Carving skew

While working on the Altai Project Logo carving, I discovered I needed a narrow skew in order to get down into some of the corners. I have a handful of ½ inch wide unground blanks I got from the Mountain Woodcarvers clearance page, so I got busy.

Carving blade blank

Carving blade blank

First step was grinding it down to 2-3mm wide. Then I skewed the tip, and put a rough edge on with the grinder. That’s the rough outline of the tip made.

Then I had to re-harden the steel, as the grinding had wrecked the temper. I heated it bright glowing red with a MAP gas torch, and plunged it into a jar of canola oil I keep for hardening tools. Then the blade went into the toaster oven to temper it. I’m aiming for a hardness of 60 or so, which will work well for a carving tool.

With the blade in the oven, I turned to the lathe, and converted a small piece of granadillo into a handle. I also drilled a 3/16 hole for the tang. Because it’s a tapered tang, I drilled a short bit wider with 7/32 and ¼ inch bits. Then I added a ferrule from some ½ OD brass, and filed it smooth.

By this time, the blade was done cooking, so I pulled it out and let it cool, then pounded the handle onto the blade. A bit of hand sanding and a couple coats of tung oil, and it’s ready to go.

Carving skew

#woodworking #tool #project

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I’ve been needing a single place to store my files, rasps, and floats for a while now. They were stored in two older tills, one of which had been repurposed from a saw till, and another which used to be something else that I don’t remember. Plus I had a number of files laying loose on various flat surfaces around the shop.

File, rasp, and float till, filled.

I started by building three racks to hold the files of various lengths. The largest holds 12 files, the middle holds 15, and the shortest rack can hold 20 files, though only the shortest in length will fit.

The racks are made of ⅜ inch thick oak, either 1 or 2 inches wide. Each rack has a bottom piece with indentations drilled in it, and a cross piece with magnets embedded to hold the files in place. They all pivot on the dowels that mount them (though this isn’t an especially useful feature) so they can be tipped forward or backward to access the files without knocking the ones in the rows in front. The racks were treated with iron acetate to ebonite them, though the solution was a couple weeks old, which is, I suspect, why I got a dark brown rather than a black finish.

Empty file till

The carcasse is built of ¾ inch thick pine, and dovetailed together, with the shelf above the drawer resting in a pair of ¼ inch deep dadoes. The drawer is also dovetailed, with half-blind dovetails holding the drawer front in place. This is the first time I’ve built half-blind dovetails, so it was good practice. The drawer-front is also carved with a design I made up over a few days of carving.

Carved pine drawer front

The pine is all finished with a coat of kakishibu. It’ll get a few coats of tung oil once it has had a little time to darken, unless I decide it needs a second coat of kakishibu first.

The drawer hold spare file handles, file cards, and needle files. A couple weeks of construction, the added carving on the front of the till makes it feel a little special and I also got to practice barrel and bead moulding which came out nice.

#woodworking #project #woodCarving #shopFurniture

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Originally written 1. September, 2018

apple tankard, with copper wire wraps and elm handle, glistening with its epoxy finish

apple tankard, with copper wire wraps and elm handle, glistening with its epoxy finish

For the beer swap this year, I had decided to build a tankard. I'd seen tankards in Woodworking in Estonia and thought “how hard could it be?” That usually leads to an interesting build.

A page from Woodworking in Estonia showing some tankards

I had a chunk of crab apple from a tree from my yard. It came down four years ago in 2014, and a friend had slabbed it and had been air-drying it. It was ready to go.

A piece of apple wood, with a saw taking a small board off

The first few cuts were a little ragged, but I soon found my rhythm, and cut off a dozen nice and fairly even pieces of apple wood. The grain in them looked pretty.

A piece of apple wood, now smaller, with a number of small boards next to it

Two book-matched pieces of apple with interesting grain

Not wanting to waste the apple, I also started building a pine prototype. I had picked up a 1¼” by ¼” piece of pine, and that seemed like a good way to figure out exactly what I was going to do.

I started by tapering the pieces of pine. I looked at a stein in my cupboard, and for a 1 liter stein, it looked about an inch narrower at the top than the bottom. I figured that was a little more slant than I wanted to work with, so I decided that ten sides (a dozen pieces of apple, minus a screw-up or two), tapered by a quarter inch would give me two and a half inches, divided by 3 would mean the top would be about about ¾” smaller in diameter than the bottom, which seemed pretty good. And since I'd decided on 10 sides, that meant 72 degree angles on the sides of the staves, so I set up a protractor. I did the tapering in both dimensions freehand with a block plane, but checked my work frequently as I went to make sure I was getting things right.

A piece of pine board, with an out-of-focus protractor showing the edge at 72 degrees

planing the edge of a small pine board with a block plane

Once I got all the sides tapered, I cut out a circular piece of cherry from a 4/4 scrap I had laying around, then resawed it into two ⅜” round pieces. Taping the sides together with gaffer tape, I tested the fit and saw that I was close.

Ten pine boards almost completely encircling the round piece of cherry

I cut a groove on the inside of the bottom of each of the staves for the bottom to ride in, then slowly took wood off the round bottom until everything fit pretty well.

A view of the pieces completely encircling the round piece of cherry with only small gaps at the corners

I also put holes in one of the staves to push dowels through to hold a handle on. I was thinking that maybe I would carve round tenons onto the end of the handle, but it turned out to be much easier to clamp the stave and handle together then drill holes in both and push in a dowel, so I did that.

I cut a couple handles from a scrap of elm I had, and shaped one with rasps, and the other with spokeshaves and knives. I would have rather made the handle entirely with edge tools, but the one finished with the rasps looked nicer, so that was the one for the swap-tankard.

a roughly-shaped handle for a tankard, made from elm

With the help of a few hose-clamps and gaffer tape, I tested everything one last time to see how I was doing. It didn't look half bad.

the pine, prototype tankard, held together with gaffer tape and hose clamps

I used 14 gauge copper wire from the hardware store to wrap the tankard, and it was just strong enough to pull the staves reasonably tight before it snapped. I used a chain-saw file to make a small groove for the wire to ride in so it would be less likely to slip up the side of the tankard (remember the taper) while I was assembling things. I didn't need that in the pine, since the wire could compress its own groove in that, but in the apple, I figured it would make life easier.

pine tankard, held together with copper wire

That was enough experimentation, and it was time to get started on the apple tankard for the swap. I went through the same steps, tapering the sides, cutting grooves on the inside, fitting it to the bottom, and realized that I would also need to plane the sides to a more consistent thickness. That hadn't been an issue with the factory-made pine, but with my hand-cut apple staves, the varying thickness would lead to an uneven looking tankard.

the staves for the apple tankard in the order I would assemble them

apple tankard, showing the uneven thicknesses of the staves

thinning a stave using a block-plane

I also needed to round the inside of the staves before assembling them to make a nice-feeling top on the tankard.

rounding the end of a stave with a rasp

All that done, it was time for a test-assembly.

apple staves surrounding a round cherry bottom, showing a few small gaps

the apple tankard, test-assembled with gaffer tape and hose clamps

Things were looking good. The last step was putting a coat of epoxy on the inside of the staves and bottom so I wouldn't have to worry about getting a nice finish there after things were assembled. I also had glued the dowels into the stave that I picked as the “handle stave” and cut that flush, so the epoxy would help seal up any gaps around those dowels.

pine and apple staves, laid out for finishing the insides with epoxy

It took three coats of epoxy to seal up the insides of the apple. There were just enough punky bits that it wouldn't have held liquid very well without the epoxy, so I was really glad I'd done that before assembly, especially when the first coat almost entirely soaked into the wood.

Once I had the insides coated, it was time for assembly. I hoped I would be able to get almost watertight without massive amounts of epoxy, but the fit around the bottom wasn't great, and it took some sawdust and CA glue filler, plus another three coats of epoxy to seal up the bottom completely.

pine and apple tankards, assembled and held together with hose clamps and gaffer tape - the insides of the staves now appear finished

apple tankard with epoxied handles next to it

With all the pieces together and a few coats of epoxy on the outside (I had initially thought of a varnish finish, but decided the epoxy looked pretty good), it was time to wrap it up. I shaped the outside of the top of the tankard with rasps and sandpaper, applied another two coats of epoxy, sanded lightly with some wet-dry 200 grit paper and put on a final coat and hoped no bugs would land in the wet epoxy (the brand I used has 30-minute open time, but isn't gnat-safe until about 90 minutes – it's fully cured after 36 hours).

I think the finished tankard came out looking okay.

I wrote up the traditional note that accompanies a swap item and got it ready to ship off.

Note accompanying the apple tankard

#project #woodworking #tankard #stave

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Rack holding a number of spokeshaves

I collected all (?) my spokeshaves yesterday and built a rack to hold them. Cut a piece of ¾x⅜ maple into two pieces, then turned it to make ⅜ inch dowels on the lathe. Glued them into a board and stuck a cleat on the back. Nice quick project. I should probably put some oil on it one of these days, but… mañana.

From the top, here’s a quick description of each, how it’s set up, and what I use it for:

  1. Veritas, set up for general purpose, fairly thin, general use;
  2. Lie Nielsen Boggs with curved base, set up a little thick for concave curves;
  3. Veritas low angle, set thin for end grain;
  4. Home-made low angle spokeshave set up thicker for quick stock removal;
  5. HNT Gordon small, general use, but thin for tricky grain or finishing;
  6. HNT Gordon large, as the small, tricky grain;
  7. Millers Falls cigar shave, not yet tuned, but I hope to get it tuned up and usable, since the round blade is nice for tight concaves;
  8. Kunz travisher, curved base side to side, which is set to hollow chair seats and smooth out adze marks;
  9. Kunz adjustable mouth spokeshave, set relatively thin, generally for use against the grain and sharpened to behave almost like a scraper;
  10. and finally the Stanley spokeshave, which was the first I bought, and showed me all the ways a shave could be wrong.

A shave set for “general use” is usually set for a thinner cut on one side, and a thicker cut on the other, so depending on where on the blade I’m hitting the wood, I can control the depth of the cut. Some are thicker left and others are thicker right, and I have to give each a try to find what’s best for a given job. The two low angle spokeshaves and the two HNT Gordon shaves are generally for end grain or reversing grain.

In all, I probably have twice as many shaves as I really need, but half of them were packed away in a box I didn’t unpack until earlier this week (since we moved almost 4 years ago). So I bought a few more while I was not unpacking that box. The HNT Gordons are completely unnecessary, but they’re pretty and feel nice in the hand (they’re made from gidgee wood), so they have rapidly become favorites.

#woodworking #project #shopFurniture

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front view of angled carving rest

Sort of a micro-project, but it will enable a lot of other things.

I had a couple triangular braces I’ll be putting on the insides of the legs of a bench I’m working on, and I plan to do a bit of carving on the bench itself and on the legs, but I haven’t done any serious carving for a while, so I thought I should warm up by carving the braces. Plus, they’ll make a neat surprise for anyone who looks underneath the bench.

So I cut some 45°︎ angles in some pine and glued and screwed it together to hold the angled pieces with their faces level. And it works pretty well. I clamp the “hook” at the front end in my face vise, and rest the piece in the trough, and I can carve away without have to worry much about workholding.

angled carving rest and carved triangular brace

Also unpacked a box that had my texturing tools in it yesterday, so now I’ve got those to play with. The bench these braces will go onto will be going to a couple who were in their 50s and 60s when they found each other and got married, so I figured adding paired hearts would be a nice touch.

The wood I’m carving is some “cherry” that came from India in a crate holding a slab of stone. Not sure what it really is, but it’s pretty enough that I feel a little bad using it for mere braces, but there you have it.

#HandyTools #project

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closed box, from front

I recently acquired a set of the large (12 inch or 300mm) cole jaws for a Nova chuck, and as I do with new tools, I built a storage box for the jaws and chuck, as well as the associated accessories.

closed box, corner view

The box is dovetailed pine construction with quarter inch plywood top and bottom and holds the jaws on the chuck, and has places to hold the jaw extensions which I bought with the jaws (allowing it to hold a bowl up to 15 inches in diameter.

open box, showing cole jaws and accessories

The lid is hinged with a piano hinge, and has a small latch to hold it shut, and the box is finished with French Toast milk paint and a coat of tung oil.

open box, showing accessories and cutout for chuck

#woodworking #project #storage #shopFurniture

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Periodically, I’ll make a piece and decide I want to fiddle with milk paint a bit, working with colors and how they change between wet, dry, and then oiled, which is close to the final color the piece will be (I typically add either a finishing cream or shellac over the oil).

I started by painting some drawer boxes with persimmon milk paint, and the carcasse that will hold them with a wash of black iron milk paint.

drawer boxes with persimmon milk paint

carcasse with wash of black iron milk paint

I then put two thin wash coats of persimmon over the black on the carcasse.

carcasse with persimmon washes over black wash

Then I put tung oil on everything.

carcasse and drawer box with tung oil over the milk paint

I’m very happy with the way the grain of the wood is still pretty obvious in both cases. I was worried even a single coat of full strength paint would hide the grain more than I wanted, but I forgot how adding oil afterwards (and rubbing off the excess oil) makes the milk paint more translucent.

After assembly, this is what it looks like. Note that I forgot to paint the end of the runners that keep the drawers from tipping forward, so I’ll do that next time I get a little milk paint mixed up. I also had to trim the pieces that sit between the drawers, which left them paint-free, so I “finished” them with a Sharpie.

assembled box of drawers

#woodworking #finishing #milkpaint #project #shopFurniture

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Four pictures of the same bedan so it can be seen from all sides.

Originally written 16. January, 2022

A friend is building a lathe from scraps and I wanted to make sure he has something to work with when he gets it working, so I made a bedan for him.

The handle is a sandwich of cherry and sycamore. I had enough of this sandwich for four handles for lathe tools. The ferrule is a piece of .50 BMG cartridge I had laying around. And the tool itself is a 10mm square HSS rod I got from China.

The picture above is just the one bedan, but four views of it, so you can see all four sides at once.

Steps to build this:

  1. Set up the blank between centers and turn a tenon as large as possible on one end.
  2. Put that tenon in a chuck and turn the opposite end to fit the ferrule.
  3. Back off the tailstock and put the ferrule on.
  4. Put a drill chuck in the tail-stock and drill a ⅛ inch pilot hole, making sure the chuck is holding the handle straight.
  5. Drill a half-inch hole about ¾ the depth of the ferrule.
  6. Drill a ⅜ inch hole to a total depth of two inches.
  7. Put a live center into the hole and finish turning the handle.
  8. Trim the ferrule and wood with a hacksaw, remembering to back off the live center so you don't saw the point of it off.
  9. Bring the live center back in, and finish the handle (I used a BLO and shellac friction finish), then part it off from the tenon.
  10. Grind about 1.5 inches of the piece of HSS to a round ⅜ inch in diameter.
  11. Grind the corners down on the piece of HSS for another half to ¾ inch The tang of the bedan, ground roughly round
  12. Put the piece of HSS into the handle, first by hand, and then pounding it in until it's home.
  13. Mix up some epoxy (about 7.5ml, or ¼ oz) and pour that in around the HSS, getting it slightly domed in the ferrule. You'll probably need to pour a little, then wait for it to run in, then pour a little more.
  14. Clean up any spilled epoxy.
  15. Let the epoxy cure overnight.
  16. Finish up the handle with some paste wax.
  17. Grind the end of the bedan to 45 degrees and sharpen it up

A bedan tip, showing the 45 degree bevel from the side.

The tip of a bedan, showing some discoloration from grinding it aggressively.

That's it. Took me about three days elapsed time, but only a few hours of work. I was working on other projects at the same time.

I made a second one for another friend, using 1 inch diameter brass for the ferrule. I think this is a better fit for ⅜ and ½ inch bedans (9 and 12mm).

a bedan, held in a vise, showing the epoxy poured into the ferrule

#project #woodworking #woodturning #tools

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Originally written Aug 8, 2017

Finished workbench, sitting upright on a pair of sawhorses

It all started back in February, when I went down to Minnesota Milling to get a slab of elm. I picked out one that had been outside and was “nicely spalted” and had it squared up, then headed home. I planned to make a low roman workbench, as Chris Schwarz talked about. There's a video here from the Mortise & Tenon guys explaining.

"My" piece of elm, where it had been carefully stored, in the middle of a pile of other wood

February, March, April, May… I spent a lot of time repairing cracks in the elm as it dried out, putting in a dozen bow ties and filling many cracks with sawdust (usually elm, but sometimes whatever was on hand) and super-glue. I also tried epoxy (didn't like the texture) and a mix of wood glue and sawdust (that wasn't as nice for sanding). I also spent a lot of time planing the bench flat with a jack plane, usually taking much smaller cuts than I should have, but I was learning as I went. I'm much better with a plane now.

Elm slab, resting against the wall as it dried

a cherry butterfly being clamped into the face of the wood, to stop a crack from spreading

In May, I started to make better progress. I cut the ash legs to size, and cut 1.5” tenons on them. Started drilling 1.5” holes in the bench-top for the legs, and after I had finished five holes, broke my drill bit, snapped the power-cord on my electric drill, and tore up the bench a bit. Not sure exactly what happened, but the bit bound into the wood, snapping the drill out of my hands, and somehow it kept running, wrapping the cord around the now-spinning drill. I bored the last two (and a half) holes 1” with a bit and brace and cleaned up the messy one with a knife and chisel.

Slab of elm with a few holes drilled in it, and eight legs with tenons on them leaning against the bench, with a pair of sawhorses

Holes bored, I needed to reduce the tenons on two of the legs so they'd fit the smaller holes. That was okay, as my tenon-cutting technique (using the now-defunct electric drill) had been a little sloppy. I picked the two smallest tenons and reduced them from roughly 1.3” to 1” using a spokeshave and rasp. Took me an afternoon, but I now had eight legs that all fit pretty well in their respective holes. I numbered the legs and holes at this point so I wouldn't get confused at some point in the future. I also marked orientation so I'd have the grain running the same way as the bench-top (roughly) so staking the legs would be less likely to split either the leg or the top.

Bench, resting upside-down on a pair of sawhorses, with seven of the eight legs fitted in place

Everything marked, I pulled the legs out one by one and sawed a kerf in them with a backsaw. That gave me a 2” deep kerf in a 3” tenon. Once they were all cut, I made some wedges using a scrap of red oak I had on hand, hit the legs with glue, pounded each one into the bench, and then flipped the whole assembly to put in the wedges. On the first wedge, I discovered that the red oak I'd used wasn't the best idea, as it broke off partway into the leg. I dug into my parts bin and grabbed a dozen walnut wedges I'd made back when I was putting together my shop stool and used those. Glue the wedge, hold the leg securely, drive the wedge into the leg, repeat.

sawing a kerf in the tenon on one of the legs using a backsaw

A leg, with a walnut wedge holding it in place, sawn flush with the bench-top

Some of the legs didn't reach the bench top at this point, but I wasn't too worried. The whole 3” tenon was in the bench, but because of the angles (which weren't all the same), some of the legs ended a little short of the top. After everything dried, I sawed off the protruding bits, then went back to filling in the holes with sawdust (this time using a mix of oak and macacauba left over from building the planes for the tool swap) and super glue. In one case, I actually used a macacauba coin to fill the last 1/8” of the hole in the bench-top.

Hole for the leg in the bench-top, filled with wood shavings

Hole, with a coin of darker color wood inserted

Bench almost done, it was time for some holes. I had three holdfasts made by a co-worker back in March, and they had 5/8” shafts. I have a nice 5/8” wood owl bit, but a hole drilled with that was too tight for the holdfast. I left that first test-hole as-is, and will make a bench-dog / planing-stop to fit it. I drilled other holes with a cheap Chinese 11/16” auger bit, and the holdfasts work great in those.

Holdfasts and bench dogs resting on the bench

The last thing was making a few bench dogs. I took a piece of ash that had initially been slated to be a cane, but the grain in it wasn't cooperating with me. But I managed to cut a couple 1” x 5/8” x 6” pieces out of it and then turned them down using a tapered tenon cutter (by hand) to make 3” long 5/8” diameter tenons on them, with a couple inches of conical section leading to a rectangular top. They seem to work pretty well, and I'll make a few more from oak or ash or whatever's handy as I need more bench dogs and put more holes in the benchtop.

Elm bench, with three holdfasts, a different piece of wood, and a mallet, top view

The bench has been working really well so far. With a couple holdfasts, I can position small boards for ripping or resawing. If the board moves around on me, I sit on the bench and throw a thigh over the board and now everything's held very solidly. I haven't done any planing on the bench yet, but that'll be soon, and I expect it'll work well once I put in a few more holes for work-holding.

Elm bench, with three holdfasts, a piece of wood, and a small saw

There were also a number of offcuts I used for other things, including my shop stool, a bowl, and some spoons.

elm bowl

Pair of elm spoons

When the bench was a year old, a friend asked for my thoughts on the bench. Here's my reply.

For height, about knee high. Width should be narrow enough that you can put one leg on each side of it while sitting on a board on the bench. Length should be 1.5-2m. For thickness, 7-10cm is a pretty good minimum, as that will give enough thickness that a holdfast will hold properly. The eight legs are staked in with 2.5 or 3.75cm round tenons. The legs were 5cm square ash stock planed to octagons.

Can I do everything on it? No. It would be hard to cut dovetails on it. Or do assembly. But I cut and plane wood to size on mine all the time, both standing and sitting. It's very handy for that, and on a nice day I move it outside so I have less mess in the shop to clean up afterwards. I move to a higher bench for cutting dovetails or assembling pieces. I'm very glad I built it and I use it a lot. I still use a high workbench too, though.

I also made a pen from one of the offcuts from the bench in February of 2023. I'm still getting use from that slab I bought six years ago.

pen made from an offcut of the spalted elm bench

#woodworking #project

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Originally written Dec 18, 2021

miter box bench side view

oblique left view of the bench

I bought a miter box from another woodworker a while back, and needed a place to set it up, since my main workbench is a bit… chaotic most of the time. I also had scored four 92 inch long 4×6s from a neighbor, who had planned to use them as the corners of a pergola he never got started on.

First step was cutting down the 4×6s to 30-ish inch lengths and taking off the rounded corners, giving me nine 4×5s. Then I started building.

I started by cutting a recess for the Veritas small inset vise into the top of the bench, and cutting a line of ¾” square dog holes along the edge of the “front” board of the bench. With those two boards glued together, I attached a couple legs.

close-up of the inset vise

I also glued up the back of the bench, three 4×5s and a couple legs.

The bench in two pieces

My joinery wasn't great, but I had a couple ½×10” carriage bolts, so I put one of those through each of the front legs and tightened them down. Much more sturdy! For the back legs, they got three 4” long deck screws each.

Gluing the two halves of the bench together

That done, I glued the two assemblies together, aiming to get the top of the bench as flat as possible. Then I braced the legs with a tubafor, mortised into the legs (with more deck screws).

Bracing the legs with two-by-fours

A little flattening of the top, then leveling of the legs later, plus a few coats of BLO, and it was time to wrap things up.

The miter box sits on two ¾” thick scraps of pine left over from my bookcases. This makes the deck at the same height as my main workbench, so I can use that to support a long end of a board.

miter box installed on the bench

I also made a deck for my Stanley 77 dowel maker so I can mount it on the front of the bench when I need to make dowels.

Definitely not the prettiest construction, but I find myself using the small vise very often when working small parts. I've got two pine-scrap dogs to go with it that are enough for now.

Stanley 77 dowel maker held in the inset vise

Update February 9, 2023

I'm still using the bench on a regular basis. The only thing I've changed about it is that I painted a bunch of it with leftover paint from other projects, and I added a Veritas Universal Vise to the left front corner of the bench to hold things I want to carve.

#project #woodworking #HandyTools

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