Saturday, August 25, 2012

Miscellaneous Hand Tool Ramblings

     It seems as if I'm on a countdown to the September 20th. show date and completing bits and pieces of different boxes.  There's still one more box I have in the works that I haven't even begun, of course; in my mind it's almost built.  I'm currently working on a pair of boxes that will have a carved and gilded top similar to the Gilded Cat Series.  I used the few, remaining pieces of Curly Maple for them.
     These are mitered with keys across the corner.  It seems as if my table saw is not quite in alignment because even with the jig I carefully made, the miters were off ever so slightly.  It must be time to use a dial indicator and adjust the table to make sure the blade is perfectly aligned to the miter gauge slot.  That's the downside to having the saw on a base, I'm sure that pulling it around by the top all these years has tweaked it a bit.  Until I get the time and the patience to do that I knew these miters needed to be refined.  That's where a shooting board comes in handy.

Shooting Board with 45 Degree Guide

     This shooting board is fairly small and was made when  I began working on the box series.  It uses a  dedicated a block plane and really works well.  I know that a table sawn miter is good enough for glue up but, as I said, theses were slightly off.  Check out the difference in the end grain where the block plane has begun to cut on the outer edge:

Planed vs. Sawn Edge

     I'm going to assume that a planed edge would have better glue strength than a sawn edge.  The same argument can be applied to finishing a piece.  If the wood is sanded, the fibers are abraded.  That will affect how the finish looks on the piece of wood.  By the same token, if that finish is planed the pores are wide open and the difference is apparent.  Sounds like a good argument to me, maybe I'll have to run an experiment!
     In any case, after these two boxes were glued up and ready for the next step which was to cut slots for Walnut keys.  Each edge has two slots.  Once again, here's an other good step for hand tool work.  I imagine you could just throw a sander to the wood but this is a cleaner, more accurate way to go about it.

Trimming Keys

     By putting my fingers on the back of the blade it helps to prevent the teeth from marring the work.  Saws like this that have no set to them are used to trim keys, plugs, or joinery even with the surface of the project.  Just like my example of sawn vs. planed edges, the same thing applies here.  The saw leaves a rough finish:

Paring Chisel to Refine Keys

     Here I'm using a 1" wide paring chisel.  I sharpen these to 25 degrees unlike the bench chisels sharpened at 30 degrees.  I had just sharpened this paring chisel and the Walnut shavings curled off like a piece of chocolate you might find on a Marie Callander's pie!  It was an easy process paring them flush with the surface of the box.  I know it's hard to see in the photo but there is a definite difference with the pared keys on the left and the sawn off keys on the right.  All of these little nuances add up to (hopefully) create wooden furniture, boxes, or whatever with a higher level of quality found commercially.


  1. John,

    When I move my table saw top for blade alignment, I loosen three of the bolts holding it place and leave one as a "hinge" bolt for the top to rotate around. Then a piece of scrap and a small sledge hammer to start moving the top. Once it's moving, I use my dial indicator as we talked about.

  2. John,

    I should have said that I leave the "hinge" bolt tight.