Bench building-What kind of vise do YOU want?

I am currently working on two vise designs, and building a bench to demonstrate them. I pulled the lumber for the bench, and somehow over estimated the amount I needed. So, I am building two benches.

Is anyone interested in a particular vise style to be shown on the second bench? Or any special features you would like to see on the bench?

The vises I like on my benches are normally leg vises and wagon vises, but I would be happy to build any style of vise on the second bench if there is a need or want for it. (I will be trying to do a “build-along” for the second bench)

Just for those who want a list of the vises:

Leg Vise
Tail Vise
Wagon Vise
Face Vise
Shoulder Vise
Twin Screw Vise

Just send me an email with your suggestions!

Weathering The Weather. . .

It has been COLD. Very cold. Cold enough that my shop, which is semi-insulated and heated solely by one medium sized woodstove, has been operating at 50 degrees or less, and that only after having the stove going full tilt for a few hours.

Since the temperature when I get into the shop in the morning has been well below freezing (I read the temperature at -10 on multiple occasions) it has made getting things done a bit more difficult.

Some of the problems you will run into when dealing with below freezing temperatures:

-Wood gets brittle. Expect more splits and cracks, checking etc than usual

-lubricants for things like lathes, drill presses, etc get gelled up, and need to be heated to some degree before you use the machine.

-Lack of humidity causes rapid shrinkage in wood freshly milled

-Metal shrinks slightly, causing some planes and fine instruments to act peculiar.

-Finishes and glues freeze, ruining them in many cases

-Operator extremities seem to move sluggishly. i.e, my fingers were not nearly as responsive as they should be.

All of these add up to a much more challenging work environment, but they are all surmountable.

Some of the tricks I use to overcome these barriers:

-keep a moving blanket warm at all times. Use it to warm up smaller pieces of wood before working on them.

-stack wood to be milled or just after milling a few feet away from your heat source.

-Leave a light in your finish cabinet. it helps a lot more than you might think. I have a metal finish cabinet, and put two work lights in it, one on the top, one on the bottom.

-clamp work that you would normally hold in your hands while doing things like drilling, making small cuts, etc. It takes longer, but if the wood is cold enough it can shatter and explode; you don’t want to be holding it at that point.

-Check all machines before every use. lubrication, square, height, etc. I have found that a 40 degree difference overnight/morning/noon, etc means that my machine setups are not the same as they were when I left them.. I had little issues with things remaining square, but height and position did change.

-build a little more expansion into the work you are doing. If it is that cold, and that dry, your work will swell more than it would otherwise. Bear that it mind while building your furniture.

-Finish small amounts at a time. Much like heat and humidity, dry cold has an effect on finishes. I find that finishes tend to dry quickly, but cure slower in this sort of weather. these means more cure time needed, making dust free time go on forever. . .

Since I was working in the cold dry, I had to do something to remind my of my favorite weather, hot and humid. Luckily, a customer ordered a Humidor from me, and I got that all finished up during the worst of the weather.

Just a small 15-ish humidor, made from curly cherry. And, a few cherries carved into the front to go with the cherry lumber used.

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Christmas is the time to. . .Repair a door?

A whole bunch of things are going on here at the shop. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to write posts for several of the projects and vise builds that I have either in the works or have completed, so here is a simple explanation of repairing a French door (or French-style entry door in this case.)

First, take a look at the door to assess damage. The more fragile parts are susceptible to the worst damage, but the rails/stiles get damaged too occasionally. If the rails or stiles are damaged, you may wish to build a new door or repair that first to make sure that the door is structurally sound.

Commonly, you will have only a few pieces to replace. This particular door had three muntins that needed replaced, and one that needed a small amount of repair.

Door on arrival
Door on arrival

closeup of damage
closeup of damage
Muntin end also damaged badly. . .time to replace it.
Muntin end also damaged badly. . .time to replace it.

The muntins are nearly always very small. The muntins on this door were approximately 1 x 1 3/4″. out of the square cross section you remove most of the wood, leaving a lot of very delicate areas.

Muntin cross section
Muntin cross section

When making the new pieces you’ll need to match the old profile as closely as possible. I don’t seem to have taken pictures of the process, but I will describe it.
-Mill your blanks to the exact size of the muntin height and width.
-Mark the center ridge width on one side, and square down so that the divider for the class on the other side is inline with the top. This is typically the same width, although I have repaired doors that have a different enough profile that I have had to mark each side individually.
-Mark the depth of the top profile on the ends and sides.

At this point, your methods of making the piece dictate your next action. If you are using handplanes for it all, you’ll be getting out your hollows and rounds and a fillister, rebate and possibly a few other planes to make the profile.

If you have a shaper, you are likely going to grind a set of knives to the profile, then cut out the bottom square section on the table saw.

With a router, you’ll be routing the top profile, then cutting out the waste on the table saw.

I used the third method, since I didn’t have the right hollow and rounds for the job at hand. since I didn’t have a close enough profile router bit, I used a 1/2″ roundover bit, on each side, then used a Stanley 220 block plane to take the profile all the way down to the lines I marked on the sides.

Whatever method you use, you’ll then cut your first piece to length, making sure the fit is tight. Then you get to cope the ends. Try a test piece first. You’ll want a tapping block to get the tight fitting muntins assembled without damage or marring anyhow. I used a 12″ bowsaw for this, and refined the profile a little with a round file for a perfect fit.

test piece and tapping block
test piece and tapping block

Continue with the other pieces, matching them exactly to length and fitting them as you go. Remember that every section of the door that you cut and fit determines the dimensions for the next section.

Eventually you end up with this. . .

Muntins repaired
Muntins repaired

That is as far as I repaired this door, since the customer was replacing the three pieces of glass and re-finishing the entire door. If you are doing the complete door, you’ll need some glazing compound (I like the DAP 33 glazing putty) and finish nails for the glazing bar or glass stop. The glazing bars are very simple, and rarely damaged, since they are a mitered joint. Just make sure you put a thin film of glazing on the muntin, put in the glass , then add the glazing bar. You’ll have an air tight door at that point. A good varnish improves the seal on the glazing bar, so I like to finish it after assembly.

After all of that, you have a repaired door. Call your customer, wife, friend, neighbor and and watch their reaction when you hand them the tapping block. That is a huge part of what makes woodworking worth it.

All done, ready for pick-up
All done, ready for pick-up

Why I didn’t make as many Christmas Gifts this year. . .

I normally make nearly all of the Christmas gifts my wife and I give out. Last year my brother and I teamed up for the occasion, and made 50 small boxes to give out. The year before that I made about 30 gifts, mostly different and a bit more specifically targeted for each recipient. This year, I made 4 of the Christmas gifts we gave out to my rather large family. 2 of these were a success at the family Christmas, one is sitting on my bench ready to deliver, and the last of these is almost done, and should be ready to deliver on Christmas eve. (Thats right, Santa is driving a contractors van this year. . .)

A combination of factors went into this. First, Ive been busy. From July of this year, I’ve had very little time to get any personal projects done. Between Screw Orders, Mallet orders, a few time consuming jobs in the carpentry/home repair side of my business, chopping firewood, etc, things have been a bit hectic. Oh, and a few months ago the shop moved.

That last statement took the most time, and I still haven’t gotten the new shop situated the way it needs to be. I did go from a 17 x 19 space with no natural light with 6’9″ ceilings to a 24 x 36 with 9’+ ceilings, room for expansion, three windows, etc. It was uninsulated, no heat, and full of junk, but a great location. so far I just need to finish insulating the ceiling and one 8′ section of the wall, add more lights, rearrange things about 50 more times, build more shelving and storage, run more electrical as I rearrange. . .

Yeah, I’m not gonna have much free time for a while.

So, since I didn’t make a whole lot of my gifts this year, what did you folks all make?

Custom Twin Screw Vise With a large worktable

Screw and chop detail
Screw and chop detail
This Particular vise was designed and built with a specific storage area in mind. My customer wanted to make sure it would fit under some drawers on a shelf on his bench. Well, the design and drawings were done over the course of a few days, and the dimensions changed a bit here and there as we tweaked the measurements to make sure it would work. This resulted in a small issue with the ends of the front chop.

The profile the customer had selected to match the rest of the vise chops on his bench was a big honkin’ round-over profile. The through holes for the screws ended up closer to the ends of the chop than originally planned, overlapping the area that the profile was to be. After scratching my head, contemplating my options and thinking about the design, I sketched out the profile on the end of the chop. Then, I broke out the gouges.

It took me a while to rough it all in, but I think it was definitely worth the effort. The customer agreed that it looked good, and was fine with the change, so I went ahead with both ends and got them done. There was still a large chamfer to be made in-between the vise screws to allow for getting the saw closer to the work at an angle, so I stick the vise chop in the leg vise, and made some kerf cuts. Then, back to the gouges and a large flat chisel, followed by a spokeshave.

cutting the bevel
cutting the bevel
Cutting the clamping ears on the rear vise jaw
Cutting the clamping ears on the rear vise jaw

When it was all said and done, the vise took about twice as long as planned to build, due to the amount of slightly more tedious handwork involved(and my discovery that I need to replace a few gouges in my carving set), but the end result turned out great, and has me thinking about vise chops for my next bench.

Completed Vise
Completed Vise

The specs on the vise:
-38 1/2″ wide, clamping ear to clamping ear
-24 3/4″ between screws
-3+” clamping depth
– 5″ Table height
– Table legs housed in a 1/2″ deep dado
– 28″ x 30″ Table
– Table is removable
– Table in three sections, each replaceable if needed. (The first 5″ of the table is one section, very easily replaced, since that is where you would chop out the waste on your dovetails)

Screw and chop detail
Screw and chop detail

Coty vise end profile 2

Coty vise angle view

Under the table connection to rear chop
Under the table connection to rear chop