Saturday, August 27, 2011

Living Without an End Vise

My workbench is sort of a multipurpose table that I use for lots of different things. As a result, it doesn't have many of the features of a real woodworking bench.

For example, there are no dog holes, partly because there are drawers immediately below the top that would interfere with dogs and holdfasts, and partly because I really don't want to be dropping little parts through holes in the work surface when I've got the vacuum cleaner torn to bits for repair. Likewise, there is no end vise on my bench, because about half the reasons to have an end vise go away if there aren't any dog holes nearby.

"So," you ask, "what manner of ridiculous kludge do you use when you want to plane or scrape the surface of a long board?"

On the end of the bench where a real woodworker would have a real end vise, I arrange a thinnish board against end of the workpiece, a small wedge to push the thinnish board in the direction of the workpiece, and another board clamped to the bench to give the wedge something to bear against.

Then on the other end of the workpiece where a real woodworker would have a dog hole, I just clamp another thinnish board to the bench that the workpiece can butt up against. With all this in place, a quick tap of the wedge will secure the workpiece for almost any operation, and a quick tap in the other direction will release it.

Convenient? Not especially. Effective? Surprisingly.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Folding Step Stool - Free Plan

This is my take on a folding step stool design that's been around forever. My grandmothers each had one like it in their '50s kitchens. Today, fifty years later, you can point, click, and have a new one delivered to your door from any of a number of online vendors.

Many of these vendors describe their stools as "Amish". I'm not sure if that means the design is somehow Amish, or if the stools are being made by Amish builders, or what. In any case, they're pretty handy, and a heckuva lot safer than that upside-down Home Depot bucket you've been climbing on to reach the top shelf where Grandma keeps her gin.

If you want to build one of these yourself, the following two pictures link to drawings that give the basic dimensions for the stool:

The Stool
The Steps
Thanks to John Sprofera, you can also download a SketchUp model of the stool by clicking here.

I made my stool from oak, and finished it with several coats of wipe-on polyurethane. I used through mortise and tenon joints between the legs and the transverse stretchers, and floating tenons to join the legs with the side stretchers. I attached the seat and the steps with screws running up from underneath. These screws are set into oversize holes to allow the seat and the steps to expand and contract across their widths with changes in humidity. This precaution probably wasn't necessary for the steps because they are so narrow, but probably was for the seat.

Almost any wood would work for this project, although it might be a good idea to use a hardwood dowel for the step pivot, even if the rest was made from softwood. Likewise, any number of joinery options could work as well.

While there's nothing magical about this particular design, it is very important to get the shape of the side pieces that hold up the steps correct, as well as the location of the pivot pin. If you don't, the step assembly might hit one of the stretchers when it shouldn't. Be sure to keep this in mind if you decide to modify the plans for some reason.

The other thing to watch out for is the grain direction in the side pieces that hold up the steps. It's best to orient the grain as shown in the first picture above. Unfortunately, this makes it a little bit tricky to lay out the shape of these parts. To solve this problem, I made a full-size template out of 1/4" MDF. Then I traced around the template and cut out the parts slightly oversize with a band saw. Then I attached the template to the rough blanks one at a time and trimmed them to their final shape using a router with a flush trim bit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Aurora Nightstand - Epilog

A couple of months ago when I started this project, I weighed the pile of rough boards that I thought I needed to make the nightstand, with the idea that I would then weigh the completed project to see how much of the original wood was left.

The original pile weighed about 61 pounds. The finished table weighs 29. So there you go  About half of my mahogany went AWOL.  In the end, I had a couple of small offcuts that might be useful for something someday, but the bulk of the missing material wound up as sawdust and kindling for the barbeque.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Aurora Nightstand - Done!


With the drawer hung and the top and shelf mounted, this thing is done!  Big thanks go to Darrell Peart for such a beautiful design.  These pictures can do the rest of the talking:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Aurora Nightstand - Glue-Up

At last! Today was glue-up day. I started by gluing together the right and left sides as separate assemblies, but somehow failed to get any pictures of that. Here's the much more interesting final assembly, wherein many clamps were employed:


Even with the pads under the clamps, they messed up the finish a little bit. So one more coat of polyurethane is in order once I'm completely done with the remaining details like hanging the drawer and installing the shelf and the top.