30 January 2021

Mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - Main Carcass Construction

When cutting dovetails, I need to focus but they generally come out ok.  I really like cutting dovetails and enjoy projects that have them.  For some reason, when my non-woodworking friends see dovetails I have made, they think I have superpowers.  I chuckle inside as at best, I am average in skills.  I am slow and have patience.  Eventually projects get completed.  

I wanted to explore both sawing out the bulk of the waste (then chisel remainder) vs. chiseling.  I tried both both methods and both worked.  Both work.  I have a preference chiseling out the waste and not using a coping saw for removing the bulk.  It might be that I have just done it more times that way.  Trying different ways and seeing what I observe and prefer is the one of my goals on projects as I am still a beginner and want to learn the subtle differences when done different ways.  For some other project, I will have to try cutting the tails first.

I also wanted to explore ways to align the boards when transferring the lines from, in my case, tails to pins.  Early on, I tried aligning by sight.  It always makes me a bit uncomfortable.  Another way I have done is to cut a 1/16" thickness off the inside face of the dovetails.  That rebate gives a really nice reference surface to push the complimentary board up to it to transfer the lines for the tails.  The only downside is that it takes some time to make this shallow rebate.   I had seen where others simply put a shallow notch on the underside of the dovetail rather than whole rebate.  I tried this and I found it works really well.  It gives a good reference contact point for the complimentary board.  It's not quite a firm and secure as the rebate but is good enough.  I suspect cutting a shallow notch on the inside face of the dovetail to aid the transfer will be my preferred technique moving forward.

One Christmas, I took a gift card a relative gave me and used it to buy a 24" beam for my engineering square.  It gets used a lot more than I thought it would.  I wouldn't consider it a must have tool but I am happy I have it.  It comes in handy for projects like this.

The other thing I tried was cutting the dovetails 1/16" overlong and when I transferred I set them a bit deeper.  That mean that both pins and tails protruded a bit and I could then easily use my hand plane to flush everything.  Yes, it worked well BUT 1/16" is too much.  On a large piece like this, it resulted in a lot more hand planning to flush everything.  Probably not as much of an issue on a smaller piece.  Next time, I will target no more than 1/32" protrusion.  

Before I glued up the carcass, I wanted to do and finish the interior.  That will be the focus of the next post.

26 January 2021

Don't give up - Paul Seller's Words That Inspire Me

 This weekend I had a bunch of housing dados to do.  One of the things that really sticks from me is something Paul Sellers said "don't give up; keep going."  What I find is that mid way through and operation, everything looks like crap.  Early on, woodworking was very intimidating because of this.  I kept Paul's words in my mind and plodded on.  Suddenly, as I finished the operation, things looked good.  It took me a while to realize that things would look ugly during the middle of doing something and that was normal.  Below are a few photos as the beast becomes the beauty.  For those just starting, don't give it.  If I can do it, so can you.

Figure 1.  Midway though.  Gads, what have I done to this pretty wood.

Figure 2.  After I finished.  All looks good now.  Glad I didn't give up.  Early on in woodworking mid-way through would make me feel like quitting.

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 specifications was closed due to Covid.  So, off to Lowes I went.

Figure 1 What the final tool chest looks like.

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.  I picked up 1/2" thick 6" wide poplar for the skirting, bottom, interior drawers.  A few poplar boards had some nice mineral streaking which I really like for a project such as this.

Figure 2.  I bought wood of desired thickness so I didn't need to bring out "Mongo".  I can hand plane wood  to thickness but it takes a lot of work.

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.

Fig 3, 4, 5. My go to hand planes and sharpening up to get ready for this project.

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.