Month: June 2017

100% Wood Wall Hanging Coat Rack

100% Wood Wall Hanging Coat Rack

A few months ago I was asked to make a wall hanging coat rack. The only design direction I was given was a slightly modern look in a dark wood. I figured out a rough design idea in my head and went looking for some appropriate stock, and found some walnut the perfect size in my scrap bin. I had 6 scrap pieces of roughly the same size, and decided to use 3 for the base with the grain running vertically, and use the others for the actual hooks.

Walnut coat rack, wall handing, mid century modern

The walnut scrap pieces I used to make one of the wall hanging coat racks

After jointing the edges and gluing up, I flattened and trued the board using my jack plane. A couple of the pieces had live edges, and were on the outside; when I make these using pieces that don’t have live edges I make sure to place the sap wood on the outside. Nothing annoys me more than a laminated piece with sapwood in the middle, it just seems unnatural (of course, to each their own and all that…). I also planed some chamfers and rasped in some curves followed by a spokeshave for the edges of the backer board.

walnut, mid century modern, coat rack

The cavity for the hooks and spacers marked out, and the backer board shaped out

Okay, so back to the design. I decided to go with a backing board, with 9 hooks on top – 5 of them laminated in place and 4 sandwiched between fixed pieces that can fold in or out as required. I marked out a good equal distance from each end, and tried a couple of different sizes for the hooks height and width till I settled on a size that looked just right. With the space for the hooks marked out, I set about routing out a shallow cavity for the hooks to sit in. Of course, this being me, it was all done using hand tools and so the router in question was a Stanley 71 1/2. I prefer the closed mouth 71 1/2 over the open 71.

walnut, mid century modern, wall hanging coat rack

Routing out the cavity using my Stanley 71 1/2 router

I ripped the hooks and spacer pieces and planed them down to size, and drilled through each of them (except the two end pieces) to house the oak dowel that formed the hinge rod. I cut out the shape of the hooks roughly using a dovetail saw, and refined them using rasps. The top of the hooks needed to be slimmed down a bit to do a better job of holding the coats. The bottom of the hooks need to be curved to allow them to open without interfering with the backer board, while also acting as a stop to prevent them from just flopping down all the way. This was rough estimation followed by trial and error to get the final shape.

mid century modern, wall hanging coat rack, walnut

Cutting out and shaping the hooks and spacer pieces

With the hooks, spacer pieces and backer board for the wall hanging coat rack all ready, it was time for glue up. This is where an accurately cut out cavity really shines. I cut the dowel to length, assembled the hooks and spacer pieces, applied glue to the cavity and set them in place using clamps. I was very careful to set the pieces precisely, as I wanted a friction fit, otherwise the hooks won’t close properly. Obviously, no glue on the hooks themselves, only on the spacer pieces. I left the glue to set and dry overnight.

walnut, mid century modern, wall hanging tool rack

The hooks and spacers in place for a dry fit before glue up and shaping

The next day all I had to do was plane the hooks and spacers flush, and use a block plane to chamfer their outside edges before finishing. I used a couple coats of shellac followed by paste wax. The hooks work just as they should, and close flush to the spacer pieces. To mount the racks I used brass screws countersunk into the backer board – I’ve always loved the look of walnut and brass.

walnut, mid century modern, wall handing tool rack

The finished 100% wood wall hanging tool rack!

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Builds, Wall Hanging Coat Rack, 2 comments
Ashley Iles MKII Chisels- First Impressions

Ashley Iles MKII Chisels- First Impressions

I spent a pretty large proportion of my time as a beginner woodworker looking for, and restoring old tools. Probably way too much time, and it took away from time I should have spent learning to saw, chisel and plane properly. In recent months I went through a bit of a philosophical change, sold off most of my extra tools (I had a lot) and for the most part, started replacing them with new, high quality tools. I’ll be writing about what brought about this change and the tools I forsook and what I replaced them with in another post. Nevertheless, it’s actually very easy to find an old plane and turn it into a stellar performer. Old chisels are actually a bit more finicky (and boring) to restore. Not to mention some people (myself included) find mismatched sets of chisels rather unattractive. I guess I’m just shallow like that. Anyways, it was time to look for a new set of bench chisels, and after a lot of research, I decided to go with the set of six Ashley Iles MKII Chisels.

Ashley Iles, MKII, Chisels, Alfie Shine, Marking Knife

My package from the UK – Ashley Iles MKII chisels, Alfie Shine and Marking Knife

When I first started woodworking, I bought my first ever chisels from Home Depot. It wasn’t long before I outgrew them. I’ve tried a variety of chisels up till now, the new Stanley Sweethearts, mismatched vintage chisels, Marples blue chips, the red Footprint equivalents and a set of vintage German chisels to name a few. Some of these were great, and some not so much. Add to that the fact that every single forum thread on chisels seems to include at least a few references to Ashley Iles MKII Chisels, Paul Sellers used to recommend them(not so much nowadays), my lack of self control and my newfound determination to replace my old tools with top quality tools that require no work, and I found myself ordering the set of six MKII chisels before I knew it.

Ashley Iles, MKII Bench Chisels

The MKII chisels in the tool roll they come in

There are no dealers for Ashley Iles tools in Canada, so I purchased mine from the Ashley Iles website. They were out of stock initially, so I had to wait a little before I could place my order. The set of six MKII chisels and shipping to Canada cost me around $220, a very decent price for a high quality set of chisels. The website warns that these tools are in high demand, and may take up to 21 days before they ship, and they aren’t joking. Mine took 22 days, and was shipped using Royal Mail Standard, so it was close to two months before I finally received mine. These chisels are handmade in Sheffield, and Ashley Iles are a small family run business, so the wait is well justified.

MKII, Ashley Iles, Bench Chisels

Glue squeeze out from the ferrules

The chisels arrived in a rolled up jean tool roll. I don’t travel with my chisels, so the tool roll is extraneous to my requirements, but it’s still I nice touch. I believe they used to come with a leather roll before, but that’s just how these things go. This was the first tool I ordered from the UK, and something about it had me super excited. Upon unravelling the tool roll and taking out the chisels, I was…rather disappointed. The brass ferrules on most of the chisels were loose and coming off, which was expected, coming from humid England to dry, cold northern Alberta. However, the underneath the ferrules was a healthy amount of glue squeeze out, that was clearly not wiped off during manufacturing. The manufacturer’s mark on the chisels was stamped on without much care as to the orientation, making the overall fit and finish of the tools rather sloppy. This might seem nit-picky, but given that most premium, small tool manufacturers go over and above what is expected these days, this aesthetic lack of care was rather disappointing. Other than these issues the chisels have an understated beauty about them – the Bubinga handles are hand turned, in classic and simple pattern that is easy to hold and is hefty enough to be able to withstand striking.

Ashley Iles MKII, Bench Chisel

The manufacturer’s marks were stamped on without much care for the orientation

Anyways, given the disappointing first impressions, I was really worried about the flatness of the chisel backs. The chisels are slightly hollow ground, and this is supposed to make the backs easier to flatten. I decided to skip the 1200 grit diamond stone and head straight to my 4000 and 8000 grit Bester Imanishi ceramic stones to flatten and hone the chisels. Once I started I realised immediately that I needn’t have worried about the quality of the steel – the backs flattened to a polish in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. Honing the edges was similarly quick. The steel was befitting of a premium chisel, and ultimately that’s what counts the most.

Hollow grind, Ashley Iles, MKII Chisels

The flattened backs on all the chisels, showing the hollow grind

I used the chisels to build a dovetailed coffee box for a friend’s birthday, and they really excelled at chopping and cleaning out the corners of the pins and tails. The lands are ground down very fine at the tip, making them very well suited to the dovetailing tasks. In use the chisels felt balanced, hefty and well made.

Overall I wouldn’t list these chisels as premium offerings – they don’t have the fit and finish required to be considered in the same league as the Veritas, Lie Nielsen or Blue Spruce bench chisels. That being said, the set of six Ashley Iles MKII chisels were considerably cheaper – less than half the price of the set of five Veritas PMV11 chisels, and less than a third the cost of Blue Spruce chisels, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison. It should be noted that the price has gone up quite a bit since I ordered them. They’re currently around 40% more expensive than they were a few months ago. For the price I paid, I don’t regret the purchase at all – it’s still early days, but it appears other than the minor issues with fit and finish, the Ashley Iles MKII chisels are lifetime tools that are premium where it counts.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Reviews, Tools, 0 comments
The Artisan Coffee Table Pt. 2 – Ideas and Concepts

The Artisan Coffee Table Pt. 2 – Ideas and Concepts

I took the design I sketched to my wife for her approval. She okayed it but didn’t seem too enthused, so I took my time looking up various other designs. The mid-century modern coffee table designs seemed to fall in one of two camps, either a table with skewed and tapered legs and thin top, or a box shaped carcase on smaller legs. The wife seemed a lot more enthusiastic about the latter, so the overall design theme for the Artisan coffee table was settled.

When designing a piece of furniture, the overall design of the piece needs to be based on it’s setting. In this case, the coffee table would be seen and used mostly against our living room couch, so I set the basic dimensions based on the couch. When sketching my piece I like to sketch the key aspects of the environment to scale to be able to visualise roughly how it’ll look.

Mid-century modern coffee table, couch

Sketching the key furniture that the table will be viewed against – the couch

Most mid-century modern coffee tables I came across on the internet with box-shaped carcases looked rather disproportional to me – they either had legs that were too long, or stretchers that were too long or short, ruining the visual relationship between the top and the base. I decided to go with the golden ratio to establish the dimensions between the top and the base, both for the length and the depth. The other key aspect to this sort of a design is the angle of skew and taper on the legs. I tried out a few different angles before settling on my final design.

Mid century modern, artisan, walnut

Walnut lumber for the Artisan coffee table – and my cat

I left off last post at the lumber purchasing stage – it just so happened that I came across someone selling a pretty large amount of lumber on Kijiji (a Canadian craigslist of sorts), and the bulk of the wood was walnut. I picked out a few pieces based on grain and colour similarities and stickered them to allow the wood to acclimatise to my home. I’ve overlooked this step in the past and kicked myself for it later on. With the wood left to sticker, it gave me some more time to settle the finer details of the design.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Artisan Coffee Table, Builds, 0 comments