Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whew! Part Five - TWW Guild Roubo Build

This was easily the most intimidating part of TheWoodwhisperer Guild build for me.  I've only cut one dovetail up to this point by hand.   It did not go well.  This time I'm cutting blind dovetails and from reading the BenchCrafted instructions, you either get the fit of this vise correct, or it doesn't work well.  What good is a premium vise if it doesn't work like it should?

So, I laid out my dovetails and put my little Doc Holliday to work.  I tried to employ what Shannon Rogers has taught us at the Hand Tool School and did my best to "split the line".  I don't know if it was because I was cutting horizontally, the learning curve, or I'm just a spaz, but I managed to drift on each dovetail when cutting the right side.  Both were straight and true on the left where I could actually see the line, but the right sides both drifted to the left as I approached the bottom of the tails.

After cutting out the dovetails, I needed to "straighten" them and pare the waste.  I got to use my Knew Concepts fret saw.  I think next time I can get closer to the base, but even though I was probably being overly cautious, it was fun getting there.

Right off the bat, I found I needed to fire up the sharpening station.  My chisels and, as I found, my planes all needed drastic attention.  I had too shallow an angle on my chisels and was damaging the edge trying to chop out the waste.  The station proved to work very well.  Since I still haven't been pleased creating the initial angle on my Delta variable speed grinder, I used the DMT Duo Sharp in the bottom drawer, moved up to the wet stones, then finished on the sandpaper on glass.  Considering I was completely reshaping the blades, I was surprised how little time it took to get them from rough to a polished finish.  Because I tend to be a space cadet, I made sure to write the settings I used on for the Veritas Mark II honing guide.

Once I had the tails cleaned up, I created a 1/4" rebate on the bottom of the tails to register against the end cap and transferred the tails to the end cap. 

After rigging up a clamping solution, which I will NEVER have to do again once this bench is built, I again pulled out my Bad Axe dovetail saw and got to work.  It all seemed to go well, but as you can see in the second photo, I was over zealous in marking my lines.  After using the knife to mark, I wanted to define the line a bit better with my chisel and I think I pushed too hard and "moved" the line.

After chiseling out the waste and doing a dry fit, you can see my joint had almost as big of a gap as my front teeth.
With much finessing and dry fitting, Saturday night I glued everything up and called it a day.  I did, however, return to the shop about an hour later to clean up my glue mess.  I'm still not very good at applying just the right amount.

Luckily after clamping up and paring down the end cap, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd originally suspected.  I've thought about using glue and sawdust to help hide the mistake, but I think this is a good lesson to remember.  The second and bottom is much better than the top and, as time goes on and I keep practicing, I WILL get better.
Now came the fitting of the vise.  Because I went with a bench top thickness of 3", the Benchcrafted directions said to use 3/4" thick spacers to properly position the tail vise runners.  That ended up being too thick and made the hardware bind too much to travel as freely as the video shows.  After trying a couple pieces of 3/4" plywood, which is actually 23/32", I thought momentarily about just using it.
Considering the reclaimed aspect of this build, I decided not to introduce man made wood.  It turned out that was a good decision in terms of the vise, too.  I ended up with a even slightly less thickness and the vise's action was incredible.  So, if you are building along or using a Benchcrafted tail vise on a future bench.  Test it out and play with the thickness.

The last thing that was kind of freaking me out was the drilling and final set of the runners.  In the previous post when I'd drilled for the retaining bolts, I had not though about the placement of the runners  I think I dodge that bullet by a hair, which you can see in this photo.

I think the hardest part is over.  I already have the legs, dead man and tail vise parts milled.  I need to mill the rails still and then on to the base construction!!!


Unknown said...


You did a terrific job with the tail vise. Congratulations! The photos tell a great story, and will be great reference to new woodworkers!

Shannon said...

Knowing what I do of your meticulousness Vic, I can only assume you pared and "cleaned up" the tails out of some aesthetic or OCD need. Since you transfer the shape of your tails to make the pins, it doesn't matter what they look like nor do you have to split the line at this stage. It is only once you start cutting the mating piece that you need worry about that precision.

Sawing joinery this big is a challenge because even the slightest deviation from square and plumb will show itself a few inches into the cut. Normall when our tails are only 3/4 long this isn't an issue.

Regardless, I think you should be very proud of how these came out. Pine is a fun wood to dovetail because it's compression allow more of a fudge factor.

Vic Hubbard said...

Al - Thank you! I do hope my experience with building can help others, or that they'll be able to offer up some valuable insights to me.

Shannon - I was "OCD" about the tails because, if I didn't address the problem on them, I would have had to in the end cap. As it was the end cap was rather quick in comparison. I'd thought about using the technique that Jameel uses in a recent issue of FineWoodworking, but I was honestly too intimidated to try free hand routing in end grain. So, I went with the "safe" route: Hand tools. As far as being proud. I'm always happy to see something complete and, although I would have preferred both dovetails to be absolutely perfect, I do realize this type of work requires practice. So, practice I will! Once the bench is built, I plan on milling a bunch of stock to practice making a bunch of joints by hand. I'm quite excited to get started!!