Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2020.08.02 - New Toy

One of the many thing I have never been able to get the hang of in the workshop is sharpening things. Chisels, knives, plane blades all suffer from rounded ends and less than sharp edges. No matter how hard I try, no matter what gizmo or gadget I buy that is guaranteed to make it a snap to sharpen things, I manage to mess it up every single time.

As a result I gave away my hand planes and just use a power planer and as for chisels, I buy a set, use them until they won't cut properly any longer, throw them away and buy a new set. A chisel that is not razor sharp is a liability in the workshop and it isn't long before the edge is no longer doing the job. I must have spent hundreds of pounds on chisels over the years to the point where I try to use something else, anything else than a chisel no matter how much harder this makes the job.

Until now.

About three years ago I started watching Leo Sampson Goolden as he began the quest to restore the 1910 sailing ship Tally Ho. His website can be found here: and the start of the project is here: This is an amazing project to watch and although Leo is still a very young man he is a superlative craftsman and boatbuilder and well worth watching. If I had the time and money I would volunteer to work for him for a month or two.

However, I digress.

One of the things I noticed about two years ago is that he uses a sharpening system made by Tormek in Sweden to put the edges on all his hand tools and I put this on my list of things to get eventually.

Last week eventually arrived and so did my new Tormek T8.

And here it is and a small but heavy box.

This is the system unpacked on my workbench.

And this is a set of jigs to go with it.

Jigs for axes, short knives, long knives flexible knives (i.e. filleting knives) , scissors and short tools to go with the chisel and plane blade jig that comes as standard.

This is a water-cooled, slow-turning (90 rpm), Aluminium Oxide grindstone with a leather homing wheel.

Does it work.

Oh my, yes it does.

I took my worst chisel to try it out and in about five minutes the end was square again, the bevel was polished and the edge was far sharper than when it was new.

So I tried two of our kitchen knives. I think I overdid it, they are too sharp. You see, the sharper an edge the more brittle and fragile it is. The edge I put on the two knives was suitable for cutting fish or meat but not for chopping, which is their primary use. When I next sharpen these two I'll use a more durable but less sharp edge.

Now, the workbench is too high for the T8 which makes it awkward and uncomfortable to use and I'm not going to spend £800 on the official sharpening station that Tormek make, but I'm a maker and have tools, workshop and wood. So over the weekend I set too and started to build a wooden sharpening station.

I had some spare heavy duty castors, and various pieces of wood and the intention was to build a movable station the correct height for me to use the T8 which had at least two drawers for the tools which, incidentally, come in their own tool trays.

This is the skeleton of the station, glued, pinned and clamped.

This was a good place to stop for a cup of tea whilst the glue went off enough to continue and that Saturday was very hot. My weather station registered 32 Celsius.

Here I have put two screws in each glued joint and screwed the castors on the bottom. I'm using the 160mm (large) wheels since they cope very well with the somewhat rough workshop floor.

By the end of Saturday I had a functional station but without any drawers as yet since I don't have any sliders. I ordered some and will put in the drawers when the arrive.

I will ask Tina to make a canvas cover for the T8 since it is recommended that you don't let fine sawdust get onto the rubber drive wheel as that will make the drive slip. Not that this is a problem since you just remove the honing wheel and take a piece of sandpaper to the rubber after wiping the rubber down whilst it is turning to roughen the rubber surface allowing the drive to grip properly.

It's just a nuisance when a cover will prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Sunday's task was the sides, back and drawers.

Here you can see the completed sides made from some 9mm plywood. Because the plywood was slightly bowed I screwed a batten to each side of the plywood and then screwed the wood to the cross pieces of the frame top and bottom.

The back was done in the same way although it didn't need to have the battens as it was fairly flat, but I put them on anyway.

Next up are the two drawers for the jigs and other paraphernalia. I started with the easy one. Most of the jigs come in a plastic carrying case that has a foam insert to hold the jigs.

As you can see here.

The underside is also plastic so the drawer for this does not need to be a complete drawer, just sides, back and front and something to stop the plastic case from falling through.

The other tool tray is a bit different.

This one consists of just the rigid foam.

Although the foam is quite rigid and would probably would be fine with a similar skeleton drawer as the other tray, I'm not going to risk it when it just means putting a bottom on the drawer instead of just a few supports.

The front and back pieces are glued, pinned and clamped until the glue holds well enough to complete the frame, so this is a good time for a cup of tea.

Once the glue had set up enough to hold the wood together without the clamps I could move on to the next stage.

The side pieces needed to be glued in place. Now, glueing on end grain is a little trickier than normal since the glue is wicked away from the joint unless precautions are taken. This is fairly straightforward, you simply put glue on the end grain, wait a minute or two and then add some more glue to replace that which has been soaked up.

All the parts of the side pieces that have end grain have been glued once. Next I'll put glue on the rest of the joint and then re-coat these pieces again.

All done and clamped. The square was used to check that the sides were, well, square.

This is the second box which is much the same except that it has a full bottom. Glued and clamped down while the glue sets.

The drawer slides arrived during the afternoon and I found that I had made a slight mistake and the slides were too long by about half an inch. But they were usable so I finished off the drawers, mounted the slides and put it all together.

And here's the result. As you can see the drawers protrude out from the station a bit.

The drawer for the jigs.

The drawer for the other tools.

Here's a closer look at the protruding drawers.

Easily fixed with two covering boards one on either side to cover the gap.

Now there's no gap.

So, a very good weekend's work and now I have a sharpening station that I can use to sharpen all my tools.

2020.06.14 - Back to the Workbench V

The task for the day was to complete the router table as far as possible.

These arrived a couple of days ago, the emergency stop switches.

You open the cover to press the green on switch and in the normal operation you would also lift the cover to press the red stop button when you are done with the tool.

Having pressed the on switch you let the cover hang down like this. In an emergency you hit the big red button...

The cover snaps shut pressing the off button and it also locks into position. To open the over again you have to push the two red buttons on either side of the big red button. So I now have to think about how I am going to use these and where I will need to fit them.

In the meantime, an hour's work with table and mitre saws and the drill press resulted in these pieces of fibre board which will form the router table fence.

All but two of the joints were glued and screwed and the two that were just glued can be seen here with the clamps holding the pieces in place whilst the glue dries..

Here is the finished fence and pieces.

The two aluminium slides are put into the tracks, the fence put on top and the fixing screws put through the hoes in the fence and into the slides.

A spacer is then plaid under each tightening knob and the screw is tightened up so that the fence cannot move.

Like this.

The first test was without the fence as I used a follower bit.

This has a bearing at the top preventing the wood from getting any closer to the bit when it is cutting.

The second test used a straight bit and the fence was used to guide the workpiece. The dust removal hose sucks most of the shavings up through the hole in the back of the fence.

So, that is the router table done except for the emergency stop. It is useable without this, I'll just have to be careful.

Tea time!

2020.06.08 - Back to the Workbench IV

A short entry today although the work undertaken for today was was not short at all.

The task was to complete the router table structure and the starting point for this was to reinforce the work surface. Fibreboard has been used for the work surface and is 19mm in thickness or 3/4" and whilst this is sufficient for most things, the slots for the router table are 12mm or 1/2" in depth meaning that I have removed two thirds of the thickest and therefore considerably weakened the structure.

To compensate for this I cut, glued and screwed two wide pieces of 9mm plywood to the underside of the table effectively covering, and therefore reinforcing, the slots from the underside.

Here is one...

...and here is the other.

The next part of the task was to liberally coat the slots with epoxy glue, twice. The first coat was applied and soaked into the fibreboard and whilst it was still wet, the second coat was applied to glue the T-tracks in place. They were also screwed down.

Here is the finished result.

the edges of the hardboard cover have been screwed in place and the router mounted. I decided not to use a sealant under the perspex plate for the moment but will revisit that decision after the router has been used for a few months.

The router from the underside.

This completes the router table part of the workbench but there are a few other things to be built in order to make it usable.

I will build some storage shelves and drawers either side of the router to hold the fence, collets, router bits an such like so that everything I need to operate the router is close to hand.

I do not intend to build storage immediately below the router since I want any dust not caught by the dust collection system to fall to the floor and not into some drawer or onto a shelf or such like.

But that is for another day. Next up for this part of the project is the router fence.

Time for a fresh cup of tea.

2020.06.07 - Back to the Workbench III

The task for the day was the slots in the workbench for the T-tracks.

A straight edge used as a guide for the router and off I went.

So far, so good, but not even through the covering hardboard.

I hate freehand routing. Despite the guide I messed up part of the slot as you can see here.

So, for the second slot I made a proper router guide that sets all constraints. Both sides and both edges. No chance to mess up now.

Nevertheless, I went slowly at first, just to be on the safe side.

The inboard edge of the jig clamped down to the table saw using hold-downs.

The outboard end clamped to the clamping bar.

This worked a treat and I should have done it for the first slot.

Repeat the process for the third slot.

One end of the third slot was squared off with a chisel.

And here we are with the final result.

Now you may be wondering about the gap at the lefthand end of the third slot and also at the ends of the other two slots by the table saw.

Well, without those gaps...

The T-track bolts would not fit on to the track.

And without these bolts, the T-track would be pretty useless. So the gaps are essential.

That's today's task done, next up is to epoxy and screw the tracks into the slots and do some general reinforcing on the underside.

But for now, a cup of tea.

2020.06.04 - Birthday Gifts

My parents don't give me a physical gift for my birthday, instead they give me a sum of money with which to buy something I fancy. This is not a problem for me, they can't think of anything to buy for me which is fine. How can they be expected to when I don't know what I want to buy me for my birthday either?

I usually save a few of these gifts up and buy something really nice like the brass clock and barometer set for Naiad.

But this year I noticed that a chiming clock I had my eye on was being sold at a reduced price by a small shop. It had been used in the shop sitting on a shelf just keeping the time and chiming away on the house. I could afford it with my birthday money so I bought it.

It is a radio-controlled clock meaning that it can receive the time transmissions from the National Physics Laboratory in Cumbria and every two hours it checks the time from the NPL against the time it is showing and makes any adjustment necessary.

It's a really nice clock.

Here it is sitting on an shelf in my office just above the position I normally sit when at the computer.

However, a few weeks ago I realised that it was bothering me and couldn't figure out why until late one evening when all the electronics had been switched off for the night, the skylight was closed so I couldn't hear any noise from outside and in the near silence of the room it struck me. The clock didn't tick. It was totally silent. I expected it to tick and the absence of the tick was what was bothering me.

So I bought the mechanism for another clock that specifically ticked.

And I epoxied that to the inside f the case. You can see it here with the whitish epoxy holding it in. Now my clock ticks. Not loud, but enough that I can just about hear it and the clock no longer bothers me.

I'm a very strange person!

Time for a fresh cup of tea.

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