Project, Shop

Hand Plane Till

My till holds my full inventory of planes with a little room for new acquisitions.

My hand plane till is finally done!  It looks great hanging on the wall, and fulfills my requirement to hold my full inventory of planes while still providing some space for future acquisitions.  The basic look of the piece is inspired by a till that I saw in an old issue of Fine Woodworking magazine, but I made significant changes to the joinery and tool holding details.  

The cabinet itself is a fairly simple design:  it’s a dovetailed cherry box with a single horizontal divider dadoed into the case sides.  The top section has a piece of cherry plywood to hold bench planes, while the small bottom section is left open as a general storage shelf.  The cherry plywood is housed in dados on all four sides that recline it at a slight angle.  Strips of solid cherry on the plywood surface act as dividers.  I attached the dividers with only screws, just in case I ever want to reconfigure the cabinet.  Realistically, I’ll probably never do this, but it makes me feel better knowing that I have that option.

The cabinet is dovetailed for strength.

One of my most important criteria for this hand plane till was compactness.  I’ve seen similar wall-hung tills that store hand planes on a reclined surface using gravity alone to hold them in place.  That’s a convenient method because it’s easy for the user to remove and replace the planes.  A quick calculation using the Pythagorean Theorem, however, will show you their biggest drawback:  in order to use gravity as the primary means of holding the tools in place, the surface needs to be reclined at a significant angle, making the whole cabinet stick too far out from the wall.  My cabinet is only five inches deep, and I was able to achieve that by reclining the storage surface a measly five degrees.

Since my planes are resting at such a steep angle in this till, I wanted some additional insurance to hold everything in place.  I decided on a two-prong approach: I keep the heel of each plane from sliding off the divider it rests upon with a wooden clip, and I hold the toe of the plane tight to the surface with an embedded rare Earth magnet.  My block plane is small enough that the wooden clip isn’t needed.  Magnets aren’t effective on bronze, so I used a wooden spinner at the toe of my smoothing plane, instead.

So far, so good.  My tool holding strategy makes it easy to access the planes, but holds them securely when they’re in the cabinet.  I wish I had built this till years ago; it makes working in the shop just a little bit more enjoyable!

The bench planes are held with a wooden clip at the heel and an embedded rare Earth magnet at the toe.

Since a magnet won't hold a bronze plane, I made some support blocks for the heel, and a spinner to hold the toe.

Shop, Project

Sawbench - Part 3 (Final)

The finished sawbench.

We’re in the home stretch now!

Since I had the top boards ready-to-go, I started the glue-up.  Each board is held in place by two half-lap joints on the top of the legs.  The short cross rails that hold the base together created a platform to support the top boards across their width.  Gluing up these joints was straightforward; I just needed to ensure that the half lap joints were closed tight and that the top boards were sitting flat on the rails.

Gluing the top boards to the legs.

Boring the holes for the dowels.

I wanted some insurance on all of these half laps since the sawbench will be treated roughly over its lifetime.  So, I decided to peg all the joints with dowels.  I used an auger bit to bore out two holes in each joint.  The auger bit leaves a perfectly-sized hole with no tear out.  I cut the pegs from a 3/8” cherry dowel rod, added a little glue, and tapped them home with a hammer.  I left the dowels extra long until the glue dried and then I trimmed them flush.

Cutting down a 3/8" cherry dowel rod.  I tapered each dowel slightly with a chisel to make it easier to drive it into the joint.

The dowels are glued into the joint to peg it in place.  Notice also that the surfaces have not been flushed up around the joint yet.

Glamour shot #1

Glamour shot #2

The final surface prep was easy.  I used a block plane to flush up all the surfaces around the joints, and I applied two coats of Tried and True Original Wood Finish.  Once the finish dried, the sawbench was ready to work!  This was a fun project to build, and it’s a useful tool to have in the shop.

Shop, Project

Sawbench - Part 2

Final assembly of of the sawbench base.

With the stretchers complete, I turned my attention to the half-lap joints that connect the base to the top.  The top of the sawbench is made from two separate boards spaced apart to allow for a ripping notch.  I wanted to use hardwood for the top of the sawbench since it will have to withstand a fair amount of abuse, so I dug out an old off-cut of sappy cherry.  After I milled down the two top boards, I was able to set my marking gauge off of them, layout the half lap joinery on the top of the legs, and cut the joints using the same methods I outlined in my previous post.

All four legs are cut to join with the top boards.

Smoothing knotty material isn't much fun.

At this point, I had a decision to make.  My brain was in full-on joinery mode and I wanted to charge ahead and cut the corresponding notches on the top boards to complete the leg-to-top half laps.  The spacing on those notches was critical, however, because there’s no slop in the joints.  If I didn’t have the stretchers dry-fit perfectly when I laid out and cut the notches in the top boards, I’d be sunk after I glued up the base.  So, I decided to take a step back and glue up the stretchers and legs to lock in that spacing.  I ran my smoothing plane over all the parts before the glue-up, which wasn’t nearly as fun as it looks in the picture.  The construction grade lumber that I used for the base was filled with knots, which turned a simple task into a frustrating one.  There’s some tear-out on the legs, but this is just a sawbench, so I reached a point where the surfaces were good enough.  I glued up the stretchers and legs and was ready to confidently lay out and cut the notches on the top boards. 

Gluing the stretchers to the legs yields two trestle sub-assemblies.

Finishing up the top boards was straightforward: I cut the birds mouth and smoothed out the cuts with a block plane. Planing that end grain was a pleasure after working with the construction-grade stock earlier.  Finally, I cleaned up both boards with my smoothing plane.

Two boards of sappy cherry serve as the top of the sawbench.

Planing the end grain of the birds mouth on the top boards.

The top boards ready for glue-up.

I completed the assembly of the base by attaching the trestle sub-assemblies together with two short rails.  These rails have half laps cut into their ends, but I didn’t cut mating notches in the legs to avoid weakening the attachment point for the top boards.  I also decided not to glue these two rails on; they are attached with screws only.  This makes iteasier to partially disassemble the bench if repairs are ever needed.  Honestly, though, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever need to do that.  Time will tell if that was a good decision or not.  In the third and final installment of this build series, I’ll attach the top, peg all the joints, flush up all the mating surfaces, and apply a finish!

Shop, Project

Sawbench - Part 1

The sawbench is an exercise in half lap joints, which are easy and fun to cut with hand tools.

Breaking down rough stock causes logistical issues in most shops.  I don’t care if you use a jigsaw, a circular saw, a hand saw, or your teeth to break your project parts down to rough dimensions, you need a low, wide, and sturdy sawbench to support those heavy timbers.  Recently, I built a sawbench based on Tom Fidgen’s design.  I needed a wide platform at a height that allows me to hold the stock in place with my knee while cutting.  A bird’s mouth on one end and a ripping notch down the middle are additional nice-to-have features.

Shop projects are a great way to use up scrap lumber, so I dug around and found some scrap pieces of 2x4 and 2x3 for the base.  Unfortunately, I had used up most of my “good looking” construction scrap when I built the laminated wood top for my sharpening station, so I was stuck with some pretty gnarly boards in this case. Thankfully, they looked much better after I flattened, squared, and milled them down.  My goal was to maintain as much width and thickness as possible.  I’m not sure what the final dimensions of the base components ended up being, but it doesn’t matter because there’s no impact to the functionality of the sawbench.

These gnarly paint-splattered 2x4 and 2x3 scraps will become the base of my sawbench.

They looked a lot better after I milled them down.

Building this sawbench was an exercise in half lap joinery.  Half laps are easy, fun, and fast to cut with hand tools, so that’s how I cut all of mine.  I also think that Battleship is a great movie, however, so that automatically calls into question my other personal preferences (or so I’ve been told).  At any rate, you could also cut these joints on the table saw with a dado blade, but I’ve found it difficult to get a nice consistently tight fit using that method; I find the setup fussy.

Saw the shoulder of the half lap joint...

...and split off the bulk of the waste.

I started by cutting the shoulders on the two long stretchers.  These pieces are small enough that I could have just cut the cheeks with a tenon saw, but I really wanted to try splitting out the waste.  I’d never tried this method before, so it was a bit of a learning experience.  I used a chisel and a mallet and worked my way across the end grain, taking half of the waste with each pass.  Grain direction is key when splitting out the waste, so I took extra care when the grain wasn’t running perfectly straight.  Once I removed as much waste as I dared, I shaved the remaining material down close to my layout lines with the chisel and finished it off with the router plane.

I used a chisel to get close to my knife lines.

The router plane made everything flat and consistent.

Chopping out the waste in the leg to receive the stretcher.

With the stretchers completed, I laid out the mating joints on the legs with a marking knife, sawed the shoulders, and chopped out the waste.  Notice in the lead picture of this post that I purposely left the stretcher slightly proud and long.  This allowed me to plane everything flush after glue-up.

With the four half laps joining the stretchers and legs dry-fitted, I had two complete trestle sub-assemblies ready to go.  In the next post, I’ll cut the remaining joinery and assemble the base.  Stay tuned!


Stickley Tabouret - Part 5 (Final)

The tabouret in its final resting place, patiently awaiting the first of many Dr Peppers that will rest upon its surface.

Finishing the tabouret was straightforward.  I applied three coats of a wiping varnish to the piece, sanding lightly between coats.  After the final coat dried, I took a piece of 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and dragged it lightly across the surface once in each direction.  I didn’t apply any pressure to the sandpaper when I did this, I just let the paper do the work.  This process gave me a smooth final finish by gently knocking down any dust nibs that may have formed in the topcoat.

Two screws aligned with the grain are enough to hold the top in place.

I attached the top to the base with two countersunk #8 screws in the top stretcher that runs with the grain.  My original plan was to include two additional screws countersunk in slots in the stretcher running across the grain; the slots would allow for wood movement.  In the end, however, I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.  In a table this small, the only reason to include the two additional screws would be an attempt hold the top flat.  But, since the base of the table is so lightweight, if the top wanted to cup it would most likely wrack the base out of square, causing the whole table to wobble like a drunken sailor.  Therefore, I stuck with just the two screws.  This method allows the top to expand and contract freely and if it were to cup (which I don’t believe it will), the base would remain square.