Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The saw till, lessons learned

That was probably my most time consuming shop project so far, the next one would be quite simple in comparison.

Not that there was anything complicated about its construction (dovetail, thru tenons, dadoes) but simply figuring out how to best hang the saws took me the longest. I know there isn't much written about saw's hang angle, so I'll devoted an entire blog post on it soon.
In an nutshell, it has everything to do with how the saw cut and feel in your hand.

Judging by the numbers of hits I got thru google search on my saw till construction, it would appear to be a popular subject. So I thought I shared with you some of what I learned and some of the final details "as built".

But first, let me re-iterate the importance of building your own to fit your tools. NEVER follow blindly someone else dimensions (mine included), adapt it to your own tools on hand.

Almost fully loaded.
There are two empty slots right now...

About the design

After looking on line at what others built, I decided on this particular design:
- I wanted an open design that would fit within the space between the two existing plane tills. If it was to be a stand alone, I may have build it a bit taller to accommodate all the saws plates within.

As it is, the longest saws (30 in) go past a few inches.
Notice that It is sitting just about as high as I could made it. 
Taller and I would hit the pipes with the saws. 

The till is currently sitting 55-3/4 inch off the ground.
It also put the drawers a bit too high for my liking, but I can still see into them,
I am 6 foot tall. A shorter person probably could not, in which case it would be too high, for the drawers to be considered useful. Either leave those cavities open, or lower your till for your stature.

- I like a scroll side better than just a plain angled side. Strictly a personal choice issue, but having straight sides would restrict how your hand fit to grab the saws on the far ends. 

On the large (and first till I built) I went with a free hand reversing curve. It's OK, but my eyes were telling me, it could be better.

That's why I experimented with ellipse. Don't let my tongue in cheek description of how I figured out my ellipses scared you, it really is not that difficult and resulted in a much more pleasing look to my eyes. Some of the examples I have seen on line have very much exaggerated curves to my liking. Again strictly a personal taste issue.

With apologies to whomever built this, 
I find the side curvature too much for my liking.

To my eye, these reversing curves look very pleasant.

- Perhaps the biggest design considerations were how many saws to hold in my given space and how to accommodate them and still be easy to put and remove them.
As originally planned I went for 22 saws, in the end I only put in kerfs for 21, but 22 would have fit. Why 21? Because of my split handle board, that 22nd handle would hit the in between spot.
The kerfs to hold the saw plates are spaced 1-1/2 inch in between. I found that gives me the most storage density and still makes the saws easy to grab & store.

- Trying to accommodate both hand saws and back saws on the same continuous handle board (or rod) was nightmarish, don't!
By design their handle hang at very different angles. It was bad enough trying to find a middle ground for the handsaws various hangs, forget trying to also fit the backsaws, better to separate both.

One set up I tried, had the handle board sitting flush with the front of the till, I did not liked that look, so I recut my middle kerf board 1/4 in narrower to be able to push it back in.

The handsaw handle board is sitting back 3/4 inch
and the back saw board is sitting further back at 1-1/2 inches

Because their final position was up in the air until basically the last minutes, I opted to secured them using simple metal brackets. And if I ever want to changed the saws within and need to change its position, too easy.
The weight of the saws is pushing the top of the board outward, so these metal L brackets from the back are plenty strong.

- It was delaying me to screw the kerf boards from behind the back rails, before I put the back boards on, but I much prefer this method than screwing them from the front or thru the added thickness (1/2 in) of the backboards.
For two reasons;
1- I think it gives it a cleaner look, and
2- I did not wanted it to interfered with the backboards expansion / contraction.

Being made of hardwood, for durability, I pre-drilled before screwing them in.

Of course, if I ever have to replace those kerf boards or change them to accommodate different saws, I would have to removed those back boards first. 
That's why I was planning on screwing them, but by that time, I was tired of all that screwing by hand, and wanted to get it done, so I reached for (gasp) my air nailer... I`m sure those boards would be fine and won`t be much difficult to remove if I ever have the urge to. Unlikely :-)

Construction details

It was pretty well a straightforward construction. I used dovetails to secured the bottom board to the side, because, I'm comfortable doing that by hand and it make for a very strong connection. Just make sure to orient the tails correctly so the bottom board resist being pushed off downward. If you somehow reversed that, don't sweat it, it would still be pretty strong, and in this case, being painted, it wont be noticeable...

Correct orientation of the dovetails at the bottom of the side boards.
I always cut my tails first so, that was easy to remember.

Cut all the dadoes joinery before cutting the shape of the side boards, much easier that way. I used a stack dado in a tablesaw, but there are not many to cut and could have easily be cut by hand. Use whatever you prefer or are comfortable with, makes no differences.

Regardless of how you cut your dadoes, a router plane is the best tool 
to clean up the bottom evenly to a precise depth. I usually uses the pointed blade, gives me many angles of attack`s choice to pull clean cut in cross grain.

There are one dado on each side of the side pieces for the top shelf, and 3 on the bottom board (facing inside) and the bottom of the top shelf for the drawers cubicles. Sizes of dadoes? Make them fit your stock. In my case I went with 3/4 in wide by 1/4 in deep. That just happened to be my standard go to size. Plenty strong. You want to make them a snug fit but not too tight so that you cannot slide them in. Glue will lubricate and help you slide them in.

For reasons explained earlier I went with thru mortise and tenons to secured the back rails (2). I was going to make them split tenons and wedged them, but I got carried away at glue up time and forgot all about them. Oh well, they are still pretty strong, since I wait till after I fit my tenons to the mortise before making the mortise wall inclined for the wedges. My tenons are snug fit as it was, and besides it is painted over anyway :-)

Whatever joinery choices I make are always for strength in a given application more than show off pretty joinery.

Whenever I can, I like to gang cut my profiles on the bandsaw. Again a personal choice. But cutting them together and cleaning them up together is a sure way to ensure they would look the same. Just make sure to have your dadoes facing inside :-)

I uses rasp, spokeshaves and sand paper on a piece of rod to cleaned them up. My favorite spokeshaves for this type of cut is by far a wooden one, because of its low angle cutting geometry.

The final width, numbers and positions of the back rails were more for a pleasant look than by design.  Similarly, my back boards final dimensions were arrived at by trial and errors to get a balanced look evenly spaced. I started at 5-1/2 in and ended up at 4-1/2 in wide boards, that gave me a 4 in reveal in front.

I am pleased with that beaded detail look.
The boards are uniformed and centered.

It is critical to cut your kerfs with the same spacing in the top and middle kerf boards, or your saws wont go in easily, even with a small offset. So the easiest way to ensure that, is to gang cut them on the tablesaw. I used a thin kerf blade to minimize the width of the kerfs.
In addition, before separating your kerf boards, put some markings on them, it will save you some head scratching later, take my word on it :-)

Were the drawers necessary? No, but I like the look. You can opt to leave those cavities open, but in this case, close off completely the back. Either extend your back boards all the way down or simply uses a 1/4 in plywood to close off the opening. 

Things I would have done differently

- I forgot two things while building it:
1- I should have made my top shelf narrower to accommodate my back boards. As I did it, I ended up having no back support for the back boards. I ended up re-cutting that shelf narrower by 1/2 in after assembly, and having to notch my dividers.  No biggie, but why give yourself more trouble :-)
Either that or add another back rail with a rabbet at that juncture of the shelf.

2- I forgot to add a rabbet on the top rail to capture the back boards. I would have either had to used a thicker stock for that top rail or, like I ended up doing after, simply added another board on top to make up the rabbet. In insight, it was easier to do that, since it avoid machining a different thickness rail but just be aware of the detail need.

- I could have saved myself lots of time and aggravation by not trying to uses the same handle board to fit all my saws.

- I got lucky with my final position of the top kerf board. Why? because by then I had already glued and screwed the top part of the French cleat on the back, and I did not had much room left to screw in the kerf board. It could not end up under the cleat or I would never be able to removed it.
That was more of a fluke than by design, so keep that in mind. To get more room make the top of the till a tad longer, the top rail wider or the rabbet less wide so that you have room to screw the top kerf board below the French cleat.

If you click on the pic to expand it, look at where the screws 
landed under the cleat, very close.  I got lucky :-)

- Oh, and it is always a good idea to first try your molding plane settings on a piece of scrap wood before committing to your good piece... Just saying :-)

So keeping all the above in mind, here are the final, as built, dimensions;

Made from 3/4 in thick stock machined from 4/4 rough stock
Saw till overall height 32 in
Width 37-1/2 in
Depth 10 in
Distance between the bottom and the top of the shelf 5 in
Inside dimension of the drawers cavity 3-1/2 in height X 11-3/8 in wide X 10 in deep.
The back rails are 3 in wide and are located 10-1/4 in and 23 in from the top of the shelf.
Height and length of the handle board for handsaws & mitre box saws 3 in X 25-3/4 in.
It is spaced 3/4 in from the front of the till.
Height and length of the handle board for backsaws 3-1/2 in X 10 in.
It is spaced 1-1/2 in from the front of the till.
The round over on top of the handle boards were done with a No 11 hollow plane.
The kerf boards are made of 7/8 in thick maple.
The top kerf board is 36 in long, but only has 15 kerfs cut into it.
it is 1-1/2 in wide and the kerfs are 1/2 in deep. It is positioned 24 in from the top of the shelf.
The middle kerfs boards are in 4 sections.
The handsaw one is 2-1/2 in wide with 1-1/4 in deep kerfs X 12.
The Mitre box saw one is 2-1/4 in wide and has 3/4 in kerfs into it X 3.
The backsaws one is made of two identical boards, same stock as the Mitre box one, but they are 9-1/2 in long and have 6 kerfs each.
The backboards are 1/2 in thick X 4-1/2 in wide, have a rabbet of 1/2 in wide 1/4 in thick then tweaked to lay flat between each boards. Why the tweaking? because I machined them by hand, there was some minor variations.
The size of my bead was 3/16 in (as stamped on the beader plane)
and the small bevel was just eyeballed and cut with a block plane. It is approximately 1/4 in wide.

So there you have it, another shop project done.  Well I still got three drawers to make but for now it will do. I`m moving on to the next project and got a few more things to catch up around the house and a bathroom reno to finish with my friend.

If you have any questions about it or some of my other projects, just leave me a comment.


Bob, slowing down in the shop for a little while.  Got other priorities coming up.

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