Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Moxon Twin Screw Vise

A while back I was struck by a bolt of inspirational lightning. Not that this is a completely unusual experience, I have these episodes more and more the longer I am involved with the online woodworking communities out here on the internet. From reading fellow woodwrights blogs, to the light banter and near instant access to people smarter than me on Twitter. There is a lot to be said about the daily help and information I get to consume thanks to this medium. Sometimes it's a tsunami of info and I think I'll drown, but when that happens, ahhh what a sweet death.

This particular bolt of inspiration came from Christopher Schwarz's blog over at Popular Woodworking. Sometimes when you read things they make so much sense you wonder why it never occurred to you, see that's the thing I was saying about reading and connecting with a bunch of people smarter than me. He had done some research and thinking based on the images from engraver's plates in Joseph Moxon's "Mechanick Exercises" published in 1703 and the curious picture of a workbench with a twin screw vise that doesn't seem to make perfect sense with the rest of the picture.

You can read the rest of Chris's blog on the subject and background by clicking HERE, but the end result was he decided to build a twin screw vise that clamped to the top of the workbench instead of being intricately attached to it. This is where the aforementioned lightning struck. I have always wanted and envied a twin screw vise and when I built my version of the Joiner's Bench my first intentions were to mount one on the front of that. Then I saw this info from Chris and I had to make one this way instead, and I had just enough hickory left over from wrapping to Joiner's Bench to pull it off.

I started by turning the two screws needed. I did write about the first one I turned (click HERE if you missed that one and want to read more about the turning and threading process) and the first one I managed to do perfectly, The second one works, but I almost, almost made the diameter on the threaded area too small, and if they weren't so long, I'd have had to make another, but it worked. I just cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time and be careful if your are turning your own, was I a little cocky from my success on the first one, maybe a little. The screws are made from 1 1/2" by 3 1/2:" by 15" hickory stock, after cutting the area to turn round from the center I took the strips left after the cut, cut and glued them back to the handle end. After the glue dried I put them back on the lathe and turned down the handles. I left the handles a little bulky just in case I decide to put a cross dowel through them to help turn them faster.

Now to make the faces of the vise. I had one big section of hickory left for this, 11" wide 1 1/2: thick and just a hair under 36" long, I decided to make two halves that lined up together perfect instead of the offset bottom that Chris designed. Why? Well I could give you a line about his design and how it may or may not line up with what's depicted in the plates in Moxon or how I've seen pics on Peter Follansbee's blog using a smaller version of this vise as a free floating third hand when chiseling on his bench, but in all honesty I only had this much hickory left and I wanted to give the vise as much face surface as possible. I like Chris's design because it makes it easier to line up to the front of the bench when placing the vise, but it's really no that hard to line it up anyhow.

I ripped the board in half using my bandsaw to get a very thin kerf. I then brought the halves over to the bench and played with the two halves to see which way they would mate together best. After marking the boards to the outside and top and bottom, I ganged them together in the leg vise and planed them down to matching size. This board was still pretty rough from the mill, especially on the sides. I took the boards down to even with a jack plane and then trued them out with my fore plane, (I just don't own a good metal bodied joiner plane yet, and the wooden one I own still needs a lot of tuning and "I'll get around to it" work, the fore plane was long enough to true 3 feet of board) When one side was done I flipped the stack, made sure they were both lined up perfectly, and flattened and trued the other side.

The board had only one pass through the surface planer at the mill, so it was still pretty rough, just a minute or two with the smoothing plane cured all of those ills. I also gave all the edges a slight round over, not much, just a touch.

Now it was time to drill holes. I carefully ganged the boards together again, making sure that matching surfaces were the way I wanted and I clamped them together. I had to drill 2 different size holes with forstner bits to make this work 1 1/2" in the board facing me as the vise worked and 1 3/8" holes in the board that took the threads.
Now I could have measured exactly and made marks and swore when I was off by a 32nd of an inch, or I could do just what I did and cut out most of the measuring all together. With the boards ganged I did measure on each end, 3 " in from the outside and halfway across the width and made a small mark where these points met. I then went over to the drill press where I  took a very long, but small diameter drill bit and I drilled at that mark through both boards. Now I had a small pilot hole that would line up perfectly between the two boards. I took them apart, chucked up the forstner bits and bored out the appropriate holes.

I do have to explain one thing here that I had to really think about on my own, because maybe other places I've read thought this was intuitive or I missed it, but when boring the holes why two different sizes? You are only threading into one board. if you cut threads into both boards the threads will keep those boards in opposition to one another, so one board gets the threads and the other gets a hole slightly larger so the screws will push right through it and essentially it floats in place until the threads draw the bigger handles tight and draw the boards together. then you get the force of a vise. Like I said maybe intuitive but I like things explained.

I then took them over to the bench and cut the threads into the 1 3/8th holes. I lined up the boards together, connected the back board to the bench with a couple of F clamps, grabbed a piece of poplar and gave the vise a try. It worked great, rock solid as advertised.

I have a little left to do, I want to devise a way to hold it in place with my holdfasts instead of F clamps, My holdfasts are much too short to work, plus what I have in mind may add a little stability as well. (not that it needs it) I'm going to throw some danish oil on it to protect it and make it look prettier, and maybe wax the threads a little. Other than that the vise is usable and workable, and I'm very happy with it. Thank you again Mr. Schwarz for the great idea.

Getting struck with inspirational lightning is a funny thing, If you keep the circuit going and don't let it go to ground, you can pass on the ideas and inspiration along a whole spectrum. I hope this was able to pass along my link in the circuit and maybe strike someone else with a little jolt of inspiration.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Doors Open and Lights On.

I here by declare the new incarnation of the Oldwolf Workshop open for sawdust! One more good say is all it took. There are still a few smaller projects to get accomplished but at this moment in time all of the workbenches and tools, both hand tools and power tools, are set up and ready for action. Well I may be overstating one big and one more minor omission, but we'll get to that.

First as a reminder on where we were, I had the workbench side of the shop nearly done, but one the other wall of the shop I had a disaster brewing, Here's a reminder pic of the traffic wreck that was over there.

I put a couple of days of work into it and by this late afternoon I had it polished up and looking a bit more respectable.

I even managed to hang a rack for my longer clamps.

Here's a couple shots of how the whole place looks now.
 On to the glaring omissions, the biggest is my table saw, I love her but she is a whole day of set up, tuning, and adjusting by herself. Besides the biggest issue I have at this shop is adequate power supply, I will be amending that issue soon, but for now it's just not there. I have to work to remember not to run several different devices at once, and any bog on the motors flatlines the power. I know that my table saw is the biggest electron consumer in the shop. Its the only thing I have ever consistently blown circuit breakers with. I have made the decision to not assemble her until the time is right. She can live under her tarp and out of the way for quite a while, and almost a year ago that would have broken my heart. I wouldn't know how to do woodworking without a table saw. After living in the hand tool monastery that was the previous incarnation, the Wood Shop Jr, somehow I'm not so broken up over the decision.

The other item that is going to be sitting and waiting for a while is the 1940's joiner I picked up this spring. I have a lot of work to do on that one with removing the rust and making sure the motor works. I have too much on my plate to tackle that yet until maybe this fall. Who knows, maybe even next spring.

Now I have to focus on breaking down some rough cut white oak into the necessary pieces for an upcoming "secret" project. Secret here on the blog anyhow as its intended for someone who know about this blog and reads it from time to time. I will show some pictures of the process and what I'm working on, but I won't be showing any finished product until the baby is in the hands of its future owner.

I will also continue work on the Moxon twin screw vise as a filler project while glues dry and what not with the main "secret" project.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Test of Love.

In the midst of moving a workshop you would think that my blog posts would all be updates on progress or things built to assist in living life in my new space. I'm sorry if this disappoints but this article is not about equipment, or the workshop, or a project, or anything else but revealing a moment of questionable judgment.

You see, I love to make my beautiful wife roll her eyes at my sometimes infantile behavior. I believe this constant testing of her tolerance for me may just be the cement that holds our relationship together. (OK that may be overstating it but I know her tolerance of me is a big part of what works for us.) When we were first dating one of the things I loved to do when we went out to eat was to take those little adhesive paper strips that some restaurants use to bind the napkin around the silverware, unwrap it, and stick the adhesive part to my forehead until she noticed. Sometimes minutes would pass before she would see, on one occasion she didn't notice until we were midway through placing our order with the equally unimpressed waitress. I think I got a well deserved kick in the shins for that one.

But these hi-jinks always end the same. I smile, she curses my name and rolls her eyes, I know she loves me, and all is right with the world.

Well I have a confession now. You know those old stories of sailors going out to have a drink or two on the town, and then waking up on ship the next day with a tattoo of a dancing girl on their arm or chest, well that's not exactly the story of what happened here, but you can feel free to fill in any fictional blanks you want once you see the evidence

After finishing reading "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" I was just too inspired by the spirit of The Schwarz and I couldn't help my impulsiveness. Plus, it got me a fantastic eye roll. I knew she still loved me.



Friday, July 23, 2010

Updates on the Workshop 5.0

OK, here I am again today, not used to doing two posts in a day, but with some time on my hands this evening and a little pressure from a couple of reader emails, I'm back.

The e-mails were justified, basically they said the one photo I placed of the pegboard over the main bench in the new shop was "crap" and after taking another look, I couldn't agree more, I apologize, I only had my phone on me that evening, and though the pics from it are lower quality than my camera, they have turned out OK on the blog before. This time I think it had more to do with my timing and the available light combined with the phones limitations than anything else, but I don't pretend to be remotely good at the photography thing. I'm happy with passable.

Anyway Today I went over to Big River Lumber and picked up some nice rough cut white oak for an upcoming project, 21 board feet of white oak to be specific, ran me about 61 dollars. Working with a lumber company directly is such a revelation to me, in the past I have blown a kabillion dollars buying my hardwoods at the big retail stores. (A kabillion is defined as a higher number than I care to admit). I am so happy to find someone local who is willing to work with a smaller guy like me who buys wood project by project instead of in the hundreds of board feet.

I got it back to the shop and laid out on the bench with a couple stickers to help protect it, and even though it was a kabillion degrees out today (there's that not-a-number again) I decided hey I'm here, I might as well do something. So I hung another 2x4 section of pegboard and some little yellow nail bins. I got some hooks and tools up on the pegboard and by then I had sweat though everything I was wearing, plus I had a 10 year old helper who was literally dying of the heat and exertion wrought from complaining. I called it a day and we headed back home to air conditioned splendor.

Before we cut and ran though I did get some pics of the shop in progress. I'm warning you that this is a work in progress and some of it looks like hammered crap, but as requested here's some better pics of whats going on in the new shop.
That all looks not so bad, but that is just one side of the shop. If I turn the camera around 180 degrees or so then the horror movie begins.
My poor table saw still trapped under a tarp (and a case of water and the obligatory inverted router table) You can't even see the metal table behind the piles of stuff, I'm still deciding if I'm going to keep that thing, it takes up a lot of room. maybe moving it out would fix some of my set up problem.
Under the blue tarp and the saw/workshop sign, is the lathe and joiner. The roof leaks in places in this all metal shed, I just haven't had a chance to plug those leaks yet so until then, tarps are the way to go. So there's an update. I hope you enjoyed spending a few moments inside my disaster. I'll keep hammering at it and probably by the end of the weekend it will be pretty functional, and I'll keep you updated for sure.



Starting the Moxon Twin Screw Vise

There is a lot of work and joy in setting up a shop, finding some of my old power tool buddies has been interesting. But the big accomplishment is always in setting up the workbench and making decisions on the peg board. Well the big part is done and peg board is hung over the main workbench complete with hooks and tools. I may find myself modifying the layout some in the future, but probably not a whole lot.
Infact it felt so good to have the main part of the shop set up that yesterday instead of working on organizing any more of the shop. I started making sawdust instead. OK so I'm not so good at this whole delayed gratification thing and besides the tools on the board were crying out to be put to use. Who am I to deny them.

Since one of the first things I had set up was the new lathe. I decided it was time to take it for a test drive and shape some of the remaining hickory I have from building the joinery bench to make a free standing double screw vise a la Moxon and Chris Schwarz. I took one of my hickory scraps, about 27" long 3" wide and 1 1/2" thick and crosscut it in half to two 13 1/2" sections. I measured out about 4" for the grip and then a 1 1/2" section down the center of the blank using the bandsaw.

I then marked out the centers and mounted the blank on the lathe.

Using a pair of calipers measured to 1 1/2" I turned the screw end of the blank down to a round, Why a 1 1'2" round, well I have two threading tools one is 3/4" diameter and one is 1 1/2" diameter. I actually bought them together off eBay but intentionally bought the pair for the 1 1/2" for this specific project.

I should explain that as far a lathe tools go I don't own a parting tool.So instead I used my roughing gouge to bring the blank down close to round by making a series of grooves of equal depths and then evening out the territory between the grooves. I used a roughing gouge and a skew cutter to bring the blank down to just a hair smaller than 1 1/2"

Maybe I will be more specific about the turning on the next blog post, I didn't take enough pictures to really explain this part as in depth as I should have. Look for more info on this soon.

 You make the dowel you are going to turn just a little smaller than the diameter so there is some room for things to move. We are doing a tap and dye with wood and not steel. I have worked the tap with tight tolerances with the 3/4 inch tap and dye and the result is real work to turn and it makes this wonderful, high pitched banshee screech with every turn. If you're going to do this under size the screw blank by a little, not too much, just a little. What this really means is that if you want to turn some threads and you buy sized dowel for it instead of turning your own, then you should still spend a little time with some sand paper bringing the diameter down by a little, you'll be happy you did.

With the blank turned, it was time to cut the threads. I opened the thread box and checked the depth of the cutter, You want to start with a shallow cut first and make it deeper with a second pass if needed. Then you place the thread box over the blank and start turning. (I laugh now that I look at the picture I took, "Why yes that is a big ass bag of sunflower seeds, I prefer to call them 'Shop Fuel.'")

The only real trick it to start the cutter off slow and regular to you keep your threads square. With a sharp blade you don't need to add a significant amount of downwards force, the truth is once you have it started all you have to do is keep spinning it, The follow up threads will apply all the downwards force you need. (Apparently the sunflower seeds were relocated before this shot)

I wanted to test the quality of the threads before I went too much further so I cut a small section of red oak and drilled a hole in it with a forstner bit and 1 3/8". It's important to under size the hole you are going to cut with the tap as well. 1 1/2" will be the outside diameter of the threads, and you want to drill the hole for the diameter of the valley's between the threads. a 1 1/2" thread cutter will fall through a 1 1/2" hole without making a cut.

One other thing I think I should explain, the liquid or darker areas you can see on the wood being cut comes from "lubing" up the wood with a little 3 in 1 oil. I'm sure any type of light oil will work, maybe even a wax, but it is recommended to help ease the cut.

So then I turned to wooden "nut" onto the wooden "bolt" and the threads worked just fine. NO deeper cutting needed.

Before I quit the shop for the night I took some of the scraps from doing the initial cuts on the band saw and glued them to the handle end. Now I can shape the handle down into something round and more manageable. I should get to play with that some today.

But first I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world, about 30 minutes from my house is a smaller, mom and pop type lumber company that is excellent to deal with. Their name is Big River Lumber Company and they specialize in hardwoods. The customer service there is outstanding. I have dealt with lumber companies and driers before and they have only wanted to sell larger lots of wood, minimum orders of 100 or 250 board feet, and I don't have that kind of need or wallet. I'm a small one man production here. Big River has had no problem selling me one board of wood, they even brought me into the production area so I could pick it myself. I have never had that type of helpful response from other companies, (of course those were all out in Northern Maine and there were lots of other hurdles I faced when we lived there as well.) anyhow I'm headed out there to hopefully pick up some white oak. Buying wood is almost as good as buying new tools.



Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Friends Reunited

As some of you know, my current shop is set up in a small 5 foot by 9 foot area that shares space with our door to the outside and the stair well up to our half of the duplex. I have called it the Wood Shop Jr. since the get go and it's constraints has lead to several changes to my standard and customary methods of work. Some have been good changes, like forcing me to focus on hand tools and their techniques and learning a lot there. Others have been more frustrating and detrimental.

I run a shop like I read books. My wife makes fun of me because I never read just one book at a time I read anywhere from three to eight at a time, they are scattered about in different places. I have one or two in the bedroom, one in the living room, one in the bathroom, one in the car, one in the bag I take to work with me. I have always surrounded myself with books, and yes I can keep them all straight and remember what's happening in each when I pick them up. I guess that is just how I tick. In the workshop I follow similar habits, not to the extent of my book fetish, but I almost never have just one project going on. Typically I will have two or three in the works at the same time, all at varying stages. I keep separate notes and plans on each and that helps keep me on track, but it keeps my momentum going. While I'm waiting for a glue up to dry on one project, I can be breaking down stock for the next, or placing another coat of finish on whats almost done. This way inertia doesn't stop, I just roll from workpiece to workpiece.

I absolutely do not have the room for that in the Wood Shop Jr. I have to work on one thing at a time. I'm either set up for sharpening, or I'm not. I'm either set up for dovetailing, or I'm not. You get the idea. So I face something that I haven't really ever had to deal with much in the past. A kind of project hangover. After finishing the Joinery Bench, my mind, at least my rational mind, wanted to jump into work on another project, apparently the rest of me just wanted to recover, get some extra sleep and put my feet up for most of the week. I had lost inertia. My rational mind was desperate by yesterday, how can I get the momentum back?

I decided that what I needed to do was take a little time this weekend and not worry about the projects with the deadlines, but just focus on something simple to kick start the drive again. I needed to spend some time getting reacquainted with some old friends and get to meet a new one. As you may have read, we are moving the family into an apartment building soon, a nice big 3 bedroom apartment not the little 2 bedroom duplex upstairs we are in now, but there will be no space for a shop, no garage, no basement, no cubby hole at the bottom of the stairs. So my father has offered to me the use of his outdoor shed as he's going to move the shop he was using it for to the basement of their house. The plus, I get more room, room enough to set up all the bigger tools I used to use a lot. The minus, I'm setting up shop . . .  again.

Anyway I went and worked up a little sweat there this morning, and I started by reassembling an old friend. My hybrid workbench combining Chris Schwarz's 175 Dollar Workbench and his take on the English or Nicholson Workbench. If I was a better man, like some bloggers out there, I would have a name for her, but I think I like her just the way she is, I suppose for all the times I said "come on baby," today Baby might as well be her name.


Here she is starting out in pieces, You can see other old friends waiting in the background behind some tarps, waiting for their turn to be rediscovered


The first thing to do was to get her legs under her again. I was kind of a moron and never marked which leg went to which side when I took her apart for the move home from Maine so it took some real thinking and remembering to get it right, but I got it and from there it was just hammering the carriage bolts home through the holes and tightening the washer and nut to the inside

Then I wrestled down the benchtop, and put in the lag screws that make the love connection between the two. It was also easier to get the final torque on the carriage bolt nuts from this upside down position. The only bear was flipping her over. I was working alone of course, so I used a flat pry bar to kick up the edge enough to get a finger hold and then I turned her heavy butt over. Foolish, maybe, but it turned out OK and I always say that it's amazing what you can accomplish when no one is looking.

Isn't it amazing how fast a benchtop can fill up. I swear I had her sitting in place for thirty seconds and I moved to set something on top of her. Either was her sexy leg vise was attached, though I have a little fine tuning to do with a plane where the face leg and the vise meet, but I think some problems like that were to be expected. Nothing taken apart goes back together again perfectly.

Not a great picture, but here we have an old friend meeting a new friend. The Nicholson bench meets the new kid on the block the Joinery Bench. I think they're getting along fine.

And speaking of new friends, I had to pack it in and hear to the real life job that afternoon, but I was able to tee up getting ready to open up and get to know a new friend before I cut out for the day.

Hopefully there will be some new stories tomorrow. Recently my home PC died for good, After all the software issues and rebooting the sucker from scratch, the power source died, second time in less than a year, I'm not gonna replace it again and it will be a while before I can replace the whole computer. No matter, I pledge to continue to work hard to update my blog here on a regular basis, beg, borrow, or steal.

But for tonight that's it.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . I Give You The Joinery Bench.

Well, when I first planned out the build for the Oldwolf Workshop version of a Joinery Bench, I planned to do the complete build using hand tools for at least 95% of the work, and I planned to be finished in a month. Well one out of two is something I can live with, especially since it was my time estimate that was off.

The Bench was designed to be able to break down for smaller transportation to and from events. My other hobby is Viking Age Medieval Reenactment, and it has been a goal of mine to set up and do hand tool woodworking at Medieval and Renaissance faires and festivals that the troupe I belong to attends. (you can check out the group and find out where we'll be showing up by going to our website )  I wanted to build a portable bench that would provide me with the comforts of home and be easy to transport. Building a taller joinery bench gave me something smaller to use at these events and also provided me with a type of bench I would still use regularly in my shop. I want to one more time thank Tim Williams who writes the blogs Wood Therapy and Bench Vice for sharing his Joinery Bench with the world and inspiring me to build my own take on it.

I really enjoy thinking back on this process and all the things I've learned and figured out along the way. Drawboring, flattening large pieces of wood with hand planes, cleaning up my dovetails with a plane, working with a router plane, ripping a board in half and doing it fairly square and relatively fast, and so much more. Yes at times it was exhausting, and I sweat more building this project than I have on almost any other, but I think the sweat and hard work makes me all the more happy.

So there is not much more to say as I start planning the next projects, I need to make a Moxon style vise to use along with this bench and I also need a couple tool boxes and a saw till to carry my tools to faires.

Without further ado, here's the pictures.  :)

 Here's the bench all "packed down" as it could be for transport. It's resting on top a pair of saw benches.

 Here it is all put together and ready to work. I am really getting to like the ogee profiles on the apron and bottom stretcher.

 And from the side. . .



 Benches should really be judged in how well they work for you. This joinery bench uses simple hold fasts to accomplish much of the holding needs. It will also employ a Moxon style vise that can be added on like an accessory. I have only drilled the holdfast holes in the apron, the holes in the benchtop will come a few at a time as I decide where they will be best placed, But the holdfasts work so well already. They held this pine bard tight enough to cut dovetails.


All in all I am very happy with the way this project turned out, When I look at it it's difficult for me to not see the mistakes I made. Where the dovetails I cut leave a small gap, where I miss-cut one of the tenon shoulders on the frame legs. 
  So . . .  another one in the books, let's see where we go from here.



Monday, July 5, 2010

Enough Talk . . . Progress Now!!

Well, I have made progress on the computer issue finally. I apologize for any whining about my circumstance, but it was highly frustrating. In the end I have only lost a good portion of the last month worth of work. That's something I can deal with.

The positive side of this situation is I was so angry with the computer that I spent even more time down in the shop, working out my frustrations somewhere where everything makes sense to me. So as of this evening I could consider myself 95% done with the joinery bench. everything is together and looks good, I just have some holdfast holes to drill and a moxon style wood vise to build and I am done. The holes will come tomorrow, and maybe the lathe will get set up at the new shop tomorrow so I can turn the screws for the vise (TO get a look at the version I'm working from that Chris Schwarz built, click HERE)

I will get the holes drilled, get some finish applied, and a few vanity pics to share soon, (depends on the weather) but until then. . .

I got the Hickory wrap dovetails all finished up and applied the wrap today. Here's the glue up with the clamps on the tails.
I then flipped the sucker over, Uffda is she a heavy one now with that hickory on her hips. and I flattened the top and the wrap to each other

This is the first time I've been able to use a trick I saw Rob Cosman use on the video where he cuts a through dovetail joint in three and a half minutes. After he's done with the joint he grabs a plane (looks like a 5 1/2) and shaves the joint smooth. My quick explanation here is that I have only been focused on really learning to use hand tools for the last year or so. I have always hand cut dovetail joints, but I haven't had a project call for them yet in this time, so the last time I cut dovetail joints I smoothed the joint with a belt sander. After using a #5 followed by a #4 to smooth it, I will never plug in the belt sander to clean up this joint again. I took a few before and after pics because I was so tickled with the difference.


                    MUCH BETTER!!

I rounded over all the edges of the hickory and went to work dressing up a few pieces by cutting a roman ogee silhouette into the apron and the cross piece that holds the distance between the legs. I like this little touch, it gives the bench a finished look.

I really think she looks nice, Like I said some hold fast holes for the front apron and for the top, some finish, a coin I've been saving to nail underneath the bench (pick your superstition for this one, but I like the tradition)  and things will be a go!!

I guess that should be all for tonight. Thanks for reading.