Category Archives: Workshop Projects

Posts related to jigs, fixtures, shop projects, storage etc

Making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson — Part 1

A single iron jointer plane is one of those tools you have use yourself to truly appreciate. Over Labor Day weekend I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make one of these planes with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson at the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC.

Entrance to the Woodwright's School
Entrance to the Woodwright’s School

Bill is a passionate woodworker and skilled teacher. You may recognize him from his appearances on Roy’s television show or the articles that he’s written. He’s a molding plane aficionado and has studied plane-making and general furniture-making with many masters in the field. He recently retired from being a Scientist for the EPA so I see a lot of parallels to my own life working in software.

Getting started, with Bill Anderson
Getting started, with Bill Anderson

The plane is made of air dried American Beech and a new old stock English iron.

Squaring up the air dried beech blank
Squaring up the air dried beech blank

We started out by squaring up the stock using a wooden straightedge and winding sticks.

Laying out the mouth and abutments
Laying out the mouth and abutments

Next up was laying out the mouth and throat. The mortises are all chopped by hand with a chisel and refined via a series of floats and scrapers. It was my first time using that many different floats, and for what looks like it might be a fairly coarse tool, when sharpened leaves a remarkably good surface.

Chopping the mortise by hand
Chopping the mortise by hand

As we worked through the throat mortise a key was to make sure you don’t overshoot and chop through the abutment.

Scraping
Scraping

One of the last steps in refining the abutment and sides of the throat was to scrape the surface using a scraper chisel.

A very nice scraping chisel that Bill made
A very nice scraping chisel that Bill made

This beast of a chisel was made by Bill and heat treated by Peter Ross. It was based on some research Bill did into traditional plane making tools. The long bar of tool steel and handle allow you to put a lot of your weight into it as you scrape the surface flat. The cutting edge is a very steep angle similar to a scraper you’d use with a lathe (upside down compared to the lathe tool) but works well since you are only removing a little bit of material at a time.

Paring away any fuzz
Paring away any fuzz

Regular bench chisels are used to clean up any fuzz in the corners. Next up is cutting in for the wedge and cleaning up a cheeks. This is an operation that requires a steady hand and the ability to work to an exacting standard. You want your test wedge, and eventually your actual wedge, to fit tightly against the abutment so the iron does not move when you are working with the plane. I took my time and was very happy with the results.

Fitting with test wedges
Fitting with test wedges

In upcoming posts I will document more about my experience in building and finishing this plane.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Bill Anderson or take a class with him, and I highly encourage you to do so, please check out his website here.

-Bill

Rack ’em up — Lathe Tool Rack

As an avid wood turner I often spend a lot of time at the lathe.  When doing production work I am often trying to figure out better ways to be more efficient in my work. A modest time sink is often finding the next tool to use as historically my turning tools usually lived in a Woodcraft tool travel bag which was overflowing on a nearby table or tool, and a small rack for 4 tools that would sit on the end of my lathe’s bed. Over the past few weekends I set out to fix this problem…

Drilling Holes
Drilling Holes

The drill press got a workout hogging through a LOT of Maple…

Completed sets of holes
Completed sets of holes

Then came test fitting the joints….

Testing Joints
Testing Joints

Then making sure the size, shape and angles I figured actually worked for tools in the real world…

Working out design
Working out design

Refined the design a bit by tapering the sides…

Tapering the sides
Tapering the sides

Next up was fitting together each of the double units..

Completed racks awaiting finish
Completed racks awaiting finish

Then finishing them and installing them on to the 4’x4′ plywood backing. The backing, much like everything else in my workshop rides on a french cleat, so I can re-arrange my wall space each time my needs, tooling or shop changes.

Completed racks installed
Completed racks installed

Part of the beauty of this design is the over sized holes and the large dowel underneath which allows shavings to easily fall through the rack, rather than fill up as they would if the bottom of the holder was closed in. (This was a design element seen on similar, but smaller turning tool racks we had at NBSS — so thank you to my friend Rich Friberg or one of his predecessors for the inspiration 🙂  ) The completed rack looks naked without any tools, so time to populate it…

Completed racks, with room to grow
Completed racks, with room to grow

The completed rack has worked out great. When I turned the handles for my tools, I made them different shapes and species so I could tell them apart with only a quick glance and this rack allows for very fast identification and selection. There is room for my full sized tools, room for my smaller detail tools, and room to add more. (I’ve been itching to build some of the hollowing tools from Alan Lacer’s video on making your own turning tools). The rack holds 28 tools, 14 on each level, so as your collection of tools grows you can still make use of the shelf space — I filled some of the space with tiny turning blanks and rolls of turner’s tape)

Side view
Side view

Time to get back out into the shop and keep turning…

The Road to Roy Underhill: Workshops With the Woodwright

Jointer Plane Making & Name Stamp Workshops

 At the Woodright’s School in Pittsboro NC

 

Are you interested in meeting and taking a woodworking class with Roy Underhill of the Woodwright’s Shop and Woodwright’s School? (Along with Peter Ross the former master of the Colonial Williamsburg Anderson Forge and Bill Anderson a master plane maker – both of which have been on Roy’s show)

I talked to Roy and the guys and they were willing to do a special run of the two workshops below on the following dates*: Arrive July 8th class 9-12th leave the 13th at Roy’s School in Pittsboro NC

* (Given the very long drive from NH down to NC I wanted to try and get a few days in a row down at Roy’s school to get the most I could out of the trip, and I am very appreciative they were willing to do so, but we need a few more people to sign up in order to run it) So if you are interested in one or both of these sessions I encourage you to sign up soon.

 

http://www.woodwrightschool.com/name-stamps-w-peter-ross/

1 Day class $145 + $40 materials

Peter Ross Name Stamp Workshop
Peter Ross Name Stamp Workshop

http://www.woodwrightschool.com/making-bench-planes-wbill/

3 Day class $425 + $115 materials (beech + plane iron etc) to make a massive single iron jointer plane

Jointer Plane Workshop
Jointer Plane Workshop

Total: $725 Tuition and materials for 4 days + your own food and lodging. I will be driving down (11hour drive from NH) and if folks from NBSS or the general Boston area are interested in joining me I can carpool. Hotels in the area are $55-100/night.  Info from Roy on what it’s like to take a class at his school can be found here.

I also hear there is a good pizzeria behind the school that Roy has been known occasionally have a drink with the students after class and above the school is an old time used tool shop that has similar stuff to what we hunt for at the Nashua Tool show.

If folks are interested, we could also take an extra day to go see nearby Old Salem, which is home to the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts and a Moravian living history museum much like Colonial Williamsburg. http://www.oldsalem.org/ It’s kind of a crazy adventure, but I think it would be a memorable experience.

For more info, please contact me or sign up at Roy’s site:

You can reach Bill Rainford at: (My firstname ‘dot’ lastname at facebook.com) — or via my blog or my linkedin page

Woodwright’s School Registration Page

Get to the point…

“Warning: Sharp chisels are dangerous and should be handled with care. Dull chisels are even more dangerous and should be sharpened.”

This timeless advice comes deep in the small print of the little card that comes with many Lie-Nielsen tools. Much like a shower or brushing your teeth, sharpening is a regular daily routine for most traditional woodworkers, and while it is amazing to see the lengths we go to be sharp, many of us often relegate this task to the end of the bench or tiny bits of counter space here and there.

Why all the fuss about about where to sharpen? How do I avoid this ‘dangerous’ situation?

For many years I was sharpening wherever I could find a bit of space yet knowing there was a better way to go about this. After moving last year I finally got around to re-arranging and re-imagining my workshop space and decided to do something about where I sharpen. Several years ago I went through a phase where I built a lot of New Yankee Workshop projects meant to organize the workshop and at that time I bought the supplies to build Norm’s Sharpening Station but never got around to building this one last project — I even had the top all laminated and ready to go since before the move. Now as I looked to make more room in my shop and move my 4’x8′ sheet goods cart out of the shop I needed to clear off that extra plywood and get some more storage space for all my sharpening paraphernalia.  Now that I’ve finished this project I don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I *finally* have all my sharpening gear in one place, I have a spot I can quickly sharpen at and get back to work. I also have waited way too long to finally have an actual paper towel holder in the shop — yes the simple pleasures in life — like not having sawdust all over a clean sheet from the roll that was bouncing around the shop.

The point? Keeping your tools sharp is a vital part of doing good work, so the investment in a dedicated sharpening space and a couple of weekends is a great way to keep your edges keen, your points sharp and your paper towels clean (especially if you don’t want to get caught stealing paper towels from the kitchen 😉 ).  Happy Sharpening….

 

Those Tools Travel In Style — Rolling Tool Cart

Are you a busy woodworker on the go? Looking for some more hand tool luggage to go with your saw till? Then look no further than this stylish Hand Tool Cart!  Its clean lines and stylish fenders will turn heads as you roll from the workshop to the trade show. But wait, there’s more…..

OK, now that we’ve chased that car salesman out of the shop we can talk about the details. I based the design on a ‘Tool Caddy’ I saw in issue 158 of Wood Magazine from 2004; though I made some modifications/additions. I scaled up the width of the chest to fit a #8 plane and panel saws. I built out a full set of drawers to hold planes and marking gauges etc. I added locking clasps on the front so it can be locked. I installed safety chains on both sides of the flip top lid — which is where I store items I use most frequently — combo square, brush, card file, scraper, scale, marking gauge etc. The lid also locks inside the protected zone covered by the main chest doors. The luggage style handle mechanism is made from copper pipe and folds out of the way when not in use. I also added heavy duty chest pulls to aid in maneuvering the chest as it can get heavy fast. I particularly like the fenders as a finishing touch. I also took care to match wood grain across the pieces. The cart is made from birch plywood, finished with 4 coats of polyurethane and 2 coats of wax. I’ve used it for several years now and it has been a great addition to the shop.

Anarchy at the Tool Show — Classic Tool Chests

I need to get something off my chest– literally. Ever since reading the Anarchist’s Tool Chest I’ve had Tool Chest envy. My wife and I recently moved up to NH from Boston and it seems like it has been taking a lifetime to get my shop setup and fully functional again. Teaching, work, life, smaller projects and commissions keep getting in the way. Once winter sets in and I get more ‘me’ time in the shop I plan to build my own proper tool chest — though right now hand my tools ride around in style via a mobile tool chest/cart I built as a student at NBSS — complete with curved fenders, a retractable handle, 4 drawers and a tray top  (I’ll post more on that in an upcoming post).

This past week I was at the Live Free or Die tool show and auction in Nashua NH — and is part of my twice annual pilgrimage to the ultimate old hand tool show. Beyond great deals on hard to find tools, it’s also a great place to see lots of faces from NBSS, vendors I’ve been buying from for years and the one random guy who only seems to sell very ornate turned plumb bobs every year.

Below are some of the more interesting tool chests I was able to find and photograph with my camera phone (please excuse the quality of them).  The wide variety of what survived was a great source of inspiration.

 

You can learn more about the Anarchist’s Tool Chest here on my friend Chris Schwarz’s blog. (Along with other great books by the Lost Art Press)

Sorry Chris — I was unable to find any slant topped chests, but I gave it a good try.

Hand Tool Luggage — A Better Saw Till

How often have you seen saws just tossed in with other tools in a box or bucket? For how much money you spend on a good quality saw and for the results you expect out of it there is no excuse for abusing the saw in transit. A saw banging around in a tool box can get bent, dull, have the set of the teeth get out of alignment etc.  Described below is how I solved this problem for my saws in the shop and out on the job site.

Saw Till with Handle and Safety Strap
Saw Till with Handle and Safety Strap

The traditional way a saw was transported around was in a saw till. They often took on many forms — sometimes as part of a larger tool chest, attached to the inside of the lid of a larger tool box, as a stationary wall cubby or cabinet or as its own portable unit. For me the portable unit was a great place to start. I made a pair of tills that are shown in the photos below.

Saw Till Construction Detail
Saw Till Construction Detail

The carcass of my saw till is similar to one we used at NBSS. It’s made of 1/2″ plywood sides, 3/4″ plywood top, 1/4″ plywood dividers. I took it further by sanding, rounding the corners and finishing it with Shellac and Wax. The real improvements I made were the addition of a carry handle and safety strap. The strap is nylon like you would use on a backpack — I used my sewing machine to sew returns on the straps, attached them to the side of the till with button studs and used a nice plastic clasp to connect the two sides. This strap is pulled through the open D handles on the saws and keeps them from falling out. The plastic clasp allows you to change the size of the strap as your arsenal of saws changes over time and allows for quick access. When mounting the handle do your best to locate it in such a way that it balances nicely when loaded up with saws — it will be easier on your wrists and will keep the saws where they belong.

Saw Till In Its Natural Setting
Saw Till In Its Natural Setting

This is a great weekend shop project and I hope you will consider building one. The size and shape of the sides should be dictated by the largest saw you plan to put in your till. If you do build your own, please do share your pics or posts with me and we can link them to this post.

Dressing up the workshop

After spending way too much digging around in buckets and tool boxes I decided I needed some real wall storage for the shop. I also figured since I spend so much of my free time down in the shop I might as well make it a nice looking place to be. So back in the spring of 2008 I embarked on a long series of shop improvement projects.

Phase 1 — Wall Storage

Based roughly on some plans from an older WOOD magazine article I build a series of 2’x4′ pegbaord panels. Each of these wood frames has a french cleat on the back and spacer on the bottom so they could be hung from a french cleat mounted to the wall. I really like this system as it lets me easily move things around as my shop space needs change. (Every time a new major tool is added things often get juggled around). I really didn’t like the drab look of dark brown that pegboard normally is, so I decide to paint it a metallic copper color using a 2 part latex paint that worked out great. I also spray painted all the pegs/hooks copper as well. I found this paint reflected light well and gave a warmer feeling to the shop. I wound up making 6 of these panels which are currently in 2 banks of 3. From there I also made a pair of cabinets with similar copper doors and adjustable shelves and a pair of screw storage cabinets with lexan doors and lots of little McFeely’s bins. I’m currently in the process of moving to a new shop with some more wall space so I hope to add to this system of wall storage again soon.

Since then I also made hose storage, small parts bins, turning tool holders and a range of other similar shop helpers that hang from this cleat system. I’ll post more on these additions in the future. It has been a great way to organize tools and keep them handy and visible.

Tapering Jig Grows Up

It’s not every day I need to taper a table leg, but when I do, I want the operation to go off smoothly. For years I’ve used an extruded aluminum model which got the job done for modest size pieces but it had a lot of limitations especially if you value the quality of your work and your fingers.

This week I’m working on a shaker style console table for an upcoming show and I figured this was as good a time as any to build a better tapering jig. Thumbing through an old FWW compilation of shop improvement projects I found a jig I liked and I built my own.

Completed tapering jig ready to adjust to the needs of your work.
Completed tapering jig ready to adjust to the needs of your work.

The result is a much larger unit that is far more secure in holding the piece while tapering with better results given the miter slot runner and zero clearance edge to align your piece with. In an upcoming post you’ll see the results of this jig in action.

UPDATE: Added some pics to the slideshow showing the jig in action and the results it produces — nice clean and consistent tapers.

Clean consistent tapers
Clean consistent tapers

 

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Ultimate Crosscut Sled

Installed Zero Clearance Fence
Installed Zero Clearance Fenced and my only regret is that I didn’t build it sooner.

After years of half measures and fancy miter gauges (Delta, Woodstock, Rockler and Osborne) I finally built a proper crosscut sled. My only regret is that I didn’t build one sooner. 🙂

My design is a hybrid of many designs and features I’ve seen or liked over the years — from NBSS, Wood Magazine, FWW etc.

Highlights of this design:

  • Solid construction
  • Zero clearance fence
  • T Track for stops and jigs
  • Lexan safety screen
  • Heavy duty fences

Here is the process I followed:

  1. Find material for the base. I used 1/2″ MDF since it’s cheap, stable and I had it on my scrap pile. I built this entire project using materials and supplies I had on hand which dictated some of the dimensions. 1/2″ Cabinet Grade plywood would also work well. I’ve found MDF to be more desirable for this sort of jig since its cheaper, IMHO slides better and less prone to warping. My base is 24″ x 34″
  2. Rip 2 runners to fit tightly in your miter slots. I recommend UHMH (Ultra High Molecular Weight) Plastic since it’s stable and slides well. Take your time here and make sure this is NO play or slop in the fit. The runners should be a few inches longer than your sled is so you can use them to help get the jig onto the table saw when using it on large pieces.
  3. Set the runners into the miter slots. Place you MDF base on top of the table and center it on the runners and try to get is square to the blade. (no need to fuss too much, but you can use the fence to get into the ballpark)  Clamp it in place and using a large square draw out lines for the screw placement. Also space your screws evenly across the length of the sled and make sure the heads are countersunk below the surface of the base. NOTE: Make sure you properly size your screws so they do no go all the way through your plastic runner and scratch your table top
  4. Mill some 8/4 hardwood — I used hard maple to form the fences. To many this may seem like overkill, but remember that you will be sawing through about half of your fence, so you need to make sure the ‘meat’ of whats left on top of the fence is strong enough to keep the sled in one piece even with the maximum kerf is in place. I also used a 1/4″ radius roundover bit to ease the edges of the fences and used a 5/16″ straight bit and router fence to plunge the holes in place for the adjustable zero clearance fence.
  5. Put your base + runners assembly back on the saw. With the runners secure, plunge up through the middle of your sled base and make a kerf about a foot long. NOTE: When plunging up like this make sure you hands, tools etc are well clear of where the blade is going to surface.
  6. Place the front fence (The one you will handle by hand when using the sled) on your sled assembly. Screw on the fence from below and countersunk like the runners. Only secure one side at this time as it will be a pivot for you in the next step.
  7. Place your framing square against the kerf you made and use it to square up the fence to the kerf.  When you feel you have it square, carefully pull the sled back so you can clamp down the right size of the fence and drive a screw in to secure it. Raise the blade again and make some test cuts. If your cuts are not dead on square, re-adjust the fence and retry until you get it right. This is the critical use for the fence, so this is the one area you want to make sure you fuss over and get it right.
  8. Once you have the sled cutting square outline the fence in pencil (so you know if it ever gets bumped out of square if its dropped etc) and then use several more screws so secure the fence to the sled base.
  9. Repeat the above process for the far fence. If you don’t plan on using the sled at maximum capacity you don’t have to fuss as much with this end.
  10. Cut a 4″ wide piece of 1/4″ or thicker Lexan and install it over the top of the fence in line with the saw kerf. This serves to protect the operator and also provides some more support to the fences hopefully decreasing the likelihood of the base getting warped in the middle. Sand/round over the edges of the Lexan and use fender washers to spread out the pressure from the screws used to secure the Lexan.
  11. Cut 4″ wide strips of 1/2″ MDF to form the Zero Clearance fence. (Works much like the fences on some router stations — like Norm’s New Yankee Workshop Deluxe Router Station). You can hold them up to the kerf on your sled and use the sled’s other side to mark the ends and then use the sled itself to make the cross cuts. Then hold them in place and put a pencil through the routed holes in the fence to mark where the jig hardware can move. Drill holes near the far end of the slot marks — so when you tear up the zero clearance inserts by use you can true up the ends and just close the gap for many years before you need to re-make this consumable piece. Also make sure to countersink the face sides of the holes in the MDF so the jig hardware does not interfere with stock pressing against the fence when the sled is in use. I rounded over the lower edge of these pieces with a 1/8″ radius round over bit to better accommodate dust that might otherwise get between the piece and the fence. (NOTE only round over that bottom edge and not the vertical edge you are using for the zero clearance backer)
  12. Install the jig hardware and secure the zero clearance fence.
  13. Cut some T-Track to width and install that immediately above the zero clearance fences. By making the MDF fence 4″ tall there is no way the 10″ blade on my table saw could possibly hit this T track. After years of quick clamping stop blocks in place I love finally being able to use a track and variosu kinds of jigs/stops to speed up production work.
  14. Enjoy your new Sled!

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