I haven’t hand cut dovetails in a long while, but I have in the past and have a big project coming up that will require a lot of them. My front vise is useful, but not great at clamping wide boards. I bought a bunch of hardware from mcmaster carr before we moved to make my own. In digging around I found it again and decided to restart that project. This is 2+ year old hardware finally getting to see its use.
I thought I had a piece of maple saved for this, but I think I turned it into a wedding present. Not sure where this sample came from. It looks a bit like oak, but is very light. I don’t remember buying ash or white oak, but it has that kind of grain structure. Oh well, let’s get cutting. I ripped this piece in half and cut down a shorter piece to act as the front of the vise.
The hardware is a 3/4″ acme screw, a few nuts and a set of generic hand wheels that fit on the shafts. The hand wheels have set screws to keep them in place, so I ground flats on the threaded shafts to give them good purchase.
To hold this vice to my bench I cut down the sides to make it easier for clamps to get in there and hold. That will let me set this up on my bench at any spot that is convenient.
The shaft slides through the front and the back half of the vise. To have it clamp I will need to fix the nuts somehow. I took the spare cutoff from the front vise and set the nuts in to capture them. I traced the nut edges, used a forstner bit for the center area, and then chopped the rest with a chisel.
With the nut blocks screwed on, I covered everything in boiled linseed oil and then moved on to installing leather. Hide glue makes an excellent glue for leather to wood so I rough cut pieces, smeared on a thin layer of hide glue, then clamped the assembly hard to make sure the pieces dried flat.
Once the glue was set I trimmed the spare leather and leveled the top. It fits well across the end of my bench and is wide enough to hold an 18 inch board. That should keep me covered. When not in use, it can go on a shelf and be out of the way.
I have been using a lot more curves in my work and have been reaching for various devices to help draw those curves. I made a small drawing bow out of maple a while back and I use it pretty often. Lee Valley sent out an advertisement in one of their emails about a fiberglass drawing bow. They were good looking tools, but quite expensive. I thought I could do the same for cheaper.
I started with some fiberglass reinforced plastic. This can go by various names. G10, FR4, Garolite and others. A 1″ wide, 1/8″ thick, 4 foot long piece was 6 bucks from McMaster-Carr. Their shipping is aggressive and expensive, but if you buy a decent pile of stuff, it still comes out to be very affordable. I bought 3 of them.
Lee Valley uses nylon webbing to hold the shape. I had some, but it was 1″ wide also. Something narrower would be nice. I didn’t want to buy anything else, and I didn’t have a good way to attach the webbing to the G10. I went with paracord instead. Not exactly fancy, but it got the job done and I have scads of the stuff around. I drilled a hole and relieved the edge to make sure the paracord stays in place.
The paracord is really slippery and doesn’t like to hold well with typical adjustable knots like the taught line hitch. I printed this little 3 hole tensioner to help with adjusting the bow. Later ones I just used a single hole. It seems to hold well and allows for faster adjustment.
In all I made a 4, 3, and 2 foot drawing bow. This stuff is stiff enough you wouldn’t want to go much shorter, it just doesn’t offer enough curvature. The smallest bow could go tighter if you wanted to, but not a ton. I will need to find thinner or more flexible material if I want to do really tight curves. These make nice subtle shapes and will probably last a lifetime. Go make some!
My first wee walker was pretty popular with kids of the co-worker I gave it two and didn’t need any revisions after the second version. I wanted one for us, and I had two co-workers that were having kids soon. That calls for a batch run!
The MDF templates I made earlier came in handy. I could use them to do rough dimensioning of the plywood, and it let me efficiently nest parts together in some cases. I didn’t use them on the router table, but opted to free hand cut everything on the bandsaw. I was going to have to bandsaw the basic shape anyways, so all it took was a little extra care to cut up to the line. Power sanders took care of the rest. These aren’t very complex shapes.
Cutting wheels this big is kind of a pain. A 4 inch hole saw requires a lot of torque, and getting the sawdust out cleanly on 3/4″ plywood means constantly pulling the bit out and cleaning it. I might 3D print the wheels next time. 30% infill ought to be kid proof right?
I changed up the paint scheme a little from last time, adding black to the wheels and a stripe of black on the sides. I left the handles bare wood. This looks pretty nice on them, and isn’t too much work.
Everything is coming together with roundovers and pilot holes being drilled.
This round of building went well, with only a few minor errors. I made the holding area a lot deeper front to back, and that might be a mistake. It had the arms really close to the wheels, and might lead to kids kicking the back plate when walking. I don’t think it will be a major issue, but will want to have a shorter storage area in the next version. I’ll have to start calling myself kilted santa’s workshop.
A lot of folks have shown how to make an end grain cutting board. I am not going to add a whole documented build to the pile. I will add one flattening tip to help save time and make a better product. A friend of mine is getting married, so that calls for a wedding present. What better device to induce marital bliss and/or arguments than a cooking implement? I would make him a vacuum if I could.
Enter some cherry from previous wedding presents and maple from the stash. I always clamp my cutting boards down to a piece of flat plywood with wax paper below. That keeps the bottoms good and flat for the next phase. That oak beam in the center is my clamp caul.
This one has a ton of squeezeout, but I put packing tape on my clamp cauls, so all is well. The problem: How to deal with all the squeezeout, and what do we do about the uneven top? Run it through the planer! That causes blowout at the back end. I selected the better looking sections for the gift, and used the spares to make a small board for myself. I ran it through the planer as-is to demonstrate the problem.
Lots of pieces of wood get chipped off at the end because the grain runs up and down and is unsupported. This is with a helical cutter head using very light passes. That is a best case scenario normally. It can often be much worse. Why do this at all? Well you get really fantastically flat tops in a hurry when you use the planer.
Tricky, so what do we do? Take a block plane and cut a little chamfer on the trailing edge that will be exiting the planer. Or both entrance and trailing edges so you don’t get mixed up. The cutter will be shearing off the last bits of fiber, but the chamfer will mean that happens a little ways back from the bitter edge. Here is the edge I put on the big board, it isn’t big. Just a 1/16″ chamfer. The results from heavy cuts are no blowout and a very clean flat top!
If you don’t have a block plane, I bet a sanding block would do it too. That means you can plane the top flat quickly and without risk of end blowout. Just make sure you don’t plane through your chamfer. I shipped the big one out fast enough I forgot to take a picture, but here is the little one after a number of uses in my kitchen.
I have a number of sharp and dangerous objects lying around my office. My intention was to eventually get them mounted up on the wall in nice displays. The prospect of tiny hands getting a hold of them moves that up in the priority list.
First up is my kukri. I rehabbed it many moons ago with a friend and have been sitting on it ever since. I found a thick piece of mahogany I bought years ago for a project idea, but never ended up executing on. This is my first time working with it, and a low risk project like this is a good place to start. It is really hard stuff, but look great when you get a good hand plane across it. I re-sawed the piece to save material because this stuff is quite expensive.
The back of the plaque was cut to size, had some shapes cut out at the corners, then got a round over to smooth everything out.
To hold the knife in place, I used some blocks of the mahogany and shaped notches with a hand saw, then rasp. When I was sure they would fit in place, I did a lot of sanding to round over the outside to make them look nice.
I experimented with dye to darken up the mahogany a little. Not too much, but I wanted it to be closer to the aged handle than any oil based finish would give. When I got the color I wanted I hit it with some shellac and called the project finished.
Next on the list was my bow and arrows. They had been sitting in a floor stand I made for quick access. I honestly hadn’t really done any shooting since we moved, so this could probably be put up on the wall without any inconvenience. Here is what the final piece looks like so you can see where we are going. I don’t use many stains anymore, but I think red oak stains wonderfully!
I had an image of this one in my head for a while and really wanted to do half lap joints to hold everything together, and have a lot of shape in the center. I laid out the curves and cut everything on the bandsaw.
The spear point tip was another thing I had a pretty strong vision of. It came off the saw a little lopsided, but I was able to sand it into a respectable shape.
For the half laps I tried something new. In the past I would just cut them by hand 100%. I decided to try and be a hybrid woodworker. I hogged away most of the waist with my little trim router, then use a chisel to take it up to the line. It does make for a very smooth straight cheek.
My experience doing this trick with the other half of the joint was less stellar. The bit would keep grabbing and bouncing around and I went through a lot of batteries. The top left slot in the left hand picture shows where I started with the router, then just ran out of batteries. I had already defined the edges with a saw. I took a chisel, and in about 20 seconds cleared out 80% of the waste. I then went back with a new battery and cleaned up the bottom (right hand picture). That was way easier. Trim routers can’t hog out a ton of material, but they do great at cleaning up the last little bit. lesson learned.
Here is the un-assembled shot of everything. I did a little trimming with a block and shoulder plane to make everything snug. The final joints look pretty tight on the outside, I am proud of them. I cut the tennon parts a little long and planed them flush when the glue was dried.
To hold the bow in place I did a little more carving and shaping on some oak blocks.
I didn’t do any edge rounding on this one. I wanted it to look reasonably refined, but still a little rustic. Like it might be something an old armory would use to hold a bow that was always needed at the ready.
Last but not least I made a big double bladed ax for my armor costume. This was probably back in 2010 or so. It has been moved around and mostly lived in closets. Now, it gets to live next to my shield on the wall. Putting this one together was so fast I got it up on the wall before I remembered to take the first picture. Oops!
Our Little Bushey South sign has been sitting proudly on the mantle since we moved in. I got something to add to it recently. My wife’s family had a small cutting of a fence post from the Little Bushey farm. It isn’t in great shape, but it is a family wood from her side.
I wanted to use this in a way that was special. My idea was to drill out some plugs from the post wood and inlay it into the sign. I cut a chunk off to make it easier to clamp, drilled the plugs, then diced them out on the bandsaw.
I thought 3 plugs to represent the 3 of us living in the house would be a good way to go. I kept an extra plug in case any more little Hansels come along. The walnut sign was really hard, and the post wood is really soft and porous. It made planing everything flush very hard. There is a little bit of crushing in the end grain of the plugs, but that was the best I could do.
Everything got a few coats of spray lacquer to blend the finish back together. The post wood is a lot darker than I expected once the finish went down. It is a subtle accent when viewed from afar, but I can always see it and know what it means. I saved the rest of the post wood in case another idea comes to mind.
A woodworking magazine of mine had a good article on making your own awls. You start with O1 hardenable steel rod, grind to shape, fire and quench. The handles are made on a lathe. This sounds like a mini knife making project and something I would benefit from. I am always using awls to mark wood for screwing or drilling and was looking into buying more. At 10 bucks for a 3ft rod of the steel, these are super cheap and easy to make.
I started with 1/8″ O1 drill rod. This was fine, but in the future I would go with a 3/16″ or maybe 1/4″. I chucked them up in the drill and freehanded a point with the bench grinder. A mapp gas torch was potent enough to get them past a magnetic point (hot enough to quench properly) and into a small jar of canola oil they went. I threw them in to an oven at 400F for an hour to temper, then eventually sanded and buffed off the scale.
I like working on the lathe, but often find that order of operations is absolutely critical. If I go in just doing the first thing that comes to mind, I wind up in a place where I can’t clamp something properly or the part is out of center. My first attempt or two painted me into a corner.
I settled on this order of operations. Mark center (wouldn’t an awl be nice right about now?) for the tail stock to hold, then chuck up a square blank at the head. Drill the 1/8″ hole for the awl to fit in (picture missing). Put a center point in that hole, and round everything down and make the shape as close to final as possible while leaving a little attached towards the head stock. Now is a good time to do all the sanding. Once that is done you can part the last bit off and it will be free. There is always a little nub that needs sanding at the butt end.
With the metal and handles done I used structural epoxy to bond them and then a series of dips in home made shellac to finish the handles. Many coats later and they were ready to give out. I now have one at my lathe, another at the drill press, and a few more for my bench. Don’t leave home without these beauties!
I have been making good use of my new router table. It was already very capable with a flat surface and adjustable fence, but there is always room for improvement. I am going to trick it out with a few printed accessories.
I have seen dust collector chutes that sit at the end of the table and suck up dust from dado cuts. I have a big enough table that I can do some pretty wide cuts before needing to break out the handheld router. First up, here is what the critter looks like. It sits at the end of the router table and collects the dust that blows out from the slot you are cutting when doing dado work.
I made a housing with a groove around the edges that would accept some brush material from a door sweep. It turns out if you remove the brush material it comes crimped in a little metal frame. That can be cut with a heavy pair of diagonal cutters. Doing that pinches off brushes so that nothing falls out. I cut up 3 segments and glued them into the housing.
To hold it down to the table I printed a bracket with alignment features and slotted screw holes. Now the dust chute can be raised and lowered or removed. The brushes will help catch dust, but won’t interfere with a board passing over the table’s edge. It certainly isn’t an accessory I will use every day, but it was a fun build and will come in handy from time to time.
An accessory that will see far more use is a pair of rolling stock guides. They are based off a design that Jessem sells. Theirs are made of metal and the wheels don’t allow kickback. I think my version is good enough given the price difference. I found a pack of cheap rubber wheels for luggage. There is an infeed and outfeed version with the wheels angled slightly towards the fence. They can adjust to accept thin or thick stock.
I needed a few small knobs for this job and experimented with using coupling nuts. The tall nuts give a lot of surface for the printed part to bear against. I tried tightening one against a vice, and couldn’t twist it hard enough to break it by hand. I will be making more of these in the future!
Here is a quick animation of it in action. The guides keep it pressed down to the table and the angle of the wheels guides the board towards the fence. I purposefully started the board away from the fence to illustrate it being guided in.
Lastly, I spent a lot of time making sure everything on this router table was flat and precise. I want to be able to do precision joinery, and that requires fine adjustment. It can be frustrating when you are trying to fine tune in a joint and just need a little nudge out of the fence. These little jigs will secure down via the T-track on the table and run a fine screw up against the fence.
The front of the screw has a ball bearing glued into a coupling nut. This means that the fence is only touched by the very tip of a hard bearing. When you rotate the screw it is a consistent touch point centered on the axis of rotation. The bottom of the jig has rubber bumpers so it doesn’t slide around on the slick table top. The shaft is a 10-32 screw. That means every rotation is 1/32″ of an inch. The mounting block uses another coupling nut and the handle is just threaded plastic. With one of these on either side of the table you can square the fence, or move it in very carefully prescribed movements. 1/8 of a turn of both handles will adjust the fence by about the thickness of a sheet of paper!
I built a new drill press table when I dropped my press before the move. It was a good table for how quickly I turned it around with what I had on hand. There are a few issues though. I made it small because my last one was too big and would collect junk storage. It is a little too small and stuff overhangs a lot. The 2.5″ insert is a lot smaller than many of the bits I use, which means the top has a lot of damage from my 4″ hole saw. More importantly though, the fence is unusable. I put the t-tracks right in line with the rotating handle. Every time you bring the press down it bonks on the fence knob. A few inches to the left or right and things would have been fine.
To start with, I had been fussing around with dust collection solutions on my drill press for ages. I finally broke down and bought some big locline hosing (blue and orange in the pictures below) and 3D printed an adapter to attach it to the back column. The adapter has passages for hose clamps to pass through it and clamp it securely. I had already wired in a switch at the front, so you just turn the vacuum on and start drilling.
With dust collection solved, I attached the first layer of the table top. The large hole in the center will let me reach up from underneath and pop out the top table’s insert. Notice the dust collection switch already attached at the bottom left.
Next I printed a template and routed out a square section for the inserts to go into. Previously I had a smaller insert. I found myself using the 3 and 4″ hole saw at the drill press often, and it damaged the tabletop outside of the insert area. This new one is 4.5″ wide. I cut a pile of inserts to make sure I wasn’t going to run out anytime soon. They got their corners and bottom edges rounded to fit in the cutout better and prevent dust in the corners from letting them sit properly.
Last but not least I made up a set of fences. I find myself rarely clamping to the fence, and often wishing it was very short. I made both a tall fence, that could have stop blocks clamped to it, as well as a flat fence. The t-track is far enough out on the table and the clamp knobs are short enough that the drill press handle shouldn’t ever be an issue.
I have been using my new router setup for a number of weeks now. The lift is fantastic, the top is a little wonky and too soft, and the fence is barely adequate. I am settled enough on some of my other projects and have spent some time thinking out how I want to build a final top and fence. So, let’s get building and address all the issues my first top created.
The first thing to fix is the cutout the router lift fits into. The radius required is a size of router bit I don’t have. My last attempt didn’t go well. This time, I have a good plan. First, I put the router lift down on a piece of hardboard and snugged up pieces of plywood next to it. I then glued and weighted the plywood to the hardboard so it would provide a very tight hold of the lift top plate.
That all made the edges fit snugly, so I know there won’t be any wiggle when I drop the router lift in. Next, to solve the radius problem I just 3D printed some corners that take up the extra space. Now, the router bit I have will follow the contour and there won’t be any gaps at the corners. I used thin CA glue to hold the printed corners in place.
With the cutout template finished I double sticky taped it down to a big piece of laminate faced plywood and got routing. The first pass hogged out the lip that the router lift will sit on. A jigsaw opened up the rest.
I checked the fit and it is wonderful. There is almost no slop, and the corners match the lift well.
I cut a piece of 3/4″ plywood to go under the laminate top to act as support. I sat the two pieces on my flat table saw top and went around with a straight edge and flashlight to check everything. I found some slight bows and used cawls to clamp everything flat, then slowly brad nailed everything together.
With everything tacked together I moved the top to the router base I built earlier. I found some slight dipping in the center, so I cut brass shims to bring the top back to flat when everything was screwed down. With the top in place, flat, and securely fastened, I added edge banding all the way around to help protect the laminate from getting chipped.
Next I wanted to add a number of t-tracks to the top for featherboads and to keep the fence in place. My router produces a ton of dust when doing a big cut and my fixed base porter cable 890 series doesn’t come with any collection port. A few iterations of printing got me this two piece design that I glued together. It goes in where the edge guide would normally plug in.
The start of the cut usually generates a lot of dust, but once the grooves got going the shroud did a good job picking up most of the dust. There probably aren’t any 100% solutions, but this does save a lot of mess. The grooves turned out well!
The top is nearly complete. I just need to do the final installation of the lift. First, I wanted to reinforce the places where the leveling set screws will land. The plywood is too soft, and I expect they will sink in with time. On my last top I used CA glue to shore up the area. This time I found some 1/16″ brass to line those areas. Once bonded, the leveling went quickly. All the effort I spent getting the table top level means the router lift plate can be perfectly flush all the way around. No catches or dips at the transitions.
With the table top finished, I was ready to move on to the fence. Having it clamp at the edges worked in my last fence adaptation, but the center tended to flex. That is the most important place to keep still, so I added the t-track in closer to the center to keep the fence stable near the bit. I cut out some 3/4″ plywood to act as a base an front face for the fence.
I put in knobs to clamp the fence down, and added spacers to move the height of the knob up. The fence is tall enough it needs a little boost to make it easier to reach.
I cut out laminate plywood sections to make movable fence faces. I set them against the front of the fence and marked the spots where a slot would need to start and top. I should have drilled out the ends of the slot and routed the middle. The full depth cut got a little squirley in places. Oh well, the fence faces open and close easily.
Now that I know where my hands will be going to tighten the fence and faces, I know where there is free space to add ribs. These triangular ribs will stabilize the fence front and keep it stiff. I just glued and nailed them in place.
To finish off the fence I cut a strip of laminate to go across the top of the moveable faces. It makes the total height 5 inches and holds a t-track that goes the whole length of the fence.
The fence is done, but it still doesn’t have any dust collection. I printed a duct section to screw down just behind where the router bit will be. This combined with the dust collection built into the cabinet means that very little dust will escape this unit.
That puts the final touches on the fence. While I was at it, I cut a hand full of extra moveable faces and screwed them to the back of the table cabinet as spares. I also cut a full length extra tall fence that moves the total height up to 6 inches.
These upgrades should make the whole router setup really clean and fast to operate. Combined with the base I built earlier I am all set on the router front and am ready to tackle a lot of new future projects!