Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Human Power

CME Handworks Inc

I'm going to make an assumption here- if you read my blog then you're probably into hand tools and if you're into hand tools then you're probably like me and spend some time browsing the Internet looking for things like vintage planes and hand drills, old hand saws, and treadle lathes....basically the cool old tools Roy Underhill used for all those years. Well a few weeks before Christmas I stumbled into the e-bay store of CME Handworks Inc. in Palos Heights, IL. USA.

Chris and Mary Yonker run CME Handworks where Chris manufactures beautiful hand tools. From wooden bodied scrapers and mallets to bow saws and treadle lathes. It was the treadle lathe that really caught my eye and was the item I was searching for that brought me to their web page in the first place. I've always kept my eye out for a foot powered lathe and finding a decent antique lathe is like finding a needle in a hay-stack. They don't come up too often.

Chris has come up with a design that is both aesthetically pleasing and completely user friendly.You'll see what I'm talking about when you visit their store. It's easy for him to ship via UPS (they even offer free shipping to 48 continental United States) and for the customer to re-assemble it is a breeze. How do I know? Well Santa must have saw me searching the web site and brought me one for Christmas!
The lathe is made from 1 3/4" Poplar with a hard maple tool rest and Bubinga handles.
It's relatively small footprint is perfect for any wood shop at only 42" Tall, 34" Long and 24" Wide. It has 18" between centers with over 5" from center to top of bedway. The lathe was shipped in two separate boxes and included a set of detailed, easy to follow instructions and as mentioned was a walk in the park to re-assemble. All that was needed was an adjustable wrench and an 5/32 Hex Key. The entire process took only a half hour.
Now I'm not a wood turner and I shouldn't comment too much on the performance - yet...but I'm planning on putting some miles on this thing over the next few months and incorporating some turned elements into my furniture design.

I'll be posting some more detailed information on the lathe as I get into it but I suggest you stop in at the CME Handworks eBay store and check them out. If you're like me and have dreamed of owning a foot powered lathe than this may be just the thing for you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Cabinet

And a new online Woodworking Magazine

Last week I finished off my new sharpening bench and I'm quite happy with the results. Before the oil had a chance to dry I was into another project, this time a small wall cabinet for a Christmas gift. I used up the last of my oak offcuts and also incorporated some walnut and Japanese hand made paper into the piece. I started the project on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 20th and got through it in time for the gift exchange! Who said hand tool work was slow? It's kind of a reflection or continuation in design from the book cabinet with doors project from my book and has two small dovetailed drawers inside.

To speed up the project I used hardwood dowels for joinery instead of more elaborate and time consuming joinery such as dovetails; nothing fancy but it turned out to be a nice little gift. I took lots of pics through the build and will write a full article about the entire process, from the design to the finish. It'll be featured on a new wood working website that is slated to start up sometime in the early new year. It's an international woodworking magazine and will feature different wood workers from all over the world. The Woodworkers Republic is coming soon!!!
Stay tuned and have a healthy and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009


A Dedicated Sharpening Bench

I'm happy to say that the plans for my Dedicated Sharpening Bench are now available for free download. It's a pdf file so feel free to send me an email and I'll forward them along to you. You can save the pics here from the blog but I don't think the resolution is as good.

This bench was a great hand tool project and would make a nice craft table or child size workbench. A friend of mine said it would be perfect for tying flies and my wife mentioned it would make a nice kitchen island but I think I'd raise it up about 8" in height for that application. Discovering and uncovering design challenges and finding ways to bring solutions into a practical but aesthetically pleasing project is a wonderful experience. I'm sure you could find ways to adapt this bench design to your own system and work shop needs. I'd love to hear about them-
If you have limited shop space and you're considering building this design as a work bench then I'd caution you. Sure, you could stick a face vise on the end and cut dovetails until your hearts content but for cabinet making applications where hand planing and chopping mortises are common practice then you may want to up-scale the dimensions by at least half. That's just my opinion from working on a full size workbench and finding limitations in it. I can't imagine trying to build a piece of furniture on a bench this size. That said, for sharpening saws, plane irons and chisles it's a perfect size for my needs.
I'm the worst when it comes to computers except e-mail and blogging so it's no surprise I can't figure out how to upload a pdf. file here to Blogger...
oh well...drop me a line if you'd like me to send you the file....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Dedicated Sharpening Bench -final-

Drawers and Details

In my last post I finished gluing the bench together so now I'm ready for the drawers and the details. I should apologise for taking so long to post this last article but was waiting for one final element to arrive through the mail to complete the project. The drawers and the details were actually finished on Sunday past and I've been using the bench for the last few days. I'll give some feedback at the end of the post.

The first detail element was the sliding tool holding tray. This is simply a piece of walnut scrap wood cut to size and rabbeted on both edges. It will slide along in the dados I cut out on the back splash and rear cross apron of the tool tray. Again with cutting rabbets I began with my skew rabbet plane to begin the cut, and once established I move over to my medium shoulder plane. A few final passes with a smoother across the surface and I'm ready to mark out the tool holding features.

While sharpening there are a handful of tools I always have withing arms reach and this is the place to store them. For my 'essential trio of screwdrivers' I bored out some holes to fit the screwdrivers and at the opposite side of the stock I carefully laid out and scribed for an 'oil well'. When I finish my sharpening routine, the last step I take is to apply a coat of Jojoba oil to the tool iron and this oil well will make this a simple process. The oil well is a common bench accessory often seen in old wood working books and it was an element I've always wanted to incorporate into a bench design.

I remove the bulk of the waste with a forstner bit and some chisel work to complete the excavation. I then cut up some foam I had and it'll get saturated with the oil. A simple luxury for the sharpening bench complete.

The next detail I addressed is a small stop or fence that my water stones will butt up to while in use to prevent any movement. I had a small piece of brass stock sitting in the bottom of my tool cabinet for the past five years and finally found a use for it. To begin I clamped a file into my shoulder vise and cleaned up the surfaces of the brass stock.

Then I measured and scribed the location in my bench top.

To remove the small area I began with a series of chisel cuts and follow with my small router plane to complete. The router plane makes it easy to obtain a uniform depth in the cut out.

At the front edge of the work surface, in line with the newly installed brass fence I drill a 3/4" hole to install a Veritas 'Wonder Pup' clamp. These are extremely versatile work bench accessories and it'll become a kind of miniature vise for my stones. I occasionally use some different size stones and wanted a system that would be able to adapt to the stone sizes. With the hole drilled I insert the clamp. (note: in the downloadable bench plan available this hole is shown in the front apron; I decided to move it onto this top surface location feeling that a 3/4" hole down into the apron would weaken it)

While I had the back splash removed for cutting out the mortise for the brass fence I decided to saw a kerf into the top, outside for a place to store my small ruler. I use the ruler while honing a tiny back-bevel into my plane irons and this is a handy location to keep it. I scribe a deep, crisp line into the hardwood and follow with my Dozuki saw which cuts on the pull stroke. This allowed me to make this saw kerf without any damage to the rest of the piece.

The sliding tool holder, the brass fence and 'Wonder pup' installed and a saw kerf to place my ruler I call the top details done and consider the shelf on the bottom of the bench. After looking around my shop for a suitable off cut and coming up with nothing, I decide to make a pair of fitted stretchers that will come to hold my slow speed wet grinder.

I didn't really have a list of items I wanted or needed under there so instead of the full shelf, for the time being these two stretchers will do the job.

I cut some shallow rabbets into the sides of these pieces to act as stoppers for the feet on the grinder. The small shoulders cut at each end create a nice tight fit and the two stretchers are pressure fit only.

The Drawers

I thought about making a couple of dovetailed drawers for this project but after reading an article written by fellow Canadian craftsman, Hendrik Varju in issue #208 of Fine Woodworking Magazine on a pinned rabbet drawer, I decide to simplify the process and cut down some time in the shop. Christmas is a little over a week away and I really wanted to get onto some other gift projects. With that in mind I selected and prepped the stock for the drawers. Oak for the fronts and poplar for the sides and back with Marine Grade plywood for the bottoms. (you'll see why in a minute)

The drawer construction is fairly quick using my backsaw to rough out the rabbets.

I clean them up with a shoulder plane and scribe the drawer sides for the drawer bottoms as well as the outside groove that will hold the drawer runners. Using this rabbet construction also makes the drawer bottom grooves faster not having to worry about cutting stopped dados in the front and back pieces. With my small plough plane I cut the dados.

The drawer rails are of oak and my rip saw cuts through in a hurry.

In the next shot you can see the drawer pieces dry fit and the joinery for the components.

A generous amount of water resistant glue and I clamp up the assembly and let them sit overnight.

In the morning I scrap off any squeeze out and plane the outside of the drawers for a final fit. I also decided to take 5 minutes and scratch some quick beads into the top and bottoms of the drawer fronts. This is a workbench but a small detail like this elevates the design and will show future generations the pride that went into making this piece. Besides, I don't think I've made a piece over this past year that hasn't had a bead scratched into it somewhere- maybe a sort of signature? Find some small details you enjoy and try incorporating them into your own work. It personalizes the piece and tells people that its yours.

So the next step is one that may be a little foreign to some but having a back ground in boat building made this a familiar procedure in the process. The smaller right hand drawer gets completely sealed with fiberglass on the interior. Working with epoxy resins and fiberglass tape involves some safety matters and anyone doing this work should carefully read and understand the process involved. A respirator, rubber gloves and well ventilated area are wise. I assembled all of my tools for the process and mixed up a small batch of resin. Once mixed you don't have a lot of time to work and I completely missed the opportunity to take photos of this step. My apologies.
The steps I took were as follows: Mix the first batch of resin and paint the entire inside surface of the drawer making sure to get good, thick coverage in the corners. I pre-cut to length some pieces of fiberglass tape and laid them out on some wax paper. A second batch of resin was mixed and the tape was saturated with the resin. Then all of the inside seams are carefully covered with the saturated tape and again a thick coat over top. Let it cook for awhile in a well ventilated area but making sure it stay warm to cure. The drawer is installed into the guides and filled about 3/4 of the way with water. This is now the location my four water stones will reside.

The second larger drawer on the left is also installed and becomes a place for additional storage. Items like my slip stones, flattening plate and files stay within reach of the work space.

With the two drawers finished and the top details complete I sit and wait patiently for the mailman to arrive...fast forward to this afternoon and my package shows up. My new Gramercy Tools 14" saw vise is the final element to complete the bench. I'm sure most readers would have thought of this bench for sharpening only plane irons and chisels, but a true sharpening bench in a small workshop needs to serve dual duty and will become a complete sharpening station in my woodshop.

The vise is easily mounted on a thick piece of hardwood and for the sake of today I simply clamped it to the front left side of the bench. One last thing I did was bore out a hole in the back splash for my work light to slide into and I can finally call this project complete!

In the next few days I'll pick-up some anchors and install them into pre-drilled holes in the bench creating permanent locations for machine screws to go. This will make the process of mounting the saw vise and firmly securing it a quick and painless task. (this is also another great reason to flush up a the legs on a workbench with the front apron-making additional work holding and clamping much easier)

This was a very rewarding project to build and a lot of fun details to come up with through the process. If you're a power tool user then I'm sure a project like this would only take a few days and in my shop using only hand tools, I happily picked away at it over these last couple of weeks. Probably no more than 40 hours total went into the build and the budget was kept pretty tight.

I'm happy with the results and can say that my sharpening routine has indeed become much more pleasurable and efficient having this dedicated sharpening bench. Thanks for reading- cheers!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Dedicated Sharpening Bench - part 7

The Glue-up

In the last post I finished off the cut out for the granite plate insert and I'm ready to start the glue-up. One last detail I took care of before beginning to glue the frame was to plane some rabbets into the lower cross stretchers. I didn't get any shots of the process but they're shallow rabbets about 1/2" wide and only 1/8" deep. Their purpose is to create a small lip to register a shelf against later on. These could be eliminated and simple batons screwed to the shelf bottom would act as guides but they only took a few extra minutes to make and will benefit the design and make the shelf installation that much easier.
With the rabbets complete I can finally start to glue. First thing I do is assemble everything I'll need for the process, glue, clamps, paper towels etc... it's easier to do this now before getting started, instead of scrambling around looking for something I need while the glue is starting to set!

I begin with each side frame and will glue these up before adding the cross stretchers. I lay them out on the bench and start spreading the glue- lots of it! This is a workbench so I'm not too worried about any squeeze out. There are certain liberties you can take when building a piece destined for the workshop and not someones living room. When I have everything clamped I'll check for square and measure my diagonals. As soon as the glue sets I'll drill down through the joints to drive in some hardwood dowels. With a generous amount of glue I drive the dowels home. I leave the side frames to sit overnight and in the morning I'll trim off the dowels.

I use my Japanese flush cut saw and follow with a low angle block plane.

This completes the side frames and I repeat this process with the two frames standing on my bench top and the cross stretchers in place. I place a clamp across each stretcher and let things 'cook' awhile. Once the glue sets I'll follow the same procedure by drilling and pegging all of the joinery.

With the frame glued I clean off my bench top and turn my attention to the surface pieces. The main work surface area has bread board ends set into the side aprons but to add some extra support I'll use some blind dowels where it attaches to the front apron. I use a self-centering jig and drill a few holes down the front edge of the surface piece.

Once drilled I can insert some dowel centers and dry fit the pieces one last time. When the surface pieces mate these dowel centers will leave tiny dimples in the oak showing me exactly where I'll need to drill.

No measuring and no guess work, the dowel centers and centering jig are great work shops aids that make things run a little smoother in the wood shop. Again, these are some jigs that you may not have considered using in a hand tool only workshop.
I take the dry assembly apart and drill out the dowel locations. Again it's time to start spreading some glue so I'll go through the ritual of organising everything I'll need for a stress free assembly. I should also mention that the bread board ends have three tenons in each- the middle tenon gets glued but the two outside ones are left dry. Once assembled all three will be pegged with hardwood dowels as well.
The two side aprons are first followed by the front and rear. Then the whole surface is clamped up tight to draw the dovetails together. Another night to set and in the morning I'll see how I did. If you look closely at the following picture you'll notice the placement of the clamps on each outside edge; they're placed just inside the end of the dovetails so that when clamped tight, the extra meat on the dovetails won't keep the assembly from coming together tightly.

Sunday sunrise I come down to the shop to find the bench top is looking pretty good. The clamps are removed and I'm happy with the results. I scrape of the squeeze out and with a block plane I'll trim the dovetails flush with the apron surfaces. I don't have a whole lot of material to remove so it goes pretty quickly.

From here I'll take the top assembly and place it good side down on my workbench. I'll spread some glue for the frame and attach it now. The front slip joints will also get a couple of dowels for added strength- one through the leg and into the oak top and another an inch down through the middle of the joint. Now I can assemble the under carriage. The granite plate is inserted into the cut out and I'll add the cross stretchers. These are the ones I put the pocket holes in to keep the granite living where it's supposed to be and not falling out onto my workshop floor.

Two of the four drawer hangers are added as well (at this point I still haven't decided on my final drawer configuration) and I'll turn it back over onto the floor to check how the granite plate is sitting.

A reliable straight edge shows me that the granite is sitting just proud of the oak surface. This is good!

I'll use up a little off cut of 1/4" walnut plywood from the scrape pile and rip it to size for the tool tray bottom. This is cross cut into two pieces for times when I want the extra depth in the tool tray- I can easily remove one side or the other.

I give everything a coat of boiled linseed oil and paste wax and call it done for today.

In the next post I'll build the drawers and add the details....stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Dedicated Sharpening Bench - part 6

Cutting the Top and building the Under Carriage

With the frame assembly dry fit and the bench surface placed into the leg joinery, I carefully place the granite insert on top to establish its permanent location. My initial thoughts were to install it off to one side but after laying it on the work surface and imagining how it would function in daily use, I decided to center it. This decision was based on the under carriage bracing system and the drawer hanger locations. I also felt that it would be more comfortable centered while in use and may keep the bench a little more balanced. So now that I know where I want to place it I carefully lay out and scribe around the perimeter.

Once I have the lay out complete it's time to start thinking about just how I'm going to make this cut-out! My first thought is to use my frame saw and after drilling a pilot hole through the oak, dis-assemble the saw and thread the blade through the opening as you would on a scroll saw. I proceeded to do this and made the first long rip cut down the front of the piece but hit a wall when faced with the cross cuts. The frame saw only has a 6" throat so it wouldn't work for the cross cutting. 1" oak is a challenge at the best of times and the light blade of the frame saw was really pushing it. I decide to use my Japanese ryoba saw, this is the one without a back and has both a rip and cross cut tooth configuration. I use a brace and bit and bore a series of holes along the cut line to fit the ryoba and get things underway. In the next shot you can see the first rip cut at the rear and the holes drilled to allow the blade of the ryoba to pass through.

In a power tool shop this procedure wouldn't be a big deal, maybe a jig saw would suffice or even a table saw with the piece placed over the blade and then carefully raising it up through the work. In my shop however, a little trial and error and I'll have the cut out complete. The ryoba works its way through the oak. Some people have a hard time with pull saws binding and teeth breaking but if you don't force the cut and let the saw do the sawing, even on this hard white oak it's a relatively easy task.

It's not pretty but it worked! I'll clean up the inside edges next.

Again with a nice wide chisel I carefully work my way around the area taking small bites. I begin from the underside and chop down a little more than half way. I flip the piece over and finish the job from the top where its seen. I have a corner chisel and this is a perfect application for it. These are a kind of specialty item that you could indeed live without but they do come in handy from time to time.

I dry fit the granite and note any tight spots along the edges. I mark them and remove the slab to slowly and carefully pare away the 'fat' to achieve a perfect fit.

Now that I have the surface cut-out complete I turn my attention back down to the frame and dimension the final rear stretcher. This 2" oak is placed at the rear top and the back of the work surface will sit on it when complete. So again with the mortise chisel I chop out the cavity.

The tenons in the oak are off set to allow for the dado I'll plough out next. This groove will hold the under carriage cross pieces, both the granite insert supports as well as some drawer hangers.

My plough plane is the perfect tool for the job.

With the frame joinery finally complete, I'll start to lay out the components for the granite supports. These are made from some hardwood offcuts I had, in this case some birch and walnut and I dimension them so that when installed the granite will sit slightly proud of the surface. When I say slightly proud, I mean no more than the thickness of a standard sheet of writing paper. The back of the supports will sit in the dado we just cut into the top, rear stretcher and the front will be screwed and joined into two recesses on the underside of the front apron.
I begin as usual by laying these out.

I approach this like I would with chopping a half blind dovetail, clearly scribing the edges and the depth of the cavity. The main difference between this and a dovetail is the dovetail is usually chopped into the end grain of a board while this is running along the grain. Care must be taken to insure I don't chop too deep and split the piece. I begin my making some saw cuts to establish the outer edges and then with a chisel begin removing the waste.

In a power tool shop this procedure could be easily accomplished with a router and a jig so with that in mind I'll get mine to complete the cut-out.

Gotcha! Did you really think my router would have a 'plug' attached? Taking shallow passes, I work my way down with the router plane until I reach my desired depth.

Then with a chisel I clean up the corners and dry fit the supports. I'm looking for a nice tight fit- how tight? With the apron clamped in my face vise I'm able to press the supports down into the openings and with out any support they're able to sit proud without sagging or falling out.

I'll re-assemble the bench top pieces and dry fit the granite supports.

When I'm happy with the fit and the depth of the components are well established, I'll take my awl and mark for some screw holes. I need to make all of these pieces removable for times when I want to re-surface the bench top. This is also why the front cross member on the tool tray is also removable. My vintage hand drill with a modern counter sink bit enables me to drill and countersink in one pass.

From here I begin laying out and measuring for the drawer hangers. They will also sit in the rear apron dado and are cut for a snug fit. The two inner hangers will need to be shaped to fit around the profile of the granite. I approach this as I did when removing the waste on the underside of the feet. I make a series of saw cuts to establish the depth and then chisel out the waste.

In the next shot you can see the shaped drawer hanger in the fore ground and the side example in the rear. These will also recieve a dado for the drawers to hang in.

To add some added insurance that all of these pieces do what I'm hoping they'll do (and that's holding a heavy granite slab and two drawers tightly to the bottom of my workbench) I'll add some pocket hole screws that will secure it up into the bench top. A pocket hole jig is a useful tool in the hand tool woodshop but is usually associated with power tools.

Here, with a special bit chucked into my brace I can easily drill the holes and am ready for a final dry fit. You may notice at this point I only had two of the four drawer hangers installed; truth be told I wanted to see if this system would work and when it did I went back and made the two for the left hand drawer.

I was planning on showing the frame glue up in this post but looking at its length I think I'll save it for the next one-