Plinth Block Prototype

After spending all of Saturday morning on yard work, I escaped to our local woodworking store, Metro Hardwoods, who were celebrating their fifth anniversary. I’m really pleased to have a them so close, and the irony of a woodworking store located in a building once occupied by Pier 1 Imports just makes this place all the more special.

While I was there, I picked up a fine India gouge slip for sharpening my hollows and rounds, and so far it’s been a great investment. I got back to my workshop and started tuning up my No. 12 hollows and rounds. These are the planes I’ll need to make the plinth blocks for my current project.

Carpenter's Hatchet
As a warm-up project on Sunday, I put a new handle on my carpenter’s hatchet. It’s heavier than I expected.

The plinth blocks I’m reproducing for my current project seem fairly straight-forward: an ogee and a cove. However, the fact that these elements run across the grain makes for a surprisingly tricky situation. Instead of using my plow plane to make the grooves for the round to ride in, I used a backsaw and my router plane.


The piece I grabbed from the scrap pile was pretty ugly, but it presented some worst-case scenarios to consider. The big risk, I found, is that the grain blows out as you reach the far edge of the workpiece. To protect against blowout as I approach the profile, I’ve inscribed the profile along the far side. Working with very straight-grained wood will help, too.

To begin the convex side of the ogee, I began by striking a knife line at the far edge for a v-groove. My rabbet plane followed the scribed line to start, but I noticed the guide edge of the groove was becoming distorted. It turned out that the leading edge of the skewed iron has a crisp arris, which was scraping the opposite face of the groove. Using the rabbet leading edge up allowed the plane to track straight.


The concave and v-groove established, I moved on to the convex portion of the ogee. After fine-tuning the plane iron in my hollow, I found the convex a little easier to stick than the concave.


Starting with a prototype turned out to be a great way to shake out the challenges of this task.

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.

With a Little Help From My Friends

This was a hectic week with my wife out of town. I’m thankful for all the friends and family who helped keep us on track and kept us company. With all of that extra rushing around this week, a little shop time did me a lot of good tonight.

Tonight I took a step that was long overdue. I cut the rabbet for the tail vise in my workbench. I want to say my new workbench, but it’s been my new workbench for a few years now.

Just say cobbler’s children.

Now, though, I’m going to need that tail vise to hold the sticking board for the moulding. I’m also overdue for the shoulder vise and tool tray. Those are coming soon too.

Of course, a rabbet is an occasion for hand tools. I started with the rabbet plane in my gauge line. It was tricky at first, but I found that a more aggressive gauge line helped guide the rabbet plane. I was having a bit of trouble with the rabbet plane, and realized the sole needed jointing.

Here, my rabbet plane is getting a little help from a friend as well.


I switched to my moving fillester and found that it works very well, but the depth stop didn’t quite want to reach bottom.


After the rabbet plane got his sole straightened out, he was back to the rescue to finish out the rabbet.


If you’re thinking my tail vise is on the wrong side, you could be right (and wrong at the same time). It’s a left-handed workbench. Since then, I’ve discovered the benefit of learning to plane with either hand. Go figure.

Now the holes are marked for mounting the tail vise hardware, and that’s a good place to stop.

About Last Night…

Once again, I couldn’t sleep last night. I went from thinking about that harlequin set of hollows and rounds, to thinking about which tools were earning their keep in my shop. Finally, I hit upon it, the hull in the oatmeal: It was time to say goodbye to my 6″ jointer.

In August of last year, I made a conscious decision to focus on improving my hand tool skills, with the aim of reducing my dependence on machines. One of the first skills I chose to focus on was crosscut sawing, since my radial arm saw was taking up so much space. By the first of the year, I had let go of the radial arm saw. Along the way, I was continuing to practice other hand tool skills as well, particularly jointing by hand.

So last night, When midnight came and I couldn’t sleep, I cleaned off my jointer, photographed it, and posted advertisements, offering it for sale. It was scary, giving up that crutch, but liberating at the same time. Selling it will make room in my garage, and will free up some cash for future hand tool purchases.

My goal in the next eighteen months is to win back enough floor space for an Anarchist’ Tool Chest. It feels like I’m getting close. It’s time to start thinking about the machines I have left, their uses, and the possible alternatives. Stay tuned.

Dear 6-inch Jointer

What can I say? You had to see this coming, didn’t you? We just haven’t been spending much time together. I’m not even sure we have all that much in common anymore. I mean, yeah, I came to visit you last night, and I swept off all the dust and cobwebs, and you felt all pretty and new, and for a minute there, I remembered how good we were together.

But you don’t even acknowledge my friends. You know, all of those wide boards I brought home? It’s just so awkward when we’re all together.

Honestly, it’s not you; it’s me. I mean, I’m a different person now. You knew I’d been spending time with that jack plane, right? The one with the cambered iron? Well, I think we really could make a go of it. We want the same things. I just think maybe the plane and I are healthier together.

And really, I want you to be happy. You’re a good jointer. I know there’s someone out there in the world who will love just as much as you deserve.