Roubo Is Coming… Part 14

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North Bros brace and auger bits

It has taken a few weeks since my return from Kentucky to get back into the workshop in earnest, but I am now back at the bench. After being spoiled by a week working at the Lost Art Press store front (which has the most amazing natural light, and an embarrassment of workbenches) my own workshop feels very modest indeed. But it is good to be home.

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Chopping the mortises in the vise chop for the hardware

I decided to kick-off my return to the Roubo bench build by fitting the hardware – this was a nice discreet step in the process before I start cutting the joinery in the slab top. I’ve had the Benchcrafted Glide C vise and Crisscross Retro since the slab arrived in August 2018, and I also added a Benchcrafted swing away seat and pair of Crucible holdfasts to complete fitting out the bench. Having used the Crucible holdfasts at the LAP storefront, I can confirm that they do indeed hold like the dickens.

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Boring holdfast holes in the front right-hand leg

I bored three holes in the front right-hand leg of the workbench partially as a place to store the holdfasts, and also to facilitate using the holdfasts to slamp long boards in place while edge jointing. These holes were bored with a 1″ diameter, 18″ long WoodOwl ship’s auger bit driven by my early 1920’s North Bros brace. the extra length of the ship’s auger assists in keeping the hole perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece, which is essential if the holdfast is to work correctly. The swingout seat is attached to the same leg, and positioned so that the top of the seat will be 19″ from the floor. To attach the seat mechanism to the bench I ordered some (frankly gorgeous) square headed 1/2″ diameter bolts from blacksmithbolt.com.

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Quality hardware is a must on major projects, and these bolts are gorgeous

Most of the work with this stage of the build came with fitting the vise hardware. Benchcrafted have produced some incredibly detailed and clear instructions for installing their hardware, so there is nothing to be gained from recounting the steps necessary. A few people have asked which iteration of the Crisscross mechanism I selected, and I went with the Retro (rather than the “Solo”) because I figured that the stepped mortises would be more straight forward than drilling the pin holes (which must be dead nuts accurate) through over 6″ thick oak. Chopping the mortises in the left-hand leg and vise chop did involve a fair amount of chisel work, but was not that difficult, even if I did use some particularly gnarly oak for the vise chop. To make like easier I hogged out most of the waste with a forstner bit and then cleaned up with a chisel.

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Tapping threads in wood using a battery powered drill is an entirely new experience for me

Fitting the hardware is quite involved, but an enjoyable process. There are definitely some new skills to be learned from this process, including tapping threads in timber to allow for the use of machine screws – this was entirely new to me, but thanks to the very clear instructions it went smoothly. After completing the installation I couldn’t help but do a test spin of the vise, and was pleased to find that it moves just as sweetly as advertised, and grips tightly. Once the bench is assembled I will trim the top of the chop level with the bench top and finish shaping it.

Nailing It in print

Issue 289 of the new-look Furniture & Cabinetmaking is now in stores, and includes the next instalment of my Roubo bench series. This instalment introduces using cut nails and “Roman” nails in furniture making, along with tongue and groove joinery and beading planes (the gateway drug to moulding planes!).

A Grand Kentucky Adventure… part 2

We are now at the midpoint of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class. Everyone is working hard, and everyone’s dovetails are improving. Monday was spent boiling dovetail techniques down to fundamentals, looking at body mechanics and the key processes at a really detailed and granular level, while cutting the tail boards. Tuesday consolidated those lessons while cutting the pin boards and gluing up the caress. We started today with a talk on cambering plane irons and demonstration on how to hone a camber. Everyone has now smoothed the exterior of their tool chests and are now onto dovetailing the lower skirts.

Although it is a completely different experience teaching the class, it has brought back vivid memories of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class I took with Chris five years ago. That was a life changing event for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pass on knowledge to students now, and for the friendship and mentor I gained five years ago.

If you want to really learn about a subject, try teaching it. Explaining how you approach a technique, and answering questions (which are always insightful and intelligent, but never what you expect) really prompts you to drill down into both the how and the why. And so far it is going well – some of the students have had that lightbulb moment when a technique suddenly clicks, and they all seem enthused by their progress. Which is all I can ask for (apart from maybe more fried chicken, something that just isn’t done well in England). Knocking together a corner of my demonstration tool chest while the class watched was a little nerve wracking, but it went together just fine. That kind of fear keeps you honest.

The Lost Art Press store front is a dream workshop, with plenty of natural light, space, and fantastic bench provision (as you’d expect). I’ve been stationed at Chris‘ slab top Roubo bench, and working at that bench has me eagerly looking forward to completing my own Roubo bench over the autumn.

This afternoon we will complete the bottom skirt and get the baseboards nail in place.

A Grand Kentucky Adventure… part 1

After 22 hours of travelling I reached Kentucky on Friday evening, and have spent the past couple of days catching up with good friends and seeing some of what Kentucky has to offer. There may have also been plenty of bourbon. Covington is a wonderful place full of gorgeous historic architecture, great places to eat, and within easy striking distance of other great attractions. I’ve sent approximately 27 messages home in the past 48 hours suggesting we move here, so I’m confident that Dr Moss will agree shortly (maybe?).

Shaker chair at a Pleasant Hill

Saturday was day two of the Lie Nielsen hand tool event, hosted by Lost Art Press, so I spent the day at the storefront catching up with Chris, Megan, Jeff, Mark, my buddies Jason and Brett, and the folk from Lie-Nielsen.

In the attic, at a Pleasant Hill

Today we took a trip to the Pleasant Hill shaker community, which was my first chance to see Shaker furniture and architecture in person. Special thanks goes to a Megan, who has a deep personal history with Pleasant Hill, and is an excellent tour guide. I’m still sorting through my photographs from the visit, and will post more from Pleasant Hill soon.

With Jeff, Mark and Megan at Pleasant Hill

Tomorrow, my Anarchist’s Tool Chest class starts, which I am looking forward to a great deal. The timber is out on benches, the workshop is reset after the L-N event, and we’re all set up. The next five days should be really good (and lots of hard work).

The Lost Art Press storefront.

A Spot of Pre-Flight Dovetail Practice

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A wide chisel helps to locate the tail board for transfer to the pin board

I thought I would get some dovetail practice in before I fly out for the Kentucky Dovetail Death March ™ later on this month, and this presented a perfect opportunity to start making drawers for the express lathe stand. The inclusion of drawers was a key part of the original design for the lathe stand, as not only will drawers provide a home for lathe tools and other small items (a workshop can never have too much storage!), but using the lathe stand as a storage unit also adds mass, which keeps things stable when turning larger workpieces. Originally I had intended to domino drawers out of ply – a construction method that is quick, efficient and perfect for a workshop storage unit. But as I wanted to do some dovetailing in preparation for my trip, it made sense to dovetail this round of drawers at the very least.

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Chamfering the leading edges of the tails for ease of assembly

So far I’ve made three drawers of varying depth and tail spacing – changing the dovetail spacing for each drawer offered some good practice after a few months of cutting only bench-sized joinery. One drawer will hold my lathe jaws, allen keys, and smaller tools which become indespensible when you use a lathe. The deepest drawer will hold my scorp, splitting wedges, and a few other chair making tools which need a separate home to my Anarchist’s Tool Chest. The final drawer is much shallower than the others, and will house story sticks and patterns accumulated from past projects.

 

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A sharp block plane is a wonderful thing for cleaning up joinery

I cut the dovetails the same way I’ve cut every dovetail joint (and the way we will be doing it next week). After a year of mainly working on bench-sized oak timber, the 3/4″ pine for the drawers worked ike a dream, and it was nice to work at a different scale and tolerance. Once the glue had dried, I cleaned up the dovetails with a sharp block plane to see how the joints had turned out and was quite pleased. Once I am back from Kentucky I will clean up the rest of the surfaces with a smoothing plane, fit ply bottoms to each drawer, and give them a lick of paint (probably the green I used for the saw cabinet). With some clutter out of the way, it will then be back to the Roubo bench build. The autumn promises some enjoyable woodwork!

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Three drawers. They need a final clean up, but the joinery is strong and these will provide plenty of storage in the lathe sand

On a separate note, I will be at the Lie-Nielsen event at the Lost Art Press storefront on Saturday – if anyone finds themselves there, then do say hi (I’ll be the jetlaged Englishman).

Apron Maintenance

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Before – nearly three years of accumulated grime

My Texas Heritage ‘shop apron has seen a lot of heavy use in the nearly-three years I’ve been wearing it. And with my class at the Lost Art Press store front now imminent (I fly out in just over a week’s time) I thought it was about time I gave my apron a bit of a clean. I discussed the best approach with Jason, who was able to give some helpful pointers.

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After brushing and using an air gun to remove dirt

The first stage of clean up was to gently brush the apron down to remove the bulk of the grime. I then used an air gun, fed with 20psi from a compressor, to remove any stubborn dirt particles that had become embedded in the fibres of the apron, as well as removing the inevitable detritus from within the pockets.

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Hosed down

With most of the dirt removed, I hosed the apron down with cold water, being sure to empty the pockets out afterwards to avoid stretching as the apron dried (the waxed canvas pockets are very effective as water collecting vessels!). The canvas cleaned up quickly and very well, with just some stubborn patches of PU glue remaining (that stuff will likely survive the apocalypse), and while it is looking cleaner it still shows signs of being worn and used. Which is exactly how it should be. I fully expect that this apron will outlast me, which is a testament to the quality of Jason’s work.

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Cleaned up