Revamping a Dining Table

About twelve years ago I built a dining table from the plans out of Woodsmith magazine. While it served it’s purpose, it wasn’t exactly the nicest thing in the house. I made the top out of a piece of low-grade oak plywood that I bought at Home Depot. Not only that, but the table was huge being 44″ wide. My wife Anita asked if I could make a new one, or at least make a new top that was more in style. We decided that making a new top out of southern yellow pine and try weathering it making it look aged.

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The easy part was buying four 2 x 10’s, ripping them 9″ wide by six feet long and gluing them together. After they were glued, I planed the tops of the boards straight removing all the mill marks in the process.

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After the top was planed and sanded with 150 grit sandpaper, Anita applied mixture of steel wool and apple cider vinegar onto the boards to tone down the yellowness of the southern yellow pine.

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We thought it would be a good idea to stain the top while it was already on the table. I removed the original top of the table and flipped over the base onto the new top to decide how much I would need to cut the sides down.

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After messing around with the legs for a few minutes, I decide that the sides should be 24″ wide.

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I cut the sides to 24″ and rerouted the dado on both boards for the corner brackets. I then used pocket screws to re-attach the sides to the legs.

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Using metal corner brackets, I simply attached the top to the base. The new top made the table look more like a farm table.

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Anita then stained the table with Special Walnut, then Classic Gray stain from Minwax.

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Once dry, she applied hemp oil and gave the top a good waxing. She then painted the base with grey chalk paint. When done, it looked like a completely different table.

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A close up the table you can see how the southern yellow pine took on a deep rich tone. You can also see how the original black paint shows through the grey paint after Anita sanded the base a little bit. This has been one of those projects we should have done years ago.

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One of my Favorite Plane Restores

Over the years, I’ve restored hundreds if not thousands of tools. In every instance, I usually think of the same thing. “I wonder who owned this tool and when did they buy it?” The question is something I can almost never answer until now.

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I bought this Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware No 6C at the Springfield Antique Show last month. Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware operated several hardware stores in the Cincinnati area. The guy who had it had a couple of other bench planes for sale so I bundled them all up and offered him a price for all three. I knew the plane wasn’t a Stanley, but still felt it was worthy of a restore. A lot of competitors of Stanley like Union, Sargent, Ohio Tool Co, and even old Craftsman’s made quality planes back in the day. In fact, Sargent often private labeled their planes for hardware stores around the country so sometimes, I’ll end up finding odd ball “No Name” planes in the market. However, they are still Sargent planes.

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This plane was quite different from any other plane I restored in the past. Not in the way it was made, but when I took off the rear tote, I saw this little piece of paper in the slot.

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When I opened it up, inside it was written “Fred G W Meyer, Property of Sept 10, 1938”. It had to be a note from the original owner of when he bought the plane. It was like opening a time capsule that has been locked away for nearly 70 years.

Just think, in September of 1938, Hitler had just taken over control of Czechoslovakia a year before invading Poland starting WWII. Then it got me thinking again. I hope this poor guy wasn’t drafted into the army and was killed during WWII. The blade of the plane had been used, but the remaining length of blade remaining is about the same as if Fred would have used it daily for three years until 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I’ll never know the answer if Fred served in WWII, but the penmanship of the hand writing reminds me of someone who was young in age at the time. If Fred was a young man in 1938, it’s quite possible that he did serve in WWII.

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I loved seeing the note, so the only right thing to do was to fold it back up and stick it back under the tote where it belongs.

Installing Crown Molding

Last weekend I proceeded to work on the dining room by installing crown molding around the ceiling. I already built and installed bookcases that went on either side of the sliding glass doors a couple of weeks ago. Now I needed to complete the look by installing crown molding at the top.

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Before I began, I watched a YouTube video with Tom Silva of This Old House to give me the idea of how to cut the molding. The trick was flipping the board over and cut the trim upside down. Clamping a board on the saw table helped kept the trim at the proper angle.

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The molding around the bookcases wasn’t too bad as the sides were 90 degrees to each other. However, when I ran a piece down the one side of the dining room to the hallway, is when I got tripped up. I may be able to hand cut dovetails, but a trim carpenter I am not. I have no idea how they cope one end of the crown to fit perfectly, then make a perfect cut nine feet away to make a tight corner to a wall that is out of square. I gave it my best attempt and attached the crown to the wall. I then tried to figure out the other angle the other piece of trim would need to be to make the corner look nice. However, every cut I made was way off. I tried about a dozen times to make it work with no luck. I became so frustrated, that I decided to quit Saturday afternoon and reconsider continuing with the room or just take everything down except the crown around the bookcases.

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I woke up Sunday morning and decided to give it another shot. I messed around with the other side of the crown molding for a couple of hours until I was satisfied with how it looked. Below is a picture of the finished corner. I had to shave a lot of the molding away with rasps so each piece would match. I probably should have sanded the pieces better, but I was so frustrated with it I said “screw it”!

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Fitting the crown for inside corners was a bit tricky as well. Even after I coped the ends, I had to file the back of the molding so that it would fit in place. However, after practicing coping a few times, I got better at it.

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This was the final piece I cut to finish the job. It was a bit tricky as I had to cut the trim at the correct length as well as perfectly cope each end so everything fitted nicely.

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After everything was done, Anita started to apply the first coat of paint. Next I’ll be working on the chair rail and the faux wainscoting molding squares I made a couple of weeks ago. I’ll throw up a few pictures of the finished dining room and hallway when I’m done.

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Video of Making Trim

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was able to recreate trim that my wife wanted to put on our walls. I had some time this weekend to make all 36 pieces of trim each about 24″ long. It was fun making the trim, but after number twenty, it started to get old. Thankfully, it only took me a few minutes to cut the profile in the wood once I milled the rabbets into each side of the wood.

I decided to do a short video showing the process better than just showing it in pictures. Enjoy!

Making Faux Wainscoting Trim Molding

My wife, Anita, is planning on sprucing up our hallway by installing faux wainscoting on the walls. It’s a simple approach by installing chair rail and trim in a rectangular fashion down the wall.

We went to Lowe’s and Home Depot to find the type of trim to use for the rectangles. Unfortunately, there was nothing available in the trim section of each store. Then, we saw the special order trim display at Lowe’s of exactly what we were looking for. The only problem was that Lowe’s sells these pieces in pre-made rectangles which wouldn’t work for our hallway. I told Anita that I could probably make the trim with my molding planes, so I snapped a picture of it and went to work.

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I milled a piece of poplar 1/2″ thick x 1 1/8″ wide and drew the lines of the molding on the wood.

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I then planed a 3/8″ rabbet a 1/4″ deep on each side of the stock with a couple of rabbet planes.

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I then beveled the edges about 1/8″ with my block plane.

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After the bevels were created, I used a small palm gouge to chisel a shallow channel down both sides of the molding.

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This channel allowed my No 2 round molding plane a place to ride to create the cove on the sides.

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I then used a couple of hollow planes to create the bead on top of the molding. After the bead was created, I sanded the piece clean to remove any tool marks.

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The final step was to miter the piece to see how it looked. I used my small miter box and miter trimmer to create perfect 45 degree angles.

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I have to say, it’s pretty damn close to the display piece at Lowe’s. Now I’ll have to figure how many linear feet Anita will need to create the rectangular boxes down the hallway. I’m glad I figured out how to create the molding as it’s a bunch of fun to make.

Removing Paint and Grime with Soy Gel

Sometimes life gives you the answer so clearly that you’re too blind to see. Just a few days ago I read on the “Working by Hand” blog a post about removing tool japanning with Soy Gel. https://workingbyhand.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/plane-body-finish-removal-soy-gel/

Soy Gel is a 100% soybean based paint remover that has no toxic fumes and is really safe for the environment. I bought a bottle for my wife about a year ago so she could remove the paint off a piece of furniture she bought. I rarely repaint planes so, I never gave much thought about using it to remove the black japanning from a plane. Well apparently according to the post, it does the job quite well.

So, this weekend while I was busting my knuckles cleaning up the bed of an old Stanley Liberty Bell plane with steel wool, I opened up my cabinet to grab another piece of wool when my bottle of Soy Gel was staring at me right in the face. I looked at the bottle, then looked at the plane bed and thought “I wonder if it would help”?

I grabbed the bottle, squirted some on the bed, spread it around with my steel wool pad and let it sit there for a bit. Sure enough after just a few seconds, the dirt and grime just melted away when I rubbed it off with the steel wool.

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I was amazed it worked so well. Then I was angry at myself that I didn’t think of it any sooner. How could I be so blind? Here’s the before and after shot of the side of the plane.

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All these years of busting my knuckles trying to clean up the wood from old planes with nothing but steel wool and a whole bunch of elbow grease, and I could have just been using Soy Gel the whole time to make the job a whole lot easier. Oh well, I learn something new everyday. Here is a couple of shots of the plane all cleaned up. I guess someone liked my cleaning job as the plane sold within a few hours of being listed on eBay.

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Roubo Style Workbench

Walking around an antique store called Ohio Valley Antique Mall in Cincinnati this weekend, I ran upon this massive beast in one of the aisles. An eight foot long authentic Roubo style workbench. I’ve seen dozens of old workbenches before, but for some reason this guy stuck out to me. The previous owner screwed nickel-plated hooks on the front of it for someone reason. Probably to hold coffee cups or some other nonsense.

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What made this bench stick out was the splay of the front leg along with the leg vise. I imagine this was done to prevent the workbench from racking when sawing. The cast iron vise hardware turned smooth and could still tighten with something with a good grip.

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It had an old planning stop hole used for planning boards. Oddly the area around the hole was all worn down. When I see wear marks on old pieces like this, it makes me wonder what type of work the craftsman did to make those types of marks. Though it does appear he was sawing on the right side of the planning stop.

Another interesting clue is that it is quite possible that at one point there was another vise installed on top. The three holes around the lighter circular area is possibly where he bolted down a machinist vise onto the bench.

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The legs were jointed together with a simple bridle joint however, the legs were not jointed into the bench’s top. More likely the top was just bolted down to the legs somehow. I didn’t feel like moving everything around in the booth to get a better look.

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The bench top was a good 12″ wide x 4″ thick piece of pine. It had a tool tray in the back that appeared to be in real good shape given it’s age. Notice how there are no bench dog nor holdfast holes in the top.

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Who knows where this bench will end up. Probably in someone’s home as a kitchen island, but for a cool $700 it can be all yours.

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Sharpening a Pitted Plane Blade

I bought a Millers Falls No 7 Jointer Plane a few weeks ago that had a pitted blade in it. While most people would look at a blade like this and immediately think that it belongs in the trash, I decided to see if I could get it to work well enough to slice thin shavings off a piece of cherry.

The first thing I do when I sharpen any of my blades is to whip out my Tormek sharpening wheel. I’ve owned the Tormek for several years now and have never regretted the coin I paid for it. I set the machine up to grind a 25 degree angle on the blade and go to town.

A few minutes on the Tormek puts a real nice edge on the blade. The problem is the back of the blade is still pitted causing the blade to cut ridges in the work piece while using it in the plane.

I used the side of the wheel of the Tormek to try to flatten the back of the blade, but after a few minutes I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It did help, but it would have taken hours to remove all the pits.

I decided to give the old ruler trick a try made famous by David Charlesworth and remove only the metal at the front of the blade. I stick a thin ruler at the back of the blade and sharpen the backside of the front of the blade by moving it back and forth on a piece of 320 grit sandpaper. This in theory changes the cutting angle of the blade by a few degrees, but honestly, who cares? There is very little difference between a blade with a 25 degree angle and one with 24 or 23 degrees. It may make a difference with hard exotics, but I normally use poplar, cherry, maple and southern yellow pine. I’m too cheap to buy hard exotic wood.

As you can see if you look closely, the ruler trick worked. The very front edge of the back of the blade is clean of any pitting and will hold an edge better.

I then switched to my water stones and hone the edge created on my Tormek. I use a combination stone of 800/4000 grit and a final 12000 grit stone. I use water stones as opposed to oil stones simply because the Tormek is a water stone. Oil and water don’t mix.

Here is my final sharpening of the blade. Pretty good if you ask me.

Here’s the blade in action cutting cherry. After a few adjustments with my plane, I was able to produce nice clean shavings. The cherry underneath was glass smooth after it was planed with the blade.

How thin were my shavings? About .003″ thin. Not too shabby for a piece of crap blade that most people would have never even given a second chance and would have just thrown in the garbage.

Antique Tool Improver

I’ve been cleaning antique tools for over twenty-five years. When I was fourteen years old my Grandpa gave me a Stanley No 77 dowel machine that took square stock and turned it into dowels. Since that day, I was hooked on old tools. There was something about taking an old neglected tool that was just sitting around collecting dust and bringing it back to life that appealed to me.

I’ve cleaned hundreds if not thousands of tools over the years. When removing all the dirt and rust from an old tool, the final step is to protect it with a penetrating oil so it doesn’t rust again. For years I used Kramer’s Antique Improver and loved the way it protected the wood and metal of the tool giving it a nice sheen. The only problem I had with the oil was the price. At $20.00 for a 8 oz bottle, the stuff wasn’t exactly cheap, but it worked so well I kept using it even though my wife couldn’t stand the smell of the stuff.

Since my wife was no fan of the smell when I used Kramer’s Antique Improver, it got me wondering if I could make something that worked as well for pennies on the dollar. I didn’t want to reproduce Kramer’s exactly because John Kramer uses turpentine and solvents to make his oil. I wanted something simple that I could whip up in a jiffy using only natural products.

I started with melting beeswax. I bought a small 100% beeswax candle and cut a small 1/4″ slab off of it and melt it in the pot. You can always buy granule beeswax at a woodworkers store if you can’t find a 100% beeswax candle.

Once the wax has melted, I add equal parts of orange oil and mineral oil to pot and cook them for one minute. They sell mineral oil at a woodworking supply stores as butcher block oil however, I found mineral oil at the pharmacy for a whole lot less.

Once the oils have cooked in the pot for a minute I pour it in a container. As you can see, my container is nothing more than a Sweet Leaf Ice Tea drink I bought one day.

Using a paper towel, I rub the oil all over tool penetrating it in every spot. You can see the difference of the tool with just one coat of the oil. I usually coat the tool three or four times letting the oil penetrate the entire surface.

The oil works on wood just well as metal. In fact, I coat all my molding planes with the oil. The great thing about my oil is that it’s completely natural, there is no odor and it lasts just as long as Kramer’s. Not to mention that it’s dirt cheap to make.