Archives for Marc's Miscellanea

Dutch Tool Chest (part 3)

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The hardware for the chest arrived this week. The cast iron handles are great. Super beefy and ready to go on as is. I put a coat of oil on them to prevent rust. The screws that come with them are #12 about 1-1/4″ long. They have phillips heads on them. Not my favourite, but I used them anyway.

The unequal strap hinges for the lid took more work. They come already rusty. You can see them in the acid bath right after I threw them in. I guess someone out there likes the look of rusty hardware… It’s not me. After a few hours in the acid the rust wiped off and the hinges had a light grey patina. I wanted them to match the handles though.



So with some oil and the tiger torch I gave them a nice baked on carbon finish. This is just like seasoning a cast iron frying pan. Many light coats of oil are better than a few heavy coats. One of my early coats had too much oil near the point of the fleur-de-lis and you can still see the uneven coating there in this photo.

The strap hinges have all the countersinks coming from the same side on both parts of the hinge. Since I wanted to have the hinge on the inside of the lid, but outside the back wall of the chest I wanted the countersinks on opposite sides. It’s an easy fix to drive out the hinge pin and flip one side.

The hinges didn’t come with screws so I picked up some #4 x 5/8″ screws from the hardware store. Half an hour in a hydrochloric acid bath and they too were plain black steel. Robertson heads though. I wouldn’t stand for phillips in screws that small.



I also got the paint on this week. I found a can of green that I liked. I realized later on that it’s almost the same colour as the duffel bag I carry my tools in now. Not intentional, but it’s sort of a neat continuity.

You can see the temporary rack I put on the back wall. It’s just two strips with a 1/2″ space between them. I have seen others who use this as the final system for their tool chests, but it’s a bit too unrestrained for me. It is great for prototyping though. I can see how much will fit across the back, and where I would like things to live. I just tacked it in with a few blobs of hot melt glue. I’m working on the sketch of the final tool rack now.



The other detail I added before mounting the hinges was to put a small bevel on the back of the lid. This will allow the lid to open a few degrees past vertical. I’ll be using a chain or strap to catch the weight of the lid and stop it, but I do want it to be well past vertical so it stays open on its own. It’ll have panel saws mounted to it like everybody else does eventually. When I get my panel saws cleaned up and usable.

Dutch Tool Chest (part 2)


Inside the tool chest.


The tool chest is a complete shell now. I used the cutoff from ripping the bottom board as the lowest back board. I put the tongue on top to mate with the rest of the T&G boards. I had to put a rabbet on the other three sides to make the 11/16″ board line up flush with my 1/2″ fir which makes up the rest of the back. You can also see the notch in the front of the shelf which the lock batten slides through. I glued the dovetails, and for the shelf I drilled and counterbored holes for #6 screws through the sides. I’ll plug them afterwards so once the paint is on they will be invisible.



Clamp on…


… and plane to 30°.











In my excitement putting the front bits on I forgot to do the bead. Oh well. Now there are nails where it would go anyway. The T&G boards were all nailed on and trimmed flush with the ends. The top board I planed the angle down to match the sides. The wonder dog is truly great for unconventional clamping setups like this. Having the tool chest hanging off the apron at the right height made this easy.



The fall front locking mechanism.


There was a bit of fiddling to get the locking batten exactly the right width. It has to be tight enough to lock the fall front in without any movement, but not so tight that it’s troublesome to insert and remove. Careful trial and error got it dialled in.  I also put a coat of paste wax on the batten to make it slick once it was sized right. The two battens screwed to the ends are snugly fit to the inside width so that takes up the side to side play. Each has a 5/8″ overhang on the bottom to catch behind the lower lip.



Plácido, José, and Luciano


The next order of business was putting breadboard ends on the lid. The lid used to be the top of the desk. It’s made up of 4 different glued together boards, and the two widest are flat grained. It already had a slight cup to it, so in time it would only get worse. The breadboard ends will hopefully keep it flat and allow it to expand and contract without splitting.

I don’t have a rabbet plane, so I did this with saws and chisels. It worked alright but took along time. The rabbet plane has moved up the list.



All set up for drawboring.


I chose to drawbore the tenons on the breadboard to keep it snug. There’s no glue in this joint at all. It came out pretty well I think. Only time will tell if it’ll do the job. It’s a pretty wide panel made of some pretty sub-par boards. I hot glued some small blocks on the front edge so that I can have the lid sit in place with gravity for now. This will also help while I install the hardware. I’ll have to wait until my next trip into town to get to Lee Valley for the hinges and the handles on the side of the chest. The handles are very essential, as it’s difficult to pick the chest up now when it has a few planes and chisels in it. The sides are smooth so there’s nothing to grab.



The exterior of the chest and lid done.



Now the fun part.

Dutch Tool Chest (part 1)

Now that I have a proper workbench in my living room, I need a place to store my tools. Currently they live in a duffel bag and a rubbermaid tote. This is less than ideal.

The bag has been schlepping my hand tools for a couple years now. A lot of the time at work I want to use my own tools for various tasks, so this was the answer for portability. Now as my hand tools are increasing both in quality as well as quantity it’s time for better storage.

Also, apologies for the photos for this bit of the project. My wife had her DLSR with her and I left my proper digital camera at my dad’s shop. So cell phone pictures are all I have.

My current tool storage.

My current tool storage.


In the place that my workbench now occupies, there was a small desk. It’s what I used to keep my laptop on. Now the workbench is my computer desk. The old desk was one that my wife inherited from her mother. My mother-in-law bought the desk when she was a teenager, so it has some ‘family history’ I guess.

That being said, it’s made of pine and held together with staples. So it’s not holding up so well. There is a decided wobble to it when you push on the top corners. Because the desk is superfluous and our house is small it has to go. But it has sentimentality going for it, and because of the sub-standard ‘joinery’ I wouldn’t want to bestow it on anyone else. So I thought the best thing for it would be to dismantle it and re-purpose the wood. I like free wood, and re-using material is good for the planet and everybody else.

It turns out the dimensions of the desk will give me most of the parts for Chris Schwarz’ small dutch tool chest. The wood is pine and it’s 11/16″ thick so it’ll be lightweight which is ideal. It’s a bit thinner than the Schwarz would recommend probably, but I’m ok with that.

The dutch tool chest is also ideal because of it’s unsophisticated but sturdy joinery. Which will compliment this unsophisticated but serviceable wood.

The desk's final moments.

The desk’s final moments.


My wife and daughter were away for the weekend, so I was home alone for two and a half days with my tools and a project. I woke up really early Saturday morning (unintentionally), so got right to it. A prybar, catspaw and some pliers made quick work of turning the desk into a neat stack of pieces. I ended up with half a coffee cup full of staples.

The desk un-joined.

The desk un-joined.


I had to walk down the street to the hardware store to buy a 1×12″ pine board to make up for the few pieces I’d be short. I’ll also use some thin douglas fir I have in my milled lumber pile at work for the tongue and groove boards that make up the back of the chest. The lumber yard only had laminated pine shelving (made up of a bunch of smaller strips glued together). While this stuff is pretty ugly and almost unplanable with hand planes due to the knots and reversing grain, it is straight and square. And cheap.

It’s also a full 12″ wide, whereas S4S pine would be 11.25″, so I gain an extra 3/4″ in depth to the tool chest. It’s going to be painted anyway, and full of tools so I went with it to get the project underway.


30° cut to get both sides from one board.

30° cut to get both sides from one board.


I started out cutting the sides from the board I just bought. The shelf that separates the top and bottom compartments will also be from the pine shelf board.

By laying out a 30° line that crosses the centre of the board I got both sides with matching angles and minimum wasted lumber. After clamping the boards together and cleaning up my angle cut with a plane, I started to layout the dovetails. The bottom of the chest is dovetailed to the sides. Tails are on the side boards to resist the downward stress on the bottom of the chest. The shelf that makes the upper compartment is dadoed into the sides. That is the extent of the joinery on this project. The rest is screws and/or nails.

This was my second use of dovetails, after the workbench. I guess since the workbench had half blinds at each end of the apron, and through dovetails at each end of the tool well this would be my third set of dovetails. Dovetails usually come in pairs I suppose. However you count them, I haven’t cut many.

It was certainly my first time gang cutting tails. And gang coping them. I’m a fan.

Two tails at the same time, man.

Two tails at the same time, man.


I’ve seen people make this out to be a big deal. Lots of people on forums and blogs say “when I get more practice with dovetails, I’ll try gang cutting them” or gang coping. I’ve found with almost all hand tool tasks that confidence is key. Just go for it. If you don’t overthink what you’re doing it seems to work out better. Most of the time. I’ve confidently powered my way into some terrible blunders. But those are still the minority.

Cutting these tails was a success. I channelled my inner Klauz and these just flew along. I got pretty cocky after those first two in the photo and took it right down to the baseline. And it was fine. Doing shop projects with free lumber is fantastic for practising skills.



After the dovetailing fun, I cut the dado on each side to receive the shelf. You can’t see the shelf in the photo above because it’s hiding behind the front piece. What you can see are three dadoes on the bottom board. Those are from the desk, where the drawers went. I didn’t want to waste those boards that had the dadoes (there are two of them). I didn’t want them on the lid or the sides however. When I thought about the bottom though, I figured that maybe I might want dividers in that big empty box space. So that’s where that board got put.

I’ll use a strip of the other dadoed board for the bottom piece of the T&G back, with a rabbet to make it the same thickness as the other T&G boards. I’ll align the dadoes with the bottom board. Then I can cut some dividing walls that I can click into those dadoes. If I decide I don’t like the separators then I’ll just cut some thin strips to fill them flush.

I have the fall-front cut out as well, but not shown. I need to sand off the outside on that and put either a rabbet or a cove or something on the edges to make it stand out. I’d like to put a bead on the bottom of the front board up top as well. I may try Paul Sellers screw head method since I don’t have any beading tools to speak of yet.

Portable Workbench (part 3)

The bench is all done structurally now. By that I mean that it’s free standing and usable. The top still needs to be flattened and the apron squared up to it. I’m really happy with how it has turned out. I’ve also uploaded the SketchUp drawing to the 3D warehouse.

finally assembled 1


This shows the cleat that the cross braces will bolt to on the underside of the slab. It turns out I didn’t account for the length of the holdfast shank, so I’ll need to cut a small notch here and in the front cross brace. I’m very happy with the dog hole spacing, so I wouldn’t change that. I could move the brace block further towards the rear, but then that makes the width of the shelf that sits on the lower stretchers narrower. Since I want that shelf to do double duty as a filler board for the tool well if needed to make the top completely flat, it needs to be 10.5″. Which is what dictated the placement of the brace block in the first place. So notch it is.

upside down top


There are still a few cosmetic things that need to be done. I’ll round over the ends of the cross braces to make them less pokey. I also have to cut down the carriage bolts to an acceptable length, and grind down two of the hinge screws that poked through the upper stretchers.

finally assembled 2

Portable Workbench (part 2)

glue up

Glue ups are an outside job. Now that the top and apron are one piece it makes workholding so much easier, even on the sawhorses.

tool well

This gives me a nice usable work surface to build the leg frames and cross braces on. The leg frames on each side have a wide upper stretcher that is half-lapped into the legs, and a lower stretcher that is held in with drawbored mortise and tenon joints. This makes it very rigid and gives a large surface for the hinges to be installed to up top.

drawbored m_t

leg frame

So far I’m very impressed with the Gramercy holdfasts. It’s pretty hard to fathom why holdfasts ever fell out of fashion. Once I had used them for an hour or two making the leg frames I was hooked. Why wouldn’t you want to have a clamp everywhere you could drill a hole ?

Having the dog holes in the apron lets me use them as a face vise sort of as well. Here’s how I set it up to cut the tenon shoulders. The piece is pinched between a bench dog and the wonder dog, and the holdfast keeps it tight to the apron.

vertical clamping

It worked surprisingly well.

Portable Workbench (part 1)

I’ve decided to build myself a proper workbench. And I’ve gotten the go ahead from my wife to build it in the living room.

Pretty much all the woodworking I’ve done up to this point has been in the shop at work, or the basement at my parent’s house. While these are both great spaces to work in, and I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to use them, they have drawbacks. The biggest one is that I need to travel to them. This means I can only do work there if my wife is watching my daughter. If she goes out in the evenings or to work in Victoria then I can’t do any woodwork because I’m watching our daughter.

I do a lot of work with hand tools, and that is work that I can be doing in the evenings or on weekends while my daughter is sleeping or playing.

Sketchup View

This is the design I’ve settled on. It’s a folding portable bench that Roy Underhill built on ‘The Woodwright’s Shop”. There are plans for it in one of his books, but I followed a build that Steve Branam did on his blog. From seeing his build photos and descriptions and watching the episode of Woodwright’s Shop I managed to draw it up in Sketchup to the dimensions I required.

It’s lighter and smaller than most traditional benches. Which is fine because it’s meant to be portable, and will be staying in my living room. The rigidity comes from the diagonal cross bracing. I’ll be adding a lower shelf to mine as well which I can pile tools on to add weight to the bench. I’m hoping with some rubber feet it won’t scootch too much while I’m planing on it.

I don’t generally go for tool wells in benches, but I think I’ll try it with this one. It’ll catch a lot of the shavings and sawdust and keep tools from spreading to other horizontal surfaces nearby. In the shop I like to sweep the swarf onto the floor and keep the bench free of tools. I think learning to live with the tool well solutions will lead to greater marital bliss.


top assembly 3

Here are the main parts of the top. The slab and apron are just held together here by the joints in the side pieces. The main slab of the bench is 2″ thick and made of two 2×6’s glued together. The apron is another 2×6 which will get glued to the slab. The dog hole spacing is layed out for the Gramercy tools holdfasts and a Veritas wonder dog. I’ll put a crochet on the left end of the apron as well.

The well board has a tongue that runs all the way around it, and fits into grooves on the back of the slab, the sides and the back board. This keeps the top aligned and stops the thin (3/4″) well board from cupping, while letting it expand and contract. The sides are dovetailed into the slab (half-blinds) and into the back board (through dovetails) to keep things locked together back to front. The main slab has the tongue cut onto the ends to fit the side boards as well. The dovetails are the only part that will be fixed with glue. The groove is kept dry so both slab and well board can expand.

It’s a strong joint so it makes sense. I’ve never cut dovetails before so this project gave me a chance to try them out. I didn’t make as big a mess of them as I thought I would. They were a bit gappier than I wanted at the bottom, but they were still mallet snug.

first through dovetails

first dovetails

I have lots of epoxy left from the canoe so when I do glue these up I think I’ll use that. It’s much better at gap filling any other type of glue used for wood.

Gunwhale repair











Cut, chisel, cut, glue. Easy as that really.


Turns out I didn’t get a shot of the repair specifically beyond this stage. I went through other photos to find one later.

You can see how it faired out in this shot below. I’m fooling around with getting the decks shaped, but the gunwhale repair is there too. This was the first round of maple decks that I ended up scrapping.



The Move

Moving Day


My time in the shop at work is over. The rest of the build will take place in my parents basement. I’ve been working like crazy through August to get the boat to this state where it’s strong enough to be transported.

So today the boat, the strongback, the extra strips and all the other materials got loaded up and whisked away. Thanks to my Dad for chauffeuring the canoe with his truck.

Though not complete, it was very cool to see the canoe on the road. Makes me excited for the finish line.

I’m pretty sure no one noticed my cracked gunwhale as it went by…

Gunwhales – Part 2


The second inwhale went on the same as the first. No surprises there. Even better than that, it lined up exactly the same. You can see at the bow and stern where I chose to end the gunwhales short of the stems and rounded them over. I decided I wanted to make the decks flush with gunwhales so I’ve cut away the material there to allow for it. Having the inwhales end short leaves me space to install the painter rings in the deck and have the full deck thickness.


Here’s the setup I used to determine the angle of the tumblehome at the shear line. Because the inwhales follow the hull and the tumblehome is curving in (the definition of tumblehome…), the bottom of the inwhale isn’t level. So the thwart needs to have bevels relieved into its ends to mate snugly.



Using the measurements from the jig, I made up a temporary centre thwart and two seat spacers. These are sized as their future counterparts so that the canoe will have the right shape as the outwhales are installed. A tremendous amount of pressure is exerted by bending the gunwhales on. Not having the internal support here would allow the outwhales to crush the hull inwards signifcantly. The result would be a canoe that is much skinnier and has tons more rocker than intended.

With the support braces in, the outwhales got their epoxy and got bent on. Being solid and thicker it was much more work to bend them than it was for the inwhales. The first one went on without incident.


Gunwhale disaster

On the second one, three clamps from the end disaster struck. I was tightening the vertical clamp across the bow to pull up the outwhale when it let out a loud crack. With the entire thing covered in wet epoxy (just look at those drips !) and 41 clamps already set there wasn’t much to be done. I hadn’t machined a spare outwhale anyway. The ones I did make are bookmatched from the same piece so putting on an entirely different one wouldn’t match at all. So I clamped up the rest and I’ll have to cut out that break and install a patch later on.

Not even close to hitting the water and it already has a repair to be done.


Gunwhales – Part 1

inwhale temp clamp

After glassing the inside and getting the graphite finished the next step is gunwhales. The above photo is my first dry fit of the inwhale. There was lots of measuring and fitting here. In order to get the inwhale length perfect you need to have the center amidships spaced out to its desired final width when you measure. I used a spare strip left over as a story stick and clamped it in place to take direct measurements for these parts.

I decided to scupper my inwhales. It looks great, gives you tons of lashing points and makes it easy to drain the boat when you tip it on its side. It also makes it lighter, since you’re taking away about 1/4 of the material. Basically there’s no downside (for me) other than the additional time and effort it takes.


scupper jig 1

scupper jig 2

This is the jig I came up with for doing the scuppers. Because I had access to a dish carving bit, I could do this with the inwhales laying flat. I think most people use a straight bit and do them on edge, which makes sense if you don’t want to buy a dish cutting bit. The big advantage to me of the way I chose to do this is that I was able to do both inwhales together simultaneously. This ensures that they are perfectly symmetrical.

You can see in the above photo that I’ve marked the waste areas with X’s. Make sure you don’t scupper the wrong areas. The blue pen lines are positions where the seat hanger bolts will go.


seat position

Here you can see the story strip clamped to the far side of the hull. This is the setup I used to layout where I wanted the seats. You need to do this before making the inwhales so you ensure that there’s no scupper where you want to mount the seat.

I played with lots of different sizes and spacing of scuppers until I found one that would fit my seat placement and not look awkward.


hole jig

After all the scuppers were cut, I repurposed the scupper jig into the bolt hole jig. I’ve chosen to put in brass threaded inserts into the underside of the inwhale. A lot of people drill through the top and insert bolts that way, plugging the tops afterwards. I think the inserts will offer me more flexibility. The holes need to be plumb and exactly 3/8″. Since my inwhales are 3/4″ I don’t have a lot of room for error. So the router seemed to be the best choice for this. I drilled 1/4″ holes freehand with the drill to remove most of the material, then used the router to finish them with this jig.


brass inserts

Each insert gets screwed into it’s hole with a blob of epoxy, to ‘seal the deal’ so to speak. A couple swipes with a file after the epoxy has set makes sure that everything is flush and smooth with the surface of the inwhale.


inwhale clamped

Some persnickity epoxy application and 44 clamps later, it’s on. Do a dry fit first with all your clamps and have them pre adjusted so things go as smoothly as possible. Surprises aren’t fun when there’s wet epoxy involved.