Saturday, April 2, 2016

Some Shop Maintinence

One of the things I did on the current table build (more on that later) was to fill the knot holes with black epoxy.  Whenever I mix epoxy, I use the leftovers to fill some of the cracks in my bench top.  There are a lot of cracks, because the top is four beams of French oak laminated together, and the beams all contain the pith.

I think the top is stable, and would recommend if you build a bench not to turn up your nose at wood with the pith in. Just be warned that there will be cracks. The cracks are not a problem unless you drop something small like finishing brads on your bench top. They will get lost in there, but structurally they make no difference to the bench.

I figure that while I have extra epoxy, I can just dump it in these cracks, and someday I will have a bench top with no cracks in it.
Here is my bench top after I poured extra epoxy into some of the cracks.
Not too long ago I went to a flea market and found a cool hand cranked grinder, an American Champion made by American Hydraulics. I think it is the bee's knees. I like it so much, that when I found two more on eBay, I bought them. Now I have three awesome grinders.
Why three? I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out.
There wasn't much to getting these new two running. One of them worked perfectly, the other felt like there was bubble gum wrapped around the axle. A little WD-40, and it works perfectly, too.

There was a surprise, in that one of them had a one inch arbor. That means it will fit a modern grinding wheel out of the box. The second one had a 5/8" arbor, and it fit a modern grinding wheel using the plastic bushings that came with it. In the past, I have found hand cranked gridners (including the first of this trio I found) have a 3/8" arbor, and need some real fiddling to make work. I had both of these running new wheels in five minutes flat.
Lucky me, a one inch arbor.
I took a recommendation from Larry Williams' InstaGram feed, and bought from Victor Machinery, a 24 grit 6"x1" Meda grinding wheel. The good news is it was less than ten bucks, but there is a minimum to order. I bought two of these wheels and a bunch of wet/dry sanding paper from them.
24 grit seems awfully course, but Larry knows his stuff.
The six inch wheel fit perfectly on the blue grinder, and surprisingly I found out the green one would take a seven inch wheel. Next time I'll order a bigger one for that grinder.
Everything installed in no time flat.
I have a brace of new Ohio Tools bench planes that all need rehabbing, so I thought I would try out this new wheel grinding a plane blade, one of my least favorite pastimes.

This Meda wheel, I have to say, is pretty awesome. The blade never got very hot, and the grinding went very quickly. Definitely an upgrade from my brown Norton wheel (80 grit, I think - maybe 40). The only thing is the grit seems to come off quickly. But, for the price, I think it would be worth burning through these wheels twice as fast.
Here's my grinding set up using my saw bench.
Enough of that, back to the bench. I haven't flattened it since the first time in 2012. Over that time, the top has settled quite a bit. There was a dip in the center I would estimate at about 3/16" deep in the center.
I learned in this time that I can work just fine 99.5% of the time with a bench that isn't perfect and doesn't look like the cover of a Fine Woodworking article. As long as the bench stays still while I'm planing, I can make many other deficiencies work.

With this in mind, I decided to make it flat, but not to waste time making it too smooth.

This was over before I really got a chance to photograph the progress.

I took a big wooden jointer set with a heavy cut, took passes front to back evenly across the grain for the whole length of the bench. Next I took shavings at a 45 degree angle across the top. Last, I went with the grain using a medium cut with my BU jack plane.

It has made a big difference in looks, but I really needed it to be flat to plane the couch table's top. I would say about 20 minutes of work, probably less, from start to finish.
Here is a close up of a crack that has been filled with black epoxy, then planed.
The bench is great. I built it in a class with Christopher Schwarz in 2012. What I like is it is heavy and stable.

So far I have yet to put finish on it, and I think I probably never will. Someday I might put a shelf on the bottom. The only thing it really needs is the sliding deadman, which I need about twice a year for the kind of work I do. So far I have gotten away without it. The bench is about 18" deep, maybe a little more, and a little over six feet long. I have upgrades still awaiting for the tail vice, and I have a nicer piece of elm waiting to be installed as a face vice, along with a Benchcrafted CrissCross.


  1. Good stuff, Brian. I've been looking for a hand-crank grinder for a while. Just lost an auction on e-Bay last week. I really suck at e-Bay and hate it most of the time, but you never know.

    1. I hope you didn't lose your auction to me!

      The trick with eBay is to be patient. Don't get frustrated and overbid. With hand tools, you also shouldn't get your nose bent out of shape if what arrives in the mail isn't really what you expected. "Sharp and ready to use," means something different to eBay sellers than it does to you and me.

  2. I treat cracks the same with epoxy, works great and has never let mre down even outside on porch posts