Saturday, March 24, 2018

Re-flattening the Benchtop

I built my current workbench the last two months of 2015 and it has been great.  But I've known for a while that the top is not as flat as when I first completed it.  I've recently completed a few projects and cleared off the benchtop and now is the time to re-flatten it.
Before re-flattening
I use a Record vise on the front and a Jet vise on the right end.  When I installed the Record vise, I probably didn't leave enough room between the top of the vise and the benchtop.
Less than 1/8" from top of vise to top of bench
The end vise has more space - about 3/16"
I was concerned about having the metal parts of the front vise this close to the benchtop (don't want to hurt my planes), but I didn't end up taking much off the benchtop to flatten it, so I'll probably be able to flatten it a couple more times before I need to lower the vise.

I started by penciling lines on the top to help gauge progress.
Penciled lines across top
I'm fortunate to have a LN #8 that I found at a garage sale a few years ago (for a great price, too).  It's almost 24" long and perfect for flattening a large benchtop.
The Lie-Nielsen #8
It's obvious that my benchtop has shrunk a bit over the last two years.  The removable center board was once a tight fit and now it has about 3/32" space.
Large gap around removable center board
This caused issues when planing the top, so I wedged it in place from top and bottom to keep it from moving.

I started planing straight across the benchtop to get a feel for where the high spots were and quickly found some.  After leveling that out a bit I used diagonal strokes first from right to left, then from left to right.
Diagonal planing
It's important to stop and gauge your progress.  The picture below shows areas not yet touched by the plane.
A low area at front section of bench where I do a lot of pounding;
not sure why the rear section was low there
After a few diagonal passes I used the edge of the #8 to find high spots.  I marked high spots every few inches across the length of the benchtop.
Checking for high spots
Used a smoother to remove the high spots
After a few repetitions of the last two pictures, I was fairly happy.  I checked for twist with makeshift winding sticks since my usual sticks are far too short to use on a benchtop.
Using a 24" straightedge and a 48" level as winding sticks
There was minimal twist - not enough for me to worry about
Then I used the #8 to make a few light passes with the grain of the top and followed up with a quick scraping.
Last was a little scraping to remove any planing marks and fuzzy bits
Now it's flatter than it was and looks much better, too.
Vise chops re-installed and the bench is looking good!
I use the flatness of the benchtop to check for twist on project pieces.  It's good to be able to rely on that before using the winding sticks.

I've got a question for anyone who has read this far.  Like all garages should, my garage slopes down towards the garage door.  So while my benchtop is parallel to the floor, it's not level to the ground.  I could fix this by lifting the left end a little.  Is it important to you that your workbench be level to the ground?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Stanley #4 1/2 Problem

Lately I've had a problem with my Stanley #4 1/2 smoother.  This plane has become my most used plane.  Not long after I got it, I broke the iron trying to remove a belly on the back side and so I bought a Hock iron and breaker.  At the time I flattened the back and all was good.  But lately I've been having a problem with shavings jamming in between the breaker and iron.
Shavings jamming up the works
You can see a HUGE gap between the iron and breaker on the right side.  It's not normally that large; the shavings pry it open more than it normally is.
Here's an end-on view - look at that gap at right!
So I removed the shavings and investigated.  With the iron and breaker reassembled I held it up the the light and could see a gap at both ends.  It's nearly impossible to get a good picture of this.

The chip breaker looked fine.  At some point I had flattened the mating edge for just this reason.
The Hock chip breaker
You can see the leading edge has been flattened
I flattened the back of the iron after I bought it.  You can see the shiny inch or so at left in the next pic.
Back of the Hock iron
Well, something changed.  While I once had a nice flat back and a chip breaker that mated nicely, now I have crap.  A week or two ago I spent the better part of a day trying to flatten the back of the iron again.  I was getting nowhere and bagged it for then.

But the time came again because I really rely on this plane.  So today (Wednesday) I worked on it again.  I spent a couple of hours working the back on a coarse diamond stone.  It's a fair bit better, but I could not get to the outside edges.
Low spot in center, low areas at sides
I hated to do it, but I gave in to temptation and put a back bevel on the iron.  I would much rather have gotten the back flat the right way, but even a coarse diamond stone was not getting it done.  I think it's flat enough that shavings will not get jammed up, but time will tell.

I made the back bevel very small - about a millimeter - so if I want to get rid of it later I can grind it off.  This was a very frustrating exercise for sure!  Now let's see how the plane behaves.

EDIT: after using the plane a bit, I still have shavings jamming in between iron and breaker.  Arrrgh!  Sometime soon I'll work it with some coarse sandpaper to lower the middle 90% or the back.  Then I'll put it back on the diamond stones.  If that doesn't fix the problem, I may find a new iron.  Frustrating!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Learned Something About Proportion

I learned something recently regarding the proportion of components within a project.  If it looks wrong, it probably is.

In January I posted about making an undercarriage for a step stool.  I just finished another one, but I made the connecting tenons a little beefier.
New stool on left, earlier one on right
You can see on the connecting rails of the earlier stool that the ends just seem too small (well it seemed to me, anyway).  The tenons were 1/2" diameter, fitting into legs that were about 1 1/4" diameter where they connect.  In the more recent stool, the tenons are 5/8" and that 1/8" difference seems to make all the difference in the world!

Maybe a closer look will help:
Earlier stool with 1/2" tenons
New stool with 5/8" tenons
I'm making these legs and rails without a lathe.  It's possible that the uneven and slightly asymmetric shape of the rail in the earlier step stool contributes to the feeling of poor proportion.  But the newer step stool just looks so much more pleasing.  And it looks stronger, too!

I'm sure most people (non-woodworkers, that is) wouldn't even notice a difference.  And probably I wouldn't have noticed a few years ago either.  Learning is a good thing.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Scrap Wood Jewelry Box

I'm in the process of making another box of the type shown below, but thought I'd post this one because it came out so nice.  This box is made from pine and redwood, whereas the next one will be made from red oak and mahogany.

The design is not my own.  Salko Safic (of the Journeyman's Journal blog) recently wrote an article that he published in his magazine on the construction of the box (from a Marc Spagnuolo design).  You really should check out his magazine - it's loaded with great stuff and can be found here.  I'm also in the process of modifying my shooting board based on his plan from the mag.

Before applying finish

Used reclaimed wood - those nail holes will be covered later
I finished the box with a few coats of BLO, which nicely brought out the color of the redwood.
After finishing
I also added some of that DonJer flocking stuff to the inside of the base and that really added a nice touch.
The flocking in the box snazzed it up a bit

The box is hinged suing a simple 1/8" brass rod stuck in each end. When the red oak / mahogany box is complete, I plan to give it to my neighbors, from whom I snagged a bunch of red oak when they remodeled their kitchen.

Full disclosure: I have been doing the copy editing for Salko.  However I do that on a volunteer basis - I receive no monetary compensation.  I've got to say, Salko has been working is patutti off to get this magazine in the hands of readers.  I mean many hundreds of hours (on top of his day job)!!  If you can support his efforts, please do by purchasing his magazine!  It's well worth the price.