Monday, May 3, 2010

Block Project Finished - For Now

So Teague's blocks are finished - I was aiming for 50 and ended up having time for 46. Not too bad.

They're unit blocks, with the basic block having 1x2x2 dimensions. Making these blocks, and their larger siblings, was pretty straight forward - just dimensioning the stock really (well except for a few of the "special" shaped blocks), but it was fun practice.

The width of the stock is very close to the final width of 2 inches, so after planing off the finish (they are old library chairs) it doesn't take much more work to get there with just a jack plane. The thickness is another matter - too much to remove with the jack, and too little to resaw - well, I suppose if I really wanted some thin oak veneer...

I tried my scrub plane, but wasn't happy with the results. Just too much tear out to get close to the layout line. I switched to a #6 fore plane with a fairly cambered iron. It was the right tool for the job, fast, but clean, stock removal. Here's a shot showing two pieces of oak - the right is the "before" and the left is the "after" example.

After the fore plane got things close, it was quick work with the jack to finish removing stock down to the line. It was a little wasteful, but a definite time saver.

I tried to take a picture of the fore plane iron to show the amount of camber:

Here's a shot of work on one pair of ramp blocks:

I had to leave extra wood at the ends to adjust for the kerf and flattening of the angled plane. After everything was true, I cut the ends square and to length. I experimented with several different saws for cutting the angle and ended up liking the Japanese style rip saw the best.

I had anticipated having to do a lot of work with a plane to clean up the cut, but in the end it came out pretty clean straight from the saw. Just a few minutes with the plane, and it was fine.

Chamfering the edges of the blocks was much easier by pulling them over an upside down plane - once again the jack was pressed into service:

The final test of the set before the birthday boy got his hands on them (what can I say, they're fun!):

In action - I think he liked them, and the chest too:

I'm sure I will be making more to expand the set as time goes by and his construction skills grow.


  1. I love this! Great job, a toy that will last forever.

  2. Amen, wooden blocks are awesome, and timeless. And if they are made by your Dad, it doesn't get any better than that!

  3. Nice work Dan. My son (18 months) has just gone from "Knock it down" mode into "Hey stacking is fun".

    Did you put a little shellac or tung oil on them to keep them "wipeable"? These kids spill/dribble milk on everything. ;)

  4. Steve - I just went with my standard safe mineral oil finish. I'll have to reapply it as it soaks in, but I love the simplicity. I might regret not sealing the open grain of the oak though. I'll have to wait and see. My second choice would be a beeswax and mineral oil finish. Thanks for commenting!

  5. this is such an incredible gift!
    I found you through a google search for Tried and True wood finish. I am refinishing a table from a thrift shop, I am at the final stage of finishing the wood and keeping it natural looking. Would you still suggest Tried and True?

  6. Tammie - I really like Tried and True and would recommend it - but there are a few things to keep in mind. The Danish Oil will yellow quite a bit as it ages (seems to eventually be shifting towards more of a golden straw color on my older pieces) which might not be the look you are after. It is especially noticeable on lighter colored woods. The Varnish Oil is darker and does provide more surface protection, and it is more glossy than the others.

    Which ever you try, be sure to follow the directions, especially the part about THIN coats. If you use the flood and soak method from finishes with solvents/driers Tried & True will never dry.

    Good luck and have fun!

  7. Family heirloom time. Good stuff.

    I don't remember what you said in your "trunk/chest" post -- but have you considered writing your name and the date on the chest (under the lid, maybe)?

    Also on one of the "keystone" blocks from the set: maybe with a wood burner?

    Your son will remember where the blocks came from -- and probably his son or daughter. But possibly not the next generation -- unless it's noted on the item itself.


  8. Gye - Thanks for the reminder! I always sign my gifts to my son, but I didn't get around to it on this one. I'll have to fix that.


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