Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Milk Paint Samples

I've talked before about how much I enjoy using milk paint; it's just fantastic. Very easy to use, non-toxic, lasts about forever in its powdered state, versatile (translucent wash/stain or completely opaque)and incredibly durable. What's more, it has the look of old fashioned paint because, well, it is old fashioned paint. What's not to love?

You can use the milk paint by itself for a dull (and sometimes slightly chalky) look that is quite nice, but I really like it with a coat of oil, or oil and wax over the paint. This evens out the color a bit, and produces a wonderful satin sheen. There is only one down side - it also changes the color; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Not a big deal, unless you are going for a specific look, then it's nice to know what will happen ahead of time.

In the past my solution to this problem has been to mix up some paint, paint a few sample boards, then oil it when it's dry. Not ideal. First, it wastes some paint. Second, the milk paint and oil continue to "age" for quite a while - so the samples are not perfect.

My new solution was so obvious it's silly. I ordered two sets of "color sticks" from my milk paint provider of choice: The Real Milk Paint Co. Okay, really I ordered four sets, two each of their "traditional" and "historical" sets - but I just combine them. One set I left plain, and one set I oiled. And "BAM!", instant samples of both oiled and non-oiled milk paint! I know, it's so simple...can't believe it took me years to figure this one out...Sheesh!*

Here they are matched up by color. The oiled set is on the bottom. You can see how some colors shift ever so slightly while others change dramatically. To keep them handy, I string them together on some twine and they hang in a corner of my shop:

Note: I've added a "milk paint" label to this post as well as some relevant previous posts. You can click on it in the "Post Categories" list if you want to read and see more about my experiences with milk paint.

*I almost didn't post this, because now that I thought of it, it seems SO obvious. But then I thought, "What the heck, maybe this will actually help someone..."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CD Boxes

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. I had thought by now I would be posting some progress pictures of the bench project, but no such luck. First, we decided the time was right to completely replace the back deck. Second, Teague decided that CDs make great toys. Given the chance, he would sit and open them by the dozen - rolling them across the floor, walking on them, throwing them over his shoulder etc. He loved it; the CDs and I hated it. So...

Making boxes for the CDs to live in rose to the top of the shop list. My plan was to keep it simple. Long narrow boxes with a single handle on the front that would slide in and out on the lower shelves of the Shaker Cupboard. Construction wise, these were just glued and nailed butt joints. Process wise, it was an exercise in repetition. Repeatedly cutting duplicate parts is not something I tend to enjoy, but it did provide some interesting opportunities to learn, and relearn some skills.

Here's a shot of all the parts (actually, the stack of backs are not in the picture...) waiting for assembly. On the right is the first box I made to serve as the prototype. Here it is demonstrating that it would also be handy for holding DVDs. Hmm. Maybe another ten boxes are in my future...

You can also see that I just couldn't leave things simple. I decided it was worth the time to put a simple molding on the top edge of the box fronts. I chose a cove profile. Partly this was because I liked the visual effect, but to be honest, it was also because I had just acquired this plane, recently rehabbed it, and wanted to put it right to work on a project.

Planing the cove in the fronts also provided me with the perfect opportunity to relearn the power of hollow and round planes. The wood I had selected for the fronts had some wild grain and on one section, the cove molding plane produced some fantastic tear-out. Molding planes can't be reversed to cut with the grain for one section; they are strictly one-way planes. H&Rs on the other hand can work either direction. So, after looking at the tear-out for a few seconds, I heard the #6 round plane calling from the shelf: "Put me in coach!" I did, and he really cleaned up nicely!

You may also notice two saws in the last photo. Both are small cross-cut panel saws, but they have an important difference. The one on the bottom is my normal "go to" saw. It is 12 tpi with minimal set, and produces a very clean end grain surface. However, this wood had some serious reaction as it was cut due to stresses within the board. With the saw only an inch or two into the cut, the kerf was closing up on the saw blade like a vise. If this effect is minimal, you can sometimes just run the saw back through the kerf to widen it and provide enough relief. These boards called for more drastic measures. Again - to the bullpen! Enter the 9 tpi panel with more aggressive set. It does not leave as smooth a surface, but the extra set leaves a significantly wider kerf which does not close up and bind the saw. Just another example of how having multiple tools allows for a flexible approach. (If you didn't notice it, that was a thinly veiled rationalization for buying more tools...)

Here are the boxes assembled, awaiting clean-up and the mounting of the hardware:

Cleaning up the joints with a plane allowed me to enjoy another tool that has been patiently waiting to be put back into use. In the past, when it was time to plane end grain, I would reach for my Stanley #65 low angle block plane. This time however, I used my Stanley #62 bevel-up jack plane. (It's visible back in the first photo - and I guess technically it really is just a giant block plane...) I had picked this up at an antique show down in Oregon, at a truly gloatable price, but hadn't used it yet. Wow! This thing knew how to cut end grain! I think that #65 might just find itself sitting on the shelf more often.

For a cleaner look on the fronts, I deep punched the nails, drilled out the holes to 1/8th of an inch, and then pegged these with dowels. A few swipes with a smoothing plane wrapped things up.

And they're finished:

I'll try to post a picture of these in their new, 1 1/2 year-old proof, home as soon as I get a decent shot. Hmm, I probably just jinxed myself. Now Teague will figure out how to get the cupboard open, and I'll be back where I started. I gotta learn not to say stuff like that!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Millers Falls Drill Press No. 23

In my previous post I included a photo of my Millers Falls drill press in action. Since several readers made comments about this tool, I thought I would do a post with additional information and images.

The Millers Falls #23 drill press has a built-in clamp for attaching to a bench. Since my bench top is too thick for this clamp, I hold a short section of 2x4 in a vise and clamp the press to that. Note that for the purposes of taking pictures, I did not clamp the tool in the same orientation that I would for actually using it.

Your right hand powers the drill, while your left uses a compound lever to do the pressing. It works great, except that doesn't leave a hand to hold the work piece. It looks like it originally came with a dedicated clamp (see catalog image below), but mine is missing in action. I might try to build some kind of small, adjustable fence to use with this drill press - it's a little awkward, and slow, to clamp small pieces to the platform.

Here's a page from Millers Falls 1939 catalog that lists this drill press. I found this over at Rose Antique Tools, a great site with loads of old tool catalogs in pdf format - check it out. They sell old tools (and new) as well.

Surprisingly, this is one of the few old tools that I didn't have to travel to the lower 48, or to eBay, to purchase. I actually found this in a local shop - which is almost unheard of for me. The information they had was that it came down from Barrow where an Alaskan Native artist used it to make cribbage boards.

It was in great shape, and a total score. It only needed one small repair, to be shop ready. The clamp that attaches the whole mechanism to the vertical support, and thereby also controls the height adjustment of the drill press, was worn out. It could no longer clamp securely to the bar, so I replaced it with a clamp fashioned by filing the inside of an eye bolt to a square shape. After that it was just a matter of cleaning it up and oiling it.

This is by no means a required tool for a hand tool only shop. I've had it for at least two years, and only recently used it on a project. With practice, you can drill perpendicularly to a surface just using a hand drill (Millers Falls also made some excellent hand drills - I love my #2). When I have needed to drill consistent, angled holes (as for my spokeshave and brace racks) I made a simple jig by boring one hole at the desired angle and then using that to guide the bit on all subsequent holes. In fact, if you look closely at this picture from the previous post, you can see that I used that piece of 2x4 for just that purpose in the past (total coincidence).

Friday, July 3, 2009

New Life For An Old Medicine Cabinet

Just a quick post on a quick little project...

My parents picked up this funky old medicine cabinet somewhere in New England, probably in Vermont. When I was growing up, it hung in the bathroom doing standard duty. Years later it made it's way into my home. Thing is, we didn't need a medicine cabinet, so it got pressed into duty as an entryway catch-all. It worked great, but was rather an unorganized mess. I decided to impose some order by adding a key rack.

Here's the cabinet sitting on the workbench:

And open:

The first step was determining the inside dimension at the point I would be attaching the rack. This is where the zigzag rule with sliding extension comes in handy.

The oak for this rack was salvage from a repair job on one of my brother's dog sleds. After cutting the piece to length, I did the layout for the pegs. Here I am using a combination square as a gauge for consistent distance from the edge. If my hand looks like it is in a slightly unnatural position, it is - it kept blocking the shot. And hey, what kind of pencil is that?

I finally got to use my Millers Falls drill press on a project (Okay, this would be a good time to admit that more than a little of the motivation for this particular project was tied to using that tool). As I wanted the holes drilled at an angle, I attached a shim on the edge of drill platform to angle the wood.

Here's the result:

And with pegs in place:

To install the rack I nailed it through the sides with square-cut brads. I did not attach it to the cabinet back in any way, as that would be cross grain joining, and the thin, single board back is already split in several places.

Here it the end result:

Back in its place, open to show the now much more organized interior:

And closed, to hide the essential, but non-pleasing, detritus of everyday life behind a rather pleasant exterior:

I really enjoy looking at this cabinet on the wall. It's a little hard to explain, but I'll try. That my parents bought it and I grew up with it is one major reason - it's a heirloom of a sort. Its funky character in both design and construction is another. But the fact that it seems happy in it's place, above the Shaker style peg board I made to go with it, is probably the main reason. That's one part of our house that just feels "right" to me.

Now if only the rest of the house could be like that...