Sunday, March 28, 2010

The New, New Project

So about a week ago I finally got moving on a new project - a knife holder. But then things changed. I started thinking about how my son has developed a real interest in the happenings up on the counters and how he likes to move the dining room chairs over so he can see, and grab, things off the counter. I decided that it would be better if the knives continued living in a drawer with a child lock. End of the new project.

So, it was time for a new, new project. And after resawing the stock for the knife holder, I was darn well going to use it. I settled on making a candle shelf. Using the dimensions of the stock, I designed a set of hanging shelves - well really a shelf/rack with two drawers underneath. Here's a shot of my plans:

The first step was to true one edge of the stock. I held it in the face vise and used a jointer to straighten the edge.

Then I marked the final width with my panel gauge riding on the trued edge - flipping it end for end to mark both sides.

There was less than 1/4 inch to remove, so I opted to plane it off rather than rip it with a saw. I started with a scrub plane for fast wood removal, and then finished up with the jointer. As I got close to the layout lines, the thin strips of wood started lifting up. If I was working square to the edge, they would have appeared on both arrises at the same time. As you can see in the photo below, only the near side was showing the curl, which meant I was high on the far side and needed to adjust my angle. This technique works a lot better than continuously bending down to look at the lines.

You can also see that I never really smoothed the resawn face of the stock. For the knife holder, this was unnecessary as the inside faces would not show. For the new project, the inside faces will show in the upper section, and I needed to spend some time smoothing those surfaces.

My design called for a curve on the upper half of each side. To lay out a true curve, I used a thin dowel. With one end clamped to the stock, I could flex the dowel until the curve was the right shape, and then trace it onto the stock.

After cutting the curve with my turning saw, I used a convex sole spokeshave to clean up the curve.

Instead of trying to replicate the same curve with the dowel for the second side, I just traced the first side. Here's the pair:

Next, I'll start to work on the joints: dovetails for the top and bottom, rabbets for the back, and dadoes for the shelf and drawer dividers. After that, I'll make the two small drawers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Vagaries Of The Hunt (for old tools)

Rule #1 in the hunt for old tools is: “Things are not always predictable.” This rule is often expressed as “You just never know.”

A corollary rule (let’s call it 1A), is “Be persistent.” This rule is often expressed as “Let’s stop here. They look like they might have old tools.”

Let me illustrate these two rules by way of example.

Last year, I was down in Southern Oregon over spring break. I saw that the annual Antique Show was being held on the weekend. It cost $4 to get in the door, and catered towards the collectors. This should NOT have been a good place to look for old tools – but, being a big believer in rule #1, I went. And I scored big. I found a Stanley #62 low angle jack in great shape for under $100 dollars. Not cheap, but a very good price on this plane in this condition. And it's also where I found the infamous cigarette "nib" card. Sweet! Totally worth my time and $4 door fee!

Here’s the #62:

Flash forward to this year. Again I am in Oregon for spring break (family). Again the Antique Show is being held. Again I go, pay my $4 to get in and – strike out. There is nothing, NOTHING, there worth buying. In fact, one of the only hand tools I can find is a battered Stanley 120 with a tag attached explaining the page number in a book that set the price of this junker at $85. Wow! I’m out the door in 20 minutes.

That’s Rule #1 – you just never know…

Now, on the way home Rule 1A came into play. After the disappointment suffered at the show, all I wanted was to go have a burger and a milkshake. However, as I cruised down the road I came across a mini-storage complex with a “flea market” sign at the side of the road. Hmm. I slowed down for a closer look - mostly clothes, videos and car tires. Not a chance. But maybe…

I turned around, went back and parked. I started walking the rows of the complex and it was not looking good. Lots, and lots of junk. And, it was incredibly random. There would be a table set up in front of an open unit – and on the table would be a shoebox full of used plastic cigarette lighters, a bag of sand, a pile of plastic picture frames with no glass, empty perfume bottles, some jugs of anti-freeze and a flat of fresh limes.

But I kept walking, and eventually it paid off. I found “the tool guy”, and although I didn’t get anything amazing, I did get some nice old tools at a great price.

I scored: four old wood handled screwdrivers, a nice pair of 6” Sargent & Co. dividers, a pencil sharpener, and a Stanley #42X saw set in pretty good shape. And the total price was $9. Awesome!

Rule #1A rocks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Shop Inertia And A New Project

It's been over two weeks since I've done any woodworking. So, finding myself with some free time yesterday, I eagerly headed out into the shop - only to run smack into Newton's First Law of Shops: "A shop at rest tends to stay at rest."

Maybe you've experienced this too, but I just couldn't get focused. I swept up some shavings hiding under the bench. I filed a few cardboard templates that I had left sitting out. I put away some leftover hardware. I cleaned and oiled the new marking gauge that had just arrived in the mail. In short, I puttered my time away.

No matter how hard I wanted to get things moving, it just wasn't happening. I had been away too long. The problem was certainly not a lack of projects: the partially finished set of blocks, the Arts & Crafts lamp, or even the long dormant bench. Nor was there any lack of potential projects I could start: the file box, the traveling tool chest, the small box, the shaker shelves or the wall cabinet. I could even work on tools: the chisel handles, sharpen the saws, fix the dovetail saw, or replace the missing boxing on the moulding plane. No, a lack of things to do was not the problem.

Finally, with almost no time left, I got things moving in one direction. I settled on making a new knife holder to replace the one that arrived broken. Two Christmases ago I placed a large order with Lee Valley. One of the things I ordered was a knife holder with plastic rods that hold the knife blades. Well, Lee Valley packs their stuff well, but not always well enough to insure survival through whatever the Alaska division of the USPS does to boxes. The box was practically crushed, and while everything else made it out alive, the knife holder did not.

Here's a picture of the broken holder:

Now, Lee Valley has some of the best customer service ever. And I know that if I had asked, they would have replaced it. But the thing was, I didn't really like the way the original wood looked. So I decided to just keep the plastic rod innards, and build a new case - a simple, fast project that I could have done in no time.

And then it sat there. And sat there. And months went by, and then a year. In the meantime, I saw (I think over at Schwarz's Woodworking Magazine Blog) a version that used bamboo skewers instead of the plastic rods. I liked that even better.

So now that I have had this broken holder for over a year, I finally decide to scrap the whole thing and build a new one from scratch. Sheesh!

I decided to use pine for this project. And so the first step was to resaw 3/4 inch stock to 1/2 inch. For this I use my frame saw. Here's a shot of the process:

And another - this time "sawyer's eye view":

After this, I decided that I need to make a longer frame for a longer web. I also need to file some more aggressive teeth on the next web. The bandsaw blade works fine most of the time, but in a long, wide board like this one, it's too slow.

So in the end, I only got through step 1 in the new project. But I did finally get things moving again in the shop. Now I just hope that the other part of Newton's Law will apply: "A shop in motion tends to stay in motion."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moulding Samples

When I last posted on my expanding moulding plane shelves the better part of a year ago, I mentioned that I had created a smaller shelf for storing short samples of the mouldings cut by the various planes. I've been slowly adding to these samples and since I find them very useful, I thought I might post about them.

Here's a shot of the almost full shelves:

That lower, center shelf holds the moulding samples:

I make these out of scrap 1x2 pine, and find these useful for several reasons:

1. They allow me to see the positive moulding profile, rather than the "negative" profile on the plane itself. It's funny how different these two versions of the same profile can be - especially for a profile that I haven't used before. I always think I know what the moulding will look like, but somehow my brain never sees it quite right. It works out much better to just work with the positive version.

2. It gives me a three dimensional moulding with which to play. I can see how the light and shadows change in various orientations. The shadow lines on a piece of moulding are a major aspect of the moulding, and they can look very different depending on where the moulding is used. With the sample, I can very easily try the moulding "right-side-up" or "up-side-down" (of course these terms are pretty meaningless - but I think you get the idea). When I'm deciding on a moulding for a piece, I pull out the samples and try them out in their final position. Visualizing is good, but actually seeing it is better.

3. I can stack the samples to see how they would work in building up a compound profile. This isn't perfect, as each moulding would not have to be stuck on a 1x2, but it works well enough to get a good idea of how they would look combined.

4. I use the back of the sample to record information about the plane. I write/draw the maker's mark, the owner's marks, any indicated sizes, and anything else stamped, carved or written on the plane. Then I record the name of the profile, which is sometimes a challenge. I also make note of any quirks in the use of the plane, or reminders to sharpen the iron. Besides being interesting, these notes help me locate the plane in my growing collection.

In the future, I'd like to include the approximate age of the plane on the back of the sample. And of course, I will probably need to make another shelf for the samples, as I underestimated how much room I would need... But what else is new?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Block Progress

Since I finished the chest, I've been making progress on the set of blocks that will live in it. It's been slow going, but mostly because I have only had short blocks of time in the shop. Sorry - bad pun.

The wood is from the dying library chairs that I first posted about here. This works out great, as the salvaged oak is all short lengths - making it perfect for blocks.

These are "unit blocks". The basic unit is a 1"x2"x2" block. All other block dimensions are fractions or multiples of this unit.

Here's what I have so far, with the chest in the background:

I only have 25 blocks done, but I still have some time. I'm shooting for at least 100.