Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Post, Wherein;

~ Our narrator, succumbing to the vain allurements of folly and fashion, steps into frame ~ The gross effects of holiday overeating are revealed and laid bare for comments, criticisms and judgment ~ A new sawing technique is demonstrated for the first time (in these annals) ~ A brother, unspoiled by praise or blame, heroically takes up the camera and performs admirably ~ A stout oaken plank is bent to the will of the craftsman ~ A dogsled is returned to trail readiness ~ And - Only Hand Tools Are Used!

Umm...sorry. Got carried away there. A combination of Rex Beach's "The Silver Horde" (1909) and "Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases" by Grenville Kleiser (1917). Dreadfully sorry. I shall endeavor to contain myself...

Earlier today I responded to a comment on a previous post where a reader had stated that I clearly enjoy all aspects of making something out of wood. I agreed, saying that sometimes I enjoy the process more than the product. This post is a perfect illustration of how the process can trump the product - which in this case was nothing more than a rectangular stick with a half-dozen holes drilled in it.

My brother Josh, a recreational dog musher, asked if I could help him fix one of his broken sleds, and I happily agreed. So, the week before Christmas, Josh and his daughter Kaija came over to visit the shop (Kaija actually had her own project to work on - but that's a future post). One of the oak sled stanchions had broken after an abrupt meeting with a spruce tree. Actually, it's more complicated than that, but Josh isn't here right now and that's my version of what happened.

Here's a shot of the part to be replaced:

Josh brought a lenght of oak that was just big enough to form the new stanchion. The main job here was ripping, so the trusty Disston D-8 was called for:

This was one awkward board to rip - hard to hold on the edge of the saw bench, and too narrow for the slot down the middle. I ended up starting it at an angle across the bench and had to stop frequently to readjust - and avoid cutting into the bench.

As I got closer to the end of the rip, I reverted to my normal stance. When discussing the use of this saw bench before, I've tried to describe this position in words, but a picture is better:

At the very end of the board a chunk had been cut out for some past project. The gauge line almost, but not quite intersected this void. Of course, I could have stopped ripping and just planed this slightly wider section down to the line, but where is the challenge in that? Time to put theoretical knowledge into practice! I decided to flip the saw around, sit on the board, and try my hand(s) at overhand ripping:

Hmm, I have been eating too much...

Anyway, it worked better than I would have guessed:

After that I cleaned up the rip and straightened the edge with a jointer plane.

Hey, isn't that a plump grizzly bear chowing down on an enormous cream cheese covered bagel on my shirt? Fitting - isn't it...

Josh provides the obligatory shavings shot:

I used an awl to transfer the holes from the existing part to the new one...

...and then bored the smaller holes with a hand drill...

...and the larger hole with a brace and bit:

After that it was just a matter of bolting it into place. Here's Josh working on that:

So, a thoroughly enjoyable process that yielded a completely mundane product. Cool.

Of course, when joined to its other mundane friends, that part becomes a sled capable of the extraordinary process of mushing. Hmm.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Making Handles for New Tools

Wow, the holidays sure are crazy! I've been so busy that I haven't done a post in almost two weeks. Ironically, I've actually been in the shop quite a bit working on several projects. In the beginning I was taking pictures to use for a couple of posts, but by the end, I was so crazed trying to finish up two Christmas presents that I didn't slow down enough to even think about taking pictures. Maybe I'll do a short "final product" post on those gifts...

But today I could relax in the shop, and I used my time to make handles for three new tools my wonderful wife gave me for Christmas: two Japanese milled-tooth files and a Nicholson #49 pattern maker's rasp. Yes!

I dug up some birch for the handles...

...and split it into rough blanks with a hatched and maul.

I cleaned up the blanks with a scrub plane and spokeshave. Then I found some copper fittings to use for the ferrules, and transferred the diameter to the handle stock using pencil graphite.

I carefully (sort of) sawed around the shoulder and then pared the tenon with a chisel. I did the final rounding with the rasp itself - it would have been much easier to use (safer too) if it had only had a handle - hmm...

I don't really have a "design" for my handles. I just make them feel comfortable in my hand. I tend to end up with some variation on a general theme of tapered octagonal prisms.

Here's a shot of the finished handle, with ferrule and final shaping complete. The chamfering of the end was done with a chisel, while the tiny chamfers on the shoulder (not visible in this shot) I did with a knife.

After making the first handle (for the #49 rasp) with the copper left bright, I decided to experiment with giving the next ferrule some patina. My attempt at using heated mineral oil created a mottled look that I actually like very much. It's different than the uniform black I created on the bolts for the turning saw project. I'm not sure if it's a result of using mineral oil instead of linseed oil, or if it has something to do with the copper.

Here are two final group shots:

Oh, and how do they work? Fantastic! Especially the rasp - what a revelation! Thank you for the wonderful gifts Sweetie!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Woodwright's School

You may have seen this already, but just in case you missed it: Roy Underhill has launched The Woodwright's School website and it includes online registration for the Winter 2010 classes. It also has some great downloadable plans, including the folding book stand I recently posted about.

Man does that make me hate living in Alaska just now. Well, that and the 5 hours of daylight - come on solstice!

You can check it out here: The Woodwright's School

Monday, December 7, 2009

Planes and Shavings: Four Portraits

Stanley #49 Tonguing and Grooving Plane

"Andruss" 1/4" Side Beading Plane

Millers Falls #4 Bull Nose Rabbeting Plane

Stanley #3 Smoothing Plane

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Folding Book Stand Revisited

One of the very first posts on this blog was about a folding book stand I made for my wife. In The Woodwright's Workbook, Roy Underhill writes about this stand, which he calls a reading stand. It's in the Domestic Devices chapter of that book, which is a must read if you are interested in hand tool woodworking - as are ALL his books.

As I stated in the original post, it was the first true hand tools only project I attempted. I also helped my nephew James create his own version (which you can read about here, here 2 and here 3). I think it is a fun, and challenging project with some "wow" factor as it is made out of one piece of wood.

A while back a blog reader, who has made some awesome book stands of his own, asked if I could post some more detailed pictures of the hinge layout that I used. This post is the belated (sorry Craig) response to his request.

The first step is to lay out a square on the edge of the stock. Then, divide this in half both vertically and horizontally. Finally, connect the four mid-line points to make a diamond shape (okay, okay - so it's really just a rotated square - sheesh, Shape Police!). This then gets transferred across to the other edge and replicated. Lay out an odd number of hinges and start chopping and paring. If you work on the hinges closest to the edges, you can use the side layout to help guide both your angle and depth. Use these as guides for making the rest of the cuts. Then it's just a matter of sawing down and up to the hinges - look for the sawdust falling out from the hinge openings. If you worked carefully, the only thing holding the stand together at this point is the thin web of wood between each hinge. Use a very thin knife blade to cut these free and the stand will pop open. Fun!

Here's a close-up of the closed joint and layout lines. As you can see, I was not particularly careful with the rip sawing coming in from the left. I over-cut into the edge hinge. Doh! But it all came out okay - just be careful on the last couple of saw strokes.

After that, it's just deciding what shape to use for the legs and decorative top. The one in Roy's book, from Andre Roubo's Art of the Cabinetmaker, has a kind of double ogee top. I decided to base mine on the shape of old tombstones I used to see back east.

One last note - Roy mentions that Roubo describes creating a circular joint for this stand. I can see how that would work, but I've never tried it. Maybe on my next one...