Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Skin on Frame Canoe

 I started working at a canoe shop this spring, and while I was brushing up on the technical aspects of canoes to better be able to articulate the merits of various canoes with customers, I stumbled upon the skin on frame building style.  Naturally, I decided that I should make one.  I have a bad habit of losing steam partway through a project and never finishing it, but hopefully this is simple enough in the construction that I can keep chugging along to the end.  So far I've purchased 5 furring strips from the lumberyard, a couple of which I've ripped down into gunwales and a keelson.  I've "dry bent" the two ends by ripping many 1/8" strips and laminating them with glue around a simple plywood form.  I may do the same thing for the ribs, it may be easier for me than building a steam box and toying with that.

 Above you can see the gluing of the scarf joint that joins the keelson (the strip that runs down the center of the canoe) to one of the ends.  It's a simple 5" long lap joint.  After the glue is dry I will probably drill a couple of small dowels into it for reinforcement, and maybe whip the whole joint with cord.

Below is the selection of tools I used to make the scarf joint.  This project so far has required very few tools, which is good for beginning boat builders looking to avoid a huge investment right away.

This is my simple form.  It was originally a shelf inside one of those recycled canoe shelves made from the ends of busted canoes.  The shelf didn't fit right, so I rescued it from the trash and drilled a couple of holes.  I decided I was pleased with the curve, so simply used it as-is.  I'll make a different form for the ribs since this is for a 38" wide Old Town, and my boat is going to be 32" at the widest.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Portable Woodworking

I bought this cheap Ryobi table saw a few weeks ago.  I've been thinking about some sort of power saw ever since I broke that little bandsaw I got last year.  A casted part simply snapped on me, and replacement parts don't exist for that model.  A real shame.  So I finally broke down and picked up this table saw, for now it will do what I need.  I am mostly using it for long rips, such as ripping stock to width.  I've also used it to cut the shoulders of a couple of cross grain rabbets on some wide boards (12") that I couldn't easily do with my handsaw.

The stock blade that came with it is far inferior to the Diablo blade I picked up for the saw.  The Diablo blade is thinner, which helps to make up for the less-than-monstrous motor, and it feels like the Diablo blade has less vibration and tendency to jam.  Overall an inexpensive upgrade that makes this saw cut noticeably better.

Here are a couple of pictures of my portable planing beam I've been toying with.  The first picture here is it on the floor, without any cleats to raise it.  It's not terribly comfortable to use, I think cleats will help some.  It would also help to have some sort of stick to brace it against a wall so that I don't have to hold it in place with my foot.

I'm also trying it on horses, this time with a stick keeping it off of the wall so I can just focus on planing.  The trouble with this setup for edge planing is that if the opposite edge isn't square, it's hard to make the top edge square.  I may try getting a couple of wood screw clamps to hold the two faces of the board, so it's held perpendicular to the workbench.

I tried attaching this cheap little vise, looks like it was originally designed for a kid's bench, and it worked okay but it doesn't have a ton of holding power.  Maybe some grippy cloth in the jaws would help.  For now I pulled it back off.

Just for fun, I moved my planing plank inside to the kitchen sink and glued up some legs.  

I'm having a bit of trouble getting my new Japanese plane to cut a straight line, it seems to like to make hollows.  I need to take a closer look at the sole, maybe it's not quite as relieved in the right places as I thought.  Anyways, I'm not giving up on my #8 jointer just yet. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Some Small Projects

A friend of mine recently moved into her own place, and has been furnishing it with free and cheap furniture.  This particular piece was originally picked up at the dump for firewood.  After taking a look at the solid Maple top and halfway decent construction underneath, I suggested instead refinishing.  For about an hour of work and $2 of paint (a pint of mis-tint from Ace Hardware), the table looks much better.  Good enough to go into the living room, in fact.  I simply planed the top down a little, taking off the old finish and most of the grime.  As you can see, I didn't want to go deep enough to totally remove that ugly stain, but it's significantly minimized at least.  Then I ragged on a few coats of Formby's tung oil finish and painted the base.  Not perfect, but good enough for now.

This past weekend I took some time off work and headed up to Holyoke, MA to run in the 7 Sisters Trail Race, a 12 mile (3700 feet elevation gain) trail race on some rocky, rooty, and generally tough trails.  Three days later, my legs still feel as though they've been beat with hammers.  I'm looking forward to getting ready for the mile and 5k races coming later this summer.

As I'm spending more time bouncing around between a few locations on a weekly or daily basis (and the weather is warming up so when I get the time to work wood, I want to be doing it outside), I'm trying to get my whole woodworking kit smaller and more portable.  For a while I was trying to work out a portable work bench solution (the Close Grain blog has a great write-up on this), but I've since abandoned that idea and have been studying Japanese methods.  Below you can see my solution at the moment.  This is a planing beam made from a solid Red Oak plank that used to be a mantle in a house I worked on last summer.  They didn't notice it missing, but I took their reading glasses too.

I planed the top flat and removed a little twist from it.  I'm thinking about adding cleats or feet for use on the floor, and alternatively I set it on a pair of horses to bring it to standing height.  The two incomplete holes in the right are for sliding planing stops.  It's about 4 feet long and maybe 10 inches wide.  You can see some stains on the left from where I used the far end as a sharpening station.

I have been reading up on and have been wanting to try a Japanese plane for a while, so I finally ordered the cheapest one from Japan Woodworker in California.  It arrived a few days ago, and I put it to use.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the body pretty much ready to use right away, with the area behind the blade relieved, the sole in wind, and a slight hollow scraped in the appropriate place.  Unfortunately, while flattening the blade I apparently removed too much metal so that now the blade sticks out too far when inserted.  For now I'm simply using the chipbreaker as a wedge to hold the blade in place much like a western wood bodied plane.  Eventually I may glue some paper shims into the blade bed to fix the issue.  I need to sharpen the blade some more, but so far it cuts very well, and I am enjoying using it.

As time permits, I plan on writing more about a portable woodworking setup in the future.  My goal is to fit as much functionality and versatility as possible into the smallest, most portable setup.