Friday, November 30, 2012

Bittern, carved

   This past week I was visiting family for a couple of days and one of my Uncles does wild life carving.  A few years ago he carved this Bittern, he only carves things that he has actually seen.  The Bittern is a member of the Heron family.  I was told that the shape was very good, the paint colouring is not quite as good.

  The detail of the frog and the lily pad are almost as much fun as the bird.

   Sonic Crafter, I have on of these and it gives good service for occasional work. I have used it to speed the smoothing and shaping stages of a project.

Rockwell  RK5100K Sonicrafter 20 pc Multimaster MultiTool Kit RK5100K

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Very Special Workshop Project

   There are a number of ways for a project to stand out in my mind.  Sometimes the project is the first time that a new skill is finally conquered, sometimes the project is something I'd wanted to make for a long time but not had time or materials.  I have projects that I are bench marks in my development as a wood worker and so stand out like graduation ceremonies. Then there are projects that are special because I've done then with a Grandchild.

  A while ago Kieran and I made a bird house together.  He pushed the trigger on the cordless drill and helped hammer the bottom of the bird house into place.  That project was a pleasure to make with him.

   Kieran is six months older and so last week Kieran and I made three small wooden airplanes to go on his LEGO aircraft carriers. He was able to do more things than on the bird house and so the project felt really good to make.

   These planes were the most basic of projects but.....this time he helped me cut the strips of wood with a handsaw.  We are learning about safe handling of sharp tools. Then he helped me sand the bits of wood,( discovering how to make the edges smooth to the touch)  as before he pushed the trigger while I held the drill ( he has got very good at that part of the job) making the holes for the tacks.  Finally, he helped me drive the tacks into place, this is not a hand cut dovetail jewel box made from rare and exotic wood, and I wouldn't trade the planes or the experience for the world.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Serving Tray

  Occasionally, I do get to make something in my shop.  I seems some weeks that I have time for everything but saw dust. Last week I glued up some boards and made a few cutting boards and a couple of trays.

   This tray is 18 by 10 (ish) and made from oak and roasted birch.  The roasted birch is not a dark as the roasted maple but is less brittle, and so works easier with machines.  The roasting process dries the wood out, not surprisingly and can open the grain and make the wood brittle and prone to splinter.  When the roasted wood is solid the result is deep, dark, exotic wood colour with domestic lumber.

   I was able to buy the handles on clear out and so was able to make the tray without breaking the bank.  Fancy hardware can be costly and cheap hardware, just looks cheap.

   For a couple of years now I have been making cutting boards and trays using Titebond III glue, I have also used Gorilla glue to good effect too.  The whole trick to glue ups is quality glue and careful clamping, in my humble opinion.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More Glue Information

A series of test done by an engineer and wood worker who I highly respect.  Proper gluing technique is important to success in a wood shop, watch the video and see if you are surprised by the results, I was.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Japanes Craftsmen at work

   The YouTube video that is linked here shows Japanese craftsmen using hand planes.   
   The most important thing about all of these planes, and our planes too, blades and proper setup.

   The second most important thing about all these planes and our planes too, is practice.  None of the craftsmen in the video starting working in wood this morning, there are years of training and experience at work, and it is very nice to watch.

   Check out the shavings that those guys get from their planes.  They are everything Rob Cossman talks about.

*Rob Cosman Hand Planing & Sharpening DVD


Saturday, November 17, 2012

File Box

  Home organization is an ongoing challenge, as with all people of a certain age we have tonnes of stuff, much of which seems to have no readily apparent use.  What we do is keep  receipts and invoices,( sometimes for years) in spite of the promise that the computer would provide a "paper less" office, paper is still the only way to prove what you have done, or of what has been done to you.   We have a couple of file cabinets and we also have a hanging file.  Writing this reminds me, it is time to cull some of the old paper. (a winter's eve project)

     The office supply stores have very good plastic hanging file holders that have wheels which makes them easy to push  around the office.  Plastic is light, cheap and ugly, my solution was to create a wood frame to hold the plastic frame, the wood is sturdy and just looks nicer.

   The wooden file frame was a pocket hole project.

   I was able to make the frame and screw it together quickly and easily.  The other thing that is good about the pocket holes was that the entire project was sanded and finished before it was finally assembled.  There are no fasteners showing and though the project was made from local builder supply lumber is still looks much nicer than plastic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wood Carving Tip

   Recently I have returned to wood carving.  A few years ago I joined a club in Burlington and found that I enjoyed carving, though I didn't really have much aptitude.  Well, I still enjoy carving and haven't suddenly developed any new talent but enjoy it none the less.
   In the back of my mind I am thinking that some of my projects would profit from some additional detailing, and carving is one way to add that extra little bit of individuality.  As we often see, quality carving can raise a simple box to the level of a work of art. 

chip carved box by an expert, not me.

  I have carved several of this style of penguin recently and have installed one as a security feature on the sliding patio doors.

  Ever the school teacher, I began to wonder about wood carving for beginners.  How would someone get started in carving or at least try it out, for cheap.  It was my good fortune to inherit  a bunch of carving knives and my natural love of knives generally, that means I have lots of knives to work with in my shop.  So I didn't have to think about it much or look to far for an excellent tool with which to carve.

    However, if you don't have a really good carving/whittling knife  you are not likely to succeed while carving.  A carving knife needs to be razor sharp, none of my shop knives or pocket knives are sharp enough to be used for carving. I own a number of very fine pocket knives, but the knives have been used to cut fruit and put away dirty, or have been used to cut cardboard or other terrible things, this means the blades need significant work to get them razor sharp once more.  Besides, pocket knives don't need to be razor sharp, they spent as much time scraping and prying as they do cutting.  A razor sharp, micro feather edge on a pocket knife would just get broken down and ruined in everyday use.  The same thing happens with shop knives, my knives forage in corners for glue squeeze out and are used to scrap away little bits of paint or stain, as often as for cutting.  For serious cutting, I have razor sharp chisels and planes.

  So where do you find a knife sharp enough to do some basic carving?
Bessey D-BKWH Quick-Change Folding Utility Knife - Wood Grain Handle
Bessy folding utility knife
  I mention this knife because it is the one with which I carved my most recent  penguin. Admittedly it is a bit heavy, and I did strop the blade (remember the strop) but as a carving tool it did a fine job.

   If you are interested in trying to do some basic wood carving I suggest that you get a solid utility knife; one where the blade does not wiggle at all, and some basswood and give it a try.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Build a Work Bench

    If you type work bench into a search engine like Google you will get hundreds of hits.  There are as many designs and styles of bench as there are craftsmen and cultures. The video I have attached today shows a bench being built with typical hand tools and hand power tools, using standard sized lumber, following this pattern means that just about everyone can have a good bench upon which to work.

build a bench with Bosch tools 
   This bench was made to be sturdy and useful without breaking the bank or overwhelming the builder.

  This is a cool looking but much more involved work bench, however it may serve your needs best.
   You can always order a bench kit, I have worked on the General International work bench.  It took a couple of hours to assemble and served well as a sturdy work table at a wood show. Had the bench been screwed to the floor it would have been more stable a therefore an even better work bench.
General International 95-060 60'' x 30'' Workbench with Steel Legs

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Security Penguin

   Famously people use dogs and farmers sometimes use geese to guard their hearth and home.  We have opted for a non-traditional security helper.

our penguin stands on guard for us

   Every house with sliding patio doors faces the same security issue, and probably solves it the same way, by putting a stick (in Canada a piece of hockey stick often) in the track to prevent the door from sliding open.  My issue with that method is that you have to get all the way down to lift the stick, up and down were easier in days gone by.  Our guard Penguin also lets us see if the stick is in place from across the room, penguin up-stick is in, penguin down-stick is out.

  The further benefit is finding a use for my wood carvings.  I enjoy the quiet and relaxation of wood carving and now have a use for the completed projects, as I have written before I like to make things that are useful, not just ornamental. 

  This particular fellow is carved from Basswood, and was painted by my Mom.
   thanx Mom.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tool Sharpening

   It is recognized absolutely that sharp tools are necessary for quality work and safety.  That is where the agreement ends.  There are nearly as many sharpening method, machines and philosophies as there are trades and workers.

  I have observed that all of the methods can work well.  There is no silver bullet and what ever method you employ there is a learning curve and skill set that has to be developed and sharpened with practice. (pardon the pun).

  I use a combination of the Scary Sharp  system and s machine made by Worksharp.  

   The Worksharp does a great job on my chisels and narrow plane blades.  Scary sharp does a very fine job on my wider plane blades. My carving tools are mostly sharpened by hand on a water stone and then finished on a leather strop.

 top:a stop I recently made to carry with me to carving club,
bottom : a commercial strop that I got years ago as part of a sharpening kit.

   The strop adds the final touch that will make your tools truly razor sharp.  I think it is impossible to get your wood carving tools sharp enough without honing the edges on a strop.  Also, I have found that careful and regular honing deduces the amount of sharpening that is necessary, dramatically . 

   Glue an old piece of belt to a flat board, sent a few dollars on some polishing compound and give it a try.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How and When to Sand Wood

Once again I have turned to a real expert, not only in wood working but also a fine and articulate writer to share his ideas with you this time about sanding.  He raises another point with which I agree, sanding is not evil and a wood worker that sands is not by definition a poor craftsman.

Mr Schwarz writes:

I’m always bemused by woodworkers who boast that they never use sandpaper.
I usually say something to them such as: “Then I guess you don’t like old-school technology.”
When they look confused, I add: “Egyptians used sandstone to abrade wood flat. Sanding is older technology than planing, which is a Greek or Roman invention.”
As far as I know there hasn’t been a definitive history written about abrasives. And please don’t ask me to write it – I have enough to do on this earth already. So if you need a good idea for a gritty bestseller….
The problem with abrasives is how they are abused in this modern day. Abrasives have almost always been some part of the finishing process, but the key word in that sentence is “part.” Today, most modern shops start with abrasives and end with abrasives. And that’s when they become the lung-clogging, vibrating misery known as power sanding.
So let’s take a close look at a more balanced approach that was practiced in England during the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s explained here by Charles H. Hayward in the book “The ABC of Woodwork.”
“Cleaning up a panel, table top, or whatever it may be is a fairly straightforward job. The smoothing plane cutter is sharpened to as straight an edge as possible, and the plane is set fine with the back iron as close as possible. It is assumed that the wood is already true and requires only to be skimmed to remove marks or tears made by the trying or panel plane. The entire surface is gone over with the grain. In most woods, the tears will come out, though, admittedly, there are difficult woods. So much depends on the plane and the way it is set. The cabinet maker’s smoothing plane has a high pitch in which the action approaches that of scraping rather than cutting, and if this ha the back iron set fine there are only a few woods which cannot be planed. (Remember on this score that the straighter the edge the more closely the back iron can be set.)
“In any case, however, the scraper must foll ow for all hardwoods. It is not only that it will remove any tears that may be left, but it will take out all marks left by the plane. This is a point that is easily overlooked. Then again, in some difficult woods the grain runs in streaks about 1/4 in. or 1/2 in. wide, and it is impossible to plane one with the grain without tearing up those adjoining. The scraper can be bent and used on a comparatively narrow area of the wood.
“Glasspapering follows, and a flat rubber (usually of cork) is essential. The purpose of glasspapering is only partly to smooth the surface; it has for its second object that of getting rid of marks left by the scraper. This cannot be done when the glasspaper is merely held in the hand. The pressure is uneven and is not great enough. Furthermore, all sharp edges and corners are liable to be dubbed over, giving a dull, unspirited appearance to the work.”
To summarize: Plane until you cannot improve the surface. Scrape until you cannot improve the surface. Sand until you cannot improve the surface. Finish.
This is the way I’ve worked for many years. I buy a box of #220-grit Abranet every couple years, and that covers all my sanding needs.
And one last detail: Hand sanding is a hand process requiring great skill to execute – especially when it comes to contoured surfaces. So don’t hide your sandpaper when your breeches-wearing hand-tool buddies come over for a beer.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to learn a lot more about handplanes, check out my book “Handplane Essentials,” a huge tome on handplane work that encompasses much of my writing on these tools for the last decade. Click here for details.
You can also read many other interesting blog postings by Mr. Schwarz at  his blog
to order sand paper on-line:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

garden Tote

   If you wonder around a museum featuring everyday objects from a couple of hundred years ago those objects commonly were embellished with carvings or some type of folk art painting. It seemed the goal of ancient Romans and Greeks was to and like a Baroque Church bling can be over done too.   Our current modern tastes have changed over time so that our day to day items are utilitarian and fairly stark not objects of beauty. Though I admit some of the clean pure lines of Scandinavian design rests easily on my eyes I still like a little but of flare, it helps to draw and focus my attention.
   The pretty box in the photo comes from either India or Indonesia and is no doubt a product that is churned out by workman in a nasty factory the like of which we can barely imagine. The box is also kept cheap to buy  because the workman is paid next to nothing for his/her labour.  I certainly don't  like to see work men exploited, but it is nice to see carving and a little bit of flash on everyday items.  Keeping my spare change, pocket knives and general 'stuff' in a nice container makes me smile. 
  That sort of thinking effected what I did with this recent project. 
   This tool/garden box is going on sale at our church, some of the guys at church recycled some odds and ends from their scrap bins while some of the rest of us screwed them together and brought the projects home to sand and paint.      
   After working the wood over with 120 and 220 grit sand paper I went looking for some paint to finish the box off, when I had an inspiration.  A couple of weeks ago I returned to a wood carving and have been making more wood chips than  clouds of sawdust just lately.  I like the quiet of the work environment, as well as the lack of saw dust and dust masks and shop vacs and all the other things that go with wood shop machines.  So instead of just painting the box I decided to give it a little hand work.
   The pattern is very basic relief carving using a "V" tool or "parting chisel".  I laid the pattern out after I had sealed the wood and put one coat of light orange/brown coloured water based stain on.  Once I had carved the pattern in the wood I went back and gave it a quick coat of oil based paste style stain so that it would darken the carved lines, but I was very careful not to let the stain colour the rest of the box very much.  All the oil stain did was deepen the colour of the first stain and highlite the carving.
    I do not labour under the delusion that my work is great art, or in fact even great craft but, you know, it was greatly satisfying.