Friday, May 25, 2012

Perfectly Square Pegs By Hand

This idea for making square pegs popped into my head when cutting grooves for a drawer bottom.

I had used my plow plane, so there were square-shaped holes in the back of the drawer that needed to be plugged.

That's when I spied an offcut from a drawer side. The thin piece of wood beneath the groove was essentially half the shape I needed.

So I grabbed my plow plane**, dialed in a 1/4" width and depth, plowed an edge of a scrap piece of wood, laid the board on its side, and plowed a groove on the face.

Well, I'll be darned. It worked like a charm. I had a perfectly square 1/4" peg.

This method does require a plow plane, but based on the idea, you might find another tool that will work equally as well.

And as you approach the 1/4" depth on the second groove, the peg will want to tip down because it's no longer supported beneath the cut.* Keep your hand tight against the plow plane's fence to ensure that the peg stays in position.

The peg will snap off when you're very close to the bottom of the second groove, and you may have a tiny sliver of wood that can be removed with a chisel, but this is the easiest way I've found to make perfectly square pegs by hand.


*If you need to make a bunch of pegs on a regular basis, you could make brass spacers that fit into the first groove which will then support the second cut. You can use the same spacers to set up your plow plane.

**For those who are interested, I have a Lee Valley Veritas plow plane. I do not benefit in any way from the sale of their tools.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roubo: Sliding Deadman

I wasn't sure that I needed a sliding deadman on my workbench, but the coolness factor was too enticing. I had to build one.

Many deadmen are built from one piece of wood and are wider than the one I made. I used three pieces of wood so I wouldn't have to cut up such a wide piece of cherry.

The center post is joined to the top and bottom pieces with mortise and tenon joints; the top piece has a tongue that rides in a groove beneath the benchtop; and the bottom piece rides along a V-runner that's glued to the bottom stretcher.

Because my benchtop slides off the legs, I didn't need to plow too deep a groove for the top piece in order to be able to remove the deadman. The groove is only 1/2" deep and 3/8" wide.

You can cut these joints a number of ways—with hand or power tools—but I opted to use a variety of hand tools.

The wider the top and bottom pieces of a deadman, the less likely it is to rack as you slide it along.

But because my bench is compact—the inside width between legs is only 27"—I kept them pretty small. This way, the deadman could slide as close as possible to each of the front legs.

I've been using my bench for awhile now and am surprised to find that I actually use the deadman, so it's not the unnecessary feature I expected it to be.

But I still think it's cool.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vises: Are They Necessary?

If you're an ancient Roman, the answer is "non, nunquam."

Recently I read Old Ways Of Working Wood by Alex Bealer. In it, he mentions the Romans' methods for securing workpieces to their benches without the use of vises.

With all the recent talk about vises—as many woodworkers are in the midst of or have recently finished their bench builds—it's an interesting idea to think that we might not need them.

I omitted an end vise on my new bench because I realized that in 20 years, I have never used the one on my old bench.

We can figure out how the Romans face-planed boards, as many of us use planing stops, but how did they edge join without the use of a vise or crochet?

According to Bealer, they drilled two parallel rows of holes into their benchtops. The workpiece was placed on-edge between the holes, and tall pegs were slipped into the holes. In between the workpiece and pegs, they placed thick wedges.

I had to try it.

The cheapie workbench I've been using for two decades came equipped with board supports, so I dropped two of them into the dog holes on my benchtop, on either side of my workpiece.  Then, I placed one thick wedge in between a peg and the board.

It held fairly well. If the tall pegs were thicker and had longer dowels to drop into the dog holes (mine are only an inch and a half long), and if two wedges were used instead of one, I think it would work better.  In lieu of those things, I put a planing stop in front of the workpiece and then the system worked great.

It's worth considering. Even if your bench is loaded with vises, you never know when a little ancient ingenuity will come in handy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Roubo: Installing The Leg Vise

Greta's all finished, but there are a couple things I didn't write about in my haste to complete the bench build.

Here is the portion of the construction process that most concerned me (never having installed a leg vise before) and that turned out to be the easiest part of all.

If you've never installed a leg vise, you're in for a pleasant surprise. It's a cake walk.

I bought the hub, handle, screw, nut, and garter from Lake Erie Toolworks. The fit and finish is superb. It's a lovely mechanism and I highly recommend the company.*

Lake Erie has instructions on its site for installing the leg vise and I also referred to Chris Schwarz' second book on workbenches.

Basically, you cut two matching holes—one in the leg and one in the vise chop—for the screw to slide through. The hub comes with a turned recess around which the garter fits like a collar. When you wrap the garter around the recess, then screw it to the vise jaw, it ensures that the screw and jaw move in and out as one unit.

To determine the location of the nut on the back of the leg, just slide the screw through the hole in the leg, then thread the nut onto the screw. Trace the location onto the back of the leg, then cut a mortise however deep you like (mine is an inch deep) in which to secure the nut. I glued the nut in place and trimmed it flush with the sides of the leg.

After that, I cut the mortise for the parallel guide. I did all this before gluing up the end assemblies. It's much easier to handle this operation when the bench is still unassembled.

On another note, I can't tell you how invaluable my little saw bench was in building Greta. It's much easier on your legs and back when you can sit on the workpiece while chopping mortises.  In the photo, I'm not overcome with exhaustion (although this bench build would've liked to kill me), I'm scratching my face.  Or crying.

*I do not work for Lake Erie Toolworks and in no way benefit from mentioning them in this post.