Sharpening Station

Sharpening is one of those things that you know you should do often, but always gets put off.  It is often said 90% of your problems with hand tools can be fixed by proper sharpening.  I am getting better at free hand sharpening, and getting less lazy over time.  It is hard to always have some dedicated space to sharpening though.  I read an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine where someone suggested using a basic tool box plus custom top as a sharpening station.  It is portable to follow you around the shop, and has all the right stuff where you need it.  Instead of buying something I decided to stash bust and build one.

I have a ton of 3/4″ plywood around from my temporary kitchen counter tops, and some left over spares from the cabinet installation.  I turned them into a 16×16 open fronted box, along with a few drawers.

Given that the case and drawers would be short I didn’t want to use my normal method of attachment.  This typically involves building the drawer to just below the inside width of the box, and using pine as runners.  It is quick and easy, but the drawers fall out if you pull too far.  Instead I went with metal slides, and got to use my new drawer install tools.

I picked up a slide install tool and drawer guides from rockler.  They help a lot, but are a little awkward to use.  I wish I had do more research before buying.  I think kreg might have a better system.

Instead of using some kind of gripy surface to hold all the various plates and stones in place I went with a small vise.

On the left is a small work surface with bench dog clamps to help hold sharpening plates.  It is offset to the left to prevent drawer interference.  On the right is a small granite surface plate I had.  I added a protective cover to it eventually (seen in later photos).  Now I can use whatever method of hand sharpening best fits the situation of the tool.

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I built 3 sets of drawers to start with because it was all I thought I would need.  Then I found enough stuff to add a 4th drawer.  Once that was built and installed I found enough for a 5th.  I probably have too much sharpening junk.

The project ended up stretching out over a month as I worked on other things and came back with more ideas.  In that time I used a few different pieces of plywood for the front face of the drawers, so they don’t match well.  I did cook up a cool side caddy for honing fluids though.

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In all I think I am going to like it.  It rolls nicely, tucks away under one of my other benches that didn’t have a use for that space, holds a lot of stuff in the drawers, and even has space on the bottom shelf for my work sharp tool box and saw sharpening clamp.  The only thing it might need is weight in the bottom to help with stability.  Now I have no excuse not to sharpen early and often.

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Porch Fuel Organizer

The slow take-back of the porch continues.  With all the bunny stuff gone, I have to get things organized so we can maximize the available space.  I have grill stuff everywhere.  Three propane cylinders for the grill, outdoor cooker, and spares for hurricane season.  I put all my Traeger pellets into kingsford charcoal bins to keep them organized and from spilling all over the place.  This all needs a nice storage rack.

dsc_0561I was planning on using 1x4s to do a majority of the building, but found that the store was out of their basic grade boards.  Instead I noticed their furring strips.  1×4 with nicely rounded edges for about a 1.70 a piece.  The quality is terrible.  They are very light rough and soft pine.  Many were so bent and twisted you couldn’t even use them for boat building.  Still, with enough cherry picking I got some good boards and was able to keep my whole project cost to less than 15 bucks.

A few scraps of 2×4 made uprights for the two level contraption.  I set the width so that I could store the 3 propane tanks comfortably below with a few pellet bins on top.  Keeping the propane low seems like a good idea.  Less distance to fall.

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Short pickets run between the two frames to tie them together and give the propane tanks a stable surface to sit on.

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The top shelf could hold a lot of weight in pellets.  To help stiffen the two existing runs I wrapped a vertical boarder around the edge.  It added a lot of strength to the shelf, keeps the pellet bins from sliding off, and looks nice!

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Everything fits as intended, and I am ready to give it all a heavy coating of boiled linseed oil.  Never used this on an outdoor project, but it will live under cover on the porch, so it should work out.

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24 hours later the coating was nicely cured, and the wood took on a lovely golden yellow look.  I may have to use furring strips more often!  It looks good on the back porch and helped clean up a lot of space.  I wish I had gone a few inches wider though, I could have gotten another bucket of pellets up there.  Oh well, next time!

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Hardware and Sanding Drawers

I built a set of cabinets a little while back to help out the organization of my shop.  I initially built both with pilaster strips and intended them to be mostly shelving.  The one on the left would be best served with a few small drawers for sandpaper related items, but otherwise all shelves.

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It all started innocently.  Just a few shallow drawers for sandpaper and sanding blocks etc.  Then after those I figured I could store all the powered sanding sheets and belts.

Then a few boxes of nails needed a nice cozy home, my jig hardware would fit well there, and then before you know it, the entire cabinet is full of drawers.  It took me a few weeks to slowly build the drawers as I found items to fill them with.  The problem is that when I finally went to add finish to the drawers they were already half full!

For the drawers, I cut 1/2″ plywood for the drawer bottom, and then stacked more 1/2″ ply for the 4 sides of the drawer.  The sides got glue and brad nails through the bottom.  An oversized front was added later.  It could have saved space and probably been strong enough with 1/4″ ply on the bottom, but I had a lot of 1/2″ left over from the cabinet project, so I just kept going with that.  I rip 1×2″ pine in half to make runners.  The runners and sides got a rubdown of paste wax once the finish has had plenty of time to cure.

In retrospect I wish I had planned this all out from the beginning.  The drawer bottoms could have been thinner, and the layout could have been better.  Given that I slowly added drawers as I found a need for them, it is a hodge podge mix of sanding/finishing supplies and fasteners.  Preplanning would have had finishing on top, and hardware on the bottom.

Regardless of the haphazard nature of its creation, the final results look good.  It holds all my sanding supplies and the remainder of my hardware with plenty of room for future expansion.  Bronze card holders let you label everything cleanly.  A must for this many seemingly identical drawers.

Building your own drawers in this fashion can be quick and efficient.  And at 35 dollars a piece, a 1/2″ sheet of cabinet grade plywood can produce probably 8 drawers at this size.

A Finishing Haiku

I was doing some finishing this afternoon and ended up using Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO).  I really admire BLO in the shop.  I use it a lot on shop furniture, jigs and tools.  It is cheap, easy to work with, and dries in a reasonable amount of time.  It adds a lot of color to lighter woods like pine, and I really like how it darkens and changes over time.  The only trick is that wadded up oily rags can self combust.  This is important because I tend to wipe it on with blue shop towels on a lot of my smaller projects.

All of this inspired me get a little poetic.  I sat down and wrote a haiku for my favorite shop finish.

I am B L O
I imbue a golden protection
My rags can combust

Frame Saw – Giant Hack Saw

Paul Sellers has a really great video on making your own frame saw from a band saw blade or blades available specifically for frame saws.  It is a wonderful project that can be done with a minimal amount of tools and material.

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I started with a metal bandsaw blade and a few pieces of scrap oak I had around.  Typical hack saw blades are only 12″ long.  This one is going to be 18″.  The extra length should translate to a much faster more comfortable cut.  I will also have a lot more fine control on blade tension vs a normal hack saw.

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The shorter pieces will make an upright and the long piece will act as a pivot bar in the center.  The uprights got a small set of mortises with a rounded relief to let the pivot bar do its pivoting!  The bar got a matching tenon on each end with a rounded section.  I did the round with a few saw cuts to get it close, then finished with a rasp.

When I got those fitting reasonably well I moved on to the bottom.  A saw cut will let the band saw blade in, and a hole set 3/4 of the way over will accept a nail to hold the blade in place.

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To hold the string I cut a small notch down, then used a chisel to sculpt both sides into that saw cut.  Once roughed in I pulled out the ole spokeshave and went to town.  What a fun tool to use.  It can be hard to see in the picture, but I did a lot of subtle shaping on the handle side.  Being able to hold it, then shape, then hold again is a fast way to make a part like this fit you really well in a short amount of time.

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When everything was rounded I assembled, tensioned the bow by twisting the strings with another small scrap of oak, and tried it out on a bar of steel I had around.  Very nice!  The saw is light and well balanced, and the 18 inches of length meant I could really get into the cut without having to hold back.

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Next time I will work harder on making the rounds at the mortise/tenon joint more consistent, but otherwise I am very happy with this.  With testing done, I disassembled it, coated everything with BLO, and reassembled when dry.  The first picture of this post shows the saw with finished and in a low tension storage state.