Staining Vise Handles, Cutting Grooves for the Deadmen, a Dying Router, and a Big Screw-up.

Since I just finished sanding all the vise handles on the lathe, I figured that I might as well put some finish on them.  I went with my favorite finish, Red Mahogany Danish Oil.

With the handles sanded, I prepared to add a coat of danish oil.

With the handles sanded, I prepared to add a coat of danish oil.

The vise handles are made out of maple and the color did not take very well.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not all that I could have hoped for.  I would have liked the handles to look more like the piece of plywood that they are sitting in the photo below.

The stain in the oil didn't take too well.

The stain in the oil didn’t take too well.

I completely submerged the end caps in the oil and let them sit for about 5 minutes.  I threaded them onto a length of wire and let them drain for about a half hour.  Finally, I wiped them off and left them to cure for a few days.

I left the end caps to dry on a piece or wire.

I left the end caps to dry on a piece or wire.

Only a couple more things to do now before I can finally join the top and bottom of my bench together.  Since this will be an ambidextrous bench and will essentially have two fronts and no back, I’m going to install a sliding deadman on both sides.  This means that a groove will need to be added underneath the bench top.  My bench top is currently inverted for the vise installation, so now’s the time to route the grooves.

I have a router that I have always been very happy with.  It was one of the first tools I bought when I decided to do more woodworking and put together a more capable shop.  My previous router was a ¼” collet Ryobi with a fixed base.  This was a pretty good upgrade and gave me plunge ability.  I think I bought it in 2006, but I take good care of my tools, and as you can see, it still looks nearly new.

To route the grooves in the bench top, I installed a ¾” spiral end mill bit.  I wanted to route a groove ¾” wide by 1″ deep, so I knew I would have to make multiple passes.  I set the fence so that the cut would align with the back edge of the sapele bench top edge.

I setup my router with a ¾" end mill bit.

I setup my router with a ¾” end mill bit.

I set the fence to route the groove flush with the back edge of the sapele.

I set the fence to route the groove flush with the back edge of the sapele.

The groove on the first side went really well.  I think I made three passes (maybe four) and the cut was done.

The first groove went smoothly.

The first groove went smoothly.

When I attempted the route the groove on the other side, things didn’t go so well.  I think I was taking too heavy a cut and this caused the router to slow down.  I got some burning.  I thought that the last pass should clean things up, but the router seemed to loose power and was turning at about 50% of its normal speed.  Just as I was finishing the cut, lots of blue and white sparks were visible under the top cover.  You can often see tiny, tiny blue sparks on an electric motor if you look right where the brushes meet the armature while the motor is running, but these sparks were huge.  Not good!  The router sounded bad too.

I took the brushes out and cleaned them, but this didn’t fix anything.  I called the local tool repair shop and the owner told me that it sounded like the armature had a short.  I asked if it was worth replacing/repairing and he asked how expensive the router was.  With a sinking feeling, I said that I’d paid about $80 for it 8 years ago, and as expected, heard that it wasn’t worth repairing.  I think that I’ll take it apart and tinker with it at some point.  I really liked this one.

I remembered seeing a bunch of adds from Highland Woodworking about the Triton routers that they sell, and a deal for a free belt sander with purchase of the router.  I called them up, but the deal is no longer being offered.  I’ll wait and see if it comes back.

While cutting the other groove, my router died.

While cutting the other groove, my router died.

While planning out these grooves I had an interesting idea.  If you remember, when I made the stretchers for the base of the workbench I incorporated the upside-down V on the front of the stretchers.  It wasn’t needed on the short, front to back stretchers, but I kept it on them for aesthetic reasons and to keep all the stretchers the same.  Obviously a sliding deadman would be useless on the short stretchers, but here’s my idea:

  • Route a dado in the underside of the bench top above the short stretchers.
  • Design a bench hook and shooting board that could be installed and removed in the same manner as the deadman.
  • This way I’ll have a neat and tidy way to store these items on the ends of the workbench base.
  • Depending on how much space these take, I could add a plain board at one end for hanging frequently needed bench tools.  We’ll see, but it is an interesting possibility.

With my big router out for the count, I turned to my Ridgid trim router.  I thought that a ¾” bit might be too much for such a small router, so I installed a ½” bit and made multiple passes.  Since this dado goes across the bench, I needed to improvise a fence to guide the router.  I jointed a scrap of wood and clamped it to the bench top.  The grooves above the long stretchers are 9/16″ in from the edge, so for the sake of consistency, I laid out this cut to be 9/16″ in from the edge of the legs.  I carefully drew everything out on the bench top and set the fence to match the distance from the edge of the router bit to the edge of the base plate.

I switched to my smaller trim router.

I switched to my smaller trim router.

I took it easy with this smaller router and made about 5 or six passes to work my way down to a ¾” depth.

I made a series of light cuts.

I made a series of light cuts.

I took the cut to full depth and then widened it by moving the fence.

I took the cut to full depth and then widened it by moving the fence.

After moving the fence, I reset the bit depth and worked my way down again with multiple passes.

I again made the cut in multiple passes.

I again made the cut in multiple passes.

I got done with the cut and was sooooo pleased with my improvised method for making this dado.

And then it dawned on me….  I had cut this dado 9/16″ from the INSIDE edge of the legs. It needs to be 9/16″ from the OUTSIDE edge.

In the immortal words of P.G. Wodehouse, “I felt as if I had stepped onto the place where the last stair ought to have been, but wasn’t.”

This isn’t my first screw-up on this bench. I broke some dovetail pins when adding the breadboard ends.  However, I was able to patch those in a way that can’t be seen and all is well. However, this screw-up is here to stay.

I drew out where the dado should have been.

Crap! I routed a dado in the wrong place.

Crap! I routed a dado in the wrong place.

I set up the fence once more, but decided to try using the ¾” bit and cutting the dado without having to move the fence.  I just made really light cuts and it all went well.

I cut a new dado, this time in the right place.

I cut a new dado, this time in the right place.

The vises are already bolted in place and they blocked the router base from completing the cut.   I finished the dado with a brace, mallet, and chisel.

The base plate on the router wouldn't let me get all the way to the end of the dado.

The base plate on the router wouldn’t let me get all the way to the end of the dado.

To fill the errant dado, I planed some wood to be a tight fit and cut it to length.  I applied glue and hammered it in.

I planed a piece of Douglas Fir to size a prepared to glue it in.

I planed a piece of Douglas Fir to size a prepared to glue it in.

I applied the glue and tapped the piece in.

I applied the glue and tapped the piece in.

I flushed everything up with a jack plane and then a little sandpaper.

Once planed flush and sanded, it looked like this.

Once planed flush and sanded, it looked like this.

The bench is patched but the repair is obvious.  There’s no hiding this, but at least it is on the underside of the bench top and only my dogs will ever see it.

At least it is on the underside of the bench.

At least it is on the underside of the bench.

Here’s the bench after all the grooves/dados were cut:

Here's the benchtop with the grooves and dados cut.

Here’s the benchtop with the grooves and dados cut.

Pretty soon I’ll chop the mortises for the through tenons on the top of the legs.  I’ve really been putting this off.  If I screw those up, I don’t think it will be fixable, so I want to make sure I do it just right.

I have also been doing a little experiment with hot danish oil and hot wax.  No… not that sort of hot wax experiment, get your mind out of the gutter!

I’ll post about that shortly.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don’t build enough – I need help!

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5 Responses to Staining Vise Handles, Cutting Grooves for the Deadmen, a Dying Router, and a Big Screw-up.

  1. Sorry about your router dying. That’s enough to curdle the day. You may be able to fix it by turning the commutator and cutting back the insulation strips between the copper bars. It’s not worth paying to have it done but it can be an interesting experience.
    I’ve had a lot more problems with new power tools, 1995 on, than my older pre 1995 tools. The newer ones are using plastic guides for the brushes. They work okay until you load the motor heavily. Then the brushes heat up and seize in the slides. The brush wears away and the resulting arcing heats up the commutator. The insulation fails in the commutator because it’s plastic too. The result is catastrophic failure.
    My old metal bodied drills dating back to the 50’s use brass slides for the brushes and bakelite for the commutator insulation. I’ve replaced 2 or three brush sets in some of the more heavily used tools. My old Thor drill motor is still running after 50 years of my use. That’s after having the frame welded, and 10 or more years of use by the Maintenance Dept. of the Midwest Foundry. They discarded it when one of the windings quit. It developed a dead spot on the commutator. If it stops in a certain place I have to turn the chuck a few degrees to get it started.
    Granted I haven’t been buying high end power tools.
    The exceptions are my Dewalt battery operated tools. They don’t seem to be bothered by overloading. I’m probably jinxing myself but so far after 8 years the 1/2 inch drill and reciprocating saw are still going strong.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for all the information, that’s great. I think you are right, as I was definitely overloading the motor at the time it died. I will have to take it apart and tinker with it a little. I’ll try what you recommended about the insulation strips between the copper bars.

      Thanks for the help. I really appreciate it.

      Jonathan

  2. joemcglynn says:

    That cross grain brace you added will probably just make the bench stronger…you should make one for the other end so it looks symmetrical to your dogs 🙂

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Joe,

      Thanks for the morning chuckle. It sure would be a shame if the dogs had to stare confusedly and such and asymmetrical bench.

      By the way, your new chevalet looks amazing. I’ve been following your posts with keen interest.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

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