Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Virtue of Vises

     I thought that I would start with a link to the Expert (on everything) and then talk about some of my vises.  

   My first vise is actually related to my current theme of tools at the apartment/first time home owner level and my most recently acquired. If you have been reading along you know I have a thing for clamps, I actively believe that you can never have too many clamps.  That said, a vise is really just a clamp that doesn't move around much.  I have been using wooden hand screw clamps, clamped to my bench as vises for years, they are pretty good but....not as good as this tool.
   A little vise like this can be clamped to a table or portable work bench to hold things you are cutting with a hack saw, or things you are trying to file or drill.  When you are done your little job, it goes into a box and gets out of the way, neat eh!.

  This Bessey Vise is the "cat pajama's".  The jaws are three inches wide and open nearly three inches, and the alignment of the jaws is very good.  You can see that there is a heavy screw and two alignment bars to keep things moving smoothly and accurately.  The vise clamps securely onto your bench, table, or portable workbench with another smooth strong screw.  These things should be no surprise, Bessey does make the best clamps out there, clearly the quality of the materials used has a huge impact on the quality of the tools produced.

   Why would anyone need a little baby vise like this?  I don't know about you but I use it all the time.  Every time I make a kid's toy or a wooden bracelet, or anything that is smallish and needs to be sanded or filed this is what holds the piece while I do the work.  I move the vise around my shop to take advantage of natural light, to avoid accumulated clutter or to enable me to work sitting down sometimes, and standing up others.  I honestly don't know why it took me so long to get this little tool and I can't picture doing with out it now.  I have only had it for a little over a week and it is now an indispensable part of my shop.

  Finding little treasures like this vise is the reason I go to shows and in-store events, I can take my troubles to a sales representative that knows the entire line of their products.  The sales rep. can tell me what is out there and point me toward a solution to my problem, their job is to keep me a satisfied customer and out there using tools.

p.s.  Thanks Doug.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Next Tool for an Apartment Tool Kit

  The next tool that a small tool kit needs is a hand drill, I suggest a 1/2in Hammer Drill like this one.  It is cheap and will do most everything an apartment dweller or first time home owner needs.

King, 1/2in Hammer Drill

   When you go to a tool store to get you drill there is a vast universe of hand drills available, most are cordless with key less chucks. ( go to a tool store, not your local super duper everything store, buy tools at a tool store, toilet paper at a toilet paper store)  Why do I suggest this type of drill as the one to start, several reasons:

1. A small time user is someone that drills a few holes now and then, projects like book cases and putting up shelves in the hallway etc.. A decent cordless drill is an expensive tool to have sitting around for months at a time unused.  Also if a battery drill is not used regularly the user will find the batteries flat when they go to use the tool.  Expensive drills come with fast chargers, but the cheaper drills take a couple of hours to charge. Cheaper battery drills also have much fewer inch pounds of torque.  Go corded, since the drill is a low power tool you don't need an expensive high grade extension cord either.  Besides, in an apartment there is probably an outlet chose to the task at hand.

2. Why hammer, because lots of apartments are concrete block or poured concrete.  If you want to put up a hat rack by the door you will be drilling into concrete.  The proper tool makes drilling concrete a breeze.

3.  Keyed chuck, cheaper drills don't have very good key less chucks.  Keyed chucks are nearly always metal, since they are not stylish they are better quality and so will last a life time.

   As your tool box expands your 1/2 inch hammer drill will always have use even when it is replaced by cordless drills, this drill becomes the second drill you use to drill holes while driving screws with the cordless, making it so you don't have to keep changing bits on your cordless.

   My first drill was a B&D 3/8 variable speed corded drill that I got when I was a teenager.  Hammer drills were unusual and expensive in those days. I think my drill cost about $39.00 in those days so drills haven't really gone up in price at all. It was a Christmas present and I used it for at least 30 years before it finally gave up the ghost.  I killed it using it to spin a sanding disk on a very large project.  The drill would still be here if I hadn't abused it by over working it on a continuous cycle and burning out the motor.

   There are plenty of 1/2 corded hammer drills on the market.  Generally the cheaper ones are old fashioned looking and a little bit big in your hand but this is not the tool you buy to drill dozens of holes a day, this is the starter tool you buy to drill a couple dozen holes per year.

   Remember the right tool makes the impossible, possible. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Apartment Tool Kit

 The tools that you have in your shop have a big impact on the type and quality of work that you do.  Poor work shouldn't always be blamed on the tools, but the right tool does make it easier to do good work. And, sometimes the task is impossible without the proper tool.

   So for the next while I am going to look at tools and “tool kits”.  Chris Schwarz has a very good and well expalined set of tools that he puts into his Anarchist Tool Chest.  His tools are the tools of a cabinet/furniture maker. We could look at tools for wood carvers and tools for the folks that spend all their time turning things on a lathe, and we will. Aside from special tools for special branches of woodworking there certain tools that everyone that works wood needs. We will work toward building that kit over the next little while.

The tool kit I want to start with is the "basic kit", this is the one that an apartment dweller might have, or a young person just starting out. This tool box was the one that I made when I went away to live in a dormitory at university, many years ago and many of these tools were in that original kit. If you think that a tool kit is extra weight that won't pay off, you are wrong, I traded time and tools for cookies and/or beer on a very regular basis. In a college dorm room their beds and chairs to fix, drawers to adjust and dozens of other little things that are not a high enough priority for the school's maintenance crews to get to in a timely fashion but still need to be repaired to enable life to function smoothly.

The box is about 30 years old and has had a couple of serious repairs done to it over the ages. There is a slide in bottom compartment where wrenches and the little saw live.

The contents of the tool box reflect the general house care tools that my wife likes to have at hand. My shop has all the tools you can think of but Eva likes to have these in an easy to access tool kit in the garage, that way she knows where her tools are when she wants them without having to search around in my shop.
adjustable wrench, multi fit socket wrench
screws drivers, Red and Green Roberson, two multi-tip and a paint can opener type.
pliers, vise-grips, wire striper
round file
one very sharp 1/4 chisel
square, pencil. ywo tape measures, one imperial,one metric
pruning shears
scissors, utility knives,
cheap block plane, very sharp
couple of boxes with mixed screws and fasteners.

When the task is greater than this kit can deal with, we work together on it and bring the speciality tools from downstairs to bear on the challenge. Once the full shop comes into play the only limiting factor is skill.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Original Cordless Screwdriver

 Yesterday evening I was trying to re-install the banister for the basement stairs.  The banister is attached firmly to the wall with 2inch wood screws.  When I went to take the banister off I discovered that I didn't have a fully charged battery for my cordless drill and so turned to my Yankee Screwdriver with a red Roberson bit to take the screws out.  When I went to put them back I discovered that even with a fully charged battery my 14 volt drill did not have enough torque to do the job.

   Once again I returned to my ancient Yankee screw driver. This driver is 28inches long when open and 19 when closed, it was made my North Brothers Manufacturing ( since gone) and is a Model 131A.  This tool came from my Grandfather's shop via my father and so I have no idea how old it is or how many screws it has driven.
  I confess that I have not used it as much as I have the 14volt but....I am sure glad that I have it because it would have been tough to drive those screws by hand.  Upon looking around the Internet I see that there are some "Yankee" type screw drivers for sale, they seem to have a place in the electronic assembly world still.

  This recent experience has reminded me of this tools worth and has encouraged me to gather up the other bits so that I can use it more often.  The great thing, its batteries are never flat.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Zee Zee the Zebra

   The rare and special "Ontario Zebra". 

 I was rummaging around in a closet today and found this fellow hiding in the undergrowth.   When I was a kid, a very long time ago I had a wee rocking horse I called Jimmy Rickason. I don't know where the name came from but I still have Jimmy, though he is pretty faded and tired enough that he rocks sort of lopsidedly.  The craft co-op, Textures to which I belong had a window featuring toys a while ago, for the window I copied Jimmy's size and shape and made a Zebra version. It didn't sell, just as well, my Grandson got some mileage out of ZeeZee (not the most creative name, I know) and I expect Clara will have her turn too, and it will be years before they out grow it totally. Who knows one of them may have ZeeZee in their basement in 50 years like I have JImmy Rickason, that would sure make Opa feel good.

   If you have ever made anything with rockers, a chair, crib or Zebra you know how important it is that both rockers are exactly the same, not close, exactly.  If the rockers are not exactly the chair...will creep sideways across the floor as it rocks.  That is something to check when buying a cheap rocking chair at a discount furniture place.

   To get the rockers exactly the same I used a big hunk of double sided tape to make sure that both piece of wood went through the band saw exactly the same and was ultimately sanded exactly the same shape too.

   After the rockers were made I was very careful to attach them securely and squarely to the seat. ( pocket hole technology strikes again) Cutting the head out on the scroll saw was easy and since I used 4 quarter clear pine for the project sanding it was a breeze.  

   I painted the whole thing with multiple coats of white and then taped on the stripes, painted with black spray paint, two coats and then peeled the painters tape off.
Photo: Zebra herd vocalizing

   As you can see, I did not want my zebra to be confused by people for the the real thing so I went with a different style of stripping.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Swedish Coopers

  As you can see from the cover page of my blog I follow the blog written by the Village Carpenter, Kari Hultman very closely. She often has interesting things to share and fine work to show.  She is one of my wood working heroes. 
  The video link above is a typical example of why I follow her blog.  I strongly encourage you to invest the 9:04 to watch the video.  The work that is being done is very impressive, I suspect that the man in the film has years of experience, and am certain of that fact for his helper.  It is proof of want can be down with training, practice and sharp tools.

  Something that I particularly admired was the time spent finishing the bottom on the pail.  A craftsman attends to details that only another craftsman would notice or care about.
   I have watched a number of the films on that site.  All the crafts are interesting and some of them are extinct.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pen Case

 Years ago my Grandmother passed away and left me a few dollars in her will.  My Mother wisely counselled me to take the money and buy something nice and long lasting so that each time I used it I would think of Grama.

   The other day I was working at my desk and though of her.  The pen is a Sheaffers fountain pen that I used in the past to write personal letters and notes.  Recently I have revived my nice pen and hand writing as a way to keep my hands (right hand anyway) from getting too stiff and clumsy.

   The little case is oak with two rare earth magnets to hold the top in place.  The pen is well protected and the project was kind of fun to do.

3X3X3 puzzle

  I like to make puzzles, I don't like to solve them.  Happily my wife and daughter like solving puzzles so we have a symbiotic relationship going.

 There are several versions of this sort of puzzle.  In the past I have made the versions with many solutions.  It did not prove a significant challenge to the ladies and so I have made this version.  This is the Half Hour Puzzle, so named because it reputedly takes a serious puzzler that long to solve.  I guess the ladies aren't serious enough puzzles, 'cause they have yet to solve it. (hee hee)

I can't take credit for creating this puzzle, I used Crafting Wood Logic Puzzles by Charlie Self to provide me with the pattern.  The book is a good, well written book, complete with many helpful photographs and the solutions to all the puzzles. Over the last year I have made about half of the puzzles in the book.


There is a puzzle similar to this one that has many possible solutions, I have made those in the past, but this time, One Solution Only.
To make this puzzle I used one inch blocks that I had purchased from Workshop Supply
If you were planning to make several puzzles as I did in the past I used my cross cut sled and table saw to cut the pieces from solid stock.  Not gluing the pieces together makes for a cleaner better looking final result.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What do you do while you are waiting for the glue to dry?

   In an episode of "The Simpsons", Moe's bar is converted into a family restaurant and Moe buys an army surplus deep fryer. Moe tells Homer the fryer can deep fry an ox in 17 seconds.                      
   Homer whines "But I want it now!".

   There is some of Homer in me.  I hate to wait, I hate to wait in line and I hate to wait for stuff to be ready for the next step in the process.  I have spoiled more than a few projects by not waiting for the glue to dry, or the stain to fully set.  This morning I made a small box for you reading glasses, mostly to protect them and to make them easier to find.  The box is glued together and being held by clamps so the glue can set.  I hate waiting for the glue to dry.  To keep from ruining more projects I have developed a solution, I find a distraction and try to have it a fun little job to do while the glue dries. ( instead of the never ending cleaning that is required by a wood shop)
  So this is what I did this morning while the glue was drying.  I copied the shape from a spatula that Eva uses in the kitchen and cut it out on the band saw.

  I have done this before but this time I got ambitious and boiled the living daylights out of the flat blank and was able to put a useful little bend in the handle to help keep my knuckles out of the way while flipping my eggs.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Leamington Tool Expo

  Early, early tomorrow I am on the highway heading for Leamington to provide sales support for JessEm Tools.   The in store sales event is the way of the future in my opinion and I like to be connected with the events.
  I hope that you will be able to come out and take advantage of the Tool  Expo's special prices and promotions.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making a wooden Pipe or Tube

Making a Wooden Pipe

This a site with a very interesting video on how to make a hollow wooden tube or pipe.  If you make marble games or other such toys this is a very good method for making your hollow pipe with out a lathe.

Kauri Wood of New Zealand

Kauri wood of New Zealand:

History and facts from wikipedia.  I didn’t rewrite or edit the content because it confirms what I know and adds new details to my knowledge, so I believe the author to be more informed than I am.

The  Kauri bowl I brought back with me was bought in a craft show in Paihia on the  east coast of the north island.  The bowl is Kauri root and not really all that well executed, but it was also very inexpensive, so I got a very cool piece of wood from the far side of the world and  all it needed was a little bit of tung oil to make it shine.

I also have turning blank in trunk Kauri that my kids brought me when they came home.  The wood is famous but like maple it is the roots, burls or flaws that are most interesting.  The really good wood is straight, pure and fairly boring to see.  One day I guess I will turn a few pens from the Kauri wood but right now it is the bowl that excites my love of wood.