Sunday, December 18, 2011

Changing My Dusty Hand Tool Ways

Yes.  It's true.  Hand tools make dust.  Lots of it.

I do a relatively good job of controlling dust from power tools - they are all hooked up to a 3hp cyclone, which does a great job.  It's not permanent, I have to move a flexible hose around to the bandsaw, lathe, planer and the table saw.  But it works pretty good.

Not so with hand tools, mostly planes.  The shavings pile up, and the dust with them.  Think your planes don't make dust?  Turn out all your shop lights, and plane by the raking light of a flashlight.  'Nuf said.

Here's a "Before" pic:

I was busy making some cutting boards, doing all the flattening and smoothing by hand.  Cuts were made with the bandsaw.  But there was tons of dust, chips and shavings.  And I made the mistake of coming in the house (one of the hazards of an attached garage shop), without cleaning off.  OOPS.  It doesn't help that it's the Christmas season, and everything in the house is supposed to stay spic and span constantly.

So I trudged back out to the garage, used compressed air to clean myself off, and trudged back in the house and proceeded to vacuum the entire house.  The things we do for the sake of women!  As I was using compressed air to clean my clothes, I stirred up all that dust.  Yuk.

I decided to make some major changes.  One:  Get my Rigid shop vac set up with the Clearvue mini-cyclone, and put it in a very handy spot under the end of the bench.  Very convenient for immediate use.

Two: Install an air cleaner, and use it.  The Delta was on sale recently.

Three:  Instead of blowing dust around, vacuum it up at the source.  I no longer use compressed air to clean my tools, clothes, benchtop, or anything.  I vacuum it up.

And now things look much better.  I'm making an effort to take the occasional "vacuum break" during work, and also vacuuming every time I leave the shop.

The next steps would be to have continuous vacuuming while planing with either the big cyclone running, or replace the Rigid with a Festool.  If I equipped it with one of those overhead arm things, it would always be handy.  Both the big cyclone and the Rigid are to noisy to run continuously, so I would prefer a Festool.  Another item to budget for.....but these steps have made a big improvement already.

And the cutting boards are coming along nicely.

Bocote Screwdriver & Bit Box

I recently built a Bocote-handled screwdriver and bit box and donated them to a Christmas charity auction.  Hardware was the Lee Valley Driver and Bits for Stainless Steel.  Several people requested a build-along, so I thought I would post this little tutorial.

Started with a nice block of Bocote that I've had for a while; it's been used to build a few plane totes and knobs.  Bocote is a typical oily exotic, but it turns well and is easy to shape.  The one fault that I have noticed is that it does tend to check a bit.  Could be a function of the very dry climate here in Alberta.  Most of the time they are little checks that are internal to the wood, and they don't cause a problem.  I cut the block shown below for the handle turning blank and another small block for the bit box.

I like to put grooves in my screwdriver handles, as this improves grip and also keeps them from rolling off the benchtop.  So the next step was to use the Lie-Nielsen bronze beading tool to put four grooves in the handle.

The little curlies look like dried-up orange peel.  I just use one of the standard blades that comes with the LN beading tool, but I may make another one that makes a larger, deeper groove.  Another modification that I am considering is starting out with a six-sided blank, as this would allow adding two more grooves.  

Here the blank is mounted in the lathe between centers.  I round the corners off with a roughing gouge and cut a shoulder on the left side with a parting tool.

Then I switch to a chuck with smooth spigot jaws, pick up a spindle gouge, and start shaping the blank.  I keep the tail stock in place to keep both ends well anchored until the blank is completed.  Then sand 80-120-180-220-320 grits.  The last two grits I hand-sand with the grain as well, to remove all turning marks.

Drill one or two little holes, usually 1/8" or smaller, for the wings of the screwdriver shank to fit into (if it has wings, this one did not).  This hole also allows epoxy to escape as the shank is driven home, allowing the shank to fully seat in the handle.  Here's the very accurate and repeatable method I use, see pics below.  Use a sharp awl to mark the hole locations (stunt blank in pic, as I forgot to take pics as I did the Bocote handle).  It also really helps a lot to have a sharp brad point bit. 

Then drill the hole with the Level-O-Matic (patent pending) device as shown.  You want this straight, as a little deviation can mess up the entire works.  Haven't messed up one yet, knock on wood.  

Drill the hole for the shank with a drill chuck with morse taper.  A steady rest would not be a bad idea here, but I don't have one.

Time to make the ferrule.  For my everyday users I often will use copper plumbing bullnose caps; they are cheap and easy.  The hole can be drilled to suit the size of the shank, which is convenient.  But for something upscale, brass is the ticket.  These brass fittings are from the plumbing department at the local borg, I forget what they are called.  But they are perfect for ferrules - nice and heavy-walled, come in lots of sizes, and minimal work to prep them.

Sand away the stamped lettering and polish to 600 or 1000 grit.

Grab the hacksaw and cut away the small end.  It will likely need a little more sanding and polishing after this operation, depending on how careful you are.

Dribble in a little epoxy (I use West Systems), and drive the shank home with a vise.  It's not a good idea to hit it with a hammer (DAMHIKT), as your new handle can end up in the trash in pieces.  

The bit box was dirt simple.  I cut a block of Bocote, squared it up on all sides with a hand plane, scraped it (sandpaper did not touch this box!), and sliced it in two parts using a bandsaw.  Roughly two/thirds on one side, one/third on the other.  Drilled twelve holes in both sides, taking care to align the holes in the top and bottom, and using a depth stop on the drill press to get consistent depths.  Four rare earth magnets were used for a closure, glued in place with epoxy.  I've tried using CA glue with these magnets, but I don't find that very reliable.  

Handle and box got a coat of danish oil, buffed, and waxed.  This was a very simple project that anyone can do.  For high-level results, all it takes is careful selection of wood and hardware, and attention to detail.  Makes a great gift and desk conversation piece as well, everyone loves playing with that little bit box.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Acrylic for Diamond Paste Sharpening Surface

On the advice of a more experienced diamond paste sharpener (thanks Peter!), I looked into using plexiglass (acrylic) or copper for a sharpening substrate.  It turns out the plexiglass was much cheaper and more available; I went to a local industrial plastics shop and dug through their scraps bin.  Found some 1/4" plexiglass for $4, and they cut it into three 3 1/4" x 8 1/4" pieces for me for $5.  The $5 for cutting was cheaper than buying a carbide-tipped 80 point blade for my table saw.

Then I cut matching 3/4" MDF pieces and epoxied the MDF to the plexiglass to make substrates for three diamond pastes.  I think I'll end up using a coarse (25-40 micron), then a 6 micron and finally a 1 micron paste.   In the photo below the MDF is getting epoxied to the plexiglass.

And here are the final results in the sharpening station.  Note the holdfast on the left, which is being held in the bench deadman, to hold the station in a fixed position while sharpening.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Working with Ipe

I decided to use Ipe charged with diamond paste for one of my sharpening stations.  It has a Janka rating of 3680 and is pretty difficult to work with.

I had a long piece of Ipe about 2" thick.  It's pretty easy to cut with a crosscut saw.  Here is my sawbench.

I decided to square and flatten it using handplanes rather than dragging out my powered jointer.  Don't like the darned thing anyway.  Here I am going at it with a jack plane with a cambered blade.  It worked pretty well.

Next, the #8 jointer was put to work to flatten it.  Think thin shavings, then make it thinner.  I had several "power out" moments until I got the right setting.  And the approach of picking up the plane and putting it to work without sharpening the blade was a non-starter as well.  It was skating along the top after a few strokes, so I broke out the sharpening stones.  But I was able to get one side and one edge flat and square.

This stuff will make you and your equipment look like The Hulk - colorwise, anyway.  It also left some waxy-looking crud on my plane blades that I had to scrape off.

Then I ran it through the tailed planer to get the other two sides flat and square.  Next, I tortured my poor little 10", 1/3 hp Rikon bandsaw by ripping it to about 1" thickness.  It was slow, but it cut it just fine.

Sent it through the planer one more time, then cut three blocks to length.  Here they are in the sharpening station, ready for diamond paste.

And finally charged with diamond paste, and put a secondary bevel on a blade.

Sharpening Stations

I have been working on my sharpening technique lately, and to enhance the experience I've built a couple of sharpening stations.  Sharpening stations are not a new thing, but these have a different twist - they are made from 3/8" sheet PVC, fused together with Weld-On 2007 (I used epoxy on the first one, but switched to the Weld-On for the second one).  This makes for a nearly indestructible unit that can be hosed down to clean it; it's very practical.

The first one has a 325x diamond plate and three sigma power waterstones, and can be used with an eclipse-type jig.  The five little stops at the front register the blades in the jig at 25 - 45 degrees, in 5 degree increments.

The second one is meant to be used with the Oneway Grind 'N Hone jig.  It has 3 blocks of Ipe of uniform size, charged with 6, 3 and 1 micron diamond paste.  I selected Ipe as it was the hardest wood I had available, with a Janka rating of 3680.  A primary hollow grind can be ground using the grinder, and you can go directly to the sharpening station with the jig, and put the secondary bevel on, using the diamond paste.  Here's a pic before charging with diamond paste.

And after charging with diamond paste and putting the secondary bevel on:

It's a good idea to label the blocks with the micron sizes, because after a while they all look the same dark color.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mastermyr Chest - continued

I had a decision to make......what to do with otherwise good wood, except for the knotholes.  Deal with this every time we build something, don't we?  In this case, the knotholes did not impact the structural integrity of the wood, so I decided to go ahead and use the wood.  After all, I paid full price for those knotholes, better put them to good use.  I decided to fill in the holes with epoxy, and use that piece for the bottom of the tool chest.

I actually take the West Systems expoxy and mix it with sawdust, wood chips, and plane shavings to form a nice chunky putty.  Pour it in, mold it into place and let it set.  In this case I had to put some packing tape on the back side, to keep the epoxy from leaking through.  It looks a little like dog vomit, but it is very strong.  It's not going anywhere, and being on the bottom no one will see it.

This planes down nice and smooth, works great.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Mastermyr Chest - first hand tool project

I was perusing the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Wooden Boat magazine when I came across an article about an old Viking tool chest, discovered in 1936 by a farmer on the island of Gotland, off the coast of Sweden.

As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be my first hand tool project.  It was perfect - simple, easy joinery, relatively small in size, and would have a practical use.  Here's a picture of the original:

And here's a well-executed reproduction, by Don Weber of Paint Lick, Kentucky.  He is also the author of the article in Wooden Boat magazine.

I began my project by purchasing some quarter-sawn white oak, and proceeded to build the chest, using only hand tools.  First I cut, flattened and jointed the end pieces, and cut the dadoes, doing the rough work with a mortise chisel and finishing with the router plane.  The ends are 10" across at the bottom, and 9" at the top.  My boards were not quite wide enough, so I had to laminate small strips at either side of the bottom to make it wide enough.  Not really noticeable.

Using the LV BU Jack to joint the end grain.  Man, that thing works great!

I used a brace and 3/4" Irwin bit to bore out the mortise, then cleaned it up with a chisel.

Here's one of the finished ends.

Then I used some 8/4 stock to glue up the lid.  I wanted to use a single plank, but none were available 10" wide, so I glued up some 5 1/2" planks.  Rather than just glue them together and have the seam in the middle, I elected to rip one plank in half, joint the edges, and glued one on either side of a 5 1/2" plank.  Here's a ripping action shot.

Followed by jointing the edges for glue-up.

And then the glue-up itself.

Here's the laminated boards, and the finished end pieces.  Next job is hand-milling the lid to shape, which is going to be a pretty massive job.  Then on to the sides and bottom.

Further details in these two posts: