23 January 2021

Mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - Materials and Pre-Work

For this project, I went into it knowing I was going to paint it.  As such, I wasn't going to build it out of hardwoods.  Since I don't have an easy way of reducing thickness of wood by hand, I wanted to use what I could easily find.  At the time I was looking for wood, the local company that will mill wood to my specifics was closed due to Covid.  So, off to Lowes I went.

For the main carcass, I chose 1x12 "pine" that was 3/4" thick.  The boards they had weren't quite as good as I would have liked but they were suitable.  For the skirting, bottom, interior drawers, and wherever, 1/2" was the desired dimension, I used the 1/2" thick 6" wide poplar.  A few boards had some nice mineral streaking which I really like for a project such as this.

I knew for the inside lid, I wanted something that would be nice and I had some scrap cherry and a 1x1 of ebony.  If I needed any other wood bits, I would just scrounge through my scraps and cutoffs.

When I finish a project, and before I start a new project, I like to clean up and then sharpen up.  I sharpen my three primary hand plans (#4 for removing bulk, #5 for finishing up, #3 for smoothing), my four chisels, and any other tools that saw use in the prior project.  It makes me feel really good when everything is in order and nice & sharp & ready to go.  I am by no means fast at sharpening but I feel good when it is done.

16 January 2021

Mini Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - Design Considerations

 On my 09Jan2021 blog post, I gave an overview of the mini ATC that I recently completed.  Today, I am going outline why I wanted to make it and the design considerations for what I chose.

In 2020, I was planning on taking a class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking to make a full sized ATC from Megan Fitzpatrick.  I was really looking forward to it and built a mid-sized Japanese carpenters tool chest inspired by what I saw on the Treebangham YouTube channel.  Covid 19 came along and the class was canceled.  I had completed and filled the Japanese carpenters school chest with tools.  It was a good size and really held just about all I needed.  The downsize is that it was heavy.  I haven't put it on a scale but if I had to guess, it is probably 75ish pounds.  

When I mean lug around, I mean go to my dad's and woodwork on some weekends.  It was heavy and big enough where I had to put it on the back seat of my commute car and I wanted something smaller  and thus lighter (smaller size = less wood and less tools so less weight) that could also fit in the trunk.  The good news was that it did fit nicely into one of those collapse able canvas wagon carts so it wasn't all that bad.

As such, I wanted a smaller tool chest.  A smaller tool chest would by itself weigh less.  It would really weigh less because it would hold less tools.  I wasn't looking to have a bare bones minimum/how few tools can I survive with chest.  I wanted something that would let me do most things and if something was missing, I would either borrow from my dad or just plan carefully to bring along something I wouldn't normally carry.

What that mean to me was that on the bottom level, it would need to have what I considered my non-negotiable to be without items: two saws (one crosscut panel sized, one fine joinery saw),  No 5 jack plane, plough plane, router plane, spoke shave, coping saw.  There would be one removeable drawer/box at the top and I figured it would likely hold all of the other essentials.  The bottom level would define the needed length and width.

To really define the length and width, I laid out the above tools on my workbench with anticipated spacing between in the chest.  I then measured the length width and height that this would take (pictures below).  It resulted in my needing 20" inner length, 10-1/2" width, and 6-3/4" inner height.  What I really liked about the height was that I would be using a 1"x12" pine from Lowes.  Length and width would be no problem.  The inner height would likely be about  11".  This would allow for a 4 to 5" deep drawer on top.  That would be more than adequate to hold the smaller tools I wanted to carry.

Now that I had the dimensions sorted out for the interior, it was time to finalize the design I would use.  Jim Toplin has an excellent book called "The Tool Box Book."  It came out 20 to 25 years ago and is a fantastic book and well worth owning.  If you look in this book, you will realize that the design options are pretty much limitless.  I wanted to make one of three designs: a Japanese carpenter tool box, a traditional joiners chest, a Dutch tool chest.

Since I had already done a Japanese carpenters chest, I decided not to repeat that.  Of the two remaining designs, I decided that I wanted to do the traditional jointers chest.  As for the specific plans, it was either going to be following the one outlined by Paul Sellers or Chris Schwarz.  I chose Chris's specific layout because 

1. I couldn't take the summer woodworking class to make a full sized ATC 

2. the book Anarchist Tool Chest (quickly followed by discovering Paul Sellers online) greatly influenced by decision to mostly stick with traditional hand tools for woodworking.  

Both Paul Seller's and Chris Schwarz's chests are very similar so it really wasn't an either or type decision.  Since the ATC had detailed plans, I choose to follow that design.  It was going to be a bit easier read the book over and over and look at images than replay the video.  

With the design out of the way, time to get materials.  I will discuss that in my next blog post next week. 

09 January 2021

Mini Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - An Overview


It took about 174 hours but it is completed.  I made a mini version of Chris Schwarz's anarchist's tool chest.  In the summer of 2020 I was signed up for a class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking to take a class from Megan Fitzpatrick to make the full sized chest.  Like the rest of the world, I spent the summer sheltered in place.  In fact, I build a medium sized Japanese carpenter tool chest so I could bring my tools to the class.

I still wanted to make an ATC and decided a mini version would be helpful for two reasons: I thought it would be nice to have a smaller and lighter tool chest for when I go woodworking at my dad's an hour away from me, since it is a mini version I still could have the option of taking the class in the future to make a full sized version.

I will post about the details over time.  Today is an overview.  The carcass and skirting have dovetails and they are done in opposite directions to give max strength.  The lid has through tennons.  I used a mixture of 3/4" pine and 1/2" poplar from big box store.  The center of the top is cherry with some ebony inlay to give a pop to the otherwise all black exterior when it is opened.

The outside is two coats red milk paint then two coats of black milk paint followed by 6 or 8 coats of shellac and wax.  The interior used either garnet or blond shellac followed by wax.  There is a big dovetailed drawer on top from 1/2" poplar.   In the future, I will likely sub-divide the drawer.  Hardware is from Horton Brasses and the chains are from Rockler (a bit delicate as designed for smaller boxes so I put two on it).

Right now, I don't have that many tools for the inside of it.  I am looking forward to buying the tools.  What I did was put in tools I use daily for the workbench or put in some from the medium sized tool chest (which is filled and I need to do a post on that some day).  I'm not in a rush to fill it as it is likely 6 to 9 months before I will get the Covid-19 vaccine and be able to visit my elderly dad and woodwork.  I am looking forward.  It should hold the tools I mostly need.  It's not like this smaller chest is all I own and I'm not going off to the wilderness to work from it.

Rather than write one long blog (and then leave me scratching my head for weekly blog content), I will post a series of blogs outlining what I did to make it and some of the rational for some of the decisions.  One could argue that this posting should be the last in the series.  I am not writing a mystery novel.  Based on work, I like to start with the bottom line message then go through all the detail then summarize the message.  I am adopting that format here.  In fact when I put photos, I am always conscious of the first photo for two reasons: it's the image that is shown when the blog is minimized and I want to pick the one key photo, when you open up the blog I want to you to see the end result initially so that you can then decide how much you read.  This also reminds me of when I wrote on the school paper and you used that inverted pyramid with the most important info at first and less important info as you read down.

02 January 2021

Progress On The Breadbox

 Since my initial posting in Dec 2020, there has been progress on the breadbox.  I went from the rough sketch to the final design.  The frame and panel on the side moved to the front.  For making this, I don't need any further detailed drawings as many of my other projects have contained this type of joinery.  For some of the dimensions (overlap of top, length of legs that lift the bottom off the counter, etc) I will need to make and see what looks proper.  As for the thickness, I am going with 3/4" stock.  It might look better in 1/2" stock but I have no way of easily knowing until I start building it.

I had some cherry and maple left over from other projects so I used what I had at hand.  I like having some wood in stock at home but I don't want it to get out of hand.  I used my favorite holdfast for much of the cutting.  Two of the rough sawn boards were perfect size for what I needed.  That made me happy.

Speaking of cutting, I noticed at about 100 to 200 hours into learning how to woodwork that cutting to a line got much easier.  I think what happened was mostly just practicing and figuring out what variables mattered.  A relaxed grip on the handle is important.  Also, when I cut, I really keep focused on about the 1/8" below the teeth.  That is the spot where the new cut is being made.  Not much else matters except to continue the cut and keeping focused just there really seems to help.

Not that it matters right now as this is all rough cut and is about 1" overlength and 1/2" over width.  Still, I like to practice cutting to the line whenever I can.  There is much less pressure when cutting to rough length which often seems to make it easier to cut close to the line.  With the wood now cut, time to sharpen the chisels and plane irons.  I used to not look forward to this but I'm finding that five years into my woodworking, I'm getting better at enjoying all aspects of the work.  Each part is important and gives me a chance to get better at it.

26 December 2020

Incremental Progress Makes Me Smile

 I started woodworking 5 years ago.  Most of my learning has come from Paul Sellers and some from going to LieNielsen events once a year when the come to town.  I happily toil away in my workshop.  Most of the time, concerned/frustrated/angry of some imperfection in what I am trying to achieve.  Certainly, things are better now than they were 5 years ago when I started.  

Today I was finishing up a simple piece of pine.  It is angle on the long axis as well as one of the short edges.  This piece will be replacing the original locking piece on my Japanese tool chest.  The first lock either shrank when it dried or wasn't wide enough to begin with.  This pieces remedies this.  

There is nothing really complex about this.  What I noticed today however was that as I was applying the shellac, I didn't see brush strokes as I had in past projects.  I've gotten much better than say 2 years ago at applying finish.  When trying to get one edge to 90 degrees, it was initially giving my fits and then I just used some tricks I've learned along the way.  Suddenly it dawned on me, I've gotten better than I was 2 years ago.  I apply finish better, I can straighten a board more quickly.  I felt good for a few minutes to notice I have improved.  Life is good.

19 December 2020

Is it bigger than a breadbox?

My wife has been asking for a breadbox for the kitchen for a while.  Since I recently finished a half size dimension (1/8th volume if you do the math) Anarchist Tool Chest, I am looking for another project.  This seemed like the perfect project to start.  Below the initial sketch I prepared.  It is heavily influenced by the Wood Magazine Arts and Craft Nightstand (Nov 2004, issue 159) I built for my daughter not that long ago.  

I will need to refine the design a bit.  It should be interesting to see what the final product looks like.  My wife has given specs in terms of how the bread must be stored length and height wise so that provides some of the criteria.  I like have certain specs it needs to meet.  I'm hoping to make this out of cherry and maple and finish with shellac.  I think I have enough spare wood around so it won't require purchasing new wood.  Wish me luck.  I will share it when it's finished (probably 3 months from now given how slow I work).

12 December 2020

Delightful Little Hammer


Lie Nielsen used to come once a year to my area for a woodworking show.  I'd go and learn a lot of how to woodworking.  Next to Paul Sellers videos, this was the second source for learning how to woodwork.  Often there would be a few other vendors that would show up.  One of them is Kevin Drake from the Glen Drake Tool Company.  I always make it a point to buy something from him.  Kevin, in our interactions at this show, is how I learned to saw well.  I am very grateful for that.  About a year and a half ago, I attended a LN show and bought this little hammer.  I didn't really need another hammer as I am quite happy with the Thor hammer I use that Paul Sellers recommends but I bought it anyway to support the Glen Drake Tools.  I am a big fan of trying to be conscious of where I spend my dollars.  The Glen Drake Tool company is one business I like to support.

I like the way this hammer sits in my hand and how the weight is balanced directly in my hand.  The design also aligns nicely without having to look at the hammer.  It works really well for dovetails.  Lately I've been having some ergo issues due to working at home and my elbow has been bothering me (it's getting better).  Having the head closer to my hand reduces torque and reduces discomfort in my elbow right now.  Something to keep in mind if your elbow has been bothering you.

It's delightful to use.  In fact, all of the Glen Drake tools I've bought have been top notch.  Just to be clear, I've paid retail price for all of my tools from Glen Drake (and from all tool makers for that matter).