New Lumber Rack

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a Port a Mate lumber rack on clearance for $20.00 at a local Lowe’s. Even though at the time, redoing my lumber area wasn’t top on my list, the price of the rack (originally $70) was too good to pass up.

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My lumber area was basically trashed and had been for several years. I’d clean it up every once in awhile, but it always ended up being a catch all for junk I had lying around. The shelves I used for storing lumber was made from 2×4’s I built from a plan I saw in Shop Notes years ago. They did the job for the most part, but it still wasn’t very organized for storing my lumber. My wife, Anita, was glad I bought the lumber rack because she was sick of looking at the mess.

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After Anita helped me clean up the area, I bought some Dry Lock mold inhibitor paint and we painted both the back and side walls. Then we painted white latex paint on top of it. I moved the cabinet that stored my finishes over closer to my work bench and moved the shelving rack from the back wall to the side. This gave me room to store a full sheet of plywood if I ever needed. I didn’t want the lumber rack to hang off my block wall because I was afraid the added weight may damage the foundation so, I notched out 2×4’s at the top and screwed them to the floor joists. I let the 2×4’s “hang” from the floor joist, then screwed one screw at the bottom of the grey block using plastic wall anchors. I then simply screwed the lumber rack onto the 2×4’s.

As you can see, I use the just-in-time inventory system when it comes to buying lumber. I really don’t have that much lumber to begin with as I buy what I need every time I build something. Any remaining wood is scrap that I can never throw away. The biggest piece of lumber I have is a slab of 2″ thick cherry I bought a couple of years ago during the Longest Yard Sale. I’ve had plans to build something with it, just haven’t yet. Maybe now I will since I can finally get to the board.

 

Making a Bench from Dimensional Store Bought Lumber

When my wife Anita does shows, I’m always looking for something that I can make fairly quickly that she can sell in her booth to help pay for some of her fees. After helping her do shows over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that small benches are quite popular. They’re nice to stick out on front porches or foyers or even mud rooms. In fact, some people even use a bench as the seating for one side of their kitchen table.

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I designed this bench to be made from a 2″ x 12″ and a 2″ x 8″ that are eight feet long. However, if you change the dimension of the stretcher a little bit, it could be made form a 2″ x 12″ x 10′. The only issue doing that is you need to make sure your 2″ x 12″ x 10′ is choice wood with no splits at the end of the board because you’ll need nearly every inch of it. It doesn’t matter to me because I can’t fit a ten foot board in my car anyway, so I bought a 2″ x 12″ x 8′ and 2″ x 8″ x 8′ for under $20.00.

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The construction of the bench is super simple. I make the legs 9″ wide x 16″ long. I measure down 2 1/2″ from top and bottom on each side and use the lid from my garbage can to draw an arch connecting the two marks. Then I cut it off the arches on my band saw. I sanded the arches smooth on my oscillating spindle sander.

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The feet are 5″ wide x 10 3/4″ long. I draw a 1″ radius on both sides and remove the material with chisels, planes and files.

I want the bench to have four feet so I take two of the pads and cut grooves in them on my table saw. Once all the grooves are cut, I remove the waste with my bench router and plane everything smooth.

When designing the stretcher, I did nearly the same thing as the legs. I measured 2 1/2″ from each side and make a mark. Then I find the stretcher center and mark 2 1/2″ off each side of the center. I swing a compass set at a 12″ radius connecting the marks creating the arches for the stretcher.

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In order for the legs to attach tot the stretcher, I bored a 1″ x 4″ mortise through the legs with a 1″ forstner bit and cleaned it up with chisels. The tenons I cut on the table saw and band saw and cleaned them up with my rabbet plane.

After all the parts are sanded, I dry fitted everything together to make sure the bench looked right. I wanted the tenons to have a mechanical fastener along with the glue, so I drilled two 1/4″ holes through the side of the legs going through the tenons.

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I grabbed some scrap oak and split a few splitters of wood with a chisel. The pins run down the grain making them exceptionally stronger since the grain follows the strength of the wood. I sized the pins by punching them through my Lie-Nielsen dowel plate. I shaved the pins a little bit with my spoke shave so they would start to fit through the 1/4″ hole of the dowel plate. Once the pin starts to fit in the hole, I pound the hell out of it.

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After I was satisfied with the way the bench stretcher fitted to the legs, I started gluing and screwing everything together, I placed glue of the pins and inserted them into the tenons of the bench. I didn’t bother draw boring the holes of the tenon. I was already satisfied with the tightness of the joint.

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The bench was painted a duck egg blue and waxed over top. The next bench I make will probably be a different color. Maybe a black or grey as neutrals are always popular.

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You can see the detail of the top where the scrub plane left little ridges in the wood giving the bench a bit of detail. It definitely looks better than having a plain board for the seat of the bench.

 

My 100th Post

Well this is my 100th post on my blog. I just want to thank all of you who find what I write interesting enough to subscribe to my blog. It was just six months ago when I told everyone that I had 100 followers. Today I have 175 and growing.

I started this blog because for years I’ve always wanted to write a book about restoring antique tools similar to Michael Dunbar’s book Cleaning, Restoring and Tuning Classic Woodworking Tools. It’s been out of print for years and I felt that the it was a side of woodworking that wasn’t paid enough attention to. However, sitting down and writing a book is for the birds as I don’t have the patience for that. I could however take a bunch of pictures of tools I was cleaning up, write about the processes and throw them on a blog. That’s why a lot of my posts are about old tools. I don’t know if I’ll ever write the book about restoring old tools though. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that Popular Woodworking is working on a second edition of Dunbar’s book.

I never thought I would ever get anything out of this blog. I mean sure it would be nice to have some advertising on the side of the page and make a little bit of money off of it. Hell, I’d use the money to pay for my golf league or take my wife out to dinner. But I’m not doing this trying to make a living or make a name for myself. For the most part, no one even knows who I am. I’ve never been mentioned on any other woodworking blogs like Chris Shwarz’s blog or The Wood Whisperer. So the fact that I have 175 followers after a couple of years isn’t half bad.

I did get a call from American Woodworker magazine editor Glen Huey a couple of weeks ago. As you may know, F+W Media which owns Popular Woodworking bought New Track Media a few months ago which owns American Woodworker. With the change over, Glen was appointed to be the editor of Am Wood. He contacted me asking if I would be interested in writing a few articles about making furniture from construction grade material like 2 x 8’s or cheap hardwood like poplar. He has read my blog and was impressed with some of the stuff I’ve been able to make with it and thought it might make a good article for the magazine. I jumped at the chance as writing for woodworking magazines has been a dream of mine ever since I was 11 years old when I bought issue #3 of Wood magazine. I ran down to the corporate office in Blue Ash, OH last week and met with Glen for about an hour. I’m in talks with him right now about some ideas of furniture I could make so, hopefully I’ll have a couple of articles under my belt by the end of the year.

CET Action Auction

It’s that time of year again. Time for my local PBS station to hold their Action Auction where they auction off a bunch of items from donors around the Cincinnati area. Nearly every year I donate a shaker style table to them. The first few years, I made these tables out of nice cherry, however, the past couple of years I decided to build them with southern yellow pine to save on the costs. I make these tables out of a single 2 x 8 x 8 I buy from Lowes for around $6.00. I wrote a blog about it a few months ago. http://wp.me/p1gfza-d2

I painted the table using chalk paint which is a limestone based paint that is popular among people who repurpose and paint antique furniture. The paint leaves a chalky feel on the surface and with a bit of sanding, gives the piece an aged look. My wife, Anita, stenciled the lettering on for me to give the table a little bit something extra.

As you can see, the joinery is extremely simple. The stretchers on the top and bottom of the drawers have mortise and tenon as well as dovetail joinery, but the sides are simply pocket screwed together. The table is not going to be under a tremendous amount of stress so I opted not to mortise and tenon the sides to the legs in order to save time.

The custom work is left for the drawers. They are put together with hand cut half blind dovetails, but you can’t really tell since the sides are painted. I probably spend more time cutting those dovetails than I do on the rest of the piece.

It’s a simple piece that will be a nice little accent table in someone’s living room or foyer. The Action Auction takes place in a couple of weeks and my table will be auctioned off sometime during the weekend. The table should do well since painted black furniture is really popular right now. Anytime I make a bookcase for my wife so that she can sell it in her booth, it sells within a week. All I know is that it’s fun to see my furniture on TV.  I really don’t get anything out of it other than a good feeling from helping out my local PBS station that continues to keep The Woodwright’s Shop on the air.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 5 – revisited

Well the bench is all done. I am really happy the way it has turned out. A few mistakes here and there but it’s just a workbench so in time it will be beaten to pieces anyway.

I finished up the base cutting through mortise and tenons through the front and back legs for the side stretchers. The front and back stretchers I cut slot dovetail joints so it won’t rack from front to back. No where on the bench (other than the top) did I use any glue. If and when I move out of my house, I need to be able to disassemble it and carry it out of my basement.

After the base was built I had to focus my attention back onto the legs. A couple of the legs split  down the sides as they were drying in my basement. I cut some 3/4″ thick butterfly keys out of red oak and pounded them into place. I then took some polyurethane glue and poured into the cracks to help stabilize the material. Honestly, I  don’t think the poly glue did anything other than make me feel better as I hear polyurethane glue doesn’t have any gap filling properties anyway.

On the bench leg that I installed my leg vise on, I needed to cut out and insert a southern yellow pine wedge. ACQ lumber is very corrosive to metal and because my leg vise hardware is made out of cast iron, I needed to insert a wedge so it wouldn’t corrode. I attached the wedge to the leg with wax coated screws designed for the ACQ lumber.

Once the bench was put together, I applied some deck stain to the base and then worked on the accessories like the crochet, the deadman, leg vise jaw and the drawer. On the curves of the crochet and deadman, I used my Stanley #113 circular plane. The plane’s bed can flex to a concave as well as a convex shape with the turning of a screw on top of the plane. I planed both sides of the crochet with ease however, you could also do this with an oscillating spindle sander if you don’t own one of these planes.


When I originally drew the bench, I didn’t incorporate a drawer. My old bench had a tool tray where I laid my bench dogs and hold fasts in. The tray worked fine but every time I planed or sawed something, the bench would rack and the tools in the tray would vibrate annoying me. It was only after I built the bench, that I realized that there was no way for this bench to rack, so I quickly built a drawer 12″ long x 3″ tall x 16″ deep. Even though in the picture the drawer looks like it’s in the way of the deadman, it can be pushed back so that the deadman can slide by.

I drilled 3/4″ holes down the front of the bench top for my bench dogs. In the back I drilled four 5/8″ holes to accommodate my hold fasts. I made they hold fasts while taking a blacksmith class from Don Weber in Paint Lick, KY in January. He showed me how to take an old car spring, heat it up, hammer it straight, then pound the pad and bend the curve to make a hold fast with incredible holding power. Spring steel hold fasts work far better than the cheap cast iron ones you find in woodworking stores because the steel has the ability to flex. The class was a lot of fun and Don is an honory gentleman filled with Welsh chair bodging and blacksmithing knowledge. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back to take his Tool Making for Woodworkers class in April.

After the bench was complete, I applied a coat of shellac to the top. It gave it some protection but also it raised the grain a little bit so that the top wouldn’t be so slick. Having a top with a little bit of grip is a good thing so tools won’t slide off.

Using the Emmert Pattermakers Vise

Some people say that owning a pattermaker vise for cabinet work is a little over kill as you will never really need all the versatility that the vise offers. I say, “it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”. Actually I have found one major advantage of using the vise.

Often the biggest disadvantage of building a bench that is designed low enough for planing is that when it comes to cutting joinery, the work piece is too low making it uncomfortable. Some woodworkers build a smaller bench that sits on top of the bench or simply switch over to a taller work bench when cutting joinery. Because the Emmert vise face can turn 360 degrees, I swing the jaws up making the the top of the jaws 38″ from the floor. Now it’s a lot easier on my back cutting dovetails.

I’m sure there is a lot more useful things I can do with this vise but I’ll need some more time to experiment to find out what they are. I plan on making chairs some day and the jaws ability to angle 10 degrees will come in handy when I’m working with tapered legs.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 4 – revisited

After I completed the assembly of the base I focused my attention on installing the Emmert Turtleback Patternmaker’s Vise. Called a turtleback because the front looks like a turtle’s shell, you can read more about these vises at http://www.mprime.com/Emmert The vise will be installed at the end of the bench so that I can use vise pins along with my bench dogs down the length of the bench.

The first thing I did is determine exactly where I wanted the vise to sit. I sat the vise upside down on my bench and traced around it. Next I took my circular saw and cut half way through following the traced lines, plunging the saw down where necessary. Then I flipped over the top, retraced the vise and repeated the saw cuts. I finished up using a jigsaw in the area the circular saw wouldn’t reach. Once the chunk of wood is removed I cleaned up the cuts with my belt sander.

Next I needed to mark out the area for the hub of the vise to lay on the underside of the bench top. The hub is 5 1/4″ in diameter by about 3 1/4″ deep. Since there was no reason to have a perfect fit, I marked out the hub 5 1/2″ in diameter by 3 1/2″ deep. I took my circular saw and cut saw kerfs by eye, chiseling out the waste with chisels and gouges. I imagine I could have created an elaborate jig to route out this area with a plunge router but it only took 20 minutes doing it by hand.

Now it was time to move on to the screw bar of the vise. The cutting process was the same as the hub. The bar was 2″ wide by 18″ long so my channel was 2 1/4″ wide x 20″ long. When the waste was chopped out, I cleaned up the bottom of the channel with my router plane. If you never had the opportunity to use one of these planes you owe it to yourself to buy one. It’s one of the those specialty planes that you don’t use that often but when you do, you’re glad you have it.

Once the bottom was complete, I flipped over the top and used my plunge router to route out the area where the vise plate sits on top of the bench. The plate is about 1/8″ thick so I routed out 3/16″ deep making the vise a 1/16″ shy from the top. When I finalize planing my top with my Stanley #4 smooth plane, the plate should be flush with the bench top. 

I screwed down the vise to the top using 3″ #14 wood screws. The screw in the middle of the plate is only 1 1/2″ long because of the hub directly underneath it. The only caveat I have is that I’m screwing into end grain where the plate forms a 90 degrees. The screws are tight but it’s not an ideal hold since end grain has very little grabbing power. If you install your vise on the side of your bench like most, you won’t have to worry about this.

After the vise was installed, I needed to locate where to position the swing lock down bar. I slapped some double sided turners tape on the bottom of the lock and stuck it where it would work the best. Once I determined where that was, I screwed it down with 1 1/2″ #14 wood screws.

Now I just need to make a handle that’s 7/8″ in diameter and finish up my bench. Stay tuned.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 3 – revisited

When I went to Woodworking in America Conference in Berea, KY last year I saw Roy’s Roubo bench. The bench’s back legs were splayed out because he had a tool tray at the back. When I went to shake the bench, it was a solid as a rock and I knew right there and then that I wanted to incorporate that feature into my bench even though I didn’t want a tool tray on my bench.

The legs of my workbench are made from 6 x 6 pressure treated post. I planed them down in a surface planer to about 5 1/4″ square as I wanted to remove as much of the wane form the post as I could. After surfacing them, I check to see how square the legs actually were. It turns out they weren’t square at all but rather each one was a rhombus. So I took each leg over to the jointer and squared one side to a face then returned to the planer to true them up to 5″ square.

I measured the back legs by laying a framing square flush to the top of the leg and measuring up 90 degrees to the top to mark where the leg hit 33 on the tape measure.

Now I was ready to cut them to length. The bench will be 33″ tall so the two front legs will be 33″ long since they will protrude through the top. I cut each leg using my circular saw flipping it at each pass and cleaning up the end using my low angle jack plane. I measured the back legs by laying a framing square flush to the top of the leg and measuring up 90 degrees to mark where the leg hit 33″ on the tape measure. I cut the leg to size with a pass on each side finishing up in the middle with a handsaw.

Back leg tenons are 2x 3x 4 long and are cut at a 20 degree angle. 

Bench top is upside down. Layout the mortises as accurately as possible.

I used a bevel gauge to align my drill and cut out the mortise with a 1 1/4 forstner bit. Drill half way through then flip the top over and finish.

I then laid out the tenons and cut them to size with my bandsaw finishing it up with my handsaw and chisels. Once I made the tenon I laid out the mortise on the bottom of my bench top. I used a 1 1/4″ forstner bit and drilled several holes at a 20 degree angle. Then I flipped the top over and finished the mortise from the other side. I pared to the line with chisels until the tenon slipped into the mortise with ease.

Once the back legs were cut, I laid out the rising dovetail on the front legs and cut to the lines using a back saw and trimmed to the line with a chisel. I then laid out the dovetailed mortise on the bottom and top of my workbench top and cut on the waste side of the line with a backsaw. Then I chopped away the center with chisels the same way you would chop out the waste material on a half blind dovetail joint. The trick in making a rising dovetail work is for the ability of the top of the dovetail to fit at the back end of mortise on the bottom (if that makes any sense). In order to truly understand it, you need to read Roy’s book “The Woodwright’s Guide; Working with Wedge and Edge” where he describes the joint far better than I can. I read over the details of the rising dovetail in the book but it wasn’t until I actually tried to make the joint did I fully understand how it is done. The best thing about the joint is that it looks impossible when you see it for the first time. The joint can not slide down nor can it pull out due to the double dovetails. The trick is the joint drops down at an angle.

Once all the joints were cut, I fitted them in the mortises and examined how well each leg was level with one another. Luckily they all lined up fairly well. Then, I flipped the bench over to see how well it sat on the floor. There was a little bit of rocking due to my basement floor not being level but when I cut the through mortises in the legs and temporarily fit the side stretchers, the bench became a lot sturdier. Next, I’ll work on the base and install a shelf to hold my air cleaner.

Disclaimer: Some people may be apprehensive working with pressure treated lumber since it contains the harsh chemicals ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary). If you’re uncomfortable working with pressure treated lumber, don’t use it. The main reason I decided to use it was for the additional weight it would give to the base. While building the base I did no sanding so there was no airborne dust present. In fact the only time I experienced any dust from the ACQ pressure treated lumber was when I emptied my dust collector bag from my surface planer.

I used to work for a pressure treated lumber company and have been exposed to CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) which was supposedly more volatile than ACQ due to the arsenate in the material. I handled CCA lumber on a daily basis for years yet I experience no side effects. I also experienced no side effects from handling the ACQ lumber i.e.; rashes, sneezing, congestion, etc. while building this bench as well as building my deck a few years ago. However that doesn’t mean you won’t. Use your best judgment if you decide to use pressure treated lumber.

As far as being in constant contact with the ACQ lumber, I believe it will be minimal at best. My top is built with regular southern yellow pine which is where I will be doing much of the handling of the bench. The base will just sit there undisturbed. I will have very minimal contact touching the base for any reason.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 2 – revisited

Well after letting the wood acclimate and dry in my shop for about a month, I finally had the time to assemble the top. I took each board and planed them down to 1 1/4″ thick. Be prepared to have a boat load of shavings coming from your planer. I ended up filling four garbage cans with planer shavings. After surface planing, I straightened the boards the best I could with my transitional jointer. The boards were just too long for me try to joint them over my 6″ motorized jointer so I clamped each one to the bench and did it with a hand plane. It didn’t take that long at all and honestly I wasn’t looking for a perfectly straight edge anyway. I just wanted to get rid of the crook in the board so I could rip them to size on the tablesaw. After each board was ripped to 4 1/4″ wide, I laminated them into sections using five boards per section. The shorter part of the bench was laminated with seven boards.

After each section was dry, I ran them through the surface planer and planed them to 4″ thick. Then I glued two sections together. After that section dried, I glued the third. Then when that dried I glued the forth (you get the idea). I did my best to dry fit and line up the sections to minimize any hand planing once the top was formed. However, even after all the careful planning, I still ended up with an 1/8″ bow in my top. I’m not entirely sure why that was but if I had to guess, I say the bowing of my pipe clamps played a part. I’ve always heard of the limitations of pipe clamps and I think I found one of them. Clamping this massive behemith of a top was no easy task. I had to apply an extreme amount of pressure to get each section to bond tightly with one another. It was times like these where I wished I owned twice the amount of pipe clamps!

Once the top was glued together I grabbed my Stanley No 8C jointer and No 5C fore plane and went to town. I planed across and diagonal to the grain to level out the top as easily as possible. The 5C worked well to remove a lot of stock quickly. The No 8 was effective in leveling the high and low spots. Periodically I would check my progress with a straight edge (the side of my No 8 plane) and plane where necessary. I also used winding sticks to make sure the top did not twist from one end to the other. It took me an hour and forty five minutes to plane down the entire top but the funny thing was that I actually enjoyed all the planing.

Next I’ll make the legs and build the frame. I’ll keep you posted.

My $15.00 shaving horse

I always liked the idea of having a shaving horse. A few years back I built a set of windsor dining chairs and shaved the spindles with my draw knife and spokeshaves. Back then I didn’t have a shaving horse so I ended up using my woodworking vise to get the job done. While the vise worked, I knew that using a shaving horse would be a lot more comfortable and a lot more fun. I’ve seen shaving horses for sale on different websites but the problem was that they were over $500 a piece. I knew that wasn’t going to fly so I had to make my own.

Then one day I ran across an article Brian Boggs did for Fine Woodworking. The shaving horse he made was simple and straight forward to make. Right then I knew I had my plans. The one problem that I saw was that he used 2″ thick material to make his. I wasn’t about to splurge big money on 2″ thick ash or maple so I decided to make mine out of good ole southern yellow pine.

I went to Lowes and picked out two pieces of 2x10x8’s that were as clean as possible without any knots. Total cost was $14.73. While Fine Woodworking showed “plans” for the horse, they weren’t exactly what one would call plans. They didn’t go into great detail about how to actually build the horse and a lot of detailed measurements weren’t even given. So I just eyeballed where I thought edges should be and built the horse as close as possible to Brian’s.

Building the horse wasn’t complicated at all and it only took me a weekend to make. I milled the body out, shaped the back legs and made an extra long front leg. The nice thing about using a 2×10 is that you can cut both back legs out of one piece that’s 21″long. Once the back legs were installed, I leveled them with a compass and shaped the feet so they would sit flat on the floor. Then I took the front leg and leveled the horse, marked where the top of the leg ends and trimmed it flushed.

The only caveat of using 1 1/2″ stock as opposed to full 2″ stock is that the head becomes narrower. Brian’s bench head is 5 1/2″ wide due to the fact that he had three 2″ wide boards glued together. My bench head could only be 4 1/4″ wide due to three 1 1/2″ pieces glued together. Fortunately I don’t think that’s a big concern due to the fact that mostly what I’ll be shaving are spindles.

The one thing I did differently from the plan was that Brian used a bicycle tire tube to act as a spring for the key. I didn’t have an old tube lying around and didn’t feel like buying a new one so I ended up using a big fat rubber band instead. While it works, I’m sure the tire tube would work much better since it would have more spring to it.

I also just shaped the seat using a chair shave and spoke shave then sanded it smooth with a random orbital sander. Brian wrapped his with leather which gives his horse a real nice look. I did however glue a piece of leather onto one side of the hold down bar so that the horse would grip the stock better.

All in all I”m very happy the way the horse turned out and I can even take it apart for storage or to travel with. Now I just need to find me some fresh cut logs to make a chair.