Monthly Archives: October 2016

Some Things Just Never Change

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The last post I made here was a bit of a departure from my normal obsessing over the various design options available to me when I am in the mood to dive into building another work bench.

Above you can see what has me paused for reconsideration of design. That is the Lie Nielsen large workbench. That thing retails at a cool $3500, + shipping on a parcel that has to weigh in at roughly 400 pounds. Not cheap.

Taking the Lie Nielsen  vises out of the equation for the moment, this bench exhibits some really attractive qualities in a blend of Scandinavian and Roubo styles.

For example, the legs are flush with the top just like in a Roubo bench. This allows for more clamping surface and also a place to use hold fasts for clamping also. (see hold fast holes in right side leg.)

While the base is of a trestle construction, a feature shared by some Roubo benches and traditional Continental/Germanic/Scandinavian work benches. This one deletes the feet normally found at the bottom of the legs of most traditional benches.

For what I have in mind, this is an interesting hybrid. Since I am going to be devoting more time to using hand tools for my work in The Tiny Shop, I will need a very stout bench to withstand the forces that operations like hand planing and the shock of blows delivered during joint fitting deliver . However, the bench will also be doing double duty as an outfeed table for my table saw. This is actually fortunate because my preferred bench height for hand tool work is almost exactly the same as my table saw height. (34″ from the floor)

Initially, I had planned to laminate 7 4″x6″x8′ together face to face to create a nearly 6″ thick top. However, given that the overall length will be less than 8 feet, this will not only be overkill, but might just …well…look funny. I also considered laminating 2″x6″ material together just like I had for my main bench, but frankly I am less than enthusiastic about this also. It’s a lot of work to mill, and glue 14 separate boards together without the help of a professional glue rack and deep-throated clamps to accept the oversized boards. Not to mention the lack of a wide belt sander to help me flatten the top after glue up.

That leaves me with a couple of choices should I decide against either of the two bench top fabrication choices above.

I could edge glue 4 4x6x8 timbers. This would get me a top that was just shy of 4″ thick and 24 inches across by 72-ish inches long. the timbers are thick enough to withstand multiple flattening operations with hand planes while the wood settles down and acclimate to The Tiny Shop.

Or….

I could just laminate 6 4x4x8 timbers to approximate the same thing, but with several more glue joints. In thinking it over, I think that having a 4″ thick top has several advantages over the radical thickness I considered before. Chief among them is that it will make chopping out the through mortises a little easier.

Still I must confess to being drawn to the heft of multiple thick timbers laminated together. I am just having a hard time envisioning what that will translate into visually on a bench that is less than 8 feet long and at a 34″ working height. The proposed length would be somewhere between 6 and 7 feet.

I suppose I will end up going with my gut.

Right now, the gut consensus is to go ahead and build the monster bench top, and slap it on top of some sort of hybrid Scandinavian/Franco trestle base a’la Lie Nielsen.

This also brings me back to the original thinking behind building a Roubo at all. I would kind of like to have “one of each” so to speak. (Scandinavian and Roubo) So why the hemming and hawing? I guess it’s just what I do once the itch to build ANOTHER workbench gets a hold of me.

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TRES BON…..For now.

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In a radical departure from my norm, I think I have settled on the Roubo style bench as a proposed replacement for my outfeed table/assembly table.

I realize that I have forgone the traditional hand wringing and over examination of pros and cons, but I think this may be a natural choice.

One of the main reasons…as always…is the economy of this design narrowly beats out its Scandinavian counterpart. All told, I should be able to procure the required timber for just under $175.

Next, the dimensions. While not quite as short as I had initially envisioned, the height is just about perfect for hand planing work and also for it’s use as an outfeed table for the tablesaw. The length will still provide some extra breathing space between this bench and my main workbench. The nice thing about this will be that I will still have storage for both my planer and my sliding mitre saw, as well as a bit of space at the end to tuck a shopvac, or stool, or what have you under the overhang.

An added bonus will be the joy of having built both a Scandinavian design and a Roubo, thus soothing my craven desire to “have it all.”

I also like the idea of having two highly versatile work spaces. The configuration of the different vises will provide added optional work holding capability. This will become increasingly important as I continue to focus on more handwork using hand saws and planes.

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I think a simplified front vise will suffice. I can’t see spending the premium money for the Benchcrafted vise hardware swhown above in these pictures. However, I think I may actually attempt the Wagon Vise that is shown above. I have drawings and plans for a shop made version of the Benchcrafted equipment pictured. I like the Wagon Vise idea because the vise is captured within the bench itself, and therefore does not intrude in the already tight space I am trying to maximize. Were I to build a Scandinavian bench again, I would either have to contend with whacking my knees / hips on the vise handle, or delete it all together.

On balance I feel this is the best of all options since it seems I am bent on building yet ANOTHER workbench. I am excited to get moving on this project. It will be something of a technical challenge. The vise engineering alone takes me out of my comfort zone. The top lamination may make up for that, as I plan to laminate 7-4″x6″x80″ timbers together to get a top that is close to 28″ wide. The base will likewise be 4″x6″ timbers with 4″x4″ timbers as the stretchers between the legs. The legs will be through mortised into the top. Each hand chopped nortise will be nearly 6″deep. Each hand cut tenon will also be nearly 6″.

This project is a bit ambitious for just an outfeed table, to be sure. In the scheme of things though, it meets several needs especially as they relate to work holding for hand work with planes, chisels, and hand saws.

Wheeewww….it’s going to be a fun ride. loving the adventure. I just need to get cracking on a couple of small lingering projects to clear the decks for this bad boy…..God I love this stuff.

Deja Vu…All Over Again….

As The Tiny Shop begins to see action these days, I find myself wishing for just a bit more floor space for assembly. So far, I have been able to get the job done using a combination of what floor space I do have available, and using the 8’+ long out feed table of my table saw.

While this has been serviceable so far, I see that having just a bit more space on the end of the out feed table would be nice. Specifically for building casework larger than four feet tall.

As an admitted cool junkie and workbench ponderer, you can guess the places that my mind takes me. None of these places, I assure you, include simply cutting the well built, fully functional out feed table I currently have to provide the desired space. Parish the thought.

No, I am of course considering the construction of yet another, slightly smaller workbench.

The question I am chewing in right now is, if I build another bench, what design should I make?

I have a full sized Scandinavian / hybrid style right now. It is sturdy, and is the jewel of The Tiny Shop.

Here she is just prior to the vise being fitted.

I like the design, and it works fine for my needs. Perhaps making a version shorter in length and height (to double as another out feed table again.)?

Or….

Do I venture into Franco history and do what all the other kids are doing, and build a Round like this….

I have to admit, the allure of having one of each design really does speak to my inner OCD. I like the Features that a Round would provide me.

Super stout construction, easy construction, and the six foot length I am considering lends itself well to this design.

On the other hand, I have built several of the traditional, more commonly built bench designs, and would be just as happy with it.

I dunno, I need to think a bit more about this.

FINE TEETH…OR HOW I “SAW” THE LIGHT…..

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Above are a trio of hand saws that I will be procuring in the very near future. The can normally be purchased through http://www.Leevalleytools.com, a purveyor of fine woodworking tooling.

Having broken out my vintage Stanley Bailey planes for fettling and fondling, I began a short meditation on hand cut joinery.

Now, I realize that I have mentioned that my hands just do not work the way they once did, and that I find hand cutting lots of dovetails etc. to be hard on my hands. However, I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that since I had been taught, long ago, the means and methods of hand cutting and fitting joinery, it might be a wee bit of a waste if I did not at least try to keep the practice up for as long as I am able.

Therefore, I have elected to leave the door open to hand cut joinery for special projects, or by special request.

Because hand cutting joinery is a bit more involved than using a router and a jig, it requires a few specialized tools in order to do it. Hand cutting mortises and tenons, dovetails and the like normally require a few specialized hand saws and some chisels that are a few steps above the run of the mill Marples Blue chip chisel set.

I know you are saying to yourself…”self…he is just creating a need for more tools to be purchased”. Yep, you are correct…Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

I did not start out looking for an excuse to go Ebay surfing for saws and chisels, but as a happy byproduct of my decision to maintain my chops vis-a-vis hand cut joinery, I will need to make a few additions to my hand tool ensemble.

The thoughtful folks at Lee Valley Tools have a lovely selection of hand tools. The saws that I am going to be buying…sometime soon I hope…are from a Canadian company named Veritas.

Veritas also makes some very high quality hand planes, chisels, jigs, vises, and many other woodworking accoutrements.

In this particular case, I am departing from my norm and am planning to buy new tools rather than recycling vintage pieces. This is for several reasons.

The first has to do with economy. For the cost of those three saws above, (conveniently put into a package deal by Lee Valley Tools) I “might” be able to get one or two of their counterparts in fair condition on Ebay…MAYBE.

Don’t let the woodworking talking heads convince you that Ebay is the one stop shop for quality, though maybe needing TLC, tooling at bargain basement prices. It seems that anyone who goes to flea markets, yard sales, and second-hand tool stores has a “buy-it-now” on Ebay with a price that will make you wonder what the color of the sky really is on the planet that these people are from. I think they plan to retire on the proceeds of their tool sales there.

So, buying new tools that will require next to no tuning, that come with a warranty, and that are of proven high quality, seem to me to be something of a bargain.

Another reason is that these tools come backed by unbiased reviews by some fairly heavy hitters in the woodworking world. Paul Sellers being the one whose opinion sealed the deal for me. He had a few of Veritas’s saws in his shop for some long-term (three years) testing and gave them glowing reviews. Mr. Sellers is a revered hand tool aficionado. He knows good tooling, and how to rescue it from the landfill and tune it up for another 50-100-150 years of faithful service. He is an inspiration to me. So if he green-lights a particular tool…new or old….I pay attention. Add in my own personal experience with some of Veritas tooling, and it really is a no-brainer for me.

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In any case, I am looking forward to rounding out my arsenal of hand tools with some new saws, a couple of sets of new chisels, some vintage layout tools, and maybe even a small coffeemaker for The Tiny Shop.coffee

Another new addition on the horizon is a place to put all this woodworking finery. I have a great, OLD, Craftsman brand tool chest combo that has been a real God send. I very close friend of mine passed it on to me when I first started putting The Tiny Shop together. I cleaned, waxed and buffed it up, took the useless casters that were on it…barely…off, and plopped it down on a dolly for mobility. Better than new.

Still, even with the tool box from heaven, I would like a set up dedicated to the “finer” tools that I have and that I plan to get.

Initially, I had considered just finding another Craftsman set up like the one I have now. That morphed into building a duplicate out of wood. That then morphed further into something of a hybrid. I would like a base chest of say, four deep drawers. Then perhaps another case that has several more drawers of various depth on top of that. On top of both of those cases, I want to build a plane till and some dedicated spaces for chisels, hand saws, layout tools, and a couple of small drawers for…well….just because they are cool. Something like a cross between this….

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…and these…

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Perhaps you can see where my sudden interest in hand cutting dovetails is coming from now?

The first two pictures of a tool chest above, are pictures I grabbed from Paul Sellers blog site. (www.paulsellers.com)

They are of his personal tool chest. I love this chest, but can see a plane till like the one just above here, sitting on top. Also, instead of a stand, I would set the cases on a very low, cradle of sorts, to make use of the dead space for those deeper drawers I want in the bottom case.

It looks like I just made a lot of fun work for myself again….I feel no shame in saying….I can’t wait to go shopping and then get to making some saw dust in The Tiny Shop.

The PLANE Truth…

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When I say I am a tool junkie, I am not kidding. I love them.

More importantly, I love old tools.

Now, it has been some time since I have written on tools, tooling, or the like. Moreover, it seems like anyone who has ever swung a hammer has something to say about hand planes.

I am no exception it seems. Though I would like to point out that it has been nearly two years that The Madcap Woodwright has been a blog and I can’t for the life of me remember if I had EVER written about hand planes. I know I can scroll back through my previous posts and try to see if I had done a piece on them, but that seems too much like work. More to the point, it would require me to revisit some of my earlier, less finessed, pieces and I just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do that.

The above picture is of my beloved “Daily Driver” hand planes. Each is vintage. The #7 (the jointer plane/Longest plane) being 106 years old.  The #5 (Jack plane/Medium length) and the #3 (Smoothy Plane/Smallest plane) are both from the early 1930’s

Each one is in superb condition for having such a long life thus far. Each has a flat-bed and complete complement of hardware. This is important as over the years these pieces sometimes tend to be modified and parts can sometimes get lost.

For example, My #7 Jointer plane is actually somewhat of a “franken-plane.”

It has a replacement front knob and also rear tote. The cap lever is also non-original as it is obviously japanned/painted from a previous owner and bears no manufacturer marking. Little things like this often driver collectors bat-shit-crazy. However, at least in my example above, a more than century old tool is still alive and kicking. Plus, either by happenstance or by design, the original cap lever’s replacement is actually of heavier, better quality. So since I have these planes to shave wood and not to collect or turn profit on E-bay, I appreciate the “up-grade.”

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With the advent of foundries like Lie Nielson and boutique makers that  hand craft superb tools, there are plenty of folks who ask why someone would ever consider buying such seemingly antiquated tools to work professionally when there are so many newer, and purportedly better, tools available.

It is for a number of reasons actually. Some practical, and some more romantic.

The first reason that comes to mind is that, despite their antiquity and implied rarity, these planes can be had for far, far less than their modern counterparts provided you are shopping for tools that are in “user” condition rather than “collector” condition. The above examples were acquired for the miserly sum of $150 for the trio.

I got lucky with the find, to be sure. They were found in exceptionally fine user condition. No collector would be all that interested as they show signs of having been refurbished/cleaned/modified. In other words, they had had their patina cleaned off, and had been modified for improved performance. These are working class antiques, not shop display queens.

Another reason to seek these out is the same as I had described with my early Delta stationary equipment. The materials used are of very high quality and crafted by old world plane makers, using traditional techniques, from an era when tools were developed and manufactured with long service life and durability as a  primary selling point.

Lastly, there is just something about the feel of tools of this vintage. They just feel good in the hand, and are obviously happy to be put to work the way they were designed. It is a little difficult to describe, but tools this old just feel more willing to be used. They don’t have the feel of a tool that was made to be admired and put on a shelf to be looked at. A tool to only be used sparingly for fear of any sort of damage. At the risk of anthropomorphizing the planes any further, they are just so willing to be used that they beg for it.

The notion that modern planes are better and much better than their ancestors is , in my view, a bit subjective. Given the relative low-cost, the comparable material and build quality, and the intangible benefits of keeping these tools working and useful, I fail to see any reason not to keep them as primary day-to-day tools.

Sure, I would love a full complement of Lie Nielson Stanley Bedrock clones to admire and show off. What self-respecting tool junkie and woodworker wouldn’t? But for my needs, my daily forays into Neanderthal woodworking, I like my very vintage Stanley Bailey #3-#5-& #7 just fine thank you very much.

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