Fair Woodworking

March 5, 2012

A simple box with only Handtools Part 3

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***


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Once a piece is down to final length, the last step for me is final width. I leave this to last just in case I have any blowouts while shooting the end grain. And yes, …. I did have some blowout….

I want to remove the extra material quickly, so I have the blade set aggressively. The shavings are at least the thickness of construction paper or more. The grain rises and falls in this cheap pine, so I still need to keep the blade sharp and the mouth fairly tight. I should point out, that I don’t change the bevel on the plane to control tear out. That is my absolute last resort. 45 degrees should work just fine for 99% of planing if your blade is sharp, with a properly tuned plane, and the mouth adjusted to suit the cut.

As I approach the line, I back off the blade, and tighten the mouth to match. I have seen a number of ideas on how to tell when you have hit the line. For me since I’m adjusting the blade as I get closer, and I use a slightly cambered blade, as I break through the line, a tiny sliver falls off the side. At that point, I’ve got a couple of smoothing passes and I’m done.

Now that I have all the pieces to final dimension, I’m ready to build the box. Well, not really, there is one more thing that I need to do. I’m doing a sliding lid so I need one side to be lower than the rest so the lid can slide into the groove. If you are not sure what I mean by a sliding lid. It works the same as Frank Klausz demonstrates installing the bottom of a drawer in his video Dovetail a Drawer . If you don’t have, or have never seen this video, it is one of my favorites.

He covers a number of things that were very handy in building this box. A big one for now is each boards orientation. Note the board on the right above. When you look at the growth rings the rings closest to the center face out, and since growth rings have a tendency to straighten out the ends of the board will move into the joint and not pull away. OK, I need to lower one of the boards height to allow for the lid. Note the front board with the writing “Top” and a crude arrow pointing to the left? That tells me that the lid will slide out to the left. This means the end board on the left is getting a hair cut!

Here again I have a fair amount of material to remove (it’s a half an inch), so I could saw it off, but I’m going to try another plane just for fun.

Let me reintroduce my modified smoother/scrub plane. This is the first real plane I ever owned. I found it in an old tool box that my dad acquired after its owner, a guy he worked with, disappeared in the night. (Pretty sure trouble with the law was involved) It’s a plane made in Australia, by a company named Pope. The previous owner was notorious for being very hard on his tools, and this plane showed the scars to prove it. Being my first plane I spent many hours trying to restore and tune it up. Being my first plane restoration, I screwed it up a little, and just like that, its days as a smoother had come to an end. But it’s perfect as a scrub plane.

I counted how many passes it took to obliterate the excess wood, and promptly for got the number. It was about 20 passes so “obliterate” is the perfect word. The problem I had with this plane is that it has the finesse of a hand grenade. I still need to approach the line with my jack, but now I really have to pay attention because I’m much closer to the line in some areas than others.  It was a fun test, but next time I’ll stick with the jack for the whole job.

Remember how I said I needed to cut away the knots because they can cause cracking? This piece could have been the lid, or the bottom, but I’d say I cut a little too close to the knot on this one…. I will be using it for the bottom, and I will have to be very careful to remove as little as possible from the opposite end as I can so that I can remove as much of that crack as possible on this side. But that is for another day.

Now that I have dimensioned all sides, it’s time to cut grooves in both the top and bottom of the boards to allow for the bottom panel, and the sliding lid. At the moment I know I don’t have an ideal work holding arrangement, but I get by…

I don’t have a lot to offer on this topic, much of what I know is from articles like this, but here is my take on it. Start at the end of the board, working just the last inch or two. With each pass move back a bit.

This is to avoid wandering and it really does help, but is not fool-proof. If you look close you will see a fair amount of tear out in the bottom. I am planning against the grain here, and what surprised me is that you also have to watch that you don’t wobble at all with the plane. It can snag on the sides of the groove and cause tear out. Again if you look closely you will see what I mean.

My plow plane is equipped with a depth stop, but you have to remember that you must set it relative to the blade, NOT the skate! Because of this, if you need to adjust the depth of cut you will also need to adjust the depth stop. I’ll also add that this has become one of my favorite specialty planes, and could qualify as a must have in a hand tool shop.

Now if you don’t mind, I decided to spice up the joinery a little. I’d always planned on dovetailing it, but I got to watching The Jointer’s Tool Chest Pt.1 with Roy Underhill. As with pretty much all the episodes, they are worth watching (so spend some time there, and you will learn a lot more than I can offer) but for now take quick look starting at the 10min mark. At this point Roy  will show both a mitered shoulder dovetail, and what he calls a shallow dove tail. Both are used to hide grooves similar to what I have, so I’m going to give them a try for the very first time. I first saw the Mitered shoulder dovetail on Rob Cosman’s  Advanced Hand-Cut Dovetails, but also Chris Schwarz made this video about it.

Anyways, go spend some time with these guys that actually know what they are talking about.



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