Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Boring Post

Please bear with me on this post.  First, the bad pun in the title:  it runs in my genes.

Second, I am trying to find a blog template that I am happy with, and haven't yet.  Hopefully I will find one that looks good, is easy to navigate and makes me look smart (a tall order).

Third, I am trying to learn a good balance between productivity and taking photos of my work.  I have to admit that I hate slowing down a project to take pictures.  I am slow enough.  I do think I am getting better on not letting the picture taking interfere too much with the pace of my woodworking, but so far the balance has been found by missing a few critical shots.

Fourth, although I got some unexpected time in the shop yesterday, I forgot my camera and had to use my phone, so the photo quality today is bad.

The good news is that this table is almost done.

"Wow!  He works fast," you might be saying, but please keep in mind that I started this table somewhere back last October or something. Life tends to get in the way of progress in the shop at times.

Anyway, my first intention with this table was to get all the parts cut out, finished, loaded into my Volkswagen Golf in pieces and assemble and glue in the final destination of this table, the in-laws place.  The only problem is that I really, really want to draw bore these tenons.  So, in my usual fashion, I am going to put it together and then figure out how to drive it 350 kilometers later.

So, to start, I wanted to try out my new Lie-Nielsen dowel plate.  I always wanted to make one of these, but I don't have a decent piece of steel rolling around in my shop, and after realizing that I had been trying to collect what I needed for it that I wasted about three years of suffering without one, so I just sucked it up and ordered one.

The big benefit is that this one is in inches, which makes perfectly matching dowels for the holes I bore with my vintage brace.  The last time I tried to use a metric dowel in an imperial hole it wasn't pretty.

Anyway, I have seen some folks have made some really nice, elaborate holders for these things to make it possible to use.  I decided I wanted to make dowels right away, so I just clamped it to the bench over a dog hole.

The dowel stock I cut on the Army's table saw.  I had an oak board leftover from this project that was about 10 inches long or so which yielded about six of these little square sticks.

I wanted 3/8 inch dowels to match the number 6 Jennings bit I have, so I cut them to about 3/8 inch square. 

I then used the Army's giant belt sander (I don't think it's cheating to use power tools if they happen to be handy, I just wouldn't buy one) to sharpen the ends like pencils, to make it easier to start in the plate.

Then, lining up the stick first in the 1/2 inch hole, beat the crap out of that little stick with the 1 kilo sledge hammer found on the wall rack, until  a stick with rounded edges comes out the other side.  This is followed by moving the roundish dowel to the 3/8 hole and repeating.

Incidentally, I think I have found another activity that would get me evicted from the apartment if I tried this at home.

The dowels that come out of this dowel plate are round, the correct size, but ugly.  Lots of tear out, and if the grain isn't straight, neither are the dowels.  I think it will be just fine as intended draw bore pins.  The only thing visible will be the end grain.  If it doesn't turn out perfect, then I'll know not to do this to the table I intend to put in our house.  :o)

In my photo documenting exploits, I only got one picture of this.  For some reason, I didn't get any of the finished dowels, or any better detail shots than this one:

I recommend when doing this to wear eye and hearing protection.  It is very loud, and little chips of wood fly everywhere.  Also, this can get very tiring very quickly.  Use the most efficient technique possible, and allow the hammer to fall on the dowel.  Fifteen minutes of this will make you feel like the Incredible Hulk.

After cross-cutting the dowels to appropriate lengths, I wound up with about 18 dowels, plenty for this project.  Back to the belt sander to sharpen them all, and I'm done with those.

Next, the matching holes go into the table legs.  I decided based on the sizes of the dowels and the sizes of the tenons to put two draw bore pins on the front of the legs, and one pin on the sides.  With draw bore pins, one must offset them so they don't run into each other inside of the mortise.  I thought this arrangement would be strongest and look nice.  I think if I used two on each side, I would weaken the tenon a bit by having to bore holes too close to the side of the tenon in this case.

So, now it is just a matter of layout.  I marked all of the legs with a horizontal line, followed by marking all of the fronts with a lower mark, then an upper one to give me an "X marks the spot" for the brace bit.  I want this to be sort of uniform so it looks good, but it doesn't have to be a layout that takes forever as it will hold like crazy wherever the pin winds up.

Now, let's get boring!

I realized too late that there is a decent drill press available to my in the Army workshop.  This would have increased accuracy and speed, but I didn't have a decent 3/8 inch drill press bit.

It will be fine as long as the brace bit starts right on the mark.  I do the best I can to keep everything nice and square, but some of the holes wound up a little off-kilter.  No big deal, as it will look fine from the front and be just as strong.  This is one of those things that if it is a little off, it will be just fine.

I figured out that if I put a scrap in the mortise, it prevented the brace from blowing out a little chunk of wood in there.  Again, no big deal but no point in doing it if I don't have to.

A tip I remembered was to bore all through the leg until just the tip of the lead screw poked through the bottom.

Then, turn the work over and start from the other side.  This lines everything up perfectly, and makes for a very neat hole on both sides.  This seems to work better for me than a backer board for keeping the hole looking good.

I used a bit of red tape to mark more or less how deep I needed to drill before turning the wood over.  Not being at home, I had to clamp this board on the bench with a clamp.  Usually I would use a holdfast.

There it is!  Next time, I'll show you how to mark out the hole to drill in the tenon.  Then it is just a matter of cleaning everything up with a smoothing plane, and after that, glue up!

One note about the construction of these legs; they are laminated together with two boards from the same stock I built the top from.  Some beautiful quarter sawn 42mm oak.  I then used veneer on the ugly side of the legs, the part that would show the lamination and the flat-sawn grain.  It worked brilliantly.  The veneer I wound up with is not quite as vivid as the lumber I used, and the color is just a tad lighter.  But, I think it will look a lot nicer, and hopefully the colors will even out with finish and time.

I recommend this method as opposed to mitering the legs.  Both methods are traditional for this style, but for a hobbyist, this was a simple, elegant solution.  Next time I'll be a bit more picky about the veneer I use.


  1. Hi Brian, nice project, I wish I had in-laws I could test my stuff on. The dowel plate is great fun, I did it on my balcony "workshop", just to impress my neighborhood :-) Oak as well, I followed Chris's recommendation (if I remember correctly, too many books...), use your pocket knife to split the stock, will give you straight grain, round it a bit with the knife, and then let Mr sledgehammer finish the job. Saves some energy, but less fun for the neighbors, I admit... Best regards, Achim

    1. Hey Achim,

      Thanks for the tip. I wish I hadn't used sawn pins, as a couple of them broke and I had to drill them out. But, I think it will turn out OK. I'll have to fix a couple spots, though.

      I'd like to see some photos of your bench on your balcony.