Thursday, July 30, 2020

Found: Large Blanket Chest

Somebody had set this chest out on the curb, and who am I to turn down free lumber?  This post will be more about the construction of the chest, not so much about what I'm going to do with it.
The chest is 60" long (!), 18 1/8" deep and about 20" tall
Lid is the top few inches
The chest did not appear to be factory-made, but rather user-made or maybe by a small-business woodworker.  It's all solid wood.  At first glance I thought it was pine, but finishes can be deceiving.  Turns out that it is all red alder with some gnarly yellow finish on it.

It is made from 6 panels - front, back, two sides, top and bottom.  The front panel was set back 3/4" from the front edge of the sides, bottom and top.  The back panel was attached to the sides with through dovetails, almost certainly machine-cut, as I couldn't see any layout lines anywhere or chisel marks on the end grain in the recesses.
Back joined to sides with through dovetails

The dovetails were cut at a steep, nonstandard 1:3 pitch
It appears from the pics above that the lid, which includes the top panel and the top 3+ inches of the back, side and front panels, was cut off after the case was put together.  It was hinged with a 53" length of piano hinge, mortised into both top and bottom of the case.
One end of the long piano hinge, showing mortises deep enough
that the knuckle won't cause a gap at the back
What I thought was odd was that the front panel did not have the same joinery as the rear panel.  Since the front was set back 3/4" from the front edge of the piece, a different method was needed.  They used a full length (top to bottom) sliding dovetail.
The sliding dovetail holding front panel to side panel
The sliding dovetails were shored up with screws and nails.
A screw through the lid side, through the sliding DT
And a nail toe-nailed to hold it at the other end
The top was screwed to the back, side and front panels and the countersunk and counterbored holes were plugged and almost invisible to the casual observer.
A plugged screw hole next to a 1/4" chisel
The bottom was screwed to the back, side and front panels and feet had been added which were screwed to the bottom panel.  All screws used for joinery were steel slotted-head screws.
Bottom attached with screws
There were four nails too, presumably to hold the bottom in place while driving the screws
Foot removed to reveal two more screws holding the bottom to the carcase
The panels had been glued up from two or three boards, some 8-10" wide.  A router or shaper was used to create a type of finger joint.
A routed joint for edge-gluing to make wide panels

Here's one taken apart and folded like a book
Aside from the bottom of the chest, I couldn't see any planer marks - even after I scraped the finish off.  So perhaps the surfaces were planed, or run through a drum sander before assembly.
Planer marks on bottom of bottom panel
So the chest was interesting in some ways.  But what I really liked was the hardware.  I'll get into that in another post, as this one is getting a bit long.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Make a Slitting or Cutting Gauge

Normally when I need to strike a line cross-grain I reference a square off an edge and knife a line.  I rarely depend on the end of a board for a reference surface.  However, for those infrequent times when I do, I can now use this cutting, or slitting gauge.
New slitting gauge
Here's how it's made.  First, a quick sketch to define what it will look like.  The beam fits tightly in a mortise through the fence.  The beam is tightened to the fence with a wedge that fits in another small mortise on the side of the first mortise.  The blade is held by a small wedge in a mortise in the beam.
The plan
Started with scraps of maple and a piece of crappy old saw blade
Planed an overlong piece 13/16" square for the beam
Glued up three 1" thick pieces to get a blank about 2 13/16" x 4 1/8"

Marked out a mortise about 1/32" less than 13/16" square on front and back
Then bored out ...
... and chiseled to the lines, paring the inside walls flat
You can see the small mortise for the wedge marked out at the side of the main mortise in the above pic.
Chopped out the wedge mortise - 1/16" wider at the back than the front
Planed the beam to fit the mortise
When making the wedge, I needed a way to get the side with the little "finial" (not sure if there's a better word for it) straight and square to its sides.
Used the fence to reference a chisel on the flat surface to slice the wedge flat
Then fitted the wedge in the mortise - tiny gap here ...
And no gap at the back, so plane a little more off the back and refit
Planed more from the bottom of the wedge to get a more even reveal front and back
Made a 5/16" wide mortise in the beam, 3/8" long at top, 5/16" at bottom
and fit a small wedge to the hole
For the blade, cut a 5/16" wide piece from an old saw blade,
later hardened and tempered it, then sharpened
Put it together and realized I didn't have enough fence below the blade ...
... so glued another 1/2" to the bottom before shaping
And here's the fence shaped and the parts all fitted together
Finished with two coats of shellac and certain surfaces got a coat of wax
Iron shaped for a right-handed person to pull the tool
I have the blade's bevel facing the fence.  If I need to place the bevel on the blade's outer face, the angle of the blade will reverse, so I'll use the gauge with a push stroke.

Another one off the list ...

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Re-handling a Hatchet

I found this old Plumb hatchet at a garage sale a few years ago.  Read the end of this post for more information on Plumb.  The handle on the hatchet was painted yellow when I bought it.  I had scraped the paint off and oiled it, and it was so smooth and comfortable.  I mean baby's butt smooth!
Plumb hatchet
Boy Scout logo on other side
I don't use a hatchet much, but recently I noticed that the head was not quite secure on the handle. Looking more closely, there were three nails and a screw-in wedge shoring up the original wooden wedge.
Not the greatest job of wedging
That screw head seen in the previous pic is actually a screw-in wedge
Time to make a new handle.  I don't remember how I got it, but I've had an old ax handle for years.  It says Genuine American Hickory and it feels strong and dense, so I thought I'd try making a new hatchet handle from it.
Old handle next to new handle material
Overlaying to get idea of sizing

Thickness comparison
I would have thought a hatchet head's eye should be wider at the top than at the bottom.  But the width was about 1/16" less at the top.
Just shy of 11/16" at bottom

About 5/8" wide at top
Before shaping the top of the new handle, I placed the hatchet head on the end grain and drew the shape of the eye.  This gave me something to rough out to.  Then it was a few dozen iterations of tapping the head onto the handle, pulling it off, and removing material where indicated by marks left by the eye.

Tap the head on, then pull it off
The ridge and marks from the inside of  the eye indicate where to remove material
Successive marks showing the progress with each iteration
Eventually I got it seated, but had to do some chisel work on the shoulder to match the curvature of the base of the head.  Next was to cut a kerf in the top of the handle.

Sawed down about 2/3 to 3/4 the height of the eye
Shaping was done by holding the old handle to the new and sketching a shape.  Front and back of the handle were shaped first using drawknife, spokeshave and rasps.  The sides (thickness dimension) were done later. There is a little "horn" at the bottom of the handle that I didn't have enough width of material for.  So I glued on a piece and shaped it when the glue had dried.
Arrow shows the "horn"
Glued on some extra material
Then shaped it like the original (still some extra length on new handle)
When I was happy enough with the shape, scrapers and sandpaper gave it a nice smooth feel.  Then it was the moment I had been worrying about: wedging the handle.
First cut the excess above the ax head to about 1/4"
I had researched what wood people use for the wedge and remarkably poplar is commonly sold for this purpose.  I would think it would get destroyed by a metal hammer while being banged home.  No way was I using poplar!  I also read some advise not to use oak or other open-pore wood, as the pores might crush over time and may loosen the wedge.  I ended up using maple, a hard, close-grained wood.  I had not seen anybody do this or recommend this, but I made the wedge a little thinner at the front than the back to more closely match the shape of the eye.
Starting to hammer in the wedge
Worried about breaking the wedge, I clamped blocks to either side while tapping it in
The wedge didn't go in as far as I had hoped.  When it wouldn't go any further, it started breaking and I cut it off there.  I then trimmed the excess sticking out of the ax head to about 1/8" protruding and pounded in a metal wedge that I found somewhere.
Metal wedge tapped in and cut off flush
All the research I did on these metal wedges indicated that they would be tapped below the surface of the wood.  But my wedge was quite fat and couldn't go that far in, so I had to cut off the excess and file and sand it smooth.  While I was pounding the metal wedge in, I had the butt end of the handle on the concrete floor.  Even though I had extra material to be cut off later, I damaged some keeper material.

Arrgh!  And this is after cutting away the extra length.
I glued the cracks and managed to clamp it in the vise (which was no small feat due to the shape of the handle and location of the crack.  After some shaping it looks fine.
Completed shape
The original handle had some initials on the butt end - former owner perhaps - so I added mine to the new handle.
Original handle
New one
Finally, I gave the new handle some BLO and sharpened the tool and I think it'll be ready for many years of use.
Glamour shot #1

Glamour shot #2

The Plumb Co. (originally Yerkes and Plumb) was founded by Fayette R. Plumb around the 1870's in Philadelphia, initially with Jonathan Yerkes.  By the late 1880's, Yerkes retired and the company was fully Plumb's.  For (a lot!) more information about the Plumb Co., check out this site.