27 February 2021

mini-anarchist tool chest (ATC) - painting and interior top box

 There were two key operations remaining to finish the mini-ATC.  I needed to make a box for the interior and then paint the outside.

For the top box, I decided to go with a single larger box.  At this point, I don't have all the specific tools and I want to use if for a while (at my dad's who lives an hour away) to see what else may need to be added.  Given some of the unknows, a single larger drawer makes things easy.  For this, half inch poplar I purchased from a big box store fit the bill.  I really lucked out in that I found some with really cool greens and purples.  For a box, this kind of bold color on poplar is really nice.  Sadly, I know if will fade to a nice brown.  Making the box was straight forward.  

I wanted to run grooves in the bottom to hold the bottom but I didn't want to use half blind dovetails.  So, I decided to try something I've seen Ralph B. in the Accidental Woodworker do.  I ran the grooves, made the standard dovetails, and then assembled as normal.  There were rectangular holes on two sides of the box.  I simply cut some plugs and filled in the square holes.  After the finish was applied you can't see this unless you know they are there and are looking very closely for them.  You will easily see one of them.  That is because I dropped a piece of poplar on the floor and used a piece of pine to fill that gap instead.  The other last little thing I did for this upper box, was to put some small handles inside.  That way, I could easily pull it out of the box.  I just glued on some scrap cherry I had  and put a chamfer on the bottom side so that I could easily lift it.

One thing that drives me nuts is that 1/4" plywood isn't truly 1/4" as it is metric.  I didn't like the flop in the box bottom.  As such, I glued some blocks under the box bottom to snug up the rattle.  It solved the problem and provided extra support for the drawer so all is good here.  Before I make my next box, I am going to buy the proper metric plough plane blade.

Now, onto painting up the exterior.  For it, I wanted to use milk paint.  I wanted a red under layer and black on the outside.  I like the look it gives that gets even better with age (or maybe this is a trend I have fallen into).  Elia Bizzarri in Fine Woodworking Mar/Apr 2020 (pgs 24-28) outlines a process to do this.  I followed it and I am happy with the results.  Having said that, using milk paint was stressful the first time through.  I am used to finishes such as shellac which flow nicely.  Milk paint has a different flow (I think draw is the proper word).  Also, the first coat of red looked crappy.  Now, I had heard all of this before I started.  It is true.  This is where I kept Paul Sellers mantra of keep going and don't give up in my mind.  When it was finished, it looked really nice.  I didn't need manually distress it as I didn't get complete coverage with the black.

Only thing left to do was to add the handles (Horton Brasses).  I elected not to put a lock on it as I don't plan to leave it places where it really needs to be locked.  

All in all, it took around 175 hours to make it.  I really enjoyed it.  I am very happy with how it turned out.  Now, I need to start buying tools to fill it.  I have some and in the next post I will share with you what tools I have and my thoughts on what I want to purchase.

20 February 2021

mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - The Lid

 With the carcass and skirting done, it was time to move onto the lid.  I read the ATC carefully.  The lid is a frame in panel.  I planned to follow with the frame using mortise and through tenons.    Where I planned to differ was the panel.  The full sized ATC has a beefy lid.  Given that folks often sit on the full sized ATC, use it as a saw bench, etc, this really makes sense.  If I make a full sized one, I will follow the panel as in the book.  However, for the mini-ATC I am making, it really won't get sit on so I decided to use a 1/4" panel.  

My initial plan was to use poplar that I had purchased at 1/2" thickness.  Then, I had an idea.  I had some scraps of 1/2" thick cherry.  I liked that idea that all black on the outside and a pop of cherry panel when I opened it.  I glued up the cherry and cut to size and on what would be the inside, I thinned it to 1/4" so it would eventually fit into the grooves on the panel.  I thought I was done, then, I had another idea.  

I had received a  1"x1"x12" piece of ebony on fathers day.  Why not also try and inlay the ebony into the cherry.  That way, there would be a double "surprise when opening the tool chest.  Since I haven't done much inlay, I wanted to come up with something simple that would have nice visual appeal.  It took a few days but it came to me as I nodded off to sleep.  I could turn a square piece 45 degrees and it would look like a diamond.  This would be in the center.  Then, on the edges, I would take 1"x1" squares and cut them on the diagonal and have triangles.  It was easy to make and I thought would look nice.  After cutting up the pieces of ebony, I used a freshly sharpened marking knife to trace.  Then, I mixture of chisel and small hand router plane work made the cavities.  Glued them in and planed them flush.  It really come out gap free.  I was very happy.  Before install, I finished with freshly made Garnet shellac the inside of the lid and waxed it.

For the frame and panel, I used 3/4" thick pine.  Used my plough plane to run the grooves.  Then it was onto the through mortises.  It turned out to be very difficult for me to do this.  To be fair, I haven't done many mortise tenons.  Still, it looked like a drunken beaver cut them out.  It bothered me quite a bit.  To the point, where I took some birthday money and purchased a Powermatic table top mortiser for future mortise work.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I kind of feel like I am giving up on mortises.  Then again, the birthday money my dad game me was specifically to be spent on buying some sort of tool (no it wasn't enough to cover the whole tool cost) so I bought the mortiser.  At the end of the day, I will probably do both for mortises.  Some by hand (to get better) and some with the mortiser.  As long as I am happy I think that is all that matters.  I am not a purist when it comes to working with hand tools but the first machine tool was a big step.

Unlike mortises, I really like making tenons.  I do it like Paul Sellers teaches.  I cut them fat and then use a router plane to make them fit.  It worked well.  Somehow, the back side of the mortise was wider than the front.  No idea how that happened so I will again blame the drunken beaver.  As such, I will use wedges on the back side of the tenons.  Also, to make the side gaps disappear, I used some wood filler.  Once painted, the it will look fine.

Glue up was eventful and everything was square.  From there, I installed three Horton brasses hinges and then the lid lip.  I used a chain from Rockler so that the lid wouldn't get much past 90 degrees and blow out the hinges.  The chain was a bit delicate so I put one on each side.

With the lid done, I am down to making a box for the inside top and painting the chest.  This will be in the next (and likely last) post on the miniATC series.  

13 February 2021

The mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - bottom and skirting.

Now with carcass assembled and inside done, it was time to move onto the bottom.  For this, I was going to keep it simple.  I took 1/2' thick poplar I had purchased from Lowes and cut it to slightly over width and did enough boards to cover the span.  Fortunately, I own a combo tongue and groove plane so it made it easy work to get them ready for installation.  Before installation, I applied shellac and then waxed.  The big debate was do I nail them or screw them to the bottom.  I decided to go with screws.  Not that I will likely ever need to replace them in my lifetime but I find unscrewing something slightly more easy to do than nails.

I didn't want to have the chest rest directly on the ground.  Though this chest will never see a harsh life over my span, I still wanted to have some sacrificial bottom pieces so that in theory these pieces would rot first.  I had some scrap oak laying around that was the perfect size so I used it.  Is oak better than other woods for this?  I don't know.  It's what I had and I feel a little extra bit of happiness when I can use up good pieces of scrap.  I don't let my scrap wood pile get too large so pieces will eventually be burned or tossed away.  I clocked my screws.  It would drive me crazy if I didn't  I wish it wouldn't but it would.  

Now, it was time to move onto the the lower then upper skirting.  I reread the section in the ATC carefully that discussed this.  The dovetails are to run in the opposite direction relative to the main carcass to provide strength in an alternate direction.  I used 1/2" thick poplar.  Getting three of the four sides (i.e. the big U shaped piece) connected was easy.  Trying to measure get dovetails cut on the end of the big U so that the fourth piece would sit properly flush on the carcass was tricky.  I did ok,  The bottom was a bit more gappy (ca. 1/16") and the top (1/32").  I guess this is the kind of thing you just need to do a few times before figuring out how to get it gap free.  No worries though, since this piece will be painted, I will use wood filler to fix the gaps.

The glue up itself wasn't too bad.  Just lots of clamps.  I glued the bottom and top separately.  In order to ensure everything stayed in place during glue up, I used a lot of wire finish nails and nailed the skirting to the carcass.  Again, it will be painted so it's easy to make these nail holes disappear with filler.  With that all now done, it was time to move onto the top.  The top was my hardest bit to do.  So much so, that afterwards, I bought a table top mortiser for future through tenons.  But that is all a story for my next blog next week.


06 February 2021

mini-Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) - interior construction

 With the dovetails of the main carcass completed, I wanted to move to do the interior next.  When I had made my mid-sized Japanese carpenters tools, I saved the interior for last.  At times, I had found it hard to put in some of the nails.  I figured if I marked up some locations while the carcass was dry fitted, used my engineering square, and was careful, I could probably do the interior assembly next.

Figure 1.  Finished mini-ATC

Figure 2.  Interior shot of Japanese carpenter tool chest

In terms of techniques and layout for the mini-ATC, it would be similar to the Japanese carpenter tool chest.  It would just have less tools.  Though I would cut space for three saws (future proofing), I planned to only put in two.  The tools would be held in place by nailing sawn down grooved wood in the sides made with the plough plane and then some 1/4" thick poplar so the tools didn't rattle into each other.

I did the layout carefully so that when things were assembled, things would line up.  If it didn't, I would just remove the bits that didn't a fix when everything is assembled.  I am a woodworker after all.

For the grooved saw pieces, rather than nail them into the sides, I glued in some thin stock to basically build out a housing dado on both the side wall as well as the 1/4" stock.  That way, all I had to do was slip in the saw pieces into place during final assembly.  My tool chest isn't a roller coaster so I figured a friction fit would be good enough (and it has been so far).  After that, I nailed in the small 1 or 2" grooved pieces onto the sides that would eventually hold the 1/4" thick poplar that keeps the tools from banging around.  Sadly, I didn't take any in process pics of that.

From there, I nailed in some scrap 3/4" wood that will hold the top tray.  It's fairly straightforward.  Only think I needed to check was what would be the tallest tool in the bottom level so that the bottom of the tray doesn't hit it.  I can't recall which it was but it was likely either a hand plane or the saw handle.  I put these 3/4" scraps on all 4 sides to better support the tray that will sit on top.  I suppose you could do just two.  I also like to put little chamfers on these pieces.  I do it because it makes me feel happy that I paid attention to some little details.  No one else will really notice and that is fine by me.

With all of this done, I wanted to finish the interior as it's a bit easier to do so before assembly.  Also, I've never done it this way so it was an opportunity to try something different in a low pressure situation.  My go to finish is garnet shellac.  I but the flakes and dissolve it up to about 1-1/2 to 2 pound cut.  My possible, I prefer to use drinkable 190 proof alcohol.  Mostly that way, the only chemical fumes I'm breathing in is ethanol.  I've used denatured alcohol to dissolve but I don't think breathing in methanol is a good idea.  Being a chemist, I tend to worry about what I breath in probably more than most given the nasty chemicals I've used over the years.  Of course, I forgot to take any images of this.  The only thing I did was use blue tape to cover the areas that I wanted to glue up.

With that all done glue up went well (sorry for some reason I didn't take these photos either).  Below shows what the finished bottom looks like.  The tools shown in the bottom aren't the final ones that will be kept there.  They are placeholders as I purchase the final tools.  I have some and that will be a future post.  The next post will be attaching the bottom (and maybe the skirting).