Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wagon Vise Design

Based on sage advice from friends, I bought soft maple for the base of my bench rather than poplar. I wasn't able to get 16/4, so I'll need to glue up some boards, but this is a much better choice in the long run.

In the meantime, I came up with what I think is a good design for a wagon vise. It's one that I can add to the thick-slab benchtop anytime and requires no hardware, just some careful chiseling.

I believe the single wooden screw with handle will provide enough pressure.  I've never had to tighten the vise too hard to keep a board immobile. In fact, clamping too hard can make a board bow.

But I'd like to hear what you think.  I've been known to be persuaded by wise counsel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bench Sketch

I believe I have the dimensions sorted out for my new workbench. Thanks to Chris Schwarz' two workbench books and the dimensions he provides for his Roubo, working out the measurements was much easier than starting from scratch.

I've decided on poplar for the base of the bench. The top will be cherry. I realize that poplar might not hold up as well as the cherry, but if I need to tighten the through tenon and dovetail in the top over time, that's okay. Poplar is readily available in 16/4 and is priced to please.

This is going to be my main bench and my travel bench which means that on rare occasions it will need to be broken down.

Rather than make something lightweight for travel, I decided to make the main one more portable.  The top will be made up of two 12/4 slabs that are not glued together. Because of this, I added two short stretchers beneath the top--one at both ends.  The four short stretchers will be mortise and tenoned and glued into the legs. 

I'm not a fan of metal fasteners, so the long stretchers will be connected to the legs with wedged through tenons.

I figure I'll be able to remove the two top pieces and remove the long stretchers, but leave the two end assemblies in tact. I *think* I'll be able to carry them.

The front vise will be a leg vise, and I think I've settled on a shop made wagon vise for the end.

The overall dimensions are 19.75" deep x 58" long x 33.75" tall. 

Those may seem like weird dimensions for someone who's only 5' 5", but they are very similar to the cheapie bench I've been using for almost two decades, so I've become accustomed to them.  All my jigs and two shop stools work with this size, and I've never found that I needed a longer or shorter bench. I don't plan on building large pieces, but if I do, I can slide my cheapie bench up end-for-end with the new one.

I plan to add a sliding deadman and put a shallow, removable tool box between the bottom stretchers.

Now it's time to go lumber shopping again. We're off to Groffs Lumber tomorrow and hope that Hurricane Irene doesn't rain on my workbench parade.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sorry to toot my own horn

I'm just really excited to have made the local paper

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Question for the Non-Woodworkers

A friend on Facebook—Dale J. Osowski, who owns a woodworking business— was asked to repair a bench. He quoted a price and time frame ($150, two weeks) but the owner of the bench found the price and length of time to repair it to be unreasonable.

The bench cost $150—new.

Now, I didn't need to see pictures of this bench to know that it was built shoddily, quickly, and with cheap materials. (But the images are at right.)

We live in a throw-away society. We buy cheap stuff, it breaks, and winds up in landfills. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My question to consumers who buy this stuff is this: what would encourage you to consider hiring a craftsperson who makes his own products rather than head to a discount furniture store?

Which, if any, of the following points appeal to you most about a handmade piece and would persuade you to part with more money than you're used to spending on furniture?

1. It's built to last for generations.
2. It's made with premium lumber, not veneer-covered, pulverized garbage.
3. It's made with sustainable material.
4. It's made locally.
5. It will not add to our landfills. (see #1)
6. It's built to your specifications and to fit your space and style.
7. The craftsman will repair it for free if it breaks.
8. Anything else?

I'm not asking for me. But we woodworkers would like to keep our tradition alive and help those who have woodworking businesses stay in business. What is the best way for us to educate the consumer about the benefits of buying from a craftsperson?

Thank you for your help!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stylus or Nail File? Yes.

I'm giving a chip- and letter carving demonstration tomorrow so I've been preparing a number of boards with designs and letters.

To transfer the designs from paper to wood, I rub graphite pencil on the back of the paper and use a pen to trace the graphic.

This works okay, but often the pen's tip is too fat which results in a too thick pencil line on the workpiece.  That alters the look of the design and makes it more difficult to follow with a knife.

And sometimes the pen blots, which makes a mess.

Because I wanted to preserve the integrity of the graphics and letters in case I needed them in the future, I decided to use a stylus. I tried my plastic one, but the tip, like the pen, was too fat.

We woodworkers are pretty savvy at repurposing household items.  So I snapped the file off some nail clippers (does anyone actually use those files?) and with minimal effort turned it into a stylus that works splendidly.

I used soft wood for the handle and bore three tiny holes in the end grain. Then I excavated the mortise for the file with the file itself. Super easy. I tapped it in with a hammer, shaped the point with files, and got to work.

When carving, I frequently chip one of my fingernails with the sharp edge of a tool and, rather than stop what I'm doing to come into the house for an emory board, I grab a piece of sandpaper for an instant manicure.

With this stylus, I have a nail file at the ready. And the next time I chip a fingernail, it will finally be used for its original intended purpose.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Best Part of Woodworking?

Some woodworkers might say it's the look on a recipient's face as they're given a piece they made. Others might claim it's a project's completion, a tight-fitting joint, or a pain- and swear word-free glue-up.

For me, the best part of woodworking is starting a new project.

It's the thing that occupies my thoughts when I'm supposed to be sleeping. Or paying attention in church. 

Making decisions on design, joinery, wood, order of construction.  It doesn't get any better than that.

I'm giving a presentation in April where I'll need a workbench and I'm not sure that one will be available. That's the catalyst I've been waiting for to motivate me to build a travel bench.  

I picked up some gorgeous 12/4 cherry at Hearne Hardwoods for the top. That might not sound too portable for a workbench, but I have an idea.  It's not fleshed out yet, but no worries. 

There are quite a few church services between now and April.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Parenting Tips for Marc and Nicole

You may have heard the news around the internet that Marc (The Wood Whisperer) and Nicole Spagnuolo are expecting a baby. Congratulations, you two!

In response to this exciting news, Shannon Rogers (The Renaissance Woodworker) and Matt Vanderlist (Matt's Basement Workshop) recorded a special edition of Wood Talk Online Radio. They enlisted the help of the woodworking community in providing useful parenting tips for Marc and Nicole.

I was very happy to impart my words of wisdom to the young couple:

Listen to the full episode and other woodworkers' advice here. And if you have more tips for the soon-to-be parents, I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.