Saturday, December 31, 2022

Square Woodworkers Clamps - and Band Saw Tuneup

Stupid projects!  The tool chest project has now hit a phase where I need to make 33 little tiny drawers, and my OCD is screaming at me about how to clamp them. If you may recall (maybe you've never seen that tool chest part A post), I had some of those 90-degree clamps, and they were fantastic.

They came in a package like this :

However, they were just a little bit too large (even the smaller 4.7" ones are too large).  Try as I did, I could not find them in the 3" (or even 4") sizes - without regard to color (I'd love green ones, but alas, I'd take any).  This one forced me to start thinking about making my own.  I ordered a flat bar of 3"x3/4"x12", and mapped them out - I could get six of them out of this one piece, but it would take some fancy cutting.  So, that forced me to the band saw.

Now, my band saw cuts horribly angled (it's about a 15 degree angle), so I had to do this on the vertical side where I could control it.  That forced me to make a new table for the band saw :

Transfer screws for the win, to make sure all the holes lined up.  Okay, on to cutting....

About 3/8" into the bar, my absolute laziness kicked in.  There was no way I was going to cut for hours on end for each one of these.  I had to make my band saw cut straight so I could let it do the work for me, and I could walk away.

It was at this time I realized the bearings have this hex plate behind them.  I'd always thought that the bolt on the front was how you adjusted those, and boy was I wrong.  I used the table to cut out a cheap, fast "wrench" for these (had to be less than 1/8" thick), and finally got those bearings adjusted.  What do you know... it cuts straight!

Now I can start a cut and walk away!  It's about an hour for each cut, so that hour spent tuning the band saw is well-justified.  I got through two and a quarter cuts (I have 8 of them), and the bandsaw blade snapped.

I ordered a 12 TPI blade on Amazon, because it said it would work for tubing (I think I want an 18-24 TPI blade, really for thin walled tubing after looking at how far apart the teeth are), and slapped it on there.  That thing made the cut in 5 minutes flat.  I absolutely can't walk away with the speed that thing chews through aluminum.  Anyway, I finished those cuts, went to the 

I headed out to the scroll saw, ans snapped two blades before I'd even gotten 1/8" through those horizontal cuts.  I switched to the milling machine - when you get tired of trying to conserve aluminum scrap size for later use (I was planning on using the middle blocks, cut in half, to make some of the other ends of these clamping tools), you just give up.

With one end cut to separate the squares, I went back to the bandsaw for the final cut to separate the squares from the middle chunks.

I now have six rough squares.  I took one of my parallel bars for clamping, and simply used it as a straight edge.  I used a known, good square that was clamped to it and trammed it in, then locked it down.  The next steps were fairly easy.  It was simply a matter of putting a parallel in between that straight edge, and snuggling the good, straight side of the squares to that, then locking it down and milling the perpendicular side.

There we go.  Six perfectly good squares, even if they aren't yet usable.  So, each one now goes into the tool makers vise, and gets milled parallel (and to the same depth - I used a depth stop to make sure each arm was exactly the same width).

Now I have six squares that are parallel, perpendicular, deburred, and almost usable.  I marked them out for drilling at 1" between holes, with a 1/2" starting point.

After drilling with a letter P (the holes on the original set are 0.316", and I wanted nearly interchangeable clamps, and worried about eventual anodizing decreasing the hole size, so I went with a letter-P-sized bit) and a quick deburr (I couldn't find my countersink bit), I have perfectly usable squares that are the right size for drawers.  Incidentally, I found some smaller blocks on Amazon - I don't know if they are square, but I had to buy them.  These new ones are tiny, while my custom-made ones are a medium size.

Granted, mine still have mill marks on the inside.  Since I'm using the outside, I'm leaving that.  When (or "if") I ever decide to anodize these things, I'll actually set them all up together and sand with a fine grit to polish them up first, and that should remove mill marks.

I needed the clamping blocks next.  I ordered a 3/4"x1" aluminum bar, and sliced it into little blocks.  I squared them up on the tiny mill, and drilled a single hole in each one, with a debur process. Yes, I did set them up as a castle wall once, just because I had a lot of little aluminum bricks.


Anyway, with those done, next was to slice a 1/4" stainless steel rod into 5" lengths, round over each end, and then thread one size for 3".  These will be the bars.  I knew I had to bend these, too, so while I was at the lathe doing the threading, I also cut two work setup jigs that could insert into some pipes I had laying around.

These work setup jigs are basically a closed-end tube with a set depth specifically to make it easier to get consistent results. Each was drilled one 3 1/2" deep and one 1/4" deep with a letter "F" (just a hair over 1/4" diameter for a slip fit), and turned down on the outside to fit inside the pipe.  These were done out of aluminum in order to preserve thread.

I took the pipes outside on a cold Saturday morning, and heated up the section of each threaded rod until it was nice and hot, and bent them up to square.  Honestly, I should have threaded the whole things on the lathe - those dies messed up on some of the threads.

They are now functional so I can get back to my tool chest build!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Turning The Butt End of a Handle

We have a Christmas present, with the presentation a week early.  So, please don't tell the anonymous person who this is for that it's done.  They know it's being made.  Anyway.... since I'm letting the cat out of the bag early, here we go.

I was asked if I could create an ice cream scoop for a family member as a gift.  I was given a wide berth on this one.  Since this unnamed individual is a hunter/fisher, I chose a SpectraPly blank.  It's essentially a dyed and laminated block of plywood.  The full kit stuff is all available through Woodcraft (they even have other things like pizza cutters).  I turned the blank round, cut the surface (this is called facing in the metal lathe world) for whatever was on the front of it, drilled it for an insert (I had to get my own insert for the ice cream scoop, since I do not like threading wood), and glued it all up like any normal turning assignment.

So, if you check those pictures, you'll see that the butt ends of these two handles are still square.  I do want them turned better, and this is the challenge presented to me.  The handles are all about 1 1/4" inner diameter, which is a little larger than the handles.  PVC pipe is under pressure, and will compress more when those stresses are released, so I opted to use it for the solution.  I cut along the lines about 2" (for a spacer for the chuck jaws), and then cut each off.  If you cut the band off and then cut lengthwise on the PVC, be prepared for the pipe to grab the saw and do weird things with it (like a table saw throwing it at high velocity right at your face, arms, or chest).

This allowed me to put it in the only chuck I had with a large enough inside diameter for this handle, where I could turn the remainder down and put the grip grooves in.

A quick coat in lacquer and glued together, and it looks sharp!

 I hope they like them!

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Puffed Out Chest - Part A

The table project from over the late-summer/fall/early-winter had a few left-over beams.  I decided to try my hand at making a few Gerstner #42 tool chests from some of the boards, in an attempt to flex my woodworking muscles.  This is going to be similar to the table top exercise only in a few parts.  There are eleven panels for this, and I'd suggest a quarter of an inch bigger in every dimension to ensure that when you are done, you have good sizes that can be trimmed back down :

  • Back panel (20" wide x 16" high)
  • 2x side panels (16" high x 9.5" deep)
  • Top and bottom panels (20" wide x 9.5" deep)
  • One front, top panel (20" wide x 5" high) for the top
  • One front, movable panel (not glued into the box) (20" wide, 11" high)
  • One internal bottom for the bottom inside the lid area (19.5" wide x 9" deep)
  • One horizontal, internal drawer separator (19.5" wide x something deep I can't remember)
  • Two vertical drawer separators (can't remember any of these dimensions)

The process is :

  1. Slice the beams into boards (showed how to do that on the table project linked above, and I'm too lazy to show it again)f
  2. Plane the boards down (just over 1/2" for later sanding to final dimensions) (again, too lazy)
  3. Rip the boards to length to give clean edges (lazy... sensing a trend here)
  4. Slice the boards to length for each panel (TL/DR [too long, didn't read])
  5. Cut dowel or biscuit joints/holes into the boards
  6. Glue them up
  7. Apply epoxy resin to fill the nail holes (and other imperfections)
  8. Trim the boards to both squareness and size
  9. Cut box joints (a new tool should show up here to cut these)
  10. Use a router guide (another new tool) to cut the slots for the draw runners)
  11. Drill holes and cut mortises for panel locks, hinges, handles and actual key-locks
  12. Test fit everything together
  13. Final sand all of the panels to prepare for the final glue up
  14. Glue everything together
  15. Stain (if that is going to happen)
  16. Coat with a varnish or other protective layer
  17. Install the hardware
  18. Make a lot of drawers

Oh, yeah... I'm making three of them (for a few people).  (WHY do I always bite off more than I can chew?)

So, with that let's get moving.  I have a feeling (with how long the table top exercise went) that this could be a long project.

I sliced the beams down to length, planed them to thickness, and then ripped them lengthwise to get my basic building blocks.

Next, I sliced them all to length for the panels I needed.  Here are two tool boxes organized in "panels" that aren't glued up.

Okay.  The next phase was something new.  I had a biscuit joiner, but my weird little brain said this was a good chance to try my doweling jig.  I took the panels, and I'd drill a hole in the side using the jig to get perpendicular.  Then, I'd use the little nub that the jig came with to transfer the drill hole to the next board, and then (using another scrap board in between the hammer and the board I'm marking) I'd give a slight tap to transfer the point to the other board.  Then I could use the same jig to drill new holes in the mating board.  So, here we go.  First, drilling the board :

Then, marking the next board :

At this point, I can glue the panels up.  Lots of clamps would have made this MUCH faster, but I could only do one at a time.

I never did the holes in the same places.  I had this fear that I'd mix up boards and get grains all wrong, so I intentionally placed the holes at different points along the boards.  I put two dowels in the side panels, and three along the lengths of the front, folding panel and the top, bottoms, and the back.  That should give some strength instead of a simple butt joint, and make this chest fairly stout and solid. I am doing 1/4" dowels for these, as I'm working in 1/2" wood.

It was at this time I wore my hands out (drilling and transferring holes and drilling the other side for 156 dowel, but who's counting?), and tried biscuit joining them - but that had horrific results.  Those panels became the internal panels, because they could be cut a little shorter.

With the panels glued up, and with me organizing as much color grain continuity as I could, I had one tool chest with slightly darker walnut (transition from sap wood to heart wood) and two tool chests with the lighter wood (these are walnut, but not black walnut).  With the slightly-darker walnut, I'm opting for brass hardware (which means a gold epoxy), and the other two will be chrome or nickel hardware (which means a silver epoxy).  I went with "queens gold metallic mica" by Littarby to be exact, and I went with the brightest silver I could find (just "silver").

The filling process also took as long as the glue up - I didn't have enough work surfaces, and I could only do one surface of each panel at a time (there are 6 for each panel - both faces and four edges - but I always left one edge along the grain exposed for a base surface to use when trimming to size later).

This, alone, was about a month in labor, continually mixing up epoxy, vacuuming the bubbles out, and pouring it over every single void (or crack where the edge wasn't lined up perfectly when ripping to length), and repeating for the same surface until the cracks and voids were full.  I'm not using a fast cure on epoxy, primarily because I want to give it time to slowly get into the cracks - essentially, I want every void in these boards filled with epoxy.

On edges where a crack transitioned to, those also mandated a surface for pouring (and there were a few).  All cracks on the edges were filled, and most of the end-grain was also filled as much as I could get.  I did this by taping the ends, standing the boards up, and pouring into the tape "moulds".

Once the epoxies had cured, I could finally get to the sanding.  This was a bit annoying - because I already sanded previously (after gluing) so that I could find the voids.  But, I have to do it again.  I'll do the finish sanding after the routing for the drawer guides/runners.

Unfortunately, there was a snafu in which one of the boards was epoxied to the clamping boards, and releasing it snapped and cracked one of the side panels (not along the glue line, either - that joint seems to be holding well enough).  You can see the crack in the above photo.  This was epoxied together to get a good fix.  At one point, I also broke one of the sides - this was glued together (with a biscuit to give the joint as much strength as I could).

 There was so much sanding to be done that I ultimately used a grinder to knock large swaths of epoxy down to "close enough" before engaging the sander.

You can see in the pictures above that I have three piles of boards on my workbench.  Each pile is a matched set of panels.

 It was a lot of sanding the epoxy used to fill cracks down, but the day that happened was a BIG day!

Once the sides were sanded, the boards could be cut to final dimensions on the table saw.  Each board had a single, good edge at this point.  I'd first cut the parallel lengths for each board with that length, then I would move on to another dimension and cut all boards for that one (on all panels).  As each cut was made, a mark was put on it to know which ones were done.  The marks were in pencil so that they could be sanded off once the box was glued together.

If you look closely at the last picture above, you can see I put marks for widths of each panel on my panel sled.  It's a technique called "story boarding" - you write down exactly what will happen, and then you make it happen.  I would set one width, mark it, put the stop block clamped down, and then make ALL of the cuts that were the same dimension.  In other words, every single width was cut.  Then every single depth was cut.  Then every single height was cut.

The result was a set of panels that were perfect in every way except for... the depth.


The depth, because of the narrowness of the dimension (supposed to be 9.375" or 9 3/8"), I chose to use the fence instead of my marked story board sled.  Unfortunately, I measured to the same side of the 9" mark, which actually turned out to be 8 3/8".  That meant each of these boxes is going to end up 1" shallower than what they were patterned after.  Oh, well.

With the panels all cut to size and prepped, I could then cut the box joints.  I had picked up a Rockler jig for cutting box joints on a router table, and before fully engaging, I had to finish the jig.  It requires one pass with the cutter you want.


At this point, I needed to do some careful planning.  I didn't want to mess these up.  So, I had to use some left-over MDF (it was 1/4" thick, but I'm testing for 1/2" thick - gonna have to glue some boards up) to cut some test cases just to see.  I have a couple of oiler cans that I've been collecting, so I decided to use this MDF as a shelf when done.  I've intentionally cut the depth a little too deep, so that I have a slight forked lip all the way around the shelf to keep the oil cans on the shelf when we have another earthquake roll through.

The part that I was most worried about was the corners where three panels met together - and this little test candidate was perfect for the test.  First, glue two "boards" together to get the 1/4" to 1/2" thick (matching the tool box panels).

Each of those boards were fed through the table saw to get them square and to size.  I had three boards the exact same dimensions.  One would become the "back" (toward the bottom, used to attach the shelf) for attachment to the french cleat, one would be split into sides, and the last would be the actual shelf.

It's time to cut the box joints.  It took a while to get the jig set up, because it kept changing on me, and wouldn't line up.  (Widths kept growing.)  It resulted in a lot of scrap tests completely failing.

So, I punted.  I found the device kept sliding, and the dimensions would change with each cut, too.  I grabbed some brass shim stock, and slapped it into the grooves that the jig attached to.

The shims allowed the jig to stay in place long enough to cut a longer edge on both sides.  It was still tight, but it worked.

Next up, I have to get back to my test case - the oiler shelf out of MDF.  I ran 4 edges of 24" long edges through the jig.  I also grabbed the side edges (both sides), and then glued it together.

If you look closely, you'll see a gap on one end.  I completely put one single board in the wrong way.  [sigh].  Assembly will be critical.

The other thing that I learned (which is why I did the test) is that, on a box-cut corner where three sides come to a point, the actual corner is not complete - there is a small chunk of wood that is not in place.  It's a side effect of box cutting, really, if you think about it - three sides, binary on/off.  Anyway, I can fill the corners with epoxy before rounding everything off, so I think I'm going to be fine.

Now I can engage the REAL box cuts, knowing that I have to reset the jig after every long edge.  Lots of box joint cutting, each mating surface at it's own time (e.g. cut one edge of a board, then cut the same edge on the adjoining board).  In this way, the joints should be going to be perfectly aligned.  I went through each set of boards and marked every single edge.

I now have three piles of boards, one for each chest.  Now, on to the inner routing that needs to happen.  I have to cut grooves for two horizontal (bottom of the lid, and the separator for the drawers).  This will need to be the thickness of the boards.  Before I could do anything, I ran a test.  I anchored the aluminum angle that I'd be using as a guide, and ran the router.  I could measure the distance from the angle to determine how far I needed to get the cut where it should go.  I needed 2 3/32" with a 1/2" router bit.


Okay, now I can cut the shelf support grooves.

I only hosed up one tool box and got a groove on the other side.  Yay!  I'll just fill that apprentice mark with some epoxy, and everyone that sees it will be completely the wiser (too easy to know what happened - it's on the outside).

The next groove I needed to cut was the bottom one for the front panel to slide in.  This was a bit difficult as it was 0.397" from the bottom board, and 0.197" in diameter.  I don't have anything in that diameter - even a 3/16" router bit comes in at 0.1875".  I settled for the 3/32" router bit I picked up explicitly for the drawer runner slots (more on that later), and then did a lot of math until I had the right numbers.  Then I could set up a piece of angle and cut the path.  It would require three passes with the 3/32" bit (3/32" is slightly less than half of the 0.197").

While there, I routed out the metal frame so I could inset that.  Gerstner sells the little front panel pivot point that keeps the wood from splitting out when people abuse it.  I'll need to order two more of those (for the other two chests).

Unfortunately, the box joints didn't quite line up perfectly.  I had to manually fit each joint by hand using a rasp, a Japanese pull saw, and sandpaper glued to a 1/8" metal bar that fit between the pins.  I gotta tell you, for joinery, those pull saws are amazing.  I'd set the edges together that were to be joined, and transfer lines from one to the other board just using a pencil on the edge.  The pull saws could make some very thin slices, and things just came together quickly.

Three boxes' worth of hand sawing various tenons for these box joints was excruciatingly time consuming.  The rasp, hand sand bar that fit in between the tenons, and the pull saw/coping saw combination did the job, but it takes a while to line everything up.  When the day came that these were done, I was ecstatic. I still wasn't remotely complete.

My next task could only be done assembled without being glued.  I needed the actual inside dimensions of those grooves I'd cut.  Sure, I can measure where things go, but with the difficulty of things potentially not lining up, I am going to make absolutely sure.  So, I put the boxes together and slapped some measuring "bars" in place.

Granted, because I don't trust the tape measure on the inside of a tool box where I need to measure the groove, so I used a 1/4" piece of MDF.  Then I could measure the gap using the telescoping snap gauges (yes, a machinists' tool rears it's ugly head).  Each box has to be assembled and checked for this dimension so I can cut the drawer supports.

With these measurements, I could now cut the bottom board for the top area, as well as the drawer supports.  First was the top, because it is very simple.  It's just a rectangular board.  The horizontal drawer frame was easy to, but it needed a rabbet.  And, once the rabbet was cut, I could then cut the two vertical drawer supports to match.  But, alas!  There not enough wood here to finish the supports for the drawers!

The next task was routing the grooves for the drawer runners.  This task turned out to be a lot of math.  First, I had to determine the distance from the router flat surface to where the router bit actually cut.  Then, I had to calculate for each box where to set up the jig (e.g. distance from the top or bottom), and then route each one.  I had to use my wood working machinist square because it had 16" of room for me to play with.

With them routed, I have three piles of chest carcass.

The next step was to sand all the inside surfaces (because I wasn't going to be able to sand them once glued up).  I went to 320 grit, using the old carpenters trick of using a pencil on the surface of each run and sanding until the pencil marks are gone.  Once that was sanded, it was time to glue things together.

I messed up on one side, and had to use one of those fancy orbital saw thingies.  With a 3/8" blade, it cut a 1/2" slot, which matched up perfectly to the 1/2" box joints.  Unfortunately, after that, I was using a chisel, and (while intentionally trying to keep my wrist out of the way), slipped.  An involuntary reaction jerked my wrist right into the path of a sharp chisel.

The doctor was kind enough to tell me how to remove the stitches on my own (which I did - I didn't want to see anyone).  So, on to finishing the glue ups of the tool boxes.

The next step was to cut the tops off.

Now, I should be able to fill the box joint imperfections with epoxy to match (one box in gold, two of them in silver).  I also used a laser engraver to throw my makers' mark on the front panel (inside) on each one.  You can see it in one of the photos above.  I'll use a wire brush to clear out charcoal, and then fill it with epoxy resin to match the rest of it.  Then I can do the final sanding and the hardware installations.  (I did mark the plunger dimensions on each one.)

However, this post is getting very long, so I think I'm going to split this into two posts.  See ya on the next post!