Making boards from boards

Sunday afternoon I set out on a new project, the bookshelves from Paul Seller’s Woodworking Masterclass book. I have been looking forward to this. First project of real size. And, bonus, I only had to dimension my lumber down to 7/8″. By hand. I thought the entire thing would take the week.

I started with this.


I’d managed to get all my rough cuts, including ripping 2″ off of 12 feet of stock done Sunday. It began to dawn on me how much work I had to do on Monday. Bowing. Cupping. Twist. I watched a one week project slipping into the next week. 3 days of really exhausting work. And on Thursday I had this.


It does feel good to look at the comparison. I’m also shopping for a benchtop planer.

Get a handle on it (2)

photo-3 No good tote puns came to mind.

That was the tote for me #5 Stanley. If it had just been one break, I’d have glued it backed together and muddled through. But this was a combo of an old break giving way and a new break. Seemed a lost cause.

So, with much trepidation I carved myself a new tote. Sure, I could have bought one, but that doesn’t seem right. Lee Valley has a good template and directions here.

I was worried most about getting boring a straight hole for the handle rod. But I was successful.


After a few tries.


Shaping the tote was more fun than I thought it would be, and something that I’d been meaning to do more of. There’s the silver lining on breaking the tote in the first place. It was the first time I’d really used rasps for a lot of the work, and I now love rasps.

To get the rough shape I used stop-cuts and a chisel. It’s way more effective and much safer for the work piece than my coping saw skills. I then refined with rasps: a 4-in-1 with 6 and 9 grain and a cabinet rasp with 9 grain. The half round on the 4-in-1 was particularly useful in the tighter radii.


Next, I used a spokeshave and rasps to make a 1/4″ chamfer on the thicker parts and a 1/8″ on the thinner bits. Those were then rounded over using the rasps.


If it looks chunky, it is. Side-to-side width is around 1 1/4″, which is considerably more than what I had before. Only after boring the handle rod hole did it dawn on me that I’d either committed to the thickness as I had it, or to very, very carefully removing waste from each side so that the hole stayed centred.

So I left it thick. Which I actually like. It feels better in my hand, maybe even a bit softer, if that makes sense. Or I just like the feeling of rationalisation.

And it fits! Of course I did a few trial fits throughout the process. There’s a little hiccup in the handle rod not getting 100% tight. There are several variables that might be causing that. Counterbore may not be deep enough or too deep. Tote height too short. But I also noticed that the rod does not want to screw all the way in, and somewhere along the line the rod developed a curve.


A practice run felt great. Light and frisky. Shavings flying. I’m pleased with it.

Like I said. Thick.


More Chinese stools

Following on yesterday’s post, one of the reasons I became increasingly interested in stools, not just Chinese peasant stools, is that you can see an evolution in form.

These stools are also considered peasant style stools from Norther China, but the entire feel is different. Taller, delicate, sweeping lines. Dare I say modern? I never studied design so I don’t actually know what that means. In these stools I can see everything from the common bar stool to Tage Frid’s three-legged stool (good post on that here.)



The seat shapes also stand out. None are carved/saddled, and they range from half circle to a bat shape to what was listed somewhere as the “Beijing” shape. I am pretty sure that is made up antique dealer speak, like “garden” apartments in New York.

The seats:





Bonus stools! Not Chinese!

In the rabbit hole I stumbled upon these. Stick with me here, the website where I found these describes them as “tripod stools made by the rudari (sic) on northern oltenia, romania (sic)” (at I could not find any other examples internet wide, but that may be because my Rudari is rusty. anyway…

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Chinese peasant stools

I’m making a few stools. Something about them is calling me – maybe getting old and wanting one every time I play with my daughter on the floor or put my shoes on.

Greg Merritt just posted some very cool designs on a Chinese-style gate bench he’s building, and so I thought I’d share some of the pics of stools I’d gathered for my own design inspiration. April Shen was kind enough to let me share these pictures from her site, Check it out, she has a lot of cool stuff.

I’m drawn to this squat, thick stool with a one-third lap joint. Don’t know why, it’s quirky. Especially since this, as well as the pics that follow, are peasant style stools. You expect the fancy joints on the Ming furniture, but not the farmer’s stool. For a short stool the lap joint might be overkill, but it adds something to the design and symmetry of the piece.

The dimensions for this stool are 11 1/2″w by 9″ tall.

This one has better proportions, to me, anyway.

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Close up of the joint. image

Another example.


Now clearly I am not an expert in Chinese, or any type of, furniture. If you know something about these let me know.

Get a handle on it

I went with a bad pun instead of swearing. Because this happened…


…and my immediate response was fuckityfuckfuck!

That is the handle of my jack plane. That I use every single day. So, hey. New project.

Been that kind of week.

Went to the lumber yard, and on top of spending 1.5 hrs trying to fix some billing problem, I came back with a bunch of boards that smelt like rotting flesh. Did you know that there is a bacterial infection that leaves behind fatty deposits in wood that then go rancid? Yeah, me neither. How I got home without realising it I don’t know. So, got a few yard boards.

Rough & Ready Benchtop

I’m tall and my rinkydink bench is short. So, I made a benchtop bench.

The original design was copped from ideas I saw online, including the Benchcrafted Moxon vise benchtop. The holdfast idea was straight from Caleb James.

My goals were to keep it simple and cheap, get it solid and square, and up and working. Excuse my lack of artistic ability – the original sketch reflects the simplicity I was gunning for.  A block of wood.

Benchtop bench sketch

Down the road I want something a bit more, er, better. This was as much an experiment as anything else. I think/learn best by doing, as such, this was a way to get an idea of how to go about a benchtop bench before going whole hog for hardware and fancy hardwoods.


And the result:



It couldn’t be more simple. The bench is yellow pine 2x4s. The top is 12″ wide, 20″ long. The legs and face are attached with butt joints. It stands just under 6″ tall. It’s solid. I can stand on it and it won’t move. After glue up, I squared the face/fixed chop to the benchtop.

I was originally going to glue a piece of hardwood to the face to add thickness but the holdfasts hold fast in just the 2″ of pine. Wanted to see how that worked out. I can always add to this.

The moving vise is a piece of andiroba I had lying around. Why? Honestly, I just wanted to see how it worked. I have a piece of 2″x6″ cumaru if I need to step up thickness and strength. If it sounds like I am getting fancy with exotic hardwoods, these are common and cheap here. Exotic is all a matter of where you live.

The vise riding on holdfasts works. It racks like a bastard, but that’s pretty easy to solve. A single holdfast will keep a narrow board in place to mark and saw by itself. Wider boards work very well. Short boards cause vertical racking, but it’s simple enough to swing the holdfasts up or down to center it behind the work.

Holdfasts are a mixed bag as hardware for a vice. They are cheap and easy – drill a 3/4 hole and you’re done. They lack the sheer force that a screw vice has, but they work fine for holding boards for sawing dovetails.

Because of their length (about 7 inches) from the neck to foot, the force is centred in the middle of the vise face, which is 16″ from the centre of each hole. I have a feeling that they would work better if they were further apart. When racking, they fight each other. A mallet blow on one loosens the other. Again, easy to fix with a piece of wood that is the same thickness of what I’m working on to offset the racking.

I’ve not yet drilled in holes for bench dogs, but they will go in once I have a sense of where I want them.

It is far from perfect, but with minimal fuss and for under $10 it does what I want. Sawing dovetails at 40″ is much, much easier for me than at 34″.

I also find myself using it for other things because of the raised height. Using a smoothing plane to clean up the benchtop made me realise how much appropriate height plays in good body mechanics.  It’s easier to keep good form and thus get good results when I don’t have to stretch my arms out or squat to reach the table. This has given me some good ideas for the full sized bench that I’m going to build when I can.