Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shop Lighting

Last year I decided I wasn't happy with the lighting in my shop. When I first started out, I went for bright and cheap. Then I went for brighter. Then I went for brightest. I ended up with a ceiling full of florescent "shoplites". Plenty bright - plenty cheap.

For a long while, all was right with the world. Then something happened - I discovered the power of shadows. Directional light. It's a whole new world.

What I had was very bright, but very flat. No shadows. Time for an overhaul. I changed to halogen track lighting. And after hours on top of ladders, I came up with a set-up I really like - most on the ceiling, but one smaller track on the wall opposite the bench. I tried to balance general area lighting with the needs of specific work areas. It's not as bright, in an overall sense, but it is decidedly easier on my eyes, and even my mood. Details really stand out under the directional light. Plane tracks for example - where the florescent lights washed out the surface of the board, the directional lights really make the tiny ridges jump into relief.

Here are three sets of before (left) and after (right) photos. They don't really do it justice, but I think you can get a sense of the difference (especially if you click on them to make them larger). And, as a secret bonus, since they were taken months apart, it's also kind of fun to see how many differences there are in the shop details - at least for me - it reminds me of something in the old "Highlights" magazines they had in my doctor's office when I was a kid...

Side Note: in the third pair of photos you can see the sole survivor from my pre-neanderthal days. Even though it has not been plugged in for over three years, I have hung on to the bandsaw for several reasons:

1. It was my first large powertool, and as such has residual sentimental value.
2. I dream of building a small wooden boat - and resawing that much wood might be too much even for me - I suppose at some point idealism does connect to pragmatism...
3. It serves as a handy rack for various objects, such as: the full face shield and ear protection that I no longer need to wear, the tool rests for my spring-pole lathe, and the breast bib for occasional use with the shavehorse.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Panel Gauge

As I worked on the Shaker Cabinet (the uber-project of the last 1 1/2 years and not yet posted...) the time came for cutting the door panels to size and since I didn't have a panel gauge it was time to stop work for a while and make one. Right about here the astute reader will begin to see why the Shaker Cabinet is going on 18 months and is still only about 80% finished. In my own defense, there was also the 2-3 month slow period after the infamous chisel induced emergency room visit - but still...

I had some local birch handy and here is what I came up with:

And in action for the first time:

As you can see, I cut it a little close on the rough sizing. But it all worked out fine. Plane the reference edge square and true, mark one side, flip the panel end-for-end, and using the same reference edge mark the other side. The cutter on the gauge makes a clean cut which was easy to see as I plane the second edge down to size. I'll post about this technique later, but basically I just plane down until the marks dissapear from the edge - a lot easier to show than write about - I'll work up that post soon...

It works great, but one improvement for any future version will be to move the trapped wedge to the side rather than on the top of the beam. With the wedge on top, it adjusts for slop vertically, which is rather unimportant since both the fence and the cutter are supported by the panel being marked (the bottom front edge of the fence is rabbited). I would prefer to have the wedge taking up slop (both from seasonal movement and my errors on cutting the mortice) in the horizontal plane. I think this would make for a more secure fit and more effectively resist the lateral forces that occur in use. Oh well, next time...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Maker's Mark/Branding Iron

Here's what I have been using to mark my work for posterity. This is so at some future date, a Road Show expert can say: "Thankfully, that mark tells us exactly who made this piece of crap!". Or I suppose it might be more along the lines of: "Thankfully, that mark tells us exactly who made this unique, charmingly shabby, country style, distressed piece." Whatever.

It's a branding iron made from a bolt with a square piece of steel welded onto it (thanks T.S.!). I then used a Dremel tool (Yup! This thing predates my metamorphosis into neanderthal mode.) to carve my mark into the square. Grab with Visegrips, heat it with a propane torch, and brand away.

The mark is just something I made up using my initials. But seen sideways, it looks an awful lot like a little pig. Hmm.

I have been planning on making a newer, and possible smaller, version of this brand. To do this without the Dremel would be a new challenge. I've been thinking that I could make one out of an old tinsmith's soldering iron, as the copper would be much easier to work, and it already has a nice handle attached - not that I don't like the Visegrips...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wedding Rings

Okay, it's not really woodworking, but I did make them in the shop. And as always, with human power only. Nothing fancy - but very, very personal.

On the anvil: (note high-tech silversmithing tools in background)

And in their box for the ceremony:

Teague's Cradle

Well, it's been a long time since I added anything to this blog. This post (and the next one) should help explain what I've been up to - woodworking and otherwise! It's really suprising how fast 9 months goes by - I almost lost the race with cell division. Sad. But in the end I got it done in time.

The design is heavily influenced by a 1850's example in American Country Furniture 1780 - 1875 by Ralph and Terry Kovel. But of course, I had to mess with it and make it mine. The angles proved a nice construction challenge - and a clamping nightmare. Joinery is traditional country style: "whatever works, works". In this case, glued and nailed rabbits. I find this philosophy difficult, as it flies in the face of my own default mantra: "How could I make this more complicated?"

I also finally got to use my milk paint! It is from The Real Milk Paint Co. and I really enjoyed using it. Earth Green cut 50% with White - two coats - then two coats of Tried and True Danish Oil (another favorite of mine - love it!) followed by one coat of Tried and True Original (linseed oil and beeswax mixture). A little slow but completely non-toxic and safe for baby and me.

I have always tended to favor unpainted wood, but there is something nice about how the paint creates a uniformity that ties the piece together. It seems to make it more "one" and emphasise the shape of the whole. I like it...

...and apparently, so does Teague.