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post #1 of 47 Old 11-07-2019, 10:52 PM Thread Starter
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Beginner - building a workbench

I'm building a workbench. I asked for some advice here. Well I pulled the trigger, bought a bunch of tools and got started.

I spent the first few days trying to learn to make things sharp. The Lie Nielsen tools came sharp, but they all recommended putting an extra five degree micro-bevel. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos then proceeded to do it wrong anyhow for a few tries. Then I finally got wise and made a stropping block.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191105_222215.jpg

Then I was able to get things paper-slicing sharp.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191106_171006.jpg
Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191106_190124.jpg

The wood came Tuesday and I was out with a friend last night. Tonight I decided to try gluing up the legs. If I ****ed it up, I'd lose less wood than if I tried starting out with the top. I took out the jack plane, waxed the bottom, and tried to get two pieces so they would lay flat against each other. I should have tried harder because the glue-up did not go well.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191107_201930.jpg

Check out this gap:

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191107_202546.jpg

Realizing my mistake only after clamping failed to rectify the problem, I tried to get the pieces apart. But even after five minutes it seemed the wood glue was way too strong for me to pull apart with my hands. Impressive! I guess we'll just go with it and see how we do. If I have extra wood left over at the end or some extra time to go by the lumber yard again, maybe I'll remake this leg.

I also machined another leg tonight. This one seems to be sitting much flatter against itself. I can press the edges together with my hands so I hope that with some luck and a little more glue, I'll have a proper glue-up tomorrow night.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191107_210057.jpg

My parents were also kind enough to give me a home depot gift cert for my birthday. I think I need some more clamps. It would be nice to be able to glue up more than one thing at a time. I've heard good things about pipe clamps . . .
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post #2 of 47 Old 11-08-2019, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jags217 View Post
My parents were also kind enough to give me a home depot gift cert for my birthday. I think I need some more clamps. It would be nice to be able to glue up more than one thing at a time. I've heard good things about pipe clamps . . .
Haha! ... clamps ... never seem to have enough. Always one of two short of what I need for the current project.

Looks like your project is starting well, and you're learning new great skills. Congrats! Keep us updated.
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post #3 of 47 Old 11-08-2019, 02:29 PM
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I’m impressed, you jumped straight in to the real good tools and you’re going about this with hand tools to boot. Congrats,I think you made the right choice.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that power tools do everything a lot faster by design, and that includes releasing total wreak and ruin on our projects when we goof up.

What you’re learning now will only help you if you decide to add power to the equation. A quality handsaw is a necessary item for your kit; I personally prefer a Japanese combination handsaw.
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post #4 of 47 Old 11-08-2019, 04:27 PM
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I’m impressed, you jumped straight in to the real good tools and you’re going about this with hand tools to boot. Congrats,I think you made the right choice.
Another way to look at it: "Good" hand tools are tools that work. They don't have to be expensive. Yep, those LN are super nice out of the box. But unless you know how to maintain your tools, they'll eventually become useless. In contrast, you can get cheaper, but well built tools, and make them shave just as well (usually with a little elbow grease). Jags, I'm happy for you that you can afford those tools. Just remember there's more to owning a Ferrari than paying for it.

Quote:
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What a lot of people don’t realize is that power tools do everything a lot faster by design, and that includes releasing total wreak and ruin on our projects when we goof up.
Yep!
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post #5 of 47 Old 11-08-2019, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Just remember there's more to owning a Ferrari than paying for it.
Yeah! Although, ironically, there really isn't much more to owning a Ferrari than paying for it. You don't have to learn to maintain it yourself. These tools are far less forgiving!

I machined the 2x4s for two more legs today, and glued them up. I got the fit much tighter than it was with the first leg, although I feel like there is still much room to improve. I also dimensioned three faces of the leg I joined last night. I think this leg is usable even if it's not the prettiest thing out there.

I got out the smoothing plane and sharpened it. I can't tell if it's sharp enough though. The blade slices through paper no problem, and I can get very thin shavings. But I find it is getting caught in the wood periodically. Sometimes it feels like I've got it set to too shallow a depth, and then it will bite and take a deep chunk out of the wood.

My shavings look like this:

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191108_212611.jpg

Does that waviness imply a problem with the blade or the settings? I don't really see that in people's videos of hand-planing.

I tried tightening the screw on the front of the plane and adjusting the chip breaker, but I think it's probably just a technique issue. I am guessing that I'm not doing a good job keeping even pressure during the stroke.

It probably doesn't help that these workmates are quite unstable. I guess I'd catch a bit less in a more stable platform. I can't wait to actually have a bench, but it's going to be a while at this rate. I haven't even gotten to the hard part (milling the mortises and tenons and the recesses for the vise hardware).
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post #6 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 01:23 AM
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Taking a deep chunk out of the wood is usually because you are planing against the grain. The hand plane will do it, but it will do it easier and leave a smoother surface if you turn the board around.

Figuring out which way the grain runs can be useful before glueing two or more boards together so you can keep the grain all running the same way to get a smoother finish.
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post #7 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 06:15 AM
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Two questions:
1. What are you using to check your work as you go? A straightedge? Winding sticks? Something else?
2. Are you building long legs and planning to cut them apart later?
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post #8 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 08:18 AM
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You are learning woodworking the way I did. Just start out building something. Your skill level will grow rapidly. I would like to say 'good luck' but you wont need it. So I will just say "enjoy the journey".

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Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx
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post #9 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 10:32 AM
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If it were me, I'd rip the boards apart and start over.

Jointing boards with a hand plane is a fairly high skill task. Shorter boards 3' or less although they can be done with a #5, a #7 or 8 would be the plane of choice for any board over 4' IMO. That said, I've watched people like Paul Sellers joint boards with a #4, but they are starting out with very straight lumber.

The big thing you need to look out for is maintaining a 90° edge. Frequently check along the board as you go. If you do get off, a "pro tip" is to run the plane with the edge flush with the edge of the board, this engages the sole out side the blade and will incrementally take more off one side than the other. Another way is to deliberately misadjust the blade so its protruding more on one side. For thinner boards, one technique is to clamp them together (face to face) and plane them both at once, this way, any discrepancy off 90 will cancel out.

Another jointing technique is the "spring joint". This involves hollowing out the central 2/3's of the board slightly (we're talking 3-4 thou) so that the edges engage first. There are videos on how to do this, but its simply short strokes in the middle and then lengthen, maybe 3-4 strokes depending on how your plane is set up. You would use a #4 or 5 for this depending on length of board.

Hope this helps. Congrats on starting out with high quality tools & sounds like you've got your sharpening technique well in hand.

Last edited by DrRobert; 11-09-2019 at 10:34 AM.
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post #10 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 01:18 PM
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You noted that the plane is “taking out chunks.” That plus looking at your shavings indicates to me that there is a combination of three factors at play:

1) As previously noted, the grain direction is a critical factor during both the design and construction phases. Knots are a more extreme variation on this same issue, because they have grain that bends and arcs, but they easily illustrate what occurs throughout almost all wood: The wood is comprised of a cohesive mass of tiny cellulose tubes, which have hard and softer parts collectively known as the grain. A block of wood is very similar in concept to a new box of cocktail straws. The problem is that only rare pieces of wood have grain that’s perfectly flat and straight like the straws. Instead, relative to the nice flat and square form of the manmade piece of wood, those tubes may rise to one or more surfaces at an angle or rise up and go back down like a wave. These arrangements mean that your plane blade will likely get nice and smooth bite on the flat, parallel grain, but then grab and tear out chunks where the grain hits the surface at an angle. The easiest way to experience this is to plane first a smooth face of a scrap board (face grain), and then plane the end of that same board (end grain).

This is a good point to watch some Paul Sellers on YouTube. A partial workaround to the grain issue is to plane it from the opposite direction. Another thing is to know that the tear out is okay for parts that won’t be exposed to view. Another thing is to realize that if you have to plane off more thickness than comes from your tear out, then so what if it tears out and you have enough cushion to resolve it? A variation on that last idea is that that kind of gross removal is a common part of the fast and rough work at the beginning stages of the surfacing — the smoothing and beautification steps come later. Sorry to go on and on, but what we do is all about the wood.

2) Your shaving might be a tad aggressive. When I get unacceptable tear out, the first thing I try is to shallow up my cut. The bite is right when your strokes require moderate effort and proceed smoothly. It's a very satisfying sensation that is not unlike a properly hit golf ball, baseball, or tennis ball - it will feel right.

3) The tear out can also be controlled by closing down the gap between the blade and the front part of the mouth of the plane. Depending on your plane, there may be a sliding” panel” just at the mouth or you may have to move the frog forward.

4) Pressure. Somewhat more weighting on the rear handle, which has the larger sole surface beneath it. On Western planes, the rear handle is about forward and downward pressure, while the knob is about guidance and the return stroke.

5) Wax the sole with bee’s wax or some other quality, zero silicone content lubricant. There’s a lot of discussion here about the right lubricants/protectants.
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post #11 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 05:57 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
Two questions:
1. What are you using to check your work as you go? A straightedge? Winding sticks? Something else?
2. Are you building long legs and planning to cut them apart later?
1. I had a piece of s4s pine that I checked against the edge of my plane. They seem flat. I'm using them as winding sticks. I am also using the edge of my #62 to check flatness laterally any longitudinally. Along with sighting down the piece. I'm using my combination square with the first smooth side as a reference to smooth the second side. Then I'm using a depth gauge to mark the levels for thicknessing.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191109_163226.jpg


2. I glued up the legs about two inches longer than the longest I thought I would need.
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post #12 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Taking a deep chunk out of the wood is usually because you are planing against the grain. The hand plane will do it, but it will do it easier and leave a smoother surface if you turn the board around.

Figuring out which way the grain runs can be useful before glueing two or more boards together so you can keep the grain all running the same way to get a smoother finish.
Thanks Terry Q and everyone else who mentioned this. I started dimensioning another leg and ensured that I had the grain rising away from me. I got much better results this way. It was easier going and smoother shavings.

I also focused on putting more down pressure on the heel of the plane, and that seemed to make things work better too. I started waxing the plane more often too and that seemed to help as well.

I also almost learned a valuable lesson the hard way: plane away from the direction of the sliding glass door.

Right now I'm trying to spend an hour or two on this project each night. My capacity is currently limited by my hands, which aren't used to hard work and keep threatening to blister. I figure as long as I keep trucking, I'll eventually reach the end goal. There's a fair amount of brute work between here and there though.
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post #13 of 47 Old 11-09-2019, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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First fully dimensioned leg. It's not perfect, but it's close enough.
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post #14 of 47 Old 11-10-2019, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
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Leg one, leg two, and leg three, left to right.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191110_204759.jpg

The joint is getting much nicer as I practice. And it's going faster too. The advice to look for the grain was clutch. I haven't had any jamming since then, and it was not necessary to sharpen my blades at all. I got leg four and one of the front-to-back pieces glued up today as well.

I am noticing that my smooth plane is not quite getting the glassy smooth surface I want. I suspect I dulled it a little trying to plane against the grain and trying to use it like Paul Sellers does his (basically as a primary work-horse). I now understand why people say to have different planes sharpened to different grits. I'll take it back up to 15000 at some point soon and see how that changes the quality of the finished surface.

I also figured out a setup that keeps the workmates from sliding along the floor.

Beginner - building a workbench-mvimg_20191110_194642.jpg

It may be hard to see from this pic, but the rear workmate is propped up against the wall. It can't slide, so the clamped piece can't move. This has dramatically improved the comfort of doing the work.

Tomorrow I will glue up the stretchers and dimension the pieces I glued up today. After that, I'll have to stop putting off the benchtop.
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post #15 of 47 Old 11-10-2019, 11:18 PM
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Nice job, big improvement
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post #16 of 47 Old 11-11-2019, 10:10 AM
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I dunno, man. You might just have a talent for this stuff. :)
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post #17 of 47 Old 11-11-2019, 11:25 PM Thread Starter
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Nice job, big improvement
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I dunno, man. You might just have a talent for this stuff. :)
It's too kind of y'all to say. But I think one of the things I like about this discipline is that, mostly, you won't screw it up by lack of skill. You'll just go slower. Lack of judgment on the other hand . . . see leg 1.

Tonight I got the two legs glued up last night dimensioned (the two one the right). One of them is good, and one of them is slightly imperfect. A very small gap at the ends. I knew it was going to happen because I had a little trouble compressing them together before glue-up, but I did it anyway. Oops. Judgment, as I mentioned.

Beginner - building a workbench-pic1.jpg

I was able to get the legs square but boy was it some work. Forty five minutes per leg if my clock doesn't lie. Most of the delay came from flattening the sides where the joint was exposed. The legs had shifted against each other while glued, and so I had probably 1/8th to take off for about half the length of the board. That seemed to take a good five to ten minutes on each side, for each board. So it might have been as much as half the time consumed by a single mistake.

I really need to set up some cauls for the next clamping. I'm going to check if I have any length to spare from the boards I have. If I do, I'll set that up before I glue up the first stretcher.

You may notice there are five legs here! There's actually one more coming. Some of the 4x4 pieces are used to connect the front and rear legs.

At some point I need to decide how wide I want this thing to be. I have the 2x4s to make it about 20" deep. Or I could add the tool well per the instructions. Then I'd be at about 25". That's as deep as a man ought to need, especially in a room only 10' deep.



MONEY TALK

Earlier we were discussing my financial restraint (or lack thereof) when it comes to tool acquisition. Well, the shop still needs more tools. Particularly, we're missing:

  • panel saws (rip and crosscut)
  • fine saws (tenon and dovetail)
  • dust collection/cleanup
  • a soft hammer/mallet
  • a jointer plane
  • vises

However, I was suitably chastened by folks who suggested I learn to work with tools that don't start out perfect . While I can't promise I won't shell out for the good stuff again someday, I decided to take advice and buy some used stuff and some cheaper stuff. I was on the point of buying $800 of Lie Nielsen saws, but I said, "What would the guys think."

That being said, things do need to be bought, so here's what I've decided on:

  • For saws, I'll just buy a replacement blade for my two-sided pull saw ($10). And I bought a Japanese dovetail saw from the same brand ($20). This should carry me some distance. I can worry about push saws later.
  • I will buy a bucket-top cyclone dust collector and shop vac. I know I don't strictly need this -- I could sweep up. But it's cheap enough and DAMN there are a lot of wood shavings. The shop vac will have other uses around the house as well.
  • Hammer acquired on Amazon ($20).
  • Used Stanley Sweetheart #7 ordered on Ebay. My bid is at about a third of the cost of a new one from Lie Nielsen. I feel confident based on watching YouTube videos that tuning the sole and sharpening the blade is within my skill range.
  • I will cheap out on the tail vise. Rockler has one with anti-racking rods on sale for $70 for Black Friday. I anticipate using the tail vise mostly to hold boards against dogs, so this doesn't need to be that fancy. Also, a vise like this is good enough for Paul Sellers . . .
  • But I am still going to pony up for the Lie Nielsen face vise hardware ($250).

All in I'll spend about $1k less than I was originally inclined to. Save a penny earn a penny!
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post #18 of 47 Old 11-12-2019, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by jags217 View Post
MONEY TALK

Earlier we were discussing my financial restraint (or lack thereof) when it comes to tool acquisition. Well, the shop still needs more tools. Particularly, we're missing:

  • panel saws (rip and crosscut)
  • fine saws (tenon and dovetail)
  • dust collection/cleanup
  • a soft hammer/mallet
  • a jointer plane
  • vises

However, I was suitably chastened by folks who suggested I learn to work with tools that don't start out perfect . While I can't promise I won't shell out for the good stuff again someday, I decided to take advice and buy some used stuff and some cheaper stuff. I was on the point of buying $800 of Lie Nielsen saws, but I said, "What would the guys think."

That being said, things do need to be bought, so here's what I've decided on:

  • For saws, I'll just buy a replacement blade for my two-sided pull saw ($10). And I bought a Japanese dovetail saw from the same brand ($20). This should carry me some distance. I can worry about push saws later.
  • I will buy a bucket-top cyclone dust collector and shop vac. I know I don't strictly need this -- I could sweep up. But it's cheap enough and DAMN there are a lot of wood shavings. The shop vac will have other uses around the house as well.
  • Hammer acquired on Amazon ($20).
  • Used Stanley Sweetheart #7 ordered on Ebay. My bid is at about a third of the cost of a new one from Lie Nielsen. I feel confident based on watching YouTube videos that tuning the sole and sharpening the blade is within my skill range.
  • I will cheap out on the tail vise. Rockler has one with anti-racking rods on sale for $70 for Black Friday. I anticipate using the tail vise mostly to hold boards against dogs, so this doesn't need to be that fancy. Also, a vise like this is good enough for Paul Sellers . . .
  • But I am still going to pony up for the Lie Nielsen face vise hardware ($250).

All in I'll spend about $1k less than I was originally inclined to. Save a penny earn a penny!
Love your levity!

Most people don't have the finances to start a new hobby with the newest, shiniest tools. You are probably in better shape than a lot of us, to be able to afford the "best" right out of the gate. My previous suggestion was that you shouldn't think of the most expensive tools as the best tools *for you*. I have expensive saws and planes. But I also have old and cheaper tools that I found on eBay, flea markets and back yards, that I had to refurbish. I've bought tools on the recommendation of "big stars" of YouTube, and found them to be lacking for me. (They may be great tools overall.) Over time, I found my favorites, and it is truly a mix.

If you have the money, go for the "big boys". But keep your mind and heart open.

My suggestion for old tools: Hit all the local antique/vintage shops within an hour's drive of you. Even little places that look like they only sell clothes may have a small shelf in the back. Any time you happen to be driving past, stop in. Good tools tend to get picked over relatively quickly. Don't be afraid to inquire with the owner.

If you happen to be driving near a garage sale, check in with them. Even if they don't have any tools out for sale, inquire with the owner; they may have "that old thing" in a box somewhere. Usually to them it's junk, which means it's a good price for you.

Look at Craigslist periodically.

Join a local woodworking guild. They'll usually have sale or trade opportunities, and sometimes even giveaways for newcomers. Unfortunately, there's not one in my area, so this one's a no-go for me. :(

P.S. I enjoy refurbishing old tools, and don't mind spending time to find the diamond in them. Finding a rusted old tool in the bottom of a toolbox is not a turn off. I do this with roadside finds, and machines also. My wife doesn't even ask me about things I drag to the front porch any more.
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post #19 of 47 Old 11-12-2019, 04:22 PM
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As someone already said, you can never have too many clamps! I actually buy all my clamps from harbor freight, they work pretty well I think (never slipped or came loose on me) and cost a tiny fraction of what you'd pay for similar clamps anywhere else. It's like 5 for the price of 1. So if money is tight, it's something to consider. Better than nothing right?
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post #20 of 47 Old 11-12-2019, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jags217 View Post
................................At some point I need to decide how wide I want this thing to be. I have the 2x4s to make it about 20" deep. Or I could add the tool well per the instructions. Then I'd be at about 25". That's as deep as a man ought to need, especially in a room only 10' deep........................
25" is a ood depth and a tool well is really nice to have. I always have one on all the work benches I made. Its nice to be able to just sweep your arm across the top and sweep all the misc. tools into the well. To me, it's a must have item.

As for your budget, dont waste it even on good stuff if you dont need it right away. Buy tools as you need them, unless of course they come at a price that just cant be turned down.

You are doing just fine so for. You are gaining in knowledge and experience at a good rate.

If you get on youtube, you can find many vices that are easy to build usin inexpensive plumbing and piping

As for clamps, The run of the mill clamps at Harbor Freight are a good value Just keep in mind that you cant really crank down on them or they will break. If you just use moderate pressure, they are fine and moderate pressure is normally all that is needed. As someone said earlier, you never have too many. But for now, just buy them as you need them. It don't take long to run your budget dry. Pipe clamps are great both in 1/2" and 3/4 ". Most pipes come threaded at least on one end. I have bought them sever times at Lowes and they even threaded the cut ends for me without charge.

If you have a lathe, you van make your own mallets out of 4x4 or 2 2x4's glued together

Keep at it.
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Tony B



Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx

Last edited by Tony B; 11-12-2019 at 05:52 PM.
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