Monthly Archives: December 2011

Spare the Bur and Spoil the Edge

My arms are sore today.  Too much of my recent shop activity has been focused on welding or CNC machining, neither of which does much for muscle tone.  I need to join a gym I think.

After creating several prodigious piles of shavings, I noticed that my #6 was getting dull, it was requiring more force to move it through the length of the stock.  I did a quick touchup, freehand, on a fine oil stone.  I got a nice bur on the back – in fact I chased the bur back and forth as I took it off the back I formed a bur on the front.  I think that means the oilstone I has using is too coarse.

The re-sharpened blade was better, but not great.  So I decided that I needed to put a better edge on it using my waterstone.  I’m still a neophyte sharpener.  This #6 Bailey is a very recent ebay purchase, and it came with a good edge – so this is the first time I sharpened it myself.  I worked the back to a mirror finish — it was reasonably flat but dull and pitted when I got it.  Then I used my Veritas MK II jig and worked the edge with the 1000 and 8000 stones.  It didn’t develop a bur, although the bevel appeared to go to the edge and it felt sharp.  I dismissed the lack of a bur on the back and tried it out.  Better, but still not great.  I need to re-grind the bevel because I obviously didn’t get a truly sharp edge.

But, in more interesting news, I have the second face planed straight, without twist and essentially square to the rough face.

The doug fir planes nicely, although I get a little tear out where the grain reverses around knots.  Stupid knots.  I am able to work out the twist pretty reliably now, but I still struggle with flat at the beginning edge.  It seems to end up lower there than the rest of the face.  I need to work on my technique I suppose.

Even knowing that I had a slight dip at the end of the second face I decided to try the two boards together so I could see how I was doing.  I didn’t think I could get the face right until I spent the time to get the blade on the #6 properly sharpened.  There is a gap at the right end of the joint, where the red arrow is.  It’s not bad, maybe 1/32″.  It looks bigger in the picture because I cut a small bevel on the edge of both boards.  I have to remove so much material for the adjacent faces that it’s a non-issue.

I like it.  I don’t like the knots.  I read that a toothed blade can be helpful there.  Between that, sharp, and low angle I think I’ll be able to deal with them.  Time will tell.  Hopefully another few hours will result in a perfect fit and a glued up assembly.

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More Hand Planing

I spent some time this morning working on the the edge of the second beam that will go into my bench top.  I had to work the opposite face (against the bench in this picture) enough so it would sit flat and not rock first.  You can’t have both the board and the bench wiggling at the same time.

I checked this face with my straight edge, and worked the high spot that I found in the middle down with a scrub plane, then worked the entire face.  Looking back I should have spent more time in on the high spots with the scrub plane, but it was getting hard to read the surface.

I’ve done most of the rest with my #6.  I’m checking it with the straight edge, marking it to indicate the high spots, planning them down and checking again.  I’m about 1/16″ high in this middle area still.  If you look closely you can see my pencil marks.  You can also see that there is still rough texture at both ends.

I continued on like this, and before I came inside for a break I have the whole surface flat except for about 3″ at one end that is 1/32 low.  After I get my breath back I should be able to finish it off.  I fully expect to have to do some fine tuning when I fit the two edges together for the glue up.  And yes, I’m going to glue it up while the rest of the faces are in the rough.

I should end up with a 5.5″ thick top, although it’s going to be narrower than I wanted – maybe 17.5″.  Sir Schwarz warns that 18″ wide is marginal as it gets tippy.  I’ll either add the third beam into the top which will put me around 24″-25″, or I’ll make a trestle base to stabilize it.  I already have a tippy bench.

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Workbench Madness

OK, I probably need to have my head examined.  Again.  Or, perhaps, stop reading books and blog posts about workbenches. Or maybe any book by Christopher Schwarz.

I’ve been suffering along with my “craigslist special” workbench.  It’s an old Sears Craftsman cabinetmaker bench.  It’s shaped like a workbench.  It has a tail vise with a pair of bench dog holes, a face vise.  Dog holes in the top, a place for a tool tray.  But the resemblance to a functional workbench stops at, well, resembling a workbench.

The tail vise is so loose that it racks if you look at it crooked.  The face vise is just as bad.  It’s way too light, and held together with 1/4″ machine screws.  Seriously.  About two minutes of planning and everything loosens up and it gets to wiggling around like a bowl full of jelly.  Is that enough for this to count as a seasonal post?

So when I heard about the recycled doug fir on sale at Jackel Enterprises I had to go take a look.

I bought a 6″ x 9″ beam, I had them cut it into 3 pieces with the idea that I’d use two of them to make the top for a mini-roubo bench.  The knots are a little worrisome, I probably should have picked through the pile more carefully.  Oh Well.

I cleaned one face with a wire brush and knocked it down with a scrub plane.  The scrub plane really, really doesn’t like the knot on the near end.  I chipped out the center of the knot and used a rasp to take down some of the material around it.  I’m planning to bring the rest of the face down to meet it.

After a bit of work with the scrub plane I started working with a #5 jack, but it kept gumming up.  I think I need to move the frog back to open up the throat.  For the moment I switched to my #6 which seemed to work a little better.  I worked lengthwise and also skewed across the face.  I’m using a 5′ long piece of steel flat bar I had on hand (I have a lot of metal stock) as a straightedge.  No, it’s not straight yet, but it’s probably plus or minus 1/16″ at this point.

I can tell this is going to be a big learning experience.  And an amazing cardio workout.  I came in from the shop after 45 minutes of making shavings, sweating and breathing hard.  It beats spending time on the Stairmaster, and the smell of the wood as I’m working it is great.

Update: Another 45 minutes of work and I’ve got the first face as flat and straight as I can,  I checked it for twist with some winding sticks (two lengths of 1″ square aluminum bar stock…lots of metal laying around as I said) and have that taken care of, and checked it with my straightedge.  I’m going to re-sharpen my plane iron later and make a final cleanup on this face and call it good.

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Instant Tool Chest Update

Just a quick update on Kolya’s Christmas tool chest.  I painted it red first, then slathered on a coat of black.  Tonight I scuffed the edges with some worn 220 grit paper, then rubbed the whole thing out with steel wool and danish oil.  I’ll probably go over the outside once more with the danish oil to improve the sheen, then wax it and re-install the hinges.

I’ve put together a nice kit of tool to go in it, including a small hammer, block plane, coping saw and some other essentials.  This was a fun, simple project and I think it will make a great present.

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Board Feet on the Incorrectnet

Good grief.

I’m planning a workbench project to replace the workbench-shaped object that graces my shop.  It’s crooked, too light and has vises that don’t vise.  And it’s a topic for another day.

Jackel Enterprises has a sale on currently, $2.50 per board foot for recycled Douglas Fir timbers.  Here is my line of thinking: “Maybe I should pick up enough to make a benchtop, it would be good practice with my hand planes and shouldn’t be too much money.”

Being lazy I googled “board foot calculators”.  Top of the list is the Board Foot Calculator from the University of Missouri.  I plug in 4″ thick by 18″ wide by 96″ long, and $2.50 per board foot.  OK, I need 576 board feel and $1,440.  WHAT?  If you navigate up a level from that page you’ll see that they have a very nice page on the Measurements and Pricing of Primary Wood Materials where they explain that board feet are calculated as (length * width * thickness) / 12.  Not likely.

The third entry on the google results page is another calculator from Sawdust and Shavings.  They explain, correctly, that board feet is a volumetric measure.  One board foot = 144 cubic inches.  They even give the correct formula, then proceeds to calculate it incorrectly.

So the top two sites as ranked by google provide the wrong answer.  Must be the new math.

In truth there are 48 board feet of lumber in the finished bench top (18″ x 4″ x 96″), and I’ll probably shorten it to just 6′.  Would it be wrong to buy myself an early Christmas present?

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The Instant Toolbox

This is a quick update on the “I Can Do It” Gent’s Tool Chest that I covered in an earlier post.

I decided to add the faux raised panel.  Honestly that was the most fun of the whole project.  I didn’t even stop and take pictures of the process.  I took one of these cheesy 1-by pine boards and sawed out a slightly oversize piece for the panel.  I planed one side so it was flat, trued one edge, flipped it over and took it down to 1/2″ with a scrub plane, then flattened it with a #6.  Wow, it went fast and came out pretty nice.  I shot one end square, trimmed and shot it to length and planed the last long side to width.  Then I beveled the edges with a low angle block plane.  I did the ends first in case going across the grain caused any blow outs (it did, but not bad) then did the long edges.

I glued it to the lid of the box and sanded everything with 220.  Honestly I should have left the raised panel unsanded.  Sanding immediately rounded over the nice crisp edges I had from planing the bevels even though I used a light touch and a sanding block.

I stained the inside of the box and lid, and painted one coat of red latex on the outside.  When that has dried I’ll put a coat of black over the red and then selectively sand through the black to expose the red and the pine to give it some character.

Paint really helped the appearance.

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Woodworking With My Son – Making a Bird House

Hopefully this is the first of many posts on making stuff with my son. We’ve done a few projects together, the best was when we forged a knife together.  I had a few scraps of O-1 round bar, my son forged this to shape, ground it flat, cut out the brass guard, glued it up and shaped the handle.  I helped with the heat treatment and hollow grinding of the blade, Kolya did all of the finish work.  It came out great and sees regular use in our kitchen.  Not bad for an 11 year old kid, he was very proud of it.

So, on to woodworking.  I Googled for kid-friendly projects and found some plans for a bird house.  I picked up some cedar fence boards at the local big-box store, some nails, glue and a bit of 3/8″ dowel rod.  The boards are 5.5″ wide, .5″ thick and 6′ long – with clipped corners on one end.  They were also soaking wet, it must have been a tree still within the last week or two.

The instructions are pretty straightforward.  I helped Kolya and his friend Alec mark out the lengths to cut and they went to town with handsaws.  They both did a great job sawing and there was only a little clean up needed.  I shot the ends square (square-ish…these are rough sawn boards and there isn’t a true surface anywhere).  Mostly I just wanted to make sure things would line up for nailing.

We used Titebond III waterproof glue and some 3D finishing nails to assemble our birdhouses.

Now this is funny.  Anyone who know me has seen my hammer collection — without exaggerating I bet I have at least 50 hammers.  Old auto body and sheet metal shaping hammers, mallets and slappers.  Silversmithing hammers.  Inexpensive body hammers that I’ve ground to a special shape for some particular job, semi-rare Pexto hammers I’ve tracked down on eBay, even a custom-forged hammer made to my specifications.  Ball peen hammers in every size.  Blacksmithing hammers, blocking hammers and plannishing hammers.  But I couldn’t find a nail hammer.  Seriously.  I know I own one that I’ve had since I was a kid, and I know I have a framing hammer somewhere too.  Maybe they were out on a date together somewhere.

Instead we used a cheap autobody hammer to drive the nails.

The boys sanded their bird houses with 100 grit paper.  Since this is rough sawn wood we just wanted to knock off the splinters and sharp edges.  A bird with a splinter is a very sad thing.

They enjoyed glopping on a coat of gel stain.  I rubbed the excess stain off and we put a coat of danish oil on them.  They came our nice I think, and they boys had a great time doing it.

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Tiny Houses

I was reading through some older posts on the Tiny House Blog and came across this picture of a Whimsical Tiny House.  I like it.  A lot.

I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me about tiny houses in general.  Simpler living?  Less stress?  That could be it.  With a normal sized house there are always more rooms to clean, decorate, repair, fill with clutter and clean again.  And with a bigger house comes a bigger price tag, higher payments, higher utility bills, etc.

Regardless, I’ve been fascinated with small houses for a long time.

A number of years ago my wife was longing for a quiet place to pursue her craft of writing.  With a small child and the legal limit of cats and dogs in the house that was pretty much impossible.  Our solution?  We bought a pre-fabricated garden shed from Tuff Shed.  We leveled up a spot near the house with drainage rock and had the shed delivered.  I added insulation, wiring and drywall and we had an electrician connect it to the main breaker box on the house.  Some carpet, paint and furnishings and we had her perfect hideaway.

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Ron Covell’s Soapbox Racer

In an earlier post on the Artist’s Soapbox Derby that was held in San Francisco in 1975 I mentioned my buddy Ron Covell.  Ron helped Don Potts build his car for the first derby in 1975, and then in 1978 when they held the event a second time he built this car for himself.  He still has it, suspended from the ceiling of his workshop.  The pictures don’t really do it justice.  The framework is all stainless steel round bar, the steering is brass and wood.  Ron build the giant rear wheel himself, laminating the rim from strips of wood and lacing it up to the hub.

Ron’s a pretty amazing craftsman, he just produced a DVD on making a buck — a wooden framework that represents all of the shapes in a car body — for a Model T Roadster.  I’m looking forward to putting my feet up with a bowl of popcorn and watching that one soon!  Meanwhile I’m working my way up to painting trolls.

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I Can Do That (Too)

Popular Woodworking has been running a series of articles called “I Can Do That”, the premise being that with some simple tools anyone can make these projects.  I think it’s a great idea, although most of the projects don’t interest me personally.

However the I Can Do That: Gent’s Chest from the December 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine caught my eye.  It has a bit of a retro look that appeals, and it looked like something I could knock out in an afternoon.  I’m also putting together a small kit of tools for my son for Christmas and this seems like a great addition.  So let’s get started.

The materials are pretty simple:

  • Pine 1″ x 8″, at least 6′ long
  • Pine 1″ x 10″, at least 6′ long
  • Pine corner molding
  • Pair of small brass hinges
  • 4D Finishing nails
  • Glue

I started by cutting four pieces from the 1″ x 8″, two at 18″ and two at 7.25″.  I’m using an inexpensive ($30) pull saw made by Vaughn from the local big box store.  Surprisingly, it makes a clean, straight cut with a little care.  Keep the angle of the saw low, use a light touch and be careful not to twist the blade.  It’s at least twice as good as my $12 Ace Hardware back saw, but that’s not saying much.  A little beeswax on the sides of the saw helps it work more smoothly.

After cutting to length I shot the ends of the boards to make sure they were square, and that the pairs of sides were exactly the same length.  The pine boards are not what I (or any person with at least one of their five senses intact) would call straight or square from the store.  The two edges aren’t parallel, they have twists and cups, and for this project I decided I didn’t care.  I shot the ends square to one edge and called it good enough.  The plans call for hiding the nailed butt joints under corner molding anyway.  And yes that is my late-model Stanley #5 being pressed into service.  I lapped the sole, filed the frog flat and fitted a Hock iron and breaker.  It’s now officially marginal.

I nailed and glued the front and back to the two sides and checked that the “joints” were square.  Then I had to rip a small strip to serve as the battens to support the bottom of the chest, which is nailed to the top of these.

And glued them to the inside bottom of the box:

The bottom and lid were cut to length, slightly oversized, and planed to the correct length and width.  The corner molding joints were laid out with an angle square and cut slightly long using the same pull saw, then adjusted on my disk sander to get the angle and length just right.  I need to make another shooting board to be able to shoot 25 degree miters!

After the bottom was nailed in, and the trim glued and nailed in place we have a mostly-finished tool box.  I need to sand it, fit the hinges and apply some finish this morning.  I’m still debating about whether to include the faux raised panel element on the top. I think I have about 2 hours into this project so far.  I think it’s going to serve, but there are some klunky bits I don’t care for.  First, nailing the bottom on top of the battens gives up too much space.  It could be screwed to the bottom of the box and you would gain another 1.5″ of depth.  I cut a rebate on the two long sides of the bottom piece to eliminate some of this loss, but I would do it differently next time.  Also the trim is a little weird.  The joints between the vertical and horizontal trim are going to look a little sloppy because the edge of the trim is rounded — so you have a square cut end butting against a rounded edge.  Also, the trim when viewed from the back looks incomplete.

I’ll finish it according to Megan Fitzpatrick’s instructions and then review the end result.

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