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.

Take a virtual reality tour of the shop using the photo below.

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Using a Trapping Plane and The Stanley 77 Dowel Maker to Make a Tapered Dowel (Golf Shaft)

CCASIONALLY, I still get sidetracked from "standard" woodworking to make graceful replica mid-19th century long nose golf clubs. There are two main parts of the golf club, the clubhead and the shaft. I enjoy making the clubheads, but the shaft had been another story. The shaft is made of hickory, and as you know, working with hickory using hand tools requires frequent sharpening and more sweat. On a prior post, I showed about a half dozen methods of creating the golf shaft which typically tapers from 3/4" to about 1/2". These methods could be used to make chair spindles, pool cues or whatever. The traditional method for a clubmaker of the era was to use a hand plane to taper the shaft followed by a spokeshave. Near the end of the 19th century, the clubmaker often purchased the shafts from a factory that used a lathe. This would have allowed him more time to tend to his other duties as keeper of the greens, caddying, playing for prize money and setting up member tournaments. I believe that since shafts were often purchased, explanations in books regarding shaft making are lacking as opposed to clubhead making. Also, with golf shafts often 43" or more, a lathe that large would not be common either in a 19th century golf shop or a modern home woodshop.

The shaft of this circa 1870 replica long nose putter, tapering from 3/4" to 1/2", 
was made with a trapping plane and a hand crank

Five time Open Champion J. H. Taylor spent 15 pages discussing clubhead making and only 2 sentences on the shaft. From The Book of Golf and Golfers, Horace Hutchinson, 1899. My guess is that Mr. Taylor did not enjoy making shafts and purchased them.
Here is a method to make a tapered dowel, or golf shaft, using the Ashem Crafts standard trapping plane combined with a hand crank. The nice thing about the trapping plane is that even if the dowel or shaft is bowed, it poses no problem (as opposed to using a lathe even with a steady rest). Shafts are often a bit bowed after riving the stock since the grain may not run perfectly straight. Additionally, the aggressiveness of the shavings is easily adjusted by the amount of pressure applied to the tool. Of all of the methods I have worked with to make a wooden golf shaft, this is the most efficient and enjoyable for me.

The standard trapping plane from Ashem Crafts

This shaft was pretty badly bowed but still could be handled with the trapping plane

My Stanley 77 dowel maker now works double duty, not only making a 3/4" rod, but also serving as a hand crank after a simple modification. There is a video of the Stanley 77 dowel maker on that prior post

The modification is needed so that the 3/4" dowel turns when the  crank is turned. Normally, with the Stanley 77, the stock is stationary with the cutter rotating like a crank-type pencil sharpener.

After poking around The Home Depot, I was fortunate to discover that standard gas pipe fittings fit the thread on the drive shaft for the cutter. I used a 1" x 1/2" coupling-reducing fitting. The larger opening threads on to the crankshaft, while the smaller hole is 3/4". Three threaded holes were tapped into the fitting to grab the dowel.

Normal setup of Stanley 77 with a 3/4" cutter

About to place adapter

1"x1/2" coupling-reducing fitting with threaded
holes for retaining bolts, perfect for a 3/4" dowel
The folks from Ashem Crafts were kind enough to provide a schematic to make your own hand crank from a bicycle crank; or you have the option to purchase their hand crank, known as a twizzler. Certainly, the driving mechanism need not be human powered. The Stanley 77 can be hooked up to a motor.  In fact, you can easily use different ratchet adapters placed onto a squared off end of the dowel and stick this in a drill, shown below.

Trapping plane - motorized

The stock should be turning away from you. If you want to use a trapping plane with a lathe, you'll need to run the lathe in reverse or purchase a trapping plane specifically oriented for a lathe.

How did they manufacture golf shafts in the late 19th century?

Descriptions of golf shaft making prior to the late 1800's described the use of riven wood. Initially, during the ash shaft era prior to about 1820, the shafts seemed to have been formed with drawknives and spokeshaves. Once hickory started to be imported to Scotland around 1820, the non-green timber was formed into shafts with planes. The lathe was not used until the last quarter of the 19th century. As a youth, the 1893 Open Champion, Willie Auchterlonie, served as the human power for clubmaker Robert Wilson's lathe aound 1880.
Excerpt from Great Golfers in the Making, Henry Leach, 1907
Interestingly, the mechanically powered method using a lathe has been cited as the method of manufacturer of golf shafts in the late 1800's, but further details are often lacking. Did they use woodturning gouges with the lathe? Not sure. But, it seems to me that renowned clubmaker Robert Forgan indeed used a trapping plane. In the 1897 edition of the Golfing Annual, there is a description of Forgan and his methods. The ring plane, by its brief description below, seems to be a type of trapping plane. I have come up empty trying to find any further information about a ring plane.

Article originally appearing in the 1897 Golfing Annual
and also in the St. Andrews Citizen, Dec 22, 1900, upon Forgan's death.
Forgan purchased his gasoline powered lathe in 1882 followed later by a copying lathe and supplied shafts and raw clubheads to many professionals, including Old Tom Morris, who then refined and assembled them and stamped their own names on the clubs.          


Here is a nice vintage British Pathé movie short showing a guy that really knows how to use a trapping plane to make a Brazilian greenheart fishing rod.

Some terminology for similar devices:

Rounder plane: fixed diameter plane to make a dowel

Stail engine, adjustable rounder, turning plane or witchet: adjustable diameter rounding plane that adjusts by turning a pair of screws
Trapping plane: adjustable diameter rounding plane that adjusts in real time using a lever mechanism.

From The Golfers, by Charles Lees, 1847
Illuminated letter by Thomas Hodge from Golf, The Badminton Library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Metamorphic Library Chair

The prior post discusses the history of the metamorphic furniture of Morgan and Sanders. Like the Londoners of the early 19th century, I too caught the craze and built a chair that converts into a set of library steps.  Having a decent golf book collection extending up to a 9 foot ceiling, I was grabbing the kitchen stool each time to reach the top shelf. Certainly, with the amount of time I spent building the chair, I could have run back and forth to the kitchen over a thousand times. Did I really need to make this gadget? No. But, isn't a Morgan and Sanders style metamorphic library chair more hip than a kitchen stool?

The chair quickly transforms into a set of steps via hinges located along the top of the front legs.

In terms of the woodworking itself, the project was an exercise in mortise and tenon joinery. There are close to 40 of these joints, only a few of which were not angled or curved. Some of the mortise and tenons were hand cut completely, others were made with a router jig, some were in combination using power and hand tools. The crest rail was affixed using 1/2" dowels and smaller dowels were used to connect the back splat to the crest rail and rail below. The main lesson learned here is to consider the best timing to cut the joinery. Sometimes, the mortise and tenons should be cut while the stock is still square. Also, some of the curved pieces have flat sections to make the joinery simpler. For example, the back leg has a flat section at the level of the side rail as well as at the level of the arm rest. Similarly, there is a flat plateau along the top of the side rail to accept the support for the armrest support.

Flat sections on curved pieces simplifies the joinery.
Other parts of the chair do not allow for flattened surfaces. To make the angled curved shoulder for the bottom rail into the curved leg, the shoulder was cut on an angle tangent to the curve. A trace amount of the center of the shoulder was then hollowed out with sandpaper with trial and error. Some curves were so subtle that the shoulders were not hollowed out at all.

Old chair template. I did not intend to make a faithful reproduction of the Morgan and Sanders chair. I almost forgot that my dad had this old chair in a spare bedroom which he let me borrow to use to create the foundations of the template of the sides of the chair. Notice that the sides of this chair are coplanar. All of the rails that run side to side, rather than front to back, will need to be joined with angled mortise and tenons

Plywood template in the "chair" position.

Mimicking the side profile when the chair back is flipped for the stairs. The armrests needed to be shortened so that they would not hit the leg when the steps are used.

OK. I don't own a table saw. I am not recommending the use of your garage door rails as a hoist.

I worked with a large approx 14/4 slab of cherry. There were 5 different pieces for the sides of the chair. The final side thickness is 1 3/8". The left and right pieces were cut as one, shaped and sanded, and then ripped in half  to have a corresponding left and right.

This template jig prevented the blade from wandering too far off course. This type of jig has been described in the various woodworking magazines. 

Following the rough cutting with the band saw, the pieces were cleaned up with a spokeshave and then sanded.

I went with angled mortises rather than angled tenons. You can look at other sites about that debate. Sometimes the tenons were cut freehand, other times I used my Stanley 55 saw plane.

The key lesson for these joints:
When I found myself scratching my head too long to figure out something, it was just easier to go old school. Our eyes, along with a bevel gauge, are more accurate than we can sometimes imagine.  7° was my working angle.

Here was my first significant boneheaded blunder. These hinges will help the back part of the chair flip over the front legs to expose the steps. Unfortunately, the hinge central axis as well as the rear of the front leg at the level of the hinge needed to be parallel to the rear of the front rail.  Why? While the hinge works smoothly before assembly, when the right and left hinges are installed and the chair is assembled, the angle of hinges will try to force the rails outward as the chair is converted to the steps. 

Note the difference after fixing things up a bit..
The central axis of the hinges are now colinear with the rear of the front seat rail.

Note that the side rail is not shaped until the mortise and tenons are completed.

Chair swung open in "steps" mode.

A router jig to create the mortise and tenons was used for many of the smaller pieces that support the treads of the steps.

Stair treads made of maple

I finally got to use my coach-makers router to fashion the grooves for the panel.

At this point, I had not glued anything in place.

This shows the mortise for the hinge. Since screws go into end grain, dowels were placed just deep to the mortise so that the screw can  have more grab. The second screw goes through a tenon.

 The side rails and other components are shaped . Then glue up is completed. Further finer shaping was performed with rasps and files after glue up.  Quirk beads are made with a scratch stock in a fairly tedious manner. The beads were worked on before gluing and then further finessed after gluing. Some issues with short grain tearout with the beading occurred as the upper rear of armrest joins the rear leg. The volutes were fashioned on lathe and applied to recessed holes.

This is the improvised locking mechanism when the chair-steps is used as a chair. The plate is located on the upper surface of the first step. There is a brass threaded insert in the larger hole. To lock the chair, the threaded brass pin runs through a brass lined hole on the fourth step (which sits on top of the first step) and the engages the insert. The original 1811 model used a lever under the first step with a hook that latched into a plate on the fourth step above.

The "emblem" is a standardized 1" golf ball marker recessed flush to the surface with a magnetic backing which can be easily exchanged. 

Maple steps with diamond inlay.

Note the 5th leg added under the center stretcher.

Ackermann's Repository , July 1811