Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Get Woodworking Week -- My Contribution

     Many of you are probably aware of Tom Lovino's website and his push to promote woodworking, well, here's my contribution based on what I love to teach.  That would be the basics using hand tools that don't cost a ton of money, create an equal amount of dust and noise, and just plain keep folks from enjoying the craft.  Don't get me wrong, I have my share of power equipment and use it as my apprentices but I've always taught on the premise that using hand tools is an affordable way to enjoy our craft.
     From these three items and some hand tools I'm going to show you how to improve your hand skills and end up with a nice little project.

     What you see is a piece of Mahogany, a piece of Canarywood, and a Lie-Nielsen Dowel Plate.  The Dowel Plate is a tool used to make accurately sized dowels.  I'll be using it in an upcoming class where I'll show students how to make a Krenov style plane.  The first thing needed for any project is to establish a smooth face and make that square to the edge:

     Before I even started to plane the face it was checked with a straight edge.  You can see light in the middle section that indicates the outer edges are higher than the center.  To plane this, I used a very common Stanley plane, one that was purchased brand new in 1968 or so.  These are easy enough to find on Ebay or you can purchase a new one depending on your finances.  

     Once the initial face and edge is squared, your next step is to bring it down to the desired thickness.

     That is marked with a marking gauge guided against the face you just planed,that is your reference point.  You can see that this tool scribes a line into the wood, you should mark it all the way around the piece.  I couldn't photograph it but what will happen as you plane that second face is what I refer to as "feathering".  Because the line is scribed deeply into the wood, as you plane down to it the wood's edge will "feather". That's your clue to lighten up on your cut and sneak up to the scribed line.  Here are the other pieces prepared the same way:

     Kind of confusing so let me explain.  Think of the the two, tall pieces of Mahogany as the legs.  The longer pieces of Canarywood are the top that the dowel plate will be let in to.  The short piece in the center is a spacer.  The process is to lay down a piece of wax paper so the glue doesn't stick onto your bench.  Apply glue to the Mahogany, clamp one end flush, insert the spacer and push the other leg against it while you glue it down.  The spacer is the distance needed between the holes on the dowel plate.  When you glue these pieces together it's important to check the direction of the grain.  You'll need to plane the top after the glue dries so be certain that the grain runs the same on each piece. Allow this to dry, preferably over night.

     The next step is to screw the dowel plate in position and use a marking knife to scribe all around it. A knife is better than a pencil line because you can set your chisel into it to remove the wood.
Removing the wood; well, you can certainly do this all through hand work but if you have a trim router it's easier to use that to rough it out.

     Since it's difficult to see when routing freehand, put some blue tape on the outline.  If you have a clear base it's easier to see, I don't so using chalk to outline the opening was even more helpful.  The chalk also lets you see how rough the top surface still is.  Remember, the grain should all be running the same direction and that will make it easy to plane it smooth and level.

     This process is similar to chiseling out for a hinge.  Outline the area being sure to cut across the grain first, then work on the sides.  For a hinge, you don't need to go nearly as deep (1/4"+) as I did for the dowel plate. 

     As you continue down your woodworking path, you'll acquire tools that you need.  That's the case of this Stanley router plane.  Again, you can find them on Ebay or buy them new from Lie-Nielsen or Lee Valley.  This ensures that the recess is level and although it can be done with a chisel too, the router plane just makes it easier.

     Here you have it, the almost finished project.  The block plane was used to chamfer the edges to minimize the risk of them getting split.  All it's lacking is a protective finish and screwing the plate in.  In use, the plate is clamped into a vise and your material is hammered through it.  I'll do a future blog on how to make dowels.
     So ----- was this over-kill?  probably so!  Could you simply clamp the dowel plate over a hole and hammer away?  Yep!   Then, why bother you may ask?  This exercise is a great way to work on your hand skills.  It doesn't need to be perfect but most people find that if there is a project involved it's more rewarding to practice those skills.  You know, it's much more fun playing a song on an instrument than it is to just practice your scales!  Woodworking can be the same, challenge yourself to use some of those difficult process on a non essential project like this.  Then, when you need the skills on a project that matters you know you can do it. 

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