Blue Milk-Painted Cupboard.


This project was supposed to be another one of those in-between jobs that was to be slapped together in a weekend.  (And after this job I have finally realised that in woodworking there is NO such thing as a quick job.)  I replaced the bar fridge at work for a larger one and there was a space available, and a need for, a grocery cupboard.  My friend gave me some cheap pine pieces in odd thicknesses and I was up to the challenge of using it.  I also just bought a new biscuit machine (plate joiner to my USA brothers), so all of these factors led me to the following design.  More like I stumbled blindly into the following design:

Use the biscuit machine to assemble the carcase for speed, but use the pine instead of man made boards in order to stick to traditional techniques as much as possible.  The thinking behind this is with the pine, I still get to use my handplanes as well as seeing how I cope with the wood movement of the pine.  The doors too were a hybrid between speed and traditional woodworking.  I assembled the rails & stiles with the biscuit machine, and used tinted glass for the panels.

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Carcase sides being glued up.                                                                                                                                
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I decided to add a small drawer inside just to make it look interesting.  The travel of the drawer was limited in both directions.  At the back I simply screwed a piece of scrap wood, taking into account the knob had to be recessed so as to not make contact with the door when the cupboard was closed.

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Drawer visible on top right corner.
                                                                                                                                                                             Stop to limit backward travel of drawer.

The stop to limit the forward travel of the drawer was more complicated as I didn’t have a lip to attach a stop to.  So I first attached a small square piece of scrap onto the roof of the drawer opening and that would stop the drawer when it made contact with the inside of the drawer-front.  The I cut out its negative on the corresponding part of the draw back so as to not limit the drawer being pushed in.  See pictures below:

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So to recap, the little block of wood glued to the roof of the opening bumps against the inside part of the drawer front to prevent the drawer from falling out when opened-see 1st photo above on left hand side.

The other two photos show how a corresponding notch has been cut out of the drawer back to allow the drawer to be pushed in.

The final thing needed was to allow the drawer to be removed, and for this I screwed a figure 8 clip that could be rotated out of the way whenever I needed to remove the drawer.  The photo on the left below shows the clip in the open position when inserting the drawer for the first time or when I need to remove it (possible reason is to plane it after seasonal movement causes it to jam).  And the photo on the right shows the closed position.

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I had bought some milk paint which I was planning to do on the Shaker Bench II project and so this was a reason to try it out.  I am not sure if the South African version is inferior to the stuff I see in overseas magazines, but I am definitely not a fan of milk paint.  It clogs up within minutes of being mixed, dries very rough but if sanded goes through to the base layer.  The poly also never looked good on top of it, almost a dirty look.

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In conclusion, I learnt a bit about inserting a butt hinge, frame (and panel) door construction, wood movement in pine and milk paint.  So this project was a good lesson for me on my path as a wannabe traditional woodworker.  The overall result looked too cottagey though and in future I would use man made boards with Euro hinges, this would make the project neater and faster.  Or I would go totally traditional with hardwood frame & panels and proper joinery.  Hybrid furniture is perhaps not for me.

Thanks for sharing.

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F-Clamp Rack with the KM-1 KerfMaker.

I have collected a variety of F-Clams of different sizes over the last 4 years. Most have been from garage sales so there are few that match.  I’ve had them stored all over the place up to now which not only is messy, but I tend to forget half of them.  They usually were clamped to a shelf wherever space was available, but this meant that I had to loosen them each time I needed to use them.
I decided not to make a fuss over this rack, as long as it could take a few hours to build, and hold all my F-Clamps in one place.  I started off by screwing some metal shelf brackets onto some Meranti scrap pieces.  The  whole assembly was then attached to the wall with Fischer plugs.

I then needed to decide how far the supporting piece was to be from the wall for clearance.  Too close and the front of the clamp would touch the wall, and too far and the clamps would get in the way (I have a small workshop).

The above photo shows two small pieces of pine resting on the shelf.  The long piece was then moved forward or back until the right distance was found.  I then marked the pieces against each other as well as “right” & “left” to prevent mistakes.  This has happened in the past.  After measuring, when I bring the individual pieces down onto the bench, I usually mix things up.  So measuring in-situ so to speak helps prevent this.

Next I had to make a quick lap joint for where the pieces intersect.  Enter the radial arm saw and the KM-1 KerfMaker from Bridge City Tools.


I cut 4 lap joints in under 5 minutes thanks to this ingenious invention.  Take into account that the two pieces being joined were a different width so it required two setups.


Above is the finished joint.  You will notice the familiar markings that help prevent mistakes-the triangle & the numbers.
Now all that was left was to attach the wood to the shelf bracket with screws and hang the clamps.


I had thoughts of using the space above the clamps by making an open box or carcase lying on its side.  The bottom side would be where the clamps would hang, and the top part would be a shelf.  Maybe next time.
Although I did not want to spend time on this project, I definitely made it faster and better than previous similar shop fixtures.  I have re-organised/ re-designed my workshop four times up to now.  Each time there was not only a shifting around of tools and furniture, but also discarding some and acquiring new.  And even though the above project is quick & simple, the way I approached it is profoundly different to how I would have one or two years ago:

  • The two Meranti pieces for the shelf bracket were cut to an identical size using a stop block-no rulers.  I also spent a few minutes smoothing and chamfering the visible sides with my #3 smoother. This is one of  many times where hand tools can be seen to complement power tools.
  • In order to ensure that the two brackets were positioned identical to each other, I first drew a centre line on the wood, again not using the ruler but by stopping the marking gauge against the side.  I then located the bottom screw hole of the bracket over the centre line and used a centre punch to mark the hole. I then drilled a pilot hole and put the screw in loosely.  The shelf bracket can pivot on this bottom hole for the next step:
  • To rotate the top of the bracket so that it sat centre in the Meranti piece, I used a marking gauge and butted the bracket against it.  This all sounds very obvious, but if you don’t how about gauging versus measuring off a ruler, or centre punching and pilot hole drilling before you attach a screw, things will most likely not be accurate.  These valuable lessons I did not learn from books, but from watching experienced woodworkers at work in their workshops.  The era of apprentices is gone, but there are still some older guys around who learnt the correct way.  I encourage beginners and experienced woodworkers alike to spend some time with these masters. No matter how much you already know, you will learn something new from them.  And it will stay with you, unlike the stuff we read in books. Sad to face it, but these guys won’t be around forever!

Router Table Finger Joint Jig, version 1.

Although this is a detour from the mainly hand tools direction I’ve been on for a while now, I needed this jig for small drawers around the workshop, as well as for box making.  I like the aesthetics of an exposed finger joint on small boxes and providing the drawers are small and don’t carry too much weight, the finger joint is very quick to make in multiples and strong enough too.

It is crucial that the finger joint jig is guided in a straight line.  In most designs I’ve seen, this is achieved through an existing mitre slot or a T-track.
My router table doesn’t have these for two reasons, namely the slot or track weakens the table which must be co-planar, and it conflicts with the fence in terms of parallel thus affecting accuracy.
Therefore two temporary parallel guides were clamped to each side of the table and the jig (which is a sled in essence) rode between the two.
In order to ensure an almost piston fit, two paper-thick shims were placed between the guide and the sled before clamping up.  The photo above shows the side fences (held in place with the orange clamp).  The blue clamp is holding the stop block to prevent the jig from running too far over the router bit.

The setup above shows a ½” up spiral router bit with the same spacing as same size registration pin.  As you know, the three must be exactly the same to ensure a tight fit.  The ability to fine adjust the distance of the pin from the router bit is the difference between a tight, neat fit and a sloppy one.  Enter the micro-adjuster below:  The front sacrificial fence in a jig of this type must be allowed to move left or right to adjust the width of the fingers.  This threaded bolt allows me to move the fence (once loosened from the permanent back fence), in small increments.

Below is a view from the back of the jig.  You can see the two coach bolts with large washers which fix the front (movable and sacrificial) fence to the back (fixed) fence.  These get loosened for the micro adjusting process.  
You may also notice that my jig runs front to back on my router table as opposed to most that move from left to right.  Direction of motion is not critical here as we are not routing lengths of wood where a climb cut will occur if you travel in the opposite direction.  I simply don’t have much room behind the router bit.  

Here is my 3rd attempt on a piece of pine.  The pins or fingers protrude slightly on purpose. They get sanded down at the end for a flush fit.  This is controlled by the height of the bit.  Remember to take the thickness of the jig/ sled into account when calculating this!


Jacaranda Shelf

I recently got a desk made of Jacaranda for my work office and needed a side unit for my phone and some files.  I had leftover Jacaranda from another project and decided to make a shelf  unit to fit the available space-780mm wide.  I made 3 shelves to bring it to a total height of 560mm.  The initial plan was to prepare the lumber quickly with the jointer & thicknesser, cut dadoes with the radial arm saw and do the rabbets for the ship-lapped backs on the router table.  It turned out that the machine didn’t do such a great job, so I had to still use the winding sticks and my fore plane. then my #7 and then the smoother.  So much for hand tools taking more time.  I created spaces between each back piece (made from reclaimed quarter-sawn Douglas Fir floorboards) with cardboard shims and nailed them into a rabbet in the back.  As it turned out, the radial arm sawn dadoes weren’t so tight-I will use hand tools next time.  Only the router table didn’t disappoint.

The quarter-sawn Doug Fir floorboards for the back. 
The Back Boards being assembled. 
Details of the rabbet.

Table & Fence Insert for Radial Arm Saw

When you attach a fence & top on your Radial Arm Saw (RAS) for the 1st time, it takes a lot of time & effort.  The top must be level, and co-planar with the blade in all directions.  There is a lot of shimming and adjusting required.  When this is done, the first cut (a shallow cut), marks a kerf on the fence as well as the top, from which all other cuts are referenced.  Over time, this kerf is not sharp and smooth anymore which can compromise the accuracy of the cut.  So it makes sense to route a shallow dado to accept an insert (I used 10mm hardboard because that is what I had available), as it saves time and wood replacing an insert instead of the whole top every time the saw chops it up.  This idea is not mine (thanks Denis), but it is easy to do.  I jammed the hardboard in the depth gauge of my router for depth of cut,  and set up my shop-made dado jig for a 40mm wide cut.  This 40mm width was not measured but gauged-I first ripped a few 40mm wide strips of hardboard on the bandsaw.  It makes sense cutting a lot of extra strips for the inserts at this setting because the dado will be made according to this width!  Then I pushed the dado jig against both sides of the strip to create the correct width.  In other words the dado jig is set according to the actual insert that I will use, and not measured with a ruler.
Some photos (not the best quality as they are taken by my phone), might illustrate this better.  The 1st photo shows the reserve inserts on the left hand side-enough for at least two world wars.  Their edges are still furry as they haven’t been sanded down yet.

 I added another blade better suited for cross-cutting (way more teeth), as I only use the RAS for this purpose.  With mitre cuts, the blade remains straight, and the would is angled against a jig.

Radial Arm Saw

Is the Radial Arm Saw (RAS) a misunderstood gem, or is it truly a dinosaur?  I was introduced to the RAS when I had the privelige of working with an experienced woodworker in his shop when making my router table.  We used the RAS a lot.  I found it convenient (ready to go with no setup-to clarify we only used it in crosscut mode), quiet and versatile.  With the aid of stop blocks we cut multiple pieces to the exact same size quickly and without measuring.  By raising & lowering the table we cut tenons again quickly & accurately.  Rabbets and grooves for drawer bottoms were a breeze.  With a mitre jig we cut accurate mitres without changing the machine’s setup.  It obviously cuts wider pieces than the modern compound mitre saw and I liked the larger surface area of the table top.  Dust extraction was easier (more focused)-with the compound mitre saw the dust blows all over the place.  Another advantage is that the arm didn’t slide back so it can be placed right up against a wall-an important factor when your workshop is small. 

That was over 2 years ago and I never considered buying a RAS because of the cost.  But the other day I picked up an unused De Walt RAS for R1500.00 (about $215.00).  And that was the 1st time that I hunted the net for articles related to this tool.  Hence my blog today.  Before I carry on I must explain my situation-I don’t have a table saw (yes the ‘heart’ of my workshop is missing).  There is no space for one.  And if I did have one, I don’t know if I would change the contents of this blog.  What I found on the Internet disappointed me.  Both in quantity and in content.  The woodworking community normally loves to debate different tools and techniques.  From tails first/ pins first, to the best way to glue up a panel, to comparing the strengths of various joints, to the choice of glues and finishes.  We thrive on controversy and it makes us better woodworkers.  But when it comes to the RAS, not a whisper.  All I found is that the saw is dangerous in rip mode (we all know that), and that the compound mitre saw has replaced the RAS.  Well I don’t agree.  I think that the compound mitre saw is good for a contractor who works on site.  It is a tool that has its purpose.  But the RAS has more applications than the compound mitre for a fine woodworker as opposed to a carpenter.  The depth and width of cuts is why I say this.  If you spend your day chopping cornices, mouldings and 2×4’s, then the compound mitre is fine.  And then again, I don’t own a table saw…

To conclude and like I said in my previous blog.  If you use the tool, it becomes essential.  I am happy I own a RAS, and I know that I will work faster with it, without compromising my accuracy.

Minimum/Maximum Amount of Tools

This issue is really hot at the moment, what with the imminent arrival of CS’s latest book-The Anarchist’s Toolchest.  But I’ve wondered about how many/few tools we should keep ever since I read the 1st introductory books on woodworking, where the lists always looked dismally small.  There was always that conflict between what the books showed as an acceptable collection to get the job done, and what people actually kept in their workshops. And to make it worse, I would always err on the side of less and my friend Manuel, who has inspired and influenced me is the opposite.

My conclusion is don’t fill your workshop up to the brim, because that causes stress, but go more than what the minimalists say.  A case in point: in the The Ananrchist’s Toolchest, a jack plane is included in the list.  I often wonder about what a jack plane actually is-I use a #5 with a slight camber for general work, another #5 with a 8″ radius ground on the blade (I define this my fore plane) as well as scrub plane with a 3″ radius.  All three are essential tools in my workshop, even when I’m using power tools.  Another reason for buying more than the absolute minimum is to get experience.  In this way you will buy duds and gems, but you 1st need to get them & use them before you can arrive at this conclusion.  I didn’t think I needed a full set of cabinetmaker’s screwdrivers/turnscrews, until I got them.  I can recommend these as essential tools to anyone.  In the past, woodworkers worked as apprentices where they got formal training in an already established workshop (that of their master).  We hobbyists don’t have either.  We have to stock up our workshop with trial & error.

Before someone reads my 1st blog where I advocate not buying too many tools, let me clarify.  As a beginner you can get overwhelmed by the variety available out there.  So what I mean is start slow and with quality in mind.  But when you have most of your tools to enable you to function, then you should, in my opinion, be prepared to experiment with some tools that may not seem like essential.  You might be surprised.  You can do this without actually buying the tools just by visiting a friend and seeing what he/she keeps.  So because I have three jack planes doesn’t mean I like to have too many tools in my workshop.  I also have five smoothers; #3, #4, #4 /1/2 with a high angle frog (HAF) for difficult grain, a bevel-up smoother (BUS), for even more difficult grain as well as a #112 for the most difficult grain.  And I use all of them and I couldn’t do without any one of them.  (And I’ve used an infill and wouldn’t mind one of those either).

So where am I going with all of this?  I don’t know and I am allowed to say this because I am a beginner.  I am veering to the left and to the right in an attempt to find the middle road.  I guess if the tool is used (frequently or not is NOT a factor), and if you either cannot do without it or you work better with it, then the tool becomes essential.  I also believe that there are a lot of superfluous, unnecessary tools out there (I’ve said it before-look out for re-hashed tools.)  But you have to make some mistakes in terms of buying an unnecessary tool now & then.  But the knowledge you gain is worth the money you waste.