Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dog Prints


Some folks have requested more details on what size to make their dogs for the Benchcrafted Tail Vise. Here they are, directly from our Split Top Roubo plans.


Monday, March 30, 2015

In Only 6 Weeks: Handworks, Amana Iowa


Six weeks from now preparations will begin in the utopian village of Amana, IA for Handworks: Woodworking Tools and Traditions

By now its no secret that this shindig was hatched by us back in 2011. The formula was simple. Ask a bunch of our fellow toolmakers, and those driving the craft to meet up in an old dairy barn just for the fun of it and invite all our customers. No entry fee, a presentation by the gurus, free tools, all in an old German hamlet founded on the very craft that we love.

Handworks is not a regular event. Heck, we don't even know if it will happen again. And I can promise you that it will never happen again the same weekend, in the same location as the Studley Exhibit.

If you were there for the first Handworks, there is even more reason to come back for this version. And if you missed it in 2013, well, you get the point. Here's who's new this time (in addition to nearly everyone who was at Handworks 2013):

Anderson Planes
Bad Axe Tools
David Barron 
Hock Tools
Lake Erie Toolworks
Patrick Leach
Philly Planes
Plate 11 Bench Co,
Daniel and Sally Shaw-Smith
Sauer and Steiner
Vesper Tools
Blackburn Tools
Frank Strazza
Jim Van Hoven
Mary May
Sterling Toolworks
Jarrod Stone Dahl
Claire Minihan
Lee and Lindsay Lee
Jim Sannerud
Tim Manney
Don Weber
Greg Pennington
Peter Galbert

If that wasn't enough reason, there are insane door prizes being offered: infill planes, shooting planes, hollows and rounds, a complete workbench, new and most awesome tools!

And don't forget the Godfather Of Hand Tools. Roy Underhill will uproot the powers that be during his riveting talk on Saturday morning. It's free, so better get there early.





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Case For Sharp Tools-The Lid


Now that I've been relieved of my secrecy by "the boss" I'm free to share some more about what ate up entirely too much of my December and January.

Last fall I got an email from Megan Fitzpatrick, editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine asking if I'd write for the magazine again. I of course said yes, since I not only have a personal affection for the staff at the magazine, but also because of how they treat their contributors. The past articles I've written have been published word for word, with only very minor, if any, editing (parenthetical words at the end of the sentence have their punctuation within the parentheses.) Not that I'm particularly concerned with being edited, but rather because I enjoy experiencing the voice of a particular writer almost as much as the content itself. Your experience may be different, since I wrote this article in the voice of Chewbacca.

The other reason I decided to take this project on was a complete no-brainer. Chris Schwarz asked if I'd make a fancy lid for a chest he would build, and then write about how I did it. It took me about three nanoseconds to make that decision.



The design for this lid sprung from an English chest featuring a joiner hoisting a frothy mug of ale before his bench and tools. Knowing I couldn't possibly improve on that absolutely perfect theme, I ventured off into my own territory, borrowing only the sunburst and central circle elements from the English chest.

I won't bore you with all the various iterations I played with before I settled on a final design, which didn't happen until I was nearly finished with the chest. The central circle was originally going to feature a painting of Daedalus' joiner from a famous Pompeii fresco, but Chris and I decided that as cool as that would be, something made of wood made more sense.

It wasn't until the last few weeks before the deadline that I decided on the carved montage of tools. Inspiration for this came from a 17th century Dutch joiner's guild coin, a carved marble panel of an absolute mess of tools, and strong urging from Chris.

The tools themselves are not just representative of craftsmanship in general, but are modeled after actual tools from my kit. The dividers were a Christmas gift from my family, a hand-forged set from blacksmith Seth Gould. The backsaw is an Eccentric Toolworks dovetail saw that was gifted to me by a dear friend. And the chisels are taken from engravings from l'Art du Menuisier, my favorite woodworking book. As with most woodworkers, hand-cut dovetails hold a special importance for me, so the tools reflect that.

This project is sort of like taking a steam roller to an oud. Lots of similar design elements, albeit on the flat plane. I'm okay with building this stuff in three dimensions, but for some reason laying it up on a solid panel had me scratching my head a bit. Not about the process, but more about the substrate. I cover the process of building a bomb-proof, stable, lightweight, nail-grabbing panel out of solid wood that has all the benefits, but none of the drawbacks of commercial ply. It's cool stuff.

And that reminds me that I have a few people to thank for helping me along the way.

Bill Thomas
Bill is one of the finest woodworkers I've never met. I've followed his work for a few years now, all online. If you want to see an absolute tour de force of woodworking technique, check out his Georgian Secretary build at the OWWM Woodworking forum.

Patrick Edwards
Yes, that one. The master.

Chris Schwarz
I haven't done too many joint projects in my time, but this has been the best. Chris gave me more or less free reign over the design. And he didn't balk one iota when I decided the lid looked too long for its width. He trashed the first dovetailed carcase and started fresh just for me.

Peter Ross
Peter was excellent to work with (as usual). I usually mate up work like this with highly refined hardware (polished brass or stainless). Not anymore. I think the crisp and rigid parquetry of the lid looks simply incredible with Peter's hand-forged wrought-iron work. The finish on the hinges and crab lock are right off the hammer and file, no polishing or further refinement. They look perfect with the lid. Perfect.

Raney Nelson
When I was in the throes of this project, and its looming deadline, Raney provided an excellent coalescing mechanism for some crazy ideas I had floating around. He also provided me with the excellent, infill-grade kingwood and boxwood I used for the backgrounds and tool montage.

Jon Fiant
That's your macassar ebony Jon, thanks again.

Before you ask me how many hours I have in the lid, know that I'm blissfully ignorant of that number. I think if I really knew how many late nights, weekends, early morning and "days off" I have in this, I would likely wretch. Still, it doesn't stop me from designing the next one in my head.

Chris' article on the chest comes out in the August issue, my bit in the following, October issue.

If you want to see this chest, I plan to have it in the Benchcrafted booth at Handworks on May 15-16.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Is Toe In?


Toe-in can be confusing. Lots of people think their leg vise (or any face vise) should close with perfectly parallel jaws, like a veneer press. And in theory, that would indeed be ideal, but only if your work piece also has perfectly parallel faces. The reality is that its easier and more functional to make a vise with toe-in than with perfectly parallel jaws, with the bonus that toed-in jaws hold less perfect pieces as perfectly well as perfectly parallel pieces. 

Here's why toe-in works. Think of your leg vise as a holdfast, with the moving jaw (chop) being the holdfast itself, and the leg your bench top. You would never place the pad of the holdfast right at the edge of a board, where the holding pressure is only on a very small portion of the board. Rather, you try and place your holdfast near the center of the board, to distribute the clamping pressure over a wide area. If your vise didn't have toe-in, chances are it would grab your workpiece, like the holdfast placed at the edge of the board, below the center of the piece, that is, closer to the bottom edge near the vise screw (where there's less holding power.) Then when you go to plane the edge of your board, it slips and pivots. That's because you're holding the piece at the farthest point (in the vise's weak spot) from where you're stressing the board. This arrangement puts the most stress on the board, making it very easy for the board to shift in the vise. 

Toe-in moves  the holdfast pad (moving jaw) from the edge to the middle of the board, and thus pins the board firmly to the bench top (vise leg.)

The other reason for toe-in is for workpiece stability. If you're working the board into the edge of the bench (dovetailing), and not along the bench (edge planing) you want the piece held at the very top edge of vise opening. If the piece were held lower down in the vise (lack of toe-in) the jaws will be slightly open at the top and your board can vibrate in the jaw during sawing. 

Below is a customer pic of their Glide installation. The top of the bench will fall between the red arrows. The Crisscross is built with toe-in, and because of a number of factors, the toe-in will be slightly variable from bench to bench. But that's the beauty of toe-in. It doesn't need to be precise. As long as there is some toe-in, you're fine. The range is very forgiving. At the bottom of this chop, there's about a 1/2" gap, but once the jaw reaches the top 4" of the vise (the only area that holds your work) the toe becomes subtle. And that's a good thing, since once you tighten the vise down a bit, the jaw flexes slightly and spreads holding pressure over more of your workpiece, with the most pressure right at the top of the jaw--exactly where you want it. 


Friday, March 20, 2015

A Chest In My Boot


A covert exchange in a harvested Indiana corn field.

Three woodwoorking nerds gather on a Chicago side street.

A back-alley hand off in Roger's Park.

The case for sharp tools is home.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Making a Simple Lid Stay


I don't much like lid stays. They take up too much room, look contrived, and force you to compromise the design of your chest. I've never seen one I like, or one that works well. The best lid stay in my opinion is the wall behind your (tool) chest, but what if you can't put your chest against the wall?

But before you assume my opinion has any value, I should say that I don't have any experience working from a tool chest, only building chests for home use, but my opinion about stays applies to tool chests as well, I would imagine.

So I got thinking, what about a stay that holds the lid open, but also keeps it from shutting? So, not a chain, not a wooden stop at the back of the lid, not a gas-shock-encrusted whoopty-do from Rockler, but simply a stick that engages both the lid and carcase and immobilizes the lid.

Here's what I came up with. I made it with materials and tools that anyone can get locally.


The principle is simple. A stick with a pin on each end. One pin engages the lid, the other pin engages the carcase. The metal bits you see above are truss head rivets (or wagon box rivets), bronze sleeve bearings and a piece of 1/8 x 3/4" hot rolled flat steel. All stuff you can get at the hardware store or Homeus Depotamus.


To make the stay look hand-forged, I did a little hand forgery. First I needed to drill the two holes on the ends.


The hole is 15/64", which is a tad smaller than the shaft of the 1/4" rivet.


A bit of work at the 1" belt grinder, along with some files established the shape of the end.



I decided to try my hand at some fancy file work. This is really fun stuff. A bit tricky keeping the two sides symmetrical though.



After I fancified the other end, I took a bastard file to the faces to get rid of the mill finish and make it look more "natural".


Then I whacked the steel with a hammer to mimic the look of a hand-wrought piece. Finally, I went over the whole thing with a wire wheel to blend it all in and ease any sharp edges.


I chamfered the rivets to ease their entry in the hole.


I ran a chainsaw file in the hole and enlarged it until it was about 0.005" smaller than the rivet shaft, so when the rivet is tapped in, it stay tight. In machinist talk, that's a "press fit".


Then to make it all look hand-wrought I filed the head of the rivet and whacked it with a hammer.



Another minute on the wire wheel, followed up by a couple coats of gun blue and some wax made it look like this.



I cut the bronze bearings in half to get two per piece (they ended up about 3/8" long.) The batten for the chest lid gets drilled to accept the bearing. This keeps the stay pin from wallowing out the hole over time. I glued it in with a bit of CA.


Did the same to the carcase.




The thing works. There's enough flex in the 1/8" steel to engage the stay with ease. Here's the only downside. If the stay takes a firm hit, from outside, or inside, it can pop out of the hole, causing the lid to swing free. This can happen with a chain stay too, with the lid slamming shut. A better situation than swinging to the back and ripping hinges out. On this chest I positioned the stay so the lid is leaning slightly back. But I'm going to move the hole in the carcase forward so the lid is slightly leaning forward. That way, if the stay gets knocked the lid will simply slam shut instead of falling back. There are a bunch of ways to fix the stay further, but I like things to work quickly and easily, so I'll be keeping the stay in this form.

Sunday, March 1, 2015