Friday, December 28, 2012

Finishing The Moxon Vise

The Moxon vise project was something I tackled enthusiastically, only to let it linger in a corner for months.  The reason?  Wooden screws.

I started with one of those chinese-made wood-threading kits from Woodcraft.  The threads made by the tap didn't match the threads on the screw.  Woodcraft returned my money and generously gave me some free wood.  Then I graduated to the Beall system, and upgraded my router.  Chewed through a lot of dowels, and never was able to create anything that worked.  Beall even sent me a replacement part at no charge, but by then I was thoroughly disgusted with the entire process.

During this time I industriously pulverized massive quantities of fir and maple, clearing entire hillsides of native forests.  Beavers were lining up outside my door, waiting for a free meal.  The local pulp mill wanted to sign a contract.  It was that bad.  But I both exaggerate and digress, as I'm sure you've noticed.

The 8/4 hard maple chosen for the project was set aside at the bottom back of the wood rack.  A few months ago, it was moved to a corner while re-arranging the wood pile.  The sight of it still provoked muttered curses even after the passage of much time.

Then over the holidays I had a few weeks off, some of which was spent sitting in the shop, contemplating the contents, wood inventory, unfinished projects, etc.  When I could look at the maple without inciting an internal riot, I figured I had a chance to do something with it - other than reduce it to matchsticks, that is.  A new LV Shoulder Vise Screw also sat in the corner next to the maple, a victim of another abandoned project.

A few cobwebs were brushed aside, a rusty cog started to turn, and the beginnings of an idea were germinated.  Hmmm......still a few days before Christmas.....I dashed inside to the computer, and added a LV shoulder vise screw to my online wish list.  There was an off chance, even at this late date, that it might happen.....

And it did.  The second shoulder vise screw appeared under the Christmas tree, and I was off to the races.  A few hours in the shop, and I was able to produce a workable Moxon vise.



Boring out the holes with the 14" brace and Irwin expansive bit.  That's a bit of work, would really be tough without that big brace.



The front chop of the vise sags a bit, so I installed the UHMW inserts to provide some stability.  The screws action is pretty smooth now.



The tail end of the screw was countersunk and screwed on to the back of the Moxon vise.  I didn't use the countersunk screws that came with the shoulder vise screw, as I had to turn everything around and attach from the back.  So I used pan head screws, and they worked fine.



This thing is a beast of a vise and works great.  The shoulder vise screws are a bit of overkill, but they work well.  It was one of those "Use what you got" moments, so I'm good with the results.

Now on to doing a few dovetails!


But First, A Modification....

After using it a bit, I decided to switch things around a little.  The current setup works, but it was a compromise.  I did it this way because the brackets/nuts were too large to attach to the back without chopping a mortise in the bottom support strip of wood (a symptom of picking up this project and making changes after almost a year).  The best way is to move the brackets/nuts around to the back - this way the threads can stick out the back instead of the front.  A pic is worth a thousand words.....



You can see where I had to cut away some wood to get the bracket in place.  Previously, the end of the screw had been held in place, fixed, by that little green thingamajig.  This made the entire length of the screw stick out the front, which would get in the way constantly.  I think this new configuration will work better in the long run, even if I had to hack up the wood a little.  Compare the first pic in the thread to this last pic and see if you don't agree.



One Last Note....

Several individuals have informed me that the first arrangement, with the nuts/brackets on the front "just doesn't work" or is "plain old wrong".  Well, I must agree it isn't the best; the second arrangement works better.  But the first setup actually worked pretty decent.  I think the main reason it did work was the holes in the wood are 1.5" and the threaded rod is 1.08".  With the UHMW providing some support yet being flexible, there was enough play in everything to allow some independence in each screw.

It just goes to show you that there is more than one way to skin a cat.  People choose different approaches for reasons that make sense to them; often this is not clear to the casual observer.  It pays to keep an open mind and leave the dogma at the door.

A Few More Pics....

I added some bling in the form of walnut handles and collars, put an oil finish on it.



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Media Center, Post 2

My scheme is working...... writing about projects really does help me move forward. 

I got some of the not-so-much-fun stuff done today. The TV rack mount was installed and the TV is now suspended from the back wall. It is super-adjustable in every direction. The key reason for the rack mount was to eliminate the TV from the TV stand design. What?!??! Am I nuts? Seems kinda silly, but it's true. So now it's not really a TV stand, it's a.....uh, low wooden table? Shelves? Cabinet? I don't know what to call it, to be honest. Having to set the TV on it caused some design limitations. Now they are gone, and I can build a free-standing whatchamacallit. 

Fun stuff now, here are some pics. Let's start with results, as I know you are all bottom-line readers, right? 




This was done in layers. The first layer was two pieces of 2x10 doug fir about 41" long. These were cut to length and lag bolted with 8 4" lag bolts and washers to the wall studs. Bolt heads were countersunk. Here I'm cutting them to length with my D-42. OK, that part was fun, I admit.



As mentioned, these were lag bolted to the wall. Of course the studs aren't centered where you might want them; they never are, are they? 



On top of the doug fir, I used deck screws to attach a second layer, a nice piece of cherry veneered particle board, left over from the original building of the cabinet. That was nice of the cab builders to leave that behind! Here's a pic of that, and also the rack, which was layer three, held on by about 14 2" heavy screws. The rack kit came with six, and I added eight more. May be overkill, but if it comes down, that exterior wall is coming with it.



The directions that came with the rack were pretty cryptic; a postcand-size paper with about 8 drawings on it.  No text.  Wonder what country that comes from.  But it seems well built.

I may put some cherry trim around the sides and top, but I'll wait a while and see if the small painted areas bother anyone - that "anyone" being the house boss. When not illuminated with a flash, it's kinda hard to see back there.

That's it for now. I'm reading some articles on table design and general furniture design to come up with some ideas for the whatchamacallit. I find the "Design Matters" column by George Walker in PWW to be pretty interesting. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Choosing Wood For Cutting Boards

Every year it seems I make a cutting board or two as Christmas gifts.  And every year, I get several requests for more.  Maybe they use them for kindling, how would I know?? I like to finish them with pure tung oil, which can often take a month or more to cure.  So I start early - October is not done, and I have three cutting boards built with the first coat of tung oil in place.

When I make cutting boards, they are almost always end grain boards.  These can be outrageously expensive in the kitchen stores, and they can be more expensive to build than a regular board, but the cost can certainly be managed.  The big variable is thickness.  I made one last year for my wife that was 2 1/2" thick and 13" x 17" - that's a lot of board feet - and it weren't cheap, pardner.  Maple, Walnut and Goncola Alves.  It's so heavy my wife doesn't use it much. She's one that asked for another cutting board this year, by the way - but smaller.



Suggested rules for selecting cutting board woods are:  Hard.  Dense.  Tight Grain.  Small Pores.  No Oily Wood.  Low Toxicity.  No Splintering.  Easy to Work.  Available In Your Area.  That's where I start - then I do a bit of bending and sometimes outright break them.  But these are good rules......no, really, they are!!

But.....if you follow the rules, your wood selections can be somewhat limited.  The perfect wood for me is hard Maple.  If I could only pick one wood for cutting boards, it would be Maple.  But one wood is boring  (Note:  If you are going to use one wood, there are interesting things you can do with the grain in end-grain cutting boards, so all is not lost!).  Others that fit are Beech and Birch.  All kinda boring, really - we need contrast to these plain white woods, don't we?

Let's add some darker woods.  Cherry is probably the best, and also a favorite wood of mine to work.  Slightly softer, but I don't think it matters in end-grain boards.  Purpleheart is really hard and dense, not oily like other exotics and I have used it.  Great contrast with the white woods.  It's primary downside is it can splinter a bit, but I think it's controllable.  The other dark wood that is used a lot is Walnut, and I like it.  The only issue is the grain on walnut tends to be pretty open.  But I have used it for cutting boards and rolling pins, and people love the color and figure.  Especially Claro Walnut.

Other woods that I would like to try, but haven't, are Osage Orange, Pecan, Persimmon, Black Locust to name a few.  Domestic wood, but not really available unless you harvest your own or know a mill that handles them.

Exotics?  Pick your poison - literally (I'm being tough on them, but it it's a nice turn of phrase, isn't it?).  Lots of the exotics have some level of toxicity associated with them.  They are also very oily, which can compromise the glue joints.  Having mentioned these downsides, it wouldn't bother me a lot to use them in a cutting board. The only one I have used is Goncalo Alves (the red one in the pic above) and it looks great.  When using exotics, always clean the glue face with alcohol and/or mineral spirits to remove the oil, and do the glue-up immediately after.  Some use epoxy when gluing exotics, but I have always used Titebond 3 or Lee Valley's Cabinetmakers Glue.  Time will tell how the joints on mine hold up.

Some good resources on cutting boards are The Wood Whisperer and Cutting Board Designer Software.

And the fresh new ones, from Birch and Purpleheart, one coat of tung oil.  You can also see tracks from the lunchbox planer on them, they still need to be sanded.  Yes, I use the tailed planer on end grain, but I have a helical head, chamfer the board edges first, and take light cuts.


I'm a hand tool guy, but when I do cutting boards the tailed tools come out.  Speed and precision take precedence in this situation.  I use my bandsaw and lunchbox planer a lot, plus a LV bevel up jack hand plane to flatten one side before running them through the planer.  LV apron plane to chamfer the edges.  I have built them entirely with hand tools, but with this pattern it is difficult to achieve the precision you need for a nice checkerboard.



Fun Little Project

With emphasis on "Little".  This is the LV inset plane, a wee bitty little feller.  Bocote, 11/16" x 1 7/8" x 4 1/2".  It was a fun afternoon with spokeshave and rasp, and I needed the spokeshave practice.  Might turn this little bugger into a chamfer plane, I need one.





Nov 10, 2012:

Thought I would add a few notes on making this plane.  The LV online instructions are pretty thorough, but reinforcement doesn't hurt.  Here are the steps I took.
  1. Choose your wood and square and flatten it on all sides.
  2. Drill the holes for the mortise.
  3. Shape the wood however you like.  I used the shape suggested by LV, just hand-drawing and eyeballing everything.
  4. At that point I fit the plane into the mortise, and let it set on my desk for a week.  Just to see if I changed my mind about the shape.  You can also put a finish on it at this point if you wish.  Mine is just waxed, because bocote is oily.
  5. When you are ready to permanently fix the inset plane in the mortise, coat all exterior surfaces of the wood in paste wax.  This will prevent the epoxy from sticking to the wood.  I don't care how careful you are, that epoxy will get on everything, trust me.  Use the wax on every surface except the inside of the mortise, of course.
  6. Coat the bottom of the inset plane with paste wax.  Yep, the epoxy will stick here if you don't use wax.
  7. Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface.  I used a granite plate.  Make sure there aren't any wrinkles in the plastic wrap under the plane.  Apply epoxy to the outside of the inset plane, lay the wood down on the plastic, insert the epoxy-coated plane in the mortise.  This is the part where the epoxy goes places you don't want it to.  Tape the plane/wood body down to the granite plate, making sure every surface is flat on the granite plate.
  8. Let it sit overnight.  The epoxy will settle, and some will likely run out and set up on the bottom of the plane.  You want to keep this to a minimum by having it on a flat surface and taping it down tightly.
  9. Scrape the epoxy off the areas where it doesn't belong.  It comes off easy if you waxed properly.
  10. Use mineral spirits to clean off the excess wax.  It will have dried overnight and won't buff up very well.  Let dry.
  11. Re-wax, and buff to a nice shine.

Here's a picture after I applied the epoxy and taped it down.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Media Center Project

......and I am progressing....er...no, putting off is more like it - the design and build. My wife has asked for this several times, and I've been conveniently ignoring her. I want to do it, but I have not been taking the necessary steps. It's like I have "media center" block. 

So I am motivating myself by putting words to paper (screen, actually) in this public forum. By doing so I expect to gin up a few ideas from the rusty cogs and crevices of my feeble brain. Also, if I don't make progress, I know someone will be watching......

The scenario goes like this: We have a cherry entertainment center with a projection TV in it. Projection TV breaks, and is replaced with a nice svelte flatscreen. To svelte, actually. There are gaps, and gaps are unseemly and must be addressed. See pics.







Note the little table from 1x2 pine; I built that for dorm furniture when I was in college just a couple years back.  This is what needs replacement, as it was just a temporary substitute, oh, say three years ago. What!!?? There's nothing wrong, it works just fine! (I keep telling my wife). 


The plan is to mount the TV to the wall on this bracket; it will be high enough so that the TV will cover the current gap at the top. Then build a cherry media center to go underneath it. Normally I would set the TV on the media center, but the logistics work better to hang the TV and slide the media center under. 





The media center will have rough dimensions of 24" high, 45" wide, and 15" deep. Everything else is wide open at the moment. I have toyed with the idea of a shallow row of drawers across the bottom, and one shelf. I'm thinking the front will be open. I want a simple but classic design that goes with the rest of the entertainment center. 

For inspiration, I'm eyeing this cherry coffee table.  It is 18" high x 38" wide.  Perhaps I can match some of the features it has, such as the moulding, drawers, etc.  






Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Wood Muse Has Abandoned Me

.....at least temporarily.  I haven't written for a couple of months now, as travelling, assisting relatives with cross-country moves and other life events have gotten in the way.  By the way, I can't recommend relative-moving highly enough.  It makes you appreciate the little things in life so much more.

So I haven't been doing much in the way of woodwork, save for the bowls shown in the pic below.  These are everyday working bowls of uninspired design, but thick and sturdy for use in the kitchen.  The wood came from a poplar tree on the local golf course that came down in a windstorm.  I usually turn up my nose at poplar, but wanting to get some green wood turning practice, thought I would give it a go.



And to get my appetite whetted for more woodworking, I thought I would get back to basics.  I took the one remaining poplar log, a crotch, and split it by hand.  Nothing more satisfying that beating on a chunk of wood and watching it reveal it's secrets.








Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stanley Sweetheart 50 1/2 Mitre Box Rehab Finished

This is Part Three of this rehab, here are Part One and Part Two

Apologies for hurting your eyes, but this is the ugly before pic: 




And here is the after: 




The saw is a complete replacement, a nice Disston that I acquired from Walt at Brass City Records some time back. It fits this little box perfectly, with 3 1/2" under the back and 25" length. The base board, as I suspected, was walnut. I flattened it and cut it back so it fit the frame properly, without obscuring the scale. Darn thing actually had hints of curl in it. Nicest board I've ever had on a mitre box, for sure. 

The brass model number plate was in good shape, shined 'er up a little. 




The paint for the frame was a gray Tremclad, as close as I could get to what I think was the original color. On second thought, maybe I could have gone a shade lighter. But I'm happy with it. 



Only apology is it didn't have hangers. I may have to fabricate something, or if anyone knows the whereabouts of some, I'm all ears......  


Monday, August 6, 2012

Green Poplar

Since I've started turning wood, my ear has become tuned to the sound of.....chainsaws.  Whenever I hear a chainsaw running, I hop in the truck and go for a drive.  Sometimes, you end up with some nice free wood for the asking.  And then sometimes it's free, but not so nice.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when the sound of chainsaws directed me to the local golf course.  Yup, multiple large trees were being taken down after a windstorm.  I know the course manager, and dropped him an email inquiring as to the availability of the wood.  As luck would have it, he was on vacation.  So it was five days later when I was able to get my mitts on this:


It was free, but not so nice; poplar - uhg!  But, I need practice turning green wood, so here it is.  I cut it up on the bandsaw and rough-turned a few blanks.  Actually there is some nice contrast between the heartwood and sapwood.  It was pretty wet, fuzzy and lumpy to turn.  Should be ok after it dries tho.



Turning Bowls Is Like A Relationship.....

....it can go sideways on you really fast, needs a lot of attention, blah, blah.  I made a nice little Padauk bowl for a friend's birthday, and my wife asked for one. 



Well, sure, but I can do better than that old Padauk bowl, I said. I decided to step it up a notch and use a nice piece of Cocobola I'd been saving for a special project. 


Kapow!  Curses!  Rats!  Must've had a little hairline crack, because there weren't any catches. Matter of fact, it turned like butter. I'll finish it up, cut a notch, put it on the shelf and chalk it up to experience. Both bowls were buffed and waxed, these exotics shine up nice without a finish.


By the way, I have never had problems with allergies to exotics. Even so, I'm pretty careful about running the dust collector and wearing breathing protection. What I didn't anticipate was an issue with putting in my contacts the next day - some pretty serious burning! I threw away that pair, they were almost done anyway. Only other time I had that problem was with jalapenos; my contacts burned then but it went away pretty quick. Looks like it's gloves for the jalapenos and Cocobola from now on. 

It was back to the drawing board; I pulled out this little block of Rambutan and turned a nice little fruit bowl.  Mandarin orange, anyone?





Monday, July 30, 2012

My Lathe is Gaining Weight.....

......but I still love 'er, anyway.  I had to weight it down a bit to keep it from dancing across the floor while turning some green blanks.  Look close - you'll see a big log of green poplar on the left front leg held on with a bungie cord, a 44 pound bag of water softener salt on the back side, and a clutch/flywheel from a 2003 Porsche Boxster S on the right rear.  No, dang it, I don't have the Porsche anymore......had to sell it to pay for the woodworking habit.  But the worn-out clutch has come in handy!  I do miss that car tho.....


So what's the deal?  I picked up some free green poplar from the local golf course.  They were cutting a few down after a big wind knocked down some limbs.  Now poplar isn't cocobola, but the price was right(free) and I needed to practice turning green wood.  So I had some pretty big chunks of wood, and they were manhandling my little Jet 1220VS.  Here's the four logs, anywhere from 12" to 20" across.  The big one in the back is a crotch, so should be interesting if it's competent wood.


And here's a couple of rough-turned bowl blanks, which will be set aside to dry for a few months.  Nice contrast between the sapwood and heartwood.  These things sure turn wet and fuzzy when they are green.






Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bucket O' Tools Put to Work

I've just finished up a three day class with Richard Raffin. Some observations:

1) Now I know what someone means when they use the phrase "production woodturner". Wow. This guy is fast and efficient. Not a wasted move anywhere. And he does it while making beautiful forms and shapes.

2) I've never seen anyone sharpen as much or as fast as he does. Every time he picked up one of my tools - "Now that needs a bit of a touch-up, doesn't it?" - and off he would go to the grinder.

3) He has turned my "most hated" tool into my "most used" tool - the skew. I now own two, up from one, and will likely add a third and fourth.

4) I had no clue that a cut from a gouge or skew could leave a surface so smooth. And it usually wasn't difficult, once he explained and demonstrated how a shear cut worked.

5) I've stopped pushing the tool into the wood; rather I wait for the wood to come to the tool and let the sharp edge do the work. Anytime he saw anyone using excessive force, he would do a slight correction to the tool angle and it would be like a hot knife through butter.


Here's some evidence.  The pics are really low quality as I don't have my usual camera or setup.


Green Manitoba Maple (box elder) gourd pot. This was my first green turning, it was fun.  The colors in this photo don't look bad but come nowhere near representing the real colors.  The bowl is quite pale, and the rim is the same color as the bowl, not black as shown.  Go figure.




Walnut suction-fit box, wax finish.



Cherry platter, about 8" across, no finish.





Oh, and the bucket performed admirably as a toolbox, although it did collect quite the pile of shavings in it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bucket O' Tools

Yep, that's the ticket, just what a fellow needs for.....a woodturning class with Richard Raffin.  OK, OK, I admit to name-dropping.  But I'm excited about learning some new things, and I have always admired Mr. Raffin's work.  In preparation, I've been practicing a little, reading a bit, sharpening the ol' tools.......wait - I don't have a tool roll.  WhaddamIgonnado??

Never fear, the ubiquitous 5 gallon bucket comes to the rescue.  It's like duct tape, you never know when you are going to find a new use for it.  Here's my class supplies.


The bucket o' tools.  About a dozen turning tools - check.  Dust mask - check.  Face shield - check.  Turning smock ( ha!  I said "smock") - check.  Won't wear it if it's hot.  Ear protection - check.  Shop stool - check.  Hey, it's a three day course, and I'm to lazy to stand for three days.  Gotta think of the ol' back.  Each tool is housed in it's own custom made pvc sheath, as shown below.  Fancy-schmancy!  This should be a lot of fun.  I'll keep you posted, so to speak.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wine Cellar - Harvesting

Got tired of waiting on my son-in-law's truck, so I piled seven sheets of drywall in the back of my 4Runner (barely) and then lugged it down into the basement.  Was it hard?  Nah, it was a breeze; after all, it was EASY-LITE lightweight drywall.  And that's the biggest load of marketing crap I've ever seen in my life!  Gypsum drywall?  Described as lightweight?  Ha!  Drywall makes me happy I have a college education.

But it's done.  A couple of several-hour sessions was all it took, and the room is complete.  I decided against mudding, taping and painting.  I was also planning to paint the floor, but then decided I wouldn't.  I was cleaning up, sweeping and mopping the floor in prep for painting.  60F and I was sweating like crazy.  Then it hit me, as I watched the water soak into the unsealed concrete - the floor was like a big rock sponge (you geologists will understand that).  It holds moisture - why seal it up?  So the floor will not be painted.

The door is the original hollow core, and is partially weatherstripped.  I need to get a little thicker weatherstripping for the other side of it.  I will also make a sill from hard maple, glue it to the floor and weatherstrip that.  Since the temp and humidity are exactly where I want them, I don't think I need an insulated door.  And it would be a pain to paint it to match the others in the house, so the original will work fine.

The room holds steady at 58F and 60% humidity - perfect for storing wine.  Here's my modest little 100 bottles or so.  That could easily be expanded to 300, probably up to 500 if I really jammed everything in.  I will build a few more shelves, but not very many; I'm thinking bulk storage for cases rather than single bottle storage.

I celebrated by cracking open a nice bottle of '05 Bordeaux.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Handles for Woodturning Tools

I recently seriously violated my turning tool bugdet (an everyday occurrence for most woodturners, by the way) and bought an Easywood tool for the express purpose of doing a hollow form.  True to it's name, the tool is easy to use.  But I still wince when I think about the price ($125).

But then I ran across some Youtube videos by "Captain Eddie", or Big Guy Productions.  His instructional woodturning videos were funny and educational.  Lo and behold, he sells the steel and cutter portions, unhandled, of tools that are pretty similar to the Easywood tools.  For 25 bucks apiece, including cutters.  Add your handle and you are good to go.  It was to cheap not to try, so I ordered his international package and added my own handles.

Here are the three I made, laid out beside the Easywood and a Crown scraper for perspective.  I like the Easywood handle type, so I stuck with that in Maple.  I apologize for the pic quality; these were done with an old Canon Powershot S80, not my usual Nikon, so the quality suffers.



A pic of the business end.  From left to right is a round 3/8" bar with round 3/8" cutter, a square 3/8" bar with round 3/8" cutter, a square 1/2" bar with square 1/2" cutter, the Easywood full-size finisher which has 1/2" square bar and 5/8" round cutter, and the Crown 1" scraper.



 And a close-up of the handles for comparison.  The bar lengths from Eddie were quite long; the 1/2" was a good 15" and the other two were about 12".  They are all planted in the handles a good 4" - 5", sealed with West Systems epoxy.  The ferrules are copper plumbing fittings from the borg, 1" ID.



How do I like 'em?  I do!  They are basically fancy scrapers with replaceable tips and never have to be sharpened.  I have only used the big one, and it works great.  I had to work on it a little before using it; the screw hole for the cutter needed to be countersunk (just a little oversight, no big deal).  The steel is soft, it only took a few minutes to do.  Eddie responded very quickly to my questions.  The square cutter tends to move as you tighten it, so you have to take care to get in on straight. The round ones fit perfectly, no problems.  Other than that, these things are great. Ok, they don't look as nice as the Easywoods, but for $100 per tool less, I am NOT complaining.  These tools will last a lifetime.