Friday, May 13, 2016

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marc: the woodwhisperer is sponsored by rockler woodworking and hardware, create with confidence. marc:if you've been a woodwhisperer fan for a while you probably remember our oldintroduction for the show. i had a few differentpictures of things that i made in the past and one ofthose was this little guy. it's a children's stepstool sitting bench something or other, i don't know.

it could be a stepstoolor a sitting bench, but this was in thatoriginal introduction. over the years i'vegotten a lot of requests to actually make this on the show. since i've gotten a lot ofsupport from the community lately with our websiteproblems i figure you know what a good way to paythat back and say thank you is to build something that alot of folks have requested. i think this one is a long time coming,

i think you're going toenjoy it, let's dig in. before we get into theactual construction of this piece i thought i'd talk alittle bit about its history. when i first moved to arizonaa number of years ago, i started my woodworkingbusiness, and i was struggling. being a furniture maker that is a difficult way to make a living. ask any pro it's veryhard and i was trying to find ways to make a few extra bucks.

we had a local swapmeet, and it was called a swap meet but really it was just a bunch of people who had boothsand products to sell. i thought i might beable to make a few bucks if i got myself a booth, and had a number of small projects thatwere easy to batch out. that i could make 10 or 20 at a time, and that would allow meto sell them for a fairly reasonable small price,which would be something

you would expect at a swap meet like this. i tried to make this littlestepstool sitting bench. the problem was i fell short of my goal. i realized there was no waythat i could batch these out in any sort of timeframeor quantity that would allow me to charge the $20.00 or $30.00 price tag that i was aiming for. so, a nice little project but it just wasn't right for that particular purpose.

what i wound up doing wasgiving it to my mother in law, and she's had it for a couple of years and she wants this one back. i needed to basicallyget all of the angles and all of the curves andeverything i could off of this piece, and makemyself a set of templates. because this was just a prototype before i didn't really put anything in stone. i didn't keep any notes on it,and in fact if you look very

closely you'll see there'sa few joints here and there. especially on the top, thiswas made from two halves because i was making it from scrap stock. i wasn't expecting this to bea piece that would be sold. we're going to improve onsome of those things as we go to the piece thatwe're going to make today. all right, so speaking of theactual material itself let me show you exactly what you'regoing to need to make it. voiceover:the top blankmeasures one and 3/4 of an inch

thick, seven incheswide, and 16 inches long. the leg blanks measureone inch thick, seven inches wide, and 11 and 1/2 inches long. the stretcher blankmeasures one and 1/4 inches thick, one 3/4 of an inchwide, and 11 1/2 inches long. marc:so we've got our blanks,and we have our original. but how do we go from point a to point b? well we need some templates,we need to look at the original and try to extract as much

information as possible from it to make it very easy to reproduce this in the future. the first thing that i wantto do is take a tracing of it. just a piece of quarter inchplywood is really all you need. then you can trace theperimeter and the inside, and just get an approximateidea of the overall shape. all right, and theselengths you can then take to another piece, and i liketo use mdf for my templates. i take measurements off of this,

and transfer those to a piece of mdf. now the cool thing here is we have an idea of what we want these curves to look like. in my tracing i can see a pretty good reflection of what theoriginal looks like. it's been a long time sincei made this, so my eye for design now six, sevenyears later might be a little bit differentthan it was back then. this is a good opportunityto apply some of what

i've learned, maybe try some new things. i don't really want to change it too much, but sometimes just a slightlittle change in the severity of a curve making it a little bitmore curved or less curved. or, maybe moving the locationof the curve a little bit could make a hugeimpact in the overall look of the piece, and how nice it looks. it's a very subjectivething, so i don't really want to necessarilydelve too much into it.

the point is you couldsee we've got a curve at the top, curve inthe legs, and then two curves here on the connecting piece. that's going to be something you might want to have some funwith, experiment with. once you have the generalshapes you could put any curves you want in there,whatever looks good to you. i pretty much did that, andrefined the curves a little bit. i didn't change very much and i've arrived

at a set of templates that should help me through the rest of this process. all right, so i think atthis point before we do any curve cutting we needto focus on the joinery. of course, becausejoinery is always easier to cut when the pieces are square. if there's curves in them itmakes it a whole lot harder. let's get started on whatcould be a fairly complex piece of joinery here, andthat is the angled tenon.

on this work piece i'vegone ahead a little bit, because i'm actually making two of these. you can see i've gotmortises on the underside, and this will eventually make up the top of our little stepstool. how do you create a work piecethat comes in at an angle? that can be very trickystuff, now one thing you might initially think about isangling the mortise itself. so that the tenon cancome in at that angle.

the problem is it's a littlebit tricky to come up with a jig that allows that mortiseto sit at the proper angle. i didn't want to have to go through that i wanted to simplify things. what i did was i introducedthe angle in the tenon. you can see with this work piece that's exactly what i've done here. all right, so we're going tocut these at the table saw. i'll show you how to do it in a minute,

but you could see when youput that into the straight mortise you get theangle you're looking for. of course this tenon is still a little bit oversized needs to be cut down, but you could see whatwe're aiming for here. this way i only have toworry about making an angle on the tenon, and the mortise itself can be perfectly 90degrees to this surface. there's nothing tricky orunusual about this mortise.

everything on this angleis focused on the tenons. let's cut the mortise first,because as always it's nice to have your mortisecut ahead of time, and then you could fit yourtenon perfectly to the mortise. i've got both of my mortiseslaid out here already, and since the pencil is a little difficult to see i've got some masking tape showing the actuallocation of the mortise. it's very easy to layout,all you need to do

is measure in three inches from the end, and then an inch anda half from each edge. now the second line you couldcertainly put that in there. it's going to be a halfinch further along, but if you use a half inchbit to cut this you really only need to be concernedabout that first line. all right, the cut is goingto go 3/4 of an inch deep, and that should give us afour inch long mortise here. if it's a little over orunder it's not the end

of the world, but you'reaiming for that four. of course these lines will be our start and stop points for the router bit. i extend those, because i need to be able to see them while i'm routing. the other thing i want to point out here is more of an aesthetics thing. this is something youshould always keep in mind. look at the work piece,and see if you have

one side that looks nicer than the other. if you have a crappy looking side, you could put that on the bottom. make sure the side you'recutting the mortises into is the side that youwould call your b side. it's not the one thatlooks the best keep your best side for the face thateveryone is going to see. now i've got my edgeguide set up to make sure that the bit is located three inches in,

and i've got my depth stopset for a 3/4 inch cut, and i'll make it in two passes. three quarters of an inchis quite a bit to take off in one bite so i'llmake it in two passes. you see i'm using a 1/2 inch spiral bit. (saw whirring) all right, so we've got acouple of sexy mortises there. let's go work on those tenons. step one is to cut abevel on the end of the

leg piece where we'regoing to put the tenon. this way i can make a nice little bevel cut that goes right to the corner. you don't really want to remove any more stock than you have to. even though we do have a little bit of extra length included in the leg blank. just set your saw to 15 degrees, line everything up and make the cut.

of course, make sure you have that piece clamped in place too. my set up for cutting thesetenons at the table saw is really the product ofa lot of trial and error. hopefully i've worked outall the kinks so i could show you exactly what to do, andsave you a little bit of time. i also had some inspirationfrom jeff miller's blog. jeff miller is a verytalented furniture maker, and he has an article onhow to cut angled tenons.

that's with reference tohis chairs that he builds, but the same concept applies here. he makes a really good argument for why you can't just tilt the blade. that you actually get betterresults by keeping the blade at 90 degrees, andtilting the work piece. all right, and what i'm using to tilt the work piece here is a tenoning jig. i've had this guy for yearsi don't use it that often,

but i think they're actually a pretty good investment if you arecutting a lot of tenons. you can get really good clean tenon cheek cuts using something like this. they only cost about 65, 75 bucks. now if you don't have one of these, you have to figure out away to tilt the work piece at a 75 degree angle, andrun it over the blade. you could probably build apretty simple jig that you

would basically cut some75 degree wedges out of some scrap ply, and thenput a nice face on that. so that you could rest thework piece up against it, clamp it in place securelyand run it along your fence. you might have to put a little thought into designing that, but it can be done. i'm going to use thisbecause it's what i've got, and i need to get moving on this project. let me show you what we'redoing with the blade here.

what i've got here is my dado stack. i use the infinity dadonator junior, which is fun to say five times fast. i have it raised to aboutthree quarters of an inch, and the actual width of the dado is about three eighths of an inch. basically you want to be over a quarter if you can, and that way you could take these with one pass on each side.

once that is set up it really is just a matter of getting the alignment here. this is where test cuts come in handy, so you know exactly what to expect. don't underestimatehow difficult it is for your brain to get wrappedaround the locations of these cuts when this angle in play. test cuts are absolutely imperative. now you'll notice i changed work pieces

while i was still using that same setting. i want these to be exactlythe same if possible, so of course i keep thesetting of the jig in place, and just swap out the work piece. this first cut, what we'relooking for is for that shoulder to be just a little bitover a quarter of an inch. all right, and if we dothat that should let us get a nice half inchtenon, and leave us with a little bit of extrashoulder on that side.

that's also just a littleover a quarter of an inch. it should be roughlycentered, and frankly if that tenon is not perfectlycentered doesn't really matter. that'll all be worked out in the end. at this point we can move the jig this way and make the second cut. this is one of those things where you may want to sneak up on it though, and test your fit withyour actual mortise.

what i'm aiming for nowis to have the outside edge of my teeth justoutside that pencil line. i'm going to cut itoversized intentionally, and then sneak up on the fit. as expected the fit is a little bit tight. we'll make a slight adjustment to the jig, and see if we can get a little bit closer. let's see how we did, andthat feels like a nice slip fit that's pretty much perfect.

all right, so now that wehave this piece cut we can go to our second pieceand make the cut on one shot because now we knowthe setup is perfect. now, in order for our leg tosit properly at this angle we not only need that bevelthat we cut at the top, but we also need to cut thesame bevel at the bottom. otherwise you see the leg just kind of sits on that corner which is no good. we need to cut the sameexact bevel down here,

and let me show you how i lay it out. i'm basically going tomeasure back from the forward most shoulderhere 10 and 1/4 inches. i'll put a line right on the edge, and with my bevel gauge set at 75 degrees. i'm going to line it upwith that pencil mark, and draw my line back for reference. now before you make anycut, double check yourself. you want both of thesebevels to be parallel.

if you have one going this way, and one going this wayyou've got a problem. they should both be inthe same orientation. i've got my bevel angle set at 15 degrees, in fact i haven't changedit, and that's a good idea. if you can keep it atits setting and never change it for this processyou'll be better off. i've got it clamped in placesecurely and i have a stop lock because i only drew my lineon one piece for reference.

this way both of these willbe exactly the same length. i'll just use the lines thati made on my first piece, and then i'll be able toslide the second piece right in there to makethe second bevel cut. they'll both be exactly the same. the next order of business is to use the band saw to cut out thecurvature in the legs. when it's all said anddone you should have something that looks pretty close to that.

we need to transfer thecurve from our template onto the edge of the work piece here. just make it flush withthe tenon at the top. again this is a curvethat you don't necessarily need the exact curve that i've got here. you could make your own,whatever looks good to you. once it's even, and flat in the back, even with the tenontrace the curve on here. i would also recommend doingthis on the other side,

because that's going togive you a visual reference. especially when you aremaking a cut like this at the band saw you want to make surethat it's tracking properly. just because you're cutting atyour line at the top doesn't always mean that the blade isgoing perfectly 90 degrees. you might wind up cuttingin a little bit too far. this is a good way todouble check yourself, and make sure you haven'tcut on some sort of an angle. all right, let's head to that band saw.

now on this side i'mright on my pencil line. it looks really good,but when i flip it over i've got a little bitof extra material here. interestingly enoughthis did not happen on the first piece that i cut, and i do know that my blade is 90 degrees to my table. the issue comes in wherewe're trying to rest this on a three quarter inch strip here, so obviously it's very easyto tilt one way or the other.

you can go off just a little bit, so you want to be real careful there. this is the best casescenario because i'd rather have too much material than not enough. an easy fix for this is torun the piece through the band saw this way now, andthis will actually just remove some of thisextra material up there. it basically is going tosave us a lot of time when we're cleaning the restof this material up.

we can get rid of it rightto the line, and then we may have some material inthe center to clean up later. one thing i failed to mention is safety. when you're making cutslike this, and you have this much blade exposedthat's scary stuff. you want to make sure that you use some sort of a push block. you don't really wantyour hands to have the opportunity to go into theblade, and especially on

the second round of cutsas you're pushing through. this type of cut hasa tendency to give you a lot of resistanceand then suddenly break loose as you get through the material. you a lot of times will have your hands jumping forward into the blade. that can be very scary,so what i tend to do is i actually push with a pushstick here, and that helps put the forward pressure,and puts another four to

five inches between thework piece and my hand. it gives me some bufferzone, and i use the back of the work piece to help stabilize things. this way when it goes through,because it always seems to happen and it hits one of thoserelease points you may push forward a little bit, butyou're in a good solid stance. you've got some bufferroom, if you have your hands here and that happens it's very easy for your hand to go right into that blade.

my left arm is around on the back of the piece doing most of the work. i'd rather not push withthis any more than i have to. what actually happens isthe left hand is pulling the work piece, and my righthand is really just steering. the less i push with that hand, the safer this cut's going to be. it might look a littleweird, but that really is, in my opinion, the saferway to make this cut.

of course, the curve right off of the band saw is going to be pretty rough. you're going to want to clean this up and finesse the final curve. there's a number of waysthat you can do this. you can certainly just hitit with a sander right away. if you want to go thatroute, but i like to refine things with hand tools if i can. just to make sure i get thatcurvature right where i want

it that minimizes the amountof sanding that i need to do. the tool i'm going to use is a spokeshave with a slightly curved bottom. that's going to allowme to scoop into this curve and clean it up real nicely. the thing is a spokeshave usually is used for narrower pieces, so we're going to get a little bitof chatter as we do this. but it's nothing that wecan't clean up with some

scraping and sanding after the fact. i will also mention that you can use a rasp on a piece like this. especially if you have a little bit of unevenness from one side to the other. you could take the rasp,and hold it nice and flat, and just work it back and forth. (rasp grating) because the rasp is flaton this side you should

wind up taking down the high spots. making sure that both sides are even, and both sides go rightto that pencil line. if you still see some ofyour pencil line there, you could use that asa guideline to decide where you need to remove material. for me, just a bunch of passes with a spokeshave should do it. (spokeshave grinding)

now my card scraper's going to allow me to further finesse the surface a little bit, and just clean up anyof those milling marks. (card scraper scraping) after scraping thesurface looks pretty good, and some might be happy with that result. i like to do a little bit ofextra sanding after the fact. i don't want to use myrandom orbit sander for this, because just the nature ofa round disc on a curved

surface is a little bit hard to work with. this little sheet sanderhere, if you have a quarter sheet sander or somethingthat'll work too, is nice and flat and it's narrow. i can actually work itback and forth like this, and help flatten out thatcurve, and even everything out very nicely, it's fairly easy to use, so that' what i'm going to do. (sander motor revving)

the next order of businessis to take our newly curved legs, and cutout the profile angles. this really is limited by your creativity. some may want to justkeep it solid like this. you may like that look, you don't have to do anything else to itif you don't want to, but i'm going to do a little bit more. i like to thin it out at the top, and i think that gives it a nice contrast.

sets off the top of thestool really nicely. i think it's cool to relievea little bit of material down here, to give youthe impression of a couple of feet, just makes it look sturdier. the only thing you reallyneed to be concerned about, like these angles and how much of a curvature to put downthere that's all optional. the only thing you need to pay attention to is the tenon at the top.

if you are coming in at anangle you certainly don't want to make this tenon too small. what you need to do ismeasure in one inch and then measure in an extrahalf inch from there. basically one inch, this is what i recommend would be your shoulder. if you're going to bringan angle down like so that would be the shoulder ofthe tenon and a half inch from there is the actual tenon itself.

this area here that's thebusiness side, that's what's going to go into the mortise andthis will be our shoulder. if you see what i've gothere with my template, basically at the top it goesright up to that shoulder line, and then later we'll cut the rest of that material off with a hand saw. this looks like itshould work pretty well. the other thing i want to point out here see the curvature there?

obviously a flat templatedoesn't fit on a curve properly. if you make your templatesout of very thin stock all you have to do is push itin, and you should be able to trace your shape on therewith no problems at all. (grinding) of course if you have atapering jig or something for your table saw you can usethat to make these angle cuts, but i find it just as easyto go to the band saw. rough cut it, and come back with my

smoother to clean up that edge. (spokeshave scraping) on the original, youcan see i have a pretty standard semi-circlehere, and frankly when i look at this that'sjust not good enough. there's something about thatthat i think we can improve on. it just looks too basic,and too geometrical to me. i decided in my template iwould decrease that curvature there and actually make it just a

little bit of a hintof a semi-circle there. it's a little more subtle, and then the more i got into it istarted to think i could probably do something cooler than that. i'm not really a hundredpercent sure exactly what it's going to be, but i'm just going to grab my rasp and start working. we'll see where we get, andhopefully i won't regret this. even though i don't knowexactly where i'm going

to end up with this, i canshow you some of my logic. this is not somethingi've ever been trained on, these are just thingsthat make sense to me. when i start to go in to i guess you would call it free form mode. where the round overslopes up here i'm going to basically put a mark there,because whatever i do with this area i don't really wantto go any further than that. i'll put another pencil mark on this side,

and i've got a center linehere right in the middle. that just helps me keepthings symmetrical. what i'm thinking i'mgoing to start doing here is introducing a littlebit of a curve in there. the outside face, this hasa curve going this way, but now will also have a slight curve at the bottom along this orientation. whether or not this worksout, i don't know we'll see. i also decided that ineeded another marker here.

basically i want to have a bit of a semi-circle from point to point. i just grab whatever i havesitting around the shop that's big enough to do what i needit to do, that's close enough. i've gone to my pencil linehere, and that's not too bad. it's not quite what i wantyet, but i have introduced a nice curvature on thebottom of the foot here. this is okay, but i thinkwhat i'm really looking to do is actually scoop out quitea bit of material up here.

i may wind up going as high as this, and bringing my curve up this way. if done subtly, thatlooks silly right now, but if done right it couldbe a nice smooth transition. we'll go a little bitfurther see what happens. right now that's about as far as i want to go with that, i think for now. i'm going to hit this with a little bit of sanding and see what happens.

that may not look likemuch when you view it at this angle, but checkout what happens when you actually put it in theorientation it's going to go. look at the angle thatwe've created the curvature. really gives this leg a whole lot more depth than it had before. i've drawn an additionalcurve on the bottom here, and that's going to give a little bit of relief to the bottom of the leg.

i'll be honest i have no ideaif this is really a smart thing to do, and i guess we'll find out. as i examine the work i've done so far, i like this extra curve at the bottom. i think it adds a nicelittle look to have a bit of a lift there, but thereis a problem with it. there's something idon't, at first i couldn't put my finger on it, and when i look at the inside this is just a straight line.

it's completely lackingany sort of definition, and i started to realizethere's one simple thing that we can do to not really addmuch in the way of curvature, but just to make a slight tweak to what we've already done here. this curve i basically sanded it on the oscillating spindle sander at 90 degrees. that's why you can see this face here is sanded the way it is.

what we really need todo is sand at 15 degrees. if we do that then thatcurvature will show up on the back edge and that's exactlywhat i've done with this piece. you can see the curve nowgoes all the way through. now when you look from thefront you've got a nice elegant curve there to look at and on the inside that curve is there as well. it truly lifts the center sothat you really are resting on these two points, whichshould help us make a

more stable stool whenit's all said and done. i'm going to go back to theoscillating spindle sander, sand to this existing line,but i'm going to tilt the table to 15 degrees, and it's going to remove this extra material right here. (oscillating spindle sander grinding) there's more that we need todo to this leg for instance, i want to add a nice roundover around the edges. i'm probably going to finessethe curvature a little

bit more as we go, butthis is pretty darn close. i think when you're designingon the fly like this it's usually a good idea notto go too far in one day. i like to let a change sitfor a little bit, so i can approach it the next daywith a fresh set of eyes. that sometimes allows me to see things that i can't see at the end of a long day. i'm going to let this sit,but for now we can turn our attentions to the tenon,because it's very clear what

we need to do with that tomake it fit into the mortise. because our legs are sooddly shaped there's really no great way to cut thiswith a power tool, so i'm just going to use a handsaw to trim the ends of the tenon off, and i'll justfollow my pencil line. (saw grinding) i'm just going to stayclear of my shoulder, i could always clear thatup with a chisel later. i'll just clean up the shoulder.

(scraping) we all know that you can'tfit a square peg into a round hole, because wemade these mortises with a router bit the ends are rounded over. you could either squareoff the ends of the mortise with a chisel, or what i thinkis the easier thing to do is to round over the ends of the tenon. here's how i do it, with a chisel i can undercut the corners a little bit.

to sever the fibers thati'm going to be removing during the round over,or i could just make real quick work of it with a flush trim saw. (flush trim saw grinding) now i just grab my chiseland round over the base. (chisel knocking) then i use a fine rasp to dothe rest of the round over. (rasp grinding) cutting the material atthe base first basically

prevents me from havingto take the rasp all the way down to the shoulder,which can do some damage that would be visible later on. all right, so now we can do a test fit. see how we did, oh that's snug. yeah, i love it, look at that, it's exactly what we're going for. voiceover:next time on the wood whisperer. (table saw grinding)

(drilling) (hammering) all that and more coming up in the second installment of our stepstoolsitting bench series.

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