Sunday, September 7, 2008

On the Nature of Shop Time

Einstein was right - time is not constant.

My shop demonstrates this to me on a regular basis - "I'll just work on this for 15 minutes!" and then "What?! I've been in the shop for 2 hours?" Of course, I'm not complaining - I love being in my shop. I'm just always amazed, and a little confused, at how it happens.

This time, I decide to try to document the happenings in "shop time." Here goes:

I am finally starting to believe that the Shaker cabinet might, just might, be finished before my son starts crawling. Today's job was to start making the molding for the top and the step-back. In a remarkably sensible move, I decided that there wasn't enough time to finish - I'd just rip the strips, clean them up with a plane, and stop. "Should take about 15 minutes."

First - find the board I am going to rip. Okay, there it is - half-way down in the center of a stickered pile. Sigh. Well, nothing for it, start moving wood. Unpile. Pick. Pile. Not too bad.

Put board on bench. Set marking gauge and mark off two strips, one on each edge. Flip. Repeat. Done.

Move board to saw bench. Grab rip saw from till. Start to cut. What? When did this thing get so dull? Oh...probably when I was ripping the bamboo flooring...with its "scratch resistant" coating...probably "saw resistant" too. Hmm. Okay.

Get saw vise. Put piece of 2x4 in bench vise. Clamp saw vise to 2x4. Clamp saw in saw vise. Get file - the one with the handle so I don't hurt myself. Oh. That one is too small. Hmm. Okay.

Find piece of birch in scrap pile. Find brass plumbing fitting (I actually knew exactly where it was!).

Take birch to shavehorse. Rough it out with drawknife. Fast! Clean up with spokeshave. Cut off with saw. Round end to fit brass cap. Clamp cap in vise and drill hole through for file tang.

Hmm. It moved off-center. Okay. Clean up with rat-tail file.

Screw onto birch handle. Clamp handle in vise. Drill two step hole for tang. Clamp file in vise, tang up. Get propane torch. Heat tang. Force handle down over tang. Pull back off. Reheat. Reforce. Whack with hammer. Done. Wait. The "nut" look of the brass bugs me. File it round. Okay. Now it's done.

What was I doing? Oh yeah, ripping molding strips. Right. Need to sharpen the saw first.

Run jointer down saw teeth. This creates small flats on top to the taller teeth. In theory, on ALL the teeth, but this saw is a long story. I bought on eBay years ago, and boy was it messed up. I tried to reshape the teeth, and didn't do half bad for my first try at that, but it's not perfect, and the teeth are only slowly becoming more uniform each time I sharpen it.

Doesn't matter - works great anyway. At least when it is sharp, so back to that. Reclamp saw lower in vise, just below the gullets. File every other gullet - trying to remove half of the flat on the top of the teeth. Reverse saw. File remaining gullets. Not bad. Not perfect - but plenty good.

Back to the board waiting on the saw bench. Rip. Rip! Holy smokes is it better! When was the last time I sharpened this saw? Rip. Rip. Done.

Hmm. I wonder if I have time to clean these up with the jack plane? Look at clock. "What! How'd that happen?" Drat! Need to clean up and call it a day.

"But it will only take about 15 minutes to plane those two strips..."

Get plane...


  1. Boy, ain't that the truth!?

    Nice job on the step back cupboard, Dan. I have been eyeing it up in the background of other photos you've posted recently.

  2. VC - I'm glad I'm not the only one who experiences this phenomenon. And thanks for the encouragement on the cabinet - it has been out in the shop way too long! I'm really going to push to have that puppy done and in the living room by umm...I better say Thanksgiving. Really though, it doesn't need too much more: simple moldings, fill the nail holes, and two coats of milk paint. We'll see...hopefully it will be out of the background in the not too distant future.

  3. I'll look forward to seeing your cupboard when it's all finished, but I like the progress photos, too.


  4. Boy can I relate to this! I think every time I walk into the shop the clock speed at least doubles, as opposed to the hours at work...

  5. In the IT world, we call it "yak shaving" when we end up doing a bunch of work in order to start doing the work we wanted to do in the first place. It happens all too often. The Jargon File (published in print as "The New Hacker's Dictionary") has the yak shaving entry at Now that I own a small farm and started building projects of various types, I've experienced yak shaving on about every single construction or fencing project.

  6. Bob - glad it is not just me...

    Jesse - I love that term! That's one I will definetly repeat!

  7. Love the cabinet!! I really enjoy wood working but have stuck with crafts (easier and less time consumming) plus my shop is not as big as yours from what I can see in the pictures. Mine is 15' x 15' the hubby won't give my any more room. Will be back often to see what you are doing!!

  8. Hi Dan,

    Why do you heat the file tang before driving it into the handle? I've been looking for some simple instructions on the net regarding fitting a file handle. Do you have any links you could point me at?


  9. Craig -

    The idea behind heating the tang is that it will burn a perfect fit into the handle. This is important as the tang is wedge shaped, and can spit the handle if you are not careful (although the ferrule reduces the chances considerably).

    It takes a little practice - too hot and it burns too much and the result is a sloppy, loose fit - too cool and it doesn't burn enough and the fit is not good.

    Also, it is important to note that the handle is actually driven onto the tang, not the tang into the handle.

    I don't know any good links on this subject, but if I find any I'll post them here.


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