Toolbox – Part 2

April 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Wow, not sure what I must have been smoking before writing Monday’s shop note. I was pretty beaten down by the weekend. I spent most of my shop time on Saturday redoing the dovetails on the toolbox (tool tote). After only two more sessions practicing the dovetail dance I decided that my first effort could be improved upon if only slightly.

Learning to Cut Dovetails

Learning to Cut Dovetails, I have a way to go yet.

Sunday I was so frustrated with how cramped my shop space had become, I decided to spontaneously rearrange things. The work I was able to do is by no means the last word on layout but it was a huge improvement that involved moving my miter saw station out-of-the-way and moving the dust collector to the freed space. It meant re-attaching dust hoses but and coming up with a way to reach the dust collector switch but in the end it was of great relief to be able to move without bumping into something. This was good news.

More good news was that I had received my new Woodworker II saw blade and a Dewalt dado stack and I got a chance to mess with them. Everything folks say about the WWII blade appears to be true, I purchased the full kerf so I could continue to use my Grizzly riving knife. Deciding on the dado stack about drove me crazy and even though I’ve read great things about the Freud Dial-a-Width, $300 was more than I wanted to spend. So the next best stack ranged about $200 and even that was more than I wanted to spend. The bottom line was that several owners were really happy with the Dewalt stack and it was within my budget so I Amazon One-Clicked it and it arrived 2 days later. I don’t profess to be an expert but I was impressed with injection molded case and provided cutters and shims. Although I only cut a few dados, the 3/4″ setup was impressively perfect sized. Your mileage my vary.

Meanwhile back at the Toolbox

So after two hard days in the shop, I finally find myself back at the toolbox project. As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to eliminate all those unsightly screw heads show on the box. So far, everything I’ve built has used either screws or nails and I just thought it would be an excuse to try some different things. I decided to put the shelf in grooves instead of butting and screwing. Now that I had the dado stack I could experiment, which I did. This led me to my first mistake. After cutting a test dado using my cross-cut sled, I realized that my piece was too long for the sled. I removed my sled and began cutting on tote back.  Er’ dude, you didn’t lower the blade after removing the sled, what a dolt! Well here’s a “leftover” piece of pine, time to cut a new back. Er’ dude, you were supposed to make a stopped dado, I can see the gap. Well shoot, this is my first day using this equipment and actually I’m pretty tired.

Dry Fittings Some Toolbox Pieces

Dry Fittings Some Toolbox Pieces

Instead of a groove, I decided to secure the shelf to the upper face from underneath, probably with screws but they won’t be visible. But after mocking up I realize there will be a gap between the ends and shelf that would look awkward, hummm…

Design "challenges"

Attempting to hide my design screw-ups in these snaps.

So without beating myself up too much, suffice it to say that several other challenges and mistakes have been made on this design so far. I recessed the ends to accept the oak dowel, then proceeded to cut the dowel the exact length of the bottom. Exactly too short by the depth of the two recesses. Great news was that the brand new WWII blade made an awesome cut. The fix, I glued a piece of dowel to each end and sanded. When recessed, they won’t be “as” noticeable. I will probably reinforce this glue joint with a long screw which will also secure the handle to the ends, then plug the holes.

So here is my revised design, using oak trim pieces to cover gaps.

Revised Design

Revised Toolbox with Oak Trim to Cover Gaps

All is Well

So all is well, I will not be defeated. I feel good and SketchUp was kind to me today. Unlike yesterday’s attempt, I was able to add all the “as built” and “as needed” changes to the original design. I know I have a way to go on this build, but it isn’t a race and I’ve really not yet focused my energy on it. Getting the shop usable was my priority so now that it is, I’m betting my concentration will be better.

You have been reading the rambling shop notes of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Woodworking

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

April 6, 2015 Leave a comment

a musing on learning, originality and creativity

What we have here is situation where I haven’t had much shop time since I finished the “10 Drawer Small Fossil Chest and Lower Chest”. For unexplained reasons I seem to have an affinity for tool chests and totes. I can’t explain the attraction. Too date,  I’ve built two of the 10 Drawer chests and one tool tote and have given them as gifts. That fact has lead me to my current quick project, a DIY tool tote with lower drawer.

Popular Mechanics Tool Tote

The plan was published by Popular Mechanics and may be found on the web if you’re interested in its design. I liked the addition of the lower drawer and also that it was potentially simple to build and it was in that vain that I decided to make a change or two to its construction. The drawer is hard to see in the 3D model image above, this image shows it more clearly.

Tool Tote Drawer

Although I didn’t want to “over build” this shop work piece I decided to step out of my shadow and learn something new. Instead of screwing the bottom to the sides, I decided it would make a good excuse to get some dovetail lessons in. If I don’t make myself do it, I’ll never learn how and there is no way to learn a practiced skill without actually doing it. Other changes are to use pine for the carcass and oak for the dowel handle, drawer front and catch button. I also want to eliminate all those hideous screw heads while at the same time trying more traditional joining methods.


So I start with an idea in the form a detailed plan. Plans sometimes get a bad rap if they are used as a crutch but I am now of the opinion that at the beginner level it really is useful to build the piece as detailed in the plan. Why? Well there is a very good chance that you really don’t know how the thing goes together until you’ve built it once. There are plenty of opportunities to learn and make mistakes even with detailed instruction. At the intermediate level, you may very well want to venture from the original plan, perhaps customizing it for your own needs, simplifying construction or perhaps even complicating the construction to try something new.


Recently I have been drawing all of my projects in SketchUp. This project gives me an excuse to improve my SketchUp skills while documenting my journey. To me the most important aspect of SketchUp is that I can learn how the piece should go together without having to first build it. While drawing up the model for the lower storage chest, I discovered that I had chopped the mortises in the incorrect location. Had I drawn the model first before starting the project, I would have easily seen my mistake. Still it was advantageous to learn soon-than-later that I had to repair my error before proceeding.

I can cite another example of this on my current project. My decision to step outside the plan and attach the sides to the bottoms with dovetails resulted in my making a couple of mistakes. As I cut my first pin board, I left the half-pins on both ends but I mistakenly cut away the bottom overhanging piece. In other words, I made two additional cuts to free the half pins. The mistake was obvious when I showed the pin board to the tail board. DOH! In this case, I had actually modeled the original plan in SketchUp but had not had time to fool with my proposed modifications. Had I done so, it would have been clear the ends must not be cut away.

Popular Mechanics Classics - Toolbox w/ Drawer

SketchUp Model of “Popular Mechanics Classics – Toolbox w/ Drawer”

You will note I have not drawn the dovetail modification in this version of the model.  I did however, drop some material on the components to test my idea about using oak pieces with the pine. So my point is that the recommendation to “build it twice” can be further improved upon by building the model first before attempting your maiden build. The benefits of models should be self-evident. You can build you plan easily to any size and shape, altering materials, colors with the click of a mouse. You can design and print out full size templates which can eliminate layout frustrations for complicated parts. All this is true to be sure but for me, the single most useful feature of drawing it first is to understand and visualize in my mind, how the pieces fit together before I start cutting pieces in the shop.


If you happen to be reading this, you may think to your-self, self what a joke. This guy knows very little about woodworking, how can he lead? My only thought is that by being a good student, you eventually learn enough to add your own touch to a piece and to the craft. In this sense, we are all followers seeking inspiration and we should all be leaders as we search for our own originality. I’m suggesting the cycle is inspiration, learning, creation, teaching. Even a beginning would worker can inspire others to give it a try.

Get Out of the Way

So if you’re not inspired, not learning, not creating and not teaching (inspiring others), I suggest you move from where you are and find one of these states. I should think the last thing you want is to be caught “standing in the way”.

Shop Note: I’ve been inspired recently by two articles on learning to dovetail. The first recommendation was to mark out dozens of lines on a board and make cut after cut to work on your mechanics (lots of practice) without worrying about messing up your project. Great idea that I have already started. The second was “A Dovetail a Day – Hurray” by Christopher Schwarz. Chris suggest he never suspected people would actually take him up on the challenge of cutting a dovetail a day for 30 days but many folks have been inspired to do just that. I think I’m going to challenge myself to practice a little every day whether it be just sawing technique or actual joint making.


Categories: Woodworking

Avion Holiday 24′ c1962 – In the beginning

March 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Oh my goodness, so much to do where does one start?

First things first, rain is coming so getting the windows repaired is a reasonable place to begin. Of the six sets of jalousie windows in the camper, three have broken panes. The other three are in need of servicing of course but at least they have glass in them.

Fact Finding

So my very first task was to pull out broken panes and gather size information for replacements. We have a local and reliable glass supplier here right next to the University of Florida campus where I work.  Check, new pieces have been cut and are in my car awaiting installation.

But I’m not yet able to install the new pieces, much other work must be completed first.

Aft starboard Window

Aft starboard window the first of six sets to be serviced and the target of my first efforts.

First, I’ll not the virtually all of the screens are ripped and disintegrating. At first take I believed the screen frames to be riveted to the chassis but I now realize they are screwed but the screws require an atypical drive which might be Roberts. That is good news, they can be removed and re-screened with only moderate difficulty. It will also make access to the jalousie mechanism possible. The window to which I have started my  investigation has other issues, including a missing crank handle and a broken rivet on one of the panes and a partially broken pane holder. The latter is partially broken but not yet snapped off. I have the option of strengthening (JB Weld, etc) the holder or replacing it if one could be found. The good news, is the gear mechanism seems to work beautifully, so this was not why the window wasn’t working, it was the busted rivet.

Jalousie Pane Weatherstripping.

Jalousie Pane weather-stripping.

The top edge of each window pane had one of these on it whose purpose is to hold a smallish weatherstrip. If you look very closely you can see remnants of the gasket in the photo. So the panes are overlapped which keeps water from coming in the trailer but this helps seal from the bottom to keep upward splashes and blow from entering. Fair enough, now I need to find pieces of this to fit the missing panes in the front windows.

Above, below, on both sides and on each pane. Lots of weatherstripping and all are different shapes and sizes.

Above, below, on both sides and on each pane. Lots of weather-stripping and all are different shapes and sizes.


weather-stripping at the bottom of the window.

So yesterday, was when I looked a bit closer at how the windows functioned and discovered there is a weatherstrip at the top of the window, a different one on the sides and yet another that runs in a grove along the bottom of the frame. Counting the stripping for the panes, this makes four different type-styles for each window. No one ever claimed this was going to “easy”. Of course the hardest part at present is locating appropriate replacements, once I get the part numbers right, I can rinse and repeat for all the other windows.

What Else Besides weather-stripping and Replacement Glass?

So yesterday’s good news, I can remove the screens for re-screening. Now I just need to purchase screen and the proper size spline (and a tool) to get them all repaired.

I purchased a can of aluminum lubricant at Lowes and this appears to work wonders on the jalousie mechanisms which are 50 years dirty and corroded. Also good news.

I have a window gear machine coming and once it arrives, I’ll see if it is going to work in my windows. In this case however, the mechanism I have appears well lubricated and works fine, so it was the broken rivet and frozen window mechanism, not the crank that was at issue. Unfortunately the replacement crank handle I purchased will be the wrong length, live and learn. This will be the first of many mismatched parts I’m sure.

Although I could use a tiny bolt, I’d rather purchase a rivet gun. Having watched some YouTube videos, I am now an “expert”.


The first window will take the longest but once I learn how they work and what parts to buy, it will just be a matter of coming up with a process. Plenty of fun-time ahead.

Hang in there it’s going to be a long ride…




Avion Holiday 24′ c1962 – vintage camper trailer

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

What can I say, Susan and I are just a bit crazy. Last week Susan saw this beast being towed home from Georgia and fell in love with it. She’s always bringing home strays so what’s one more? Retirement is only 10 years away and as you can see, we have started planning now. Hopefully it won’t take that long to get her serviceable. It will give Susan and I lots of quality time together meanwhile…..

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Lower Storage Unit – Part 4

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

So when I decided to give the recently finished tool chest to my youngest to house her growing fossil collection I realized that I needed a stand for it. Briefly I considered using something around the house but when I saw Chris’ post on his lower chest, I was inspired to go ahead and build one for Alexandra.

Over the weekend, I felt like a furniture maker for the first time not because my skill sets are so developed or my design sensibilities so highly refined. No, I felt like a furniture maker because I began to think beyond cutting a piece to a certain length or pouring over a plan for what to do next. What I’m building is not my design to be sure, it’s inspired by the lower storage unit that Chris Schwarz blogged about for his Dutch Tool Chest. It is in fact Chris’ plan and simply adapted for my application.

Dutch Tool Lower Chest - C. Schwarz

Dutch Tool Lower Storage Unit – C. Schwarz

So with a picture of the Chris’ chest for example, I set to building.

Saturday’s Effort

Lower Storage Unit Sized for the 10 Drawer Chest

My Version of the Lower Storage Unit is Sized for the 10 Drawer Chest

I’m to a point in my journey where I want to try my hand at cutting some dovetail joints but for this project I wanted to use the same joinery (glue, screws and plugs) which I used on the upper unit.

Lower Storage for 10-Drawer Small Chest

Lower Storage for 10-Drawer Small Chest – Carcass

Cleats on the top should limit the travel of the upper chest, centering the upper unit from side-to-side. The foreground of the above picture shows the 3/4″ stock cut for the upper and lower face frame (front lips).

Sunday’s Work

On Sunday, I decided that my front lips required some detailing so I chucked up my router and cut chamfers along all the front edges. I then set about cutting the notches in the upper and lower lips that will hold the sliding lock which for my version is 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ stock. To cut the top notch I used multiple passes on my table saw using my cross-cut sled to steady the piece. The notch bottom was cleaned up with a sharp chisel and some sand paper. Cutting the stopped notch in the bottom lip was a bit more time-consuming as I chopped it out with a chisel. I attempted to saw the sides at an angle like you would do cutting half blind dove tails but I was only cutting to a depth of 1/4″ and this proved only partially helpful in defining the side walls of the notch. With a bit of patience and being careful to take my time I was able to cut a “perfect” notch. Perhaps it was this task alone that helped me realize the joy of being a passable woodworker.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about attaching the lips to the carcass. I suppose this would have been an appropriate use of biscuits had I a joiner. I do have dowels and I did consider using them but opted for a couple of small brads to keep the piece from moving around while the glue setup. You definitely want to predrill holes prior to setting your brads. Had I not done so, the brads would have never run true in the hardy oak. I didn’t mention it before but I also used some shorter brads to steady the top cleat when I glued them up on Saturday.

Front Lips Installed and Sliding Lock Fitted.

Front Lips Installed and Sliding Lock Fitted.

Notice the lips and cleats form a corner that will limit travel of the upper chest towards the front and sides. I plan to also rig up a stop for the back side but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Fall Front Panel Glue Up from 1/2" Stock.

Fall Front Panel Glue Up from 1/2″ Stock.

It was a happy accident that I happened to have majorly over bought on 1/2″ oak stock for the 10 drawer fronts. Turns out they were just what I needed for the fall front door. I used my seriously too long pipe clamps for the glue up and while the glue was drying, I made plugs and plugged the screw holes in the lower chest.

Last Task for Sunday was  Plugging Screw Holes.

Last Task for Sunday was Plugging Screw Holes.

What’s Ahead?

I need to make the fall front door. The panel is glued so it will need to be trued and cut to size and the lock and guides added to the back. The sliding lock is fit and cut to size but I want to make a finger-pull hole in the top. I’ll need to trim and flush the plugs. Lastly I’ll shape and attached a couple of trim pieces on the rear edges and add stops that have yet to be designed. The lower unit will ride on casters that will be attached after I finish this bad boy.

The height of the lower unit is about 15″ and was determined by how much was remaining once the 16″ top was cut from the 4′ length of 1″ x 12″. On casters it will be an inch or two taller.

One last thought. It isn’t lost on me that Alex won’t be able to open the lower door without removing the top chest, something that she’ll likely never do. Or, she may do it to shove stuff in there where it will be entombed for a future era. I’m OK with that. The main point of this was to build a stand for the upper unit and the fall front door was just an efficient way to get that done. Pull out drawers would actually be a more functional solution.

Hang with me, you’ve been making stuff with the Turtlecovebrewer

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Build Redux – Part 3

February 23, 2015 Leave a comment

Things were pretty mellow in the shop over this last weekend. Saturday was spent getting all 10 drawers working smoothly. In that vein, I was successful for 9 o of the 10. During that time I also had another chip break off where the drawer dado meets the face. I’m not exactly sure if this is one that I had glued earlier in the process but it might have been. Anyway I glued it back on and I hopeful that this time the fix will last. Having had my fill of relieving edges and smoothing drawer operation, I moved on to running the upper and lower beads on the drawer fronts. You might recall that last time I made the mistake of attaching pulls prior to this operation, so I learned to route first. Everything went very smoothly only my bench top router table is so small the drawers tended to tip off the edge unless I was very careful to hold them steady for the entire length of the face. It made for a couple of imperfections but the overall effect turned out nicely and way better than my last effort.

After beading it was on to making and attaching the drawer pulls.

And this is where my judgment just might have been clouded a bit. You see I have this tree that I collected from my neighborhood in Melrose (Turtle Cove). The tree had been taken down and the wood cut into logs and folks were basically invited to take wood so I did. Upon cutting the wood up on my band saw I found it had an interesting spalting. So I figured that I would use this spalted wood to make plugs and pulls to accent the oak. The more conservative approach would have been to use the oak dowels I had already purchased at the big box store. They would have looked nice and it would have been much quicker than making my own plugs, etc. So anyway, I had already made the plugs from this spalted wood so I endeavored to make the pulls from it. My fears were however, founded in that the wood was very spongy and “unpredictable”. Having started down the path, I continued.

Pull made from 1/2" spalted wood.

Pull made from 1/2″ spalted wood. Very rough and spongy.


Installed pulls prior to adding the superglue.

Installed pulls prior to adding the superglue.

I used my 1/2″ plug cutter and freed the pieces at the band saw. The plugs were basically impossible to sand effectively and they were almost the consistency of cork. I came up with the idea of applying some thin superglue to see if that would strengthen them a bit. I emptied one of those small tubes into a cup and added a few drops of acetone until the mixture was watery enough to brush on. I started with a disposable pipette but the liquid was very thin and ran everywhere so I opted to brush on the mixture with an acid brush. I was able to be a bit more precise using the brush.

After applying the superglue. Improvement?

After applying the superglue. Improvement? Maybe, at least a bit sturdier.

Well at least the pulls were given a bit of extra strength although they are still pretty very ugly. Perhaps I shall call them “rustic” rather than “ugly”.

Sunday was a pretty easy day. I sanded the carcass and drawers and applied the first coat of poly which I thinned with mineral spirits to wipe on.

Semi-gloss poly, thinned and brushed on then the excess was wiped off.

Semi-gloss poly, thinned and brushed on then the excess was wiped off.

On this build I decided to put one coat inside the carcass and drawers.

On this build I decided to put one coat inside the carcass and drawers.


The chest is coming along. I’ll add a couple more coats of poly to the outside and see what I can do about that one problematic drawer then call it done.

While spending a moment with Susan yesterday I asked her if she wanted to help me paint Alexandra’s book-case. You’ll recall from a previous post that I had made book boxes for Erin (they share a room) and I thought it a brilliant idea to fix and paint the remaining book shelf with the left over paint. Alex was on board with this because wanted a place to display her fossils. Somewhere in the back of my mind it occurred to me that it would be neat to make a display case for Alex’s treasures. Susan suggested that a chest like the one I’m building would be ideal to store and preserve them. Hummmm…. I could build another one….. or I could give her this one which is what I’ve decided to do. Now I have built something for each of my three girls. The only question remaining is what to do about a base for it. I could take the easy way out but I’m thinking I should build something from oak to make a matched set.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Build Redux – Part 2

February 16, 2015 Leave a comment

In spite of the fact that last Saturday was Valentines Day, I was able to get two full shop days in toward the second small tool chest build. My wife is awesome that way and she had to work on Saturday any way. In general the thesis I proposed in my last post had true and having built the unit once before I was able to work more purposefully and with greater precision than on the first attempt. That was until I got to the glue-up of the case. At that point, reason left me and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to piece together how I had used the four corner clamps to hold the work. In retrospect, I now wonder how I could not have seen it. Anyway things were a bit dicey as I figured out a new way to assemble the case using my brand new assembly squares. They were on sale and I bought two of them but should have bought four. I actually wanted to buy two 0f the mini versions but they were on back order so I held off.

Clamp-it Assembly Square

Clamp-it Assembly Square

OK, so I well realize that you can make your own version of these guys and I had “intended” on doing that for a while now and still haven’t. The two I bought were an impulse buy to be sure but I’ve already gotten my money’s work out of them. They are large, actually a bit too large for this scale of furniture but I was still able to use these two to great advantage. I used them in the case glue-up and later to glue up the drawer frames which brings me to my next new toy. The Rockler 3-in-1 Bar Gauge kit.

Rockler 3-in-1 Bar Gauge

Rockler 3-in-1 Bar Gauge

Originally I was looking to purchase a pair of trammel points for this build but I was also in the market for a functional bar gauge. I lusted after the fit and finish of the Woodpecker version but who has that much coin to blow on such a simple device? Comparing the two is like the difference between a Porsche and a Yugo but for $25 you get two sets of tips (wedge and flat) and trammel points. The tips are plastic which doesn’t exactly scream precision but the telescoping holders are made from attractive aluminum blocks. I also don’t like that the tips are held in by set screws which require a hex wrench to tighten. If the tips didn’t require this and were made of metal you’d have a real winner. You have to provide your own rods so I picked up a length of steel rod but I haven’t yet cut it in half so I used an oak dowel to get started.  I used it to transfer the case width to my table saw fence and was very pleased with the ease and accuracy of this way of measuring. And BTW, I also “intended” on making one of these but instead I’m happy with this purchase also.

So after two weekends in the shop this build is fairly far along. The case and drawers are complete although I have still have some fitting to do on the drawer slides as well as a piece of trim I need to fit above the top-most drawer. After I route the upper and lower beads on the drawer fronts and attach pulls the piece will be ready for finishing.

10 Drawer Small Tool Chest #2

10 Drawer Small Tool Chest #2

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.


Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

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