Saturday, July 18, 2009

Workbench: Top Glue Up Update

I'm making some serious headway on the top glue up. Only took me about a 1 1/2 gallons of glue and a little over a week. One of the worst things about working on a bench is that you probably lack a decent place to do your work. Especially your planing work. My current workbench is a 4' Harbor Freight bench that weighs about 50 pounds soaking wet. If you look at this photo you can see what I had to do to brace up my bench so I could do some planing on part of the workbench top.

I know what your thinking..."Where can I get a set up like that." Hopefully this setup will be available for purchase in the near future. Make me an offer I can't refuse!

Making this bench top has been a work out for all my tools. Someday I'll get my dust collection pipe run to all the tools so I don't have such a mess. Believe it or not, this shop was cleaned up before starting this project. As you can see it is certainly in need of maid service...

Have you ever started a project and had a few tools that just come in so handy? I had a few tools, under-appreciated tools, that really come through for me in a pinch. In the picture below you will see a few tools on the right. Its a Sandvik scraper, Crayola sidewalk chalk, and a Do It Best square tooth spreader.

If you haven't used one of these carbide scrapers your missing out. In my opinion this is the best scraper on the market. Chalk is a fairly new concept for me in woodworking. As a kid we always used it in our upholstery shop. It just never crossed my mind that it could be useful for wood also. This is from a box of Crayola sidewalk chalk. It works wonderfully. Its large enough that it doesn't break all the time. In addition to general marking I have been known to cover a board with chalk before planing it so I can see exactly what the blade is removing. I just place the chalk on its side and mark. You can cover a board in a few seconds. It has been a help for me when learning some new hand plane techniques. Finally the flat tooth spreader. I happen to stumble on this while I was at the hardware store. This made covering the boards with glue a snap. It was messy, but it got the job done. I never had any issues with my glue trying setting up on me. I felt it might be nice to pay homage to some of the under appreciated tools in the shop.

So far this is as far as I have gotten with the top. It is still in two pieces.

The top is measuring about 26 3/4", a little more than I had planned on. I have run both pieces though the planer and I'm ready to get them joined together. A little trimming and it should resemble a bench top.

David B.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Workbench: Top Glue Up

Some of you may remember me rambling on about building a workbench a while back. Life got in the way, but I'm back on task. The details of the bench are somewhat up in the air. I think I will build a plain bench with no vices, bench holes, etc. Then I will decide what kind of hardware I will need. The bench should resemble Chris Schwarz's Roubo workbench (below).

I have started milling and gluing up the bench top. I plan on my top finishing on 2'x8'x3". I wish it was going to be a little thicker but I'm working with what I've got. I am using red oak which I hope will give quite a bit of heft to the project. I'm gluing up the top in 5 sections. Each section being about 5 1/2" wide. This way I can still run it through the joiner, if need be. I'm using #20 biscuits between the boards just to hold them in place during glue up. I am also trying Chris's Method of applying glue. It's been messy but effective. I believe the building the top will be the most stressful part of the build. Trying to get 9 foot long pieces of wood perfectly straight on a 6" joiner can wear on a person. Since I only have enough clamps to do one glue up at a time, it may be a week or two before I have something that resembles a workbench top.
I'll try and get some photo's together and post them.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

REVIEW: Rob Cosman Video Series

Since my first dabbling in hand tools I saw a lot of references to Rob Cosman's video's. I recently had an opportunity to see what all the hub-bub was about. I'm am a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to woodworking video's. I find myself to be a visual learner. So I was quite excited to get started. The videos I have are Dovetails, Advanced Dovetails, Rough To Ready, Hand Planing, and Drawer Making I & II.

Since I have been learning to cut dovetails recently, I got started there. Rob uses a tails first method. I am a pretty avid fan of Frank Klausz's pins first approach but I am always looking for a better way of doing things. Rob also advocates the use of very small pins. This I'm not a fan of. I have a more shaker/utilitarian approach to my work. I don't think you should sacrifice strength for aesthetics. I'm not going through all the trouble to hand cut dovetails to purposely make them weaker. One thing that I did think was great is that he covered Hounds Tooth dovetails. This is something I haven't seen in other videos. Overall I found Rob's dovetailing method to be slow but deliberate. It will give you beautiful dovetails but the extra layout and tools may slow you down.

I would have to say that I wasn't a huge fan of his hand planing video's. His methods here seemed painfully slow. So slow in fact that in places they started playing music to distract you from the fact it was taking forever. I have seen several people true a board from the rough. Rob's method by far took the longest. Rob also failed to adequately explain his philosophy on hand planes. He only discussed the few hand planes that he was using in the video. Shouldn't we have at least discussed other hand planes?

The drawer making videos were not of great interest to me. First off this should have been one video. You can't walk someone halfway though creating and fitting a drawer and call that a video. Anyway, these video's are based on the idea of creating "piston fit" drawers. I feel this video over complicates the drawer making process. Again, I feel Frank Klausz described this process better. Build the drawers to fit the hole tightly. Then when you clean up you clean up your dovetails with the plane you will have a tight fitting drawer. Rob's method will work, but I found it overly complicated and as a result...slower.

Overall, I didn't find that I cared much for the video's. This isn't a reflection on Rob's skill or knowledge. I simply found that Rob overcomplicated some issues and didn't discuss others enough. I just think there are superior woodworking videos out there that cover the topics more clearly. Speed is a big issue for me also. I'm coming from a cabinetmaker's point of view. I have to be able to make money doing this.

My choice video for hand planing is still Chris Schwarz's "Coarse, Medium, Fine." My favorite for dovetails and drawer making is still Frank Klausz's "Dovetail A Drawer."

David B.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Coopering 101

This is a great video I come accross today. While parts of the video come off quite comedic the results are remarkable. After watching this guy build this bucket with minimal tools in what seems to be his mother-in-laws living room, makes me ashamed that I don't do more with the shop full of tools that I have. It reminds me that I need "a little less talk, and a lot more action."


Monday, June 8, 2009

Mallet Of Necessity

After coming home with my new Lie-Nielsen chisels I had a problem. I didn't have have an mallet to use with the chisels. I did a little research and found one mallet that I simply loved. It was the Blue Spruce Toolworks Mallet. I had a chance to hold one of these mallets at the Popular Woodworking open house. It felt wonderful in the hand. It had a great balance and beautiful finish. Since Tom Lie-Nielsen had all my cash, I had to come up with a low cost solution.

I built a joiner's mallet a few years ago that was made of the laminated pieces of wood. One day while using it, it broke at the glue seam. I'm not sure why it failed but I didn't want that to happen again. While cruising around the forums I saw a thread on making mallets out of fire wood. Sounded like a great idea. One thing the ice storms left plenty of this year was fire wood. So I went out and picked up a piece of wood that looked like the right size. I would probably qualify for the turning Special Olympics so try not to laugh. I turned out something that looked vaguely like a mallet. It was to big and the handle was to thick. It looked more like something you would hit a froe with rather than a chisel. Round 2...I got another piece of wood and got to work. This mallet shaped up to be very nice. It had about the right weight and handle was comfortable. I decided this one would work fine. I put it in a cup of linseed oil. Letting one end soak for a day or two, then the other end. I tried to keep the whole mallet wet. I ended up with a nice usable mallet. Not exactly a work of art, but it chops out those dovetails all the same. I'm pretty sure the wood was from a fallen limb from a Hackleberry tree in my yard. I was surprised how tough this little mallet is. I have given it some pretty good smacks. The only evidence is some very light flat spots. You can see the flats. They are so light you have to feel for them. Another nice addition to the tool chest.

David B.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

REVIEW: Lie-Nielsen Bench Chisels

What can I say about Lie-Nielsen's Bench Chisels that has not been said many times before. Of all the chisels I have used these are by far the best feeling in the hand. The balance is great. When chopping dovetails I would always have a hand that was cramped up. My hands would struggle with the top heaviness of the chisel, not with the Lie-Nielsen's. The handle is designed with a flat top to make it ideal for striking.

Another thing that sets the Lie-Nielsen's apart from other manufactures is finish of the chisel. There are no deep milling marks to have to hone away. This makes the chisels look and feel better. When I started sharpening the chisels I was able to start on a 4000 grit waterstone, even for flattening the backs. There aren't many chisels around like that. On a set of 5 chisels that can save your hours in front of your stones. Each chisel only takes about 10 minutes to set up.

Something else I hope to do in the future is to buy a long paring handle for my chisels. Since these chisels are socket chisels you can switch handles with just a few raps of the handle. So in just a few seconds you could turn your bench chisels in to a paring chisel. Now I'm not sure that geometry of the Lie-Nielsen chisels is idea for paring, but I think it will work just fine for most applications. Most prefer a thinner blade that has a 20-25 degree angle on a dedicated paring chisel.

There are a lot of folks who think thise chisels just aren't worth the money, that all your buying is the name. These are folks who have never used Lie-Nielsen Tools. Though they are pricey, I know I'll never have to replace them. I'll get to enjoy more woodworking and less sharpening and maintenance. I don't think you can go wrong with this set of chisels.

David B.

PS. Tom, if your out there...I would sure love to try one of those new fishtail chisels. :-)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Camellia Oil Dispenser

A lot of woodworkers keep an oily rag around to wipe down their tools when they are done. I have never really cared for this idea. I would probably toss the rag down on a piece of wood that is ready to finish and cause myself all kinds of finishing issues. Not to mention that this gets your hands as oily as it does the tool. I have always wanted to try one of the Camellia oil applicators that you can get from a lot of Japanese tool merchants. This one is from Japan Woodworker. For whatever reason I have never been to a store or making a online order from someone that carries them.

My mother has operated a upholstery shop now for almost 40 years. While at her shop the other day I noticed a she had this thick felt (probably 1/4" thick or so). It looked similar to the wick they use in the Camellia oil applicators in the magazines. Light bulbs started coming on. I grabbed a small piece and began to hunt for some type of bottle that would work as a container. My first thought was baby jar. The thought of broken glass everywhere wiped that from my mind. I went to my medicine cabinet and saw something that would work great. It was a old bottle of dog worming medicine. Seemed like the perfect size.

I took a small piece of felt and rolled it up like a into a tight roll. I got it to the right size so that the roll would go into the opening with a little coaxing. I then pulled the wick out and put oil in the container, leaving plenty of room for wick. I put the wick in place leaving maybe 3/8" above the lip. I turned the bottle over and nothing come far so good. I left the bottle upside down for a 15 minutes or so it would have time to soak the felt. After 15 minutes the felt still felt dry, no yellow Camellia oil tint to it. I had to scratch my head for a minute. I wondered if the felt might be too tight in the neck of the bottle? I took a ice pick and pushed into the middle of the wick. I pulled the ice pick out and you could see I had made it to the oil. I turned it back over and instantly you could see the Camellia oil soaking the felt.
I took a chisel and gave the makeshift applicator a shot. Works like a charm. Leaves a nice even coat of oil like a Lie-Nielsen tool right out of the box. I don't think it would be necessary to have any kind of cap on it. This will make it much easier to keep my tools protected. The only downside to this solution is that to refill the bottle you would have to pull the wick out. Now I know that all of this seems like a lot of trouble to go though over a $10 dollar Camellia oil applicator. Your right, If I ever come across one of those applicators I will probably buy one. But for now, this works great.

David B.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

DVD Review: Unlocking The Secrets of Traditional Design with George Walker

While at the Popular Woodworking open house I was buying some Lie-Nielsen tools and the lady ringing me up said that if you spent over $300 you got a free DVD. I already have video's that cover sharpening and using hand planes and I wanted something different. This one seemed to call out to me. Design is something I have always struggled with. I was expecting a lecture on the Golden Ratio, I was wrong.

I have heard that furniture construction was based on architecture principles, but never give it that much thought. I guess we have all heard that a piece is in a "classical style." I thought "classical style" was synonymous with old or antique. This apparently isn't the case. It refers to being in the styles of Greek and Roman architecture.

I have always struggled with how big components in a piece of furniture should be. How tall should the feet be on a dresser? How big of a top molding should I have on this bookshelf? How wide should my face frames be? How big should my drawers be? These questions can be answered by following the classical architectural orders. The orders dictate the proportions of a piece. This was all new to me and if your scratching your head at this point, its new to you also.

This video opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about furniture design. Mr. Walker does a great job of explaining these, for me, foreign principles. Again and Again, Tom Lie-Nielsen seems to come though with great products. This video is professionally done, not one of those gritty basement workshop videos. I would highly recommend this video to any woodworker. Be sure and pick up your copy here.

David B.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Popular Woodworking Open House

This weekend the wife and I took a little road trip to Cincinnati to attend Popular Woodworking's open house. This was a two day grass roots event that didn't cost anything to attend. Which is great, because this means I can spend more on tools! It had what you would expect from a woodworking event; demonstrations, tool vendors, question and answer sessions. The staff of Popular woodworking did an outstanding job. Every booth was buzzing with activity.

I think many of us follow Chris Schwarz's blogs and articles. It was great to he and the other staff work...and plays. The staff were very open and allowed people to browse though their tool cabinets and fondle their tools. Ever wonder what Chris stashed away in this tool chest? By the end of the day one had to feel a little sorry for Chris. His bench is in a corner. All day onlookers had him pinned in front of his bench asking questions. One had to smile when Chris asked, "What time is this thing over?"

At one point on Saturday there was what Chris joking says will be an annual event, "The Beating Of The Planes." Sort of a woodworkers "running with the bulls." This is where they take some of the cheap over seas planes and place them on an anvil and smack them with a hammer. One of planes that was made of cast iron actually exploded.

There was a discussion about some questionable business practices of Woodcraft. They have released a line of planes called Woodriver. It was mentioned that you could tell the over seas manufacturer's had taken a Lie-Nielsen plane and machine off the logo and made a cast from it. Woodcraft says they were copying a Bailey design. This seems unlikely. As Chris points out, the shape of their block plane is a Lie-Nielsen design, Stanley never make a block plane shaped like that. Word was passed to Tom that their was a Woodriver plane bashing session at Chris's bench. He bolted back to get involved. Tom took a close look at some of the Woodriver planes. Seems they may have copied his tools but had to cut corners to make the tools cheaply. Instead of the solid castings there would be two or more pieces spot welded together. This was evident when the hammer was hit and parts went flying. I think everyone there was a upset that Woodcraft would sell such a product. This seemed to a direct effort to put Lie-Nielsen out of business. It won't work, but it was an effort never the less.

In many ways this weekend was somewhat more informative that the Woodworking In America Conference. WWIA was more of a series of lectures. The speakers didn't have time to speak with everyone individually. This weekend was a great time to just pick the brain of the staff or tool makers. If I had a complaint it was that I missed some of the vendors/speakers that were absent; Mike Wenzloff, Adam Cherubini, Bridge City Toolworks, etc. This was a great time and I hope that Popular Woodworking Invites us all back next year.

David B.

PS. I seemed to have left the open house a little heavier than when when I arrived. So expect some new tool reviews and even a dvd review.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Goodell-Pratt eggbeater back in service

My latest tool purchase was this 1922 Goodell-Pratt 2 speed eggbeater that has been beautifully restored by Wiktor Kuc of WKtools. It just doesn't get much better than this. A tool this old shouldn't look this good. Wiktor doesn't an masterful job restoring these tools to an almost better than new state.
Upon receiving the tool I found that the drill didn't engage in slow speed. I was so disappointed. The tool looked wonderful, but had some type of issue in the gear switching mechanism. After checking a few things for Wiktor he decided the best thing I could do is send it back to him to figure out what the problem was. I sent it away and got it back a week later and everything was working as intended.
Buying a tool like this leaves you feeling great but you also feel a responsibility not to let the tool get damaged. I don't buy tools for show and tell I buy them to use. Time will only tell how this goes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cheap And Simple Waterstone Pond

Since buying my Norton waterstones I have been looking to buy or build some type of pond. Building a pond from wood just seemed like a lot more work than it should be and the ones you can buy seemed awfully expensive. After looking around for a while I finally come across something that seemed idea. I was a $6 9x13 cake pan tote. All I had to do was make a wooden bed to put the stones on while sharpening. I took a scrap piece of oak and simple
cut notches in the bottom to match the lip of the container. Now all you need is some way to clamp the stones in place so they don't move. A few pieces of scrap later and I had a simple wedge clamping system. The dowel you see in the pond is a simple mop for wetting/cleaning the stones. It is simply a dowel with pieces of cloth attached the end with a screw. Seems to work pretty good. One other final note. If you plan on keeping water in the container for any period of time I would add a drop of bleach to prevent any plant life. The container comes with a handy lid to keep sawdust out and water in. Great for keeping those stones ready to go at a moments notice.

Most of the time when you try and take the easy route you come out with the short end of the stick. This is an exception. A simple solution that most anyone can do in an hour.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Perfect Storm

The last few months I have fell off the woodworking bandwagon. This year has not started out like I envisioned. Its been a perfect storm of life complications that have kept me out of the shop. After the first of the year my father passed away. A week and a half later we had the worst ice storm I can ever remember. Folks were without power for weeks. I had my mother and brother crashing in our living room for over a week. No sooner had they gone home I had a bout with pancreatitis. Not more than a month later I had another round with pancreatitis and it won. I ended up in the hospital for 6 days. As soon as the doctors say my pancreas has healed I will end up in back in the hospital for gallbladder surgery and another 4-6 weeks of recovery time. Its just been one of those years.