To Float Your Mortise (Part 1)

Not that long ago I read a blog post or an article in a magazine about motise floats, I don’t remember who wrote it but it did remind me that I needed to make some. Sure you can buy them from Lie-Nielsen, but one can make them too as they are not that complex.

I happened to have some 1/4″ x 3/8″ O-1 precision stock sitting around for the past 5 years that I purchased for this exact project but never got around to starting. So let’s get started!

Here I have cut the bar stock to approximate length. It’s long enough to get into most motises that I make, and has enough non-toothed area for holding in a handle. I’m making two at the same time as you will see later that I can gang cut most of the teeth making the second one very time efficient. I have applied some layout fluid to help see where I scribe my lines, they are spaced 1/8″ apart.

O-1 1/4" x 3/8" bar stock cut to approximate length and 8tpi layed out.
O-1 1/4″ x 3/8″ bar stock cut to approximate length and 8tpi layed out.

Next I use a small triangle file to cut start the edge of the teeth. A fine toothed file is easy to get started and make a clean starting point for each tooth. Note this is only one of the two floats that I am making.

Small triangle file used to cut an initial groove.
Small triangle file used to cut an initial groove.

Still with a single piece of bar stock I use a hack saw to extend the groove I previously started well across the width. I keep the saw parallel to the scribe lines and perpendicular to the edge the best I can. Counting the number of strokes with the saw and being consistent on the length of the stoke helps keep them consistent in depth.

Hacksaw was used to extend the groove.
Hacksaw was used to extend the groove.

Now I take both pieces of bar stock and put them into the vise. I tried to make the top faces flush and the tips even. Then with the hack saw I extended the cuts across both faces, again being consistent with the number and length of the saw strokes.

Hack saw used to extend the cut onto the second piece of bar stock.
Hack saw used to extend the cut onto the second piece of bar stock.

At this stage I have used the hack saw to deepen the cut to near full tooth depth. Note the scuff marks on the surface between the teeth are not critical at this point as that material will be removed later. Consistent depth of cut is the most important at this stage.

Hack saw was used to get consistent depth of cut on each tooth.
Hack saw was used to get consistent depth of cut on each tooth.

Layout fluid was applied to all the saw kerfs and the faces of the teeth.

Layout fluid applied to the surface.
Layout fluid applied to the surface.

Here I am using the largest flat file that I own. The goal is quick removal of material. The large teeth cut fast and leave a nice surface. The layout fluid is used to help with consistency, you want to remove the same amount of material from each tooth. This is the step that typically takes the most amount of time, be patient and consistent.

Large file used to remove material quickly.
Large file used to remove material quickly.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the faces of the bar stock exactly flush when putting them into the vise and you can see it here. I have removed most of the material with the large file for the teeth and have made them reasonably consistent.

The teeth are near full depth and made consistent at each step in the process.
The teeth are near full depth and made consistent at each step in the process.

Next I have taken the saw and layed it flat on the teeth to undercut the gullet of the tooth slightly. This is a quick method of removing the bulk of the material to help establish the rake of the tooth. Once that’s complete I use a large triangle file to help define the rake angle a bit more. Layout fluid was used once again to help with my consistency. Note there is a small amount of layout fluid still remaining on the flat tip of each tooth.

Hack saw and large triangle file were used to establish the rake angle of each tooth.
Hack saw and large triangle file were used to establish the rake angle of each tooth.

At this point I like working with only one float as we are starting to get close. I progress through several sizes of files, the larger ones cut quicker, the smaller ones cut deeper into the gullet and produce a smoother cut. I continue to use consistent amounts of pressure, length and number of strokes are also important. The goal is to make each tooth as close to the same as practical.

The teeth are very near completion. They still have a small amount of flat face on them that shows the layout fluid. All the heavy metal work has been done.

There are quite a few steps left to do such as: grind front tooth, heat treating, attaching a handle, jointing the teeth, and the final sharpening.

The Great Exodus

One thing leads to another and yet another, life smacks me firmly in the face and here I am. Getting past all the crappy excuses, the last few months have been the final push to get out old house on the market.

One of the many projects at the old house was to redo the front entry steps. Big plans were scaled back to be a bit more realistic in time and expenses. The project still took longer than I had liked, but it was ultimately a lot of fun and an interesting challenge.

A shot of the front steps after refacing.
A shot of the front steps after refacing. All edging is oak and cut by hand.

Other projects at the house included a full paint job, inside and out, every room ceilings and walls, including the paneling in the basement. There were a few landscaping things dealt with, power wash the exterior walls, and concrete. All the carpet removed and we found hardwood floors in great condition in all of the bedrooms. New carpet and vinyl in appropriate locations. Yup, we even paint a bath tub and made it look great with the right paint and patience.

Not only did the house go on the market, we had two offers on the second day, one of which was well over our asking price. With all this and more behind us, I can finally start working on more planes and other woodworking projects at the new house. Oh and hopefully more Instagram and blog posts too.

All that really matters is the top of the sign SOLD.
All that really matters is the top of the sign SOLD.

Thanks to our friends and family for all the help!

Portable Work Bench (Part 28) Ode to be Flat

An update on the portable bench, there are a lot of little things done, but all good steps to getting it near completion.

Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.
Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.

Each half of the bench top was cut to length by hand. Unfortunately I don’t have a good crosscut panel saw so I had to use a back saw. This made a bit of extra work as I had to go around the entire work surface as the saw wasn’t deep enough to cut all the way through. Due to my lack of consistency, or more likely impatience I messed up the cut and had a lot of cleanup to do. My hand made floats to the rescue, and a lot of extra work than just taking my time initially.

Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench.
Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench by hand.

Then onto flattening the top. I started out with a Stanley #6 setup as a fore plane and it did pretty well to remove a reasonable amount of material but I was getting a little bit of tear out once in a while despite I was going cross grain. I figured I would try out a smoother and get my process down before I screwed something up. I tried a Stanley #4 set super fine and made a few passes and was amazed at the amount of tear out I was getting. Cross grain, with the grain, diagonal, skewed, it didn’t matter what I did it just continued to tear out. I gave up on the smoother and reached for the Stanley #8 with a small radius on the iron. I figured I would go back to just getting it flat. Sure enough, no tear out at all, though it was all cross grain and diagonal cuts. I had a fairly substantial belly in the middle of both glued up boards to remove. After a great deal of planing I managed to get them flat, but I was impressed on how easy it was to do this, just time consuming. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the tear out removed, but the surface was flat at least.

Bench top just before adding finish.
Bench top just before adding finish.

The next time I was in the big shop we discussed running it through the planer and seeing if we could get the bottom closer to flat than it was. I know, totally not needed, but what the heck. We run it through the planer bottom side up a few passes. This removed a bit of glue and we got rid of most of the imperfections on the bottom. Then I wanted to run a light pass on the top surface to see how close I ended up with the hand plane and possibly remove most of the tear out that was left. First pass was very light, and it only touched the peaks, which just happen to line up with the spots between the hand plane, it was quite apparent that the hand plane did an amazing job at getting it flat. We dropped the head 1/8 of a turn, which we considered a glorified whisper and turned it to a finishing cut and ran it through again. This removed the slightest amount of material which was the rest of the depth of the hand plan arc, it was as close to perfect as I could have ever imagined. It removed most of the tear out, and the only negative was a little bit of snipe on one end of one of the boards, which I can totally live with. Once home from the big shop I added a coat of Danish Oil to the work surface. The quarter sawn grain popped at this point. So much that my wife noticed it when she glanced over.

Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.
Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.

I also worked on final touches to the bench dogs. I chamfered most of the edges. Then used hide glue to attach a small piece of suede to the face. The suede is probably over kill but I will give it a try and see if I like it or not. Once the glue was dry I trimmed up the suede and applied finish to the rest of the dog. Now I can officially say I am done with the dogs.

Bench dogs finally complete, suede trimmed and finish applied.
Bench dogs finally complete and drying, suede trimmed and finish applied.

Maybe these weren’t as little of steps as I thought. Cut to length, flattened, finish applied to work surface, and the bench dogs complete. This is big progress, but I have a lot more to do before it’s actually complete.

Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.
Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.

Work Space Lighting

Every shop I have had has started in a dimly lite space, a corner in the basement, or garage were common examples. I typically just hung a 4 foot florescent light fixture above and lived with it. This isn’t exactly a bad situation, but none of them were what I would call optimum. At our new home, my wife has graciously allowed me to setup my primary hand tool work bench in our great room.

WP_20160204_011While I certainly have a lot of great windows to help with lighting, they only work during daylight hours. The overhead ceiling fan light is not close enough to my bench area, so additional lighting is needed. With the assistance of my wife we picked out an interesting light fixture that works well with the vaulted ceilings. It has 5 halogen bulbs that are 50 watts each, eventually we will change them to LEDs to save electricity. This provides a lot of light that I can direct where I want.

A second fixture will be placed on the other side of the great room where we commonly setup a table for games when we have guests.

WP_20160204_009This is certainly a big step in the right direction, lets see how well it works over the next few weeks.

Portable Work Bench (Part 27) Doggone It

One of my early requirements was to be able to use square dogs with the bench. The square holes in the bench have been in place for quite some time. Now it’s time to fill them with dogs.

This is NOT my design, but I do consider it a great one. Image was lifted from http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/2015/03/dog-prints.html
This is NOT my design, I lay no claim to it, but I do consider it a great one. Image was lifted from http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/2015/03/dog-prints.html

My thoughts on dog design, simple, elegant, and most important functional. I like the Benchcrafted designed ones, though my dimensions are slightly different.

Cherry board ready to be cut into dogs.
Cherry board ready to be cut into dogs.

Wood selection: I’d suggest seriously considering using scrap or just about anything you have laying around. I chose cherry, why? Well, no real reason other than aesthetically pleasing and I think it would look nice for this particular bench. Choose something of your liking and for your own reasons, not mine. A trip to a local Amish lumber yard, and a request for a nice piece of cherry, Herman (the owner) comes through with a beauty. It’s 6/4 stock, just under 8 inches wide and over 8 feet long. It’s bigger than I need but I am sure I will have future projects that I will use it on.

Cherry board getting jointed.
Cherry board getting jointed.

Since it’s only skip planed and slightly over sized, it needed a few passes through the planer to get it to the thickness desired and reasonably smooth. Then I rip cut it on the table saw to give an edge that was reasonably straight. A pass through the jointer, made that edge true.

Cherry board being ripped to dog width.
Cherry board being ripped to dog width.

The cherry gets ripped to approximate dog width, then cut to length. I need 17 dogs to fill all the dog holes in the bench, but we are making 20. My reasoning behind this? Just in case we screw some up along the way, break one some day or need something customized for particular jobs. Then there is the most likely reason, to replace the one I will inevitably loose, after all it is supposed to be a portable bench.

The two two have quarter sawn grain and in person look great. The bottom two are "just" plain cherry and look good.
The top two have quarter sawn grain and in person look great. The bottom two are “just” plain cherry and look good.

The next was to flip through the pieces and select the orientation, making sure the quarter sawn grain is toward the back of the dog. Hey it’s pretty, so shush! Then I made sure the sap pockets were minimal and in areas that wouldn’t affect structural stability or could be cut off with a future step. I also considered grain, trying to keep as much strength as I could. Unfortunately, the nice quarter sawn grain ended up losing a few times over strength. I just put a simple X on the face as a quick reference.

Starting of the spring angle cut.
Starting of the spring angle cut.

Then I cut the spring angle – this is where the wooden spring will be attached later. I did this on the table saw using my wedge cutting jig. This was a lot quicker than I anticipated. I just set on the line, locked it down and ran it through the saw. Very simple.

Finishing the spring angle cut.
Finishing the spring angle cut.

We should have done the next step before cutting the spring angle, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Using a miter gauge with a stop set, I was able to quickly and consistently cut the shoulder on each of the dogs. Note this shoulder should be cut at a complimentary angle to the bench dog holes to minimize breaking the face off later.

The dogs with the shoulder cut on the table saw.
The dogs with the shoulder cut on the table saw.

Off to the band saw, after a few trial cuts and a little experimenting, the fence was set and I ripped them all to the desired width. The cut was intentionally left short for the following step.

Bench dog getting ripped at the band saw.
Bench dog getting ripped at the band saw.

To make the transition from the rip cut to the cross cut, I chose to use a small Forsner drill bit. This left a small radius, and I’m hoping it will slightly add to the strength of the face.

Forstner drill bit used to make the transition between the two cuts.
Forstner drill bit used to make the transition between the two cuts.

At this point all of the dogs are cut to approximate shape. One side is still rough, but its close at least. Next I cut a bunch of 1/8″ springs from scrap ash. Nothing special, just a little springy is all I need.

Dogs and springs near ready for assembly.
Dogs and springs near ready for assembly.

Onto cleaning up the rough side of the dog. This was accomplished with a couple of cheek floats I made a while back. I am still amazed at how well they work. It only takes a couple of passes and the dogs are smooth enough for what they’re for. The radius created with the Forstner bit was cleaned up with a course round file.

Cheek floats and round coarse file used to cleanup the last rough side of the dog.
Cheek floats and round coarse file used to cleanup the last rough side of the dog.

The previous angled cut on the table saw with the wedge jig was close, and we did a little fine tuning and smoothing with a Stanley #5, set fine. A typical smoother just doesn’t have the length. Brad did this step, he rested the heal of the plane on the face of the dog and with a few passes they were cleaned up and looking great.

Stanley #5 used to smooth out the angle cut on the bench dog.
Stanley #5 used to smooth out the angle cut on the bench dog.

The ash springs were mated with a cherry dog and pre-drilled. Both pieces were marked with a unique letter, this allows for easy matching later if they get separated. Unfortunately I couldn’t easily find my counter sink due to the recent move of the my shop space, so I used a carving gouge to counter sink the screw heads before attaching the springs. They are screwed together with a 3/4″ #6 stainless steel screw.

Initial assembly of ash spring and cherry dog.
Initial assembly of ash spring and cherry dog.

The assembly was taken apart, and the inside surfaces were looked over and cleaned up one last time. A quick coat of Danish Oil was applied to the inside surfaces, except where the glue will go. I did this step now as its much easier to get the finish on the inside before final assembly. I didn’t bother to wait for the finish to dry, I just reattached the spring to the dog, but this time I added a dab of hide glue before screwing it back together, no clamp needed. Hide glue allows me to take it apart in the future if I have a need.

A coat of finish on the inside surfaces, glue added, then screwed back together.
A coat of finish on the inside surfaces, glue added, then screwed back together.

Back to the bench for some trial and error fitting. I planed the sides of the dog to between snug and sloppy, this should be good enough for when I travel with the bench and they expand from the humidity changes. Once fit, each piece and the corresponding dog hole were numbered as they are custom fit.

Final adjustments made with a Standley #5 1/2 plane.
Final adjustments made with a Standley #5 1/2 plane.

Currently the dogs stand proud of the work surface. Once the work surface has been planed to its final thickness I’ll trim the dogs to be ever so slightly below the surface. Later I will add at least two coats of Danish Oil to them. After the finish is fully dried I’ll hide glued on some suede to each of the faces and trim with a sharp knife. The suede will help cushion and grip whatever is being clamped.

All the dogs settled nicely into the workbench.
All the dogs settled nicely into the workbench.

I’m very pleased to have the dogs in the bench and usable, a sense of accomplishment for sure. Now if I could only get the end vise attached and functional.

SCA – Gulf Wars 2016 Teaching

For those of you SCA folk that might be attending Gulf Wars 25th, I am teaching once again in the woodworking tents. There are a bunch of classes being taught by a lot of different people about almost anything medieval. More details on Gulf Wars A&S Activities are available. The class schedule is being finalized as I type this and should be available soon on at least one of the above web sites.

Classes that I am either teaching or heavily involved with include:

  • Bench Design – round table discussion on different designs
  • Hand Planes – discussion and hands on use, bench top flattening
  • Stone, Bone & Antler Carving – lecture and lots of teaching aids
  • Molding Planes – discussion and hands on use
  • Dovetail Joints – hands on dovetails
  • Joinery – discussion on different joinery techniques
  • Sharpening – woodworking tools
  • Wood Identification – this should be pretty self explanatory
  • 60 Tools in 90 minutes – what is in some of our tool chests
  • Plane Making Demo – I will be available working on planes throughout the day, come ask questions and try them out
Rhydderch working with students for his bench construction class.
Rhydderch working with students for his bench construction class.

Lunch time is a bring your own or donate type of setup. Sit down and have a deep or light hearted conversation with the instructors in the woodworking tent at Artisans Row.

Master Rhydderch with his masterpiece complete.
Master Rhydderch with his masterpiece complete.

Oh and one last thing, Rhydderch will be doing another class on a Rose Window. For those of you who missed it last year it’s totally worth a walk by to see it! Stop by Artisans Row and see the window and take some fun classes.

This student makes do with a scrap of lumber for a mallet instead of using the brass mallet on the steel chisel.
This student makes do with a scrap of lumber for a mallet instead of using the brass mallet on the steel chisel.

Portable Work Bench (Part 26) Multiuse

For those following along with this build it’s been a slow process and sometimes even painful. This time around, the work bench has been moved to our new house and setup in the great room. The initial intent of the bench move was not to be used as a work bench but as a serving table.

Christmas at the new house, the work bench in the background under the gold table cloth.
First Christmas at the new house, the work bench in the background under the gold table cloth.

Being taller than the average table it worked great for dishing our food from. Unfortunately my wife insisted we put a table cloth on it for Christmas and our New Years part. We have also used it on game night to serve food from. To me this was just a good excuse to get it moved into the new house and I’m glad it was useful. Having a work surface like this in the main living area certainly has its benefits.

Portable work bench in its intended location at the new home.
Portable work bench in its intended location at the new home.

Over the weekend that followed I did cut some more oak to length and glued up some pieces for the vise chop. It was a great feeling to be in the main part of the house and work on a project. Historically my work space has been a corner of the garage or the basement that was out of the way, and more of a second hand thought than a primary. This time around it’s different and I look forward to the continued enjoyment of being in the main living area. I would have never considered this, thank you Chris Schwarz for mentioning the idea in a blog post and thank you to my wife for allowing this too.

I still have a long way to go before I will be doing normal production work in this space, but it’s a start to have the bench here and usable.

 

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