Category Archives: Hand Tools

Hand Tools

Blanket Chest – Molding Fitting

At last, the time had come to fit the cove molding to the frame-and-panels.  Most conventional wisdom says to cut the trim to precise length, and then miter the ends.  While this works up to a point, I’ve found that a modified version is easier for me.  This is how I do it:

Blanket Chest 27

I start by cutting a piece of molding to just slightly oversize, and then saw to this length.  As you may recall from a couple of posts back, I marked one face of the molding to keep any asymmetry coordinated, and reduce any irregularities between pieces.  I now take care to keep this mark oriented against the frame, not the panel.  The white on the panel is primer, applied to reduce any chance of bare wood peeping if the panel shrinks.

Blanket Chest 28

Rather than trim square to precise length, I go ahead and cut a miter on one end using the miter shooting board, continuing until the piece fits in place in the frame.  The next step is to miter the other end just to a point, keeping that good fit.

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The photo above shows how the mark on the back helps keep the pieces oriented during the various manipulations.

Once the first piece is in place, I repeated the process with its neighbor, starting with the end that butts into the first piece.  Then, I shot the miter on the other end to fit.  I’ve found that, even if you cut all the pieces to precise lengths, their interactions with each other inevitably require a bit of further shooting to get everything to play nicely together.  For me, it’s easier to fit as a single operation rather than two distinct steps.  The pieces are small enough that shooting requires very little effort.  Just don’t forget your wax!

Blanket Chest 32

Once all the parts are settled into their respective places, I applied glue to just the side facing the frame, not the panel (remember the black mark?), and then held it in place with 23 gauge pins until the glue dried.  (Haven’t I heard that somewhere before?)  That way, the panels can expand and contract freely without trying to take the molding with it.

Blanket Chest 33

With all the molding in place, the time had finally arrived.  The joints were glued, and the assembly went into the clamps.  Suddenly, the group of flat panels was starting to look like a blanket chest.

Next time, I’ll add the bottom.  Stay tuned!

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What I Screwed Up This Week – Molding Miscalculation

Welcome back for another educational issue of What I Screwed Up This Week!  This time, we take a look at a molding miscalculation from the current blanket chest project.

The Problem:

Panel Molding 2

My plan was to have the panels of the blanket chest set in 3/8″ from the front of the frame.  This would allow a 1/8″ shoulder at the top to provide a visual break between the molding and the frame.  However, there was one problem.  The above drawing reflected my thinking.  I visualized the panel as a flat surface, rather than having a raised bevel.

Panel Molding 3

The reality was far different.  The sloping bevel of the panel raised the molding upwards.  While the drawing above is exaggerated, the oversight is clear.  The shoulder at the top of the molding becomes too small, giving no real definition to the transition.

The Solution:

Panel Molding 4

I played with several ways to rectify the problem.  However, the simplest turned out to be the best, and easiest to implement.  I simply trimmed down the upper edge of the molding to recreate the shoulder.  Surprisingly, it had very little effect on the appearance of the cove – much less than I had anticipated.

Blanket Chest 30

To remove this wood, I took a page from Matthew Bickford’s blog, Musings from Big Pink, and made a small sticking board.  This allowed the small piece of molding to be held in place simply by the friction of planing it.  The taper of the side support reduced the area of contact for the plane, and acted as a sort of depth stop (or at least reference) once the first piece had been planed to the desired thickness.

Blanket Chest 31

A few strokes with the plane were all that were necessary to reduce the height of the molding enough to create a viable shoulder at the top.  Here, you see a piece coming to final thickness.

Lesson Learned:

Angles can change everything.  Even a small slope or curve can drastically affect how pieces interact with each other.  Be sure to do mock-ups of any such areas, and determine if you need to make any modifications to your design before you paint yourself into the proverbial corner.

Blanket Chest – Drawing a Bead With a Scratch Stock

In the midst of finishing up the four chest frames, I decided to take a detour to the bottom.  I started with 3″ wide boards 3/4″ thick, and did a simple shiplap using the dado blade on the tablesaw.  However, I didn’t like the overly plain look, even if it was the bottom, and would rarely be seen.  What I really wanted was a beaded edge detail to dress things up just a bit.  However, I didn’t own a beading bit for the router.  What to do?

I had recently seen a Fine Woodworking video of Garrett Hack making and using a scratch stock, and decided to give it a try.  My first stop was at the box store for a long thumbscrew and a thread tap and drill bit set to match.  Then, I got to work.

Scratch Stock Holder 1

I cut a small piece of white oak to a size that was comfortable in the hand.  I laid the thumbscrew on top, and marked a line around the block just up from the end of the screw.

Scratch Stock Holder 2

I used the tap’s pilot bit to drill a hole into the end of the block stopping after I passed the line.  This would allow the tap to cut threads all the way to the slot-to-be.  I then took the tap, and carefully cut threads all the way to the end of the hole.  This long column of threads gives the screw more support, with less chance of the metal screw stripping out the wooden threads.  Marc Spagnuolo has a great video of this process available on The Wood Whisperer’s website.

Scratch Stock Holder 3

After tapping the screw hole, a saw kerf provides a slot for the scratch stock blade.

Scratch Stock Holder 4

I rounded the edges and corners slightly for comfort, waxed the screw, and ran it into the hole.  With that, the blade holder was finished.

Scratch Stock Blade 1

To make the blade, I took a small square of old saw blade and dressed the edges smooth and square.  Then, using the appropriate size of file, I cut a semicircular profile into the blade, and then smoothed the concave surface with sharpening slip.

Scratch Stock Blade 2

Actual sharpening is done by honing the surfaces of the blade to a mirror finish, much like flattening the back of a chisel or plane iron.  I’m a diamond hone fan, but any sharpening system will work.  Repeating this process will usually restore the blade to cutting shape without having to touch the profile itself.

Scratch Stock Adjustment

I mounted the blade in the holder so that the inside curve ends just at the surface of the wood.  If you were to move it outwards a bit, you would have a flat step on the outside edge – certainly an option if that is what you want.  A twist of the thumbscrew locks it in place.  I apologize for the blurry pictures, but it took five tries to get one this good.  You get the idea.

Scratch Stock Use

To use the stock, simply move it back and forth along the edge of the board being shaped.  Often, it will cut better in one direction than another.  In the picture above, the cut is being made towards me (away from you).  Notice that I’ve got the scratch stock angled slightly – it’s important that the cutting edge trails somewhat until the last gentle pass or two.  Think about the way you use a card scraper, and you’ll get the general idea.  The rest is a matter of feel and patience – don’t try to cut too fast.

Beaded Bottom Boards

These are the completed bottom boards, and you can see how the beads really dress up the otherwise plain shiplapped edges.  When I attach them to the bottom of the blanket chest, I’ll use a couple of finish nails or brads to space them so that the actual gap is the same as the groove beside the beads.  Not only will this give a good look, but will allow for expansion and contraction.

The scratch stock is an amazingly simple tool, and cost me all of $1.40 for the thumbscrew.  The thread tap and drill bit were about $4.00, and will surely come in handy adding screw threads to other projects.  The saw blade was just laying around in the way.  While it’s certainly not as fast as a router, it allows you to duplicate existing profiles easily, especially for smaller projects or restorations.
And, it won’t break the bank like a collection of router bits.  For the price, it can’t be beat.  Give it a try.

Blanket Chest – Framed

Blanket Chest 11

Once all of the mortises were chopped, it was time to start final fitting of the joints.  The first step is to decide which rails and stiles will go together to make a subassembly.  As I had selected stock for the various pieces, I kept in mind that the back side of the chest would be up against the end of the bed (or later a wall, perhaps), and parts with “issues” could go there.  Even though this chest will be painted, it’s a good habit to develop, since some blemishes can still show through.  My outfeed table was the perfect place for the selection process, as I could lay out a whole assembly for inspection, while keeping the other parts neatly stacked and organized to one side.

Blanket Chest 12

As I’ve said before, staying organized is of paramount importance on a complex project such as this.  Since all the joints are hand-cut, the matching components are hand-fitted to each other, making each pair unique.  To keep confusion at bay, I clearly number each joint pair, so that they stay oriented to each other all the way to glue-up.  Also, note the “X” on the bottom of the rail.  This denotes the edge where the haunch will be cut – more insurance.

This is also a good place to point out the answer to a question from a reader regarding how I cut my tenons.  The bottom face of the tenon in the above phto has the spacing I strive for – cutting just on the outside of the penciled groove, rather than splitting it.  The upper face is actually a bit on the “fat” side, and will require more work to bring it into line.  This task is accomplished with my router plane, as explained in a previous article.

Corner Detail

With all the rails and stiles fitted, it was time to address the corner joints.  As I mentioned previously, I decided on tongue-and-groove joinery to join the side frames to the end ones.  On reflection, reversing the joint so that the tongue on the face, and the groove is on the end wound have resulted in a stronger joint.  However, orienting the joint as shown will give less chance of a seam showing on the face.  Like most things in life, it’s a trade-off.

Blanket Chest 15

The first step was to cut the grooves.  Why?  Because I’m using a plow plane that has a fixed-width blade.  This is a good basic principle of hand tool work.  Whenever possible, perform the operation that utilizes a fixed tool first, then fit the other part to it.  When mortising, chop the mortise, then fit the tenon.  When making framed panels, cut the groove, then fit the panel to it.  You get the idea.

By the way, make sure you cut the grooves on the inside face of the stile.  Just sayin’.

Blanket Chest 16

With the grooves cut, I turned my attention to the tongues.  Fortunately, they were to be centered on the end of the stile, with a 1/4″ shoulder on each side (1/4″+1/4″+3/8″=7/8″).  I set the depth stop on the rabbet plane to leave the tenon just a bit fat, and did the final trim with a shoulder plane.  Rabbet and plow plane depth stops tend to slip, and should not be overly trusted.  Recheck the settings frequently as you work.  The astute among you will notice that I have sloped my tenon slightly from shoulder to edge.  I noticed this myself, and quickly corrected, paying more attention as I went forward to avoid a repetition.

Blanket Chest 17

Once all of the tongue-and-grooves had been cut, it was time for the first dry-up.  This is the time to walk around and take note of the things that need fine tuning, trying to get everything lined up before actual assembly.

Rabbet Plane Curlies

Now it’s time to turn our attention to other aspects of the project.  The panels have to be made, and I’ve got a couple of jigs to build.  But, in the meantime, it’s time to sweep up, and get rid of all the skew plane shavings left behind.

Stay tuned!

Blanket Chest – In the Groove

Since this blanket chest has frame-and-panel construction, the next step was to make the grooves to hold the panels.  As I mentioned in the post on cutting the tenons they, and their corresponding grooves are not centered, but offset to the inside face of the chest.  This means that the old tablesaw trick of running a board through, then flipping it end-for-end and running it through again to get a centered groove won’t work.  However, there’s an excellent way to get a groove without having to dig out the dado set.

Blanket Chest 8

A plow plane is an excellent alternative for grooves.  While not as fast as a dado, it can be set once and left on the shelf (much like a marking gauge), to be picked up as needed.  This leaves the tablesaw with its combination blade in place for such other jobs as may arise as the project progresses.  And, once set up and adjusted, the plow plane isn’t as slow as you might think.

With the 1/4″ blade installed, I set the plow plane’s fence to plow a groove in line with the tenons, and 1/4″ deep.  Notice in the photo above, the letter “I” near the tenon shoulder.  This stands for “inside”, and marks the face with the 1/4″ shoulder.  On the opposite side of the shoulder is an “O”, which stands for (you guesssed it) “outside”.  Placing these marks on every joint affords me a much better chance of staying oriented with all this asymmetrical joinery.

Another trick, as shown above, is the use of a cabinetmaker’s handscrew to keep the board vertically oriented.  I use this same configuration later when boring mortise starter holes.  Handscrews are generally underutilized by modern woodworkers, but this is just one of many uses they have in anyone’s workshop.

Blanket Chest 9

Once the grooves were plowed, it was time to layout for the mortises.  By gang-clamping matching pieces together and marking all of them at once, I was able to cut down on error.

The pieces shown above are four of the corner stiles, and the markings require a bit of explanation.  On the right, you see two lines.  The one on the outside marks the edge of the mating rail, while the inside one marks the end of the mortise.  On the left, there is a single line that marks the start of the mortise, but no line for the edge of the rail.  This edge is flush with the end of the stile, and the long gap indicates the haunch that will fill the groove to the edge.  It’s wider than usual due to the fact that these mortises will be hand-chopped, and I allowed extra wood on the outside of the mortise to help prevent any blow-outs of the end grain.

Blanket Chest 10

One of the beauties of grooved rails is that all of your mortising guides are already in place.  Just place your auger bit or mortising chisel in the groove, and you’re ready to go.  Of course, you still have to stay vertical.  As usual, I bored multiple clearance holes for each mortise to make the chisel work easier.  This step is especially important on mortises near the end of the board, as this helps to reduce the dreaded blow-out of the unsupported endgrain.

The next step will be to start bringing these various chunks of wood together.  Stay tuned!

Sawing Tenons the Wearing Way

This seems like a good time to digress slightly onto the subject of sawing tenons.  The blanket chest has a lot of them – 24 to be exact, and all are cut by hand.  So, I thought I’d give a quick look at how I saw tenons.

In the past, I had cut my tenons in the “normal” manner – near corner first.  But then, I read The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing.  This book, first published in 1988, is one of the best modern treatises on (mostly) hand tool woodworking.  This book turned a lot of my ideas on their ear, and altered the way I did a lot of things.

Wearing recommends starting on the far corner of the tenon, and then establishing a groove across the top before working down the near side.  This approach, for me at least, makes it much easier to saw accurately.  The saw follows the path of least resistance, the kerf, and is less prone to wander when it isn’t having to blaze two trails at the same time.  Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words so…

Sawing Tenons 1

Start with the far corner of the tenon.  If it helps, make a small notch with a chisel that gives you a starting point next to the line.  Normally, my left thumb would be against the saw as well to start the cut, but I’ve moved it for clarity.  Yes, the Bad Axe Large Tenon Saw is a handful, but to me it actually makes the cut easier.  The wide plate is less prone to angle away from vertical, and the weight makes downward pressure a non-issue.  It’s my go-to saw for any tenon over 1 1/2″  wide.

Another trick is to watch the reflection of the wood in the sawplate, and keep it straight in line with the actual wood so that it seems to be one continuous piece.  This will ensure that you stay square and vertical.

Sawing Tenons 2

Once you’ve established the corner,  slowly lower the heel of the saw as you cut, extending the kerf backwards across the top of the wood, staying flush with the line.  This is what establishes your path of least resistance, and makes the following steps much easier.  It’s much easier to go this way than to start on the near corner and try to extend the kerf forwards.  At the very least, that approach constantly obscures your line with sawdust.  In addition, you can see exactly how the saw teeth are approaching the line.

Sawing Tenons 3

Once your kerf extends all the way across, proceed as usual by sawing down the near face, while simultaneously connecting with the far corner.  Wearing recommends tilting the wood for this step, but I don’t find it necessary with this saw.  This allows me to do the first three steps above as one continuous cut, only stopping to reposition the stock before continuing.

Sawing Tenons 4

Once you’ve connected the corners, flip the stock around and connect the corners from the other side.  Once again, I keep the stock vertical, at least with this saw.  I suppose I could simply walk around to the other side and not have to reposition the stock at all, but working up against the bench like that is less comfortable and more awkward for me than standing off the end.  If it works for you, go for it.

Sawing Tenons 5

Now, to finish the cut, level the saw and cut the triangle of remaining wast left by your previous two corner connections.  As I get near the end of the cut, I lighten my stroke and bring the thumb of my left hand up alongside the waste (I’m cutting on the near side) to keep it from snapping off prematurely.

Sawing Tenons 6

And there you have it!  The surface is a little rough, but that’s because my technique is still a little rough.  However, the tenon serves it’s purpose very well.  In the one in the picture, I had already cut the end to width before the shot.  This was done after the cheeks were cut.

I hope this helps pique your interest in this method of sawing tenon cheeks.  If you’d like to see this technique in motion, Shannon Rogers has an excellent video of this approach on his site, The Renaissance Woodworker.  Check it out!

Krenov Sawhorses – All Together Now!

Krenov Sawhorse 27

Once all the parts were shaped to satisfaction, it was time to put the whole thing together.  I started by boring holes to drawbore the feet to the uprights.  I prefer a brace and bit for both aspects of this job.  For the mortises, it allows me to bore till the point of the auger exits, then reverse and bore from the other side for clean holes on both faces.  For the tenons, I can mark them through the hole in the foot, then easily offset slightly towards the shoulder.  An auger is better for this than any other bit I’ve tried.  It bores where you put it, and doesn’t wander like other bits.

Krenov Sawhorse 28

Once the drawbores were prepared, a peg with a tapered point and a liberal dose of liquid hide glue put the joint permanently together.  One of the nice things about drawboring is that no clamps are required, and you can “go on with your rat killin’,” as we say in the South.

At this point, I cut the uprights to final length.  I was going to use a 1″ deep half-lap joint to attach the top stretcher to the uprights.  This meant that 2″ of board width would be taken up with the joint.  Since the top stretchers were 3″ wide, this would leave 1″ protruding above the top of the uprights.  Accordingly, I cut the uprights to a total height that was 1″ shorter than my bench height.

Krenov Sawhorse 29

I had originally planned on planing my through-tenons flush with the surface, and had beveled them slightly before assembly to reduce spelching (blowout) when I planed them.  However, once I saw how they looked protruding 1/8″, I decided to leave them as they were.  The problem was that the leftover wedges sticking out made for a rather odd look.  Don’t worry – there’s an app for that.

Krenov Sawhorse 30

The first step was to cut the wedges (and drawbore pegs on the feet) flush with the surface.

Krenov Sawhorse 31

This, of course, leaves unsightly protrusions that must be removed.

Krenov Sawhorse 32

My tool of choice for this is a shoulder plane.  Having the blade flush with the side of the plane allowed me to bring the bevels down flush with the surface of the upright.  In addition, the low blade angle and tight mouth allowed me to work crossgrain on the ends of the tenons with little trouble.

Krenov Sawhorse 33

The end result is a nicely protruding tenon with beveled corners.

Krenov Sawhorse 34

The last step was to add the top stretchers.  After cutting a 1″ deep notch in the uprights the same width as the stretcher, I put the stretcher in place and marked a corresponding 1″ deep notch in the stretcher.  This is a perfect example of relative measurement.  Rather than using a rule to measure the distance and then marking and cutting, just mark it in place.  This has the added benefit of allowing you to compensate for warped stock, as one of my uprights had done slightly.  When the two were assembled in a half-lap joint, the final height corresponded with the height of my workbench.

The original plan called for finish nails to hold the top stretcher in place, but I decided instead of the more prosaic choice of wood screws.  Hey, this is a working tool, and wood screws make for easier replacement of the top stretcher when it becomes worn.

Krenov Sawhorse 35

And here they are, ready to go to work!  The top stretcher matches my workbench, and the bottom once corresponds with my sawbenches.  I’ll probably end up putting a coat of boiled linseed oil on them, but I’m going to leave them plain for now.  Call me lazy.

I hope this has inspired you to make a pair of your own sawbents.  Even if you already have sawhorses, these bring a different utility to the shop.  Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll see them playing a supporting role in future projects.

Krenov Sawhorses – Through Tenons

With the mortises cut to shape, it was time to turn my attention to the tenons.  As I mentioned in the last article, I planned on 1/4″ shoulders on the ends of the tenons, but only 1/8″ shoulders on the sides.  With a softer wood, I might have needed a wider shoulder, but I wanted to see how a wider tenon would look, and hickory was perfect for this.  The question is, how to cut it?  1/8″ was barely a saw kerf, and handsaws track very badly when the wood on one side of the cut is thin to nonexistent.

Krenov Sawhorse 23

This was the place to try my new Veritas skew rabbet plane.  Since only a small amount of material had to be removed, planing would be relatively efficient, and the tool’s 1 1/2″ width would handle my 1 inch-long tenon with ease.  This approach was not without its risks, however.  While the plane is almost 10″ long, the stretcher is only 3″ wide.   The resultant small registration area meant that the risk of mis-shaping the tenon was very real.  Being aware of this, I left the tenons slightly oversize for final fitting.

Krenov Sawhorse 24

As you can see, the tenon shoulder is quite narrow.  I honestly don’t think you could do it with a saw.  If you look carefully, you’ll see the number “3” at the shoulder line.  This indicates that this is the bottom face of the stretcher for mortise number 3.  You’ve always been told to mark your pieces – this is especially true for hand joinery, where each joint can (and usually does) have its own unique character.  In this case, tenon 1 would probably not be a good match for mortise 3.

Krenov Sawhorse 25

For final fitting, I again turned to my router plane.  This technique, which I recommend highly, allows me to correct for any tilt that might have crept in from using a long plane on a short surface.  It also lets me fit each tenon precisely to its matching hand-cut mortise.  Remember what I said about marking your joints?

For the photographically-minded among you, the unique lighting in the above picture comes from a kerosene lantern.  You can see the edge of its base in the lower-left corner of the frame.  I often use a lantern for spot-lighting on gloomy days.  It also provides a wonderful soft raking light for checking a surface for flaws.

Krenov Sawhorse 26

Once the tenons were fit to the mortises, I sawed the end-shoulders on the tenons and sawed the grooves for the wedges.  I’m of the school that bores relief holes at the end of the wedge kerf to minimize splitting.  I realize that this debate is right up there with pins-first, tails first dovetails, but in this camp I come down firmly on the side of the relief holes.  It’s true that the ends of the mortise support the wedged wood, but the very fact that you’ve put a wedge in the wood means that you’ve stressed the fibers beyond the the end of the kerf, giving the potential for the split to run.  Besides, as far as I know, there’s no downside to boring the holes.  If any readers want to weigh in on this, I’d love to hear your views.

Next time, we’ll put the whole thing together.  Stay tuned!

Krenov Sawhorses – Through Mortises

Krenov Sawhorse 16

Before I attached the uprights to the feet, I needed to cut the through mortises for the lower stretcher.  As in most things, accurate layout is the beginning of a good joint.  I wanted the top edge of the stretcher to be the same height as my sawbench, so I measured accordingly, and subtracted 3″ for the height of the foot.  This gave me the distance from the shoulder of the tenon to the top of the stretcher.  Since I was going to be working on the mortise from both sides, I carried this measurement all the way around the upright.  For this kind of job, a saddle square like this large model from Veritas can’t be beat.

Krenov Sawhorse 17

Following the first mark, I made another mark to show the bottom edge of the stretcher.  This mark isn’t absolutely necessary, but it helps me visualize things.  I then marked in 1/4″ for the tenon shoulders.

Krenov Sawhorse 18

Next, I laid out the mortise width.  I wanted the tenons to be as wide as possible, so I allowed for 1/8″ tenon shoulders.  Since I was working with 7/8″ stock, this gave me a final mortise width of 5/8″.  I set up my marking gauge accordingly, and marked the mortises as close to centered as possible.  Since I was going to attack the mortise from both sides of the board, I marked the other side to match.  When you do this, it’s important to flip the board end-for-end so that you register the marking gauge on the same edge of the board.  This ensures that, even if the mortise is slightly off-center (as is usually the case), the marks on the two faces line up and all is well.

Krenov Sawhorse 19

To remove the bulk of the waste, I prefer a brace and bit.  No other technique gives me the same level of control and ability to adjust to variables.  My sawbench and posterior give an excellent clamping arrangement for this technique.  Of course, if I were boring into the edge, I would have to use a couple of holdfasts instead.

Krenov Sawhorse 20

Since this is a 5/8″ mortise, I used a 1/2″ bit.  This allowed me some leeway for final trimming.  I bore from one side until the point of the auger breaks through the far side, stopping before the spurs break through.  I repeat this for a series of overlapping holes, the result of which you can see above.

Krenov Sawhorse 21

Now, with the board flipped over, I bore in the opposite direction, using the pilot holes to register the bit.  The result is a scalloped opening.  Note the wood border between the holes and the marked lines.  Note also how some of the scallop points have broken off with the grain.  More on this in a moment.

Krenov Sawhorse 22

The rest is simply a matter of cleaning up with a chisel.  Since the sides are parallel to the grain, this doesn’t require a great deal of force.  On the contrary, the wood is often too willing to break away, as was seen in the previous photo.  Go slowly and gently with this operation, or you may find yourself staring at a chunk of wood that you didn’t intend to remove.  As with dovetails, work towards the center from both faces to avoid surface tearout.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of a completed mortise.  However, really, there’s not much to see – a rectangular hole in a board, not very exciting.  Of course, if I had messed one up, THAT would have been blog-worthy.  Fortunately, I managed to avoid that.  Next time, I’ll make the matching tenons.  Stay tuned!

Mortise Chisel Depth Control

I’m a big fan of hand-chopped mortises.  There’s something about the seemingly-contradictory requirements of power and finesse that appeals to me.  The problem with them is that, unlike drill presses, there is no depth stop to keep you from happily chopping your way right out the other side of the board.

Depth Mark 1

The  most common way suggested to prevent this  is to wrap a piece of tape at the appropriate point on the chisel blade, and stop when you reach it.  The problem with this method is that you rock the chisel to lever chunks out of the mortise as you work your way deeper.  Invariably, my tape ends up looking like the example above.

Depth Mark 2

I have found a better solution in the Sharpie permanent marker, which isn’t as permanent as you might think.  A simple line on the chisel blade, and you’re set to go with a mark that won’t wiggle and bunch out of place.  When you’re through, a wipe with denatured alcohol leaves you with a pristine chisel blade again.

So much for permanent.