First page of the japanese chisels archive.

Finally got bench where it belongs

Posted by is9582 on June 12, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been working with my bench out towards the center of the shop, with tons of extraneous “extras”, that really always kept me from developing a storage solution that was both handy and functional. I finally made time to clear some of those “extras” from the shop space, and I am stoked! I’ve known that I wanted my bench in a certain location for a number of years, but there was always something that kept me from it. Funny how I made the time to get after this, after recovering from two major back surgeries. Seems this would have been more opportune before the injuries, but we trudge on.

Bench moved against wall, but still cluttered post move.

Bench (lousy image) moved against wall, but still cluttered post move.

Ok, this partially came about due to my drive, but there was a secondary (and really a 3rd, too) factor that also helped push me along. The hot water heater in our house is getting up in age, and we purchased one before the impending size adjustment hit. Of course we wanted to get this unit installed BEFORE the old one eroded and poured water all over the floor, but the quote our plumber gave us had a shelf-life of sorts. And one last thing was that I wanted to get it installed before going to help the kids for a couple of weeks.

Alright, so I got the bench over against the wall, so it was time to start making some updated storage, even if it was just a temp stop-gap, until I have the time to layout and build a storage cabinet for the wall. I had a partial sheet of solid-core plywood that I knew would be plenty strong to handle hand planes and most other things I might throw at it.

I decided to start off with making cleats for four of my hand planes: my #8, #62, #6 and #51. It can be a good learning lesson just going through the necessary layout and thought process related to this type of storage. On the surface, it seems like you’d just cut 8 small pieces of wood and attach them to the plywood. Done! Well, it’s not really that simple, even though it’s easily within most woodworker’s capabilities. As many of you probably know, the fact that I am severely anal can also have a pronounced impact on any of my projects.

I started off measuring the planes I planned to store, and get an idea how much space I should alot. When I started thinking about the cleats, I again took measurements to see just how much space each plane required, so they could slide under the cleat. (Note: Make sure you actually measure the thickness of both ends of the planes, as I missed this little detail. When I talk about the #62, you’ll understand!)

I had a strip of wood (3/8″ thick) that was just about the correct width (~2″) to fit between the side flange on most of the planes. I cut it up into 8 pieces, with four being a bit longer than the others. To get the space needed behind the cleats, I re-used some dense pine (also about 3/8″ thick), and cut them so they were just shy of the same width as the cleats. Each was glued to the back of a cleat, with some 5-minute epoxy, which sets strong enough for the initial work and will only get stronger.

I pre-drilled the holes where the screws would pass, even though I planned to use some that do not require a hole. I just didn’t want to take the chance that the bite of the screw might cause a split or crack. I need these to be strong enough to keep my tools safe.

I started placing the bottom cleats, working from the outside edge, towards the center. To get the bottom of the cleats to all reasonably line up, I placed a wooden spacer under the bottom of each cleat, before driving the screws home. I placed each plane onto it’s bottom cleat, to see how much space I wanted to leave between it and it’s neighbor(s).

Initial attempt of four bottom cleats.

Initial attempt of four bottom cleats.

After I had all four of the bottom cleats in place, I placed a couple of planes onto their cleats, to find the best placement of the upper cleats. It turned out with the lengths of the bottom cleats, there wasn’t any way to make the plane hold, and also release. It only took a moment to realize I had the cleats reversed. The bottom cleats don’t require a great deal of depth, and the upper must have more travel than is needed to disengage the lower. So, off with all four of the “bottom” cleats, and I repeated the process with the old “upper” cleats, only at the bottom. Jeez!

#62 and #6 on original bottom cleats.

#62 and #6 on original bottom cleats.

Ok, lets pick back up, with the #8 sitting on it’s bottom cleat. I again moved the upper cleat until it would easily restrain the plane, but also allow for removal. The #8 and #6 were each very easy. When I came to my #62, some major adjustments were needed. With the adjustability of the mouth, on the #62, there is very little lip on the toe, to grasp and potentially move to release the plane. I drew a section of the cleat’s center, that I’d remove, so the toe section could easily move enough to make this work. To remove the wood, it was two straight cuts down the length with my Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw, and follow that with my Knew Concepts fret saw across at the base of the cut.

Top cleat for #62, with first cut at red arrow.

Top cleat for #62, with first cut at red arrow.

Ok, so I attached the upper cleat for the #62, and when I went to test the plane, it wouldn’t fit under the cleat. At first I wondered what might have happened, but when I looked at the plane, it was the old palm to the forehead. Dang it, I hadn’t measured the thickness of the toe section, and with the moving parts, it is quite a bit thicker than the sole at the rear of the plane. I cut another small piece of pine, planed it down to remove some of it’s thickness. I glued this piece to the already existing offset, and after the glue set, drilled through the full thickness, using the original holes as guides. (Oh, and yes, I used a 1/4″ longer screw for this cleat.) I reattached the upper cleat and it worked nicely.

#62 with it's adjusted top cleat, along with #8 and #6 in place.

#62 with it’s adjusted top cleat (top middle), along with #8 and #6 in place.

The #51 was a bit different, as it doesn’t have a centralized space between two side rails, so I took this into account. I cut and planed a thin strip of wood, that I could use to prevent this plane from contacting (or being contacted) by the #6 next to it. This strip of wood also acts to retain the #51, as it contacts the two cleats on the plane’s right edge, since there is no rail on this edge. With the strip in place, it was obvious the bottom cleat was still a bit too long, so I removed the excess with a sharp Japanese chisel.

Marking how much wood to remove, for the #51 to work nicely.

Marking how much wood to remove, with my Glen-Drake Tite-Mark, for the #51 to work nicely.

With this quick modification, it was easy to place the upper cleat and secure it, so the plane was retained and also removable. Whew!

All four planes, #8, #62, #6 & #51 functioning well.

All four planes, #8, #62, #6 & #51 functioning well.

I realize this is just four planes, but it was a good mental workout, to deal with a couple of oddities. I haven’t yet made holding locations for my smaller planes, like the 4 1/2, 3, block planes or shoulder planes. These will come, as well as some additional chisels that aren’t already on the back of my bench, and additional saws. If nothing else, this will give quick access to these tools, and limit some of the shaving/saw dust exposure, they once had under neath the bench’s top.

This is a great dry-run for an upcoming tool chest for the wall, as the layout of the tools and ways of handling holding is something that very subjective and has the potential to always change. I will likely add at least a few more tools, prior to securely mounting the storage unit to the wall above my bench. I’m really looking forward to having the tools at the ready, without the work on the bench covering them in shavings.

I hope this might be useful to those that have never tried to create this type of storage before, and maybe add to what others have currently. Thank you as always, for taking the time to come check out my blog.


Lee Laird


Guitar build – pickup routing, top smooth, and fretboard installed

Posted by is9582 on November 18, 2012 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, it’s been a little while since my last post. I’ve been working on the guitar almost every day, and have even posted some build related videos recently on Youtube (just search under Lee Laird). I’ll see if I can bring everyone up to speed with this post. I continue to do my best at keeping each process in the correct order, where it makes the most sense, and hopefully limits downstream errors.

After installing the tailpiece, I was better able to align my template, used to route the cavities for the pickups. I used double-stick carpet tape (two small slivers) to hold the template in place, for the initial step, which is drawing along the inside edge to delineate the area I need to remove at the drill press. If you use too much of this type of tape, it can be a bear to separate the template from the top. I moved over to the drill press, and used two Forstner bits to get as close to the final line as I dared. I started with the 7/16″ bit, which I used only at the two “ears” locations (where the attaching screw, connects the pickup to the pickup ring), and I drilled down to approximately 1.5″ deep. This is the deepest drilling I’ll do in the pickup cavities. The remaining portion was drilled using the 1.5″ bit (make sure to slow the drill press down to a speed proper for this large of a bit), and I drilled to just over 1″ deep.

One thing that really picked up my spirits, was finding the channel I created,  from the intended toggle switch to the control cavity, intersected both pickup cavities.

Blue arrow points toward the wiring channel.

I knew I’d planned well, but there is alway that chance it might just miss. Whew!

After the drill press it was on to the hand-held router, with a 9/16″ pattern-makers bit. I re-applied the template, this time with strips of tape a bit wider, since more forces are applied with the router bearing up against the template, and two wedges up towards the neck joint area. The front of the body slopes away from flat,  around the neck pickup location. I started with the bearing on the router bit, just engaging with the top edge of the template, and worked my way around.

MDF template on guitar top. You may make out the lip about 1/4″ up from bottom.
The router bit wouldn’t quite reach all the way to the floor of the cavity.

Subsequent passes were incrementally deeper. I tested the cavities with a cheap old pickup I had laying around, and found it’s base wouldn’t fit as it’s corners were almost square! I grabbed my V-gouge, and squared up all of the corners, with a combination of the gouge and chisels. Now the guitar is prepped for pickups with either rounded corners or squared versions. I tested the pickup and it sat in it’s home nicely.

Showing the base of the pickup, and the squared corners of the cavity.

Pickup seated in adjusted cavity.
Since I hadn’t yet glued in the neck of the guitar, I didn’t feel comfortable routing the portion of the tenon that intersects with the neck pickup location. I could see the neck shifting, with the forces of the router, which could cause problems. So, after both pickup cavities were completely routed, I placed the neck in place, and with a pencil, marked the portion of the tenon to remove. I used a hand saw to grossly remove material, up somewhat close to the lines I’d drawn earlier. I replaced the neck into the guitar body, and using a knife, scribed on three walls of the neck, the remaining portion I would remove. I planned to pare away this excess wood, and I find it much more precise to do this to a knife line, than to a pencil line. After paring, the pickup fit nicely with the neck in place.

Blue arrow pointing at material still beyond the knife line.
Completed, showing a few parings and chisel. 

It was time to completely blend the top of the guitar, and sand it to 320 grit. I used my Festool Rotex 150 to handle the initial wood removal, in the grinder mode. This mode was only used with 100 grit paper. I then shifted to the random orbit mode for the remaining work. Since the surface didn’t require a lot of wood removed, I started with 100 grit and went through 120, 150, 180, 220 and 320 grits. The only section I left at 150 grit, was the area where the fretboard would glue to the top. I wanted to make sure it had enough “tooth” for the glue to adhere properly. The top is looking nice, and has a silky smooth surface.

Top sanded to 320 grit, but no finish or stain yet applied.

I finally came to the point where I either needed to install the frets into the fretboard, or glue the fretboard to the neck. I decided on the latter, as I was concerned about keeping the alignment of the fretboard to the neck, when both are slathered with glue. If I installed the frets, and the board shifted much, I’d not only have to remove overhanging wood, but also overhanging fret wire. Not something I’d enjoy doing. As I was prepping for this install, I gathered up quite a few clamps, so I wouldn’t need to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. While I was gathering clamps, I decided I’d make some cauls to help apply a more even pressure. I took a piece of softwood scrap and cut it down to short lengths. I used my large bench belt sander to create gradual curves on the side that would face the fingerboard. To do this, I used the curved section, at the top of the sander, where the belt changes directions. After all of the cauls were finished, I set them next to the neck, and put the fingerboard on top of them (below).

Prepped and ready to glue the fretboard onto the neck.

This kept both surfaces that needed glue, facing up and easy to access. I used a Titebond glue, and since they seem to tack extra quickly if the glue is too sparse,  I applied what I thought would be enough. Boy, was I wrong. I applied a thick bead down the middle of both the neck and the fingerboard, and used an acid brush to spread it out. I was afraid I’d applied too much, but my heart was already racing, so I just went for the alignment. Once I had the board down, and clamping pressure across the board, it was obvious there was too much glue. It was almost streaming out of the joint, all along the neck.

Here you can see the extra glue along the neck (about mid way).

I was scrambling to get as much of the excess off, as I could, since it would require much more work after the glue dried. Initially, I was using some small wood scrap to scrape between the clamps, then shifted to a dry acid brush. Once the glue started tacking, I went back with a couple of chisels, used as scrapers, and removed quite a bit more excess. I guess I’d rather apply too much glue, than have had some dry areas that would never adhere. I left the fingerboard/neck clamped up for about 24 hours, just to make sure it was totally cured.

When I took the clamps off (YouTube video of this process), I was hoping the cauls didn’t accidentally get glued to the fingerboard. I was very lucky.

Neck after I took the clamps off. You may be able to see some
dried glue along the edge of the fretboard.

After I’d already applied all of the clamps, I’d thought I should have applied some wax to each caul. This is something I’ll definitely do on any future build. One other thing I plan to do, on future builds, is to clamp the fingerboard in position dry, drive two small pins through the fingerboard and into the neck. Clip off the top of the pins and remove the fingerboard. Next clip the pins so they stand about 1/8″ above the neck’s surface. Then, when it’s time to glue up, just match up the pins with the holes in the fingerboard, and it’s aligned. Clamps are still required, but the slip-sliding fingerboard should be a thing of the past. This tip was provided by a friend of mine, Phil Edwards of Philly Planes, who has made a number of wonderful guitars, in spare time from making his wooden hand planes.

To clean up the edge of the fingerboard, from glue and to flush it up to the neck, I first used a card scraper (YouTube video). I made sure to keep the scraper oriented so the edge of the fingerboard was square to it’s top surface, but also skewed the scraper slightly, so it wouldn’t grab in the pre-made fret slots (YouTube video). I transitioned to my two Lie-Nielsen Spokeshaves (the flat bottom and curved bottom versions) to continue working the fingerboard until it was completely flush with the neck.

Neck after cleaning up. Tools used for cleanup, and for future neck shaping.

After installing the frets, I’ll continue to use the Spokeshaves to shape the back of the neck.

Thanks for checking out my blog, and let me know if you have any questions.

Fujihiro Japanese chisel, and a slick

Posted by is9582 on June 8, 2012 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I thought I’d show some relatively decently priced Japanese chisels, and share an experience. One of my friends, Jameel Abraham from Benchcrafted, shared with me his good results using Fujihiro Japanese chisels. Jameel was pleasantly surprised at how well these chisels held their edge, even when working American hardwoods. Many of the Japanese woodworkers from […]

Sharpening – Do I need to go to 30,000 grit?

Posted by is9582 on March 2, 2012 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like many of you, I sharpen on a very regular basis. I’ve tried most of the different sharpening media that is presently available, along with some that are not so readily found any longer. I’ll share some of the results, and hopefully answer the title question. When I first got into woodworking, I purchased three […]

What makes a great Japanese dovetail chisel

Posted by is9582 on February 19, 2012 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , ,

To start with, Japanese chisels are a different breed. Most other chisels are made from a single piece of steel, but for those uninitiated, most traditional Japanese chisels are a two part process: hardened steel on the bottom as the cutting edge and softer iron on the top to help absorb the shock. The hardened […]