The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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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.

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.

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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