Friday, February 15, 2019

Tool Holder For The Shop Moravian Bench

The shop Moravian bench has a quick and dirty tool tray that I keep telling myself I'm going to replace with a nicer one, someday. You know how someday never gets here if the butt ugly thing is working. Whatever someday I'll make a nicer tool tray.

What I have missed on the bench is a tool holder on the back side of the front slab. All my other benches have one because they have split slabs and no tool tray. While I've grown to like the tool tray I still miss having a tool holder for my squares, chisels, and saws that are in use.

I was looking for an excuse to not work on MsBubba's kitchen desk and what better is there than making and installing a tool holder for the bench.

From the back side:

From the front side:

MsBubba's desk base has been dry fitted and is taking up room in the shop. I needed to figure out how much to take off the legs. After rough trimming of the legs they will need shaping and all surfaces planed before glue up. Get a drawer made and cut the top to size and I'll get that sucker out of the shop.


Sunday, February 03, 2019


The earlier post about butt scratching over maximizing the strength of M/T joints in a thin leg led to this solution. I'm still not sure if it is the best but wood has been chopped and there ain't no going back.

I decided on using double tenons separated by a stub tenon as a way to minimize loss of wood in the leg. That decision meant a fairly complex markout. I've found the best way to attack that is to make a jig with the markout included.  The jig has an additional advantage of insuring at least one wall of the mortise is vertical.

It is easier to show the jig that to explain how it works:

The blue lines are for working one side of the leg, the red lines are for the other side.

The last mortises I had chopped were on the just finished Moravian workbench. I will not say you lose the feeling for chopping with a layoff but at least I do. The first couple of mortises were slow and ugly. With a little paring they will clean up and be usable.

That slow and ugly begs a question, why? That answer, I think, is too much force. If it has been a while it is easy to forget "go slow to go fast" and you lose your "ear". By the third set of mortises the "ear" had returned and the muscle memory had as well. Then it was narrow cuts, tap, tap, tap, to the "sound" and the mortises went very quickly with one pass to depth and with clean walls.

As with most things in life, going Conan on it isn't the answer and is usually counter productive.

I took a day off from work and the shop yesterday. It was a fine Winter day in Southern Arizona with temps in the valley in the low 70's. A perfect day for a short hike in Madera Canyon. Madera Canyon is about halfway between Tucson and the US/Mexican border in the Santa Rita Mountains. The canyon is a major resting stop for migrating birds so we saw lots of cameras with huge lens and not many migrating birds although there were a few. BTW, I'd hate to carry one of those huge suckers up and down the trails just for a few really bad photos. Anyway a beautiful day for a walk in a beautiful setting.

MsBubba by a stream while still in the lower Juniper-Oak area:


Monday, January 28, 2019

Paralysis by Analysis

I've had the stock prepared for MsBubba's kitchen desk for well over a week but the title of this post says it all. I didn't want the legs to be too massive so I've used 8/4 stock and that is where the stop, don't pass go has happened. There isn't a lot of meat in the legs for the short stretcher tenons and I at first had planned on no lower stretchers. That plan is out the window but still the lower stretchers will only be on three sides with the fourth stretchers, if used, biased towards the back.

So I'm still left with how do I make the short stretcher M/T joint strong enough without weakening the leg too much. The best I've come up with is a near full width double tenon separated by a shallow stub tenon plus glue blocks and lower stretchers on three sides.

If after a few weeks of use it starts to wobble it will be back to the drawing board and a new base with thicker legs.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

LV Pencil Marking Gauge

I've been without a pencil marking gauge for awhile. I had a Philly Tools gauge that had a pencil holder on the off end of the beam that I sold a little over a year ago without thinking it through. Since that time I've used a panel gauge with a pencil holder or one of the combination squares while marking with a pencil when a pencil gauge was needed. While both work, neither is the best option.

I'd been thinking off and on about making a gauge. It is easy to do, you just need some scraps and a little time. Scraps I have, time not so much.

LV to the rescue. I received a flier from them the other day and on the inside front cover was a listing for a "second" pencil marking gauge. I couldn't whip out the AMEX fast enough. Today the gauge arrived and while maybe it is a "second" it is perfect and much better than one I would have cobbled together.

I expect the supply is limited and once gone they will be gone. It is a good pencil gauge for under $30 USD.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Day Job and Government Shutdown

I'm one of what I suppose is the lucky few who has always enjoyed their work. Back when, to borrow an airline phrase, I "flew the line" it was always a joy to see what was just over the horizon, what new foods and culture I could experience and/or revisit familiar places. While those days have passed I still enjoy what I hope is paying back an industry that brought so much to my life.

Times like last week try that enjoyment. Once a year we instructors are "clients" and undergo our personal annual training. Last week was my literal turn "in the box". Our recurrent training footprint is three and a half hours of ground school, a break that depends mostly on Sim availability, and five and a half hours of Simulator training  (one hour brief, four hours in the Sim, and thirty minutes debrief) for four days.  With the best schedule it is close to a twelve hour day for the four days. When younger it made a tough week, today it kicked this old farts ass.

I was lucky enough to have drawn a very good Sim partner, young and very sharp on his first recurrent after getting his type rating in the aircraft. The Sim instructor was also good and it was valuable as always to experience the technique of different instructors. I picked up a few things I will be able to use. No matter how long you instruct there is always something you can do better or different. Perhaps the best part, my check ride was scheduled to be "observed" by our FAA Inspector because the TCE (Training Center Evaluator) was due his annual reinstatement. Not that it is a big deal as far as I'm concerned but it can be a PITA for the TCE.

Thanks to the government shut down The FAA Inspector wasn't able to show and I was able to finish my training a day early.  The TCE needing reinstatement, not so lucky. He is a pumpkin until the government reopens and an observed ride can be scheduled. 

I spent most of yesterday recovering lost sleep and doing all the things put on hold. One of the "hold" things was buying wood for MsBubba's new desk. I found some nice 6/4 and 8/4 Red Oak at the woodstore. Two hundred and fifty USDs later it is stacked on the wood pile ready to start the desk Sunday. I'm giving a check ride to a client this afternoon.


Saturday, January 05, 2019


Ralph posts about refurbishing, I post about stones and sharpening. Ralph's are at least interesting, I expect mine not so much. Everyone it seems has their own way of sharpening and never should other ways intrude.

I also have sharpening round heels. C.S. posts that sharpening should be like a marriage, one system for life, As I said I have round heels, I not sure if I'm a cad or a slut but whatever I like different types of stones, but I'll pass on sandpaper and films. The different types of stones all lead to the same place but get there in slightly different ways.

The greatest differences are in the feel of the steel on the stone and the amount of monkey motion needed to use. There is not much need to revisit oil vs. water, it has been beat to death. The only thing I'll add is neither is quicker than the other, with oil stones you spend a little more time with steel on the stone. With most water stones you spend more time working on the stone. It is usually a wash.

JNat stones will kinda fall in the middle, they are slower than man made waterstones but faster than oil stones and their maintenance needs tend to be between as well. What JNats bring to the table is better "feel", better feedback as to what the steel and stone are doing. I know all touchy feely and unable to quantify but it is there. The other advantage of JNats is the grit can break down in the sury and as the steel and stone work together you can have a fast stone give a nice finish.

Posting about the finish of natural stones, oil or JNat, is where you can call B.S. but I prefer natural over man made. A man made stone like a Shapton will give an incredible shine but when you look through a lope you will see many small scratches lined up. Most JNats will not and no Ark stone will give that mirror shine in fact when you look with a lope the surface appears almost matt like when using either type stone with a very random scratch pattern. The shine looks great but I think the matt is a very slightly better working edge.

Here are four chisel sharpened with different techniques. You can't see the differences in the photo but I can tell you about them.

The chisel on the left is a #1 White Steel sharpened on JNats with a flat bevel. The steel has a "smokey" appearance with a well defined intersection between the steel and the backing iron and a fine matt finish when looked at with a lope. The next chisel is a A.I. O1 with a grinder bevel and also sharpened on JNats. The cutting edge also has a very fine matt finish. The new production Stanley 750 was sharpened on oil stones. The finish stone was a Washita and the chisel was stropped on leather with green stuff. It has a hell of a shine and under a lope a very fine scratch pattern. The last chisel is another #1 White steel sharpened on Shapton man made waterstones. There is not much difference in the shine between it and the 750 but under a lope the scratch pattern is more defined. One of the other differences is the definition of the line between the steel and the backing iron is not well defined like it is on the chisel sharpened with JNats.

The real question is: Is there much difference when steel meets wood and the answer to that is nope.

All four chisels are very sharp, all four hold their edge as well as can be expected for the type of steel. The next question is do I have a preference and that answer is not much, The JNats give great pleasure when steel meets stone, The Shaptons are wickedly fast, The oil stones make it very hard to screw up an edge. Each type of stone will give a good working edge.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

Workbench II

I hadn't planned on an immediate follow up post but some links came up in the comments that need to be in the main body.

The first from Sylvain taking you to "A Woodworker's Musings" blog. In that posting are several other links of interest,

While here we might as well talk about some of the things that make a good bench, especially for a first time builder. Those factors can be summed up easily: Simple, easy and quick to build, cheap, and stable. Easy to state but as always the devil is in the details.

Simple and easy and quick to build kinda go together but not necessarily. A Roubo bench can be very simple, four legs, six stretchers and a slab and you have a basic Roubo. Even in that simple state it can be difficult to build with lots of laminations to get the needed size timbers and the joints while they may be fairly simple are large and require precision. When you start adding the extras such as leg vises, wagon vises, sliding dead man and so on the bench go from simple to build to very complex and time consuming. I've seen builds posted that stretch on for years.

Cheap is another place where a Roubo sucks hind tit. Wood costs, even Big Box construction grade mystery wood, and a Roubo uses a lot of wood as built by most makers.

Stable, there is no question a well made Roubo at several hundred pounds or more is about as stable as you can get. My Roubo made from Beech could hold a Peterbuilt and not move. The same with the SYP one. I'm pretty sure I could say the same about my much lighter shop Moravian not that I would want to test it. Again while weight is a factor in stability it isn't the only thing that affects stability.

I know it sounds like I'm picking on the French bench but it is the bench that is in fashion today and the point of these posts is to think about what makes a good bench for both the first time and experienced builder.

More to come,