Category Archives: Jigs

Sometimes It’s Best to Scratch

IMG_1426After the holidays, I was back in the shop working to reed the columns for the Egerton tall clock. You all know that I’m more power based when I woodwork, so I first turned to my router and router table to form the reeds. I had a small router bit with a needle point (similar to the one shown below at right). I built a small carrier for the columns, installed the bit in my router table, adjusted the fence to cut at the center of each column then raised the bit ever-so-slightly Pointed Bituntil the two radii were just formed. I thought the cut was a bit deep, but the bigger problem was how to rotate and align for the next cut. Because I was working on the bottom edge, it was impossible to align the bit point to any layout lines. Scrap that idea.

My second power-tool effort was at my lathe. I have a jig built (shown at the right) that suspends my IMG_0311trim router at just the right height to allow a spinning bit to cut at the center on any turned stock. That jig setup, teamed with the indexing abilities of the lathe, suggested success. The bit I used, however, had a squared end (not a fine point) which resulted in a flat area between each reed that was unacceptable. And to use the bit consistently, I needed to run the bearings against the workpiece, and the cut was too deep, leaving the individual reeds too narrow and misshaped.

The only idea I had left was to scratch the design by hand. With eight columns to profile, that’s a lot of scratching. That’s why I looked to power tools from the outset.

IMG_1418The first step was to produce the scratch profile onto a blade, which in my case was an old, previously used scraper. I found this work best completed using files. There are times when you can drill out a pattern, then touch it up. But for this design, I went straight to a file. Using a square file, I cut notches into the blade to resemble a “w.” I found it easier to accurately form the notches using a square file than it was to use a round file to get straight to the radius design. As you work you make corrections to get the design just right.

With the notches cut and located, I switched to a round file IMG_1419(mine was a chainsaw file picked up at my hardware store). Fit into the notches, it was too simple to cut the design to round. Work one side, then move to the second. As this is done, make sure that the two rounded profiles stay tight to the center, and keep the point as small and sharp as possible – you don’t need a deep recess between each reed. One last adjustment to the profile is needed – remove the outside shoulders so the only bit being scratched is the recess and half of each radius design. (You can see the final design in the photo below.)

IMG_1425When I completed the design, I loaded the blade into a simple stock. I used two pieces of scrap through which I installed a couple of bolts and wing nuts. Slip the blade into position then tighten the wing nuts until the blade is secured. The carrier I built when attempting the router cut is what I used to hold the columns for scratching. To center the assembled scratch stock to the carrier, I added a couple of small blocks to the setup – #23-gauge pins did the job.

In the opening photo you can see how the jig is used. The blocks keep the scratch stock in line as the assembly is pulled and pushed back and forth until the design is formed. The blade hangs down far enough so the final depth is reached as the stock sits flat to the carrier frame. When one line is done, rotate the column and scratch a second. You can repeat this all the way around each column, but as Mike Siemsen of Green Lake Clock Company pointed out to me a while back, many of the columns found on antique clocks were not completely reeded. Because you cannot get your head between the hood and column, you cannot see those reeds. As a result, there are no reeds there. (In the past, if it was not seen, minimal time was spent making things look great.)

I have three columns ready to go, so I’m back in the shop scratch the remaining eight. Then I have to cut and fit each column to the capitals and hood. I’ll be busy for a while.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Goose-neck Mouldings

Kasper Bonnet TopGoose-neck mouldings are, in my opinion, the great equalizer in any discussion of moulding planes or power tools for curved designs. Sure straight runs of moulding can be made using hollows and rounds, but the curved mouldings are a completely different animal. With goose-necks, you better be thinking kindly about a router, router table or shaper. And, you probably should have a selection of carving tools if your design has a rosette and doesn’t return on itself (as shown in the above photo).

#5024-01Of course, the Egerton clock has rosettes. This translates into more hand work using carving chisel. But the bulk of the waste is removed with power tools. You just need to find the correct profile, and that can be tricky as you flip and turn the profile looking for a match, especially if you’re using bearing mounted router bits. (I’m tossing out shaper work, because most woodworkers are not working with a shaper – router tables have all but replaced the shaper in home shops.)

The best way to run these profiles using a router is with the face of the goose-neck moulding facing up. To do that you need an over-arm pin router setup, or you need to create a method to hold your router above the workpiece as you guide the cut, as shown to the left. Router_JigThis setup uses the guide-fence holes and scrap pieces to raise the router cut abilities. The setup is easy to duplicate, but using the arrangement is not that simple. You need to accurately guide the router along the curved lines of the goose-neck while holding things at 90° to the workpiece. Slow and steady wins the race, but even then you have clean-up work to do. It is much better if you can use bearing-mounted router bits. To do that in this scenario, I had to run at my router table, keeping the face of the mouldings against the table.

The problem with bearing-mounted router bits is reach. On wide goose-neck mouldings, you often cannot reach back into the profile enough to make things work. IMG_1399On the Egerton moulding, though, that’s not a problem because it’s only 7/8″ wide. I was able to use the bearings on my router bits of choice to get the job done, so the first bit used was a cove design for raised panels. That router bit allowed me to reach back 3/4″ of the 7/8″ needed – that left an 1/8″ of flat at the top edge of my profile. On the straight runs, cut from end to end. On the curved work, you need to stop just short of the rosette area.

The second profile I used was a simple 1/4″ round-over bit, but I switched out the normal bearing to use one that was a 1/8″ smaller in diameter. IMG_1401That change moved the round-over profile in slightly on the workpiece. Height adjustments need to be accurate. Because I was looking to flow the second profile into the larger cove cut, I found it best to sneak up on the final setting. I could have stopped at this point, but the square edge left after the second router cut was smaller than what I saw on the original clock profile. I wanted more.

Deciding to make the last router-bit cut added the needed square-edge to my profile, but it also caused more work after routing work was complete. IMG_1403To achieve an additional 1/16″ of square edge for an 1/8″ total, I used a rabbet bit to push the design up into the moulding. That cut removed a lot of the round-over profile, but that would be easy to replace with carving tools, and the extra square edge made the design of my goose-neck more in line with the original.

To complete the mouldings, both the curved and straight pieces, I use a couple carving gouges to re-round the profile. Work on the straight pieces was easy. I found and carved with the grain direction. On the curved pieces, carving required that I move in different directions due to the grain changing as the curves undulated. Even with that need, the work was not difficult.

Next week I’ll show the completed and installed goose-neck moulding with the carved rosettes in place. I’m getting close to finished.

Build Something Great!
Glen

 

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Shop Tips, Including a Backsaver

IMG_1396This week I jumped full-force into carving the rosettes for the tall clock. I don’t often carve; it’s not one of my favorite things in woodworking, which is probably why I moved so quickly into Federal-period furniture. As I worked the first ten minutes in earnest to produce the final design of the rosettes – I need two rosettes for each clock, or four total pieces – I knew it would be a short work day if I didn’t find a way to ease my back pain. My bench is set up more for power-tool woodworking, so it is a bit higher by design. But that height wasn’t cutting it for carving.

My quick solution was a carving lift that would raise the work surface nearly 12″. As stated, I’m not an every-day carver, so I didn’t need anything that would be worthy of a magazine article build. I needed quick and simple. Thank you Kreg jig.

I ripped a few pieces from my collection of scraps, chopped the appropriate lengths at my miter saw then screwed together my carving lift. The additional length at the bottom, plus the wide-open area between the ends, makes clamping the unit to my workbench a snap. The top, over-hung in both length and width, allows me to easily clamp and re-position the work as needed. Will this lift be around forever? Nope. That’s the way it was designed. When I’m finished I’ll pull the screws and stack the pieces back in my scrap pile.

Did the extra height work out? You bet. The only pain I felt the the balance of the day was from a few carving mishaps and a couple of wood blowouts. My back was fine.

A second tip I found useful as I carved on the clock’s goose-neck mouldings was a technique I discovered as I built my first goose-necks for a highboy years ago. I think it’s worth repeating.

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In the above photo, you see that I have made a pattern of the half of the top edge of the scroll board. The mouldings for the clock are 7/8″ tall, so I need to produce a line that is exactly that distance down from the pattern. I could use a compass to scribe the line, but that would require that I be consistent as I trace the pattern. That’s room for error.

To make it almost foolproof (nothing is completely foolproof), I cut and shaped a piece of plywood to 1-3/4″ in diameter, or a 7/8″ radius. When I slip a pencil through the small hole at the middle of the wheel and roll the wheel along the pattern, I’m assured of an accurately marked distance.

I use this technique whenever I need to produce an accurate offset line. Most times I find a washer (fender washer) that works for the necessary size. But as you grow in the distance you need to offset, you move beyond typical washers found in a home center or hardware store. It’s then that I turn to shop-made wheels. This is one to keep in your pocket. It works.

Build Something Great!
Glen

Next week I’ll post about the goose-neck mouldings. The profile comes off the router table using easy-to-find router bits.

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To Scratch or Not

IMG_1276In a blended woodworking shop – how any woodworking shop should be set up – you make choices about when hand work is appropriate and when it makes better sense to use power tools. That decision should not necessarily be guided by a passion for any particular method or tool; as woodworkers, we face this whenever we hope to be productive in our shops.

In a post a few weeks back (read it here), I wrote about how easy it was to make a simple scratch beader (scratch stock) to profile the arched moldings on the Egerton clock hood. With that project on hold while I build a cover piece for an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I faced a similar choice as I made drawer molding for the transitional lowboy. (If you’re a furniture purist, don’t tell me I’m not suppose to use the term transitional – that best describes the project on which I’m working.) IMG_1278The moldings are a double-bead design that signifies later William & Mary period work. And the fact that the lowboy has cabriole legs (Queen Anne) also indicates a transitional build.

I decided to make another simple beader, but this time the tool was a bit more involved. Not only did I drill the holes and sand the profile, I needed to set the blade into a handle to register the molding with each pass. Even with the handle added, making the tool was too easy.

In order to use the scratch beader, I ran a slot down the middle of my stock using a slot cutter setup in my router table. At the bench with the stock set in my vise, I scratched the double-bead profile into the edge. At my table saw, I set the cut for 1/4″ then ripped the first piece of molding free. Everything worked, but the process to get six pieces of molding was too long.

IMG_1270Using my router table with a 1/4″ corner-beading router bit installed, I ran a pass to form the bead, flipped the stock to rout a bead at the opposite face, then ripped the molding at my table saw. I was easily convinced that this was the process I would use. But what guided my decision? First there was the ease of the entire process. Router cut was far easier and quicker than walking through the steps needed to do the work by hand. Also, the pattern or profile was consistent with each piece of molding cut. This is important because there are a couple of places, as you can see in the opening photo, where these molding pieces meet and intersect with one another – matching profiles are easier to fit and blend (hand-cut work can require further shaping and sanding).

What did I give up? The original molding profile I was after was a 3/16″ bead at each edge of the 5/8″-wide stock, with a 1/4″ of flat between the two beads. What I made using power tools was a 1/4″ bead at both edges with an 1/8″ flat – not the same design. I could have found and purchased a 3/16″ corner-beading router bit, but I didn’t think it was that important. If this was a customer-purchased lowboy, I would have built the piece with the 3/16″ beads. But given the fact that it is a piece for me – as most of the projects you build are for you – I opted to be more productive in my shop.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Screw Gains

“Their usual solution was a pair of large screws driven forward through the side rail into the front leg to supplement the hidden mortise-and-tenon joint. Each screw fits into a drilled and carved out ‘pocket’ or ‘screw gain’.”

IMG_1248Immediately as I mention pocket screws, many woodworkers’ eyes roll back into the heads as if this method of joinery is totally unacceptable. Of course, there are places where the use of pocket screws is not the best choice. There are also places in woodworking where the joint is the perfect solution. It’s up to us to know the difference and where to draw the line.

But the more you discover about pocket screws, the more fuzzy the line becomes. I’ve been in million-dollar homes, standing in kitchens that easily cost six figures, and the face frames on the cabinets were pocket screwed. Perfectly acceptable? You betcha. But that’s not furniture, right? No it’s not, but the quote above is about furniture. It’s about great furniture. Museum-quality stuff. The quote is taken from the book by Robert D. Mussey Jr. titled, “The Furniture Masterworks of John & Thomas Seymour.” The Father and son team used pocket screws. This method of joinery is not a new concept conjured up by the Kreg company, but it has elevated pocket screws to a whole new level.

The reason I write about pocket screws this morning is that I have a decision to make on the lowboy I’m building based on the piece found at the Connecticut Historical Society.

IMG_0636The lowboy has no front rail at the top of the case – the drawers kick right up against the underside of the top. There is no room for wooden clips, and I hate “figure eight” fasteners. Therefore, to attach the top I need to be creative. Or not. The top on the original was nailed or pegged to the case. I’ve seen a number of antiques that have tops nailed in place, so it’s not out of the ordinary to do so. The problem I have is that at one of the pegs – it looks like a round dowel – the top has cracked. I’m not looking to repeat that problem, but I do need a secure top.

In one of the photos I have of the original, you can see a metal angle used to gain a hold. I don’t think that is how the piece was built, but a later addition. Not what I’m after. As a result, I’m turning to pocket screws. And while I have respect for the Kreg joinery setup, I’m looking for something more traditional.

Yesterday I scanned the above-mentioned book to find ideas. I had it in my head that most pocket screws holes in antique furniture were basically v-shaped cuts, then I re-discovered the Seymour pockets. Their pockets were rounded, tapered and neatly shaped. I had something to work toward.

IMG_1252My first attempt was using a carving gouge. I used a 9/20 fish-tail gouge to carve out a pocket (see the opening photo). It looked good, but was work heavy. As I studied the shape and design, I remembered a simple jig that I had built years and years back for use with my drill press, so I dug it out, dusted it off and made it work with a newer press. (On my older DP, the jig slipped over the table, but now I had to clamp the unit in place.)

The jig is built with its fence tilted back at a 22.5-degree angle. To align the workpiece, I position it at the intersection of the jig’s fence and base as it stands on an edge. The DP head and jig are arranged until the workpiece stands under the 1″-diameter drill bit so the back edge of the bit is even with the back face of the workpiece. Clamp everything secure. I then lay the piece back tight to the fence and add a couple of spring clamps as needed. To cut the rounded, tapered hole, drill as you normally do. (Play with the bit diameter and thickness of your workpiece to find the best results.)

Below is a test piece I made using all three methods. Each of the different pockets are aligned with the tools used to make those pockets. Which am I going to use? Easy. If you read the quote above, it states that the “screw gains” (fancy-speak for pocket holes) were drilled and carved. I plan to drill the bulk of the waste using the jig and drill press, then clean the gains with my carving gouge.

IMG_1251

Which method would you use?

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Oval by Geometry

Art_OpenerIn late 2010, I listened to furnituremaker Fred Roman talk about ovals and how to lay them out using geometry. I had always used a string method in the shop, and when I was in the home-building field, we used two framing squares. These days I use SketchUp.

The way he did it seemed point on and easy. The same way you could swing the arcs with a trammel, you could swing a router using a circle-cutting jig. I pushed for this to be an article (shown left) in Popular Woodworking Magazine(PWM). B_PlanA contract was executed and before the piece ran in the magazine pages, I had left to pursue other interests. Of course I read the article when it was published. The right-hand photo is the layout, but you should read the article to get the details. (PWM doesn’t sell the article as a stand alone, but you can pick up the August 2012 issue (#198) at shopwoodworking.com.)

I kept the method in mind for whenever it may be needed. That time arrived this weekend when Dave Griessmann was in the shop working on a Federal-period table. IMG_1187His top was ready to transform from a rectangle to an oval, so we pulled out Fred’s article to make it happen. Dave laid out the oval and was contemplating how to make the cut when I reminded him that he could swing the router to get the job done. He decided to router-cut the larger radii. The length of my often-used circle-cutting jig wasn’t long enough, so we substituted a length of plywood. At one end we drilled a 1″-diameter hole to match the outside radius of a guide bushing, at the other end we drilled a 3/16″ hole as a pivot. (We were working on the underside of the top.)

A couple of adjustments were made to the jig so we cut exactly at the layout lines, and so the jig could spin without any interference from the clamps used to hold the top. IMG_1189Everything was set and ready to go, so Dave powered up the router and made a light pass. The depth of cut was 3/4″ so we set up to make the entire cut in three steps, and he cut only half of the top. When we finished that half, the top was spun so the remaining half hung off the table and the step process was repeated. The cuts were perfect. In fact Dave wanted to setup and cut the ends the same way, but I persuaded him to cut those at the band saw and clean the edges using a disc sander. While he (and you) could do that, I think it’s much easier to trim the second radii so you don’t nick into the already cut edge. There’s no sense in taking the chance given the leaves of his table were easily cut at the band saw.

The entire process worked like a charm. I will use it over and over when I run into ovals – large ovals – in my work; small ovals are too easily cut using my band saw.

I included the photo below to show you the nifty clamping method we used to hold the arced edge for the second set of cuts. Our clamps could not reach the workpiece, so we lapped pieces onto the tabletop then clamped the scraps in place. This is a handy trick in a pinch.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Circle-cut Moldings

High_Res ScrollI’ve returned to the Egerton tall clock this week to begin work on the hood moldings. Due to the dial design selected, this clock has a circular molding that is cut at an angle to fit to straight runs before it turns back the sides of the hood. I’m beginning with the arched section because it’s easier to produce a match when working on the straight runs, than it is to work up a perfect match on the arched section after the straight stock is made.

For this operation, I find it best to use my router along with a circle-cutting jig. You find the radius of the cut, which changes with each router bit used as you make the profile, then swing the setup as you make your cuts. IMG_1128For this clock, because there is a small added inlaid piece up the center of the hood, the arched molding is divided. That allows me to set up the stock as a pair of pieces instead a single piece with the entire arch cut. This translates into stronger moldings because there is no short grain where the piece can easily break.

In the photo above, you can see the setup. I have my router attached to a shop-made circle-cutting jig and yes, that is a drill bit I’m using as a pivot – no right-sized dowel in the shop. (Make do with what you have.) In the photo I’ve made the first pass, creating the thumbnail profile along the top edge of the molding. The workpieces are held with double-stick tape, as is the pivot platform.

The trick to this work is to properly set your router and the length of the jig to cut exactly where you need to produce the profile.IMG_1129 To do just that you need to accurately measure for the hole location (pivot point) on your jig. As you can see in the left-hand photo, you don’t need to be centered of your jig. As long as the measurement from the pivot to the correct edge of your router bit is right, your cut will be in the correct location. There are times when you’ll set to the far side of the bit and times when you use the near side to cut your profile.  Once determined, I use a bird cage awl to start my hole so the drill bit stays put as I drill. It takes some time to get the position just right, but it can be done.

IMG_1131The results are great if you use the correct router bits and get the setups just right. In the right-hand photo you can see the results of three passes using the setup. The first was the thumbnail. For the second cut I used a round-nose bit. The third cut was with a straight bit and it was simply to clear the material for the subsequent passes.

It was after the third pass that I realized I had used the wrong round-nose router bit. The width of the round-bottom trench was too wide for the profile as I had it drawn. You know what that means, right. Yep, start over. I’ll choose the right bits this time, and I think I’ll re-design the molding somewhat; I wasn’t thrilled with how it was coming out. Also, because it is time-consuming to accurately position the jig, I’ll switch to my Micro Fence circle-cutting jig which allows me way more accuracy as I work.

That’s my Sunday (another day in the shop, yeah). What are you planning?

Build Something Great!
Glen

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