Grandpa’s Tool Chest

Before I start work, I often read some of my favorite woodworking blogs.  Because of my work, I start at 11am local time to have lots of overlap with my home office in California (I live and work in Connecticut).  This work schedule started about a year ago and at first it proved difficult but now I am used to it.  I still get up at 6 or 7 and have some morning leisure time and sometimes get in some turning or saw practice before the programming begins.  Anyway, earlier this week I saw this post by Chris Schwarz over at Lost Art Press, “White Star Tool Chest”. The white star chest didn’t grab me that much, but the illustration from “Grandpa’s Tool Chest” piqued my interest. It looks a lot like a project from one of my many woodworking books, and also one I had started and put aside when other life events took most of my free time.

So I dusted it off, grabbed my card scraper to get the munge off one of the sides (some kind of mold I’d guess, you can see it on the right back edge in the photo below), then tried out some of my tools in it. I need a place for my saws, molding planes, chisel roll, and rasp roll, and would prefer to put my planes in a more enclosed space. This seemed like a good option since I had the carcase made already, the dust panels in place, and just needed to finish the lid, and build some drawers for the lower section. A base would probably be a good idea too.

After scraping the side, I sealed it with some shellac (I had apparently done this to the other side already). Then I grabbed my longest plane–yup it will fit in a drawer quite easily.

My rip saw however was a bit too long, but I was able to grab a dovetail practice scrap and saw some kerfs in to see how the crosscut hand saw and my back saws would fit. I also grabbed some of molding planes and put them towards the back. Pretty spiffy. I think I’ll even have enough room at the top to make a sliding till for layout tools or saw files and such.

I have space for three good sized drawers and with some full extension sliders, I think this will really work out well for my tool storage. If I put a skirt around the lid that should cut down on the dust getting into the bin, though that skirt might be a bit tricky with the angle. With a base on it, the top of the lid will be at about mid-chest height for me, so it shouldn’t pose a problem putting tools in or out of the top bin. The slant-top ought to cut down on my propensity to put things on flat surfaces and leave them there as I work around the clutter (OCD I am not). I’m liking this idea.

This particular project is not difficult, the frame for the raised panel is just glued into a rabbet–I think the original project in the book just had a single flat panel. I made the frame with mortise and tenons, and raised the panel with my hand planes. For the sides I just used some pre-glued pine panels from a big box store. The back is in two sections with pocket screws holding the frames around a thin piece of luan, and both are rabbeted into the sides. The bottom of the upper bin is also a pre-glued pine panel and it separates the two back pieces. I do need to nail that to the sides at the front third or so of the panel so any wood movement goes towards the back. The dust panels are made the same way as the two back sections, pocket screws, luan, and glued into dadoes in the sides. I don’t think I even used cut nails, though I think I will add them. The frames are all made of poplar, and the lid will be a single panel with some wide bread-board ends, though I haven’t finalized that. I might use some gorgeous jatoba (aka brazilian cherry) I have from a different project. I’ll probably paint the sides and just shellac the drawer fronts, maybe similar to another piece of shop furniture I made some time back. Maybe some soft maple would go better with the pine. Or just some pine. Pine always looks nice.

The source of the chest project: “Early American Country Furniture” by Denis Hambucken.


Spring Pole lathe, broken!

When you build your own tools from scratch, you know what is needed to fix them.  Normally this is not a concern but perhaps due to boneheaded operator error (or boneheaded builder error, or both) might be necessary at some time in the distant future.  In my case, it was the near future, and I broke one of the spring poles, the upper one.  And the wire connecting the spring pole to the upper arm.  At least my digits are all intact and my boneheadedness required no stops to the ER.  Is boneheadedness even a word?

A week or so after getting home with my completed lathe, I was merrily treadling away and thought “I need more spring pole!” so I moved the metal ring more to the left, which alters the fulcrum for the spring pole.  This effectively changes where the spring pole bends, thus shortening the spring and making the action snappy.  At the same time I also changed where the spring pole attaches to the upper, over-head arm, again shortening the throw which should make the action snappy as well.

It made it snappy alright.  Treadle treadle treadle snap!  The treadle went all the way to the floor and stayed there.  Because of my experiences with the parachute cord, that was my first suspect (the knots tended to come loose and I’d re-tied them four or five times already).  Nope, those are all tight.  I look over at the spring pole and it was hanging at an ugly angle.  I felt shame.  “Pittsboro, we have a problem”.  Well, crap now what?  I decide to get MacGyver on it and try moving the fulcrum point on both the arm and spring pole.  This resulted in action akin to ‘overcooked linguine’, but I could still do some turning.  That is until I manage to break the wire that connects the spring pole and the upper arm.  When we wrapped these, Roy suggest we put a pretty good bend right where we wanted the loop to start/stop, then wrap any excess below that.  I got a bit overenthusiastic with this bend and created a weak spot for the wire, which caused it to snap under stress.  “She can’t take no more Captain!”.

The first chance I get I go out in the woods, find a young sapling, take my bow saw to the base and cut it down. “We can rebuild it.  We have the technology.”  I think it is a beech but it might be a birch.  Meh, it’s a late summer pole (heh heh) and if it breaks again, I can just go get another one.  I have 5 acres of the stuff surrounding me.  So I cut it to length, grab my new-to-me drawknife and take off all the bark.  Then I get one end down to the requisite diameter using my spokeshave and leave the other end on the thicker side, thinking a little extra diameter there will help should I get all springy obsessed again.  Of course that means widening that opening and also finding a bigger ring to go around the two poles.

I probably should get a turning saw, because sometimes you just need a turning saw. I ended up widening the opening for the new spring pole with some chisel work and slightly scary forstner-bit-in-the-shop-smith action.  Remember, no ER visits.  I had to break out the rasps and clean up my chisel work. Yeah, a turning saw sure would have been nice.  I positioned this photo to hide my beaver-esque chisel work.

For the wire, I bought 100′ of the stuff at the local hardware store, but also remembered Roy saying you want this connection to be as stiff and non-elastic as possible–he suggested one good solution would be a piece of wood connecting the upper arm with the spring pole.  So I got a hardwood dowel, some eye screws and connected the two parts that way.  I need to adjust the dowel (I cut it a bit too long) but overall I’m pleased with the results.  While doing all this I took the axle out of the upright, and put some grease on it.  The entire lathe really works great now, so with a few more improvements (tool rest tightening, tool rest shimming) the lathe ought to be turning out table legs and tool handles for a while.  I did find that the wood had swollen a little since I’ve left it outside, so getting the ways and stretcher back together after breaking it down proved to be a bit more trouble than originally.

Poor lathe needs some Viagra now that its heart is healthy enough for treadling.  “If you treadle for more than 4 hours without stopping for water, you might get dehydrated and keel over.  Please also eat once in a while or you will get light-headed and perhaps keel over.  Never treadle in front of your door or you will track in wood chips.  Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant or have been pregnant or breathe air tend to take a dim view of wood chips tracked into the house, which (you guessed it) might result in you keeling over.”

I’m just going to leave it unfinished and let the pine age naturally.  Erhmm, gracefully.  And yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to use quotes from popular media (TV, Movies, Music).  Maybe I should read more.  Well, let me restate that.  Maybe I should read classic literature more, I read a ton already.  No, seriously, I need to make some bookshelves to hold all my reading material.  Hmm, Jefferson “Library of Congress” bookshelves?  From PW a year or two ago?  Maybe, but sometimes you just need a turning saw…

Update. The screws pulled out of both ends of the dowel (on two different occasions), so that solution might not be worth the trouble. I might have made the pilot holes a little too big, but since I have 100 feet of the galvanized wire, I just used that and got back to work.

Woodwright’s School, Spring Pole Lathe, Class photos

Here are some photos of my classmates working away in the Woodwright’s school.  Ed Lebetkin, who runs the tool shop upstairs, commented that he wondered if Roy did any instruction or not in this class, as we always seemed to be busy bees going about our work w/o a lot of direct involvement from Roy.  While not true (Roy showed us a lot), it is true that from what I could tell, all of us were fairly experienced woodworkers who didn’t need a lot of intense direction.  Some were faster than others, but overall everyone finished their lathe, all within an hour or two of each other over the course of a week’s work.  Fun group and I know I’ll keep in touch with a few of them in the future and hope to run into them all at some point at woodworking events or classes.  Some of us might show up in the local county travel video (they came through one afternoon while we were working away).

At the end of the day on Thursday, with our lathes looking pretty lathe-like, we decided to get some glamor shots and put them all up on our workbenches.

Left to right, Cameron, a timber framer from Canada, Terry, Brandon (behind the upright), Dan, Gerald from Texas, and Chuck also originally from Texas but now making Windsor Chairs in West Virginia.  I might take a chair class with Chuck next summer, which would be fun.  We stayed at the same B&B so got to chat quite a bit over breakfast, along with another classmate Larry.

J.T. the youngest member of the class.  He and his wife were moving west after this class to go to grad school, J.T. in architecture if I recall correctly.  He had also taken the Woodcraft Week earlier in the summer, and had the adze scar to prove it (yikes). We were all invited out to Roy’s house after Thursday’s class and during the tour, JT found the adze that bit him.

Terry, working on the bench in front of me.

Larry behind me, working on the tool rest I believe.  I also got to know Larry pretty well since he also stayed in the same B&B.

Here Gerald is using the moving filister to cut the rabbet in the tool rest.

I usually try to get photos of everyone, and I think I did for this class, some show up in previous installments of the class.  From the bench layout,  front to back, right to left when looking out towards the street, Cameron, Terry, Joe (me), Larry, Brandon.  Then Curtis, Chuck, JT, Gerald, and Dan. Dan had the catbird seat for a quick run upstairs to the tool shop.  In the photo below though, left to right, JT, Chuck, Curtis, Roy, Dan, and a visitor to the shop.

I had a great time in Pittsboro, and despite it being a small town, there are some good restaurants with nice people everywhere.  I’m glad I stayed in the B&B near the school, but JT and his wife stayed at the one a little further away (2 extra ‘blocks’) and said it was nice, and Cameron and his wife and son stayed at one on the way out to Siler City, which Roy hadn’t heard about yet.  Cam said the hostess literally stuffed them with food every morning.  I know I’ll take another class here, maybe the Woodcraft Week which is held out at Roy’s property.  Other than the bar behind Roy’s school though, I didn’t find any live music that didn’t require driving.  I wanted banjos (darn it)!