Rip Panel Saw: Handle Shaping

Available time to work on this saw comes and goes, but it’s getting somewhere. After coming up with the template, I grabbed the piece of madrone that I’d worked on before (and made the nightstand drawer pull from) and thought that there might be enough of a solid section to make this handle. I started by ripping down the sides (you can’t split madrone as you can oak, because it does not split terribly straight). I came up with the following ridiculous-looking, yet surprisingly effective workholding arrangement:

I thought that it might be a pain to saw, but it wasn’t that bad. I also have a newfound respect for my front vise. Before long, I had a little board milled.

The big question still remained about the checks. I suspected that I would be able to position the handle cutout where the cracks would not extend, so I traced out the pattern:

Yes, this would be unaffected by the check on the top of this photo, but I didn’t know how far in the one at the right end extended. When it was all said and done, a small amount does remain, but its location is inconsequential (details of that might be in a later post).

I cut out the rough template with the coping saw:

As I was doing this, I started to suspect that the shaping process would be somewhat more difficult than my previous handles. There was something about this wood that just felt different.

I made quick work of getting down to the lines on the outside with my saw rasp and sawmaker’s rasp, but the inside was a little trickier because there wasn’t much space to work. I started to wish that I had an inchannel gouge, and after a minute or so, I realized that I did have one, that Taiwanese one I’d bought during the holidays.

I don’t have a proper mallet for it, so I just banged at it with a marginally not-uncomfortable chunk of the madrone cutoff, and this got the job done (though I think I want a proper mallet):

It turns out that this is a really good gouge! (The ones with the red at the ends are supposed to be the better ones.) After all of this chopping, there were no nicks and it seemed just as sharp as ever. I’ll have to pick up a few more of those on my next trip.

Then it was off to shaping. That, as I suspected, was kind of a pain. Madrone cuts easily enough but its sawdust is really fine and clogs everything quickly.  I ended up using a lot of 60-grit Norton 3X sandpaper to fine-tune the shape because that stuff doesn’t clog so easily. I used a 1/4″ chisel for a lot of the nooks and crannies and imagine that some outchannel gouges would have been handy. But I did eventually get it done, and then cut the kerf for the blade using my trusty gents saw:

I also tapered the front with this saw, but made some modifications to the original. Here’s the new handle next to the original:

The new one is tilted slightly counterclockwise to the original in this shot, and there are some perspective issues, but you can see some subtle differences, some intentional, some not quite so. The bottom is a little thicker and the cheek has a little bit more surface area. The front is tapered a little differently. The original’s tapering was uneven, so I decided that I would smooth it out a little on mine. The unintentional change is how the back of the “lamb’s tongue” isn’t as deep as on the original. I can’t figure out how this happened, but I’m not going to bother changing it. (If I didn’t like the way that it looked, I’d change it, but I do like it.)

So now, I suppose I should put some holes in there for the screws and varnish the thing. And I happen to be already varnishing the nightstand at the moment–how convenient.

Making Low-Profile Bench Dogs

One problem I’ve had with several projects in the past is that my bench dogs protrude from the bench just enough to get in the way when planing thinner panels (such as 1/4″ ones). I’ve gotten around this in the past with a number of kludges, but this time, I decided that I would do something about it before milling the nightstand panels. It seemed that it was possible to create a low-profile dog that would really grip well–one particular problem with planing panels is that they can slip off of dogs, so I wanted to avoid that.

I started by cutting off a length of 3/4″ hard maple dowel. For this kind of dog, a tough, hard wood is best. This particular stock was slightly more than 3/4″, so I had to thin it up a little with a spokeshave before anything else (the first use of my Taiwanese wooden spokeshave, yay!).

Next, I drilled a radial hole straight through the center with my trusty Millers Falls #2, then pounded a short length of 1/8″ dowel into that hole:

The 1/8″ dowel here is yellow-poplar, but it could be anything. It won’t be subject to very much force.

Then I did the following:

  1. Sliced off a piece at the top so that there would be a flat face for the work to abut against.
  2. Drilled a smaller radial hole perpendicular and intersecting the first hole (with my trusty Millers Falls #5, sigh, too many eggbeaters).
  3. Drove a brad through this hole from the back of the dog, just enough to jut out the front at the flat face just created.
  4. Hacksawed off the brad at the back of the dog, filed that smooth, then drove it into the back a little more with a nail punch.
  5. Sawed off the top of the dog to bring the top just above the smaller dowel.

That’s a mouthful, but this picture of the finished product should explain it all fairly well:

You can see that the idea is to push the panel being milled into the brad so that it won’t ride up.

I made two of these, and two without the flat face and brad. This latter type is mostly for auxiliary support when planing across the grain. Then I had to see if all of this effort was actually going to amount to something.

They work well. Here’s how they would look in use when planing straight along the grain (no vise required):

They really do keep the board in place, and you can see that they don’t obstruct anything–they’re just a little more than 1/8″ off the top of the bench when in a hole. A planing stop (with the same sort of brads, of course) could be useful for keeping the work from “jackknifing” when planing along the edge, but I found that repositioning is fast enough. A wagon vise would also be a great help here, but still unnecessary.

Armed with these new little doodads, I had just enough time today to make one nightstand panel from the board shown in the preceding image:

Sometimes, you just need to make a lot of shavings.

Nightstand: Frame Pieces Milled

After a lot of resawing, scrubbing, and milling, I finally have all of the frame components milled to size:

It was a moderate amount of work–less than I thought, but still non-trivial. One of the biggest problems that I’m having is that the board I’m using has quite a bit of tension built up inside. Flatsawn 8/4 beech will do that to you. In any case, whenever I resaw (and sometimes when I rip), the board moves and I end up with some cupping. My reference face would be flat before the resaw, then afterwards, it would get cupped again–sometimes almost as much as 1/32″. By the third time this was about to happen to me, I wised up and took a slightly different approach so that I minimized the amount of waste and work that I had to do:

  1. Use the scrub plane to get the reference face flat.
  2. Use the jack plane with the heavily cambered blade to even out the scrub marks. A fore plane set up the same way would work fine, too. After this, the board should be pretty flat. Don’t break out the jointer yet.
  3. Scribe a line around the edges of the board from your reference face. Set the gauge 1/8″ thicker than the thickness that you’re ultimately aiming for. The line probably won’t be super-straight, but it will be straight enough.
  4. Resaw along that line. If you’re using a hand-powered saw instead of a bandsaw, do not forget to grunt and/or growl occasionally. The least you can do is scowl.
  5. Your reference face is no longer flat because some of the board’s tension was released; sigh if necessary.
  6. Reflatten your reference face, using the scrub first if necessary. This time, use your jointer, winding sticks, and all that jazz to get it totally flat.
  7. Scribe a line around the edges from the reference face, this time to the intended thickness, and mill down the opposite face as you normally would.

So in theory, I’m ready to cut some joinery. However, before I go crazy and start chopping mortises in the wrong place again, I have the the drawer, panel, top, and shelf components to mill. I’m using the wood left over from the resawing for the drawers and panels so that they match the frame:

There’s enough wood here for all of the drawer and panel parts.  Unfortunately, I have to do a lot of hogging and flattening on these pieces, too. The good news is that I don’t have to resaw any of these.

With these pieces all earmarked, that means I have (practically) nothing left from this board for making the top and the shelf. I’m a little surprised; I thought that one 6′ 7-inch-wide 8/4 board would be enough, judging from its weight and what I was visualizing. What I didn’t count on was how much all of the cupping and re-cupping from resawing would use up so much wood. This is fine, though; I grabbed another board from my stash and cut off a piece today. Perhaps it’s even better this way, because now I know that the top will be have consistent-looking wood, because its components will all come from the same part of one board.

Nightstand: Legs Milled, Bench Scraped, Etc.

Today, I thought I would have the opportunity to get a lot of stuff done on the nightstand. It turns out that I didn’t get quite so much accomplished, at least in terms of the project. The legs are now milled to profile, which is great, because they’re the longest pieces in the project:

Further evidence that I should really make a saw bench sometime is that I managed to scrape up part of the bench while ripping the board:

Yeah, oops. It’s cosmetic, of course, but it begs the question of how I managed to do that in the first place. Well, I had the board held down over the edge of the bench while I started the cut. On cuts like this, I tend to do the first 1/3 of the cut over on the left side of the vise, and then move the board over to the right of the vise when finishing the cut.

This would be a lot easier on a sawbench, especially without a stupid vise in the way. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that I just don’t feel that I have the time for at the moment because I have to concentrate on the current project. On the list of other things that I should do sometime is really redo my bench top–move it flush to the legs according to the Gospel of Schwarz, get the rear vise jaw flush with the front, and maybe thicken up the top. Maybe I’ll have time for the sawbench at least when I’m finished with the nightstand.

But after the legs were milled, it occurred to me that there was one little thing that I really did need to address at the moment, and that was my jointer plane. The one I’ve been working with up until now is a frankenplane of sorts–an unknown early-type Stanley with a type 6-8 frog, a kidney-holed lever cap, and a Hock blade. Well, that’s all fine and good, except that the tote is broken and the lateral adjuster is kind of woogie. It works, but it’s annoying and sometimes makes the hand ache.

So I could have made a new tote (I had previously glued it back together but that didn’t last) and tried to bang out the kinks in the lateral adjuster, but it turns out that I had a Millers Falls #22 (type 2, postwar) right next to it that I had wanted to use at some point. In fact, back when I had my handle-varnishing jamboree about a year ago, the tote and knob from this plane were happy to attend. But mostly, it’s been sitting in pieces at the bottom of the bench, looking kind of stupid.

I pulled it out and spent an hour or so scraping and sanding off the rust, got most of the surfaces clean (primarily by wiping it with camellia oil), oiled the threads, and put everything back together. Then, for the final touch, I stole the Hock blade from my old jointer and put it in. Bingo, a “brand new” jointer:

Nope, no sole-flattening or anything. Mostly, it was all about cleaning out the dead spiders from the inside of the frog and making sure that it works. Really, that’s all I seem to care about in these metal planes now, quite a difference from when I first started out.

New Dog Holes, More Milled Wood

I’ve been doing a lot of milling and resawing lately. My prototype bookshelf will use the following pieces of yellow-poplar that I dimensioned:

Yeah, I know, it’s not too exciting, it’s just some wood.

This stuff was quite cupped when I started out, so I had to do a lot of work with the scrub plane to get it flat. To do so, I decided to put a second row of dog holes in the workbench so that it would be easier to plane across the grain:

To use them, just add some dogs in the appropriate holes, as shown here by this evil piece of beech:

It’s been working well so far. I’m considering adding one more at the corner so that it really doesn’t have any room to move around, but it’s not important right now.

Why, you ask, is that board evil? Well, it’s from a piece of 8/4 stock, about 11″ wide. To get to the point of resawing it, I had to flatten one face. No problem, except when you don’t hammer in the scrub plane wedge enough. When that happens, the blade can pop out when you’re doing hard work. The overall consequence, then, is minor carnage. Ouch. I lost a few days of shop time from that.

In any case, this board is for another project that I haven’t talked about yet. I’ll post more details on it later.

Milling musing

I still don’t have a scrub plane, so milling this piece of european beech for my future mallet was as time-consuming as you’d expect:

To minimize the pain, I just flattened one side and then scribed the other side for about the maximum thickness so that I wouldn’t have to take off too much stock. I don’t even know how thick it is, just that it’s pretty much uniform. We’ll see why this doesn’t matter in later stages.

I used the jack plane quite a lot more for this one. Working straight across the board and in diagonals took out the cup fairly quickly. The fore plane rounded out the first face, and this side turned out very, very flat.

There was more work to do on the other side because there was still a significant amount of stock to remove, so naturally, it took a long time. In addition, I decided to goof around with one of my smoothing planes again, trying again to improve its tuning. This went fairly well. I managed to tighten the throat a bit and straighten out the frog.

Moreover, I figured out a trick on how to straighten the frog: if the sides are square, you can use a double square. Put the stock on the frog bed (where it meets the blade), and extend the rule out over the side. If the frog is square, the rule can sit flush with the side of the plane, because those two surfaces are, in theory, supposed to be orthogonal. I suppose that a photo would be handy here, but I’m too lazy right now to show it.

The downside of all of this messing around with the smoothing plane is that in my excitement, I took off a little extra from one of the edges, making the second side “not quite flat.” In the grand scheme of this project, it does not matter. In fact, it might be a good thing.

The only thing that does matter is that the next thing I mill down had better be for the body of a scrub plane.

Milling, Part 5

At this point, I’d milled my board to width and depth; the only thing remaining was cutting it to length. My goal was two one-foot (roughly) lengths.

This meant using a crosscut saw, preferably a backsaw, which meant that the task fell to the old Jackson saw I’d been playing with. I wasn’t terribly happy with the initial sharpening job I did on it. The saw kept wandering around in the cut. so yesterday, I decided to try again. I jointed, shaped, and set the teeth, then went about to pointing the teeth.

I screwed up, and the teeth ended up looking ridiculous. The saw didn’t exactly cut so well, either. So I jointed, shaped, and set again, and then I screwed up the pointing again. So I jointed, shaped a little, then went to bed.

Not to be deterred, I woke up this morning (“full” of energy), and decided to try a few different things. First, I used less set on the teeth. Then I set about pointing with a lower fleam angle (something like 10-15 degrees). Finally, I decided to ignore the rake angle guide when pointing, rather relying more on sight and feel.

The saw certainly looked a lot better when I finished. And it cut better–it did not wander around now. So I was ready to put it to use. Here’s the end product after shooting the end grain with my low-angle block plane:

Yay. I’m done with milling. Plus, I got to put the Veritas plane to a torture test of sorts.

I’m still not thrilled with the backsaw. It cuts smoothly and relatively quickly now, and it doesn’t wander, but I can’t help but thinking that it could produce a finer cut. The question, though, is if I’m barking up the wrong tree here. That saw has just 10 teeth per inch, which is fairly coarse for a crosscut saw anyway. This thing may be better off as a ripsaw for tenon cheeks and stuff like that. I don’t think I want to retooth it, because that will wear down even more of the saw, and there isn’t much blade left to begin with.

Whatever. I’m ready to try making a mortise-and-tenon joint now.

Milling, Part 4

In the last milling episode, my board was now flat on three sides. I needed to rip it to its final width of 2.5 inches. First, I scribed a line around the cut with my marking gauge, then pulled out my now-functional ripsaw. I took the cut a little slowly, not really knowing what to expect. The saw did its job perfectly, guiding itself with the kerf and never wandering:

To get the final surface on the edge, I had two choices with my jointer plane: use a shooting board or try it freehand. Since I don’t have a shooting board, and I didn’t want to cobble together some lame setup again, I opted for the freehand method. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

That little Lee Valley double square is really handy for checking the edge.

There’s just one thing left to do: saw the end square to final length and plane it smooth. But for the rest of today, I’m going to clean and wax a few tools that seriously need it (like that jointer plane, ugh).

Milling, Part 3

At this beginning stage, I do not have much material (MDF, ply, etc) for making jigs and fixtures such as shooting boards. But I decided that I want to use a shooting board-like thing for squaring up one of the edges, so I improvised something out of a bunch of pieces of hardboard on my bench:

At the near end that you can’t see, my Veritas® “Wonder Dog®” is holding the edge in place. It worked fine, though I can see where a hold-down or holdfast would be better. I am not interested in forking over the cash for one of those right now.

Though I seriously need to get the rust off that #7 jointer frankenplane, it did the job fine. My square says that it’s a square edge. Oh, goodie gumdrops.

Next, I need to rip the board to width, and that means that I need to get one of my saws into ripsaw shape. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Anyone notice that Lee Valley recently announced their new Veritas plow plane? Only costs about a million dollars, as you probably guessed, but it does look kind of slick.

Milling, Part 2

Against my better judgement, I decided to mill the second face tonight. First, I used a marking gauge to scribe the target thickness into the edge of the board, then threw it rough-side-up on the bench:

Yeah. That’s about a quarter-inch that I had to knock off the board. That should sound like a pain. And it was. Sort of. It took a long time because I used only the #6, but I finally arrived at the goal:

This face turned out to be a little bit flatter than the first one. Practice, I guess. Or desperation. Whatever. It’s not as “smooth” as the first face, but that’s only because I decided that I didn’t want to get really anal with this, especially considering that a smoothing plane is going to hit it at some point.

If I have to do much more of this, I am seriously going to look into getting a scrub plane. The sheer number of shavings that I ended up with was ridiculous.

Next up, I’ll need to shoot one edge flat and square, rip to width, and plane the other edge. I probably need to improvise a shooting board for this.