Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shaving and Racing

Sometimes things move along much faster than you expected. Today in the shop I took care of what has been one of the most intimidating things I have had to do. Along with many other hand tools, I inherited 2 planes from my wife's grandfather when he passed. a #5 jack plane and a #4 smoother. The Jack plane is a Stanly / Bailey plane, very nice, but it has never worked for me. Early on I did not have the know how, and later on I was just a little scared to take the thing apart and get it to work. That little self doubt voice that rings loudest in the back of your head was holding me down. I have read everything I can find about hand planes, "The Handplane Book" by Garret Hack is on top of that list, also many articles written in woodworking magazines, most by Christopher Shwarz.

Usually I can figure something out by reading about it. I do it all the time, but hand planes still were kind of a mystery. the #5 never worked, the #4 worked intermittently, depending on the grain of the wood, time of day, weather in Lima, and migratory patterns of monarch butterflies. What it took was to get over myself and pull these guys apart, now I get it, pulling them apart told me all the rest I needed to put the pieces in place and tell me how to use them. Kind of funny really.

I thought these guys would need some serious work to get the running. Pulled the all the way apart, cleaned out all the gathered crap in the nooks and crannies. (including old spider egg bundles, one in each plane tucked between the blade and the frog) scrubbed the rust off things, oiled all the screws and adjusters, and flattened and sharpened the blades. Ta Da!!! It's amazing how well they work. I figured out how to dial in the thickness of shavings and got things set just right and it took a whole lot less work than I imagined.

Two planes down, several more to go but that wasn't the whole day in the shop for me. I also got to spend a few hours with my nephew Bailey. He's a boy scout and pine wood derby season is on the way. The uncle with all the woodworking tools is back in town and how can you say no to spending a little time making saw dust with the kid. He started with a bunch of energy, but after we got to doing some hands on, he really showed a lot of patience and ability. I'm gonna look forward to more projects with him.



Friday, February 26, 2010

Twin Terrors, and Chapter Endings

Well tonight I finished up a chapter in my hand tools saga. I have finished the pair of bow saws, one wide and one narrow. I realized I just posted a list a few days ago that contained one more saw, but with some thinking after my experiences tonight I have decided to shelve the frame saw plan for a while. After doing some work with the band saw blade I used for the narrow bow saw and planned to use for the frame saw, I am not sure that I can build a frame that can take the pressure required to hold the tension to keep the blade straight. I believe I will have to think about the project for a while longer. But there is no need to hold up progress while I think about it. I'll forge ahead and start work on the next chapter while I think, the next chapter is refurbishing my hand planes.

But on to the twin terrors. Tonight was their night to be finished. I started by finishing shaping the last piece. One more toggle that I shaped with the draw knife and placed a groove with a small rasp. Then I assembled the saws by dry fitting the tenons and pinning them with a finishing nail that will hold them together and yet also act as a pivot point, allowing some play in the joint to better place tension on the blade. The nails are of course thicker than the board, so after they were driven through and flush on one side, I flipped the saw over, cut the nail as short as possible with a pair of aviation snips, and peened over the other side kind of like a rivet.

Then I placed the blades, pinning the broad blade with a couple of the screw rivets I had extra from the dado saw project. The narrow blade was pinned with the same finish nail technique I used to pin the tenons.Then I ties the string, some masonry string I had around, then I placed the toggle and twisted them up until they creeked.

I still have 2 saws to sharpen yet, and I think the broad blade bow saw could use a touch up to get it to cut better, but over all I am finished with saws for a little while. It has been fun and very educational, but I feel ready to move on to the next thing. So with that said there are two things to start on the docket tomorrow. One will be beginning the work on tuning up my hand planes, and the other will be working with my nephew Bailey to create his boy scouts pine wood derby car. Probably the scariest project I have undertake in a long time as I have never made one of these before in my life and he knows my shop, I think he has high expectations, I only hope I live up to them. Like my work with my girls on their self designed projects, I will make him do the majority of the work. The hands on is good for kids. Actually I'm kinda looking forward to tomorrow. Forcasting a good day and you'll hear about it here.



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Further On up the Road . . .

" . . . Some body will hurt you like you hurt me"  OK so I'm not Clapton but it's a great song and it comes to mind as I think about the current project in the shop. For those of you who are newer to reading here, I will catch you up.

Due to the increased focus on hand tools in the Wood Shop Jr. and the need to increase my collection of usable hand tool solutions to help facilitate my Medieval Reenactment hobby, and due to a serious restriction on monetary funds, I decided to go "old school" on my tools. Craftsmen of the day may or may not be able to buy their own tools, but they worked hard to be self sufficient, purchase the steel of the tool from the local blacksmith and fashion the wooden parts on their own. I decided I had to carry on in this tradition. I will briefly list the agenda I decided to follow.

1. Saws: upgrade, sharpen, re-handle and build from scratch all the saws I need. This includes replacing handles on the three bench saws I use (done) Sharpening and reshaping the teeth on the 4 full size saws I inherited (2 down, 2 to go) make from scratch a dado saw (done) wide blade and narrow blade bow saw (almost done) and a frame saw (next on the agenda)

2. Planes: Sharpen, and tune up the planes I own, including my #4 Smoother, #5 Jack, #78 rabit, 2 wooden joiners, and a round bottom Japanese plane. My mini plane and the p.o.s. low angle block plane I have. (my Father in Law has a nicer quality low angle block plane that is coated, I mean coated in rust, I may try to talk him out of it and see if I can refurbish it as well.

3. Chisels: I have several bench chisels I like a lot but they have crappy plastic handles on them, I plan to fix that issue, I will also reshape and resharpen and replace the handles on the cheep hand carving tools I own as well.

4. Clamps: I need to make some simple mostly wood clamps that would be plausible historical usage.

5. Brace and Bits: I want to make an older version of a brace and get bits that will fit into it, preferably spoon bits.

6. generally replace handles and get the kit together

7. build a joiners tool chest and a small joiners style workbench that will break down to travel to faires and festivals.

I know there's other things in here that I've missed and forgotten, but whatever. Anyhow, tonight I moved on a bit to finishing the saw section of the project, I am 75% done with the bow saws, one more piece to shape after this evening. Here's a few pics of the work I accomplished tonight. after I got the mortise and tenons all cut and finished.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Batting 1000

You just gotta love Saturdays. Now Sundays are pretty nice too . . . but there's always that cloud of Monday hanging over it. Earlier today the family and I headed over to Barnes and Nobles, and low and behold they got in a new selection of woodworking books. Nice. Took the time to page through the "Using Hand Tools" book by the Popular Woodworking Magazine group and was impressed, but I have more than half the articles already in the mags I've collected so there was no point in buying it today, but I did have some hard earned tax return money to spend so I splurged and bought 2 new books. I only get to do that once or twice a year.

One I had been looking at for a long time and finally pulled the trigger on was "Building 18th Century American Furniture" by Glen Huey. A very comprehensive and well done work with a step by step walk through of every process. A direction I wanted to go in . . . need to go in to grow more, as a woodworker. I've spent almost ten years playing around and doing just what I need to do, picking projects by need, by request, or by random decision based on what wood I have available to me. It's time for me to grow and studying the height of custom furniture in it's heyday of the 18th century. This book is a good roadmap to go farther down the path.

The other choice I made was "Turning Wood" by Richard Raffan. This goes along with my only other significant purchase with the tax return money. The local Menards had a clearance sale on their full size Tool Shop lathes. I had been thinking about picking up a mini lathe but to get a full size for less than 120 dollars, too good to pass up. I know Tool Shop brand is a pretty cheep brand, but that's pretty much my MO when it comes to buying full size tools. I start out cheep and small, learn my lessons and take my lumps. Then when it's time . . . I upgrade to a fuller size, grown up model, and man do things go smooth after that. Besides, I have had a Tool Shop drill press for many years and it has always performed well for me. I have played with a lathe for a while, an extremely cobbled version I inherited from my wife's Grandpa, and I enjoyed it, but really all it was doing was playing. In the vein of learning and expanding comes this book. It seemed from the quick, at the store, look through to be a good book that covered things from the basics through the more interesting stuff. Hopefully a good book to start from and work from.

Then, later this afternoon, I got to spend some time in the shop to boot. I finished the stair saw by drilling the holes in the handle and in the blade. Broke three drill bits drilling into the saw steel but that is a combination of them being older, probably dull bits, and doing the drilling with a cordless drill and not in a drill press. Oh well. In the end the job got done, and the blade was mounted and set to a 3/8 inch depth, a couple test cuts and the saw worked like a dream. The poplar board I had has some black and purple staining on it. Some poplar does this. . . I guess I'm not sure why some develop this, must be something in the environment where they grow. But the staining really came through with a layer of danish oil, and I think it looks very interesting. I'm very happy with this piece and inspired to forge ahead.

So I started work on the smaller bow saw I also planned to build, I started using some of the mystery hardwood I used to make the handle of the flush cut saw. "I'm really not sure what the hell this stuff is, I found the board in the garage of a house we rented a few years ago and I've carried it around for a few years just because. Anyway, I ripped out a couple of lengths for the 2 end pieces and one for the center stretcher. I hand cut the mortises and tenons to join them together. This is the first time I have completely cut a mortise by hand, and I have to say a pretty satisfying experience. I do see people that do it quite a bit use a gooseneck chisel to help clear chips. . . I'm thinking I may have to look for a few on e-bay. The joint did turn out a bit sloppy, but I don't really mind this, because a bow saw needs some flex in it at these joints, so in the end, good learning experience and something I will have to do more of.

One last note before I go tonight, This little blog experiment has now hit 1000 hits. Considering I started this blog as an experiment mostly for my own self gratification less than a year ago (That's right started June 15th) that is incredible to me. I want to thank everyone who has come to read my little foray into the unknown. hitting 1000 feels pretty humbling and inspiring at the same time.

Thank you all, and as always Cheers


God I Hate Trailer Homes

I know that hate is supposed to be strong language but what I stated in the title is pretty close to true. They are all made cheep and crappy. My in-laws live in a trailer home, a pretty nice one too, but one of the kitchen cabinets has been slowly pulling away from the wall under the weight of the dishes inside. So today I took the Oldwolf Workshop Show on the road, packed a small bag of tools, stopped and bought some s4s oak boards, (a 2x2 and a 1/2 x 4) and I built some quick supports to help distribute the weight of the cabinets into the counter top underneath. Doing this raised the cabinets back up to level, a big deal as the corner had dropped as much as an inch lower than square. I knew I had it right when all the doors leveled out again and looked right.

This was not fine carpentry by a long stretch, but it did fit the bill. It's been a while since I worked with oak... reminds me how hard the stuff it compared to the pine and poplar I work with most of the time.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stair Saw to Heaven

Heaven can be a warm woodshop in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. Today I used a little of the tax return money to splurge and buy myself a small space heater for the Wood Shop Jr. After a few hours, I was even able to shed the insulated flannel and work in a T-shirt and shop apron. Sweet!

Further progress on the stair saw or dado saw. Again, thank you to the Norse Woodsmith Blog for turning me on to this saw. The interesting step to me was cutting the teeth of the saw from scratch, Of course I had no true idea how to start this, and thus experimentation ensued. First, I clamped the five inch stretch of saw blade steel into the saw vise, (a section of steel pillaged from the carcass of a cheep box store backsaw) I started by just trying to drag the triangle file across the edge, but I found it difficult to keep the file in a straight line and gain any progress. I gave up quick because I did not want to wear down one section disproportionally.There was better ways to do this than to eat up a whole file.
 I knew I needed to create a way to get a solid purchase in the steel to keep the file from jumping around and give it a chance to cut the teeth. Into one of the toolboxes, I go digging . . . up I come with a hacksaw. Did I mention I hate hacksaws? They have a particular way of taking all the possible forward moving human exertion required to create a cut, transferring it into a series of nonsensical, side-to-side gyrations that would not provide a consistent cut into pudding. Can you guess that it didn’t work… I knew you could.

I knew there had to be an easier way to do this, and I knew it was sitting right there on the bench, staring at me like the wiggly eyed pile of money that works for a living in those Geico adds. The angle grinder I used to rive a once complete saw blade into the sections needed to make a wide blade bow saw and this stair saw. Well, I figured, what the hell have I got to lose? Plugged it in, fired it up, and cut a series of “U” shaped  groves, maybe little more than 1/16th of an inch deep. In a matter of a minute, there was sweet satisfaction. Then I went to work with the file again, reshaping the U shapes into satisfying saw V’s with a 20* rake and fleam.

From there I went to work on the handle, actually, I went to work twice. The first attempt just didn’t work. While attempting to saw away some of the larger sections of waste I miss-cut and left a space about ¾ inch between the down cut and the side cut. Not feeling intelligent at that moment in time, I chose to try and grab a chisel and chop through the space. All I did was wedge it and create a crack that ran across the front push knob and split the section free. Still feeling stupid I decided to try and repair the mess by drilling for a couple of dowels and trying a glue up, of course it didn’t work. I thought for a few seconds, decided to set my frugality to one side, and re-cut a new section of poplar for a new blank.

The grain on the next section was much better anyhow, I was much happier. I traced out the pattern that I printed off the web and modified to my grip, using the open grip saw handle I finished a few weeks ago as a judge for my hand. Then I went to work with the coping saw. After the shape was released from the wood, I spent the next few hours shaping it with a series of rasps, scrapers, and some sandpaper. I have to say that work was very satisfying, different from the majority of work you do as a general woodwright.

After cutting the saw kerf to accept the new saw blade I called it a night, I don’t have any more rivets right now to set the blade tonight, and I’m thinking of finding an alternative to the permanent rivets for a few reasons. First, the rivets were never the perfect answer; I managed to crack 2 out of 3 handles, no significant problems or worries, but not an outcome I want to repeat. Especially, after my first escapade with this handle tonight. Second, I am not sure of the depth I have chosen with this blade. Most of the time I will be cutting dado’s 3/8 inch deep, so setting the blade at that depth was tempting, But I didn’t want to take away the ability to cut deeper. Right now, the depth I stopped at leaves just a bit more than a 1/2 inch of blade exposed, I can see the possibility of setting two depths, one at 3/8 and one deeper, and being able to adjust between them by resetting the saw nuts. That way I can bottom out the saw and know I have the same depth on both sides of a dado. I really like this idea, makes me think if there is a design possible to make a sliding dovetail saw . . . hmmmm . . . I’ll have to think a while on that one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just some pics from today.

A little time retoothing and sharpening an old saw back into a rip saw.

And disecting a miter saw to make parts for the bow saw and stair saw. coming in the future.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Energy and Revelations

I have been really energized about woodworking lately. I have always loved it and it has always been a passion for me, but lately I have been more engrossed than usual. Before, I could go a month without doing anything significant in the shop maybe a bit longer. One of the first projects I tackled was to rebuild a hutch that my wife's Grandpa had built and the bottom half was ruined when the basement of their house flooded. Now I was just learning then and I had to methodically think my way through every move, but it took me the better part of a year to finish it, and a lot of that was just due to time spent outside of the shop. Now I have gotten better and faster over the last 8+ years, but anyway.

I think I can attribute my increased vigor here to a few things. The first is the recent deal my wife and I made. I have been pushing for her to go back to school for a long time, not pushing hard mind you, just nudging. I have gone back to school a couple of different times and I am the better for it and I wanted her to have the same feeling. She was never sure what to go back for, and I never could really suggest anything because I wanted the decision to come from her not feel pressured or influenced by me. Honestly she would be great at a million things, but I'm biased I suppose. She did finally decide to go for a nursing degree. The deal is after she graduates and settles into a job,  then I get to go part time to quarter time at my job, and make the effort to go full time doing custom furniture building. I get to try to turn a hobby and a passion into a career!!

With that goal in sight, of course I'm even more inspired now to learn to do all those things I haven't taken the time to do yet. Build pieces with cabriole legs to help master that form, do more turning, refine some techniques and of course learn more and more so I can do things better and better. I know the learning will never stop along the way, but I feel like I have to work just as hard in the self directed classroom of my shop as my wife has to work at the college. That spark is inspiring, and this blog is part of that, it's kind of like my exams along the way, throwing what I've done and what I'm thinking out into the void for judgment by any and all who care to read. Keeping up on the blog is inspiring itself because I have to keep doing and thinking things to have something to say.

This search for information and learning, and the evolution of this blog experiment, lead me to another discovery. The Google Reader. Call me ignorant but up until 3 - 4 months ago I had no real idea this tool existed, and I think I may have fallen in love all over again. Now I'm inspired, I'm hooked in with the a whole woodworking community out there. All of us offering our own take on how to do things in the shop, how to design things to build, and what our own philosophies and methods of work are. As you will see to the right of the screen (and we're walking . . . and we're walking . . .and stop) I follow every woodworker's blog I have found to date (If I don't have yours drop me a line and I'll be happy to add it) and I am always finding more and adding them to the reader. Instead of checking the news and the sports scores anymore, I get up in the morning, fire up the computer, see what's on the reader, and that inspires me everyday.

Speaking of inspiration and education, I want to use a few more lines to talk about the blogs that have provided those things to me recently. They are not exclusive, I get a little something from everything I read, but I can speak to specific things I found at each blog recently that have stuck in my brain and won't dislodge. The first inspiration, coming from the Norse Woodsmith Blog, there is a lot of information here about making your own tools, and if you've read anything y me here recently you'll know I'm going down a similar journey right now and I was going through his sight the other night and looking at his saw projects and I came across a saw I hadn't heard of before called a stair saw, I'm going to place as picture from his website here to demonstrate, I hope he doesn't mind. The saw is used to help cut dados in stair stringers to accept the steps. Well this is close to how I like to cut my dados anyhow, by running the wood crosscut through the tablesaw and chiseling out the center. I'm going to have some remaining saw blade steel left after making my planned frame saws and I wasn't sure what I was going to with that. Now I know what I will do with some of it,

And while I am writing this I cannot find the other reference I'm looking for to be sure, but I my memory tells me it was at Peter Follansbee's blog where I gained my education. I read about a chisel like tool called a "slick" a wide bladed paring chisel with a very long handle to it, not used for chopping but for smoothing. Well that little bit of information stuck in my mind an last night I was on the Jim Bode Tools website and I found a category for slicks. As I was looking at one of the ones for sale it dawned on me that I have one of those, I just didn't know what the hell it was! My wife's father gave me a box of old tools a few years ago that he had kept from his father. (This would be the opposite grandpa of the one I spoke about before in this article and others) In the box was a couple of wooden joiner planes, a couple gouges and several chisels. Some were very wide. This fall I set about restoring some of the chisels, regrinding them and sharpening them to a useable condition, but there was one wide chisel I did not touch. It was broad but thin, too thin I decided to handle any decent chopping duties. I remover the rust and set it off out of the way in a tool drawer. Now the pictures at Jim Bode's site made me think of that chisel and the thinness of the blade made me think of the parring chisel properties of the slick.

I went down this morning and dug it out and sure enough. I own a slick, now I just have to decide what angle is best to sharpen it at and decide if I want to replace the handle with a longer one to restore the tool to it's intended glory.



Saturday, February 6, 2010

The adventure never stops!!

Well . . . sometimes the adventure is just inside one's own mind.

Today I did do quite a bit of work in the shop, honest I did, but you wouldn't really know it by seeing what I had to show for it by the end of the day. The project for today was to get further along down the path towards teaching myself to sharpen handsaws, and by the end of the day I had accomplished what I set out to do, not everything I set out to do, I'm not done with the four saws yet, but I did finish one of them and get myself set up with everything that getting started encompasses.

First I spent the morning re-reading and going over all my sources and notes about the job before me. It really can be a relatively simple process, once you understand it, but to get there you have to dissect down the geometry of the saw teeth and the relationship  between the shape of the teeth, and the work you expect them to do. I'm not going to try to re-teach the concepts of rake and fleam here. That has already been done much better than I could dream of doing it. I'm going to just try to give two quick and simple definitions here so as I talk about the choices I've made, those who have yet to learn will not feel like they are trying to learn to speak Swahili on the go.

Rake is the angle of the saw tooth in relation to it's axis along the length of the blade. I know, I know, what? No worries. A picture and a thousand words and all that . . .

Fleam is the angle is the angle of the cutting edge of the blade's tooth, again something I think much more easily illustrated than explained in words

I have read a a ton of stuff on this trying to prep myself for what I felt was an intimidating task. Of course like everything else, for every person who writes about the task, there is a different opinion about how the task should be carried out. Of course a rip saw has a different rake and fleam from a cross cut saw, but the variations different experts place on those themes meant I had to put some real thought into my plan of attack to decide what seemed reasonable and right to me. As I researched and prepped, it dawned on me that nobody I was reading was wrong, They all had to be right, it was just that there was just more than one way to skin this cat. The realization that a good, sharp saw that would cut smooth and fast, could result from a multitude of different techniques was an small epiphany. This took some of the pressure off me, now I didn't have to worry about recreating an exact science. I just had to be careful and consistent with what I chose to do.

Bear with me a second while I give a shout out and a big THANK YOU to the great sources that I used the most to get started. First, and maybe most, I referred to my well thumbed copy of The Complete Sharpening Guide by Leonard Lee (of Lee Valley Tools) all the basics were here for me in this great book that set me on the path to specifics I found later. This inspiration is closely followed by a very instructional podcast done by Bob Rozaieski at the Logan Cabinet Shoppe web blog. His video focusing on sharpening a handsaw, was simple, straight forward and seeing it done gave me the courage to move forward. I also read and re-read all the tips and tricks given by Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works, There was also a great article in an old issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (Oct 2005) called "The Secrets to Sawing Fast" by Arts and Mysteries writer Adam Cherubini. The final big help was a web article called "Saw Filing - A Beginner's Primer" over at

One of the ideas I read that interested me was what guys like Mr. Harrell and Mr. Cherubini were using when they sharpened their own saws. They both use variable rakes along the length of the saws, this gives them different cutting features depending on which part of the blade is in contact with the wood. For example a more aggressive angle of cut in the center for the blade for speeding the attack on the wood vs. a more relazed angle at the toe for starting the cut. I really like this concept because the ability to easily achieve this variation to speed and help your work places a whole new justification for the sharpening process and would seem to increase the enjoyment and satisfation in actually using these saws to make sawdust. Here was a very good reason why you would really want to learn to do this. (Other than the other obvious benefits of getting to use a sharp saw) For hybrid woodworkers like myself, the ease of use adds to the sweetness of using a handsaw and will probably lead to my continuing use of these four brothers once I can get a shop that will allow room for my tablesaw again.

After taking a ton of notes and weighing all my options I came to a decision about how I would proceed. With my crosscut saws I would divide the length of the blade into quarters, I'll sharpen the quarter at the toe and heel of the blade at a 20* rake with a 20* fleam and the center half of the blade at a 15* rake and 20* fleam. This should give a smooth starting saw with a more aggressive center. The 20* fleam is not a super aggressive angle but I understand it will allow for a smoother finish on the edges of the board.

For rip saws I will start with a 20* aggressive rake for the first quarter at the toe, follow with a 12* rake through the center half and a smoother 5* rake at the heel quarter. Rip saws traditionally have a 0* fleam, but after reading I decided to add a slight 4*-5* fleam to help if the saw is cutting at an angle, or coming across a difficult grain pattern in the wood.

You sharpen using a triangle shaped file and you hold those angles by utilizing several shop made angle guides. as you can see on the blocks in the picture I have drilled a hole for the end of the file to fit into, Then I took and measured out the angle I wanted the fleam to hold at and drew a reference line. Now when I force in the file, I angle one face of the triangle to line up with line. Now as I file away all I have to do is try to hold the block realtively square and straight and the angle will be transfered to the teeth.

After all the set up and work I only managed to reshape and sharpen one saw today. I chose to start with the crosscut saw with the plastic handle. One, because crosscuts are more work intensive than rips and I wanted to jump into the deep end on this, and two, out of the four saws, if I really screwed up the plastic handle one I guess I wouldn't feel like such a bad person. The plastic handled one, though potentially more difficult, due to it's crosscut pattern, seemed to be the safer choice.

After a few hours of work at the saw vise, I finally finished the job of sharpening and took the blade for a test drive in a section of 2X4. The result?  A nice, smooth, fast cut, that was easy to start. I feel like I have really accomplished something tonight and I'm ready to jump back to it and finish up the other saws now. In the end, a lot of work with a satisfying result. It's tough to ask for more than that.