Saw Till: Glue-up

So I had all of the parts ready for glue-up, the clamps were in reasonable shape, and I had the time this morning. It was time to glue and assemble.

I decided that I’d use my Workmate as an assembly table again, but that I wouldn’t use its jaws as a clamp (because I figured that the till would be too wide. So to start, I cleared it and pulled it to the center of the shop (where I would have access to all sides), and laid out the clamps set to their approximate settings:

saw_till_glueup_1

I put wooden pads (made from the tenon waste of the shoe rack project) on the big clamp pads and between the pins on the tail side of the dovetails where the other clamps would go. Magic tape was my weapon of choice here, since I figured that the bond only had to last for less than a half-hour.

So far, so good. I laid out all of the parts in order (right side as step one, then the bottom, rear and front stretchers, then finally the left side would be banged into those pieces all at once). I decided that it was time to go.

Applying the glue and putting the pieces together wasn’t so bad, though I almost forgot to put in the front stretcher, I got everything together to a certain degree.

Then I moved it to the Workmate and put on the clamps. It was a little quirky, and of course I felt like I could have used a few more clamps, but it all went fine and everything drew up well.

At this point, it was time to drive in the little wedges on the through tenons. At first, it went just fine–I used the strange plastic-faced hammer that I use as a plane hammer (it has a specific purpose, but I don’t know what it is). It was kind of fun to bang those little things in, and they seemed to be holding up fine despite some of them having checks. Thump, thump, klonk. I had glue all over my fingers, but I was making good progress.

saw_till_glueup_2

Halfway through this process, I realized that I was in trouble. You see, despite having a math degree, it seems that I still don’t know how to count. Remember how I said I needed ten wedges and made thirteen? From where did I get that number? There were four stretchers, with two tenons each, two wedge kerfs per tenon. 4 x 2 x 2 = 16, not 10. I should have made closer to 20 wedges.

Remember also how it took me a stupidly long time to make those? How could I possibly make three more in the limited amount of time I had? (Remember that I’m using liquid hide glue here!) Well, I still had some wide wedges that were in a reject pile. I decided to grab a chisel and chop straight down on these “rejects” at the proper width and hope that the checks and grain wouldn’t make me pay.

The results weren’t exactly perfect, but in a minute, I had made three wedges that would fit, and that’s what I needed. I banged those in, looked over the joints, checked stuff for square, and then started to take pictures.

saw_till_glueup_3

It would have been better if I would have had a clamp for that center dovetail, but I don’t have one. Perhaps a really big block as part of the cauls.

saw_till_glueup_4

I found a check in the upper left corner (in the preceding photo, it’s on the right side at the bottom). Oh, drat it. It was a problem I was fearing somewhat, and I don’t recall it being there before. I may have accidentally banged up that corner when I was attaching the left side. It doesn’t make any difference as far as the functionality is concerned, and in fact, it’s likely that no one will even see it (it’s on the far side of the till), but I wish I’d been a little more careful. Actually, what I wish the most is that I could find out when it happened.

Now the glue is curing, and I’m waiting for the final steps, which will be to level and plane off the joints, insert the blade rests, hang it up, and put some saws in there. I will not apply any finish to the till, at least for the moment. This is one of those projects that needs to be complete.

Saw Till: Makin’ wedge kerfs

This is a relatively simple part of a wedged through tenon joint to make, but I was still wondering one thing about the kerfs where the wedges will be driven: How far from the ends of the tenon should they be? So I looked around to see if Korn had anything to say on the matter. He writes that it should be no more than a quarter-inch from the end, and made with a relatively thick-plated saw. So I decided to go to about 3/16″, and test to see if a wedge will fit into the kerf initially (without banging it in). Seems okay:

tenon_kerf_fit

I opted not to drill the holes at the bottoms of the kerfs that another book says to do (I think this might be helpful if the wood were harder).

Then I did the other seven tenons, and I now have four stretchers ready to go:

tenon_kerfs

Well, that’s nice. All of the saw till parts are now ready for assembly. In preparation, I also removed the huge layers of rust from a couple of heavy Hartford Clamp bar clamps (estate sale find) so that they won’t “rub off” on me or the saw till during assembly. About the only thing I don’t have are some cauls for the work, but I have plenty of scrap.

Glue-up will probably be tomorrow morning.

Saw Till: Makin’ wedges

I’m almost ready to glue up the saw till, but a few small details remain. Ten of them happen to be the little wedges that I’ll drive into the tenons at the end, so I sawed them out today. I decided to make them out of a little scrap of apple I had lying around in a box. The first step was to saw out the little sliver of the wedge shape:

tenon_wedge_saw_1

And then, I had to cut the wedges to width:

tenon_wedge_saw_2

For various reasons, this took a lot longer than it really should have. I had a really hard time holding this stuff steady as I was sawing at first, even with the bench hook. The scrap was too small to get a decent grip. The hook wasn’t at a good height (eventually solved with that riser block on the second photo).

There were also many checks in the wood, because this piece came from the end of the board. I convinced myself that this was okay, because the fibers only need to hold together until I insert them into the tenons and bang them home.

These wedges did eventually come out of the process:

tenon_wedges

The disheartening part was that after all of that work in the morning, I still didn’t have as many as I needed, so when I came home, I went to work until I had enough. I need ten of them, so I decided that I’d stop at thirteen.

In other saw till news, I cut a groove around the inside surfaces of the bottom back (on the sides, the bottom, and the lower stretcher). I also chamfered the edges that the saw handles will rest on.

saw_till_lower_stretchers

I may break the edges of the chamfer a little.

Saw Till: Dovetail joints, pieces

While waiting for the first coat of finish on the shoe rack to cure, I milled the pieces for the saw till down to size in preparation for the joinery. So far, I’ve only had time to finish one through dovetail joint, and get part of the way through the tailboard on the second:

saw_till_dovetail_pieces

The completed dovetail joints are on the bottom right (pinboard on the bottom, tailboard above it), and the new tailboard-in-progress is on the left. The other four pieces on the upper right are for the stretchers.

The pinboard (which will form the lower shelf) presented a small problem before I started out. I hadn’t noticed before, but it wasn’t really flat. So I thought about it, and flattened just one face square to the edges with my jack and jointer planes. In theory, the joint will be fine because the inside face is now flat–that’s the one you need to be square to the sides.

I cleaned off all of the surfaces with my smoother plane as well. I felt that it was probably a good idea to do that work on the inside faces before cutting the dovetail joints. I should have probably waited on the others, because I’ll probably need to do them again after I cut everything, but oh well.

It’s been a little hard to gauge my progress with these dovetail joints. I’m managing to cut them precisely, requiring practically no paring, but I feel that I may be cutting them rather slowly. It’s also been hard to find the time to work; I’ll only get 20-30 minutes at a time to work, then I have to do something else, like go to the unfortunate day job.

This wood, whatever it is, is pleasant to work with. I guess it’s Ponderosa Pine. Working is similar to Yellow-poplar. I’d like to find a good source of it, I think. My recent experiences with softwoods have been positive, which is interesting, because I never imagined myself using them much. They present challenges for your tools, sure, but they also seem to have a lot to offer.

This almost certainly won’t be done by the time I leave for a short trip to Pennsylvania this week. But the good news is that I’m going to Pennsylvania!

Finished Tenon Saw, Tool Rack

Looking through my past posts, it seems that I forgot to post when I finished a couple of smaller projects.

First, remember the tenon saw handle that I’d been working on for nearly a year? Seriously competing for the world record of “longest time taken to get a saw handle done,” I finished it about a month ago and completed the saw:

tenon_saw_finished

It’s a 16″ blade, somewhere around 10TPI, if I recall correctly. I used it for the larger tenons on the shoe rack project. It took some getting used to, but I like it a lot. Larger saws such as this seem a little strange to use on tenons such as the 1.5″ x .75″ ones on the shoe rack, but it works fine.

The other little thing I was working on was a small tool rack to hold chisels and similar tools behind the workbench. I agonized over this for no good reason, looking at every tool rack I could find on the web and in books. Finally, I just slapped one together in about a half an hour:

tool_rack_1

And when I say “slapped together,” I mean it. The preceding photo doesn’t really illustrate how hard I’m trying to get the title of “lamest joinery ever seen in a tool rack,” so let’s get a closer look:

tool_rack_joint_detail

Yep, the rack consists of two long pieces of yellow-poplar/tuliptree not really even lap-jointed onto two small pieces of mystery softwood. I just planed them flat, put on some glue, and clamped tight.

The whole thing is fastened to the windowsill with two c-clamps. That’s partly because I’m being lame, but also partly because we rent this place and I don’t want to go around putting holes in everything in sight.

The important part about this is that it actually works; I finally have most of the junk off the workbench. It works so well that I’m considering making a second equally lame example.

Box: assembly

I’ve been messing around with hide glue in preparation for assembling the dovetailed box I’ve been working on for centuries now. That stuff may be smelly, but it does seem to work quite well if you have the patience.

For whatever reason, I messed up one of the corners and managed to make the joint out of line. The joint fits fine, though. I must have slipped when marking out the tails from the pins on that one joint I did in reverse. Oh well.

I got two of the joints together (badly), and then realized that the panel should have probably gone in after one joint, because the frontally-exposed grooves were stopped. I worked around it by bending the sides enough to slip the panel in:

At this stage, I realized that I am clamp-challenged or just silly, because I wasn’t able to jam the tails in far enough to get rid of some very small gaps on that side, even though I knew it was possible to do that. When I glued the front on, I used my Workmate and the one bar clamp I have to get rid of that problem on the other side, at least for the most part:

It’s pretty obvious, though, that I’m going to have to provide some clamps and cauls for this kind of thing.

First dovetail joint

Last week I did some milling in preparation for a dovetail attempt. Having fooled around with various things for a few days, I decided to finally give it a shot today. I followed the instructions in Korn’s book pretty much to the letter, and wouldn’t you know, I ended up with two pieces that looked like a tailboard and pinboard.

The most interesting part is that the pieces fit on the first shot. I sawed and trimmed the pinboard just up to the lines, and after the cleanup:

I decided that I wanted to glue and clamp it up, so let’s see how it looks once I plane off the ends (maybe tomorrow).

Tenon practice

Because my latest saw handle project is now waiting for me to trim the fastening hardware down to size, I decided to practice sawing tenon cheeks. A lot of them.

Most of these kind of stink, but I got a lot better further on. I was using the 14tpi saw that’s my most recent addition.

So I felt, okay, maybe it’s time to give the mortise and tenon joint another go, to see how much it improved. And proceeded to mess up the first tenon horribly. But the second try at the tenon turned out as intended.

This may be the best one of these joints I’ve done yet, but it’s still a lot less than ideal. My plan now is to go back to the 20tpi dovetail saw for fine sawing like this. One upside of all this practice is that I’m now much better at using the finer saw. The 14tpi saw is far more difficult to control. The blade is too wide for such a fine pitch, and the blade is also very deep. So I’m going to redo the teeth on that one, down to 12tpi or 11tpi.

Mortise and Tenon Progress

Every now and then, I’ve been making a mortise and tenon joint for practice. I usually manage to screw up in some subtle way, but have generally not made the same mistake twice. Then last night, I made one that seems actually halfway passable.

The chip on the bottom of the mortise piece was there before. These pieces of wood have been sitting around for months, so where I used a block plane to even up the edges, you can see how much the wood has darkened in that time. I glued it up just to see how well it would work. Not bad.

Interestingly, I made this joint faster than any I’ve made in the past. So practice does help. I’ve gotta stop sawing so close to the knife line on the shoulder, though. It makes it hard to chisel down from the line.

Mortise and tenon: Attempt #2

Now that I had taken care of the front vise in place and a working small tenon saw, I decided to make another go at a mortise and tenon.

Although this turned out to be a very workable joint, I made three incredibly stupid mistakes:

1. I didn’t measure the mortise properly. This mortise was supposed to start 1/2″ from the end, not 3/4″. Though I just trimmed the tenon on one side to compensate… doh!
2. I didn’t cut the tenon on the end of the board that I had marked.
3. I accidentally cut the cheeks of the tenon with a crosscut saw instead of a ripsaw. This affected speed, accuracy, and finish. Let’s try to avoid doing that again.

In spite of this, there is quite a lot of good news:

- Other than the length, the mortise turned out perfectly, with a clean bottom and straight sides.
- My newly-sharpened tenon saw worked astonishing well for cutting the shoulders.
- Hooray for the front vise.
- I did this one in half the time as my first one.
- The fit is good.
- It was really fun to make.

I’m going to practice another one of these soon, but I believe that the next thing I need to do is make a mallet. Banging on chisels with a block of birch is bogus.