Home > Parenting, Woodworking > Even wooden dowels have grain …..

Even wooden dowels have grain …..

Back from the out-of-town hospital visit to see my Mom, Susan and I arrive home somewhat mentally exhausted. Mom was in good spirits and we were all glad to see each other but her condition is serious. Her heart doctor offers the possibility of an operation but the necessary test prior to would likely destroy all of her remaining kidney function. We keep close the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, “First do no harm.”

To clear her mind, Susan takes Erin for a walk and I descend into my basement shop. I know that making wood shavings will never replace my Mom and I am under no illusion that a saw bench matters very much but the work begins to clear my mind. Life does and will go on long after we have done our bit here on earth.

Meanwhile back in Gotham City….

The goal for my first session was to drill the dowel holes in the through tenons so that I could glue up the leg assemblies. I mocked up the legs and stretcher and used the ½” Forstner  bit as a center punch to mark the tenons.  After marking all 4 tenons, I drilled the holes on the drill press without incident.

I also needed to saw the ends and make the hardwood wedges that will secure the joint. I previously viewed an article by a fellow making a joiner’s mallet. He drills a strain relief hole at the end of the wedge kerf to help prevent splitting. I figured that was a pretty smart idea so I drilled a 1/8″ hole at the end of my 8 wedge slots (2 wedges per end).

Saw Bench Strencher Through Tenon

I have used tenon wedges before but honestly, I had absolutely no idea how to make one. I have used wedge-like scrapes and tried to spit them from thin stock which worked but resulted in an awful hack job. Sadly, the WiFi doesn’t extend to my shop and I was too lazy and/or in a hurry to go upstairs so that I could Google inspiration. Instead I looked around the shop looking for inspiration. After a few weak ideas I can up with this.

Cleaving Wedges from Poplar Scrap

I easily cleaved off thin 1/8″ strips of poplar through the end grain and whittled a wedge shaped end with my utility knife. This worked fairly efficiently and before I knew it, I had 8 serviceable hardwood wedges.

In preparation for the glue-up, I cut 4 pieces of ½” dowel about 3″ long and relieved the edges on one end using my carpenter’s pencil sharpener. The sharpener was amazingly efficient at chamfering which made hammering the dowel through all 3 pieces possible. With all the bits in-hand, I was ready for the glue-up of the 2 leg assemblies. I ran a temporary brace across the top to keep everything square until the glue setup.

Gluing up the Legs

Last night (second shop session) I was ready to saw flush the wedges and dowels and cut the notches in the saw bench top to receive the legs.

Dowels and Wedges on the Leg Assembly

The first dowel I trimmed close with my flush cut saw and then pared flush with my chisel. The result was “fair” but definitely not perfect.  I cut the second one experimenting with how close to cut with the flush cut saw.  Do I leave the blade flat or lift the tip as I had seen an expert do? Will cutting close, mare the surface around the dowel, etc.? On the third dowel I decided to try and shear it off with my chisel and mallet. One of my books had instruction on using the chisel for this purpose. All I can say is, “don’t try this method on anything that matters”. Ok so I’m sure it can be done if you know what you’re doing and have the proper whatever. I’ve tried it twice and both times it sort of ripped the wooden dowel. The first time was a tiny dowel on the wooden tool tote and I thought perhaps it was the small size and the fact that the dowel was still wet from the glue. The second time was a completely dry ½” dowel and it also tore. No thank-you. I found my best results were to saw close leaving the blade completely flat then pare it flush with a sharp chisel. Final cleanup with a plane and/or cabinet scraper. Oh and by the way, dowels have grain direction too. Pay attention to it and you’ll get better results. I’m learning.

With the legs assembled, I could mark on the saw bench the exact locations of the notches I needed to saw. The first notch was the hardest because, well, it was the first one. I began by marking the leg width on the bench, then extending the line  1 ¼” from the edge and squaring it off. I made lines with a marking knife (which is an X-ACTO knife) then using a chisel to make a saw edge. I used my hand saw to saw both width lines then used my jigsaw to hog out the middle and clean up the back edge. The first one was OK but I did get better as I progressed. After each notch, I would test fit the leg and adjust mostly using my chisel but occasionally the low angle block plane. Slowly widening the slot until the leg just fit nicely.

Saw Bench First Leg Notch

Encouraged and incrementally improving with each notch, I cut and fit the other 3 as I had done on the first.

Leg Notches Ready for Assebly

Well Susan and Erin are safely home from their walk and it’s time for me to clean up the shop and get ready to settle in for the night. Before I turn off the lights I have one last thing to check, does it fit?

Saw Bench Dry Fitting Legs

Holy mackerel, it does fit! A fine woodworker would receive failing grades, a high school shop teacher would probably give me a “C” on the project because I stuck with it.  I’m having a load of fun doing instead of dreaming.

Tonight I’ll counter bore, glue and screw on the legs and upper braces and if that goes smoothly begin cutting the planking and battens for the lower shelf. A few more sessions and I should have a piece of serviceable shop furniture.

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

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Categories: Parenting, Woodworking
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