Monday, October 27, 2014

Keep It Simple

 I am currently sitting in our hotel room on the Azorean Island of St. Miguel part way through a week's holiday.  I can recommend St. Miguel, specifically  Ponta Delgada as a holiday destination. 

 Since it is a bit rainy this afternoon I was wondering the internet and found a video on reclaiming lumber that shows a trick with rare earth magnets that is worth checking out.

Watch the video and about half way he shows a good, low tech solution for finding nails. 

 I will be back into my shop by the end of the week, building stuff and showing some more pictures from St. Miguel.

cheers, ianw

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ponta Delgada Azores, Portugal

 For the coming week I am out of my shop and out of my country. Eva and I are in Ponta Delgada Portugal. We are taking one week's vacation on this tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of the Gulf Stream. If you think that the gulf stream isn't important to plants, let me show you some pictures from around town.

  This is a  photo of a myrtle tree.  I have no idea how old this tree is, but the growing season here is 12 months of the year. We certainly don't see trees like this at home.

These roots belong to a Mission Fig from Australia, transplanted to Ponta Delgada Azores. Eva is that tiny colourful item on the left side of the photo. Those roots are 2-3 feet above the ground.
Cool eh?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shop Safety - Band Saw Safety.

with a happy ending.

   Clara is proudly showing off her new shirt but this is really a photo of a bandage. On the pinky of her right hand is a work shop related injury, her first and I hope (but don't really believe) her last.

  All you Opas and Pappas that are working to encourage your grandchildren should take note of that bandage.  

  Clara is three years old and so doesn't know what is sharp or dangerous and...she is small enough that her fingers fit into places we would never, ever try to put our fingers. Clara believes that if she is close to her big people that life is good and safe, and that is what she should think and what we should be working to provide.  On Saturday I had the worse feeling in my shop that I have ever had, including the three times I've cut my fingers working on the table saw. 

  Clara was being a very good helper and was sweeping up saw dust with a hand brush and putting it the garbage.  She worked away in the shop for close to an hour, sweeping and scolding me for making such a big mess. Kieran was working on a boat and Clara was helping clean, and Opa was feeling about as good a anyone in the world could feel.

  Underneath the table of the band saw there is a significant gap, as you know. Though I have dust collection on my band saw a goodly portion of saw dust collects on the bottom wheel and trunnions below the table.  In amongst the saw dust is the blade. There is really very little blade exposed, and certainly an adult would not ever come in contact with that little bit of blade by accident, and have little purpose to encounter it intentionally. An adult would know that the blade was sharp, that it was there and if an adult was going to clean in there they would use a shop vacuum.

  My darling little Clara is not an adult, she has no idea there is a blade and wasn't using a shop vacuum.  She reached up under the table and used her tiny fingers to clean out the saw dust and touched the blade.  (the saw was off) She got a tiny boo boo on her finger and Opa felt terrible, probably much worse than she did. At that instant I decided that I need to seriously review all the possible dangers in my shop and work on teaching the little people more about safety.

  I am not going to over react and not let them in, and I don't expect them to escape forever without the occasional cut or scrape but I need to be extra vigilant so that wood working is fun and safe. 

  If shop time is enjoyable and safe I may be able to entice a generation away from their computers and the virtual world and into the real world. 

cheers, Ian W

My Favourite Little Clara Bear.


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Working Boat

 Our local Grandchildren were here for the weekend and as well as watching Thomas Tank Engine Videos and Snow White on VHS tape we worked in the workshop.

  My five year old grand son has been involved in a variety of projects with me in the shop and my three year old grand daughter is following his example.  Now Clara is a very focused cleaner in the shop which give rise to a new safety concerns, unlike her brother she is not scared of the big machines. He is cautious, she is fearless, and I am going to have to remember that at all times.

  However as Clara was cleaning with brush and dust pan, a role she has taken over from her brother he decided that we should make something. Inevitably he wanted another boat.  I have made many boats for him and as he gets older he has higher and higher expectations of Opa's Boat Works.

 For this boat, I thought I would put up small hurtle, a challenge if you will that he would have to surmount before I undertook to make another boat.  The challenge; I played dumb and told him that I couldn't build a boat without a plan.


  This is the plan for the working boat drawn by my five year old Grandson.  I added the labels as he explained the details of the plan. Also included is the scale if you wanted to make your own boat.  The boat has a crane on the front, he's seen this type of boat in Toronto and Hamilton harbour. The request was for eight square cargo containers, on which there were hooks so that the crane could pick them up and the captain's cabin is at the stern.

  The crane turns and has a hook to pick up the cargo containers and the hold of the boat has been routed out 1/2 inch with a straight bit in my Bosch Colt.  When we didn't have a crane with a telescopic boom he decided that there was a conveyor belt underneath to move the cargo forward. Isn't imagination a wonderful thing?

  I cut the hull out of a 2 x 8 and used some of the off cut for the cabin. Kieran used a hand saw to cut the dowels used in the crane as well as spent a good deal of time sanding the hull while I worked on cutting the cargo containers on my sliding mitre saw.

  The projects are getting more advanced and K wants to be more involved. My challenge is to find more ways for hand tools to be included in the process without making it too slow and frustrating. At this point he doesn't like to paint the boats, he says he like wood colour, but he also says he wants to play with the new boat: NOW, not wait for paint or glue to dry.

 Building needs to be good and quick.  Opa will have to work on his methods I guess.


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Cajon Project

  The Cajon drum is currently a fashionable folk instrument. It has a number of attractive points, it is not very loud, it is easy to play and fairly simple to make.  All of the above virtues gives it potential as a elementary school musical instrument. I have a long time friend teaching in a local elementary school that has commissioned two class sets of cajons for his kids, 30 drums in all.

  I am not by nature a production wood worker but the cause was good and there was a bit of profit in the project,(if I don't keep track of time invested too closely) and so I have under taken to make 30 Cajon drums.(with my friend's help)

1st. you begin with a pile of Baltic birch,
 7 sheets 1/2 inch and 4 sheets 1/8 inch.

 The next part of the task was work space, there was no way to comfortably work with 5 foot by 5 foot sheets of plywood in my down stairs shop.  Two saw horses with a sheet of plywood and some supporting pieces made a work table arrangement that was up to the task, when there were four hands available for moving the sheets and holding them firmly while cutting.

  The Kreg Rip Cut jig proved to be an excellent tool for cutting those sheets of plywood into 11 3/4 inch strips. There are two things which you need to be aware when taking on a job like this with a circular saw and a jig. One, the long arm of the jig makes clamping the wood a problem, thus the need for an extra set of hands. Second, the jig doesn't have much registration left as you get to the very end of the cut and so you have to be very, very careful not to nip the end a bit as you finish the cut.Keeping those things in mind the jig worked a charm.

 As well as a good jig I used an excellent saw blade. The Freud blade I used cut very smoothly with nearly no tear out, the edges of the Cajons will need only the lightest sanding, just enough to break the edge, not to hide tear out.

some of the plywood ready to be cross cut.

  I will cut the plywood to length with my sliding mitre saw because I want to work in my shop where it is warm rather than in the garage where the only heat is supplied by mother nature, not because I think it will do any better job than the circular saw with the good blade.

  Next week I am away on holiday so the blog posts will be atmospheric, not practical.

  cheers, ianw

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oven Mitt Hanger, whittling project

  We've had a busy weekend with the fair and the grandchildren and family and all so it was nice to get back into my workshop yesterday for a while.  All the activity mixed with a bunch of sitting, eating and drinking means that my back is a bit sore and my temper a bit short.

  When my back hurts I like a small project that is a distraction without be a serious challenge.  If I am too tired or sore I am not up to the challenge of making a new design or working on a long drawn out project.

  So yesterday I experimented with my Kreg Rip Cut jig, I am impressed with its accuracy and consistency, a pleasing addition to my tools. 
Kreg KMA2675 Rip Cut Circular Saw Guide
  I also spent some time cleaning paint brushes, sharpening tools and generally cleaning the place up.  There had been a series of quick little jobs, toy repair etc. that left a level of chaos that needed attention.

 Once I got things put away I started on a silly little scrap wood project.  This is a project that serves as a distraction, can be worked on standing up or sitting down and gets done quickly enough to provide immediate satisfaction for guy that whines about back pain. 

 A couple of weeks ago the hooks on the side of the fridge that hold the oven mitts started letting go.  The metal hooks are attached with super duper two sided tape, but even that goes weary with time. I tried replacing the tape but I didn't get the back of the hook clean enough for the new tape to stick, it appears as though it would be an ugly solvent job.  My shop is in our basement and so I have a limited supple of nasty solvents and glue dissolving potions. 

 I decided to hold the hooks on with rare earth magnets. So opted to whittle a hook from wood and put an strong magnet inside.

  The last of the metal, tape type hooks on the 
fridge beside my first wooden hook.


  Up close this hook is no beauty but I like the design enough to refine it and make three more. I wasn't sure that it would hold the oven mitt securely until I got it made and put to use.  I used a pretty big magnet in the body of the hook but it was still only a buck or so.  The whittling was done with a Bessey utility knife.  The knife is too heavy to be an everyday carry knife but it makes a great shop knife and one that I have used to shape, carve and whittle in my shop by the hour.

Bessey D-BKWH Quick-Change Folding Utility Knife - Wood Grain Handle

  I originally got this knife years ago to cut card board boxes apart at wood shows but soon promoted it to shop knife. I slash at boxes with something much cheaper and more nasty now.  If I working on a project like this from scrap wood I don't like to risk a good carving knife but I hate dull tools so this knife is the solution.

cheers, ianw

Now that's a knife!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday's blog talked about the Rockton World Fair. I have two pieces of wood working and they got second in their category.

4 by 6, relief carved painted bass wood.
 You can see a dark line in the upper left hand corner, that is a dark strike in the grain of the basswood.  A serious carver would have either discarded the piece of wood or used it for a design that was going to have a painted background. I will not enter a piece in competition with a flaw like that again, I'm sure it didn't help my chances with the judge.

3.5 by 8.5 on Baltic birch finished with varnish
  The pieces that came first in those categories were good, but also at least twice as large as mine. Next year I will enter larger pieces, on better wood and I hope pieces with improved technique. Both of these pieces are going to be lids for small boxes, so though imperfect they have a purpose. 


  The Thanksgiving Weekend is over, it is time now to think of Christmas gifts and decorations.  The twisted Christmas tree project by Steve Carmichael is a good looking project that can be folded flat for storage in the off season. 

  The only special tool you'll need to have to complete this project is dado blades for you table saw. A project like this with its many cuts warrants the time needed to set up your dado blades.  I also liked the sled that he made to improve his accuracy and safety (check at 3:17 in the video).  Since the dado he is cutting is 3/4 inch, there will be use for that sled/jig in the future too.

  If you get working on Christmas projects now, there will not be a rush to complete work in December when your schedule fills with family and holiday cheer.  Now if only I would practise what I preach.

cheers, ianw

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rockton World's Fair - 15 years of parking

  The annual fall fair at Rockton Ontario is in its over 150 years old and has been of interest to my wife's family since her children were in elementary school.  My roots at the fair don't go back as far but I still have 15 years experience volunteering with the parking committee.  I spend a couple of hours directing cars in the back parking lot on Friday evening and feel it is easy work in support of a good cause. (unless it rains, then I'm not so keen)

  As well as volunteering we enter our work in a variety of categories.  Mostly food related.  This year Eva gets the trophy for the most accumulated points in Food and I won the category for most points in bread.  I won a First and three Seconds, four loaves, four ribbons.  Next year I guess I need to enter all six sections.
   Also this year Eva entered stained glass Christmas ornaments, and won and I entered wood carving and came second. So the workshop and the kitchen got a workout for the fair.

  As you can tell this isn't realy about wood working, not this weekend, it is about the fair.  Actually I finished the repair on the sewing box and delivered it yesterday on my way to the fair. And since our grandchildren are due to arrive shortly I my have a repair to do on a toy or two but mostly it is not a workshop related weekend.

  A special shout out to two local companies that are regular supporters of the fair:
 Altra Rentals for their mobile lighting systems, the lights are a real boon in that back parking lot, and
Skyway Rentals, who supplied golf carts to be used as shuttles from the far corners of the Kerigan Parking lot to the admission gate.
thank you for the support.

 Ian W. fair associate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Victory Wood Products

While I was at the Woodstock Wood Show I met a young fellow that is doing some really nice wood working.  I have known Rich for a number years as a industrial mechanic in the London Ontario area but didn't know that he was also a fine wood worker.  Victory Wood Products is Rich's site and features some lovely musical instruments including: 

uke web
baritone ukulele
16/17 Hammered Dulcimer
hammer dulcimer 

as well as smaller projects.  Victory Wood Products will even make knobs  either 1/4-20 0r 3/8-16 with their CNC machine.

Five point knob in oak

It is good to encourage local craftsmen and to encourage the next generation of wood workers too.

  I picked to two tools for an upcoming project while at the Wood Show.  I added a KREG KMA 2675 Rip Cut to my bag of tricks.

Kreg KMA2675 Rip Cut Circular Saw Guide

Freud 7¼-ich Thin Kerf Finish 40T

  My initial impression is that this combination of jig, blade and my Makita saw  will enable me to break down plywood easier and with a much cleaner cut.  Once I get into Cajon drum box kit production I'll let you know how I feel about but quality and accuracy.

  The repair project

is coming along.  I have taken all the broken bits apart and glued most of them back together.  What remains is the re-attaching of the repaired handle, the original method was to attach the handle with nails and glue, I think my repair is going to use nice a brass screw and some glue.

  I have some wood burning projects to do as well as baking bread to compete in the local fall fair, these are just a couple of things I like to do that are keeping me out of the shop just now. There will be lots of time in the shop come winter, and winter is coming.

cheers, ianw 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Woodstock Wood Show & Beginning Thoughts about Setting Up Shop

  This past weekend I came out of retirement and stood in a booth at the Woodstock Wood Show.  Today I am not doing much of anything because I am very tired and sore.  I haven't stood without a break for 8 hours in a long long time and my legs weren't used to it.

 Setting aside the complaining about being old and tired I have to say, it was a good time.  The show has begun to improve and get interesting again.  There were some new things to see and work shop ideas to kick around.

 I worked in a booth featuring Laguna Band Saws. I really think they are the new generation of band saws and having one in your shop could change your method of work significantly.


   Another tool that I gave my attention was the track saw/plunge cut saw.
Makita SP6000x1 6-1/2'' Plunge Cut Circular Saw and 55 inch Rail

  I will have to think very hard about replacing my contractor's table saw when it's time comes.  I can see for a small shop a Plunge Cut Track saw replacing a small table saw.  With a good track saw and a couple of extra jigs one might not need a sliding mitre saw either.

  To eliminate a table saw and a mitre saw would require a re-think about method of work and benches vs. saw horses but I can see a way to do good work, in a small space with precision using a good band saw and a quality track saw that would not have been possible a just a few years ago. 

  As a foot note regarding the Woodstock Wood Show.  I have been going to wood shows for a very long time and worked booths in shows for at least ten years for various companies both large and small.  In years past there were many wood shows each winter, it got to be too many and then the quality began to fall.  Now I think there is only Woodstock and Hamilton that have real wood shows planned for this winter.  This year's Woodstock show showed strong improvement and appears to be interested in continuing to improve if yesterday's discussions with vendors in any indication.  I think the entire exercise was positive and I hope promises good things for the future.  I am looking forward to the Hamilton Wood Show in the new year.

  Tomorrow I should be rested enough to get into the shop and repair that sewing box and start something new.

  cheers, ianw.

p.s.- getting older is no fun, but it beats the alternative. 

Friday, October 3, 2014


Paddington Bear 

lives in our basement family room and has done so for years.  He arrived for a visit on Christmas when my Brother was small and stayed. Our Grandchildren currently use his chair but as they out grow it he will surely get it back.

  I have been working on a companion for Paddington as a surprise for the family room, now my brother's Man Cave, it has used up shop time but I couldn't share the progress at the risk of ruining the surprise.

  Yesterday I delivered the Bear.

  His job is going to be to hold a beverage glass while my Brother watches television in the evening.  Standing on his rock Bear is nearly three feet tall.

I began making Bear by cutting out the basic shape from a 2 x 9 inch poplar slab on my band saw

 The arms were cut out separately and attached with glue and long screws. That was a task requiring four hands, thanks Sweetie. You can see the right arm is just a bit lower than the left, if I do this again I will attach the arms before I do any shaping of the bear's body making the arms easier to align and clamp. I would also make the arms longer than needed and cut them down to be flush with the ears once they were attached. 

  With the tail there was no good way to lay the bear down to to extra shaping and sanding. I used files, rasps, and power tools to smooth the edges and give the bear a bit of shape. So, I would add the tail very last, even after the bear was glued to the rock.


I am pleased with the way the feet turned out, though I realize they probably don't look like real bear feet.  Cut me some slack, he isn't a real bear. To attached the bear to the rock base I used two part plumber's epoxy, I mixed up a pretty good sized lump, smeared in onto the stone, to try and create a flat surface and then clamped the bear's feet down for 24 hours.

  Ultimately the bear will be painted, have eyes either painted on or attached and I don't know if he will get clothes or not.  That part of the project is not my department.

  If you are thinking of this project here are three hints, from my experience.

 1.  Since it going to be painted away, use pine or spruce, they are softer and easier to shape than poplar.

2. Glue the arms onto the body before doing any shaping, it is easier to shape the shoulders than to fit arms to a shaped body.

3. Do all the body shaping before attaching the tail or the muzzle, it is easier to clamp flat stuff.

  If I could find a purpose I would make another bear quite happily.


*foot note:
  I stained the shoe shine box with the boiled down walnut stain.  It isn't any darker, the time spent boiling it down was time wasted.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Another Tote

 I sometimes get side tracked as I work on a project, I'll begin to wonder about history or tradition and when I work on a blog I wonder about words.

 On my bench at this moment is another tote box, and I have discovered that Wikipedia and I don't actually use the word in the same way. Now I wonder why I use the word tote to describe a box with a handle used to carry wood working or gardening tools, or other stuff.  I suppose that tote is quicker and easier than saying a 'wooden box with a handle for carrying miscellaneous stuff'.

 Recently I have made a couple of tote boxes for hauling or organising 'stuff' around our home.  I also made a bunch of 'carrier boxes' to go on the back of bicycles this summer. A they totes without handles? If there is no handle I guess it is just a box. 

the box is carefully designed to carry two Six Packs securely.
  A while ago I made a tote for myself and used it as a practise for cutting dovetails.

tote finished with natural walnut stain.
 These projects usually have a simple purpose and are really just boxes, of which I have made 100's.  At this time in my wood working life when I make these boxes I use them to explore or practise a technique, dovetails, or a different finish and so the tote moves from a quick cut and hammer project to something more. I have made a couple with carvings or cut out making the box ornamental as well as useful

  The current wooden box with a handle's simple purpose is to contain shoe polishing related stuff. 

   All these bits and pieces are shoe related.  The bags at the top of the photo are filled with laces, there is a bag of running shoe/boot laces, a bag of pairs of dress shoe laces and a bag of single laces, mostly heavy service type laces that tie up plants and things well.

  When I went to polish my shoes the other day I found a battered card board box and a cookie tie filled with this stuff, very randomly. The cookie tin had a couple of draw backs, first it was with out cookies, second it was round, round stuff does not make efficient use of shelf space. The discovery of the mess was  when I sorted and bagged the laces and decided that a shoe shine box was necessary for further peace of mind.


  The box is a nothing, a mere bagatelle, 1/2 plywood with butt joints hammered together with brads. The interesting part of the project is the handle.

  The handle is shaped from basswood and follows a design that I created using a French Curve.  I actually took longer to decide on and design the handle than it did to make the box.

  Basswood is a popular wood for carvers since it has almost no grain and is very easy to work with hand tools.  After I got the design cut out on my band saw and I went to work with shaping tools.

 This is a list of the tools used to shape the handle:

1. sand paper
2. needle files and rasps 
3. 4 in hand rasp/file

DISC Fein FMM 250Q Select Plus MultiMaster Oscillating Detail Sander Tool Kit 012817410

 Like so many people I came home from a wood show with a MultiMaster kit, amazed at all the things it could do. Then I put it on a shelf and didn't do much at all with it. When I decided to work on the handle I decided to learn what this tool could do for me.  To sand I turn the variable speed way down, the lower speed makes the sanding more manageable and the machine quieter. Once I got the dust collection connected, that involved a couple of adapters, it works very well too.  Having  taken the time to learn to use the tool it will be kept handy and become a 'go to' detail sander.

  The last part of the box will be the finish. The dovetail tote is stained with natural black walnut stain I made my self. The shoe shine box is going to be stained with natural walnut that has been boiled down and concentrated. 

Black Walnut nut and leave detail.JPG

 The basic stain is made by putting black walnuts in their green skin into a bucket of water and being left over winter to rot and leach out colour.  Next I peal the skins off the nuts and crush the pulp from the skins and let it sit some more. After a few more months I strain the lumpy bits out and filter the brown stained water through cheese cloth. I tried coffee filters but they clogged up.

  The dovetail box is stained with the straight brown stained water that was left.  This next box will be stained with concentrated stain, I boiled half the water away and now have a much darker stain with which to work. 

  I expect that staining the box will be a messy business and so have to put it off for a day or two while I go about in public trying to appear civilized. Yes, I know I could wear gloves, and I will, but that never seems to be enough. When I work with glue I get sticky, with paint-coloured, with stain-stained, it is just a gift I guess.

 I'll keep you posted.

cheers, ianw