Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Engineer's Square: Old vs. New

I swear Josh Clark is worse than a crack dealer.  It seems I can't help buying tools from him at hyperkitten.com.

The latest tool I got in the mail from him is this beautiful 12" engineer's square by Lufkin.

Nice Lufkin 12" square with center finder.

I didn't really notice in the photo, so when it arrived I was surprised it wasn't black, but O.D. green.  I have no idea if this was common for Lufkin squares or not.  Perhaps it was made for the military, but I found no markings on it that would suggest it.  Besides, is O.D. green really going to blend in better than flat black when you need to measure something in the jungle?

Side by side with my 6" Starrett.
The 12" rule is marked exactly like my Starrett 6" rule, with gradiations of 1/8", 1/16", 1/32", and 1/64".  The markings on both rulers are engraved, dark, and easy to read.
Comparison of rules.
I have to say that the 6" Starrett I bought a couple of years ago has become a tool that I use often.  I like to make wooden squares, but for some reason I always have this one around when I am squaring up stock.  My only beef with it is the price.  Brand new they come at a price equivalent to the price of a new kidney.

I was eager to see how the old tool stood up.  I checked and it is square as I can measure in my shop.  Should be plenty good for woodworking.  Just for fun, I tried the center finder on my smaller Starrett, and it fit perfectly.  That might come in handy one day.

The fit and finish is just as good as the Starrett with only a couple of exceptions.  First, I really like the engraving on the rule.  The font of the numbers is really cool. 

Second, and most importantly, is the Lufkin feels so much nicer to hold in my hand.  The newer Starrett has a lot sharper of edges everywhere.  Somehow, those edges have all been softened on the old tool.  I suppose it is just a little extra attention to detail on the old stuff.

Over all, I have to say that the Starrett is an excellent tool.  It is always reliable.  I do not have to think about adjusting it or wondering if it is still accurate.  If you are in the market for one and have the money, don't hesitate. 

However, if you are a little short on funds, keep an eye out for a vintage model.  This Lufkin is just as accurate and stable, as far as I can tell.   I would say if you can look at it first, that is best.  Otherwise, use a reputable old tool pusher like Josh.

I look forward to seeing how this tool makes itself used in my shop.

Diamond Willow for another Roorkee

I got a package in the mail recently from my dad.  In it was some diamond willow (likely Salix bebbiana) for another Roorkee chair.  This could likely be some of the only diamond willow in Europe!

Wait until you see what I do with it.  Of course, after I get a couple planned projects done.

Diamond willow in Germany!

It's Good to be a Woodworker

A lame project, but nonetheless, I felt morally obligated to put my own stamp on it.

We got a new flat screen TV a while back, a small one.  It replaced an old CRT that we were using in our living room to watch over breakfast.

The idea was that it would be really cool if we could put it on a fully articulated arm, in order that in can be pushed back in it's cubby under the stairs easily when not in use.

When the mount arrived in the mail it was obvious that it wouldn't fit our little Sony.  For some reason TV mounts are made standard for nearly all TVs except Sony.  I don't know why, but Sony doesn't participate in VESA, which is a standard for mounting TVs.

The guy at the TV store said I had to get an adapter.

Why spend any more money, when I am a woodworker?

Here's what I came up with .  I just used regular old locally available pine, Pinus sylvestris, and painted it white.

My creation attached to the mount waiting for the TV.

TV in place, view from the back.

Put away under the stairs.
Now all I need to do is build a nice looking something or another to hide the cables!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lignum quod sit eadem numero scientia.

The title makes me sound smart, doesn't it?

It is how Google translates the phrase, "Wood should be scientifically identified" into Latin.  Google translate can be a tricky thing, so I actually have no idea if the translation is in any way accurate. 

Perhaps Ben knows.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately (often a quite dangerous thing!), and it dawned on me that I read blog posts by woodworking authors all over the world.  Also, according to my Blogger stats, this blog is read by people in many different countries and regions.

While we all may be able to follow different tools and techniques based on the photos and descriptions posted, sometimes really knowing what a woodworker is going through is difficult for the simple reason that the wood that is being used may only be identified by the author as "oak," or "maple."

Sometimes this is not so important to the story, but it can be.  Take, for instance, a friend who recently told me that birch is the perfect wood to learn spooncarving, because it is so soft.

Naturally I was surprised, because my only experience with birch was a board that was so heavy and hard, that I couldn't imagine it being great for beginning anything!

It turns out that my birch board was a hunk of flame, yellow birch, Betula alleghaniensis, from the US, and the birch my friend was thinking of was likely downy birch, Betula pubescens, common here in Europe.

Just looking at the Latin, it doesn't mean much.  However, it turns out that yellow birch, B. alleghaneinsis, is about 35% harder than downy birch, B. pubescens.

We woodworkers refer to  a whole lot of different trees by only the common name of the genus.  For example, there are some 125 species of maple worldwide, and some 600 species of oak.

Lots of different maples.  Photo courtesy LoveToKnow Garden.
The only way for someone living in Ohio to really know what wood I am talking about (assuming he or she cares) is to use the scientific name.

A brilliant resource for woodworkers is the website The Wood Database.  This website lists photos of lots of different woods we as woodworkers are likely to come across.  There are technical specifications for each kind of wood, and photos of these woods both finished and unfinished.  Plus, there are some fantastic articles about identifying wood.

From now on, I will try to remember to include the genus and species of the woods I discuss here on my blog.  If you want to do the same, those of us who are interested in the different species of wood will thank you.

Guidelines on proper usage of the genus and species are spelled out on National Geographic's website.  Essentially, genus and species are in italics, with the genus term capitalized and the species beginning with lowercase.  If you know the genus but not the species, you can substitute "spp." or "sp." to indicate it.  For example, if you know a sample of wood is oak, but knot which kind, you would list it as Quercus spp.

A final word is to echo Eric Meier of the wood database, and state that it may not be possible to always be correct in identifying wood to the species, but knowing a little about where it came from may help narrow the list of possibilities down.

I'll get myself a jeweler's loupe to make identifying the wood on my rack a bit more accurate.

I am lucky to be near a lumber yard that sells wood from all over the world, and it always has a large stockpile of North American woods.  Some of the woods I have discussed on this blog  (or will soon):

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More Mora

One of the neatest things about living in Europe is meeting woodworkers and friends from many different places.  Take, for example, Jonas from Denmark, who recently sent me a box full of his dad's slöjd knives.

Another such example would have to be my Swedish friend, Bengt who sent me the following email about the aforementioned slöjd knives:

Hi Brian!

I tried to add a comment to your blog today, but I'm not sure where it ended up.
Anyway, did a little research on you knives today. This is my best guess:

  • #1 Erik Frost Mora Sweden.
This stamp is used in the nineteen-thirties. Frost is one of the major makers; the company was started by Erik Frost in 1891. The word “Sweden” was added to knives from Mora in the thirties when the export was picking up.
  • #2 Bröderna Jönsson Mora Sweden.  
The brothers Jönsson started their knife making business in 1936, using this logo.
  • #3 KJ Mora Sweden.  
KJ Eriksson (Krång-Johan Eriksson), started knife making in 1912. This logo was used from probably 1940-1950 The sheath is maybe little older and not original.
  • #4 Frost probably from the sixties or seventies.
Common as dirt around here :)
  • #5 As #3
Take care,


Thanks for the info, Bengt!  I really like learning the history and ages of old tools.  These knives I knew nothing about until recently, and really am beginning to enjoy them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More Fun with Fairham

Needing a quick gift for a good friend's 40th birthday party, I pulled out my trusty copy of William Fairham's Woodwork Joints, and found a quick project that looked both fun to build, and fun to use:  the Chinese Puzzle.
Fairham's Chinese Puzzle
"No problem, I should be able to knock this out in a couple hours after work," I thought.

I find that it is really difficult for me to estimate the time required for a project, if I haven't made that project before.  I wound up spending about six hours total on this project. 

I never said I was fast enough to make a living at this.

Decisions, decisions.
The first order of business was to find appropriate stock.  Fairham says to use 1/2" square stock for this project. 

I find that when making puzzles, it is a good idea to stick to the directions exactly for the first time, so an understanding of the puzzles function becomes clear before one starts messing around with the dimensions.

I have quite a bit of stock that would be OK for this project.  However, the pear, walnut and oak I had was all just a smidge too thin.  It was at this time that I remembered that I have actually started this project once before, and already dimensioned some maple (Acer platanoides, I think).  

I abandoned this project before because it appears I crossed my layout line while ripping on one of the sticks.  Lets charge ahead anyway, as I think that there is enough without that one.  One of the other sticks appears that I dimensioned three sides, and left one for later.

My first step is to plane this last side down to my mark.  I find that with small parts it can be easier clamping the plane in the vice and moving the small parts over the plane.
Thicknessing small parts.
Using a cutting gauge is nice for precise jointing, as it is obvious when final thickness is reached.  As in the photo below, a little strip comes up to let us know we're there.
In this case, there is a little more to go on one side before I'm done.
After the stock is prepped, all 21 pieces can be cut to length.  I do this on my shooting board,
Cross cutting parts to length.
because I can shoot the ends without changing the set-up on my bench.
All parts are now perfectly the same length.
It doesn't take too long before I am done, and realize I am still short quite a few of the needed 21 pieces.  I need some more 1/2" stock!
This bit of 3/4" maple will have to do.
So much for being smart. 
Ripping a 1/2" strip off of my scrap.
This wound up slowing me down.  Dimensioning this stock is not difficult, but you must take your time to do it right.  All of the puzzles pieces must be as perfectly the same as possible in order that the puzzle will go together and come apart again.
Finally.  Let's start cutting the notches.
Once all of the parts are dimensioned and cut to length, the notches for the puzzle can be made.  I marked the notches out with my cutting gauge, sawed to the line and chopped out the waste with a 3/8" chisel.

Now that the party is coming up fast, I need to hurry.  I'm afraid to say that the inside of my notches look pretty rough.  With a little care, the insides should look pretty, because the recipient will spend some time looking at them trying to figure out how the puzzle goes together.

Too late for this one, though.  At least it should look nice once it goes together.
Finally, all the parts are done.
One quick word about what makes this puzzle work, is a small piece called the "key."  This one has a notch on two sides, and the inside is rounded over a bit.

This piece took me quite a bit of fiddling, as not enough material was originally taken out of the inside corner to allow the key to work properly.  Take some time with this step, or the puzzle simply will never go together.  Not a result you should strive for.
The key.
Once all of the pieces were tested and fit, I put a tiny chamfer on all of the sharp edges to make it a bit more comfortable to hold, and finished it with a homemade furniture polish concoction made of beeswax and orange oil.
My Chinese puzzle.
My good friend seemed to enjoy the puzzle.  He spent a little time and put it together three times in a row!  
Gary is thinking.
  • Construction of this project took a little longer than I thought it would.  This is normal for me.  I am confident, however, that next time should go faster.  
  • Now that I understand how the puzzle functions, I can adjust the dimensions of the puzzle to make bigger and smaller versions.  It was good to stick to the plan for my first try, as without a full understanding of the functions of the different parts, this first prototype worked correctly.
  • I think the notches I cut were a bit too accurate.  A little slop in some of the joinery might make the pieces slide a bit easier.  As it is, a few of the pieces need to be forced into the right place where the fit is tight, and the key on this one turns with only great difficulty.  Especially when disassembling.  Some looser tolerances should help things.  I went for a nice friction fit such as you would want on a dovetail joint, when what is really needed is a fit that allows the pieces to drop together without force.
  • When you give a gift to someone with kids, a bag that plays "Bad to the Bone" is an awesome distraction.
  • I think next time rather than cutting all of the pieces out, and then making the notches, I will run a dado on a wide 1/2" board, and then rip the pieces.  This should be faster, neater, and more accurate.  Gang cutting six pieces at once sped things up a bit, but there is a danger the cutouts won't all be exactly the same.
  • This is a perfect project to make with only tools from my Beginner's Tool Kit - I used a BU jack plane, a marking gauge, a Ryoba saw and a 3/8" chisel.  I also used a 5pt. rip saw for ripping, a dovetail saw for cutting notches, and a 1/4" chisel for one piece that has an especially narrow notch.  I think that these extra tools are optional, and evrything could be done without them.
This is the second puzzle I have made from Fairham's book.  If you would like to see the first, see this post.
Diagonal Chinese Crosses - my First Fairham puzzles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rehab #4 Slöjd Knife

OK, the title is a little bit accidentally misleading on purpose.  It gives you the impression that I've rehabbed four knives so far, but it really is just the one.  From yesterday's post, the #4 knife is the one I rehabbed today.
This knife was the only one that was a bit overly rusty.  I gave it an hour or two in citric acid yesterday to take care of the rust, and was pleased with the result.  There were only two little spots that were deformed a little bit from rust, and neither near the cutting edge.

The next problem was that the cutting edge was just about as dull as the back.  This will need some grinding.

I have been waiting for an excuse to re-mount my hand-cranked grinder to a place where it would be a bit more stable and where I could mount my tool rest.  I thought I would make my saw bench into a grinding platform when the need arises.

After excavating a huge hole in the middle, which didn't work (and had I thought the process through, I would have realized it), I settled on the below configuration.

Saw bench come grinding station.
The only problem with this configuration is that it requires the wheel to be spun backwards, and this magnificent grinding wheel doesn't like that as well.  I'll have to play with this a bit.  Too bad I don't have more space.

Moving on, I made do, and ground the knife to a rough shape.

It turned out rough, indeed.  But, going through the grits on my waterstones, I finally got a suitable edge.  It took a couple hours all together, but I suspect maintaining this edge should be easier now.

Here's a better view of the logo
Not quite as pretty as the one Jonas' dad did, but it should be functional.  Now, to put it to work!