Monthly Archives: September 2012

What on earth was I thinking?

A month or so ago at work I heard that one of my colleagues was planning to build a kiosk for a trade show.  We’re working on a new release of software that will run on embedded devices like a Beagle Board.  I’d actually thought about making a handheld device using one of these along with a small touch screen to be a home automation controller (or something).  Never mind that I live in the woods and don’t have electricity or internet access anytime it’s windy.  But I digress.

Anyway, we were just chatting about Jasper’s idea for a kiosk when I opened my mouth to say “that sounds really cool”, but instead the words “I’d like to help with that” came out.    Wait, did I say that out loud?

Anyway, Jasper built a prototype and I fabricated the Aluminum shell for the main body.  He did all of the heavy lifting – cutting legs out of plywood, painting, wiring and assembly.  The goal was to get budget approval to hire someone to make a bunch for the JavaOne trade show in a couple of weeks.  We got budget to buy materials for 4 instead.  Guess what that means?

This is the final design that Jasper and I worked out.  The legs on the prototype were a similar shape, but wider and thicker, made from two layers of 3/4″ plywood.  Jasper had a tough time getting a decent finish on them due to the rough grain and voids.

Final kiosk design

To simplify matters we opted for 1″ thick MDF for the legs with 1/8″ acrylic sheet for the two sides.  The logos are cut through the plastic.  This allows us to have a routed groove in the MDF for wires, and only have to worry about painting the edges of the legs.  In theory.  It turns out that the plastic was a translucent white, so the legs needed to be painted everywhere, although the surface finish on the faces of the legs wasn’t critical.

Assembly Mockup

We had all of the parts laser cut, which was the only way to get this done in any reasonable timeframe.  My job was to make four aluminum bezels, and paint the bases and legs.  Jasper is doing all of the assembly and wiring, as well as loads of separate tasks – like routing the wire grooves, fitting in the 100 or so threaded inserts and a bunch of other stuff I’m glad to avoid.

The bases were laser cut from 1/4″ thick steel.  They are every bit as heavy as they look.  I cut 1/2″ thick slices from some 1 1/2″ diamater steel rod and welded these discs to the bottom of the bases to make 4 legs.  Originally we were going to use stick-on rubber feet, but it was obvious they weren’t up to the task.

Laser Cut Steel Bases

I used my sandblaster to remove (some) of the mill scale, but didn’t have a lot of success.  I hadn’t used the thing in a few years, and the sand in it had gotten damp.  I burned up a lot of time fussing with it, and finally (100 pounds of sand later) settled on just getting the area around the logo down to bare metal.  Sometimes the scale on hot rolled steel just leaps off the surface, and sometimes it’s really tenacious.  I decided if it was a struggle to get it off with high pressure sandblasting, it was probably a decent substrate for paint.  I sanded the face with 8o grit, which did almost nothing, then scrubbed them with a solvant pre-cleaner (lacquer thinner followed by PPG Acryli-Clean).  I shot them with two coats of 2K high build epoxy primer, sanded them smooth to 320 grit, sealed them (because I sanded through the primer in a few spots) and shot them with two coats of automotive paint.  I used Nason (DuPont) single stage 2-part urethane.  It flowed out really nice, and had a great gloss.  The open time on it was a lot longer than I would have expected (it was tacky for about an hour), but even so there were only a few dust specks in the finish.

Painted Bases

The MDF legs required a lot more work to prep.  The laser cut edges were burned, and while the cut was smooth the surface wasn’t anywhere near smooth enough to get a glossy finish.  I shot the edges with 3 coats of the high build primer (that stuff is great), then hand sanded with 150, 220 and 320 to level and smooth everything.  Hand sanding inside oll of those holes was not the most fun I’ve had, but I had the stereo cranked up with my “Rockabilly Revival” mix and just powered through it.  Repeat the process of spraying a sealer (to help get even color coverage, adhesion and prevent against sand scratches), followed by two coats of the same urethane paint.

First Coat of Primer/Surfacer on the Edges

Finally I had to make four Aluminum bodies.  I figured out the bend allowance so I could get the dimensions just right and only have two parts (and two welds) per bezel.

Bezel Halves Bent – 3″ x .125″ 6061-T6 Aluminum

I had three blocks the size of the inside of the housing cut from 1″ MDF to serve as a fixture.  This made getting the parts a consistant size dead easy.  Here I have the first two halves trimmed, de-bured and clamped to the fixture.  I tack welded them on the fixture, then slid them off (not easily, it was a snug fit) and welded them solid.

First Ring Clamped for Welding

Here are all of the parts laid out for assembly.  I have to epoxy the mounts to the inside of the last two rings, and final-fit the front and backs to the last two cases and then I’m DONE.  Woot!  I’m going to go do that now, maybe I can get in a little “me” time for some woodworking today still.

Kiosk Kit

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Gentleman’s Traveling Chest

OK, is this cool or what?  A Gentleman’s Traveling Desk.  Where can I download a cutlist?

(many more pictures on ebay, the auction is open for a few days more!)


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Making Plane Floats, Part 3

After hardening and tempering the two floats and the chisel it was pretty much downhill, and I ended up not taking a lot of pictures.

First I re-filed the teeth on both floats, twice actually.  First to remove the scale from the torch, then I jointed them, applied Dykem and filed them again.  I’m not totally happy with the side float (the one with the wider teeth on the face), the teeth aren’t as even and accurate as I’d like.  But it works well enough, so enough fretting over aesthetics.

Test run of the floats on a scrap of Walnut

Next I needed to make some handles.  I trued up my 3 blocks of Walnut and used my newly made 1/10″ chisel to mortise a slot for the tangs.  It worked well, but as I got deeper it became more difficult to pop the chip out.  Eventually I got all three done.  Then I did a little shaping on the handles and rubbed them with some oil.  I was going for a tapered, facetted look.

One handle roughed in

The handles came out reasonably well – I was shooting for functional.  I want to put another coat or two of finish on the handles, then I’ll epoxy them onto the tools (they are just slightly loose on the tangs).  The chisel worked really well chopping a 1.5″ deep mortise that was only 1/8″ wide.  If I do this again I’ll make a chisel that is a full 1/8″ wide for chopping the mortise for the tang.  And yes astute reader, that would put me one more degree away from my original interest – which was to just try sticking some molding.  Which required a pair of hollow and rounds, which required a set of plane floats, which required a special chisel for the float handles.  That lived in the house that Jack built.

The real question is what do I do now?  Do I track down some quartersawn Beech or Cherry and try making a pair of hollow and round planes?  Or do I file this away (no pun intended) for a while and finish my saw chest?  Probably the latter.  Baring any new brain spasms I think I want to finish the saw chest (it just needs the lid and interior keepers, plus finish), and then the workbench.  Yeah, it would be good to finish the bench within a year of starting it…where the heck does the time go?  I wonder if my legs are dry yet…

Mostly done and completely functional

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Making Plane Floats, Part 2

I spent some time in the shop yesterday working on my plane making toolkit.  I’d previously profiled two float blanks and a matching chisel.  I started with the side float, at the widest end – that way it’s all downhill from there right?

After a few strokes of the file

I decided almost immediately that I couldn’t see what I was doing clearly enough, so I got out the red Dykem layout fluid again.  I also used a hacksaw to start each tooth.  The files I’m using are too small (4″ double extra slim triangular), and they are also not a great quality.  They go dull too quickly, I used probably 8 files on just this one float.

Red Dykem makes is much easier to see what is going on

After adding the Dykem it was much easier to keep track of what I was doing.  I would cut a few notches with the hacksaw, then file the tooth profile.  I had to lift the file to work more on the far side of the wide teeth to keep them even from side-to-side, since the files were too small.  Like with filing teeth on a saw, the completed tooth should reach the center of any face of the file or it is using up the life of the next edge of the file.  I didn’t bring each tooth to a sharp edge, I tried to leave a thin red flat at the top of each tooth.

After I worked down the entire length of the side float I re-coated it with Dykem and reversed it end-for-end.  I filed it again, still leaving the tiny flat at the top of each tooth, just to get the teeth as even as possible.  I need to file the tip into one more tooth still, I missed that yesterday.

Second Pass Filing

The edge float went really fast, not surprisingly.  First I transfered the layout of the teeth using a series of small hacksaw kerfs.  You don’t need much of a kerf, I went a tad too deep on a couple.

Transfer the Tooth Spacing

Now file in the teeth.  Hold the file so the leading edge is vertical or even slightly undercut.  As before I didn’t take the teeth to a sharp edge yet, I’ll do that after heat treating.  The spacing isn’t perfect, but it’s more important that the tops of the teeth all be in the same plane.  Using the tiny flats at the tip of each tooth assures that.

Filing the Teeth in the Edge Float

I also thickness ground the chisel to .100″ thick, it didn’t take any time at all with the 50 grit belt.  I sanded out most of the grind marks before heat treating.

Heat treating involves two steps, hardening and tempering.  I treated this the same as I would O1 tool steel.  Bring it up to the critical temperature slowly, hold it for a bit and then quench it in oil.  That gets the steel to it’s maximum hardness, but it’s also brittle.  Tempering removes this at the expense of some of the hardness.  I baked the parts for 1.5 hours at 500 degrees.  Thanks to Kolya for his expert camera work!

While the parts were baking in the oven (do clean off the oil residue first, unless you enjoy domestic angst) I started making some handle blanks.  I had a scrap of Walnut that I cut into three blocks roughly 2″ wide by 4.5″ long.  I squared the ends and drilled some 1/8″ holes to start excavating the cavity for the tangs.  Once the parts are tempered, cleaned and sharpened I should be able to use them to clear out the waste.

Walnut Handle Blanks

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Making Plane Floats, Part 1

After watching the DVD on Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes, I decided that making a couple of plane floats sounded like a fun project.

I started by doing a layout in SolidWorks and printing out full scale drawings of two floats and a chisel.  My thinking is that I’ll make one edge float, one side float and a matching thin chisel.  The only harden-able steel I had on hand in an appropriate size was some 1095 high carbon hot rolled bar stock left over from a damascus knife forging project.  If I was buying material I’d probably order some precision ground O1, but this should work just fine.  It’s 1/8″ thick by 1″ wide.

You can download a copy of the layout pattern as a pdf here: Float Patterns

Float Pattern

In laying out the floats I used an included angle of 10 degrees.  The angle difference between the bed and breast on this style plane seems to be 10.5 to 12 degrees.  Larry Williams used 10.5 degrees, so a 10 degree float should cover it.  The length of the working area was dictated by the angle and the width of the stock…and the fact that I wanted the overall shape of the tool to flow continuously from the tip through the handle.  The layout lines for the teeth are based on 9 teeth per inch.

I cut off three 7″ lengths of the bar stock, bead blasted the mill finish off and painted them with red Dykem layout fluid.  Then I taped the pattern to one of the blanks and used a snap punch to transfer the key layout points.  I prefer the red Dykem over the blue, I think it shows lines clearer, and if I cut myself it’s not as noticeable on the part.

Transfer the layout points

Then I removed the pattern and used a scribe to connect the dots to layout the outline of the float shape.  You could cut this out on a metal cutting bandsaw, with a hacksaw or using a cutoff wheel in a die grinder.  Or maybe a metal cutting blade in a saber saw.  I just used my belt grinder with a 50 grit belt to profile them.  It was faster than changing the blade in my bandsaw, which would have been how I’d do this normally.  I kept a pan of water handy so I could keep the part cool.

After I’d ground the part to shape I used a file to tune up the inside corners by the tang, then traced in onto another blank to make a second float blank.

One float profiled, trace onto another blank

Lather, rinse, repeat and you have two float blanks.  I also laid out the chisel and ground it to shape.

All Three Tools Profiled

That’s as far as I got yesterday.  Today I hope to file the teeth into the float first.  I’ll also grind the thickness of the chisel down to 1/10″. It’s .124″ currently, I think I can remove about .010″ from both faces on the belt grinder with the 50 grit belt, then lap the sides smooth with 80 and 120 grit.

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Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes

Sometimes the threads of my interest and focus are a scary thing.

For example, I recently got Matt Bickford’s book Mouldings in Practice from Lost Art Press.  I’ve read the first 4 or 5 chapters word-for-word, but now I’m itching to get a set of hollows and rounds and experiment with making mouldings.  I’ve been watching for Hollows and Rounds on eBay for months, basically ever since I learned about the upcoming Bickford book.  I was trying to avoid the Schwarz Effect where even a mention of a specific old tool will send the prices through the ceiling.  So far, I haven’t found the right set, and now that the book is out I expect to see prices skyrocket.

Instead I decided to order Larry Williams’ DVD on Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes.  The DVD is also available from Lie-Nielsen, who also sells floats (more later) and tapered moulding iron blanks.

The DVD came in the mail this week and after watching it I highly recommend it.  Larry Williams makes traditional wood planes through his business, Old Street Tool, and in this DVD he shows every step in making a matched set of #10 hollow and round planes.  He talks about stock preparation, layout, making the escapement, chopping the mortise, making and fitting the wedge, shaping and heat treating the iron, and shows every other step along the way to a finished pair of planes.  Even if you don’t want to make your own side escapement planes this is worth buying and watching in my opinion.

Here is a snippet from the video where Larry demonstrates how to sharpen plane floats.

Wait, what’s a plane float?  It’s essentially a coarse file with sharp cutting edges that shear off the wood and leave a flat, crisp surface.  Lie-Nielsen sells them in a variety of styles, prices range from $40 to $60 each.  You can also make your own plane floats as shown here and here.  From watching Larry’s video it appears that you need at least one edge float and one side float.  Larry also recommends a 1/10″ chisel.

I looked on eBay for floats of course, but there were just antique/expensive items there.  I particularly like this one, I like how the shape just flows from end to end.

Antique float from eBay

The teeth on a float are shaped in the same way you would sharpen a rip saw.  The instructions I linked to above show filing the teeth directly into the float blank.  I wonder how long this would take?  The edge float would be fast, it’s basically a tiny rip saw.  The side float perhaps not so fast.  I could also see a blacksmith cutting these teeth with a canted chisel, and if I had to make more than one I’d almost certainly set it up on the mill.

Float Teeth

I also ordered Todd Herrli’s video on Making Hollows and Rounds, it hasn’t arrived yet or I’d be watching that instead of blathering on here.

So to recap, in order to experiment with sticking some mouldings I need to get a few hollow and round planes.  Bickford suggests at least two pair.  I think it would be fun to make my own H&R planes, but first I need a few special tools.  Like floats and a tiny chisel.  I’ll need to get some tapered iron blanks from Lie-Nielsen, and quartersawn Beech or Cherry stock for the plane bodies.

It’s a 3 day weekend.  I need to weld a few oil tanks, program the CNC (unrelated to anything else in this post) and then I think I’ll see what I can do about making a float.



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