Big Bridle Joints

From Wayne's Dusty Box of Words
big bridle joints

Today was a back-in-the-shop day.

Last weekend ended Phase 3 of the Great Rewiring Project. When I moved into this house, the basement was divided lengthwise in half. One half was "finished" in lovely green paneling and asphalt tiles with an actual ceiling. This is now partly Marcus's bedroom, SCA storage, not yet cleaned tools and the sewing room. The other side was the laundry room at one end and a rudimentary shop in the other. It had 1 outlet with the sump pump plugged into it and another "outlet" in the base of the single naked light bulb fixture in the ceiling.

That was a blank slate and over the intervening 20 years, many sketches have been drawn on that slate. To the point where some dubious things were going on with wire, mostly in the open ceiling. I no longer remember what they all went to and some were a little touchy. Plus, much to my annoyance, there were several extension cords in regular use to power things in the shop. IMO, that shouldn't be necessary., especially when I am perfectly capable of installing an outlet anywhere I please.

So, the rewiring began a couple of months ago. First was the "outer" shop. An area between the shop proper and the laundry room that's home to the lathe, the band saw, the jointer and the planer and quite a collection of wood, mostly smaller and/or exotic bits of this or that. Lest you get the impression that this is a larger space than it is, all the tools except the lathe are on wheels and are mostly unusable in their stowed position.

This room is also home to a sub-panel I had installed by someone with more knowledge of such things than I and a willingness to stick their hands in my main panel which doesn't have a separate cut-off. It's also necessary because the service panel is, naturally, on the opposite corner of the house from the shop and each circuit I added necessitated a 50' run of cable just to get it to the room. Now, I have a 60A panel right outside the shop and everything runs from there.

This outer shop had one double outlet suitable for the lathe and the jointer. Both are 110V and for obvious reasons, never in danger of being run at the same time. But, the planer, which I use all the time required an extension cord to make it to the outlet further dragging down the voltage on a tool that wants all 15A.

So I used one of the open slots in the subpanel to give the existing outlet and a new outlet in the ceiling above the planer their circuit. Also tidied up some of the existing wiring that…well, it was a mess and now it's better.

Phase 2 was separating the tools circuits feeding the shop. The early version of the wiring was 3 circuits, 2 for tools and one for lights. (Important safety tip: Always always have the lights on a different circuit from tools lest you find yourself in a dark shop with a slowly spinning down table saw somewhere near your hands when the board you were ripping caused the breaker to trip.) When Mike put the subpanel in, the tools circuits somehow got conflated in the box and there was effectively only one circuit.

I didn't like that even though I am typically the only one in the shop and am unlikely to be drawing a ton of current, it just seems unnecessary when I have spare breakers and Romex. So I think I spent 2 weekends sorting that back out into 2 circuits and adding more outlets so no extension cords would be in regular use there either.

That just left the lights. I use track lights so you never have to be pissed off about where you mounted that light. The ceiling is low though, so the two main tracks are off to the north and south walls with plenty of fixture pointing at all the important locations.

Time for another digression, light bulbs. Initially, these were incandescent 90W spots and floods (PAR38s). Remember, this was 1999-2000. So 8-10 of those lit the place up pretty well. But, it was hot as hell in there in short order. I jumped on the CFL bandwagon as soon as they made bulbs in that power range. Well, sort of. CFL bulbs have crappy color, for starters. Aren't as bright as the incandescent bulbs they were supposedly replacing and were slow to start half the year (winter, when the shop start temp was in the upper 50s or 60s).

So along comes LEDs, instant one, that's nice. Color is a little better, but still not great and still not very bright. I just installed the second generation of LEDs that are close to Daylight color (5000K according to the package), so the color is much better. But the "65W equivalent" bulbs still aren't all that bright.

To be fair, there's very little ambient light. The shop is partially below grade and while the west wall has a large window, it's covered otherwise everyone driving or walking by would have too good a view of a shop stuffed full of tools. There's also a door that is half windows. It's a crappy old door that in the winter has a blanket hooked up over it to minimize the drafts (slated to be replaced this winter).

And, of course, I can only get in there in the evenings and some weekends, so it's often dark anyway. Plus my visual acuity isn't what it was. So…now I have 20 "65W equivalent LED Daylight HD Color" lights on 5 tracks. They are 11W each, so I am drawing less power than 3 of the original lights and getting somewhat close to the light level that the 8 original lights produced with much better color. A win, I guess.


I rewired the existing tracks and added 2 more to bring the total up to 5 tracks and one outlet (for temporary spotlights) all on their circuit. That also tidied up the last of the cringe-worthy earlier wiring.

There's one more phase, that's the area outside the shop door to the outside. It's about 2' below grade and has a roof and short stairs. I've turned it into the tool cleaning area and it's home to grinders, wire wheels and buffers. Things that would contaminate regular woodworking with dirt and metal dust.

That area is currently served by an extension cord fed through the shop window frame and runs off Tool Circuit 1 (I think). There used to be a light next to the door (an old 1960's fixture) that was taken over by bees that were immune to all chemicals I used to discourage them. So I removed the fixture and covered the hole. Fixed their little red wagon.

I am going to feed tool power and light power through the old hole and wire that area properly eliminating the final regular use extension cord in my world.

All of the above was, of course, a distraction from Getting Stuff Done in the shop, but it needed to be done and we're all happier for it. But, I am even more happy to get back to projects that have been languishing.

First was a Type 2A Folding Stool that I made for Jess from maple and purpleheart. I had made this for her birthday (at the beginning of the month) and it was "done", but needed a couple of coats of finish before final assembly. You want to put any finish on before you assemble one of these. Since I would prefer to use toxic chemicals outside, the weather is a factor. Since her birthday, the weather has been either cold, wet, windy, or some combination of those. But this week we finally got a couple of days above 50 degrees with light winds and I was able to get enough finish on to satisfy me.

So I gave everything a rub down, assembled the pieces and glued the feet and arms in place. Then trimmed the dowels and adding the ends. I found some commercially turned ends that look OK and are a hell of a lot less work than cutting and sanding itty bitty parts with my hands.

Jess was very pleased to take delivery of the stool and it's now prominently on display in the dining room while we think of where it will live between events.

On to the other project on the bench, my repro of Stickley's No. 53 Double Costumer. Or, in modern parlance, a big coat rack.

Made from leftover bits from the Great White Oak Cal King Bed Project, it only has 6 parts, but is a bit complicated. The two posts are glued up from two pieces of 6/4 boards and then milled square. Before gluing I could use the dado cutter to make the mortices for the spreaders very easily and use key blocks in the resulting mortises to align the glue up. Very Handy.

The feet are cut from some 12/4 red oak that I had from years ago. Overall those boards weren't great, but if you need something thick and not too long, they are handy. The feet are 2" and change wide, so it was nice to not have to glue something up. I just made a pattern and cut them out on my nifty bandsaw.

So, the tricky part. The legs join to the feet with these large bridal joints. You cut the center out of the bottom 6" or so of the legs and then make a shallow dado on the sides and top of the feet to receive the leg. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Yes and no. This is white oak (for the legs). I wasted away as much of the open mortise as I could on the bandsaw and was just going to chop out what remained with a chisel. That was an ordeal. And now I have a couple of chisels that look like I've been opening paint cans with them…This wood is stupidly hard and since these are modern copies of Stanley No. 750 bench chisels, they are A2 tool steel, much harder than the O1 steel the vintage tools are made from. So they will stay sharp longer. In theory. But. They are hard. And a PITA to sharpen. So now they are in a pile in front of my sharpening station until I recover enough stamina to redo the edges crumpled by the oak.

For the feet, I had a Better Plan.

I needed a dado 2-1/8" wide and 3/8" deep on the top and sides of both feet. The "hand tool book" on something like this is to layout the locations, then saw the shoulders of the dados and then use a chisel hog out the wood between the saw kerfs and then tidy up with a router plane. And I have done that very technique before. On pine.

Sure, this is "only" red oak, not white, but still…

I did lay everything out, make nice tidy class 1 saw cuts (marking knife, chisel in from the waste side for a nice start). But even there, I quickly abandoned my fancy carcass saw from the $12 Home Depot Stanley "Fine Finish" plastic handled saw. Ugly as sin with the yellow plastic. But the teeth are impulse hardened like a Japanese saw, but less fragile. It's also unsharpenable, so when it gets dull, you throw it away and get a new one. It's very sharp but the kerf is a bit wide so it's great for breaking down stock, but not a joinery saw in most cases. This is one of those OTHER cases. And it handled a 6" wide cut thought red oak quite well.

Great, we are now set to get the waste out of the dados now. Just for kicks, I tried using the sharpest of my need to be sharpened chisels and gave it a go. It was clear that this wasn't going to end well. This air-dried oak is kind of stringy and being a former yard tree, the grain is running all over the place and I was worried it would dive on me and cause big divots in the bottom of the dado.

Time to science this shit. With some German engineering. Enter Bosch. My handy 1-1/2 HP Bosch router with a nice 1/2" straight cutting bit. Took a couple of passes to sneak up on just the right depth so we had a good but not too snug fit to the leg mortises. Then it was on to vaporizing oak by the cubic inch.

While noisy and messy, it was very satisfying.

Time to let the air filter run for a while and clear the air…