A quick project from reclaimed material…

Will asked me to help him build an archery target. He was tired of shooting at a half-fallen-apart bale of hay. We went into the workshop, found some old foam insulation blocks, and pine reclaimed from some benches that had been in our sun porch. It was a short project to put together a target and stand, and nice to use some materials that had been sitting around the shop.

Ready for target practice

Using the Stanley No. 45 Plane

I’ve been pretty good at getting back into the workshop. I have the AC installed – and even though it doesn’t completely keep up on a hot and humid day like today, it helps. I’m currently building a case for my new workshop computer. The case will allow me to add filters to keep the dust out of the machine.

Using the Stanley 45 as a plow - cutting a rabbet along the grain on a piece of antique pine.
Using the Stanley 45 as a plow – cutting a rabbet along the grain on a piece of antique pine.

Today I’m cutting rabbets on the rails of the case to allow me to install the bottom and sides of the case. Normally I would set up the router table and use the router, but I need to go get longer bolts to attach the fence to the new table and I’m lazy. Plus, Izzy has been hanging out in the shop at times (in her pack and play), so I need to find ways to do things without power tools.

Which brings me to the Stanley No. 45 Plane. The plane came in a collection of antiques I got from my dad. It is in pretty good shape, though the cutters need sharpening. Last night I started sharpening the cutters.  The cutters are almost at a 30-degree bevel, but not quite and it took me a while to grind the proper bevel. So, after sweating at it for a while, I decided to only grind the 1/2 dado cutter. I’ll work on the rest as I need them (and in hindsight, I should have done one of the wider ones).

How did it work? At first use, it works well. I had to make two passes to get the width of the rabbet I wanted (hence, the wish I had sharpened a wider cutter) which made the finished cut a little rougher than I had hoped. Of course I didn’t do a good job cleaning up the rabbet either, but no worries – the rabbet will be hidden.

Now back to work – time to clean up the rails and glue up the frame. And maybe later to eBay to browse different cutters for the plane.

Tomato Cages (White Oak)

I’ve been trying to get back into the workshop. However, it has been difficult with a 4-month old baby and two middle-school boys here half-time. So I started with simple. I have lots of lumber around and found some extra wire fencing to make some tomato cages. The cages are pretty simple, made from 1″x1″ strips I cut out of a white oak board. They are connected using exterior screws (yes they are designed for pocket-holes, but they work fine here). They are finished with one coat of spar varnish (again, something I had laying around).

I made two cages from the board I cut up, and may have enough lumber left over for a third cage.  I don’t think they turned out too bad for a couple of short evenings worth of work.  Hopefully the white oak will hold up for a few years. I’ll have to see how the L-shape works for a tomato cage.

Detail on the joinery for the tomato cage.
Detail on the joinery for the tomato cage. You can see the discoloration from only having one coat of varnish applied – but they will be outside. I’ll have to remember to recoat the cages in the fall.
In place in the garden (although the legs still need to be pushed through the weed-block fabric).
In place in the garden (although the legs still need to be pushed through the weed-block fabric).

Book display shelf or two (pine finished with shellac)

As Susanna’s due date approaches we are pushing to get the last few projects ready for the nursery. One of the projects that Susanna wanted was a way to display books – an idea taken from a Pinterest idea that re-purposed a wooden spice rack to display books.

I reclaimed some pine that had been used for shelves in Will’s old room and built two shelves. The shelves are 18″ long with the back around 6″ tall. I milled the pine to 1/2″ in thickness and cut the parts. The shelves were assembled using glue, screws (for attaching the sides to the back where they wouldn’t be seen) and cut nails (where visible).

I finished the first in time for Christmas. Susanna helped me assemble the second one today. They will both be finished with clear shellac. Both took no more than a few hours to complete.

Book display made from pine and finished with clear shellac.
Book display made from pine and finished with clear shellac.

Dovetail Exercise

Dovetail details
Dovetail details

One of the (many) things that I don’t have a lot of experience with in the workshop is making dovetails. Many years ago I purchased a dovetail jig that should allow me to make perfect dovetails using a router. I just never used it and don’t even know if I have it still.

I have only used dovetails on a couple of projects – mainly the drawers on the two night stands that I made for the boys. And I wasn’t too happy with how they turned out. So I decided that it would be good to do a quick project just to practice dovetails. I got the project and instructions from Woodworking Masterclasses.

The project didn’t turn out too bad. The dovetails at the end were certainly better than the first few. Now I’ll just have to make small boxes a couple of times a year until I get comfortable cutting the dovetails. There are hundreds of ways to hand cut dovetails, so I gave Peter Sellers’ method a try (from the video). I liked some things from his video – such as his method of cutting out the waste. But I don’t think I really liked his method for marking out the depth of the cuts.

We didn’t really have a use for the box in the house, but there is always room for help organizing the workshop. Tonight I gave the box one coat of shellac and put it to use helping organize the sanding supplies. It looks like I could use a couple more boxes to help out that shelf.

I’m not sure what wood I used. It certainly wasn’t oak, cherry, or maple. It may have been ash or hickory. Though probably not hickory. So, I’ll go with ash. Because who doesn’t like a nice piece of ash.

The project didn’t take too long. I spent a couple of hours working on it around the other projects going on in the house/workshop. Maybe I’ll mill up some cherry and build a second one over the next couple of weeks.  I’ll have to make the next one deep enough it can hold the sandpaper rolls. And eventually maybe I can make one where the dovetails look good enough to put the box in the house.

Dovetail Caddy Complete.
Dovetail Caddy – holding an assortment of sanding blocks. Hiding behind the sanding blocks is a memory from my days on SSN 691.


Apples, Apples and Woodcarving

Will and his grandmother working on making apple crisp
Will and Grandma Mary working on making apple crisp.

We had a busy Saturday. Busy enough we had to split up into two groups.

My mom is visiting for the weekend – a nice way to start off the fall. She arrived on Thursday, and I took Friday off of work. We visited B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in North Stonington on Friday while the boys were at school and Susanna at work. It was interesting enough that she and Susanna decided to take Will back on Saturday while I was out with Ben.

Of course, the mill was empty on Friday, but the lines were out the door on Saturday. But they only press cider on weekends, so Will, Susanna and my mom got to see it in operation even if they couldn’t get into the store with the crowds.

That afternoon, Will decided he wanted to make apple crisp – his favorite dessert right now. My mom found a recipe and helped him make the apple crisp. It was even better than the apple crisp we had bought at the local orchard last month. I’m pretty sure Will will be making another batch (or two) now that he knows what to do (considering he ate half of the apple crisp last night after dinner).

Ben and I headed east for a different sort of adventure. I had signed him up for a woodcarving class for his birthday. It was an introduction to woodcarving at the Rhode Island Woodcarving Retreat (hosted by the Mystic Carvers).

Ben hard at work carving his dog.
Ben hard at work carving his dog.

It was an amazing experience. We arrived at 8AM and carved until after 3pm (with a few breaks). Ben didn’t get bored or frustrated, he just kept working. Even when I was getting tired, he kept going.

The group of novice carvers worked on a carving of a dog using a carving knife. It was a good pace for a start, and the project was complicated enough to challenge us without being too complicated to complete. Of course Ben was one of two people at the whole retreat under the age of 40, and I think the group thought it was nice to see someone young interested in the craft. And everyone was impressed that he was able to concentrate for over 6 hours on carving. I’m impressed that I was able to do the same (I wasn’t surprised about Ben – he has always been good at those types of projects – me not so much).

He was invited my many members of the Mystic Carving club to join the club. The club meets once a month and offers novice carving lessons at each club meeting. We will probably go to the next meeting (in two weeks) and see if Ben likes it. He loved the class, so I’m thinking we will have fun at the club.

My dog (left) and Ben's dog (right)
My dog (left) and Ben’s dog (right)

I guess now Ben needs to get some carving knives. Luckily it is a hobby that doesn’t need a lot of tools/equipment to get started. Now I need to spend a day to let my right hand/arm rest from all the work yesterday.

Building toolboxes with the boys

Benjamin's Japanese toolbox completed (minus handles). Made from maple and finished with shellac.
Benjamin’s Japanese toolbox completed (minus handles). Made from maple and finished with shellac.

I try to get the boys into the workshop a couple of times a year and build some smaller projects. It seems that it is an easier sell for Ben than for Will. However, Will does get into the projects once we get started (he just gets distracted easily – but who doesn’t).

This project was a pair of Japanese toolboxes. The boys picked out lumber earlier this week. Ben picked out a piece of maple, and Will picked out what appears to be pine.

The boxes are constructed with a simple box joint and cut nails. We are finishing them with shellac and wax. We were able to get Ben’s box completed today, and hopefully get Will’s finished tomorrow.

Joinery detail from Ben's toolbox.
Joinery detail from Ben’s toolbox.

We cut the joints on the table saw. The boys probably could have cut the joints using a hand saw in the pine, but the maple was way too hard to cut by hand. All the pieces were assembled using 2″ cut nails by Tremont Nail Company. I picked up some decorative rose-head nails to add to the character of the box. The battens on the top were nailed and clinched.

The first box turned out pretty nice. Now to find some nice handles to attach to the ends.

Finishing up projects

This weekend I (quite contrary to my ADHD desires) didn’t start any major projects and instead worked on finishing up some smaller ones. I know. Crazy. Finish projects and not start any. What fun is that? But it keeps the wife happy, so that is worth something.

Will's bat house hung on the side of the garage above the loft window.
Will’s bat house hung on the side of the garage above the loft window.

The boys and I added two more shelves to the lumber rack. We brought all the lumber up that was stored under the barn (and wasn’t already on the lumber rack under the barn). That allowed me to clean out a little under the workshop and get the trailer pushed all the way back in.

It was amazing to watch Will and Ben work together to bring up the lumber from under the workshop. Or rather, fail to work together, so each had to drag boards individually. But, I guess that is what brothers are for. Of course I didn’t take any pictures of the upgrades/cleaning so you will just have to take my word that I actually did the project. Susanna even helped by labeling the now-somewhat-organized stacks of lumber. In English and Swedish.

Last week Will and his friend, Morgan, painted the two bat houses that they had made with me a couple of weeks ago. Morgan didn’t have any exterior paint at her house, so both bat houses were painted with the green trim paint from our house and barn. Yesterday Will and I decided to hang his bat house. Will even helped me drag out the tall ladder and set it up. The bat house is high up on the south face of the garage (above the chicken coop). Now all we can do is wait and see if we get tenants.

Today I decided to make a quick spice rack. We have been keeping our spices on the bottom shelf of one of the kitchen cabinets next to the stove. It was a pain to find spices – they were a disorganized mess and one had to dig around lifting up bottles to find the desired spices. I had a few pieces of good plywood lying around, and all we needed was some steps in the cabinet to allow us to find the spices in the back. It took about an hour to cut the pieces to size and mill some sapele for the front edge of the rack. I couldn’t find my wood glue to attach the front edging, so I attached the front with a pair of screws. Anyway, the steps will be hidden underneath the spice bottles when it is filled in. The only reason I chose sapele was that I had two smaller pieces in the workshop and I didn’t feel like going out and pulling out something less expensive. And sapele isn’t really that expensive anyway.

And tonight, instead of cleaning up the workshop, I decided to write in my blog and push cleaning off for another day.

Spice rack installed. The back step is 4" deep for larger bottles. The front two are about 2" deep, with about 2" in front of the rack for a final row of bottles.
Spice rack installed. The back step is 4″ deep for larger bottles. The front two are about 2″ deep, with about 2″ in front of the rack for a final row of bottles.
Spice rack complete with spices.
Spice rack complete with spices.

Organizing the Dog Pen (or Reorganizing the Lumber Pile)

The lumber pile/junk storage/dog pen prior to reorganization.
The lumber pile/junk storage/dog pen prior to reorganization.

The last bay of the garage/carriage house is a large, unpaved area. For a long time it just served as an overflow storage area and nesting place for a large group of house sparrows. I had added a gate to the  opening so it doubled as a dog pen (in the summer). In the back of the bay I stacked a nice pile of red oak, hickory and maple to air dry. The wood pile wound up being a nice place for Tucker to sit when he got bored staring out the gate and a real pain in the a$$ when I wanted to get a board that was at the bottom of the pile.

A friend of mine is cutting up a large maple tree into slabs and needs a place to air-dry the wood for a couple of months before turning it over to a kiln. We have lots of room, if I just reorganized our stuff a bit. And I just really needed an excuse to build a lumber rack.

I had picked up boards cut from a single oak tree in Ledyard a couple of years ago, and they have been drying in the pile since then. All the other lumber was older and dry. So I could build a proper lumber rack and not worry about keeping the stickers between the rows of boards. Saturday night I headed to the home center and picked up a bunch of construction lumber to build a storage rack.

The lumber rack with most of the wood from the pile stacked on. I have lots of room for additional shelves (to be added one of these days).
The lumber rack with most of the wood from the pile stacked on. I have lots of room for additional shelves (to be added one of these days).

Sunday I emptied the barn and started building the rack. Of course, I found one of the posts for the barn had rotted, so I had a little project detour to replace that. But it wouldn’t be a good project without a few detours.  I had the rack mostly finished by that afternoon.

Yesterday I added the second row of shelving and stacked the remaining lumber from the pile on the shelf. The boys helped me clean and organize the rest of the space.  The next step will be to double up some of the 2x4s on the supports and add an additional shelf or two to help keep the lumber organized.

Today the boys helped carry up a few boards that didn’t fit on the lumber rack under the workshop and were just stacked down there. Okay, I have two lumber racks. I have a problem. I know. I have too much lumber. Of course, if you have a good deal… I’m always looking for more. I wouldn’t want to run out in the middle of a project.

But of course I have plans for the lumber. Though I’m sure I’ll never get around to it all:

  • Hickory: I have a bunch of heavy 8/4 boards that would make a nice workbench even though hickory is a pain to work with and the beams are heavy and a pain to move around. And I already have a functioning antique workbench. But it seems that making a workbench is sort of rite of passage.
  • Red Oak: I have a matched set of boards from a single tree. I was going to make bedroom furniture from it until Susanna said she likes cherry better than oak. So it will be used to make the boys furniture (and I already made night stands for them from some of it). I also have some random non-matched boards floating around. Red oak is way too common here and is usually used just for firewood (it is like it grows on trees almost).
  • Cherry: I have a bunch of cherry that Susanna and I picked up on a road trip to Western Massachusetts a couple of years ago. The cherry is for furniture for us and the house. Anyway, cherry is nicer to work with than oak.
  • Maple: I have maybe 8 boards left that a friend had gotten cheap on Craigslist before he decided that he had too many hobbies to continue making furniture. It is pretty nice spalted maple. I think the boys are going to claim a couple of boards to make Japanese toolboxes this month.
  • White Oak: A bunch of 8/4 and thicker boards. Okay, I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it. But white oak is strong and rot resistant, so it may go to outdoor projects.
  • Sapele: A few remaining boards from a stack that had gone to smaller projects and trim on the sailboat.
  • Cedar: A bunch of smaller boards that I really have no idea what to do with.
  • Some random other species: Mahogany (though the plank I have isn’t really mine, I just store it and look at it), Yellowheart, Fir, and I’m sure a few more. The boys keep taking the smaller pieces of wood and re-purposing them into swords and leaving the swords outside until they are no longer usable and become firewood and they need to make new swords.

Building a bat house…

I had been talking to Will about projects he would find fun to do in the workshop. He said that he thought building a bat house would be fun. Today he had is friend, Morgan, over and the two of them built bat houses (one for her house, and one for here).

The project was quick and made from 3/4 plywood (and MDO) scraps I had lying around. The real pain will be hanging it way above the chicken coop after it has been painted. We had initially planned on going sailing today, but the weather didn’t support it.

Will and completed bat house. Once the caulk dries, we will paint it and hang it on the garage.
Will and completed bat house. Once the caulk dries, we will paint it and hang it on the garage.