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You know it ain’t easy.

Just like many things in my life lately, my woodworking over the past few days has been disjointed. Before I completed the door for the little built in cabinet I made for the garage, I decided to do a little work on the dado plane I picked up from Ebay.

The first act of restoration was taking the plane apart. Thankfully, everything looked good, though the screws for the depth stop mechanism were definitely not original to the plane. I did a little bit of work on the wedges by laying a sheet of 220 grit sand paper on my workbench and giving both of them a light sanding/flattening. I then cleaned the plane, first with mineral spirits (very lightly), and then some linseed oil, getting it in all the nooks and crannies. While the plane dried I cleaned the depth stop mechanism with Brasso. The turning knob shined up brilliantly, but the screw itself took a little bit of work, as it had many, many years of dust and grime on it. I probably spent a good 15 minutes on the screw alone, and while it is not shiny, I definitely got it clean. Finally, I wiped off the linseed oil and applied a coat of paste wax. Next step was the iron.

Cleaned up plane

Cleaned up plane

Before I did anything, I flattened both the tang on the iron and the knicker using a ballpeen hammer, which was easy enough. I then cleaned the iron with some camellia oil. I spent a good 15 minutes flattening the back with the 1000 grit water stone. The back was reasonably flat to begin with, but I wanted to be certain. To hone the actual bevel itself I used a Veritas honing guide, which works well on skewed irons. That part took around 25 minutes, as I worked very deliberately. I wanted to get it as perfect as possible so future sharpenings would go more smoothly. Happily, I managed to achieve a really nice edge, and the old blade held up beautifully. With that, I called it a job done. I didn’t really touch the knicker other than the tang, as I am not all that sure how to sharpen them.

Sharp iron

Sharp iron

Saturday morning I started and completed the door for my built-in. I ran into a bit of a problem; the boards I set aside for the rails were not really long enough. I was shooting for a one inch long tenon, with a quarter inch stub. After squaring the boards and cutting them to usable size, I only had enough length left for about a 5/8 inch tenon, which I suppose is better than nothing. Either way, there is nothing much to report on that job, as it was basically a small bit of trial and error, measuring, sawing, and some handplaning. In fact, here is a good tip for making a tongue and groove joint on a table saw: Always make the tongue/tenon first, then use the tongue to set the fence of the table saw to make the groove. It takes a bit more work than setting up a dado stack, but at the same time eliminates the trial and error process of setting up a dado stack to begin with.

Finished door with pull

Finished door with pull

The last job of the day was hanging the door. Hanging a door sometimes isn’t easy, but I found a little trick that sometimes helps. Before I assembled the door and glued it, I mortised the hinges into hinge side stile and hung it onto the cabinet. It is much easier dealing with one 2 inch wide board rather than an entire door (this works well on a smaller door, but on a heavier door it may not work as well due to sagging) After I had a nice fit I glued up the door, checked it for square, and let it dry over night. This morning, I installed a pull ring and re-hung the entire door. The fit is nice, but not perfect, but at least the gaps are even, and the door opens and closes smoothly.

With this project finished I probably won’t woodworking much for the rest of the summer. Hopefully if all goes well over the next few weeks I will get started on making my smooth plane. Otherwise, I don’t plan on building any furniture. This project wasn’t very difficult, but that is a relative term. I’ve yet to build anything out of wood that was simple, even if the design itself was. This project was no exception. For what it’s worth it was fun, woodworking usually is, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

I’m the Rabbet!

A few days ago I purchased a ½” wood rabbeting plane from Ebay. The item looked to be in good condition from the photos, the seller had an excellent reputation as far as Ebay is concerned, and the offer of $45.00 and free shipping I felt was very reasonable, so I took a chance and ordered it. The plane arrived last night-FYI in just 2 days-and has thus far exceeded my expectations. The plane is clean with no rust, the depth stop works smoothly, and most importantly, the iron is in fantastic shape at first glance. Though the iron looks like it hasn’t been sharpened in some time, it is clean and the edge is very straight. I am just guessing, but I think that whomever originally owned the plane only sharpened using a stone and not a grinding wheel of any kind. I’m not a fan of grinding wheels for sharpening, so to me that is a big plus.

IMG_0159[1]

I don’t know much about wood plane rehab, but I plan on giving the iron a good honing, removing the depth stop and cleaning it with Brasso, and giving the body a light cleaning with mineral spirits, followed by a coat of linseed oil and a few coats of wax. I checked the sole and found it very flat, so I will not touch it unless I notice a problem during use.

I purchased the plane because I like wooden planes, and because I would like to start making rabbets by hand when possible, in particular when it is only a small section. So this is basically just an experiment, and one I don’t feel badly in attempting because at worst it will only have cost me $45.00. I saw some nice deals on other planes as well and if all goes well I’ll order another. Funny, though I am hardly a traditionalist I seem to like wood planes better. I have no explanation, other than the fact that I like them. Who knew?

I’m selling my table saw

I’m not.

However, I spent about an hour Sunday night reading woodworking blogs. I would say that between 15 and 20 of those blogs were fairly new (all amateur) and many featured a woodworker about to sell his table saw. Now it’s not my place, but I am wondering why.

Don’t misunderstand me, if another woodworker doesn’t want to use a table saw it means little to me. The way I see it, there are a handful of really good reasons to stay away from a table saw: Safety, dusty, noisy (not always, depends on the saw), and they can take up a lot of space. But most of the blogs I read last night seemed to imply that the table saw was keeping them from doing good work. I’m wondering how that conclusion was reached.

It’s been my experience that having a poor tool isn’t all that helpful, but never has one caused me to do bad work. If my work is bad, and sometimes it is, I can’t really ever recall the tool being the blame, in particular if the tool was in working order. Maybe how I used the tool caused some problems, but that is another matter. A dull chisel will do poor work, or a table saw with a defective motor or rip fence, but that isn’t necessarily the fault of the tool.

So I’m hoping that if a woodworker out there reading this blog is also considering selling his table saw because he or she feels it hurts the work being performed, if you don’t mind I would like to hear your thoughts on why. Thanks.

Fixing a Hole

Because I had a little bit of free time on Friday night after work, I got a little bit of a jumpstart on my built in cupboard project I started last week. The first task was to place the cupboard in its soon-to-be home and mark out the portion of the wall to be sawn out. I then used a drywall saw to cut out the hole and make a huge mess in the process. The next task was installing the back of the cupboard, which was a simple piece of 1/4″ thick Baltic birch plywood, which I cut on the table saw. I installed the back piece with a little glue and some brad nails. I then installed the semi-finished cupboard in the hole. I possibly could have installed the face-frame before and then installed the cupboard in one shot, but that would have made it more difficult to shim. So I installed the case with some finish nails, added a new 2×4 header to the wall, and called it a night.

Plywood back installed

Plywood back installed

Shimmed and ready to go.

Shimmed and ready to go.

I had work yesterday morning, and things to do in the afternoon, so the face-frame portion of the project had to wait until this morning. For the face frame I once again used Pine, ripped to 3 1/4″ wide, except for the bottom piece which was only 1 3/4″. To take away the tooling marks I used the jack plane set very lightly, as I didn’t want to change the dimensions any more than necessary. I then gave the boards an overall sanding 150/220. When they looked satisfactory I double checked the boards to be sure they were square, because I used pocket holes to assemble the frame, and while pocket hole joinery may be dead simple, if the boards aren’t square then it doesn’t mean a thing. I assembled the frame on my workbench, hung it with just one nail, checked everything to make sure it was even, and then finished the installation using finish nails.

A small pile of shavings. I must not be a real woodworker.

A small pile of shavings. I must not be a real woodworker.

Face frame installed

Face frame installed

It holds stuff

It holds stuff

The last act of the day was filling the cabinet just to see what it can hold. For not being very large it holds a nice amount of stuff. I don’t really have any specific plan for the cupboard, it was really just an experiment. Because I didn’t have enough wood to make the door frame, it will have to wait until next weekend. That will be a bit more challenging, as it will involve mortise and tenon joinery, as well as fitting panels. I would also like to add a small cap to the top of the frame. I can’t be anything that sticks out very far, but I do want to differentiate between the cupboard and the rest of the wall with a border.

Considering that the wall isn’t very even, and covered in bumpy drywall, the cabinet fits nicely. I think it will look even better once the door is in place. One thing I probably should have done differently was leave off the adjustable shelving and just uses dadoes to hold the shelves in place. The cabinet really isn’t tall enough to need adjustable shelving, and it was a bit of a waste of time to put the holes in. Otherwise, I am happy with how it is shaping up. Next weekend I should have little problem getting the door built and installed. I will then be able to call this project finished and move on to making my smoothing plane.

You’re gonna lose that girl

The following is a true story:

I think just about everybody claims to “never watch TV!” There seems to be a stigma associated with watching TV too much. But I can honestly say that I don’t watch much television. I should probably rephrase that: I don’t watch much of what I want to watch on television. I have a daughter, and the television watching hours of 7pm-9pm are dominated by her and the Disney Channel. Usually during that time I will read, or sometimes use the computer, or whatever. Of course, I could go into another room to watch television, but that usually only lasts just a few minutes, because soon enough I will hear my daughters little footsteps, and sure as the sun will rise she is next to me and the television has magically changed channels to one of her shows. I probably should take that as a compliment.

In actuality, this little arrangement doesn’t really bother me all that much. There really isn’t a whole lot on TV that interests me at that time of the night anyway, in particular this time of the year, and with the Phillies being horrible for the past three seasons that pretty much takes baseball out of the equation. But there is one show that I do enjoy watching.

Every Tuesday night at 10pm the Woodwright’s Shop is on in my area, and I always try to watch it. There usually isn’t a problem; my daughter is generally sleeping and my wife is at the point in the day where she really doesn’t care regardless. Last night, however, was a little bit of a different story. Both my wife and daughter were awake, and both were vehemently opposed to my watching Roy Underhill for 23 minutes. Last night’s episode featured Christopher Schwarz constructing a try square modeled after one found in the Benjamin Seaton tool chest. Being that I had never seen it before, I kind of wanted to watch it.

Before I go on, I will say that my wife not wanting to watch the Woodwright’s Shop is really nothing new; she thinks it’s boring, and it probably is to her, but this was something more. I asked her, half-jokingly, what she had against poor Roy Underhill. She proceeded to tell me that not only was the show boring, but that Roy was also annoying. In fact, my lovely wife had a laundry list of complaints, ending with “everything he does is sloppy and rushed”. I’m not even going get into what she said about Christopher Schwarz. I tried to briefly explain to her the premise of the show, but at that point she couldn’t have cared less. Needless to say I watched the last 15 minutes in another room, alone.

I haven’t been watching the Woodwright’s Shop for more than a few years, but I’ve come to enjoy it. I’ve felt before that the show could use some tasteful editing, but yet part of the show’s charm is it’s single-take method. I like how Roy tells a story, not only with words, but with woodworking. Chopping up the show and editing it would really hurt the continuity in my opinion, and take away from that charm. Not that it really matters, the show has been on for 30 years and it’s format has proven to work, but I was a little disappointed in my wife’s attitude towards it.

Like I said earlier, The Woodwright’s Shop is the one TV show I look forward to watching during the week. It’s roughly 23 minutes every Tuesday evening at 10pm. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I can watch it without criticism from the misses and my daughter, but it seems like it might be. It just never occurred to me that The Woodwright’s Shop could be such a controversial topic in my house.

Nowhere Man

When I returned home from work tonight I checked on the dado I cut for my built in cupboard. I’m not exactly sure why I did it, but I did. It was my first hand-sawn dado in some time, but I managed to get a nice fit. It’s not perfect, there was some tear out which was likely caused by my knife line going astray. You can’t see the tear out, though, which is all that really matters. But I would go as far as saying that the dado was nearly perfect, in that the fit wasn’t too tight, and wasn’t loose, and the dado is perpendicular to the case sides with clean lines. It required some light tapping with a mallet to seat it, which is the fit I was attempting to get. So I call it job well done, maybe.

Tight dado

Tight dado

Right side dado

Right side dado

After 4 plus years of woodworking I can’t say how bad or good of a woodworker I am. The problem is, I’m okay with hand tools, and okay with power tools, but not really great with either. I don’t really own enough power tools to be a “power tool woodworker”, and I am not necessarily skilled enough with hand tools to be a “hand tool only woodworker”. So what am I?

I don’t care for labels, in particular when it comes to a hobby. I don’t like terms like “hybrid woodworker” or “blended woodworker”, but there is a time and place for them. I do have a problem with a “blended” approach, and that is the tendency to not focus enough effort on any one method. For instance, I can use the table saw to make a dado, or a hand saw, or I could use an electric router if I had the correct bit and a jig; I’ve used all three. It may seem that the hand sawn method is the most difficult, but that isn’t always true. Yesterday, the table saw would have been the most difficult way to saw my dado, so I did it with a hand saw instead. The table saw would have required test cuts along with some trial and error. I know there are woodworkers out there that can achieve a tight dado on a table saw in no time flat because they’ve done it so often and they are good at it; they know their equipment inside and out. I don’t practice any one method enough to become really great at it because I’m a home woodworker with limitations in both space, equipment, and certain skills I will reluctantly admit.

There is a part of me that would really like to focus on one style of woodworking, not because of any ideology or to prove a point, but just to become really good at one method. But another part of me knows that it just isn’t possible at the moment. With a little more practice, I know I could easily saw all of my dados by hand. But I also know that if I am building a bookcase with 24 dado cuts then sawing and fitting them each by hand will severely limit the already limited time I have to woodwork with, and I could say the same of power operations that require jig building and use.

So it looks like I am sort of stuck in between at least for the time being. I guess it doesn’t matter all that much. I’ve managed to get by for the past 4 years using my own style and I’ve generally enjoyed it. But being on the fence isn’t always the most comfortable place to sit. Maybe it’s time I chose a side. Maybe I need to get off the fence and get going, somewhere. In any case, being somewhere is better than being nowhere.

I’m looking through you.

My vacation is sadly coming to a close. I hadn’t been at the house very often this week, but I did want to dedicate a few hours to woodwork before I went back to real work. So today I decided to start the built in cupboard I had planned for my garage.

For this project I am using home center pine. I don’t plan on painting or staining it, though once the door is finished I may put a coat of linseed oil on it. But as far as material is concerned it is not the best. I had originally planned on making the cupboard around six feet tall and 16 inches wide. It dawned on me this morning that if I make it six feet tall I will have to remove my dart board, which I’ve kind of grown attached to in its current location. So instead I settled on a height of 42 inches. In truth I’m not actually all that worried about dimensions and storage capacity; this is more of an experiment in both woodworking and carpentry.

The first task of the day was ripping a board to 10 1/2″ wide and then cross-cutting it to finished length, which I did on my table saw. I then laid out a dado in the middle of that board. Instead of setting up the dado stack on the table saw, I decided to make the dado with a hand saw, as I felt it a waste of time to go through the trouble of installing and setting up a dado stack to make one cut. I clamped the board to my workbench and used a marking knife and the board I had planned on making the shelf with to mark the dado width. To get the cut started I used the keeper from the Dutch Tool chest as a sawing guide. Once the defining cuts were made I first used a basic hand saw to add more kerfs, but that was tedious, so I used a chisel instead. I then cleaned it out with the same chisel and used the router plane to smooth out the bottom. After I was satisfied with the dado I ripped the board to width, 5 1/4″, on the table saw. It probably would have been a little easier to make the dados after I had ripped it to width, but this method assured that both dados would be perfectly aligned.

Striking a line

Striking a line

sawing guide

sawing guide

Sawing a dado

Sawing a dado

trying to saw accurately

trying to saw accurately

Chopping out a dado

Chopping out a dado

Before I went any further, I pre-drilled some holes in the dado to fasten the shelf. I had planned on using just nails to put the box together, but instead I went with pocket screws. Pocket screws don’t work so well for ninety degree assemblies; they do much better for face frames. I wish I had just used nails, but in the end it was done, though I made it more complicated than it had to be. I also used the liquid hide glue for the first time, and it worked just fine. I liked that it was tacky without being slippery. I then attached the middle shelf to the dado with cut nails, no glue. Before I called it a morning I drilled some holes for adjustable shelves and then cross cut the two shelves to width.

Drilling pilot holes

Drilling pilot holes

I can make a see-through box.

I can make a see-through box.

After I cleaned up I did something that I should have done before anything else, and that was make sure that the box fit between the studs. Happily, it fit perfectly. I only need to add the plywood back to finish the interior of the cupboard. Hopefully next week I will cut out the drywall and install the cupboard in the wall. I will then proceed to the real woodworking portion of this project, and that is making a face frame and a door.

It felt good to get in a little time at the workbench today. If the weather cooperates next weekend, I should have my first project of the summer finished. Most importantly, I will have gotten in some good practice on fitting a door and a face-frame when it comes time to do it for real on the Shaker Enfield Cupboard I plan on making for my next furniture project.

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