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.