They say a sculptor sees the naked woman (or man, I guess) in the rock and then proceeds to remove everything that is not the naked woman. A sculptor would not start out with his or her fine finishing tools to make a statue; they would start with a jack hammer.
Making moulding is pretty much the same process. Starting with coarse tools to hog of as much waste as fast as possible is the easiest way. The planes I use most often for this are the moving fillister, jack, rabbet and plow planes. These planes can be set deep to remove material fast. Chisels and gouges can also be used to bash out wood close to the profile.
Today I made a top molding for the top of a reproduction Shaker case of drawers and snapped a few photos of the process.
This past week I taught the first Moravian bench class of 2018 at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC. This is the sixth year I have done the class at Roy’s; we have produced about 120 benches in that time.
Over time, the class has changed and become more streamlined as my experience teaching it has increased. Of course, with each new group of students, there’s a different dynamic, even though we are building the same project. This keeps the class from ever becoming routine.
A first for this class was using a boring machine to hog out most of the waste from the long stretcher mortises. This was a huge improvement over a brace and bit.
We had a young fella named J.D. Stevenson and his father stop in to observe the class for an afternoon. We promptly put him to work. He made us all look bad – he’s 13 years old.
As always, I never seem to get any pictures of the very end of the class. The last day is always a mad dash to get as far as possible!
I just completed a pair of side tables copied from one I measured at Hancock Shaker Village last year. The top of the original table, dating to around 1840, was attached with pocket screws. The first thing that comes to mind when the words pocket screw are thought of is the modern Kreg Jig. Pocket screws are actually quite old; they existed long before Craig Sommerfeld came up with an apparatus to bore them in 1986.
The early pocket screws pockets are chopped out with a gouge instead of bored. The majority of the old ones always look pretty much the same: a gauge mark at the bottom and a coarsely chopped pocket. In most of the vintage ones I have measured, the bottom of the pocket is 3/4″ to 1″ from the top edge of the skirt.
These are quite easy and fast to cut. About the only special tool needed is an incannel gouge. No need to be particularly neat either – the old ones aren’t. They are also nice because there is no other hardware needed besides screws. I can cut the pockets faster (about three minuets per pocket) and less time spent doing laying than using Z clips, figure-8s or buttons.
To lay out the pocket, start by laying a screw the length you will be mounting the top with on the edge of the table skirt. Let the screw overhang the skirt the amount you want it to penetrate the top you will be mounting. In my case here, I had a 5/8″-thick top, so the screw projects past the edge of the skirt 1/2″. When the screw is positioned, mark the location of the screw head. This will be the location of the bottom of the pocket.
Set a marking gauge to the pencil line and gauge a line at each location you need a screw.
Next, using a gouge, start cutting down to the gauge mark, taking light cuts until the bottom of the pocket is slightly wider and deeper than the diameter of the screw head. The gouge I am using here is about 1/2″ wide. A more narrow or wider gouge will work, too. If the sweep is too wide cut from ether side of the pocket this will make the back of the screw pocket a bit V-shaped, but it works just fine. A more narrow one just requires a few more licks.
Once the pockets are cut bore thru for the screw and then cut the countersink for the screw head.
Last, align the table base on the top and bore the pilot holes thru the pockets into the top. To allow for expansion an contraction of the top, elongate the screw holes a bit where they exit the skirts. Screw on the top.
Give them a try sometime, the work great!
— Will Myers
Below are a few photos of vintage tables using pocket screws.
I was by Lesley Caudle’s sawmill last week and observed his latest Alaskan sawmill setup in action.
Lesley was our source for the workbench kit Chris and I used in Roubo Workbench: by Hand & Power. He is also the source for the materials for the Moravian workbench classes I teach. Lesley sells Roubo workbench kits and will ship them as well (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lesley processes a lot of big logs that most mills can’t handle; the better ones become workbench tops and parts. The lesser quality logs will be sawn into railroad ties and pallet lumber. Some are live sawn into slabs for customers.
Lesley uses a band saw mill that does most of the work but for the really big logs to fit on the band mill he has to first saw them in half with an Alaskan mill powered by two chainsaws. This ain’t a kiddy set up either, the two power heads are Stihl MS 880’s, the largest saws Stihl makes (9 hp each). A 66″ double end saw bar connects the two.
I shot this short video of mill in action on a 48″ white oak, it’s quite a trick.