Wednesday, April 24, 2013

1/12 Scale European style workbench and tools

This project began life as a "I can do better than that" moment brought on by an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine. There were a couple of pictures of a larger scale workbench shaped object that someone had routed out of a solid piece of flamed maple. It was pretty and all, but totally non functional. The face vise was present, but just indicated in the carving.

Intrigued, I wandered down to the place I call my shop or cave and found a long narrow piece of incredibly flamed maple that I scavenged somewhere and held onto in case it might come in handy one day. I ran it through the hobby bandsaw and made roughly 1/4 inch square strips. After reversing every other strip I cut them into maybe 7 inch long pieces and glued em up into a slab. Next day I took off the clamps, scraped off the glue and sanded the slab. Darned if it didn't look like a counter or bench top.

Off I went to the library for research on workbenches. I decided that I was going to build it in 1/12 scale and approached the drawings with that in mind. I don't remember whose plans I finally decided on, but it was either a Veritas or a Lie Nielson or a combination of both.

I didn't have presence of mind, or a digital camera to photo document it's creation, but can recall that every piece was cut and fit one at a time. Initially the feet on the frame ended before the front of the bench, which would have caused it to tip if any pressure was applied in terms of using the bench dogs for planing. This would not do... if Stuart Little dropped by I am not sure my homeowner's insurance would cover his injuries if it fell over onto him while he was working. I knocked them off and put an extended set on that provides pebble solid stability just in time to enter it into the fair. All joinery is as the plans showed with mortise and tenon where needed.

The vise mechanisms centrally consist of a flanged capture nut from somewhere. The face vise was straight forward, and the tail vise took several weeks of trial and error but eventually function as in full scale, and the little finger joints look really nice.

I will post more detailed photos later. This photo, assuming it actually shows up where I tried to put it shows the bench and the blue ribbon from the fair last fall.

Having a bench that appears to be functional at scale proved to be the beginning of what was to take years, and is still not complete... the fabrication of hand tools. Again, I tried to stick to 1/12 scale, and early on was rather loose with the definition. I did discover that in miniature as in full size one tool leads to another leads to another leads to a different class in order to make the first or second useful. Chisels need mallets, braces need bits, planes need blades and wedges etc etc.

All the tools are made of tool steel or brass and various hardwoods such as rosewood and ebony and oak. The swivel on the brace turns freely, and all the bits lock securely into the "chuck". The bits began life as nails and/or baling wire, one end clamped in a vise and the other in a hand drill which is turned until the desired twist is achieved. A segment is cut off, spun in a drill press against a flat file which creates the polished flat. Some work with micro files created the center lead points. They will bore cleanly in scale density balsa or basswood.

Bench hold downs are baling wire, hammered into shape then heated to straw color and quenched in oil. I am not sure if that really matters at this scale, but it gives them some nice spring which hold nicely with a small amount of finger pressure.

The only thing I have not acquired the tooling or skill to do is cutting saw teeth. I have been using hobby saw blades, cutting them down to size and shape, then properly riveting them to handles. I will confess that I do rely on cyanoacrylates to assist in friction for mounting handles.

Fair entries required all parts be stuck down or glued in place, something I was not willing to do to either the bench or tools, so I created a leather tool roll and secured each tool in it with microfine monofilament. This took overall best miniature and it's own blue ribbon in it's class.

I will post more detailed photos later on.

Hold fast and saw.

Cleaning up a dado.