Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad Axe Bench Hooks

TechnoPrimitives Style

In case you haven't heard, there's a new breed of hand saws on the market today and they've been completely blowing wood workers away. Do a quick search for Bad Axe Tool Works on Google and you'll see what I'm talking about.
This post isn't about my Bad Axe saws, although I could write about how easy they are to start and how fast and straight they cut, maybe a note or two about the fine detailed handles or the incredible etching in the saw plates but no, this post is about my friend down in La Crosse, Wisconsin by name of Mark Harrell.
While writing my book over the past 16 months I got to know Mark a bit more and we exchanged ideas and thoughts about hand tools and book pages, Jamaican vacations and the environment. It's no surprise that he crept into the pages of my book (as you'll hopefully see) and the last time Mark and I made contact I told him I was going to send him a copy just as soon as I get my shipment. Well in true Techno style he said an honest 'thank you' but sent me a package that arrived here today. A nice set of bench hooks and a Bad Axe mug...nice. That's the kind of person Mark is, I certainly wasn't sending him a copy of my book with the hopes to get something in return but he said his thank you with a gift.
So I did like anyone would do and made myself a strong coffee and went down into the wood shop. The first thing I noticed about the hooks is the finish; on his website he mentions the surfaces are planed but not smoothed and the friction is a bonus while working. Well they are indeed planed and absolutely beautifully made. The Red Oak he uses is a perfect choice for this application and I'm sure they'll stand up to all of my abuse! They're the kind of accessory I'll leave on my bench top, always there ready to work and the fact that they look good is a bonus! He sells them as a 'set' which makes a ton of sense for working with longer stock over the width of your bench top. I took a few pieces of scrap wood and tried all the miters, no surprises they were bang on!

This is a real nice set for anyone who would rather go straight to work and not spend the time building your own. If you've already purchased a Bad Axe back saw you know exactly what I'm talking about but why not complete the collection with a set of bench hooks? They're a great compliment to these incredible saws.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final Door Update?

You'll have to read on to find out...

Another busy week around here, between book orders and life in the city it sometimes seems I can't find enough hours in the day. (who can right?) The door is 'complete', and that's the good news; I'll save the bad news until the end of the post...

So it was assembly time and I took the door components up stairs into our dining room; if assembled in the shop it would never fit up my basement stairs! Ah, the rub of having a basement work shop eh? So I moved all of our furniture and placed a 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" plywood down on the floor and on top of that my Luann template. The top panel assembly was already together as well as the bottom rails and panels. I basically just needed to glue on the stiles and then attach all of the details. I use cabinet master clamps and no less than eight of them made the glue up a success.

One thing I was back and forth on was how the original doors were fastened. When I inspected some originals I couldn't find any signs of through tenons, dowels or other fasteners so early on I decided I'd either drawbore the tenons or simply use wooden dowels through the joinery. Because this is a heritage property and the door is supposed to be an exact replica of the originals, I wouldn't be able to allow the dowels to show on the exterior face. I asked Chris Schwarz his thoughts on 'blind drawboring' and he said this technique was mainly used in really thick material. I decided against drawboring and would simply pin the joints with oak dowels. Between the Titebond III and hardwood dowels I'm confident the joints will stay put for a long, long time to come. So while I had the door all clamped up I went down and started making some dowels. Seeing as I have a few offcuts in the 'ol woodshop I found a suitable piece and got out the Bad Axe.

A few dozen tiny rip cuts later and I'm ready for my dowel plate. (this is another great example how these saws perform and their versatility...even these small rips cuts are manageable with this, my 18" back saw) Making dowels is an enjoyable process and my Lie Nielsen dowel plate helped things along. With the dowels all roughed out I taper the ends with a knife and drive them down through. Starting at a larger hole and working my way to the finished 1/4" diameter required for the job.

I placed the dowel plate over one of my bench dog holes and using my heaviest hammer drive them down through.

With the dowels made and the door still clamped and glue setting, I make a quick depth stop for my hand drill. This will insure I drill down through the back of the door, passing through the tenon and staying a good 1/4" shy of the exterior face side of the door. Drilling too far down and busting through the face would really make for a bad day around here!

Once the door is drilled I dropped some glue into the holes and drove home the dowels. I let everything cook for a few hours and then with my flush cut saw I'll trim the ends off.

I place a sheet of paper, folded in two over the dowels while I saw to save the surface from any damage.

Once trimmed I'll clean up the ends with a low-angle block plane set for a very-very fine shaving. This is one of the new Veritas block planes I've been testing for a future review article for Canadian Woodworking Magazine. It cuts through the Oak like butter and was just as easy to set up and use. If you look closely in the shot you can see the bead details I've scratched into the interior of the door frame where it's wrapping the panels. I added these before I started the glue up process to dress up the interior a little. The original doors didn't have any but because this is the inside and the heritage rules only apply to the outside, sidewalk view- I can get away with it. It's funny when I think about all of the pieces I've made over the past two years....I don't think there's one that didn't have a bead in it...maybe a little signature I suppose?

From here I turn the door over and focus on the exterior pieces beginning with the panel frames. I put a bead of caulking around the perimeter of the panels to help eliminate the potential for drafts. It's a product that remains soft and pliable so wood movement won't be effected.(remember, these panels are floating within the door frame-no glue or fasteners) The panel frames completely cover any signs of caulk and they get glued to the face and nailed. I pre drill and drive the nails. You can see my Japanese nail set, again this helps with any hammer marks on the surface.

I considered briefly just gluing the window sill and scroll details on but wisely decided to add some dowels as well. This same treatment is carried over to the 'dentil' elements in the corners. To establish the locations I take note of the piece, remove it and carefully drill a 1/4" hole down into the door about 1/2" deep. Next, I take some dowel centers and push them into the newly drilled surface holes. I place the component back in position and firmly press them down onto the dowel centers leaving small indentations in the backs of the pieces showing me exactly where to drill my holes.

This is the same process I used for all of the face elements. Remove the piece and pull out the dowel centers, drop in some glue and drive home a dowel. I trimmed them down so they're a little under 1/2" and then add some glue and place the pieces back on. The Titebond may have been enough but having the hardwood dowels as well will keep everything solid.

The side window mouldings were too thin for dowels so they get glued and nailed into place. The nails are criss-crossed and toe nailed to help any future movement issues as well.
With all of the detail elements attached it was time for some sanding- I work my way up from 120 to 220 and finally finishing off with 400 grit paper. A coat of Polyurethane and another round of sanding between. The interior gets three coats of finish while the exterior receives six. I'm happy with the door and happier it's out of my work space! My small shop feels like a gymnasium since it's been gone. My client just had a baby boy two days ago so the installation will probably be sometime over the next two weeks. I don't think they're in a huge rush to see another renovation taking place in their home. They just finished putting a foundation under their house which was the reason if you recall, the door project was put off through the summer months. I'll get some shots of the installed door when it happens but for now I'll call this project complete. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the bad news- during the above process, while working through these details on my make shift dining room table/work bench, I managed to break the window glass in the door. Fu*k!!!

I'm waiting for a new window to arrive and will replace it this week; the design is such that this shouldn't be too much of a problem. Remove the interior mouldings and un-screw the batons holding the glass in place. Just when I thought I was done right?
Well that's life isn't least it wasn't a mirror!