Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

Two-Day Workbench – Part 1

August 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Building a workbench has long been a rite of passage for aspiring woodworkers. I won’t belabor that point, nor will I debate the pros and cons of the various bench designs and traditions. After 4 years I decided it was a good time to upgrade my work surface. After a fair amount of “research” I began to narrowing down the choices and gathering up my preferences for work-holding.

  1. The bench should not be overly expensive (lavish woods)
  2. It should be within my skill set to build
  3. I wanted a decent set of plans
  4. I wanted a Veritas Twin-Screw vise on it
  5. I choose in favor of a quick release face vise over a traditional leg vise (used in the same manner however)

After looking over so many choices I found a plan I had already purchased, the “$175 Workbench by Christopher Schwarz” published in Popular Woodworking, Feb 2001. As laid out, this bench can be constructed using 8-1″ x 8″ by 12′ Southern Yellow Pine boards. I went so  far as to purchase the SYP and all the bolt hardware. At this point however, I decided to change my direction and I purchased the video, “Build a Sturdy Workbench in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz”. I did like being able to build along with Chris (built a tool chest in the way) but I also really liked the beefy legs in this alternative design. What I didn’t like as much was the Ikea “butcher block style” top. Given that I had already purchased the SYP 1″x8″s I resolved to make a laminated SYP top à la the $175 bench and use the beefy Douglas Fir base à la the Two-Day bench. I had previously coveted vises from the Lee Valley website and it took very little self-convincing to pull the trigger on my wish list.

The Model

Current plan/model of this bench build.

Basic Dimensions

Base –  48″ long x 27 ½” wide (Doug Fir)
Top – 70″ long x 27 ½” wide (SYP).  Laminate 22 strips of 1 ¼” wide x 3 ¼” thick x 70″ long.
Legs – 6 ½” x 3 ¼”
Stretchers 3 ¼” x 3 ¼”

Constructing the Base

I began constructing the base by milling 6-4″ x 4″ Douglas Fir boards to 3 ¼” on each face. I rough cut to 1″ over final length then glued up the legs.

4"x4" Douglas Fir Laminating two pieces for the leg.

Two pieces are laminated together for each of the 4 legs. After the lamination, I ran them through the jointer and planer to square them up and then each were cut to final length.

Completed workbench legs are ready

With the components cut and legs prepared it was time to cut the joinery. This plan calls for lag bolts and half lap joints. I used my dado stack on the table saw to cut the half-laps.

Cabinetmaker's triangles to keep pieces identified. Joinery finished on the legs.

I was careful to keep my plans handy (actually a SketchUp model and video) and referred to them often because “if there is a way to screw up, I will find it!” All the stretchers face inward but still mark your pieces!

Work progressed relatively smoothly but decisions had to be made about final dimensions of my bench. The upper constraint lengthwise is about 70″. The vises I purchased are both quite large so I’m racking my brain to make sure they are actually going to fit. I decided to make my base 48″ long leaving a 22″ total overhang of the top. The face vise is a minimum of 11″ wide so it just might fit with the base centered but I reasoned I can always shift it an inch or so as required. I have yet to completely figure out installation of the twin-screw only to say that it can’t span more than 27 ½” which I decided would be my final bench width. The screws will also need, presumably to fit between the bench legs which reduces the clamping capacity from its maximum potential. Oh well, everything in life has limitations…..

Decided on 48" length for the base.

With dimensions decided, I went ahead and cut the 4 short and 2 long stretchers and added the male laps on the ends.

Dry fit of the workbench base.

Confirming the base pieces all fit, I proceeded to glue-up and lag bolt both ends.

Base end pieces assembled.

Before drilling and bolting the long stretchers, I bored some 3/4″ holes in each leg face to accept work-holding appliances.

Dog holes drilled in each leg face.

Thoughts on the Two-Day Build

Considering that I’m more than two days in to this build and I’ve just completed the base, I’d estimate this build to be closer to a Two-Week build for me to complete. I have added considerable complexity it is true. In the two-day video Chris laminated two ready-made tops and I’ll be gluing up my from milled strips. I’ll also be adding two vises and hopefully, a sliding deadman.

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Shopmade Cutting Gauge

July 10, 2017 Leave a comment

The current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine featured the article “Shopmade Cutting Gauge” by Bob Van Dyke. I decided to try my hand at building one.

For the fence, I had my choice of black limba or mahogany, both left over cutoffs from previous electric guitar builds.  After cutting the block to the appropriate length and width I jointed the faces. Thickness was around 1 3/4″ so I made no adjustments even though suggested thickness was 1 5/8″.  Two holes were drilled, the first was on the face to house the beam and a second smaller hole from the side for accept a threaded insert. The insert accepts a thumbscrew used for locking the beam.

Shopmade cutting gauge fence prep.

Next two 1/2″ strips of brass plate were inlayed on the face. The brass strips were cut from a sheet. First the sheet was scored with an Exacto knife then cut with a Jig Saw and metal-cutting blade. The edges were trued using sand paper on a flat surface. Using flat bar stock would have been simpler but I used what I had on hand. Individually placing each bar on the face, I scored the wood before taking the fence to router table. Using a 12″ straight bit, I cut the recess for each bar. The bars were slightly wider than the 1/2″ bit so I used a chisel to pare to the line and fit each piece.  The bars were then glued in place using 5 minute epoxy.

Brass inlay was expoied to the fence face.

The strips were initially held in place using binding tape then clamped in a vise to set up. A special caul was made using two thin strips of wood attached to block with double stick tape. I considered using hot glue but the  tape was faster.

Once the epoxy had set I continued work on the face by cutting a mortise to accept the 1/4″ pressure plate. I used a hand screw to steady the piece first drilling a 1/4″ hole, then squaring the edges by chisel.

Cutting the mortise for the pressure plate.

The plan called for a brass bar but once again, I didn’t feel like ordering a special part. Instead I used an ebony scrap, from a finger board. It was already 1/4″ thick so cut it to length and shaped it with chisel and sandpaper.

Fitting the ebony retaining key to the mortise.

I decided the beam would be made from a flame maple scrap but to use it, I was going to have to make a dowel from flat stock and I was going to have to do it without a lathe. This was by far the most time-consuming part of the build. I made a cradle and added sandpaper which helped to round the flat stock. Once it was roughly round, I used a round scraper just the right diameter to continue shaping. The scraper cut well removing a fair amount of wood easily but unfortunately, it was all too easy to make long deep scratches on an adjacent surface. A lathe would have been the proper tool for making a spindle.

The article suggested purchasing and modifying a Hock Tools marking knife for the cutter but I decided to make one from an old Jig Saw blade. I realize this is like comparing apples to oranges but I wanted to give it a try anyway. The jig saw blade cutter will work, I just need to figure out how to sharpen it.

The final task was to make the mortise for the blade and shape a wedge. I used hard maple for the wedge which came from, you guessed it, a hard maple finger board scrap.

Black limba and maple marking gauge.

As with all projects, some parts went together very well and others proved more challenging. I am very happy with the way the fence came together both in form and in function. The maple beam was challenging to shape and didn’t come out perfectly although the fit is good enough to be quite serviceable. Cutting the mortise to accept the blade and wedge didn’t come out the way I wanted and is sloppy. Que será, será, just keep making!

Thank-you for stopping by the shop

Categories: Woodworking Tags:

Wooden Block Plane

I’ve really been digging the Pinterest pins which have been popping up from Wood Archivist Magazine. When I ran across plans for this block plane I decided I was going to give it a go.

Wooden Block Plane from Wood Archivist

I was hoping I had enough mahogany script from my neck blank but I really did a number on the mid-section after cutting out two Gibson style one piece necks from it. I ended up using a flat piece of mahogany (for a stacked neck) and a hard maple fingerboard blank I had on hand.

First laminated the 1/4″ maple (sole) to the mahogany (body) blank. A bit of weight was used instead of clamps.

Next I followed the plan to cut the body pieces at the specified angles. I little bit of interpretation was necessary but in general the dimensions were good.

The left over piece of blank was used to resaw the two sides using the bandsaw. I thinned the sides to the correct thickness using my planer. Each piece had one jointed face so this was fairly simple to do.

With all the major components cut, I could turn attention to the hardware. Essentially all of the hardware for the front knob and blade were ordered through Lee Valley.


I don’t have a lathe so I improvised and shaped the mahogany using a mandrel on my drill press. Not perfect but passable at least. The boss for the blade was rough cut and shaped using the actually blade as a guide. Threaded brass inserts were used to hold the blade and the front knob. These were epoxied in place for strength.

Shaping the front of the plane body was a multi-step process, drill a hole, cut off the top, cut a recess then laminate a maple inlay, then shape.

Plans called for the use of a core box  bit to route finger recesses but having none, I used a gouge and sandpaper to form them.  I cut the brass side pieces on the bandsaw then cleaned up the edges using self adhesive sandpaper on the table saw. Epoxy was used to fix the brass inlays.

I used this same paper to flatten the sole and sides. The sides aren’t perfectly square to the sole but the plane seems serviceable none-the-less. I did make sure the sole was dead flat.

I added some mahogany dye, then being impatient finished it with Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO). Finally I used  0000 steel wool and paste wax to complete the build.

The plane works better than expected and I have already used it on two additional projects. I think I’ll build some more planes in the future!

Thanks for looking……

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

Artist’s Pencil Boxes

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

For the last several years I have made Christmas gifts for my family in the workshop. No one would call me a master craftsman but I enjoy my time in the shop and I feel that a handmade gift beats mass-produced every time! Well not every time (let’s be real) but you get my drift. This year I didn’t really start my project early enough because I was excited about completing my first scratch electric guitar build. I needed a project that could finish in time and without too much nashing of teeth. Enter “The Artist’s Pencil Boxes”, a plan which I had but never really thought I’d actually make.

Milling the Stock

I began by going through my wood reserve and landing on a lonely but willing cypress board. For this project most of the lumber was 1/4″ or less in thickness so I began by jointing and planing and cutting.

img_1400 img_1401 img_1396

The result, materials for six boxes.


Making the Box

Next I routed and cut pieces to fabricate the boxes.


Once I knew they were going to work I glued them up, then sliced them longitudinally.

img_1412 img_1413

Then a peg was inserted in the bottom half and the top fit to the bottoms for each box.


Getting each of the tops to slide smoothly was chose but I kept at it until I was satisfied they would open on Christmas.


Six completed boxes and ready for a simple shellac finish. No time for anything else really!


Pack ’em up and ship ’em; Christmas isn’t going to wait!


Hopefully I’ll plan ahead for next year but…. don’t count on it!!!

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

Drawing Light Box

June 22, 2016 Leave a comment

I’ve been running into a challenge with printing the over sized templates for guitar bodies and neck profiles. One can always ship drawings to a print shop and I have done this on a number of occasions with generally good success. The fee isn’t  bad at $3.00 a print and as long as you only need an occasional copy, the trip to store isn’t that much of a burden. In the old days we used to print things out and tape them together with aid from a light table which made it possible to see through several layers of paper and thus accurately line up the “cut marks”. I decided I wanted one but it needed to be a bit larger than the ones I found on Amazon. So….. I built my own.

As any sane person would do these days, I consulted the Internet for inspiration before drawing up my own design. Essential elements included an (inexpensive) glass top so that I could use a hobby knife to cut paper, LED ribbon lights for bright, compact, low power lighting and a wooden frame. For fun, I decided to add a light switch but it really isn’t necessary.

Parts List

SketchUp Model

DIY Drawing Light Box

DIY Drawing Light Box. (Cick on image to download the SketchUp drawing.)

I took much of this project from epicfantasy’s YouTube video How to make a light box including the exact parts for the LED lights and adapter, and a clever trick for diffusing light. I watched several other videos but the single-most inspiration came from Glass Impressions, How to build a light box.

Box Build

I decided to join my frame with dovetails so I cut the front and back pieces to 37″ and the side pieces to 25″. My glass top and bottom plywood pieces were both 24″ x 36″ so this would leave a 1/2″ of wood around the perimeter. A 1/4″ rebate was cut on both the top and bottom edges of all boards making sure to use a stopped cut on the tail board so I didn’t have any exposed hole. The ends of the rebates had to be finished by hand using chisel and mallet to make complete recesses for the top and bottom pieces. The base was easier as I could cut the plywood to size should my measurements be off  but the glass had to fit just right. Unfortunately I didn’t cut the rebates deep enough for the top and other than dry assembling the box and test fitting, there was no way to know this until after I glued up the box. To get the glass to fit, I marked and whittled until at last the glass would drop in. With all the tools I now have, I couldn’t think of an elegant way to widen the recess other than with marking knife, chisel and shoulder plane. Eventually I got a good fit but it would have been much easier to get it right at the router table.

Before gluing up the box however, I measured and cut a through mortise for the rocker switch on the right side. Rearward of the switch I drilled a 3/8″ hole and press fit the female 12 V jack (LED end) into it. Just to make sure it stayed I applied some hot glue with a glue gun. I was ready to glue-up the frame and attach the bottom.

Light Box Switch

I cut the plywood bottom to size and after a few passes with the block plane had a good fit. I attached the bottom using screws only (4×13 mm) making sure to pre-drill holes at a slight angle (towards the frame) so as to make sure I didn’t miss the rebate wall. I didn’t use glue just in case I have to remove the bottom for some future repair.

Box bottom.

Frame bottom panel.

Using 3M spray adhesive, I lined the box interior with heavy-duty aluminum foil to provide good light reflectance. I could have used aluminum tape but this was a cheaper option although more cumbersome to install.


I unraveled the spool of LED lights to get an idea of how many strips and how close together I could make the rows. Epicfantasy didn’t cut his light strip opting to loop the ribbon back and forth along the bottom. I considered this but figured I would do it the harder but potentially “better” way by cutting the LED into individual strips and reconnecting them with hookup wire. This wasn’t difficult but I can give you a couple of tips that might help with your learning curve.

Tip #1 – The strip has marked cut lines with solder pads on either side. Cut the LEDs only in these areas and take your time as the solder pads are very close together. The pads are tiny to begin with and if you cut half of one away you are asking for trouble. Don’t ask me how I know this….

LED light strip

Safe to cut between the solder pads on the line indicated but cut accurately.

Tip #2 – Make sure you hook  + to + (Positive)  and – to  – (Negative) (see image above). I was using black and red hookup and for some odd reason kept trying to use the black wire for Positive connections. Not sure what that was about but of course, Positive is traditionally red and Negative is traditionally black. Using different colored wire isn’t necessary but it can help to prevent wiring mistakes and adds a bit of professionalism to your work. I used hot glue to tack the wires to the bottom.

Tip #3 – Leave very little of each end of the hookup wire exposed, about 1-2 mm. Tin the wire but more importantly, tin the solder pad before attempting the connection. Initially I tinned the wire but not the pad and this doesn’t work, flux goes everywhere. When done properly there will be a beautiful round dollop of solder mounded perfectly on the solder pad. Heating for connection is very fast but you must hold the wire in place for good while for the solder to harden (10-15 secs); otherwise the wire just springs back dragging solder with it and making a mess of it. Blow on it if you want, this helps cool the joint and blows the fumes out of your face so it can’t hurt.

Tip #4 – Test your connections as you go. I started my connections at the powered end and tested each strip as I went just to give me confidence as I progressed along the chain. If you don’t do this troubleshooting after will still be very straightforward with lights working up to the failure.

Tip #5 – Switches are installed in-line on the power side of a circuit. The light strip came with a DC jack and ready to go but there was no provision for a switch as such so I ended up peeling back insulation to expose wires which were stranded and very delicate. I didn’t have a lot of extra wire length to work with but I was able to get everything connected, soldered and covered with heat shrink tubing. If I were to do this over, I would come up with a cleaner approach to hooking in the switch or just left it out altogether.

The Top

Why Glass

I choose to use glass for the working surface of this light box for two reasons, cost ($13)  and resistance to scratches when cutting with a hobby knife. That said I can not emphasize enough the potential danger of working with a 2’x3′ pane of non-tempered glass. As a home-brewer, I myself have experienced a glass carboy explode when it fell off a stand on to the floor. My foot was cut in several places and I carried a large shard of glass in my toe for months before it was expelled. A co-worker of mine almost died carrying a glass vase and stepped in hole waking to her house. One of the pieces sliced her wrist area and had she and her husband not kept cool heads getting her to the hospital she would have been in real trouble. Glass is dangerous, and working with this piece concerned me. I reasoned the glass top would be “relatively protected” once I got it safely mounted into the frame. As luck would have it, I almost made it but on the second day, somehow the wrapped glass, standing against the wall shifted and a piece of it broke. Darn! I used super glue to reattach it and placed packing tape inside and out along the break to reinforce it. In hindsight, plastic is just an all around better choice for your top, even given the inevitable scratches that will come.


I sprayed the underside of the glass top with spray paint, glass frosting. Can’t say it was a bad result, I just wanted something a bit more diffuse. I decided to attach a layer of that thin white foam they wrap electronics in to further soften the light. If you are using translucent plastic none of this is necessary of course. Glue Impressions sprayed a couple thin coats of white paint on his top. Epicfantasy used some white, plastic poster board as an inexpensive light diffuser. It’s your call but I probably wouldn’t spend the $5 on frosting paint if I was to do it again, I’d either use white or go with the attached plastic or foam.

Hot Glue Gun

I used a lot of hot melt glue on this project because I didn’t want anything coming loose on me. Hot glue was used to secure the press-fit DC jack into the wooden frame and also to secure wires, LED lights and wire hook-ups. Of course I tested and retested before entombing connections in glue.

Reluctantly I used hot glue to secure the glass top into the rebate making this a rather permanent mount. This means any repairs will need to made by removing the bottom which isn’t ideal but is feasible. I was terrified the glass top might fall out on accident. I considered using wooden strips to secure it but end the end opted to hot glue it in place.

Finished Light Box

Finished DIY Tracing Light Box

Closing Thoughts

I’m happy with the build although I hate that my glass pane has a break in it. If you are considering a similar build keep in mind that the frame could have been simply screwed or nailed together without need of dovetail or box joints. I gave serious consideration to simply using pocket screws but as a learning woodworker, I didn’t mind practicing the joinery. You might also give additional thought to the size of your light box. I looked over the available sizes of replacement glass panes and landed on 2’x3′ which would be long enough to join guitar neck templates and wide enough for body templates. But it’s big and I’m not sure where I’m going to store it/ protect it when not in use. I’m thinking about making a table out of it and possibly making a wooden top to cover it but time will tell if I get it done.

Thanks for hanging with the Turtlecovebrewer

Arts and Crafts Hanging Bookcase – Completed

April 12, 2016 2 comments

Over the last couple of weeks I muscled my way through, finishing up the build on my hanging bookcase. There have been distractions but I didn’t have far to go, thus I was able to finally put the finish on this project.

Corbels and Arches

Rehearsing the installation of the corbels and upper and lower arches, I envisioned attaching them with dowels and glue. I was even going to make a doweling jig to perfectly align the holes for the corbels. When it finally came down to it I rationalized that glue would be plenty strong enough to hold these non-structural items to the carcass. I had wisely preserved the off cuts from making the corbels which I used as clamping cauls. The only downsized to this approach was that I didn’t have enough F-clamps to do all the corbels simultaneously so I ended up doing the front section then after the glue setup move on to the back set.

bookcase corbels

After the corbels came the upper and lower decorative arches which were also simply glued and clamped.

bookcase arches


Being careful, the black metal pulls I purchased at Lowes installed without incident. The modesty panel (behind the drawers) is held in place by 1″ brads which I pre-drilled. So many times I’ve had nails come out the side wall but this time there was room and I was careful. That has to be a first.

Hanging Bookcase

Finish and Installation

Woodworkers Source has a nice article on finishes for sapele in which they present three viable options for making the figure pop. The first is a clear sealer with lacquer topcoat which leaves the wood about as light as sapele gets. The second was to bring out the ribbons by adding an amber dye before sealing. Option three appealed to me and this is the method that I used, well sort of. Method three brings out the ribbon figure by using Danish Oil before sealing and a lacquer top coat. In my case I used what I had on hand which is a Teak Oil finish. I rubbed it on and let it dry overnight before spraying 4 to 5 coats of General Finishes High Performance water based top coat. I used a sponge sanding block to knock off the nibs between coats but I never really attempted a pore filling. I didn’t feel like I needed a glass smooth surface so I was OK my decision to leave it as is and skip buffing it out.

I had already figured out how I was going to mount the case to the wall but working without plans, I had neglected to make and install the pieces before spraying the finish. After re-watching the  video on Making a French Cleat with Paul Sellers I muddled my way though making my own which I mounted under the top. This cleat would hold the weight of the case but I didn’t want the bottom to be able to pull away from the wall so I also added two tabs behind the bottom arch that would use for  screws. These pieces were glued and screwed and I used a razor blade to scrape away finish before attaching them. I did an incredible hack job making the split cleat but it was my first and in spite of being ugly, the darn thing worked. Overall I was pleased with the project and I’m enjoying its use now.

Hanging Bookcase Installed

Inspiration for this project design came from pieces sold by Matthew Standrin. I encourage you to visit his Etsy store, WoodDeluxe and consider purchasing one or more of his very affordable and wonderful pieces of artisan furniture.



Arts and Crafts Hanging Bookcase – Drawers

March 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Back in the shop this weekend I was able to complete a few shop chores before continuing work on the hanging bookcase. The last couple of weekends have primarily been about making and fitting the three drawers. Although I have previously cut a few through dovetails, on this project I cut them all by hand. Some were horrible, but as work continued, I improved. Speaking of “firsts”, I have never attempted half-blind dovetails before this project and I wanted to challenge myself. After chiseling out the sockets on the first three, it occurred to me that I could (and should) try hogging out waste with a forstner bit. It worked beautifully and saved me all kinds of time on the last three joints.

Drawers, Wedges and Glue-up

This weekend I also learned how to begin cuts with the rip back-saw. As trivial as that sounds it was a big deal to me. When I made the shaker style step stools I was frustrated to no end while attempting my rip cuts. I have since heeded the advice of the Shannon Rogers (The Renaissance Woodworker) about lifting the weight of the saw and violà. Of the twenty cuts I made (for tenon wedges)  I only had the saw slip twice and my confidence grew with each new kerf. The sting of the two mistakes was more than compensated with the reward of learning something new!

At the end of the day Sunday, I had sanded all the surfaces, relieved all the hard edges and prepared wedges for the glue-up. After the glue had skimmed over, I removed squeeze out and sawed the wedges. Moistening the ends of the tenons (end grain) softened the fibers and the glue making it easier to flush up the surfaces with a chisel.

Hanging Bookcase Lower Drawers

Home Stretch

Perhaps not yet the home stretch but at least rounding the bend. Next session I’ll glue on the corbels and upper and lower arches. I’ll also need to fabricate the hanging cleat and then I’ll be ready for finish.

“Everything takes more time than you think it will” – The Turtlecovebrewer