So I just finished a new striking knife based upon the one pictured in Smith’s Key. I’ve made a lot of striking knives in the past, and used a bunch of different commercially available models as well. However, none have felt as nice to me in use as this one. Maybe it’s just because this one has been more work to make than any other knife I’ve ever made or used. But I don’t think so. Something about that swell just behind the tapered blade that just makes it fit the hand so well.
This is probably an easy tool for a blacksmith to forge, but for someone working from 1/4″ thick O1 stock and using nothing more than a hacksaw and file (and maybe a little help from a belt sander and grinder), it’s just plain tedious work. Not the kind I enjoy either. But it was worth it. I love the look and feel of this knife. However, I won’t be making any more.
Someone out there needs to start making these again, though. Please!
Drawers have been a common feature on casework for almost as long as casework has been constructed. The most prevalent style of drawer arrangement used in furniture today is based upon the style developed in the 18th century. Basically, a frame is constructed to divide the casework into sections and the drawers are constructed to fit the opening, and ride on top of the frame.
In the 17th century, however, most drawers were side hung, meaning that the drawers did not sit on top of a frame, but instead they hung by runners attached to the drawer sides. This was done in two different ways. The drawer could have small strips nailed to its side to form a groove, or a groove could be plowed directly into the drawer side. I wanted to add a small drawer to my workbench since I recently move my old standing desk out of the shop. So I decided to use the 17th century style drawer construction to do so.
I started with the drawer runners. I ripped these out of a 3/4″ thick piece of pine. They are both 3/8″ thick by 3/4″ wide and long enough to support the sides of the drawer for as deep as it will be.
The drawer runners were attached to the insides of the workbench aprons with glue and cut brads. They are spaced down from the top of the drawer space so that they will sit approximately centered on the sides of the drawers when the drawer is mounted.
To facilitate the groove on the side of the drawer for the drawer runner, 17th century drawers were often constructed using just a single wide dovetail. Using the wide dovetail allowed the wide groove for the drawer runner to be plowed only through the long grain of the drawer sides and not have to be cut through any end grain pins. I decided to follow that practice with these drawers.
The groove was started with a 1/4″ blade in a plow plane. However, this didn’t plow the full width necessary. So instead of resetting the fence and moving the plow plane over, I used a sash saw to saw the other side of the groove, then wasted away the remaining wood with a chisel and smoothed the bottom of the groove with a 1/2″ square rabbet plane.
With a minimal amount of trimming and planing, the drawer was fit into the opening under the bench top. The runners weren’t exactly centered on the drawer sides but instead ended up centered on the total drawer height. I miscalculated when positioning the runners because I was using the full height of the false front rather than the reduced height of the drawer sides. The height of the sides was reduced by 1/2″ because the drawer bottom is attached by nailing it to the sides front and back. C’est la vie. It still works fine, even if the drawer runners aren’t centered on the dovetail.
The last thing to do was to attach a false front to cover everything up.
I’m really glad to see Chris writing about this form. I’ve been a fan of what Chris has come to call staked furniture for a long time. I was first introduced to the form through Roy Underhill’s early books and shows. And since that time I’ve built several items (mostly for the shop) using this method of construction. One of them actually pre-dates this blog, though I wrote an article on it several years later to capture the process.
This saw bench was actually my second attempt at building a saw bench in this style. My first was built around 2005 or 2006 and did not have the additional stretchers. It was much more similar to the ones Chris has been building. I added the stretchers because I determined that legs made from home center 2x material do not do all that well in this design without the stretchers. The soft, spongy material has too much flex in it to be used without stretchers. The thinner 1-1/2″ top doesn’t help either. Using good hardwood, especially riven, and a thicker top, solves this problem. However, even with the shortcomings of using construction grade softwood, the sawbench pictured above is still in use today, and the joinery is still tight and solid, though it is about time I replaced the bench as the top is all chewed up from hatchet blows, saw cuts, auger bits, random oils, varnishes and glues, and other [ab]use that it has been put through in the last 8 or so years.
Another one of my earlier “staked” pieces was my shave horse. In fact, the shave horse was one of the very first items I wrote about on the blog when it was first started. I’m still using it today, the legs are still tight and solid. There’s some flex when I sit, but again, this has more to do with the softwood construction lumber used to build the bench rather than the method of construction.
The thing I like so much about this method of construction is the simplicity of it. A sawbench like this can be built in just a few hours. The one pictured above was built in a single day, maybe 6 hours of work, even with the three added stretchers. Once built and assembled, the bench is very lightweight, but at the same time, the structure is extremely stiff and rigid, making for a very sturdy work surface. I also like the aesthetic of the style. There’s a simple elegance to it. While I like high style period furniture as well, I don’t keep much of it in my own home. The simpler, less decorated, “country” style pieces are more my taste for my own home. The higher style pieces (like the ball & claw stuff I’ve done) are fun to build, but I don’t really want most of it in my house. So I’m excited to see what else Chris has in store for his upcoming book. It sounds like the stuff he’ll be including is exactly the stuff that interests me most. High style, fancy stuff is nice. But the simple elegance of the less ornate “country” stuff is a bit more my speed.