Assembling the Base

Out of all the joinery for the bench, I think this wedged through dovetail mortise and tenon was the most nerve racking. Considering I haven’t been doing the hand tool thing for too long, successfully assembling this joint would a big accomplishment for me. Although it may not seem like it, the layout was a bit tricky to read off the plans and to make it more complicated I had to modify them to fit my dimensions. Looking at it now it doesn’t see like it should have been but I guess it was the intimidation factor for me.

Here’s the inside..

And the outside layout.

The “x” marked areas serve as straight through mortise. Now I’m not sure how most do their through mortises by hand but I found it easier to drill my holes out about 1/2ish the way through

And then (mostly) clean it all up

Before flipping it over and drilling out the rest.

Once the through mortise is all complete…

It’s time to work on the angled portion of the mortise. To do this I first established a kerf that is angled down to the marked line up to the edge on the opposite side.

And slowly work back until the kerf line is gone.

Next was tackling the inset portion. To make things a little easier I made a series of kerfs with my little pull saw. It’s a lot easier to pull away from the wall while sawing then push against it. From there is was a matter of carefully chipping out the waste until I was about 1/8″ away from my line.

After I get the last bit out of the corner I take it all down to my scribe line and clean things up as best as possible.

Yes, I know she’s not a looker but she gets the job done. Also considering I’m using such a soft construction grade pine, I do have to say that it did turn out well, IMO.

Next of course comes the tenon portion. For this I must admit I somewhat cheated. The total thickness for the stretchers are 2″. As you know, 2 x 6 dimensioned lumber is 1-1/2 x 5-1/2 and when I mill things up I usually get about 1-1/4″ to 1-3/8″ depending on the board. I didn’t want to put two of these pieces together and end up with 2-1/2″ to 2-3/4″ to have to thickness down to 2″. So I just bought some S4S boards from the big box store when I went back to get a couple more 2 x 6’s.

Layout for the mortise was much simpler. I’d love to show you but I was on a roll in the shop. Once I dry fit the first one and saw how great it fit I didn’t stop for pictures. Cutting out the tenons was  a much simpler task. It was just three cuts. The first cut was for the 1″ shoulder, then I went down the board and cut the cheek. Lastly was the angled haunched portion. Here is the end result.

After I cleaned things up and fit each joint individually, I assembled the whole base.

As you can see I  also fit the top at this point. I must say, I do love it. Although I knew the dimensions when I began building, it is a little smaller than I thought. By no means is that an issue, I still think it’s the perfect size for me and my projects. I just have to remember that the zoom function in SketchUp doesn’t mean larger in real life.

I’ve also already added the leg vise hardware and will write a post about that when that portion is all complete. I even made a couple of bench dogs and although she’s not complete, she is 100% useable. All that’s left with the base is adding the shelf, making the wedges and do a final clean up of all the joints and edges before setting her in place.

Finishing the Wagon Vise

Well I was finally able to get back in the shop since arriving back home last Sunday. It wasn’t easy though. I kinda left the garage in a disarray when I left and it was no better when I got back. Yeah, that’s supposed to be my shop area… Well after three days of on and off again cleaning, I finally got my side of the garage in a usable state.

So now my first state of business was finishing the wagon vise! Before I can start on today events, let me catch up on what was done before I left to Yuma. After I finished my tenon part of my end cap it was time to cut out the mortises.

I don’t mean to brag but these mortises pretty much fit like a glove from the get go.

Next was getting the hole cut out for the screw portion of the wagon vise. Since the threaded rod has a 1″ diameter I established the center with a number 16 auger bit between the spacer and made my mark.

Once I had the center outlined I placed the threaded insert over the outline and traced it.

After it was traced I finished drilling the hole through the end cap…

And then I chopped down to the depth of the hardware and marked my holes and drilled for the mounting screws.

I did have to add a little bit of a chamfer to the edges to make room for the welding on the hardware. Once I mounted the hardware and went to dry fit it, I found out there was one little problem. Again, since the hardware was an after thought, things didn’t quite line up.

So I marked the edges of the hardware on the bench top the and cut back to the depth of the mounting bracket. Once everything was nice and flush, I left to WTI.

Now we come to today. There was one issue that was making this whole set up a real PITA. When you tightened the screw that secures the mounting piece on the moveable portion of the vise, it makes contact with the bracket before bottoming out which causes it to tighten the bracket rather then letting it spin freely. Therefore when you loosen the vise it would unscrew completely. To correct this issue I cut the top off a small screw and placed it in the screw hole to act as a spacer to give clearance between the bracket and screw.

Now I know in my last post about the vise I mentioned how I did not want to use any metal fasteners on this bench. Well while in Yuma I came to the conclusion that since I’m dealing with pine, to best reinforce the end cap it might be best to go ahead and use them. Luckily for me I already had some lag bolts and washers from a previous project that I never used. I marked for three bolt and drilled about 3/4″ down. From the center of the auger bit it continued with a 5/16″ drill bit for the 3/8″ bolts. I elongated the two back bolt about 1/16″ and 1/8″ respectively. Nothing fancy, just some paring away with a chisel.

Once it was all said and done and the end cap was mounted, I installed the vise hardware completely and cleaned up the top and edges. I used a 1″ dowel pegged with a 5/16″ dowel on both ends for the handle. Here she is closed…

And open…

In summary I would have done a lot different. First would obviously be to account for the size of the hardware before building. There won’t be too much flattening of this bad boy since parts of the hardware are almost already flush with the top. I would have also like to use up more of the vise length. There’s about four more inches of unused rod that could have been nice to have. Also, I don’t like how close the left bolt is to the edge but so long as it holds, I guess I’ll try to not let it bug me. Aesthetically, I may go back in a square up the elongated holes. You may or may not be able to tell but they are quite funky in shape.

Other that waxing the sides and runner grooves, I’m calling the wagon vise complete! I don’t have any bench dogs made yet but I did test it out by placing a piece scrap in the middle and clamping it down and boy does she hold. I couldn’t even budge the board! Next is getting the base assembled…

The Shadow Chest Concept

Since I left home for WTI back on September 5th, I really haven’t done much. I don’t just mean woodworking wise, I’m talking about day to day life. I have however manage to watch an impressive amount of TV shows. I’ve been able to start and finish or catch up to The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Blue Mountain State, and White Collar to name a few. I’ve also been able to watch a ridiculous amount of movies. BUT, that’s not all I’ve done (just mostly).

Since I can’t do woodworking, I’ve been Sketch(ing)Up some ideas. Now I think lots if not most hobby woodworker have some type of “business”. Now I don’t mean an official business that we need involve Uncle Sam in, but something’s gotta pay for all the wood and tools. Mine happens to be frames and shadow boxes. I mean what kind of Marine woodworker would I be if I didn’t make shadow boxes! It helps keep me in supply of wood and can sometime generate enough for new tools now and then.

Well since my wife left the Marine Corps after 8 years to take on the job of homemaker, I’ve been wanting to make her something special for her to remember her time (even if she doesn’t want to) in the Marine Corps. She did receive a shadow box from her shop upon EASing but it’s a cheap store bought one. I did offer to make hers but her Gunny did want me to make it since it was a shop gift and I wasn’t in their shop. Anyways, she’s always told me she wanted a chest to put her uniforms in so I wanted to design something that would house a (new) shadow box and her uniforms as well as any other misc items she may want in there. I know this is no new design but I haven’t been able to find anything that closely resembles the potential quality that mine has.

I may be giving my SketchUp skills more credit that what my woodworking skills will be able to produce but we can all dream right? Now here’s a few things that are specific to this chest. There are four different types of dovetails on it; a through dovetail (case), a half blind dovetail (trays), a sliding dovetail (lid), and a miter dovetail (shadow box). The hardest part of designing this chest was making it sell-able. Let me explain. If I sold this case, the question that kept stumping me was “how do I enable someone to access the mounting board of the shadow box and reassemble it after they are done?”

The shadow box is built into the lid so it’s not a matter of removing it entirely and accessing it from the back like my typical shadow boxes. Idea after idea my bubbles kept popping. It wasn’t until I re-stumbled across an article in issue#213 of Fine Woodworking that it hit me! Mitered frame dovetails!! Here’s what I’m thinking; set the sides of the case in the lid and then basically make a false front. Three of the sides would be permanently mounted with  a fourth that would be removable to access the mounting board. You can get what you need done and when you’re finish, place the piece back on and it would still look complete. While it sounds simple enough, it probably won’t be. That’s why it’s a concept.

A couple other notes that I want to mention… The lid design is taken straight from Tony Konovaloff’s tool chest. Although it seems to be completely out of my league, that won’t stop me from trying. Next, I wanted it to resemble a foot locker in shape. For that reason there is no kick plate to hide a through groove for the base so there will be a stopped groove….. I think that’s it for now. I look forward to starting this once my bench is complete!

Handworks 2013

Although I’ve only been woodworking a few years, WIA never really interested me. Not to say that I wouldn’t attend if given the opportunity but still. Since I’ve never been to any woodworking convention, it does hold that bit of intrigue over me. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m stuck in Yuma, AZ during both events, I maybe would have tried to go to the one in Cincinnati. Be it as it is, I’m not going to any woodworking conventions this year.

Next year is a different story. Lost Art Press posted some information about Handworks 2013 on their blog earlier this month. It sounds like something right up my alley. So much so that I’ve already registered and got my trip all planned and paid for. Basically it turns out to be an early Father’s Day gift since it’s about 3 weeks beforehand.

Anyone else planing on going?

New Toys I Can’t Play With… Yet

Just because I’m 2430 miles from home doesn’t mean I’ve stayed away from woodworking. I came across some extra cash when I sold my truck before leaving for Yuma so I’ve spent some time scouring the internet for some tools. I wasn’t sure want I wanted at first, some thing new or used. I thought about some new planes or upgrading my saw sharpening gear among other things but I’ve also had my eyes out for some specific used items.

My first purchase was a set of Russell Jennings auger bits. My first set of bits were awful but I didn’t mind. I won a bid on eBay for two braces and some misc auger bits. Out of all of maybe 15 bits, only 3 were salvageable. The rest were either bent, the spurs were completely worn down, or the threads on the tip were ruined. I decided to spend the money on a nice restored set and hopefully they are as good as they look.

My next buy wasn’t intended at all. Actually I blame Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works. I have now acquired a nice little collection of his saws. If you follow his Facebook page you’ll know that he had a deal on guaranteed delivery by Christmas if an order was placed before the end of Sept. He was also raising the price of his saws $30 across the board and gave a couple weeks notice for those looking to buy before the increase. Luckily for me, it just so happened that he had a giveaway when he was just below 700 “likes”. He stated that those who help him reach 700 would get 10% off a saw for them and those who referred them. That’s when having a wife has helped in a woodworking way. We each got 10% off and the time seemed right to make my deposit. I ordered a 10″ dovetail and 10″ carcase saw to add to my collection which includes a 16″ tenon, 14″ sash and 12″ hybrid dovetail saw. Plus I couldn’t pass on his bronze backing and apple handles! I’ll be posting pictures when I get them!

Lastly was my biggest purchase. I’ve been looking into getting some hollows and rounds. If you’ve looked into new pairs from places such as M.S Bickford or Old Street Tool you know they are running almost $500! Half sets will set you back around $3500! While I would love a new pair (or better yet a Starter Set), the Marine Corps doesn’t pay me enough to drop that kind of money on new hollows and rounds. I started looking for used sets on eBay with no luck. I wasn’t looking for single pairs but sets. I can’t get myself to spend $500 on a single pair but I will on a half set even though I may not use them all at first or ever. The one half set I was willing to buy I did bid on but lost. It ended up selling for about $850. I turned my attention to another website that I came across a while back, Jim Bode Tools. This is actually the full website of one of the eBay stores I always end up on, 2lshark. One lucky day I found what I was looking for. A matching half set of hollows and rounds in great condition. Again, this is only verified by picture right now and I haven’t seen them in person yet but just look!

I have all these great toys at home and waiting for me. The saws may even be ready around that time. November 2nd can’t come soon enough!

Well That Didn’t Work How I Intended…

When I first thought about building my bench, I didn’t intend on buying any vise hardware. My original plan was to just use a bar clamp on the leg vise and a spreader for the wagon vise. Well if I’m putting so much time and effort to build this bench by hand then why not spend the extra money for presentable hardware?

A couple of weeks ago I went ahead and ordered both the large single screw vise and scandinavian vise screw from Lie-Nielsen. Now if I were building the bench larger and of higher quality materials then of course consider I would consider something like Benchcrafted but since it’s just some construction grade pine, the Lie-Nielsen will do just fine. There was only one major issue…

Since the vise hardware was an after thought, things didn’t quite fit with my current wagon vise set up. The installation would have been impossible without another modification. The other piece of mounting hardware was also an issue but more of being able to drill out the holes for the screws.

There was no room to get anything in there so I was left with one option…

After I cut out the spacer I brought the wagon vise forward and clamped it so I could drill out the holes for the screw holes.

Actually mounting this piece concerned me also due to the fact that since it was going into the block with the dog hole already cut. No matter how I angled it, the left side looked like it was going to pass through. I opted for the top left since it would give me a little more room because the top is angled more forward. The screw just barley broke through but not enough to matter.

Next was getting everything square and ready for the tenons.

I know how I wanted the mortise and tenons to fit but not exactly how to reinforce (I’ll get to that in a minute) so I began the layout. First I knocked out the single tenon with a combination of my sash saw and a flush cut saw. I needed a smaller saw that could get in between the top. After that was done, I started on the shoulders of the larger tenon. When I started to cut the cheeks I had to stop because I kept going at an angle. I didn’t want to stand the bench on end and cut so I tried sideways and that didn’t work. So I began chopping it all away.

I went all the way down to about 1/16″-1/8″

and then crept up on my line with a block rabbet plane.

I flipped it over and when all was said and done, here she is.

Now here are my issues with reinforcement. First, I don’t want to use any metal fasteners. I’ve seen many benches with lag bolts on the end cap and I just don’t want to do that. Unless absolutely necessary, lag bolts are a last resort.

Next, my tenons are 1″ long. Does that offer enough space to insert 3/8″ dowels? If they were centered on the tenon, there would be 5/16″ on each side of the dowel. That just doesn’t seem like enough of the tenon for proper reinforcement. I’m not planning to clamp boards with enough force to bow them so maybe it would be enough?

Lastly is the design aspect. I went with a shorter shoulder on the side more near the wagon vise because I wanted to get a dowel in as close to the wagon vise as possible for better strength. Probably doesn’t matter but I went with it anyway. Here’s what I’m thinking…

As for dealing with expansion, I plan to glue the mortise and dowels on the left side of the vise for a solid foundation. Now I’m think that gluing just the dowel on the right would be okay and then opening up the dowel holes laterally for the last two would allow for any movement.

The total width of the end cap is about 11″ and I know there are formulas to figure expansion and contraction but I think it’ll be fine. Anyone disagree?

On a personal note. On Wed I’ll be leaving to AZ for 9 weeks for some training. My goal is to at least have the end cap and wagon vise installed as well as the left side of the bench fully assembled. Wish me luck!

Slowly but Surely

Although I haven’t made much progress in one specific area on the bench, the base is coming together little by little. Here’s what I’ve got since my last post. All the legs and side stretches have been milled and cut to their final length.

After laying out out the joinery, I cut the tenons on the top stretchers first.

After I cut the tenons on both ends, I drilled out the mortises with a brace and then dry fit the pieces together.

At this point you can also see I cut the tenons on the top of the legs. Next was tackling the wedged tenons. My 16″ Bad Axe Tool Works tenon saw did the job just fine!

There was a lot of necessary clean up on both the tenons and mortise but believe it or not, everything fit snug on the first fitting.

I did finish up both ends and did another dry fit with both stretches but did not take a picture before I pulled everything apart. I was extremely happy with the results. Tonight I moved on cutting the mortise for the haunched dovetailed tenon. Now by no means is this pretty, but the inside will be hidden when it’s all said and done so oh well.

The left side of the bench is almost done. I have one more dovetail tenon and the leg vise installation to wrap things up. I plan on actually posting the steps/techniques as I build the right side so stay tuned for that!

Test Joinery

Over the past two weeks the majority of my woodworking has been at work. Days have been long lately so bedtime has been happening earlier and getting out in the shop just hasn’t been too appealing. I’ve been using my lunch time and was able to finish milling all four legs and the four side stretchers. Yesterday I finally got into the shop and went ahead and made a test piece of the joinery on some extra pieces.

It’s my first time with through mortise and tenon joinery and also at such a large scale. I’m really happy how it turned out. Right now I’m cutting all the legs and stretchers to their final dimensions and squaring up the ends. Hopefully by next weekend I’ll be doing some assembly!

Finishing the Front Half of the Top

If you read the last post you pretty much saw the completed top clamped. Here I’ll cover the dog holes and the top after it’s been cleaned up a little bit.

Making the dog holes was time consuming but not as bad as I had initially thought. I started out by first getting the angle of the hole with a bevel gauge.

I used all the dimensions from the plan to layout each hole.

Each piece had a dado cut out first. Once done, I tried my best to cut as deep into the face of the dog hole so I could remove as much as possible, as cleanly as possible. The rest was a matter of chipping out the remainder until all was flush with the bottom.

Now it was time to repeat those steps 8 more times. Skip ahead a bit and were back to everything being clamped up. Here it is fresh out of the clamps.

First task was getting the overhang cut flush with the rest of the bench. Then I wanted to find out how much things had shifted during the glue up. I pulled out my winding sticks and things didn’t look too bad.

I planed the top 45° both ways, transverse and then finally along the length. The end result was looking mighty fine.

Here’s a close up of the wagon vise. While it would’ve looked even better if I hadn’t messed up, I’m real happy how it turned out.

It hasn’t been flattened 100% nor has it been cut to it’s final dimensions and it won’t be until the other half is done. Probably not until it’s actually mounted on top as well. The only thing is that I don’t plan on finishing the top until the end. Time to start working on the base.

Making (most of) the Wagon Vise

The groove for the moving part of the wagon vise will ride in  is 3/4″ wide, 1/2″ deep, 1-1/8″ from the top and is 9″ long. Again I wondered if I should flatten the top before marking my lines and again I figured I’d be okay. The bench is only made of pine and if it didn’t work, at least I’d know for next time without ruining some quality wood. I measured from the line I marked that would be my final dimension on the opposite end to where to the wagon vise would start and end. I marked my lines and another set about 1/4″ extra and removed the waste.

I used a router plane and chisel to get this done. I defined an edge about 1/16″ in from all the lines of the groove with a chisel and then got the waste out using the router plane. Once I was down to depth, I switched back to a chisel and began paring until I reached my line. Definitely not the prettiest but it’ll do. By the time I got to making my third stopped groove, I was a little more efficient at getting it done.

Yes, there are only two grooves for the vise but due to my mistake, I had to cover one, and make a third. The third was actually the easiest but shouldn’t have been necessary. It was open on one end so I didn’t have to worry about a stopped end at both sides.

Here’s the before…

and now the after…

Making both the moving assembly and spacer was a matter of using the cutoff parts. I did have to make a dog hole first but I’ll cover that in my next post. So after laminating the boards I cut the required sized for the moving piece and squared each up best as possible. I does seem a little small but since I don’t intend on cranking down too much pressure, I think the size should be fine for what I need. I mean it won’t be Benchcrafted worthy but it’s good enough for my first bench.

Next on my list is making the grooves for the runners. There are two pieces for the front and back that will be set flush with the block to ride along in the grooves of the bench. Getting the waste out was a little more of a PITA than I first imagined. The end grain was a real pain to deal with. So I made a series of saw kerfs to aid in getting it all out with a chisel.

Once I got about 90% of it out, I came back with the router plane to get the bottom flush. It’s definitely not the best looking but it does what it needs to do.

When it came to the runners, I was gonna make them out of some quartersawn red oak but as I was going through my scrap bin I came across some 3/4″ square bloodwood from a past project that never got built. I just cut them to length glued them in place as is.

Once dry I used a tenon saw to cut the runners as flush with the block and then planed them down flush.

Not sure if it matters or not but I softened the corners with a chisel in hopes to give it a smoother glide. I had dry fit it in the bench by clamping the front and back of where the grooves are and realized it was too tight within the bench. I used the rabbet block plane and took some off the sides and a chisel for in between the runners. After a few more dry fits, it was time to make it final.

 

At first I had planned on buying a Scandinavian Vise Screw from Lie-Nielsen but I have another idea in mind. It’s a much cheaper route and hope it works but I won’t divulge just yet. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.