Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Going Against My Own Advice

It's amazing how much woodworking and blogging one can get in while the wife is away on a business trip.

I started another project today.  Allow me to get on my soapbox for a minute to warn about the dangers of working on too many (ie. more than one) project at a time.

Two projects take twice as long to finish as one.  If you are a hobby woodworker like me, time in the wood shop is precious.  I find satisfaction in sneaking in there for an hour or even twenty minutes during the day.  If you are a professional woodworker and wonder why my projects take so long, it is because I feel I did good if I get 4-8 hours of woodworking in a week. Sometimes it is less, or none.

A wise one on the Old-Tools list once said that a shop in motion stays in motion.  That means that the converse is also true.  If it has been a couple weeks since I was in the shop, chances of me going down there tonight are low.  But, if I am cruising on a project, it seems easy to find a little time to get in there just to get the next step done.

When you undertake a second, third, etc. project on, as a hobby woodworker you do yourself no favors.  Because now it takes twice as long to complete two projects, you are not getting that mental boost that comes from finishing a project.  I don't know about you, but when I put that last coat of finish on a piece and stand back and look at it, I am amazed, and at the same time can't wait to start the next project.

I love to do a small project after a long one.  If it takes several months to complete something, there is something gratifying and self-validating about finishing a weekend project.

The more often you get that little boost, the more efficient of a woodworker you will become.  This is because (for me, at least), you ride the positive endorphins from the last success into the new one.

I get mentally bogged down when I don't have the skills or tools for the next step in the project.  As an example, it took me almost nine years to finish a blanket chest.  By the time it was done, we didn't even live in the same place that I built it for.  I got hung up on flattening the lid and keeping it straight.  In fact, now that I think about it, there is one small project in my shop that has been there longer than that.  I'll have to get back to that someday.

Anyway, I am going against my own advice right now, as I currently have three separate projects going.  But, there is a reason.  We have a second apartment in the town where I work, which is about an hour's drive from here.  I happen to work on an Army post that has a wood shop for me to use (for now).  There, I am building a table for my in-laws, and plan to start a dining table for our second apartment once that is complete.

Here at home, I have my new workbench to complete.  It's going slowly, but it is going.  I can kind-of justify doing these two projects because I can work on whichever one I happen to be near that day depending on where I stay that night.

I hope I didn't jinx myself because Today I went to a third workshop, the kurs.werkstatt workshop run by Dictum here in Munich.  Peter is a great guy and helped me resaw a maple table leg for me to make a Krenov style jointer.  I brought it back to my hand tool shop where I hope to finish it in the not-too distant future.  Hopefully I will be able to use it to flatten the top of my bench.

I'll let it sit in this state a couple days to let the moisture levels equalize.  Hopefully this won't slow me down too much.

Come to think of it, this photo shows another almost-finished project, my tool chest.  Is there no hope?

Elementary, Dear Watson! Video Example

Galoototron's post about his leg vise couldn't have come at a better time for me than today, as I am about to install a Benchcrafted face vice to my bench, too.  He refers to the instructions from Benchcrafted that require a 1 3/4" hole about 3/16" deep followed by a 1 1/2" hole the rest of the way through.

Like Brian Ward, the author of Galoototron, I am using a really thick piece of Beech for my face vice.  He used an expansion bit with his brace to layout the circle for the 1 3/4" hole, and finished it up with a router plane.  I think Brian voiced many people's opinion about these infamous tools when he said, "Now, those bits are not known to be terribly good even in soft woods, much less something like beech."

This statement got me to thinking about Aldren A. Watson's book "Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings".  I vaguely remembered that he discusses the expansion bit for the brace.  Essentially he says the expansion bit only has one cutting blade, so there is nothing to support the other half of the cut, like a typical brace bit with two cutting blades.  This can make it difficult to drill straight, as the brace becomes unbalanced and wants to move all over the place.

First, one should really tighten the screw on the adjuster mechanism tight, otherwise the hole will get bigger as you bore (don't ask me how I know this).  Please do this safely and away from your hands.  I put the bit on my bench when I foresaw blood gushing out of my wrist.

The trick with this cut is to use a lot of downward pressure, and use the ratchet mechanism on the brace.  Only make about 1/8 of a turn before ratcheting the brace back to your starting point.  I found it easiest to pull the handle a few inches with my right hand before starting over.

This worked great!  My cut was perfect.  The inside of the hole was pretty ragged, but it could easily be cleaned up any number of ways.  The bit worked good and took nice big shavings out of the scrap of beech I was practicing on.

A video is worth a thousand pictures, so here is the technique in action:

(notice the cool bench dogs in action)

The down side of this bit is that I'm pretty sure I don't want to drill a deep hole with this bit.  The deeper I went, the harder it got.  Perhaps a 14" sweep would help.  Also, for an accurately sized hole, one must make a few test cuts.  It took me six tries to get exactly 1 3/4" diameter.  

However, I think for occasional use (really, how often do you make a hole bigger than an inch, anyway) this bit is a valid option.  On those rare occasions when you need a big hole, you will have a way to do it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Boring Video

OK, the title sounds better in German, like when Wolfram did it.  Das Bohr Video.  The English misses something.

I came across a neat tip the other day that I just had to try.  I have been reading a fantastic old book by Aldren A. Watson called "Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings."  Really, one of the best hand tool books I have read.

In his writings about the brace and bit, he suggests practicing by marking a point on the face of a board, then moving the mark over to the other side.  Now, you can practice straight boring by starting the bit on one side, and when the screws pop out the other side, you can see if you hit the mark or not.

I picked out the thickest piece of beech scrap I had in the shop to practice on.  I need to bore holes through the top of my oak bench for dog holes.  The bench is well over five inches thick.  A small error should be magnified.

The good news is, if the dog hole isn't perfect, it should still work.  Lucky for me.

I decided to use 1" dowels for dogs.  I like wooden dogs because they are cheap, and easy on your tools.  I plan to put one in every dog hole.  I bought some walnut dowels from Bell Forest because they were among the cheapest that I thought would look cool.

So, here goes with the video:

You notice that I trashed the bit at the end.  I remembered having broken off a lag bolt while installing the chop, but I figured it wasn't in the way of where I was drilling.  WRONG!

I sent an SOS to Joshua Clark at hyperkitten.com/ hoping he has a spare #16 bit rolling around somewhere that he can send me. 

I think that the practice on the scrap warmed me up nicely for some straight boring.  I am sure it isn't perfect, but like I said, the dogs will still work just as good.

I finished two holes in the bench besides the one in the chop.  The bit worked a lot slower after having been damaged.  When I started you can see in the video the big, heavy shavings I get from the oak.  But, after I ground the spurs down on that lag bolt it took very fine shavings and cut very reluctantly.

So, let's here your story of the last tool you broke in the shop.  What happened?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Almost Famous!

The big news here today is that unpluggedshop.com now has this blog on their feed.  I sent a note to them with a link here thinking I'd get a "thanks but no thanks" reply, seeing as most of the other blogs on this site have content from authors with actual skill in woodworking.

I guess that means now I should start proof reading my posts.

Charge the batteries in my camera.

Start wearing pants in the shop.

Seriously, though, it just so happens that I am in the process of renovating my shop space, and starting up a new blog.  Both items that have been topics of The Literary Workshop Blog lately.  Great stuff to think about.

Unfortunately, the bit about charging my batteries is true.  Not sure where the charger is, so until I find it there are going to be only either low quality pictures from my phone or brilliant descriptions that will paint a picture in your mind with my mastery of the language.

Today's is the latter.

I got the base of the table project glued up.  Note to self:  when doing a glue-up in the future, don't start it five minutes before the shop closes.

I was very worried about this assembly because I wound up being forced into a big hurry.  I thought I would be manly and not a wuss by drawboring the tennons without any clamps.  Strangely enough, the drawboring worked perfectly.  The problem was my tennons weren't precise enough, so there is now a giant gap in the front of the table apron.  Why couldn't I have done it the other way?  The inside of the table shows some wicked tight tennons.

old picture of the table due to not having a functioning camera for this post.

Back at the shop at home, yesterday I got some new lighting installed, finished the planing stop, and got the tail vise put in my bench.  I had problems with the vise wobbling all over the place, so I bit the bullet and cut my chop shorter.  It is now only about 10 inches long.  It would have looked cooler taking up more real estate, but this Taiwanese vise just couldn't handle it.

I think it will work fine, though.  My guess is than 99% of it's use will be to hold a board between dogs to flatten it.

Speaking of dogs, I made the decision to use wooden dogs one inch in diameter.  I ordered some 1" walnut dowels from the internet and plan to keep a dog in every single dog hole on my bench.  It is annoying to me to move dogs all over the place.

Why one inch?  Because they will look cooler than 3/4" dogs.  I was thinking that my Gramercy holdfasts would not fit in those holes, but all of those holes will have a dog in them anyway.  Also, pleanty of people are happy with square dog holes and still use their holdfasts effectively, so why not?  Also I'll have the coolest dogs in Germany because who wants to buy a 26 mm drill bit just to chew up for a one-time use?  Stay tuned for my brace and bit demonstration.  My guess is the holes I drill at the end will be a lot straighter than the ones I start with.

Enough drivel for today.  If you've stuck with me this long, you are hooked.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chop Slop

Some of my best ideas come when I am sleeping.

This morning I woke up and slapped my forehead, wondering why I didn't think about this earlier.

While installing the vise chop, I noticed that this vise has quite a bit of slop.  The vise is well made, with stout parts and a good design.  I did choose to go with the smaller of the two vises available, thinking I didn't need anything too big.  I can't say whether the larger vise has this slop, as I haven't seen one installed this way in person yet.

You will notice that the vise is installed very near the front edge of the bench, but the chop reaches almost the entire width of the bench, leaving a fairly lopsided look when viewing from the end.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of this at the moment.  This results in the chop leaning a bit to the right when it is open and no pressure is on it.  The slop in the vise results in the right edge of the chop dipping down a considerable amount below the end of the bench.  Probably about 3/8 of an inch.

When I installed the chop, I chose to line it up as best I could with the top of the bench, tighten the vise and then marking out the pilot holes.  Now the vice lines up perfectly with the bench only with help.

The chop is now in the trunk of my car, as after I took this photo, I marked where the chop overhangs the bench, took it off and intended to cut it to length on a table saw at the Army's woodshop.  The Army's tablesaw didn't give me confidence that this would make a clean cut, however, so my intention is now to make that cut with a handsaw.  I just haven't done it yet.

Good thing, too, as I thought of a better way today.  I am going to plug the holes in the chop from screwing it to the vise and try it again.  This time, I am going to line it up adding the slop in the vise to the equation.  I'll mark the pilot holes when the chop lines up while the vise is loose and leaning to the right.  After I surface the top of the bench to make everything flat, including the tops of the vise chops, the end vise chop should stay flat to the bench because it is already leaning to the right.  If I would have done that the way it is, every time I open the vise, the chop will droop to the right.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Munich Vise

Back at the ranch...

Today I spent some time installing the vise.  I chose the smaller quick release vise that  was available at Dictum.  This seems to be a pretty well made vise, made in Taiwan that was not that expensive.

I chose the smaller one because I felt I probably won't use it that much other than to pinch stuff in between dogs on the bench.  Also, all of the working parts are the exact same on this one as was on the larger one, only the guides are closer together and it doesn't open as far.

First things first, I had to get that sticky gunk that is probably packing grease off of it.  First I sprayed it with some brake cleaner.  That sort of worked.  Then came some paint thinner.  This made everything smell terrible.  So, don't tell anyone, I sprayed it off with hot water, dried it best I could, and then coated everything with a generous douse of WD-40.  It seems to look and feel better now.

I prepped the recess for this vise at the workshop, having a nice Mafell plunging circular saw that made a really nice kerf.  You can see the kerf on the end of the bench here.

It turns out that the end of my bench was not perfectly square.  After some work with a jack plane, I was happy.  I temporarily held it in place with a clamp inverting the handle to make a spreader, I marked out the position.

Five minutes with a chisel and the space for the vice was excavated.

It took a little bit of fiddling, but after a few tries I got everything lined up nicely.

I needed to hold the vise in place to mark out the pilot holes.

The vise went in easily.

At this point, the batteries of the camera died.  I only got one more photo after everything was done.

The only problem I had was I used some narrower lag bolts to attach the chop.  Twice, I broke off the head of the screw in the chop while tightening it.  The easiest way to fix this was to leave the screw in the wood and move the chop out a little.  I finally got the chop on securely with some shorter lag bolts.  I'll take the chop to Peter's workshop to cut it to length on the table saw there.  Perhaps also rough out the planing stop.

Boring Post

Please bear with me on this post.  First, the bad pun in the title:  it runs in my genes.

Second, I am trying to find a blog template that I am happy with, and haven't yet.  Hopefully I will find one that looks good, is easy to navigate and makes me look smart (a tall order).

Third, I am trying to learn a good balance between productivity and taking photos of my work.  I have to admit that I hate slowing down a project to take pictures.  I am slow enough.  I do think I am getting better on not letting the picture taking interfere too much with the pace of my woodworking, but so far the balance has been found by missing a few critical shots.

Fourth, although I got some unexpected time in the shop yesterday, I forgot my camera and had to use my phone, so the photo quality today is bad.

The good news is that this table is almost done.

"Wow!  He works fast," you might be saying, but please keep in mind that I started this table somewhere back last October or something. Life tends to get in the way of progress in the shop at times.

Anyway, my first intention with this table was to get all the parts cut out, finished, loaded into my Volkswagen Golf in pieces and assemble and glue in the final destination of this table, the in-laws place.  The only problem is that I really, really want to draw bore these tenons.  So, in my usual fashion, I am going to put it together and then figure out how to drive it 350 kilometers later.

So, to start, I wanted to try out my new Lie-Nielsen dowel plate.  I always wanted to make one of these, but I don't have a decent piece of steel rolling around in my shop, and after realizing that I had been trying to collect what I needed for it that I wasted about three years of suffering without one, so I just sucked it up and ordered one.

The big benefit is that this one is in inches, which makes perfectly matching dowels for the holes I bore with my vintage brace.  The last time I tried to use a metric dowel in an imperial hole it wasn't pretty.

Anyway, I have seen some folks have made some really nice, elaborate holders for these things to make it possible to use.  I decided I wanted to make dowels right away, so I just clamped it to the bench over a dog hole.

The dowel stock I cut on the Army's table saw.  I had an oak board leftover from this project that was about 10 inches long or so which yielded about six of these little square sticks.

I wanted 3/8 inch dowels to match the number 6 Jennings bit I have, so I cut them to about 3/8 inch square. 

I then used the Army's giant belt sander (I don't think it's cheating to use power tools if they happen to be handy, I just wouldn't buy one) to sharpen the ends like pencils, to make it easier to start in the plate.

Then, lining up the stick first in the 1/2 inch hole, beat the crap out of that little stick with the 1 kilo sledge hammer found on the wall rack, until  a stick with rounded edges comes out the other side.  This is followed by moving the roundish dowel to the 3/8 hole and repeating.

Incidentally, I think I have found another activity that would get me evicted from the apartment if I tried this at home.

The dowels that come out of this dowel plate are round, the correct size, but ugly.  Lots of tear out, and if the grain isn't straight, neither are the dowels.  I think it will be just fine as intended draw bore pins.  The only thing visible will be the end grain.  If it doesn't turn out perfect, then I'll know not to do this to the table I intend to put in our house.  :o)

In my photo documenting exploits, I only got one picture of this.  For some reason, I didn't get any of the finished dowels, or any better detail shots than this one:

I recommend when doing this to wear eye and hearing protection.  It is very loud, and little chips of wood fly everywhere.  Also, this can get very tiring very quickly.  Use the most efficient technique possible, and allow the hammer to fall on the dowel.  Fifteen minutes of this will make you feel like the Incredible Hulk.

After cross-cutting the dowels to appropriate lengths, I wound up with about 18 dowels, plenty for this project.  Back to the belt sander to sharpen them all, and I'm done with those.

Next, the matching holes go into the table legs.  I decided based on the sizes of the dowels and the sizes of the tenons to put two draw bore pins on the front of the legs, and one pin on the sides.  With draw bore pins, one must offset them so they don't run into each other inside of the mortise.  I thought this arrangement would be strongest and look nice.  I think if I used two on each side, I would weaken the tenon a bit by having to bore holes too close to the side of the tenon in this case.

So, now it is just a matter of layout.  I marked all of the legs with a horizontal line, followed by marking all of the fronts with a lower mark, then an upper one to give me an "X marks the spot" for the brace bit.  I want this to be sort of uniform so it looks good, but it doesn't have to be a layout that takes forever as it will hold like crazy wherever the pin winds up.

Now, let's get boring!

I realized too late that there is a decent drill press available to my in the Army workshop.  This would have increased accuracy and speed, but I didn't have a decent 3/8 inch drill press bit.

It will be fine as long as the brace bit starts right on the mark.  I do the best I can to keep everything nice and square, but some of the holes wound up a little off-kilter.  No big deal, as it will look fine from the front and be just as strong.  This is one of those things that if it is a little off, it will be just fine.

I figured out that if I put a scrap in the mortise, it prevented the brace from blowing out a little chunk of wood in there.  Again, no big deal but no point in doing it if I don't have to.

A tip I remembered was to bore all through the leg until just the tip of the lead screw poked through the bottom.

Then, turn the work over and start from the other side.  This lines everything up perfectly, and makes for a very neat hole on both sides.  This seems to work better for me than a backer board for keeping the hole looking good.

I used a bit of red tape to mark more or less how deep I needed to drill before turning the wood over.  Not being at home, I had to clamp this board on the bench with a clamp.  Usually I would use a holdfast.

There it is!  Next time, I'll show you how to mark out the hole to drill in the tenon.  Then it is just a matter of cleaning everything up with a smoothing plane, and after that, glue up!

One note about the construction of these legs; they are laminated together with two boards from the same stock I built the top from.  Some beautiful quarter sawn 42mm oak.  I then used veneer on the ugly side of the legs, the part that would show the lamination and the flat-sawn grain.  It worked brilliantly.  The veneer I wound up with is not quite as vivid as the lumber I used, and the color is just a tad lighter.  But, I think it will look a lot nicer, and hopefully the colors will even out with finish and time.

I recommend this method as opposed to mitering the legs.  Both methods are traditional for this style, but for a hobbyist, this was a simple, elegant solution.  Next time I'll be a bit more picky about the veneer I use.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Schwiegereltern Table

OK, I have a confession. Not all of my woodworking is completed in my storage room workshop. Last fall I started a pencil-post bed (wait until you see photos of that!), and that just was too big for my small shop the way it was set up. So, I started using the woodshop on the Army post. Here are a couple photos:

Unfortunately the planer is total junk, and is unuseable. The table saw is OK for rough cuts as long as you keep in mind that you must square everything up later. And the bandsaws are little toy shaped things which are nice for making puzzles, but not for resawing or anything remotely hard-core.

 That being said, there is lots of space, comparitively. And if I really need to, there is another Army post a couple hours drive away that has an awesome 15" planer and a mongo 24" thickness planer that work beautifully. The benches are decent commercial benches. However, I have to say using a bench that doesn't move like the roubo now in my keller is a lot different than using a bench that "pretty much" doesn't move. With current government budgets, though, I think these woodshops have an end coming sometime soon, as they aren't really generating income to pay staff. We'll see.

Anyway, yesterday I got the good fortune to work for a couple hours in this shop on a table that SWMBO offered I make for her parents. I had never made a dining table before, so thought this might be a good chance to practice. If it is too embarassing, at least I won't have to look at it every day. The true purpose of this table is for me to practice making a table, as I plan to make a dining table for our second apartment.

This table is perfect for practice, as it is not big at all. I think it is only something like 700mm X 1100mm. The lumber yard I go to let me pick out the oak boards I am using for this project, so I got some awesome 8/4 perfectly quartersawn boards, directly from the middle of the tree. Sweet!

I laminated the legs together, and veneered the two faces of each leg so every face shows quarter sawn grain. You'll get pictures of the legs and skirts later. Joinery is very basic: mortice and tennons with no fancy adjustable sizes or anything. 

On with the good part: Yesterday I was working on the top. Having glued up the panel for the top in my keller, I brought this project to the Army shop because chopping morices by hand is likely to get us evicted. The last thing I want is the house to vote that woodworking is forbidden in the keller. I think I would lose 39-1. So the point is to not be annoying (a tall order, for me).

Now that the project is in the Army shop, I might as well finish it there since my new bench isn't done yet. I want a large bevel on the top of this table. Ever since I saw a picture of the dining table in a woodworking book I have, I wanted to try it. What better opportunity to see if something works than for the in-laws!

Laying out the chamfer with a pencil gauge.

I thought it best to start with the cross-grain and clamp some scrap to keep from blowing out the far end.

See, it works!  Blowing out the scrap instead.

I chose to do the roughing out of this chamfer with my scrub plane.  I am finding lots of uses for this plane lately.

When I get close to the line, clean things up with my jack set for a smooth cut.

A closer view of my scrub's sole.

A nasty knot appeared on the bevel near the backside of the table.  You can see the smaller knot on the top, next to it.  My plan was to fill this in with shellac when I got to that point.  This larger knot might be more problematical.  I'm thinking of putting in a patch to cover it up.  What do you think?

Views of the corners when done.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Mafellator Roubo

Welcome to my new blog. I have a blog, I must be an expert! I was going to start this blog by posting a bunch of philisophical hooey about my approach to woodworking, but after thinking about it, my guess is two months from now my first post wouldn't be up yet. So, instead I'll show you the state of my workbench after having done most of the heavy lifting (literally) at Christopher Schwarz' bench class at Dictum a couple weeks ago.
Just to show you my skill and prowess laying out the order of how the legs should be organized, I used a carpenter's triangle as per CS' instruction. Then I changed my mind. Then, I messed it up anyway.
Anyway, long story short, I got the bench glued up on the last day of the course, and Christopher Schwarz needed a ride to his hotel in Munich. So, I took him with me. Before I dropped him off, he helped unload the bench, which would have probably killed me. I guess he's unloaded 350 pound benches from SUV's before. If you want to see an amusing video of my shop that he shot, check out his Lost Art Press Blog. Anyway, I finally got my keller cleaned out, getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff I don't need down there. My wood-rack for instance is now in another town, but this space is just too small.
After getting that behemouth in my cave, I felt pretty proud of myself, so I thought I would mess around a little with my scrub plane. There was one beam in the glue up that had a pretty dramatic bow in it, which caused it to sit proud of the rest of the bench top a good 3 mm or so. This scrub made mincemeat of it in about ten minutes.
So, there is where we stand now. I was going to next try to get the face vice done, but after reading Wolfram's blog I have decided to install the tail-vice first. I'll be able to use it for doing some of the rest, and there is no point doing any more flattening until the vices and chops are in place.