Saturday, January 30, 2010

On a roll

Well all in all a good week. I did not do any work in the shop or an the other saw blades yet tonight, still deciding if I'm going to or not, but today did have some excitement from a woodworking standpoint. This afternoon the wife and I took the kids to see the Princess and the Frog at a second run theater in LaCrosse. On the way home I drove past a neon sandwich-board sign saying "Flea Market" and pointing to an old factory that has seen several varying stages of urban rejuvenation. Of course I was going looking for tools, and only one vendor really had any, but he had a bunch, all cleaned and sandblasted, ready to use. Thing of beauty really and I could have easily dropped fifty bucks no worries.

I found right away a nice saw set. Just the thing I needed to be able to start sharpening my own saws. After the vise and the rust removal, a set was the last absolutely necessary thing. But low and behold right next to it was a saw jointer for running a file square over the teeth and evening out the cut. Jointing is needed every time but a manufactured jointer is not required as a block of wood can hold the file square as well. But for only 3$ I couldn't turn it away.

One last thing I couldn't say no to was a nice spokeshave with a wooden body and a brass plate for the wood to ride on. So the reality is that I spent more this paycheck on tools than I have in a long time, all told a bit over thirty dollars. and that's quite a bit for us at this point in time, but never have I had such opportunities come all together like this. I mean a complete set up to sharpen handsaws for 30 bucks. Man, I feel pretty lucky over all. Time to stop looking and start working I guess

If I get some more rust off the saws tonight I'll probably update you, if not I'll post when something does happen

Goodnight all

Validation. . .

My wife picked me up after work tonight and said "We need to go get milk while we're out." OK . . . so off to Wally World we go. Somewhat to get milk, somewhat to just waste some time outside of the house without the kids in tow, just the two of us. Inevitably we always gravitate towards the books and magazines to hang out for just a bit and see what’s new. As always I walked over and checked out the woodworking mags, and was very disappointed tonight as the only two related ones on what looked like a recently restocked shelf was "Fine Homebuilding" and "Popular Woodworking"

Now I like Pop Wood, I would have to call it my favorite of all the magazines out there. I have perused the new edition a couple of times before, but there's not a whole lot in this edition that speaks to me and says "you must buy me you fool!!!!" I'm not talking against the quality, or the new layout, both are good. I just have to have at least one big article that screams to me before I buy a copy of a mag anymore. They just didn't have that this time, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to sneak a couple minutes of free reading if I can.

Tonight I read a great article in the very back of the mag. It was written by Christopher Schwarz about the influence of Norm Abrams on woodworkers today. If you haven't read it yourself, either buy the mag or steal a few minutes of time in your local Wal-Mart. It's one of the first great tributes to the good things Norm has accomplished in his years teaching via PBS.

Norm, the ultimate gateway drug to the crack cocaine that woodworking can be.
OK that might be a little strongly worded...
OK maybe more than a little.

Anyhow, through this article I received some personal justification that I might just be moving along the right path. I look up to both Mr Abrams and Mr Schwarz, and I respect both of their skills and through reading what they've written or said, I also can say I respect both of their philosophies and opinions. Chris's attitude on woodworking, and the way he can wrap the philosophy and unspoken meaning of the soul into the sweat of the work. . . well it makes it easy to buy into what he says, and I also think that he carries the integrity to shoulder that burden. Who knows what he'd say if he read this. . .

After the article finished reviewing the contributions and evolution of Norm, Chris began to talk about personal experience, saying the only plan he ever purchased from the New Yankee Workshop is the one for the Dominy Clock. He believes, as Norm obviously did, that this is a quintessential piece of American furniture, and he even has it in a place where he can see the plan every day, just to inspire him to await the day when he'll have the chance to construct his own version.

One thing we did have living in Maine was a DVR. I loved the thing, and I rather miss it. I had set it to record every New Yankee Workshop and Woodwrights Shop it could find. Most of the time after I lazed away on an early Sunday evening, catching up on what I'd missed earlier that weekend, I would delete the program, taking the lessons or information and logging it away in my brain. But I never did delete the Dominy Clock program, In fact the device went back to Time Warner with the program still lodged in the memory. I must have watched it 50 times if I watched it once. I have seen a lot of Norm over the years, but there was something about this project. I built a few small-scale models from cardboard to figure proportions, paused the program to scale the piece next to Norm's tall frame, judging distance by seeing how his hands stretched across the piece. I dissected every cut and move the program made.

We had decided to move. I had to start packing up the shop; I had of course begun to work on parts of the clock in-between other projects, wanting to take my time. Now it was down to crunch time. I could abandon the work I'd done and revisit it in the future, or I could kick myself in the ass and finish it. Start to finish I managed to build the clock in 3 days. No finish sanding, no finishing stain or protectant. Then warts and all it went into the moving truck. It's sitting here in the living room, awaiting its finish sanding, awaiting its quartz movement, awaiting the redoing of the lap boards on the back. Some putty for the nail holes, and the eventual rosemaling (I know a person who does a knockout job on it). Overall it was one of the most favorite things I have ever done and has actually inspired me more than most other pieces I have done.

I like to build chests and boxes. They are kind of my thing. Large joinery, dovetails, through tenons. I don't enjoy cabinet making as much, I'm not studied enough for chair making. I do like doing larger case pieces, but I also like details and careful proportions. In the clock, I think I might have found a perfect storm for my methods of work. Case joinery, dados, big pieces that make a statement but don't have to be the center of attention. Since building it I have thought a lot about how to refine it, expand on it, take what I've learned and create other clocks. I have looked into the market for tall case clocks to see if it’s possible to make a living today like the Dominy brothers did back in the day. I definitely think that if I ever become anything as a woodworker then tall case clocks will be a signature for me, like the Mastermyr Chest is already for those who know me.

The validating thing is for me to be having these thoughts for a while, triggered by Norm, and now validated by the writing of Chris. If you have been on the road for a long time and you cannot see your destination through the mountains in the way, it's good to hear someone who has walked the path let you know you're headed in the right direction. Even if on the vaguest level my thoughts are along the same line as these guys, then I may just turn out OK after all.

But then again, who is it that defines just what "OK" entails??  The world may never know...

Cheers all


Thursday, January 28, 2010

On to cleaning things up

Well this evening I had the opportunity to stay home, and I took it. I used some time to do a little cleaning. I opened the rust remover I bought and decided the fumes were not bad at all. It's entirely too cold to do anything down in the shop itself, so since it was relatively fumeless, the bottle said nothing about ventilation, I decided to lay a couple sheets of wax paper on the kitchen table, spread out a crappy old towel, and do some cleaning of some rust off the new, old saw vise. While I was at it I decided to bring up the hand saws I have to do some rust removal from them. Seems fitting as the saw vise will help me rehab them back to real life again. I started with what is probably the oldest tool I have. An old Disston & Son's saw, when I got it the blade was brown, deep brown, I thought of it as a "patina" for a while, then I got to reading things over at the Bad Axe Tool Works website. Changed my mind completely about "patina." and hey as long as I'm in the process of scrubbing rust, might as well make a party of it. Besides I wanted to test the effectiveness of the Rustoleum rust remover on a flat surface before struggling with the odd angles, nooks, and crannies of the vise.

And damn did it work. The blade is not completely clean, like it came off the assembly line, the vise is not spot free, but both are clean, and primed for the rest of action. A little sandpaper, polish and wax and the saw blade will be set. The handle needs a little more work yet, I haven't made up my mind much on what to do there yet, if I'm going to do more than clean it. The vise is cleaned and oiled and set for reassembly, once the weather turns and warms up enough to use some spray paint I will give the vise a good coating of black Rustoleum spray to protect it in the future. Again, maintaining the supposed monetary value of the tools I have by maintaining the crappy remaining Japanning is secondary to getting these tools up and in working order for another lifetime. They are worth more to me usable and protected than they are on a shelf looking cool.
 Anyhow enjoy the pics, the saw pics are really amazing the difference between before and after.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A day full of suprises.

Well sometimes you wake up in the morning and you don't know where the day is going to end up. Most of the time in my experience, where you end up is worse off if it's unexpected. I'll never have Ed McMahon knocking on my door offering me a million dollars, (come to think of it that would be especially out of the question these days, wouldn't it?)  Today wasn't a million dollars, not close to that by a long shot, but it was on the very positive end of the bell curve.

It started with a call from one of my former managers, I sent her an email several weeks ago asking her to let me know if there were going to be any openings in the near future. See I am an experienced Surgical Technologist when I am not making sawdust, but to skip a very long and tedious story, I find myself back in Wisconsin without a job in my field. Thus I have been answering customer service calls for Verizon Wireless for the past 4 months. It's killing me, slowly and painfully, but you have to do what you have to do. Right? Anyhow, I was woken up this mid morning by the call, my former manager called to tell me to apply. A huge weight off my shoulders. My wife is going back to school and not working right now, I'm making just over minimum at Verizon, back to a good paying position with decent benefits at a job I'm good at. . . . to say this is a good feeling doesn't really do it justice.  Actually it feels pretty surreal after all the worry and stress.

Now that makes for a pretty good day by itself, but if it didn't somehow involve woodworking I wouldn't be flapping my lips about it here. Today's my day off, usually my wife takes the car to school and I stay home and beat around the shop, but I had to go into LaCrosse to buy some supplies for the next project (more on that in the future) So after the call we got up and decided to go get some breakfast to celebrate. We finished eating with about an hour to spare, so we drove over to the antique mall a few blocks away. Three floors of antique anything... you gotta love it. Two weeks ago I found a nice rosewood tri-square there in good shape and still at a true right angle for 10$. But two weeks ago we only had the time to look at the first and second floors of the mall, we skipped the basement. We purposely went down to the basement to pick up where we left off.

On a shelf in the back corner of the cinderbrick walls, not buried or hidden, but sitting calmly with a bunch of fellow tools, was a great old saw vise, sticker of 15$ on it. I swooped in and grabbed that baby and did not put it down. Found one just like it tonight on eBay asking 9.99 + 10 S&H, no bids were placed yet and that would, ofcourse, drive the price up. I don't have a name of manufacturer yet, all I can make out stamped into the steel now is "No. 3" It will take me some more research to find it's maker. Now this puppy has a lot of caked on rusting and will need a good amount of cleaning and scrubbing to clean it up, but all the articulations work, the vise clamps tight and even, the thumb screw works smooth to clamp it to the bench. let me just put up some pictures here of this thing for a bit.

Now it will take some time and effort to get this baby cleaned up and working like a champ, but the whole thing is funny. I have been feeling like hell lately, but to get an opportunity to go back to work doing something I like, and to find a good priced saw vise, on a day I have money, and at the same time I'm working on cleaning up and getting my saws in order... man I tell you what, I cannot sit back and tell myself that this is all chance and circumstance. Like the vice that's going to take some elbow grease to clean up, something or someone is telling me that everything is going to be fine if I keep working at it.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Nice Pair

Two more saw handles done today! and that would finish the ones I plan to refurbish, I took the handle off my crappy "Jack" dovetail saw that never seemed to work. I think now that the real issue was the handle itself. The Handle was offset from central with a spring button that would let it switch from Left handed to Right handed and back. This versatility seemed like a great idea to my untrained eye. This was literally one of the first woodworking tools I purchased for myself to help me cut some half laps on my first ever project, a simple frame to act as a canopy over our pencil post bed. I always hated it. Today with a new handle I was able to actually bring some pressure to bear on the handle and amazingly . . . the saw cut just like it should. So now I have decided to delay some of my plans to re-tooth the saw to be more aggressive. Cut a few practice dovetail pins into some of the scrap poplar and it worked pretty nice.

The saw turned out great, the rivets worked much better for me this time. One simple thing seemed to help but I didn't think about it the first time when I was working with the open handle. Too excited and in a hurry to see the work complete I guess. This time I had the where with all to counter sink the holes the heads of the rivets fell into. Worked like a charm! the saw looks and cuts good. I'm proud of this one.

I finished up the "D" handle pretty quick, so I took the time to cut and fit a new handle on the flexible flush cut saw. This time I followed no pattern, I simply cut out a something I thought would work well and shaped it further with rasp, card scraper and sand paper. fits the hand like a glove and cuts pretty well. One of the rivets didn't sink down so nice on this handle and so it's got a little rock in it.and that may cause it to fail in the future, but when that happens, I'll replace it again.

Now just because I'm done replacing these handle does not mean I'm done with saws. My next day off is Tuesday, and I plan to use that day to work on creating a bow saw. After that may come a frame saw. I do have some ideas about creating some planes from scratch as well, we'll see how that develops in my mind as I drive forward here.

Anyhow enjoy the pics. . . and I will be posting again soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A finish to one...

Finished off the open handle this morning with a coat of Danish Oil, I have to say I feel really lucky that the JB Weld I decided to use worked great for filling the crack in the wood and strengthening it. Took it  for some test cuts last night and even pushed the pressure on the saw greater than I normally would have to, and the repair held up great. Man is this thing even nicer to cut with than before.

It gets me excited to get the other handle onto the Dovetail  blade I have, But that will require retoothing the blade first, I will have to do some research on that before I start. Anyhow just wanted to drop off the pics here and the note. Probably work more on the other saw this Saturday and you'll see updates then.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you gotta wait and see...

Well I finished the day with a saw sporting a nice wooden handle. . . We'll see how long it lasts. . . but I learned quite a bit anyhow and if I have to replace it. . . well I won't be able to make it such a production the next time will I?
To start this post though, I did finish shaping the Disston "D" handle, complete with the little detail that makes the bottom of the handle look like it's wrapping around and rejoining the wood. That being done, I decided to move forward on joining the sawblade to the open handle. First was taking the old handle off. Not difficult as the handle was designed to remove. Then I lined up and cut the end of it square. The saw will never fit on it's old handle again, that begs the question of what can I do with the old handle???  maybe something will come to mind in the future... got any ideas feel free to comment them.

Used a pair of aviation snips to cut the blade square, then I filed the cut smooth. The black curved line is where I intended the handle to end up. I then clamped the new handle into the vice and using the thinnest kerf saw I own. cut through the head of the new handle to the right depth, about even with the flare on the top. (You'll understand when you see the pieces fit together further down) I then test fit the saw together. and here is where I made what may, or may not turn out to be the fatal flaw... (builds the suspense)
Damn the saw looked great, I could just about feel how well it was going to work, even better than the crap plastic handle that was there before. I was eager to join the pieces together, maybe too eager. I did not have any of the flat head, split nut bolts, that saws traditionally use, lying around. What I did have was some wide head copper rivets. I decided I would drill the holes in the handle and blade to accept the copper rivets and get the saw together tonight.

Now is where I should mention that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert in riveting. I have them for some leather working I have done and an antler hair comb I made once as an experiment. What I wasn't thinking of when I decided to use them was that the underside of the rivet heads have a slight cone shape to them... I can hear that some of you are already figuring out what happened.

I drilled the holes in the handle and the sawblade... I have to admit I abandoned the hand tool frenzy for this part. Relying instead on the trusty cordless drill and an 11/64th drill bit. I then used a 1/2inch forstner to recess the holes to allow the rivets to have room to peen over.

As I was peaning the end of the rivet around the burr, I was also driving the cone on the backside of the head into the wood, effectively driving a wedge into the grain, and causing it to split. Not a bunch and not completely, but enough to weaken the saw while it takes the pressure of cutting. If I did nothing to help, it wouldn't last long and I would be starting from square one again. Not that I might not anyhow, and learning what I have I won't make similar mistakes again,

But what to do this time around, again I had to dip into my not so period stash of tricks, modern wood glue would not be enough, not strong enough. But I always keep some JB Weld in the tool box. It works great for making jigs or repair, the stuff is damn near indestructible. I even used it to repair a crack in a radiator once. So I broke it out, pushed as much as I could get into the crack and placed a clap to seal the crack in place. Only time will tell how well it holds up, but I guess I felt like I had to give the repair a shot. I'll let it dry a day or so, then give it another test go and see if it will hold.

If not I really don't see how I'm out much. I can make another handle, and I'll be able to be more careful about attaching the blade from here on. The awesome thing is both how the saw looks and how it handles compared to the handle it had before. So today being my last day off until Saturday. I will see how much I can accomplish but as always I will continue to update mywork here.

This will be a good day!

Well, today shall prove to be a good day, the weather is pretty mild for Wisconsin this time of year, hovering around the 20 degree mark, and so it's fairly tolerable within the shop. was able to take the handles that I roughed out last night and start to form them into something comfortable and ergonomic. I got an early start even, :)  that's around 11 am here :) and within about an hour and a half I had the open handle done. I longed to straighten the edges by using a belt sander. but there is always set up time when dealing with a piece like this. I opted to stick with the path I already set last night and keep to the hand tools.

I used a large woodwrights rasp, and a couple of smaller profile rasps I picked up a few years ago, to even out the areas where the coping saw did not cut square, Which was actually quite a bit. . . nothing more than a few degrees of tip and I wonder if this is the nature of the tool a bit, or if it's more my technique. I guess we'll see over time but at the moment I'm gonna call it fifty-fifty. Christopher Schwartz over at popular woodworking magazine has been beating on coping saws in his recent blogs and I'm afraid my coping saws are guilty of the same faults he was finding unsatisfactory in his, mostly not being able to place enough tension on the blade to keep it directly in line, they all seem to waiver. For now my take is that's how it's gonna be . . . and sometimes you've just gotta play the course, sand traps, water hazards and all. I'm confident things will improve over time, could be things like a bandsaw have just spoiled me a wee bit. (naw, not possible!)

After rasping everything to rough shapes and curves like I wanted,, I then smoothed over the work with a card scraper and some sandpaper for areas difficult to work the scraper in. One of those small profile rasps has a smoothing file side to it and that worked awesome to sharpen up some of the valleys between curves.

Anyways, today is just a matter of settling in and doing the work, the open handle is done with shaping, ready for the kerf cut to accept the saw and the irvets to hold the sawblade in place. The "D" handle is in the vice right now. I touched on it a bit before deciding to take a break, come inside, eat lunch, warm up, and knock out a post of the progress. Just to finish out a couple "action" pics of me working away, I really like the one using the card scraper, it's neat to see the reflection bounce off the scraper and get captured by the camera.

I will probably post more later today, until then . . .

Monday, January 18, 2010

We can rebuild it . . . we have the technology!

I have began the process of rebuilding the hand saws in my shop, replacing the crap plastic handles with wooden ones. The process did not begin so smoothly though, it started with a few fits and at least one loud outburst of cursing. The only good size power tool I retained when moving into the new shop was my bench top bandsaw. I had my wider 1/2 inch blade in there for re-sawing some pine for a few Christmas projects, and I wanted to change it to the 1/8 inch blade to do the tight corner cutting the handle templates required. Today the bandsaw and I just could not get along, getting the blade aligned on the tires and tensioned...well it only lead to the swearing I alluded to earlier. After a breath, I rethought my process; really my recent reasoning has been to try and do more hand tool work, but as long as I let it, the bandsaw was going to let me continue the power tool habits I've developed. I pushed the saw to the back corner of the bench top and reached for the coping saw.

I started by tracing the patterns onto the poplar board. Why poplar??? Because it is the only hard wood board of enough width in the shop... so use what you've got I guess. We'll see how it holds up and if it fails then we'll consider this a test run. You can see from the changing pencil lines in the pic that I took the original templates and modified them a bit to fit the size of my meat hook hands. I chopped off the larger blank chunks in the board with the backsaw, split between the two handle blanks with the coping saw and then systematically went to work working the shapes from the blanks. One based on an open handle Lie Nielsen dovetail saw and a the other based on a early 1900's Henry Disston & Sons "D" handle tenon saw. Thank god for the internet that helped me find several usable templates

To cut out the opening in the "D" handle, I clamped the piece to the bench and pulled out the brace and bits to keep with the hand tool mojo. The you disassemble the coping saw, string the blade through the drilled hole and reassemble the saw. That was it for the evening. I decided to stop there with the blanks and continue to work on the shaping and setting tomorrow.

In the end the bandsaw did turn out to be some help. It worked great to set both pieces on to catch the final pic.