Monday, October 31, 2011

Shop Organization

1.How to become a More Organized Wood Worker:
Thank you Chris Black

 It is fun and actually tells you the time.

3. The Rule of Ten: Every time you come into the shop or pass through the shop on the way to the beer fridge put 10 things away.

    Today's blog is about organization.  The first link is from a site where the writer talks about how they use their time and what it takes to get jobs done. 

   Number two is just fun. This is how I think about and tell time.  For years my Mother had a wrist watch that only had a minute hand, she used it to time cooking and the like.  If you asked her the time is was usually 1/4 past or 1/2 past or 1/4 to, but you needed to know what hour of the day.

   The rule of Ten came from something I read and is something that I have written about before.  It forces a degree of dicipline on me in the shop that is outside my basic nature, and that is a good thing. 

 There are hours of satisfaction to be had in a shop, and if one is not careful; hours of frustration too. My goal is to have more s and less f.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to Build an Outdoor Ice

How To Build a Backyard Ice Rink
So you want to build an Outdoor Ice Rink. Well with some planning, a few supplies and a little work you will be the envy of the neighborhood and who knows you may have the next Wayne Gretzky or Jennifer Robinson in the family.
·         Start by deciding where you want to locate your ice rink, preferably a level spot. If there is a slope you can use taller framing boards in that spot.
·         Frame the perimeter with 2 x 6 boards fastened with metal framing plates or Mending Plates for support.
·         To make the perimeter strong enough use landscaping stakes or rebar pounded into the ground to support boards.
·         You will need to purchase a woven vinyl rink liner that is large enough to cover the rink plus cover the boards on all sides.
·         Your liner should be laid out a day or two before the temperature drops to freezing.
·         Make sure there are no leaves or debris on the liner as they will create a soft spot in the ice.
·         Fill with 1” to 2” of water at a time allowing each layer to freeze before adding next layer.
·         Once you have reached the desired base thickness of ice, about 3 to 4 inches you now want to apply smaller amounts of water just enough to wet the ice. This may take a few applications but it will create a smooth skating surface.
·         Lastly all there is to do is flooding your ice rink every now and then, especial after a big hockey game
Material Needed
·         Ice rink liner
·         2 x 6 Boards
·         Framing or mending Plates
·         Stakes or Rebar
·         Garden Hose


Friday, October 28, 2011

Pate Knives, 3 dozen

36 pate knives for Pavlo Pottery
   I was lucky enough to find a local potter that needs small spreaders (e.g. pate knives).  This is a good fit since Pavlo the Potter doesn't want them to all look the same and I don't ever made two things the same.
   I was able to use up a variety of little pieces that I had saved from other tasks for this batch of knives.  The  next order is going to require that I use new wood.  The grain in the oak and the elm make for a much more interesting knife that maple.
   Maple is hard, straight grained and mostly boring.
   Elm is tough, stringy and filled with crazy grain patterns.
   Oak, at least the oak I have is interesting to look at and not too bad to work with.  Ash would make a good little knife too I think.
   This was an interesting learning experience, I spent lots of personal time with my various bench sanding tools.  It was a noisey work environment but since it was a production situation I just stuffed ear plugs in and went to work.
   It appears that I will have to make 4 or 5 dozen knives a few times a year for Pavlo.  I don't think it will be a hardship.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dowels put to work

   The face frame gateway is sitting at the bottom of our basement stairs.  This gate is designed to keep Kieran downstairs when he really wants to come up stairs and hang out with us. If you are a parent/grandparent you know the routine at nap time.  They fuss and cuss and as soon as you leave the room they fall asleep.  The gateway is there to keep him from climbing the stairs and not being about to open the door at the top.  We are concerned that he would then start to push and pull at the door and maybe....bump...bump....bump and then everyone would feel bad.

  I used the JessEm dowel jig to make the face frame.  Ordinarily I would have used Pocket Holes but in this case the project did not have a hidden side so the holes would have needed plugs.  It was one of those few occasions that dowels or mortise and tenon were just the thing.  

  The JessEm jig worked perfectly.  All the holes were in exact alignment and and the was easy to set up.  I have gone on record as saying dowels are mostly about alignment, in this case that is especially true.  The gateway is longer then my longest Bessey Clamps and so I had to improvise a clamping station on my work table.  Since the dowels kept things lined up all I had to do was clamp one side to the table and push the other side in tight before clamping it to the table as well.  The adhesive quality of modern glues means that all it needed was a firm hand and 24 hours to cure, I'm sure the glue joint is as strong as the wood.

   The frame is elm, because I have a bunch of it laying around and finished with orange shellac.  I have found that the orange shellac goes very nicely with the natural colour of the elm.  

   The white section of the gateway is door skin.  It paints easily and weights nothing.  This way the gate serves its purpose and is easy to lift in and out of place with one hand.  It remains to be seem how long it fools the little guy because it is light enough that he could move it if he wanted to.

   FootNote:  The date time stamp is not right.  I don't know why that is on the photos and clearly it has not been updated since the batteries went in.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Free Wi Fi Hot Spots - Saying Thank You

  This morning I was out running errands and delivering my Father to a Doctor's appointment when I spied a McDonald's Restaurant with "Free Wi-Fi".  Since our Grand daughter is a little bit sick and my wife has headed to Toronto to baby sit and help out I was  curious for the latest update on Clara's progress.

Clara and Opa in their PJs.

   Our family communicates via email in just about every situation so I knew if there was news, it would be a family wide email.  Seeing the "free Wi-Fi" I slipped into the restaurant and checked my mail.  I also bought a coffee and a muffin.  When ever I use a "free" service, be it internet, or bathroom or parking spot I always spend some money with the vendor that has provided the "free" service. 

  I know people that say "they are only doing it to attach business, you don't have to pay".  My feeling is that it is a service that costs the company money, and if everyone uses and nobody pays the company will drop the service.  In the business world spending money in the store or restaurant is how you say thank you.  And I was always taught to say thank you, and mean when I said it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clamps on the Wall

   Over the last couple of months I have talked about clamps in a number of blogs.  It is my belief that clamps are a vital part of woodworking, and that having the right clamp makes many tasks easier.
    This is one corner of my shop, the place were many, not all of my clamps live when not in use.
   In the under left you see my selection of carpenter's clamps, about half by Jorgensons and that balance off shore copies.  The copies are OK but always my second choice.

  Below the Jorgensons are several clumps of spring clamps.  One of the best things I did was buy a couple of bags of mixed spring clamps   cheaply at a wood show.  Spring clamps are the exception to the rule, cheap seems to be OK, especially when they are not really long lived anyway. At the bottom left are my Bessey Bar Clamps I have nine, and last week that wasn't enough.  I was trying to pull a twisted display cabinet into shape before gluing repaired face frames on and  I could have used a couple more clamps.  It became a two stage job because I didn't have enough clamps.

   In the middle section are my F clamps of various sizes and my sliding squeezing/spreading clamps.  I bought spreader clamps to take some old chairs apart gracefully, they are easier on the wood than a mallet any day.

 The upper right hand side is my set of light weight Lee Valley Anniversary deal clamps.  They are nice but very truly light weight and light weight clamping power.  Round it out with my Qwick-Klamps and my two first bar clamps and that just about covers in.

  Hanging from the ceiling but out of the picture are light weight fiber glass clamps, nice for small boxes and things with tight fit ups.  The fiber glass clamps are about has strong as holding things by hand, which is often enough and there is no fear of marking the work.

   You would think that I have all the clamps I should ever need.  Well....I could have used a couple of longer clamps for my most recent project, fortunately I was able to improvise.  Maybe I need a couple of 60 inch Bessey's.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

JessEm Doweling System

  I was loaned this doweling jig last week.  I did not buy it, neither was I given it, nor have I been paid or rewarded to write positive comments about the JessEm jig.  If your have read this blog before you will find that I only write about products and tools about which I can sincerely say positive things.

  Let me preface this with a couple of baseline statements regarding dowels and my working method.

1. Generally I am not inclined to use dowels, I am very happy with pocket holes. I make every effort at the design stage to enable pocket holes and to keep them from obvious view.  If I can't hide pocket holes I will plug them to reduce visibility.  

2. My view is that dowels are more of an alignment aid then a way to significantly strengthen a joint, my view.

3. When a pocket hole doesn't meet my need I usually count on glue and clamps and nothing else.

4. I have flirted with Biscuits and Mortise and Tenon in the past.  Neither one called to me with overwhelming power.

5. Having said all that... occasionally a project needs a totally hidden joinery system or help with holding an alignment while clamped.

  The hidden system that I have turned to over time is doweling. It is the one with the deepest roots. I made a cutting board in Gr.7 shop class and doweled it together (moderately successfully as I remember) and so that is the method upon which I fall back.
   I own three doweling systems, one of which is quite famous and costly. (not Dowel Max)  As they are un-named you can surmise that they did not make me happy. One was cheap, and you get cheap when you buy cheap.  One was very limited in its application, it does one thing well but only one thing, and in only one orientation on the boards.   And one has a long learning curve and requires fairly steady use to keep the skill level up.  

  With the JessEm I was successful the first time I used it, unlike all of the other jigs. The instructions are mostly intuitive and straight forward, unlike my super doweling jig that is collecting dust. It also appears that the jig will do all the things I need. The JessEm jig covers all the bases but you will need to keep thinking as the tasks becomes more complex.

  Note, as the given tasks increase in complexity I believe it is fair to expect the user of the tool to have developed their skills and understanding too.  I do not trust anyone selling a tool that claims it removes the need for operator skill as some jigs do, no tool is "idiot operator certified". 

  When I took the jig out of the box it was sturdy with a minimum of  parts.  Other than the body and sleeve of the jig most everything else is in one of your tool boxes should all the pieces not get returned to the box at the end of a job.  My jig came set up for 3/8 dowels, with the drill bit, stops, sleeve etc.  There is also an add-on 1/4 set up.

  My feeling is that a Jig should enable me to get on with the project easily and with a minimum of fuss and bother. This is the  doweling jig that I know I can comfortably  turn to it once a year and use it successfully without having to make test pieces and practice to relearn the special tricks.  In fact I can see using dowels more often because of ease of use of the JessEm Doweling jig .  The JessEm doweling system meets my requirements completely.



Monday, October 17, 2011

What else do you do in Your Shop?

   Scoop is a character in the television series "Bob the Builder".  Scoop is Kieran's boon companion.  Scoop does not sit at the table with us to eat but Scoop is everywhere else, including the bath tub sometimes.

  Needless to say Scoop is beginning to suffer wear and tear on all his major joints.  The first contact point to fail is where the back hoe shovel attaches to the body. It finally worn out on Sunday morning.  Fortunately Kerian and Scoop were at Opa and Oma's house and so Scoop was taken to Opa's workshop for repairs while the little guy went outside to pick raspberries.

  At this point Opa is batting 100%.  A little bit of drilling and a small bolt and a wee washer and nut and Scoop is a good as new.  So far....I have been able to fix everything that the little fellow needs repaired, I hope I can be up the streak.

   As much as it pains me to say so, Scoop and his friends being made from plastic rather than wood makes them much lighter and water resistant. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

JessEm Precision Dowelling System

   Today I was up in London to see David at Federated Tools and talk about JessEm and their return to Canada.  If you are a tool gossip guy you know that JessEm took their superb product line to the United States a few years ago and fell victim to the recession of '08.  Lucky for wood workers in Canada JessEm is bouncing back and has come home to stay.

   I returned with their new doweling jig and plan to spend some time working with it in the next couple of weeks.  Those of you that know me know I am happily a pocket hole guy, but sometimes a project needs a hidden joinery method and so I am going to give dowels another try.  This will be my third dowel jig and we'll just have to see if I can make it work easily and accurately.

  It is certainly my expectation that the jig will be very good, JessEm is a high end tool maker.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Make Your Own Hand Plane

The college of the Red Woods provided this information on their site. 


1. Stock preparation.
Resaw, join, thickness, and square the center block and cheeks. Use the plane iron as a gauge to assure 1/16" adjustment clearance on center block.
B. Plane the glue joint surfaces of center block & cheeks to remove joiner marks. In plane view
2. The ramps.
Layout cuts in the body for 45° plane iron ramp & 65° forward slope. The mouth is generally about 1", increasing to 2", forward of center, varying according to the length of the plane. The forward ramp may be curved to allow finger room to clear shavings.
B. Bandsaw ramps and surface. Plane iron ramp flat & square to center block sides. Save the cutout.
C. Route cap screw slot 3/ 4" wide, centered on rear ramp from the top of the plane to within 3/ 4" of the bottom
plane throat detail

3. Putting it back together.
Lay one cheek on the bench and clamp the rear center block to it, flush to the bottom and end. Draw a line along the ramp onto the cheek.
B. Hold or clamp the sole stock to the forward center block with an edge of the sole flush with the forward ramp.
C. Place the iron on the rear ramp, bevel down.
D. Lay the front block and sole assembly on the cheek. Slide it toward the iron, making contact at a point where the iron is about 1/16" from protruding beyond the sole. Mark the front ramp's position on the cheek.
E. Index center blocks to cheeks with dowels.
4. The plane iron assembly.
Shape the breaker, starting with a bend of no more than 1/ 8" centered about 3/ 8" from an end. Grind a fair slope from the edge to the center of the bend. Continue shaping with a file and finally a stone, keeping in mind that the curve must not impede the flow of shavings. The edge needs to come in full contact with the iron so that shavings cannot jam between them.
B. Locate for the center of the cap screw, marking at the lower end of the slot in the iron. Drill and tap for the cap screw, ideally perpendicular to the cap iron surface.
C. Hone the iron.
cross pin location
5. The cross pin.
Pencil a short line parallel to the bottom 11/ 4" from the bottom of a cheek in the area of the cross pin location. Locate the rear center block on index pins and place plane and cap iron assembly on the ramp. Draw a line parallel to the assembly 7/ 16" away from it. The intersection of these two lines is the cross pin center. Transfer the center points to the outside of the cheeks and drill 5/ 16" holes through the body of the plane.
B. Make cross pins and allow for extras. Layout and cut several tenon shoulders on the pin stock before cutting to final length. Use the center block as a gauge to assure that the distance between the shoulders is less than the width of the center block. Round the tenons with a knife or file, checking the fit in a test hole.
6. Glue-up.
Dry clamp the plane body. Make sure that the index dowels and cross pin do not protrude beyond the cheeks. Use clamping cauls to protect the body and distribute pressure. If needed, clamp a strip of wood to the bottom of the center blocks so that they are aligned. Have enough clamps on hand to clamp at 2" intervals with none across the opening. Check that the cross pin is free to turn, that it is parallel to the ramp, and that you can get your fingers between it and the forward block to remove shavings. Place the iron assembly in the plane to be sure that there is at least 1/ 8" clearance for a wedge.
B.Glue-up body & cheeks. REMEMBER THE CROSS PIN! Place it in one of the cheeks before applying any glue.
7. The sole.
Scrape any excess glue from the plane bottom. Use a wooden shim in place of the iron assembly, snug up the wedge and make a light pass over the joiner. Heavy jointing will quickly increase the mouth opening.
B. Orient sole stock so that the "fur" of the working surface is running toward the back of the plane.
C.Mark the location of mouth opening on the sole and route or cut the slot.
D. Check the relationship of the sole to the iron as was done when determining the distance between the center blocks. The plane iron can now be a little closer to the surface of the sole, within about 1/ 32".
E. While holding the sole in place (the iron can come out), look inside the mouth opening from above and note whether or not you can see the sole. Ideally, it would still line up with the forward ramp. If you can't see it, some of the forward ramp needs to be filed to provide clearance. If you can see the sole, make a mental note of how much of it you can see.

F. Align the forward edge of the slot along the forward ramp with the relationship noted.
G. Index the sole stock to the plane body with small dowels or brads.
H. Draw a line along the rear ramp onto the sole. Remove the sole from the index pins. Using the cutout as a guide, chop a 45° ramp at the back of the opening. File the feathered edge blunt so that it does not tend to break off.
I. Glue the sole to the body, using clamping cauls against the sole and on the top of the body.
H. After glue-up, ensure that the ramp on the sole is flush with the plane iron ramp. Otherwise, a false reading will be obtained when filing the mouth opening and a bump will be raised on the sole when the iron is wedged into place.
8. The plane iron wedge.
A low angle is best to securely hold the iron, yet it must be steep enough to come to a firm stop. Use the cutout for wedge stock.
9. Tuning.
True the plane sole. The wedge should be as tight as it would be in use to truly flatten. Truing is done with a long strip of sandpaper clamped to a table saw top. With little more pressure on the paper than the weight of the plane, make a light pass. High spots, usually behind the iron, will reveal themselves as abraded areas. Continue sanding with a light touch, noting progress often, until the entire surface has been abraded.
B. File the final mouth opening. As you work, angle the file so that the opening is forward of perpendicular on the inside, allowing for shaving clearance.
10. Performance
Place iron assembly and wedge under the cross pin. Set the wedge with firm rap of a small (4-6 oz.) hammer. The cutting depth of the iron is most effectively controlled by tapping it downward. Sight the cutting depth from the back of the plane. Catch a reflection of light on the bevel of the iron. Tilt the plane up until you are looking directly along the sole's surface. Tap the iron to bring it just above the that apparent line.
The iron is backed out by rapping on the back end of the plane. Hold the plane with the palm on the iron to keep it in the plane should the wedge loosen.
Crankiness in a plane is most commonly due to a bump behind the iron. It may reveal itself in use in at least two ways. If the iron grabs at the beginning of a cut and then skips as the plane moves entirely onto the surface, check the area behind the iron with a straight edge across the planes width and along its length. Suspect a bump when it seems that either one corner of the iron or the other persists to dig in.
With the frog out of the throat, your instrument can be singing.
Soften the edges of the plane and use it before gradually shaping

There are plenty of places out their now to buy blades, note early in the instructions, make the plane to fit a specific blade.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Magic Wands

   Last week I was called by a friend to see if I had time to make their son a stand to display his collection of magic wands.  Not surprisingly I had never made a magic wand stand, in fact I had never seen that sort of magic wand either.  I went around to their house and picked up the wands, they are the wands of the three major characters for the Harry Potter stories.  The wands are kind of interesting to look at and very distinctive one from another, sadly they are made from injection molded poly resins rather than real wood.

  A long time ago I was a very serious student of music and went to university to study to become a conductor.  For some years afterwards I lead bands and choirs and often used a magic wand  too. 
Mollard batons, walnut handle with raw wood, purple heart handle with painted shaft.
 These magic wands made Mozart come out of trumpets and lead vocal duets from Messiah among many other things, classical and modern.  These batons are very personal, they lay like a feather in my palm and though they are not used any longer the feelings that come when holding them is still magic.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wood Has Got A Hold On Me

  This weekend it is Canadian Thanksgiving, the kids and the two grand kids are visiting for three days.  Having the Grand kids here means that Kieran is sleeping in the family room, through the wall from my workshop, so for the weekend the shop is closed down.
Kieran, the little Tool Guy

As I was drinking coffee and thinking about today's blog  I noticed something that has been in my house since 1992.

   This platter is purple heart and I bought it while I was an apartment dweller, with no vision of having a wood shop in which to play, ever.  I was taken by the look and texture of this piece just because it is wood. So it appears that wood has had a hold on me for a long time. Now it is not just wood, but wood working too.

   I have a lathe but do not do much work with it, it is an art and a tool that I have left to other people.  One day maybe I will get serious about turning, but there are many other techniques that I want to development first.  For example and to show my incipient multiple personality disorder, I want to do more things with routers and router tables.  The other area that I continue to study and develop is wood carving and hand planes.

Purple heart is a hard wood with a wonderful colour, though it does fade with time.  When I became more focused on wood working I made the decision to use local woods, both hard and soft and to leave the exotic woods for other people to use.  I like the grain and colour of our woods and want to promote them; I also want to promote the local wood harvest and supply businesses.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Scroll Saw Masterpiece by Norman Track

   My Uncle Norm had a gift for eye burning detail skills, he was an outstanding knitter, at one time he also did very good bead work, belts, hat bands and the like.

   All of these skills were learned from a book plus hours of trial and error. The last skill he mastered was wood working and most particularly scroll saw work.  When he passed away his sister was given the pieces that are on the back board in the photo.  There are many hours of work there, carefully scrolling "the Lord's Prayer" in all those different styles of font.  It seems an odd use of time for someone that was not really a church guy, but I guess it is like many craftsman's masterpieces, it is a display of technique, the actual piece doesn't matter much. 

   From my Uncle I inherited a large pile of Wood magazines, a couple of small tools and a stuffed binder of scroll saw patterns, including the Lord's Prayer pattern.  I will use many of the patterns over time but don't expect to get good enough or committed enough to do the Lord's Prayer.

  My task now is to frame the piece so that it can hang in my Mother's church.  I got the easier task.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Shop Safety - boring but vital

  This time there are no photos to share.  From the title you might think that I am going to tell a tale of fingers in saws and other gory shop stories but that is not the case today.  Even though I do have a couple of stories like that from days gone by, who doesn't?
   For most of my adult life I have been the cautious guy in the crowd and so working safely has been part of my life's out look for years.  As a young man I worked for a company that expected heavy lifting as a matter of course, I looked around the place and saw many guys with experience and bad backs so I didn't stay there very long.

  One of my last jobs involved selling woodworking equipment and after a season or two of wrestling heavy iron around on showroom floors I moved onto other things.  Getting a hand crunched or my back wrecked did not seem like a good long term decision.

  So today I am battling the flu and a chest cold and probably seasonal allergies too and therefore filled with the sorts of medication that recommends that you do not operate heavy equipment after taking.   It is always exciting to have your personal thermostat so screwed up that half of you is sweating like a race horse and the other have of your body is shivering as if you were stranded on an ice floe in the arctic.

   What this means for me is that for the next couple of days I will be  hanging around the house doing not much and maybe spending sometime cleaning in the shop.  My hard and fast rule is no power tools when drugged or after having had anything to drink.

  I always thought that one beer didn't really matter but I found from experience that even one beer takes the edge off my reaction time. That was learned while fly fishing, if I had one beer at lunch I wasn't as fast at setting the hook and the fish that I would have caught had I had coffee instead of beer got away.  

    It always seemed that this sort of flu bug gets me when I have lots on my plate.  As interesting as the potential projects are none of them is worth a finger.