New Marking Tool - Veritas Dual Marking Gauge

I keep trying new marking tools.  My favorite for marking lines tend to be the wheeled cutters.  They generally slide easy and cut well (as long as you keep sharp wheels in the cutters - and yes, they do get dull).

Wheeled marrking tools

Wheeled marrking tools

I do have a lot of them but I'm always short, it seems so I will often have them all on the bench during the layout phase of my projects.  In the rack above, you will see 2 older style Veritas marking gauges (these don't have the wheels flat on the end), 2 newer style Veritas marking gauges (these are flat on the end), and 2 different mortise and tenon marking gauges.  I've gone with the Veritas gauges instead of Tite-Mark because of the cost benefit.  The Veritas are about half of the cost of the Tite-Mark.

The M/T gauges are what I'm talking about in this post.  I originally bought the gauge on the far right.  I got it from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.  Lie-Nielsen carries the Tite-Mark brand of marking gauges.  They have the highest reputation but cost a decent amount.  I got the M/T cutters for the Tite-Mark with the hope of being very useful.

The tool works well enough but I found 2 big limitations with the method. 

  1. These cutters are fixed to the width of mortise chisels.  This sounds great on paper but I cut the tenon's first (it works great for me when it comes to fitting though I know most cut the mortise first).  Cutting the tenon first means that the needed mortise may not be the exact size of the mortising chisel.  In fact it almost is never the size of the chisel.
  2. The cutters must be used at the same time.  It's actually quite difficult to cut two parallel lines at the same time while ensuring proper positioning.  I usually fail.

When Veritas came out with a new M/T gauge, I was intrigued.

The marking gauge allows you to mark two lines but cut them individually and the two lines can be any distance apart.  This solved my big issues with the Tite-Mark gague.

In practice, it was nearly perfect and I would recommend this tool.

Tool in use

Tool in use

It was simple to keep each line where it needed to be.  The face on the gauge is larger than the standard though not on all sides.  The larger surface gives a great registration surface though my one small complaint on the tool would be to have the larger surface equal on all sides.

I marked all the tenon's for all the aprons on the 2nd desk.

Putting it together

As I showed you in my previous post, the tenon's inside the mortises overlapped due to their length.  I decided to go with an interlocking tenon (i.e. a finger joint) to add some strength to the over all assembly.  I'm sure it wasn't necessary but it was simple to do and didn't really add much additional work.

Now it's time to add another bit of over engineering.  I want to pin the tenon's into their mortises with dowels.  I will put two dowels into each tenon which will give the joints a mechanical lock in addition to all the glue.  I used my brace and a bit to make the holes.  I first clamped up the base so that the pins would help pull the joints tight.

Drilling pin holes for dowels to mechanically lock in tenon's inside their mortises

Drilling pin holes for dowels to mechanically lock in tenon's inside their mortises

After all the pin holes for the dowels were drilled, I cleaned up the joints a bit with sand paper and a lot of blowing and trying to get all the remaining bits of wood dust and shavings out of the glue joint.

As with most glue ups, they start off nice and slow and easy and end up frantic so I don't have any pictures from the actual glue up.  Here is a shot after the glue up was finished.

Base of desk 1 all glued up

Base of desk 1 all glued up

I have done a rough sanding with 80 grit and cleaned up all glue squeeze out.  My next steps will be to build the second desk base and then work on the interior drawer slides/support.

Interlocking Tenon's

As I mentioned in a few earlier posts, I created the tenon's on the aprons a little over 1" in length.  This means that the tenon's are either too long or need to have some scheme to  take up the same space inside the mortises.

The 2 approaches I considered include:

  1. A miter joint between the tenons
  2. An interlocking finger joint

I decided to go with the interlocking finger joint.

The first step is to insert a tenon into it's mortise (I've been marking each tenon and mortise with matching letters to keep track of them).  Then through the other mortise, I mark how much of the tenon overlaps with it's mated tenon.  I then decided the width of the finger joints (in my case, 1 1/8") and marked them.  Then I used a saw and chisel to cut and remove wood.  I followed it with a few chisel cuts to size the finger joints with some test fits in between.  The goal is to keep the shoulders of the aprons to be tightly flush to the legs.

Here is how one turned out.

Interlocking finger joints on my tenons

Interlocking finger joints on my tenons

I progressed around the desk's base and finished each tenon.  This now allows me to dry fit the desk together.

Dry fit desk base with drawer in front

Dry fit desk base with drawer in front

Next, I will come up with a glue up strategy.  I am planning to pin the tenons with dowels but my goal is to achieve a square glue up.  I can then work on the drawer rails.  Once the drawer rails are done, i'll turn my attention back to the top.

A Mortise How To

Marilyn over at She Works Wood requested that I do a photo how to on my approach to mortises so here it is.

The first step is to layout the mortise.  To accomplish this step, in my case, I had to decide if I wanted the apron flush with the front edge of the leg or to have a slight reveal or shadow line.  I decided on the reveal/shadow line.  To accomplish this you need to add a small distance between the front edge of the mortise and the front edge of the leg.

One other note on mortises, I tend to go conservative on the sizing and slowly work to enlarge the mortise as necessary during test fits (later in this post).  That just means that I will define the most important edge (in my case, it's the edge closest to the front of the leg) and then keep the back edge a little shy of the actual size.  It does take more time this way but I'm more likely to get that nice friction fit this way.

To me, layout is several steps.  The first step uses just a sharp pencil line.

Initial pencil line layout

Initial pencil line layout

The next step on layout is to use a knife and create something that a chisel can register with.  I line a straight edge up with the pencil marks and use a sharp marking knife to get that registration mark.

Create knife lines for chisel registration

Create knife lines for chisel registration

Once the knife marks are made, I take my chisels and further register the edges of the mortise.  I place the chisel in the knife mark and give it two taps.  That is enough at this point.  Tapping the chisel more times or harder would possibly move the wall of the mortise.  That would be bad.

Using a chisel to further define the placing of the walls of the mortise

Using a chisel to further define the placing of the walls of the mortise

Next, I take a narrow chisel and mark the ends of the mortise.  I'm ok with a little play in this direction as I will usually peg the tenons to give a mechanical lock on the joint in addition to the glue.

Using a chisel define the ends of the mortise

Using a chisel define the ends of the mortise

Now, the next step is only done if it's a fairly deep mortise.  In my case it is.  The mortise for my project is a proud 1".  If it was something like a 3/8" mortise I would skip this and just stick with mortise chisels.

Now that the mortise is marked, I mark a center line.  The center line is so that I can take a brace and bit and hollow out material quickly.  

Mark a center line so I can use a brace and bit

Mark a center line so I can use a brace and bit

I use a little blue tape to mark the depth on the bit.  At first, when using a brace and bit, I would set squares around so that I could reference them.  Now that I have more experience, I don't need them and can site a reasonably square hole.

Using a brace and bit

Using a brace and bit

I don't try to hollow out all of the material because overlapping holes often cause me problems.  So I drill out as many as I think is reasonable.

Drill out as many holes as makes sense but still allow you to keep control over the brace and bit.

Drill out as many holes as makes sense but still allow you to keep control over the brace and bit.

Next, I take my mortise chisel and beat on the material still left in between the holes drilled by the brace and bit.  There is a lot of prying but PLEASE stay away from the walls and the ends of the mortise, NOT using the walls and ends as leverage points.  This will damage all those carefully marked out perimeters.

Use a mortise chisel and remove more material

Use a mortise chisel and remove more material

Use a regular chisel and start working slowly towards the sides of the mortise.

Use a chisel and start cleaning up the walls of the mortise

Use a chisel and start cleaning up the walls of the mortise

Once you've got the walls to the marks you've made, you take a narrow chisel and clean and square up the ends.  It will still look rough.

Even after the clean up, the mortise remains rough.

Even after the clean up, the mortise remains rough.

This rough mortise is where we start trial fits.  Trust me!!!  The additional parring of the walls with a chisel will clean up the majority of the other marks and roughness.  Plus, remember this is an inside joint so no one will ever see the inside.

The trial fits are super important.  You fit until you get a friction fit.  My strategy is to try a fit, chisel once across an edge then try again.  I do this over and over and over and over.  You can take wood away but it's harder and more work to have to put wood back so take small bites with the chisel.

Eventually, you will get a fit that takes some muscle to get the tenon into the mortise but not require a mallet.  A friction fit is when you have the tenon inside the mortise and you can lift it up without it slipping off.  Beyond that, you are looking for the shoulders around the tenon to seat very tightly against the leg.

Final fit with snug shoulders

Final fit with snug shoulders

I hope this description give you an idea on how I accomplish this joint.  I really like the joint and it's simpler in many ways than a dovetail joint.  Good luck!

Oops...BIG OOPS!

I was at our local chapter of the Modern Woodworkers Association gathering yesterday and I told the story of this blog post and was teased about not posting an embarrassing story.  If you knew me, you'd know that I never walk away from embarrassment.  The funny thing is that I had these pictures all ready to write the post but just hadn't yet.  Well, here it is...

After working on the tenon's on all the aprons, I started working on the first mortise.  I marked the top and bottom shoulders and the location with a slight shadow edge between the front of the apron and the leg.  I then started cutting the mortise.  I used a combination of a brace and bit and various chisels including a mortise chisel.

initial fit of apron into leg

initial fit of apron into leg

Above you see the initial fit of the apron into the leg.  Using my chisels, i pared away material until I got a nice and tight fit.

Final fit of first mortise and tenon

Final fit of first mortise and tenon

As you can see, it's a super fit with a nice friction tight fit.  I was really pleased with this and new this had to be a sign on how the rest were going to go.

I left this and came back the next day...

...and found that all was not so great.

New leg next to old/bad leg

New leg next to old/bad leg

The leg on the right was the first one and if you can look, I put the mortise on the wrong side of the leg, given that I wanted the taper to be on the inside faces of the legs.  I knew that a patch (filling the mortise) would not look great so I made a new/replacement leg and then carefully laid out the mortise on the correct side.

It was very frustrating but I took it as a chance to practice the skills needed to make a tapered leg and a new mortise.  The results were still quite good.

Dry Fit

Dry Fit

Above you can see a first dry fit with the assistance of one of the recipients of one of the desks (Mitchell, my youngest).  I still have one more leg to finish and then the work to fit the tenons from both aprons into each leg.

Aprons and Tenons

The desks I'm building for my two sons is inspired from simple shaker designs.  It includes a 2" leg which has a taper to 1" on the inside edges of the legs which starts just below the aprons.  The aprons are joined to the legs with tenons going into mortises on the legs.

Cutting tenons

Cutting tenons

I cut each tenon a bit longer than an inch long and targeting 3/8" thick.  I start with sawing the cheeks and then use a rebate plane to clean up and square up/true up the tenon.  I finish all 8 tenons for the aprons of 1 desk.

Initial layout for marking mortises on legs

Initial layout for marking mortises on legs

You can see the front long apron has a drawer cutout and the drawer front fitted into that opening.  I mark each leg and it's orientation so that I can proceed to marking for tenons.

Closeup shot of tenons and a leg

Closeup shot of tenons and a leg

I will probably have to shorten the tenons and may take the approach of interlocking them inside the mortises or maybe go the simpler route and miter the tenon ends.

Front Apron

This past weekend, our local Modern Woodworkers Association (MWA) got together for a meet-up and to tour one of our local Rockler stores which had a grand reopening to a new larger store.  It's always great to get together.

After I got home, I spent some time in the shop and worked on one of the 2 front aprons I need for the 2 desks I'm building for my 2 boys.

I took a wide piece of stock (I'm using maple) and jointed one edge.  Using that edge I used my bandsaw to cut 3 pieces.  The center piece will eventually be cut up with 2 sides and one center (the center is the eventual drawer front).  The other 2 pieces are approximately 3/4".

3 pieces dry fitted for the first front apron of the desks

3 pieces dry fitted for the first front apron of the desks

With some clean up to ensure tight joints, I then use the drawer front to exactly fit the side pieces and mark them to make glue up easy and simple.

Glue up of first front apron

Glue up of first front apron

Next will be cleaning up the front apron and matching width and length to the other 3 aprons in the desk set.  I'll need to repeat all of this for the second front apron.

Dimensions and Surfaces

All the saw work I did in the last post created rough pieces which will eventually be the aprons connecting the legs of the 2 desks I'm making for my 2 sons.  Rough is not the desire so it's time to dimension the pieces and get the surfaces near their final state.

My first step is to remove any elements of the boards that are not desirous for the final piece such as knots.  I initially used my bandsaw but soon, I'll need to try out my new hand saw and see if it works as well as the crosscut saws work.

I  then need to make one edge square and smooth.  With that surface prepped, I use it as a reference in my band saw and create the proper width board.  I'm going for 4 inch aprons.  From that rough surface, I prep it with hand planes going  for square and parallel to the opposite side.

With the edges prepared, it's time to surface the faces.  The objective is to remove any tear out and create a very smooth surface.  I use a low angle Jack plane set for medium work (see Chris Schwarz sources about Coarse, Medium, Fine) to initially flatten the board.  They are reasonably close or I would have had to use a Jack set to coarse material removal.  I follow this with a smoothing plane and remove tear-out if necessary.

Once one face is taken care of, I repeat but stick with the medium plane till I approach the desired thickness for the board.  I then finish with a smoothing plane.

 

Side apron pieces dimensioned and surfaced

Side apron pieces dimensioned and surfaced

I'm finished with the side/short aprons and will turn my attention to the longer, front and back aprons.  The front apron is not a simple one as it will have an opening for a drawer.

Once the aprons are prepped, it will be time for mortise and tenon work to attach the aprons to the legs.  I think this is when a desk or table start to feel like a desk or table.

Legs to Apron

As you know from the last few posts, I was working on the legs (4 legs each for 2 desks).  I was creating tapers from about 2" to about 1" on the inside faces of each of the legs to give it a less beefy look, hopefully creating some elegance.  I've got these legs shaped and smooth.

Now it's time to work on the aprons.  The first step is to cut the side aprons to approximate length.  This gives me a chance to test out my new PAX saws (check my previous post).

Cutting aprons parts to length using new PAX saw.

Cutting aprons parts to length using new PAX saw.

Using the saw, I found after cleaning the saws up that they started the cut well.  Given my experience with saws, I still bounce once or twice before establishing the kerf.  After that, the cut went smoothly.  I found if I over cut (pulling the saw a bit too far out of the kerf), I could cause the saw to bow easily but I've experienced this with alls saws so don't see that as a problem.  I think the most important element of a freshly sharpened saw is how does it track?

View of the resulting crosscut

View of the resulting crosscut

In the picture above, you can see that I left the pencil line and you can just barely see it across the entire length of the cut.  I don't think I've ever had a hand saw track any better so I'm very satisfied with these new PAX saws.

I will continue to cut apron parts to length and then I'll spend some time cleaning up the face and top edge then it will be time to test the rip saw.  I will probably only test the rip saw on one board and then revert to my band saw.

Saw Time!

It doesn't have the same ring as Hammer Time.  Oh well!

I think it was back before Christmas, Shannon Rogers over at Renaissance Woodworker had a Hand Tool School live session on saws.  He spent a lot of time on full size (i.e. 26") crosscut and rip along with panel saws.  I felt motivated to look at my saws.

My saws were kind of a weak mixture of saws so I went over to Tools for Working Wood to see what kind of saws they had.  I came across a complete selection of PAX saws including 26" crosscut and rip saws, a 28" rip saw, and a 22" crosscut panel saw.  Shannon discussed that new manufactured saws were not commonly taper ground but the folks at Tools for Working Wood specifically mentioned that for these saws.  So...I ordered a few.

The saws arrived yesterday.

Saws in their boxes

Saws in their boxes

I ordered 3 saws.  The one in the bottom brown box is the Pax 28" 5 1/2 TPI Rip Saw.  The next one (middle) is a Pax 26" 8 tpi Crosscut Saw.   The last one (top) is a Pax 22" 12 tpi Crosscut Panel Saw.  It took a while to clean them up (they were coated) and then put a light coat of oil on them (everything in the Pacific Northwest rusts if not protected).

I haven't had a chance to test them out since I am working on the desks but as soon as I finish prepping the legs, I will work on the aprons and drawers so will be using them then.  I'll report back.

Saws in a saw till

Saws in a saw till

Here you can see my entire collection of saws (except for a couple of beaters I keep in the garage).  The three new ones are on the left side.  Their handles are pretty and at least initially feel pretty good.  AND YES, I am a geek and label where my saws go.  Probably stems from the trauma of getting yelled at by my Dad when I didn't put his tools in the right location.  Also, I'm still trying to improve my identification of teeth and geometry so labels help.