Saturday, May 28, 2016

I Made a Marking Knife

I like it.
After screwing up my latest attempt at the Henning Noorgaard table, I thought I would need a quick and easy project to boost my woodworking self-esteem. I happened to have a Hock marking knife blank rolling around, and determined this was the perfect time to finish it.
Materials for this build, a marking knife blank and a hunk of wood.
I had a piece of ebony that has been rolling around for a while. Probably about three to four inches wide, and about ten inches long, and around 3/8 or 1/2 inches thick or so.
A closer look.

Even closer. Wow. It looks like there are a couple worm holes. I hope those were there before.
I really don't need another knife, as I have a perfect one already. A Blue Spruce with a curly maple handle. I can't say enough about this knife, other than it is perfect and I love it.
Blue Spruce.
I think that the plan will be to get my knife to feel as much like the Blue Spruce as possible. That is, without a lathe.

I forgot to take some pictures at this point. I cut the ebony blank to length, and then plowed a 1/4" groove on either side to a depth a little more than half the thickness of the blade. Next, I ripped both grooved pieces off the ebony blank and kept the offcut.

I mixed up a small batch of epoxy, with a bit of black tint in case there are any gaps.
I slathered epoxy on both halves...

inserted the blade...

and clamped it up.
After a day in the clamps, this is what I got:
Epoxy is cured.
I think this could be done a bit neater with some proper layout. I decided just to taper the handle on opposite sides until it looked right, then taper the other two sides to match.
Wow. I have it clamped in the vise. Neat.

Two square.

Four square.
These are pretty much the only layout marks I used. Some pencil scribbles that really don't show anything.
Precision layout.
Once it was foursquare, I just planed some chamfers on the edges, and rounded the top with a rasp, a file. I sanded the whole thing to 600 grit, pollissoired the crap out of it, and applied Renaissance Wax.
I like the look.
Here are a couple more glamor shots.

It is a little less than perfect, but I love the way it feels in my hand. There is one bug hole that goes all the way through. It can be seen in the last photo. But, I guess that makes it look more like wood and less like plastic.

This is a fun project, and I look forward to using the knife. Being O1 carbon steel, it is easy to sharpen. The big difference between this blade and the Blue Spruce is the Hock is much thicker. I'll let you know if that is an advantage or disadvantage.

So far the big disadvantage with the Hock is the price. It is not much cheaper than buying the Blue Spruce complete! I might be interested in making one from untreated tool steel, as that stuff is only a couple dollars. However if the point is to have a home made tool, I really like this one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Olav's Flag Pole

I was very happy today when I opened my email and there was a note in there from Olav the Great. I met him while visiting Jonas for the Danish Chair Building Extravaganza two years ago. He is an amazing craftsman - a German cabinetmaker who has lived in Denmark for some time.

Hej Brian,

it’s a long time ago …
but now I have to say: Congratulations to your chair. THe CHair, our chair.
Because I wanted to write you I recently visited your blog just to affirm that you are a man with many faces and curiosities.
After you didn’t show up last year, only because you was busy to travel to Japan or Alaska or such a place at the world’s other side and after a rough storm last winter, I had to remember you. As a matter of fact our flagpole became dismasted in this storm and that is a harsh thing in Denmark. To manufacture a new one I needed a five to five inch timber, 30 feet in length and - what do you think? - a new square- to-eight-side-gauge. To make a long pole short/ thin I took some pictures:

                                          Yours sincerely

I am amazed with this piece. I couldn't imagine making an angled 30 foot cut with a circular saw.

Thanks for the note, Olav!  I hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2nd Annual June Chair Build - How I Glue Up a Panel

For my chair in the upcoming June Chair Build, I have this crazy idea to do a pair of chairs with zebrano (Microberlinia brazzavillensis) chair blanks. You can read about it in the previous post.

I am collecting materials and prepping wood in order to hopefully get these chairs done by the last day of June. Last year June lasted until the middle of August for me.

The board is 12 inches wide, and I would rather the chair blanks be around 18 inches or more. That means in order to use this board, I will have to glue two pieces or more together.

My first step was to cut the seven foot board down and see if I could get three nice lengths, again around 18 inches long or so.
My three boards.
Unfortunately, the end of the board had two really nasty cracks that made me worry a bit that this piece would actually be appropriate.
Two big cracks in this end board.
I decided to just go for it. The big crack was nearly in the middle, anyway, and the smaller crack was pretty much straight up and down.
If this doesn't work, my chair will be a bit narrower than planned.
The big crack turned out to be no big deal. Runout on the board was my friend, this time. the broken piece peeled off, and I suspect will make no difference in the final look of the chair.
Less work for me later!
The other half turned out to be more of a problem. The good news is while it runs down about 1/3 of the length, it only shows on one side.
This crack is a bit more serious.
I think it will be OK, though. My plan is to inject it with epoxy, then stabilize it with some butterfly keys. Depending on what it looks like, this side can go on the bottom and not be seen.

Moving on to the "how-to" part. The first step in gluing a lamination is to plane the mating surfaces as surgically perfect as possible. I then dry-fit the joint and test for any wobble, gaps, or other signs of a less-than-surgically perfect joint. Also, I hold a straight edge up to one face to make sure we are mostly straight. If not, adjust the angle on one of the joints to match. Straightening here is much easier than flattening a warped glue up later.

Enjoy this photo-essay of my process:
Squirt some glue on one or both of the surfaces.
FYI, I happen to be using fish glue here. I like it's hide glue like properties, plus it has a longer shelf life and a faster set up time.
Spread the glue over the whole surface with a piece of scrap.

Wiggle the top board on the bottom until it sticks. This is a "rub joint."

Now you can breath. Us a wet cloth to clean up the squeeze out.

For extra strength I will clamp the joint tight.
Since this will be a chair seat, I use clamps here. It isn't always needed. I usually clamp my rub joints if I have to move them. I would leave it as is in the vise if not. Here I lightly apply one clamp, then lightly apply the other. Make sure the joint is still flush, then tighten it down.
Two clamps is plenty for this size of panel.

That's it!
Done. If you need to, remove the clamped assembly for storage while the glue dries. I'll leave this over night just to be on the safe side.

I think these panels turned out very nice, and the glue line isn't obvious. We'll see if it stays that way after I carve the seat, but I am hopeful. Normally, I wouldn't recommend a panel with an off-set glue line for a chair seat, but in this case it economizes material, and looks good (so far).

2nd Annual June Chair Build - My Seat Blanks

Don't forget about the upcoming 2nd Annual June Chair Build! It is my little challenge and motivation for as many people who want to build a chair in the month of June.

June is quickly approaching, and I wanted to show a glimpse of what I am planning for my chair build this year.

I briefly entertained an idea to use for a seat blank a piece of 8/4 walnut I have had flying about for some time. Then, I decided to make a couple of staked and painted outdoor patio chairs.

Those ideas all went out the window when I had the opportunity to buy this board from a friend:
A chair or two.
A local cabinetmaker that I met on Instagram has a stunning collection of lumber for tables - his real passion. I mentioned to him I was on the lookout for a nice piece of wood for a chair, and he said he probably could help me out.

We looked at some really cool, really wide oak, ash and maple, but my heart stopped when he said he had some appropriately sized zebrano, or zebra wood (Microberlinia brazzavillensis).

He had three pieces like this, and I'm pretty sure he didn't want to let any of them go, despite the fact that they have been waiting in his shop for three years or so (no judgements here - I have wood in my shop that has been there much longer than that).

I am certain that this wood is going to be a royal pain in the neck to turn into chairs, but if I am successful, there will be nothing out there like them.
It is a pretty big board. 45mm (8/4) x 30 cm (12 in) x 215 cm (7 ft).
As soon as I showed this board to The Frau, she decided I need to use it to build a console table for her. I agreed, but told her she had until I broke this board down to come up with a design.
Time's up!
Does anyone else pause before crosscutting a long, beautiful board? I always feel a little guilty, like someone who knows what they are doing might want that whole piece for something proper.

I cut three 45 cm (18") blocks from one end of the board. This left a hunk about 30" long for a table top.

Amusing aside - I decided to list the measurements of this board in metric, as it came from a German cabinetmaker's shop. It's how he measured it. But, now that I have made some cuts on it, I can discuss it purely in proper inches.

Moving on.

12 inches in width isn't quite wide enough to get a seat blank without a glue up. I also noted that I have three blocks, and if I rip one in half I can get two seat blanks from these three pieces. I am pretty sure I will be able to come up with a glue line that is hardly visible.

It turns out there was a big challenge with this, as the end of the board checked, and there is a massive crack straight down the middle of one of the boards. This one will have to be ripped and used to widen the other two.

I think I have come up with a pleasing layout.
The center will be ripped and the glue up will yield two chair blanks.
I have heard from one guy on Instagram regarding his plans for his #junechairbuild . What are you going to build?

Henning Norgaard Couch Table Part VI - Failed Do-Over

Skill in woodworking is often gained by making mistakes. We learn from those mistakes and apply the knowledge and wisdom gained from those experiences in our work from then on.

This means that I am now a WAYYYY better woodworker than I was before I started this project.

I began with the firm knowledge this table was designed to be built in a way that takes advantage of machine production and multiple batches. Something that hand work isn't really known for. I figured that I should be able to do this one freaking table, and looking at photos of the original I determined it shouldn't be too difficult to build.

In the end a drawing or a proper mock-up in construction lumber or something probably would have given me the information that I needed to find success with this build. I suppose that's lesson #1.

You may remember where I left off with this table was with a completed base.
Base #1. It looks great from this angle.
Up close, not so much.
The problem resulted from cutting and fitting each individual joint. Once it was all together I decided to change which joints went where. The reason for this I wrote about in an earlier post, but in a nutshell, it was for structural reasons (Lesson #1 would have prevented this mistake).

One choice tidbit of information I got from this process was the fact that there were only three unique parts for this table using my chosen joinery technique of only lap joints. That means that theoretically, I could gang cut the parts with only three setups and save the weeks of time I wasted on the first one. Also, if the parts are all exactly the same, they can go together in any order yielding fewer chances to screw up putting one of sixteen parts in the wrong place.

I therefore milled up a bunch more stock for this project.
This time I did this part all with machines.
I spent a couple hours at the workshop at Dictum. I ripped each stick from the rough board with a unique angle on the table saw in order to get perfectly rift-sawn stuff for each stick. This does create a lot of waste, but it is worth it as these sticks, just like the ones on failed attempt #1, looked perfect.

Here was my plan for yesterday:
  1. Clamp all the sticks up, mark the length and location of the lap joints.
  2. Saw a cross-grain groove to 50% depth on each side.
  3. Remove waste with a chisel and clean up the groove with a router plane.
  4. Turn all pieces to the next face to cut the joints on the ends using the same method.
  5. Cut to length.
  6. Admire my flawless work.
Things started out well, but went south in a hurry.
One clamp turned out to be enough. Win!

I used some care clamping this batten down to guide my first saw cut. Win!

I made a perfect first cut easily with this method. Win!

I clamped a second batten down using a piece of milled material for spacing. Great idea in theory, but let's wait and see before declaring this a good technique.

As you can see, it is simple to make some very accurate saw cuts this way. Win!

Here you can see the whole setup with saw cuts. The line on the very right is where I will eventually saw these sticks to length. No need to do that yet, that extra length might come in handy for clamping or support.

It appears to have worked perfectly. Win! (Don't get cocky. That's probably lesson #2!)
Let's try it on the other side, now.
Carefully lay out and clamp a batten for a saw guide.
I guess after this step I got in too much of a hurry to take more pictures. I probably could see where I went wrong if I did. I thought I did it just the same as the first groove.
Once done sawing, I roughed out the grooves with a chisel and cleaned up with a router.

Obligatory art photo.
I have to say, at this point things look great. Much nicer than the laps I did on Failed Attempt #1.
The true test is if the laps actually fit together. Since I could now remove my clamp, I tested the joints.
Not super tight, but I could live with this. These are the laps from the first side.

Holy crap! This is almost an entire saw-kerf sized gap. Now what?
I decided to stop at this point, step back and think about what happened.

Having spent a day thinking about it, I am definitely not happy with the bottom joint. Unfortunately, eight sticks out of the required twelve (four will get cut in half to make the uprights) have this gappy, too-wide and loose joint. I have decided that I will have to start over on this one yet again. My standards are higher than this. After all, what was the reason I was doing this over? Oh yeah, because the joints were gappy.

What was my mistake?

Well, looking back, it was how I laid out the second saw cut. Technically on paper it should have worked to lay out the second batten using a piece of stock for a spacer, but there is a high risk that something could move just a little somewhere. Also, I think the first joint worked perfectly, yet it wasn't quite as tight as I had hoped. No matter how tight I get it up against the first batten, it won't be a little too tight giving me the tight friction fit I am after. Why didn't I do a test cut? I suppose it is because I hadn't completely grasped lesson #1 yet.

Next time I will mark out the second saw cut with some kind of marking tool. Perhaps dividers would work in order to scratch a line parallel and a perfect distance from the first cut. Then, I should set my second batten up to that line. I could then ensure that this saw cut is just a whisker less than what I did here, and all the joints will look perfect.

In the mean time, I am going to take a little break from this project. I will probably finish the top and store it on top of Failed Attempt #1, just so it looks like we have a coffee table. I will have to live with those gappy joints in the meantime, but this will result in eventually getting back to this project. I will have to mill some more lumber.

In the meantime, I need to start thinking more about my June Chair Build!

Earlier posts on this project are here:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V