Sunday, July 31, 2011

Belwood Lake Triathlon, not wood but still Inspirational

   Last weekend Sham swam, cycled and ran at the Belwood Lake Triathlon.  He is am amazing guy. He was able to finish the race in less time than it took me to make this entry.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Latest Shop Tool?

    OK, so it isn't really a shop tool, exactly.  However my shop is in the basement of our home. Regardless of the quality of the dust collection on my machines there is always a small amount of dust that escapes into the atmosphere.  There is also a small about of dust that sticks to my shoes as I work in and around the shop.

    Tracking dust up stairs in the living area of the house has been an on going problem since my shop got set up.  The division of labour and commonsense has me as the house cleaner, and Eva in change of food preparation.  The house cleaning has been a challenge, and a challenge that has defeated me for nearly three years.  Our hardwood and tile floors always look bad, between the shop dust and the cat hair it is embarrassing to have guests into our home.

   The new shop tool (  up stairs vacuum) will make a dent in the dust bunny and drifting crests of shop dust.  I love good tools and kick myself for taking so long before biting the bullet and buying a good vacuum sooner.  I spent time yesterday with the new vacuum and made good headway on the floors, really good headway.  Next task, the upstairs.

    With luck I will be able to be productive in the shop, make and sell a bunch of cutting boards to help pay for the latest tool.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Week the Maintenance gets done.

    Today there are no fancy photos or challenging questions. Today's blog is about the task that all workshop people hate and that all good work shop people must do.    Yes that's right I am talking about maintenance.  Since Monday I have been at work in my shop for  hours each day wood working but little of it has been working wood.  I have glued two cutting board blanks together but that is it for working wood.
   It is the none wood part of woodworking I have been doing this week and few people without shop experience know anything about it.  One of the this was I changed the blades in my planner, the instructions were pretty good, but since it was the first that that I have done that it took time.  Also my buddy Clive dropped off a large metal storage cupboard that enabled me to empty a couple of shelves.  I prefer to keep my shop stuff behind a door, or in a drawer, it reduces the dust build up.  The cupboard needed a couple of shelves made for it and I had to go and buy some shelf clips to hold the shelves up.  Not complaining, just letting none shop people know that that all takes time.  
  Years ago my wife brought 8 boxes of 12 empty plastic jars home for me.  I have filled all but two boxes of the jars and today I labeled the outside of the cardboard boxes and put them into the metal cupboard.  Not a hard job, but it took time.  Besides it is a good idea to sort through all those bits and pieces and hooks and fasteners now and then to remind you what is there.  Getting organized takes time now but saved time later.

   Sharpening of chisels and shop knives, yet another little job.  And the beat goes on.  By the end of the week everything will have a place and be in it.  All the tools will be sharp and lubed and ready to go. The dust collection system tweaked and improved, again. (I even changed the oil in my motorcycle on Monday)

  After the long weekend I will be ready for full on production.  I have a table at a craft show for the fall and what to make sure that I am ready with cutting boards to sell.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Multi Tools

   Multi Tools inspire mixed feelings in my tool loving soul.  On my desk you see three multi tools, I have several others but these serve will serve to illustrate my feelings.
   The tools with the red handle is a Corona Fusion 11.  It claims to be 11 tools in 1.  As you can see it is has most of the classic gadgets.  I recently bought this tool from, mostly on a whim.  My wife is the serious gardener and has serious garden tools.  This one will serve me as a secondary tool and make is so I do not have to borrow any of hers.  Is it a great tool no.  Is it a decent tool for the money, sure.  It has to be remembered that good by-pass pruners cost $60.00 and this whole thing cost around $20.00.  It will dead head roses and dig a few weeds and I expect to be perfectly happy with it, knowing it is a lower cost multi tool doing an average job at a variety of tasks.

  In the middle of the pack is my Filzer bicycle tool.  It is mostly a collection of hex keys with a Phillips and slot head screw driver thrown in for good measure.  It handles basic road side bicycle repairs, nothing more, nothing less.  It is a very light weight sturdy tool and I really hope to use very seldom.  There are a variety of companies make tools like this and two or three times a season they are needed they prove a real time and effort saver.  

   The lower tool we all recognize as a Leatherman tool.  Leatherman makes great tools.  I bought my first Leatherman years ago when I was an office manager for a lawyer.  The tool sat in my desk drawer and came out two or three times a week to deal with some fiddling issue relating to stuck drawers, uncooperative file cabinets and the occasional jammed printer/copier.   I can`t begin to estimate the time and money  that multi tool saved.  It was an instrument of measurement as well as a repair tool. If the problem was beyond the Leatherman, it was too big to be handled in house and a repair person was called.

  I strongly feel that multi tools have a real place in a shop and home.  The only thing that must be remembered is that they are a compromise tool, not the very best tool for the specific task, just a good tool for small stuff and better than using something that is not a tool at all (butter knife) to do a job.  Their strength is small size, handiness and multiplicity.  If I can I use the exact tool for the job, but that tool is not always were I am.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Small Box - bandsaw style

July 2001 band saw box
If you look around the other sites, like Lumber Jocks and you will see that there have been a number of small band saw boxes featured lately.  The band saw box is something that can be a cute wee diversion as this one is or a work of high art, as some of the lumber jocks products are.

   This little box is made from left overs, scrap spruce I think, maybe even scrap 2x4.  I went to work on this box with the intention of working on my band saw skills.  One thing I discovered it that it is time for a blade change, even band saw blades get dull after a while.  Another thing that was impressed on me was the necessity for the initial block of wood  to be very square.  (mine wasn't and it made a difference in cutting the ends off. )

   My plan is to gather together some potential pieces for boxes and make a bunch as practise items. Practicing in the shop for a hour of so after supper is a nice escape from the heat without being a burdensome task. It should be rewarding to do because it is not a huge investment in time and so not heart breaking if it turns out to be fire wood when I am done.

  Since the wood was of basic quality I dyed the outside with aniline dye and painted the drawer with craft paint.  It turned out OK and I expect it will sit on a shelf, or turn into a play thing for the grand kids.  
   Better technique will get better wood.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barn Red with Hemp Oil

four of the magazine boxes.
the shelf full of boxes
   I made nine boxes in total, this last batch and plan to make at least as many again. They provide really good solid storage for my collection of idea books.
  I put two quick coats of Barn Red milk paint on the most recent box, sanded it carefully. Cleaned it well with my tack cloth (the milk paint really raises the grain) and then rubbed a very light coat of Hemp Oil onto the paint. I am very pleased with the result, I would call it a semi-gloss finish.  Easy to achieve and easy to clean up after.
  Hemp oil is a new product that at, part of their new line of products from Homestead House Paints.  I really like working with the Hemp oil and am even more pleased to learn that it is a made in Ontario Canada product.  The hemp oil is also become my go to finish for my cutting boards. I  strongly believe that we should encourage the domestic  economy and when ever I can find a Canadian product I will but it first.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Magazine Storage box

Magazine box in  St. Laurent blue milk paint from the  
   A couple of weeks ago I made nine magazine storage boxes and then decided that I would finish them each with a different finish. These boxes would become a resource for me when I was trying to remember what each finished looked like.   I have written the name, colour and other important information on the bottom of the box.

   Above is a box finished with two coats of Homestead House milk paint from has recently added a new line of paints and finishes.
   Let me tell you about my milk paint experience. 
  It was great!
  Beginning with the obvious I really like the colour.  It was super easy to put on and ultra easy to clean up.  Both very important to a non-finish specialist like me.  The milk paint also does not smell at all when it is drying and since it comes in powder form I only mixed up 1/4 cup of paint, there is no mostly empty container of paint left sitting on a shelf in my shop.

   I have a small sample of red paint which I will paint another box with and then coat with a thin layer of Hemp Oil, as per Homestead House instructions to see what the semi-gloss effect is like.  Without the oil treatment the paint is brightly toned but a flat finish.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fern Stand

   A while ago we where in a nursery looking for garden plants when we encountered a very large Boston fern being sold off cheap.  We can not turn down a deal, and I have been rescuing orphan plants that no one else wanted for years.
 Once we got the plant home the question was, Where do we put it?  It  needs floor space in a very sunny spot.  The solution was  building the plant stand that you see in the above photo. The stand was pretty basic but it gave me  chance to try two techniques.

    One was cutting the top round after doing an edge to edge glue up. This time I tried it  on the band saw.  I think I will try using a router and jig the next time.  For this application the top will be lost under the fern soon anyway so the precision of the circle is not too important. 
   And the second techniques was to cut fluting in the pillar section.  I saw an article in a wood working magazine talking about using the router and router table and thought I would give it a try.
    I set up the router bit on the table and went from marks on the project by eye rather than from set stops.  I think that set stops will give a more accurate result.  Also I think I will try to make the cuts on two passes, I hope getting a much smoother finish on the second pass, making sanding unnecessary. All together I was pleased with the result since this was a prototype using left over bits of wood from the scrap bin
    For the final project I will make the pillar a long hollow box with mitred corners so that there will be no glue lines to distract from the fluting.  I think I will also stain it old style walnut colour to get some of the antique feel to the project. Stay tuned for the result.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sanding System

   Finishing cutting boards ultimately involves sanding, lots of sanding. 

   I use the planer and hand planes to knock the high spots off but turn to various hand sanders to get a really smooth result before polishing.  I know that the hand tool guys can get superior results with high quality, super sharp hand planes.    (one of these days  I hope to develop the necessary skills to get quick quality results with planes) I  doubt that they make very many  cutting boards.

   The random orbital sander in the middle has a 60 grit Dura-Grit disk on it and is such an odd duck that it doesn't get connected to my Fein vacuum.  The other two sanders are connected to my shop vacuum and the Fein turns on automatically when the sander is turned on.  To reduce the amount of plugging and unplugging I use the squid, the sanders are plugged into the squid and the squid is plugged into the shop vac.  All I have to do is to change the dust collection hose as I change sanders.  

  The other thing that I do is sand 3-4 boards at a time.  That way I use the Porter Cable random orbital with 80 then 120 then 220 first.  I finish the job with the Black and Decker finishing sander with 320 grit. The end result is a smooth fine finish regardless of how nasty the grain is on the oak that I use for the majority of the boards.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Tack Cloth - a Long and Noble Tradition

   As Fazinni said in "The Princess Bride" being hired to start a war is part of a long and noble tradition.  

   Tack Cloths also have a long and noble tradition, and one that is very nearly as sticky as international politics.     

    Making cutting boards means I do a great deal of sanding.  I will show you my sanding set up in the next blog. My boards are sanded down to 320 grit before I apply the finish. (more about that in another coming blog entry).  Regardless of the care with which I run my dust collection system there is always a fine skim of dust left on the boards when I am done sanding.
   To remove that skim of nearly invisible dust I have tried the traditional tack cloth made of cheese cloth soaked in varnish and then squeezed to death.  I have also gone super mod. and vacuumed the boards after sanding.  To be honest, both methods work well but I have found a method that has the quiet ease of the tack cloth combined with the easy storage and clean hands of the vacuum cleaner.

merino wool sweater material.
     A couple of seasons ago I discovered merino wool sweaters.  Actually it was when my kids lived in New Zealand, the home of many of the aforementioned sheep.  The wool is wonderfully soft and can be washed with your ordinary clothes, though it shouldn't be cooked in the dryer with your ordinary clothes. ( I was to learn that too late in the game).  Having cooked my wonderfully soft merino wool sweater one to many times in fell apart.  It made me sad and angry because it had not been a cheap purchase, rags go to the shop in our house and that is were the sweater ended up.
   Totally  by accident I discovered that the old sweater material make for a super tack cloth.  I just run it dry over the sanded wood and it gathers in the fine dust just perfectly.  It can then be shaken out and used again. Occasionally I run in through with the laundry just to be sure it is truly dust free.  It works great, there is no sticky fingers or special storage.  My sweater was blue and so the dust shows up clearly, enabling me to see what has and hasn't been rubbed down before I move to the finishing stage of the project.