Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Candle Holder

     This is a candle holder from Mother's house. It was a prototype, and as you have read, family and friends get the prototypes.
  The prototype is made from spruce 2x8 that actually cleaned up pretty well.  The one great virtue of softwood is that it often  takes stain wonderfully.  I was able to toss some walnut stain onto this project easily and then put a couple of coats of clear shellac overtop.  You can see the different rates of absorbtion when you look at the hardwood ball, it didn't take the stain nearly as well.

 I can't take credit for the design.  In fact I design almost nothing that I build.  My experience has been that just about everyone else in the world has a better eye for design than me.

 This idea come from a book that I picked up at a wood show one time.
  The Nelsons, John A. and Joyce C., have written a good little book filled with projects that are sort of folk art in style.  The drawings are very good, the cutting lists are accurate and the instructions clear and easy to follow. A book like this can provide patterns and ideas to woodworkers with a wide range of skills and tools.  I have made a few things from this book and also used it to inspire other small projects.  Often a little project is a good way to use up off cuts and fill  an evening, or rainy afternoon.

The Big Book of Weekend Wood working,150 easy projects
John A and Joyce C Nelson
Lark books, a division of Sterling Publishing Co.
!SBN 13:978-1-57990-600-9


Monday, August 29, 2011

Clamps-Wooden Hand Screws

   We all live by the motto, "you can never have too many clamps".  
   It is true, clamps are a vital part of woodworking and since they come in dozens of styles, sizes and shapes you can never have all the clamps.  When I used to watch "the New Yankee Workshop" I said that his clamp rack was worth more than my entire set of shop tools and machines.  I've added to my shop since then, I've added a bunch of clamps too, I think we might be even now.

   Wooden Hand Screws are an old style of clamp, I've seen them made entirely from wood in shops like the cabinet makers shop at Colonial Williamsburg. Also there are kits available to make your own hand screws, you supply the wood.
I have aleast  two of each size, coffee cup for scale

   Over the the course of the years I have acquired at least two of these five sizes of hand screw: 4,6,8,10, 12 inch long with mouths from 2 1/2 to 8 inches.  The amount of pressure that these clamps can exert is more than sufficient for anything I do. 

   One regular use for these is holding boards for planning, since they are made mostly of wood
I needn't  worry that I will nick my blade on something metal if I side off the top. Also I can plane boards of any length, by adding a clamp in the middle.  If the board is very wide, then it is hung off the side of the bench. If the wood is very thin the jaws of the clamp support the wood while I work on it.

   Another use is holding small or rounded pieces for sanding, drilling or working with my wood rasps.  The clamps become extra strong fingers, they hold the piece, I hold the clamp and that way if something slips around the sander or grinder there is no blood.
smallest clamp holding a toy truck wheel
middle size clamp holding an oak puzzle piece
 for smoothing with a rasp

Friday, August 26, 2011

Projects: Great and Small

This morning as I was having a coffee and was thinking about today's blog when I thought about last evening's small project. 
Oak Book Marks, homemade walnut stain
  I was sitting in my big chair reading and set my book down for a minute suddenly I  needed a book mark.  Since love wood and keep all sorts of little pieces and off cuts I went into the shop and found a strip of thin oak that I had saved from some thing. (in the container on the window sill) (we save all wood don't we?) Then I sanded it a bit, stained it, over night the stain dried and this morning I waxed the book marks.  Oak looks good, smooth waxed wood feels good and now I have wood workers book marks.

  The great project is one that I completed a couple of years ago and that has become an eveyday part of our lives in our family room.

  This is our coffee/occasional table from the family room.  I bought three off cuts like this for cheap, they had been sliced from a soft maple stump I think, with a chain saw.  To say that the wood was rough was a huge understatement.  After hours with planes and grinders ( I made two green garbage bags full of shaving and dust) and two quarts of varnish the grain came through big time. The top is not perfectly flat, I keep thinking I could spend some more time and make it perfect but....we love it just the way it is.

  I still have one slab left, it is slightly smaller but I am sure it is just as interesting.  One of these days I'll have to do something with it.

  Neither of the projects was rocket science, (note they haven't exploded or crashed killing people and costing a fortune) they are just things made from wood.  Both of the projects required basic tools and some application of force. 

  The book marks could be made by anyone, anywhere, as long as they had a source of oak sliced to the thickness of card stock.  The wood was a left over, probably from a cutting board that I had trimmed to size sometime in the past. Stout scissors and sand paper were all the tools needed to finish the project.

   The table required a few more power tools, an electric plane, a 7 inch grinder and then all the other finishing tools.    The stump was in the back corner of a lumber store and they were quite pleased to make some money on it, actually it was on its way to the fire due to lack of interest from customers.  Lucky timing for me.

  I like wood, be it large or small. I perfer to be surrounded by wood, leather, glass and material fiber when ever possible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspiration for a Wood Project

Wrapqarw [wrap wrap]

Sometimes I sit at the computer and cruise around looking for ideas.
If you follow the above link you end up a Neest, a French company that has some interesting products.  I would call their products, "rustic Ikea". I am going to make one of these Wrapwraps for my head phone wire.  I will drill out entry holes and then use my scroll saw for the inside shape.  I will show the result in a later blog.

cheers, ianw

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Cost of wood working, non-billable hours

   I was following a thread on another blog as they discussed and pondered why people buy mass produced lower quality furniture instead of going to their local crafts person and getting something really nice,and long lasting.

   The discussion was quite illuminating.  The reasons for buying cheaper goods were in some cases quite compelling. Many people think they are saving money buying cheap.  I know that cheap is seldom a money saver, but that is tough to make most people believe. Time is another reason, it is quicker to trade money for a bedroom suite than it is to build one, also much quicker to just go to the store and bring it home in pieces, you will have the whole unit assembled before the craftsman has the wood milled and cut to size.

 It was also generally decided that lack of knowledge and education has meant that many people can't really tell the difference between solid wood and veneer covered sawdust board so they can't understand why a crafts person feels their work is worth 5 to 10 times the price for "the same thing". We see that same situation with food in restaurants all the time. Many people have not eaten enough good food to know the difference between fine food and fuel.

Without any experience or education people also often don't realize how much work or skill goes into making things, be they dovetailed boxes or hand knit sweaters.  Many people grew up with out making anything, their free time was filled with sports and group activities, not shop time.  If a role model was not into crafts or woodwork then the person just won't know.  So there are two problems, one the customer don't know the value of the materials and the second problem is they have no idea of the time investment the crafts person makes. 

Relating to the question of time an area that most people do not understand is non-billable hours, sometimes even other crafts people.  In my past life I managed a law office so billable hours were very important, tracking them, collecting on them and....being sure that the work being done was billable.  A work shop is filled with work that is not related to one particular project or invoice related item.  

Last Friday afternoon is my most recent example:

Last Friday afternoon I worked in my shop for 3 1/2 hours, doing nothing specific to a project but working non-the-less.
Let's review how that time was spent:

1. I swept, cleaned and vacuumed the shop, top to bottom front to back.  Most days I do some cleaning but now and then it demands a serious full on assault on dust and little bits of wood.

2. I gathered off cuts and sorted them into fire wood and keepers.  At every saw and machine there is box of off cuts.  Usually 2/3 of the off cuts are fire wood, the remaining 1/3 are combined, glued and used for small projects, jigs etc.  Sorting them out takes time and saves money in the long run, I think.

3. After all the cleaning the dust collection system and the various shop vacs needed to be emptied.  If you have ever wrestled with the bags on a dust collection system you know that that is work and takes time.

4. Sharpening. chisels, knives and pencils. Now I don't let things get too far out of hand but it still takes time to do. Recently I spend an entire day getting my sharp tools in shape.

5. Sorting my way through the wood rack.  Pieces of wood get pulled of the racks randomly and so now and then the rack needs to be reviewed and re-stacked.
6.Changed a band saw blade.  My very least favourite job in the shop, very least. But I use one of my band saws, everyday.

7. Washed the paint brush cleaning sink. It looks terrible but...would be even worse if I didn't give it 5 minutes every week or two.

8. Filled glue bottles.  I buy glue by the gallon and put it into little bottles for ease of use.  This always takes time to fill and to wipe up the little bit of spilled glue etc.

9. Putting away the coffee cup full of loose screws, dowels, nails etc.  I have reduced this to a manageable task by limiting the amount of random bits and pieces to one coffee cup,when it is full it must be dealt with.  I used to use a coffee can. A cup of mixed screws and nails is a few minutes of work, a coffee can a hour. ( in truth I ended up with several coffee cans full of crap and good stuff.  The crap hid the good stuff and it all went into recycling one day)

Those are all jobs that needed to be done.  Ultimately a couple of times per month half a day is used up on non-billable tasks.  To make a shop pay that half day cost has to be included in the invoiced products somehow.

It is tough to get people to understand those costs and so they don't want to pay for them.  It is the same problem musicians have, the customer doesn't think they should pay for the time spent practising either.

I admire people that make their living producing quality  products that are beautiful and will last for generations.  I wish we could get the world to fully understand and reward that commitment.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Umbrella Stand

   Often projects arise from a need, or perceived need.  For nearly three years our umbrella etc. have been sitting in a plastic bucket by the back door,  only a little bit in the way and slightly ugly to behold.  Finally two days ago an umbrella leaned out and tried to trip me once again  as I walked past with my hands full. That was it, my patience for the game was exhausted, I knew that one day the evil umbrella beasts would succeed and ruin my day.  I gave up the fight and decided to give the umbrellas and sticks a nice place to live in the hope that they would give up their plans for garage domination.

  Sitting on my rolling work station are the parts for my latest project, an umbrella/walking stick stand.  I don't usually think to take photos part way through the process but this time I remembered.  You can see the piece taking shape and the major tool for the job, a drill and a KREG jig.  When I was designing the stand I seriously thought about mortise and tenon joints.  Then.....I thought seriously about how long that would take, pocket holes won out hands down.

The nature of the project meant that pocket holes were perfect.  The dark stain on the elm looks good and unless you really go looking you don't notice the pocket holes at all.

The stain is a story in its self.  I bought a tin of stain in sort of paste wax form for a dollar at a yard sale years ago.  Why? 'cause it was a dollar and almost full to the top.  The stain is much like shoe polish, it stains and can be buffed to a semi gloss finish.  The tin had no label so I have no idea where it is from or what it is called and soon it will be gone.  For the time being it gives a nice deep colour to elm quickly and easily.

 This is the finished stand posing for a photo on our work table.  The result is sturdy, and fairly classic in design.  I suspect that the stand will hang out in the porch or garage for a long while before being reused as fire wood.
Here it is all loaded up with umbrellas and sticks.  It now sits beside the door in from the garage, snugly in a corner. It seems that the umbrellas and sticks are much happier since there has been no attempt on Eva's or my life since they moved to their more upscale and hand crafted home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weird Wooden Box

Textures is featuring "Steam Punk" arts and crafts this month.  I have to confess that the "Steam Punk" aesthetic escapes me but I like to try and support and participate in the featured windows as often as possible.  My understanding is "Steam Punk" is sort of Victorian English is style.  So I created the box you see above.  It is elm, (very English) and finished with an old style rubbed in oil finish, that took days to dry in the high humidity of this summer.

The nails and screws are visible, this is my effort to have the mechanical aspects of the project visible.  Complex visible works go with the steam engine theme. Unfortunately wood work doesn't have much in the way of complex machinery, so I made the handle(?) on the top very complex, or silly depending on your point of view.

As with all the things I build in my shop it was fun.  I have learned however that I don't like working with oil based stains very much anymore.  I am so used to the water based stains and dyes that the smell of the oil based products is a bit off putting.  It is tough though to argue with the really good deep brown colour that the Danish Oil produced. Isn't that the reality of living, compromise; good colour, bad smell.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheap Shop Trick

    My little shops produces cutting of various sizes and shapes.  All the the boards are made by gluing smaller boards together, often edge to edge, sometimes face to face.  To glue anything properly requires clamps, and while I have many clamps, you can never have too many clamps. I'll show you my wall of clamps one day.

   As well as clamps you need glue, lots of glue.  The glue goes on the wood, gets on the work bench and if you saw my work clothes you would also know that it gets on my shirts and pants.  The one place that glues unintentionally gets that is a problem; a real problem not just a small problem like glue stained t-shirts, is when glue can get on the clamps.  Once glue hardens on the bars of a bar clamp the pieces don't slid properly and what should be an easy tool to use becomes a serious pain in the backside to use.

  There are various solutions to unwanted glue, I have been putting waxed paper on the clamp bars for some time but now I found an easier, cheaper solution.

  Those clamps are covered by the bags that newspapers are wrapped in when they are thrown onto your driveway early each morning.   The glue will stick to the bags a bit but so what! The bags last several uses before becoming shredded and replacements arrive daily and for free.The bags are easier to use than waxed paper since the can't fall off while you are manipulating the pieces being glued. 
   It is a win-win situation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Opa Fix?!

If you are a regular reader you will recognize that headline.  That is Kieran's question/statement anytime anything is broken or not working.  He believes that Opa can fix anything, little does he know.
Anyway, Opa likes fixing things.  I suspect that repairing and problem solving lured many of us into woodworking in the first place.

broken umbrella handle from my step daughter, Kieran's Mom

the replaced handle on the umbrella. hand turned oak, waxed and sealed.
     I like to use my wood lathe, but don't get much chance lately so turning the handle was great fun.  I turned the handle and finished it and then drilled it on my drill press.  The hole that was needed was a large enough hole that I had to use a Forstner bit, it was a bit stressful but it turned out OK.  Another time I would drill the hole for the handle when the wood block was still in the square and the plug the hole to mount the piece on the lathe.  After I had completed the piece it would be much easier to drill out a softwood plug than drill the necessary hole.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another cat

  I love wood, and I really love wood with striking grain patterns.  My love of interesting grains in wood dates back to learning how to dress myself.  I was the guy wearing stripes and checks and thinking it looked good.  ( I tried to match colours but liked contrasting texture)

  That cat, is not a cutting board, it is too nice.  I hope it will find a home as a serving tray or just a decor item.  I fussed a bit to get the grain in the three boards to compliment one another, and am pleased with the result, if I do have to say so myself.
   The elm boards that I have to work with have tonnes of personality but give the planer a hard time and so there is plenty of sanding involved in getting the finish smooth enough.    

  Lately I have switched from wax to Hemp Oil as a finish for my boards.  The Hemp Oil is food safe, easy to worth with, smells nice and is Made In Canada, Ontario in fact.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A favourite woodworking project Revisited

Crib that I made just over two years ago.
    This is the crib that I made for my Grandson's room two and a bit years ago.  Yesterday instead of writing my customary Monday blog I went to the kids house and put the crib back together, a new baby is due any day now.  I built the crib from poplar and remain very pleased at the colour variation that the wood provides. Poplar was also quite good to work, it is a hard softwood and generally straight grained.

wood so green that it is black.
    I can see why makers of fine furniture would shy away from poplar because of the colour variation but for us, it adds personality.

    Instead of making a side that adjusts I went with a design where the mattress platform is raised at first and then has legs cut off to lower the mattress down as the baby gets bigger.

   Aside from the excitement of being blindingly proud of another Grand Baby I also had my favourite helper while doing the re-assembly.

     I held the drill and Kieran pushed the button and made the drill go, green light-go, red light-stop.  He was excited to be helping get things ready for the baby too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Big Chair

A full sized maxi scooter and a super duper maxi lawn chair, as seen on Highway #6 south of Durham Ontario.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

wood beams

Why wood, I asked and answered a couple of months  ago.  Well here is another reason  why.  These beams are holding up the floors above in a mill that was built in 1877.  Now it is a very very nice little coffee shop in St. George. (where the movie star truck is hiding)  
Other than stone,  nothing lasts like good wood.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hiding out in St. George Ontario

Looks like a famous truck from a famous movie recently released.  I never would have guessed he was wood, but quality can't be hidden forever.