Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Switch - Autodirect to Tumblr

It was a short stay on Blogger, but the allure of something better overwhelmed the hassle of switching. Off to greener pastures at Tumblr. For the dozen (!) feed subscribers, the switchover should be seamless. For the others, please update your bookmarks.

Almost There

Still sorting out the lumber for the top. Not quite the full reveal I was hoping for, but wanted to at least show the progress so far. It's based upon the Gustav Stickley 603 Tabouret from the Spring 2008 issue of Woodworking Magazine.

I skipped the detailing on the lower stretchers. The lap joint was cut a bit tight so the dry fit turned into a press fit. Hopefully the joint doesn't crack. Overall, I'm reasonably happy with the first effort. There are gaps here and there but I guess that's to be expected. After all, I've been doing this for all of 8 or 9 months, most of which has been spent setting things up and practicing basic handtool skills.

Some notes on the construction.

Lap Joints
There are two sets of lap joints, one on each set of stretchers. Given the differences in geometry, the two were quite different to actually cut. The top joint has a greater floor surface than wall surface. This meant that small alignment errors with the chisel resulted in defects on the floor of the lap joint. For the lower joint, the floor surface was relatively small, with a very deep wall. So this placed a greater emphasis on sawing to the line as compared to chiseling out the small bit of waste.

Mortise & Tenon
Overall, I would say the M&T joints were the simplest to cut, but the most time consuming. Part of this was due to the intermissions to sharpen the mortising chisel, not having a proper workbench on which to hammer out the mortises and overly frequent checking and clearing out of the waste. Chiseling out mortises on a tablesaw's extension table has the effect of turning the table into a large impromptu drum. Needless to say, late evening mortising ceased to become an option. By the last mortise, it was taking me about 25 minutes to chisel one out. It's a good thing that I don't need these things to feed the family. It seems 2-3x longer than I would think is reasonable for a 1/4" x 1 1/2" x 7/8" mortise, even excepting that the wood is hard maple. I think I did a reasonable job on the shoulders, the tenon itself fit well into the mortise, but I'd say 3 of the 8 shoulder to face surfaces show some gapping. Nothing glaring and something that will get better as I keep at it.

Half-blind Dovetails
I didn't enjoy cutting the half-blind pins. The tails were straightforward enough. Still need a bit more consistency with the shoulders. Cutting the sockets is a huge pain. I'm not sure if I was doing this properly, but the result was okay. I switched between knifing the lines and drawing the lines with a pen. Results were a tight fit with the knifed lines and a sloppy one with the pen. Mentally I don't sit far enough to the waste side with the pen lines. The result tends to have no pen line remaining where there should be the entire line showing after I'm done. I used a mortise chisel to hog out most of the waste, and switched to a bevel edge chisel to clean up along the edges. Keeping the floor flat wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. Small surfaces are nice that way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chipped & Polished

So after maybe a half dozen mortises mostly in poplar, and 90% of one in maple this is the condition of my edge. At the time I'm thinking Ray Iles and his D2 steel aren't living up to expectations. While working in maple has been literally tough, I wasn't expecting it to beat the edge on a beefy English mortising chisel. I've since had another read of Mr. Moskowitz's site and think I need to hone a micro-bevel on this bad boy.

This is the sharpening and honing I did before contacting Joel. The timeline is a bit disjointed in that I took these pictures late last week, and determined part way through today that I should drop him a line with some pics. In the meantime though I had another 3 mortises (and 4 half blind tails) that needed chopping so this is what I used for the job. I'll say after the aforementioned joints were done, the edge is looking rather ragged. Not chipped so much as just plain ragged. You have too look pretty close, but it's not pretty. It's definitely still sharp, but I'm hoping a new micro-bevel will cure what ails my poor chisel.

On an aside, I'm not 100% clear on Mr. Kell's honing guide. His instructions indicate the bottom of the chisel or plane blade should be used as the datum against the guide spindles. Joel's pictures show the top face being used as the datum. I tried both, and ended up doing a lot of grinding on my 1000 grit stone to set and re-set the primary bevels. Once because the bevel was no longer square to the chisel sides.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Milled, Tailed & Lapped

Feeling pretty good about my first lap joint. Not perfect, but decent enough. This one gets hidden, the next one won't be...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

800 lbs

I think that's a reasonable estimate for the amount of lumber I hauled into the basement today. I think that excuses me from any further "woodworking" today on account of my body approaching brokenness. Between the endless snow shovelling, hockey and hauling lumber, my body needs a bit of a break.

I suppose this is the cost of buying lumber off Kijiji. I picked up between 230-300 board feet of maple for $450. I'm not sure what the waste factor will be but even if I can pull 65-70% usable wood from the pile, I think I made off fairly well. The downside of course is that I now have several hundred board feet of lumber residing in my basement. I suppose this is only further impetus to pick up the pace toward production of any sort.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tail 7 - Pins 6 (almost)

After the Moxon excursion, I'm back to dovetailing. There was a Schwarz review of the Knew Concepts fretsaw, which more importantly linked an older post comparing coping and fretsaws for cutting out dovetail waste. There was an important tip on technique in the old post. Chris would cut down from the top of the tail waste diagonally to the opposite corner. Then he'd take a second cut across.

So new tip in mind, I set out on another set of dovetails. This leads to a minor issue with the Moxon vise, which isn't unique to this vise design, but rather is new to someone not having used many (read any) face vises prior. If the work piece doesn't extend below the centerline of the vise face, the vise will rack like crazy. So my small scraps of maple have been set aside for a much larger "scrap of maple. Of course this also results in a much greater number of tails. This turned out to be good and bad. Lots of tails means lots of practice. Lots of tails also means not getting to the pins in the same night. I won't lie, my hands started getting sore using the coping saw. On the second set of cuts, I started using two hands, kind of like a miniature bowsaw, that helped matters greatly. So below is the result. It's not pretty. There's a couple cuts that dipped below the baseline. The chisel work needs work, and likely a touch up of the edge. The board is a bit long to fit lengthwise in the vise, so sawing off the end waste was a bit unstable. Lastly, I need to do a better job controlling the far edge of the coping saw on the waste cuts. There are quite a few errant cuts on the tails. Still, it is only the 7th set of tails. We'll see how the 6th set of pins go tomorrow.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rockin' Moxon

Success. Mostly. I want to bore out one of the holes on the face a bit more so the screw travels a bit more freely but other than that I'm content with the output. A few more chamfers here and there, a good sanding and I'll be done. Then back to the daily dovetailing while glancing askew at the pile of white oak waiting to be turned into a proper workbench. I'm not relishing the thought of milling all that timber but I need a workbench, and a good workout. It's debatable which one I need more at the moment.

Some final thoughts on this. Breaking the edges of the holes prior to tapping keeps the edges clean. I suppose if you're experienced, that would be a given. It's all new to me. The Beall cuts a really nice thread.

I read Peter Follansbee complaining about working with walnut since he works almost exclusively with riven white oak. I find the differences between the various species I've worked thus far (white oak, poplar, hard maple, white pine, white ash, African mahogany, and a really dense tropical species that I can't recall at the moment) a bit unsettling. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had worked for twenty years using only one species and then switched.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moxon Double Screw - Take 2

So the story continues. It's a little bit discouraging that it's taking me so long to get a functional double-screw vise constructed. Two flat boards, four holes, two tapped, a couple threaded rods and a pair of handles. It should be an afternoon project but it hasn't been.

My octagonal handles had a couple issues. The hole wasn't bored parallel to the handle, so the threaded rod comes out a bit skewed. I was willing to live with the minor ergonomic inconvenience, but after a few trials on the vise, the handles also turned out to be too large. At that point I decided to rework the handles, of course this also meant I could address the lack of parallelism.

Aside from the handles, another issue arose. The screw wouldn't thread all the way through the board, again. After some inspection and fiddling with the screws, I determined the threaded hole wasn't threaded completely perpendicular to the face of the vise. This results in the rod entering at a slight skew, which causes it to bind as it works it's way through the board. The effort required to get everything parallel and perpendicular is not insignificant. My solution here was to run the tap through from the opposite face. The result is a slightly sloppy fit between the screw and the hole, but in the end it shouldn't affect the efficacy of the clamp.

So I've reset a bit, tweaked things a bit and have my pieces. I've run out of time tonight, so boring out the handles and assembly will have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Beall, Router Tables, etc.

Few things. The thread type in cut by the generic thread box is not the same as the thread cut by the Beall. This results in my Moxon Double-Screw being a bit shorter than specified in Popular Woodworking. The pitch on the Beall is a bit larger than with the thread box. I tried to re-tap the holes on the vise but it was only partly successful. I could thread the screw most of the way through, but by the far side of the vise, pitch was out enough to begin shearing the threads off the screw.

I cut a pair of handles for the screws out of some hard maple scraps. This would be my first attempt at gluing up anything beyond screw covers. To say it turned into a horrendous mess would be an understatement. Thankfully the blocks were oversized enough to accept another round of milling to remove all the squeeze out. I bored out the handles on the drill press to accept the unthreaded dowel, but the new dowel from Beall was a bit smaller than the 1 1/2" hole, so i press fit the screw cut from my previous dowel, and screwed it in place. The boring operation was a bit off vertical for one of the handles for reason as yet undetermined. I checked the alignment of the table to the bit and it seems ok.

After all the fussing with the thread box, it was a pleasure to use the Beall threading system. I know it's not supposed to be mounted to a router table, but I don't have a standalone router. It looks a bit odd, but it works great. Well, except for the dust collection. The chips are all rejected out the bottom (normally the top) of the Beall thread box, so the dust collection hood on the router table is pretty ineffective.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

At least there's progress here, and not a complete regression. I felt pretty bold today after what I considered a pretty good 5th set yesterday. So for the fifth set I moved on to a scrap piece of hard maple. This was from a combination of misplaced confidence and a bit of laziness in not wanting to cut the dovetail joint off the poplar scraps.

Successes first. Here's the dovetail from yesterday. One unsightly gap, and the one side seems to be out wide a bit. I'm not sure at this point what to attribute that to since the both sides were cut from the same piece of poplar, so they began the same width. The opposite side is flush and is parallel. The end cuts were over the baseline again, but I think I have that solved on today's set. The horrific coping job is apparent in the second shot. I did some things today to try and keep from wreaking havoc with the coping saw. Some of it was necessitated by what is ridiculously hard maple.

Set 5 

So my maple scraps were a bit narrower than the poplar pieces I was working with. Also, I thought it might be a nice time to try out my other dovetail marking guide. Put those two things together, and I ended up with the problem below. I felt pretty good after cutting the tails. I thought I did a pretty reasonable job sawing. I managed to chisel out the waste without going below the baseline, except on one. Although it was a bit out of perpendicular to the face, so I think I could've placed it on the interior of the joint, out of sight. I noticed that the way I start the saw kerf chipped a couple of the tails, so I'll have to keep an eye on that in the future.

After all this, the problem hit me smack in the face as I finished laying out and sawing the pins. I can't chisel out the waste on the pin board since my narrowest chisel is 1/4". Nicely demonstrated below by my chisel and the bottom of the tail. Measure twice, cut once? When one doesn't measure, I suppose the inference is that the layout should be checked twice.

Set 6 (and 1/2)

Coping with Coping Saws

It's late, and I'm pretty frustrated with the coping saw. I finished off another set of dovetails, this time in poplar. It quite a bit more different than I was expecting. It's both more and less forgiving than the white pine has been the last couple days. The edges and corners stay sharper, whereas the pine tends to round itself over if you're not careful. On the other hand, the poplar shows even minor deviations in from a straight cutline. Ultimately, those don't seem to show up in the assembled joint, but it does enough to remind me that I'm still very much a beginner at this.

The coping saw was pretty much a disaster with the poplar pins. I didn't manage to keep a single cut above the baseline. The cutting radius is much larger than I was able to get through the pine, and there's quite a bit of damage on the backside of the cut as well. I think a large part of that is due to the thin kerf dovetail saw, and the coping saw blade being such a tight fit.

Even with the disastrous coping, the assembled joint is the tightest one yet. There is one tail that shows a sizeable gap. The rest seem pretty good. I still have issues sawing the end waste off the tails. I think less splitting the line and more keeping to the waste side might help that tomorrow. Pictures later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dovetail Day 4

The gaps are coming down in both number and severity. I feel pretty good with the progress so far. I'm having the most difficulty getting good with the coping saw. I think I'm starting to figure it out though, it seems to work best if you keep the stroke steady through the turn.

I think having another pair of dividers would help in getting some consistent layouts. That said, I'm also having a bit of difficulty in getting a consistent layout transferred from the tails to the pin board. I'm sure at least some, if not all, of this would be alleviated by having a proper workbench and workholding setup. I am making do with what I've got so far, which as the pictures from yesterday would indicate is pretty rudimentary. An Irwin Quick Grip clamp against the front rail of my table saw is filling in for a proper workbench and face vice.

Set 4

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dovetailing Day 2 & 3

This didn't really start as 30 days of dovetailing but between waiting for the Beall to show up, and realizing after my first set of dovetails that the school box likely would not resemble a school box, I have now finished my 3rd set of dovetails.

Set 2

Problems on the 2nd set. I didn't bother to go back and really figure out the proper way to layout the dovetails. I figured, incorrectly, that I'll just start marking and cutting. The result was the width of the tails at the base was too thin which meant that I couldn't clean out the pins with the chisels I own. I was reasonably happy with the tails I cut, but the pins were a disaster. The total result is quite a bit worse than my first attempt on account of poor layout and disastrous pins.

Set 3

I put some upfront work into the 3rd set. Went through the Rob Cosman video on Handcut Dovetails which is probably as good an instructional video as you'll find. I watched it a few months (or more) back so there was a lot of haziness. Some mistakes from the 2nd set became glaringly obvious running through the video. 1. basic layout with the divider, 2. marking waste, 3. use of the fret (coping) saw, 4. relative position of the board when chopping out the waste.

I didn't manage to located a reasonably priced fret saw, so I'm using a coping saw. Problem here is that I have the thinplate L-N Dovetail Saw so it's a tight fit for the coping saw. I still managed to get most of the waste cut out, but there's some marking on the tails from trying to get the saw turned. Also, I missed badly and cut below the baseline with the coping saw. Had a few missed cuts chopping out the waste, and my saw cuts for the waste at the ends of the tail board were a bit off as well. Results below.

Still far from perfect, but not bad for my 3rd attempt. I can definitely see how doing this for a month can improve technique dramatically.

P.S. It takes way to long to get pictures laid out and linked correctly in the Blogger editor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Toothy Grin

I've solicited advice from any number of folks on the zen of sharpening, but it seems without a hands on session somewhere I am resigned to a certain amount of uncertainty. While the web and print are filled with numerous pictures and text depicting and describing the task, there is a certain resolution that is lacking in these accounts that leave me wanting. It's not for a lack of patience as I've spent the better part of an evening flattening the back of a scrub plane blade, only to be told it should take 1/4 that time (by Mr. Hock no less). It's just that there are certain imperfections that are apparent to my eye, that almost certainly wouldn't make it through the lens of a camera into print or onto the web. All said, the result seems acceptable enough. Thin shavings on end grain, and effortless paring with the chisel are the result of mindless stroking on the waterstones. All that and pruned hands.

So below lies the toothy grin of my first complete attempt at a dovetail joint. I've cut a small number (4 or 5?) tails, but never pushed through to complete an entire joint. Here is my inaugural attempt in all its toothy glory. Seems gapped teeth are equally attractive in woodworking and people.

Set 1

Too Many Tools!!

As the list of tools continues to grow, the list of tools that need setting up also grows. The most unfortunate downside of all this is the inordinate amount of time spent preparing to woodwork as opposed to woodworking. Case in point, I have spent the better part of two weeks trying to get this double screw vise together, fiddling endlessly with a thread box, just so I have a functional vise to hold workpieces. Yesterday night I decided rather than continue to wait for the Beall thread box to show up, I'd just start working on the School Box. Workholding was not ideal, but passable. I think I did a reasonable job sawing my first set of tails, but as I go to chisel out the waste I am reminded of a terrible fact. Chisels from the factory are not sharp. Great. Back to the stones.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Enough Messing Around

The thread box will be relegated to the scrap heap shortly. The order for a Beall Threading Kit has been issued, because the extra money is better spent than extra time. Maybe I can recoup some of the cost by selling wood screws to the seeming hordes looking to build Moxon Double Screw vises. Then again, maybe not. Although good on the one guy who's started selling the vises on eBay for $149.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wood Screw Fail Pt 2

So here are the results of my efforts the first time. Fairly hideous. The plug is my stubborn attempt to thread the rod, when it was obviously too big for the thread box. So instead of advancing along the metal threads in the thread box, the rod didn't advance at the proper rate resulting in the bit destroying the thread it had just cut.

After some sanding to bring the diameter of the rod down, these are the results the 2nd time through. There is pretty horrendous tearout tangential to the grain. I attributed this to a slightly dull bit. Self admittedly, my sharpening was pretty half hearted. All of this would have been "good enough", since I am quite intent on getting a functional vise as compared to a pretty one. Unfortunately, the screw binds 3/4 of the way through the vise face. Not functional or pretty.

Another sharpening session resulting in what I would consider a sharp bit, but 2 feet of rod that wasn't sanded down. I gave an attempt to thread the rod without the face of the thread box attached. Not a good idea, and the result is horrific enough that I will decline posting the result.