Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Sharpest Tool In The Shop... sometimes the most dull. By "tool" I mean brains and by "dull" I mean mine.

"If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to fix it?" That's one of my favorite quotes and one I choose to ignore on occasion.

Take ninny move #1:

Today I decided to replace the planing stop on the end of my bench. It had been obliterated over the years, having been too thin a piece of wood to stand up to the beating of handplaning, so I found a beefy piece of cherry to replace it.

The first mistake was in not drilling new holes on the end cap of my bench—ones that sit lower so the top portion of the planing stop would be wider above the holes. The second mistake was in not drilling a new hole that was not so close to the front of my bench. The wood in the planing stop that's closest to the front of my bench, next to the slot on the right, will eventually snap off.

Nincompoop move #2:

Time to fess up. I committed a cardinal sin when I made the dovetailed drawer for my sawbuck table. I did not properly flatten the boards first. When laid on a flat surface, they wobbled like an 8 month old toddler learning to walk. I ignored this and went ahead with construction.

Of course the drawer would not sit flat when checking for fit, and how do you install a drawer bottom when the sides are catawampus? I walked away from that project until I could think of a solution. That was a year ago.

Today I resolved to correct this mistake and put my new planing stop to work. After removing 1/8" from the surface of the side panels and back of the drawer, they now sit dead flat when assembled. The front of the drawer houses half blind dovetails and cannot be fixed by flattening the inside face. If I did that, the tails on the side pieces would no longer fit tightly in the front board and would be as gappy as the teeth on a 6 year old.

I haven't quite figured out how to fix that yet. But I'm hoping that enlightenment won't keep me waiting another year.


rgdaniel said...

LOL @ "catawampus" !! B-)

Ken Schnabel said...

Maybe if you added another backer board to the planing stop that stayed with the bolts and spanned the entire length of the stop. You would need longer bolts, but the extra support behind the stop might keep it from failing.

Unknown said...

Don't you just hate it when we sabotage ourselves? You are not alone. Seems like the only solution will be to flatten the insides, then recut the drawer front to shallower dovetail cuts to fit the drawer sides for the half blind dovetails. That was a case of the 'little voice' warning and not being listened to, I'll bet.

Christopher said...

I can't count how many times I've given myself fits over something not being absolutely flat. It's my third resolution for the year -- the first two being "No more bench rash." and "I'm putting 1,000 pencils in this shop."

Unknown said...

I was so distracted by seeing the word "nincompoop" in print that I lost my concentration reading what the post was about... I'll come back to it later after I've settled down.

JERM said...

I too have made my planing stop too thin. I also love the fact that someone else uses the term "catawampus"!!

Abi Parris said...

Seriously, what is bench rash? And, comically, don't they make a cream for that?

The Great Ethan Allen said...

Wow! So this happens to everybody? Not just me? Here I was beating myself up for making one of my chisel cabinet doors upsidedown....

naomi said...

Kari, i'm just glad you didn't hurt yourself again. After your post about taking a tumble, the title of this post made me a little nervous!

Gye Greene said...

I guess I don't quite understand specifically how the boards were "not flat" -- but since you how have three of the four sides flat, couldn't you just dry-fit them, and plane the top and bottom edge of the face piece -- using the other three sides as references?

Great quote ("Time to do it right...") Have added to my running list o' quotes on my computer.


Christopher said...

Bench Rash -- Those little dings you get from dropping your work, or for me, somehow getting debris between your benchtop and the piece and then chiseling away creating big gouges and scrapes. I try to avoid it by setting my work on a scrap of old suede -- but sometimes I forget.

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - Happy New Year...welcome to the chaotic world of the 'Self-depreciating Society'. Not the 'Self-preservation Society' (as sung about in the original and best Italian Job with MC) but I suspect the two might be mutually exclusive! - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Bob, hee hee

Ken, that's a good idea--even a 1/4" strip of masonite glued to the cherry and then sawn with the slots would probably do the trick.

Barb, glad to hear I'm not alone! I wish I could flatten the inside of the drawer front, but with half blind dovetails, the sides would no longer fit the front. I'm thinking about resawing the front and gluing another [flattened] board behind it to build up the thickness again. The front board is carved, so I can't flatten the face of it w/o ruining the carving.

Christopher, what the heck is bench rash?? Wait, I don't think I want to know....

Chod, I'm all for resurrecting older words that elicit an adolescent giggle.

Jerm, "catawampus" was the only word that applied so perfectly to the condition of the assembled parts. :o)

Abi, yes, it's Preparation B. hee hee

TGEA, I would venture to guess that we've all been in the nincompoop camp at one time or another. You are not alone!

Naomi, so far I've managed to keep both feet planted on the floor. But the year is still young....

Gye, the boards all had a twist that I ignored thinking that the dovetails would pull everything together. I have no excuse and knew better. Alas.

Kari Hultman said...

Christopher, in that case, I suffer from bench rash, too. : (

Rob, Happy New Year to you, too! I'm all in favor of laughing at our mistakes. It's better than the alternative. :o)

Gye Greene said...

re: twist -- Ah!

Hm. Dunno how well this would work, but:

-Build a wooden cube-like "torture rack" frame out of 2" x 4"s, about 2 ft x 18 in x 12 in (? - or whatever suits this purpose), with diagonal cross-bracing, and with cables or ropes and turnbuckles attached to each corner, plus more along the center

-Toss the drawer front in a steam box (add "wood bending" to you list of WW skills...)

-Clamp a pair of cauls(?) across the ends of the drawer front board, plus a pair in the middle

-Pull it into shape with the turnbuckles.

(Maybe experiment with a similarly-sized "dummy" piece of the same species of wood, beforehand.)


ChrisF said...

The answer of course is to throw out the drawer front and cut a new one.

If you really want the figure of the front board, cut a thick slice of veneer off the front of the current board and glue it to the new board, square it all up, then cut new dovetails.

Kari Hultman said...

Gye Green, I was considering using a really large mallet to show it who's boss!

Chris, I wish it were that easy. The front of the drawer is carved and shaped and I'm trying to salvage my hard work. What I've decided to do is plane the inside face flat and glue a thin slice on the inside to make up for the lost thickness. Then I'll only have to remove a little bit of wood from the already-cut pin board (front).

Anonymous said...

First the stool, then the planing stop and now a drawer too! What are we going to do with you? Here's what I recommend. Go get yourself a plastic cup, fill it with a fine Merlot (don't open it yourself, you'll put your eye out)and relax in your favorite chair. Maybe this will uncatawampus you! Works for me Monday through Friday and sometimes on Saturday! Ha. Take care: ) No really!!!


Anonymous said...


A temporary fix for your plane stop could be to get some 1.5" nylon washers, and put them between the bolt head and the wood. That way any pressure great enough to snap off the ends will be more evenly displaced around the opening.

Just a thought.


Azlan Mustapha said...

I can't really offer advice on a fix for the drawer front especially as it is a valuable piece already carved and moulded and I am not much of a joiner. In fact, I just dropped this comment here to thank you for your response to my last, and to clarify that I did mean the various patterns of the adze tool itself. In my own searches I have come across 3 main styles of adze which I classify as:
Pacific adzes (includes the bound blade style of NW Native American adzes and Japanese/East Asian adzes where the blade is applied to a L-shaped adze haft),
Atlantic adzes (where the adze head incorporates a forged, tapered eye as in most axes, from the oldest Roman prototypes) and,
the Bush adzes (in which the adze head is actually a heavy wooden mallet head with the chisel type cutting bit having its tang bored into the mallet head, with or w/o a bolster - a pattern much in use by African carvers in home-made tools)
I ask because I am seriously considering making a set of adzes for my carving work since handtools like that are almost impossible to come by here.
Anyway, I realize I may have been a little stingy in my last comment. I must say that your blog is perhaps the best and most useful that I have ever stumbled upon; rich in humor and information alike and you are definitely v creative with not enough free-time to do all the work that you should be doing :)
Finally, please, please don't use a stool when a ladder will suffice - stay safe :)

Greg said...

Learning how to fix or work around earlier mis-steps is part of our craft, but sometimes - no matter how much it sucks - the best course of action is to find a new plank at start again. Hopefully, with the lesson previously learned firmly in mind, we do a better job the second time. Of course, you have all the carving effort already behind you, anbd the figure of the wood ... it has to be your judgement call.

Kari, many people have commented on the quality of your work but I would like to especially commend you on the clarity and composition of your photography too. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

Kari Hultman said...

Dean, I wish you'd chimed in before--I could have avoided all these mistakes! haha

Jason, that's a really good idea--thank you!

Azlan, thanks for the comment and the words of advice in avoiding stools. :o) Good luck with making your adzes. They seem like they'd be a challenge to make, but it sounds like you've done your homework.

Thanks, Greg! I think my nice camera has something to do with the clarity. Hooray for digital. :o)

TheWoodWhisperer said...

Great post Kari. And I love the quote at the beginning. I'll have to recite that to myself every time I go into the shop. Oddly enough, I was looking at my bench the other day wondering why I haven't installed a planing stop yet. I have a nice beefy end-cap so there is no reason not to. You've inspired me to install one..........properly. :)


xxxxxxx said...

HI Kari
Love your work and your blog.

For the draw, would it be possible to fit a new front using through dovetails, then resaw the old front, salvage the carved piece, flatten it on the inside and then apply it to freshly dovetailed drawer front. If you use a similar piece of timber and are careful with your joinery it might be hard to see that it is an applied front.

In any event, good luck with it.

Kari Hultman said...

Jaspr, that's exactly what I was planning to do, but decided to just flatten the inside face first and see what it looked like. There's some patching I'll have to do on the dovetails, but it's not all that bad. Good thing this is a repro of a primitive piece so I can call all the mistakes "character." ; )