Monday, August 17, 2009

Working Together...

I've spent some time over the last two weeks working on some boxes. I have two at a "joinery completion" stage and four more with the pieces just dimensioned. One of the boxes has the intended purpose of holding my up-and-coming Christmas present - a custom set of four dovetail paring chisels from Blue Spruce Tool Works. They all have curly mahogany handles (wood supplied by me) that match the carbide burnisher owner Dave Jeske made for me a month or two ago. They arrived two weeks ago and Dana let me see them just long enough to take some measurements before she secreted them away for the next six months. We ordered them a bit early to take advantage of a 10% discount Dave was offering and to get one of his Blue Spruce Tool Works t-shirts for free.

(And by the way... isn't my wife just the greatest?)

The other boxes don't yet have specific buyers but they are all intended to hold sgian dubhs. Well, dimensionally they would all serve that purpose, anyway. I'm making them for two reasons, one of which I can't really divulge right now. But the other reason is simply because I want to have some boxes on hand that I can offer as "immediately available" so I don't always have to bust my butt with a custom box when someone contacts me and says they need a box in three weeks. I'll take some pictures and post them along with some of my design ideas as I get a little further along in the process later this week. I had an idea or two that coincided with the Guinness 250th Anniversary that I wanted to play around with...

They are all sliding lid boxes with rabbeted butt joints. From a design point of view, the joinery is relatively easy to cut on the table saw with a flat tooth rip blade. Some of that challenge is in making sure the saw cuts are accurate. Over the past few days, I've learned some tricks for making these cuts incredibly precise - all without using any measuring devices. Again, when I start on the joinery for the next four boxes, I'll take some pictures and share with you.

But what has me more excited than anything is how I've quite naturally started blending hand tools with power tools into a true power tool/hand tool hybrid shop - the two halves are now working together. For example, the other day when I was working on the sliding lid for the chisel storage box, I had a board that wasn't exactly thicknessed properly (it was the last board from a bunch of resawn lumber); it was just a bit thicker on one edge than it was on the other. Without a second thought, I went downstairs to the workbench, marked the board thickness on all the edges with my circular marking gauge, grabbed my #604 1/2, and started planing the slight high side down to size.

Later, when I needed to cut dados and rabbets on the edges of the lid so it would slide in and out of the grooves in the main part of the box, I pulled out my Record 043 plough plane instead of trying to make the cuts back on the table saw. Wow. That was more satisfying than planing a board flat! After just a minute or two of careful setup (and scoring a line on the cross-grain cut to prevent tear out), it was just a matter of planing until the blade stopped cutting.

Finally, when I was cutting the panel for the second sliding lid, I had a board with one side far, far from straight (it was a raw edge with bark on it) and the opposite edge ended up not being a terribly straight line, either. Again, I headed back downstairs to the workshop, put the board on edge in a vice, and took about 15 or 20 strokes with the #604 1/2 (it was too short for the #7) to make the not-so-straight-edge perfectly jointed.

A great benefit to using more hand tools is that I can plug in to my MP3 player and listen to some Grateful Dead or Cat Stevens or Jim Malcom while I'm working - certainly something that helps my creative juices flow.

I'm starting to approach every part of the project with the question, "How can I do this with hand tools?" It is very freeing. If you haven't yet tried it, I would highly recommend at least making an attempt at it the next time you find yourself in the shop.


The Village Carpenter said...

I'm with you, Ethan. I pretty much just use power tools for grunt work and do all joinery and finishing with hand tools. In fact, I use my bandsaw over my table saw for ripping and then joint the edge with a plane. Much more fun!

Ethan said...

Thanks for the great idea, Kari! And with my shop limitations - TS up in the garage and BS down in the basement... right next to the bandsaw :) - that technique would save me trips up and down the stairs.

I'll still keep the jointer and planer up in the garage, as well, mostly to keep the noise pollution down inside (oh, and because my jointer weighs in at about #200+ and I don't want to move it down the basement stairs).