Lessons learned

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  • #731560
    Ed
    Participant

    Is there a discussion with people sharing lessons learned about small things that surprised you? Here’s one from me that might help others. When covering screws with plugs, I cut the plugs with a plug cutter, glue them, let them try, then trim. On a pair I did last night, one had grain that ran down into the surface and broke off below the surface while trimming, careful as I was being. Since I use a plug cutter that makes the slightest of tapers, I need to use the rough side of the plug outwards. On the second plug, I did my best to align the grain, but it came out twisted to the side, which I couldn’t see until it was trimmed.

    Lessons learned: First, I think I’m going to trim when the glue is wet from now on. I might stop a shaving high, but I want to see the grain and see if the plug breaks off. The point is that, with the glue wet, I could extract the plug and try again. Now that the glue is dry, I have to live with what I have: The chances of boring exactly on center are zero, so I’ll repair instead.

    The other lesson learned (I want to experiment before committing to it) is to pare across the grain of the plug, not with it, at least for the rough cuts. That way, you won’t be at the mercy of grain that dives down into the surface.

    Finally, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that grain on one side of the plug predicts the other side. When I pry the plug free of the scrap after using the plug cutter, I’ll pare the rough surface _before_ I install so that there’s no guessing about how things will look.

    I’m going to get a coat of finish on and then use a grain pen to distract / hide the slightly rotated grain. For the other, I’ll get the gooeneck scraper and scrape a long, gentle swale into the surface that gets rid of the defect (which is a fat 1/64 or skinny 32nd.).

    What lessons have others learned?

    • This topic was modified 10 months ago by Ed.
    • This topic was modified 10 months ago by Ed.
    #731729
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Many thanks for starting this discussion Ed!

    Hopefully there will be many contributions; reducing the harsh lessons taught by Experience

    Here is one on one squareness:
    Compared to the blade, the stock of a 600 mm (24″) combination square is fairly short. When checking for end to edge squareness of 450 (18″) wide pieces, I didn’t notice that on out of square piece even very slight pressure on the blade would have the stock angulate, allowing the blade to come flush with end of the piece, and the false impression of squareness. It was only very slight, but as these errors grow over distance, my concealed mitred dovetails were short of completely concealed.

    On the very same chest of drawers (bottom piece of a “hutch”) I used the combination square to outline sliding dovetails and housings /dadoes for the rails and runners, respectively. This time I wasn’t observant on that the lateral pressure of the knife on the blade was enough to actually move the blade, despite the counter pressure I applied to the stock – or thought I did. Levelling the rails and runners gave me a new understanding of the concept: necessary tools. I also had interesting times fitting the drawers.

    When checking for squareness on subsequent projects, I have the stock of the square secure against the edge, and with the blade resting on a strip of wood I move it towards the end of the piece. It works very well, and there are no problems with squaring most pieces, except those more than 400 mm wide. Thankfully, the timber yard has a very accurate saw and equally helpful staff.

    For laying out I’ve turned to the time honoured method of a setting out/layout rod; using a mechanical shop rule to set out the distances. Then, using a combination of a clamp, a square base (T-base) and a straight edge I make the lines. It worked very well for a metre tall cabinet, which came pleasantly different from the one it rests on.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #731772
    Ed
    Participant

    So, you’re using a clamp to make sure the square stays dead tight, even if there is pressure from the knife way out on the far side, and then use a straight edge to extend across? I think I understand. Thanks!

    #731857
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Spot on!

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #731971
    Ken Kilby
    Participant

    My tip might have been obvious to everybody else but it took me a while to learn. Whenever you set a tool, a marking gauge, plow plane, fillister plane, etc. , don’t “unset” it until you really need to.

    #732216
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    In reply to Ken’s tip: I find that being able to make a few gauges, routers etc makes it much easier to avoid un-setting them, because you have enough. Cheap plastic vernier calipers are also quite useful. You don’t measure with them, but they do make useful gauges that present what you’ve gauged in different ways.

    A lesson I learned tonight: If it’s a rusty thread under a nut. Clean the thread as best you can so that you can see if the thread is left or right handed. That way you don’t end up ruining the nut when you try to remove it (or tighten it up too much in this case).

    A lesson I learned in the past: If you see an 18mm wooden rebate plane, measure the stem of the blade. If it’s 6mm, then take the blade out, turn it over, grind a bevel on the end of the stem, and then remove 6mm by 6mm from each side of the base of the plane. You can screw a piece of plywood to the side as a fence. Cover the 18mm end with a plastic chisel protector. There you have a plough plane that will give you a 6mm deep by 6mm wide groove 6mm up from the reference edge that the fence is riding on. It’s also super easy to move the fence to the other side if you find you are going against the grain.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #732937
    Ed
    Participant

    Another lesson: I built a cabinet and tried to use the shelves as the door stop. I won’t do that again. If they were fixed, maybe, but not when they are all moveable. Even if you snug them carefully to the back of the cabinet, it isn’t accurate enough and they move in their width with moisture. It wasn’t a great idea and I didn’t think it through carefully. Also, relying on a magnetic catch as a stop can be unreliable. There are probably some that are okay, but the one I used was not. It is too strong and, in any case, the opening and closing tends to move it out of position over time.

    #733943
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Another lesson learned, also on doors:

    After having achieved a very tight fit for a set of solid white oak doors, I bevelled the edge opposite the hinges; not only to be able to close them, but also with the notion that the doors would stay closed by being in contact with the carcass. Small pieces of wood glued to the inside of the carcass, were to prevent the doors from going to deep.

    After four layers of water-based polyurethane, the cabinets were left to dry and cure for a number of days, after which the doors could no longer be closed. Two months later they do, but there’s an annoying twist to one, while the other has cupped.

    I suppose there must have been swelling by moisture entering into the wood once the cabinets were in place; or could it perhaps be that the very quick drying was the consequence of the water in the varnish not only evaporating, but also penetrating the wood?

    Eventually, I added a minute bevel to the outside edges of the doors. It fools the eye; leaving me with the lessons learned of that water always seems to find its way, that kitchen cabinets might do well with “euro-hinges”, and that warp is always lurking around the corner

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #736668
    Ed
    Participant

    @SOJANSSON is there a photo of the cabinet? I’m trying to picture the bevels that you are describing.

    New lesson for me: Figured wood perhaps can be weak. I made a frame from tiger maple using half lapped dovetails at the corners. The elements are about 1 foot long (30 cm) and 1″x 1 1/4″ (2.5 x 3 cm) in section. Two of the sockets cracked. I don’t think I’ve ever cracked a dovetail before. One of them was a straight out break, removing a piece from the side of the side of the work, which allowed me to inspect the grain, which was running diagonally across the work. The figure in tiger maple comes from crazy grain, which I knew, but I didn’t appreciate that, as a result, you can end up with short grain in our joinery where you would normally have long grain, and I think that is what happened here. So, figured wood can be attractive, but it can also be weak, it seems.

    #736689
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Two photos:
    The one below was shot from below; hopefully showing the bevelling of the free edge). If memory serves me, I think Mr P. Sellers applies the technique to the doors in the tool cabinet project.

    Bevelled vertical door edge

    The cupped door also had its top outer edge (corner) rounded to fool the eye. It works OK.

    Upper Edge Rounded

    After several half pins cracking, most often in oak and usually along a medullary line, I nowadays always place a clamp across to support them when fitting dovetail joints.

    Half_blind_dovetails_crack

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #736734
    Ed
    Participant

    Thanks for the photos. I think I understand, now. I did something similar on a tool cabinet and made the doors fit too finely. A few months later, during the summer humidity, they could still be closed, but were tight in their width. Oh, this was a pair of doors that swung out from opposite sides and met in the middle, but without a separating stile. Next time, I’ll include a stile and stops so that I won’t feel pressured into making the gap between the doors too fine.

    #739656
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Another lesson I’ve learned, when trying to clean edges for joining, no matter how tight you think you clamped it, it will always move. So I hacked up some scrap to make a two wedge support block. This was a prototype, to see if it worked, and it did. Probably I should add some guides, and possibly in the future, if I will be applying a lot of downward pressure, maybe something to stop the wedges moving back down slope, but for now, it is functioning, and the glue is setting on the panel as I type.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #740469
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Thanks Colin!

    Now see a solution to the problem of work pieces tilting when clamped in the front vice of my workbench, which happens when the piece cannot override the rods and screw of the vice. Please see attached photo on current awkward approach.

    1. Drill more ¾” holes into the front legs of the workbench.
    2. Run ¾” holes into a a 1¾” thick board with a groove along one edge (available from the timber yard), allowing the board to span the length of the bench.
    3. Make two wedged pieces with tongues along the long catheti (to go into the groove of the board in 2. above), and grooves along the hypotenuses.
    4. A matching set of wedged pieces with tongues along the hypotenuses. Add two housings at the long catheti, to allow for Bessey Gear Clamps 150 mm; which should prevent the wedges from slipping apart

    5. Knock dowels into suitable holes of the long piece and to a pair of leg holes at some approximately acceptable height. Clamp the work piece and let it rest on the board below

    6. Precision placement: Use the wedged pieces for a precise height of the work piece above the bench.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #740560
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    I don’t have a picture of it (I will try to remember to take one next time I use it), but I have a dovetailed 90 degree profile that I use for things like that. In the situation you show, I would clamp the profile to the larger workpiece, and then capture both in the vise (or against the front of my workbench with a clamp). The tail part is then positioned and clamped on the other leg of the profile to mark the dovetails. Because the exact 90 degree is set by the profile, rather than the vise / work bench top, it does not matter if the clamped SA in the vise is not exactly vertical, because I have the ninety degree from the profile.
    Tip: When you make profiles for things like this, always make them in pairs from a single well prepared board, so you can use the second as a spacer to avoid racking / deformation of the work piece.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #740785
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Thanks Colin!

    Welcome everything that can improve the outcome of my woodworking. A photo, when you have the time, would be very helpful and appreciated.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

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