Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What have I learned by building the sea chest?

Wow, this title reminds me of papers you had to write in the school, except that here I get to choose the subject.

We are currently waiting for the crew change helicopter to arrive, so we can start our journey towards home. So I started rethinking the building of the sea chest, what was a success, and what wasn't, which tools did I miss the most etc.

I really missed a marking gauge, I think it would have enabled me to make tighter dovetails. I used an ordinary pencil, and it worked, but it is easier to achieve a consistent look through using a proper marking gauge.

Some real sandpaper would have been nice, and perhaps to a finer grade than 120.

I kind of missed a mallet, but I got by using an ordinary hammer or a rubber hammer. So it didn't stop the project.

A scrub plane or a cambered blade for the Stanley No 3 would have made the stock preparation faster.

Both the mallet and the marking gauge could have been manufactured onboard, but I wanted to finish the chest instead of straying from the path and making various side projects.

I actually tried to make a plow plane that used the 1/4" chisel as a blade. That was not a success. I tried to make it in about 1 hour, and not surprisingly it did not work very well. The reason for the plow plane was due to my original plan of making a panel lid with mitered bridle joints at the corners.

I have become way better than I ever imagined at preparing stock by hand, and I have learned how to use a planing stop and just letting the board rest freely on the table. This is something I would never have dared to tackle at home, but I didn't have the option out here.
The grain orientation on the stock varied from nice, straight and easily planeable to unruly, twisted, interlocking, multiple directional and generally difficult granin. I discovered that traversing produced a slightly fuzzy, but flat surface without too much tearout. this is where som more sandpaper would have been really handy.

Gluing up the oily woods always needed 24 hours in the clamps. And I think that my glue problems were more traceable to the wood than to the glue afterall. Some hide glue would probably have helped.

A fresh hacksaw blade can be used as a pull saw, for fine cuts, or it can be used mounted in the hacksaw as a normal dovetail saw. The kerf will be wider than on a normal saw, but this is mostly notable in the corners of the dovetails, where you need to clean a little more with a chisel.
One of the advantages of a hack saw is that you can get blades with a different toothing, and it is very quick work to change the blade. I think the blades I used were 18 TPI, but 24 TPI is also normal.
If I am going to teach my children to saw dovetails, I will let them use a hacksaw, because it is not destroyed if they twist it in the kerf, as could be the case with a real dovetail saw with a fine blade.

Making things with canted sides is not difficult, you just need to trim the edges afterwards, due to the inevitable height difference there will be du the the different angles. And it makes it at lot easier to fit the shirt, since you can assemble the skirt off the chest and slide it on once it is dry. And a side benefit is that the further down you press it, the tighter the fit will be.
The angles of the sides are 8 degrees, and I didn't have any problems concerning getting the clamps to hold at this angle. I didn't make any wedges to straighten up the pressure, but just used a normal offcut under the jaws.


  1. I think this is an important part of every project. In the Army we called it an AAR - After Action Report. Look at what happened - good, bad, indifferent, and see what lessons you can use that information for in the future. Not a bad idea to post it here, I think I'll do that on my blog from now on. For no other reason than a record.

    Will you take anything with you your next time out, such as sandpaper or some other small tools?

    1. Hi Brian

      There is nothing like a cool abbreviation to make things sound cool: AAR. Actually I think it is universal that various armebd forces excell in ´making abbreviations.
      I am going to bring at least a marking gauge, and some better chisels. I can get the money refunded by the Company's welfare fund. So I think I'll also bring some sandpaper.

  2. I am catching up.I had to create a google account to make comments on your blog.
    Diy marking gauge :

    hand router:

    The result you have achieved with such a limited set of tools is fantastic.


    1. Hello Sylvain

      I thought that it was possible to make comments without a google account, but I am glad that you took the trouble to comment.
      I have an extra old marking gauge here at home, so I think I'll bring that one out, but it could definetely be interesting to make a hand router. So thanks for the links.
      The chest made it home in one piece, so all I need to do is to buy a small chain to keep the lid from flipping over the back when opened. I attached two small eyes just before going home. I never included any pictures of them.
      And thankd for the nice comment.

  3. I can relate to your comment on planing with just a stop. I don't thickness plane boards by hand very often, but if I have to remove some material I do it with just a stop. It took me a while but I learned to not put any downward pressure on the plane and let it's own weight be the "clamp" Since I've been doing that I've virtually eliminated plane tracks.
    I think your next time out a small bottle of glue would be helpful, maybe a block plane, a marking gauge, and a combination square. I'm trying to think small, but I always use those tools on every project.

  4. Hi Bill
    I would like to bring some glue, but I don't know if it will survive the airplane trip. Your are not allowed to bring liuids onto the plane in your handbag, and I think that the temperature in the cargohold is below freezing, so that sort of rules out normal PVA glue.
    The company has got a welfare fund for each ship, and our ship has hardly spent any of it, so I plan on buying some small tools for bringing on board. I think a block pane is a good idea. Othervise I had thought of some better chisels, some sandpaper and perhaps a saw of some type. I have an old marking gauge that I can donate, and I think there might be a plane too that could be converted to a scrub plane.