Saturday, May 7, 2016

Catching up on a Workbench

To those who are not well-aware of Twin Maples Traditions, your humble narrator would like to inform you of the most esteemed tradition here: Midnight half-coherent rambling.

Well today's post is two hours before midnight, but I'm tired from pneumonia, so I count it as midnight anyways. 

So one of the things I've been doing is finally making a workbench.

I have a large amount of respect for those who use Japanese methods of workholding. But besides the obvious discomfort of sitting on wood on a muddy/slushy, cold concrete floor in winter,  there's also the fact that my bad leg just doesn't have the strength to hold down work. The saws, no matter how lightly I saw and how sharp they are, always pull the work away.

Holding things with my arms does work, but as a metate pointed out, that's where Western saws have the advantage- one arm is used to hold the saw, one arm to hold the work if there's no vise, the rest of the limbs are free, whereas Japanese saws need two arms and a leg.

It's a sin to show un-finished joints in the woodworking blogosphere...

but this is...


ye...'art'. Totally not legs and scrap wood. 

The Absurdity of Man and his Manipulation of the Perceived Background.

All this for a mortise.

In each project that is a shop project I take it upon myself to try to advance my knowledge.
This one I placed importance heavily in getting things right without adjustment, no cleaning up surfaces unless necessary, totally not influenced by crappy pine that tears out even if you sand it...Some boards are nice, some are awful. My grandma once found a 2by4 that after four hours of planing and sanding and painting and re-sanding, still splintered.

Along with using rough-hewn, 'live surface' stretchers. I got these from the woods, deadfall softwood that I believe to be poplar, and hopefully the beetles are long gone, killed by cold and sun. Should I pour acid or something on the wood? I chose the sections with no holes or as little holes as possible, but still...

so one of the results in this experiment was, on both sets of legs, one side came out really nice...but the other side? Slightly angled. The same amount on each end. 

The mortises were dead on. But the tenons were not. This resulted in one side being a perfect, snug fit, the other side being loose...solved with sawdust, glue, and wedges.

I could blame the lack of a true flat surface on the stretcher parts, but rather I blame my inexperience in working with these kind of timbers, and will strive to perfect my usage of these elements in the future.

An unattainable goal, but the closer I get, the better- perfection is more of a dream than a reality.

There ends most of the joinery, I wanted to try a lot of nailed construction in this build, both for quickness and as it seems to be trendy. Plus my ol' books recommend nails for woodworking over screws, screws being brittle and unmoving.  

So, me having the attention span of a starved squirrel that just found itself in the midst of a diverse plethora of nuts, I decided to try forging a nail with a propane torch. So some problems: A. I have no tongs, need to make those. B. My anvil has no hardie hole, so I used a cold cut chisel, while holding the stock with my legs and balancing the nail on the anvil. C. No nail head forming thing, either. D. Where would the nail go if I did use that nail head forming jig?

So my mind went "Well, Steve, let's look at cultures with anvils that often had no hardie holes." Vikings, Middle Eastern traditions, African traditions,  various traditions throughout developing countries, China and Japan. I can't speak for India/Nepal.

Now I don't have nails from Viking era, though they did have headed rivets and nail formers, so I'll have to do research on that. The 'Viking era' is also a bit vague...

So some 'Viking anvils' are small ones, smaller and lighter than my steel hunk, and some are fancy ones with horns on beaks. Many times Norse blacksmiths just used a boulder, with one story of an Icelandic smith,   Skallagrímurswimming deep into a lake to haul up a boulder that was just right.

They found the stone: 

Anvil stone at Raudanes

Photo Credit:

Gotta love blacksmithing. Can't afford an anvil? Go grab the right rock, you'll be all set, bro. Split a branch partially down the center to use for tongs until you can make real tongs as well (I've used that, they work sorta, dip them in water and use a fire-resistant species. I ducttaped two oak scraps at one end and used that for a while). 

Don't have nails from anywhere else I mentioned, except for Japan. 

So in these two photos, we can see Top: Japan Middle; My two-minute 'nail'; common wire nail. 

The Japanese nail I think was for boat building, it looks like ones Douglas Brooks over at encounters.  

 it seems to be tapered on only one side, straight on the other. The head looks to be formed by bending the top over.
                                Perhaps the fact I'll think about how nails are made is why I'm not the most popular person...I never would've thought I would un-ironically analyse nails.

                             I feel like I have an obligation to go skydiving or something to get out of the negatives in my Coolness-factor.

                                             Perhaps skydiving while wrestling a bear.

I end with a picture of trimming up the workbench top. Yes, there is about a four inch gap between the two top boards in my new workbench.  The workbench overall is loosely based on a cheap English workbench.

Ok, not so much 'based on' as I saw a picture of an English workbench and went "huh, nifty." 

Only the gap is much, much wider...instead of a small board in there, I'm hoping to put a small workbench-shelf that can be fitted to stand 2-4 inches above the rest of the workbench, for kanna work and small work. When not in use it'll hopefully sit below the main top, to store things on.