What’s Behind Door #1?

After a lot of very cold, shop-prohibitive weather, the holidays, and some general laziness, I finished one of the Kasumi-Gumi hip board shoji panels. My original intent was to build two, and then a basic display frame that would allow the panels to slide as they were meant to. But I had some technical issues and had to cannabalize some of the pieces from the second door to finish the first one. Cutting all those half-lap joints by hand, particularly of the 4mm wide kumiko proved to be more challenging that I foresaw. So, good practice but I’ll have to cut some more kumiko for the second panel before I can finish the original goal.

Here’s the primary vertical and horizontal kumiko fit together and set lightly on top of the frame to get a sense of where everything goes and whether my initial measurements and cuts were accurate.


A detail of the various Kasumi (mist) kumiko after assembly but prior to attaching the shoji paper. Each of the free-end kumiko are chamfered on the top and sides. Don’t look too close or you might see some warts in the joinery:-)


After a long evening of sawing, chopping, sawing and chopping some more.


Door #1 glued and assembled.


Shoji paper attached to the back.


Time for some surgery here: I made a very simple walnut pull, using a gouge to rough out the indentation-was going for a rustic, hand-hewn look. Not perfect but kind of interesting.


And the pull mortise cleaned out.


Fitting the pull to the mortise.


And tapped down. Just need to plane the excess flush with the stile.


And the finished piece. I’m pretty happy with it. Definitely some gaps, especially where the kasumi kumiko meet the tsukeko. This is really just a result of patience or lack there of. The more time I spend really focusing on cutting the joinery, the better it is.




Finally got my hands on a “maebiki oga”. I’ve been interested for some time with the idea of ripping boards from trees by hand and this particular saw seems to be the best bet. It measures 32″ from end to end and about 12″ at the widest part. It came with a handle which needs to be replaced and as you can see in the photo, that is also the location of the worst rust. I’d estimate it weighs around 6-7 lbs.

The saw body itself is perfectly flat and the teeth are in good condition. I’ve used saws of course for some time now but never really stopped to consider how they even work in the first place. Mostly I’ve used impulsed hardened blades that I just replace when they become dull.

Fortunately Tools for Working Wood has a very useful PDF on their website, courtesy of Gramercy Tools that gives a detailed rundown of saw anatomy, titled, “Elements of Saw Tooth Design”. This helpful PDF covers Rake, Fleam, Slope, Pitch, Gullet Depth, and Set. For the Maebiki below, you can see that it has a positive rake, and a rather aggressive one at that. As for fleam, it has none, which is typical of a rip saw(and will simplify the sharpening process). It also has no slope to speak of. For pitch, it’s progressive, ranging from 3TPI at the heel to 2TPI at the toe which makes it a bit easier to start the cut and then makes for faster cutting once you are moving. The gullet depth is variable as you can see from the image below, but they are fairly deep and that makes sense, given the size and amount of shavings that this blade would produce.

And lastly the set. From what I can tell given my limited experience, the set is moderate on this saw. It’s not totally flat and also not too extreme. Once I actually get the opportunity to try it out, then I’ll be able to determine whether or not it needs to be increased further. And for that, I’ll need to get my hands on a small anvil, or perhaps a chunk of Iron wood, which would be cool to have. I’ve seen it growing in the woods around here, but it’s a slow grower and not so common.


The next step will be to remove as much rust as I can, fashion a new handle and begin the sharpening process. For that I was able to find a 150mm feather-edge file to sharpen the teeth on eBay for $12, which is the largest I’ve been able to find so far. I’ve never sharpened a saw before, let along one as large as this one but I think having bigger teeth will make it easier in one sense and be helpful in measuring my progress.

Simple Pleasures

Late last summer I milled a decent sized walnut trunk into 2″ planks, plainsawn through and through on the LT15. The rest of the slabs are closer to 6′ long but a couple came out closer to 2′ for various reasons. The slabs were air drying for about 9 months which isn’t nearly long enough for 2″ thick walnut but since we don’t have the solar kiln set up yet I thought I’d try my luck at “kiln” drying in the attic.

I wasn’t properly prepared for this in that I don’t have a thermometer up there to measure temp/humidity but if I had to guess I’d say it’s around 110 up there during the day at least during the last few months that I’ve had the wood up there. MC was around 20% when the wood went in and today the reading was closer to 7-8%. Not too bad. It was definitely a lot easier hauling the pieces down.

I need 4 legs for a small hall bench I’m building out of an old walnut slab and thought this chunk would work nicely for that.

After crossing cutting the ends to get it to length (approx. 17″) I ripped one edge to get rid of the last gnarly bit. The off-cut was kind of cool, with the insect damage so I set that aside to use at some point down the road maybe as a decorative piece.


Once cut to size I brought out the trusty Jack Plane and started cross planing to flatten the first side. Always a treat to plane off the sawmill marks and see the grain and figure appear. Never gets old.


And after about 2 hours of handwork I had a lovely 2″ thick 14″x17″ chunk of walnut from a tree more or less in my own backyard. There’s some nice chatoyance when the light hits it right and I’m looking forward to ripping the 4 legs for the hall bench in the next couple days. For now, I’ll let the wood rest and see what kind of movement occurs before proceeding.



The Challenge of Shaping

First off, Happy Independence Day. While things may never be perfect in this place we call home, we’ve got a lot of which to be proud. The older I get the more I see that the world doesn’t exist in black and white, i.e. there’s always another side to everyone’s story, whether you agree with them or not. So here’s to the beauty of public discourse. Have a great 4th of July and be safe out there!

As for the world of woodworking, the shavehorse build continues…

I’m making my first rudimentary attempt to shape the seat for this beast. I’m lacking in some tools, like an adze for instance. And I’m also lacking in any know-how whatsoever when it comes to carving out a seat. Although I figure with some deft sawing and creative plane work I can get things to an approximation that will suit the task. Using White Oak on the other hand doesn’t say much for my wood selection IQ. But you use what you have…and you might notice a striking resemblance of said White Oak seat blank to the bench top it’s sitting on. Ever since I built my first workbench, i.e. a beginner’s attempt at a Roubo-style bench a la Chris Schwarz, I had a couple extra chunks of the bench top lying around just waiting to be used. And it turns out that a #6 Fore Plane with PM-V11 steel cuts through White Oak with a certain satisfying effectiveness.


Shaker Bench

In choosing to begin fresh with a more direct intent, I wanted to try my hand at a basic Shaker Meetinghouse Bench. Christian Becksvoort has a nice how-to in Fine Woodworking 231 that I used for my first try. Eventually I’ll use Cherry for the later benches, but for this first attempt I used a single piece of Poplar. The final dimensions ended being approximately 18″ x 9″ x 7″. The most difficult step was fitting the corner braces accurately.

I started with the legs, cutting out the arch with a fret saw and smoothing it out with a rasp and then successive grits of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. After that I cut out the two tenons that mate to the bench top.


IMG_4468Next was clearing out the 1/8″ dado and then chopping the mortises in the bench top to receive the tenons.



IMG_4484Moving along, the fit of the tenoned legs to the bench top was a bit tight and I ended up cracking the top but overall the fit wasn’t terrible and was a good reminder of why it’s a smart idea to build a mock-up first. It makes the mistakes that much easier to live with.




Fitting the braces was next and was the most challenging part of the process. My first brace was pretty awful but the second (after forcing myself to slow down) came out much better.





…and the second attempt…




IMG_4541The the dry-fit and finally glue-up and planing/sanding down. I didn’t apply a finish and this ended up making a nice gift for a friend’s son.






Taughannock II

I was fortunate to locate a set of Ash book matched slabs some time ago and as I’ve been in need of a desk for several years now, the Universe smiled and they magically appeared in my shop. Total length runs to about 8′ with 3′ width. Two years ago I designed and built a coffee table for my sister, naming it the Taughannock. I used Walnut for that project (and White Oak for the leg) and wanted to expand on that design with a bigger piece. I also kept one of the live edges and for this piece, I’ve decided to remove both live edges, which is closer to the original design.

IMG_3554The first step was to joint the edges for glue-up. It took me 2-3 hours for each edge using a 22″ jointer and my low angle block plane in tandem. I ended up sharpening both blades twice for each leaf. Ash is a pretty tough wood and tear out comes easy, especially with a dull blade. It’s difficult to check for a completely flat edge along the length of an 8′ piece. I have a 3′ straightedge that I basically side-stepped all the way down and then used my longest engineer’s square. This was done multiple times throughout the course of the jointing.

IMG_3559Here’s the edge with the sawyer’s marks.

IMG_3561And then after jointing. Ash has a lovely grain that when planed properly results in a unique surface. It has some similarities to Oak in its appearance but I find it to have a finished quality all it’s own, one completely distinct from Oak.

IMG_3560And the glue-up. The Roubo bench came in handy here. It’s weight was more than enough to offset the incredibly heavy Ash and the side panel clamp allowed for me to use gravity to my advantage during the gluing and clamping. I used 3 cauls to help insure everything was lined up properly. (a good tip here is to cover the cauls with duct tape which prevents them from being glued directly to the piece).

IMG_3570And the top after the glue-up. ps its very heavy now…

IMG_3576To take the bark off, I used a draw knife my dad gave me a year ago when I went to visit him. It was my great-grandfather’s tool and is really in good shape-it needs some cosmetic work to look pretty, but for now it just needed to be sharpened. My great-grandfather was born in my hometown in IA in 1871 and so I think this would date the tool to about 115-120 years old. I’m blessed to be able to give this tool new life and to know it was held in the hands of my namesake over 100 years ago. There’s a goodness in that history that I’m too poor with words to describe. If I can do it even the smallest amount of justice with my woodworking now, then I will have taken a small step in honoring my family and my work.

IMG_3567After a bit of work on the Tormek.

IMG_3571Here’s a dry fit to test the 45 degree mitre. It took a few passes and was no easy task given the weight and size of the pieces. I was able to use my table saw to cut the 45 on the leg, but the top of the desk was a different story. This involved using the circular saw and a series of clamps and a straightedge and a soft touch if that’s possible when slicing a 45 degree cut across a 1 3/4″ thick and 30″ wide piece of Ash.

IMG_3592The fit is actually pretty tight-I didn’t draw it too tight with the clamps for fear of damaging the joint prior to glue up but when I held it with just my hands, it came together nicely.

IMG_3593And here are all the pieces. The final design will be slightly different than the coffee table, primarily to account for the extra support needed for a piece as large and heavy as this one. You can see some live edges here that will eventually be incorporated into the base. I wanted to incorporate that aspect of the wood but have it be more subtle on this design.