Popular Woodworking 2009 Nov (pdf, 11919 Кб)

Popular Woodworking 2009 Nov (pdf, 11919 Кб)
100-year-old Bookcase in 1 Day
Learn How. Discover Why. Build Better.
Make a Shaker
NOVEMBER 2009 #179
Knockdown Design
Is a True Knockout
Why Real
Finishes Look
Really Wrong
Check out
Managing Editor
Megan Fitzpatrick’s
LVL Workbench
on page 32
How to Make
(And Hide)
Secret Drawers
Make Knobs &
Totes for Your
US $5.99
04 0120
74470 01355
Display until November 9, 2009
Learn How. Discover Why. Build Better.
november 2009
F e at u r e s
LVL Workbench
Tradition meets technology when we marry
an 18th-century workbench design with a
modern material – laminated veneer lumber.
by c h r i s To p h er s c h wa r z
& m eg a n f i T z paT r i c k
Shaker SwingHandle Carrier
This classic oval box with a handle is simple
and fun to make using basic tools and
straightforward techniques.
by j o h n w i l s o n
Turning for
It’s a Secret
secret drawers and hidden compartments in
furniture are almost as much fun to make as
they are to discover.
by c h a r le s b en d er
Computer Desk
ladders form the base of this modern
knockdown desk that’s designed to hold a
computer tower and schoolbooks.
even if you don’t do much turning, a lathe may
be a welcome addition to your shop. if you
don’t have much space, a mini-lathe might be
just the ticket. and, it won’t break the budget.
by h un T er l a n g
by k e v i n g l en d r a k e
Making Totes
& Knobs for
improve the look and feel of your handplanes
by making custom totes and knobs. we show
you the tricks to make it easy.
by c h a r l e s m ur r ay
Number 179, November 2009. Popular Woodworking (ISSN 0884-8823,USPS 752-250) is
published 7 times a year, which may include an occasional special, combined or expanded
issue that may count as two issues, by F+W Media, Inc. Editorial and advertising offices
are located at 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236; tel.: 513-531-2222.
Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs and artwork should include ample postage on a
self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE); otherwise they will not be returned. Subscription
rates: A year’s subscription (7 issues) is $19.96; outside of the U.S. add $7/year Canada
Publications Mail Agreement No. 40025316. Canadian return address: 2835 Kew Drive,
Windsor, ON N8T 3B7 Copyright 2009 by Popular Woodworking. Periodicals postage paid
at Cincinnati, Ohio, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send all address changes to
Popular Woodworking, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235 Canada GST Reg. #
R122594716 Produced and printed in the U.S.A.
november 2009
regul ars
Getting Worked
By the Wood
by c h r i s To p h er s c h wa r z
Table Saw
f ro m o ur r e a d er s
Band Saw
From Logs
A Period Finish
by a da m c h erub i n i
To Build or Buy?
by m a rc s pag n u o lo
‘Bad Axe’ Saws
The Thick &
Thin of Veneer
by b o b fle x n er
Stultis Sunt
by da r r ell p e a r T
by o ur s Ta ff
f ro m o ur r e a d er s
by g len d. h ue y
on The
laminated veneer lumber makes this
knockdown workbench decidedly modern
– but it’s based on andré roubo’s
18th-century drawings. page 32.
cover phoTo by al parrish
Popular Woodworking November 2009
by ro b p o rc a ro
november 2009
On the Web Site
Video Gallery
The Workbench Page
Turn a Chisel Handle
Computer Desk
read about editor christopher schwarz’s
“workbenches: from design & Theory to
construction & use” and download free
sketchup plans for three classic benches:
the holtzapffel cabinetmaker’s workbench,
the english nicholson workbench and the
french roubo workbench (on which we’ve
based our new model in this issue).
watch kevin glen drake turn a custom chisel
handle in just minutes in this free video. (and
read his story on the benefits of owning a
lathe in this issue on page 42.)
This computer desk (featured on page 58 in
this issue) is a streamlined design that easily
knocks down for moving – perfect for dorm
rooms. you can find a free sketchup model
contact customer service
customer service
free project plans
article index
Tool reviews
editor blogs
writer’s guidelines
contact the staff
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Take a Tour of our
New LVL Workbench
watch how easily and quickly our new lvl
workbench breaks down (and goes back
together) and take a close look at the various
workholding accessories and how they work.
plus, check out senior editor glen d. huey’s
video on how to drill dog holes using a 3/4"
upcut spiral router bit, plunge router and
simple (and cheap!) plywood jig.
LVL Workbench
download a free sketchup model of this new
bench to make it easier to build your own
version. in sketchup, you can take the bench
apart to see how the joinery works and make
custom modifications to the plans – before
ever putting blade to wood.
And More!
visit popularwoodworking.com/nov09 to
find a complete list of all the online resources
for this issue – including videos, additional
drawings and photos.
Learn How. Discover Why. Build Better.
november 2009, Vol. 29, No. 6
Kevin Glen Drake
Editorial Offices 513-531-2690
graduating from the College of the Redwoods fine woodworking program,
Kevin founded Glen-Drake Toolworks
in Fort Bragg, Calif., where he combines woodworking, tool making and
education. His innovative tools include
the Tite-Mark marking gauge, which
was named in 2003 as one of the 12
best tool values ever by Popular Woodworking editors.
Kevin thinks that woodturning skills
are essential for woodworkers, and
in this issue he writes about the tools
required to get started, along with some
of the benefits of having a lathe in your
shop (page 42).
Publisher & Group Editorial Director
Steve Shanesy
Editor Christopher Schwarz
X11407 ■ chris.schwarz@fwmedia.com
art director Linda Watts
X11396 ■ linda.watts@fwmedia.com
senior Editor Robert W. Lang
X11327 ■ robert.lang@fwmedia.com
senior Editor Glen D. Huey
X11293 ■ glen.huey@fwmedia.com
managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick
X11348 ■ megan.fitzpatrick@fwmedia.com
Associate Editor for the web Drew DePenning
X11008 ■ drew.depenning@fwmedia.com
photographer Al Parrish
contributing Editors
Adam Cherubini, Bob Flexner, Troy Sexton
chairman & ceo David Nussbaum
cFo James Ogle
president Sara E. Domville
Phil Graham
John Lerner
Vice president iT, CIO Mike Kuehn
events director Cory Smith
circulation director Linda Engel
newsstand director Susan Rose
production coordinator Vicki Whitford
Senior vp, manufacturing & production
Charles Murray can usually be
found in his shop up to his ankles in
shavings. He enjoys collecting and using
old hand tools, especially planes, which
dovetails into his work of making period
furniture as well as unusual kitchen
cabinets. He works mostly in the
William & Mary through Shaker styles
and has a particular interest in furniture
from 1680 -1770.
In addition to working wood for a
living, he’s a member of the Society of
American Period Furniture Makers
(SAPFM), past president of Woodworkers of Central Ohio (WOCO) and
a member of Ohio Tool Collectors.
Megan Fitzpatrick After
passing her exams for a Ph.D. in early
modern drama, Megan took a break
from writing her dissertation to build
her workbench for Popular Woodworking’s shop. Like all the furniture she
enjoys building, Megan demanded
that her bench be massive – as big as
any of the other benches in the shop.
Also, she insisted that its benchtop be
low enough for her to use with handplanes. The side benefit of this custom
touch is that her bench is simply too
low for any of the other woodwork
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Executive VP, emedia
advertising director
Don Schroder
331 N. Arch St., Allentown, PA 18104
tel. 610-821-4425; fax 610-821-7884
SALES coordinator
In his first story for Popular Woodworking, Charles writes about making new
knobs and totes for handplanes (page 45).
Krista Morel
tel. 513-531-2690 X11311
SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES: Subscription inquiries, orders
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730 River Road, New Milford, NJ 07646
ers in our shop to use. To build your
own version of this bench (at the correct
height for you), turn to the story that
begins on page 32.
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Out On a Limb
by christOpher schwarz, editOr
Learn How. Discover Why. Build Better.
Getting Worked
By the Wood
he garbage disposal was clogged with
a chicken bone. And after three unsuccessful attempts to grind up the bone
(and a little profanity for good measure), I
reached my hand into the
slimy hole.
What I pulled out was
my beloved Si n n 656
wristwatch, which had
gotten knocked into the
sink while I was rinsing
the dinner dishes.
The watch’s crown was
battered, its waterproof
seal was broken and within
a couple weeks the watch
stopped ticking.
Normally, this would
be a $30 fix. Go buy a
Timex at Target and be done with it. But
a lifetime of woodworking has made that
strategy impossible.
We woodworkers normally view the
craft as an activity where humans perform
brutal acts on dead trees to shape their dried
carcasses to our liking.
However, what we rarely take note of
is how working with this raw material
changes us.
My love of handmade furniture changed
the type of car I drive. When I was shopping for a used car last year, my research
went way beyond brand names and dove
deeply into the type of engine, plus which
factory it was assembled in. Some factories
take more care in bolting down your water
pump than others. Care counts.
Woodworking has changed the beer I
drink. I found a local brewery that sells its
beer in half-gallon glass growlers. The beer
is fresher, cheaper ($5.99) and there’s no
wasted cardboard, bottlecaps or bottles to
Popular Woodworking November 2009
recycle. Plus, I know the name of the guy
who developed the recipe.
Woodworking has changed what I
hang on our walls at home. I’ve found a
network of self-taught artists, many with disabilities, who produce work of
astounding beauty that is
made with care and detail.
Like woodworkers, they
produce t he se work s
despite an industry of
mass-produced Matisse
But most of all, woodworking has taught me to
reject things that are disposable and wasteful and
embrace things that are
well-made, even if they are less sophisticated or sometimes more expensive.
To some, this might sound like a political column. I assure you it’s not. My personal politics don’t fit any party’s platform.
I frustrate both my liberal and conservative
friends at every dinner party.
Instead, this column is an acknowledgement that working with wood has
changed me more than any institution or
individual has ever managed to.
And I need no more evidence of that
than what I did after I fished my watch
from the sink. I sent it out to be fixed, even
though I could buy 10 watches for the price
of the repair. My Sinn isn’t flashy, but it’s so
well made that I could never pitch it.
And that is exactly what I want future
generations to think of my furniture. It is
simply too good to ever throw away. PW
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Safety Note
Safety is your responsibility. Manufacturers
place safety devices on their equipment for
a reason. In many photos you see in Popular
Woodworking, these have been removed to
provide clarity. In some cases we’ll use an
awkward body position so you can better see
what’s being demonstrated. Don’t copy us.
Think about each procedure you’re going to
perform beforehand.
from our readers
Why Don’t You Ever Show
Table Saw Jigs for a Unifence?
hy is it that all the jigs and accessories you show for table saws are always for
Biesemeyer-type fences, and you never show
jigs constructed for the Unifence – there are
a lot of Unifences out there.
Dan Freitas
Anchorage, Alaska
Dog Hole Drilling Dilemma
I’m wondering if you might know of a source
for a 1" upcut spiral router bit to drill holes in
the workbench I have (almost) completed.
The usual 3 ⁄4" dog holes look too small
– the top is 3" x 30" x 8' maple. I successfully
bored four 1" holes through the Veritas twinscrew end vice (with 6" jaws), but I’m hoping
to use a router to make the rest. Or maybe
you have a different suggestion?
Don Bowen
via e-mail
The reason most people choose 3 ⁄4" dog holes is
that they hold a wide variety of bench accessories,
including holdfasts, bench anchors and the like.
I’m a big proponent of 3 ⁄ 4" holes because they
are easy to add with a drill.
It’s a good question.
We prefer the Biesemeyer-style T-square fence
system over all others. I had a Unifence for many
years and it does have its advantages. But when it
comes to pure simplicity and robust accuracy, there
is nothing better than a Biesemeyer-style fence in my
So our jigs are built to fit the fence system
we prefer. That’s the honest answer. I also think
it’s fair to say that it would be easy to adapt any
of these fence-riding jigs to accommodate any
brand of rip fence.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor
However, if I were going to rout out 1"-diameter dog holes, I would make a template and use
a template guide that was paired with a smallerdiameter (less expensive) upcut spiral bit, such as
a 1 ⁄2". That would allow you to make whatever
size hole you wanted.
Another option would be to bore them out
using a 1"-diameter Forstner bit and a shop-built
jig. The jig could be as simple as a block of wood
with a 1"-diameter hole drilled in it to guide you.
With just a little practice, you’ll be drilling holes
that are straight enough for a benchtop.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor
Bevel-down Planes are Neither
Antiquated or Outdated
In the August 2009 issue of Popular Wood-
working (#177), Lonnie Bird had an article
about bevel-up planes.
Although his coverage of the subject was
quite well done, and at the usual level of
excellence we’ve grown accustomed to and
expect from Mr. Bird, I take exception to
his reference to bevel-down planes as, in
his words, “antiquated” and of “outdated
The currently manufactured bevel-down
planes from Stanley, Lie-Nielsen, Clifton,
Wood River and Veritas (to name only a few),
and a whole lot of other manufacturers both
past and present, have been serving us quite
well for many years and will continue to do
so for many more.
There is plenty of room for all the various designs of the many planes available to
continued on page 12
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Illustrations on this page by Hayes shanesy
continued from page 10
us. They each excel in their own respective
intended purposes.
Thus, the bevel-down design is as far
from being outdated as our many other “ageless” and still quite useful tools.
James Clarke
Hilton, New York
Child-safe Finishing Advice
My daughter has just had her first baby, and
I’ve been tasked with making a crib. I’ve
settled on a design that converts into a double
bed. This will be my first real woodworking
project, and while I feel up to the woodworking side, I am unsure of how to finish it.
I have decided that trying to get a consistent finish between all of the slats would
be virtually impossible, so I’m planning to
finish the parts individually then assemble
the crib. But as to what finish to use, I don’t
have a clue. It will have to be something safe
(as it’ll start off as a crib) and durable because
my daughter lives in another part country
and I won’t be able to touch it up.
Is there a relatively simple finish that you
can recommend?
Matthew Riehl
via e-mail
All finishes are safe after a couple weeks once the
solvents have evaporated. I think the easiest finish
to apply is a wiping varnish. Just thin any varnish
with paint thinner (mineral spirits). I use three
parts varnish to one part paint thinner.
Rag on a thin coat, let it dry then sand with a
fine sanding sponge to level the finish and remove
any dust nibs. Repeat this process. Add coats
until you get the look you want. Usually, five or
six coats does the trick.
Most beginning finishers have great luck with
this finish, and I still use it myself.
Varnish is quite durable, so it should do the
— Christopher Schwarz, editor
Riding the Fence While Ripping
On occasion when ripping stock on my table
saw, I notice the stock pulling away from
or not riding tight to the rear of the fence.
Sometimes when this happens, if the board
is excessively long, the ripped edge becomes
slightly concave, then it needs to be fixed on
the jointer (basically negating the reason
for ripping the board in the first place). The
Popular Woodworking November 2009
problem also seems to be unpredictable, and
once it starts, I’m not able to get the board
back tight to the fence.
For example, I recently ripped one board
with no trouble. Then on the very next board,
it did not ride tight to the fence (I’d made no
adjustments to the blade or fence).
I don’t have a really expensive saw – but
it’s not a cheap one, either. I’ve always faithfully followed all the tuning and setup recommendations. I’m using a high-quality
blade, with the blade raised to where the
gullets are just above the stock, and I feed
the stock slowly. Everything is parallel. The
fence is parallel to the blade; the blade is
parallel to the miter slot (though that’s not
pertinent to ripping).
Any help you could offer would be greatly
John E. Brady
East Berlin, Pennsylvania
The issue is with your wood, not your saw. What
you are experiencing is due to either case hardening or reaction wood.
Case hardening is caused by improper drying
that leaves uneven moisture content within the
board. Reaction wood is from a part of the tree
that was under stress while the tree was alive,
such as a tree growing on a hillside or part of the
tree near a branch or crotch.
Although these boards may appear stable,
they are under stress internally. When you cut
into them you cut across cells that are under
tension. It’s a lot like cutting a stretched rubber band; when you make the cut the tension is
released and the wood moves.
One thing you can do is use a riving knife
or splitter behind the blade. This will keep the
wood from pinching the blade as you cut. You
can also rip your wood wider than you need,
then remove the extra width with your jointer or
a handplane. This will also remove saw marks
and get you closer to finishing.
— Robert W. Lang, senior editor
What Plane Should One Have for
Finish-planing End Grain?
Having just finished a Stickley No. 516
encyclopedia table, and cutting the 27"
square top, it became apparent to me that
finish-planing the end-grain edges of the
top might be a bit easier using a plane other
than an adjustable-mouth block plane. I
would appreciate your ideas on which plane
to use.
Your descriptions in “Handplane Essentials” (Woodworking Magazine Books) of the
low-angle jack plane, the low-angle smoothing plane and the low-angle jointer plane
say that the planes are “technically block
planes,” so I think I’m on the right track. If
I’m going to use the plane on tabletop end
grain from 18"-20", to as wide as 30", which
of these planes would you use?
Greg Humphrey
Fort Madison, Iowa
It’s true that low-angle planes can be good for
end grain. But when dealing with tabletops I just
use a low-angle block plane. It’s more maneuverable. And you are going for looks, nor for perfect
If I were going for perfect squareness on a
shooting board, I’d get the low-angle jack because
it’s the most versatile size. PW
Christopher Schwarz, editor
Question? Comment?
We want to hear from you.
Popular Woodworking welcomes comments
from readers about the magazine or woodworking in general, as well as questions on
all areas of woodworking. We are more than
happy to share our woodworking experience
with you by answering your questions or
adding some clarity to whatever aspect of the
craft you are unsure about, and if you have a
complaint, we want to address it whenever
though we receive a good deal of mail, we
try to respond to all correspondence in a
prompt manner. published correspondence
may be edited for length or style. all
correspondence becomes the property of
Popular Woodworking.
send your questions and comments via e-mail
to popwood@fwmedia.com, or by mail to:
popular Woodworking
4700 e. galbraith road
cincinnati, oh 45236
IllustratIon on thIs page by robert W. lang
Tricks of The Trade
e d i T e d b y pau l a n T h o n y
The Winner:
Band Saw Lumber from Logs
mall logs from a local downed tree are
a great windfall of free lumber for small
projects. They’re easy to saw into boards
on the band saw once you have established a
couple flat reference surfaces for safe feeding.
I use a simple L-shaped carrier jig screwed
together from scrap plywood to make the
initial cuts.
Screw the log to the carrier using screws
just long enough to provide the necessary
purchase. Set up a fence on the band saw to
guide the carrier while making an initial cut
from one edge of the log. Then reattach the
log to make a cut on an adjacent face. At that
point, you can remove the log and rip it into
boards using just a regular fence.
— Ric Hanisch, Quakertown,
Screw log to L-shaped
plywood carrier
After sawing first
face on carrier
rotate log 90º
to make second cut
Carrier fence
Cash and prizes for your tricks and tips!
Sanding Help from the Garden
each issue we publish useful woodworking tips from our readers. next issue’s winner receives a $250 gift certificate from lee
valley tools, good for any item in the catalog or on the web site
(leevalley.com). (the tools pictured below are for illustration
only, and are not part of the prize.)
runners-up each receive a check for $50 to $100. When
submitting a trick (either by mail or e-mail) you must include
your complete mailing address and a daytime phone number.
if your trick is selected for publication, an editor will need to
contact you. all entries become the property of Popular Woodworking. you can send your trick by e-mail to popwoodtricks@
fwmedia.com, or mail it to tricks of the trade, Popular Woodworking, 4700 e. Galbraith road, Cincinnati, oH 45236.
In my work as a luthier, I sand a lot of curved surfaces. I’ve found
that I can make perfect sandpaper backing pads from “kneeling
cushions” sold for garden work. Available at home-supply stores
for about $6, these 1" x 7" x 16" foam cushions can be cut up to
make any size sanding pad you want, and you can get a lot of
them from one cushion. One of the best things about this stuff
is that it can easily be bent in use to suit all kinds of contours,
including curved edges and mouldings. Or, if you want to keep
a pad flat, simply hold or epoxy a flat backer on top of the piece
as you work. The foam also resists water and mineral spirits, so
it’s great for wet-sanding finished surfaces.
— Bil Mitchell, Riegelsville, Pennsylvania
Bend sanding pad
to desired contour
For flat sanding, back pad
with thin panel
continued on page 16
Popular Woodworking November 2009
illustrations by Mary jane favorite
Tricks of The Trade
continued from page 14
Laying Rubber on Clamps
While clamping up an assembly, I found
my hands slipping on the wooden clamp
handles. I was reminded of my teenage
years playing foosball, when I had the
same problem with the wooden gametable handles. I realized that the gripimproving trick I used then would also
work now.
I cut up a 11 ⁄ 8"-diameter 10-speed
bicycle inner tube (just $3) into sleeves a
bit longer than the clamp handle. I wiped
away any internal powder, then stretched
the tube over the handle, with the clamp
secured to the benchtop. Once the tube
was in place, I stretched it outward to
create a tight fit, then cut it to length.
If a handle is a bit too fat to stretch
the rubber onto, I simply install it on
a smaller handle first, then backroll it
Keeping inner
tube centered,
stretch it down
onto clamp
handle …
Rare earth
If necessary
back-roll tube
into ring that
will roll onto
larger handle
… then
pull home
to remove it. In its ringed form, it will
then easily roll onto a somewhat largerdiameter handle. For smaller-diameter
handles, use a slightly narrower tube.
You can often get old tubes for free from
your local bike shop.
— Ed Armelino, Redding, California
Adjustable Dado-routing Jig
I wanted to rout some shelf dados, but I
didn’t have the correct-size bit for the
job. Fortunately, my dad stopped by and,
as usual, had the answer to my problem. We cobbled up a couple L-shaped
wooden fences from 3"-wide straight
scraps, squaring each of the units carefully before gluing and screwing them
together at the corners. After laying out
the dado on the stock, I clamped the two
fences together against the workpiece
as shown, with the two router-bearing
fences spaced at the appropriate distance
from each other.
Pushing the router forward against
the left-hand fence, then pulling it back
against the right-hand fence, yields the
exact width of cut in two passes, as long
as you’re using a bit that’s at least half the
width of the desired cut. The sweet thing
about this setup is that you can make
multiple dados of the same size by simply shifting the clamped assembly down
the board for each subsequent cut. Once
you’ve made your first dado, the notches
in the end pieces serve as a reference for
aligning the next cuts.
— Doug Corman, Missoula, Montana
Clamp fences
to workpiece
Glue and
screw corner
Align notch
with cut line
Recess for
Clamp fences
Clamping Blocks
Difficult glue-ups are troublesome enough
without having to position clamp pads as part
of the process. I’ve tried using hot-melt glue,
double-sided tape and various other methods
to hold pads onto clamp jaws, but they always
seemed to fall off at just the wrong moment. I
recently tried using rare earth magnets, and
they work very well. One of the best things
about magnetically attached clamp pads is that
they can be removed in an instant for use on
whatever particular metal clamps you need for
the job at hand.
The easiest magnets to use are those with a
countersunk hole through the center (available
from Lee Valley, leevalley.com). The 1"-diameter
magnets are large enough that you can just screw
them directly to a plywood pad. However, if
you want to use the more economical smaller
sizes, it’s best to flush-mount them into a recess
drilled with a Forstner bit.
— Craig Bentzley, Chalfont, Pennsylvania
A Blade-cleaning Tray
While removing pitch from my table saw blades
is not a difficult task, I couldn’t find a cleaning
container that worked well for the job. I’ve tried
aluminum foil and plastic containers that were
either too large or tapered at the bottom, making them impractical to use. Then I accidentally dropped a blade into an empty five-gallon
bucket and discovered that it fit the bottom of
the bucket just right. I cut off the bottom at 11 ⁄2"
and found it to be ideal for the task, allowing
easy access to wipe the blades while they rested
in the cleaning solution. When not in use, the
“tray” hangs on the wall with the blades, with
its lower lip resting on a nail.
— Dennis Gagnon, Villa Park, Illinois
continued on page 18
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Tricks of The Trade
continued from page 16
Snipe-free Planing
Like most planers, mine snipes, overcutting
a bit at both ends of a board. Sometimes
I’ll simply cut off the sniped areas if I can
afford the extra board length. However, with
precious woods, that can mean trashing a
few bucks. Another technique is to closely
precede and follow the board with a scrap
of the same thickness. But that requires the
right scrap and I find the process clumsy,
especially when making several passes.
Here’s a better approach that only takes a
few minutes to set up:
First, joint one face of your board and
both its edges. Rip some lengths of straight
scrap about 10" long and just a bit taller than
the desired finished thickness of the board.
Working on a flat surface, attach the strips
to the edges of the board at both ends using
double-faced tape. Extend the scraps beyond
the ends of the board about 4", then clamp
the strips to the board for a few moments to
ensure a good tape bond. Now when you feed
the board through the planer, the scrap will
take the snipe instead of your stock.
The same principle allows safe feeding of
short workpieces. Simply tape the workpiece
to long scrap “runners” in the same fashion.
But in this case, make sure that the runners
start off at least as thick as the stock so the
whole assembly will be pulled safely through
the planer. PW
— Paul Anthony, PW contributor
Short strips slightly taller than
desired finished thickness
Attach strips with
double-faced tape
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
Arts & Mysteries
by AdAM cherubini
A Period Finish
‘authentic’ look is, at best, a guess.
s period woodworkers, we
strive to produce the most accurate furniture possible. We delight in
the use of period tools, for they impart
authenticity impossible to achieve by
other (modern) means. But when it
comes to finishing our projects … well
… er … most of us don’t use authentic
period finishes. And I think I understand why. In this article, I’m going to
discuss what I know and don’t know
about period finishes. After reading
this article, you may decide to try an
authentic period finish on your project
… or not.
Period Finishes
Period craftsmen had a wide variety
of finishes at their disposal. Oil-based
paints were used and probably
more frequently than surviving pieces would suggest.
The Charles Plumley inventory of 1708 included two
quarts of “varnish” and
two “varnish” brushes.
The t wo quar t s were
valued at nearly a week’s
wage for a journeyman. It
may have been some sort of
Varnish is an imprecise
term now and was likely even
less precise 200 years ago.
It’s impossible to say
whether Plumley had
two quarts of oil-based,
wood rosin “varnish,” or
two quarts of shellac flakes dissolved in alcohol (possibly called a “spirit varnish” then)
or some combination of a half-dozen different ingredients including, but not limited
Popular Woodworking November 2009
No fooling. I’m not trying to fool anyone with
this finish. Obviously this is not an antique
chair. But the original finish used 250 years ago
probably wouldn’t look right to you.
to, lacquer, plant-derived resins, or shellac
in various forms. These could have been
dissolved in “spirits” – some sort of volatile
that could include wood-based turpentine,
alcohol or even linseed oil.
Linseed oil is found in account
books for cabinetmaker’s shops (such
as John Head, who purchased gallons at
a time). Linseed oil may have been used
as either a simple shop finish by itself or
as an ingredient in other finishes. Ditto,
beeswax can be found in period documents. Again, it could have been used
as a finish by itself, was an ingredient
in other finishes, or simply to lubricate
plane soles.
Period craftsmen had various colorants they could add to make stains or
tinting varnishes (there’s that word again).
I’ve not come across these in association
with cabinetmakers’ shops and I’d be surprised to. Legend has it that brick dust was
used universally as both a colorant and
an abrasive powder. I’ve tried this
(both ways) and it works, though
commercially available dry earth
pigments are easier to obtain.
Eighteenth-century bricks
were different from modern
bricks. I used 18th-century
bricks from Philadelphia. I
can imagine how a single brick
may not appear as either a purchased item or an item of sufficient value to warrant its inclusion
in any period document. Marking
gauges likewise don’t typically
appear in probate inventories,
but I think it’s safe to assume
they were present.
To those of you who find
this fascinating, I apologize. In
the world of period furniture making there
are apparently several very slippery slopes.
Here is another one: Check out Appendix V
of Jeff Greene’s must-have book “American
photos by the author
Furniture of the 18th Century” (Taunton)
for a list and description of period finishes.
The Internet is replete with web sites detailing the process for brewing your own versions of all of these. Most that I found were
associated with luthier work, so you might
want to start there.
So we know period furniture makers had
access to a wide range of finishes. What did
they actually use? And how do we know?
Well, the quick answer is: We don’t know.
Extant period furniture has all manner of
“stuff” on it, some of it intentionally applied,
some of it, let’s call it “patina,” was unintentionally applied. Theoretically, we should
be able to analytically determine what the
“original” finish was. But of course that’s a
difficult proposition. The bottom layer might
be linseed oil, for example. Then a varnish
may have been applied over that. Was the
varnish the original finish? Or was it applied
after delivery? Famed New York antique
dealer Israel Sack popularized “patina” and
the value for “original” finishes. Before his
time, “patina” was “dirt” and furniture restorers removed it. He wrote in the forward of
his son Albert’s book, “Fine Points of Furniture: Early American,” about his time in
the trade:
“The finest pieces had to be taken apart,
scraped and finished inside and out before
they could be sold (to most customers). Innumerable choice pieces were absolutely ruined
by poor restoration. There is nothing which
hurts (the value of) an early oak piece so
much as planing, scraping, and finishing.”
Here, Israel Sack discussed his value for
original finishes and his disdain for refinished furniture. Keep in mind that he was
a furniture restorer before becoming an
antiques dealer, so he knew more than a bit
about the subject. But Sack, who established
the value for original finishes, also included
this gem:
“Mahogany and walnut, when properly
restored, are not necessarily spoiled.”
I suspect that just about everything we
see has been refinished. And just because
the finish looks old now, it doesn’t mean it
was original then.
“There’s no such thing as
an original finish.”
■ David DeMuzio
Head Conservator of Wood
Philadelphia Museum of Art
conservators I know suggest original finishes
were spartan. Linseed oil and a bit of beeswax probably comprised the original finish
on carved chairs like mine, for example. A
film finishes couldn’t practically be rubbed
out when laid over intricately carved surfaces. It would also fill up the nooks and
crannies, dulling the detail.
The baroque sensibility (some believe
rococo is a form of baroque both aesthetically and linguistically) of light and dark,
near and far, would also be harmed by a
film finish. Philadelphia furniture makers
seemed to intentionally use surface texture to
enhance the contrast between carved areas
and “bright” smooth areas made reflective
with wax. Oil and wax offered period craftsmen the artistic control that a film finish over
a carving would not.
I hasten to add that not all fine pieces were
finished as simply. They had varnishes and
we can assume they used them. There were
What about Patina?
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with
original finishes is that they very well may
not have been the finishes that people of the
period recognized. They certainly aren’t the
finishes that people who love antiques fell
in love with. And this issue goes to the very
heart of what reproduction furniture making is all about. Is the goal to represent how
furniture looked when new? I don’t know
the answer.
Whatever the condition when new,
period furniture almost certainly changed
rapidly once it was delivered. Homes were
heated with smoky fireplaces then. Folks
cooked meals in their living rooms, and
they lit their homes with candles made of
animal fat or lamps filled with whale oil.
There were no screens on their windows to
filter any of the dust from a bustling street
or a farmer’s plow.
In very short order, furniture would
have been coated with dirt and grime. The
cleaning process pushed filth into recesses
(and pores) where it would collect (often
further punctuating the design). And dirt
in Philadelphia is made of the same sort of
stuff that’s on your sandpaper. So just the
process of weekly wipe-downs would have
changed surfaces fairly quickly.
A Sympathetic Finish
Original Finish
So what was the original finish? Using
state-of-the-art equipment, and leveraging
a variety of historical resources including
paintings of period interiors, the museum
people in the 18th century who could do this
sort of work. Musical instrument makers
applied film finishes to their products to
affect tonal quality. And I believe there were
specialty finishers in London and Colonial
Philadelphia at the least.
What I’d like to leave you with on the
subject of original finishes is doubt. I’m
skeptical, and I think you should be too. I
mean, there’s still significant debate about
the restoration of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. Did the Vatican do the right thing? They
removed varnish that Michelangelo may or
may not have applied.
“Original” finish. Note the color and texture
on this chair from the 1760s. Despite its age
and wear, the beauty of this work still shines
photo on this page Courtesy of the philadelphia MuseuM of art, gift of franCes drinker banes rentsChler, 1985.
My goal is to create a finish that is sympathetic to the originals. The end product won’t
look like it’s 200 years old. But it shouldn’t
look perfect and new either. The goal is to
produce an item that fits people’s expectations of Chippendale furniture.
Period furniture exhibits identifiable
surface characteristics that we can approximate. The key is understanding the goal.
Arts & Mysteries
Grunge. I mixed lamp black with linseed oil
and applied that in a similar fashion to create the color of grunge. Most of the dry earth
pigments you buy are very finely ground. But
Bitumen black is the exception. It makes an
excellent gritty texture. It can be applied with
wax, oil or shellac.
Liberal oiling. I began creating my finish with a
liberal dose of boiled linseed oil. The resulting
dull surfaces probably best approximate a true
original finish.
Setting aside wear, old furniture takes on a
certain color, generally has filled grain and
has a texture associated with a build-up of
Wood changes color with age. Dark woods
lighten. Light woods darken. In an August
2009 Popular Woodworking article (issue
#177), Senior Editor Glen D. Huey finished
his walnut chest over drawers with amber
shellac and added a touch of red to create the
lighter color of aged walnut. New mahogany
can be tan or pinkish in color. It becomes
darker and redder with age.
Due to the sculptural nature of my chair
project, there’s an additional concern. Areas
of exposed end grain, especially when oiled,
get much darker than other areas. So the
knees of chairs are often very dark – sometimes almost black.
Filled Grain
Old furniture typically has filled grain.
Woods such as mahogany have open pores
that fill up with dirt, grime and finish. You
can fill the pores of new wood with any
number of substances, from drywall joint
compound to dry earth pigment to specially
designed pore fillers (which seem to be joint
compound with dry earth pigments added).
Grain fillers change the color of wood, so
that’s a consideration. Some may be designed
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Wipe on, wipe off. I mixed burnt umber dry
earth pigment with linseed oil and applied
it with an acid brush. I wiped off the excess
to highlight the high spots. The goal was to
darken the knee and foot, where the exposed
end grain was most pronounced. What I have
here essentially is slow-curing oil-based paint.
to be stainable while others are not, so that,
too, is a consideration. Whatever you choose,
know that in areas of exposed end grain and
areas of high wear, old furniture takes on an
almost plastic-like smoothness.
On carved furniture especially, built-up dirt
and grime can significantly affect the look of
a piece. Grunge alone has certain identifiable
traits. It’s generally black and has a range of
textures from fairly smooth to fairly gritty.
Grunge collects in nooks and crannies that
can’t be easily cleaned. It also collects on
broad smooth or flat surfaces where end
grain provides it a foot hold.
A Period Finish
Creating a finish that looks like an authentic
“original” finish requires a lot of faux finishing materials and techniques. I’m not sure
I’m willing to invest the time that would
take. So I’ve chosen to add 10-20 years to
my chair. And I’ve done it with materials
you have or should have: boiled linseed oil,
Butcher’s wax, shellac flakes and dry earth
pigments (I used Liberon pigments available
at toolsforworkingwood.com).
So what is an original finish and how
do we apply it to our work? Heck if I know.
What I do know is that the finish referred to
Sealed. The dry pigments can be removed
pretty effectively by adding more oil and wiping. So I applied a light coat of buttonlac shellac to seal in the color. Much more needs to be
done to this knee and obviously the foot. From
here I can add more tinted oils (with less of a
chance of disturbing what is under the shellac)
or just tint the shellac.
as the “original” finish is not what furniture
left the builders’ shops with. Chances are,
you wouldn’t like that finish, and it may leave
your period reproduction furniture looking,
er … inauthentic. PW
Visit Adam’s blog at artsandmysteries.com for more
discussion of traditional woodworking techniques.
The Wood Whisperer
by marc spagnuolo
To Build or Buy?
Cost, time and a spouse’s patience help determine the course of action.
t’s a dilemma nearly every woodworker
must face. Whether you are a weekend warrior or a woodworking pro, eventually you
will ask yourself, “Should I build or buy?” I
know for many, the thought of building their
own furniture was the reason for getting into
woodworking in the first place, and buying
furniture is borderline sacrilegious. But we
need to be realistic. We simply cannot build
everything. For the pros, time is money and
working on a personal project means one
less commission for a client. And for you
hobbyists, well, you barely get enough shop
time as it is. But building things for our own
homes is really at the heart of what we do.
The need to surround ourselves with our
own creations is natural, instinctive and very
important to us. But things such as immediate gratification and cost are always there to
confuse the decision-making process. There
has to be a better way!
That’s the thought that ran through my
head as my wife and I pondered the furniture
(or lack thereof) in our new house. Here’s
a small sampling of some of the things we
need: a kitchen table and chairs, entertainment centers for both the family room and
bedroom, office furniture, a coffee table, a
closet organizer and a new bedroom set.
So how do I decide what to build and
what to buy? Considering I won’t have a shop
right away, things that are needed urgently
are not good candidates for my project list
– for example, the kitchen table and chairs.
t download a pDF of the Wood
Whisperer’s build-or-buy Worksheet,
go to:
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Analysis. Sure, as a woodworker, you could build all the furniture you need – but that may not be
the most practical approach.
As much as I would love to build these items,
we can’t go very long without a place to eat.
So let’s break it down. A kitchen table is a
simple project that would take a week or
two, at the most. But how about those chairs?
Well, that’s a different story. You either need
to do a bunch of mock-ups or you need to find
a set of plans that are close to what you want,
and modify them accordingly. Assuming I
find an appropriate plan, I still have the challenge of making the entire thing look nicer
than the table and chairs my wife just fell in
love with at the store. All things considered,
this is one project I am not going to tackle.
If I had a fully functioning shop, I might
consider making the table and buying the
chairs. That’s an easier pill to swallow than
giving up on the entire grouping.
Now although I eventually arrived at a
decision concerning the table and chairs, I
may have saved myself some time and frustration if I had some simple way of addressing the build-or-buy question. So after some
serious thought over a cup of coffee at my
new kitchen table, I’ve come up with a quick,
decision-helping worksheet that may in fact
do just that. All you need to do is answer
the following nine questions as honestly as
possible then add up your score. The final
result tells you whether you should build or
buy. As it is, the worksheet will give you a
very generalized objective answer.
The Wood Whisperer’s Score
So just for fun, let’s test the quiz with a reallife scenario. Our kitchen features a small
photos by the author
Wood Whisperer’s build-or-buy Worksheet
Difficulty of the Project
1 - Very difficult. Will require research,
mock-ups, new tools or new skills.
2 - Moderately difficult. Will be a good test of
your skills but nothing you can’t handle.
3 - easy. should be a slam dunk!
Urgency of Project
1 - We needed it yesterday.
2 - Can live without it for a couple months.
3 - It doesn’t matter when it’s completed
Likelihood of You Actually
Finishing the Project
1 - I am not much of a completer, but I love
starting new projects!
2 - Most of my projects are completed but I
occasionally lose interest and abandon one
here or there.
3 - I finish every project that comes through
the shop.
Recipient Patience Level
1 - If it’s not done on schedule, you are in
2 - It would be nice if it was completed on
schedule, but if it takes a little longer it’s oK.
3 - as long as it’s made by you, your recipient
has the patience of a saint.
Cost Savings
1 - It will actually cost more to build it yourself.
2 - It’s about the same price.
3 - building it yourself saves you money.
Your Stubborn Pride
1 - you are easygoing. one less thing on your
to-do list!
2 - you prefer to build it yourself, but the purchased piece is welcome in the house.
3 - you never let him/her live it down if they
actually purchased a piece of furniture.
Quality Level of Store-bought Product
1 - Much better than you could build in your
2 - about the same quality construction and
3 - they can’t even come close to your level
of craftsmanship.
Visibility the Item Will Get in the Home
1 - No one will ever really even see it.
2 - some people might notice it when they
3 - It’s in plain view and would get a lot of
attention from guests.
Need for Customization
1 - No specific size/color/species requirements (anything will do).
2 - It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there
is some consideration given to size/color/
3 - Very specific size/color/species requirements.
If your score falls between 8 and 17, you should buy it. If your score falls between 19 and 27,
you should build it. If your score is right in the middle at 18, see below for suggestions on how
to break the tie.
island that would look great with a pair of
bar stools. Unfortunately, given the close
proximity of the kitchen table, we decided
against it. As luck would have it, we recently
came across a unique pair of stools. Instead of
having a full round seat, these stools feature
one straight side. The low profile design was
a little strange to the eye at first but would fit
our kitchen perfectly. I pulled out my phone
and began taking pictures from all angles.
Although these stools looked pretty sturdy,
I just knew I could improve on the design.
My mind began to race with all the possibilities but before I could get too carried away, I
received a little tap on my shoulder. Apparently, my wife was having a different reaction
to the stools. She pointed to the price tag: $90
for two stools. She indicated that the finish
would match perfectly. Then she executed
the death blow by reminding me that I don’t
even have a shop right now. I had no choice
but to raise the white flag and surrender.
With as much dignity as I could muster, I
picked up the box and placed it in our cart
next to my Honey Nut Cheerios. Later that
evening, I un-boxed the stools and found
that they were completely assembled! And
to add insult to injury, they had the audacity to be sturdy and well-built. At this point,
there was absolutely no way I could deny
that purchasing these stools was the right
thing to do. Sigh … so let’s see what the quiz
would have told us. Here are my answers in
order: 2, 2, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2 = 17
My total score was 17, just barely squeaking into the “buy it” recommendation. That
does seem a little odd because at the time
of purchase, the decision seemed so clearcut. So when taking this quiz it’s important to remember that it doesn’t take into
account the fact that some questions carry
more weight than others. Perhaps you have
a very impatient recipient. Maybe the need
for customization is paramount. For me, cost
was a major factor. After our recent move,
things are pretty tight financially. And from
Store-bought. These two stools were bought
rather than made. The low cost, compared
with the time and money is would take to
make them, wasn’t worth an argument.
my estimation, building these stools would
have cost me roughly $20-$30 more in wood
alone. This doesn’t even take into account
the finish materials and the shop time. Giving the cost more weight in the quiz would
definitely push me deeper into the “buy it”
recommendation. So feel free to alter the
values of the quiz as you see fit, especially
if your score is 18.
If you folks are anything like me, you
have this vision in your head that eventually everything in your house will be built
by you. But I have to be realistic. In order
to keep my wife happy, I need to operate on
a certain timetable and occasionally swallow my pride. A quiz like this is helpful to
me because it serves as an “impartial third
party,” giving me a gentle nudge one way or
the other. Now you and I both know that you
will probably just do what you want to do
anyway. But at least if the quiz results come
out in your favor, you can use it as part of
your argument. PW
Marc is a professional woodworker as well as the
creator and host of The Wood Whisperer (thewood
whisperer.com). The Wood Whisperer (an instructional
Internet woodworking show) represents Marc’s three
passions: woodworking, technology and education.
about this Column
our “Wood Whisperer” column features
woodworking thoughts and ideas, along
with shop techniques from Marc spagnuolo.
Most columns have a corresponding video
related to the techniques
or views expressed in
the column available at
Tool Test
by the popular woodworking staff
American ‘Bad Axe’ Saws
A sawmaker builds
tools inspired by the
classic American forms
of the 19th century.
he recent bumper crop of new handsaw
makers has produced a lot of beautiful tools
that cut brilliantly. And while almost all
these new makers are in North America, the
saws they build look decidedly British with
their brass backs and handle designs.
Now there’s a new sawmaker in Wisconsin who is making backsaws that are
decidedly American and hearken back to
the golden age of sawmaking kicked off by
Disston & Sons.
Bad Axe Tool Works currently makes
two joinery saws that are different in every
way from the other premium makers’ wares.
We borrowed the saws for a month and took
them for a test drive. Here are some of our
The saws are available in two lengths
– 16" and 18". You can get them with either
a folded stainless steel back or a folded steel
back that has been blued by a gunsmith
(which is almost too sexy to write about in
a woodworking publication).
A fine line. The logo on the Bad Axe saws
looks more like a perfect engraving. The rest of
the saw is at the same level of quality.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Bad Axe Backsaws
If you are a saw geek (hands up, people!)
the sawmaker, Mark Harrell, will file the
saws to almost any configuration you desire.
However, he uses two standard filings that
are a great place to start. Harrell has run a
saw sharpening business for many years
and has refined his hand-filing practices
to a high art.
Both saws use a .025"-thick sawplate. The
rip tooth has a progressively relaxed rake at
the toe and heel. This makes the saw easy
to start, aggressive in the cut and resistant
to sticking at the heel. He also files a little
fleam on the teeth, which makes the ripping smoother.
His crosscut tooth also has a progressive
rake to make the saw easier to start. And it
has more fleam than the rip-tooth version.
This tooth works remarkably well for both
rips and crosscuts and might just be the first
commercial all-purpose saw I’ve ever been
happy with.
The 16" saw I used had 11 points per
inch, a stainless steel back and was filed for
Technoprimitives LLC ■ 715-586-0233
or technoprimitives.com
Street price ■ $215 to $235
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
crosscut. It is remarkably smooth and swift.
The 18" saw had 10 points per inch and a
rip tooth. It also was quick, which is a good
thing with a tenon saw.
These saws aren’t just about the teeth.
The cherry handle has no hard edges and
is quite comfortable. The logo on the blade
is astonishingly crisp – I’ve never seen one
this fine. And the medallion and nuts in the
handle are just right. All in all, the saws are
A-plus work, from the teeth to the tote.
The 16" saw is $215. The 18" tool is $235.
If you are not sure what sort of configuration
is right for you, contact Harrell through his
web site at Technoprimitives.com and tell
him what sort of species you typically cut and
what sort of projects you build. He’ll start you
down the road to becoming a saw geek.
— Christopher Schwarz
photos by al parrish
Makita Delivers a Compact Impact Driver
The newest members of the handheld
power-tool party are impact tools. Everywhere you turn you see impact drivers and
wrenches being pushed as the best tool for
anyone’s shop. But we’ve often wondered
just what woodworkers need with an impact
driver – there’s an occasional use, just not a
huge need for this tool.
But Makita has just introduced an
impact driver that makes it an easy addition to a woodshop. The Makita BTD144 is
not your ordinary impact tool. This impact
driver has three settings that allow you to
dial in the amount of speed (0-1,300/02,000/0-2,600 rpm) and torque (0-1,300/02,800/0-3,400 impacts per minute) you
need. If you select the lowest setting, you
have a small amount of torque and could
use the tool as you would a standard drill/
driver. But when the need for big-time drivability arises, switch settings with a button
on the tool’s base, and you have ramped-up
torque to drive long screws.
The BDT144 motor is brushless. Just what
does that mean to you? No more brushes to
wear and change out after a couple years.
But more than that, brushless motors are
highly efficient (20 percent more, according to
the company) and very
reliable. They run more
quietly and are cooled by
conduction, which means
there is no need for air to
flow around the motor. So,
the motor can be encased
to keep dirt and dust out.
The only disadvantage
of a brushless motor is its
higher initial cost, but
you can recover that cost
through the greater efficiency over the life of the
motor. And if you have any other Makita 18volt tools and batteries, the BTD144 fits right
in. You can purchase this impact driver with
or without a new battery and charger.
Makita’s newest impact driver is compact
in size (only 51 ⁄ 2" long) and weighs in at
just more than 3 pounds, but the BTD144
delivers 1,420 inch pounds of torque. The
1 ⁄ 4" hex chuck is easy to use and simple to
change; just snap a drill bit or driver tip into
the tool and you’re ready to roll.
Makita Impact Driver
Makita ■ 800-462-5482 or makita.com
Street price
■ BTD144 (no battery or charger), $183
■ BTS (w/battery & charger), $345
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
Here’s the opportunity and the rationalization to bring a workhorse into the stable.
This impact driver can handle your everyday
jobs and is set up to take on the toughest
task you have.
— Glen D. Huey
New Joint Tweakers Will Float Your Boat
Floats are interesting tools; they’re similar
to a file and a rasp, but with grooves across
the working surface that act like a gang of
scrapers. They excel at tweaking tenons and
modifying mortises to achieve a perfect fit.
With a good float, you can remove wood in
miniscule, controlled amounts and leave a
nice-looking surface behind.
Sawmaker Mike Wenzloff recently
alerted us to these Iwasaki Japanese floats
and after giving his a try, I ordered some in
for testing. What sparked my interest was
the quality of the tools, and when I learned
the price I was even more curious.
Instead of the continuous straight grooves
found on traditional floats, the cutting edges
on these are curved with a slight radius. The
edge also has small, staggered breaks along
each edge. These features combine to reduce
resistance and clogging, and they leave a
nice smooth surface.
The floats cut only on the bottom edge so
you don’t get one tool with both a curved and
flat face as you do with a premium hand-cut
rasp. The safe edge on
the side is a real advantage when working on
mortises and tenons;
you can’t inadvertently
dig into a tenon shoulder as you work the
cheek or deform one
side of a mortise while
fixing an adjacent one.
Iwasaki f loats are
very sharp when new,
and they can be a bit
grabby during their
break-in and the user
finds the right touch for using them. That’s
not a complaint, as the edges last a long time
and the tools are quite effective. Available in
several sizes with flat or curved surfaces and
medium and fine cuts, these are a welcome
addition to any toolbox.
My favorite was the smallest one – the
IW-8CPFEF is 10mm wide with an extremefine cut and an integral rubber grip. It fits
Iwasaki Floats
The Best Things ■ 800-884-1373 or
Street price ■ $
29.95 to $34.95
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
easily inside through-mortises, but it’s also
long enough and wide enough to adjust tenons as well. If you’re curious about using
floats, it is a good place to start.
— Robert W. Lang
Tool Test
Crosscut Sled for Benchtop Table Saws
A simple fact is that most table saws, straight
from the manufacturer, have inadequate
miter gauges. Woodworkers often make
shop-made sleds of some kind, but if you’re
new to the craft or don’t get a huge amount
of time in the shop, building a sled is timeconsuming and can be expensive.
Rockler has a new portable crosscut sled
that’s designed for benchtop table saws with
the miter slot between 53 ⁄16" and 65 ⁄8" from
the edge of the saw blade. The sled rides in
the left-hand miter slot and is designed for
easy use in common table saw crosscutting
tasks. (But you can’t make compound angle
cuts because left-tilting blades, as are most
benchtop saws, cut into the jig.)
The sled adds a measure of precision to
smaller table saws and is a scaled-down version of the company’s original sled, complete
with a Rockler hold-down clamp. The base
of the sled is melamine-coated MDF that’s
16" square and 3 ⁄4" thick. With low-friction
strips added to the bottom of the jig and
fence, the sled breezes over your saw top.
The sled runs in a standard 3 ⁄ 4" miter
slot (3 ⁄8" deep) and Rockler
has added four setscrews
to fine-tune the fit of the
miter bar. Because the
sled extends just past the
blade, the first cut at your
saw sizes the sled and that
edge perfectly according
to the company, and provides the same function as
a zero-clearance insert –
little to no splintered edges
on your workpiece. (An optional drop-off
platform is available for those who want for
added safety and support.)
The fence is the real value of the sled. An
aluminum-extruded fence (with a sliding
flip-down stop) is faced with a replaceable
MDF sacrificial fence.
The fence setup is adjustable in 1 ⁄2º graduations from zero to 50º on an easily read
protractor scale. It’s simple to position the
settings using the hairline indicator; slide
the fence into place then with a turn of a fourstar knob (set a little too close to the fence
Portable Crosscut Sled
■ 800-279-4441 or rockler.com
Street price ■ $120
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
for your hand to grab easily), everything is
locked. There is a micro-adjustable stop to
quickly return to zero, but as on many sleds,
the threaded, pointed-end stop used to dialin the settings can sometimes vibrate out of
position over time.
— GH
Drill To Depth Without Masking Tape
Quite possibly the first trick discovered by
fledgling woodworkers is the old tape-ondrill-bit trick (wrap a piece of masking tape
around your drill bit at the appropriate spot
to act as a depth indicator while you drill a
hole). The problem with this oft-used trick
is that as you use the setup for a prolonged
time, the masking tape begins to creep up
the bit’s shaft and your hole becomes deeper
and deeper without your knowledge. It’s
conceivable that your last hole may be considerably deeper than your first – possibly
to the point of ruining the opposing face of
your workpiece.
Milwaukee recognized this problem and
has developed a series of brad-point drill bits
that eliminate the tape-on-drill-bit setup.
These bits have laser-etched markings to
indicate precise depth settings. I’ll bet you’ll
say “D’oh!” when you see these drill bits for
the first time. I know I sure did.
These drill bits have other features that
also make them stand out. First, as with all
brad-point bits, the point is superb for accurate bit placement. Second, the spur edges are
precision-ground to maintain a sharp cut28
Popular Woodworking November 2009
ting edge and to produce a clean-cut hole
with reduced splintering. And third, each bit
is clearly marked for
easy visual reference
and the markings are
spaced at 1 ⁄4" intervals
for exacting depth-stop
information. In fact, as
you hold the bits, the
markings are simple
to see, and when spinning in your hand-held
drill or in a drill press,
the etchings become
much more visible.
Milwaukee has introduced its new
brad-point drill bits in seven of the most
oft-needed sizes. The bits are available in
diameters from 1 ⁄8" to 1 ⁄2", stepped in 1 ⁄16"
increments. Each bit is packaged in Milwaukee red and the diameter (in both inches
and millimeters) is clearly identified on the
package front.
The brad-point drill bits are approxi-
Milwaukee Brad Point
■ 800-729-3878 or
Street price ■ $2.50-$7
For more information, go to pwfreeinfo.com.
mately $ 2.50 to $7 depending on the diameter, and are available wherever Milwaukee
tools and accessories are sold. pw
— GH
I Can Do That
by gl en d. h u ey
Simplified Stickley Bookcase
Great design and hidden screws make this a must-build project.
f you’ve perused the pages of our sister
publication, Woodworking Magazine, you
might have seen this piece in the Spring 2005
issue. We dug through the archives to find a
fine bookcase, then did a bit of construction
modification to allow the design to better
fit the “I Can Do That” column. And that’s
something you should be on the lookout for
as you read woodworking articles or skim
the pages of your favorite catalogs. Find a
piece you like and see what changes can be
made to match the construction to your skill
set and tools.
For this piece, we eliminated the complicated shelf joinery, and we adjusted a few
sizes to better accommodate the lumber
dimensions found at home centers. But by
and large, this bookcase is close to our original project and a great piece to build.
For material, you’ll need an 8' piece of
1 x 10 for the sides and one shelf, and a 1 x 10
x 4' for two shelves, the braces and one toe
kick.Crosscut the material to the required
length, then rip the braces and toe kick.
Add Design to the Sides
The bookcase sides require the most work,
so begin at the handle area. Measure down
from the top 11 ⁄4", then square a line across
the grain. Also, find the top center of the
sides then square a line off the top edge that
extends just across the first line.
The next layout step is to grab a compass
that’s set for a 21 ⁄2" radius, position the point
of the tool at the intersection of the two lines
and mark a half-circle with the flat side parallel with the top edge of the sides. To soften the
look, round the sharp corners of the handle
area. I used a pair of nickels placed at the
corners to establish the radius.
To create the handle opening, use a 13 ⁄16"
bit to drill holes at each corner (the bit closely
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Look at projects with a different eye. Find a
piece with great design, such as a Stickley
No. 79 bookcase, then make adjustments to
the construction to better match your skill set.
matches the diameter of the nickels). With
the two difficult-to-cut areas done, use a
jigsaw to remove the balance of the waste.
Insert the blade through one of the holes then
cut on the line from hole to hole. After that’s
complete, pivot the saw to cut the half-circle
line. Stay close to the line, take your time as
you cut and slow the blade speed if possible
– a slower blade increases your control as
you cut. Then clean up your cuts with a file
and sandpaper.
Next, make the cutout at the base. This,
too, is a half-circle with a 21 ⁄ 2 " radius.
Because you can start the cut from the bottom edge of the sides, there’s no need to drill
a hole. Use your jigsaw to cut the area, then
smooth the cut as you did before.
The last shaping step is to round the top
corners. This step is a bit more expensive;
use quarters as a template. Draw the profile
on your sides, then remove the material with
your jigsaw, or use a file and sandpaper.
The only other shaping work required
is on the toe kick. Make a mark 1" in from
both ends along the bottom edge of the piece.
At the top edge, find the center of the piece
then add a vertical pencil line across the toe
kick. Move down that line 11 ⁄ 4" and mark
the location.
Next, instead of finding the appropriate
radius with a trammel, bend a ruler or thin
stick to create the curve. Hold the ruler at the
two points at the bottom edge as you bend
the piece to reach the center point of the
curve. With the bend set as you like, have
a friend mark a line following the bend in
the ruler. Cut on the waste side of your line
with your jigsaw, then smooth the curve
with your file and sandpaper.
No Complex Joinery
Pocket screws make the joinery for this
project a snap. Each shelf is drilled for four
pocket screws, two at each end, spaced 11 ⁄2"
from the edges. The toe kick is drilled for
two screws at both ends as well. And the
support braces have one hole per end (with
the braces held tight to the bottom of the
shelves, you need only the two screws for a
secure connection).
lead photo by al parrish; ste photos by the author; illustration by robert w. lang
It’s just pocket change. Quarters and nickels
make great templates for rounding off corners.
The larger the coin, the bigger the radius.
Set up your pocket-screw jig as directed
and drill the pockets. Use 11 ⁄ 4" screws for
this project; fine threads are better because
you’re working with hardwood. Note: As
you drill in your toe kick, stay toward the
top edge of the workpiece. If you bore near
the curved portion, it’s possible to have a
pocket extend into the curve and be visible
in the finished bookcase.
21⁄2" rad.
Curtail Creepy Movement
As you install pocket screws, it’s possible for
your pieces to creep slightly. To reduce that
possibility, use a stop block and a clamp to
keep things in place. To begin, do a simple
layout of the shelf locations on the inside
face of your sides (a couple short lines set in
from the edges is all that’s needed).
Next, clamp a wide cutoff at a layout line
that is the top edge of a shelf’s location. As
shown in the photo below, with the shelf
pressed against that clamped-in stop block
there is no problem with creeping pieces.
Install the screws to affix all the shelves to
one side of the bookcase, then align the second side and add the screws to complete the
installation of the shelves.
simplified stickley bookcase
support braces
toe kick
3⁄ 4
3⁄ 4
3⁄ 4
3⁄ 4
One support brace fits tight to the bottom
edge of each shelf and flush with the back
edge of the bookcase. Align the pieces, then
drive the screws to lock the braces in place.
The toe kick also sits under the bottom shelf
but is held back 1 ⁄2" from the front edge. A
clamp added after the toe kick is positioned
holds the piece secure and tight to the shelf
as the screws are installed.
A One-Two-One Finish
Stop block
Stop the creep. Use a clamp and stop block, or
in this case one of the bookcase sides, to keep
your shelves from inching forward as screws
are driven.
With the construction complete, take the
time to knock off any sharp edges (especially
around the handle area) and sand the piece
to #120 grit. The finish is a coat of “Dark
Walnut” Watco Danish Oil followed, when
the oil is dry, by two coats of amber shellac.
To complete the bookcase, lightly sand the
piece with #320-grit sandpaper then apply
one layer of paste wax for protection. All
that’s left is to put books, family photos or
other knickknacks on display. PW
red oak
red oak
red oak
red oak
Curved lower edge
Glen is a senior editor of this magazine, the author of
several woodworking books and the host of several
woodworking DVDs. Contact him at 531-513-2690
x11293 or glen.huey@fwmedia.com.
about this Column
our “i Can do that” column features projects that can be completed by any woodworker with a modest (but decent) kit of
tools in less than two days of shop time, and
using raw materials that are available at any
home center. we offer a free online manual
in pdF format that explains all the tools and
shows you how to perform the basic operations in a step-by-step format. you’ll learn to
rip with a jigsaw, crosscut with a miter saw
and drill straight with the help of
our manual.
Visit iCandothatextras.com
to download the free manual.
Tradition meets technology when we marry an 18th-century
workbench design with modern laminated veneer lumber.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Sc h w a r z &
M e g a n Fi t z pat r i c k
hen it comes to workbench designs,
I think it is difficult to improve on the 18thcentury designs developed in Europe, England and the United States.
These behemoths are far simpler to build
than the contemporary and common Eurostyle bench, yet the old benches also offer
better workholding, superior mass and less
maintenance. In fact, there is only one true
advantage offered by the Euro-style benches,
and that’s portability.
Modern Euro-style benches are bolted
together and can be knocked flat and shipped
by truck or rail. The ancient benches are
about as portable as a pregnant
After building and working
on more than a dozen different
workbench designs, I resolved to
fix this problem with the ancient
benches, and I set my sights on turning one of my favorite French workbench designs from the 1700s into
a bench that could be disassembled
in less time than it takes to knead
a baguette.
This design was first published in André
Roubo’s “The Art of the Woodworker,” an
18th-century masterpiece that explained
everything from carpentry to woodworking, marquetry, carriage-building and garden furniture. The workbenches in Roubo’s
volumes are monolithic and simple, yet they
excel at making it easy for you to work on the
faces, edges and ends of boards and assemblies. (See the sidebar on the “The Kitchen
Test for Workbenches” on page 37.)
Since 2005 I’ve been working on a version
of Roubo’s bench and am impressed daily
with its versatility. I also have a crick in my
back from moving this bench in and out of
trucks to demonstrate it at woodworking
shows. It is one solid chunk of wood.
With a little design work, I easily transformed Roubo’s bench into a version that
was ready for the traveling Cirque du Soleil.
But I wasn’t satisfied that I had pushed the
limits of the bench’s design.
After writing the book “Workbenches:
From Design & Theory to Construction &
21st-century Roubo. A bolted-together base
makes this massive, classic design knock down
quickly and easily.
lead photo by Al parrish; step Photos by the authors
Use” (Popular Woodworking Books), I was
besieged by people who wondered if you
could use engineered wood (such as plywood or MDF) to build a good workbench.
I’ve used Baltic birch to make a number of
workbench tops, but I’ve never been thrilled
with cabinet plywood (it’s unreliable these
days), MDF or OSB (all of which sag like
wet croissants). After doing some research
I came across a material that you don’t see
much in woodworking shops: laminated
veneer lumber (LVL).
About LVL
This layered material is like plywood in
some ways and like solid wood in others.
It is typically made up of many thin layers
of veneer (such as yellow pine or poplar)
that are glued into pieces that are basically
sized like dimensional softwoods (2x12s,
4x4s etc.).
Unlike plywood, all the plies in LVL have
their grain running in one direction – the
length of the board – just like solid wood. But
unlike solid wood, LVL beams have a lot of
stiff glue sandwiched between the wooden
plies. They are typically used as joists to span
long distances in residential and commercial
LVL beams are stiff, relatively cheap and
easy to find at commercial lumberyards. But
for the woodworker, there are a lot of question marks when it comes to working with
the stuff. How stable is it? How easy is it to
joint, plane, saw and rout? Will the glue tear
up the cutters of our tools?
Ripped and ready. We began by ripping down
the LVL 2x12s we needed for the benchtop and
were surprised by how easily the material cut
on the table saw with a combination blade.
As luck would have it, Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick was ready to build a
real woodworking bench after making do
with the too-short spare workbench in the
magazine’s shop. And she was game to try
out the LVL. So we bought enough material
for an 8'-long version of Roubo’s workbench
and got to work.
A Top of Many Laminations
I think it’s best to begin by building the
benchtop. Then you can hump it onto sawhorses and use it as a work surface to build the
base. You can indeed build a bench without
having a bench – I’ve done it many times.
We ripped each LVL 2x12 into four 23 ⁄4"wide strips. Then we jointed the solid-wood
faces of each strip. The nice thing about LVL
is that the faces are thick enough to withstand a couple passes on the jointer before
you cut through the laminations – it’s like
thick, old-school veneer.
After slicing into the LVL on the table saw
we learned some of the finer points of this
engineered material. Because of the laminations, there really aren’t any stresses in the
planks. It cuts easily, like nice plywood.
The bad thing about LVL is the seams.
Every 6' or so there is a scarf joint where
the laminations overlap one another. These
seams determine the direction you should
run the material over the jointer. We jointed
one of them in the wrong direction and
the reward was a big splintery bite at the
The material is fairly consistent. The first
plank was dimensionally perfect in thick-
ness and width. The second one was not.
One end was a little thicker than the other
(about 1 ⁄16") and the plank had a pronounced
crook – but only on one edge.
After ripping them, we turned all the
strips 90° and prepared to glue them faceto-face. To keep the glue-ups manageable,
we glued four strips into a chunk. Then we
repeated this operation three more times.
When the glue was dry in these laminations, we jointed and planed the four laminations and glued the four pieces into two
large laminations. Then we carefully glued
these two laminations into a benchtop that
was about 24" wide.
lvl Workbench
long stretchers
short stretchers
leg vise chop
end vise chop
board jack
board jack track
parallel guide
3⁄ 8
With maple banding
Glued from 2 pieces
half-lapped into legs
half-lapped into legs
screwed to vise
long; trim to fit
bevels on long edges
Scraping glue. After gluing up four strips into a
chunk, we scraped off the excess yellow glue
before dressing the lamination on the jointer.
After all, the knives were already taking a beating from the glue between the plies so removing any glue we could was an act of kindness.
online eXtras
For a free sketchup drawing of this bench
and a tutorial on how to flatten a workbench top with handplanes, visit our web
site at:
Popular Woodworking November 2009
11⁄8" rad.
3⁄4" dia.
11⁄8" rad.
3⁄8" dia.
parallel Guide
dog hole pattern
3" rad.
7" rad.
3⁄4" dia.
91/4" rad.
21/4" dia.
7" rad.
51⁄4" rad.
55⁄8" rad.
3" rad.
7/8" rad.
leg vise chop
We used yellow glue through most of
this project and didn’t have any problems.
When gluing LVL made using yellow pine,
we recommend you keep it clamped at least
five hours. Yellow pine has resin that resists
glue penetration.
Of course, there are some other important details you should know about when
working with this material. We didn’t want
to run the LVL through the machines any
Jointing with carbide. Our jointer has a carbide-insert cutterhead, and it had no problems
dealing with the glue in the LVL. I was more
worried about the planer, which has highspeed steel knives.
more than we had to, so we took extra care
to line up all the laminations as we clamped
them. The extra care paid off, and when we
glued the two final 12"-wide laminations
together we jointed their mating edges and
decided to take an extra precaution: some
The Base: Beef & Nuts
This is the simplest base I could design that is
both robust and completely functional. Each
leg is made from two lengths of 5"-wide LVL
that are face-glued. Then you cut half-lap
joints in the legs using a dado stack in your
table saw and bolt everything together using
1 ⁄ 2" hex-head bolts, washers and nuts.
Planing is no problem. We were surprised by how well the planer’s knives fared after dressing all
the laminations for this project. After dozens of passes through the machine, the knives didn’t look
any worse for the wear.
Looking for bumps and hollows. When dealing with an 8'-long edge, it can be difficult to find the source of the problem with an edge. We balanced a straightedge
at several places along the edge, then pinched the ends of the straightedge. If the
straightedge rotated easily, there was a hump under it. If the corners dragged and
there was light under the straightedge, we had a hollow on that edge.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Once we got the legs glued up, building
the base took less than six hours, and we
stopped several times to take pictures (and
we got coffee, which is as important as glue
in our shop).
Begin by gluing up the legs using pieces
that are slightly oversized. Let the adhesive
cure, then joint and plane all four legs to a
consistent final thickness. The length of
your legs is, naturally, what will determine
how tall your workbench is. The cutting list
and drawings will produce a benchtop that
is 34" from the floor – the same height as a
typical table saw.
The way to determine the correct bench
height is to measure from the floor to the joint
Dominos will do ‘ya. You can use almost any method to
align the two edges you are gluing up for the top: biscuits,
splines or even dowels. We have a Festool Domino in the
shop, and it’s perfect for this sort of accurate work.
where your pinky finger joins your hand.
That will be a good height for most handand power-tool operations. If you work only
with power tools, you might consider raising
things 2". If you work only with old-style
wooden-bodied handplanes, you might consider lowering the benchtop about 2".
Once you determine the final length of
your legs, crosscut them to length and lay out
all the half-lap joints on the four legs. The leg
that will get the leg vise will get a few extra
cuts, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Put all the chippers from your dado stack
on the arbor of your table saw. Raise the arbor
until it is 15 ⁄8" high – exactly the thickness
of all the stretchers. Lock the saw’s arbor
in place and make a test cut on a piece of
scrap LVL.
If your saw breezes through the material, then you are good to go. If, however,
it balks at the task by slowing down, you’ll
need to first remove most of the waste using
a band saw.
Removing the waste using a dado stack
is simple work. To determine the stopping
and starting place for each cut, we used the
stop on our table saw’s miter fence. Then
we lifted the stop and wasted the remainder
between the start and stop points on the
legs. It really is simple work. Just keep alert
and watch that cabinetmaker’s triangle for
Joint and glue. Joint the inside face of each of
your leg pieces and glue them together. When
the glue dries, joint and plane the legs to their
final thickness and width. Planing the legs to
width ensures they will all be consistent.
Triangles and squares. Note the “cabinetmaker’s triangle” scrawled across the tops of
the four legs. This helps you keep all the legs
oriented as you mark out the half-lap joints for
the stretchers.
How high? This high. The actual height of the dado stack
isn’t important. What’s key is that the cutters be just as high
as your stretchers are thick. Place a sawtooth at top dead
center and compare it to a stretcher.
The Kitchen Test
For Workbenches
I wish there were a simple test to
separate a good workbench from one
that should live the rest of its life as
a plant stand. You know, something
simple like an instant pregnancy test,
but without having to drag your bench
into the lavatory.
I developed such a test for my book
on workbenches. I call it “The Kitchen
Test,” but I need to come up with a
better name for it. In a nutshell, here
it is: Pretend you have three pieces of
woodwork in your shop and you need
to secure them on your workbench
so you can work on their faces, edges
and ends.
One piece is a kitchen cabinet
door that measures 3⁄4" x 18" x 24".
The second is a kitchen drawer that is
4" x 18" x 18". The third is a piece of
baseboard for the kitchen that is 3⁄4" x
6" x 48".
Now pick two (or 10) workbench
designs and pit them against one
another. Which bench would grip
these three pieces of work in each of
the three positions (for working the
faces, edges and ends) with the greatest ease?
Some benches require a lot of
extra accessories (bench slaves, bench
hooks etc.), and some don’t. But it
really is quite surprising how a lot of
benches fare in this test. There are
significant differences. Some bench
designs can handle all nine operations. Some can easily accomplish
only about half. — CS
The whole stack for half-laps. This is a lot of meat for a table saw to remove, but our
cabinet saw was up to the task. If your saw isn’t, a band saw will remove most of the
waste and the dado stack can clean up the cuts.
Snug, square and traced. Put the vise screw
through the 2" hole and snug up the vise block
on the backside of your leg. Square up the
block then trace its outline on the leg.
Right wasted. Use your dado-stack set-up to
remove the waste for the threaded nut block.
Be careful to work right up to the lines and test
the fit of the block into the dado.
About that Leg Vise
square then trace its position on the leg.
Go back to the table saw and waste away
the area between those marks. The nut block
should fit great and the threaded hole will be
lined up perfectly with the hole in the leg.
Before plunging headlong into assembly,
you need to make one more critical cut for
your leg vise. You need to make a 5 ⁄8"-wide
x 3"-long through-mortise to accommodate
the vise’s “parallel guide.” The parallel guide
is a length of 1 ⁄2"-thick wood that is bored
with holes and attached to the wooden front
chop of your vise.
The parallel guide has a couple important
jobs. One, it keeps the chop parallel to the
leg. Without a parallel guide the chop can
spin and sway. Two, it acts as a pivot point
for the chop.
By putting a small rod of metal through
one of the holes in the parallel guide it causes
the vise’s chop to pivot toward the benchtop
when the metal bar hits the bench’s leg.
To use the parallel guide, you just slide
the metal bar into the hole that most closely
matches the thickness of the work you want
to hold in the chop. Then close the jaw. Yes,
you do have to stoop on occasion to remove
the metal bar, but it’s really not a big deal.
Plus, with the metal bar in the hole closest to
the chop you can clamp anything between
3 ⁄ 8" thick and 7⁄ 8" thick. That covers a good
deal of work.
To bore the through-mortise, set up a
fence and a 5 ⁄8"-diameter Forstner bit at your
This workbench uses a traditional leg vise
in the face-vise position. The leg vise is a
simple, robust and almost-forgotten form of
vise. Other vises might be easier to install,
but few can beat the leg vise when it comes
to making it just what you need for your
style of work.
The only thing you need to buy to make a
leg vise is a vise screw. You can buy a quality
metal one for less than $40. We purchased
a wooden one from BigWoodVise.com. It
cost more ($165), but it looks nicer, moves
faster and doesn’t ever mark your work with
grease. Both metal and wooden vise screws
do a great job of holding your work. So go
with your heart or your budget.
One quick word on where you should
place this vise on your bench. If you are
right-handed, put it on the left front leg. If
you are left-handed, put it on the right leg.
This traditional set-up will assist you when
planing – you always want to plane into a
vise’s screw.
To install the wooden screw, you need
to first drill a 2"-diameter hole in the leg for
the screw. Then you’ll have to waste away a
chunk of the leg to hold the vise’s threaded
nut block. Here’s the easy way to make everything line up.
Drill the hole and insert the wooden
screw through it. Spin the nut block onto
the screw and snug it up onto the backside
of the leg. Square up that block with a try
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Holes to guide you. The through-mortise in
the leg allows the parallel guide to pass freely
in and out. You don’t need to square the ends
of this mortise. Leave them round. The parallel
guide is narrow enough to pass through.
drill press. Make repeated plunges through
the leg until the mortise is clear.
A Too-easy Assembly
Now comes the fun part: Assembling the
base. First you want to bore 5 ⁄ 8"-diameter
holes through all the half-laps to accommodate the 1 ⁄ 2"-diameter hex-head bolts.
Use the drawings as a guide to mark all the
holes in the stretchers. Bore these on the
drill press. Then place the stretcher on its
mate and use a 5 ⁄8" Forstner bit to punch the
location of the mating hole on the leg.
Then remove the stretcher and bore the
mating hole in the leg using the same bit. You
could take an extra step and counter-bore
all the holes for the bolts, washers and nuts,
but I decided against it. I didn’t want to risk
ripping apart the laminations inside the LVL
when I tightened the hardware.
One more detail here: You need to bore
two 5 ⁄8"-diameter holes in each top stretcher
to attach the base to the benchtop with lag
bolts. Make these holes about 6" from each
end of the top stretchers.
With those holes drilled, assemble the
Getting on Top of Things
While the LVL top was stiff and the bench’s
top looked good, the front and back edges
looked like they had a nasty skin disease
because of the exposed glue and partial
plies. So we decided to laminate strips of
Ratchet to attach it. Use 1⁄2" lag
bolts to secure the base to the top.
The pilot hole for the lag bolt should
be the diameter of the bolt minus its
screw threads.
Ready for wedging. Here’s the parallel guide right
before we glued it in place and wedged it with a sliver of
oak. We cut a kerf down the middle of the tenon to give
the wedge a place to go.
solid 5 ⁄ 8"-thick quartersawn maple to the
front and rear.
We had to rip down the top a bit to end
up at the target 24" width. Except for humping the top up onto the table saw, this was a
surprisingly easy operation. We made the
maple pieces a little wider and longer than
necessary so we could trim them flush after
gluing them in place.
Once the maple is glued in place and the
ex-head bolts: 1⁄2" x 31⁄4",
plus washers and nuts
hex-head bolts: 1⁄2" x 5",
plus washers and nuts
lag screws: 1⁄2" x 5", plus washers
hex-head bolts or lag screws to
attach end vise, 3⁄8" diameter
Lee Valley Tools
800-871-8158 or leevalley.com
small quick-release vise
#10G04.11, $99
bench dogs
#05G04.02, $28.50/pair
Veritas Hold-down
05G14.01, $72.50
Veritas Surface Clamp
05G19.01, $69.50
Classic-style vise screw, threaded
nut block and handle, $165
Real Milk Paint Co.
-quart bag, red
Prices correct at time of publication.
adhesive is dry, trim it flush with a plane.
Then you can trim the ends of the benchtop to length. This operation was the most
difficult machine operation when building
the bench.
We trimmed the top using a circular saw
and an edge guide. I’ve used a similar setup
to trim about a dozen benchtops without
incident, but the LVL was a bear to crosscut.
It kept deflecting the blade of the circular
saw. After four or five attempts we had to
switch to a saw with a thicker sawplate to get
an acceptable result. This is one place where
a thin-kerf sawblade is not your friend.
And Now to the Vises
The vises and sliding board jack are simple
work if you do things in the right order.
Here’s the first rule: Don’t cut the chop or
the board jack to their final shapes until you
have to. They are easier to work on when
they have long straight edges.
To make the leg vise’s chop, first bore
a 2" hole through the chop then thread all
the parts together on the assembled bench.
Now you want to mark where the parallel
guide will attach to the vise chop. Transfer
the location of the mortise through the leg to
the chop. Then use your drill press to make a
1 ⁄ 2"-wide x 21 ⁄ 2"-long through-mortise.
Square up the corners of the mortise then
fit the parallel guide into the mortise. The
goal here is to shave the thickness of the
guide so it fits tightly in its through-mortise.
And to trim the width of the guide so it runs
smoothly in the through-mortise in the leg.
This takes a little massaging.
Once you get the tenon and mortise playing nice, you can bore the array of 3 ⁄8" holes
in the parallel guide. The holes are on 1"
centers and the two rows are offset by 1 ⁄2".
The first hole in the middle of the parallel
guide is 5 ⁄8" from the tenon’s shoulder. This
is the hole you will use the most. Then cut
the ogee shape on the back of the guide and
cut your chop to its final shape.
Glue the parallel guide in place and
wedge it. We used liquid hide glue here
because it is reversible (just add heat and
moisture). That’s always a good idea when
dealing with a part that might need to be
replaced some day.
A Garter for the Leg Vise
The job of a vise garter is to lock the vise
screw and the vise chop together, allowing
them to move in and out in tandem. Usually
you need to add a garter if you are using a
wooden vise screw – metal vise screws have
this function built into their casting.
You can use a vise without a garter, but
it’s not as convenient because you’ll sometimes have to manually pull the vise chop
away from the workbench after you release
the screw’s tension on your work.
There are two basic kinds of garters: Interior garters and exterior garters. Both work
the same way; the only difference is in their
location. Exterior garters are mounted on the
surface of the vise chop. Interior garters are
driven into a mortise in the vise chop that
intersects with the hole for the vise screw.
How do they work? Let’s look at some
photos. The photo below shows the ash
wooden vise screw from BigWoodVise.com.
See the two grooves on the shaft? One is right
up against the hub, and the other is a little
ways down the shaft. The groove next to the
hub is for exterior garters. The other groove
is for interior garters. So this vise screw will
work either way.
Two garter grooves. This wooden vise screw
has two garter grooves. One is by the hub
(for exterior garters) and the other is a little bit
down the shaft (for interior garters).
Can’t-miss garter hole. Clamp the two halves of your garter together
and bore the hole right through them. Our garter hole needed to be
15 ⁄8" in diameter to match the dimension of the shaft of the vise’s screw.
We’re using an exterior garter for this
leg vise (I think they’re easier to install), so
the first step was to plane down some hard
maple so it fit easily into the garter groove.
These grooves are about 3 ⁄8" wide.
Then we cut the garter stock to width
(33 ⁄4"), ripped it in half and bored a 15 ⁄8" hole
through the middle while the pieces were
clamped together, then cut it to length.
Now assemble the leg vise. Put the garter
around the groove and drop the screw into
the vise chop. Then screw the garter to the
vise chop. Don’t use glue – you want to be
able to remove the garter for repairs to the
vise someday.
The photo above right shows how everything locks together. You can see the 2" hole
through the vise chop, the two halves of the
garter and the 15 ⁄8" hole that is created when
the garter is screwed down.
To complete the leg vise, screw the
threaded nut block to the leg. We used deeply
countersunk 3" screws.
The quick-release vise on the opposite
end of the benchtop is easy to install. If you
bought the vise listed in the Supplies box
from Lee Valley, it should be a simple job with
no shimming. Place the vise at the end of the
benchtop and install it with lag bolts (which
is OK) or with hex-head bolts, washers and
nuts that go through the benchtop (which
is permanent).
Garter, disassembled. To assemble the leg vise, drop the vise screw
through the hole in the chop and fit the garter in its groove. Screw the
garter pieces down and you’re ready to bust some walnuts with your vise.
simple peg in one of the holes to support your
work from below. Or you can use a clamp if
you need things immobilized.
The deadwoman slides freely across the
front of the bench. The bottom of the deadwoman perches on a piece of maple that has
a triangular top. The top of the deadwoman
has a tongue on it that fits into a groove in
the underside of the benchtop.
Begin work by ripping two 45° bevels on
the long edge of a wide piece of 8/4 maple.
Then set the sawblade to 90° and rip the
triangular part free. Screw it to the front
stretcher of the bench.
Now cut the complementary triangular
shape on the bottom of the deadwoman. We
cut this shape using a miter gauge and the
blade tipped to 45°. With those two pieces
fitting, cut the groove in the underside of
the top. This groove is 3 ⁄4" wide and about
1" deep. We routed it using a plunge router,
a 3 ⁄4" spiral upcut bit and an edge guide. The
LVL is tough stuff to rout, so take it easy.
With the groove complete, you can cut
the matching tongue on the top of the deadwoman. The easiest way to do this is by using
a dado stack in your table saw and a miter
Resists dust. Some sliding jacks run in grooves
that are plowed in the lower stretcher. These
grooves fill with dust. By making the track for
the board jack triangular in section, sawdust
won’t interfere with the movement.
Wear a dust mask. When you rout LVL, the
misery begins. The stuff kicks up a lot of
stinky, fine, super-nasty dust. Wear a good
dust mask, even if you normally throw caution to the wind.
The Sliding Board Jack
Some people call the board jack a “deadman,” but because this is Megan’s bench
we’ve been calling it the “deadwoman.” The
job of the deadwoman is to help you clamp
things on edge, whether it’s a single board or
an assembled panel or door. You can place a
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Cutting curves. These curves actually are more
than eye appeal. They are convenient places
to grab the board jack to slide it or to sneak a
clamp into.
Then you can lay out and cut the curvy
shape to the deadwoman. This ogee shape is
based on historical forms I’ve seen, but you
can choose any shape you like. Even just a
straight (boring) board will do the job.
Lay out the 3 ⁄4" holes in the deadwoman
using a marking gauge and dividers. The
two rows of holes are offset (like the holes
in the parallel guide). The number of holes
and their spacing depends on how tall you
are making your bench. In our example,
these holes are about 21 ⁄4" apart.
The last bit of boring work is to make
the holes in the top for dogs and holdfasts.
The row of dogs along the front edge is in
line with the metal pop-up dog in the quickrelease vise. The holes are on 3" centers.
That’s a lot of holes, but you’ll be glad you
have all those holes as you use the bench.
Most people bore too few.
Holdfast holes, however, are another matter. You only need a few well-placed holes
to work along the back of your workbench
(which is where holdfasts do a lot of work).
The reach of the holdfasts is about 9", so put
the holes on 18" centers and line them up
with the holes for the dogs.
We routed all these 3 ⁄ 4" holes with a
plunge router and a plywood template. It
plunged almost deeply enough to make it
through the top. So we had to finish off each
hole with a little drilling.
Flattening and Finishing
We flattened the benchtop using handplanes, which had no problems with the
adhesive in the LVL. That was a pleasant
surprise after all the nasty router dust. We’ve
posted an online tutorial on how to flatten
your benchtop with handplanes on our web
A special marking gauge. Because I do a lot
of work with chairs, I have this marking gauge
with a special fence that allows it to follow
curves. If you don’t have a gauge like this, it’s
easy to modify your standard gauge. Take
some 3 ⁄4" dowels, plane a flat on them and
glue two short sections to the back of your
fence. Turn your fence around and you’ll have
a gauge that does two operations.
site (you can link to it from popularwood
working.com/nov09). If you prepared your
top with care, flattening it should take only
about 30 minutes.
As far as finishing the workbench, there
are a lot of recipes out there that we’ve tried.
The goal is to protect the bench from glue
and spills, but not to make it slick. A glossy
film finish can make your work slide around
too easily.
We prefer a simple boiled linseed oil and
varnish blend (such as Watco or something
we mix ourselves) for the top and vises. You
can wipe on a couple coats and be done with
it. The linseed oil helps resist water in glue
and the varnish provides a little bit of a barrier against spills. And the finish won’t be
We painted the base using red milk paint.
Milk paint is durable and easily covers the
LVL. The first coat looked great. The second
coat looked even better. And a couple coats
of wax deepened the color.
All in all, we’re pleased with the bench,
both with the way it comes apart and the way
it functions. The test ahead will be to see how
the LVL holds up. How sensitive will it be to
the seasonal changes in humidity? How easy
will it splinter or dent when bashed?
After working with the material, I have
high hopes. Perhaps next year Megan will
weigh in on how well her bench is faring and
we’ll be working more with LVL. If, however,
you spot her browsing the Sjöberg benches
at the local Rockler … . PW
Walk it off. Dividers are the absolute best way
to space the holes in the deadwoman. To offset
the holes, simply bore a hole at every other
mark left by the dividers.
More nasty dust. The 3 ⁄4" upcut spiral bit and
template makes short work of this operation.
Lay out all your holes on the benchtop, then
position the template and make your plunge.
The template is marked with crosshairs that
align things with your layout marks.
Chris is the editor of this magazine and one of the
authors of the new book “The Joiner and Cabinet
Maker,” which is available from LostArtPress.com.
Megan is the managing editor of this magazine, and
likes to build large pieces of furniture – and now has her
own bench on which to do so.
for furniture Makers
by Kevin glen draKe
Why almost every woodworker should own a lathe –
and how to get started.
oodworkers and woodturners tend to travel in
their own circles, but a lathe is a very useful tool, even for the
occasional turner, as most woodworkers tend to be. Turning
takes some practice, but it’s a little bit like riding a bicycle;
once you get the hang of it, it stays with you forever.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Full-sized lathes can take up a lot of precious shop
space though, and they can be expensive. But the new
mini-lathes can be stored under a bench, and at about
10 percent of the cost of a full-sized lathe, they are far
more affordable. The tooling and tools will cost about
lead Photo by al Parrish; steP Photos by the author and robert W. lang
Lose the plastic handle. Turn your generic tools into heirlooms with wood handles for an attractive custom fit and a
comfortable grip.
the same regardless of lathe size, but some of
them can be made, or purchased as part of a
package deal.
It depends on your needs, but a mini-lathe
can generally do what most woodworkers
need to have done. Some of the things you
can turn to support your woodworking activities include:
■ Mallets and hammers
■ Tool handles
■ Pulls
■ Legs and spindles
■ Dowels, plugs and pegs
Plus you can turn gifts such as small bowls,
lidded boxes and jewelry. With a little practice, you can turn a nice gift in less time than
it would take to go shopping, and it will be
unique as well as personal. You can even
sign it.
A lathe is also a handy tool for restoration work, especially if you get called on to
repair a chair with a broken spindle. And I
You need round
things. Chair
spindles, knobs,
pegs and pulls
are typical turned
objects that are
better if you make
them yourself.
frequently use my lathe as an auxiliary tool
holder for finishing and polishing tools such
as wire brushes, Scotch-Brite pads and sponge
Some projects will clearly fall outside of
the capacity of a mini-lathe. An extension
will increase the length but not the diameter
(throw) of the work you can do, but turning for
woodworking projects rarely falls outside the
throw of even the smallest wood lathes. We’re
not talking architectural turning here.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything that’s worth doing, you also
have to invest some time to learn and practice
turning. Woodturners are generally willing
to share their time and knowledge with anyone who shows an interest in furthering their
skills. Today’s books, videos and guilds offer
some very cost-effective instruction, but if you
have access to one, a good teacher can significantly shorten your learning process.
Dead center holes. The addition of a Jacob’s chuck allows you to drill holes
in the end of a spindle.
A lathe is unique in that it is the only tool
that rotates the wood instead of the blade.
Woodworkers are used to just the opposite.
A revolving blade can do serious damage if it
is not given the respect it deserves.
The lathe, on the other hand, is one of
the safest tools in the shop. Once the wood
has been “rounded up,” it is generally safe to
touch. And you can even touch rotating “outof-rounds” as long as you touch them as they
rotate away from you and not toward you. In
fact, turners often use one hand as a “steady
rest” to reduce chatter on long and/or thin
work. This is not to say that there cannot be
nasty accidents, but most accidents occur
while turning unsafe projects. Where safety
is concerned, we have to know where to draw
the line.
Off to a Good Start
Here is what you will need to get started.
■ Lathe. Used lathes abound, but if space
Live center. A live center with a ball bearing is one of the first accessories to
get. It will reduce friction at the tail stock end.
is an issue then a new mini-lathe can be had
for less than the price of a used full-sized lathe.
Look for a deal that includes some tools and/
or tooling. Avoid the “floor-stand-included”
deal if space is a problem. You’ll likely be putting your lathe under a bench when it’s not
in use.
One more thing that is very nice to have on
a lathe is electronic speed control. That means
you can dial the speed up and down while the
lathe is running instead of having to stop it
to move a drive belt to another pulley. Plus,
you get all the speeds in between the pulley
■ Tooling. Two fixtures you will want are
a live center for the tailstock and a four-jaw
chuck for the headstock. A live center will
rotate with the wood, decreasing the turning friction at the tailstock. A new mini-lathe
will most likely include a live center. Hold off
on purchasing a four-jaw chuck if you must,
but get a live center any way you can; a dead
center (one that doesn’t turn) may cause smoking, and it’s noisier. A Jacobs chuck for your
tailstock is also a great add-on. If you need a
hole drilled in the center of something (such
as a tool handle), doing that on the lathe is a
piece of cake.
Start With Basic Tools
A basic set of spindle tools is essential. If you
acquire some by buying an older used lathe,
compare them with the newer tool sets. Older
tools tend to be undersized, so replace them
if you need to. You will need:
■ Roughing gouge (1" or larger)
■ Shallow gouge ( ⁄ 4" and ⁄ 2")
■ Skew chisel ( 2" and 4")
■ Parting tool ( ⁄ 16")
You can use these same tools to turn endgrain bowls and boxes, then add some bowl
gouges and scrapers for face-plate work if you
get hooked.
It’s the grain orientation of the work that
determines the tool set you will eventually
need. The wood grain is oriented along the
lathe’s bed for spindle work and across the
lathe for face-plate work.
Sharpen Your Tools & Your Skills
Sharp for turning is not the same as sharp for
flat work. You’ll need a grinder to keep your
tools sharp. There are jigs available for sharpening turning tools, but freehand grinding
has fewer limitations. I also prefer to use my
spindle tools right off the grinder. The hollow grind registers the tool on the work and
Turning Basics for Furniture Makers
by Steve Shanesy (DVD)
Wood Turning: A Foundation Course
by Keith Rowley (Book)
Turning with Richard Raffan (3-DVD set)
The American Association
of Woodturners
provides the relief that the edge requires to
cut with minimal force.
Get someone to show you the ropes if you
can, invest in some educational DVDs, and
join a turning guild if there’s one around. You’ll
be glad you did. PW
Stay tuned for Kevin’s upcoming article on
turning tool handles.
Kevin Drake is a graduate of the College of the Redwoods
Fine Woodworking program and the owner of GlenDrake Toolworks. He lives and works in Fort Bragg, Calif.
Start with the basics. These tools, a skew, parting tool and gouges will
cover your needs for most turning tasks.
Versatile gripper.
A four-jaw chuck
will hold nearly
anything, round or
square, securely
for turning. It also
makes mounting
work quick and
Small is good. Mini-lathes allow any shop to afford (and have room for) a
lathe. Without the stand it can be stored below a bench.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Totes &Knobs
for handplanes
b y C h a r l e s m u r r ay
Custom grips can make the difference between
a usable plane and one that just gathers dust.
ver the years I’ve collected a few handplanes. I’ve found
out (as many collectors before me) that although many handles
look the same, there are subtle differences. Finding the correct
type is getting increasingly difficult. But in this case, I wanted
to change the wood used for the handle so I could spot this particular plane more easily (I have several planes that look alike,
and I would rather be making shavings than spend my time
looking for the correct plane). It was time to come up with a
way to make my own handles, not only for this Lie-Nielsen
No. 51 ⁄2, but also for my antique planes whose handles
have seen better days.
The first step is to remove the old handle and decide on the
shape for the new one. If you’re going for the same shape, the easiest
thing to do is to trace it onto paper, stick the paper to the plywood,
then cut it out and shape it with rasps and files.
I chose ebony. However, any
dense fine-grain hardwood will
work. Note that on the knob the
grain runs from top to bottom, while
on the tote the grain runs from front to
back. Keep this in mind as you choose
the wood for your handles.
Custom grips. With just a pattern and simple jig, it’s easy to
make custom knobs and totes for all your bench planes.
To make the rear tote, begin by making
a template, drawing the lines at the angles
that you will be boring for your bolt holes.
This can be made easier if you have the original handle; you can insert a drill bit of the
appropriate size to get an accurate reading
on the angles required.
screws. This allows them to stay in place as
you use your jig. After that, enlarge the holes
on the top hold-down piece so that they will
slide easily over the screws. Then glue on two
small blocks of wood to act as handles.
Next make the jig that will hold your blank
for routing. I made mine from scrap 3 ⁄8" birch
plywood and some poplar and pine that I
had lying around. Please note the width of
your particular jig will be determined by
how wide your tote is; make the length long
enough to keep your fingers away from the
router bits. In the center of your jig’s base,
trace around the template; afterward add
3 ⁄16" to the top and 3 ⁄16" to the bottom of
your tracing for a total of 3 ⁄8". This allows for
tear-out, which will be removed later. Make
sure you file and sand your jig smooth, as
any imperfections in it will be transferred
to your finished product. The tote I was
reproducing was 1" thick, so I made my
spacer blocks 15 ⁄16" thick, allowing the top
hold-down piece to apply firm pressure so
my blank would not slip. After gluing your
spacer blocks on, drill down through the
top of the center of them. Next, temporarily
clamp the hold-down piece in place, then
flip the jig over and bore down through the
two holes that you just made. Doing it this
way will make sure both sets of holes are in
alignment. You can then countersink the
bottom of the jig for the flathead machine
screws (make sure that they are deep enough
so that they will not scratch the top of your
router table). The holes I bored were slightly
larger than the root diameter of the machine
Now it’s time to use the jig. First, dress your
tote wood to the proper thickness, keeping
in mind the proper grain direction. Then cut
your blank for a snug fit between the holding
blocks. Place it in the jig, trace the outline of
the handle around it, remove it then cut away
the waste within 1 ⁄ 8" of the line. Reinsert
the blank, place the top hold-down on, and
tighten up the wing-nuts. Using a 3 ⁄4" router
bit with a bearing guide (I use a CMT 812690B), place the jig against the starting pin
on your router table and carefully rout the
blank to shape. Caution: At certain points,
Routing jig. This jig, which holds the tote
blank for routing, is made from scrap 3 ⁄8"
birch plywood, poplar and pine.
Snug fit. Make sure your tote blank fits
snug between the holding blocks in the jig
before tracing the tote’s shape onto the blank.
Now rout. After you’ve cut to 1⁄8" outside your marked shape, reinsert the
blank and rout to final rough shape.
A Jig for Routing the Tote
Rough but ready. This photo shows the
tote after pattern routing is complete.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Round over. Place the tote blank in a
small parts holder and use a roundover
bit to shape the edges, then sand smooth.
Jig in Use
Work from the original. Use the original
tote to locate the proper angles and holes
for attachment.
opening photo on page 45 by al parrish; step photos by christopher schwarz and megan fitzpatrick
you will be routing against the grain, so be
careful and take it slowly.
Remove your blank from the jig and place
it in a small parts holder (this is another reason why the blank ends are kept long and
square). Using a roundover bit of the appropriate radius with bearing guide (mine is a
CMT 835-850), round over these edges.
Now it’s time to cut away any tear-out
and make the top of your tote smooth and
flowing. Using your template, mark the
appropriate lines on your new tote then cut
off the excess and sand smooth. A stationary disc sander will make this easier. Next,
transfer the locations and angles of all the
holes needed. Place the proper size bit for
the large top hole in your drill press. Use
a handscrew to hold your workpiece and
sight down the bit to obtain the proper angle.
Bore this hole the correct depth. The tote
I was making also had a secondary screw
hole on the bottom; I drilled this next. After
this the smaller hole was drilled all the way
through, using the line drawn on the blank
as a guide. Drill slowly and let the bit do the
work (I had to drill through both the top
and bottom because my bit was not long
enough). Next drill and countersink any
other holes needed. Finish up by sanding
and blending everything together, getting
it ready for finishing.
Handscrew helper. A handscrew can
securely hold the workpiece at the
required angle for drilling.
Turn. Place the hole at the top of the
blank over the drive center, and the
smaller hole on the live center; turn the knob.
Turn the Knob
Now it’s time to make the front knob. Begin
by preparing a blank approximately 1 ⁄ 2"
longer than needed and square up the ends.
Although the hole in my knob needed to
be 9 ⁄16" in diameter, I first drilled it to a 1 ⁄2"
diameter; this fit my lathe’s drive center
snugly (I enlarged this hole after I was done
turning). I also drilled this hole 1 ⁄8" deeper
than required to allow for clean-up. Next I
Support. Place a support block underneath as you drill the attachment hole
in the back of the handle – otherwise, it could
break off.
bored the bolt hole all the way through, using
the center point left by the 1 ⁄ 8" brad-point
bit to center up the smaller bit.
Now over to the lathe. I placed the 1 ⁄ 2"
hole over my drive center and the small hole
on the live center and proceeded to turn the
knob, almost parting it as I cleaned up the
ends. I finished cutting off the stubs with a
fine dovetail saw. Then I countersunk the top
of the knob for its screw. Next, find a longer
flathead machine screw. Grind off most of
the head and place this through your knob
with a nut on the other side; chuck it up in
your lathe to finish sanding.
Now the only thing left to do is to put on
the finish of your choice, screw your new
knob and tote in place, and you’re ready to
plane (assuming your blade is sharp). PW
Charles Murray specializes in period furniture. If he’s
not at a meeting of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, Woodworkers of Central Ohio or Ohio
Tool Collectors, you’ll find him in his shop.
Prep your knob blank. Drill a hole that’s
a bit more narrow than needed – you’ll
enlarge the hole after turning the knob.
Almost done. For a clean look and feel, turn as
close as possible on the top without parting it off,
then remove the stubs with a fine-toothed saw.
Screwed on. Use a
ground-down flathead
screw through the knob to secure
it to the lathe for final sanding.
Shaker Swing-handle
by john wilson
Oval boxes with handles were
traditionally used as sewing baskets.
Simple gifts. This cherry carrier is built using
basic tools and straightforward techniques.
And it makes a great gift.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
he craftsmen of the Shaker community were known in their day for quality
workmanship of utilitarian designs. This
project represents one of their adaptations
of the oval box in a size commonly referred
to today as a #4. (See Popular Woodworking
August 2003, #135; it’s also available online
at ShakerOvalBox.com.)
During the period from the 1890s to
the 1930s, large quantities of carriers were
made and sold in the Shakers’ “fancy goods
trade,” or what we would call a craft or gift
store. Such carriers, which they called “work
baskets,” were lined with satin and fitted
with sewing items including a pincushion,
needle holder, beeswax for waxing button
thread, and an emery ball for sharpening
pins and needles. One famous photograph
taken at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in
1923 shows Brother Delmer Wilson and his
output of 1,083 carriers.
Project Items
The swing handle carrier requires the following (as shown in the opening photo):
■ Hardwood bending stock for the lid
(1 ⁄ 13" x 3 ⁄ 4" x 28") and bottom band (1 ⁄ 13"
x 31 ⁄16" x 27")
■ Top and bottom boards: ⁄ 4" thick
■ Handle: 8" x 4" x 15", limber enough
for bending
■ Small copper tacks ⁄4" long, the #2 size
■ Wood pegs to hold the top and bottom boards
■ Copper trunk rivets with washer and
wood spacers made from 3 ⁄4" dowel
■ A core the inside volume size of the box
■ Two shapers for holding the wet wood
until dry
■ Handle bending form
■ Patterns for cutting forms and bands
Work basket. This reproduction
of a Shaker work basket by Dave
Coleman shows the attachment of
needle holder, pin cushion, beeswax and emery, tied with matching ribbons through holes
drilled in each quadrant of the
oval. Some of these sewing baskets were made with lids like Dave’s,
others were left open to display the fine
contents as in Brother Delmer’s carriers.
as maple or cherry are commonly used. Be
aware that any one piece of wood can exhibit
a wide range of flexibility, and you may need
to try different pieces to be successful.
Band stock is available from The Home
Shop (shakerovalbox.com). For those wishing to dimension their own bands, the use
of a table saw or band saw to resaw wood,
followed by sanding to final thickness in a
drum sander, is recommended. And attention to exact thickness is important. The
thickness for this project is from .075" to
.082". You may have been surprised to read
the notation of 1 ⁄13" in the Project Items list.
That is the traditional way of the American
veneer trade to indicate thickness – a fraction whose numerator is always one. Use of
a dial caliper will help you in achieving the
desired thickness for your project.
You will need a tray of some sort to soak
the bands and handle. This can be a specially made tray, or something as simple as
a length of eaves trough (a gutter) with end
caps. Traditionally, hot water (above 180˚F)
soaking was used, and I follow that method,
although a steam-bending apparatus can do
The most exacting materials in a bent-wood
box are the sides. They need to be strong yet
limber, able to bend yet provide adequate
strength for the project. Hardwoods such
Brother Delmer Wilson. Carriers were an important part of the Shaker’s Fancy Goods Trade.
Here Brother Delmer Wilson stands next to his winter’s output of carriers which would go from
the woodshop to the sisters’ shop where they were lined with colorful fabric and sewing aids.
Opening phOtO by al parrish; step phOtOs by the authOr; br. delmer wilsOn phOtO cOurtesy Of the united sOciety Of shakers, sabbathdaylake, maine
the job if you have access to that. A longer
soaking in cold water (12 hours or more) can
work, but the thicker handle in this project
would more reliably be bent after soaking
in hot water.
Dimensioning bending stock requires
a well-equipped woodshop, as to a lesser
extent does cutting 1 ⁄ 4" stock for tops and
bottoms. If you buy these two items, for the
cutting and assembling you’ll need relatively
few tools. If you have access to a band saw, an
electric drill, and a belt and disc sander (the
small benchtop variety with a 4" x 36" belt
and 6" disc is ideal), together with a utility
knife and a small ball-peen hammer, then
you have all that’s needed.
There are, of course, alternative ways for
those with limited shop access or a preference for hand tools such as the use of a coping
saw for cutting ovals, and using the utility
knife to do all the finger profiling. An alternative to wood cores and shapers (discussed
next) is the use of 1"-thick rigid polystyrene
foam board, a residential construction mate-
Fingers. Profile the finger design to rough
dimensions before final trimming with a
utility knife. The locations for copper tacks are
drilled at this time, too.
rial, which can be cut with only a utility knife
and a sandpaper block. This foam board can
be used for a core by gluing together several
layers with foam construction tube glue or
double-sided tape.
your pattern line. Drill holes for ventilation
and to allow you to grab them for removal
after the band is dry. The wood for shapers
can be solid or ply.
Cores and Shapers
The bands are prepared for soaking by cutting out the shape of the fingers and drilling the holes for copper tacks using a 1 ⁄16"
drill bit. The final edging to the fingers is
done with a sharp knife. A slight 10° bevel
is given to the curved edges and the ends
of each finger.
The square end is feathered to make a
smooth curve to the inside of the box. This
feathering goes from full thickness about
11 ⁄2" back from the end to an almost sharp
ending. A belt sander, and wood block that
serves as a holder, is best for this work.
In addition to a soaking tray you need cores
and a set of shapers. The core is a wood plug
the size of the inside of a box. The hot, wet
band is bent around it. Made from soft wood
(foam board also can be used), they are created using the oval pattern at right.
The shapers are the key to the Shakers’
box production. You will need a pair for each
box made at one soaking. If you wish to make
five of one sized box, then 10 shapers are
needed. The alternative is to bend on five
successive occasions, which is a lot more
work than making a few extra shapers. They
are made to the same oval pattern as the
cores, only they have a 10˚-beveled edge to
act as corks in the oval opening. Cut them
slightly oversized by cutting 1 ⁄ 16" outside
Trimming. My preference for trimming is
a utility knife with a fixed, not retractable,
blade. This gives the necessary control. Use
heavy-duty blades, not the lighter ones that
come with a new knife.
Preparing Bands
Feather. The inside end of a band is
feathered back 1½". This will provide a
fair curve to the inside of the box.
In hot water.
The band
has been feathered on one end
and the fingers
are trimmed and
drilled on the
other. The hot
water tray has an
electric hot plate
with wood blocks
under each end for
stability. While a
full boil is not necessary, water more
than 180° Fahrenheit will soften the
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Core. The wet band is wrapped around a core the size of the inside
of the box. Here the wrapped band is marked so that the core can
be removed and the band returned to its proper size. Note that all the
band’s fingers are held to prevent them from splitting. The mismatch at
the lapped edges of the band is common at this stage and will be made
even when tacking.
Place the bands in hot, nearly boiling
water for 10 to 20 minutes before attempting to bend around the core.
Bending the Oval Band
Your soaked band will cool quickly once it
is removed from the tray. When this operation goes in a smooth even motion, band
breakage is minimized. Your core will need
a pencil mark to show where to start the
feathered end of the band in bending. Here
is how you find that mark: The major tack
line in the swing handle carrier is 3 ⁄ 4" forward of the center of the box, which is also
the point of attachment of the handle. The
start point of the wrap is 21 ⁄4" to the left of
the main tack line.
Copper tacks clinch the band. No glue is
needed for this efficient fastening. The tacks
are 1 ⁄16" longer than two layers of veneer and
clinch to hold the lap securely. Have your
tacks, anvil, hammer, a pair of shapers and
a core ready when the band is taken from
the hot water.
The central operation of all box construction takes but a few seconds. In one smooth
sweep, hold the feathered end at the start
mark and bend it half way around. Change
hands, hold and complete the wrap. Pencil
a mark across the veneer lap to register the
circumference. The photograph in step 5
shows this step completed. Hold the fingers
securely at all times to avoid splitting the
wood between them. Do not worry about
having the edges exactly even or the main
tack line exactly where you want it at this
stage. Both of these steps come next.
Open the band slightly to remove the
core. Bring the band together so the pencil
marks meet. Now align the edges of the lapping band, then tack the lap.
The last step is to place a shaper in both
sides of the oval band. These can be rotated
if needed to bring the main tack line into
position on the oval. The band is pliable
while wet, so you can rotate the shaper.
Match the second shaper with the position
of the first to avoid a skewed band. Be gentle
while inserting the shaper and do not push
too hard because this will flare the edges
of the band.
The lid band (soaked along with the
bottom band) is next. The box itself acts as
the core. Size, alignment and centering are
observed for this band, too. When tacked, the
lid band goes in place with the fingers pointing the same way as the bottom fingers.
illustratiOn by rObert w. lang
Tacks. Small copper tacks 1⁄16" longer
than the two thicknesses of veneer are
used to clinch the lap. No glue is used. The
wood cradle secures the pipe anvil to the
online EXTRAs
or a full-size pdf of the patterns shown
below, go to:
Shapers. Once tacked, wood corks
called shapers are put in both sides to
hold the box shape for one to two days of
drying. The 10° edge bevel and the holes for
ventilation are a hallmark of this piece of bench
equipment that is key to the Shaker system of
production. The top band is wrapped on the
box itself. It will be tacked then returned to
the box for drying. Note that the direction of
the band finger matches that of the bottom
band fingers.
Handle form
Oval pattern for
core and shapers
#4 box (51⁄2" X 81⁄4")
#4 Box band
#4 Lid band
1 square = 1⁄4"
shaker swing-handle carrier patterns
Back bottom
edge of box
Mechanical pencil. Here I’m tracing the
oval on the 1 ⁄4" boards used for tops
and bottoms. A mechanical pencil will ensure
accuracy of this line.
Two-degree angle. The disc sander finishes the
edge up to the pattern line. The sander table is
elevated to 2° to provide a slight cork effect to this ellipse
for a tight fit. To make this adjustment, you may need to
file out the slide slot so it no longer stops at 0°, or you can
remove the thumb screw and use a small C-clamp.
Fit the bottom. The oval
board is fitted into the bottom by setting it against the front
lap and then working the back into
place. This will ensure that the feathered end will not be damaged in the
process of pushing the oval.
The first half of carrier construction will
be complete when these two bands have
dried in one to two days. Allow for normal
air flow around the carrier. Avoid using extra
heat, direct sun, or fan blowing. Drying too
quickly can result in the veneer warping.
Bending the Handle
The swing handle needs to be prepared
before soaking by rounding the ends and
drilling the 9 ⁄64" holes for the trunk rivets.
The bending form made to the pattern provided on the drawing can use 3 ⁄4" plywood,
solid wood or foam board. Cut it to shape,
and drill 1" holes in the lower corners if you
plan on using two small clamps to secure
it to the form. Otherwise a 12" sliding-bar
clamp can be used to span the whole width.
Two small scraps of wood will be needed
to protect the wet wood from the clamps as
shown in photo 5.
The handle stock is thicker than what you
have bent for the box so plan to be thorough
in the hot water soaking – 20 minutes in the
hot water is the minimum. Work while the
handle is hot, but ease the wood around the
bends and avoid jerky motions. Always put a
wood scrap under the metal clamps to avoid
getting black mineral stain.
Fitting Oval Boards
The oval tops and bottoms are 1 ⁄ 4" thick.
Your boards need to be as dry as the interior
of your home when making the carrier to
avoid a shrinkage gap that would appear in
the next few days (a bummer). To minimize
seasonal expansion that might break the
band (an even greater bummer), the Shakers
used quartersawn eastern white pine. This
is a great choice, but may not be available to
you, or fit your décor. Select stable wood –
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Drill for pegs. After the oval board
is in place and sanded flush, drill the
perimeter every 2" to 3" for wood pegs. This
drill jig locks a spare drill to a board with a front
table the right height to center the hole on the
1⁄ 4" board inside.
softwoods are better than hardwoods, and all
quartersawn boards have half the dynamic
of flat-sawn stock of the same species. Plywood such as 5-ply, 6-mm birch used in
furniture and cabinets also works well.
Use the dry carrier band as a pattern for
the oval. Remove the shapers and give the
inside a light sanding. Use a mechanical pencil for an accurate line around the inside of
the oval band. Now determine the direction
of the fingers. It’s up to you. Historically, most
boxes were pointing right, but significant
numbers were lefties. In either case, both top
and bottom bands should match.
Getting the top band finger direction to
match that of the bottom band can be troublesome in the finished carrier. The reason
is this: When the lid is lying on the bench to
be traced out, it is in the opposite position
from where it is in place on the carrier. Check
to make sure that you have the right finger
direction to match the bottom.
After band sawing the oval, sand the
board up to the line on the disc sander. This
is not a right angle, but has a slight bevel to
Alternate approach. An alternative
drilling method makes use of a drill
press. The jig, which is shaped like a bookend,
creates a vertical drilling station.
give it a cork effect. To get this, adjust the disc
table up 2°. Most sanding machines aren’t
designed to do this out of the box, but you
can easily file the slide that adjusts the table
to allow it to tilt up. Or, you can tape a 1 ⁄8"thick shim to the outside edge of your disc
sander table to achieve this angle.
After sanding, insert the oval board
against the front edge first, then press in the
back. This avoids catching the feathered end
of the band, which can be damaged. Press
the board into the oval band until it is even or
slightly below the band all the way around.
Sand this joint line flush. Now repeat these
steps for the lid section.
Fixing Mistakes
You might find two kinds of repairs helpful
in your work, each using their own kind of
glue. Wet bands that split can be repaired
Location. Locating the center front
and back from which the hole location is 1" down. Set your box on the floor and
look down from a standing position.
Rivet sequence. The rivet sequence is:
copper trunk rivet, handle, 3 ⁄16"-thick
wood spacer, the box side in which has been
drilled a 5 ⁄32" hole, the copper washer for the
inside end of the washer.
Trim excess. Snip off the excess length
of the rivet, or take it out and grind it
to the proper length.
Peen. Peen the rivet until the handle is
secured and will stay put.
with cyanoacrylate (model maker’s instant
glue) two-part glue because it works on wet
wood. The advantage of this is that any repair
will hold the pliable wood before it dries.
Minor gaps found around the edges of the
oval board can be repaired with carpenter’s glue. Wipe glue into the gap and sand
immediately. The sander dust loads the wet
glue, creating a matching glue line. Unlike
cyanoacrylate, which remains clear under
varnish, carpenter’s glue must be removed
from the surface before finishing.
Wood Pegs Hold the Boards
Once the oval boards are in place and the
joints sanded flush, it is time to drill for wood
pegs. These holes center on the 1 ⁄4" top and
bottom boards, and are placed 2" to 3" apart
around the edge. It takes a 5 ⁄64" hole drilled
1 ⁄ 2" deep. Two jigs are shown for ensuring
that you do not miss centering the edge of
the boards.
Step 11 shows a small drill held down
with a wood yoke to create a horizontal
drilling jig. Step 12 shows an adaptation
for a drill press using a shop-made fence
clamped to the work surface. It drills in the
vertical mode.
The wood pegs can be split off a thin cutting of wood. However, in my shop, hardwood toothpicks serve for pegs. Holding the
The finished project. Use a clear finish
and the cherry wood will patina naturally with time.
toothpick box firmly to avoid scattering the
contents, cut the box in half on the band saw
to double your count of pegs. Tap the pegs in
securely (no glue needed), and snip off the
excess with wire cutters. With the pegs in
place, sand the surfaces of the box.
Attaching the Swing Handle
Remove the handle from its drying form
and give it a final sanding. The holes (9 ⁄64")
for the trunk rivets are centered front and
back, spaced down 1" from the top edge of
the box. This location, as far up the side as
the lid will allow, will ensure stability when
picking up the carrier.
The sequence for securing the handle is
shown in photo 14. You will need a wood
spacer 3 ⁄ 16" thick, 3 ⁄ 4" round, with a hole
9 ⁄64" centered for the rivet. These are made by
drilling in the end of a 3 ⁄4" dowel, then cutting segments. This goes between the handle
and the carrier. The rivet is fastened on the
inside by inserting it through the handle,
the spacer and the side of the carrier, then
placing a copper washer over the end.
Cut the rivet to a length that leaves 1 ⁄16"
exposed for peening. An electrician’s side
cutters will do the job and leave this amount
exposed, or you can remove the rivet and
grind off the surplus. Place the head of the
rivet on an anvil while peening the inside
end. The copper end should have a roundedover appearance from tapping with the ball
peen. This is accomplished by hitting in a
pattern that peens the edges as well as the
center of the rivet end. When you’re done, the
handle will swing past the ends of the lid, but
not be able to pass under the carrier.
Finishing Your Carrier:
Paint vs. Varnish
Historically, boxes were painted before the
mid-1800s and finished clear after that. This
project dates from the latter period, and all
examples I’ve seen have been varnished. Of
course that doesn’t mean that a painted carrier is wrong or unattractive – only that you
may need to think ahead if you wish to use a
traditional flat paint with dark wax to patina
the surface. It will work better to do this
before attaching the handle. Clear finishes
can be applied either before or after handle
attachment. In either case, leave the inside
plain wood. Just like the inside of bureau
drawers, you do not want the odors from oil
or paint finishes to affect food or cloth.
Clear finishes come in a variety of forms
such as shellac, varnish, lacquer, oil and
blends of several of these. Some are brushed,
some wipe on. Each has fans. All work. Your
choice. What do I recommend? Polyurethane
for durability, especially for projects used
around the kitchen. So, pick a finish you
like and are familiar with, leave the inside
plain, get it done. Sign and date your lovely
creation. PW
John runs The Home Shop in Charlotte, Mich., which
supplies wood, copper tacks and other critical supplies
for the Shaker oval box maker. Contact him at shaker
ovalbox.com or 517-543-5325 (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Eastern).
It’s a Secret
by Charles bender
secret drawers and
hidden compartments
are as much fun to
create as they are
to discover.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
hen I was a teenager, I met a cantankerous old lumber guy. You know the
type – a little too disgruntled to actually have
the term “customer service” apply, but with
enough raw instinct to look deep within a
log to find that special board. I had amateur
and professional woodworkers alike tell me
they just couldn’t deal with him, but I just
kept going back. The wood was too good,
and I liked the old guy.
Over the years I saw the quality and
quantity of his lumber increase at a rate that
far exceeded that at which my skills were
developing. We became friends through our
Don’t be surprised. Behind the prospectus of a fall-front desk is a great secret area.
Understand how the lock works and a world
of secrets might be divulged – if, that is, the
prospectus is made to remove.
Photos by the author
mutual appreciation of wood, but he
was still cantankerous. As my skills
developed I began to make him a few
pieces of furniture. He did, after all,
appreciate wood and good craftsmanship. One day I showed him a picture
of a Chester County spice chest on
frame that I was going to build for a
customer. He took the bait and signed
on for one himself.
This was my chance to pay him back
for all those years of being somewhat less
than affable, in a good-natured way of
course. Spice chests are known for their
secret compartments. These wouldn’t be
the first secret drawers I’d ever made, but
this was my chance to show off how far my
skills had progressed. I planned the complex
series of locking mechanisms that eventually
led to an entire bank of hidden drawers. The
best part of the scheme was that he didn’t
even know spice chests were well-known
for their secret compartments.
It’s Not Wasted Space If You Use It
Most furniture forms will accommodate a
hidden compartment or secret drawer somewhere. A few forms have had them with fair
regularity such as spice chests, fall-front
desks and blanket chests. Throughout the
ages, craftsmen have tried to take advantage
of the “wasted” space occupied by structural
elements and mouldings by including a hidden compartment or secret drawer.
If you’ve ever actually opened a secret
compartment on a period piece of furniture,
you probably noticed they generally aren’t
meant to hold very large secrets. In fact, most
secret drawers are so small as to seem fairly
useless. So why, then, did all those period
furniture makers invest so much time in
creating them? Why do they still fascinate
us today? The answer is simple: They’re just
plain fun.
As a cabinetmaker, they’re fun to plan
and execute. Having seen my clients poke
and prod their furniture in search of the
locking mechanism that would reveal the
secret, I can tell you they’re even more fun
after they’re complete.
Historical Perspective
For thousands of years people have been
making secret compartments. We’ve all
seen the movie where the hero dusts off a
decorative element then carefully twists that
element to engage some sort of mechanical
the latest technology. For them, it wasn’t
electronics, it was things mechanical.
This interest in mechanical, mathematical and scientific thought permeated
many aspects of their lives. Tall case, or
grandfather, clocks were an example of
that interest. They were mechanical in
that they were a machine and scientific
in that they precisely kept the time.
Know Where To Look
Payback is fun. Spice boxes and chests, especially those from Chester County, Pa., are
renowned for secret drawers and compartments. This chest, a good-natured payback
to a crotchety lumber dealer, is loaded with
lock that allows the hidden compartment
to spring open. The thing that fascinates us
about hidden compartments is the ingenuity
of the creator. It’s the little bit of mystery, the
puzzle to be solved to achieve the goal.
From the viewpoint of the maker there’s
the challenge of creating a compartment
that’s so carefully hidden, with a locking
mechanism that is so creative, that the
secrets contained within are secure from all
but those who know how the lock works.
It’s that cleverness that has kept the
popularity of the secret compartment alive
amongst the builders and users of furniture
for all these years. When we look at secret
compartments historically, we discover that
they were never more popular than during
the 18th century – the Age of Enlightenment.
People then, as now, had a fascination with
And people carried this mechanical interest into their furniture. When we examine
period pieces we find hidden compartments
in every imaginable type of furniture and in
some of the most imaginative places in those
pieces. There are examples of the decorative
valances of the pigeonholes of a fall-front
desk being made into small drawers.
You find panels on the front of tills in
blanket chests that slide open to reveal hidden drawers; backboards that drop down
or pivot out to reveal compartments; hollow
dividers that create small spaces for drawers;
table and chair aprons that hide drawers.
Removable dividers and spring-loaded push
buttons – these are just some of the different secrets that have been incorporated into
furniture over the years.
When one looks at the locking mechanisms used in these early pieces you find that
cabinetmakers primarily used their cleverness in combining simple locks rather than
inventing new, complex systems for keeping
their compartments closed. In an early 18thcentury highboy I copied, the crown moulding conceals a hidden lace drawer. Part of
the crown is actually the drawer front. This
is a fairly typical place for a hidden drawer
in an early highboy.
If this secret drawer design had a locking
mechanism, it would have most likely been
Inside the spice
chest. Ingenuity
positioned these
secret compartments at the rear
of a sliding divider.
Not many would
think to remove a
portion of the interior to make such a
Put secrets where you can. A drawer divider
on a blanket chest is a great spot for a secret
compartment. So-called “wasted” space
becomes fun, useful and intriguing.
You have to look closely. Many early high
chests have secret drawers behind the cornice
moulding. Lace and other highly revered items
were kept there.
The secret’s out. One of the most common
areas for secret drawers in antique desks, and
an area that’s often copied in reproductions, is
the pigeonhole valances.
a simple spring lock, also called a Quaker
lock. This mechanism can be used in combination with other spring locks to provide
an infinitely variable series of locks that keep
a compartment closed.
Another common locking mechanism
was the sliding dovetailed key. This amounts
to a small piece of wood set into a dovetailed
groove that slides into a mortise, which locks
the hidden drawer or secret compartment.
These two simple locking mechanisms
account for the majority of locks on secret
drawers in 18th-century furniture. They
were popular because they could easily be
made in the shop, and, more important, they
were easy to use. Creatively applying them
in combination allows the furniture maker
to create a secret compartment that is not
easily opened.
Both locks start out using the same basic
dovetailed key. They were usually made from
a hard, springy wood. I used white oak in
my examples. The spring lock would usually
be a bit thinner and longer than the sliding
key. This allows the spring lock to be flexed
enough to allow it to be unlocked. The sliding key was usually a bit thicker and shorter
in length. It relied solely on its ability to be
completely removed from a mortise, thereby
allowing the compartment to be revealed.
The most common place to find this lock
is on the bottom of drawers in chests. In
antique furniture, iron or brass drawer locks
were expensive and took a lengthy period
of time to acquire. A furniture maker might
use a few metal locks for the lower drawers
of a chest and a couple Quaker locks on the
smaller, upper drawers. The spring mechanism is little more than a piece of hardwood
attached to the bottom of the drawer using a
sliding dovetail set at an angle. This allowed
the front of the spring to catch a drawer blade
(also known as a drawer divider) just below
the drawer; that kept the drawer closed and
locked. One would need to open the drawer
below in order to access the spring on the
upper drawer.
I usually start with a piece of oak about
1 ⁄ 8" thick (depending on the application)
and a few inches long. Use a handplane
to bevel the edges of the oak so it tapers
toward the top. Make sure to keep the sides
of the oak key parallel as you work. Check
the angles to make sure they are planed to
similar angles.
Once you have the oak key cut, it’s time
to transfer the dimensions of the key to the
piece in which the key gets installed. Set a
bevel square to the angles of your key, then
saw into the drawer bottom. The idea is
to create a dovetailed channel that slopes
upward from its back and reaches a vanishing point about half the length of the key.
Once you have the channel sawn, use a
chisel to remove the waste. If you find it difficult to saw the sides of the channel, chopping
the side angles with a chisel is acceptable.
Use your handplane to adjust the key; make
the key fit into the channel snugly. As you
can see in the picture at the top right of the
next page, the oak key now protrudes from
the surface of the drawer bottom.
If you want to use this Quaker lock with a
secret compartment, say the prospectus of a
fall-front desk, the spring is mounted in the
desk interior with a corresponding catch in
the prospectus bottom. To free the unit from
the desk, remove the lower drawer of the prospectus to gain access, then through a small
hole placed in the bottom panel, use a pin or
Check your tool chest. Eighteenth century
furniture makers would have used tools such
as these to create and install a Quaker lock or a
sliding dovetail key.
No fastener is required. The edges of the
spring mechanism are planed to a dovetail
shape to hold the spring in position as it’s
depressed. As pressure is applied to release
the lock, the dovetailed sides push against the
Lock Mechanisms Made Easy
Let’s examine, step by step, how to make
these two very common locks. First is the
spring, or Quaker, lock. This lock has many
applications but is particularly good to use
in conjunction with hidden compartments.
The photograph to the near right shows all
of the tools necessary to make this lock.
Although only hand tools are pictured, a
router can also be used.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Quaker lock
It’s a compound cut. Use a bevel gauge, set to
the angle planed on your key, to align your saw
as you define the dovetailed channel. After the
edges of the channel are sawn, use a chisel to
waste out the material.
A different application. A spring lock is fit
into a drawer bottom. From here, it’s easy to
fine-tune the fit so the lock catches the drawer
blade and holds the drawer closed .
Compact and flush. The sliding dovetailed key,
nestled into its slot, is sometimes missed during
inspection due to the flush fit.
Is power the choice? The sliding key is flush,
so you can use a router to make the dovetailed
slot. Set the depth of cut equal to the sliding
key thickness, set a straight fence to run against
then cut the slot. Or cut the slot by hand.
Another secret revealed. Quaker locks are
perfect for use in fall-front desks. The prospectus is held secure, as are the secrets captured
within the exposed compartment, until the
owner depresses the spring to free the box
from the interior.
paperclip to depress the spring and slide the
prospectus from the desk interior.
The next type of lock is the sliding dovetail key. It is very similar to the Quaker lock
except that the dovetailed key is positioned
flush with the surface into which it is being
set. Usually the dovetailed key slides inside
a dovetailed channel and is captured in a
mortise in an adjacent piece.
Start with the piece into which the dovetailed channel is to be cut. Install a dovetail
bit into a router with the depth of cut set to
the thickness of the key (in my case, a piece
of 3 ⁄ 16" oak), then set a fence to guide the
router and run the channel into the piece,
which is usually a case side or bottom. I
seldom make my dovetailed keys longer
than a couple inches, so be sure to plan the
length of the key before you run the slot
with the router.
After the channel is cut, use a chisel to
square up the end. Now it’s time to fit the
dovetailed key. You can either shape the key
with a router set in a table, set up a table
saw with the appropriate angle or just use
a handplane to cut the key to size, like I did
on the Quaker lock. Remember that the key
needs to taper toward the top along both
edges just like the Quaker lock; this keeps
the key from falling out. Fit the key into the
slot using a handplane until you get a nice
slip fit. Use a carving gouge and a bench
chisel to add a finger grip to the key so the
key is easy to slide.
This is one of the favorite locks of the
spice chest builder. You’ll commonly find
them holding up the back of the chest. One
merely needs to remove the appropriate
drawer from the chest, slide the lock forward and the backboard slides down to
expose the secret compartment. For the
lumber guy’s spice chest, I used a series of
both types of locks to keep the interior of
the chest from being easily removed. One
merely needed to remove the proper drawers, in the proper sequence, and release the
lock within to eventually remove the entire
interior of the chest. That accomplished,
another complete bank of hidden drawers
behind it was exposed.
The sliding dovetailed key can be used to
stop a drawer or an entire interior case from
moving. In the photograph at right you can
see a sliding dovetailed key protruding from
the side of a desk prospectus.
These two common locking mechanisms
are very versatile. If you use a little imagination they can help you create secret compartments in nearly all your furniture projects,
as long as you plan for it.
Secret drawers give you the chance to
expand your skills and show how clever you
can be. You’ll have fun planning and making
them. Your friends and family will have fun
hunting for the locking mechanisms and discovering the secrets. You’ll have even more
key lock
A tiny and mighty lock. This small dovetailed
key lock, slid through the side of a tiger maple
fall front desk prospectus, has held the unit
in place for hundreds of years with its secrets
fun watching them in the pursuit. If you’re
like me, however, you’ll find great pleasure
in the secrets themselves. This is particularly
true in the case of my lumber guy’s spice
chest. You see, I never told him there were
any locks or hidden compartments in his
spice chest. To this day, I don’t know if he’s
discovered every secret. PW
Charles is a nationally renowned period furniture
maker near Philadelphia, Pa., and is the lead instructor of The Acanthus Workshop. To learn more about
his furniture and the school, or to contact him, visit
Computer Desk
by hunter lang
ladders form the base of this knockdown desk —
simple steps to a higher education in woodworking.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
’m in the midst of preparing for college,
so I need a desk that is functional but also
portable, so that I can easily move it into my
dorm room when the time comes. The desk
that I’ve had since I was nine years old is too
small and about to fall apart. It wouldn’t be
worth it to take it to school with me. So I
decided to build a new one.
This new desk was designed with a large
top to hold a computer monitor and still
have enough space for book work. It was
also designed to be easily taken apart and put
back together. Slots in the rails of the shelves
fit on top of the rungs of the ladders with a
few screws for added stability. This design
would be ideal for any college student, and
meets my needs perfectly.
Easy to build, easy to move. This contemporary computer desk is built with simple joinery
and is designed to be assembled or disassembled in minutes.
Take it for a spin. Tenons are formed on the
ends of the rungs by rotating a dowel over the
router bit.
I began building the desk by cutting 11 ⁄4"diameter poplar dowels to 201 ⁄4" to be used
as connectors for the ladders. Then I made
tenons on each end at the router table, with
a 1 ⁄ 2"-diameter straight bit with 1 ⁄ 8" of the
cutter exposed above the table. To keep each
dowel centered over the cutter, I clamped
blocks on each side of the bit and set the fence
on the router table back from the front edge
of the cutter by 7⁄8".
I moved each dowel into the cutter and
rotated it with my right hand as I held it
down with my left. As the cuts were made
I moved the dowel toward the fence until I
had made a complete rotation with the end
Holes in a row. Careful layout and setup of the
holes in the legs makes for easy assembly and
sturdy construction.
of the dowel against the fence. This gave
me a tenon on the end with a 1" diameter
– that’s long enough to go through the legs
of the ladders.
After preparing the tenons, I cut the
angled leg pieces to length and laid out
centers for holes according to the drawing
on page 60. I grouped the legs in pairs and
marked off the locations for the holes and
the angles on the ends of the legs. Then I
Glue hardwood rails to underside of desktop.
Top rests on top of legs; secure with screws
from inside.
Notch keyboard shelf to drop between legs from above.
Size keyboard supports to desired keyboard height.
Glue hardwood rails to underside of drawer
shelves. Assembled keyboard shelf fits over
top rungs.
Glue hardwood rails to underside of plywood.
Assembled lower shelf fits over lowest rungs.
Online eXtraS
exPloded view
lead Photo by al Parrish; steP Photos and illustrations by robert w. lang
a free sketchup model of this project is
available online at:
drilled the holes with a Forstner bit at the
drill press, using the fence to center the holes
in the legs.
Little Things Mean a Lot
The next step was to make a kerf across the
grain in each tenon with the band saw. I
set the fence to keep them centered, and
I stopped cutting just before reaching the
shoulders of the tenons.
Next, I made wedges to put into the tenon
kerfs. These wedges strengthen the bond
between the dowels and the legs after the
joints are put together. To do this, I angled
the miter gauge to 3˚ and sliced wedges from
a wide, 1"-long cutoff of scrap. I flipped the
piece after every cut to form the wedges. To
One Piece of Plywood
keep the pieces of wood from falling through
the insert in the band saw table, I put packing tape over it.
Now I was ready to put the tenons into the
holes of the leg pieces. I started by brushing
glue around the inside of the holes. Then I
inserted the tenons and clamped the legs
and rungs together. I put glue on the wedges
and drove them into the slots in the tenons
to hold the pieces together. I let the glue dry
overnight then trimmed the protruding tenons and wedges with a flush-cut saw, and
cleaned up the wedges with a block plane.
With the leg units assembled, it was time to
start building the shelves. All the plywood
in the shelves came from one 5' x 5' piece of
3 ⁄4"-thick Baltic birch plywood. I ripped the
plywood at the table saw. I made two rips
at 181 ⁄2" for the bottom shelf and keyboard
shelf, and I made the last rip at 22" wide for
the top shelf.
I cut the bottom shelf to 54" long, cut
the two end pieces for the drawer shelves
to 115 ⁄16" long, and set the leftover pieces
aside for the keyboard shelf. I laid out the
keyboard & drawer shelf rail
bottom shelf rail
1"-diam. holes
15˚ angle
Across the grain. A band sawn kerf is cut in the
center of each tenon.
Flipping for wedges. The miter gauge is set at
a slight angle, and the wedge stock is flipped
over after each cut.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
A reason to hide. I used liquid hide glue to allow more time to assemble the rungs and legs.
notches in the solid-wood rails that support the shelves and drilled 11 ⁄4"-diameter
holes at these locations, with the top edges
centered in the width of rails.
I used an adjustable square to draw lines
tangent to the edges of the holes from the
bottom edge of the rails. I used the band
saw to cut from the edge of the rails to the
holes to make notches, but you could easily
use a jigsaw instead. Then I used a rasp to
remove the saw marks at the notches and
tested that they fit well enough to just slide
over the rungs of the ladders.
The angled cutout area in the lower shelf
provides legroom. To make it, I set my bevel
gauge to 15˚ for the angle and went back from
the front 9". With a jigsaw, I carefully cut
A short drive home. The wedges spread the
ends of the tenons, making them tight in the
mortises in the legs.
Notches are the key. The semi-circular openings in the bottom of the shelf rails line up all
the parts and make assembly a snap.
outside the lines that I had marked. Then I
cut the rails to match the bottom front and
back edges of the shelf.
I mitered the ends of the rails at the front
corner of the cutout in the bottom shelf. The
last piece below the bottom shelf, the foot
rail, is just butted against the ends of the
angled pieces.
Starting at the Bottom
I started assembly with the bottom shelf, and
worked my way upward. No fasteners were
necessary. I just used glue, lots of clamps
and a strip of clear packing tape across the
mitered corners. After the glue dried overnight, I used a trim router with a flush-cutting bit to trim the roughly cut plywood to
A little off the top. I made the tenons a little
long, then trimmed them after assembly.
the straight edge of the solid wood rails.
I put the shelves onto the ladders and
clamped them into place. I then attached the
shelves to the ladders with #8 x 11 ⁄4" screws
from the inside of the rails into the legs of
the ladder units. These screws don’t show
when the desk is assembled, and they keep
the shelves from pivoting on the rungs.
I wasn’t sure how tall the keyboard tray
should be. My original design had the keyboard tray on top of the rails of the first shelf
below the top. I thought that this made the
tray too low, so I decided to make it a little
taller. So I cut two solid pieces of wood 23 ⁄4"
wide to support the keyboard tray, cut them
to length and attached them between the
front and back rails of the top shelf with
New block for the kid. A few passes with a
block plane levels the ends of the tenons and
wedges to the surface of the legs.
Glue is enough. The connection between the plywood and solid wood is long-grain to long-grain,
so a glue-only joint will be solid.
pocket screws. I didn’t use glue in case I
decide to change the height later on.
You may also need to adjust the shelf
heights to accommodate your computer case,
if you want to put it on the bottom shelf.
Check the clearance you will need before
building. You can also leave the drawer off
one side if you need the space. Replace the
plywood shelf with solid wood rails between
the two long rails, and that will give you a
few more inches.
I used a square to locate the notches on
the keyboard tray, and made sure to leave
clearance so I could drop the tray straight
down between the ends of the ladders. These
notches allow for easy disassembly; just pull
the tray straight up to take the desk apart.
After I cut the notches in the keyboard
tray with a jigsaw and smoothed the edges
with a rasp, I screwed it down to the rails. The
space behind the tray leaves room for wires
and cables. The top was simple; two straight
pieces of solid wood were glued beneath the
front and back edges of the plywood. The top
rests on the top of the legs, and is secured
with a screw from the inside of each leg into
the desk’s top supports.
fied with my final product. I put hard work
into building my desk, but it is going to meet
all my needs for college. I have already taken
it apart and put it back together a few times.
It was a stress-free process each time, and
I’m not apprehensive in the least bit about
having to disassemble it and take it with
me to college. I know that it will be a simple
process, and it will probably be the easiest
part of moving. PW
Hunter is a high school senior from Maineville, Ohio.
In addition to woodworking, he runs cross-country,
pole vaults and plays guitar. This is his second article for
Popular Woodworking.
Quick assembly. A few screws in concealed
locations hold the pieces securely together.
Cutting Corners
I used the jigsaw to round off the sharp corners of the keyboard tray, then smoothed
them with a rasp. Next, I used a 1 ⁄8" radius
roundover bit in a trim router to ease the
sharp edges on all the parts of the desk. Now
it was time to sand everything. I used #120grit with a random-orbit sander.
The drawers are simple boxes with rabbet-in-groove joints at the corners and a
1 ⁄ 4"-thick plywood bottom that slides into
grooves in the drawer fronts and sides. To
guide the drawers, I cut strips of solid wood
1 ⁄ 2" square. After the drawers were made, I
set them on the shelf and nailed a strip on
each side of the drawer to act as guides, plus
one at the back of each as a stop.
After everything was assembled and
sanded, I applied two coats of brushed-on
satin water-based polyurethane. After the
first coat, I sanded with #180-grit sandpaper
to smooth out the finish.
The building process wasn’t as difficult
as I had expected. I had to work with many
tools that I had never used before, but I took
to the new challenges readily. The design
of the desk is very functional, so all of the
construction steps made sense.
After finishing the desk, I was very satis62
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Cutting corners. The angled cutout in the bottom shelf provides some legroom as well as out-ofthe-way storage.
Knockdown Computer Desk
No. item
dimensions (inches)
❏ 8Rungs
11⁄4 dia.
❏ 4 Legs
❏ 2 Desk top supports
❏ 2 Keyboard shelf rails
13⁄16 23⁄4
❏ 2 Keyboard tray rails
13⁄16 21⁄2
❏ 1Bot. shelf back rail
13⁄16 21⁄2
❏ 2Bot. shelf front rails
13⁄16 21⁄2
❏ 2Bot. shelf angle rail
13⁄16 21⁄2
❏ 1Bot. shelf foot rail
❏ 2Drawer fronts
❏ 2Drawer backs
❏ 4Drawer sides
❏ 4Drawer guides
❏ 2Drawer stops
⁄4 201⁄8
❏ 1Desk top
⁄4 181⁄2
❏ 1Bottom shelf
⁄4 181⁄2
❏ 2Drawer shelves
⁄4 181⁄2
❏ 1Keyboard shelf
60Birch ply
54Birch ply
115⁄16Birch ply
325⁄16Birch ply
181⁄2" between tenons
Jig Journal
by rob porcaro
Dovetail Markers
These simple shop-made helpers will make marking less of a chore.
arking out dovetails for hand
cutting goes much easier with these helpers.
Held in place while hooked over the end of
a board, these markers allow you, with one
placement, to pencil a squared line across
the end grain and a tail-slope line down the
face grain.
To cover a range of dovetail angles, it is
easy to produce several markers, each with
a unique slope. This helps reduce errors.
Select a Durable Wood
Use a dense, stable, fine-grained hardwood
that will produce smooth, durable end-grain
surfaces, such as the bubinga used here.
Outside dimensions of the markers are 11 ⁄2"
tall, 13 ⁄ 8" deep and about 11 ⁄ 4" wide. The
rabbet extends 1" from the inside corner in
each direction, allowing use on boards up
to 1" thick. For most woodworkers, this will
cover the vast majority of dovetailing.
On the edge of a dry four-squared board
without internal stresses, 13 ⁄8" thick, at least
12" long and about 4" wide, make a 1" x 1"
rabbet on the router table with a 1" straight
bit. Proceed in many small increments
because this rabbet is far too large to make
in one pass. For accuracy, make a final pass
to remove just a sliver from each wall of the
Table saw setup. With
the miter gauge locked
at 90°, the wedge serves
as an auxiliary miter
fence to create the
desired angle on the
Common Slope Ratios
5:1 = 11.3°
7:1 = 8.1°
6:1 = 9.5°
8:1 = 7.1°
Popular Woodworking November 2009
Dovetail marker. I’ve made dovetail markers in a
range of ratios to suit the work I do most often.
rabbet. At the table saw, rip away a 11 ⁄2" strip
containing the rabbet.
Use the table saw to create the angled
edges. Make sure the blade is square to the
table. The chart below converts commonly
used slope ratios to degrees.
There is no need for extreme accuracy
in setting the miter gauge, but the angles on
each side of the marker must be consistent.
Please do not risk your fingers by holding
a short piece against the miter fence and
crosscutting it. Work by cutting short pieces
off the original long piece.
Here’s the best method I’ve found:
Use the miter gauge to square the short
edge of an approximately 10" x 12" piece
of 3 ⁄ 4" MDF. Rotate the miter gauge clockwise and lock it at the desired dovetail angle.
Holding the same edge as before against the
miter fence, crosscut away a narrow wedge,
about 2" wide, tapering to about 1 ⁄2". Glue
sandpaper on the angled edge.
This wedge now serves as an auxiliary
miter fence. Reset the miter gauge to 90°
and place the wedge against the fence (mine
has sandpaper on it) with the angled edge
away from you, wide end to the left. Place
the thick wall of the workpiece against the
wedge with the rabbet up. Crosscut the first
slope. Now simply flip the wedge end for
end to set up the second angled crosscut,
which converges toward the first, to produce
a marker about 11 ⁄4" wide.
Note: These markers can be made more
directly with a single miter gauge angle setting by rotating the workpiece after the first
cut so the rabbet faces toward you. But this
makes the workpiece less stable and it is difficult to avoid tear-out on the inside edges of
the marker against which the pencil will bear
in use. I do not recommend this method.
Check the accuracy of your markers with
a square and sliding bevel. Chamfer the outside edges that do not contact the work. Be
sure to mark the slope on each gauge prominently – it looks nice to carve the number
with a “V” tool. Apply an oil finish. PW
Rob has been a woodworker for more than 25 years;
his shop is in Medfield, Mass. You can see more of
Rob's woodworking ideas at rpwoodwork.com/blog.
For additional step photos, visit:
phoToS by The auThoR
Flexner on Fixing
by bob Flexner
The Thick & Thin of Veneer Repair
Veneer is just thin wood – so don’t be afraid of it.
love repairing old furniture – the older
the better. I find repairing more challenging
and satisfying than making new because
someone else, or time and age, has set the
parameters within which I have to work.
I’ve written several articles in Popular
Woodworking on furniture repair, including
“Regluing Doweled Chairs” in April 2007
(#161) and “Animal Hide Glue” in August
2007 (#163). Both articles are available free
at popularwoodworking.com/finishing.
But I haven’t written on veneer, and lots of
things can go wrong with veneer. For some
reason many woodworkers, and even professional furniture restorers, have a fear
of working with veneer (some shops even
refuse to do it). I find this fear difficult to
understand because veneer is just thin wood,
subject to the same rules as thick wood.
Recently, I had the opportunity (joy,
really) of replacing some missing veneer on
one of the oldest pieces of furniture I’ve ever
worked on– an early 18th-century George
II bachelor’s chest with a hinged top that
opens to a desk. The challenges were a little
greater than usual, so I thought I’d show you
how I dealt with them.
One aside before starting. After you’ve
worked on a lot of old furniture, you become
adept at spotting anomalies that indicate
fakery or a “marriage” of two or more pieces
of furniture. On this card table I saw nothing
to make me question its authenticity.
Bob Flexner is the author of “Understanding Wood
Finishing” and a contributing editor to popular Woodworking.
Top closed. With the hinged top folded closed,
the piece serves as a chest of drawers. Notice
my veneer repair in the lower left-hand corner
of the top.
Top open. With the top opened to rest on pullout lid supports, the chest becomes a writing
desk. Notice that the veneer on the back half
may have been at some point replaced. The
two halves should be bookmatched – but
they’re not.
Popular Woodworking November 2009
photos by the author
Straight edges. It’s far easier to shape a patch when
you’re dealing with straight rather than curved edges.
So, if possible, I always try to straighten the edges before
fitting my patch.
The damage. Here’s the damage the owner wanted me to repair.
Removing excess. It’s often possible to
pop off the waste veneer as I’m doing
here. When I meet resistance, I can usually
overcome it if the glue is hide glue by using
a syringe to insert a little denatured alcohol
under the veneer. The alcohol crystallizes the
glue, making it easier to separate.
Cleaning up. Though it’s possible to
reglue right over old hide glue using hot
hide glue, it’s best to clean off the old crumbly glue (and whatever contaminants, such
as wax, that might be on the surface) before
gluing the patch. Here I’m washing off the old
glue with hot water. All contaminants come off
with the glue.
Straight edges. Again, it’s always easiest to work with straight
edges. So I’m cutting one using a chisel.
The challenge. Above the hinge you can
see damage to the substrate that must be
repaired so the veneer has something to bond
to. Also, you can see that the veneer is considerably thicker than modern 1⁄32"-thick veneer.
Thick veneer is common on furniture made
before the machine age. Veneer seems to get
thicker the older the furniture.
Rub joint. One of the reasons I love hot hide glue is that I can create a strong bond simply by rubbing two pieces of wood together
with the glue in between. Work proceeds very rapidly using rub joints.
Arranging a clamping setup for this patch would clearly be difficult.
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