Friday, July 25, 2008

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig / Shop tricks

My new "cool tool" was bought specifically for a project: a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. I'm not keen on glue and screw construction, because it seems like cheating, but this time I had a temporary table to build for use outdoors. Pocket holes seemed like the right idea.

I had never used one of these before, but after this project I'll feel comfortable using it whenever it is needed. And it was a GREAT purchase: the jig works like they say it will work, and the precision was in all the right places. The drill bit is super sharp (I think you really could cut yourself on it pretty easily) and fits with perfect clearance into the jig. The table legs went together quickly and seem super sturdy. I may comment further after the table has spent two weeks outdoors.

Notice the two silver containers in the front. My wife buys Lush bathroom products, which are super expensive as soaps go, but they do tend to give her these little silver canisters. These fit perfectly into the spaces of the box, and keep some screws with the jig.
First: no, I am not actually ripping this board this way, that would be dangerous. The saw is just perched there while I took the picture. As part of the project, I had to cross cut some boards that were too long for my bench.

Two clever things (I think) are going on in this picture. First, the pink thing under the board: this is some foam insulation left over from siding the house. It gave me a sacrifice table to prevent damage to my bench. Even though the bench is functional, not beautiful, saw cuts in the surface would be a problem. This trick worked beautifully.

Second, notice the baby gate in the background. I don't have an outfeed, saw horse, or any other dedicated table extension, and I knew I needed something. The baby gate became my table extension: it adjusted to the height I needed and had a surface I could clamp to the board I was cutting. This worked great, and until I have another solution I won't allow that to be sold or given away.

I'm off on vacation for the next two weeks, so no posts from me. I'm hoping to catch sight of a spring pole lathe and some coopering while I'm gone. We'll see what happens. I plan to take a picture of the table once it is set up, and if I manage that I'll post when I get home.

Until my return, may your the saws of your enemy be dull.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Rabbets with the Moving Fillister


Here's the moving fillister plane with the wedge inserted correctly. Also shavings and a half-decent rabbet (my fifth of the night) as evidence that it works. Seating the blade properly challenged me quite a bit since I'm used to the incremental adjustments on the metal bench planes. When I finally got it seated with a light enough cut, it turned out to be skewed slightly, so in profile this rabbet has a slight slope, like half of a sliding dovetail. That's nothing a chisel won't fix until I get the hang of this tool.

Just a little more playing around, and I'll feel ready to try this on something that matters.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Moving Fillister and Painting Project

As my big summer vacation approaches, I have less time to write. There is such a limited time to complete the projects I have. So I'm going to let pictures speak for me. First: the moving fillister arrived. Perhaps the blades need honing, as Patrick said, but they are the sharpest blades I've ever received on a used tool. The previous owner obviously used this tool, and cared for it well.

Second (and unrelated to woodworking): I've been working on the new shield (someday I'ld like to try making one of these using bent laminated wood, but right now it is T6 aluminum that has been curved with an English Wheel and covered with glued-on canvas).

I'll be working on this for a few more days, finishing the painting, shellacking over it and rigging it to fit comfortably on my arm. The painting you see took me most of yesterday afternoon. What remains is painting the white areas with the finish paint (what you see is the gesso) and touching up of some of the lines. I'm really happy with how this looks; it will be a shame to see it scuffed once I put it to use.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tails First or Pins First?

I've cut dovetails using both the tails-first and pins-first methods. When I was taught to do this, it was using the pins-first method, and although I was a beginner, the joints were very tight and accurate. They just required a lot of correction along the way.

Soon afterward, I saw a video by Rob Cosman on making dovetails and he cut the joint tails first. It looked to have many advantages for speeding the process and making it more accurate so I started experimenting. I soon found that a pencil was inadequate for marking the pins, where it worked just fine for marking the tails on a pins-first joint. This caused me a lot of grief as I didn't have a marking knife. I tried a number of solutions, including a sheetrock knife (don't try this at home, kids), but they all compromised the tightness of the joints. Finally, Fine Woodworking did a test on marking knives and included a $3.37 solution: the Xacto Knife. Problem solved, and my tails-first joints got much tighter.

Yesterday, Christopher Schwartz posted a list of reasons why he has adopted the tails-first method, and a couple of them are destined for my shop: gang cuts should be a real time saver, and I'll be trying the rabbetting trick soon after the moving fillester arrives in my shop.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Fettling a Jointer Plane

My shop contains few working power tools. I'm not really a Neanderthal, but the shop has developed accidentally with an emphasis toward hand tools. This is partly because of my penchant for getting things used or free, and partly just bad luck.

For example, I would love to have a working jointer, but the little bench top model I bought for a "bargain" was setup incorrectly by its previous owner, and so far I've been unable to release the blades to adjust them properly (the man must have been a beast, because those screws are not budging, even after multiple WD-40 and Kroil applications). There's no point in trying to joint with blades that are set out of square.

I believe learning a task with hand tools teaches me more about power tools than learning it with power tools teaches me about hand tools. This may or may not prove useful some day, but I've been betting that it will. Hand tools also fettle more quickly than power tools (are power tools fettled?). My band saw, for example has much larger parts and labor requirements before it works to a fine standard than a any bench plane will.

So when it came time to glue up the bench tops for my bench project and I had a choice between driving the three hour round trip to my friend's house to use his power jointer or spending the time fettling my jointer plane and doing it by hand, you can guess which one I chose.

The plane had promise, but it needed some help.

My sole aim was to have both sides of the mouth in the same plane. Right, well even if the puns are unintended, I wanted to make sure the front and back of the mouth would contact any board I'm flattening. To ensure that, I made reference marks in front of and behind the mouth using a Sharpie and started flattening the plane on my "reference" surface.

The reference surface is a cutoff piece of marble that I got free at from a local granite counter manufacturer. It works well as a flattening surface and is heavy enough to hold a length of Klingspor Gold Cloth Roll under the ends using just gravity as an adhesive. The Klingspor sand paper is fairly expensive, especially at this width, but it is so worth the cost. It can be torn to an appropriate length using just a straight edge, it has a good tooth, and you can vacuum it clean and keep using it for quite a while.

With the plane assembled—no blade of course—I planed the surface flat on the sand paper. Here it is: flat enough, with just a hint of the mark left at the front of the mouth (all of that is in a scratch pattern that would take ages to sand flat, so I called it "flat enough").


The blade had apparently been sharpened and polished by its previous owner on a grinder with a felt wheel. Even though it looked good with a finely polished surface, it wasn't good. I had to flatten, square, joint, and resharpen the blade to get it going right.

I'm not going to comment on how this was done, except to say that I don't have a grinder (remember my lack of power tools?) so almost all of this was done on the Gold sandpaper. Ages ago I had purchased a sharpening jig from Lee Valley, and this made it easier to redefine the bevel at the correct angle. I also acquired a really thin metal ruler last year, which made polishing the back of the blade much easier than it might have been: I used the David Charlesworth trick of laying the ruler on one side of the oil stone to hold the back of the blade at a consistent angle and focus the polishing on the end of the blade. It was the first time I had done this, and it worked wonderfully. I'll cheerfully do it again when flattening plane blades, which don't get used as reference surfaces.

After honing on the oil stone, I hoped for the best. And fine, frothy shavings emerged. Success. I was ready to start jointing.

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Moving Fillister Purchase

I've been planning to pick up a moving fillister plane for some time, so what better way to celebrate the return from a week-long vacation than to buy one from Patrick Leach. No, I was not fast enough to get WP3 (apparently you need to be quick in this town), but true to his word Patrick has others stock. I'll soon be joining rabbets by hand.

The moving fillister is a flexible solution for cutting rabbets, both with and against the grain. Since it has a built in nicker, it can cut across the grain without tearing out hunks of wood, and can just as easily cut with the grain. If you want to read more about it, Christopher Schwartz extolled its virtues on the Woodworking Magazine blog at the beginning of May.

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