Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mouldings In Practice: A Very Short Book Review

Mouldings In Practice, by Matthew Sheldon Bickford, was under the tree this year. I haven't gotten far in the book yet, but I already love it.

This one quote shows why:

"Nine years ago I was excited to look at all of the things I could do with my router.

Now look at all of the things I can do with my hands."

Amen to that brother!

And that underlying sentiment is why this book is awesome - that, and because he spells "mouldings" with the "u", like I do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Scary Sharp to Go

If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably know that I am a huge fan of the Scary Sharp system or method of sharpening. (Here's a link to my original post on Scary Sharp, and I've added a label if you want to read more about my experiences with it.) Last year, when I was getting ready for my classes with Roy, I decided I wanted to take Scary Sharp with me, so I created a smaller, portable version that could travel.

First, I needed a flat surface to bond the sandpaper to - and it had to be small. After poking around my local Borg, I found these small marble tiles that were just the right size and seemed pretty flat (and actually, if you can't find ones that are flat enough, you could lap them, although I don't really think you need to do that). The tiles are approximately 3"x6" and about 3/8" thick.

I sprayed nasty adhesive (I still want to create my own non-toxic version of this) on one face of the tile and on the back of the abrasive sheet. After it tacked up, I placed the sticky face of the tile on the sticky back of the paper and then trimmed the sheet flush to the edges of the tile. I decided I wanted six grits, so six tiles in my kit.

Here it is with my marking knife for scale:

From left to right: 100, 180, 320, 600, 1000, and 2000 grit. I was basically trying to double the grit on each consecutive tile, which I find works well. But of course you could have less grits if you wanted to spend more time on each one, but I find it too tedious. Plus, with more grits, each one lasts longer.

Here's a shot of the kit rolled up in its canvas cloth:

The tiles are on edge in this shot, which is why the proportions look different. Also, what you can't see, is that I cut spacers from file folder stock to put between each tile to keep the abrasive clean and protect it from its neighboring tile.
I'm not really done messing with this kit yet (it's only been a year). I have an extra tile that I might experiment with - I am thinking of bonding some leather to it to use as a strop with the Lee Valley green compound. If that works, I'll post about it. Eventually.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Conductor's Rostrum

At the school where I teach, all students in grades four through eight learn to play strings - violin, viola or cello. Recently our music teacher asked me if I could make a platform for her to stand on while conducting. Of course I said yes - and as a bonus, I got to put some extra wood that I have been tripping over to good use.

It was a bit of a rush job (Christmas concert), and it fought tooth and nail against its birth (all I'll say is I about got knocked out...don't ask), but I'm pretty happy with it. I think it is a good example of how a good design, with balanced proportions, doesn't need to be anywhere near perfectly executed to still be pleasing.

I was moving so fast (well, except after the head knocking part...) that I didn't take any pictures of the construction. The base is just a simple rectangle made from both 2x8 and 1x8 stock. It is joined with rabbet joints, which are screwed from both directions as well as glued. The top is a piece of 3/4 birch ply, and I stuck some quirk-ovolo-fillet moulding to hide the ply edge and it really added to the design. The finish is Tried & True Danish Oil and Varnish Oil, which of course I love.

Here are some shots of the final product:

Anyway, it was a fun project and was appreciated by my colleague. Of course, my son and daughter saw it and now they want a "dancing platform" of their own. I'll put it on the list...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pipe Clamps

Okay, this is probably a pretty obvious "tip", but I thought "Hey, you never know..." So here it is: You can easily, and cheaply, extend the versatility of your pipe clamps beyond buying various lengths of pipe, by buying pipe couplings.

Oh, and as for galvanized versus black pipe, my personal preference is the galvanized. It doesn't stain the wood, and as for being "too soft" as some have found, in my experience my black iron pipes are more easily dinged by the clamp clutch. Just make sure it is smoothy galvanized - my local Borg tends to have some that are very smooth and some that are rough.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tool of the Month #2 - Top Gear Style

The "Teasers":


The "Full Bore":

Now the only thing left is to see how fast it sands its way around our wood rack, and for that we'll hand it over to our tame racing sander.

Some say, he polishes his teeth with a Nagura stone; that he keeps his chisels sharp by storing them inside a crystal pyramid; and that he once claimed to have invented the "nib" on hand saws as a way to pick up girls. All we know, is he's called The Twig! carried away there for a bit...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shop Art

Just doodling around over coffee this morning:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tambour Progress

Here's the process I've come up with for making the slats for the chisel cabinet's tambour door.

First I round the edge of some 3/4 stock with a nosing plane. Since there is no stop, I used the pencil hatching trick to make keeping an eye on progress a little easier:

The section of odd texture on the end of this plane is from the overzealous stamping of F.A.H. - obviously that guy didn't cotton to others borrowing his tools.

Once it's rounded, I use the slitter on a Stanley #45 to cut most of the way through...

...and then finish removing the slat with a knife.

The slat is then placed curved face down into a jig so I can clean up the back with a jack plane.

And that's it - one slat finished (well, actually two since it's double length) and many more to go.

And here's a shot of the planes used:

Since each slat doesn't take very long to make, I'm hoping to sneak out to the shop and work through the total a little at a time. We'll see...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Birch Shrink Box

Out in the shop, I've mostly been working on the tambour door cabinet project - figuring out how to make the slats for the tambour. I think I've got that down and will post on it soon. In the meantime, I thought I would show you the prototype of the project the 7th graders are working on in the school shop.

It's a birch shrink box:

Made from green birch, the box shrinks and clamps the bottom in place. The bottom is made the same way the top, or lid (see above) is made. There is a variation where the bottom is set into a carved groove around the inside of the body - much like a barrel. I haven't tried that way yet.

This was the first one I've made, and I experimented a bit. I beveled the joint between the bottom and the body, but left the top unbeveled. I also tried out some decorative flutes in the bark. The possibilities are endless.

Here's the box with the tool kit used to make it:

As a final note - as this box dried the bark came loose and I've since removed it. I'm not sure why this happened, as I have plenty of birch rounds that have dried without losing their bark. It may be that this particular birch was right on the edge of rotting - I remember thinking that it looked like it had been down for quite a while before I found it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hammer Hanger

After posting about my latest tool panel, the one for miscellaneous tools, a reader asked for a more detailed shot and information on the hammer hangers. So, here it is.

They are made out of 2x stock, and are pretty straightforward to make and harder to describe in words.

First the layout: I put the hammer on top of the wood with the handle perpendicular to the bottom edge, and traced the underside off the head - under the bell and neck and down the left side of the cheek, and under the claw and down the right edge of the cheek. I extended a horizontal line across the gap where the cheek lines turned down toward the vertical. I also marked the top and bottom of the stock with thickness of the hammer head.

Time to cut: I cut the (mostly) vertical cheek lines with a Japanese saw, stopping when I reached the depth marks. Then, using a coping saw, I cut away all the wood above the traced line, following the horizontal line across the cheek cuts. It was short work with a chisel to remove the wood between the vertical cuts to make room for the adze-eye and the top of the handle.

That's it, well except for clean-up, which as you can see was pretty minimal, as I was not too concerned with perfection. Oh, and I did add a gate made from thin stock and counter sink screw holes for mounting the hanger on the panel.

I hope that helped.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tambour Door Experiment

The last of my tool panel up-grades will be the chisel panel. In an effort to save little fingers, but not take up more space, it will actually be a shallow cabinet with a tambour door. I've never made one of these before, and I thought it might be wise to experiment a bit.

Here's a shot of the bench after messing about for a little while:

One piece of the tambour (do those parts have a name?) is lurking under the left holdfast. The tracks were made with compass, knife, gouge and router plane. The first was sized for 1x8 stock, but I decided that would stick out too far from the wall, so I tried a 1x6 size. Seems like it will work fine, unless I want those chisel handles angled out, in which case it'll have to be deeper. Hmm. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tool of the Month #1

Okay, first the title is probably way to optimistic for my reality - but I will try.

In case you didn't already know, I love tools - especially old tools with stories to tell and skills to teach. I've shared some of these in past posts, but will now be attempting to be more regular about it.

The idea is I will pick one tool a month and post about it. I'll share its story if I know it, how I use it, any unique features, any questions I have about it, and what I love about it. So, that's the idea - let's get started.

"Worth" 16oz Bell Faced Claw Hammer

I picked this up with a broken off handle on one of my early tool hunting expeditions back East - probably Maine or New Hampshire, but I can't remember exactly. I punched out the remaining part of the handle, salvaged the wedges and made a new handle from local Alaskan birch.

I had never done that before, and at first I was rather intimidated by the idea. But, like so many other things I have learned on this hand tool adventure, it's really just a matter of getting started and figuring it out as you go along. As I worked on the shavehorse with drawknife and spokeshaves, I just kept holding the handle and pretending to hammer with it, and my hand told me what to do - thinner, longer, more flair, etc. In my mind it was going to be a round handle, but as I worked on it, the flattened octagon shape just felt right. In the end, I had a handle that was custom made to fit my hand. There are some pretty big dividends to NOT having a plan sometimes - in fact, in my experience, this is true most of the time. So if you've ever thought about rehandling a tool - I say do it!

In this shot you can see the "Worth" logo and also some marks that show a previous owner did some hammering with the side of the adze eye. Hmm. I wonder how this little guy ended up with that broken handle? (Not that the side hammering would do that, but I think it shows a level of disrespect for the tool.)

Worth was a house brand sold by the large hardware company of Bigelow & Dowse located in Boston, MA. From what I can find, this brand was made for B&D by Pexto, and sold between 1925-1945, which makes this hammer at least 67 years old. Cool. It also has a "REG US PATT OFF" imprint, which I find a bit unusual, as I don't see anything unique and patentable about it. Curious.

I also have a drawknife with the Worth mark on it (and strangley enough it is my "go to" drawknife, just like this is my "go to" hammer) but it also has an asterisk or star stamp as well, which I think I recall seeing elsewhere as being a symbol that Worth used. I'd love to learn more about this stuff.

Another thing I really appreciate about this hammer is the smooth, slightly convex face. I can consistently sink nails to just below the surface without leaving the so-called "French marks" - an old English term I rather expect.

And a shot of my initials - I'm not sure why I didn't brand this one - maybe because I was thinking of it more as an "owner's mark" rather than a "maker's" mark? Of course, I did make the handle...

I think hammers are under appreciated - but this one makes me happy every time I pick it up.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two Down, One to Go

When I removed the last pegboard tool panel in the shop I decided to reorganize things a bit. It was a real mix of tools, and is being replaced by three separate new panels. I completed the layout tool panel first, and now the second panel is finished as well. Yes! More than half-way done!

This one was for the "miscellaneous tools" - tools that are used too frequently to put in a drawer or chest. I wanted these right at hand, but arranged in a way that made more sense than the way they were on the old panel (actually, some of these were never on the old panel, but were "upgraded" to "frequently used" status during the planning and building stages).

Here it is:

You'll probably need to click on the picture to see it closer (well, if you're like me and such a total tool geek that you pore over photos trying to identify each and every tool ).

Now only the chisel panel waits to be finished - but it is going to be much more complicated, with a tambour front. I hope it doesn't take too long - at the speed I've been moving lately I'm already late getting started on Christmas presents.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Birch Spurtle

I recently rediscovered how much I enjoy eating oatmeal in the morning, and as I have been experimenting with making the real stuff, and not the "quick" (sorry William Penn look-a-like guy), I thought it would be fun to try making it with the traditional stirring tool - the spurtle. Or spirtle. Or thible. Or thivel. Or thyvelle. Or - never mind, let's just stick with spurtle (pun intended).

I started to look at designs on Google, but in the end I did what I almost always do and just let the tools, wood, and my hand guide me.

Here's the birch I started with - it's an air-dried scrap from a local saw mill that's been hanging around my shop for a couple of years waiting for me to start eating oatmeal again:

And here's what it became on the shavehorse:

Egads! Sandpaper! Yup - deal with it...

Here I'm demonstrating the intended grip for use stirring the porridge:

And a different angle showing how the form of the handle evolved - it is curved on the back to nestle into the web between my thumb and index finger, and has two angled planes meeting in a raised ridge or arris on the front that matches the crook of my thumb.

I tried it out the next morning with some Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats and it worked like a charm - added some Vermont maple syrup - mmm, mmm!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last of the Pegboard Removed and New Layout Tool Panel Installed

It's been a long time getting here, but the shop is now "pegboard free" - wahoo! I've talked about this before, how I think pegboard has its place, but how I much prefer real wood.

When I was first setting up the shop it looked like this:

As you can see, with the exception of the brace rack, all the tools panels were pegboard.

Well, one panel at a time, I've slowly replaced the pegboard. The first up-grade was to the saw panel, then the drilling/boring panel *. Now it was time to tackle the largest and most random of the panels - the one in the center that was a mishmash of tools - some chisels, files and rasps, punches, mallet, knives, snips, squares etc.

I was just going to pull the pegboard from the frame and replace it with tongue and groove 1x12s. I started that process by slicing open the bottom of the frame with a slitting gauge. Then my apprentice, Teague, helped me slide the pegboard out of the frame.

Then, as frequently happens, I changed plans. I decided that what I really needed to make was three panels: one for layout tools, one for frequently used miscellaneous tools, and one for chisels. Anything from the original panel that didn't fit one of these categories would just have to find another home.

The first of the new panels would be for the layout tools. It was made the same way I've made the other panels, so I won't go into great detail on the process, but here is a brief photo summary.

First, the Stanley #48 was used to create the tongue and groove joints:

The three boards of the panel joined together and with the joint showing the approximate amount of shrinkage I get on my other panels in winter:

There's nothing wrong with just leaving the panel like this, but I prefer to make the gap less noticeable and a little fancier by beading the edge on one of the boards at each joint.

Using a moulding sample to decide which bead size I wanted to use to make the joint look better as it expands and contracts over the course of the seasons:

Beading with the 1/4" side bead plane that matches the sample:

And the final result, again set to the approximate maximum shrinkage and gap:

A close up shot of the same:

And the panel completed, hung on the French cleat system in the shop, and loaded with layout tools:

Again, there was nothing wrong with the pegboard version, but this one makes me happy when I look at it - which is something we seem to be lacking all too often in today's world.

*Okay, I guess I should read my own blog more often - then I would have remembered that I used the wooden T&G planes and that they worked better...sheesh. Oh, and to answer the question I asked at the end of the boring/drilling post - "No. More like soon as in almost two years!"