Not all router bits are created equal. On a recent project I had to make a lot of 1/4″ wide and 1/4″ deep dadoes.
In my 20+ years of using an electric router I’ve only lost a handful of bits, most due to the carbide chipping out or something similar. (Or using a poor quality bit — back when I was starting out and didn’t know any better) Whenever possible I try to buy bits with a 1/2″ shank for the added strength and decreased vibration. Leaving my 1/4″ shank bits mostly relegated to my 1HP Bosch Colt palm router and tasks like using 1/8″ round-over bits — my favorite profile for cleaning up edges on around the shop projects.
Two weekends ago I was cutting a long dado with a variable speed 2-1/4 HP plunge router with a fence and had my old Craftsman 1/4″ straight bit snap off at the collar which was unusual as I would think it would snap off right below the carbide where the bit narrows slightly and is presumably the weakest point on the bit. I didn’t think much of it and figured ‘eh its a pretty cheap and 15 year old bit’ and went back to the tooling cabinet to grab another bit.
The second time out I grabbed an MLCS 1/4″ straight bit with a 1/2″ shank. In looking at the bit (it was part of a set of straight bits and looked like I never used this 1/4″ bit before) I thought to myself, wow that is quite the taper below the carbide. I loaded it up into the collet and got maybe 6″ through the maple and it twisted right off.
A few expletives flew, and I was questioning myself. Have I been spending too long doing hand tool only work? Am I using a router that is over-powered for the task at hand? I thought I was taking it easy as I made my passes — the tool wasn’t bogging down and it was cutting well.
After inspecting the plywood, both times where the bit broke it was hitting what looked like a knot in the veneer core of the plywood — so I think that change in density along with heat and friction was a contributing factor.
I was determined to make more progress on this project as I don’t get as many weekends to woodwork as I’d like. I headed out to Home Depot in the freezing cold and trying to make it there before they closed at 9pm and bought a Freud Diablo solid carbide bit. I balked at the ~$18 price compared to the say ~$5-8 each I paid for these bits from MLCS (but didn’t have the luxury of waiting for them to ship an order to me)
I really liked how the Diablo was solid carbide and had a completely straight profile from the shank down to the tip of the bit. The bit worked like a champ and so far I have been very happy with it.
What is the lesson from all this? Remember to go extra slow and take very shallow passes when working with a narrow bit like this. Make sure you adjust the speed (if your router has a variable speed control). Remember that humans and tools are not perfect. Some tooling like these sorts of bits are disposable. Inspect your tools and look for quality designs. Remember that even solid carbide can be brittle — so do what you can to minimize any jarring changes. There are many lessons to be learned and re-learned as you progress in your woodworking career. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and most of all get back out into the workshop — which is where I am headed right now.
Have you used your side clamps lately? Wait, what are side clamps?
Side clamps are a pair of adjustable wooden blocks that mount on the outside of a traditional continental workbench with one block mounted to the tail vise and one mounted to the fixed portion of the bench top. In this experiment the blocks are mounted to the bench via 3/8″ diameter, 6″ long threaded bolts and some shop made metal plates.
When building my Tage Frid inspired Scandinavian workbench I spent a lot of time looking at examples of Frid’s benches — some early extant examples in person, his Fine Woodworking article on his bench (FWW Issue #4, October 1975), the chapter in Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Volume 3 and various online searches.
In the FWW issue #4 diagrams and text there was a very brief mention of a set of ‘side clamps’. I couldn’t find any photos of these clamps online and they didn’t seem to make it into the book version of the bench. I was curious if they were cut to save space or if in fact they didn’t turn out to be useful.
I decided to build my own version of these clamps based on that lone diagram and experiment with them.
Building a pair of side clamps:
Using some scrap hard maple left over from the workbench I made two 1.75″ thick, 3″ wide and 4.5″ long blocks. I planed them and rounded over the edges with a 1/8″ radius router bit.
Next up was drilling a 3/8″ diameter hole through the center of the block, the long way. I started off the drilling by using a self-centering doweling jig (see photo above), and went as far as the bit would let me drill into the block. Then using that first hole as a guide I used a longer electrician’s style 3/8″ drill bit to drill the rest of they way through the block. (see photo below)
With the woodworking complete, it was time do to some metal working to make a series of small plates that are used to affix the clamp blocks to the dog holes in the bench by way of the 3/8″ bolts. I bought some 1/8″ thick x 1″ wide zinc’ed steel bar at my local hardware store and cut them to 2-7/8″ long. (Note this is 1/2″ shorter than what Frid called for as I as felt 3-3/8″ would have too much slop/space. I also could not find 1/4″ thick bar stock, but think 1/8″ thick is still plenty strong for anything I plan to do with these clamps. Make sure to leave at least 1/4″ of metal on all side around the holes). I cut the pieces to length using an abrasive cut off chop saw, but a hack saw could also get the job done.
I took the metal blanks over to the slow speed grinder and rounded over the corners and chamfered the edges a bit to remove any burs.
Next up I stacked/ganged up all 4 pieces and drilled 3/8″ diameter holes at the drill press. The pieces were held together with some strong tape and held in place against my makeshift fence via the scrap block in the foreground of the above picture. Make sure to use some cutting oil and make sure you don’t overheat the metal nor your drill bit. Also use some scrap underneath the blanks to protect your drill press table.
With the holes drilled out I took the metal blanks over to a vise wherein I made sure the bolts fit through the holes, cleaning things up with a rat-tail (round) file. I then used a flat mill file to clean up any roughness on the outside edges left from the work at the grinder.
Given my background as an engineer, and touch of OCD I decided to add some self adhesive cork to the sides of these metal plates that might come in contact with my bench top
I cut the cork to rough size, affixed it to the plate and used a utility knife to cut off any excess around the edge and a 3/8″ drill bit to remove any waste inside the drilled out holes.
With the metalworking completed, it was time to install the nuts and bolts and try out the clamping blocks. One bolt goes through the top plate, the wood block, the bottom plate and is secured with a nut or five star knob. (I ordered some knobs from Rockler but at the time of this writing they’d didn’t arrive yet, once they come I’ll add some post script to show the clamps with easier to use knobs in place.) The other bolt goes through the top plate, the dog hole, the bottom plate and is secured with another nut.
Given the use of square dog holes on this bench, and the fact that that blocks are 1/2″ longer than the bench is thick, this allows the side clamps to pivot a few degrees in either direction. This gives you the ability to securely clamp some tapered or irregularly shaped pieces.
The blocks can be moved to different dog holes as needed or removed from the bench altogether. In testing these clamps on a few different items and shapes I found the blocks were surprisingly easy to use and held oversized items with ease.
The Verdict: (So far…)
It was a fun project to build and experiment with. These clamps are useful for specialized clamping needs, such as large items, re-working the edges of a drawer box, planing dovetails flush, and similar operations.
Do I think they will get used every day? No. Do I think they can do a few jobs that would be tougher to do on the bench-top secured via bench dog, hold fast, face or shoulder vise? Yes.
For the small amount of wood, metal and time it took to make these side clamps I think they were a nice addition to my workbench.
If you build some side clamps for your workbench, please share what you thought of them in the comments below.
P.S. If you’d liked to learn about the workbench featured in this post, please check out my related article in the February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine which can be found here.
I had been friends with Dyami online for several years but this was the first time I got to meet him in person. He’s a real nice guy and also loves to share his passion for woodworking.
If you are not already subscribed to the MWA mailing list or podcast I highly encourage you to do so. It is an all volunteer organization that strives to help keep the craft of woodworking alive and growing.
Here’s a recap of Saturday and Sunday (days 2 &3) of Woodworking in America 2016. Saturday was a fun day of workshops and lectures. I watched a great talk by Caleb James on Danish Modern furniture. Chris Schwarz had a talk about Chairmanning and a talk about his Roman Workbenches. Roy Underhill demonstrated how to make a classic coffin. Mary May demonstrated how to carve volutes, C-Scrolls and other similarly projects. I also had some fun guarding Chris’ low Roman workbench as I helped Roy get it out to his van.
I got to see some more old friends, meet some new ones and meet several friends I knew from being online, but not in person. I got to meet Mike Flaim and had a brief interview with Dyami Plotke of MWA.
In the evening we had an event where we went Rhinegeist Brewery for some very good beer and BBQ followed by a tour of some of the massive underground brewing and beer storage tunnels that are under much of Cincinnati.
Click on any of the images below to click through the images as a slideshow. (if you are viewing this post in an email browser, please click on the post title above to view the post on the website itself)
Another great view of the Cincinnati waterfront.
Caleb James’ excellent presentation on Danish Modern furniture.
Caleb’s traveling tool chest with a large collection of the planes he’s made.
Great Hans Wegner quote
Nicely proportioned stool
A table from Caleb’s presentation we all hope to see in an article at some point.
George Walker’s talk on Designing With Curves
George Walker with his string 2.0
George Walker demonstrating some great, and traditional ways of working with curves
Mary May’s class on carving volutes, C-scrolls and similar things
Sample of a violin scroll
Carving a volute
Mary May Carving a C-Scroll
Mike Siemsens’s Anarchist Tool Chest
Zach Dillinger with his very nice reproduction ottoman.
Zach Dillinger taking questions as the end of one of his workshops.
Quick selfie with my hero, Roy Underhill. It’s always great to see him and he’s very nice to all of us fans.
You know Roy Underhill’s presentation killed — there were a LOT of coffins all over the room.
Chris Schwarz’ talk on Roman Workbenches
Chris demonstrating how versatile the low bench is for preparing stock.
Taller Roman Workbench with Chris hand rasped nuts.
Chris Schwarz’ talk on making a straightforward chair (showing how you don’t need to invest in a lot of fancy chairmanning tools to make a comfortable and nice looking chair)
Chris cutting wedges for his chair leg tenons.
Vampire vise made by my friend Peter Ross for Chris Schwarz’ tall Roman workbench
Double wedged tenons in the Roman Workbenches to close up any gaps.
The nicest bus stop bench in Covington, KY. Guarding Chris’ low Roman workbench as Roy went to get his van.
Selfie while laying on a Roman bench in the middle of a city sidewalk.
Couldn’t help but think of the beginning of the Woodwright’s Shop as Roy walked to the parking garage that looks almost a bit like the streets of Durham, NC 😉
Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati
Enjoying my time at Rhinegeist Brewery with Zach, Jake and others. They even had a beer called ‘Steve’
It was OctoberFest weekend in Cincinnati — the largest outside of Germany. Made my German ancestors happy to try all the brews and see all the folks in Lederhosen and Dirndls.
Folks jousting American Gladiator style in full on lederhosen.
One of our tour guides of the many underground brewery buildings in Cincinnati
Cincinnati Connector Street Cars
Great old sign dating back to the first days of electric in the city (At least according to our guide who was quite a character)
Pig sticker fence. I also really like how the guy restoring this row house painted the CDX on the door to look like a door and even layered it on the windows and painted them to look a bit like sash. Nice touch.
About to enter a spooky underground brewing cave that has even been in some recent movies.
Gives and idea of how big some of these brewers were back in the day, under a large hill in the city.
There might even be a ghost in this photo….
Inside of the hotel lobby. A very big open space
Testing out my new Timbuk2 camera backpack. Worked out great on this trip
A paddlewheel sightseeing boat out on the river.
If you’d like to see my photo recap of the first day of WIA 2016, please check out this earlier post here.
I had a great time at the event and hope to see many of you there next year.
Here’s a recap of my first day at Woodworking In America 2016 — held at the Northern Kentucky Convention in Covington Kentucky which is part of the greater Cincinnati Ohio area.
This was my first time attending this conference and other than a nightmare of a time getting there by plane from NH (Thursday night flight cancelled, the second set of flights Friday at the crack of dawn, missing the connection due to ground staff incompetence and fighting to get on another flight later in the day) and missing the 2/3 of the day’s lectures I still had a very nice first day watching Freddy Roman’s presentation, exploring the brew and browse event, meeting a ton of friends old and new and meeting several online friends in person. I also had a great dinner with a great bunch of folks — Zach Dillinger, Mary May, George Walker and many others.
Click on any of the images below to click through the images as a slideshow. (if you are viewing this post in an email browser, please click on the post title above to view the post on the website itself)
Greetings from Popular Woodworking in America 2016
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
Street leading to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, home to WIA 2016
Freddy Roman giving a talk on sand shading and inlay.
Some of Freddy’s banding stock samples.
Freddy Roman demonstrating some fine detail work.
Sand shaded blanks
Very neat sample board of some incredibly tiny and intricate banding Freddy acquired and has worked from.
Carving close up on big screen
David Thiel of popular woodworking tweaking his camera. I always think photographs of other photographers are fun.
My friend Zach Dillinger at the Mortise and Tenon booth
The new Crucible Tools — hold fast and dividers. Very nice looking.
Paper sector by George Walker and Jim Tolpin
Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney and George walker looking at Brendan’s new sector prototype.
Prototype Sector by Brendan. Definitely going to get one soon.
Joshua Klein and his most excellent Mortise and Tenon Magazine booth
Tico Vogt Toolworks
The large Lee Valley/Veritas booth. Always fun to try out their latest and greatest tools
SAPFM booth with the hand tool olympics. I’m proud to say I did will with my cutting events.
Lie Nielsen Toolworks with Mr. Lie Nielsen himself.
Deneb Puchalski of Lie Nielsen Toolworks giving a demo. Deneb is a great guy and I’ve been buying tools from LN for many years and he’s been my main point of contact for most of it.
Knew concepts marquetry saw
Some of the very nice work by Texas Heritage Woodworks
Jason Thigpen of Texas Heritage Woodworks making a great face.
Some of the very nice work by Texas Heritage Woodworks
Plate 11 Workbench Company
Plate 11 Workbench Company with leg vise and real nice planing stop
Plate 11 Workbench Company planing stop
A nice rocking chair by ne of the exhibitors. Wish I could recall his name, but he was offering online courses, one of which was on making this chair.
The Superior Works 🙂
Up next is a post about the second two days of the conference. I had a great time and hope I can attend it again in 2017.
It can take a long time to make a tent fly — but it’s worth it.
What is a Tent Fly?
A fly refers to the outer layer of a tent or to a piece of material which is strung up using rope as a minimalist, stand-alone shelter. In basic terms, a fly is a tent without walls. Purpose-made stand-alone flies are also sometimes referred to as bivouacs, bivvies, tarpaulins, or hootchies. — Wikipedia
A few years ago I didn’t know what I tent fly was, at least not by name, but on one of my visits to Eastfield Village I saw a nice one that Billy McMillen built and used. On some visits to Colonial Williamsburg I also checked out a huge tent fly that Garland and Ted and the guys had and decided I wanted to build one for myself. I wanted a place to work on timber framing elements out of the sun and rain, a tarpaulin for when we have a party in the yard, maybe a craft fair or a re-enacting event.
I decided to go with a custom made tent fly from Panther Primitives — an outfit Billy and Garland both recommended and big in the re-enacting community for making top quality tents. I went with the 12’x16′ Tent Fly with the 13oz Flame Retardant Sunforger Heavy Duty Canvas. I also had a special request to have grommets and loops so I could support the outer edges of the tent with a series of posts or a post and beams depending on how the fly will be used. I also ordered 16 manila rope sets, heavy duty stakes, a canvas bag for the ropes, bag for the tent and bag for the ropes. The folks at Panther were great to work with and make and excellent product — superior materials and craftsmanship.
With the canvas taken care of it was time for me to build the necessary posts to support this tent. Like any good woodworking project it starts at your wood supplier. I went to my perennial favorite — Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood NH. I carefully selected some straight grained 8/4 Eastern White Pine. I ripped the pieces to rough size, power planed and jointed each of the pieces and removed the mill marks with a hand plane.
The center of the tent is supported by a larger beam –12.5′ long and roughly 2″x4″ — with a rounded over top. This beam is made from two pieces joined in the center with a simple metal connecting collar.
For each of the 2″x2″ upright support posts I routed in stop chamfers and used a 1/8″ radius rounding bit to break and square edges.
I then removed any mill marks from the routing. With 14 6′ tall posts and two 9′ tall posts it took a while to get all the woodworking up to this stage.
Next up was cutting 3/8″ metal rods to about 6″ long for each of the 6′ posts. The two 9′ tall posts needed 9″ long metal rods.
Once cut with an abrasive cut off wheel I rounded over the ends/corners of the rods on a slow speed grinder.
The mild steel rods from the hardware store are prone to rusting and have a bit of a modern look to my eye, so I cleaned them off with alcohol and then applied Super Blue (Gun Blue) to ends of the rod that would be exposed. The dark gray/black patina looked like older ironwork to my eye and at the least darkened all the freshly exposed steel from the cutting and grinding process. I’d also advise sealing it after that fact — with some lacquer or similar clear film finish that won’t react with he metal.
I used a center finder gauge to mark where I should be drilling a 3/8″ diameter hole, 3 inches deep into the end of the posts.
I also used a doweling jig keep the drill bit straight as I drilled into the ends of the posts.
In order to accurately and repeatably drill to that depth and use the doweling jig which is pretty thick I needed to use two drills with the same size of bit. The drill (upper tool in photo below) is used with the jig to drill as deep as it will go. The drill is removed along with the jig. The impactor (lower tool in photo below) has a bit with an appropriately set stop collar to control the depth is used to complete the hole. The initial hole created using the drill and doweling jig provide a nice guide for the impactor + stop collared bit to reach the required depth.
I then test fit/cleaned out the holes and glue the rods into place. (Make sure the blackened end is exposed). Ideally you want to use a high quality epoxy like the West System 2 part epoxy. I also installed tapered rubber washers from Panther that will help keep water out and keep the grommets where you want them on the metal rods.
The freshly milled eastern white pine pine is a very pale white.
To give the wood a more pleasing color I gave it a coat or two of amber shellac. I then followed that up with two coats of a UV stabilized General Finishes satin polyurethane, sanding between coats as need.
With the woodworking complete it was time to join the top beam together using the metal bracket. Use two large pan head screws to secure the wood into the connector. Also drill two holes through the top beam for the pins to pass through.
Insert the two 9′ posts into the vertical holes in the top beam. When I did the metal working I initially put the same 6′ metal rods into the 9′ tall posts, but realized the rod would not stick out the top of the beam, so I had to add 9″ rods to the other ends of the 9′ posts, but this worked out great as the accidental shorter rods now on the bottom of the tall posts help keeps the posts from kicking out when you are trying to stand up and secure the posts.
Drape the canvas over the top of the beam and carefully raise it to an upright position — you’ll want a helper for this. With the posts, beam and canvas in an upright position you’ll want your helper to keep it standing up while you secure the storm ropes — attaching them first to a stake you have to drive into the ground (with the stake angled away from the tent) with a heavy mallet, then to the rod on top of the post. Then use the wood block on the rope set to tighten up the rope.
Next install the corner posts and install 2 rope sets on each corner deployed at 90 degrees from each other.
Then install any additional posts you want to use. I built enough posts to fill every grommet on the canvas. Every other post on the side of the tent also got a single rope set and stake to further anchor the test to the ground. If you find your self coming and going through the lower side of the ten you can remove 1 or more of those side posts to give you better access.
With a new canvas and rope sets you’ll want to check the ropes every day as things will stretch a bit and can get loose. Eventually they’ll stabilize and you can enjoy the use of your new tent fly.
The 9′ high ridge beam and 6′ high ends are a bit higher than average but allowed me to walk in and out of the tent with ease and gave me a good size work space under the protection of the tent.
It was a lot of work and a lot of fun to put together and I look forward to a long useful life for this tent.
P.S. If you build your own tent fly, please tell us about it in the comments below.
Time for my semi-annual post about the Nashua ‘Live Free or Die’ Tool Show and Auction. Wait, didn’t that happen back in April? Yep. I’m really behind on my blogging as I have been busy working, writing, teaching and helping with our second baby. Having two kids under 2 years old is definitely exhausting. So there will be a few posts here and there out of time as I work through my backlog.
A new vendor/booth I had not seen before was the Tool Testing and Sharpening Station that was put on by the Veteran Woodworkers Association — a great place to sharpen and test out your new tool purchase.
It was an overcast day with the threat of rain so I think turnout was a little lower than average and my new job is a lot further away from home so I didn’t get to spend as much time at the show as I normally do.
There was not a lot that jumped out at me this year, but one vendor had a pretty extensive collection of native and ancient tools. He also had a lot of tools made from ivory and bone.
It was amazing to see some of the detail on these early tools.
I almost made it out of the show without spending much at all but then two items caught my eye. The first was this nice Post Drill by Buffalo Forge. The drill looked complete, exceptionally clean (possibly restored but can’t tell for sure, so if it was restored it was a while ago). Even has a nice heavy vise grip style hold down — assuming that was a later addition, but works great and useful. It looks like this was one of the later produced models by the Buffalo Forge.
I’m in the process of building a timber frame barn and want to get a bit more into Blacksmithing (took some classes at Prospect Hill Forge and down in NC with Peter Ross) and would love to dabble in it a bit more. Once the barn is standing I know right where this drill will get mounted. The drill gets mounted on a heavy post, hence the name and is powered by hand crank. You can adjust the throw of the crank lever. You can also turn the mechanism using the heavy fly wheel on the left but in general that is more to help keep momentum going. This model also has a gearing mechanism on top that will advance the drill bit as you turn the drill and is useful when drilling metal.
The same vendor also had a nice Leg Vise used for Blacksmithing that also caught my eye. The vendor was not at the booth and after waiting around for 15 or 20 minutes and going by some very VERY vague descriptions of what the seller looked like from neighboring booths, I posted my friend Ken (Thank you Ken 🙂 ) at the booth to keep an eye on my new treasures and went into the auction to search.
As it turned out it was my friend Josh Clark of HyperKitten fame.
It’s a nice big leg vise with some nice details, working spring, reasonably clean jaws and still a good amount of life left in the screw.
The vise had nice chamfered and some filed details and has a named stamp in it which reads “Goldie. 133 Attorney Street”.
After doing some online research and in particular finding this post on a forum I was able to learn a little bit about this vise.
“From the above post by Frank Turley (Which had a lot of great pictures which have gone MIA, but matched my vise above) I
The raised letter markings are “GOLDIE” AND “133 ATTORNEY.” He googled and found that the maker was Joseph Goldie located at 133 Attorney Street, New York, NY. I found Goldie in my Directory of American Toolmakers as a maker of “anvils, rules, and vises,” 1842-1849. The son, Joseph Goldie, Jr., made “miniature vises and anvils,” probably for jewelers. The big vise has the wrap-around U-shackle with its split and splayed mounting bracket. It has chamfered legs and pivot beam. It has a nicely turned “bell shape” on the screw box, not too unlike the Peter Wright’s.
The tenoned vises were “composites.” The box was a forge welded tube with a coil of square-sectioned stock brazed within for the internal threads. The stops, to keep it from turning. usually two, were brazed on.The external portion of the box was composed of perhaps 3 rings that were brazed together and then lathe turned. A careful cleaning will sometimes show lines of brass left from the original brazing. These old vises rarely exceeded a 4 1/2″ jaw width.
The tenon for the mount was often rectangular in section going through a hole in the fixed leg. This necessitated having a hole in the leaf spring. To tighten the assembly, the tenon had a carefully placed slot in it to receive a wedge.
The pivot beam usually had an unthreaded, headed bolt with slot to receive a wedge, not a nut and bolt. If there is a nut and bolt, it was probably added at a later date.
My pictured vise has a jaw width of 4 5/16″ and an overall length of 36″ — Frank Turley
All in all it was a good show, I saw a lot of old friends, picked up a couple of fun new tools for the shop and I look forward to the September show which is fast approaching.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” — Wizard of Oz
Back in May I spent a couple of days in Cincinnati Ohio on my way down to Harrodsburg Kentucky for the EAIA Annual Meeting and a quick stop in Covington Kentucky on my way home to visit with some of my woodworking friends in the area.
My first stop was at the Popular Woodworking offices and studio to see Megan Fitzpatrick and David Thiel who graciously showed me around.
The office building while nondescript from the outside contained an interesting space on the inside. A mixture of office space, editing bays, studio/soundstage and a woodworking shop.
I visited the shop area with backdrop you may recognize from several woodworking videos. The timber framer in me wants to push up that simulated plate and add some braces. 🙂
In the warehouse space you could see several projects from Popular Woodworking and American Woodworker magazine. If only we had room in the car to buy one and bring it home.
In the studio area I was able to see another F+W project video being recorded.
Out in the woodworking shop I felt right at home. There was a large machine and bench room. In the corner I could see Megan’s workbench and the windows you may recognize from many an article and post from Popular Woodworking over the years.
I was too busy talking David’s ear off and didn’t take a picture of him to include in the post, but I’ll make sure to take one next time I am in town.
On the way home from our trip I also stopped in Covington KY (right across the Ohio river from Cincinnati OH) to visit Chris Schwarz at the Lost Art Press storefront. The storefront is a nice historic building that used to be a saloon in a part of Covington that reminds me a bit of Brooklyn — lots of history, artists, hipsters, good restaurants etc.
After watching the build out via many of Chris’ blog posts it was neat to see it in person and to see several of Chris’ recent pieces in person.
You may recall the Aumbry above from the cover of a Popular Woodworking issue earlier this year and from the Anarchist’s Design Book.
I’ve always wanted to make some Shaker Oval Boxes. I love a good challenge and learning a new woodworking skill. Back in May I attended the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) annual meeting which was held at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY.
In preparing for the meeting I figured a nice set of Shaker oval boxes would be a solid addition to the EAIA’s silent auction.
In order to gather up the correct supplies and learn how to make a proper oval box I reached out to John Wilson of Michigan who is a well known expert on making these boxes.
From John you can order an instructional DVD, book and templates along with supplies for the boxes and other related projects (baskets, trays etc). In this post I won’t go through all the steps necessary to make these boxes, but I will cover a highlight reel of some of the more interesting steps in the hopes it will whet your appetite for making some boxes yourself. (Links provided at the end of this post)
First off I laid out the templates for all the bands I wanted to bend into boxes and box tops. For this project I used Cherry. Then I pre-drilled the holes for the copper tacks.
Next up was filling the copper steam box with water and heating it up. under the box is a double burner electric hotplate and blocks to keep the tray steady on the burners. When using Cherry you may also want to use distilled water as minerals in your tap water can leave some stains.
I then steam the ends of the bands, cut the tapers in the end with the tack holes and feathered the other end of the bands on the belt sander.
After letting the bands steam I pulled them out one at a time to wrap around the appropriate sized form and marking the overlap. Then remove it from the form and hold the band tightly in place at that same size marked while you take it over to the heavy round pipe anvil and clinch the tiny copper tacks in place to secure the band. This set of forms is a large block of basswood in the size and shape you want the box to be.
I had never clinched a tiny copper tack before so I grabbed a shim and practiced with a few tacks of each size on the anvil. After a tack or two you’ll get a good feel for it.
I got a rhythm going and could feel/read how the tack was going in and move it on the anvil relative to my hammering to make sure I got the tack head nice and even with the surface and got a nice clean clinch on the inside.
With the band tacked the next step was to get them over to the second set of forms to dry. These forms are two blocks of wood also in the shape of the box, similar to the first form, but these forms have a tapered edge profile and holes to let air/water in and out and give your fingers a place to pull the forms out from when they are dry.
The bottom band is steamed, tacked and setup on the second set of forms. The top band is wrapped around the bottom band on the form. The goal is to get a nice tight fit and line up the tack holes.
Let the bands dry for a day or two and then it is time to fit the tops and bottoms into the bands. Trace your band onto the top or bottom blank, cut it near the line on the bandsaw and then use a fixed disc sander with the table set at a few degrees under 90 and sand them to shape and test fit as you go. You don’t want any gaps or spaces between the band and the top or bottom.
I got all the tops and bottoms fitted before moving on to the next step.
Next up was testing out a special drilling jig to make pin holes for attaching the tops and bottoms to the bands. There is no glue in these boxes.
The pins that will secure the bands to the top and bottom blanks are made from hardwood toothpicks that are cut in half on a band saw.
I made pencil dots where I wanted the pins to be, fired up the drill in this jig and made all the pin holes.
For very tiny boxes with thin tops and bottoms I made a tape loop out of blue painters tape and taped some thin cardboard onto the face of the jig to center the holes in the thickness of the top or bottom of the box.
The pins are then tapped into place, clipped off and then sanded on the belt sander to remove any protruding pin left and make sure the bands are level with the tops and bottoms.
The boxes nest inside of each other similar to a Russian Nesting Doll. This made it easier to bring 5 boxes on the very long, and very full car ride from NH to KY with my wife, two babies and me.
At this point the boxes all have a bit of a dull fuzzy look about them.
I gently hand sanded all the boxes and made sure the top and bottom fit the way I wanted. They should have a nice snug fit, but not too tight nor too loose.
All the corner edges, and inside and out of the box get a final sanding and cleanup. Then time for the finish. I applied Tung Oil to the boxes to bring out the grain in the Cherry and finished it off with a couple of coats of amber shellac. Each box is also signed, dated and notes that they were part of the 2016 EAIA annual meeting.
I was very pleased with how well the boxes turned out especially given this was the first time I ever made shaker oval boxes.
I was also glad to hear EAIA members also liked them as my set of boxes in sizes 0-4 turned out to be the second highest grossing item in the EAIA silent auction and I was humbled to receive the plaque below.
I know they went to a good home, the home of Judy and Bill McMillen of Eastfield Village and Richmond Hill fame and good friends of mine. I’m also happy to report I was able to win the auction for some of the items Billy made as well including a Tin-Smithed dustpan my wife and I both had been wanting for a while when we saw one that Billy made at a prior event, but that is a post for another time.
I had a great time making the boxes and we all had a great time at the annual meeting. I had wanted to visit Pleasant Hill Shaker Village for a long time and I’m glad I finally got to see it and spend the better part of a week living in the village.
If you’d like to make some Shaker Oval Boxes of your own, please check out the link to John Wilson’s website below along with links to more information on Pleasant Hill Shaker Village and the EAIA.
The weather is finally starting to warm up and it’s time from some summer workshops at The North Bennet Street School and Historic Eastfield Village.
As always you can find my teaching schedule on the ‘Instruction‘ page at the top of this blog.
First up is the ever popular ‘Drywall for Beginners‘ course at NBSS. There are a couple of seats left and registration closes soon, so if you are interested, please sign up ASAP. In past offerings of this course I posted about it here and here if you’d like to see what it looks like. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn how to hang drywall, tape, mud and texture it.
Saturday-Sunday, June 25-26 (2 Sessions)
Instructor: Bill Rainford
Students learn how to hang drywall, tape seams, work with mud, sanding (wet and dry), and how to work with corners. Additional topics covered include light framing overview, repairing holes, working around outlet boxes and fixtures, repairing damage, finishing the surface, painting tips and, if time allows, the basics of texturing. Students assemble and work from full-size model wall sections which include an inside and outside corner and opportunity to work with stud bays. This class is intended for homeowners, DIY enthusiasts and carpenters/contractors. Basic carpentry or handy skills are a plus.
Students are responsible for supplying their own tools. A tool list will be sent at least 2 weeks prior to class start.
Next up is a new ‘Introduction to Sharpening‘ at NBSS. This workshop is a great opportunity for students to learn how to tune up their basic tools — bench planes, chisels, marking knives, cutting gauges, block planes and specialty planes. The genesis of this course was the realization that some students coming to weekend workshops at the school only had some, and possibly none of their tools properly sharpened and ready to go. (For other workshops I’d rather see students focused on the course at hand and not trying to hastily tune a chisel or iron rather than paying attention to a new course lessons) If you don’t have the time to commit two weeks to the Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking, or even if you completed that course and need more time and practice at sharpening, need access to a proper grinder or you have a new more complex iron or chisel that needs sharpening this is a great class to get your tool kit tuned up. The course is a mixture of demonstration and hands on time with with an instructor.
Saturday-Sunday, July 23-24
Instructor: Bill Rainford
Having sharp, well-tuned tools is perhaps the most important aspect of woodworking; they are requisite for good work. Learn the basics of sharpening a core set of tools used in many woodworking applications. We cover tuning up and sharpening a bench chisel, smoothing plane, and cutting gauge. Additional topics covered include hollow grinding, honing, making a stone holder and tuning up your stones. Additional tools covered as time allows.
Students are responsible for supplying their own tools. A tool list will be sent at least 2 weeks prior to class start.
And last, but certainly not least is an upcoming workshop at Eastfield Village as part of the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) Historic Trades Sampler. The course I will be teaching will be building a domed top box. This will give each students hands on exercises in working wood, assembling a small box, setting butt hinges and an optional lock, and working with cut nails. Once students complete their box we’ll work with Bill McMillen to do grain painting on the box as well. Details below including info on other courses being offered as part of this event:
Eastfield Historic TradesSampler Early American Industries Association
Join Us July 28-31,2016!
The Early American Industries Association Eastfield Historic TradesSampler, will be held on Thursday, July 28th through Sunday, July 31st, 2016, at Historic Eastfield Village, East Nassau, New York. The program this year will include:
The name name Eastfield Historic TradesSampler reflects what we actually offer-a sampler of various trades with an opportunity to learn about them while completing a small project related to the craft.
There are two different workshops each day from which to choose. The classes start at 9 a.m. and there is a lunch provided in Eastfield’s historic tavern from noon until 1 p.m., at which time the afternoon session of the workshops resume. The workshops end around 5 p.m.
Accommodations in Eastfield’s taverns are available free of charge for those wishing to stay as guests in early 19th century surroundings. The only requirements is that each person supply their own bedding, plus 10 ten inch white candles.
Students are encouraged to stay here during the Historic TradesSampler. Meals may be cooked or served in the late 18th century kitchens. Accommodations are rope beds with straw and feather ticks. Facilities are located in period out houses. There are evening gatherings in the Briggs Tavern and lively conversations and games of dominoes by candlelight. This immersive experience offers an unforgettable opportunity to be with others-students and teachers-of similar interests, to gain appreciation for the work and daily life of early 19th century America.
The cost of registration for the workshop is $485.00.
To register, you can contact John Verrill by phone at (703) 967-9399 or email EAIA1933@verizon.net or via mail:
Early American Industries Association PO Box 524
Hebron, MD 21830
If you have any questions about these upcoming workshops, please send me a comment below or contact me directly via the contact form here.
I hope to see you in a future class.
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation