Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back to the shop

It feels fantastic to be back in the shop.

It's been a crazy year.  First, I moved in January.  That involved quitting my job, selling my house, buying a new house, moving (you'll notice the gap in between... I lived in a miserable apartment for two months, December and January), and then discovering I didn't have a job in the new location.  So for the next six months I unpacked, job hunted, and did my best to relax and recover from my last job.  (It worked... my blood pressure dropped 20 points, both systolic and diastolic.)  Then I got a new job, which coincided with a social schedule of being gone every weekend for three months.

Today, I FINALLY got a day in the shop, and over the last few months I've bought a few new (well, used, really) toys.  The big ones were an old Millers Falls miter box, complete with the original Disston backsaw, and a Craftsman combination plane that appears to have been made by Sargent.  So, what to do?  Well, I started turning a pile of old lumber into a toolchest.  The lumber came from a workbench that was in the basement when we moved into the house, and while it looked good, it wasn't useful to me:  poking it with one finger (while it was loaded down with air conditioners, no less!) made it sway a good three or four inches.  For some things, that's fine.  For hand tool work, it's not really useful.  But it included six 30" and six 72" pieces of 1x12, and even if they aren't the best (lots of big knots and pitch pockets), careful cutting should yield a fair amount of usable lumber.

The chest I'm building is approximately the Dutch Tool Chest that Christopher Schwarz has made popular over the last few months(Link!).  As much as I love the full size joiner's chest, it won't work for me.  I need to be able to move my tools from the garage to the basement as the seasons change, and I'm so not carrying one of those big chests down the rickety outdoor steps into my basement.  The Dutch chest, on the other hand, I ought to be able to pretty much pick up and carry.

I didn't do much in the way of measuring for this chest.  My largest panel saw (8 TPI, filed rip) is about 28 inches long.  My longest hand plane is 24 inches long.  That means the inside needed to be about 29-30 inches.  Since I don't like ripping lumber, I'm going with the full width of the 1x12, and the height is a somewhat random 27".  I picked that based on the theory of "Hmm.  This seems like it should be easy to reach everything.  Why not?"  The length, including the sides, turns out to be almost exactly 31".

As to the joinery, I decided to take the easy way out, which also gave me an opportunity to try out my new combination plane:  the bottom, like the shelf, is set in a dado, rather than being dovetailed.  A dadoed, glued, and screwed joint should be just about as strong as it needs to be, and it meant I could get the majority of the work done in a day.  The one other real change I'm making is in how small saws will be stored.  I just don't like the saw till in the Schwarz version, so I'm adding a false back to the top compartment, and narrowing the base of that compartment so saws can be slid down behind.  I may end up regretting that if the joinery saws hang up on the panel saws in use, but I think it will work out OK.

In all, I spent a good six hours or so in the shop, and most of the complicated work is done.  I'll need to rabbet the boards for the back, screw them to the carcase, and do the same for the front.  Then it's a matter of adding a tool rack and lid, and figuring out how to get all my tools in.  Probably not more than another six hours of work, not counting the tool-fitting.

And it felt GREAT to be out in the shop again.

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