Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Draw Bore Bore

Caution: Many pictures and musings follow - not all of them necessarily relevant to the main event. For a no-nonsense guide to draw boring, see either Woodworking Magazine Autumn 2005 (also available in book form) or the Forgotten Hand Tools DVD.

Right, first let me be quite clear about this; I've never done this before. Not even a practice joint. This whole project is one great big practice. And yes, I was bricking it. I came very, very close to just saying "Drawboring? Never heard of it. Pass me the Titebond and a shedload of clamps and we'll speak no more of such madness."

But I didn't. Instead I scanned and printed the one page summary of the steps, pinned it up on the wall over the bench for easy reference, offered up the necessary incantations to the tool gods, and...

...did the first door without taking a single pic. I focused on the job, and I think I was better for it. Took one corner at a time, concentrated, and then took the risk of taking pics of the process for the second door.

So, first up I set the ever-present 4" double square to 3/8" and marked off where the pegs would end up going in the stiles. Then I got out the Stanley #803 hand drill, AKA eggbeater or wheel brace. Being as how I wasn't quite the novice I was before the first door, I realised ganging up the stiles and doing all the holes in them in one go made sense. If I'd have an off-cut long enough to act as backer to limit the breakout on the reverse, I could even have dispensed with having to move them and reclamp for the other end. But I didn't, so I had to. No great hardship, to be honest.

Now the #803 and I go back a long way. Approximately 28 years in fact. Not this 803 though; this one was left behind in the house my brother moved into, and he passed it on to me in a pretty sorry state. I cleaned it up, replaced the gear wheel with one from a 803 that was only good for parts, refinished all the woodwork, and quite honestly I think he then rather regretted giving it to me... No, the 803 I used in my formative years was my dad's - he still has it in his ready-use toolbox - and I spent many an hour boring pretty aimless holes in scraps of wood at the bench in the garden shed. Up 'til now I was pretty sure I had nothing to show for those hours, except the long-gone shirts forever marked with the tell-tale marks of the gear wheel. Not so. It was only quite late on in this boring adventure that I realised I hadn't checked to see if I was boring at right angles, so I checked. I was. It had come quite naturally to me, like knowing my times tables. Both habits were painfully learnt at an early stage and both, apparently, stick with me still. It was a good omen.

Please take note of the carefully set out tools for the job in the background. Watch as they become less and less organised...

Now the march of the metricated system being what it is in this fair land, I didn't have a 1/4" brad point about my person and had to use a jobber bit instead. Not a problem really, as long as you punch the point you want to start the drill at to discourage it from wandering, but not helpful for marking the centre of the bored hole on the tenon. I pondered, then remembered I had an extra long brad point bit of 1/4" that I've used on the lathe. Bingo! Hopeless for actually drilling the hole, but ideal for marking the tenons - which I duly did.

Then following the instruction, I marked the off-set at 1/16" to 3/32". I started at 1/16" on the first joint, but it didn't seem quite enough, so went to a bare 3/32". I think, in hindsight, maybe a full 1/16" might have been better. Could I really be that accurate? Well... Oh, all right, probably not. A girl can dream.

Whacking in a punch at the appropriate point, I drilled the tenons on the rails. The oak scrap back-up reduced the breakout a bit.

The anxious woodworker, hoping not to mess up. You can tell that by the perspiration...

Behold, the off-set hole. Looks quite a lot, don't it? Yeah, I was worried.

Enter the coachbuilder's drawbore pin. Honestly, I have to ask - why are they made with the handle in line like a chisel? It works a treat with a T-handle, and surely it's easier and cheaper to produce a short square shank? Oh well, no matter. I'm very happy with this design, and will clean up the others ASAP.

Gratuitous shot of how tight that shoulder is...

The knife came out to taper the ends of the pegs a little more. Note how less organised those tools are getting...

Because the pegs weren't all as round at the end as I'd have hoped, I didn't whack them all the way through, but rather trimmed them off on both sides. Cue the flush cut saw from Lee Valley. Long-time readers may remember that the arrival of two lovely Wenzloff & Sons saws was accompanied by this saw. It kind of got overlooked in the Oooo-Ahhh stuff and I really haven't had cause to use it since I got it anyway. It was bought solely on the basis that it was the one that won the test in Woodworking Magazine. Oh, and because every other one I've tried has been a disappointment; to such an extent that I resorted to cutting things flush with a backsaw and spacer, and trimming back (a lot) with a chisel.

Well once I'd got in the way of keeping the blade flush and stopped trying to move my thumb with the action of the saw, I positively flew through the job.

It did exactly what it's supposed to do and needed just a light pare flat - and that only because I like doing it. Not a mark on the surrounding wood. Wonderful. I like this saw very much indeed.

So the panel was slipped into the frame, and I hope to goodness I allowed enough room for expansion. If the thing's gonna explode, it'll have done it today, 'cos it's been wet enough to make me wonder about a change of career to ark building.

Anyway, the other joints were finished up and I had a second complete door on my hands. With horns. Those were sawn off with the half-back (Have I mentioned how much I'm coming to like that saw lately?) I really need to work on my photo backdrops though; not nearly enough olde worlde wooden floorboard and strategically-placed tool chests and workbenches in the background. Those buckets are my rubbish bins, for heaven's sakes. And the Maxi's just, well... rubbish.

So did you notice the missing ingredient? No glue. Yup, I didn't glue the joints. It's another opportunity to experiment, so I thought "Why not?" Everything seems as tight as a drum, and it reduced possible complications quite a bit. We'll see if I come to regret it. Or thank my foresight if, even now, those panels have exploded everything...

Anyway, drawboring. I like it. I can see why it fell out of favour, it being an extra step that took time and was largely unnecessary as adhesives have improved. It's also decidedly "country" in style. I can think of quite a few woodworkers who'd absolutely do their nut about the slight gaps I've got on the off-side of some of the peg holes. On the other hand I needed no clamps, I could have gone onto the next stage of cleaning up with a smoothing plane straight away if I'd been so inclined, and there's something very satisfactory about a mechanical joint like that. I'll certainly be doing it again. Oh, and kudos to Chris Schwarz - I followed his article and got the right result first time, even allowing for operator error (i.e. Me). That speaks for itself really.


  1. Great stuff, Alf. Good to hear that it went well.

    Cheers ;-)

    Paul Chapman

  2. (To be said in an echoic voice)

    "use the metric system Alf"

    I know the UK is quite hybrid in its measuring, but at least it knows how to spell the metric units correctly.

    I know what you mean though about the seemingly huge hole offset. I wimped-out a bit and used glue as well. At least it will give the cockroaches something to ponder when they have their day in the fallout.


  3. I used to be a good metricated little person - was taught no other way. But the combination of old tools (inches), old books (ft & in), and the heavy influence of the USA on woodworking (ft & in) I gave up the unequal struggle. Given that even the materials, while sold in supposed metric sizes, are really feet and inches in disguise, I'm not convinced the woodworking world really has its heart in metric at all :D

    And I now have a lovely picture of two cockroaches standing in front of a piece of furniture, rubbing their chins in contemplation.

    - "What d'you think, Claude?"

    - "Heavily Arts and Crafts influenced sideboard rendered in quarter sawn oak if I'm any judge, Algernon. But those biscuit joints won't see us out."

  4. Great post. I don't understand why it fell out of favor. I mean the amount of time not fiddling with clamps and waiting for the glue to set.

    And as far as it looking "country", just tell yourself over and over that it's not--worked for me. After a while you don't see the "country" at all.


  5. You're back to your best, Alf. Glad to see I'm not the only one who loves the Stanley 803. I've got a fine vintage example but I've also got a German copy that's even better than the original!

    I've read somewhere that classic drawboring pins were made massive and with chisel style handles so you could get plenty of leverage if you were making a five bar gate, for instance.


  6. Impressive and very nice job! I enjoy reading your blog your woodwork and the pictures look great!

  7. Alex, I actually quite like "country" - which is lucky, as it's just about what I can aspire to... But I can see how it might have helped the technique fall out of favour. And I see from your blog that you're embarking on the road to a workbench too? Good luck!

    Evergreen, a "better" German-made one? Wash your mouth out! Although I can well believe it; one of the smoothest drills I have is a small breast drill with an enclosed gear case made by Metabo. As to the pins, I dunno. The heavy duty pins I've seen have tended to be all metal, sometimes with a hole to facilitate levering out with another bar, which struck me as more the sort of thing for large work. I suppose it may depend on whether you are, as you say, wanting leverage to bring the joint together, or if you're using the twisting action of the tapered pin to do it. S'all interesting stuff on which to muse.


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