Monday, May 28, 2018

Airlight Telephone Booth Cabinet

For those under 25, please ask your parents to translate this.

My son has just completed his second year of architecture school. That means lots of models piling up. We needed a big display cabinet in the basement that would fit in with the retro-americana theme of the basement.

AT&T's Airlight KS-14611 telephone booth, now an American icon, tells us so much about who we were and where we are headed. For me, it reminds me of Superman, Maxwell Smart, road trips and calling Mom to pick me up because my bike had a flat tire. It seems strange that the isolation provided by the phone booth really harkens back to a time when people communicated more in person.

The design was created using SketchUp. Once I figure it out, I'll try to get a copy in the SketchUp warehouse.

It is basic frame and panel construction made of 3/4" poplar. I am still without a table saw, so I used a hybrid approach.

For the tenons on the rails, a table saw would have made quicker work. The 54 mortise and tenon joints were made with a router jig.

The offset shoulder of each rail was made with a Stanley 358 miter box with the depth gauge.

The rabbets for all the stiles and rails were made with the Stanley 55 plane. The dual fences on this plane helped to provide machine-like accuracy.

Rabbets with the Stanley 55. Lots of shavings, little dust.

One of a few projects where assembly wasn't happening in my tiny workshop.

The bottom rail just barely fit in my Stanley 358 to cut the offset shoulder.

I was thinking of gluing and nailing the corners when my wife said, "How are you going to get that out the door to paint it?". That was when I got some 1/4" knockdown furniture bolts to hold the panels together.  The shelves are 3/4" plywood cut with a circular saw. The top shelf was revised with 1/2" plexiglass added to allow light to pass.

Rabbets to hold the panels and plexiglass.

Zinsser 123 Primer undercoat. I tried 4 different metallic paints. First, I used Rustoleum 7715 oil based paint from a can with an HVLP sprayer. More gray than metallic. I also tried Rustoleum and Design Masters silver metallic spray paints. The color was nowhere near the cap color. I called the Krylon rep and she told me to use Krylon Foil Metallic Silver (available at Michaels and Hobby Lobby), and it looked just like metal. Unfortunately, the paint is not so durable even after curing for 10 days. So, I top coated at the expense of loosing some of the metallic lustre.

Duro brand 4" vinyl letters were sprayed on front side of letters with Easy-Tack removable adhesive, then applied to the plexiglass, and sprayed with red paint. The letters were then removed and the plexiglass was spray painted with white paint.

I found some 1/2" thick plexiglass panels (my mom had gotten cutoffs 25 years ago from a factory for her plexiglass sculptures) for the top shelf to allow light to pass through. The paper adhesive was stuck despite using Goo-gone, soap and water, and WD-40. A power washer got off the paper, but not the adhesive. I gave up on the clear look and took an orbital sander starting at 220 grit finishing with 1000 to give it a frosted appearance. I like it better than the clear. A 3/4" plywood panel rests between the two plexiglass panels.

The 1/4" thick 24" wide window panels were obtained used from a thrift store. The plexiglass total cost for me was under $50. The new price could have been 5-10 times that price.  I used a circular saw to cut the plexiglass but first tried messing around with a plexiglass blade for a jigsaw as well as the Rotozip. A circular saw or table saw gives cleaner and straighter cuts.

The light is an LED ceiling fixture.

The bottom red panels were made with 1/4" MDF. I fiddled with a bifold door, but I couldn't seem to locate hardware made for 3/4" thick cabinets.

An AT&T Airlight Telephone Booth
(Photo courtesy N9LXI, Wikipedia)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Miter Clamp Assisted Marking of Pin Board

When making dovetailed joints, how do you align the tail to the pin board (or vice versa) for marking?

Traditional Method:

  • Cut out and clean up tail board
  • Place pin board in vice aligning the end of the board with a board placed on bench
  • Align tail board on (future) pin board
  • Mark

Miter Clamp Method:

Why not use a miter clamp?
  • Alignment is quicker
  • Alignment is a perfect 90°
  • It is easier to check for any gap at the base of the dovetails by holding the piece up to a light
  • If the marks are poorly made the first time, marking again is not a problem

If the marks are faint, it is much easier to align the two boards to remark. It is especially easy to reclamp and remark with a lipped draw

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Portable Miter Box and Tenon Cutter

Tenon cutter


For those that never use miter boxes and like to freehand all of their saw cuts, skip this one. 

I have ditched my electric miter saw and prefer to use my Stanley No. 60 miter box to make cross cuts. I used to pull out the miter box from under the bench and then set it up on the bench. Unfortunately, the bench was often cluttered leaving no space for the miter box to be set up in the tiny workshop. So, I left the miter box set up on a Black and Decker Workmate in the garage, adjacent to my basement workshop, making frequent walks back and forth. After logging in too many extra paces on my fit bit, I had to come up with a miter box that I could have on my bench.

This portable solution for accurate cross and miter cuts uses a magnetic guide block attached to a fence that can be set up at any angle. It is roughly based on the design of a bevel gauge. It is made from some scraps of wood I carefully pulled from my lifesize Jenga pile.  The bonus was that it helped me figure out a method to use the guide for accurate rip cuts, especially helpful for cutting the cheeks of a tenon.

3/4" diameter x 1/4" thick countersunk Nd magnets. The wing nut bolt (1/4" diameter, 2" length) screws into a threaded insert in the lower block.

The guide is meant to be used with a bench hook. The small block on the left side of the device is turned 90 degrees when cutting thicker stock so that the device stays level. The leather strip helps secure the two blocks together.

Tenon Cutter

The magnetic "miter box" is attached to the 90 degree fence with two 7/8" pieces dovetailed together. The brass bolt, when loosened, allows the magnetic fence to move in or out.


The 90 degree fence is put together via dovetails. The brass bolt goes through the slot (seen above the bolt) which then screws into a threaded nut on the fence of the magnetic guide.  This allows the guide to be adjusted for width of teneon cheek.
This isn't the first SCAM (Saw Cut Assisted with Magnets) that I have used. There was the magnetized rear end of a miter jack, which I use quite a bit, as well as the Veritas saw guide.  I still freehand many cuts, sometimes followed by a shooting board. But when a cut is critical, trust the SCAM.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Easy Add-On Tail Vise for the Tiny Shop

Last time, I mentioned various workarounds for not having a tail vise. Well, scratch that.
Now my workbench has a tail vise...sort of.

A tail vise is very handy, but not essential, for holding stock when using handtools, especially planes. A few days after my last post showed the various workarounds for not having a tail vise,  I ran across a copy of Woodwork Magazine from October 1996 describing an easy alternative to a traditional tail vise using a wooden screw clamp.  My bench is bounded on the left and the right by walls, so there isn't enough room on the ends to allow for a real tail vise in my tiny shop.

The alternative tail vise and dog holes can be fashioned together in an evening. Instead of a traditional tail vise which moves in and out on the end of the bench, this "tail vise" uses a simple wooden screw clamp along the front of the bench as its mechanism.

One part of the screw clamp is fixed in position (see diagram below), while the other is free to move up and down and back and forth. The clamp can be as wide as the biggest clamp that you can find (needing larger accompanying dog holes), if desired, but I opted to use a fairly small clamp and even narrowed the width of the clamping portion to 3/4" by rip cutting away some of the thickness of the working ends of the clamp. The tail vise normally would go on the right side of the bench for right handers, but my sharpening station would have been in the way. With any tail vise, you would need dog holes. These were fashioned out of hickory (since I had plenty of that), but ash or maple would be fine. The distance of each block between the dog holes plus the dog hole length should be a tad less than the span of the clamp.

I am suprisingly pleased with how solid and how well this clamping system works. I would like to have the threads on the clamp not be so fine to speed up the clamping process a bit.

The heart of the "tail vise" is a simple wooden screw clamp.

New tail vise and dog holes. The workbench is bounded by walls preventing the use of a traditional tail vise. 
Spaced blocks were glued to a board with screws then going through the front board, each block and into the front edge of the workbench. This is a  rock solid configuration. The front vise, while not in a traditional location, needed to stay there since placing it on the end of the bench would limit its use due to adjacent walls. The fixed portion of the front vise is just a tad proud of the add-on dog hole apparatus. If my stock happens to land where the front vise is located. I use a right angle block placed in the front vise.
Fixed portion of clamp is held in place by stright and angled blocks plus screws.

Workbench before dogholes and "tail vise" added to front of bench. I had used an inset tail vise from Lee Valley that takes longer to set up for clamping and is not height adjustable. My new home made tail vise is much more robust for clamping.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Enjoying Woodworking in a Tiny Workshop

My woodworking workshop measures a meager 10' x 6'; yet, despite the tiny size, it still serves as my woodworking oasis.  Like most workhops, its function and appearance continually change.

Below is a virtual reality tour of the shop:

Below is an updated VR tour after adding on a tail vise, decluttering (to allow room for more tools of course!), and new flooring. May my shop ever be so tidy again! 

The original space was a walk-in closet that we used to store bicycles which shared space with the HVAC and hot water heater. Not enjoying DIY work in the garage during the cold winters and hot summers, I then swapped the bikes into the garage and brought my general purpose DIY tools indoors. A cheap workbench and small parts storage rack were added. At that point, I did not consider myself a woodworker. Any woodworking, such as mouldings or studs for a new wall, was usually afixed to the house.

Original DIY general purpose shop
My foray into woodworking as a hobby only began about 6 years ago.  I added a workbench by gluing strips of scraps of pine and even MDF together to make a slab that fits on top of the old thin plywood topped workbench. A woodworking front vise was then added. There was not enough room for a tail vise. With all of the tools underneath, the bench is very solid when planing.

Workbench made of scrap wood. While far from perfect, it has held up for about 5 years of abuse.
From there, the shop has been in continual flux as I have acquired various hand tools and jigs and figured out different methods of work.

The plan was to keep my power miter saw in the shop and get a bench top bandsaw.  Luckily, my original plan of placing a dust collector in the small space to the right of the workbench failed. The stated dimensions on the canister type dust collector (DC) from Penn Sate Industries  were only partially correct.  The DC was 22" wide at any point, but the stand was staggered giving the dust collector a wider footprint. I called Penn State Industries about the return policy and the gentleman on the phone was very helpful. We worked out a plan to place the DC in the garage, which shares the wall with the workshop, and sending a duct through the wall. This move saved valuable space in the tiny shop, reduced noise and allowed me to think about getting a more substantial bandsaw as well as a planer for milling large boards in the garage. (The downside of the DC in the garage is sucking out conditioned indoor air.) So, I have annexed a portion of the garage for lumber storage and the major power tools: a small lathe, a bandsaw, dust collector and a lunchbox planer.

Boards are milled in the garage using a fairly small footprint. The lunchbox planer and small lathe share a flip top table. There is a Y connector on the DC with one branch heading through the wall into my workshop.

    Space Saving Measures

    • Shooting Board / Drafting Table / Veneer Slicer

    • Flip Top Workstation For Lathe and Lunchbox Planer

    The key design feature of the table is a very strong central rod that is sandwiched between two glued 3/4" plywood panels.

    • Flip Up Scroll Saw Station

    • Hand Tool Cart
    This poor rejected kitchen cabinet is chock full o' hand tools. The rasps, files and router are stashed away using drawer slides attached to the side of the cabinet.

    Holding Stock Without  A Tail Vise

    I have been thinking about options to add a genuine workbench with a tail vise, but none of the designs would hold the quantity of tools I store underneath. Moreover, the bench would need to be a lot shorter to allow for a tail vise. So, I use the following to hold my stock:
    • Holdfast
    Veritas Hold Down

    Kreg Bench Clamp

    • Front Vise

    • Inset Tail Vise

    • Mortised Bench Stop 
    Mortised bench stop with Veritas Bench Pup

    • Wedged Board

    • Sticking Board
    For some mouldings, I use an adjustable width sticking board that attaches to workbench top via T-bolts. A mortised bench stop on one end and a screw on the other helps secure the stock.

    • Special Holder for the Dual Fenced Stanley 55

    Some additional thoughts to make your small woodworking workshop an enjoyable place to work.
    • Try to convert a frustrating part of the shop into a gem.
    • For storage, think vertically. Every inch of wall space is important. Tools need to be organized in a compact manner using wall space from floor to ceiling. 
    • The tiny space forces me to tidy up on the fly.
    • Double duty jigs save space
    • Really think twice about any new tool purchases

    Behemoth shooting board plane
    A smaller shooting board