Sunday, March 27, 2011

NWA Showcase

Sorry, no pictures.

I didn't know that I would be able to get up to the NWA Showcase in Saratoga Springs until yesterday sometime.  I was only able to go for about four hours this morning, from 10 to 2, but it was well worth the 2.5 hour drive each way.  I spent about an hour and a half in a presentation by Pete Follansbe, whom I respect quite a bit. 

Sadly, due to the way the room was set up and the audience his presentation was geared toward, I feel that I could have benefited more from Chris Schwarz's presentation that was at the same time.  I say that because I follow Mr. Follansbe's blog, and have spent hours reading the archives, so I was already familiar with 99.9% of what he discussed (it appeared that the majority of the rest of the audience had significantly less background information).  The layout of the room was also what appears to be typical of presentations at woodshows, which more-or-less means that I would have been better served watching it on youtube (which is no fault of Mr. Follansbe).  However, it was great to see him in action, in person.  It was also great to check out a few pieces of his work in person, and appreciate the scale and tactile pleasures for myself.

After that, I explored the vendor floor, and had several terrific conversations with a few different people, including some that I follow online through their blogs.  It was also terrific to experience the wonders of a fine handmade infill plane made by Daed Toolworks, leaving a silky smooth finish on a piece of Curly Maple...planing against the grain!  (Not across it, exactly in the opposite direction that you are supposed to).  I also tried out a couple of planes by Matt at M.S.Bickford Planes, and it was awesome to have a go at putting into practice some of what I've been reading on his blog.  I only made a few cuts because my time was limited, or else I could have spent the whole day doing that.  He invited me to visit his shop, and I imagine I will as soon as I can.  Luckily, he doesn't live far from me.  It was also a pleasure to get my hands on a wide range of tools by both Lie Nielson and Lee Valley.  I really want a couple of new planes, but what I want comes up to about $1100.  I'm thinking a Nielson #8 with a couple of spare blades, and a bevel up smooth from Lee Valley with a couple spare blades.  With my scrub that I already have, I think I would be totally set up for just about any dimensioning or smoothing task.  Not happening too soon, sadly.

After that, I only had enough time to do a blitz run through the showroom, which was a shame because I could have spent a week inspecting all of the incredible work in there.  There was a selection from the A Gathering of Spoons collection, and I did have the chance to get my mitts on a spoon carved by Jogge Sunqvist, as well as a beauty by Del Stubbs.  Both were terrific to hold, I wish I could have spent more time studying them. 

Overall, it was an incredible show (what I saw of it), and I wish I could have spent the whole weekend there.  I hope I can make it to many more woodworking shows in the future.

Oh, and the Silky katana is truly something that needs to be held to be appreciated.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting Going

Woohoo!  Yesterday my friend and I drove up to Renwood Lumber in Southwick Mass.  We picked up about 35 board feet of mostly Curly Maple, and one big board of plain Soft Maple.  This will go into the DVD cabinet that my friend commissioned.  I am working on finding a way to resaw the 6/4 stock into 3/4 boards.  I got a steal of a deal on the wood (about $2 per board foot) because I picked my boards out of the pallet stock.  Mostly 8 inch wide boards, with a couple of 4 inch wide boards.  Right now I have it stickered in the basement, waiting for me to start hacking it up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Still Improving The Shop

Now I feel comfortable calling my little corner of the basement a shop.  Last week I spent a couple of days tearing everything apart and putting it back in different places, which included throwing out a scuzzy old shelf that was down here when we moved in, and relocating the few things on it to a new shelf I built against a difficult-to-use section of wall.  I also built a lumber rack and another shelf unit to get a few things up off the floor and a bit more organized.  After that, I temporarily hung a few saws up to keep them close to hand and out of the way. All in all, I now have something resembling a proper shop.

Right now I'm working on a hanging tool cabinet to keep my most used tools close to hand, and so that I don't have to lean way over my bench to the back wall to reach my planes.  I have the primary carcass put together and hanging up, and I'm mulling over what to do about interior storage allocation.  I also still need to build the door, where I imagine I'll hang most of my layout tools because they're small and light.

I used my new Lee Valley & Veritas plow plane to fit the back panel into the cabinet, which included plowing grooves to accept the back as well as cutting rabbets around the edges (and the ends).  I was surprised at how well the plane did cutting cross grain.  Not as well as a dedicated fillister plane with nickers, but pretty good just the same.  The top of the cabinet is made from two narrow pieces, which proved tricky to hold for grooving.  I ended up using two thinned-down battens held with my hold downs, which worked well and allowed clearance for the plane to pass.

While cleaning out the shop, I decided to throw out of my earliest wood working misadventures.  It was intended as a chisel and screwdriver rack, and made from pallet lumber.  I've had it around the shop for the last few years, and it was time for it to go.  It was tippy and wouldn't hold much. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Done (For Now)

I finished the main portion of the bench today, and I'm pleased as punch.  In all, it took about 3.5 8-10 hour days of work, so I spent about 28-35 hours on it.  Not too bad, I don't think.  Outside of driving a couple of fasteners with my new impact driver, it was all handtools.  This is the first time I've done so much heavy hand tool work for such long periods of time multiple days in a row, and I could definitely feel the cumulative fatigue in my shoulders especially after boring all of the dog holes in 40 minutes.  The majority of the work was really in the joints to join the legs to the top, after which the mortise and tenons for the stretchers felt like child's play.  It's like Chris Schwarz once said: You know you've been building a roubo when a 3/4 x 3 x 4" mortise feels small.  Eventually I'll be adding a floor and a lid to the stretchers below, and I'll probably add a drawer under the far right side of the bench.  Eventually I'll also need to replace the jaw for the vise, because the Douglas Fir that I used is a bit flexible.  I think I could get a lot more clamping force out of a stiffer wood.

Due to a dumb mistake, I made the frame for the tool tray three inches two short (by forgetting to add the thickness of the sides to the total length of the back piece), and it was easier to cut three inches off the end of the bench than buy more wood and make a new piece.  Good thing I saved my energy by never drilling that last dog hole.  In an earlier fit of dumb, I misaligned the back stretcher so it will take some jury-rigging to make the floor and lid properly supported all the way around.  The back stretcher is about an inch too high, because I marked it off the wrong point of the angles for the side stretchers.  Oh well, it's a workbench.

Now I'm trying to devise some sort of brilliant 5th dimensional portal that will allow me to store all of the clutter in my shop in a void in space to allow me a little more floor room.  I suppose I could settle for some decent shelving of some sort.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Bench Update

I took this photo earlier today when I had finished fitting the four legs.  Since this photo was taken I've mortised the two front legs, half-way finished the two short stretchers, drilled all the dog holes and a holdfast hole, and started mortising one of the back legs.  I'm not going to use an adjustable height planing stop as on a traditional Roubo bench.  I find that on my other bench I always leave it set at the same height with my planing batten across the bench, which is much easier to use than a single point planing stop.  So I drilled two dedicated planing stop holes at the very end of the bench, and I'll probably make a couple of different thickness planing stops that I can drop in there.

The leg joints are nothing pretty, but they'll hold and that's all that matters to me for this bench.  Maybe someday I'll build my dream bench, but in the meantime this is going to be several steps up from my current bench, and I think I'll be happy with it for quite a while.

Yesterday my big box arrived from Lee Valley, which contained a vise screw for the leg vise, a large Japanese cat's paw for work (I have the tiny 6" version, and ordered the giant 14" version), and my Veritas small plow plane with five blades.  I can't wait to put it to work.  I ran it through some scrap real quick, but with my old bench buried under tools (so that I'm not tempted to use it), and my new bench still in pieces, I didn't have any really good workholding going on.  Unfortunately, my canned-ham hands force my knuckle to brush the brass adjustment knob when gripping the plane, but I think I can get used to it or alter my grip sufficiently for it to be a non-issue. 

Today a box containing my backordered holdfasts arrived from Gramercy/Tools for Working Wood, and I'm quite pleased.  I'm questioning whether I really need two of them, now that I've used one for a few minutes for a little sawing and mortise chopping.  Oh well, it doesn't hurt to have extra. 

Oh, and today I tested the automatic flesh detecting feature of my chisel and found it to be less than satisfactory.  While mortising, my chisel became stuck (which happened several times).  I found the easiest way to free it is to lift the chisel and the wood it is stuck in (while seated on the wood) and strike the wood with my mallet.  This worked great except for when I produced the perfect recoil in both of my hands and the chisel took a bite out of the meat on the side of my palm below my thumb.  It's fairly deep but nothing too serious, so I super glued it together and put a couple of little bandaids on it butterfly-style to take stress off of it, but the skin in that area doesn't get stressed too much anyways.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Glued Up Benchtop

Last night I glued up the two 6x6" posts for the top.  First I jointed the two mating faces, they weren't too bad but needed a little straightening and squaring.  I wetted the mating faces and slathered on plenty of Gorilla Glue, then clamped up with my four clamps.  Then I flipped it up on edge, and drilled three pilot holes from the back for 10" Timerlock bolts, then drove the bolts in.  I was just gifted an awesome new Makita impact driver, so I used that to drive the bolts so I could try it out, but I've used my brace plenty of times before, so I know it works fine (and applies so much torque that I could drive these things all the way through the wood).  I put them 4" in from each edge and one in the center.  I'll just have to keep them in mind when I'm drilling my dog holes.  I also was unable to remove two giant nails from one of the posts that are indicators of their previous life as a retainer wall, so I'll have to watch out for those.

While the glue was setting up, I marked and cut the legs to length.  Next step is cutting the joints.  After watching the episode of The Woodwright's Shop where Roy talks about the rising dovetail a few times, as well as a video on youtube where a different person goes through the joint, I am starting to feel confident enough to tackle them.  I will admit that I am not looking forward to dealing with the angled mortise and tenons on the back legs.  I also find myself wishing for a 6" deep backsaw to cut the joints accurately.  Roy's top is only 3" or 4" thick, but he still cut the leg joints with a handsaw.  I may go this route.