To The Top

Today was a tough day, tackling the roubo top beams proved challenging. I tried to rip a square edge on the bandsaw using a MDF sled but I found the blade to drift and bow out. Perhaps I have a tension issue… Jointing was also challenging and I had to use a few shortcuts to joint one reference side flat. The biggest problem was with the planer. One of the beams was tapered and became wedged. The table was at its lowest setting so there wan’t anywhere else for it to go. A major fuckup. I had to disconnect the gears from the shafts and have my father in-law slam the beam backwards to unjam it. Not a pretty procedure but the patient was saved.

 

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My 8” wedgebed looks dinky when up against these 6x8 monsters

My 8” wedgebed looks dinky when up against these 6x8 monsters

Removing the chain tensioner and the gears allowed the beam to be worked out backwards.

Removing the chain tensioner and the gears allowed the beam to be worked out backwards.

Getting closer, I can probably glue up one half of the top now.

Getting closer, I can probably glue up one half of the top now.

How to eat an Elephant?

One weekend at a time… Legs and stretchers have all been milled down to their final dimensions. A couple of the legs are structurally compromised and will need some reinforcement. Initially I had planned on using a combination of dutchmen keys and epoxy but I think I’ll pivot and use 3/8 brass rods and epoxy. I’m afraid chisel and hammer work will crack the legs further, so the brass rod approach seems like a safer bet. Still haven’t touched the beams for the top… perhaps next month.

 

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Beams to Dreams

It’s time to get started. No more planning, no more thinking and hopefully no more tooling up. First order of business is to start cutting my beams down to size. Though it’s not as straightforward as it might appear. I’ve learned a few things about buying wood, some which I already knew but didn’t quite register with me. I guess i’m an experiential learner… 1st off, country folk are savvy and you should drive a hard bargain. I still can’t decide whether I got a good deal… On one hand, walnut beams are exceedingly rare and should cost a small fortune. On the other hand these beams have checks, pith, debris and the tree ate a small fence and a few lag bolts back in 1982. All in, I probably did very well, especially considering I wouldn’t have been able to buy the same amount of wood in ash or oak from the local hardwood supplier for any cheaper. Actually it would have been close to double. The trade off is that I had to dig metal out of a few beams, I’ll have take care to mill the pith out where ever possible and I’ll probably end up having more dutchmen than than the Netherlands.

It took a bit of rotisserie but the bosch glide got it done.

It took a bit of rotisserie but the bosch glide got it done.

Used a mdf sled to get straight and true edge.

Used a mdf sled to get straight and true edge.

Hot damn, it actually worked!

Hot damn, it actually worked!

Legs were looking a little hairy and needed a shave.

Legs were looking a little hairy and needed a shave.

I wasn’t kidding about the pith & checks. I might need to drown those dutchmen in epoxy.

I wasn’t kidding about the pith & checks. I might need to drown those dutchmen in epoxy.

proto-roubo | walnut-henge

proto-roubo | walnut-henge

An Industrial Revolution

The machine shop side of the workshop is complete. Ducting has been run and the sub-panels in. I won’t go into too many of the details as it was more of a hassle than anything else. Numerous trips to home depot, rona, lowes, to purchase all manner of ducting, fittings, screws, hose clamps tape, in various diameters, gauges and orientations. But it’s in and I have enough parts left over to build a small space station. Nasa, look me up if you’re reading this.

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A French Connection

I’ve been deep in the minutiae of workbenches for some time now, it’s been one of more extensive rabbit holes I’ve travelled down. I’ve poured over all the books, have read countless build threads and I think I’ve reached a point where I have a clear idea of what I want for my own. Initially, I was really drawn to Chris Schwarz’s cherry slab roubo, to my eye’s it was just about perfect except it was a little on the small side. It has a purposeful honesty about it, whereas the more popular “benchcrafted” style benches come across as more cold and clinical. My plans changed when I stumbled across 1stdibs.com, which is a veritable treasure trove of workbench design ideas. And it was there where I found it, a french bench with perfect proportions, a design which sang to me across the centuries, and It’s the one I will build. It differs from the modern roubo interpretation in a few ways. Its front stretchers are inset and not flush, It has drawers, lacks the dovetail tenon and has an overall wider stance than most. I’ll need to make a few modifications of my own, I’ll add upper support stretchers , a quick release tail vise, a shelf to the underside and will thicken the top somewhat. It feels good to be able to stop searching, no more endless research, it’s just time to build.

Christopher Schwarz’s Petite Cherry Roubo

Christopher Schwarz’s Petite Cherry Roubo

The French Bench

The French Bench

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A quick sketchup plan

A quick sketchup plan

Progress Slowly

If all goes well the shop should be up and running in a couple weeks. An electrician will be by to install a 100amp sub-panel tomorrow, which leaves me with the dust collection ducting to figure out. Haven’t quite decided on whether to use 24g stove pipe single wall duct or to go with sewer piping. The sewer piping is difficult to find around these parts, it seems 6” diameter is only sold wholesale to the plumbing trades…

I’ve landed on machine placement, the layout below seems to have the best feng-shui, however these things tend to change in practice.

Once complete it’ll be time to start prepping stock for the roubo build.

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First Steps

I managed to drag two of the six walnut beams into my shop yesterday. A few passes with a hand plane gave me my first look at what was waiting for me. A few checks and cracks but nothing that can’t be stabilized. Moisture is a little on the high side but it’ll come down over the next few weeks. Building this Roubo will be an exercise in timberframing before cabinetry. I still have a lot of decisions to mull over… face or edge grain for the top, cabinets below or open space… who can I trick or bribe into helping me rip them down on the bandsaw.

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aesthetics & ergonomics

These walnut handles were made, or should I say sculpted, by Bill Rittner from Hardware City Tools.

These walnut handles were made, or should I say sculpted, by Bill Rittner from Hardware City Tools.

Bill's work is faultless, his totes have a gentle, more traditional profile. The better the fit the greater feeling of flow while hand-planing. 

Bill's work is faultless, his totes have a gentle, more traditional profile. The better the fit the greater feeling of flow while hand-planing. 

Finally, this bevel up jack looks proper. 

Finally, this bevel up jack looks proper. 

The small plow received the same treatment. 

The small plow received the same treatment. 

Bill's tool handles can be found at www.hardwarecitytools.com, If you like what you see you should consider dropping him a line. 

Bill's tool handles can be found at www.hardwarecitytools.com, If you like what you see you should consider dropping him a line. 

Japanese Gennou

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After drying out the gumi for a few weeks it was finally time to fit the head. Filed a chamfer on the underside of the gennou head and did my best to trim the tenon so that it was tight but not too tight. Difficult work to do with just a block plane and a chisel. It Took about 30 or so good thwacks or so to get it on, I had hoped to get it on a little deeper but I can live with it as is. If it loosens up in the future I'll have room to drive it down further. Once set, I applied a little tung oil to the end to swell things up, I was surprised how much the gumi took in. Should have the final shaping done this week, then it's on to setting up my Ouchi yama-ari oire-nomi.

After drying out the gumi for a few weeks it was finally time to fit the head. Filed a chamfer on the underside of the gennou head and did my best to trim the tenon so that it was tight but not too tight. Difficult work to do with just a block plane and a chisel. It Took about 30 or so good thwacks or so to get it on, I had hoped to get it on a little deeper but I can live with it as is. If it loosens up in the future I'll have room to drive it down further. Once set, I applied a little tung oil to the end to swell things up, I was surprised how much the gumi took in. Should have the final shaping done this week, then it's on to setting up my Ouchi yama-ari oire-nomi.

The Finishing Line

Time to add a little structural insurance. These miller dowels will lock the lower portion of the handle assembly to the carcass while adding visual detail and mechanical strength. They work by creating a tapered hole using a tapered drill bit which is the same profile as the dowels. I really like using these little guys, they're like the western version of  Japanese wooden nails. 

Time to add a little structural insurance. These miller dowels will lock the lower portion of the handle assembly to the carcass while adding visual detail and mechanical strength. They work by creating a tapered hole using a tapered drill bit which is the same profile as the dowels. I really like using these little guys, they're like the western version of  Japanese wooden nails. 

Though they're not fool proof... I almost drilled into the floating floorboard. I was lucky and just missed it.. 

Though they're not fool proof... I almost drilled into the floating floorboard. I was lucky and just missed it.. 

A little end-grain paring. 

A little end-grain paring. 

And a little surface planing and we're done. 

And a little surface planing and we're done. 

Remember those magnetic saw holders? It's time to mount them, again using miller dowels, though this time using the smallest size. It was a little tricky to get the alignment right, there needed to be enough clearance to allow the lid to close and the saws to be positioned so that they were spaced without interfering with each other. 

Remember those magnetic saw holders? It's time to mount them, again using miller dowels, though this time using the smallest size. It was a little tricky to get the alignment right, there needed to be enough clearance to allow the lid to close and the saws to be positioned so that they were spaced without interfering with each other. 

I think it worked out A-Okay. 

I think it worked out A-Okay. 

A quick card scrap and I'm ready for finishing. Am I crazy for liking walnut without a finish? I debated between a tung-poly blend and shellac, ultimately the bugs won out over the nuts. 

A quick card scrap and I'm ready for finishing. Am I crazy for liking walnut without a finish? I debated between a tung-poly blend and shellac, ultimately the bugs won out over the nuts. 

I went with a 2lb cut of amber shellac applied thick and heavy. I'm not a fan of gloss finishes, I'll knock it right back with steel wool and wax once it's set, but that's a story for another day.    

I went with a 2lb cut of amber shellac applied thick and heavy. I'm not a fan of gloss finishes, I'll knock it right back with steel wool and wax once it's set, but that's a story for another day. 

 

Bandaids

I've made a few slight changes to Tom Fidgen's toolchest design, namely increasing the dimensions somewhat, using a two piece approach for the bottom runners and adding a half mortise lock. It was my first time installing a lock and although the mortising and keyhole parts went well, the selvage was sitting proud of the surface... Oh well, time to learn how to edge band. 

I've made a few slight changes to Tom Fidgen's toolchest design, namely increasing the dimensions somewhat, using a two piece approach for the bottom runners and adding a half mortise lock. It was my first time installing a lock and although the mortising and keyhole parts went well, the selvage was sitting proud of the surface... Oh well, time to learn how to edge band. 

I'll be honest, it took a couple tries to cut the banding around the selvage plate and to the exact length of side. On the plus side, it's pretty cheap stuff so I could afford to make mistakes. 

I'll be honest, it took a couple tries to cut the banding around the selvage plate and to the exact length of side. On the plus side, it's pretty cheap stuff so I could afford to make mistakes. 

After some ironing and rubbing with a block of wood it looked pretty good. The surface was practically flush and only the overhang was left to trim. 

After some ironing and rubbing with a block of wood it looked pretty good. The surface was practically flush and only the overhang was left to trim. 

A sharp razor blade made short work of the excess, I couldn't be happier with how easily this fix worked out. 

A sharp razor blade made short work of the excess, I couldn't be happier with how easily this fix worked out. 

The screws for the half mortise are also sitting proud, on Wednesday I'll file them down flush. 

The screws for the half mortise are also sitting proud, on Wednesday I'll file them down flush. 

Magnetic Attraction

Did you know that putting a magnet in a steel cup will increase its strength by up to 4 times? I wish I had known that before I had made my saw holders. Then again, four 1/2" magnets seem to hold my badaxe bayonet just right. This portion of the build was relatively simple, I used a small forstner bit in a hand drill to bore out a few holes, dropped the magnets in and laminated a thicker piece on top. Nice and easy. 

Did you know that putting a magnet in a steel cup will increase its strength by up to 4 times? I wish I had known that before I had made my saw holders. Then again, four 1/2" magnets seem to hold my badaxe bayonet just right. This portion of the build was relatively simple, I used a small forstner bit in a hand drill to bore out a few holes, dropped the magnets in and laminated a thicker piece on top. Nice and easy. 

Progress

I glued the handle assembly to the carcass yesterday. Well partially glued, I left a good 5 inches of the vertical handle posts un-glued to allow for cross grain wood movement. I'm fairly confident it'll hold and the handle will be able to easily bare the load of a full toolchest. My joinery was tight and the clamps held everything flush to the chest... Though I do have a nagging feeling that I should overbuild this part, i guess my inexperience is showing. I think I'll leave the bottom bridal joint un-pinned but add a couple of large miller dowels to each side to lock everything in place. That approach should work to transfer the majority of the load to the sides and add a bit of aesthetic detail. It feels good to make progress, I've passed a major milestone. 

I glued the handle assembly to the carcass yesterday. Well partially glued, I left a good 5 inches of the vertical handle posts un-glued to allow for cross grain wood movement. I'm fairly confident it'll hold and the handle will be able to easily bare the load of a full toolchest. My joinery was tight and the clamps held everything flush to the chest... Though I do have a nagging feeling that I should overbuild this part, i guess my inexperience is showing. I think I'll leave the bottom bridal joint un-pinned but add a couple of large miller dowels to each side to lock everything in place. That approach should work to transfer the majority of the load to the sides and add a bit of aesthetic detail. It feels good to make progress, I've passed a major milestone. 

A Precisely Made Bed

I was never too keen on the thought of chiseling out a plane bed by hand, a three piece lamination with the bed, breast and wear angles cut with an incra gauge on a table saw just seemed much more practical. Though I am judicious with my use of electrons, the remainder of the plane will be built by hand. 

I was never too keen on the thought of chiseling out a plane bed by hand, a three piece lamination with the bed, breast and wear angles cut with an incra gauge on a table saw just seemed much more practical. Though I am judicious with my use of electrons, the remainder of the plane will be built by hand. 

The abutment angle will be 10 degrees, i've made up a wedge out of mdf to use as a template. 

The abutment angle will be 10 degrees, i've made up a wedge out of mdf to use as a template. 

Miller dowels will aid with alignment when cutting the abutments and laminating the plane together. 

Miller dowels will aid with alignment when cutting the abutments and laminating the plane together. 

Stay Gold

This is my Lie Nielsen No.4 smoothing plane in bronze with a few customizations. The original A2 steel has been replaced with a Tsunesaburo blade and the knob and tote have been changed from cherry to walnut. Aesthetics aside, there are a few functional improvements which can be made. A wise woodworker shared the following fettling tips with me yesterday. 

This is my Lie Nielsen No.4 smoothing plane in bronze with a few customizations. The original A2 steel has been replaced with a Tsunesaburo blade and the knob and tote have been changed from cherry to walnut. Aesthetics aside, there are a few functional improvements which can be made. A wise woodworker shared the following fettling tips with me yesterday. 

The yoke engages a very sharp steel slot in the cap iron. You can see here that it's already started to score the soft bronze of the yoke. This is on a plane that has never touched wood...    

The yoke engages a very sharp steel slot in the cap iron. You can see here that it's already started to score the soft bronze of the yoke. This is on a plane that has never touched wood... 

 

If you look closely you can also see evidence of the bite on the cap iron, the sharp steel edge has deposits of bronze.    

If you look closely you can also see evidence of the bite on the cap iron, the sharp steel edge has deposits of bronze. 

 

The fix is to take a diamond file and break the sharp edge, top and bottom. 

The fix is to take a diamond file and break the sharp edge, top and bottom. 

A little oil on the lever cap hinge pivot goes a long way too. 

A little oil on the lever cap hinge pivot goes a long way too. 

Walnut + Ipe

Had a few minutes today to get started on the razee style jack plane.  One of these blocks will form the body, the other will be ripped in two and used as the sides. I've given some thought to the grain orientation as one of the blocks is half sap wood and the other is darker walnut. I feel the sap wood is visually interesting, i think I'll use it for the sides. 

Had a few minutes today to get started on the razee style jack plane.  One of these blocks will form the body, the other will be ripped in two and used as the sides. I've given some thought to the grain orientation as one of the blocks is half sap wood and the other is darker walnut. I feel the sap wood is visually interesting, i think I'll use it for the sides. 

Laminating on the ipe sole. 

Laminating on the ipe sole. 

Hiroki Gennou

Mankind has used hammers for as long as we've had opposable thumbs. There's something primal and reassuring about the form factor. Even If I never knew nails existed, with a hammer in hand I'd feel like I'd know what to do. This block of steel and branch of tree will made into a gennou, a Japanese chisel striking hammer. 

Mankind has used hammers for as long as we've had opposable thumbs. There's something primal and reassuring about the form factor. Even If I never knew nails existed, with a hammer in hand I'd feel like I'd know what to do. This block of steel and branch of tree will made into a gennou, a Japanese chisel striking hammer. 

A block plane takes care of the knots. 

A block plane takes care of the knots. 

Though a spokeshave works best on the bark. 

Though a spokeshave works best on the bark. 

Getting A Handle On Things

Worked a little more on the handle assembly this week, it's going to feel good to complete it and give the toolchest its form. I noticed that in Tom Fidgen's original design, the vertical handle posts were notched into the bottom runner but when he taught his class at Dictum they took the approach of bridal jointing in a bottom stretcher. I emailed Tom about this and graciously, as always, he got back to me with a detailed explanation. The original design had a weak point and had snapped where it was screwed into the bottom runner. The stretcher approach ties in the entire handle assembly into one piece, thus balancing any forces and load exerted. 

Worked a little more on the handle assembly this week, it's going to feel good to complete it and give the toolchest its form. I noticed that in Tom Fidgen's original design, the vertical handle posts were notched into the bottom runner but when he taught his class at Dictum they took the approach of bridal jointing in a bottom stretcher. I emailed Tom about this and graciously, as always, he got back to me with a detailed explanation. The original design had a weak point and had snapped where it was screwed into the bottom runner. The stretcher approach ties in the entire handle assembly into one piece, thus balancing any forces and load exerted. 

I wasn't happy with the flatness of the stopped dado area, I had attempted to level it using an iwasaki file but the surface was still much too uneven. When I held it against the toolchest I could see a lot of light, perhaps more than glue could overcome. I decided to lap it against some 220 sand paper which did the trick nicely. No more fiddling, aside from the handle and bridal mortises, the vertical handle posts are pretty much complete. 

I wasn't happy with the flatness of the stopped dado area, I had attempted to level it using an iwasaki file but the surface was still much too uneven. When I held it against the toolchest I could see a lot of light, perhaps more than glue could overcome. I decided to lap it against some 220 sand paper which did the trick nicely. No more fiddling, aside from the handle and bridal mortises, the vertical handle posts are pretty much complete. 

Notching the upper handle runners.  

Notching the upper handle runners.  

Slowly but surely progress is being made. 

Slowly but surely progress is being made.