Shed doors

My new house didn’t have a shed, but just a carport with no fourth wall (it was brilliant in every other respect, really—even insulated in the ceiling). So, as part of the WMF’s “Spark Project” (that aims to encourage employees to do more than just be wiki geeks), I decided to turn the carport into a shed by adding a set of wooden ledge-and-brace doors. There was a deadline of April 18 (i.e. tomorrow).

This post documents the process up to the point of being ready to hang the doors. Unfortunately, the hinges aren’t back from the galvanizer’s yet (or haven’t even been welded? Zoran the welder wasn’t communicating with me over the Easter break) so the project is incomplete; I’ll post more when the doors are up.

All of these photos and a few more are in a Flickr album.


How wide is not wide enough, or what is the absolute minimum garage door size that will still fit a (small) car? I settled on 2.2 m, and subsequent testing has confirmed that this is fine for most cars—not that cars will be allowed in this shed, mind.

Some changes were made as construction progressed: the double studs either side of the door were turned 90° in order that the hinge bolts be able to add some extra joining strength between them; the sizing of all timber was adjusted to match what was available. Mostly things turned out as planned though.


Fremantle Timber Traders

I wasn’t sure what to build the doors with, but heading to Freo Timber Traders (above) and finding a couple of packs of nice old Wandoo settled it.

Selecting the boards

The 60×19 for the cladding came from a house in Wembley; the 110×28 for the ledges and braces came from an old shoe factory in Maylands. The ex-factory floor was covered in machine oil, and full of holes from where the machines had been bolted down. None were in any awkward spots though, and as I was planning on oiling the finished product I wasn’t too worried about the oil.


The first thing to do was to prepare the timber for the ledges and braces by removing the tongues and grooves with a draw-knife and plane (shown below). I wasn’t too worried about making these edges pristine or accurate; these are shed doors not furniture and I rather like the rough, used, look. It was also stinking hot while I was hacking away at these, and there’s something viscerally satisfying about draw-knives, sweat, and following the grain of the timber (and what shitty grain some of it was! But some, smooth as silk).

Using a draw-knife to remove the groove

The main joinery of the doors is the mortise-and-tenon joints at each end of the four 45° braces. These are what take the main load of the cladding hanging on the outside. (It’s worth noting here how common it is for this style of door to have their braces put on the wrong way around — the idea is that the brace is in compression and for it to go up from where the hinge attaches; if it’s running from the hinge point downwards then it’s pretty much doing nothing, and the door will sag.)

Cutting the tenon cheeks:

Cutting a tennon

Some tenons, with the ledges behind:

Ledges and braces, cut to size

The mortises were easier than the tenons in some way, although they took longer. Mortises, cut by hand as I was doing, are basically an exercise in holding a chisel vertical and square, thumping it with a fair bit of strength, and moving it 2 mm before repeating.

One end of each mortise is cut at 45° where the brace comes in; the other is square and is where the main force of the door is held.

Finished mortice, with 45° at one end
Laying out number two door
Laying out number two door

Once the ledges and braces were done, the cladding was screwed on from the back with 40 mm stainless steel decking screws.

Screwing the cladding on

The boards were spaced with 2 mm gaps to account for timber movement, to prevent the doors from warping. The ends were docked square and to size once all the boards were on.

Spacer between the boards

The finished doors:

Both doors finished


The two side walls are 2.1 m high and about 400 mm wide. They’re painted treated-pine stud frames clad with more 19×60 Wandoo flooring.

They’re fixed to the slab below:

Bottom plate bolted to slab

And screwed to the beam above:

Top stud fixings

(The threaded rod in the background of the above is a tie to hold the top beam in its place when the force of the open doors is tending to pull it outwards.)

The cladding was put on with the same spacing as the doors:

Cladding the side panels

And when completed, had the place looking a fair bit closer to enclosed:

Cladding the side panels


Unfortunately, this is where it stops for now, because I’m having some hinges fabricated and they’re not yet done. As soon as they are, and the thirty bolts are doing their thing, I’ll post some photos of the finished project.

(By the way, I am surprisingly grateful to the Spark Project initiative for making me get off my bum and actually get to work on these doors.)

Drawer for my toolbox

My main woodworking toolbox has two runners inside, near the top edge, on which to slide a drawer. I put them in when I built the thing (I made them too long, or the lid props too long, or something too long, and had to chop a bit out of them so the lid would close; see at right. That’s irrelevant to the task at hand though.)

But I have no drawer — so, I’m making one. I’ve got a few odd bits of pine sitting around, mostly destined to be paint stirrers; I’ll bodge them together in a squarish shape, and my chisels and small things will have somewhere to be put.

The piece of 19×42 was a bit fat, or at least I thought it might look a bit odd next to the skinny walls made from the other pieces, so I ripped it in half.

Docked to length (with a few millimeters to spare for cutting off later), I then cleaned up the sawn surfaces (a bit; I’m not fussy, and sometimes like to see some saw marks). I usually work with Tas. Oak, and am always surprised at the soft squishiness of pine, and the speed with which it can be worked (or butchered, as one might say in this case).

The drawer bottom pieces were actually already within a gnat’s crotchet of where they needed to be, so I just planned their ends to get them squared up and the right length. The sides I then marked to length off the bottoms, because I really don’t care how big this thing is (it just has to fit itself).

I really should get around to making myself a bench hook or two; they’re far better than hanging things off the end of the bench. But I’m lazy; whenever I’ve got energy for woodwork, I want to get on with the thing at hand, and not get caught up in jigs and set-up and prep. A ridiculous, inaccurate attitude, I’m sure. It’s not like I get shit done anyway.

The time had come for beer, so that was procured (from a shockingly plastic homebrew bottle), and the glue-up commenced. It didn’t go right, at first, but I went and found a proper glass for it (and found my battery drill with a 1 mm bit), and after that the nails went straight and true and didn’t blow out the sides.

Probably, one should try to avoid blogging about gluing things together while actually doing it. But then, the computer was right there in the cupboard playing odd things from Radio Paradise, so it seemed easy enough. Got a bit of glue on the camera grip though.

The two short sides were next, being cut to length each to their own. They fitted with no dramas. By this time it was dark, and I was wondering what it would cost to get something more than a single fluro tube lighting my shed. Or even a new extension cord so I could run the computer, amp, and a desk lamp on my bench (radio takes precedence at the moment).

So, all done.

The album for all these photos is at

Agh, the sadness of blunt tools

The wood really wasn’t being nice to me, today. I was dressing some old jarrah with a scrub plane, and it just wasn’t cutting the mustard or the wood. Of course, it simply wasn’t sharp:

Plane blade, blunt

That shiny bit in the middle isn’t a trick of the light, it’s bluntiness.

However, I have no grinder, and this blade needs a fair bit taken off, so I’m giving up for the day…

Maybe I should get one of these from Carba-Tec:

Or be tricky and build something like this:

(From here)

The trouble with that latter is that it’s pretty impossible to find the stone for such a thing! Otherwise, would be brilliant.

Ah well… I’ll keep honing that blade…

Bookpress, free to a good home


I built this press in 2003 out of pine salvaged from bed frames that were being thrown out by University House at the ANU. I’ve barely used it since, and the time has come to admit that I’m never going to be the small-time bookbinder fellow that I perhaps at some point thought I might be.

So, hopefully, this will end up being of some use to the WA Craft Bookbinders Guild.


I am ripping down a piece of 135mm tas oak for a drawer-bottom. Straight down the guts of it, I mean: the sectional cut of greatest area; the big-board-to-two-thin-boards break; if you see what I mean. The sort of thing done in twenty-five seconds by a bandsaw, but taking me an hour and a half (maybe; I’m not counting, and I don’t think you should either). I sharpened my dad’s dad’s ripsaw yesterday (well, it’s sort of mine now — and how I love the thing!) and it’s now doing it’s octagenerian best (no, actually I’ve no terribly firm idea of how old it is) to rip straight and thin and planar. My muscles are attempting to keep up with it, and not doing so well. Perhaps another few drawer-bottoms, or wardrobe-backs, or other thinish bits of furniture cladding (which don’t mind their back’s been furry) will see me back in condition. Perhaps not.

Ripping timber like this is fun. That’s why I’m doing it. I don’t really need a drawer bottom made in this way — my dad gave me a perfectly suitable panel of ply just three days ago, that he didn’t want and that I’ve not other use for — so it must be for fun. Why else would I have eschewed the much faster (and yes, certainly more structurally stable, and probably stronger) route of plywood-and-glue and have the drawer slid into its home and gone from my todo list by now?

Because this isn’t about making a drawer, it would seem. (And oh! what other new-age cliches are to come next?!)

It’s about standing at my bench, making sawdust, hearing the tools in the wood, breathing with the strokes of the saw… feeling non-analytical for once! Just doing, very slowly, and not thinking anything of the future, or how all this is meant to work. It’s time to let the programmer’s brain sleep for a while…

(Oh, and “non-analytical”?! Yes, quite; but I didn’t say “non-ironic” did I? Hmm…)

An afternoon cutting dovetails

I’ve just come in from the shed, where I’ve been working on the tea shelf. It’s coming along well, although I’m about to reach one of those points of really seeing how good a workman I am, with the actual fitting the dovetails; up to now it’s all been a matter of marking and cutting and paring. So before launching into that I thought I’d come inside for a coffee.

Cutting dovetails is mostly a matter of getting one’s body into the right spatial relationship with the wood: stand above the cut, an eye on either side of the saw, and just cut down; for the tails, cant the timber over in the vice to whatever angle looks good (traditionally 1:7), and again, cut accoring to gravity. There’s really nothing to think about, no lines to follow (not down, anyway; there’s a guiding mark on the end grain, but even that can be ignored for the tails—for the pins, it’s critical). The whole process is quite fast, and rather relaxing; there’s not too much measuring and thinking to be done.

The goal is, of course, to cut the tails, mark the pins, cut them, pare the endgrain cuts back to the scribe lines… and then have it all just fit. Nice and snug, square and strong. Hmm… I’m not quite getting that, yet; but “little bit, little bit” as someone used to tell me! (Actually, this cutting and fitting is only what I’m aiming at—have been since arts school—but I know plenty of other people do it differently, and are far more concerned with accuracy. I just want to get the process swift and clean and right, and then do it over and over until the result is good.)

So cutting everything is easy, and there’d be the end of it if I were good enough. But I’m not, so the fiddly job of taking a bit off here, a whisker off there, and slowly fit-by-fit getting the parts to come together. This is what I need the coffee for.

I’d better get back to it!

Home work

Summer is over, so we’ve taken the shadecloth down in the courtyard, and started work on the vegie garden. My first ever attempt at bricklaying! It’s fun; a bit like cob building, but not as messy and with the added element of greater permanence. I guess I really live in the ‘burbs now… the other end of the wall is going to be a barbeque, nice and big and brick (but fear not, it’ll be rendered and probably colourfully-tiled also). It’s nice to spend a weekend at home, and actually have energy for the place again; it’s been a while.

I guess this project’s going to take a few more weekends.

Returning To This Blog’s Roots

I have been wanting to re-focus my blogging, and return to writing only about my woodworking. I’ve set up a wiki, and installed a new instance of WordPress, and tried all sorts of technical things, but just don’t seem to be able to get the flow of the thing, and actually get any writing done. So I’m back here, and shall endevour to re-focus this blog back to its beginnings: By Heart and Hand.

That’s what I called the thing when I first started it (when I was at art school in Canberra in 2003) and the phrase was meant to represent something about how I work wood by hand (I mean, using only hand tools), and that the processes involved are only perfected through learning them “off by heart” — in that one’s body must learn how to do these things, one’s heart and soul.

And that’s what I want to get back to doing, and to writing about. I’ve got my nice little workshop up and running now (and have turned out a few little pieces, mainly for Christmas presents and so I can’t yet post anything about them here, lest some recipient reads this; not that they are likely to), and I just need to get back into the swing of working the wood and having the time to stop — mid mallet-swing if need be — and write about what I’m doing.

It’s not all about hacking away at bits of wood and trying to make them fit together, you see. It’s actually far more about one’s attitude and the feel of calm beauty that decends (from the heavens?) when the sweet saw is sawing smoothly and swiftly. As it were. More of that later, from the dust of the bench.