A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

This is not just any plane hammer...

There is always a better way...


For much of my woodworking life I have always looked at tools in a critical way, and while sometimes they are just "perfect"; in my view many of them could be improved. While sometimes this involves simply replacing the pedestrian wood bits with something a little more exotic, other times it's a bit more involved than that.

Veritas Spokeshaves
I have customized some tools by replacing the wood with something which looks a bit better and really has no impact on the use of the tool. My Veritas spokesshaves have all had upgraded handles to make them easier to differentiate from one another. A buddy of mine agreed and I made him a set for his Boggs Spokeshaves. My Veritas PMV-11 chisel handles, while 100% the same physically, they are now Brazilian Rosewood - a choice fitting to the quality of these fine tools.

Veritas PMV-11 Bench Chisels

Other times while doing a "wood" upgrade I have changed the design to better suit my use for the tool. This is most apparent in the handle replacement I did for my Knew Concepts saws. A secondary industry had already started for fine wood handle replacements for these saws, except they more or less replicated the whitewood handle that was supplied with the saw. I felt the saw would be more easily used with a longer and heavier handle, I had my machinist buddy makes some brass fittings to my specs and turned some
I Knew I was onto something...
handles to fit them on and voila the saw is a completely different tool.

Friends of mine have really enjoyed this adaptation and continue to use these handles to this day.
The original 14!









My little hammer makes the big stage


Early Versions for friends
And now to the present. I have always appreciated nice hammers and while I have a few (<20) I never could find a small plane hammer I enjoyed using. At the time there were no turned brass head hammers on the market so I drew my inspiration elsewhere. I wanted a small hammer which put most of the weight in the head, so this meant a narrow and light handle with a brass head. Brass is soft enough to not damage most tools, but was still too hard for some things, so I threaded one end and turned nice wood heads to twist on so I could replace them when they break. At the time there were no small hammers being made in the market with round wooden heads so I experimented with a few designs and settled on a shortish length with a slightly beveled head. Several years on I am still happy with the design and not broken a single head yet.

I made a few of these hammers and gave most of them away to friends for their use. Little did I know where that would lead. A few of the guys I gave them to are well known toolmakers and they loved the design. In fact this became their go-to plane hammer almost immediately and others took notice at shows; the next thing you know we were talking to Robin Lee of Lee Valley fame about them being made by Veritas to sell. That was well over a year ago and I am very pleased that my little plane hammer is now in the Fall Woodworking Catalog from Lee Valley and is part of their regular product line going forward. This is a pretty big deal for me and something I am very proud of. Hopefully others will find my design useful and use them in their own shops.
Image Copyright - Lee Valley Tools


And it's not just a plane hammer...

Since the creation of this hammer, I have found it useful for many more things than adjusting my wood and metal bodied planes. This hammer is rarely off of my bench, a few of the uses I have found include:
  • I frequently use it as a small "persuader" for joinery, 
  • it's the perfect tool for tapping Dominoes or dowels into their slots with mushrooming them,
  • It is just hard enough to pound in copper nails without deforming the head on them,
  • Tapping in wooden plugs
  • more to come....


Friday, 4 March 2016

Oneway Chuck Key Upgrade

A couple years ago I made a substantial upgrade my main shop lathe to a Oneway 1640, which is a wonderful piece of kit. There is very little to complain about with this unit, however I have found the need to upgrade a couple of things. I added a wheel to the headstock to make it easier to turn the headstock manually. There is a picture of that wheel in the blog entry linked to above.

I have a number of the Oneway Stronghold chucks for various jaw sizes, and the chuck key which is shipped with these has given me no end of frustration. As you can see in the picture (right), there is a sliding cross piece, more or less held in place by those red plastic nubbies. I say more or less because they seem to fall off pretty regularly and the handle slides out, usually at the most inopportune time. And yes I could have glued or taped them on, but if you read my blog or know me - that's not happening!

I took a picture of the handle on the banjo and gave the  chuck key to my machinist buddy Joey and just said improve on this. I thought he would turn me a new handle and replace the metal rod - not Joey! Although this looks like what he did, it is much more robust than a simple brass turned handle.

He drilled out two pieces of brass to accommodate the metal rod, turned the two handle sides and used an arbor press to insert the steel rod into the two brass handle parts. This makes a handle that looks like brass but has all the strength of steel. This handle is also comfortable and is never going to fall out again.

Thanks again Joey!


Monday, 15 February 2016

2016 in like a lion...

Like many of my woodworking compatriots I have adopted the use of Instagram to share the happenings in my shop. As a result my blog posts have diminished. I am determined to keep this running log of major activities, so this will serve as a an update on what I have been up to.

Click on any of the pictures to see them a bit bigger.

The end of 2015 brought to a closure my foray into the luthierie, I sold all my guitar making tools, jigs, plans, hardware, and bits to a friend who is starting up his own guitar shop in Dartmouth; I hope this gives him the head start he needs. He will also finish up a few projects I never completed which will close the door on this part of my woodworking experience. Having made 10 guitars and mandolins over a few years was both eye-opening and very rewarding. Nothing will take your woodworking to a level of precision like the technical demands of building a guitar. My archtop guitar remains the project I am most proud of to date - I will have to work pretty hard to surpass that accomplishment. BTW - I have kept all my premium wood sets, so if you are looking to build a guitar or two, come see me...

The off-time during Christmas was consumed with some painting around the house, and the pumpkin orange in the hallway has been muted to a cream off-white. Your retinas will thank you.


Update on Christmas build...

How do you do siding in bird-scale?
Tilted dado blade and voila!
As part of tradition at Christmas my wife's family draws names, this is a merciful way to deal with all the giving nonsense. Her sister wanted a birdhouse she could put out front. It was determined I would replicate her house (more or less) in bird scale. This was a fun project using up some cedar I have been storing for far too long.

The finished birdhouse "in the white"
The finished bird condo, after receiving the full Kim treatment - awesome!


Shop Clean-up and some turning:

We needed some cutting boards she said...
I have been doing quite a bit of shop cleanup and moving out more scraps to the burn box to get some of the clutter out of the way. As always many of the pieces are just a little too big or premium to burn, so these get either stored back away or turned into something. This time they made their way into some cutting boards, these are all offcuts and I thicknessed a few strip to inlay them to add some interest:


Is this enough already?
I started this rolling pin a couple years ago and was fed
up with it rolling off the bench. It has skateboard
bearings inside to make it easy to roll.
I rough-turned this wet piece of Olive last August
and finally it was dry enough to finish off (smells bad).











As you see I have been working through lots of pieces of material, although it does not appear to have made much of a dent.

I will have to re-dedicate myself in the coming months to this purpose - fail, I shall not...

This piece of punky apple came from Yarmouth in 1999!
This round piece of Maple had 1996 written
on the edge - c'mon man!














Another project from the material stores...

I have also been busy on a piece of furniture - this time for us. We wanted a sideboard for the dining area to replace a shelf that mysteriously disappeared after my youngest son bought his new house. I am not saying anything in particular here - the timing definitely was a coincidence.

The money shot - cherry and ash sideboard in its new home.
Size: 48" w x 16" d x 30" h

Those not interested in woodworking techniques and the man glitter that we all know sawdust is - click away now.


In keeping with the theme of this post this entire piece was built using material I had on hand. The cherry came from material I had left from the KUBISK bedroom set build, including the top which came from exactly three pieces 50" long to yield a 48" top. the ash is from material I had milled up for the KUBISK drawers.



The end frames are glued up and make extensive use of dominoes for easy joinery.

The ash end panel looks like separate boards, but I chamfered the edges before gluing them up.
Expansion s[ace was left on the edges behind the strips holding them in place.


The structure comes from an integral shelf in the base screwed to the end frames
and web frames in the top providing structure for the drawers as well.
The shelf is veneered Baltic birch to provide max support.
The back is designed with individual cherry slats shiplapped and screwed to the back.
I wanted a finished look in case this became a free-standing piece.
And yes the screws are clocked!!




This unit has a couple of drawers and of course I am going to dovetail them.
I don't dovetail all the time - but when I do, I use the David Barron jig! :-)

All glued up with a coat of oil to seal.
Another shot with the drawer open and shelf installed. We chose the clean
drawer front look without hardware. drawers have a centre glide hidden underneath.




Sunday, 22 November 2015

Christmas Turning

An annual exercise for us is to determine what I am going to make for my wife to give her staff as Christmas presents. They have made it quite clear that something hand made by me is the "preferred" way to go. The challenge every year is to try to one up the previous years, and this year was no different.

Bowls! I could turn bowls for them - yea, "let's" do it...

I needed six bowls more or less similar to avoid the jealously factor, they did not have to be identical but "similar". I chose a couple of pieces of wood I thought I could get six small bowls out of and drew them out.

I rarely map out exactly how a piece will be turned, and this was no exception. The blank was mounted and once it was round I made a plan to finish it. In many cases I am working around voids or inclusions which I want to feature in the turned piece. Start to finish this project took two hours - off the hook for another year!


Just cut away the parts that don't look like bowls.
Turning a foot so I can reverse it into the chuck, here the piece is mounted on a small faceplate.
Cleaning out the interior. I keep the tailstock engaged as long as possible. Just in case...

Cleaning up the foot on the Longworth, a bit of sanding and...



Six bowls, all similar but quite different.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Honey, I shrunk the Tommy Mac!!!!




I decided I wanted to build a smaller scale version of my Tommy Mac Tool Chest that I built 3 years ago.


I have a few miniature versions of some tools from various sources.  Once Veritas settled on one-third scale for their miniature tools, I have acquired most of these, some as gifts, some as "must-buys". I also made a reproduction of my original-design plane hammer, which was very cool.

I have purchased a few Paul Hamler reproductions over the last while as well and felt I wanted to house them in the style they deserve. My Tommy Mac Tool Chest was a seminal project for me which ties many of the skills I have developed over the years into a single project; and providing a benchmark to strive toward for future projects.

Lumber Stack
The miniature version was to stay true to the original, from the dovetailed case, to the cherry sapwood feature on the exterior,right down to the green leather drawer liners. And yes, as I have been reminded by friends and family - I do have a problem.

Like all projects, I started out with my lumber stack. All materials were milled to exactly one-third of nominal thickness of the original materials - mostly 3/4" (.250") & 1/2" (.166").

This provided a chance to use up some strips i had left from the previous projects, while still leaving at least a cord of tongue depressor sized strips behind. These will be for the next project - or the stove!



Cleaning out the tails in the top.










Since I was doing dovetails and it was to remain true to the full-scale version, I used my David Barron dovetail jig to cut them. While making dovetails 1/3 the size in 1/4" material is no different, errors are magnified so absolute precision was paramount.


test fit of dovetails...
Gluing up the carcase, staying square was critical.

Cleaning out the dadoes and rabbets with the Veritas Mini Shoulder.
When adjusting a mini plane, one needs a mini hammer...

The web frames installed providing more structure and runners for the drawers.
These are maple with cherry strips on the front.


The first drawer being test fit and trimmed for a piston fit.






Beauty shot of the original plane hammer and its baby brothers.
All parts turned by me on  the lathe.






With the drawers fitted, time to clean up the dovetails with my Bill Carter mini plane.
Drawer layout with green leather bottoms and knobs installed.


The Tool Chest completed, finished, and its a new home for some small tools

Now back to projects on the to-do list, this was a nice distraction.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

KUBISK Dresser complete

Bedroom set complete!


The completed dresser! Yea!
Last week was a busy one in the shop as I finished and delivered the last major piece for the bedroom set I am building for my youngest son.

The set includes the cantilevered night stands, the king size bed, tall chest of drawers and this longer dresser. This piece is substantial at 67" long and will provide plenty of storage with 30" wide drawers.





The skeleton of this beast.





The build started out the same as the other case pieces in this set with end frames domino'd together and an inset plywood panel, bottom rails and a web frame for the top.







Next the top is fitted, wood choice was key here and nice piece with gum and good figure was used for the front piece. The request was to use the interesting figure of the cherry to paint a picture. That's why you will see some sapwood in places. Some details were important to me and not likely noticed by the users, such as using the most interesting part of the plywood in the end panel that had some nice curl. Also wrapping the grain around the front and top of the side panels took some time to get right.


Fitting the top, this is challenging as the top is captured between the two frames and has to be exact.

The internal structure of the piece is provided by web frames, this simple form built with dominos (of course) ties the two ends together and provides the support to carry the weight of the drawers. The centre vertical rail carries the load down to a centre beam where a hidden fifth leg delivers the load to the floor. Since this part of the carcase carries over half the load, i wanted to ensure this did not sag in the next hundred years.

The outside surfaces with a coat of danish oil to avoid soiling from handling. The full-extension
black slides have also been installed.

Of course all the drawers were dovetailed.
Not by hand though!!
 The drawer fronts are all single pieces of cherry as in the chest, the horizontal grain alignment is another one of those details I insisted on. The drawer sides are 1/2" ash which is my favourite wood for this purpose. Mostly because the grain of the ash is so interesting and adds something I like. I saw this approach at the Thomas Moser factory and it was a nice detail I chose to adopt as a bit of a signature - thanks Tom!


The drawers are dry-fitted for spacing and rough alignment

Before the back goes on to tie all the structure together.
Making sure all the drawers fit and align properly, this is way easier with the back off.

Drawer detail, shows lip created to capture and hide the slides, inset
half dovetails and that lovely ash figure.

Close up detail of front.
And what's a dresser without a proper mirror. I threw this together with left over material
Nice sapwood eh? (In case you did not notice, this is a mirror frame, not an actual mirror!!)