Friday 2 December 2016

Started Life As A Log, Now It's Flatter...

Yes, I am still working away on my tool bench/cabinet. Yes, it is taking forever. No, I haven't run into any issues to slow things down. No, I haven't always been this slow. Yes, I do expect to finish it by the spring.

This image shows the horrible job I did on the original
millwork. My problem was, the trunks were over
30" across, but the longest chainsaw I
could rent was only 21".
So after a lot of screwing around with floats and sleds, I finally got the Ash slabs thickness and surfaced planed, these slabs came from that 3' section of dead Ash tree trunk that I royally screwed up milling a year ago. It was a bitch of a job and the end boards are a whole lot thinner than I hoped and expected. Its a Ying and Yang thing. The bad part is, the almost 3" slabs ended up having to be surface planed down to 1 1/2". The good part is; my neighbours love me as I ended up with enough chips from the surface planer to cover, not only my own flower gardens with mulch, but half the garden beds on my block as well. You win some as you loose some.

I thought these would take a few years to dry out, but
I didn't take into account that the tree had been
dead for a few years by the time I
got to it.

Did I mention I bought a surface planer? No? Oh. Ok, I bought a surface planer. It is one of those standard 12 1/2" cheap ones that China has been producing since Noah bought the first one to use on the ark's planking. The design has been around forever and just about every tool company has sold them under their brand. I had the same planer when I rebuilt the 40' mahogany cruiser, but it was displaying the Delta brand. I bought this one on sale for $225.00, which is almost half price for one of these up here in the frozen north. It is probably running a 1/4 or a 1/3 horsepower motor and has only two knives instead of three, like the more expensive planers have. If you keep the knives sharp and not try to take more than 1/16" at a pass, it does an acceptable job everywhere but where it snipes, and man, does it snipe.
This particular planer isn't mine. I didn't have one of mine
so I went online and found one that was the same.
This photo belongs to John Heisz at

I ran each slab through the table saw, following a Sharpe line by eye. At this point I didn't need a true and square edge, I just wanted to cut off the sap wood and bring the widths of each piece down to less than 12" wide so they would go through the planer. I then attached a couple of 2x4s to one surface, adding wedges where needed to make the top surface reasonably level for its entire trip through the planer. I then ran them through the planer - about a thousand times for each piece - and reduced the almost 3" thick slabs down to 1 1/2", doing it less than 1/16" at a time. Once I had the thickness, I then attached each piece to a 4' x 2' piece of 3/4" plywood, hitting the Ash with the screws at their very ends. This gave me a straight edge to run against the fence allowing me to cut one edge straight and square. I then dropped the fence down to 1 1/4" and ran each piece through multiple times, ending up with 7 or 8 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/2" strips from each. Once cut, I ran the lot of them through the surface planer on their sides, and brought the final width down to 1".

All these strips were glued up into a butcher block piece that is 58 5/8" long by 12" wide. Once it was glued up, I ran both sides of it through the planer to level them and brought the thickness down to just a hair under 1 1/4". The planer did a fare job, but I put it on the bench and went at it with my #4 Stanley anyway, taking just enough to give the piece a "ready-for-varnish" finish.

I had one full litre and one half-full litre of oil based Varathane left that I have been hoarding for a few years now, so as I was ready to finish the piece, I popped their tops off. Not only was the opened can a solid hunk of plastic, but so was the what I thought was the unopened one, at least I do not remember opening it. So with no oil base finish left, I had to buy a litre of clear, satin finish Varathane that is water based. Up until now I have hated water based finishes. I tried it a few years ago and found it impossible to work with. Hence the oil based stockpile. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the stuff is pretty good now. It is very slow to build up, but I got very good results with a foam brush. On day one I put four coats on, letting it dry for about an hour between each coat. At the start of the second day, I loaded my orbital sander with 220 grit and gave it a sanding within an inch of its life. It then went back in for four more coats, applied the same way as it was done on day one. Day three started with giving it another what-for with the orbital, and then another four coats. On the forth day I went at it with extra fine steel wool loaded with Minwax Finishing Wax. After three coats of wax, all appied in the same way, it was done, and damn pretty it is.

Twelve coats of Varathane Satin, with a strong
sanding with 220 grit after every fourth coat.
Once the brushwork was done, the surface
was brought down with extra fine steel
wool laced with finishing wax.
So what is this piece? The top of the bench is the same type of glue-up, but it is 24" deep. The three new upper cabinets will hold my saws, planes, and miscellaneous interesting-looking tools, but to do so properly, they will have to be 10 1/2" deep (21" deep closed). I want to put the upper cabinets above the bench, but if I mount them to the bench's top, I will end up with a 13 1/2" deep work area. To increase that work area, I built a stand that is 11" deep that stands behind the bench. This piece is the top for that stand and the upper cabinets will mount to it. As it overlaps the bench top by 1", it will allow me to mount the upper cabinets behind the bench and still have a 21" deep workspace. As some may wonder why I didn't mount the main upper cabinet to the wall, it is too tall. The bench has a finished height of 31", while the upper cabinets are 56" tall, giving a total height of 87", or 7' 3". If I hung them on the wall with the tops against the ceiling, I would end up with 9" of work room between the bench top and the bottom of the cabinets. Hence the separate stand for the uppers.

Next up in a few days is a post about some very cool, home-make, heavy duty leg levellers.



Tuesday 20 September 2016

Making A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow's Ear...

Last November I did a post on milling some Elm and Ash from logs to planks. You can check it out here.

I had to move the stack of planks I harvested from two trees that were felled last fall. I use the term "plank" rather loosely here, as planks are usually relatively flat, and these are far from that. I didn't mind moving them because it allowed me to check their moisture content and change their sticking order and orientation. What I found was a bit of a surprise.

I thought the Ash wouldn't take much time to dry out because the tree had been standing dead for the past 4 or 5 years. I expected the Elm, however, to still be wet, given the tree it came from was still producing leaves, not very many of them at all, but leaves none the less. As it turned out, they were both dry enough to work.

I moved a couple of the slabs of Elm over to my outdoor workbench and started to have at it. Before I started work, though, I went out and purchased a 12 1/2" surface planer. I love working with hand tools, but I'm not looking to die with a plane in my hand.

After the "some assembly required" part of my new purchase was done, I got to work. I used my Stanley #5 1/2 with its radius blade to waste some wood.

I didn't try to make the surface perfectly flat. Instead, all I wanted to do was even out the surface enough to ensure it wouldn't tilt or twist as it went through the surface planer. Another way of doing this would be to attach some straight scrap pieces to the outside edges of the slab, making sure they project beyond the bottom surface so they act like sleds. If you don't do one or the other, the surface planer will give you a parallel surface on the opposite side, bows, twists, hills and hollows included.

I cut the two slabs cut down to 12" wide with a circular saw and planed both on the surface planer with parallel surfaces. Both slabs ended up being 2" thick. 

I was impressed with the Elm's grain last year when I first saw it after cutting it up with a chainsaw. All the planing only made the grain look even better. I stopped at this point and hauled both slabs into the house and stick stacked them in the living room for a few weeks so they acclimatise.

My plans are to take these slabs down further, to about 1 1/2" or so. I will then glue them together and cut them into a 22" square. I am think of putting a simple, reverse angled egde all around, finishing it in some way that will bring out the grain even more. I want to make the grain the feature of this table, so I am leaning towards mounting it to a 12" clear acrylic cube. Hopefully doing so will make these beautiful pieces of wood look like they are floating off the floor.



Friday 16 September 2016

It's Nice To Get A Handle On Things...

Here are the finished products. I really enjoyed this project. I made a few mistakes but learned a lot doing it. It also doesn't hurt that I'm really pleased with the results.

I don't think I'll be making another handle for anything for a while, at least until my finger prints grow back. I lost them during an estimated 28 hours of sanding.

I went through 80 grit, 150 grit, 220 grit and 400 grit. I then rubbed them down with #000 steel wool.

They then got 8 coats of amber shellac, rubbed out between each coat with 400 grit paper. I left them to dry for 48 hours, gave them a final sanding with 400 grit and then rubbed in 4 coats of Minwax Finishing Wax (I love that stuff) using #0000 steel wool, buffing them out between applications.

Great stuff.



Friday 2 September 2016

Cheeky Little Bugger...

I have started on the second saw handle, this one in apple wood. While I was drilling out for the cap studs, I broke off a piece of the cheek inside the saw plate slot. It isn’t coming out as the bottom of it is thicker than the top and the back of it is thicker than the front.

To fix it, I thought I would force some glue under it and tap a wedge between it and the opposite cheek. Once the glue sets, I could recut the saw plate slot.

If anyone has another idea, I would really appreciate hearing about it.



Thursday 1 September 2016

I Guess I Won’t Have To Burn It...

I came close a few times but luck saved my arse every time...

One of the problems I faced was completely of my own making. I decided to lower the plate a little bit more into the handle as too much of it’s back was showing. If I had noticed that while doing the drawing I could have changed the template to reflect the change, but dummy here didn't notice it until  the handle had been cut out, half shaped and the plate’s mounting slot cut into it. If you look above the screw studs you will see that I didn’t quite get the front hole right and the result is the plate is aiming downwards a bit. It is an easy fix, thank goodness. All I will have to do is adjust the top of the handle to match the angle of the plate. It will work, but it still bugs me.

I have now pulled the plate from the handle again so I can do a lot more sanding - not my favourite sport. 



Monday 29 August 2016

And Who, Exactly, Is Going To Clean Up That Mess...

So this is where I stand with this saw handle this morning...

What a blast doing this project. I love it!

I never really thought one rasp could be much better than another, given the job they were designed to do. All you want it to do is remove material, how complicated is that? Well I guess it is more complicated than I realized because I have never seen a rasp remove as much material as quickly as this Auriou does, and it isn’t even the coarsest grain. If you aren’t up on them, here is a link to Lee Valley’s listing...Auriou Rasps.

I already had a drawer full of rasps before buying this Auriou, but I was never happy with them. They range in age and manufacturer, some originally purchased by my old man, years and years ago. The ones I had purchased were spread over the price spectrum, a result of searching out a decent product. None, neither the ones my dad owned, or the ones I purchased were worth a Tinker’s-dam, in my opinion.

Over the past couple of years I have signed on for some online cabinet maker’s courses, a notable one being the courses offered by Paul Sellers at That was a fabulous source of information and direction. While he doesn’t have the same type of instructional set-up on the web as Paul does, Christopher Tribe at has also been helpful, especially through his instructional videos on YouTube. Both of these gentlemen highly praised the Auriou rasps so I thought I would give one a go. It just took me a couple of years for the need to arise, along with the bullet needed for biting when I finally ordered it. 

I will be ordering a couple more at the end of next month. Hopefully, they won’t increase in price before then.

I went at the handle with the rasp and 80 grit sandpaper because I was anxious to see how the design would look and feel. I love the look and the fit is great, the extra ½” I added to the length of the grip being a huge help to the handle’s comfort. The long horns are friggin’ amazing looking as well. I had to force myself to stop because the next step is where the rubber meets the road, and if they don’t connect, it firewood. I’m talking about drilling out for the screw studs...scares the bejeebers out of me.



Sunday 28 August 2016

And He’s Off And Running...

I got started on the dovetail saw handle, going through the usual steps for creating such things.

I printed off a copy of the “final, final” handle outline, the exact same image that was in my last post, then flipped the image and printed a mirror outline. I glued one of those print-offs to a hunk of Bastogne, a highly figured species of Walnut, this particular piece having some beautiful rays crossing its strong grain.

Using Forstner bits of appropriate sizes, I start to remove the waste and create the different curves in the design...

I used the holes to align the ‘flipped’ image on the opposite side and then I went at it with a scroll saw (electric because I’m getting lazy in my old age). I left some material around the outside of the cut line so if the saw cut was out of square, a notorious reality with these types of saws, I would have enough extra material to file it square without removing any from inside the cut line.

In this image, I have laid the old handle on top of the new to show how much larger the new handle is, the difference in their hang angles, and the overall shape of the two...

This last image shows the pair of saws, one with its old handle and one with its new...

At this point the work was stalled until my new Auriou rasp showed up in the mail from Lee Valley. When I went online to order it, I discovered a scary reality. The price had increased about 40% since the spring of this year, so I won’t wait long before I order more...

That’s it until next time,



Monday 22 August 2016

The Final, Final Handle Design for my Jackson Dovetail Saws...

Yesterday I posted the “Final” saw handle design and today I’m posting the “Final, Final” design. 

This change is brought to you by Kenny Melnzinger, a very kind gentleman who happens to sell his “tuned” handsaws at the Tools of the Trades Show and Sale in Pickering, Ontario. He will be there again at the 2016 Fall show on October 2nd. Check the show ad to the right of this article.

So Kenny says to me, “Go read the article on Hang Angles on the Blackburn Tools website and get back to me.” 

I went. I read. I changed the damn drawing.

In truth, the Blackburn article discusses exactly the problem I was talking about regarding my combined elevated work bench and my butt being built too close to the floor. The whole idea of the Hang Angle is to keep your wrist from cocking up or down during the cut. I chickened out, though. I had tried a few different things with the set-ups I have and I felt the hang angle of these saws had to be brought down a fair bit, but with everyone saying, “Be careful”, especially Kenny, I decided that instead of reducing the hang angle on these saws by 8°, I’ll play it safe and drop them by only 2° instead. Hey, I never told any of you I was gutsy.

So here is the final, final version (it has to be - I’ve printed it off, stuck it to the wood and I have already started drilling)...

If you compare it with the one shown in the previous post, you can see things are about the same, size-wise, but the hang angle on this version is more pronounced and the horns a little longer. I like horns, what can I say?

I’ll post photos of the progress.



Sunday 21 August 2016

Final Handle Design - Unless Told Otherwise...

You guys were a lot of help with this saw handle exercise. The consensus of opinion was that there needed to be more meat on the bone so I beefed up the parts that needed beefing. As a few of you said, I can always scrap away if needed, but I can’t add to it.

The one thing that wasn’t discussed by anyone was the “Hang Angle”, the angle of the grip relevant to the saw plate. These plates are roughly 3½” deep at both the toe and heel, so they aren’t really textbook dovetail saws. The original handles have a hang angle of 38°, which I found a little awkward when cutting dovetails on a hunk of wood held in my portable vise as it raises the work level by 6” or so above bench level. I think that dropping the angle to 30° will make the saws more comfortable to work with at the higher position. If any of you disagree with that, please let me know.

So here is the “beefier” final design - maybe...



Friday 19 August 2016

I’ve Got To Get A Handle On These Saws...

Back in 2007 I purchased a nice, little 12” Jackson dovetail saw from Daryl Weir. He had straightened it, sharpened it, made it look pretty, or as pretty as a Jackson dovetail saw made by Disston in about 1888 could be, and posted it on eBay to sell. It was a nice, little dovetail saw that was filed as a rip. The saw plate was a tad thick, but I was happy with it, so off I went to find it a mate, one that could be filed cross. Fast foreword two years and I found an identical Jackson, a little rough around the edges, but repairable. I had the seller send it to Daryl, who did his magic on it so by the time it got into my hands, it was as good a saw as its partner. I was such a proud papa.

I had the pair for about six months when my father-in-law, who was living with us at the time, came into my office/workshop for a visit and to see what I was doing. I was cutting dovetails for the plant shelving unit I was building my wife at the time and the pair of saws were sitting out on what I was using at the time as a bench. I don’t know what he did, but I heard a crash and turned around to see the two saws on the floor with both handles broken in half. It was an accident and I was just relieved he hadn't hurt himself. I glued the pieces together so the saws would be usable and started a new search for two whole handles. I’m still looking for those replacements.

I finally made up my mind that I had to do something with these two saws to make them whole again, so I decided to make new handles for them in two different woods. I decided one would be in apple but what to use for the other is still up in the air. It took a while to find some that was suitable, but I finally did on a Facebook group page set up for nothing else but to sell wood. I purchased a piece 4’ long, 8” wide and 1¼” thick from a gentleman in the States who ended up sending me 6’ of it for the price of 4’. I also purchased a new 9”, Grain-10 Auriou Cabinetmaker’s rasp so now I am all set to rock...almost.

I’m still fussing over the design. I ended up producing about 8 different possibilities, some normal looking and some not so much. I have now weeded it down to these two possibles...

This is the original Jackson handle
This design has some mildly extended horns

This design has some seriously exaggerated horns

So does anyone out there have an opinion on these? or advice on where to take it?



Friday 25 March 2016

Let It Rip...

Probably the last person in the world who should buy a table saw is me, given my lack of eyesight, but I did...
My new table saw - a Ridgid 10-inch Portable Table Saw
Model R4513
I need to do some resawing to make some book-matched panels and I couldn't find a bandsaw with enough oomph to do it in the size or price range I was hoping for, so I settled for this.

It is a Ridgid 10-Inch Portable Table Saw, Model R4513, which I bought from Home Depot for $425 plus applicable taxes. American readers will note that is a lot more than what they would pay for this same saw. Welcome to our world, here in Canada. The regular price on this saw is $499, but one of the tool guys that I'm friendly with offered to drop the price to close the deal. I didn't argue.

This Ridgid is the heaviest of the "Portable" saws, coming in at around 100 pounds, but I don't know how, given the amount of plastic in it. While I was putting it together I was pretty unimpressed with its lack of metal bracing underneath...

The plastic base is severely lacking metal.
It has a single centre control cluster on the front of the saw for blade height and angle, which struck me as a tad odd. It is no big deal, but I'd prefer to see the usual angle crank on the side...

The oversized On/Off switch is on the left of the saw's face. You
adjust the blade's angle by releasing the cam-lock located above
the centre control cluster, then set the angle by turning the outer
ring of the cluster. You use the spinner handle to adjust the
blade height and the centre knob to lock it in place.
The machine stores all its parts quite intelligently, if your in to that sort of thing. I'm not, because if you change accessories for some reason, or buy more of them, the fancy storage solutions suddenly no longer work...

There is built-in storage on the left end of the saw; places to
hold an extra two blades, the wrenches for swapping the
blades, and a mount for the Anti-Kickback Pawls and
the Blade Guard.
The right side has storage for the Mitre Gauge (even with an
extension board added), the Rip Fence (without a sacrificial
fence attached) and one Push Stick. There will be no place for
the second Push Stick, the two Push Blocks and the two
Feather Boards I plan to add next week. As far as I'm
concerned, Ridgid should have just added a couple of
Cup-Holders to the thing and be done with it. (kidding)
The fence is probably the best I have seen on any in the "Portable" saw crowd, and works well with the 29" x 29" aluminum table top...

The fence actually locks and doesn't move even when smacked
with a hunk of wood. A nice surprise for this type of saw.
The incorporated stand doesn't seem to rack too much, it seems heavy enough to hold the saw, it folds up easily and it makes moving and storing the saw a whole lot easier than a fixed stand...

Cool, no?
I'll make a couple of "cross-cut sleds", one small and one large, to handle the different sized stock I'll be cutting. I am hoping the stock fence will do, but I won't hesitate to swap it out for a good after-market unit if it proves to be poor. For resawing, I can mount a wider and longer board to the fence to help the stock stand parallel to the blade. 

As a so-called "Galoot", I feel guilty buying this thing, but I'm just getting too old and way too damned lazy to do a lot of hand sawing these days.



Sunday 21 February 2016

My Only Fear...