There are battens under the top that rest on rabbets on the legs and are pegged to the top. The legs are also pegged to the top. The shelf is glued into dadoes on the inside edges of the legs.
All the material had to be planed. The West Salem boards were filthy and surfacing them dulled a couple of planes, but I've gotten pretty good and fast at putting a fresh edge on them. After surfacing, we cut them to width on Joe's table saw and then resawed them to 1 inch thickness for the top. The legs were also cut on the table saw, with the dadoes done on the arm saw. The peg holes in the top were drilled on the press and the ones in the legs and battens with a contractor hand drill. Final fitting was done with the bench planes and, after glue-up, edges were broken with the bull-nose plane and sand paper. Joe hit the completed table with the orbital sander, and then we put on a first coat of Minwax poly. We'll put another coat on later in the week and I can deliver the table to Marie, Levi and Lars this weekend, leaving me free to head for the coast.
I photographed this bench on board the replica Susan Constant at Jamestown earlier today. The uprights are tenoned into the top and the stretcher is tenoned through the uprights and held in place with pins. The bench could probably be taken down and stored flat. The whole Jamestown reconstruction is full of interesting old pieces like this one.
One more look at the hickory Sellers bench that Joe built, with his second cedar one in the background.
The shop is a quiet place where you can work on your own project and think about things. Joe and Paul are there so it's a safe place, but they are working on their own projects and aren't bugging you about what you are doing. Now and then they ask you to help spread glue and screw down clamps, but mostly they just leave you alone. It's a pretty good place to be.
When you find a good design, stick to it. Joe has built another Sellers Bench, this one in cedar, number 4 to come out of the woodshop. It's all done except for a few coats of polyurethane finish, which will bring out the color.
I made this a while back at home. It is a simple lamp made from an LED, a battery and holder, gravity switch, some wire and a baby food jar, from instructions posted online by David Bakker. No resistor needed as the battery voltage matches the LED. In his native Dutch, this is a draailampje. I'm thinking that it would be easy to make LED lamps with toggle switches on wood bases.
As promised, here is the charter number for Marcia's Little Free Library - 37413.
My great-grandfather's table is now in its new home, the bedroom of my condominium in Winston-Salem. The central leaf is in storage, and in its place is a temporary leaf with a well for my sewing machine. I think anyone doing serious canvas work would want a table like this.
It will be a pleasure to live with this table for a while, that I can remember from 50 years ago in the kitchen of my grand-parents' house in New Orleans. Then I will pass it on to some member of the next generation. I think it's good for at least another 100 years.
Marcia's Little Free Library is completed and installed. The registration process has started and I'll post the number here when it comes back from Little Free Library, Ltd., the small group of staff and volunteers that coordinates and supports the many individuals who set up the libraries. The trend in Little Free Libraries seems to be toward colorful and ginger-bready, so we are bucking it with our very simple and utilitarian structures. The sponsors, Marcia and Betsy, are both long-time Appalachian Trail hikers and maintainers, and we decided to model their libraries on the classic three-sided trail shelters found all along the trail. Lots of construction adhesive, nails, screws and external poly finish should help them hold up to the weather.
Joe finished his Sellers bench in hickory, the third to this design to come out of the shop. I believe he plans to donate it to the fireman's benefit sale.
This old Robbins table has been in my mother's family for perhaps 130 years. My grandfather gave it a refit some 60 years ago, replacing a missing leaf with a screwed-in center section and strengthening the underpinning, but of late it has gotten too wobbly to depend on. I brought it home from Florida a while back and now we are working at getting it back in shape for another few decades. We can easily rework the sockets that hold the legs in place, which will make it solid again. First, though, we are putting in a second replacement for the leaf, this one with a well to accomodate my Singer sewing machine. I will then have a perfect sewing table for large canvas projects. The old center section will go in storage until I pass the table on to the next person. I hope Rennie or Ryan,or one of Hugh's grandchildren, will take it some day.
Faith came downstairs and made her killer whale balsa kit that I gave her a while back and then put a coat of poly on it. Since she is such a good model builder I will have to find her another, maybe a boat or plane.
Joe has been working on another Sellers bench, this one out of hickory. We glued it up tonight. We bought the wood a couple of years ago to make tools but never used much. I hadn't even taken a close look at it, so I was pleasantly surprised with the grain and coloration that showed up in the bench. According to Joe, it wasn't too hard to work, using machines.
Lars finally got to try out his rocking chair and I think he likes it. This was perhaps the most ambitious project we have tried, certainly in the number of parts and joints, but using Joe's new table and radial arm saws made it manageable. It came out pretty good, but each rocker has a short flat section in the center, so that it doesn't have the perfectly smooth rocking motion that it should. This is because when I laid out the rockers, I tried to put them close to the edge of the stock, thinking it would make them easier to cut out. The result was flats where the rocker intersected the edge of the stock. We worked on evening out the curves but never got them quite right. We'll know next time - though Joe says we'll never build another one.
Payday! For Joe and me, the payoff of several work sessions is three projects completing about the same time, all getting coats of finish. A second coat for Lars' rocker, and first coats for two peg racks and two step stools. I didn't really have it in mind at the time, but the Sellers Bench was clearly an inspiration for the step stool design. My first concern was for stability, so I made the tread a full 9 inches wide, with a base that flared out to 11 1/2 inches. A second concern was efficient use of material - the project can be made from 36 inches of 1 x 12, hence two from one 6 foot board. The tread is 18 inches long, and the length ripped off to bring it down to 9 inches wide makes the stringer. The legs are 8 3/4 inches tall. So, top and stringer, 18 inches, 2 legs at 8 3/4 inches, leaves a half inch to square the end of the board and allow for kerfs. The lines of the Sellers Bench are apparent in the shape of the legs and the stringer extending through them. This was a quick, simple project that will provide a safe and useful step for reaching high cabinets in the kitchen. One of them will go to my friend Susan and the other probably to the upcoming fireman's benefit sale that the burn survivors group puts on. Personally, I think these would look nice in some better wood, maybe cedar, walnut or maple, and maybe we will make more in the future.
The rocking chair for Lars that we started last November is finally constructed. All that remains is finishing, which will be satin polyurethane. We worked to plans I found in an old Fine Woodworking magazine, but even so it was a tricky job getting all the parts to fit. This is the most complex project we have tried, and also the first piece of furniture we built from published plans. It's all salvage pine except the rockers which are ash. I'm looking forward to going through the old magazines while I am at the coast and picking out some more things to make.
This cedar filebox finally got hardware. Joe built it a while back out of panelling scrap. The cedar scrap is almost used up, but maybe there is enough cypress scrap left to build another.
We had the Minwax out to coat Sally's bookshelf - finally completed - and Joe took the opportunity to brush some on this small cedar crate that he built some time ago.
This is what the completed and installed molding looks like. A little light sanding and a coat of poly will smooth it out.
The first step in making a thumbnail molding is to run a long kerf along one side of the stick, about 3/16ths of an inch deep and a half inch back from the edge. This forms the back wall for a shallow rabbet. Then the edge of the rabbet is rolled over with a plane and sandpaper. The result is a traditional thumbnail molding that looks good on the kind of simple furniture we build. This one will go on the bookcase in the background.
Joe designed and built this useful and interesting rack of crates for Marcia, who always can use more storage. He says it will be one of a kind, because glueing and bradding all the slats in place is not a task he wishes to take on again.
We're getting close to completion on Lars' rocking chair and Sally's bookshelf, so it's time to start thinking about the next project. We still have plenty of cedar, some old yellow pine, die board, and lots of small scraps that could be used for boxes or trays.
Finally back in the shop. We put in a long evening working on Sally's bookshelf and Lars' rocking chair.
Joe's burn survivors group had their annual craft and bake sale to raise money for the firemen. We don't sell any of our work, but we have no qualms about donating it, and Joe built several things to donate for the sale. Most notably, a Sellers-pattern bench, which quickly sold for $75. Somebody got a deal, I'd say.
Joe read my last post and pointed out that the rocking chair has not 14 but 18 blind mortises. Last night we cut a few more of them, fitted tenons and finished glueing up the back, glued up the seat frame, and cut and shaped 15 slats for the seat.
The rocking chair for Lars will have 14 blind mortises, which would take us weeks to cut by hand, so we decided to cut them with Joe's plunge router. First we had to buy a new ridiculously expensive 3/8ths inch bit, but after that moment of pain everything went fairly well. We built a temporary jig and fence to hold the work in place, then I laid out the mortises on the top and bottom rails and Joe cut them. The first one was a bit of trouble until we waxed down the jig surfaces, and then the router slid easily through the cuts. We got the 6 mortises for the top and bottom rails cut in one session.
The 3/8ths inch back slats fit right into their mortises after a little rounding and shaping with a pocket knife and chisel, but most of the other joints called for shouldered tenons. We cut them on the sliding miter saw. They will take a little hand work to fit into their mortises, but it shouldn't be too difficult. Three or four more evenings of work and this project should be ready for finishing.
After building a number of crates, boxes and trays recently, we were ready to dive into a bigger project. I found a plan for a child's rocking chair in an old copy of Fine Woodworking, and we decided to make one for Lars. The plan shows an intimidatingly large number of parts and joints, but so far it is going well. The rockers will take the most stress, so we cut them out of an ash board left over from making the Moxon vise. We were able to lay them out around a natural eye in the wood, so the arc of the cut pieces follows the natural curvature of the grain. Joe, with his jigsaw proficiency, did most of the work, cutting the complex bends and then laboriously rasping and sanding the two pieces to make them identical.
The other pieces are cut out of salvage pine. Joe dimensioned them on his new circular saw during the last week. I lofted the lines for the curved parts from the plans and laid them out on the wood, and between the two of us, we cut out most of them in an evening's work. A few more pieces to cut, and we will be ready to start making the mortise and tenon joints. The mortises we can do on Joe's plunge router, and the tenons on the circular saw.
Maybe this project is not so intimidating after all.
Even though Marcia and Paul looked at me kinda cross-eyed when I told them of this idea that I had ( it was just a pile of parts) I knew it would be an interesting piece, weathered and stained and beat up wood can be used to create attractive furniture. The contrasts in the mars and stains are muted but under the poly finish, they come to life. And it was salvaged from the outdoor pile of wood, in other words - free.
Since Joe got his new radial arm saw, he has been experimenting with angles. One result is this octagonal tray, in maple salvaged from an old broken magazine rack. The wood was originally coated in hard, black lacquer that was practically impervious to the orbital sander, so Joe resawed it on his table saw to find beautiful golden maple underneath.
I thought it would be interesting to find out what wood like this would cost in small quantities. The Rockler website lists hard maple by the piece, a 1/2" X 3" X 48" to make the sides at $16.99, and a 1/2" X 3" X 24" to glue up for the bottom at $8.99, for a total of $25.98, plus shipping, so say $30 plus for the basement "craftsman" to get enough for this project. Too much commerce seems designed to take advantage of clueless consumers with more money than sense. We'll continue picking up our hard maple off the side of the road.
Here is the second of the 16 x 20 crates. The rough outer wood make it look like it is a hundred years old, but the staples are a dead giveaway that it is modern.
By the way, the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show is this weekend, October 17-18, on the waterfront in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Joe had some small cedar offcuts from the Sellers bench he built, so he used them for a small crate. I really like its design, with the slats on the back of the corner posts on the ends, and the nicely radiused upper brace that serves as a handle. It reminds me of the Boarded Scandinavian Tool Chest that Chris Schwarz recently turned up.
It's funny to think about how involved we have gotten lately in making crates, the simplest, fastest and easiest form of woodworking. To some degree, I think it is due to my innate distaste for plastic, and desire to replace plastic storage bins with wooden crates. Part of it is also due to a couple of crates Joe made a while back, one of which is now Lars' toy box. I was much taken with the way the plank ends staggered row by row, which added to the strength and appearance of the finished product.
Lars has accumulated so many toys that he needs a bigger toy box, so we decided to make him another crate to the same design, but considerably larger capacity. After pondering over it, I decided to dimension the crate to 16 x 20 and let the height be a function of the size of the slats we had available. The idea was that by standardizing on a 16 x 20 footprint, they could be made stackable, and 10 x 16 versions could be made and stacked as well.
A while back my company bought a massive die cutter from Germany, and I was able to salvage some of the packing material. From this, we ripped out 3 x 5/8 inch slats on Joe's new table saw. We glued up material for a bottom from leftover scrap and cut corner posts, likewise from scrap. Then we built up the crate, glueing and stapling each course. We cut hand-holds in the top course on Joe's new scroll saw.
The result was a heavy, sturdy, capacious box that should serve Lars for years to come. We liked it a lot, so we built another. We have enought slats to build two of the 10 x 16 version as well. Then we may build some from die-board, maintaining the 16 x 20 and 10 x 16 dimensions so they will be stackable.
This little project used up most of our remaining stock of cypress. I'll be looking for a place to buy more at the coast, otherwise we can get it at Wall Lumber. At the woodshop, we consider cypress to be one of the finest woods available to us. The swirling grain and deep, golden hue provide a lot of visual interest. The wood itself is easy to work, light and durable, perfect for building small boxes and trays. It's not as strong as oak or maple, but sturdy enough for items with designed-in strength, like my Japanese toolbox, and its resistance to rot makes it perfect for things going into a marine environment. The main woods we work with are cypress, cedar, poplar and pine.
I've only gotten by the shop a time or two recently, but Joe has stayed busy. He built a second Sellers bench. Joe likes dramatic color contrasts and grain patterns, so he picked a plank with lots of sapwood and figure for this project. He is considering donating this bench for the annual firemen's benefit that his burn survivors group puts on every year.
Joe has collected some new power tools lately and we used them to knock out the parts for a tray that I plan to give to Susan for her birthday this weekend. Joe enjoys working with the power tools, I much prefer hand tools, so we will probably do some of each going forward.
This little bench is built after one that Paul Sellers designed for use in his woodworking classes. He used sliding dovetails to attach the top, whereas we used simple dadoes. Otherwise, as close as I can tell, we used the same construction. Paul built his out of cherry, ours is of eastern red cedar, a wood that we enjoy using because it is easy to work, beautiful, durable and in good supply. The joinery on ours is of indifferent quality, but the finish is a step up from what we have done before. We rubbed in seven coats of Minwax Wipe-On Poly, let it set up for a week and then cut it with 4 aught steel wool and wax. Afterward we put a couple of coats of wax on it and called it done. Even with a couple of gaps in the joints, it is rock solid due to Paul Sellers' simple but masterful design, based on time-tested woodworking principles.
Joe made this simple utility box for Marcia. He's not sure what she plans to use it for, but I noted that it looked like it would hold 12 bottles of wine. Joe's new Porter-Cable jigsaw makes jobs like cutting the hand-holds much easier.
The second little free library is well on its way. Joe has been perusing the photographs at littlefreelibrary.org to get ideas for his own design, for the one he wants to make for the firefighters' benefit.
Betsy asked if we would build a little free library for her to put up at the school where she used to teach, and Marcia has long wanted one of these things to go out in front of her house, so we drew up a plan and bought enough material to make two. The general appearance will be of a three-sided trail shelter with a plexiglass panel on the front to keep the rain out. The construction is of die-board panels with one inch furring strips glued and nailed to the outside to simulate log construction. There will be an overhanging roof with a wide eave in the front.
Since I had to work month-end close last week, Joe cut out all the parts himself and finished a good deal of the construction of Marcia's. When I got over there last night we started planking up the one for Betsy using the methods Joe had developed building Marcia's. It's all going easily enough that Joe is considering building a third to sell at the auction the burn survivor's group does each year to benefit the firemen.
Joe never really believed that a computer and hard drives would fit in this little box, but here is photographic proof. On the right, my Shuttle stands in its compartment, and in the racks to the left are a terabyte backup drive on the top shelf, two 500 gig drives back to back on the second shelf, and a repurposed internal drive from an old machine with an ide to usb adapter on the bottom shelf. A four-port powered usb hub is velcroed in front of the shuttle and cabled to the Shuttle's front usb port. This box has helped me get a handle on the clutter of cables snaking around my desk, and given me a safe place to store my multiple drives. It's a prime example of the kind of thing we can make that looks better and is more solid than anything we could buy.
When Marie and Levi got their first apartment, we built them a small tool tote so they could keep all their tools in one place. One of Marie's friends saw it and asked if we could build one for her to give her father. We readily agreed. The tool tote is one of the simplest and most useful things we can built for the home. Last night we finished the sides and handle, and dry-fitted them before glueing up. In the background is another tote that Joe built a while back.
We delivered Marie and Levi their kitchen table in March 2014. When I visited them last weekend I took a good look to see how it was faring. After 15 months of heavy use, there is hardly a scratch in it and all the joints are tight. Incoming groceries are stacked on this table, meals are eaten on it, the baby has been changed on it, it is dragged out into the living room most weekends for D&D games. It was our first big project at Joe's basement woodshop and took us three months to build. We made plenty of mistakes but everything came out ok in the end.
Computers are getting smaller and more modularized. My desktop machine is about the size of a hardcover book, and other than one little internal SATA SSD for booting and frequently used files, the hard drives are all external, connecting via USB. I needed a rack to hold the computer, the drives and a powered hub, so Joe and I built one. We finished it tonight, glueing a mortised face on the front as an alternative to making stopped dadoes for the shelves. We'll finish it with clear poly and then I'll put it into service. The computer will go on the tall side while the drives and hub will go on the shelves. The holes in the side are to let heat out.
I read and enjoyed Walker and Tolpin's "By Hand and Eye", so when Lost Art Press announced that their new book, "By Hound and Eye" was available as a drm-free pdf download, I immediately purchased it. The first book concerned the history and theory of traditional layout using natural measures and trigonometric methods. The new one promised to add practice.
What I found was a bit unexpected - "By Hound and Eye" is not really a comic book, but it is drawn and it involves two characters, Journeyman and his hound, Snidely. Trust me, it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. The characters are fairly unobtrusive and the authors don't waste too much time over them. Ten pages into this 193 page book they are already listing and describing the minimal toolset needed to draw and lay out work using traditional methods. You need a straightedge, a pair of dividers, a compass, a sector and some string. I would say that the back of your sector serves perfectly well as a straightedge, and you only need the string if you are going to swing some really big arcs, so truthfully you can get started with just dividers, compass and sector.
Most woodworkers would already have dividers and a compass, but a sector is another story. You can't buy one at Amazon, or Ebay, or Rockler, or Veritas, or Lee-Nielson - but you can make one in a few minutes. Which is a good thing, since a sector is at the heart of the applied trigonometry used in traditional design and layout. Chris Schwarz has a famous video on the internet called "How to Make a Sector from a Crappy Folding Rule", and Oldwolf will show you how to make one from two sticks of maple.
I know my Euclid, and like most sailors, applied trig has been an interest for years, and I have read many articles and books about traditional layout methods, including the aforementioned "By Hand and Eye", but I never really progressed past the "by Jove, that's fascinating" stage until I picked up "By Hound and Eye". I read the book in one sitting, and the next day, after work, proceeded to the basement. Joe is a most agreeable shop partner, and when I suggested that we build a couple of sectors, he proved amenable - despite the fact that he hadn't a clue what they were. As we worked, I explained the principles of the sector, and by the time we finished them, he was, if not enthusiastic about the idea of traditional design and layout, at least accepting that this was something I wanted to explore.
With a completed sector in hand, I started drawing up a project that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. I need an atlas stand, one with a slanted top that is big enough to hold my National Geographic Eighth Edition Atlas of the World, as well as all my slightly smaller Rand McNallys, Comptons, Medallions and so forth. Walker and Tolpin like to work in natural dimensions - hands, arms, navels - but they're not doctrinaire, and neither am I. My atlas table would be scaled around my biggest atlas. The Nat Geo measures, open, 24 1/2 inches wide and 18 1/2 inches tall. That suggested easy nine inch modules and a table width of three modules (27 inches) and depth of two and a third modules (21 inches). The table itself would be four modules (36 inches) tall at the front, which falls comfortably between 1/2 and 5/8 of my own height, the range that Walker and Tolpin suggest for a stand-up table. The table top would be hinged at the front and slant upward on a pegged support, the spacing of the peg holes easily determined using the law of cosines. The base, patterned after a trestle table, would have a hefty 2/3 of a module (six inch) cross member to make it sturdy. Using the sector, dividers, compass and back of the sector for a straightedge, I finished up a front view in my spare time at work. Tomorrow I should be able to do the side view, and then, once we clear the decks of some outstanding projects, we can start right in on the atlas stand. I'm thinking cedar would look nice.
If you have been pondering the sector, but aren't sure exactly how you would use one, or if you have a nagging interest in applied trigonometry, or just an antiquarian bent, I suggest you mosey over to the Lost Art Press site and pick up a copy of "By Hound and Eye." The print book is available for pre-order at $20, which entitles you to an immediate download of the drm-free pdf, or, if you're like me and simply have no more room for print books, you can buy just the digital edition for $10. It's a quick download, instant gratification - what more could you ask for?
We finished making the parts for the Sellers-pattern bench last week and left them dry assembled and clamped over the weekend. That is something we did when we assembled Katie's treasure chest, and it seemed to help the wood settle into position before the final glue-up. Tonight we sanded everything but the top, first with 60 grit, then 120, and finally with 240 (no 180 on hand). Then we glued it up and left it sitting in the clamps. We found the cedar very thirsty, soaking up the glue, and I wonder if we should wet down the joints in the future. I'll have to research it.
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