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A place for me to occasionally record the comings and goings of all things wood in my life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rudi's Table - Completed

Clearly, I've been neglecting my blog. I finished Rudi's table a couple months ago and must say that both him, his wife, and I were pleased with the results.  As I said in the previous post, the table is a combination of solid red oak and red oak plywood.

The black pegs are made from oak dowels that I “ebonized” in a solution of steel wool dissolved in vinegar.  If you Google "Ebonize Oak" or "Ebonize Wood" you will come across a surprisingly large amount of info on this technique.

Popular Woodworking also has a great article on how to do this.


I finished the piece by sanding dark walnut danish oil into all the surfaces to fill the pores and color the wood. Click on this link to see The Wood Whisperer explain some methods of pore filling.  Finally, the whole table was was topped off with 2 or 3 coats a semi gloss polyurethane.

-Chris Griggs

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rudi's Coffee Table

Since this past October I've been working on a coffee table that will be a wedding present for my friend Rudi.  It has been a joy to work on, but for various reasons the progress has been slow. However,  I'm happy to say that I'm very nearly done.  All that's left to do is put on a couple coats of polyurethane and do the some final assembly.  Anyway, I thought I'd go back and recap some of the build.

All the components of the table frame are made of solid red oak.  The top and shelf are both made out of red oak veneered plywood trimmed with solid red oak edging.  The photo to the left shows all the components cut to their rough size.

I began the project by applying the hard wood edging to the top and by making the legs, which I constructed by face gluing three 3/4 inch boards together.  Using my table saw I then cut my leg blanks down to 2x2 inches thick and then tapered them beginning about 3 inches from the bottom.

Most of the components of the of the frame are joined with a variation of bridal joint. These are similar to a mortise and tenon joint but the the tenon has a shoulder on front (see right) and the mortise is open on the top.  This means that when that, when connecting a stretcher to a leg, the "tenon" slides down into the top of the leg rather then in from the side.

Because I needed to leave a shoulder of wood on the front of this joint it was harder to cut then  a standard tenon.  I cut a couple on the router table, a couple more using my plunge router, but ulmitaly found the I got the best results using chisels. After some experimentation I learned to get some very nice results by first defining the shoulders of the joint using a hand saw and then clearing out the bulk of the waste by taking small cuts with the grain from one edge to the next (see right). Finally, I even out the depth of the area between the shoulders by paring across the grain with a small chisel.  This was actually a great learning experience, and excellent step towards building shop in which I can rely on hand tools for the bulk of my work.

After completing all the joinery I did a dry assembly of the whole thing (see right).  I felt the table looked to blocky so decided to do a great deal of chamfering in completing the final shaping. 

Using my cheap Stanly block plane (which I've gotten to work reasonably well after hours of tuning) I chamfer all the outside shoulders of the bridle joints. 
I soften any remaining sharp edges with a sanding block.
I follow a similar, but slightly more involved procedure in shaping the top, the shelf, and the edges of the skirts and stretchers.  To help ensure accuracy and consistency I mark one line down and one in equal distances from each edge.  Then setting my old (circa 1960) refurbed Stanley No. 4C plane to a medium cut, I run it across the edges at about a 45 degree angle, making sure that both lines are cut away at about the same time (see left).  By the way, I used two hands to steady the plane, but in the photo to the left my other hand was occupied taking the the picture.I do this to the top and bottom edges of the table top and shelf as well as to the bottom edges of the skirts and stretchers.  Like cutting the joinery, I really enjoyed doing this by hand.  I was also amazed at the difference this subtle shaping made in the overall appearance of the piece.

In my next post I'll go through the finishing of the table, which included my first ever attempt at filling pores to help create a smoother finish.

-Christopher Griggs

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Over My Dead Carcass…. Saw: A review and comparison of the Lie-Nielsen 15ppi and 10ppi Rip Carcass Saws

Due to some fortunate circumstances, which I will explain at the end of this review, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time working with both of Lie-Nielsen’s Rip Carcass Saws. On Lie-Nielsen’s website, the 15ppi and the 10ppi versions are each referred to as a “nice small tenon saw”. However, this description is grossly understated and incomplete.

With an 11 by 2 ¼ inch saw plate that is only .020 inches thick these are just as similar to LN’s much beloved dovetail saws as they are to a tenon saw. Given that these were the first western saws I’ve had a chance to use, I was very interested in their versatility, and therefore, spent equal amounts of time sawing straight lines, practicing dovetails, and sawing tenons. What follows is my two cents on how each of these saws performed on the various tasks. I won’t bother to describe their beauty or their comfort. You and I have already read far too many articles with descriptions of LN tools that sound more like trashy romance novels than tool reviews. Hope you enjoy!

The 10ppi Course Rip Carcass Saw

What’s that you say? I’m nuts for even thinking to use this as a dovetail saw. Why? If you’re reading this, then you most likely read Chris Schwarz’s recent blog about cutting dovetails with a panel saw. Also, I assume that amongst the endless hours you’ve spent drooling over tools on the internet that you’ve stumbled upon LN’s straight handles dovetails saws, and noticed that they market a 10ppi version.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I tested this saw out on white pine, poplar, red oak and some ¼ inch thick pieces of luan mahogany that were laying around. As one would expect, starting this saw took a little getting used. However, as a sawing novice I was quite comfortable with starting it after a couple of afternoons of use. It’s not that it was difficult to start, but rather, requires one to consciously use as little effort as possible. I found by taking a full, VERY light back-stroke, and then making a point to push forward, not down, on the front stroke, that this baby dove into the wood with an amazing amount of ease. The trick to making the cut light enough is not only to avoid pushing down, but also to make sure the weight of your arm isn’t pressing down on the saw (this quickly becomes second nature). When the saw did get stuck it was typically because I was using too much downward pressure, causing the teeth to create indentations, in which they then would get stuck. When this happened the problem was easily fixed by taking a couple more light back strokes to smooth out the indentations.

Because of the thin saw plate, which measures the same thickness as LN’s dovetail saw, once you get a handle on starting the saw it can work quite well for almost any fine joinery task, including dovetails. It leaves a surface almost as smooth as its 15ppi sibling, and as an added bonus it cuts ridiculously fast (in a good way). Cutting to a line takes a bit of extra concentration, but is certainly doable. However, I found that while this saw worked well on through dovetails, it was challenging to use when cutting pins on half-blinds (but still possible). My assumption is that this is because this task requires one to start on the corner of the board, which means the weight of the saw is on a very small area, making it difficult to remove enough pressure for the saw to start easily.

This baby also handles small tenons well, but I found the saw plate to be a bit short for anything over 2 inches wide. That’s not to say it can’t be used to cut wider tenons, it’s just that at a certain point, the course teeth don’t make up for the missing length that a true sash or tenon saw would have.

So where does this saw excel the most? Well, as the name implies, on wood that is of the thickness that one would use to create carcass joinery. This thing flew effortlessly to its full depth in ¾ inch oak in fewer than 10 strokes, and in this thickness stock it performed equally well on dovetail cuts as it did at 90 degrees. On ½ stock it took even fewer strokes and still started with relative ease. Similarly, cutting tenon cheeks on 1-2 inch wide boards really showed this saw’s abilities.

The 15ppi Rip Carcass Saw

This saw is identical to the 10ppi version in all ways except the tooth count. In most ways both saws performed very similarly. Both cut straight and smooth, and left an identical kerf. Like its 10ppi twin, the 15ppi can handle a wide range of tasks, but as one would expect, it excels in finer work. I will say that after using the courser toothed version this saw felt very slow. To be specific, it literally cuts half as fast as the 10ppi model. On the plus side, it was comparably quite easy to start, and left a slightly cleaner finish. Additionally, I quickly discovered that I had a great deal of control over the speed of the 15ppi version by increasing or decreasing the amount of pressure I applied. I was able to do this somewhat in the 10ppi version as well, but it really only had two speeds: slow and very fast. Despite its slower speed it also handled tenons almost as well as the 10ppi. As mentioned above, its downfall on tenons seemed to be more related to its length than the tooth count.

The real trade off for the slower speed became apparent when cutting dovetails. Because the 15ppi saw allows one to apply a little pressure and still start smoothly, it was easier to hold it precisely on a line at a consistent angle when starting a cut. Also, the slower speed was advantageous when you need to stop precisely at a line. Finally, the small teeth took away all the difficulties I experienced when starting cuts for the pins in half-blind dovetails.

My Difficult Decision

The reason I was able to work with both these saw is quite simple. I was given the 10ppi version for Christmas, and after trying it out for a while decided to exchange it for the 15ppi model. By the way, I feel obligated to mention that the fact that LN allowed me to do this is a real testament to the customer service.

So why did I choose the 15ppi saw. It’s not that I didn’t like the 10ppi. In fact, I loved it and found it difficult to part with. However, I quickly realized that if I kept it I would end up wanting both a finer saw for dovetails and a longer saw for tenons (in addition to a crosscut saw). For a beginning woodworker, just building a hand tool collection, this just didn’t make sense. On a limited budget, why own 3 rip backsaws when the Gospel According to Schwarz states that I can cover just about any joinery task with 2 rip saws (dovetail and tenon), and 1 good sized crosscut saw. I ultimately decided, I would be better served in the long run by exchanging the 10ppi carcass saw for a dedicated dovetail saw. Why I choose the 11 inch, 15ppi carcass saw for this was a matter of personal preference. What can I say, I just really like its feel, and just because it’s not labeled as a dovetail saw doesn’t mean that it can’t serve as well or better than one that is. Plus, until I can get my hands on LN’s 16 inch tenon saw, this baby will handle most tenons that I need to cut.

What else can I say. I love both saws, and was I a richer man I would own them both. Either will serve any woodworker, experienced or inexperienced, quite well. However, at the end of the day, I felt that the 15ppi would serve me best.

-Christopher Griggs