Thickolson: The Big Rip and Flattening

Checking out the Big Rip

For a while, I’ve been mulling over how to take the 12/4 14″ poplar board and get it down to the 11 1/2″ board I need for the top. My initial plan had been to do the rip on my table saw with a rip blade. Poplar is pretty soft and with a good ripper, I was confident I could manage it. However, pushing a board of this size through a table saw is no mean task. After a few trial runs with supports in place, I realized I was in a bit of a pickle.

See, this board has a fair bit of wind in it. When you run a board through a table saw, you want the face that’s touching the table and the face that’s riding the fence to be flat and square. Otherwise, as I quickly found out on the dry runs, the board will cast away from the fence during the push. With a board this size, I elected not to take any risks. I could either flatten the board out and then run it, or rip the sucker by hand.

After taking a few exploratory passes with the fore plane, I determined that I could save a fair bit of thickness by ripping the board before flattening it. So, off to the races.

I started out over the board, in the classic ripping posture, but my back and shoulder quickly decided this was a bad move. The position that really worked for was standing next to the board with it clamped to my existing bench, blade facing away from me, just like in this video by Chris Schwarz:

It takes a while to get the hang of how to apply pressure the blade in this setup and to work out a rhythm. I laid out some marks every six inches to get an idea of how fast I was going; in the beginning I was doing about an inch a minute and by the end I’d about doubled that. All in the all, the rip took about hour of effort, with a bunch of breaks for water, rest, and to gauge my progress.

I did find that, for whatever reason, keeping the blade plumb in the stand-on-the-side configuration was much much easier. I think I just need to practice more with the “classic” posture, but it was pretty sweet to see that nice square 8′ long rip once I was done.


Legs Complete, Aprons in Glue

Apron glued up

Despite the lack of updates, I’ve been working on the new bench pretty consistently. Since last time, I’ve finished up both leg assemblies, drilled a hole for the vise clamp and drilled out the mortise for the parallel guide. All that took about a week of two hour nights.

A few nights ago, I took on flattening the inside of both aprons. They’re 11″ x 7 1/2′ boards, so it’s no small task.

Pretty cross grain shavings

Lots and lots and lots of cross grain shavings later, I had a great workout and I had a couple flattish aprons. There’s a bit of cup in one apron that I’m not going to pull out, it would thin out the board too much, and I had a hunch I could clamp it out when I attached the aprons to the leg assemblies. Which, brings us to the last couple nights. Now that the last apron is in glue, I can look forward to ripping the top pieces down to width, flattening them out and attaching them to the bench.

Oh, and I have to figure out how to get the new bench off my current bench. It’s … heavy.

A celebratory beverage

Second set of legs dimensioned


Love that little vacuum you get between two boards when they’re really flat. I think I’m getting the hang of milling lumber. It’s going much faster now, only an hour and a half for these four. It took me an hour each the first time.


Measure Twice, Cut Once

Leg mortise drilled out

Angles are hard. Especially if you don’t have a protractor.

Tonight, I realized I’d made my First Major Blunder on the bench build. From Chris Schwarz plan for the Nicholson bench, I’m using legs that sit at a twenty degree angle off vertical, seventy to the floor. Well, I thought I was. I don’t currently have a protractor, even a dumb cheap one, so when I need an angle, I lay it out on my bench. I still remember my trig from high school and I’ve got a pretty good square, so it’s pretty easy to just lay out the line off my current bench side and then set up a bevel gauge to match.

Leg mortise cleaned up

A seventy degree angle happens to be really close to a 4 in 11 run. That is, measure over 4 units, then up 11 units, and you’ve got the seventy / twenty pairing. I set my bevel gauge, locked it down tight, and saved the line on my bench just in case. I cut the ends of the legs and the apron support using the bevel gauge and all was happy with the world.

Except, somehow, I measured over 5 and up 11. So all my angles are closer to the 65 / 25 pairing. So my legs lean a little more than five degrees more than they should, and they end up being about 3/4 of an inch short, relative to the floor. Happily, when I marked the width of the apron rabbet on the leg, I used the actual apron, not a measurement, so that all still fits.

After playing with it for a bit, I’ve decided to just live with the slightly shorter bench. If it really bugs me, I figure shimming up 3/4 of an inch shouldn’t be too rough. It does mean that I’ve got to refigure how long the vise chop is going to need to be in square wood, but I’ve got 7′ of 8/4 Ash. I’m sure I can find a chop in there somewhere.

So after deciding to live with it, I trimmed up the saw marks and a “squared” up the bottom of the legs to get everything happy at 25 / 65.

Lessons learned:

  1. When measuring angles out by hand, triple check your work. Ideally walk away and come back.
  2. Get a damn protractor
  3. Trimming end grain sliced at 20 degrees is a lot like trimming pure end grain. It’s tough on a blade. Make sure it’s sharp sharp sharp sharp and take it slow.

Paper Joints

So I’m reading in Wearing’s Essential Woodworker and happen across a mention of attaching a scrap block to a board with a paper joint to prevent spelching when planing end grain. I’d never heard of this joint, but found a good explanation. You just stick a piece of porus paper into the joint, allowing it to be split back apart when dry. A neat trick.