Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wooden Clock. Kit

  I have always wanted to build a wooden gear clock.
   This winter, I took the plunge, sort of.  I decided that I would make a clock from a kit, using a kit would enable me to see what was involved in a project of this sort. Also it would act as a lesson in clock building, I would learn which pieces  demanded hyper critical accuracy and what parts allowed for artistic licence.  Also the kit almost insures success and being cautiously cheap I wasn't prepared to send money on something that might end up finished but not working.
  As is so often the case now I turned to the Internet, there I found products, reviews and all sorts of information provided by companies and consumers. Wooden Gear Clocks got very positive reviews and I can see why, I was provided with excellent service, fast shipping and a product that looked great when I opened the box.  The kit arrived promptly from the United States and was about $235.00 Cdn after shipping, taxes and exchange.

  Last evening I began the assembly process, I am following the instructions to the letter, including the ideas on what colours to stain which parts. 

   I will keep you posted on the progress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Perfect Practise makes Perfect

On the weekend I was holding down the JessEm booth at the Toronto Home Handyman and DIY (aka woodworking show) show at the international centre.  My connection to JessEm Tools is new and I hope just the beginning of something  long term.  I had the  chance to continue working with great tools and an opportunity to practise a new skill.

My new skill was the making of raised panel doors.  In the photo are the latest three.  Those doors were made during the show in the midst of   the chaos and hullabloo that goes with a big show.  

Equal parts really good teacher of the method, excellent tools and s time to practise before going to the show meant that I am confident and able to make very good doors while experiencing very little stress.

For a beginner that practise is necessary.  If you are going to make kitchen doors, start off by making some doors for your workshop first.  That way you can work out the bugs and get your method firmly established in your mind.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

failure of an old friend

  Sitting on my chair in our living room is an old friend of at least 30 years. I bought this square as an aid to building a shop/studio in the back yard of my parents home, in the early 80's.  That shop remains my biggest project and probably the one that taught me the most lessons.

  That square has followed me from place to place and been used countless times over the years.  I don't know when it began to go out of square, it has been slowly happening for many years I suspect.  I do not remember it being dropped or twisted or abused and so it must have just slowly twisted a bit at a time until is not square.  So it is not a square, by just  a little bit, probably not enough that it would be noticed when working with construction grade lumber, probably not that far out of square that it would be noticeable on narrow boards.  It is about 1/8 inch out at the end of the long side. An eighth in 24 inches isn't much over the first 4 or 5 inches, but it really showed up on 18 inch shelves.

   Now it is apparent why the last set of book cases posed challenges that I did not expect. I was working carefully, but with an un-square, square. 

   When was the last time that you checked your square to see if it is right on 90 degrees? 

   The happy ending to the story, has evening I got my center punch, hammer and patience and tuned the square.  An advantage of a steel square, it can be trued.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Practice Piece

 Perfect Practise makes Perfect.
    I used to say practice makes perfect but a student of mine taught me the more correct saying.  In the wood shop there is practice needed to learn and perfect techniques in the same way that it takes practice to learn a new song on the piano or how to control your slap shot.

   To keep woodworking interesting for me I need to learn new things, the areas that appeal to me for development are joinery techniques and finishing.  The products from you shop are generally pretty good also fairly basic, which is fine but occasionally a person should stretch themselves and learn new things too, I think .  I read and just saw a fabulous small wooden boat as a project, clearly that fellow and I are from different galaxies.

   The thing I need to remember is that he was born in the same galaxy and through effort and exploration he has moved far ahead of me. The photo is a joint in a recent project.  Usually I would use pocket holes and make this a simple butt joint, this time I had time to do something more.  There are eight joints like this on the project, seven of them turned out perfect and one was less than perfect.  Next time they will all be perfect.

  This project actually was the platform for both areas of development and it is also a useful. Useful appeals to my practical side, this time, unlike the other week when I was making raised panel doors with no purpose I was learning but not enjoying the experience.  This project uses raised panel/router skills and now that it is finished it has found a useful place in my closet.

  The final finish on this project is a non-toxic and fast combination of water based stain and orange shellac.
 The milk paint stain went on super quick and dried in about 30 minutes.  Initially it was dull and flat but had brought the grain out nicely none the less.  One coat of orange shellac and it was looking real good.  I will use that combination again for a piece in the public eye, the only difference would be rubbing the shellac between coats and putting 3 coats instead of one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Last 12 Shelves- The end of a small project, grown large.


  The last of the 24 shelves for Pavlo Pottery in Rockton On.  The second set of shelves was stained Traditional Cherry , a very nice light brownish red colour. This is a colour that I would use on projects of my own.  The first finish was Cabernet, and too red for my taste, though it was distinctive.

  This was a very instructive situation for me.  It taught me a number of things, some of which I had suspected, some that I vaguely remembered and some that were new.

  I will not work with oil based finishing products again.  I have pretty much eliminated them from my shop but this project served as final notice.  There is nothing that I do that can not be well served with water based finishing products or things like hemp oil or tung oil. There will be no more solvents in my basement, they stink (big time) and ruin brushes and everything they touch.

  I am not good at estimating the amount of labour a task is going to require.  Fortunately Pavlo T offered to pay my shop time by the hour.  I never would have guessed that it would have taken as much time to do the job as it did.  Had I quoted on the job I would have hated myself as I would have been working for a couple of dollars an hour by the end of it all.

  Finishing is a special set of skills and one that a carpenter like myself has only developed to a limit degree, I need to continue to work on these skills.  Also large objects, even when flat need a whole different approach than small projects.  A spray booth is certainly the only way to do something like this quickly and well.


  Man you can get a bunch of work done if you put your head down and apply yourself.  It had been a long time since I had this type of assignment and I'd nearly forgotten what can be done when you have a plan and stick to it. This is a lesson that many people don't learn any longer and that is too bad.

  My shop is small, when it came to the drying stage I had shelves all over the place, in the shop, in the family room and in the pantry downstairs.  Smaller shop space means smaller projects.

  A large job is more than just a whole bunch of small jobs done in succession.  I knew it would use a bunch of brushes, rags and sand paper, but I had forgotten how much and a how many.  It also needed different methods of wood, setting up to clamps a dozen large boards required some serious space making in the shop.

  Laminated pine boards are more like wood than plywood, and can be made into something nice, but...they are soft and need more than average filler/conditioner to give a good finish.

 A good hand saw is a good tool.  To cut the corners off I just used a back saw.  Jeez it worked well and I was happy with the result.

  I love my 45 degree (not ) square.  A set gauge for 45 degrees is much nicer to work with than an adjustable, sliding gauge, smaller and you never have to worry about whether it has slipped.

  Large carpenter's squares can get out of square.  Mine must have been dropped, it is not square.  I now have to put in time to correct that little problem.

Production on a large scale like this means that you have to organize your time and space totally differently or you get crushed by your inefficiencies.

I would do this again, I would do it differently and .....probably get another happy result with less stress.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Four Slabs of Walnut

  The latest trip to Brant Custom Woods yielded four large slabs of walnut, seen in this photo.  I have never used walnut before, because I am cheap and it is not, and I can get lots of other cool wood to play with for the same dollar.  However, I got a great price on these pieces since they have limited application. Each piece has a serious knot or check in it and so it is no good for anything big.  These slabs will get sliced up for cutting boards and small boxes, one of these days.

  I have the luxury of more good material then time just now.  I'll keep you posted. 

 Latest cutting board, oak and roasted maple  18x11ish

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hands -from the Bench Crafted Blog

As I was  checking out the blogs and sites that I follow this video was linked to the Bench Craft Blog.

  The series of videos would be very interesting to view, many of those hand skills are becoming extinct,  and as with all forms of extinction, man kind is diminished when something that was good becomes extinct.

  Then the question much should the population at large pay to keep these skills from extinction?
   What is a thatcher worth in a world of asphalt  shingles?
   Christopher Schwartz believes that it falls to us as hobby crafts people to keep the skills alive, for the sake of the craft itself.
   I agree with Mr. Schwartz and am continuing to develop my skills in the belief that my grand children will grow up appreciating  Hand Made in Opa's workshop

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hand Forged Hold Downs -MADE IN CANADA- at


  After what seemed like months, but really was months, there is now a maker of forged bench hold downs in Canada . Ultimately, the maker is Forged Link from Hanover, Ontario, rather than Anthony Moore ( Live Iron Forge ) as first announced.

  Sometimes time and circumstance do not allow plans to develop as first intended.  Luckily for Canadian woodworkers, I found Daniel at Forged Link who was also able and willing to make hold downs for sale.  Daniel is also a skilled blade smith whose knives and chisel are  sought after by collectors and craftsmen from across North America

 If you have never used a hold down/clamp like this, you are in for a real treat. Since the hold down is forged, not cast, it has some spring in it.  Cast medal has no elasticity left in it and will crack/break easily when you try to bend it. Forged steel will bend and bend back making it ideal for this application.  If you look at some of the other on-line sellers, they have cheap cast clamps or expensive forged clamps.

We have been able to come in the middle with reasonably priced, forged hold down clamps.  

I use mine all the time now.  In fact my work table has had a number of holes added to it for just these tools.