Sunday, December 30, 2018

American Trestle Table - Part III: Cutting Half-Laps for Mortises

The last of the cherry laminated beams is now in the clamps. Hopefully today I will get in the shop to clean them up, plane them square and start cutting tenons.
Danger, Will Robinson! More on that later.
Since I cut a total of twelve half-laps for the six mortises, I thought I'd do a little photo essay on how I did it. It is pretty simple, and hopefully once the tenons are cut everything will fit perfectly and look beautiful.
  1. Too bad it rarely works out that way.
  2. I shouldn't have cut twelve half-laps for six mortises.
The key to getting these to line up perfectly is to be accurate with your layout of the joint. I did everything in pairs: two half laps, which I then glued up to make a laminated beam with a mortise, followed by the next.

I marked where the lines should go with dividers in order to eliminate measuring mistakes, used a marking knife to make a line, deepened it with a chisel and notched out a triangle of wood where my crosscut saw could sit to start the cut.

Once the ends of the lap were defined with the saw, I made a few relief cuts to aid in chopping out the waste in the middle.
Two precise cuts, and a few eyeballed relief cuts in the middle.
To rough out the waste, I start by using a chisel and a mallet. I only go half of the depth required at first, to see how the wood is going to behave. The first chopping goes down a ways, but not all the way through. I'll turn the piece over and do the same from the other side to avoid blowing out wood on the other side, which might show on the final piece.
Halfway in and halfway down.
After knocking out chips from the whole width, I go back and move my chisel again to the 1/2 way mark. Since this is half of the half, it is a little lighter of a cut.
Move the chisel back to take about half of what's left.
I keep going back 1/2 of the remaining thickness as long as I dare, then I get really close to the line and make an angled cut to add a bit of a chamfer that will hopefully help avoid blow out later.
Roughing out a bit of a chamfer to help later.
Now, I turn the board over and do it all again.
Second time, same as the first.

Here's what it looks like when I'm ready to move to the next step.
Using a mallet on a chisel to bash out waste like this is efficient for rough waste removal. What I do now is use the chisel with hand pressure only to knock down some of the high spots, which will save time with the router plane. If I'm not using a router, I will do this part very carefully, checking my work often, until I am down to the lines and everything is square.
Chiseling across the grain with hand pressure only to refine things a bit.
Make sure to keep all of your body parts behind the pointy end for safety. For control, you can hold onto the chisel with your off hand to guide the cut.
Guiding the cut with my off hand.
When I'm as close as I dare, I finish off the joint with a router plane. We've saved a lot of time by roughing out the joint to this point with a chisel, and this plane is going to flatten and measure everything to perfectly flat for us.

Take light cuts with this tool, it should be thought of as a fine finishing tool for joints like this.
The end result should look something like this:
Feeling pleased with myself only lasted an hour or two: I exclaimed a profanity while sitting on the couch watching TV with The Frau later that evening. It only then dawned on me that the feet only were to get this kind of joint, the braces at the top were supposed to get a bridle joint.

The bridle joint allows the grain of the leg to appear to go all the way up to the table top, leaving room for your eye to see the mortise for the trestle by itself.

Structurally, the mortise and tenon on the top brace will be fine, but now the mortise and tenon for the trestle will be right next to the now visible joint for the cross brace.

I'm committed now, since I have no more cherry on hand to do the braces over again. We'll see if I get that far before I have to leave again for Spain. But, in the end, it is a small detail that might not look too bad. We'll have to see.

I can always paint it like I originally planned.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

American Trestle Table - Part II: The Parts

The slab for the table top was delivered, and it is stunning!
Sadly, this stunning slab doesn't look as good in photos as it does in real life.
I'll have to figure out how to photograph this table, because so far I haven't seen a picture that does this slab justice. It is just gorgeous. There is a lot of color and figure in it, including some curious dark pink streaks that I've never seen before. I bet over time those pink streaks turn brown, as all wood does eventually.

I showed the client the table top on a video call, and The Frau immediately talked her into leaving the slab it's full dimensions of 190cm x 80 cm, and out of my plan of making the base out of pine and painting it black.

Too bad, as the chosen wood of cherry complicates this build greatly. I'll now have to think about matching grain and color for the laminations. Fortunately, I have enough cherry laying around for this project.

It would have been nice to buy some thick cherry posts, but the lumberyard where that wood is available was closed for the holidays. I'll do my best with the cherry that I have. If it doesn't look as good as I think it should, I can still paint it.

In the meantime, let's get started. I had some fun rough dimensioning the lumber I'll use, and cut the center brace. I successfully tried sawing it out with the taper from the rough. I usually think of doing that after I had ripped the piece and four squared it. This was easier.
Sawing a tapered brace from the rough board.

It turned out nice, but the shop looks a bit dark, doesn't it?
I've been spoiled woodworking in Spain with all of the natural sunlight I get in the room where I woodwork. I finally got fed up with my botched lighting scheme, which was using some recycled spotlights from our living room.

I could get light where I needed it by turning the spotlights to where they were needed, but they were hot and less than ideal.
Don't mind the mess. Wouldn't you agree it's time for new lights?
I did a bit of research, and bought a set of four 120 cm long integrated LED shop lights from Amazon. They each are just 36 watts, 2800 lumen, and have a color temperature of 4500 K.

I couldn't find information on these (or any) shop lights as far as how they are wired, and if they could be wired from one to the next, or if they each needed their own circuit. I crossed my fingers, and they arrived just as I wanted: easy to wire and up to six of this model can be wired in series.
This should help.
More than 10,000 lumens should light up my 7.6 square meter shop nicely.

It is a terrible thing to get old.

I hung three of the lights on chains that I rigged. It works perfectly. They are on a diagonal angle over my bench. I did this to avoid as many shadows from direct lights that I could.
I lowered the lights from the ceiling by hanging them on these chains.
There's still a bit of neatening up to do with the wires, but overall I'm happy.
The idea is to put the last one on the ceiling behind the support beam to light up the back of the shop where my tool chest is.
Enough of that. Let's get back to woodworking. Since I'm now using cherry instead of pine, I needed to get back on track. The dimensioned wood for the base is all supposed to be 32mm thick, but some of the wood I have is 52mm, and the rest is 42mm. That's a lot of work with a scrub plane.

I decided to hit Peter up and I schlepped my wood over to Dictum to run it through their machines. In about 90 minutes I had it all ripped, jointed and planed to rough shape. I even was able to rip some legs in walnut for another side table intended for a future "honey do" project.
I'm not a purist. This saved about six months worth of work.

Finally, I am able to start some joinery. I cut the first half-mortise on one of the table's feet using my BadAxe carcass saw. I haven't used it much since I got it about five years ago (maybe more) because the very first cut I did with it (incidentally, a cut exactly like this one) I twisted the saw in the wood and thought I bent it. Turns out I just de-tensioned it, and Pedder was able to sort it out in short order. This saw is filed crosscut, and works great. However, I think if I was to do it again, I would get it in a hybrid cut instead.
My BadAxe carcass saw with the no-longer-available stainless steel spine and cherry handle.
I realized when doing this crosscut, that the overhead lighting is amazing, but I'm having trouble seeing my line on the side of the board. You can see in the picture above that the edge of the board is remarkably darker.

This gave me the idea to mount the last light on the cross support, rather than behind it. It still lights up my tool chest, but additionally throws some light on my bench from the side. I even mounted it with some wedges, to give it a little more of an angle at my bench.

There is even enough room to mount another of these lights, if I wish, right next to it so I could have light all along this cross support throwing light at the full length of my bench. We'll see.
Light #4. I brought it down here to give me some angled light on my bench.

It works brilliantly. I can now see my lines on both the face and edge of the board.
Can you tell I'm excited about my new lights?

After sawing my half-tenons, I bashed out the waste with a chisel, tried to get relatively close with the chisel, and finished up with my LN router plane.
This plane was born for this cut.
It worked great. I was a bot concerned about the glue up, as I've had problems in the past getting boards lined up and staying put when clamping. To help, I planed a small block to fit the length of the mortise to keep the mortise lined up during glue up.
glue up.
It worked great. This foot is in the clamps, and I have the other foot cut out and ready for glue up.
So far so good.
I don't have enough clamps for more than one of these glue ups at a time, so I'll glue up foot #2 in the morning, before we drive to the in-laws' for Christmas.

I'll get a bit more of this done after Christmas, but it's not looking like this project will get finished before I leave for Spain again on the second.

No biggie, this project is not under an urgent deadline. This table will get finished the next time I'm here.

What are your thoughts about using cherry laminations for this table? Do you think I'll have to paint it in the end, anyway?

Friday, December 14, 2018

American Trestle Table - Part I: The Plan

The Frau and I flew in to Germany yesterday for the holidays. We need to spend a few days during Christmas with the Schwiegereltern (in-laws), but the rest of the time I'll be home with access to my shop.

As a reminder, I followed The Frau to Spain when she was offered a temporary position there. We'll likely stay there another couple of years before we come back to Munich, where we own an apartment with my shop in the basement storage room. While we're away, a friend has been looking after our apartment, which is really nice, and removes the stress of wondering if our apartment is doing OK.

Since she is really hooking us up with this, I had no problem offering to make her a dining table when we found out she bought a new apartment that is being built.
Future table.
In other (shorter) words, I have a client who wants a table.

After collecting some information from her, I found out she wants a table that is approximately 160cm x 80cm. She is putting it in the corner of her kitchen/diner, between two benches that are being reupholstered.
The benches that this table will go with.

I thought that a four-legged table would make getting in and out of the benches difficult, so the client agreed (to The Frau's horror, because she hates this design) my idea of a trestle table similar to the one Christopher Schwarz built for Popular Woodworking a few years back.

I'm extremely excited because I've always wanted to build this table, but have never had a reason to. The client absolutely loves the look of this table, so it's a win-win.

The client was really excited when I showed her what I had in mind for a table top. She agreed to buy a solid slab of maple that I sourced from a friend here in Munich. It looks awesome in the single picture I have of it, and I can't wait for it to be delivered to me later today.
Solid maple slab.
My friend is a carpenter and his hobby is collecting slabs of wood to make dining tables. He agreed to let this one go, even though it's already been flattened with a CNC machine and given a coat of oil.

Unless I can talk the client into a little longer of a table, I'll have to lop off about six inches from one end. This slab is 190cm x 80cm x 4cm. It's a little thick for this table's design, so I'll likely lighten up the look by beveling a wide chamfer on the underside. This is a trick I've used before to make a thick table top appear thinner than it is.

The client also wants the corners to have a heavy rounding so it doesn't hurt when it is bumped into.

All of that is no problem, and with the single slab table top, there is not much that has to be done to get the table top ready. Nearly all of the effort for this table will be in the base. At least, that's the plan.

The client surprisingly liked the idea of the base painted black. This is great, because I then won't have to worry much about what the actual wood looks like for the base. I'll stick with CS's idea of laminating pine boards together to make the square beams for this table. Since it'll be painted, my plan is to use scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) because it is light and easy to work.

The main difference for my table, is it will have to be adjusted from the one in the magazine by making it substantially shorter.

Luckily, I remembered that CS posts SketchUp files for all of his projects online, so I downloaded the one for this table.

I suck with SketchUp, but I was able to get something that vaguely resembles the table in the correct dimensions (see the first picture in this post). I adjusted the table top in Sketchup to the desired dimensions of 160x80, and then adjusted the base. I chose the dimensions of the base by making the negative space of the base a golden rectangle. It seems to look pretty good to my eye.

I often don't work with plans or cut lists, but if I have a project with definite parameters, I find they help.
My cut list. Kiefer is the German word for scots pine.
Luckily the client's new apartment is still under construction, so if I don't finish this by the time we leave for Spain after the holidays, I'll be able to finish it up next time.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Friend's Sad News

I found out some sad news today. Jonas from Mulesaw sent me a text that his mother passed away last night.
Jonas in the back with his mom and dad up front. (2016)
She has been battling cancer for a few years, and I know Jonas and his family will miss her terribly.

If you would like to leave a note of condolence, feel free to comment on this blog post, as I can assure you he will read it. If you would like to send him an email or the like, drop me a note through the email function on this blog and I'll put you in contact with him.

Jonas' mother was the sweetest lady I had ever met. Always a smile on her face and a positive attitude. I only met her on two occasions (when I was in Denmark building chairs with Jonas), but she did make an impression on me as being very kind and a role model for how one should treat people. I know she adored her grandchildren.

The first time I was in Denmark, they invited me to stop by their house on my drive back to Germany. I did, and was surprised that she had prepared a bunch of little snacks to eat while we had coffee. Plus she gave me a tour of her beautiful home. It was more than hospitable considering I was someone they hardly knew.

Jonas, I'd like to offer my condolences. Please let your dad and your family know I am thinking about them all today.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Guest blog bu Ty Stange: First Danish Chair Building Extravaganza

Thank you to Brian to let me post on his blog. This post is long overdue - life and business made sure I have been busy. Better late than newer - here goes:

This year I was given the honour to attend Danish Chair Building Extravaganza. Having newer met any of the attendants I did not know what to expect and what would be possible to make etc. On arrival I was greeted by Brian and Jonas in the yard and they were already in full action doing drawings, preparing tools etc. I felt welcome immediately and were given a workbench and a tour of Jonas impressive workshop and sawmill.

I brought several ideas for a project to build but, after seeing what the others were building, settled on a redesigned version of December Chair by Jasper Morrison & Wataru Kumano, produced by Nikkari Oy in Finland:
What I like, other than the sleek design, is that is has two special features. One is that the fabric that makes the seat is inset in a keyhole-shaped slot with a metal rod:

And also the back legs support the back rest in an interesting

Now just copying a design I feel is a bit like cheating. And this chair had a few shortcomings (probably due to the fact that is is made to be collapsible and flat pack):
- There is no support stopping the posts that hold the back rest from bending inwards. The frame is stiff enough not to break but not an optimal solution
- Only the seat is mounted in these nice slots, the back rest just threads over the posts.
Lets make that better!

Now, despite being a professional photographer, I am horrible at taking pictures in my free time. So this is a mixture of my own shop-notes-pictures and Brian´s

First a few, sketches to get the rough dimensions etc
Then a full size drawing

And ready to cut a lot of parts. Had brought some boards of hornbeam that I was fortunately enough to get from a park, Søndermarken, where I live in Copenhagen, then milled and stored for two years. Had only made small projects with it before and was curious to see how it behaved and looked. I wanted i light appearance and the hornbeam was perfect in that regard.
Hornbeam is very hard and i bit brittle so planing is a bit difficult. A bit like hard maple in that it is also diffuse-porous and super fine grained. Plane shavings look like fine lace.

While planing is difficult, turning, on the other hand, is super nice and an almost ivory like feel can be achieved. The only difficult part to turn is the back leg that needs two cylindrical and accurate parts with a straight taper in between, those needed a little extra care and frequent use of calipers.

To make the slots for the set and back rest to thread into I needed to make custom router bits, a 4 mm straight one and a 7 mm round keyhole shaped one. In my time working as a toolmaker a common type of bit for the metal mills was called a "stikkel", In english they appear to be called Single Flute Milling Cutters or D-bits.

For wood HSS steel is perfectly fine for smaller runs and the steel gets super sharp (in contrast to the usual carbide tipped bits) and Jonas had a few broken drill bits that I could use. The idea is that you take a round bar, grind away exactly half the diameter, shape the bit as desired and grind away a relief in order to establish a cutting edge. This is normally done in a specially made grinding machine with a support for the steel that can rotate in different directions. But a handheld grinding machine in a lathe works as well and
Jonas had a small hobby lathe (among several others) that I borrowed. Also found a grinding machine and here the result after a few hours of grinding away, simple and effective:
The bits got a bit blue after routing the grooves but HHS steel does not temper easily so it all worked well. The round back rest posts were routed in a v-groove support.

Jonas cozy workshop in morning light
Now next step was to drill the holes in the frame. I was so fortunate that Olav had this lovely old Arboga drill/mill machine that I could borrow. Jonas wrote a lot about that in his blog

Discussing details with Olav
Here all parts done, including the back rest support at left
And gluing it all up. It newer stops to amaze me how chair building is a lot of work on seemingly random parts, often for days - and suddenly it all just go together in a matter of minutes.

Olav had another gem as well, an old hand driven sewing machine that I borrowed. Perfect for the thick fabric (that I got from Jonas that had gotten it from a ship he worked on once)
Once I got the hang of it this machine worked like a charm, smooth and chewed through several layers of fabric. Perfect.
The length of the seat and back rest is quite critical. It needs to just exactly be able to thread into the holes  - and at the same time not be so loose that the seat meets the rails when sat on. Had to do a few test forth and back before it all worked.

The design calls for the edges of the fabric to be bent over and double at the sides. That way the diameter of the metal rod needs to be different in the ends. Found stainless steel rods at a local machinist Jonas sent me to. Made a small jig and ground away on Jonas bench grinder, rotating the rods with a handheld drill, worked just fine.

Sanded all surfaces til 400 grits and, after advice from Olav, polished the surface with plane shavings. That gave a lovely, smooth surface and decided to keep it like that. Had planned to use soap treatment and might do that if the polish does not last.

And then suddenly it was done. Jonas testing for comfort in a pile of planer shavings
At home in its final place. It sits on front of a broad bank of windows and wanted a piece that did not disturb the light from coming in. Think that works well.

Being part of DCBE was an honour, a pleasure and super fun. Being able to focus on only one thing for a whole week is such a luxury, thank you guys!

So that's it. Thank you for coming along, hope you enjoyed the read!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Which Chisel Set Should I Buy?

I often see this question posted in internet forums (fora?) from beginners who want to get started in woodworking and were told that they should invest in a good set of chisels that will last a lifetime. More often than not they are trying to decide between a set of eleven Lie-Nielsen knock-offs and a set of 13 plastic handled beauties they found at the home center.

I've been there, in fact I started off this way. Here is what I learned:

Nobody needs a set of thirteen bench chisels.

That's it.

I've written about  this before. I think a set of more than three chisels is a marketing gimmick (that most of us have bought into) that puts more tools than you need in your toolbox, separating you from more money that you could use for nicer tools.

Here's why:

If you have a nice box with a graduated set of chisels from 1/8" up to 1 1/2", the one you will inevitably reach for is the sharpest one. You'll eventually feel guilty about not keeping them all of them razor-sharp, but at the same time you won't have time to sharpen them all.

One doesn't often need a specific width of a bench chisel. Mortising is different, but let's put that aside for a moment. I find I use bench chisels on every project I build, but only occasionally need a specialty tool like a mortise chisel.

You can get away with two chisels: a kinda big one, and a kinda small one. My favorite sizes are a one inch chisel and a 3/8 inch chisel. These two chisels work for about 85% of all my chiselling needs.
Here's my current set of chisels in my tool chest. The ones on the left are 3/8" and 1".
The biggest advantage with starting with only two chisels is you can really learn to sharpen them. With two chisels to sharpen instead of eleven, keeping them perfectly tuned is no problem. Over time you'll get better and better at getting them sharp and in less time.

Once you are happy with those, then you can (slowly) collect some more chisels for different uses. Sometimes you need something extra narrow, or sometimes you run into a wood that needs a lower angle honed on the edge than your daily beaters. If those happen to be around and tuned up, great! However, nine times out of ten, I could have gotten by with one of my two main chisels.

I would recommend in buying a premium chisel to start with, unless someone can show you how to tune an old chisel up to perfection. I've previously recommended Lie-Nielsen chisels, and I still do. Stay away from the ones that just look like Lie-Nielsens.

As far as my own personal preferences, I have moved away from the A2 steels in my chisels in favor of older O1 steel. To me it just "feels" better. It's hard to explain otherwise.

I also like to put a new handle that I've made on chisels with unsatisfactory (or missing) chisels.
This style of handle is very comfortable in my hand, easy to make, and if it breaks I can always make another one.
I've chosen to use a different wood for each of my chisels. The one on the right was a replacement handle I had, and the next one was given to me.
With a different colored handle on each chisel, it is easy to pull the one I need right out of my chest without looking at the blade.
My chisels live here in my chest.
If you have a big set of really nice chisels, try this. Take a big one and a little one out of the box and keep them at hand. Put the rest away for one year. After a year, see if you have missed them.

What are your thoughts about the "perfect" set for the beginner?