Thursday, August 30, 2012

Germany is Cool!

OK, besides the beer, Oktoberfest, the shoe dance and Neuschwanstein, there is more awesomeness to Germany...


I have recently purchased and watched Larry Williams' DVD , decided to get a few planemaker's tools and build some hollows and rounds.

First step is to find some lumber.

Those of you Americans still living in the US will envy those of us Americans living over here in Europe.  Beech is the traditional wood of choice for molding planes, and getting proper beech quarter-sawn is not so easy, or cheap to find in the US (at least according to what y'all are writing on the internet).

Here, it is everywhere, inexpensive, and looked at as the kind of wood you use when you can't afford something better.

The lumber yard I go to here in Munich is a huge place, with zillions of board feet of lumber.  Actually, they don't measure anything in board feet, so it can be difficult to know how much to get.  Lumber is sold in cubic meters.

I've come to just go there, and buy some boards and hope that is enough.  They have been patient with me as I go through the whole stack, and go so far as to lay out my project on the rough lumber to determine how much I need.  This is followed by them cutting it up in lengths that will fit in my VW Golf, and going to pay with a feeling of dread when they tell me it is 1500 EUROs per cubic meter.

Anyway, I went there the other day to get a nice board to make a set of hollows and rounds.  I figured I would get beech, but decided to ask if they happened to have apple or pear wood just because.  "Indeed," the salesman said, "we have both."  He proceeded to take me to view all the lumber I could comprehend.

You poor US-Amerikaners.  You have never seen so many different kinds of beech.  There was enough perfect beech available to replace every plane ever made.  I picked out a nice 6/4 board that the salesman said would run about 20-25 EUROs.

Somehow, I wanted to see the fruitwood, too.  Beech has such a connotation of every-day-ness here that I thought I owed it to them.

We first looked at apple.  There were a few nice flitches there, and I pointed to the center of the stack to look at a nice board from the middle of the tree.  He said that this board would be too unstable, therefore unsuitable.

Oh-well, lets move on.

We got to the pear, and I was in love.  52 mm thick (8/4 or so), and a beautiful quarter-sawn board about two meters long.  A perfect length to keep from breaking the windshield in the Golf (DAMHIKT).

This wood is absolutely gorgeous.  Larry mentions it in the DVD as perfectly suitable for planes, so off I went.

The salesman said it was expensive, about three times the price of beech.  I figured, "what the heck!"  knowing that this board probably had enough lumber to make two full sets.

It turns out that 1500 EUROs per cubic meters translates to about 3.50 EUROs per board/foot.  Or (in American), $4.50 per board/foot.  Not too bad.

This means that the beech I saw was only a dollar or two per board foot.  I think I will be making a lot of planes in the future.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Progress on the Bench

While I seem not to be breaking any speed barriers with this build, I do like to make sure I at least accomplish something in the the shop every once in a while.

Here is what my bench now looks like after today:

Being frustrated about not getting much woodshop time in lately, I have not gone out of my way to ensure I have photographic evidence of the details for the blog.  So, here is where I'm at:

I finished boring the dog holes a week or two ago.  I took more video, but thought I would spare you of yet another brace and bit video.

Today I finished all of the dogs for the holes!  This was a lot harder than I thought, because the walnut one inch dowels I bought were oversize by about a tenth of an inch.  First I tried widening my holes with sandpaper wrapped around a smaller dowel.  This took forever, as the oak top is almost 5 1/2" thick.  Sanding the dowels down in diameter that much took forever, too.  If I'd have done them all that way, I would be working on this for years.

In the meantime, a box arrived from Joshua Clark again.  This time there was a sweet screw-arm moving filester and three singleton hollow and round planes.  Why singles?  Because I think I would like to take a stab at building my own, and thought a few examples would be helpful.

Lucky for me, the only hollow was a #12, which cuts a round with a 3/4" radius.  A #8 would have worked perfectly for these 1" dowels, but since I didn't know that this is what I'd use them for, I figured I couldn't be picky now.

The hollow worked really well for taking this much off of the dowels to make them fit.  Because it was oversize, there are some facets on the dowels now, but it was much easier than using a block plane with a flat bottom.  A bit of sandpaper and they went in nice.

The dogs are staying put as of now with just a friction fit.  But, eventually I might install a wooden spring on them to keep them in place.

I think the wooden dogs are great.  For the price of a single metal one I installed a dog in every hole.  Plus, they won't hurt my tools!

You can also see that it appears my vice is installed.  It isn't quite finished yet.  It still needs the rollers and some final tweaking before it will be done.  I did get to use my expanding bit and a big-honking #24 Irwin auger bit on the chop.  That was fun.

Stay tuned for the completion of the vice and flattening of the top!

Hand Saws and M-16's

My drill sergeant taught me to shoot more accurately by making me shoot left handed.  I was thinking of this today while watching a video about hand sawing technique.  Interested in finding the link between the two?  Then you'll have to read more of this rather lengthy post.

Set-up for precision sawing requires many different body parts and movements be in line to ensure that sawing is square and true.  As a little refresher here, remember that no matter what kind of saw you are using, you want a good, light grip with the index finger sticking out like you are pointing it at what you are sawing, relaxed wrist, elbow and shoulder in a straight line with your sawplate and line of cut, and your feet spread apart with one in front of the other.

One other tidbit is your head should be right over your sawplate so your eye can see the kerf and where your saw is going without throwing any of the other body parts off-line.  Bob Rozaieski of the Logan Cabinet Shoppe has a great video blog about saw technique here.  Bob discusses a tip in this video of how he makes a small change with his head position and his saw cuts all became much more accurate.

While watching a video on my computer today by Ron Herman (over at Popular Woodworking's ShopClass On Demand), he mentions the importance of eye dominance with correct sawing.

In a nutshell, he says that most right handed people are right-eye dominant, and most left handed people are left-eye dominant.  This is great for sawing as it puts your dominant eye in the best place for seeing what is going on if your head is in the right place.

But, what if you are right-handed, but left-eye dominant, like me?

This is actually more common than you would think.  Ron Herman uses a variation of a trick I learned in Army Basic Training to help you determine your eye-dominance.  Here is how I learned it:

Pick a point to look at on the other side of the room.  Something like a letter on a sign or a corner of a picture frame or something.  Next, make a triangle with your hands, and while your hands are held out at arms length, put that point in the center of the triangle like this:

Now, close one eye, and then the other.  Which ever eye you can still see that point with is your dominant eye.  Try it 100 times and it will work every time.

If your dominant eye is the same as your dominant hand, then good for you, this is all easy.  If not, there are a few choices we need to make.  I think some of the ones I used in the Army may work here, too.

Before I joined the Army, I was a terrible shot, as I never really learned any of the fundamentals of shooting. Growing up in Montana, it is assumed that you are born with them, so if you can't shoot straight there must be something wrong with you.

This was actually beneficial when learning to shoot an M-16 at the rifle range.  I didn't have to unlearn anything before learning the right way.

My drill sergeant had the whole company do the simple trick that I described above, and I was one of many that was cross-dominant.  His solution was for us to learn to shoot left-handed.  Believe it or not, it worked and I shot left-handed every time I qualified at the range and kept my expert marksmanship badge every single time (every six months for eight years).  Shooting using my dominant eye rather than dominant hand allowed me to keep both eyes open while shooting, aiding in seeing the targets and reducing any unnecessary stress in the body.

I never would have considered shooting left handed on my own.  Now I can shoot either right, or left handed.  There really isn't any magic to how you hold a rifle, as M-16s are designed to be ambidextrous.

I learned another trick while learning to shoot skeet.  With shotguns, you focus on the target, whereas with rifles you focus on the front sight post.  Also, left-handed shotguns are not that common, so it is easier to learn to shoot shotguns right handed.

When focusing on the target, you are relying on your peripheral vision to see the sighting bead on the front of the gun.   This always leads to missing the target if your dominant eye takes over.

The trick I learned in this case was to put a little dab of Vaseline on my shooting glasses right at the point where my left eye would be trying to focus on the clay pigeon.  This worked awesome, as my left eye couldn't see, so my right eye took over.  All this without loosing depth perception.

Ron Herman  suggests closing your dominant eye, to train the other eye to take over while sawing.  This may work, but I sure am not disciplined enough to do it.  I imagine that this might be frustrating and perhaps dangerous.

I think I'll try these two techniques I learned while shooting and see what happens.  I am not such an expert sawyer that I will lose decades of experience and muscle memory trying it left-handed.  My guess is that with a little practice, one could get just as good that way as the other.  There could be a secret side benefit to this, too.  I find that it is far easier to cut to a line when the waste is on the left side of the line.  Perhaps my dovetails will grow in accuracy if I can change hands!

OK, that sounds crazy.  Perhaps the dab of grease on the glasses is a bit easier.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Even More Regarding the Brace and Bit

I got a little shop time yesterday, and was able to finish my dog holes.  I continued with my brace and bit, with the one inch holes you may have seen in a previous post.

A few days back I spent a little time with the bench dog that is in the chop.  I had some problems with my last bench, losing the bench dog in the chop with no way to remove it, short of screwing a gimlet into the dog to remove it.

To solve the problem this time, I had intended to drill the hole all the way through so I could push the dog up from the bottom.

Needless to say, things didn't go right.  I ran my brace into a broken lag bolt (ruining my bit), and no farther can I drill.

I fixed the problem by inserting a magnetic cabinet door spring thingie (not sure the technical name), which now ejects the dog when I want.  I drilled a hole in the center of some 1" dog stock, inserted the cylindrical contraption and drove that to the bottom of the dog hole.  Now there is room for a short dog above this mechanism.  When it is engaged it allows the dog to sit flush with the bench top, and when engaged again it pops out about 1/2."

A good woodworking friend from Denmark brought his family to visit, and he brought me a gift:

He read on this blog that I wrecked my 1" brace bit, so he brought me some really nice Irwin style bits made by C.I. Fall in Sweden.

About the same time, Joshua Clark sent me a new Jennings style replacement.  Neat!  I have two different styles to try out next to each other.

I sharpened them both using a trick I just discovered in Aldren Watson's book.  Instead of using my auger bit file, I glued some sandpaper to a piece of scrap about the size of a popsicle stick.  This worked great, and I highly recommend it.  The big advantage is that I think it should allow the bits to last longer.

The file is a bit course, which leaves the bit sharp enough to cut well, but it takes off a lot of metal.  I tried a few different grits of sandpaper, and found that as long as there wasn't major shaping to do, that 320 grit worked nice in the fact that I was able to touch up the edge without grinding an entire new cutting surface.  I think I'll only use the file when I need to re-establish a fresh edge.

I found the Irwin style bit cut just as well as the Jennings.  My feelings at the time were that I might be able to steer the Irwin at the beginning of the cut a little better, but that the Jennings was easier to turn in this nearly six inch thick oak.  I think some more testing is required for me to really learn the advantages and disadvantages of each.  I was able to get straight holes with each, and they both looked smooth enough for my purposes.

One thing to note, that the lead screw on the Irwin looks coarser than on the Jennings.  I don't believe this to be true.  Joshua Clark told me that the appearance is deceptive because the Irwin has a single thread, and the Jennings a double.  I didn't time anything, but I felt the Jennings in my test actually may have cut faster.

Now, I only need to drill 3-4 more holes for holdfasts in this 5.5 inch oak, and I'll be done with this grueling task.

Professional Woodworker?

As a hobby woodworker and blogger, you may note that at times there is a break between posts.  My intention is to post every week, but occasionally life gets in the way.  No apologies, but an explanation of how I work.  Perhaps someday I can become a full time hobbyist, but not yet.

Notice I did not say professional woodworker.

Having been a professional musician, I know what is required of a professional craftsperson.  I would like to keep wookworking fun, and be able to do what I want to do.  I have no ambition to do this as a profession.  As a professional, there are deadlines, compromises of all sorts, and when someone pays you for a commission, it may not be what you want to do so much as what the customer wants.

There are many out there who do this, and I think it is great, don't get me wrong.  I want to do things my way, for enjoyment's sake, on my own (slow) pace.

At least for now.

OK, less soapbox, more woodworking: