Archive for the ‘workbenches and work-holding’ category

Making Wooden Screws

July 1, 2011

Well, I decided that the Little Underhill Bench needed to outfitted with two, not just one, but two wooden screw vises.  I thought about buying a couple of screws and nuts from Lake Erie Toolworks.  That would have cost me $300, give or take a little.  But then I thought, how hard can it be?  Plus I’m a guy who loves the process and the history of woodworking, I’m “semi” retired, so why not make them myself?  That’s how it started…

I went to my bookcase, pulled out the “Woodwright’s Workbook”, in which Mr. Underhill discusses making your own screws at considerable length.  Then I pulled out “Woodturning Techniques”, by Mike Darlow.  His presentation is even more in depth than Roy’s.  Hey, these guys are heavy hitters and between the two I found all of the information I needed to get started.

I decided to make a number of 2 1/2″ diameter, 1/2″ pitch screws.  The first task was to layout and hand carve the master screw which is used in building the “Big Tap”.  I have found out that tapping the nuts is the more difficult of the two tasks (threading the screw, tapping the nuts) and I decided to make a tapping “machine” as shown in the Underhill text (one from the Williamsburg Collection).

Master screw on the lathe, just carved and cleaned up with a triangular file

 The major diameter of the screw is 2 1/2″.  The minor diameter is 1 5/8″.  Note that I’ve stripped the threads from about the first 8″ of the screw.  That section will be inserted through the nut bland, then into the left support.  Also a 60 degree V cutter will be inserted (held in place by an insert and set screw) about 4″ from the left end.

Filed and sanded to create slightly truncated threads which will be more durable.

 The major diameter of the screw is 2 1/2″.  The minor or “root” diameter is 1 5/8″.  Note that the threads have been removed from the left section of the screw, approximately 8″ from the end.  This portion will be inserted through the nut blank, then positioned into the left support to maintain position during the tapping process.
The parallel surfaces of the right support will be cut and angled at about 5 degrees, the pitch angle of the screw.  My original plan was to use two “lunettes”.  However, I opted for a single 1/4″ brass bar to use as a temporary nut.  The left hand support is temporary and will be replace with the first “nut” made on the “machine”.

Right support showing temporary "lunette" and angled surface to match pitch. Note the abundance of paste wax. Trust me, use a lot of wax or oil

Think I’ll make another “simple machine” for threading the screws.  Carving them is great therapy,
but one of these days I’ve gotta get this bench done and on to other projects.
I’ll keep you informed…

A “take-off” on Brother Underhill’s “Little French Bench”

June 11, 2011

Alright.  So I haven’t written anything for more than a month.  And, I haven’t done a thing on the Sidewinder lathe project.  I haven’t been fishing, although the Walleye run was great in the Maumee river this spring.  Friends of mine were literally leaving coolers full of fish on my porch.  So, you might ask, what have I been doing.  Afterall “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.  Well, once again, I’ve allowed myself to be diverted.  But it’s all good.  Honest!

I’ve always had a hankering to build the small, portable workbench that Roy Underhill features in his book, “Working with Edge and Wedge”.  Roy apparently saw a similar bench while on a trip to France, fell in love with it, came home and built his own version.  The fact that the rear legs are raked while the front legs remain plumb make the joinery for this seemingly simple little knock-down bench pretty tricky, tricky indeed.  In fact Brother Roy increased his degree of difficulty by incorporating rising dovetail joints in his model.  I’ll be explaining why I elected to use a modified dovetailed tenon.

But right at the moment, here are a couple of pictures.  I’ve completed the top and the frame.  They’re just dry-fitted at the moment.  I’ll be posting fairly frequently as I work towards the finish of the project.  It’ll take a little while.  But, I’m sure it will be well worth the effort.

dry-fitted frame – overlook the parallax problem

front and rear tenons - note the front is not a "rising dovetail"


top in place - one single piece of hand-planed ash


Building an Improved Shavehorse

January 29, 2011

Recently I decided to give my son, a bowyer, my old shavehorse and build a new one with a few improvements.

The bowyer at the shavehorse

There are basically two styles of shavehorse, the “blockhead” or German (Swiss) and the “bodger’s” or English style.  The English style is a little lighter, affording the user a little more portability.

All shavehorses are designed to provide the user with a place to sit and a method of holding the work.  The “blockhead” design is usually fitted with fixed ramp.  The “bodger’s” style utilizes a floating ramp.  This feature allows the user to work a greater range of thicknesses without repositioning the clamphead.  On older “bodger’s” horses, the elevation of the ramp was changed by simply moving a wedge shaped block forward or aft.

"blockhead" style shavehorse with fixed ramp

 Most shavehorses are fitted with legs that are driven into tapered holes in the seat plank.  Legs usually have both rake and splay.  A simple way of boring the initial holes is to use a shopmade angle guide, once the “resultant” angle has been determined.

Boring guide

Boring guide - another view

Boring guide – yet another view

The next step is to use a tapered reamer to create the tapered hole or socket that the legs will be fitted into.  Using a tapered reamer can be tricky when rake and splay are involved.  The reamer I use is one made from a plan on Jennie Alexander’s website,  However, it does have one significant difference in that the first few inches of the reamer are cylindrical and designed to fit into a 1″ hole.  This means that this particular reamer cannot be used to ream a hole smaller than 1″, but it does help in maintaining the rake and splay.

shop built tapered reamer

The seat plank is held in the bench vise while the leg holes are reamed from the underside.

starting the reamer with the cylindrical section as guide

Okay, so after the ordeal with the reamer, the rest is pretty straightforward.

The finished product

 Well first, those of you who have been reading this blog for any time will know that the above picture was not taken in my shop.  But, rest assured, this is my new shavehorse (although, if asked, it may prefer it new surroundings).  Anyway, the clamp arms are 1 1/8″ x 2″ ash.  The clamp head is 3″ x 3″ ash with a 3/8″ wide V-groove on one surface and a 1/2″ V-groove on the opposing surface.  The are two positions for the clamphead on the clamp arms.  The footpeg/spreader is one piece made from hickory.  The ramp board’s position is supported by a pegboard that has been drilled with two rows of 1/2″ dia holes spaced 1″ apart.  A simple turned peg with a bit of a handle secures the pegboard.  A piece of 1/2″ brass or steel rod would work just as well.  The ramp board assembly is held in place with a wooden wedge.  The lignum vitae stop in the middle of the ramp board is used to keep longer workpieces from meandering to and from when you’re cutting chamfers or rounding edges.  The rear legs are 1″ longer than the front.  This allows the user to benefit from his or her own bodyweight (and helps to keep one from sliding backward into potential catastrophe).  The overall length of the seat plank is approximately 56″.   It may seem somewhat long to most first time users, but the benefit of the long plank becomes immediately recognized when you start working on something like the backpost of a chair, a bow or a canoe paddle.

Note the black fasteners.  My buddy, Les, explained to me that all you need to do is wire brush the most common, plated nuts and bolts that you can get your hands on, then paint them up with cold gun bluing.  Costs about $7.00 at Bass-Pro, Cabela’s, etc.  Hats off to Lester.  I’ll tell you, I learn something new everytime I turn around.  Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

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