Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Rolling Closet Cabinet


I finally got a chance to finish the drafting for the cabinet piece I’m working on, a rolling shelf unit of sorts made to fit in a tight spot below the 10/10 pitch of the roof in a closet. Up till now I’ve been working to plane the panel work out based on a rougher sketch that lined out some of the critical dimensions.  Sorry, I’m still not great at keeping my drawings in perspective. The rolling cabinet will be taller and skinnier than my drawing would suggest. From the front view above you can tell that it is a pretty simple affair, all 3/4″ paneling joined with dado and wedged through tenons, with through dovetails to join the sides to the bottom. I was limited in most every way by the requirements of the space, which is to say, the height/width/depth/internal arrangement of shelving was not something that could be changed for the sake of aesthetics. However, design constraints often lead to greater creativity, and at least things are made fairly straight forward.


The side view shows the unusual 10/10 slope at the top, which matches the rough opening that follows the roof line at the ceiling. Since this is supposed to allow for clothing storage, its main feature is a clothes hanging rod, and the space needing 36″ below the rod to accommodate most hanging shirts. At the bottom below the dovetails that join the main carcass panels is the skirt boards which hide the caster wheels from sight. I’ve wanted to try more sliding dovetail keys for joining cabinet elements like this, with locking wedge, very cool!

The tenons that join the horizontal shelves to the sides need a bit further thought. I drew them as squares, but I think they’ll look better as golden rectangles, with the long edge parallel to the height of the cabinet. Only the main horizontal shelves are through tenoned, the rest will sit in stopped dado’s so that they can be fitted after the main carcass is assembled.

For shearing strength the bottom section of shelving, as well as the section above the top shelf, will have a rabbited edge along the back to accept 1/4″ tongue and groove pine backing to be nailed on at assembly.


I need to leave the middle section of cabinet with the clothes hanging rod open, but below that I’m planning to cut three stopped grooves that will house a triptych of sliding doors. There is kind of an awkward depth to the compartments that will result, big enough for one pair of shoes  but not two.


Grooving the middle shelf for the sliding doors does present a slight issue with the through tenon on the outermost edge. I have to line it up such that the meat of the tenon coincides with the space between the stopped dado or the act of wedging the tenon would probably split off the bottom half of the tenon cheek. Such is the fun of design!


The sliding doors will be made from the same white ash as the rest of the panel work, with a bookmatched piece of panel sitting in a groove on the rail/stile assembly. These doors are really just a small model of shoji without kumiko, all hipboard.


All that’s left when you finished dimensioning a drawing is to draw up a proper cut list. Once all of the pieces are clearly listed things get much more straight forward in terms of figuring out what to work on.


Which is to say, you hang your drawings up and get to work!

Here I’m resawing the white ash to make the bookmatched panels for the sliding doors. I tried adding a small back bevel on the teeth of my rip saw, one swipe of the file, to get through this hardwood, it seemed to help with edge holding quite a bit and kept me from bemoaning the aggressive softwood tooth pattern I’ve filed on this saw. It seems like every time I sharpen it I make the teeth more aggressive.


Here are the re-sawn boards that will be glued up for the 1/4″ sliding door panels, kinda weird grain pattern, but I like it. Wish it was quarter sawn material!


Here’s a piece of reclaimed douglas fir, old decking, that was resawn for the cabinet back. Look at the quality of this material! The softwood has deteriorated farther in by a long shot compared to the heartwood. Considering its been exposed to the Colorado sun and snow for fifty years I think its held up pretty well! Once again, its rift grain, so I’ll have to leave a bit more room for the cabinet back to swell along its width. My local lumber dealer sells CVG doug fir, but not with this tight grain and heartwood.

Thanks for stopping by, the work dimensioning material continues. I just bought Chris Hall’s “The Art of Carpentry Drawing” Volume II, which deals with Ko-Ko-Gen and hopper joinery, I’m really loving it! So forgive me if I draw this post to a close and go melt my brain with some fun geometry problems and learn to play with my sashigane like a proper carpenter should.



Making Wooden Combs


Tonight, something a bit different.


I’ve been planing out the White Ash for the piece of cabinet work I’m building, but the exigencies of modern reality have me hustling to make a buck, traveling for work. So I’ll save the talk around planing out big hardwood panels for another time, today I work on something small and precious.


How about making a wooden comb?

So, I needed a comb to be able to trim my beard recently. I had given my normal comb to my mother in an emergency that involved her combing stinging honey bees out of her hair, bless the woman. She had gone and swept up a swarm of bees this spring from our hives that I was too frustrated to deal with, in a difficult spot on a bush close to the ground. Would you believe I’ve yet to be stung by a honey bee? But my mother was stung a bunch in the face, and needed a comb to get the bees out of her hair, for some reason long hair easily tangles them up (and they were trapped inside her veil).

Now that its winter again I need a comb for the all important facial hair, but she kept my comb, and what is a woodworker to do? Go out and buy a comb? Hell no! I’m a twenty first century kind of guy, I like to think could make you anything from a house to a tooth brush, so here goes.


Layout on Boxwood with ink, nice on the eyes. Beautifully dense wood by the way, I lust after larger pieces of Boxwood.


I used a really cheap ryoba pull saw to cut the teeth of the comb, needing a health width of kerf. I used a spacing between cuts of 3/32″. If I was making a larger comb for hair I might go for 1/8″ between cuts.


Then the teeth of the comb were tapered to a point with the help of abrasives. I actually used a belt sander with a 36 grit belt to quickly shape the profile, hand sanding is slow and meticulous work.


The teeth of the comb after sanding, each and every one! Finished out to 220 grit.


And then given a couple of coats of paste wax to make them shiny, people like stuff that’s shiny.


Of course, I couldn’t leave it at that. After all, there are possibilities inherent, design possibilities that must be explored. I have a bunch of thin pieces of different tropical hardwood lying around, time to put it to work!

Here’s one of them, with a strikingly red dust from sanding. Looks like the color oxidizes to an almost deep purple hue, I don’t suppose anyone knows what this is? I’m afraid to hazard a guess, I didn’t buy this lumber, someone gave it to me.


But it makes a nice looking comb, that’s for sure.


Well shit, that’s not good enough, I’m a joiner after all, how about a comb with some joinery? Lets solve the fundamental problem of grain direction in a comb.


I had to make the comb a bit thicker than I want to, at 5/16″, for the sake of the joinery. I’m limited because my smallest chisels are 1/8″ for cutting a mortise or dado. So lets join this up with a tiny sliding dovetail! I’m not sure, again, what the wood on the left is, but the comb teeth I made out of boxwood, very smooth stuff.


Cutting such small joinery is a good challenge.


But the results are satisfying. Time to open an Etsy store? I have lots of ideas for quick craft items like this. I’ve made plans to travel to Vermont for a couple months this coming January and cut a frame with Mark Grable for his forge. To that end my focus has to be working enough to be in the sound financial position to get out there and back. So its a hustle, everything counts. I have lots of the stuff I’ve made up for sale in my local market, fiber tools, shoji, even my fuigo, time to see what sells!

Cutting Okkake Daisen Tsugi (Rabbeted Oblique Scarf Splice)


Peter, who stopped by last weekend, was kind enough to let me photograph a set of old Japanese chisels he had picked up on etsy. This set is quite characteristic of some of the great deals to be had. I forgot to ask what the cost was, but it was probably close to the cost if you bought new only the 48mm chisel on the left.

I really love to see the worn down chisels. You look at that and think, don’t you want to have a bit more registration surface on the back of your chisel when paring? I suppose by the time you ware that much steel off in sharpening, you don’t need the large flat, you can just pare flat.


I made the layout for this joint to show my guest Peter, it not being strictly part of project mayhem. It sat there looking at me in such a compelling fashion that I had to go ahead and give it a try. My first oblique splice, among the many variations of this joint that exist!


Because both halves of the joint are very similar they are divided into the upper wood and the lower wood. I’m finally starting to realize how the sashigane speeds up layout. I’ve been using 1/2″ as a sort of nominal gauge for a lot of the haunching and, in this case, rabbeting marks. The sashigane being 15mm wide, it is used for the same purpose, but directly, so no measurement is required, you simple use the tongue of the square as the reference.  I recently ordered “The Complete Japanese Joinery” and am hopeful that it can give more insight into these time and accuracy saving uses of the sashigane.


Before I begin describing the cut sequence, a note. Cutting a joint like this where the two haves are almost the same is great practice! What I quite obviously did wrong for the first half was corrected, and the second half actually gave me the chance to apply my new found knowledge.

I started the first half with the rip into the main cheeks of the scarf. I started the cut with the saw vertical, and then rotated the timber so that I could saw along in horizontal fashion. Its definitely a new skill to turn the saw on its side. I seem to let the top of the plate rest on the bottom of the kerf, producing a cut that slants upward away from the line. Its difficult without more experience to get a feel for the saw in the cut. If you stand up too much you’re bending the saw and things go awry, kind of like swinging a golf club.


I stopped the rip cut when I realized I hadn’t thought through where I was going, and cut the shoulder line so that the rip had somewhere to meet up with.


Paring such a large flat surface was difficult! Too much time spent carefully checking with a straight edge, and very easy to gouge in and remove too much material. The surface quality of my cheek suffered as a result.


I marked the taper that draws the two halves of the joint together in assembly and made a series of waste cuts to the line for the lower cheek, which were then chopped with a chisel.


Don’t you just hate it when you’re paring across the grain on a cheek and blow off part of the line? The line is all you have.


In any case, the cheeks were pared flush and the layout finished for the through pegs that lock the joint. Evidently the square peg gives you the option of using a double wedge to lock the joint and tighten incrementally.


The housing for the rabbeted tongue on the tip of the scarf was chopped last, after sawing to the line on both sides.


For the second half of the joint I wised up, starting the cut with the rabbeted nose so that I had full support while paring the surfaces. For the cheeks I started with the shoulder cut and repeated my horizontal rip to the shoulder, and then immediately made the series of waste cross-cuts that allow the waste to be chiseled out for the lower cheek. Now there is room to plane the top cheek surface with a kanna, incomparably easier than paring. At the size of these joints you’re basically paring the face of a small board, the kanna makes sense.


I took the fence off of my skewed rabbet plane to pare the lower cheek. I’ve never used this plane to pare such a large surface, it was awesome and fast.


The first fitting of the joint was really disappointing. I know from previous experience that I could pound on this joint all day long with a sledge hammer and it would never come together. Bring the hammer out for the last 1/16″ or so of fit and not before, its better than waiting for rainbow farting unicorns to descend and push the joint together.

I spent a bit of time looking at the joint, trying to figure out what surface was proud. It must have been a small error in measurement, my sashigane technique. That is, marking one side of the scarf slightly longer than the other. I had to pare down the rabbeted nose on the left in the photo, as well as the shoulder that forms it, by almost 1/16″ before the two halves met nicely. I just don’t imagine having the luxury of repeatedly trial fitting a joint like this if the scarf was connecting two large, long, and heavy ass beams.


I already had some cherry scrap planed to 1/2″ square, so that’s what was used for the draw pin. Because of how the joint slides together, I would think that trying to use the draw pins to force in the last little bit of fit could lead to splitting along the cheeks of the mortise walls.

The first meetup for the new local Japanese carpentry group will be next weekend. I’ve been surprised at the level of interest in such a short period of time, it will be an awesome experience to work together for the first time, figure out what can be accomplished when we learn together, even if just to drink a beer and joke about our mistakes. I had in mind that this joint, or a variation thereof, would be the work of the day and I encourage anyone to step up to the challenge. If you don’t have a little bit of an ‘oh shit’ moment when you first look at the joint, then you probably need to practice something more complicated.

Water Tight Joinery Fail


I’ve been reading Azby Brown’s “Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan”, and one of the nice little illustrations show a Japanese wash basin for scrubbing dishes with half-dovetail joinery on the sides. Water tight joinery is one of those absolute standards of quality, the acid test for accurate work in some respects, especially if it can hold water right away.

So I wanted to try it! Unfortunately there’s no way to assemble a water tight box with sliding dovetails on the sides and a rabbeted bottom housed in a groove. Somewhere I ran across a technique, quite ingenious, allowing for a nailed bottom. Unfortunately, as you’ll see, some of the minor details became a major problem.


This technique involves hammering a wire into the bottom edges of the side pieces, and then planing them down to the level of the crushed fiber. When the wood swells from the water the compressed fibers expand back out and seal against the bottom.


Never having seen the technique in action I became a little over enthusiastic with the gauge of the wire that I used. These are the sides after planing out most of the impression left by the wire.


I love the sliding dovetail. There are joinery planes that make cutting this joint much easier, but I don’t own any, so it is simply a matter of saw and chisel. Seems to work quite well for these smaller sliding dovetails. I would have a problem if the dovetail was longer than my chisel can pare when cleaning the waste from the groove.


Nailed on the bottom. I actually enjoy using nails. Pneumatic fasteners have made the old nail and hammer feel down right quaint. The wood for this little box came from the pallets the materials for the greenhouse I’m building were delivered on, some kind of soft maple. I’m not sure about that though, because the stuff is abrasive on my tool edges. I used this same scrap for practicing some dovetails and it was almost impossible to chop the end grain without massive tearing. I wet the end grain with a little water and it pared smooth as butter.


I filled it with water and Darla gave her approval. If you’re looking for a use for water tight wooden vessels how about a dog’s watering bowl? It’s usually kept full, so no problem with the wet/dry cycle that would ruin the joinery.


Eventually my mistakes became apparent. The compressed wood fiber along the bottom swelled forcefully enough to open a gap along the bottom. It looks bad, but actually was still holding water. Not for long…


Eventually the sides swelled enough to blow the joinery apart, where upon it began to leak pretty badly. Isn’t that the opposite of what’s supposed to happen, it leaks at first and then seals as it swells? I’d like to try this again with flat grain lumber. I think using pieces with close to vertical grain concentrated the expansion in a direction detrimental to the joinery. I need to leave more relish on the ends of the sides beyond the dovetail to resist the shear forces the swelling produces. Obviously I also can use a much finer wire, maybe two side by side for a double gasket effect.

I think I see more sliding dovetails in my future.

Making a 20″ table loom

    I just finished a new loom!


Its a 20″ four-harness table loom with lever operated harnesses.

I had just finished my first spinning wheel, which I’ll get to posting about soon enough… and felt a bit let down at the completion of so much work and study. So I thought I’d hop right on to a new challenge to let my mind percolate on design improvements for my next wheel. I’ve had  Hjert/Von Rosenstiel’s “Loom Construction” on my shelf for a good number of year, but was always disappointed with the quality of the plans in the book. They’re certainly fully functional looms, just…ugly. I’ve had a chance over the past couple weeks to get into Lambspun of Fort Collins, Co to study the looms they carry, all by Schacht. This led to a desire for me to combine elements of fine furniture joinery with some design variations of Schacht and Von Rosenstiel into a loom all my own.

IMAG0276 IMAG0271

Here you can see the dovetail securing the breast beam to the corner stile, and the through moritice and tenon for the side rail to the corner stile. The main frame elements use old growth Douglas Fir reclaimed from some decking that was older than I am. I’m happy to give this wood new life, you’d have a hard time finding lumber of this quality in Colorado.

The other photo is the beater bar joinery in cherry with iron wood wedges. I used a pegged slip joint for the bottom rail which is permanent, and a dovetail for the top with a through wedge securing the top bar to the sides, which has to be removable. I morticed the slot for the wedge before cutting the cheeks of the pin on the sides.


Cutting the ratchets for the warp and cloth beams was very time consuming. I considered making them out of wood, but questioned the durability (I’m wanting the loom to last longer than me). I would have made these out of brass, but its expensive and I didn’t have any on hand. I do however have plenty of 1/4″ and 5/16″ steel plate. Layout was done with some layout dye and a carbide scratch awl with ruler and compass. I made waste cuts around the outside diameter with a cut-off disc on a die grinder. From there a hacksaw was used, cutting as close to the line as I dared. I took particular care to make sure my cuts were perpendicular to the work piece and level at the bottom. I cleaned up to the line with a flat bastard file and triangular mill file.


It took about eight hours to make these parts, including the latches for the ratchets, which were secured to the loom with 3/16″ brass rod that I peened a head onto.


By far the hardest element for me was figuring out how the harness and heddle dimensions relate to the frame elements. On Schacht table looms it looks like the weight of the rigid harness frames is enough to return them to their lowered positions. Because I decided to go with harness bars as opposed to frames, I needed a tensioning device to keep the heddles rigid and in line with each other. Small bamboo bows riding on a dowel hold the harness bars taught, an excellent idea I can’t claim credit for.


At the end of all this work there is a fair amount still needing adjustment. I made a few temporary heddles from 30lb test monofilament fishing line, and the holes that the warp pass through are far too large at one inch. It makes my shed very narrow as I lose about an inch from the take-up of the heddles.  From what I’ve learned, its also preferable for the warp to ride the bottom of the reed in a jack loom and not be in the middle. The levers for the harness should give me a throw of about 2 -1/4″, but I’m considering increasing that as well if new heddles don’t improve the shed. The beater bar also has a flaw, in that there is nothing to stop it from hitting the harness bars when its let back at rest.

Now I’m just excited to have a working loom. Have you seen how much these things sell for? And for screwed and bolted construction? Lets make things worth passing on to our grandkids again.  I know that there is precious little information of quality on putting one of these together, so feel free to comment if you have any questions about the construction of a loom like this.