Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Anarchist’s Bug Out Box

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Living here in sunny FLA, we don’t have to worry about ice and snow. But, we do get the occasional tornado. And hurricanes are not unheard of. So, as my hand tool collection has grown over the years, it suddenly occurred to me that if I had to flee from impending natural disaster, it would take me a good hour to gather up my precious hand tools.

Now, not to downplay the importance of my power tools, but they are easier to replace than some of my vintage hand tools. So, after watching Chris Schwarz’s videos many times, and reading all the articles, and perusing the various chests made by fellow Lumber Jocks, I came up with a box that should not only hold my current and future tools collection, but it should be portable enough.

I chose a traditional English design, aka Anarchist’s Chest, rather than the Dutch box. Though the choice was certainly tough (all those dovetails!). The size precluded using a single width of surfaced lumber from Home Depot. Eleven and a half wide wasn’t enough. And, since we have a cypress saw mill locally, I decided to try our locally grown lumber. I purchased a stack of rough cut 4/4 by ten boards at the incredibly low price of $7 for a ten footer! Looking back, I should have added the 30% for select boards to eliminate many of the knots which vexed me a bit. But, the wood was stacked in my man cave in the air conditioning to sit and dry for a few weeks as they had been out in the yard without covering.

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After three weeks, the boards were down to about 13% moisture content, which seemed satisfactory. I hand planed one side of a board flat, then jointed one edge. I finished it up in the surface planer and table saw. What I got was a very clean, smooth, board with not a bad grain pattern. So, in the following weeks I finished milling up the remaining boards. I chose the best boards for the chest sides, gluing up the front, back, and side panels. The rest ended up going to other projects.

Then, the fun began. I started cutting the first of 40 tails and pins for the joints.

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Working a bit at a time over several weeks, I finally sawed and chopped out the dovetails. Most are a bit rough, gradually improving as I went along. Next was the dry assembly, to test the fit.

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Everything fit well, so it was time for glue up. Lots of clamps and it went together smoothly, coming out nice and square. And, the cats loved it

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Next, the bottom. I chose some clear 6” pine, and using my recently aquired tongue and groove planes, T&G’d the bottom boards for a nice fit to allow expansion. After trimming, I nailed them in place with 4d cut nails from Tremont Nail Company. They should hold tight, without the need for glue.

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Next came the molding strips along the top and the skirt. The skirt will add strength and raise the box off the floor. The top strip will add strength and along with the lid will keep dust out. The pieces are dovetailed reverse from the box carcase, changing the direction of the strength of the joint. I glued and nailed the trim on with cut nails, then planed a chamfer in the skirt.

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The last part of the exterior was the lid.  I opted for a simple frame and panel held together with mortise and tenon.  I added a slight chamfer to the rail and stile of the frame, and a corresponding chamfer around the panel.  The panel was rabbeted all around with my latest addition, a skew rabbet plane.  Assembly was quick and easy.

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I added dust strips mitered around the front and sides of the lid.

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Period style hinges were hard to find, so I picked up a set of nickeled Stanley hinges from Woodcraft.  I buffed them with steel wool, then treated them with Casey’s Permablue gun bluing.  A little oil and they look like wrought iron.  The brass chain was a bad idea, it kept jamming up on the box edge.

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So, I put together a block in the back to catch the lid and keep it open at about 105 degrees (the photo was taken before final fitting).

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Next, the interior.  I started with the chisel rack, as it would take up the entire length of the box.  I needed a piece of 1/4″ thick, 8 inch wide, by 30 inch long pine for the face of the rack and the back of the saw till.  So, I resawed a piece of 3/4 by hand.  It took about 25 minutes, but came out pretty nice after finishing on the thickness planer.

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After the chisel rack was glued in place, I nailed the saw till in.  It is designed to fit two full length panel saws and two back saws.

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The rest of the tool spaces were added a piece at a time.  Each piece is pressure fit in, with dados to hold the ends together.  This way I can pull them out and re-design them as needed.  I have to admit, there was very little pre-planning or sketch ups with this project.  I don’t always use them, I find I work best when I build on the fly.  It does lead to problems from time to time though.

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The tool tills.  More dovetails, these in 1/4 inch stock (this time I was able to resaw on the table saw).  This was the only goof in the project.  I forgot that dovetail jointed boxes are as wide/long as the pin boards.  So, I added a half inch to the till width to compensate for a perceived loss of material due to the dovetails.  This resulted in the tills being about 1/2 inch too wide.  Not a disaster by any means, but it makes it a bit of a wiggle getting the #7 out.

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Two coats of Sea Green milk paint (the kind you have to mix up), and two of water based poly.

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Before the poly, a hand painted logo.  It represents my Chinese zodiac sign, the rat on the beam.

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The box is heavy with all the tools stocked in it, but in a pinch I could move it myself.  I keep it on a home made dolly so it can be moved around the shop with ease.  I feel ready to leave at a moments notice, bringing my hand tools along with my other precious cargo, my wife and my cats.

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Hide glue and fresh baked cookies, a week at the Woodwright’s School

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Now that I am retired, I had the time to finally go to school to better my hand skills.  I chose to go to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina.  Now, I’ve been watching Roy Underhill’s PBS program off and on for years, and it had been my original inspiration to try hand tool woodworking in the first place.  But, to meet Roy and some of his guest speakers, and learn their techniques, was something special.

Our guest instructor was Bill Anderson, who has been on Roy’s show several times.  Bill is a veritable treasure trove of traditional hand woodworking technique, and is more than happy to share it.  While under Bill and Roy’s tutelage, I learned to use hide glue (VILE smelling stuff), cut dovetails with a coping saw, build the elusive sliding dovetail, and best of all, saw a straight line!

Bill looked over my sawing technique, saw my faulty body mechanics, and helped me correct my errors.  As I practice more, my elusive goal is more firmly in my grasp.  Now I can progress to other things.

 

My workbench at the Woodwright’s School.  Each student has his or her own bench with basic tools.  There are literally a metric ton of hand tools of every type available in bins, drawers, shelves, nooks, and crannys around the shop.  It felt very Rubouesque.

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Our project was a basic small tool chest.  Built from 5/8 poplar, it was secured with 28 dovetails, and had a hand molded skirt around the bottom.  The lid was frame and panel, all the grooves, mortise, tenon, and panel profiles cut by hand.  It was very intensive, but we all finished on time.

Here’s mine, back home and ready for hardware and paint.  It will come in handy as my large chest is bursting at the seams!

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Even with the hectic work schedule, daily going from 9 a.m. to after 6 p.m., there was still time to relax and enjoy the great weather and excellent food around the school.

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Roy working with glue up technique.  Hide glue is wonderful stuff, creating a great bond that sets up quickly.  But the smell is a cross between a stable and a stye.  I took to calling it monkey snot, due to it’s smell and texture.  Not sure if my wife would tolerate it in our home.

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Bill discussing squaring our panels.  Bill and Roy have an incredible amount of knowledge, and are always ready to help out a struggling newbie.

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And, of course, there’s the tool store upstairs.  When I first saw it, I thought I was in heaven!  The hardest part was not blowing all my food money for the week.  It was a strain, but I kept it down to four original wooden hand planes, two beaders, a toothing plane, and an awesome moving fillitster.  Ed Lebetkin runs the store, and is a font of knowledge on period tools.  He has personally selected and cleaned up everything he sells, and there is very little there that can’t be used off the shelf.  In fact, he has a bench in the store and lots of scrap wood to try out a tool before buying.  He even hand ground a cambered iron for my #5 back home.

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If you ever get the chance to get to the Woodwright’s School, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It is a wonderful experience, and it’s impossible to come away without having gained knowledge in hand tool work.

P.S. – Finally got the tool chest done.  It took a while to get the proper hinges, and then I had to order screws as the hinges didn’t come with any.  Oi!

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A note about milk paint.  I have used the kind you mix up, and I liked the finished results on my bug out box.  But, I was feeling a bit lazy, so I bought something in a can that said milk paint on it.  I had no illusions, I figured it was just latex paint with pigments to match a traditional color of milk paint.  So, I gave it a whirl.  I was a little disappointed.

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The little cup at the base of the chest shows the electric blue that came out of the can.  Not wanting to buy more paint, I went through my shelves and found some black analine dye.  First, I mixed in some liquid dye, which started to work, but it needed more to get the Federal Blue I wanted.  So, in went about a half teaspoon of dye powder.  Lots of stirring and transfer to another cup later, and I was pleased with the new color.

The inside of the lid was coated with a little traditional wax and linseed oil.  I wanted to protect the autographs of Bill Anderson and Roy Underhill!

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My drills and moulding planes now have a home.

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Cabinet Making...from Everyday Necessity, to Classical Art Form

Cabinet maker in Denmark, 18th century

While the introduction of machinery had had much
to do with changing the character and working methods
of the cabinet maker, it has proved a great boon to
humanity generally, and has given to the masses, a class
of furniture they never could have enjoyed but for the
cheaper productions by the aid of power, and machines,
and in these remarks, I do not wish to give the impression
that machine made furniture is not good, or that
it has not a beauty of its own, or that a majority of the
designs are not graceful and well adapted to the days
in which it was executed. In fact, I am of the belief
that woodworking machinery has proved a blessing to
both producer and user of cabinet work, while at the
same time it has proved almost fatal to the distinctive
and individual beauty of artistic handmade furniture.
…It may be said, and with justice, that there is little
or no demand for handmade art furniture, but I am
persuaded this condition is occasioned because of the
little of it there is in the market, and the very high
prices demanded for it by the owners. These high
prices are placed on the articles, not by the maker, designer
or workman, but by dealers, and the prices are
often from four to five times the actual cost of the
original work, and are only bought by rich people,
whereas, if the prices were normal, the middle classes,
whose taste is equal and often superior to that of
the very rich, would indulge in handmade work to a
very much larger extent than they now do.
The bright sharp workman, of whom there are hundreds
in our cabinet factories, who have been trained
from the lumber yards to the running of the most delicate
machinery in the shop, who by a little study, and
a little practical work, may soon become able to make
and finish furniture by hand of the finest sort, furniture
too, that will find a ready market if the maker
does his best. Many fine pieces of furniture have been
made by advanced students after work-hours or during
holidays.

The PRACTICAL
CABINET MAKER
AND
Furniture Designer’s Assistant

FRED T. HODGSON, F. R. I. C. A.

published 1910