Monday, May 30, 2016

Project Update: Leg Chop

The glue-up of the crisscross mortise template went well.

I know I should have left more wood on the ends, but it worked out fine when I routed out the leg. I started with a pretty short top-bearing router bit to get a deep enough notch in the leg that I could go with a longer bit to complete the mortise. at 1 7/8" deep, 3/4" wide, 19 1/2" long.

Once finished, I cleaned up the corners with a 1/2" chisel and test-fitted the crisscross.

When I was happy with the fit, I went back to the chop. As you may recall, I had to purchase a little more red oak to laminate onto the existing piece intended for the chop. A little Titebond I, a few top-bars and some drying time yielded a great result.

The trouble was, though, my table saw was burning wood every time I cut something with it. Not only was this frustrating because it marred my work cosmetically, it was dangerous because it told me something, somewhere, was binding the wood, which could result in a serious injury from a kickback. I mentioned this to Random Roger Green during his last visit and we took about 30 minutes to loosen up the table top and realign it with some encouragement from a large, rubber mallet. The fence also needed some alignment, which means I had somehow created a perfect storm of misalignments.

When we were done, the saw cut a test piece perfectly - no burning, no binding and no fear. I had cut the chop to size before we made the adjustments to the table saw, so the sides required some super-thin planing to rid them of burn marks. Not frustrating at all.

The irony of using a hand plane to plane down the chop sides meant for a workbench on which I will primarily do hand planing was not lost on me.

When that was done, I started the exacting process of lining out the chop mortise and screw hole on the bench-facing side of the chop. This is tedious and nerve-wracking work because everything must be laid out perfectly or bye-bye choppy.

I did this before Random Roger's visit, so things were off a bit - I was just lining it out for estimation. With his help, I was able to draw everything out for final cutting using a drill press and some interesting Forstner bits. I'll most likely end up finishing the chop mortise and cuts at Roger's place - he has a professional-grade shop that makes mine look like a silly hobby space, which, of course, it is.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Project Update: Growing the Chop

After I decided to work solely on the deadman parts and pieces, Random Roger Green was kind enough to stop by for a visit. Fortunately, he brought along a nice Bosch plunge router and an attachment designed to help make straight cuts. The first thing we did was set up the attachment so that the first cut was 3/4" in from the bottom front of the bench.

The slot needs to be 1" wide and the router bit diameter was only 3/4", so we had to adjust and go through the process again - taking a little off at a time. Eventually, we completed the slot and it's now ready for primetime.

While telling Random about how I've been working on the deadman parts, he said the deadman can wait until dead last (yeah, I said that). So, we started lining out the leg vise on the leg and the chop - the chop is the part that extends most of the length of the leg and moves out and in when using the handwheel - it's the outside part of the clamp.

Things need to be laid out fairly precisely in order for the crisscross to work and to allow the most space possible between the leg and the chop. I'll continue to work on routing out both the leg and the chop this week. While looking the chop over and thinking about the pegs I'll need for drawboring the stretcher tenons into the leg mortises, Random let me know that I would need to add some girth to the chop and to purchase 1/2" dowels for the drawbore pegs (more on this technique later). It was late, so I headed to Home Depot for the wood.

The red oak board is 8" wide, which is my desired end width (7 1/2", actually), so I went ahead and glued it to the outside face of the piece I had originally intended to use for the chop.

Yeah, I used Titebond I. Yeah, it will work fine for this. Yeah, I got to use the go-bar setup. Finally. Tomorrow, I'll cut the chop down to width and length so I can begin the process of shaping, routing and drilling it for the handwheel, screw and crisscross.

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Project Update: A Deadman in the Shop

After a couple of unforeseen and unintended delays, I'm back at it. First, I asked a friend, Darrel Wallen, for a little help machining some of the hardware for the workbench. Darrel is a retired Navy machinist who kept at it after his years of service and has a metal shop at his home that's quite impressive. Darrel cut down the hardened screw - one piece 18" long and two pieces 9" each. The one piece will attach to the leg vise chop/leg and the other two are for the Moxon vise. He also machined down the screws and placed the handwheels and he lathed the enormous hex nuts for mounting the washers, which my next door neighbor, Mike Crane, brazed onto the nuts with some brass.

At this point, I believe all of the hardware necessary is completed and ready for installation.

Now, I just have to figure out how to get everything installed properly. It should be interesting.

Before installing all of these parts, I'll go ahead and make the deadman. This is a vertical board 1 1/2" thick that rides the length of the bench face between the legs; it contains dog holes that will allow me to place dogs or holdfasts to support any long board I put in the leg vise. You can see an example of one in the photo below.

Why do they call it a deadman? I have no idea, but I'm pretty sure there's a good story behind it.The top of the deadman rides in a slot routed into the bottom of the bench top and the bottom rides on a funky pyramid shaped structure that I have yet to add to the front stretcher. I'm hoping to at least get the dead man completed this week.

On a couple of unrelated notes, I was able to slice up some nice koa for Darrel using the Laguna SUV as thanks for helping me with the machining. It went well, yet I can see that I will need a better resaw fence should I choose to do more of this kind of work.

My wife and I also made our monthly pilgrimage to Astoria, Oregon where we visited Astoria Vintage Hardware and I found a No. 5 in pretty rough shape for $10. It has a lot of rust on it, but, frankly, I've seen worse. I oiled it up and will start grinding rust off when I need a deadman break this week.

Until next time...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Project Update: Dry Fitting Success

After all of the work Random Roger Green and I did on the workbench leg mortises, it turns out I had not only placed the long stretcher mortises in the wrong place (placed them flush with the back of the legs when they needed to be flush with the front), we also cut them to the wrong depth. It just never amazes me how I can complicate the simplest task tenfold. It's a gift. So, I had to plug the square holes in preparation for a do-over.

Once they dried overnight, I sanded off the extrusions, redrew the holes and started the mortising process over - again. They say practice makes perfect. I sure hope they're right.

In the end, I was able to mortise all of the stretchers, both long and short, and test fit them with all of their respective tenons.

A few were a little tight and required some cleanup, but, for the most part, all went well and I was able to dry fit the shelf stretchers.

I was becoming a little demoralized with the project, so this was a big help in keeping me motivated to finish the thing in the next couple of weeks. As well, Random Roger Green's consistent help, advice and encouragement have been keys to my completion of this side project. Along with this, I've had to keep in mind the "reason for the season," as they say. The whole point of this exercise it to create a workspace that will help me build harpsichords, violas da gamba and whatever the hell else I come up with. It's been interesting.

On a completely unrelated note, I drove by Goby Walnut and Hardwoods and they had put out not one, but three, free boxes packed with some really nice cuts of claro walnut. I couldn't help myself. I packed the new car full with just a fraction of what was in the boxes and was able to find storage for it in the shop. But it must stop. It  really, really must stop. Good thing I don't have a larger shop, right?

Now, if I could just figure out what to do with all that beautiful walnut.

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Project Update: It's Mortise Time

As you may recall, I cut the tenons incorrectly on one of the short stretchers. The good news was I cut it too shallow and needed to go deeper - from 3/4" to 1", This was easily accomplished using Random Roger Green's awesome tenoning jig.

Once I completed the final shortie, it was quick work to cut the tenons into the long stretchers. I don't have a photo of the process because I did them on the Laguna SUV and it's incredibly difficult to take a selfie while cutting a six-foot piece of wood with a 1" band saw blade. I did, though, snap photos of the long ones lined out for the tenon cuts and then all of the completed tenons.

Once these were completed, I could begin the exacting process of redrawing the mortise lines onto the legs. Why do it just once when you can do it four times, right? The thing is, I didn't account for the width of the thin-kerf table saw blade when calculating the dimensions of the short stretchers, so I lost 1/8" from the tenon widths. This I can live with. Though I cut the long ones with the Laguna SUV, I kept the same measurement for the tenons - 1 5/8" - that I used for the shorties. As Random often says, "It will be's just a bench."

Speaking of Random (Roger Green), he was kind enough to come over Monday evening and help me get things back on track, particularly with the mortising. As you probably know, he dropped off an enormous Powermatic mortising machine for me to use on the legs. The thing is a monster. And I love it. Too bad it must one day takes its leave of Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters.

The first thing Random helped me with was deciding on which chisel to use. Now, these chisels are interesting - they're designed to make square holes. The way this works is a drill bit sits inside of the hollow square chisel and clears most of the material while the razor-sharp chisel clears away the remaining wood. So, yes, it's simply a drill press that makes square holes.

The first step was setup of the mortising tool.

Once Random was satisfied everything was set up properly (drill bit/chisel mounted and depth and width stoppers aligned) and the appropriate chisel was chosen - we ended up using (I believe) a 1/4" chisel - we tested it on a block of scrap wood. Testing is always a good idea, one by which, as you know, I do not always abide.

Then, Random cut me loose on drilling the mortise for one of the short side stretchers and, voila! - it worked!

Everything lined up and looks pretty darned good. The one thing I will do for each of the mortises is draw its complementary tenon directly onto the leg because no two tenons are ever cut perfectly the same. Ever. I used this same idea for the mortises I cut into the bench top, using each tenoned leg to trace the mortise outline and that seems to have worked out okay, as well.

The next steps are to complete all of the mortise cuts this week so we can mount the stretchers, which will involve the use of "draw-boring," something I think you will find quite interesting in a future post.

Until next time...