Roubo’s Apartment Workbench pt. 1

Now I have not confirmed with The Schwartz  but I do not believe Roubo ever made it to this side of the pond. If he did he probably would have moved to Brooklyn, with the rest of the French hipsters.

I’d like to think that if Roubo had lived in Brooklyn he would have designed his now famous bench to fit in his apartment.  You see space is a premium in NYC. My “garage” (which is a mortgage payment alone) is down the street and shared with 100 other folks,  and my landlord would not take kindly for me building a shop in the basement of our eight unit apartment building.  So its no woodworking during the week in Brooklyn. 

Now I am fortunate enough to spend my weekends upstate at our house in the woods, where I’ve built a tiny shop in the basement.  However,  during the weekdays, in the city that never sleeps, I find myself very envious of others who can steal a few minutes after work and spend time in the shop.  

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to carve out a corner of my home office for a little woodworking.  I presented this idea to my amazing and supportive wife, who agreed on one condition: we renovate the office, rethink the space, add some closets and make some desk space for the kids.  We’ve been in our apartment for 24 years and the room had not been touched in nearly 14 years, so it was time. 

So it got me thinking of what I wanted. Space was still a challenge, but as a designer I have always thrived on having restrictions.  The truth is I just wanted a space the I could spend an hour on a project, perhaps tune up some old tools, sharpen some handsaws and work on some smaller scale projects.  With NYC apartments you become very intimate with your neighbors, whether you like it or not, so hand tools was a no brainer. A quiet neighbor is a good neighbor!

Even in my upstate shop I don’t have the space for a proper workbench. Perhaps if I started from scratch, but not anymore. So I was merely observer at the height of all the Roubo bench building frenzy.  

woodworking bench shannon joinery - Google Search

As a Hand Tool School member I admired Shannon’s Joinery Bench.                       This seemed perfect.

Shannon’s Joinery bench was my inspiration.  The size was certainly compact and would give me a solid workstation. I headed to the google I found a few variations. 

I liked this one in particular.

Forgive me-- I cannot find the owner to give due credit!  Please let me know if you know the owner!

Forgive me– I cannot find the owner to give due credit! Please let me know if you know the owner!

I have certainly been intrigued by the Roubo joinery and I have a certain affinity for building items sans hardware. So I decided to adapt the Roubo design for my needs: which really just meant the size.  24×36* seem to do the trick. Naturally I over researched it, looking at different bunches and techniques.  Finally I turned to Schwartz’s French Workbench DVD.  Straightforward and just what I needed.roubo workbench schwarz - Google Search

*In the end the top was 24×32 as it had to fit thru the narrow hallway and a turn into the narrow doorway.

I headed to sketch up and drew up some options. As stated some measurements were dictated, so the height was the only question . I knew I wanted a Moxon vice, but when not in use storage would be an issue. So I decided to integrate it into the front. This certainly made me think about the overall height of the bench. After all, the whole point of the Moxon was to raise the piece higher while cutting dovetails.

Apartment bench -

My final sketchup drawing. Very helpful in this case.

After overthinking it I landed on 33″ high.

Based on this design I found:  I started considering what other storage options and accessories I could bring to the table (pun intended).  This guy went all out. I decided to keep it simpler, in the Roubo tradition, adding two shelves and a tool rest attached to the back. I wanted to finish it this year! 

With measurements and a cut list in hand I headed to my local lumberyard, Ghent Products.  I wanted the stock to be as beefy and the Schwartz/Roubo described.  I found some beams that were 16/4 x 7″ by about 10′. Of course they were on the bottom of a massive pile, so I had to be ‘that guy’ and ask the yard guy to forklift all the smaller, inferior wood out of my way. 

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

I had no misconceptions that they would acclimate to my shop in this short time but rather that’s sometimes how often I’m able to get back into the shop.

All in all it took me about six months. That certainly does not translate into man-hours, but it does give you an idea of how often I am able to get into the shop. Now that its done I thought I’d share the build with you.

So without further adieu….check out part deux…..

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I have to admit, I have a serious vise.

Hello, My name is Chris, and I’m….

Hold up!  Not that kinda vice!!   A fantastic 115 year old Sheldon Vise.

After hearing the Schwarz talk about his Sheldon Vise at a Northeastern Woodworking Show a few years back I decided to start trolling the interweb for this Schwartz approved devise.  After all, if it was good enough for him, it might (just might) meet up to my standards.  I didn’t have a whole lot of luck at first, so I set up an alert on ebay.  Sure enough, my patience paid off and before long I was the proud owner of a rusty old piece of iron!                                                 Wahoo!

My rusty iron boat anchor.

My rusty iron boat anchor.

I am always interested in the history of the old tools I come across. After acquiring a tool such as this, I immediately hit the google machine to see what I can find, (especially when I have to wait for a delivery!).  In the case of the Sheldon vise I did not find a ton of information, I did, however, find a lot of people asking for “what kind of vise is this???”

In any case, what I did discover was that:

E.H. Sheldon, began his career as a woodworking teacher and was always looking for ways to improve the learning experience for his students. That passion led him to invent a rapid-acting vise, which was quickly followed by benches and eventually a line of laboratory furniture and furnishings for the school market.

1898 E. H. Sheldon builds and sells a rapid-acting woodworking vise he invented while teaching manual training in Louisville, KY.

1900 – 1910 Sheldon begins building benches to accompany his vises when manual training and domestic science are added to the curriculum of many schools.

Initial production is handled by a Chicago woodworking shop, but the high-quality product soon results in more orders than the supplier can produce. Sheldon sets up his own factory in a Chicago loft.

1911  The company is moved to Muskegon, Michigan in response to an offer of larger manufacturing facilities.1

US Patent 656,793 - Woodworkers Vise

US Patent 656,793 – Woodworkers Vise

I must say I was on the fence about how to approach old tools. There are two schools of thought on old tools:  collectors and users.  Part of me wanted to be a collector, to restore the tool meticulously to its original state, but the practical side of me looked at all the rusty old tools I have sitting around and determined that I was in the user category.  My decision was certainly influenced by Derek Olson’s restoration of his mitre box.  A perfect balance of “restoring for use”.  BTW, If you have not checked out Derek’s blog, you are missing out and should stop reading this and go over there!   I had read enough about restoring tools and figured this was a perfect opportunity to give some techniques a try.

I decided electrolysis was the way to go.

I got a plastic bin and wired up some rods in order to surround the vise.

I got a plastic bin and wired up some rods in order to surround the vise.

 Leave it to me, I had just thrown out an ancient, inherited battery charger I had never used.  So I acquired a new charger.

Leave it to me, I had just thrown out an ancient, inherited battery charger I had never used. So I acquired a new charger.

Add a little Arm & Hammer to the H2O...

Add a little Arm & Hammer to the H2O…

The positive is attached the rods and the negative attached to the tools.

The positive is attached the rods and the negative attached to the tools.

...and what do you know about that it actually works!!

…and what do you know about that it actually works!!

The results are pretty remarkable.

The results are pretty remarkable.

While I didn’t find a ton of information on the vise I did constantly refer back to a blog post by Megan Fitzpatrick about the installation of her Sheldon vise.  The base is angled and can be a bit tricky to install.  Thank you Megan!

vise 20

After reading Derek’s blog I did make the decision to give it a coat of black acrylic.

I added some suede to the inside of the face

I added some suede to the inside of the face

vise 21

Installed!

Grips great and can really hold a work piece.  Not bad for a 115 year old tool!

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

Source: 1 http://www.sheldonlabs.com/meetus/our-story/

Cradle Pegs

When I was designing the cradle I went back and forth about what I would use for the though tenons.  I really like the look of through tenons and found quite a few options I responded to, but they were all linear spikes that didn’t feel right with the curves of the cradle.  I decided I needed to come up with a curved, or rounded tenon.  I also wanted to create one that would be easy to take in or out when the time came.

Sketchup was certainly my friend on this project:

Sketchup

My Sketchup helped me realize the head needed to be curved.  My sketchup skills however were not going to allow that!

Once I was happy with the design I needed to approach the one tool in my shop that I had yet to even come close to perfected–the lathe!

I started by glueing up two pieces of walnut.

I started by glueing up two pieces of walnut.

Cradle peg02

Next I headed to the nearly unused lathe to start to rough my stock

Next I headed to the nearly unused lathe to start to rough my stock

Based on the lines I roughed in--the pegs actually began to take shape.

Based on the lines I roughed in–the pegs actually began to take shape.

Cradle peg05

As I got closer, I cut the pieces down in order to create a smooth curved top for each.

As I got closer, I cut the pieces down in order to create a smooth curved top for each.

Dance of the Wooden Soldiers

Dance of the Wooden Soldiers

Next I headed to the band saw in order to cut the pegs  cleanly in half.  I don't use these wooden clamps often  enough, but sometimes they really come in handy!

Next I headed to the band saw in order to cut the pegs cleanly in half. I don’t use these wooden clamps often enough, but sometimes they really come in handy!

and then there were eight...

and then there were eight…

I had the cutest of shop assistants help me sand each of them down.

I had the cutest of shop assistants help me sand each of them down.

I laid each tenon out in order to trace out the mortise.

I laid each tenon out in order to trace out the mortise.

Cradle peg13

This made for a snug fit!

This made for a snug fit!

I must say this was really the 1st project that I had created using the lathe.  I am no turner (yet), but can see how the lathe and what I can create with it will begin to be in integral part of my designs and woodworking experience.

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

It’s Bed Time!

I recently finished up two loft beds for my son and daughter and I realized that before I blogged about that I needed to actually post the final results of the Twin Cradle.  I know, I know.  I’m a terrible blogger.  But then again, on the internet time kinda stands still.   I could blog about about anything and pretend it’s current.  Half the time I go back and catch up on ancient blog posts filling my reader.  Well enough procrastinating… Here in one post is the end of the Cradle Series.

 Twin Cradle; Part 4  The Wrap up

Well the twins are off to college by now…well not really, but they have certainly outgrown this cradle.

You might remember that one of my goals as to build this sans hardware.  I wanted it to be a piece of furniture that could be quickly assembled and then knocked down for easy storage.  It needed to be a beautiful piece of “temporary” furniture.  I’ll let you be the judge.

Cradle01

The finished product

Cradle02

My wife provided a luxurious pad for them to sleep on.

Cradle03

I was very happy with the grain selection in this beautiful piece of cherry.

Cradle04

A side view showing the curves and the divider

Cradle06

This little piece I designed to hold the divider in place.

Cradle05

…said divider in place.

Cradle07

The divider can easily be removed, allowing the twins to sleep together.

Cradle08

I designed & built foot rests on each side, so the cradle could be easily rocked with your feet.

Cradle12

The peg and though mortise

Cradle15

Introducing Alex and James!

Cradle20

Me and the best clients a guy could ask for!

Cradle09 Cradle10 Cradle11 Cradle13 Cradle14 Cradle16 Cradle17 Cradle18 Cradle19

So that wraps my cradle series.  I’ll post one more related post on how I built the pegs, so look for that.  Then I’ll catch up and share the loft beds.  I’ve also been building a chicken coop!

Thanks for stopping by the shop, it’s great to get back to blogging.

The World’s Most Expensive Dowels!!

Yesterday I took the afternoon off and headed up to our house to do some projects in my shop.  I had some sanding to finish up on the loft beds I’ve been building, I built some drawer spice holders for my brother and I made some dowels from scratch.

The drive up the parkway is beautiful. The temptation to speed is great.  But given all my tickets, I usually set the cruise control and glide along. Usually, but traffic was flying. You know the theory about if you drive with the traffic you won’t get pulled over?  Well that was just disproven.  Speed trap+ 20 cops + 80mph = another ticket.

But more on that, back to adventures in woodworking…

I designed some dowels into my latest project and was quite proud of myself, for incorporating a new technique, new to me at least.  But it is funny how we absorb information.  Part of me had it in my head, that I had somehow come up with it on my own.  Anyway, I finally took out the Lie Nielson Dowel making plate I had bought last year (it was was one of those purchases that I added on to an order and thought “I really need this!”) dusted it off and made a little jig.  I struggled a little bit as my pieces weren’t small enough, and I ended up breaking a few.  So I did what all good modern woodworkers do, I hit the internet.  Googled Lie Nielson Dowel making video and there popped up Marc Spagnuolo and his video on Drawboard Mortise and Tenon.  Damn!  How do these ideas get in my head!!!  Oh right.

Back to the bench I cut my maple pieces down to a more realistic, manageable sizes.  I then broke out my block plane and took the corners off.

dowel 1

Next I cut those pieces into 6″ lengths. I learned earlier that a longer piece has a greater chance of breaking as it gets hammered in.

Dowel 3

I used my leather bound mallet to drive the pegs through the holes and voilà!  I made a dowel!

Dowel 5

Proud of myself, I emailed my wife to show her pictures. She responded back: “The worlds most expensive dowels!”  She was right,  by the time you add up the 280 miles round trip worth of gas, the speeding ticket, the lawyer to get out of the ticket, and of course all the tools I “had to have”, well yes I guess those are some pretty expensive dowels.

Dowel 4

Did I mention I also built a spice rack?

Spicerack

Said Spice Rack.

Here’s another great video on dowel making and a nice jig.

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

Twin Cradle Series, Part 3.2 : Failures and Fixes

-Through Tenons; Mortise failure/solution

It was not until I went to cut my mortises that I realized I should have laid these out and cut them before I cut my board into an oval, with no straight edges to register a cut. To make matters worse, the mortises were angled at 12 degrees to receive the headboard and footboard.

Attempt at chiseling out the mortis

Attempt at chiseling out the mortise

It was my intention to use a chisel out the mortises. I started on one and failed. In hindsight, I am not sure what I was thinking. It took me forever and I ended up with blow out on the bottom despite my best efforts. Ugh.

The result of my chiseling = Blow out on bottom side

The result of my chiseling = Blow out on bottom side

Plan B: Drill holes for my saw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then went to plan B. I drilled out holes and rough cut the mortises with my skill saw. This seem to do the trick, at least at this point of the process. I then went in with my rasps and snuck up to my layout pencil line. At least I thought I did, there were places that I ended up over compensating as I was trying to dry fit the pieces.

Perhaps overkill: I used my jig saw to cut the mortises.

 

 

 

As my hand tool skills have refined since, I believe I would now go in with a small saw, perhaps a keyhole saw.  But my Jig saw certainly kept me moving.

 

 

 

**If you’re reading this and nodding your head (up or down), I’d love to hear your feedback on how you would approach some of the tasks I struggled with.  As with all things woodworking there are infinite ways to skin a cat, and we can all learn by sharing our experiences.

Knot The Right Epoxy Fill

I love me knot….

I am a huge fan of knotty pine, and I am always looking to see how I can incorporate the knots into my layout. I have not, however dealt with the knots properly, until now, well almost.

How beautiful is this–Knot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I have more knot knot jokes, but I will save them for another post.)

 

Ugh. Nice Job, Genius.

 

 

The 1st ‘epoxy’ I purchased was from the local hardware store.  It was a grey paste. I am not sure what I was thinking as I applied it. Did I really think this was going to sand out and look anything different than a cement patch? And yet I proceeded.

 

 

Obviously I was not happy with the outcome. I moved on, but I tried another epoxy, this time a clear product (makes sense, huh!).

 

 

Better luck, but I still wasn’t thrilled with how it sanded out.  I need to try West Systems Epoxy and spend a couple hours experimenting with it.

 

 

Thanks for stoping by the shop. I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on how you might have approached things differently!