Spring at Last, Spring at Last

The first day of spring can seem somewhat symbolic in Kansas City. The threat of ice storms loom through April and into May, and one day’s high can be 40 degrees different from the next. This year, we have a cold weekend ahead of us, but at least today was beautiful.

Winter couldn’t end soon enough for my taste. The bitter cold meant I missed more shop days than usual. I don’t want to dwell too much on the extreme and prolonged cold weather we’ve experienced in North America this winter. After all, I have a warm house to call home and can afford my heating bills. Someday, though, I’d like the chance to feel a sense of gratitude for an insulated workshop.

I’m usually comfortable at anything above freezing, especially when I’m planing or sawing. That doesn’t help when I need to glue up an assembly or apply a finish. So today, I was happy that my workshop was warm enough to glue up the panel I was preparing.

It really was kind of American Express to send me these fantastic glue spreaders.

It really was kind of American Express to send me these fantastic glue spreaders.

The panel is for the lid to my Anarchist’s tool chest. I’ve been slowly plodding along, a little at a time.

Confession time: I had two eight-inch wide boards I was jointing by hand and thicknessing by machine. I made the mistake this morning of running the second board through the thickness planer upside down, planing the surface I just jointed, thereby recreating the twist I had just removed and forcing me to joint the board a second time. Luckily, it’s poplar, and the jack plane makes quick work of it when sharp. I won’t make that mistake again! (Yeah, I probably will.)

We’ve been making some progress recently on David’s Dutch tool chest, too. Now that it’s getting warmer, he’s rediscovering his motivation.

David sawing a dado.

David sawing a dado.

My current goal is to get those two projects done and in use so I can get my workshop back in order and wrap up the dining room table I started last year. Bonny wants a table by Thanksgiving!

Speaking of Bonny, she has her own blog, now.


Well, That Didn’t Take Long

I hereby surrender to my son’s enthusiasm. I figured we’d wait until later in the year to team-build the Dutch tool chest to hold his kit, but considering I didn’t wait until the dining room table was built to begin my tool chest, I couldn’t exactly tell him no.

Who could look this guy in the eye and tell him not to build something?

Who could look this guy in the eye and tell him not to build something?

We spent Friday evening in the shop, picking out some reclaimed pine for his tool chest, and sawing it to rough length. I step in when he wears himself out, but for the most part I let him run with it.

Measuring and making

Measuring and marking

Saturday morning, he and I were back out in the shop before 7 AM. While he sawed more boards to length, I sharpened the iron on the jack plane I picked up for him last month. He took to planing with the same enthusiasm he showed for sawing.

Go, Speed Racer!

Go, Speed Racer!

After lunch, he was on to other interests, such as playing Minecraft. That gave me time to work on my tool chest. Sunday morning I got my final panel glued up, and then shifted to leveling joints and squaring up end grain.

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Anarchy Now! (Dutch Constitutional Monarchy Later.)

This month I’m (finally!) building an Anarchist’s Tool Chest. With my thickness planer on the DL (more about that in a minute), I’m getting plenty of practice planing boards to thickness by hand. It’s an enjoyable task with the poplar I’m using for this project.

Planing poplar to thickness.

Planing poplar to thickness.

I have three sides glued together, and I’m halfway through jointing boards for the fourth side. Working in ninety-minute increments, it seems like it’s coming together in slow motion.

Panels of experts agree.

Panels of experts agree.

I’m looking forward to the dovetails, now that my workbench is complete. I think I needed a dovetailing project to remind me why I wanted a shoulder vise in the first place. The shoulder vise gets in the way when I’m jointing a long board. I may saw it off someday, but I’ll try living with it a while longer.

It's not the shoulder that hurts.

It’s not the shoulder that hurts.

If I had it to do over, I’d build a Roubo workbench with a Moxon dovetail vise as an accessory. Don’t get me wrong, my workbench is rock-solid and hella-useful, but all the cool kids have Roubos and Moxons, and my Klausz is behind the times.

Later this year, my ten-year-old son David and I are planning to team-build a Dutch tool chest. His tool kit is outgrowing the tool tote we built last year, and the lack of protection from dust is problematic.

Before the October 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine hit the newsstand, David and I sat down with my copy of Jim Tolpin’s “The Toolbox Book” and some photos from Chris Schwarz’s blog to come up with a measured drawing for this chest. (I’ll be interested to see how close we got to Chris’s plan. I’m pretty sure I misjudged the angle of the top.) I have some white pine stashed away for the project.

Do You speak Dutch?

Do You speak Dutch?

What’s that? Oh, yeah, my thickness planer. I fired it up last week, and it started making the same rattling sound that preceded its last injury. My dad was over for dinner on Sunday, and while we nursed our second round of Boulevard Single-Wide IPA, we took another look at the planer. It turns out the cutterhead pulley had worn out, so that it didn’t fit snugly on the shaft. The resulting vibration and friction caused excessive heat, which caused the thread locker to fail on the nut holding the pulley in place. This is apparently the root cause of the last failure.

Machines fail.

Machines fail.

The pulley is inexpensive, so eventually I’ll make it out to the Service Center for a replacement. I might as well replace the brushes while I’m at it. You see? Machines are made to break down.

Sold: Gleave No. 8 hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow. Oldham St. Manchester. The nearly 2″ iron is also stamped Gleave on the tang. After I purchased my half set last fall, this was my one duplicate. Messrs. S. Forster and M. Loughlin called this plane theirs. Call it yours for $25.

Well, not sold, exactly. I decided to set this tool aside for my son, whose interest in woodworking has been growing steadily.

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

Gleave No. 8 Hollow

A Side Order of Shavings

I want to finish up plinth blocks soon, but meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the gift-giving season. I always seem to enjoy the holidays more when I make gifts.

One of my holiday side projects is a shavehorse, following the design so generously shared by Pete Galbert. David and I have been talking about building one for months now, once we finish some other projects. He’s been anxious for it, though, so I decided to sneak it in as a Christmas gift for him. It’ll give us some flexibility, letting him work on his projects while I work on mine. (He is, after all, a prolific maker of magic wands.)


David is a big fan of Galbert’s “smarthead” design, but I think I’ll make the simpler dumbhead first and if he feels ambitious enough, we’ll retrofit it with a “smarthead” together.

Since I don’t own dedicated chairmaking tools, my first tasks were to make a tapered reamer and a matching rounder. This weekend I made the tapered reamer, following Jennie Alexander’s plan, with a turned stock and a saw blade as a scraper. Alexander’s writing is not the kind you can skim, but I appreciate the generosity with which it’s offered. Case in point: it took me hours to figure out that the scraper blade stuck out both sides of the conical stock. I couldn’t figure out why it mattered whether the blade was tapered in width!

I don’t claim to be anything more than a novice at wood turning, but I’m incredibly lucky to have my grandfather around as a coach. He rescued me last weekend when my rough and pitted tail center threatened to burn away my workpiece. Not only did he demonstrate how to grind the tip of my tail center to reduce the friction, he also sent me home with a cup center that fit this project perfectly. The man is a treasure.

While dialing in the fit of the handle to the stock, I was reminded of why I’m doing this in the first place. We need a shavehorse! (Hopefully David won’t mind sharing his once in a while.) I plan to make it adjustable so he can continue to use it as he grows.

With the stock and handle of the reamer ready, I cut out the scraper blade and sharpened it with a 45 degree bevel and a burr.

my tapered reamer

Next up is a rounder with the corresponding taper, and then it’s time to make the shavehorse. Who knows? Maybe there will be some chairmaking in my future.

A Great Day for Woodworking

Sunday turned out to be a great day in the workshop.

David and I kicked off the day by cleaning up our workshop and getting things rearranged. He’s a great little apprentice. After he cleaned up his piles, I set him up with the push broom while I moved my drill press and sharpening station farther back and moved this rolling cart closer to the workbench. I filled it with planes, liberating my workbench.

rolling cart

I built the cart originally as a rolling base for an intermediate tool cabinet, but earlier this year I inherited my stepfather’s rolling tool chest, leaving this stand floating around without a purpose. The machinist’s chest belonged to my great-grandfather. Maybe someday I’ll get around to restoring it.

I can’t claim that this cart is an efficient storage solution, but it’s better than my workbench. Eventually I plan to build my own Anarchist’s Tool Chest, ditching both the rolling cart and the metal cabinet I use as a sharpening station. The wooden planes store so much more compactly on end, and these shelves are leaving a lot of wasted space.

The metal cabinet is a decent surface for my sharpening stones (I’m an oilstone guy), but the drawer and cabinet below are mostly opportunities for clutter. once I have a proper tool chest, I’ll store my oilstones there and ditch the cabinet. I’ll make some kind of tray to place on my workbench to keep it clean when I sharpen.

sharpening station

With a clean workbench, it was time to plane the core for my tail vise. I got it planed four square at 2-3/4″ thick, only to realize my plan was wrong, and it needed to be 2-7/16″ thick, meaning I needed to waste more than 1/4″ of hard maple. After a workout with my rip saw, I got it four square again. Good practice, I guess.

All of that practice reminded me how much I’m going to appreciate my tail vise, and also how much I need a saw bench. Luckily, while I was getting all of this practice, David was making our “someday maybe list” of projects, and he made sure to add a saw bench.

At some point after planing the end grain for one end of my vise core, I got sidetracked putting my miter box back together (I’m pretty sure it was when I measured the workpiece and found I had 1/4″ to trim from it). This led to dragging sawhorses from storage, using a circular saw to cut a 4″ wide piece of 1/2″ plywood for the table of the miter box, and remembering why I like hand tools in the first place: fine dust particles. Hand tools don’t make them. And, aside from the circular saw, the loudest noise in my shop today was the box fan in the window.

my miter box

Hooray for the miter box! Soon I need to make a platform for it with a cleat, so it doesn’t wander across the workbench while I’m sawing.

After dinner, I got a chance to meet up with Greg, who had some cool Stanley bevel-edge socket chisels set aside for me. The backs of the chisels flattened pretty nicely, and they look right at home in the tool cabinet.


It was one of those fine, rare days when I get to lose myself in the work. And yes, I forgot to eat lunch.