Friday, February 22, 2013

Clean Up A Saw Plate

Logo side of the Miter Saw

Back side of the saw plate.

Spray down the saw plate with Simple Green and let it soak for a few minutes

Scotch-Brite pad and a small off cut of pine. I wrap the pad around the block like a sanding block. 

Apply elbow grease. It really doesn't take long at all or even a whole lot of effort. Change the pad like you would change sandpaper, they flatten, gum up, and wear out. I have a low tolerance for pulling out a new pad after I use all the spots on the old one. 

Here I stopped after scrubbing one end for around two minutes to see the difference. 

You can now make out what's left of an etching you could barely see before. "Made expressly for Goodell-Pratt Company, Toolsmiths, Greenfield - Mass. 

One side of the saw plate clean. Flip the plate and repeat. Wipe off the remaining cleaner with a cloth. 

Face side of the plate cleaned up.

After the scrubbing is done, I dry off the plate thoroughly, then I lay down a light coat of WD-40 to displace any remaining moisture, wipe that down, then apply a spray coat of beeswax furniture polish, buff that down with a clean fresh cloth and you have a very fresh and clean saw plate. 

 Next comes sharpening and making a new handle. I'm still trying to nail down the right pattern handle for this saw but I have a nice piece of cherry in the shop that will work perfectly.

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Would John Wayne Do? (WWJWD)

John Wayne gets accredited with saying, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway"

I don't know if I could say I was scared of the next stage in rehabbing an old Stanely Miter Box, but I was intimidated at least. I was down to the swinging arm and if I screwed this part up, then I might as well throw the whole thing in the scrap heap. The arm was the grimiest part of the whole works and there was a couple arms and a spring loaded pin to lock the arm in place on the dial. A ton of nooks and crannies and a couple of small parts.

I disasembled the arm as much as I dared and tried to remove as much of the course grime with a stiff brush.

The pin actuated with the lift arm, at first I thought I would take this mechanism apart as well. As I got to looking at it I decided against it, I was sure getting it back together would be horrible. But there was a ton of grime inside and I was worried that if I was able to get some Simple Green and Q-tips in there to clean it out then getting it dried up so it wouldn't rust from the inside out would be the next challenge.

I thought that if I did get it cleaned out it would probably ge best to fill the mechanism with some lithium grease to keep it running, to be honest after removing the cap on the side, it looks like that's how it was supposed to be maintained. So I took a quick run to my nearest auto parts store to get my hands on a small tube of white grease.

While I was standing in the aisle, perusing the winde variety of soap and oil emulsions availible, my eyes lit on what seemed like the perfect answer to all my nook and crannie issues. (well the ones related to the miter box arm anyway)

A can of brake cleaner, nothing says clean like pressurized solvent in a can.

I used a whole can on the arm, mostly because I had no reason to save it. It blew the crud away like yesterday's trash. I still followed it up by scrubbing it down to get the remaining rust off.

With a little bit of time I scrubbed the crap off the rest of the pieces. Altering a little trick I learned from my friend Mark Harrell over at Bad Axe Saws, I cleaned all the screws by chucking them into a drill press chuck and then holding the abrasive pad against the spinning friction. I've seen Mark make short work of shining up roughed up saw nuts by chucking them into a cordless drill and spinning them against a soft cloth charged with buffing compound.

Once cleaned I taped everything up for repainting.

and moved on to cleaning up the last parts of the box itself.

A little more taping and then some black lacquer spray paint

In the end the miter box went from this rusted boat anchor.

To this cleaned, painted, oiled, and waxed machine.

So what's left? Plenty. I have to clean up and sharpen the saw plate, cut out, shape and drill for a new replacement saw handle, make a new sacrificial board to attach to the base, and fabricate some pieces to replace missing parts. A lot of things to do yes, but all these things seem less intimidating than taking apart the mechanism for the swing arm. I'm not sure why that bugged me so much but I'm glad it worked and even happier it's in my rear view mirror.

Ratione et Passionis

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updates And Introductions

A quick note about the next few weeks for the Oldwolf Workshop.

First, I stole another idea from Chris Schwarz. He changed his blog to have a list of things in the sidebar and I thought the idea was too good to pass up. The thing that got me is the "What am I reading?" section. I am a huge sucker for the written word and ever since high school I have been known to read up to a half a dozen books at a time. I always wanted to come up with a way to share what I'm reading or watching without feeling like I have to write a review about it. 

This shelf of woodworking woodworking books is just the tip of the iceberg, The collection has grown three fold in the two years since this was taken. The eBay gods have been kind to me. 

I'm just not that comfortable writing reviews because they get viewed as recommendations, and I don't feel it's fair to recommend something without trying the other possibilities on a level playing field. So I think I could be justified in recommending and reviewing some things, ketchup or potato chips maybe. The side bar is my easy out. Thanks Chris for the idea, I hope you're not upset I borrowed it. 

A long time ago I watched an interview with SciFi writer Robert A. Heinlein where he said, "Whatever's not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down." To a degree, I've always liked that logic, That's probably the viking in me talking. 

Selva Negra Plantation. Nicaragua
Second. I am feverishly packing and planing for a return trip to Nicaragua. Last April I went down with a group of Doctors for a medical mission trip and when we arrived we found out the government wouldn't allow us to do more than take a tour of the hospital. We spent the time learning what we could to avoid the pitfalls in the future and now we are prepped to give it another go. With everything else going on at home it sat on my back burner until I realized, "Hey, the trip is a couple weeks away, I'd better get off my ass!" 

Apoyo De Laguna Nicaragua
So the last couple weeks have been a little more chaotic than usual, and I expect the next few to be as well. If you are emailing me or trying to buy a tool or whatever, please be patient with me as I take some time to help provide some care for a group of folks who need it the most.

Sulfur clouds cover the sun at the volcano at Masada Nicaragua
Third, I'd like to introduce some new characters to the blog. I'm thinking about calling them The Sawdust Gang. 

My sixteen year old daughter Chloe made them for me for Christmas. First she made the figure that looks like me, then she decided my poppet would be lonesome without friends. She colluded with my wife who suggested she make figures after the woodworkers whose names she's heard me speak about the most. Chris Schwarz, Peter Follansbee, and Roy Underhill. 

Together these guys should be able to get into a fair amount of trouble in the shop. We'll see where their adventures take them. I'm kind of thinking about doing a series with them Comic Book style, we'll see what ideas I can come up with. (I'm open to ideas in the comments area too!)

Truthfully it might be a decent way to introduce kids to the idea of hand tool woodworking as a "real" thing. Not just something the pioneers had to do. This comes from a real conversation I had with a high school kid last year at one of my carving demos. When he saw my carvings his first question was "You had a computer do this for you right?"

Maybe I'm aiming high for some linen, a few threads of string and some stuffing, but these guys will be fun for me at any rate. (I guess I can only hope their namesakes forgive me any poetic licence) Can anyone else hear the theme music for the "A-Team?"

I pity the fool. . .

Sunday, February 10, 2013

You Can Never Be Sure What Coverage You'll Get

We were in and out of the house today so there was no sustained time to sit down and continue cleaning parts for the Stanley Miter Box I started rehabbing. Our interrupted pattern did allow me to space out some coats of paint on the base.

Just as a reminder, here's where we started,

Here's the base after scrubbing off the rust, stain, and grime.

And here it is with the paint applied.

I laid down a couple coats of black lacquer spray paint throughout the day. I'm not sure how the original looked when it rolled into stores but I just didn't like the look with the stamped numbers the same homogeneous black as the background. On one of our last trips around town we were supposed to stop and pick up a different color spray lacquer for the back wall. I decided to add another stop to a hobby and craft store.

I like enamel model paints for several things. I've even been known to use them to dress up hardware and get things to blend or color match. I was thinking I would pick up a red to carefully paint on the numbers and get them to stand out. Instead of grabbing to go I stopped and surveyed the colors. Eventually I decided the "Flat Steel" paint would match very close to what the original color of the back wall may have been.

There were four on the shelf, I bought all four just to make sure I had enough.

After all the coats were finished on the back wall and I'd gone over the stamped numbers with a detail brush I'd used a grand total of one half of one jar.

Now I have to decide if it's worth my time to return this massive amount of paint back to the store.

Ratione et Passionis.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Little Distraction

Wisconsin weather has hit my shop and hit it hard this year. Such is the adventure of having an out door shop I guess. We had freezing rain a couple weeks ago and the snow around the shops directed the water under the steel walls and across the floor, where it conveniently refroze into my own skating rink.

I guess I need to figure out a D.I.Y. Zamboni so I can take up ice skating again. . .

Instead of sawdust, I've been biding my time both writing here and prepping some work for the books I'm starting. I've also been selling some tools and making some room in the tool chest. (Thank you to any buyers out there). Still I'm having shop withdrawals.

Maybe that's why I fell victim to temptation.

My wife and I were out on the town with a few hours to kill between child related errands. We happened to be in the vicinity of a good antique store that had yielded several vintage tools to me in the past and decided to stop and browse.

"I'm not gonna buy anything" I told myself as I walked bravely past an OK Stanley 5 1/2, it was pretty grungy, needed a replacement blade, and was a little precious in price. The obligatory bin of handsaws turned up nothing I was interested in. I am pretty flush on hand saws already. Then I turned the corner and there it was again.

A Stanley Miter Saw. I knew it would be there. It's been hanging out for nearly a year. I checked the price the first time I saw it and I've walked past it a dozen time since. I thought the price was reasonable the first time, but I could never justify buying one of these marvels of engineering for myself.

The booth had a sign that read "25% Off Everything" so I stopped and looked closer than I had before. The saw was in relatively good shape, straight and fairly clean, I could read the Goodell Pratt etch under the Henry Disston back stamp. The handle was a dog, and obviously a replacement for some reason. As far as I could tell almost all the parts were present. My wife knew what was going to happen long before I did.

Sucker me, I picked it up and brought it home.

My shop is no place to start a restoration right now so I asked my dad if he'd loan me a corner of his workbench to clean and restore it. Of course that was no problem, but this explains why my pictures appear to be coming from a different shop.

As I started looking, I realized how little I knew about these machines. I've never really used one,never seen a "good" one up close, (whatever that means), or even read a thorough description of one. I found myself a little intimidated. I started really inspecting all parts that go into one of these and I started to think "Holy crap, I may be in over my head here." but things started to make sense and I could begin to identify where things were obviously missing.

I spent a couple days trying to read up about these beasts on the internet and was really disappointed at how little good information I could find. There are several "Hey Look At What I Restored" pages, but nothing with specifics or info on parts. There are a million "Restore a Stanley Plane" pages out there, even ones that help identify the planes, but not much for these puppies. I had trouble finding anything specific to the model I bought or even much helping me track down the particular model number and make.

I did find one write up by a Brendan Dahl about his restoration of a similar miter saw. It's on a blog called Pith and it's pretty good. It helped a lot. I also managed to find a couple .pdf's of the manuals that might have come with the saws and those were something at least.

These things helped me decide how to tackle this project, but as I flash information up here I would love for any of you experts out there in Net-landia to help share your knowledge. At this point I'm calling it a 358 because it's very similar to the one on the Pith Blog, but there are differences. The places for the extension arms as a stop block for one. I've found some stamped numbers and marks, I'll post them in the near future to see if they help.If you have some knowledge, please feel free to comment below or email me. I'd appreciate it a lot.

The first step was to tear the old girl apart and get all the grime and rust scrubbed off her. And there were many, many layers of grime.

As I started taking it apart I was still amazed at all the parts. Keeping track of all of them is going to be challenging. Stay tuned to see if I get this all back together.

Then came the time for some Simple Green, some Scotchbrite Pads, a very fine grit sponge sander, some rags, and some elbow grease. I have always had very good luck with this combination for cleaning old tools.

I started work on the base since it was the biggest part.

I was pleased when my efforts revealed a nice shiny degree gauge on the front. I didn't even know it was there until it started to clean up. I have to figure out the numbers on top, I'm thinking they relate to rise and run measurements, I could be wrong, (maybe you guys can tell me about that too) but I was happy to see the degree measurements I'm used to thinking in there as well.

It took a couple hours to scrub up the base. All the time I had for the day. So I oiled it down for the night to disperse any remaining water and keep it from rusting over night. Tomorrow I'll rub it down with some denatured alcohol and start to apply some new coats of paint. I'll have to look and see if I can find some light grey enamel that matches the current paint on the back wall, but it's back to black for the rest of it.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Get Woodworking Week: DIY DaVinci Notebooks

Welcome to Get Woodworking Week.

Giving advice is a difficult thing, for me at least. I don't feel that my judgement should be used to replace your own in anything, and that includes woodworking. I definitely found my way in this world by reading as much as I can by as many different people as I can and then just taking my feet and stepping out there. Tackling projects where I feel I'm in over my head and learning from them.

There is not one single thing I've built, ever, that I have felt like I have every aspect mastered. It's important to realize that if you are starting out in this avocation. Realize that everyone started out somewhere simple.

My first real woodworking project. It's a four player chess board based on a regular chessboard plan I found in a magazine. In the end it was nothing more than a bunch of maple and aspen squares glued down to a sheet of 1/4" MDF and framed with red oak.  The implications of four people playing chess at the same time intrigued me enough to build this, but to this day I have never found three other people to sit and play with me. 

The is one thing, one indispensable thing, that I believe every woodworker should have in their arsenal. A sketchbook or journal. This one thing will take you places you never thought were possible. Leonardo DaVinci was a smart man for many reasons, but I think his brilliance boiled down into the fact that he kept his now famous notebooks or journals. Inside them he packed his ideas, dreams, and studies. He didn't make those notebooks for others to see. (if he had then reverse writing would probably not be one of the amazing things about them) He created those notebooks for himself. They were a testing ground for his many, many ideas.

The ancient Greeks told a mythology about nine sister's known as the Muses who were the personification of the arts and knowledge. They would visit someone as whisper creative inspiration into their ears and souls, thus acting as the spark that ignites the big bang theory of great works. I've suffered these strokes of inspiration before. Lying in bed, hovering near the edge of sleep, the "Idea" strikes through my soul with an electrical shock.

But like all mythological gods, a Muse is fickle and temperamental  They choose their own time of inspiration on their own terms. It can come while you are driving, eating supper, shoveling snow, or participating in your local fight club. (OK so I broke the first rule) Often if you don't capitalize on the inspiration in the moment, the clarity of it gets lost and jumbled

Concept drawing for a bed side table with sinewy bending legs and Maloof  chair joints for the lower shelf. 

My sketchbook is my way of battling this loss of clarity. Way back in the day, when I was taking a lot of art classes, several teachers encouraged us to carry our sketchbooks with us everywhere and to use them not just for drawing in, but for writing in and recording the things you see and the ideas you have. When I started really diving into this sawdust thing in earnest, I renewed this practice in my life.

A take on a set of bunk beds inspired by some timber frame construction I saw.

I know the common argument against it.

"I . . . can't . . . draw,"

to which I respond


Some sketches for a desktop credenza where I wanted to highlight the the species pine. 

Not everyone is a Leonardo Da Vinci, but anyone who can place pen to paper can scrawl a few lines to help them work out an idea. What's inside your sketchbook is for you and you alone. You're not creating something for someone else to see or read, so whatever chicken scratching you need to record the idea, to ask the question, to solve the problem is all there has to be. As long as it works as a record for you and your creativity then that's all it has to do.

Here I am trying to work out the viability of joinery, grain directions, and carving patterns with a Medieval Hutch Chest that works as a drop front tool chest.  

You can see from the pages of my sketchbook that I've put up in this post, even with my training in drawing, the sketches are rough ideas, only intended to capture that moment. There's more than drawings in my sketchbook. There are more pages of writing than anything, blog post ideas, book ideas, notes on a technique or recipe for a finish. Some of these things are woodworking related, some are not. I also keep printed pictures of carvings, a few postcards with favorite artworks on them, notes from classes or for classes.

It's like carrying an exterior hard drive for my brain.

The best piece of woodworking advice I could ever think of was already written about by Chris Wong over at Flair Woodworks but, keeping careful track of your ideas, your questions, and your solutions is the second best thing I can recommend. In the end I don't care if you use a sketchbook or an iPad to accomplish it, I happen to have compulsive obsession with pens, pencils, and paper that I could never give up. Just take your time and develop it, right along side all the other new skills you will find yourself practicing.

Ratione et Passionis

P.S. As a follow up the great Paul Sellers keeps a series of notebooks / journals. You can read about his take HERE and HERE and keep following over there to see more.