A long week (with COVID) and some small projects

It has been a long week already, and it is only Tuesday. It feels like Thursday at least.

I started feeling symptoms on Saturday night and tested positive on Sunday. Luckily it has so far been mostly mild, but I have had no energy. I’m stuck isolating until Friday at the earliest. It has been a long journey since the first lock down in spring of 2021, and I was hoping that it had passed me by. My luck ran out this week, though as far as weeks go, it wasn’t too bad of a week to get sick and have to isolate. Will is mostly in his room in the loft above the garage. Ben is at his mom’s house. Susanna and Izzy are six hours ahead in Sweden. I get the whole second floor and my workshop to myself all day. I just haven’t had energy to do much for the past few days.

Today I’m starting to feel better, though my energy is ebbing by the time I’m writing this. It is almost time to give into watching YouTube and Netflix for the night.

My weekends started out well. I got up early on Saturday and took Hoagie for a walk. It was hot, so I picked an easy 2 mile hike in Ledyard, the Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor Loop. It wasn’t a very nice trail, and there was a section that I had to pass through some construction by the local power company. I’ll be avoiding that trail again.

The not so scenic Pine Swam Wildlife Loop.

Over the past few days I was able to finish off a few smaller projects that I had started last week. I didn’t get any work done on the house, but I was able to get some time in the workshop. I completed the sides and brass reinforcement on the holder for my #4 smooth plane. I also made a simple holder for a try square that I put above the chisels. I’ll probably make additional wooden holders for my other squares.

New storage for my #4 smooth plane

Most of what I did when I got tired of sitting in bed and watching TV was to just clean the shop a bit. And yes, I am bored. My workshop is probably more organized than it has ever been. there is hardly any crap left sitting on my tablesaw. My goal this week is to entirely clean the junk off the horizontal work surfaces and put everything into a home.

Slightly improved hand tool storage.
Finished Cutting Board

Friday night in the workshop

It is much quieter around the house with Susanna and Isabella out of town. My evenings are pretty open without having to juggle getting Isabella to go to bed. Tonight I decided that I would be happier if I did something other than watch a show after dinner, so I headed out to the workshop. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of TV time over the next few weeks until Susanna and Isabella return. Yes my life is that exciting.

I decided that my next workshop project was to replace the rack I built to hold my chisels. Chisels stick in the current rack and can be difficult to get out. Plus it doesn’t look very nice.

My existing chisel rack made from a spare piece of white oak.

I headed up to my loft and pulled out a piece of cherry lumber. I was in no mood to dig out a piece of exotic lumber after the pain of working with Yellowheart. Cherry is very nice to work with. Not too hard and not too soft and darkens to a nice color with exposure to the sun.

I decided to do as much by hand as I could. I cut a 25″ piece off of the board, and ripped (by hand) a 2″ wide piece off that cutoff. I flattened one face by hand, but there was no way I was interested in milling to thickness by hand, so into the planer it went. I used a handplane and scraper to finish the surface

Cutting the openings to the holes.

I edge jointed the board by hand. It felt nice to get the handplanes out again. I marked out and then drilled the holes using the drill press; I had already setup the drill press for a test piece and don’t think digging out the bit and brace was really worth it tonight.. The slots were cut by hand and then shaped with a rasp.

Shaping the holes using a rasp.

Finally I lightly sanded the entire piece and softened the edges, wiped it down with mineral spirits and put a few chisels in it for a test fit.

Test fitting the new chisel rack.

The next step is to mill a backing board with rabbet to allow me to mount the rack to the wall and apply some sort of finish to the project. I’ll probably also put some sort of ledge below the chisels to keep hands from bumping into the sharp edge of the chisels. I also don’t think my mortise chisel (far left on top picture) will fit in the holes I made, so I may have to modify or add another spot for that chisel. The final step will be to acquire more chisels. Maybe make the set match better, because matching tools are always important.

Now I just need to think of a project to build for the house.

Workshop Project – Saw Till

Saw Till – completed and hung

This morning I put the final finish coat on the Saw Till and hung it in the workshop. I made it from yellowheart lumber with some spare flooring milled for the back. I learned a few lessons from this project.

Yellowheart (Euxylophora paraensis) is hard to work with. It has a Janka Hardness of nearly 1800, so it is harder than Hard Maple and White Oak (1600 and 1350 lb Janka hardness respectively). It was certainly tough on the chisels, and the interlocking grain pattern made it difficult to plane. Next time I’ll stick to oak or cherry.

I also didn’t make the till tall enough for all my saws. The saw to the right of the till is about 1″ too long to properly fit on the till. I could probably still put it on the till; it wouldn’t fall out but would stick out the top.

Now to sharpen a few more saws and add them to my collection and figure out my next shop project (maybe improve my chisel storage).

Coffee Table (Finally)

Sometimes it is easier to start projects than to finish them. Okay – it is almost always easier to start than finish. The new coffee table was no exception.

I had the table frame and top constructed in May. Then life came in the way. We had to complete some house projects and replace windows. Travel for work. Yard projects. Time with the kids. It is easy for the days to slip to weeks and to slip to months. But the project is finally finished and in the living room. It isn’t perfect, but it is the most complicated project I have made to date.

It is constructed of solid cherry – with the drawer bottoms made from 1/4″ plywood (I was running out of wide cherry, and the plywood bottoms can be glued into the drawers and won’t move with the seasons. I finished the project with a single coat of shellac and then Enduro-Var as a top coat. This is my first project using Enduro-Var, and it is great. The water-based finish dries quickly and looks great. I think I have my new go-to finish. Next time I’ll try spraying it.

Cherry coffee table – drawer detail.

Cherry coffee table – completed.

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.