Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chaos Controlled

   I promised that I would share the "after" photos once I got the place cleaned up.  My estimation of an hour or two was a bit optimistic, I am guessing a total of six hours to get the shop into really nice shape.  I not only put everything away I also vacuumed  and made a small effort in the off cut bin. My buddy Ron calls me a wood junkie because I hate to throw away any wood that one day could be useful.

that is the power tool area with everything put away
where if belongs. swept and vacuumed.

  In that back section I have a jointer, planner, table saw, lathe, two band saws and my sanding machine cart. There is a place for everything, and when everything is in its place, all is well.

  There are the benches clear and ready for the next project.  Note:  when I made the higher section for my work table put a couple of quick coats of shellac on the top and then a couple of serious coats of paste wax.  When I went to clean up the top today the lumps of glue came off no problem.  I will reapply wax later today to the top and to the tops of my iron horses. (table saw, jointer, band saw, lathe)

    Here is a look down the length of my shop from the power tool section (the band saw is behind me to the left) to the benches.  You can see on the right side my KREG Klamp Table, and just past it is my JessEm Excel Router Table.

     A couple of years ago I put down foam mats to reduce back pain, I think they help a bit. On the Klamp Table I have a piece of foam I got from a fabric shop for its none marring and anti- slip characteristics.

  The last thing I want to show is my high tech shop safety device.  In the middle of my shop sits the furnace and attached to the furnace is an air exchange unit.  The unit hangs from the ceiling and has about five feet of space below it.  The unit also has very sharp corners.  I was not prepared to lose all that wall space and so I put a couple of storage units in under and against the wall.  My safety device is that sock hanging off the sharp corner, it tickles me before I lift my head high enough to hit the unit and it gets into my vision and keeps me from bumping into that sharp corner.  It sounds silly, but it works.

  A  quick foot note:

   Happy Thanks Giving
 to all my American Brothers.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chaos Theory in the Wood Shop

  I am not a physicist  but I watch "the big band theory" and so have heard as much about chaos theory as most people. Personally I've come to believe that "chaos" is not a theory, and I've got the work shop to prove it.

  The theory that I do have is that small jobs make for more chaos.  I have been carving Christmas ornaments, and doing some small maintenance things recently and my shop is in total and utter chaos.

    That is not a storage area, that is my power tool area.  In making 2 1/2 inch Christmas ornaments I seem to use every tool in the shop.  I have to re-saw the basswood so I use my table saw, band saw, jointer and planner.  Trouble is I am processing wood in small, small lots so I drag the band saw out and run it for a minute, or square up the wood blocks and use the jointer and planner for a minute each.  Knowing that I will be returning to do that again soon, the machines are left out and ready. (filling the floor space).

  This is a sanding station on a rolling cart, usually it is out of the way against the wall. When carving I often step up to this cart and spend less than a minute on one of the machines, so it sits out too.  

  So here are my work benches with knives, chisels, patterns and half complete carvings.  Oh yes, and sanding stuff and a couple of clamps that I needed for a quick repair.  In the background is another small bench piled up with more stuff, including coffee cups and sunflower seeds.  

   When I build furniture I set up a production environment use one machine at a time, finish the task, clear away the tools and move to the next task.  Much more efficient and less chaotic.  

   I am not making excuses, or blaming anyone, I am just showing the state that my shop can get to before I attack the chaos.  I know that the chaos will return but I will fight it.  

  I posted this mostly to show that not everyone is super organized and that there are shops that gradually move toward total chaos, but can be saved from destruction. Tomorrow is a shop day.  This evening I will turn on some music, brew a pot of tea and after an hour or so the place will be unrecognisable. I'll post the photos to prove it can be done.

Tomorrow, the mess will begin again.

P.S.  a couple of years ago Eva and I were in Barcelona and I saw this carvers workshop and bench.  I also the wonderful work that he produced for sale, so from chaos can come good stuff.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Space Saving Tips for a Small Shop


  Adam Collins is a young wood worker that has created a short video showing how he manages in his very small shop.  My first shop was 10 by 15, huge in comparison with Adam's space.

   I am recommending this video for three reasons:

  1.  He doesn't really say anything new, but he is reminding us of things that we forget when our budgets swell and our shops grow larger.

  2. We 'gray beards'  should listen to younger wood workers when they share their ideas.  If we don't listen to them, there is little incentive for them to listen to us, and so good ideas can get lost through "generational deafness".  I know that age often brings wisdom, I have also learned that creativity  is not age dependent, so listening is good, though not always easy.

 3. These young wood workers are the future.  It is to them that our tools will pass, they should be encouraged.   Should my Grandchildren have no interest in my tools, I dearly hope that there is some young man or woman that will have an interest and put my tools to work.  Every time I go into a road house restaurant and see the walls decorated with tools it makes me very sad.  

Space Saving Tips

Extreme Tools PWS4100TXRD 41-inch Portable Workstaion (Red)

  Ever though mine is a wood working shop, I do have a selection of screw drivers, wretches and sockets.  This link is to a tool box that I have talked about before, but also a good place to start on your space saving/shop organizing quest.


Yea for Penguins !

Friday, November 22, 2013

Towel Rack in My Mother's Bathroom

Towel Rack

   About thirty years ago I built a workshop in my parents back yard, and began my wood working odyssey.  There were many projects made from reclaimed lumber and nearly all of them have thankfully disappeared into fire places through out the land. There were a few things that I built using good materials and simple designs.  

The towel rack in the photo was one of those projects.

   The rack is oak and I suspect that you could hang a side of beef from it.  It was over engineered in the extreme, over engineering is something of a trade mark with me.   I remember making this towel rack with a jig saw, a belt sander and a couple of hand tools and spending lots of time trying to get a good varnish finish on it.

     I decided that I wanted a bit of shape to the design and so cut out the supports for the dowel with a jig saw.  This was long long before I had a band saw but jig saw worked fine, I only had a belt sander (which I still have)  to do the final sanding and again it seems to have worked out fine.
    A couple of years ago my Mom had the bathroom redone and probably out of kindness she kept the crazy on towel rack and had me make another one

   The newer version a couple of years old and just a clunky, but it does match, more or less. 
   Are these towel racks great art? No.
   Do they hold up towels and not fall down? Yes.
      Do I feel a sort of misguided pride in having made them and having them still in my families bathroom? Yes.

   Building something in wood is building for posterity. So..I feel that good materials should be used to build a quality design, care  given to the finishing process and when it is all done a craftsman can take pride in their work.

Cheers, Ian W

new penguin 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Templates or Patterns

   Some people are artistic, and have a flare for design.  Some people can draft and draw, naturally getting the proportions correct and establishing the essence of an object in a few carefully chosen strokes of their pen.  I am not one of those people.  My life seems to have been one long slightly out of proportion whirlwind, and as for carefully chosen pen stokes, not very often. 

  So when I decide I want to make something I seek out a pattern or a template.  I look to see what some one else has done before me.  Fractional proportion one square objects is getting better but flowing lines and symmetry , those will still take time.  Recently I got organized and traced a bunch of cookie cutters on 1/4 wood and today I cut them out on my band saw.  The blades I use are Viking Blades and the 1/4 blade is the one that I used today.  I really don't remember when I changed that blade last, it just keeps going and going.
General International 90-140 M1 14 Wood Cutting Bandsaw

   Now that I have these patterns to copy I will use them to out line both scroll saw and wood carving projects.  Having a pattern at hand helps me overcome the initial challenges of design and lets me get onto the power tools stage faster. 

   Since these patterns are seasonal I fully expect to be dragging them out every winter for a long time.  Knowing that these patterns will get lots of use I opted to make them from wood instead of trusting to the staying power of card stock.   The trade off of needing  more space for storage is worth it knowing that these patterns will last for years.

   Now to carve me some angels.

cheers, Ian


Monday, November 18, 2013

Where Woodworkers Come From

  I have always liked fixing and making things. When I was a kid I took lots of things apart and tried to put them together, never once did I let lack of knowledge stop me from forging ahead.  Actually that still doesn't stop me.

  Attitudes, tastes and amusements are often shaped early in a person's life and a positive attitude toward maken' stuff needs to be instilled when a person is little.

   Kieran is 4 1/2 and getting to be a very serious and focused builder

  This is a playground for children to play on.  It wasn't long ago that Kieran was mostly interested in knocking down the things that other people built, now he is a builder himself.

   If we don't want our good tools to be scrapped once we are done with them we need to encourage the next generation to be builders.  Blocks are where builders begin.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Another One of "Those" Shop Tools.

   Commonly I write about things that I do in my shop.  My shop is a basement workshop that is mostly about interesting and meaningful projects in wood, but not always. I am both a home owner and a bit of a cheap skate.    Those home owner jobs seem to be the ones that make me drag out a seldom used tool, it is usually a tool for striping wire, or working with cement or a big hammer for convincing a fence post or a big rock to move.

   Today I had two such silly little projects that I completed. This is the story of one of those silly little projects.  I while ago I ordered a cane that folds up into four short pieces.

my cane with a necessary modification
   Most of the time now I don't need a cane to help my balance as I walk around but....I wanted one to put in my car for emergencies.  This looks to mostly suit my needs.  Of course when I arrived it was too short, and needed adaptation/modification.

   My first thought was hardwood dowel.  On closer consideration 1/2 dowel might not be study enough.  No trouble I cut a length of copper pipe from my stash of reclaimed building materials and the problem is solved, practically if not beautifully.  I added about five inches to the length of the bottom piece.

   The occasional use tool that I needed for this DIY project.
Super Ego, Minimax Tube Cutter

   I know that you can cut copper tubing with a hacksaw, but it is just so much nicer to do with the proper tool.  A couple of times a year I use a bit of pipe in a project or a repair and I would hate to be fiddling with a hack saw, or have to dig my reciprocal  saw out of the cupboard to cut one piece of pipe.  I have also used my cutter to cut apart a couple of old bicycles to make them easier to deliver to the recycling centre, (i guess it the de-cycling centre once the frames are cut apart)

   If you haven't got a little, inexpensive pipe cutter, but it on your Christmas list, then keep you eye out for someone that has put copper pipe out  on recycling day to put in your stash.  Half inch copper is nice stuff with which to work.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Signs of the Season

  Last weekend I put my Honda Silverwing to bed for the season.  I took its battery out, slid it tight to the wall of the garage and covered it up for the season.  In past seasons I have kept it on the road until December but this year I chickened out early.  

honda silver wing 600
happy days.

snowy days
a sure sign of  winter
    This was the view of our back deck this morning, not just frost but snow.  And the snow stayed for the entire day.  It is not a troublesome amount, it is just that it is so symbolic, it's telling us that the time has come to put on socks and shoes and  no more going out without a coat. 

8 a.m. on the south side of our house.

   Signs that I can't show you on the blog.  

   One,  today I booked my car in to get its summer tires changed to snow tires.  I just don't believe that All Season tires are as good as snow tires in the winter.  The second invisible sign, on streaming radio the Seasonal Favourites station is in full swing. TOO EARLY, TOO EARLY I say.

Garant APRS106 SnowFlex Folding Car Snow Shovel
a must have

   When I went out this afternoon the water in a water bottle left overnight in my car was ICE. So I got my winter car tools together today, you know the stuff, wind shield scraper, extra gloves and hat and a shovel. I have carried a snow shovel in my car all my driving life. (38 years)  Seldom have I needed that shovel, but.....the three or four times I have needed it, I really needed it. I also carry a couple of small bags of kitty litter in the back, ( I have needed it a couple of times too) it's the Boy Scout in me. When I lived further north I also carried an old parka and boots all season, just in case. Now that I live in Southern Ontario I don't prepare quite as completely, but I still respect ol' Mother Nature.

  At at the risk of sounding like an old fuss pot, you should respect the frosty old broad too.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Band Saw Box - The Woodpecker

   I made my own band saw box last season.  This was a prototype project and one that I have yet to return to in an effort to develop my skills.  The band saw box turned out fairly well, but suffers from poor design.  When I made it I picked a scrap out of a burn pile and cut it up without drawing a design, and so....the drawers are pretty much upside down.  When I make another box I will reverse the order and have the largest drawer on the bottom.  As I was cutting this box out, I was making in up as I went along, the result is not a good design.

   On the net I was watching The Woodpecker make a band saw box.  As he went through his video he showed all the steps in order and when he was finally finished the result was technically good but he also made an observation about his design.  You'll have to watch the entire video to hear what he has to say.

   I have come to believe that I need to spend more time on the design phase of a project than I am.  My general wood working skills have risen over the last few years and my finishing skills have improved as well.  Now when I embark on a project there is a pretty good chance that I will get it build and it will be sound and solid.  Now I need to consider design, so that the project will not only be sound. but it will also be pleasing to the eye.

   A tool to aid in design is the internet once again it can be a tool which  provides a valuable resource.  If you wonder what I mean all you need do is type band saw box photo into a search engine, and shazam, hundreds of photographs of band saw boxes from all over the world. If you go to You Tube there as dozens of woodworkers showing off their methods for making band saw boxes. If you want to recreate period furniture you need to go to museums and study measured drawings, if you want to create something artistic and free form all you need is to see what others have done and use there work as an inspiration.

   Probably I will need a note over my bench to remind me to work on the design longer and with greater attention.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes a really long time.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An Inspiration from the Internet

  I seem to have turned to the net for content in this last week.   That is mostly because  I am not doing much of interest to you, in my shop just now.

 I made a 24 foot long trough that directs water from our basement's sump pump across the back yard and toward a pond.  It was not high tech, or challenging or of any interest to anyone but us, but it was a shop job. It is also moving toward frost on the wind screen weather and so the garage needed to be cleaned out so the car could have a warmer place to sleep.  That involved making some shelves and moving stuff around and there was nearly a day's worth of shop time spent, not in the shop.

General International Lumber Storage Rack
GEN 99-300

the rack in use, bicycle tools and gear
  Certainly the rack is over kill, but I had one in a box from years ago and it seemed a good idea to put it to work.

  As a safety policy I do not work in my shop once I have had a drink or any of those pills that come with the warning not to operate heavy machinery.  For several days this week I have been battling a cold/flu thing and so taking the afore mentioned pills.  Actual shop time has been a little bit reduced and so I have been looking through the internet for things to share with my readers.

   I found a very interesting video about a wood carver that carves wooden bow ties.  I had seen the video a year ot two ago and went looking for it last night.  Since I saw the video the first time, wooden bow ties have become a cool, fashion thing it seems.   I am always amazed at "fashion", something can flash onto the scene and just as quickly disappear, but when it is here, the "fashion" people act as though it will last forever and everyone needs to be on board with the trend. 

  The video  shows some of Mr. Beloff's work and takes time to talk with him about his feelings and ideas relating to woodworking and life.  The video is not long but I encourage you to take special notice at 2:19 and then again at 2:29.  "Passion, Persistence, Repetition.

cheers, Ian W

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Fifty thousand, nineteen page views.

Wow, thank you to everyone that looks in to see what I have to share with the internet reading world.

cheers  IanW

Another Cool Shop Jig

  This is my second effort to write this particular blog.  My first effort disappeared part way through, without explanation and without any of it having been saved, as it is supposed to be.  If a tool in your work shop was as unreliable as our computers we would through it out.  Sadly we are held to ransom by the computer universe, and its knows it.

what was going on in my head just now

   Trying again:

    I know that many wood workers do not enjoy the luxuries that I do.  I have lots of tools and almost enough space. (space is like clamps).  Over the course of the last 10 years I have also been able to up grade the quality of many of my tools, so I can't ever blame the tools for mistakes. 

   Since not everyone has my good fortune or as supportive a wife I am always on the lookout to share ways to expand the scope of a tools uses.  Single purpose tools are nice but a multi-use tool can be better value.  Also there are tools that you only need a few times a year, making buying a special purpose tool a tough expense to justify.

  On Izzy Swan's web site and Facebook page and You Tube videos you can see a number of easy to make and use jigs that expand the possibilities of your table saw.   I wrote a blog on June 26 th where Norm Abram talks about choosing the correct saw for your needs and if you are of a certain age you were raised to believe that the table saw was the centre piece of your shop.  I am of that age. 

   The video I recommend for your viewing pleasure makes me think that though I have a six inch joiner, there are times that this method would not only give me a good edge but a parallel one too.   I especially like the trick of using wedges to hold the material in place.  Toggle clamps are good, but wedges are cheap and infinitely adjustable.