Making a Scott Meek Style Wooden Hand Plane

When I watch videos of other woodworkers online, it seems like they have complete control over their hand planes, being able to make detailed adjustments and be able to shave off the thinnest of thin shavings from their projects. I have always struggled with my $15 Home Depot special, even with hours spent flattening the sole, sharpening and readjusting the blade, etc… After having built one too many out-of-square projects, I knew it was time to reconsider what I was using for a hand plane.

Before deciding to build a plane, I first looked into buying a used older model Stanley on eBay. It seems there used to be a lot of these planes available to buy online at a good price, but it’s definitely not as easy to get a good deal on a used one anymore. In addition to looking online, I continually search garage sales for quality tools. Although I’ve found some great deals on rasps, drill presses, clamps, and more, a quality hand plane has always eluded me.

Once buying a used hand plane was out of the question, I looked into buying a new high quality plane, however as soon as I saw the prices I quickly determined that spending $200+ dollars was out of my budget.

With old planes and new planes being out of the question, I decided to go the DIY route. In my research, I discovered Scott Meek and admired his beautifully built wooden hand planes. After learning that Scott put out a Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane Video, I was sold and purchased his video to begin my plane making adventures. The video did not disappoint; at 2.5 hours long, Scott offers plenty of easy to understand instruction and many expert hints that could only come from someone who has probably built hundreds (thousands?) of wooden hand planes. If you are interested in building a hand plane yourself, this video is well worth its $7.50 price.

I decided to build my plane out of some oak boards. After cutting them down to size, I glued them together to get what would be the inner part of my plane body.

After the glue dried, I planed the bottom of the block smooth and made sure it was completely square with the sides (fortunately, I have a nice hand me down block plane).

Next, I marked out the spots where the blade would sit and where the shavings would collect in and made those cuts. When I started this project, I hadn’t found my garage sale band saw yet, so cutting and shaping was very manual.

Then I sanded out the curve using the rounded end of my belt sander.

After the pieces were cut, I needed to plane the wood flat that the cap iron would rest on, and then chisel out a hole to accomodate the cap iron screw. The blade and cap iron combo I am using is from Hock Tools.

After cleaning up the walls, it was time to add some additional oak pieces as sides and dry fit the whole assembly.

I drilled some screws in to make adjustments and assembly easier.

The next step was to make the cross bar that would keep the wedge and blade in case. I used a plug cutting bit on my drill press to round the ends and then chisels and sand paper to round the three sides of the body (the fourth side remains flat to rest against the wedge). This was also when I drilled holes in the plane sides to accept the new cross bar piece.

With all of the main pieces done, it was time to assemble and glue up.

While the glue dried on the main plane body, I started working on the body. By this point, I had bought a bandsaw at a garage sale, making the follwing steps significantly easier. I traced a rough wedge shape onto a spare piece of oak, then went to work cutting it out and sanding it.

The next day once the glue had dried, I planed the bottom of plane flat and chamfered the edges to reduce resistance.

Once that was done, it was time to trace the template I received with my plane video purchase, and then cut out the shape on the bandsaw.

All that was left to do was some final shaping and sanding, and the plane was done being built.

After applying some Danish oil, the plane was beautiful and ready to be used. Hopefully this will increase the quality of all of my future projects!


Originally published at bertwagner.com on June 23, 2014.

Building a Bird House

With beets, lettuce, and a variety of flowers carefully planted in neat little rows in our garden, our backyard was starting to look pretty good. There was something missing though; although the garden bed was filled with flora, Renee pointed out that we were missing some garden friendly wildlife. That’s when I was commissioned to build a nesting box for our neighborhood birds.

Renee is an avid bird watcher, so she chose the particular tree swallow nest box design available at nestwatch.org in order to attract the types of birds she wanted to see in the yard.

The first step to building the bird house was to find some suitable wood and to mark out all of my cuts. I had some maple (?) laminate that had lived its previous life as a tray table lying around; once stripped of its varnish and sanded down, it looked like some pretty nice wood!

The boards all cut to size

The next step was to create some ventilation for the birds using the box as a nest. I did this by cutting an angle along the top of the sides of the house. This way once the top of the bird house was attached, a gap for air would be left in between the top and the sides:

And some quick cuts at the table saw:

Next, Renee joined me in assembling the box. We began by dry fitting pieces together and realized that the plans we were using had incorrect dimensions for the bottom: instead of 9″ x 6″, the bottom piece should have been a square 6″ x 6″. I went ahead and cut the bottom to its square size and then cut off the corners at a 45-degree angle to allow any water to drain out. Then we went back to dry fitting and assembling.

Since we would be nailing all of the boards together, we determined that this could be most easily accomplished by first clamping the two sides to the bottom before driving in any nails. After the sides were nailed to the bottom, we attached the front and the back. Renee’s carpentry skills were really impressive.

Once the sides, front, back, and bottom were nailed together, we went ahead and attached the top with a pair of hinges. The final step was then to drill a hole in the front to place a small perch in:

After the hole was drilled, we inserted a dowel and marked where we would want to cut the perch to what looked like an appropriate length:

And that was it! A quick coat of some UV protected deck stain + sealer and the bird house was ready to mount to a tree with some chain and a screw.


Originally published at bertwagner.com on June 17, 2014.

Dandelion Wine Recipe

In some areas of the country, having a lawn full of yellow dandelions would get you judgmental glances from your neighbors and a swift fine from the home owner’s association. Fortunately, I don’t live in one of those gated communities and I let the dandelions grow free, pesticide free.

Sure, at first the dandelion looks only like a ragged flower that grows back faster than any of your grass after a weekly mowing, but instead of seeing a weed I see gourmet gold. Why is that you ask? Because I know it can be used to make a delicious dandelion wine.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of dandelions. Be sure they are au naturel and not coated in pesticides. If you don’t have enough to pick a gallon on your own property, city parks are typically a good place to find them since most cities don’t have the money to be spraying their grass.
  • 5 lbs honey. Divided into 4lbs for fermentation and 1lb for post fermentation sweetness.
  • 8 oranges.
  • 4 lemons.
  • 2 gallons of water.
  • 1 packet of white wine yeast

1. Pick some dandelions

Go and pick a gallon of dandelions. You want to be sure to only pick the yellow heads and not the tall green stalk. The green undersides that the yellow petals are attached to are OK to keep.

2. Make some dandelion tea

Add your 1 gallon of dandelions to 2 gallons of boiling water. Cover, and let steep for 24–48 hours, or until the flowers sink to the bottom of the water.

3. Add some honey and citrus

Strain the dandelion tea made from the step above. Add it back to pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in 4 lbs of honey, the juice of 8 oranges, and the juice of 4 lemons. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

4. Cool, pitch, and aerate

While the must is cooling to 80 degrees fahrenheit, add the packet of wine yeast to a cup of 90–100 degree fahrenheit water. Stir in a little bit of sugar and let it sit. Keep waiting until the dandelion must cools (a wort chiller or a sink full of ice water can help here) and then once it reaches 80F, pour the must into a carboy. Choose a carboy that is barely bigger than the volume of your wine, otherwise the extra room for air in the carboy will cause the wine to oxidize and taste bad. Once the wine must is in the carboy, pitch the yeast and tip the carboy back and forth to aerate.

5. Wait for fermentation

Add an airlock and stopper to your carboy and move it to a cool place out of direct sunlight. Optimally, the location will be around 68–70F. I find that basements work pretty well. In 18–24 hours, you should notice the must begin to ferment, and CO2 bubbles being rapidly released through the airlock. If after 48 hours you are not seeing any activity, get some new yeast and create a starter with it, then repitch it into the carboy. Once the bubbling activity has stopped (typically 7–14 days), you are ready to bottle.

6. Sweetening

Before cracking open the carboy of fermented wine, make a simple syrup by boiling 1 part honey to 1 part water (for this recipe I used about 2 cups of honey and two cups of water). This honey simple syrup will be used to sweeten the final wine to taste.

7. Bottling

Instead of dealing with wine bottles and corks, I like putting my wine in glass canning jars. Clean and sanitize your jars and lids and then fill each jar with 100ml of the honey syrup. Next, using an auto-siphon or a bottle filler, fill the jars with wine (leaving any sediment at the bottom of the carboy), leaving as little empty space as possible in the jar because we want to minimize any oxidation. Once filled to the brim, cover the jar with a square of wax paper and then twist on the lid. The wax paper protects the wine from absorbing any metallic flavors from the jar lid.

8. Storage

It’s best to store your dandelion wine in a cool dark place, like a refrigerator. Avoid storing the wine in direct sunlight. Additionally, avoid storing the wine in a warm area since any remaining yeast could become active again and cause a second fermentation to occur. If this were to happen, it’s possible that the glass jars might explode (since they will be under pressure from additional CO2 build up)!


Originally published at bertwagner.com on June 10, 2014.

How to Build a Side Table

Since the weather has gotten warmer, Renee and I have been spending a lot of evenings out on the porch. We have comfortable chairs to sit on and a growing garden to admire, however we were missing a little side table to put our drinks and candles on. Seeing as I had a lot of scrap 2×4 white lumber laying around, I thought it would be quick an easy to build a nice little side table for ourselves.

I like using SketchUp to create designs for projects I’m working on. I usually start by creating a quick sketch of a design on paper and then transposing that to SketchUp to be able to play around with measurements until I get something that works. If you use SketchUp, I have made this model available to download.

The parts list for the project consists of:

  • Legs: 4 @ 23.25″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″
  • Long rails: 4 @ 21″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″
  • Short rails: 4 @ 10″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″
  • Table top: 4 @ 3.5″ x .75″ x 13.5″
  • Lower shelf: 4 @ 3.5″ x .75″ x 12″

The legs and rails of my table were made from scrap 2 x 4s. Since the 2 x 4s had rounded edges, I first trimmed those off before ripping the boards in half, leaving me with 1.5″ x 1.5″ pieces. The table top and lower shelf boards were 3.5″ x .75″ boards so I only had to cut them to length.

After cutting all of the parts to their correct sizes, I carved lines into the legs to mark where the mortises would go using a knife and a mortise marking gauge.

Even though the mortises are pretty small (.5″ x.5″ x .5″), I still didn’t want to have to completly chop 16 of them by hand with a chisel. To make the work a little easier, I used a forstner bit to drill most of the wood out of the marked mortises, and then only finished up the rest of the mortises with a chisel. This made the chopping take less than 30 seconds per mortise.

After finishing all of the legs, I started on the tenons. Since I was going to be making 16 tenons, I decided to use my table saw and cross cut sled in combination to make the process a little easier. Since the tenons are .5″ x .5″ centered in the middle of the 1.5″ x 1.5″ rails, I just raised the table saw blade to a height of .5″ and made cuts on all 4 faces of the rails until the tenons were made. A dado blade would make quick work of cutting these tenons, but since I don’t have one I had to make around 6 passes on each face of each rail in order to take out the correct amount of wood.

Once all of the tenons were cut, I was ready to assemble. Before adding any glue to my work pieces, I always dry fit the wood pieces first. By dry fitting first, all of my clamps will be ready at the correct widths and if I need to make any slight adjustments I can do so now before racing with the fast drying wood glue. At this time, as well as once I add glue, I check for squareness by measuring the distances between corners as well as by using a 90 degree triangle.

Once I glued and clamped everything down, the leg frames were done.

Next, I followed the same dry fit and then clamp and glue process as above to glue the pair of leg frames together.

With the table frame done, it was time to start on the table top and the lower shelf surfaces. For these surfaces, I created a laminate of 3.5″x.75″ boards. I cut the boards slightly longer than their final sizes so that when they inevitably slid around when I glued them together, I could just trim them to the correct length once the glue tried.

Once the laminates dried, it was time to plane and sand to get a smooth and even surface that would be ready to have finish applied to it. It’s best to plane and sand not only the top surfaces (the ones that will get used once the table is finished), but the bottom surfaces as well so that the bottoms will sit squarely on top of the frame.

With both sides of both laminates planed and sanded, it was time to cut the corners off of the bottom shelf so that it would fit into the frame. I found that flipping the finished frame upside down and putting the bottom shelf onto the leg bottoms was the easiest way to trace cut lines onto the boards. After cutting the corner squares out, I was able to dry fit the bottom shelf into place in the frame.

After the bottom shelf fit into place, I clamped the bottom shelf to the frame and flipped the whole table upside down. I wanted to attach the surfaces with 2″ wood screws, so I drilled some pilot holes into the rails. I only attached the bottom shelf to the long rails since the grain of my boards ran in the direction of the short rails. This way, when the wood expands/contracts, it will have some room to move.

After trimming the uneven ends of my table top I used a round over bit on my router table to round the edges and then attached the table top in the same manner as the bottom shelf.

Once the table was assembled, it was time to apply a finish. Since the table was going to be sitting outside during brutal heat waves and drenching soakers, I decided to go with a stain + sealer combo that contains UV protection and is meant to be used on decks. I brushed on the finish and let it dry overnight. The next day, we had a nice new side table to rest our drinks on!


Originally published at bertwagner.com on June 3, 2014.