Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Starting at the Top

I had decided on a rising dovetail joint for my leg-top joint on the Midwestern Oak Roubo Bench Project, basically because I thought it would be a cool, mind bending joint for display on a bench. I knew I would need to attempt the joint prior to doing this with the larger sized timbers.

I've only really ever seen Roy Underhill do this joint and in his Wedge & Edge book he uses this in a workbench. Of course not to detract from his work, but I was troubled with the angled rear tenon as it would be weaker due to grain run-out. Also I knew from experience that so many sliding contact surfaces (7) coming together would mean a pretty tight fit during assembly, so this led me to make a slight modification and turn it into a tapered surface, such that the joint would only come together in the last instant, making assembly a bit easier. Theoretically, this weakens the joint's constraints a bit in the top rotating around the front edge, but mass and the self tightening nature of this joint will render that irrelevant for my application.

I made a small scale mock-up of this joint from scrap oak. This worked out quite well and confirmed my suspicion that conceptualizing and laying out this joint is most of the challenge. So after surfacing the top & legs I plunged into this joint. 

One key to laying this out is using a divider to break the leg depth into 4 parts, both the top and bottom of joint. I use a cutting gauge or marking knife to leave marks that I can drop into later if need be. Still, I marked all 4 joints (top and legs) at the same time to keep things straight along the way. Another thing to remember is that the dovetail angle is the same at the top and the bottom faces. The bottom angle "line" is buried and can't be marked, but remembering that you are using some ratio for the top tail allows you to transfer the same ratio to the sides. The front and side face angles are the result of connecting the dots of where these angles intersect the faces.

In making the mock-up, I'd found (after cutting the "tail" first and losing some references) that it was important to cut the mortise first. Given the thickness of these mortises, I attacked them with a 3 lobed auger bit which is now one of my favorites. Since the mortice would be tapered, I cut the angled surface with a bow saw to ease material removal and set the depth of the plane for "zipping" out the waste with a chisel. I learned that I don't really have the appropriate scale tools for this type of work (bisaigue anyone?), but with bench chisels, float and file I was able to get to my layout lines. After that the Tail sockets were done in much the same way, except much easier since there is much more access. depth cuts with a back saw are essential here given the remaining knife-edged bridle of sorts that may split a bit or otherwise get removed, taking away your reference.

Turning to the leg, with layout lines already in place (and waste carefully marked) it's fairly easy to make the 7 straight cuts required. I thought it easier to make the angled face prior to the wedged cutout. 

My hope was that these would drop in straight from the saw with a piston fit, but unsurprisingly they did not and require some additional fitting. (So much for those mad joinery skillz) This is a lot more work than I'm used to as test fitting these components requires some weight lifting... The work to this point all occurred around New Year's, not much has proceeded from here, but reasons for that's a story for another day.

Liberating the legs from 1/2 the top

Unexpectedly Rift Sawn leg stock

Leg (and rail) stock  S4S'd

Laying out the mortise

Three lobed auger bits rock (this one is an Irwin)

Setting the depth of the ramp surf
Squaring up and cleaning up the tapered mortise

I knew I needed the whole set...

Making a first class shoulder with a shoulder plane

Legs Marked

Joints roughed in, ready for fitting...later

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fresh Starts

Many of the deepest friendships enjoyed in life stem from commonality plus contrast. It would be tiring explaining the foundation of thought, yet we all need a "you're stupid" kick-in-the-head that we can't get from a clone.

This is the case with Jarrod, one of my closest friends. We grew up together and have many of the same landmarks while at the same time our differences in focus allow us to be that underlying voice of reason we so often need.
  • Him: Do you really need another camera thing, just use the one on your flip phone?
  • Me: Why buy another computer you'll get 3 years out of when you could have a cabinet saw?
  • Him: have you seen the new Superman Movie? Me: Oh yeah, Richard Pryor was hilarious.
As friends will do, we "gently tease" each other on the aspects of their personality we don't share. So after enduring a decade of "your interest in furniture borders on disturbing" comments (it probably does) I assumed he was up to some joke when he started inquiring about getting started in woodworking. 

A Blank Canvas

If anyone has ever said to you "I'm thinking about getting into woodworking, what do you think?" (especially if you are far enough down in the woodworking blogosphere to be reading this), you probably overwhelmed them in short order with very odd sounding things they "need"
Get massive out-of-print volumes, oh they are in french
Consider harvesting your own trees or digging in people's firewood piles!
Buy rusty tools instead of the nice looking ones they sell at big box stores.

Especially true is it when they probably had in mind a set of nailed together bracket shelves. Still, after my exuberant flooding of info, Jarrod actually took my advice and started off not by running out and buying a SCMS, but by reading the Anarchist Tool Chest. and after that, I think I had sold him on the general direction to take. Of course we have different end results (he's got a few specific projects in mind and is starting from ground zero with both skills and tools.)

Still, he was all-in on wanting to build a Roubo bench early and brought up the idea of working on one over the winter break (we are different types of Transpondsters at a corporation that shuts down annually from Dec 24-Jan 2, also ) After seeing Jonas and Brian's woodworking Jam a while back, it got me thinking on dusting off my "probably dry enough by now" oak. I had hoped I had enough 4" thick material to share, I didn't. In the end he decided to push a few tools ahead of the bench and just come help a day on mine during the break.

This meant that I needed to finalize my bench design. Project creep of course sets in after reading pretty much everything C Schwarz has written about benches and thinking on this for years. My end result is that it will be:

  • Split-top slab (FORP) type Roubo
  • No glue?
  • Rising dovetails
  • Kintaro Yazawa "word" mortises
  • Incorporate GPS coordinates of the original tree
  • Ebonizing
  • Experimental parallel vise control?
  • Art Nouveau-ish flourishes in the chop & Deadman. 
  • Keep it simple...

Making room for this winter build meant I needed to also complete the shop renovation that I'd been halfheartedly been working. This I got done "enough" and a few weeks prior to the build.

I pulled out (from the bottom of the stack) the rough materials. My hope was to get the timbers S4S prior to the date Jarrod came and I could just dazzle him with my mad joinery skillz. Regrettably this didn't happen (for a few reasons...), but Jarrod did come and helped out a lot (along with my dad and his 20" planer) and we all learned a lot about surfacing large timbers

In the end, both the bench and Jarrod's woodworking journey are off to a good start. Pretty sure we'll stay friends even though we now share another interest, he'll probably cut pins first if i know him...

Dad finds a use for this 4" jointer
Pretty easy to remember who has a 20" planer when you need one

Friday, November 28, 2014

Woodworking in the Stone Age

This is the follow up I had promised on the making and usage of the plane design I spoke of in the previous post. (better late than never)

Bottom line: I count this a successful design, experiment & tool, but don't think I'll be making/using solid surface material again for a plane. I just don't enjoy the process. I'd like to make the same body in wood sometime though.

If a potential planemaker was already tooled up for working the stuff with a CNC router per the cabinet shop norm, they could come up with some straightforward paths and offer a nice line of smoothers with their scraps, with a pretty minimal investment of effort. The material is very dense, and feels nice.

I'm not planning on detailing the process, but have included photos of steps along the way. If you have a specific question, just leave a comment. Most everything was done using 4 tools table saw, pattern cutting router bit, stationary belt sander, and drill mounted drum sander.

Prior to this build, I made a prototype in a block of Cyprus. I really like the two halves method of plane making. I think this has a lot of potential.

Lessons Learned:

  • Geometric Design. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. All-in-all it handles well (perhaps a bit toe heavy) and looks good to me. 
  • Cross pin. I sort of trivialized that I could make this fit around the other parameters like wall profile and mouth opening later on. This was a mistake, and meant that in the end I had to place it a little closer to the iron than desired, making the wedge thinner than I would have preferred. 
  • Wedge Shape, I sort of thought this would be simple to design on the fly as well. It wasn't. getting the shape that fit the body and could still be tapped in the directions needed etc.
  • Planing angle. I bedded this plane ~55° It makes it a bit harder to push, but cuts well in anything I've thrown it's way (in most any direction)



This project was 80% about the materials, so it's no surprise that this is where I have the most to say.
  1. I didn't have true Corian® but some knock-off solid surface product (my source was leftovers from an auction). The main differences being that it has tiny bubbles (not as good as the Don Ho version) that come through when you work into it. I also suspect that Corian® is more uniform in thickness.
  2. The stuff I had, wasn't parallel and/or flat, which didn't become apparent until I went to glue up, this left a line. If I had used matching epoxy it would've blended nicely.
  3. "Corian" machines very nicely with carbide tools, like routing MDF I suppose. That said, I had quite a bit of chipout in the mouth area from the table saw, this was filled with epoxy, so no impact on function, but again visible.
  4. While not cold as steel, it's not quite as warm as wood. This might again be an issue with the non-genuine Corian®
  5. Its got a really nice heft to it.
  6. Routing Template
  7. Corian is 5 8yr old boys at a sleepover messy.
  8. Even though I know it's less dulling than my cast iron baileys, I feel apprehension installing/removing the iron. Feels like working without a net over concrete.

Maintaining symmetry 

Since only the bed and sole are flat in the end, careful layout and operation sequencing was important to make sure that the needed work could be done to keep things symmetric.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What's Going on in there?

A while back (actually records indicate 5/30/14) I received a tapered iron by way of a giveaway from "Nice Planes" (which regrettably has since has joined the list of "no longer in production" planemakers) I want to share with you the process of how I often design projects. If you don't like to see how sausage is made, feel free to move along, in the next couple days I'll have a post sharing the build of this project (and after action report for Brian).

Like most projects, I start out shoehorning something new into the massive list of items I desire to make, usually under the premise of "It'll only take a couple days." Also per the norm, I rarely have clarity and just jump in, even though at some point that happens after my design process reaches full fermentation. I really enjoy the design process and since it always overlaps working or finishing another project, there isn't any time when I'm twiddling my thumbs.

My first thoughts were that in the spirit of the kit received, I should knock out a Krenov style laminated plane and put it to use. The only real problem being that I didn't NEED another bench plane (want?...always) Another problem is of course that I don't generally do simple and that's when my mind starts to wander and dream of possibilities. I want to show my random thoughts along the way, many will be left, never to be explored, while others may morphs into other projects. Some of the planes "not made" could have been better than what I ended up with, and who knows maybe someday I'll get the opportunity to explore them. If anyone desires to take one of these further, please do; and let me know, I'd like to see how they turned out. (or of course commission one)

*Warning: there are some images I have lifted from the web that are not mine, hopefully they are obvious, and I am not claiming them as my own work, but want to illustrate my design process

Layered lamination pattern?

  • Started out with Nice® iron (3-1/2 long, 1-1/2 wide, 1/4 thick)
  • Decided laminated plane ideal
  • Thought about stacked layered plane with scroll work filigree or Marrakesh patterns
    • Each layer could be CNC cut and stacked 
    • Great Wave or comfy rear tote?
    • (use dowel pins for ease of alignment)
  • Curved wave rear tote came to mind, followed by Hokusai "Great Wave" print (one of my favorite works of all time)
    • See that someone in Dresden has similar idea on a larger scale...
    • This could look good with dyed maple laminations
    • What wood can I easily get that is white enough, Maple? Holly?
    • In Dresden
      • Corian! It's Heavy, stable, colorful, machinable, warm to the touch too
      • Thought about thin layering blues & white corian for 3D print wave plane
    • Wedge for plane would be wood and In shape of boat from print
  • Think to self: Self, it will be a lot of work to make CAD models for this plane and tool paths for many layers.
  • Found local makerspace
  • Stumbled across white corian without looking, should look for blue
  • Consider epoxy inlay for wave design
  • Considered what some ivory white planes might look like
  • Considered scrimshaw And inked carvings
  • Boxwood not ivory, but white with "ink"
  • Remember my visit to the Sindelar Tool Museum and his ivory plow planes and "scroll" planes
  • the Beautiful K4
    Krenov Plane
  • Reference other inspirational design touchstone planes, Krenov, S&S K4, DaedTool Index planes, SMT loopyMacpherson's Art Deco etc. I admire
  • Some more sketching including Braun and porcelain paths
  • Think about porcelain & China delicate rolled edges
  • Eve from wall-e inspired by Apple and "the future"
  • Given solid white material, think "Apple" Or Eve from Wall-e
  • Research Johnny Ives, Dieter Rams, Bauhaus, Braun
    • The clean, modern, textured Braun SK2
    • See Braun SK2 Radio think about texture and minimalist future shape
    • Interesting the statement a "modern" plane makes given it's ancient nature
    • Ovalia chair (it seemed cooler in my head)
    • Look at the Ovalia chair
  • Nail down some realistic sizes for this plane
    • 2-2-1/4 wide For 1-1/2 iron
    • ~7" long
    • higher angle ~55°
    • No more than 2-1/2 tall to adjust iron
  • Saw documentary "Dear Mr Waterson" think about simple shape and inlaying a daily Calvin & Hobbes strip on the side
  • My "final" sketch
    • Decide I need to flip through  my compilation and find an appropriate one
    • Can't decide if it is aspirational for Watterson's  Incredible art or derivative and not what the artist would want…
  • More sketching "inside the box" determined by plane size leads me ultimately to this. I decide that I can probably knock it out in a couple of days (and stall on the shop redux), and if it doesn't turn out, then it'll make an interesting paperweight and I still have the components for a Krenov plane to pursue some other direction. Hopefully in the finished  piece you can see some of my influences and thinking.
    End result, laying in some walnut test shavings
    Woodworking in the Stone Age ... or ... Introducing the iPlane 7