Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en


  At this moment I sitting at our kitchen table awaiting the annual attack of the ghouls,goblins and ghosts.  We moved into this neighbourhood five years ago and as the sub-division has filled in there have come to be more and more little Trick or Treat people. (which I think is great) I have a personal policy of good treats for little kids and not so much for teenagers.  It is my feeling that you should have out grown Trick or Treat by middle school age.

  Anyway, I thought I would look through's website and see what I thought would be a treat.  

   In no particular order:
    Bessey Utility Knife kit;
Bessey Folding Utility Knife Set w/ Case & Blades DBKPHSET
  I've talked about this kit before, but I still believe it to be a great value.

   A Bosch Jig Saw, you'll only ever have to buy one.

Bosch Top-Handle Jigsaw 120V 6A VS
    I sold lots of them and I don't think they ever worn out, they just got abused to death on job sites.  And, the prices have come down in the last few years.

   The weather is turning against us, right now it is raining hard and the wind is blowing a gale.  Good gloves are a must if you are going to work for any length of time out doors from now until March.
Tough Duck, Premium Goatskin Work Gloves

Tough Duck G03616 Work Gloves Insulated Rubber Grip Men's
and if you have to work in the wet

Estwing 16oz Claw Hammer w/ Leather Grip
I have had my Estwing for 30 years
and it was 25 years old when I got it

   Have a nice evening with your kids.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Circular Saw Safety

  I was working in my garage today making some rough shelving and cutting apart an old cabinet that was made from reclaimed packing cases.

  One of the tools for the day's work was my circular saw. As I was working with the saw it occurred to me that I hadn't taken any time to do my Elmer the Safety Elephant thing.   The circular saw is a versatile and powerful tool that can do great things or cause serious grief.

Milwaukee 6390-20 7-1/4 inch Circular Saw w/ Tilt-Lok Handle

    The video I picked up has a two fold advantage.  One the gentleman is explaining the basics of circular  saw safety, and two it is a Habitat for Humanity video and it doesn't hurt to be reminded of their good work.

    If you look at  you will see a broad selection of circular saws with various sized blades and of various costs.  I have found that a 7 1/4 is enough for my use, it is somewhat lighter than the 8 1/2 saw and blades are available everywhere. I also have not graduated to the worm drive saw like the Skil SHD77 Saw Circular 15 Amp 7-1/4-inch though I used to sell many of them to hard working contractors.  My suggestion is to pick a saw that is comfortable in your hand and reflects the amount of work you are going to ask of it.  My saw spends months in a drawer collecting dust so I have a lower cost tool, but don't go cheap on the blade.  An average saw with a good blade will do better work than a good saw with a poor blade.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


   Square, straight, true, flat and parallel, these are all things that are important when creating projects in the workshop.  As the quality of your tools improve many of these characteristics become easier to achieve.  There is no doubt that you can get a bit crazy about accuracy when working to create flat, square, etc. and that is when the work gets in the way of the project.  However then is certainly a degree of accuracy that is a must if your work is going to be top quality.

   Recently I have been making small things, toys, boxes etc. and these projects seem to draw a person's eye to any inaccuracy. So flat, square etc become a higher priority than of larger projects like toy boxes and shelving units.  

 This is a dry vase that I am making to sell in the craft store. It has a wood burned rose that has been painted with transparent paint that will finally be varnished.  The vase needs a flat base upon which to sit and so the bottom needed to be flat, very flat so that there will be no tell tale shadow around the joint.  Commonly wood workers check for flatness by placing things our their table saw or joiner table.  Those things are at the other end of the shop from my work bench, what I have is a granite slab to put on my bench.

   It is not that I am so lazy that I can't be bothered walking the 25 feet to my table saw, it is that the work bench has better light. It can also be right at hand, I can check flat or straight after ever pass with the plane or rasp.  I have also used the granite pieces for "scray sharp" treatment of some tools.  

  In our area there are several counter top places and they each have bins out back that are filled with little pieces of off cut or broken granite. I went into one and spoke to a working guy there, asked if I could buy a couple of pieces from the trash bin and he said just take a couple.  He did say that they sell the marble and it is recycled some how and they do get paid, I think it was his way of making it clear I was not to take a half ton truck load of bits. Which I didn't, for all that I would have paid the money for the marble if he had asked since I find it so useful.

   Another thing I use the marble for is a weight, sometimes a clamp wouldn't do the job and I need a to weigh something down for the glue to set.

   The other tool I use for making things flat is home made.
you can see the edges needed to be reduce a little bit more than the middle to get the vase to sit dead flat.
  It is my flat sanding belt.  I have 60 grit on one side and  120 grit on the other. I cut  3 x 24 inch sanding belts and attach them to the plywood board with tacks.  The belts are kept clean with a crepe block and so last a long long time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Make an End Grain Cutting Board

      I have made tonnes of cutting boards over the last few years but mine are usually long grain boards.  Making a long grain board is twice as fast as an end grain board and so the board can be sold for half the price.  I have found that most customers do not realize the work involved in making things and so are reluctant to pay for what a project is worth. Even the fellow in the video concludes with the suggestion that his board would make a nice gift for someone.  In fact the only end grain board I have made was given as a gift.

link to video

  When you watch the video you will see all the basic steps required to make a classic style end grain cutting board.

   The cutting board in this photo I lifted from the world wide web is an excellent example of a multi-wood board.  I especially like the inclusion of Purple Heart with the maple, walnut and other woods.  Something to remember when using Purple Heart, the colour fades over time.  If the cutting board is intended for regular use the Purple Heart will lose its "bling factor" fairly quickly.

   If you are planning on getting into serious production of cutting boards I suggest a tool like this:
King, 16in Open Wide Belt Sander

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cheese Boards

  What do you do with your assorted off cuts and left overs, especially the ones that are decent lumber?

  These boards are made from the left overs of oak, maple and roasted maple from which I make my big bread boards.  I collect the various piece in a box in the corner and occasionally I go on a glue up wee pieces binge.  These smaller boards make nice little cheese boards for putting treats out during the holidays.

   Bessey Folding Utility Knife Set w/ Case & Blades DBKPHSET
   I bought this Bessey set of tools the last time I ordered some things from .  Bessey has clearly made the effort to supply quality blades, I used this knife when I was cutting my veneer earlier this week.  I have also used the hooked blade for cutting up heavy box board, and it did the job with ease.  The little tool box seemed like overkill but I like it now, it keeps all the blades where I can find them when I need them, which is quick and convenient.  If you are working in your shop you owe it to yourself to have a top quality utility knife.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bread Box - a first veneer project

   I made this box for my Mom to store loaves of home made bread.  There is a Tupperware insert for this box but Mom decided a nice box would be better.  I love to make boxes so it worked out well for both of us.

   This box is plain old plywood, 3/4 ply on the the ends and 3/8 for the sides.  The top is a really nice piece of maple with a strip of  "I don't know wood" in the middle.  The top was part of a project that never got going a few years ago but I kept the few glued up pieces that I had made, knowing that someday their moment would come along.

   What makes this box new for me is that I covered the plywood box with cheery veneer.  I have never done veneer before.  True to form however I had a bundle of veneer that I bought on clearance years ago.  I couldn't pass up the deal and here I am 15 years later using the veneer.  That bundle of veneer lived at at least three different addresses before it has come to be used.

  I had very good luck with three sides of the box and then my luck ran out on the fourth side. I think I know what I did wrong and will use more appropriate tools and experiment with glue for the next project.  I may even experiment with Hide Glue which is the traditional glue for veneering.

    There are things I learned on this project:
 Use a very very sharp knife.
 Measure extra carefully.
 Do not rush, do not rush, you can't rush. Rushing and not waiting for the glue to fully set is a bad idea.
 A nice veneer can make a plywood box look pretty good.

 I'll keep you posted when I take on the next veneer project.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Spokeshave

  A long time ago, when I still lived with my parents and had a small workshop in the back yard I needed to make a couple of hammer handles.  In those days I had very few tools and tended to buy tools when I have a job for them.  Shaping wood for tool handles is a classic use for a spokeshave, I knew that because I had read it in books.  (this is before the internet, You tube and Google.)

   I had a fairly good block plane, which I still have and decided that I should have a spokeshave to shape these hunks of hardwood.  The hardwood was reclaimed skid material so I have no idea what sort of wood, but it was hard, probably ash.  After roughing the basic shape out with a jig saw I set to work with my hand tools.  I already loved my block plane and was pretty good at using it though I suspect that it was fairly dull.  The spoke shave was a bafflement and a disappointment.  It seemed as though it was meant only for tearing and gouging wood and certainly not a tool for finishing or hardwood.

  This tool was bought before the great hand tool revival kicked in and so this was pretty much what was available. If you go on line now there is a vast array of spokeshaves of all stripes and prices.  I though I was clever in buying a tool with two profiles thus making it twice as useful. ??!!  What I found is that I couldn't get  either blade to do anything.  All it did was tear and wreck my work.  Since I am not inclined to blame the tool, I put it away and ignored it for a few years. Later I read a library book, tried again and still had no success.  Years continued to pass. 

   A few days ago I had finally put in the time to sharpen my home forged lathe roughing gouge and then it needed a handle.

   I knocked the corners off the laminated handle and started to work with my block plane, the one from years and years ago.  It occurred to me that I was older, smarter and had the entire resources of the internet available to me, so I should be able to get that silly little spoke shave working.  I read some blogs and watched some videos and then took the old but barely used spokeshave out and started to check it out. First thing, it was so dull that it wouldn't have cut cheese let alone oak.  Now I have a "work sharp" and I can get the spokeshave's blade very sharp.  Very sharp is absolutely critical to success with a spokeshave I discovered,  now the blade is very sharp, the tool does it job just fine.

  I can see this little tool become a handy go-to tool now that I have figured it out.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Eva's Necklace Case

    A few months ago I made a necklace case for my Mother based on the prototype I made a couple of seasons ago.


   That case featured two sections and one set of hinges.  Eva's case has three sections and hidden hinges.

   The front of this case is spalted maple, an amazing piece of wood but a pain with which to work.

  When you open the door to the first section you see, on the left knobs for hanging bracelets and on the right a set of hooks for necklaces. 


  The section section is also hinged and opens to expose hooks on the left and a double row of hooks on the right in the back section.   Each section with hooks has a narrow strip of wood along the bottom of the section to prevent necklaces from falling out and getting caught when the doors are closed.  

   To work with the Spalted Maple is used several coats of shellac to harden the wood.  I also put a 3/8 square hardwood insert along the inside of the Maple door to give strength where I screwed the hinges in place.

   A tip for anyone that is going to do a project like this and decides to go with brass hardware and matching brass screws.  Don't do what I did, I didn't take the time to check out all the possibilities and so ended up using brass slot head screws.  Take the time, do the checking and buy brass screws with Square drive.  

cheers, Ian W


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Work Bench Stuff - the raised bench

   Last spring my lower back began to plague me as only a back pain sufferer can fully understand.  For a few weeks I was knocked totally off my feet and even now I have Okay days, and not so Okay days.  For a month or so I have been able to be fairly active, though sitting for any length of time or working bent over is a real challenge.  In the last few weeks I have been making small boxes and small toy projects for the grand kids, both things take me into the shop and had me bent over the work bench fussing with wee bits of wood and glue or sitting on a stool working at the bench with wee bits of wood and glue.  In both cases, ouch.  I tried a compromise where I used the Kreg Klamp Table as a raised work surface and that was an improvement but not a true success.  The Klamp Table is a resource better used for its designed purpose than as a half baked work bench.

  This latest round of small jobs made made it clear that I needed to get serious and build a higher bench, Or Something. I though that I would build a new bench from the ground up but  I have opted for "Or Something".  After working on a box sitting on wheeled  bench/work table for a week I decided on a height and also decided that I needed a fairly large, very solid work surface upon which I could sand, saw and glue without being hunched over if I was going to enjoy my workshop again.

   I decided that I liked the low wheeled work table that I had built about ten years ago.  It is solid and has plenty of storage as well as a wood working vise attached to one corner.  Taking that table apart would be a labour, rebuilding would be an expense and the whole thing would have been an aggravation I didn't welcome.  |My Wife had the idea or some sort of raised platform that sat on the work table.
   So, first I experimented with the Box.  The Box is just a 10 x 18 x 16 box I made from plywood with a handle,  that I use as a solid base to stand on while working on walls in the house.  The Box gives me height enough to paint etc. and is solid enough for me to use as a basic saw horse when working on site too.  I even made the Box air tight and drilled small holes in one side and put a 2 1/4 hole in another side so that I can use the Box as a sort of down draft table dust collector when I hook my big shop vac to it.  The major use for the Box now,  Kieran stands on it when he works with me in the work shop. Alas the Box was too small a work surface and there was no easy way to secure it to the work table top.

back view
  I took the basic idea of The Box and built a raised section to go on my work table/bench is 40 x 20 x 10.5. I used left over 2 x 10 and off cut plywood to make the bulk of the work surface.  I put a piece of rough cut elm across the back to tie the legs to the top and stop the whole thing from twisting when in use.  I now have a working surface that is 44 inches off the floor and most importantly it is tall enough that I don't have to hunch over to work.

front view

   I need to order a couple of C clamps to hold this bench addition in place.  C clamps aren't quick to use but they can clamp with incredible force.  It made the addition as solid as I could and still keep it open so that I can put tools underneath when not needed and also so that it would not be too heavy to be lifted on and off the bench when need be.  There are still projects that will need the full single level work space of the lower table.  The finish is Minwax paste finishing wax, quick, cheap and easy to renew when needed.  I plan to use this raised bench section for fine work with hand tools, gluing clamping and finishing so it won't get too beat up too quickly, I hope.

   I left the edges open so that I will have space for clamps.  If the edges aren't  stiff enough I will reinforce then with hard wood trim like I did along the back with the elm.  Currently the work position is an improvement  over everything else I have to work on, in fact I am writing this blog using this bench as a stand up desk.

   Shortly I will rebuild my standing desk to match in height and sturdiness  so that it will be a better place to work too.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Three Latest Shop Projects

  I have always said that it is important to make things in your shop that people want.  Sometimes a self indulgent project is nice but...for me nicer is making something that is useful and finds a good home.

  A couple of Christmases ago I made a clock from a kit for my wife.  I opted to use the kit because I had never made a clock before and was pretty sure that I needed the help.  I also expected that I would only ever make one so was looking for an easy learning curve.

    In this recent case it didn't need the help but I bought kits anyway because it was a good short cut.  The kits saved me from having to cut up a bunch of tiny pieces of wood.

   My wife and I were in the local Dollar Store a while ago and I saw wooden toy kits for $1.25 each.  Lets be clear, the wood is crap, the glue is also crap but the design isn't too bad and all the pieces are pre-cut. The most important thing with these kits is that they can be built by an Opa and his Grandson, which we did this weekend. 

    We made a sail boat, and a F-18 as well as a helicopter .  I bought a couple of extra helicopter kits and plan to adjust and improve the kits then assemble them of the kids at church.  

   This is an instance where it is cheaper and quicker to buy prepared materials than to fiddle around in the shop to produce the parts.


     The F-18 is waiting to be painted, I know it is an F-18 because Kieran says so. I sprayed the helicopter and the boat but was told that Kieran wanted to paint the F-18 with a brush and then he would be the painter and I would be the helper.

   Building these cheap little toys has been a good learning experience for Kieran and I. These little kits have taught him that wood glue takes time to dry so you have to plan the stages of your project and wait, wait, wait.    He has also begun to learn the types and names of clamps. This type of project uses an assortment of clamps and in some case clothes pins, which makes a good small, light weight spring clamp.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Instead of Sand Paper

  As we all know the smoother the surface the better the finish will be.  A smooth surface makes gloss varnish shine and oil or wax finishes soft to the touch.  Getting our projects smooth is one of the great challenges a wood worker faces, and as with all wood work challenges there are several solutions.

  Lots of folks have a whole stable filled with hand planes.  Scrub planes, fore planes, smoothing planes, scraping planes etc. etc.  This is a wonderful way to get a wonderfully smooth finish on your projects.  I have a bunch of planes and often reach for one, I couldn't have a shop without a block plane.

  Another route to smoothness is sand paper and the related sanders.  I have them too, I have shown my set up for making cutting boards, using both belt sanders and random orbitals.  I like my sanders but they are noisy and do kick up a heck of a mess.

  A few years ago I added another tool to my shop, cabinet scrapers.  They are very useful for smoothing projects and I also have one that is thick and pretty brutal for removing paints and stains.  The Wood Whisper has an excellent video here on sharpening your cabinets scrapers, in less than 10 minutes he covers all the bases.  I serious recommend this video for you attention.  

Samona 6 Pc Wood Scraper Set 70380

   A further bonus, cabinet scrapers aren't expensive and require no special tools to maintain.

   As a further foot note, I use my heavy duty scraper to clean away crud and check for nails etc in reclaimed wood.  If I ding the scraper, no big deal.  I can't make the same claim if I ding a plane.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Mixed Bag of Wood Works

   Sometimes big projects give place and space to little projects, and even little projects take time.  Many of my little projects are focused on making my life easier in the shop, I have made a variety of shelves, tool cabinets and storage units over the last few years.  
   Usually those jobs spend time to save money.  I am prepared to send extra time glueing up cheap lumber  from the bin to make shelves for my shop rather than go out and buy lumber.  Other times those projects are made from lumber that has to be planed because it starts out as off cuts of various sizes, shapes and types.  

   Other times a big project is only a big project because it has taken a long time for me to get around to finishing it.

   Today I finished a project that was begun over a year ago but was always side tracked by something.  In the left of the photo you can see the picture rail has finally been added to the wall, and painted.  All that remains is for us to hang some more pictures.  The rail on the right was put up ages ago, then we decided to live with it for a while to see if we liked it.  A few months ago I got going with my router table and shaped the poplar trim for the rest of the rail, but then had back trouble and the task went uncompleted. Today Eva helped me hold the last two long pieces in place as they were glued and screwed.  The rails are 7 feet long and so for practical purposes a three handed job. Extra hands makes for lighter and easier work. If you are going to get into the D.I.Y. router world as set of bits like this is a pretty safe place to start.  There are cheaper bit sets, but, remember, in tools you get what you pay for.  I do most of my routing and shaping with these few bits.

   I have a couple more photos of little projects, nothing difficult, but little things that can take a person away from big things.

    On the left is a painting we bought in New Zealand a few years ago and on the right a mirror in our laundry/mud room.  I made both of the frames.  The painting's frame is my only experience so far with cherry.  The mirror is elm.  You know the routine, carefully cut the mitred corners then lose your mind gluing the corners together. I used my KREG Klamp Table to help glue the corners, but it means that you have to clamp, glue and wait.  I suggest that waiting for the glue to dry is a good time to become a blogger, 'cause it is not a good time to drink beer. (too much glue = way to much beer!)

   I have also consumed time making jigs lately and working on Eva Necklace case. The jigs get built and painted RED and the case gets little bits and pieces glued in place and know.  I can image the Necklace case being finished in a couple of weeks, there is has only been 4 years in coming, that's not bad, is it?