Friday, May 26, 2017

Finally, An Actual Project

It feels good to get back on the proverbial horse.  It seems like I haven't completed a woodworking project for a few months.  Maybe because it's been that long.

My wife needed something for her desk that could hide a bunch of wires, store a couple of small items, and generally clean up the area.
A bit of a mess
So I set about designing a small desktop organizer.  The right side would be a large empty box to cover the wires, and I could work with the left side to give a little storage.  After a few iterations, it looked like this.
Two drawers on left, paper organizer on top, empty box on right bottom, space above
I made a cardboard model of this to see what it would look like and forgot to take a picture.  But we could both see that it was way too bulky.  The whole top section had to go.  So I worked on the design a bit more until I came up with this.
Two compartments on left, two false drawers on right, one platform on top
with raised edges to keep stuff from rolling off the sides and back
From the rear view, you can see some details.  The carcass is mainly joined with dadoes.  But the two bottom rails are dovetailed (non-through dovetails) into the sides.  All parts are from 1/2" red oak stock from the home center.
Back details
The top and the two bottom rails had to have the exact same shoulder lines, so they were clamped together in the vise and a knife line was marked near each end.
Bottom back rail, bottom front rail and top (top to bottom in this picture) clamped and knifed
For the top, that knife line marked the shoulder that would fit over the stopped dado to be cut in the side
For the bottom rails, the knife line marked the dovetail shoulders
Dovetails cut and transferring shape to side
Then carefully sawing inside the lines and chopping and paring until a good fit
I'll take that
Dado put into the right side to house the top
I used this measurement ...
... to get the depth of the dado
With the box joinery done, I needed to add a vertical divider.  To get the lines right, I clamped the front bottom rail and top together, ensuring their shoulder lines were perfectly aligned, then made a knife mark across both pieces to mark the left side of the dado.
Marking for the vertical divider
After the dadoes were cut, the divider was carefully fitted.
Using the actual piece to mark extents of a dado and a shoulder
There is a horizontal divider on the left side and one on the right side.  Most dadoes were approximately 1/4" deep, but I had to make the dadoes in the vertical divider shallower because there would be a dado on both sides.
Marking for the depth of dado on the vertical divider using the horizontal divider
For the dadoes in the left side and the vertical divider that would house the horizontal divider , I couldn't think of a way to mark accurately for the dado location, so I used a sliding square.  It's always best to mark parts together to get exact locations, but because the vertical divider was dadoed into the bottom rail, I couldn't find a way.  I thought about this a lot later and there was a way: I could have removed the vertical divider and mated its shoulders up with the left side and made a small knife nick on each piece.
Getting the dado location from left side to transfer to the vertical divider 
It's a bit tricky to get these right, but it came out good
For the right side horizontal divider, I was originally going to house it in 1/2" x 1/2" mortises in the vertical divider and in the right side.
Original scheme for right side horizontal divider
 But I started thinking that during glue-up I might not be able to get the divider in the mortises.  So I ended up extending the mortises to the back (so they became stopped dadoes) so that I could slide the divider in from the back.
Right side horizontal divider slid in from back
After that I just needed to fit an arched piece for the "upstand" at the back of the top.  Also, I fitted a piece in between the two bottom rails on the left side so the lower cubby would have a continuous bottom.  Finally, I rabbeted the back edges of the left side and vertical divider to fit a back piece behind the cubbies.  Oh yeah, later I would add false drawer fronts to the right side.
Dry fitted
After surface planing all show surfaces, the glue-up went well.  I had rehearsed it a couple of times.

To make it look better, the design included false drawers on the right side.  The purpose of that side was only to hide the power strip and wires, but I didn't want to leave the front looking like a big, blank wall.  So I made two drawer fronts that fit tightly into the openings.  Then I made a 1/32" rebate all around the drawer fronts so that it would look more natural.
False drawer fronts in place
I probably could have glued them directly to the carcase, but I didn't want to deal with any glue getting where it shouldn't be.  So I decided to use glue blocks from behind.  And because there was no easy way to clamp the glue blocks, I made my initial foray into hide glue and "rubbed" the glue blocks in place.  Worked like a charm.
Glue blocks setting up
For a finish, I wanted to try to match the color of her desk.  Just shellac or BLO didn't darken the color enough, so I tried a few different stains I had on hand.
The middle one was the winner
Stain applied, and drying on the finishing bench / washing machine
After letting the stain dry, I applied three coats of shellac, sanding each coat after it had dried.  Finally a coat of paste wax was applied and buffed out with a cloth and a shoeshine brush.

And here she is in place on the wife's desk.  Not sure I like the paper management system on top, but it's better than it was before.  One more honey-do project off the list.
The final piece in situ
Lots of dadoes in this piece.  It really makes you think hard about how best to mark them out to get all joints to close up tight in the end.

Comments and critiques are welcome.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tuning Up An Old Disston Crosscut Saw

I'm finding that I enjoy refurbishing old tools almost as much as I enjoy making woodworking projects.  This post is about refurbishing an old Disston crosscut saw.  I'll be making reference throughout to the website "The Disstonian Institute", which was put together by Erik von Sneidern as a "non-commercial website intended to be a resource for people interested in Disston handsaws."  Some really great stuff on that site.

I found this saw at a garage sale a couple weeks ago.  After waffling about it (because of its rough condition), the gentleman gave it to me because I had asked about its history and he could tell I was more interested in putting it to work than putting it in a collection.  It was looking pretty bad, but it's a Disston with a fairly straight plate and I wanted to see if I could get it into shape.  It's a 26" skew-back saw with 7 tpi, filed crosscut.  There was some very bad rust and pitting midway along the tooth line.
Disston D-?? as found - could not see any indication of model number through the rust and grime
Rusty area along tooth line
The pitting was quite extensive.  I leveled it with sandpaper as best as I could and I'm hoping the steel is still good enough to be serviceable.  I thought about lopping off the bottom inch of saw plate and cutting new teeth, but I thought that would be too much material removal.
The worst of the pitting (shown after clean-up of the plate)
The handle was complete with only very minor chips.  All bolts and nuts were present and firmly in place.  When I cleaned up the handle later, I saw it was rosewood.
The handle and bolts were intact - just has peeling finish
Per The Disstonian Institute, the medallion dates this saw to 1917-1940
I e-mailed the former owner about these initials (MC or MG or McC or McG)
and he's going to look into it.
The owner said that the 1917-1940 years of manufacture would put this saw in the time frame of his grandfather and his uncles, all of whom worked together making mattresses in a garage behind the house.  He thinks the saw came from that side of the family, although he has some other things from his father's side and it's possible he got some old tools from that side.

After some sanding I could make out the etchings.  And this is where I messed up - I should have been cognizant of the etchings and been much more careful about where and how aggressively I sanded.  The three pictures below show the etchings that appear right to left on the left side of the plate.  This picture didn't show it well but the word "VICTORY" is written in an arc above the etching (you can see the "V").
Can you see the eagle?
For Beauty, Finish and Utility this Saw cannot be Excelled - Henry Disston
This is a D-115
You can just make out a large, horizontally elongated "D" between the two hanging scales of the balance and the number 115 inside the "D".  Erik von Sneidern mentions on his site that for the D-8 model, the "8" was inside the "D" until 1928 and after that it is hyphenated "D-8".  If the D-115 model follows that same pattern, then I can narrow down the date of this saw to between 1917 and 1928.

From a page out of a Disston publication below, the D-115 had a rosewood handle, as does my saw.
Page 6 from 1918 Disston publication "The Saw - How To Choose It and How To Keep It In Order"
Image from a Disston publication shown on ""
The right-most etching above doesn't match my saw.  Mine has the right-most etch from the following picture from Erik's website.  While the left and middle etches below are similar to mine, they are not exactly the same.
Photo from Disstonian Institute
In mine, Henry Disston's signature is a little more left than in the one above, which is "right-justified" with the text above it.  And I don't have the text to the left of Henry's signature.  In mine, that text is below the keystone logo.  Also, my keystone logo has a patent date written on the left and right borders, similar to the following image.
Photo from Disstonian Institute of a D-8 saw
OK, now for the restoration.  After disassembling the saw and sanding the heavy rust off the plate, I gave it an overnight citric acid bath.  The citric leaves a very dark residue that needs further sanding.
Out of the citric acid bath
After more sanding
Here's where I f*#$ed up.  Either the acid bath or the sanding (or both) made the etchings much less readable.  I wish I could do this over and try harder to avoid damaging the etch.  Arrgh!  Live and learn.
Right "Victory" etching with eagle
Middle "For Beauty, Finish ..." etching almost obliterated 
And I could barely see the left-most keystone etch with the D-115.  Very disappointing!
Arrgh!!  Almost nothing left of the keystone and model number.
I had to spend a lot of time sanding the heavily pitted area just to get it close to level with the rest of the saw plate.

Well, with the saw plate cleaned up I turned my attention to sharpening.  If you've not sharpened your own saws before, take a look at these two resources.  Andy Lovelock's youtube video on "Sharpening Western Saws" is incredible.  Over 2 hours, it is very complete and easily understandable.  Pete Taran's website "Vintage Saws" has a great treatise on saw sharpening.  By all means check them out.

First up was jointing the teeth to create a small flat on every tooth.  Some teeth were shorter than others, so it took several strokes with a flat file to get down to where every tooth had a flat.  The tooth line was slightly breasted (I don't think it was like that originally), and I kept it that way. Jointing it all the way straight might have removed some of the pitted steel, but I opted not to do that.

After jointing, I shaped the teeth as if I was filing a rip pattern (i.e., perpendicular to the tooth line), except with a negative rake (-14°).
After initial shaping of the teeth
On some of the teeth, you can see the effect of the pitting.
Can you see the two teeth that are not fresh steel all the way across the tooth?
I just purchased an old Stanley #42 saw set.  Unfortunately it arrived after this saw was refurbished, so I didn't get to try it out (can't wait).  Anyway, after shaping the teeth, I used a Somax saw set to set the teeth, then jointed them again before filing them with a -14° rake and 20° fleam.  The sound of filing was tough to bear, even though I had the saw clamped very well and the file was in decent shape.  I had foam earplugs in my ears AND earmuffs on.  That in combination with the lighted magnifying goggles had me looking like something from "Lost In Space".

I measured the thickness of the saw plate and the amount of set and the data are in the following picture.  Note that the saw plate is very thin at the toe.  I'm not sure if they were made that narrow or if there has been so much wear over time.  I thought saw plates were only tapered in one direction, but this shows taper from tooth line to back and from heel to toe.  To determine the amount of set to shoot for, I used a plate thickness of 0.036", added about 25-30% to that, and aimed for about 0.046" total set.  I'm OK with the couple thousandths variation that you see.
Showing plate thickness (numbers on plate) and total set (numbers below teeth)
For the handle, I scraped the off the grime and old finish.  I spent some time cleaning crap out of the carved leaves on the left side.  Then I sanded a little and applied two coats of BLO, giving a day to dry after each coat.  The handle is a beautiful rosewood (I believe) and is as comfortable a saw handle as I have ever used.

The bolts did not have square shanks to fit in square holes, like some newer saws have.  Rather, the holes were conical on the medallion (left) side of the handle and the bolts have small protrusions near the base of the shank that engage with the conical walls to keep it from rotating when tightening the nut.
Conical walls of the screw holes

A saw bolt and nut.  Note the bits that stand proud of the shank of the bolt.
I cleaned up the nuts and medallion with "Comet" cleanser and a toothbrush, followed by a fine wire wheel in a drill.  Here's the handle after being cleaned up.
It's beautiful!!
Left side
Right side
With the exception of the pitted area, the saw looks great.  I made a cut with it after re-assembly.  It seems to cut fine, but I'll have to keep an eye on the teeth in the area that was so pitted.

What a feeling of satisfaction putting this saw to work again!  If the toothline steel holds up, this will be a great saw.