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I’m happy to announce the completion of my workbench! I call it the “Reject Roubo” as it was constructed almost entirely out of reject lumber that was given to me by a church friend whose husband runs a timber export business. I bought the big wooden screw for the leg vise ($10), and the glue, and that’s pretty much it.

This workbench was a LOOOOOONG time in coming. Seriously. Looking back on my blog, here are some real quick highlights:

December 2007: I purchase my first bunch of boards for what the top of what I believe was to be a Roubo-style workbench. I never finished prepping these 16 boards.

May 2009: Now in a different home, I start pondering afresh how I’d build my Roubo workbench.

June 2010: I receive free lumber and have no excuse!

May 2011: I declare the bench completed (as in entirely assembled), and stated that within the week I expected to complete the flattening of the benchtop.

September 2011: I request a kick in the pants.

October 2011: I finally get going, and indeed, finish the bench in virtually no time.

So that is about 4 years from start to finish. About a year and a half on this current iteration. But it’s done. Pics!

I mentioned that I wanted to finish trying to rehab my old wooden screw before I start my bench, since it will determine the size of the hole I bore into my leg (for the leg vise) and whether or not I’ll have to mortise the nut into the leg. If the screw didn’t work out, I would use my new threading kit (1 1/2″) and simply tap the hole in the leg – no nut required.

So now that I’m mostly done, I have mixed feelings. But first, the pics. Here’s the “before” picture:

Screw Head - Before

and now the “after” picture:

Screw Head - After

So it’s a great improvement over a rotting screw head; anyone would admit that. There are many things about this thing that I don’t like. First off, the shape is all wrong. I wanted a hexagon but a beefier hexagon. I cut it to size with my ryoba, which is a fantastic saw but ill-suited for cutting thick stuff – the blade is too flexible. So while the top of the head looked like a nice hexagon, the bottom was an indescribable shape full of unevenness. I made twice as many cuts as anticipated because I kept trying to fix my mistakes. I have to say, though, that my sawing improved as I went along, and I think if I had to do it all over again I might do quite a bit better. Funny how practice is.

Another thing I don’t like is that my pegs are uneven – they are centered on one side of the head but not the other (because of the unevenness – I fixed it mostly, but it’s still off). And lastly, the head seems the slightest bit crooked in relation to the shaft of the screw. You can kind of see it in the picture above.

So here’s the test, to determine what kind of woodworker I am. Will I leave it as is, and continue on with the bench? I do not doubt that once this screw is assembled to the bench it will function perfectly. Or will I keep tinkering, maybe even chopping this head off and start over, so that my screw head reflects the excellent craftsmanship that I hope will be characteristic of all my pieces?

I’m leaving it. I don’t like the look of it, and I don’t like that it will be one of the focal points of my workbench. But it’s a stinkin’ workbench, for crying out loud! If it works, I’m leaving it. It will also remind me of lessons learned along the way. If at some point I find myself with a nice block of wood that is a regular cylinder or cube, I may try again with a new screw head. But knowing how I am with “good enough”, my guess is that this will be my screw for a long, long time.

P.S. I’ve yet to finish this off with my plane, to get the pegs flush and to remove saw marks (I thought a flush cut saw wasn’t supposed to leave saw marks?), and after that I need to finish it. Just in case you were wondering.

A year ago I solicited your feedback on which vise I should use for the leg vise on my bench. The only option that seemed viable as a result of your feedback was the big honkin’ wooden screw that I got off of eBay for $10. The only problem was that it looked like it was in pretty bad shape. I decided that while I wait to get the lumber on my bench, I’ll see if I can’t replace the rotting head on the screw. I’ve ordered a 1 1/2″ threading tap and die set, so if I totally botch this job I can just chuck it and make my own screw. But since I have this one (which is just over 2″), I may as well see if I can make it work. So here’s what I have to work with, the “before” shot:

Pretty rough stuff there. So the first thing to do was to trim the head down to the diameter of the main shaft. I sharpened my newly-acquired hatchet and took to it.

Whip out the trusty drawknife, and with some creative planing stopping I manage to produce something roughly cylindrical and close to the right diameter.

Now I’m not sure if I need to cut any of the top of the head off. I think the shaft will be tenoned and pinned into the new head, but I’m not sure yet about dimensions. But I thought that that hole would be a liability; I don’t think I want to use the current hole as is, even if there is a little bit of new wood around it. So I decided I will put the new hole in perpendicular to the old one. But first, to fill that hole. So I got some of the wood I recently found in our neighborhood, and with hatchet and drawknife got an okay-dimensioned peg to fill that hole. I put the grain perpendicular to the direction of the new hole; seemed better that way.

After the glue dried, I trimmed the peg and it looks like a decent enough fit! Next I’ll laminate the block for the new head. I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m having fun!

When we first went back to the States in September 2009 for our 4-month visit, I had three goals. They were:

  • Go to the Canton First Monday Trade Days
  • Attend one of Roy Underhill’s classes at the Woodwright’s School in North Carolina
  • Pop in on some fellow woodworkers’ shops to see what they’re doing and to try new things

Well, two out of three ain’t bad. I did go to the Canton flea market, and blogged about my sole find there. And I did get to visit the shops of two fellow woodworkers, one of whom gifted me with a fine bevel gauge and a few lengths of wood for turning. But the class with St. Roy never panned out. His Fall class schedule never materialized, and he didn’t begin classes until the week after we left the States. Next time!

But I was able to do a little woodturning for the very first time. My buddy (and brand-new [again] father) Zac was gracious enough to show me around his mini lathe. But only until he turned it on – then he handed me a roughing gouge and said, “Alright, go for it!”

After putzin’ around on a scrap blank, I was ready to give it a shot with a “real” piece of wood. I turned a bottle stopper out of olive wood, and as you can see in the picture below, I was pretty conservative and not too adventurous. A week or two later, I turned a couple more as Christmas presents for my mom and dad. The other stopper in the picture below was a cocobolo one that I did and was pretty happy with. At the bottom is another shot of just that stopper, showing the back side of it. What a beautiful wood, and what a great experience!

I also worked on a handle for my firmer chisel I picked up at that flea market. I wish I’d brought along my grandpa’s calipers because I would have gotten closer to the finished dimensions. The galoot who gave me this wood thought it was from a sweet gum tree but then thought that maybe it could be maple. Anyone out there have a hunch? Might be too hard to tell just from this pic. Anyway, I hope to finish this up someday! I do have a brass ring for the top.

And lastly, the obligatory lathe shot:

Okay, so I’ve decided to sign up for The Sawdust Chronicles (TSDC) challenge to build a desk organizer. Never mind that this is a busy month for me, and that we’re moving on top of that.

So on Saturday I went to the lumberyard and looked for – um, lumber. I was looking for something that was under 3/4″ thick, but they didn’t have anything. However, they said they could rip some 1 1/4″ thick stock (is that 5/4? I’m still not up on all the lumber lingo), and then plane it down to 1/2″ for me. Sweet, done!

So here’s what I got. I estimate it’s about 7 board feet, including that little thin strip. The wood is all kapur, which is just about all that this lumberyard carries. I chose some slightly darker and redder stuff for that thin piece just to add some natural contrast.

TSDC Challenge - the stock

I pretty much have the entire thing planned out in my mind. And I’m surprised at how fun it is just to think about woodworking. I can stare at my sketch for a good 10 minutes or more, just thinking and tinkering with the plan. And when I’m not thinking about this organizer, I mentally build the Roubo.

Not sure when I’ll have time next to actually put tool to wood, since I’m going out of town this week. But of course, pics will follow once I do!

Over on LumberJocks, they’re having a Halloween Challenge and I thought that I’d enter. They’re giving away three prizes to randomly-selected entrants – the first prize is a $50 gift cert from Lee Valley. Anytime the prizes are given away randomly, instead of based on skill and craftsmanship, I’m all over that! But my wife didn’t particularly want me spending a lot of time in the shop merely for the chance at a $50 gift certificate for tools (and DEFINITELY not for a plane holster or a cap, she would say).

So she told me that she’d let me have $50 extra bucks for tools if, instead, I built a lego table for our kids. We’re expecting our third child in a few weeks, and once that little bugger starts crawling around, we’ll need to have those legos off the floor.

So I thought that was a pretty good deal. I downloaded Google Sketchup (my first time using it) and started planning the table. I based it off of this great project (a train table) by fellow LumberJock Joshua Sargent.

The table will be a multi-use table. The plywood panel will be covered with a 70×100 (centimeters) “car mat” – you know, a colorful very thin rug that has roads, buildings, etc. drawn on it. It’ll be removable if need be. I’ll then build a frame and panel “lid” which will seat onto the top. On one side, it will be a plain smooth surface for a homeschooling workspace (I’ll have to figure out the best way to fill the grain so it’ll be smooth). On the other, I’ll have a checkers/chessboard painted on one half, and on the other half…hmm, any ideas?

Below is the sketchup of the main part, minus the lid. You can see that it’s pretty much identical to Joshua’s table, except that I’ve joined the frame pieces with dovetail joints instead of screws. I think I’ll still need screws to attach the legs to the frame, unless you guys can think of another option.

Thanks for reading!

Lego Table - Sketchup Model

I’ve entered my step stool in a contest on SmartFlix (think NetFlix for DIYers). While I do believe in “May the best man win,” I’m no fool: all the other contestants are probably trying to get votes just like I am!

So how about it? Click on the link to go to the contest page. Thanks in advance for your vote!

Step Stool for My Kids

P.S. I plan to do a write-up on SmartFlix in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

A few weeks ago I shared about my problems resawing with a handsaw. Several people suggested various jigs, and more than one told me just to go buy a circular saw.

Well, I decided to try to give myself a nice long straight edge to guide the saw. Ended up getting more and more complex, until this is what I ended up with:

complex resaw setup

In the end, it didn’t do that great of a job. So I put off doing this until the day before I had to pack up all my tools. I figured it was now or never, so I just slapped a board in the vise and went to work. And boy, was it work!

simple resaw setup

That picture was taken just after I finished resawing those four boards you see on the bench. Next, I used my bit brace to create the mortises in the side rails, and then chiseled out the waste until the mortises were mostly rectangular. Then I slapped some glue in there and clamped it all together. Here’s the finished product, side by side with the original:

reverse engineering

It’s far from fine woodworking, but for something that will be under someone’s butt all the time and never in their field of vision, it should do the trick. And hey, I got some more mortise practice!

I saw this in a projects book recently and took a couple hours to knock it out. It was a very doable project for me, despite my lack of toolery. The head of the arrow is about 3/16″ or so larger than the hole. The entire project was done by hand – I think I used my ryoba saw, a chisel or two, a pocket knife and a rasp (oh yeah, and my bit brace, duh!). I was pleased with how cylindrical the shaft of the arrow is, considering it was purely done with a bench chisel!

The heart is kempas and the arrow is pine. FYI.

heart 1

heart 2

heart 3

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