Monday, August 31, 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What I've Been Up To

There hasn't been much activity on my blog lately because the Frau and I have been doing a renovation of one of our apartment's rooms.  If any of you have had a project like this, I'm sure you know why not much woodworking goes on during this process.

Add on the fact that I have chosen not to spend any vacation hours for this project, and it gets done only during evenings and weekends.  That next project is just going to have to wait!

The first thing we did was empty this room - which essentially is what I would call a rec room - of 15 years worth of crap that we've collected.  Jeesh!  Who knew all that stuff would fit up there?

We hauled about 12 car loads of stuff down to a local storage shed, and probably an equal number of carloads to the dump.

The gross old carpet had to go, too.  Unfortunately, it was glued down.  Doubly unfortunately, my father-in-law did a particularly good job of gluing it down when he installed it.

Lucky for you, there are no photos of all this.
But here is one of the room after the carpet came out.
We laid down a quality underlayment, and used a really nice looking oak parquet.  This one has a thin layer of oak on top, a layer of some softwood, probably fir, on the bottom, and a layer of MDF in the middle.  Over all, a good looking and (hopefully) stable product.

One of the challenges was there are two cubby holes like this in the room.
I have laid several parquet floors in the past, and I usually use my DeWalt 18V circular saw to cut the parquet planks to length when the end of the row is reached.  I decided this time I was going to try hand tools, and decided my trusty Dick saw would get the job.

This ryoba saw worked fantastic for this!  The kerf is way thinner, so less dust is generated.  Plus, the sawdust doesn't fly all over the room like with my power tools.  Less noise, so the building's strict noise policy is not violated, and I think it really is no slower than using the power saw.

The only time I got a power tool out was the jigsaw, which I chose to use for the rip cuts.
Here is the toolkit I used to install the floor.
Overall, the floor came out meeting our expectations. 

We like how it looks.
The next step is we have some built-ins being custom made for this room, then fill them up with all the crap we have in storage.  The idea is this room will look nice rather than just collect all of the stuff that doesn't have a place to be put away.

Is It Possible to Make Your Own Chisels?

I intend to find out!

One of the guys on Instagram made a set of chisels from O1 tool steel very similar to the steel I used for my French style moulding planes.  I was thinking about making some chisels from this stuff, and went so far as to order some steel in 1/4" thickness for exactly this purpose.  The toolmaker on Instagram inspired me to go for it.

My plan is to make some firmer chisels, tanged with some kind of octagonal handles.  I thought that my J. Jowett chisels would be good ones to model.
I like these chisels, and hope mine turn out as nice.
The heaviest part of these chisels is near the handle, and the thickness tapers off to roughly half the thickness at the business end.  After looking at my other firmer chisels, I find that this shape is fairly standard.
I think I might have a problem.  This is my latest pile of Swedish chisels.
On my way out the door the other day, I couldn't be bothered to dig for my J. Jowett chisels, so I grabbed a rusty beater firmer chisel from the above pile on my bench.  It is a Jernbolaget, and needs some serious rehab, but has the right shape.

To grind the shape on the un-hardened tool steel, I made the decision that I needed some kind of belt grinder for major waste removal.  There happened to be a cheap Chinese belt sander at the local grocery store for 29.99 Euros.  Perfect, just in case this ruins the tool.  I don't really see myself needing this for woodworking.
Here is my setup on the balcony for using this as a belt grinder.  It came with the clamps and seems to be sturdy enough.
I found that this works relatively quickly with a 40 grit belt installed.  I use a wooden batten for stability and a little pressure, and move it back and forth from the tip of the chisel blank to the back of where I want the taper to stop.  This makes a nice taper of just about the shape I want.

It probably took 15 or 20 minutes on this 3/4" wide blank.  The chisel in the photo is the Jernbolaget that I used as a reference.

The steel blank is 18" long, plenty to make two chisels.  In fact, the bench chisel I am making uses only about 8" of the blank, so if this works, I should come away with a set of longer paring chisels as well.

My plan is to heat treat and finish this chisel to see if it works before I spend a bunch of labor on the whole set.  I think I may grind the longer side of this chisel blank too, before I cut it in half.  It seems to be easier to hold on the grinder that way.

One way or another, I will post on the finished project when I get it done.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

June Chair Build - Finished in the Nick of Time

Another day or two, and I wouldn't have finished this chair in June!
Chair is done.
All kidding aside, I'm glad I took the extra time to do this chair properly.  Although it isn't perfect, I am very pleased with the shape and I learned a lot.  Mostly thanks to Peter Galberts' book.

Here are a few pics of the last part of the build.  The first is of the wedged leg from the top of the seat.  I wound up reaming the holes quite a bit larger than the 5/8" which is usual.  I did this because I felt it made for a stronger joint, which I think was necessary due to the extreme splay and rake of the legs.
Fumed oak leg with an elm wedge in the elm seat.
There is a little spring to this chair.  The legs tend to splay a little more when you put your weight in it, but it feels solid to the sitter.  The back springs a little, too.  I'll let you know if anything ever breaks.
Small chamfer on the feet.
I used a block plane to chamfer the feet.  This chair will live on a wooden floor, so the intent is to put some felt protectors on the feet to avoid scratching anything.  I have only ever had good luck with the felt protectors that you nail in.  The sticky-tape ones tend to come off over time, and the next set doesn't stick as well as the last.

Here is a pic of the chair while dry-fitting the back.  This was the first time I got to see the whole chair together in one piece.  All that was left from this point was to figure out how to permanently attach it.  I decided to wedge everything.
Dry fit of the back.
Here is how I did the blind wedges:  I cut some wedge stock from some scrap mahogany I had laying around (it was the right width).  I sawed a kerf in the end of the stick a little less than the depth of the mortise.  I placed the wedge loosely in the kerf with glue on one side, slopped glue around the end of the stick that will enter the mortise, and beat the crap out of it with a mallet.
Shortly before being driven into the mortise.  I did actually trim this wedge a little shorter right after this photo.
The idea is the wedge will force the ends of the stick in the mortise apart a bit making the joint tighter the farther it is driven in.
Imagine glue everywhere.
This went relatively smoothly.  To drive the sticks, I didn't clamp it in my face vice, I clamped the crest upside down on my bench to my planing stop.
Driven home.
For the bottom, I used through mortises and was able to drive wedges after the sticks were in place.  Once I did this, I flush cut them so they wouldn't be visible when looking at the chair.
Through mortises for the sticks in the seat.
And that's it!  This chair really wouldn't take too long to make if one was able to spend a few days uninterrupted.  The reason for me was I had not much time to do woodworking during this project, I had breaks of a week or so between shop sessions.  Even so, this project didn't really take THAT long.  I recommend a chair in this style to any aspiring chair maker.
The finished chair.
I'll soon post some more glamour shots of the chair, along with some of the more technical aspects of it and the build.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Maker's Stamp

If you haven't seen David W.'s YouTube feed yet, you are missing out.  He has some good info there.  He likes topics of things he doesn't see addressed anywhere else. 

The videos are not highly edited, but that is part of the charm.  He just turns his camera on and lets it go.  I find it adds an air of reality when he takes a minute to run across the shop to root around in a drawer for a tool that he wants to show.
My practice bit of pine.  Looks like I need more practice, but this is promising.

Recently, he did a video about making your own maker's stamp "on the cheap."  Here is his video if you want to watch:
I always wanted a maker's stamp, but just could not pull the trigger on a custom stamp that can cost a couple hundred bucks.  This interested me.

The biggest special tool for this was a set of 3/32" reverse letter punches.  I bit the bullet and ordered a whole set.  Used ones go on eBay every once in a while, and Young Brothers actually sells them individually, if you don't want to spring for the whole set.  You just have to find a retailer who will work with you.

Brass is another story.  David says not to go buy some especially for this project, because it is expensive.  However, I did find some 360 brass at McMaster-Carr that was less than $20.  It is 1/4" thick, two inches wide, and six inches long.  I should be able to get three or four stamps out of this, at least.
Raw material.
The first thing I did was file one long edge clean.  The edges were pretty rounded over.  It didn't take long to file it to use all the way to a sharpish edge.  This probably isn't necessary, but what the heck.
Filed one edge clean.
Once I got that, it was just a matter of pounding what I wanted the stamp to say on the right edge of the brass.  It took me WAY too long to figure this out, as I do not seem to think backwards too easily.
This photo sponsored by Right Guard.
I punched this before hacksawing it out so as to waste as little brass as possible.  I learned that I should have used my small sledge hammer, and that the period doesn't need to be whacked nearly as hard as the rest.
It's supposed to say "B. EVE," not "Bo EVE."  A little less heavy handed next time.
I then just freehanded some notches on the edge with a saw file by eye.  It probably would look better if I laid it out proper.
It's backwards, because it is a stamp.  Hopefully, it will spell what I want it to when I bash it on a piece of wood.
The good news, it works!
Ugly, but functional.

I think a big, one handed sledge hammer would help with this.  I really had to whack this with my 16 oz. carpenter's hammer.  Several times.  The deep one above appears to have at least one mis-alignment.

The wood I used to try this out on was some scrap pine I have around.  I found out that it is a lot harder to get a good stamp in hardwood.  For the most part, however, I am happy.  It only took about 20 minutes, beginning to end, so there is no reason I couldn't make a prettier one now that I've done a rough one.  I could saw the letters off of this one and use the same blank if I want to redo it, or I could make another one that says, "Munich," to use in conjunction with this one.

I think over time the brass will mushroom and distort on the end that meets the hammer, but I expect this stamp should last many years.  Plus, it was such a simple thing to make. 

The hardest part is figuring out the best way to make a nice, clear stamp, as there are no do-overs on a completed plane!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fingers In the Till - European Scrub Plane

One of my favorite tools ever, this flea market find has turned into a workhorse in my shop.
Here it is, I used it to bevel the underside of this chair.
This is one ugly tool, but it works like crazy.  There is a lot of instructions on the internet for turning a jack plane or a smoothing plane into a roughing plane for thicknessing, but I find that this dedicated plane has earned the real estate it occupies in my tool chest.

What makes this particular one special, is that it is old, well used, and well modified by some thrifty German carpenter in it's previous life.  There is a couple of big cracks in the stock of this plane held together with various bolts and screws.  It feels awesome in my hands.

It's a fairly narrow plane, I suspect the blade is between 1 1/2" and 1 3/4" in width.  If you build one, go with a narrow blade. 
When I got it, I ground it at a pretty dramatic radius.
Most roughing plane instructions on the internet recommend something like an 8" radius for rounding a plane like this.  I decided to go bold and ground it at 3" instead.  Since it is so narrow, I can get away with this.  If you grind a 2" blade at three inches, you won't be able to set it so deep as to get a shaving wide enough to justify such a wide blade.

This plane has a crazy open mouth.  I could probably put my thumb in there.  This keeps it from jamming with the rough chips you'll be getting. 

Of course there will be tear out, but this is for course work.
As you can see, the blade in this plane isn't something precision made from Starrett.  My guess is it is from a leaf spring, spray painted red for good luck.
Before grinding, you can see how un-flat the steel is.
I sharpened this up to 8000 grit on my waterstones when I got it more than two years ago, and the blade hasn't been out of the plane since.
The crazy tight radius on the blade allows this plane to thickness wood faster than any other hand tool method I have.
Here's how I've found that this tool works best when thicknessing:  I put the board on my bench with the grain oriented right to left.  I traverse which means going across the the grain, like the above photo.  I then plane diagonally, with the grain.  I go from the near right hand side to the far left hand side.  After this, I go diagonally, 90 degrees from the first diagonal.  However, I am careful not to go from the near left to the far right, I must go from the far right to the near left.  To do this I turn the board 180 degrees in the vice and take the plane left-handed.  This allows me to continue going diagonally with the grain, instead of against it.  If I do the diagonal the wrong way, the tear out goes DEEP. 

If that explanation doesn't make sense, you'll find out what I mean when you try it.

For some reason Stanley scrub planes (like the #40) are getting expensive in the US.  There doesn't really seem to be a cheap alternative.  Lucky for me, I live in Europe, and these things are everywhere.  I wonder why?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Slow Progress

Boy, this June chair build is moving along right on time.  I'll surely be able to finish it by next June!

I've had only a couple of short shop sessions since the last post, but I am pleased with what is happening so far.

Here are some pics:
Here are the tools I used to smooth the seat and shape the outer portion.  The tiny drawknife has been working well, even though I have been asking more of it that it was designed for.  It's the only working drawknife I have at the moment.
Once the top was done, it was time to turn my attention to shaping the bottom so the chair doesn't look clunky and heavy.  I found the best tool for this (since I don't have a big drawknife at the moment) is my german scrub plane.  I drew a pencil line half-way between the bottom of the seat and the line on the front by eye.  I also eyballed a line that mimicked the shape of the chair on the bottom for the chamfer.  I scrubbed away until I got to my line on the front, and did the same on the sides with my little drawkife and spokeshaves.

Scrub plane for the front underside bevel.
I decided not to go right to the top edge of this chair with the underside bevel, as I think making this look too much like a whispy Windsor seat is a little out of character with the Welsh stick chair style I was sort of shooting for.  I think it should look a little heavier than that.  I decided that after beveling the underside, I would put another gentle bevel that I just eyeballed on the front to give it a little more grace.

I really like this look.  A bit of meat, but not so clunky as to distract.
This was the end of my shop time until yesterday morning, when I got a random 30 minutes in before work.

The next step was to trim off the back of the seat blank.  I had left it on until now so I would have something for the clamps to hold onto while doing all of the shaping of the seat.  I had intended to run the blank over to the Dictum shop and use their bandsaw.  That thing eats through this 2 1/4" elm like butter.  The problem was my work schedule prevented me from going over there when they were open.

I decided instead to give my biggest bowsaw a shot.  My biggest bowsaw is a little medium sized Swedish saw given to me by Jonas a couple of years back.  I really like this saw, but I thought it might be a bit delicate for this cut, and besides, it is in need of a sharpening.

I needn't have worried, as this cut was complete in about ten minutes.  Much quicker than driving to another shop.

It turns out the small blade of this bowsaw was just the thing.
Looking at this photo, I just realized I cut off the numbers I had for the stick holes!
I'm not the world's best sawyer when it comes to following a curved line, so I was pleasantly surprised that the cut was relatively even and square.  With a little rubbing alcohol on the endgrain, it was a simple thing to smooth this cut out.

Smoothing endgrain with this awesome spokeshave.
The endgrain wound up plenty smooth for this neat photo at 44X magnification with my new camera.
Smooth as a baby's bottom.
This is as much progress as I've made up until now.  Next, I'll probably round off the underside of the back and call this seat blank done.

Here is the final shape of my seat blank.  I like it!
All that is left for this chair now is to smooth up the crest, drill holes in it and glue the whole thing together.  I'll probably finish it with the same 50/50 recipe of tung oil and BLO that I used for the Viking Throne.

I am really curious if these different elements will work together:  the extreme rake and splay angles of the legs as a throwback to really old stick chairs, the sculpted seat remeniscent of a Windsor chair, the relatively modern look of the crest, and the dark color of the "I've-never-seen-it-used-on-a-chair-like-this-before" fumed oak.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about this build up to this point is the freedom of not sticking to a plan.  Much of the design of this chair was either chosen at random (such as the splay angles of the chair legs), or on the fly, like the shape of the seat blank, or dictated to me by the material I have, like the crest. 

If you have never build like this before, you should try it as it is quite liberating.