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.