Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On The Sharpening Of Carving Chisels

There are lots of ways to do things especially in woodworking. I know, I know, your way is the right way and my way is probably wrong, but that's beside the point.

Once I got my hands on some quality carving chisels, my next question was "Ok, how do I sharpen them?" Leonard Lee's book on sharpening is great and has always been my bible in this arena, but he is wont to use jigs and gadgets. I was sure it could be simpler than making a dozen shaped blocks of wood charged with buffing compound.

I looked around a little but couldn't find any body not sharpening chisels without slip stones or a shaped buffing wheel on an electric grinder. Necessity is a mother (and mother's only half a word), I understood what sharp was, I needed sharper chisels, and what did I have to lose by figuring it out by trial and error with the items I had on hand.

Thus I arrived at the simple technique I use today. It's as dumbed down as, "Rub the area you want to sharpen against an abrasive surface." But there are others out there starting to carve and I get the occasional email or question on social media. Instead of responding via a novel length text based dissertation on what I do, I decided to just shoot some video.

The best part? I'm not trying to sell you anything. Use what you have, adapt the technique to work for you.


Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Workbench 2014 Base Day One

Day one of the bench build started with a deep breath. I knew it would be a whirlwind of a build to get things done so I could get the shop back in order and return to working on the other things I have hanging over my head. Before a big day starts I like to stop for that deep breath and make sure I have my thoughts collected and a plan of attack solid in my mind. Later in the day, when I've fatigued some, and I may or may not be thinking clearly as I'm engrossed in a detail. I will be able to fall back on that mental list and check off the things accomplished and organize the next step.


The benchtop finished out at just under 3 1/2" thick by 22" wide and 12 foot long. Alone I could lift each of the beams to move them around the shop, now joined together . . .it's all I can do to flip it over on a set of saw horses. Moving it around requires applied physics. (levers and mechanical advantage)

Those who've seen the benchtop so far have asked about the holes already in the top, woodworkers have asked why I pre-drilled my dog holes in such a way. These beams came from inside a barn and it was obvious from where they were being used, and the variety of the sizes of beams around them, they had been recycled before, probably from another even older barn.

The barn I got them from was around 80 years old, I wonder how long the previous barn stood and how long it's been since these Fir beams were standing trees.


The holes in the beams must have been related to the joinery of the first barn. You can see evidence of the joinery in the larger leg beam as well. Big mortises 2" by 10" in size with a hole for a peg through the sides. Massive joinery with no apologies.


There is a cool bit of evidence the joiners who cut the mortise were human. You can see below the big mortise three holes were drilled, two of them are still filled with plugs. I was able to liberate one of the plugs before the beam was planed


Before planing you could also make out the remaining pencil layout lines for a mortise. They had drilled for the mortise and before chopping out the waste, rechecked the measurements, realized they'd drilled on the wrong side of their line, plugged the holes and made the new mortise correctly. I'm not sure what makes you check one more time between drilling and chopping, I'd like to assume a apprentice/master type relationship where the master or a journeyman checked the young lads work and found it wanting.  


I hand sawed the legs square at one end and found a problem to solve. I'm a good hand sawyer. I like to do it even, but I am human and that leads to small inconsistencies. These legs are too big to shoot the ends to achieve the same length so I had to find a reliable way to get repeatable consistency.


I've owned and used a tablesaw for nearly 15 years, I've never found a good enough reason to make a crosscut sled jig until now. I hate making jigs, but I decided it was the best way to accomplish the task with such heavy stock. I used the tablesaw's fence (with a spacer block) to set a consistent length of cut.

Some left over 1/2" plywood and an end of 1x6 and 2x6 joined to a couple oak runners and the jig was done. Now I guess I have one, so now I'll have to find a place to store it. Ughhh.


The results were very good. All four legs came out to the same dimension, and I was able to sort them into front and back legs and pick which one would be best for the eventual leg vise.


Getting the legs to length had eaten up nearly the entire day. I had enough time for one more task. Cutting the ends of the bench top square. I used the largest of my Benjamin Seaton Squares to square a line from the front face. I cut one end, measured down twelve feet . . .


. . . and cut the other.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Carved Red Oak Box



I finished this earlier this month. It was a quick build because the client was hot to trot to get their hands on it. Originally I conceived this box as one half of a pair. Both boxes born from the same board. But the client came to me desperate for something fast and I'd already started this one at a demo. So I finished it up in a couple days and it's gone now. All I have left are the photos.


The box is red oak with black walnut trim. About 20 x 12 in dimension. I'm beginning to feel really good about these when they're done, I've started to dial in the details to where I want them. There are still things I want to explore in this form so I'm not done with it by a long shot.


As originally envisioned, I was going to build two carved boxes from the same board. The carvings were to complement each other or whatever I was going to do with those. But the insides, at least the inside of the lid, were supposed to be my first foray into parquetry.


 But one hot to trot person with money in their hands and I cave to my ideals. Oh well, I have some friends who are having a benefit for their son who has recently been diagnosed with Hodgekin's Lymphoma. I think I'll finish up that box and donate it to the benefit.


The number one question I get when people see my boxes in person is "Wow, how long did that take you." I've gotten wise enough so the first words out of my mouth are, "Well, it's not the first time I've done this." which softens the blow when I tell them the time.

Truth is I can knock out a box like this in a weekend. I cut parts and dovetails on a Friday night and spill some Danish Oil on it Sunday night. Carving and glue ups happen in between. The puzzling thing to me is the reaction I get when I admit something like this.


That I can be both efficient and proficient in getting something like this done seems to result in diminishing it's value. Non woodworkers want me to tell them I slaved over the carving for six months. Woodworkers want me to tell them it took me four hours to cut the dovetails by hand (an hour per corner without a router is the average guess)

It's a paradox I simply cannot wrap my head around sometimes.

But that rant is probably for another day.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bench Design; What's In A Name?

With the help I received getting the bench top done, I had to make some decisions on what I wanted from the bench and I had to decide now. The longer the benchtop sits and waits the better chance it will warp, or fall on the floor, or be confiscated by the underwear gnomes. (It's a side business for them)

Noah building the Arc at his workbench. From the Maciejoski Bible circa 1250AD.

What I need the bench to do is easy. Workbench Whisperer Chris Schwarz has a list of ten rules for workbenches that lays out everything you need to know. Really, it's everything. trust me, if it's not on the list then forget it.

Want to cover the ankles of your workbench with lace so the sight of it's slender ankles doesn't unduly excite the men-folk? Your answer is on that list. . . trust me.

My issue is in all the names. There are so many names, and fads, and trends when it comes to workbenches. Sometimes it's like hearing the well off doctors at work talk about their cars.

"What kind of workbench do you use?'

"Oh, I'm into a standard Roubo now, but I may upgrade to a split top next year."

"Have you seen the specs on the Nicholson? I understand it's back in vogue again."

"Did you see Jim was still planing on a Holtzapffel. . . that's so ten years ago."

As I reflect on it, I find it a little over the top. I don't remember my grandfather's workbench having a name, It was his workbench, it did what he needed it to do or he modified it. It wasn't a near and dear thing. It was a workbench, a tool, a place to work. Sentimentality need not apply.

But there is sentimentality for an old bench. I have enjoyed the hours I've spent working at the one I'm using now, but I can do better and I've grown as a woodworker, so much since I built the first bench. I need better. As I make the decision moving forward on my new workbench, I try and take the lessons I learned from my last bench and step forward.

The only name I've truly considered is Dominy.


On display at Winterthur Museum is the preserved remains of the historic Dominy Brother's workshop. Included is a 12 foot long workbench. It's that correlation in length that has made me think about it.

In the end, I'm not that interested in a twin screw vise for my workholding. I have a moxon vise that does that better (hmmm another name). I like a leg vise myself but I like the sliding deadman a lot especially considering the 12 foot span. The trouble is every picture I can find of the Dominy bench is obscured by the rest of the museum and that damn tall clock case.


Then I saw this bench, called "The Workhorse," from Richard Maguire, a man who makes traditional workbenches for a living, and it seems like the right configurations. Mine will be a little different yet. I want a traditional saw toothed plane stop. and I'm not so sure about a tail vise. I don't have or use one now.

In the end I say, forget the name, figure out what you like and name it yourself.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bench Building In An Avalanche

"Once the avalanche starts it's too late for the pebbles to vote."

This is one of my favorite lines from an old SciFi TV show called Babylon 5. It's been ringing in my head over the last few days.

A month ago today I posted here about some beams I picked up to build a new bench. At the time I thought those beams would sit in the corner of the shop for at least a few months before I was able to fit a bench build into my schedule. That was supposed to give me time to dwell and think about bench I wanted to make. Carefully weigh and debate my options and maybe save some pennies for new hardware and vises.


This is usually how I work, A big project has to sit and ruminate in my mind for a while. I pick apart the details and build it over and over a hundred times before I pick up a saw. Then, once I'm ready to go I can move through the project efficiently, because I have it all planned out.

This time, a trouble maker raised his hand and threw a wrench in the gears.

Mike Siemsen, The Naked Woodworker himself, was having a little spoon carving gathering at his place and I asked if I could come, hang out, and learn some from the folks there, I've dabbled a little in spoons lately myself, nothing much to be proud of really. But Mike picked up on the bench build and offered to help me run them through the big machinery he has for the school.

How could I say no. I packed up the beams in the truck and headed out for the weekend.



Mike does not mess around with his machines.

I have never owned a powered joiner or planer but I can really respect the power and ability inherent in these size tools. Mike is probably right when he says owning a smaller joiner that his really is just playing around.

We ran the three thinner beams (4" thick =  thinner. . . ) through the machines and glued them up into a benchtop in one evening. The next morning we scraped the glue and ran the whole benchtop through the planer one more time, top and bottom.

The result was spectacular.


We also sawed the larger beam in half and squared it up so I could bring it home and make my bench height decisions later. I just wasn't ready to commit just then, I hadn't cogitated on it for six months yet. And that's the crux of my next issue.

I don't want to wait to get this benchtop framed into a bench. The longer I wait to get it fixed the greater the chance of something going wrong, the top warping or falling off the stools I have it sitting on. I just can't let myself wait and see if it goes wrong. The same idea as gluing up a panel of boards as soon as possible after you joint and plane them. you want to lock in that flatness with the strength of the surrounding timber. Strength in numbers.

So for me, a simple pebble, the avalanche has started. It doesn't matter what else is on my plate, (and there are quite a few things right now) today is the time to build a bench.

Thanks Mike for the kick in the ass!

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Column Grooving Router Plane In Action.



Earlier I wrote about solving a problem making dados in turned columns by marrying a router plane and a joiner's saddle. You can read about my process HERE.

I edited together some video I shot of making the dados. I thought it might help in the understanding.


I move down the column in one direction to rough out the depth. Coming back in the other direction finishes the cut and allows me to move into the stopped end of the dado.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Problem Solving In The Shop

A while back I hit a high hurdle in the shop and it took me a while to think my way over it. I'm working on creating this chair depicted in the 13th century manuscript known as The Maciejowski Bible.


If you look at the chair you see round, turned columns joined to rails with mortises, not terribly difficult to accomplish with hand tools, but the kicker in the joinery design is the green panels fit between the rails. This requires some variety of groove or dado along the length of the columns to hold and hide the edge of the panel.

There were two ways to think about it.


First I could plow the groove in any standard way while the stock was still square. Then hope against hope that while I turned the legs on the lathe I wouldn't catch and tear out the groove too bad or worse, catch it very bad and wrench the whole piece off the lathe and send it careening across the shop.

On top of those dangerous prospects would be the gymnastics of getting the groove at proper center and depth before turning. Maybe with a CNC router or lathe, but not in my shop. The idea was out pretty quick.


So I turned the legs and chewed on the problem the whole while. At first I thought I would build a jig shaped like a long box. From either end I would clamp the column and from the top I would make a lid for the box that had a long slot cut in the center.

I would then run a router with a pattern template up and down through the slot and make my groove. I even went out and purchased the lumber, clamps, and a router base plate and bushing set from Milescraft to carry out the job. As I started to build the jig, my gut started to talk to me. I can't say exactly just what made me stop the process and switch gears. There were too many x-factors and measurements and it just seemed too likely an opportunity for me to screw the pooch.

Did I mention I wanted these grooves to stop at a point and not just blindly run the entire length.

Making the legs out of walnut, I didn't have any spare stock to make another if thing went wrong. I had to be smarter than the problem, and that's sometimes tough for me.


I waited and I thought.

I worked on other things and I thought.

I searched the internet, paged through books, wrote unfinished emails asking for advice.

And I thought.

My joiners saddles were my first inspiration.


I wanted to use my plow plane to make the grooves, and if I could figure out how to attach a joiners saddle shaped addition to the fence, I'd be golden.


But the physics of the plane defeated me. As you cut deeper with a plow plane, the fence moves deeper too. There was no way to do it and keep the fence centered on the round column. (Sitting here this morning I have thought of another way to do this with the plow that probably would work. I'll leave that for another day)

I thought about what else I had that made grooves, chisels, and a router plane.

Once I landed on the combination of router plane and joiners saddle I knew I'd picked the lock.


All that was left was to figure out the specifics and see if it worked.


It worked.

That hurdle is behind me, the next one, the finish, is still in my teeth.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf