Wedding Present Table

Some good friends of mine are getting married and I couldn’t be happier for them.  I am trying to start a tradition where I make a nice wedding present for friends that get married.  A majority of my friends are already married, but better to start late than never!

I asked them what they wanted and got 3 answers:  A table to put keys and stuff on near their front door, a shoe rack, or a wine rack.  I chose to combine the first two and drop the 3rd.  My initial plan was done in sketch-up.  Other than a shortening of the legs due to an unfortunate accident I went with all my original dimensions.

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I don’t model every mortise and round over in sketch-up, instead using it as a way to get the general look and feel of the project and to get a rough cut list.  A trip to the local cabinet store turned up some nice looking red oak, but only 4/4 thick.  It was enough to get started with, but I eventually had to go to Orlando to get the 8/4 (thats 2 inches).  Luckily it was combined with a trip to do a suit fitting for said couple’s wedding!

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I cut everything out and ripped it to rough width using my table and chop saw.  Other than a router for the top edging, and a CNC mill for the “G” everything was done by hand.  I started this project in early January and managed to lose a number of pictures in that time.  I am missing quite a bit of my mortise and tenon work and the beading process.  Still, there are enough pictures to get the idea of how it all went together.


I got to use my shiny new Woodriver number 7 my parents got me for Christmas.  It did a fantastic job of jointing the edges for glue up.  The rubbed glue joint held really well and is completely invisible except for grain changes.  Power jointer eat your heart out!  A run with the router gave a really nice multi-curve edge.  I don’t have enough molding planes or experience to try this part out by hand


I was quite proud of the bead along the bottom apron edges.  It was done with a beading iron in my No 45 combo plane.  Planing off the bottom flat bit makes it look better.  One shot has two beads, one before and one after planing off the flat.

Mortise and Tenon

I am missing a lot of the photos of cutting the mortises, but I made a lot of mistakes and they are rather rough.  I used a rabbet plane and cleaned them up from the picture, but they still weren’t great.  My little rip dovetail saw wasn’t quite up to the task of cutting those cheeks.  Hopefully a full tenon saw is in my future.

I squared the legs up well enough that they could be mortised.  I initially tried using pencil mark my parts to keep the organized, but ran across a really good idea by John over at Woodworks by John.  Mark the joining parts with letter stamps.  After much trimming and swearing the table stands!


I had already cut out the legs and squared them to do the mortises.  Next I cut them to length and did a taper on the outer two surfaces.  It starts about 24″ up and drops down to make the bottom of the foot about 1″ square.  Tapering is a lot of work!

Once I got the tapering complete I was able to cut the grooves for the bottom shelves.  I assembled each side with apron and laid out each cut with a long ruler so I could get both legs.  The sides were cut down with a saw, then removed most of the waste with a chisel.  The final depth was handled with a router plane.  What a great looking job, I did something like this over a year ago before I had a router and this turned out 10 times better!  Next time I will taper last.  Everything had to be shimmed up to hold still because of the leg taper.

This is where a huge issue came in.  I cut the left side and it turned out pretty well.  Next I moved on to the right half and cut the left half again.  Lighting makes the grooves a bit hard to see.

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Two left sides… crap.  I set down my tools and went inside to do something else.  I had invested hours into each leg.  I was able to turn lemons into lemonade though.  The table was set to be just over 40″ tall, which after assembling feels too tall.  Two sets of shoe shelves would be useful, but looked a bit more cluttered than one.  I decided to cut the bottom set of shelf grooves off, and re-taper the legs.  Work work.  Here is the new shortened version along with one of a few piles I had to sweep up while making this thing.

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Bottom Shelf

I assembled the bottom shelf along with the top in a similar manor.  I really wanted to bring in some decorative accents here.  Carving is out of my skill set, but the mill can do wonders.  How about a nice scripty G in the center of the shelf?  Done!  Their last name starts with G.

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With all the parts cutout and shaped properly I went about finish planing every surface smooth and clean.  Some of the oak got squrley and left me with tear out.  I don’t have a high angle plane, and I am crap with a cabinet scraper so they will have to remain as a finishing “feature”.

To keep the top on I am using small clips that fit into slots on the apron and screw into the top.  They will allow the large top to have moisture movement without trying to pull the base apart.

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There are a lot of surfaces that needed gluing and seconds matter when glue is drying.  I did a number of test fits and got all my clamps at the ready.  The glue up went smoothly!  A short rounded over piece glued to the bottom shelf will keep shoes from sliding off.

Doweled Shelf

The bottom shelf sits in a groove.  The weight will be held well by the groove, but few glue surfaces means it could break free.  I went ahead and drilled out the legs/shelf and glued a 3/8″ dowel in to help improve the hold.  A small block plane got the dowels down as smooth as a baby’s bottom!


A dark finish was requested and I have had some great results with minwax’s stain on oak.  I think the grain pops really well, and I had a lot of the stain around.  Once completely dry I sprayed the top and base with multiple coats of general finish’s high performance water based coating.  What a great product.  That stuff goes on like silk and dries smooth.  Spraying can be a pain, but the results are worth it.

Over all, there were mistakes made, lessons learned, and a lot of sweat.  I was able to finish a few days before the wedding and delivered it to the happy couple.  May the table last for a century, and may your love last longer.

Did I mention it comes with a lifetime repair warrantee?

Tail Vise Install

This was a hum-dinger of a project!  It took me 3 weeks to complete, which was about twice as long as I thought it would.  In short, I would never recommend you buy a woodriver tail vise.  The instructions are terrible, and the design isn’t really that great.  I guess for 60 bucks I can’t complain too much.  Most of the alternatives are 250+ dollars.  I almost think they could be 4 times better if they are easier to install.  I digress, let’s put this puppy together!

Body Box

I pulled the hardware out and read the instructions.  They show pictures of hardware for model numbers that are not the model number I bought…  oh well, Time to wing it!  The black plate will screw to the side of my bench top, and the green plates will slide along that plate.  I want to start by making a box structure around the main screw.  Two boards against the green plates are a good place to start.  One clears the center screw head, but the other needs to be cut down.  I could thin it, but why not get fancy!  I used my No. 50 to remove the wood that interferes with the round portion of the green fixed nut (I will call it a screw head), and a No. 78 to groove a clearance for the base of the screw head.  It looks like a fit.  In retrospect, I really should have just thinned it.  It would make later steps simpler.

I filled in the groove areas and trimmed them flush at the two ends.  This let me put solid wood in between the bolts that hold the two plates together.  With the ends covered I will need clearance to get this thing over the screw head for installation.  A chisel cleaned out a little section between the hollow and groove I made.  Another filler board runs the length to help stiffen and give a give a surface to later bolt the dog hole block to.

Dog Hole Block

I laminated a few large boards together to give me a big block for drilling dog holes.  The third and fourth picture show a heavy block at 90 degrees to the screw.  I was going to add this L so I could have an extra clamping surface.  After doing lots of cutting and chopping I decided to nix it.  It didn’t fit well and I was going to have to drill out a lot of the center to allow screw clearance.  Besides, I already have a good quick release front vice.  I ended up just filling where that block would have gone, and screwed the body box to the dog hole block.  That makes it more easily replaceable in the future.


I fashioned a board with grooves and a relief hole to go between the bench top and that black mounting plate.  It was easier to make separately, then attach.  Sitting the vice on the table top I was able to pencil out the waste area, and started cutting with a circular saw.  I finished with a hand saw.  The vice is thicker than the table top, so it took a lot of chiseling to clear enough of the table support to let everything move around.  After careful fitting the screws went in, and my tail vice was installed.

It wasn’t without injury.  I ended up hitting one of the lag bolts that holds together the table base.  My biggest chisel took a beating.  It made me very sad, and this will take a lot of sharpening to correct.  Lesson learned, watch for metal hardware when you work!

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End Caps

An end cap with a hole covers the opening that the screw goes through.  I only screwed it in place so it could be removed if needed in the future.  I also added a few end caps where the front of the vice meets the table.  Boring vertical holes down between the end caps help for holding small round things like screw bits for sharpening.  These are also only screwed in place in case I want to replace or modify them.

Lastly there is a big section between the dog hole block and the table that needs covering.  It is mostly cosmetic, but having it there helps keep shavings and junk from building up.  I took a board and removed a volume where the green top plate will be with a mixture of rabbet planing and chiseling.  Once glued in place the vice was fully installed!

Final Surface and Finish

Once installed I cleared all the junk off and grabbed a jack plane.  When I first built the top I only had one hand plane, and I didn’t really know how to use it, so I ended up using a belt sander on most of the top.  SACRILEGE!!  Now, I spent probably less than 20 minutes planing off the old finish, stains, and gouges.  I left some plane marks behind, but I never really expect the top to be perfectly smooth.  I finished with some boiled linseed oil and left it to dry.  Gorgeous!

I reinstalled my front vice on the left side and drilled a few more holes before applying the finish.  This is how a table should be setup for right handed people like me.  That way when you stand in front and plane from right to left you push against the dog in the table, not the vice.  I didn’t know this when I first installed that front vice.  Oh well, you live and learn.  After a sweep up this never-ending project finally did.  What a pile of shavings!

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Plane Cleanup Process

I have been doing a lot of ebay trolling recently to grow my hand tool collection.  Most things you buy off ebay, or that I find at tractor shows, comes in various states of bad.  Some have a little rust and patina, others are succumbing greatly to entropy.  I have renovated a decent pile at this point and am working out a pretty good process.  This post is dedicated to my method of old tool cleanup.  I have two candidates.  One is a nickel plated preston spokeshave that was in decent shape, but needs a little help.  The other is a No 3 plane that belonged to my great grandfather.  It was so rusted and pitted, that if it weren’t a family heirloom I might have considered it a lost cause initially.

Great Grandpa’s Plane

This rusty little guy is a Keen Kutter number 3 smoothing plane.  It has seen a rough life.  The top portion of the frog is broken off, there is substantial rust and pitting, and the blade has been replaced with a stanley one.  Also, there is some paint dribbled over the tool in places.

DSC_0182I have messed with a few different products for rust conversion and Evapo Rust is the real winner in my mind.  It does a good job when you leave things in over night, and it is not as dangerous as some of the other options.  The product is skin/eye safe, doesn’t smell bad, is reusable many times, and can be had for a reasonable price per gallon at auto parts stores.

DSC_0198Hope is restored to this tool after a bath in evapo rust.  It can’t cure the pitting, but it cut through thick rust and grime to reveal bare metal.  Next comes a lot of work with brass brushes.  I try to use a brass bristle wheel on my bench grinder as much as possible.  It cleans off any remaining gunk, but doesn’t harm the iron.  Plus, it brings back a nice luster.


Where the big bush couldn’t reach, smaller ones that go on a drill do the trick.  Most of the japanning had rusted from underneath.  I didn’t try to strip what was stuck down well, but most was shot.  WD40 and a scotchbrite pad will take care of the last little nooks and crannies to help even everything out.  With the rust stopped, and the metal cleaned it was time to bring the working parts back into action.  I started by filing the frog and bed.


Both were actually pretty flat and in good shape.  On the right you can see the slightly jagged top edge of the broke frog.  I will have to do any lateral adjustments manually.  The picture below shows some scarring on the iron from aggressive adjustment with a steel hammer.

With everything in place and tightened down I could start lapping the bottom.  Sand paper on a small granite block is my method of choice.  Pretty fast and makes for a good flat surface.  Start rough and go smoother.  Anything over 400 is probably over kill.


Over all the plane is starting to really look good.  The knob and handle both got a sanding and a coat of boiled linseed oil.  There is heavy pitting in places along the soul and sides.  This isn’t really ideal, but shouldn’t seriously hinder the plane.  Luckily many of the places that matter, like the frog, were in decent shape.  Lastly I sharpened the blade and took a few test cuts with excellent results.

 Preston Spokeshave

What a gorgeous example of turn of the century engineering.  It is highly functional and has gorgeous decorative elements.  There is some rust on it though, so into the drink we go!


Already the tool is looking brighter and happier with all the rust removed.


Next comes some work with a brass brush.  I hit the left half with my bench grinder’s brass and left the other as is from the bath for comparison.  What a great looking shine!


I finished polishing everything up, sharpened the blade, and put it all together.  I am not experienced with spokeshaves and this one is round bottomed making it extra difficult to use.  I will have to wait till I get a fun curvy project to really test this little one out.  Till then, spokeshave practice is in my near future.


 Process Summary

  1. Disassemble as much as you can and dunk in evapo rust over night.  If something doesn’t come apart easily, let it soak first.
  2. Dry everything really well and use brass brushes (power and hand) to remove crud and converted rust.
  3. WD-40 and a scotchbrite can help clean up tight or rough areas.
  4. Wooden handles should be sanded smooth and coated in boiled linseed oil.
  5. Sharpen and flatten the blade as usual.
  6. Lap the bottom with sandpaper to finer grits till even and shiny.
  7. Coat everything in a good protectant like boeshield and behold your diamond from the rough.

 Bonus Saw Set

I got an old stanley saw set for a few bucks from ebay.  There are some issues with the non-moving portion of the anvil, but other than that it was ok.  I did the standard, rust bath, scrub, brash brush polish, and boeshield job.  What a difference it made!

Yarn Swift Add On

My wife is into knitting in a serious way.  She was given a partial antique yarn swift by my mom some time back.  It is missing parts, but otherwise should work just fine.  It needs some kind of base, and a clamp to hold up the upper umbrella portion of the swift.  With her birthday coming up soon she suggested finishing the swift would be a good present.  Great!  I hadn’t had any good ideas on what to buy, so lets make something.  I don’t know what the original was made out of, but the wood and finish were very dark.  I made mine out of maple because it was what I had around, and it distinguishes the antique from my work.

Start with the finished product in action!


I started with the clamp.  A small block with a hole in it and a slit cut across it acts as a clamping mechanism.  I drilled a hole through the forked section, and even chopped a small square hole so the head of the bolt does not spin while tightening.



Next I moved on to the base.  The post needs a place to rest in, and I have a bit brace and some old screw bits that belonged to my wife’s grandfather.  Might as well use a family heirloom to make something that should hopefully stay in the family a long time.  After a few minutes of sharpening the bit sailed through the maple stock with ease!



To make the clamp portion I cutout a wide center section.  I sawed out the edges and carefully pared out the rest with a wide chisel.  Yet another time when having a router plane would have been useful.  I used another bit to bore from underneath and install a threaded insert in the bottom.  A modified 1/4″-20 bolt will act as a screw clamp so the base can be clamped to any ledge.  A piece of maple is captured on top of the bolt with a small bent metal clip.  This keeps the moving portion of the clamp from falling off.  I used tung oil on everything and glued leather to the clamp faces to promote grip and prevent scratching.

Happy Birthday Honey!

Pint Canning Crate

This is both a simple, and overly complex project.  It is simple in that I have made a set of pine boxes with glued on plywood bottoms.  Had I been only interested in making them functional, I could have finished these in an hour or two.  Instead, I wanted to practice hand cut dovetails, and make them look good.

If you want to make basic boxes to hold canning supplies, then cut the boards and attach via whatever method you like.  Screw/glue, pocket holes, nail, half lap etc…  1×6 boards are the perfect size for pint cans.  Remember they are actually 0.75×5.5″.  Cut them so the outside dimensions end up being 11×14.5″, and attach a plywood bottom.  1/4″ plywood seems adequate.  It took me a number of hours to finish the two crates, but the experience was worth it.



If you are crazy like me and want to make basic utilitarian boxes with super fancy joints, then read on.  Or if you just want to see how I make dovetails.  There are a lot of good resources out there that detail how to make dovetails.  I am going to give a brief overview of how I do it now.  Maybe in a few years when I get good at them I will make another post with some sage advice.

  1. Cut boards to rough length, and use a shooting board to clean up ends and get lengths exact.
  2. Use a marking gauge to set tail depth to thickness of wood.  Pencil marks make everything easier to see.
  3. I start with an end pin mark, then use a divider to layout the remaining tails.
  4. The veritas dovetail marking gauge is quite excellent for marking up the tails.  Always use a knife for the best marks.
  5. I hand cut the tails on the waste side.  The hope is that they are cut close enough to not need any chisel work.
  6. Remove the waist material with a coping saw, then carefully pare out with is left with a chisel.
  7. Use the back side of the tails to guide a marking knife for the pins.
  8. Cut pins and clean waste out in a similar manner as the tails.
  9. After a test fit I apply glue to the pins and assemble the box.
  10. If everything was made right the box should go together square and require minimal clamping.
  11. Applying BLO (boiled linseed oil) provides an easy and cheap finish.

There were 8 joints total.  Most of them turned out decently, but not GREAT.  Practice will help out, but I think pine might be hard to work with.  I will have to try making dovetails in a harder wood to see what the results are like.


Shooting Board and First Dovetail

For further adventures in hand cut woodworking I will need a shooting board.  If you don’t know what one is, the use will become clear soon.  After my miter box debacle I should have gone simple for a shooting board.  I didn’t.  My first attempt had an adjustable and removable stop cleat on top with hand cut grooves and yada yada.  It didn’t work well.  I backed up and thought simple and short term.

A shooting board lets you place a low angle jack plane (good for cutting end grain) on its side while holding a board to be trimmed square against a backer fence.  The plane runs across the end grain taking tiny shavings as it goes.  I attached two pieces of 3/4″ plywood to each other allowing a two inch strip on the right for the plane.  Then, at a 90 degree angle to the plane running slot I attached a stop fence.


Here it is with a scrap pine board being trimmed.  The plane is my new No 62 woodriver low angle plane.


As you push the plane forward, it cuts off tiny shavings from the end grain.  If the original cut wasnt perfectly square, the shooting board should fix it.  Also, It makes the end grain finish look much nicer than any saw could.

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The top piece of pine was saw cut, the bottom was cleaned up with the shooting board.  I will have to monitor the squareness of the fence.  If it wonders over time, that will introduce errors into my work.  Until then, this one works well.  So well, I had enough time to start some dovetail practice parts.

TADA!  My first hand cut dovetail.  I needs some cosmetic help, but holds well and is a really sturdy joint.  I will post more details once I have been through a pile of them and have a more solid procedure.  The shooting board did a good job of squaring up the pine and giving me a workable surface.


Next, dovetail joined crates to store half pint jars.  Practice makes perfect.

How Not To Make a Miter Box

I have been slowly getting into more hand tool woodworking as time goes on.  I am starting to practice dovetails, and instead of using one of my power saws to cut the wood down to length, I wanted to do it by hand.  A miter box helps this by aligning the saw square every time, and providing a zero clearance backing to prevent tear-out.  I thought building one would be super simple and straight forward… I was very wrong.  Follow my misadventure, and learn from my mistakes.

Round 1:  First, I cut out everything, and attached the side fences to the top of the bottom piece as shown below.

wpid-20141010_173319.jpgThis might not seem like a problem (it didn’t to me at the time), but the error will reveal it self soon.  Next, I started the guide cut by using a square against the front fence.  This acts as a guide for my blade.  Once that is started, everything cut from here out should be square.


After cutting down 1/10″, I used another square to try to keep the blade vertical.  When the cut is about half an inch in, the saw should guide it self straight the rest of the way.  My resulting cut shows an issue.

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The cut wasn’t very straight, and the end section of fence rotated.  The only thing holding it in was a single screw coming up from the bottom.  I should have attached those to the sides of the bottom piece, not the top.  Also, western saws cut on the push.  Holding the part to be cut to the front fence is nearly impossible, and I did not square my saw to the back fence.

Ok, no problem.  Try try again.  Square to the back fence instead of the front, be more careful on the vertical squareness and make new fences to attach to the sides of the bottom part.  Great, lets do it!  The next one even has the front fence cut short and rounded to help get my hand in there and hold the cutting stock firmly against the back fence.

Round 2:  I made the changes, used the squares, and here is the resulting cut.


Hmmm still not doing well on that vertical cut… In fact that almost looks like there is some curve to that cut.  Well what happens when I try to cut something for real?  Jamming that is what happens!  I got completely bound up half way through a piece of pine.


I am starting to think something is wrong with my new saw.  I checked the edge of the saw against a ruler and saw a lot of bow along its length.  It was hard to take a picture of, but there was at least 40 thousandths of an inch gap.  I guess I shouldn’t expect more from a 10 dollar lowes purchase.  My loving wife bought me a good quality crosscut saw for christmas.  It is too small to properly use in a miter box, but let me give it a try.










Nice cut, and it did a great job cutting through that pine mentioned earlier.  Very square cut and not a ray of light past the straight edge!


The moral of the story is to buy decent saws.  Too bad new ones are very expensive.  I feel like good old ones are to be had on ebay, but I have no experience sharpening saws.  Maybe that is a project for a future day.  About the only thing I did do right was the cleat on the bottom.  It lets you push the box up against the edge of the workbench, or clamp it in the vise.  I guess I will remove the front fence, and buzz down the back fence.  Basically turn it into a bench hook.

Next adventure, shooting board!