Thursday, May 31, 2007

Challenge Table: Complete

I'll be posting more about the construction of the table when I get some time, and more than 2 brain cells to rub together (I had vicious insomnia last night and didn't get much sleep). In the meantime head on over to my LumberJocks project post to see pictures of the completed table and a description of it.

Night light

One of the panels from Snowflake's night light. His parents are avid skiers and I fully expect to see him on skis as soon as he can walk. I haven't installed the electrical parts yet, so I placed a small flashlight in the night light to get this picture.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lots of Progress

I have been remiss in not posting about all of the progress I've made in the last month of so. Here's a recap by project.

Wall Cabinet
The wall cabinet is ready for finish.

Foot Stools
The foot stools are ready for finish. I've been wondering about how to fill the grain, since the hickory has a very open grain pattern. While looking for something else in my stash of saved woodworking magazine articles I found one I'd saved on non-commercial grain filler. One option is to use pumice and boiled linseed oil. I've had a box of pumice sitting on the shelf for years (for use as a sanding agent when finishing) so I bought a can of boiled linseed oil. I'm going to give this a try before adding finish to the stools.

Night Light
Ready for finish. The panels look great (pictures soon). I'm going to apply finish before I glue up the box, so I have more control over the finish. I need to get this done ASAP since Snowflake made his appearance 3 weeks ago.

Hiker Boy's Advent Calendar
I've got the plan sketched out and started cutting the parts during my last couple of classes. I've got the sides of the case ready, although I may have to check that I left room to affix the back.

CD Holder
Adjusted the height of the dividers. It's ready for dadoes and rabbets.

Challenge Table
This has been garnering most of my attention. I started to include a report here, and then realized that it make this post extremely long. So, I'll post about that separately.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Planer & Jointer Uses

A little education for self-taught artist, and anyone else who's curious.

Unless you buy wood already surfaced - which at a lumberyard is expensive and at the big box stores is low quality - the wood will look like the picture at the left. This may not look so nice but once it's cleaned up it should look pretty good, although I surfaced a board last week that had the wildest grain and color patterns. Might be good for some things, but not for the cabinet door frame I'd intended it for. But I digress.. The way you take this rough board and make it a nice pretty board is either to use a hand plane or the power tool option the planer and jointer (you may also see this written as joiner).

Step 1 is to take the board to the jointer and place the face side down. For safety you determine which face is most stable and place that down on the infeed table of the jointer. With one edge against the fence you push the board across the blades (the three lines in the circle on the drawing below) to the outfeed table. The outfeed table is just a bit higher than the infeed table and the blades are aligned with the outfeed table.

The amount of difference between the tables is the amount of wood that is removed. After several passes over the blades the face of the board should look something like the wood pictured below, but with rough edges.

The next step is to create a smooth edge that is perpendicular (90ยบ) to the face that you just smoothed. To do this you hold the piece on end on the infeed table and support it against the fence. Then you pass it over the blades just like you did with the face, cutting the wood on the edge.

Then it's time to head to the planer. The planer also has a cylinder with blades on it, but instead of two tables it has one. To use it you place the nice flat face you just created face down on the table and feed the board into the planer . The feed rollers continue to move the board through the machine, and the blades cut off a small amount of wood (the table is adjustable). Because the table and the face you milled on the jointer are both flat the face with smoothed by the blades will be parallel to the one created on the jointer. When you're done the board should look a lot like the ones in the second photo above. You'll still have a rough edge, but that can be trimmed off at the table saw.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Class Machines

I prepare the stock for my projects in the adult ed class I take at a local high school. The equipment is decent, although the upkeep could be better. Last fall both the jointer and planer were out of commission for several weeks. Given that the use of those machines and the tablesaw are the reason I take this class, it was frustrating to say the least.

I first took this class about 10 years ago, after winning a gift certificate in a raffle which was part of the annual charity fund raising at work. I've taken it at least one session almost every year since.

Pictured below are the machines I use most often at class, and a brief explanation of each. This is the jointer. It's used to create a flat face, or edge on a board. Step one in surfacing a board is to place it on it's face on the table to the right of the red guard. The table surface on the right is slightly lower than the table surface on the left. The blades are under the red guard attached to a cylindrical holder. The blades spin and as you push the board from right to left they shave a small amount off the wood. Once one face is flat, the board is held on edge against the fence (the vertical metal piece in the picture), and run over the blade. As long as the fence has been set at a 90 degree angle to the table this will create an edge square to the face.

This is the planer. This one is mammoth - it'll take a board at least 20" wide. The planer is used to create a second flat face parallel to the face created on the jointer. It works similarly to the jointer. In the planer the blades are suspended above the board, and slice the wood off the top face of the board. The planer also has rollers flanking the blades that feed the board through.
This beauty is the table saw. I didn't manage to get a picture that shows the blade (sorry about that). Using the fence (the T shaped item on top of the table) and a miter gauge, which runs along the cut out at the left side of the table, the wood is cut to size.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Spark

In a comment on one of my posts, self taught artist asked about how I got started in woodworking. I've written some of this before on LumberJocks, but will repeat and expand on it here. I'm going to start with some background, bear with me it is relevant.

When I was 4 my family moved into a haunted house. The house had had only 2 previous owners, the architect who built it for himself only to run out of money, and the woman my parents bought it from. Mrs. M.'s parents bought it for her as her dowry. When my parents bought it Mrs. M. was 90 something and headed for a nursing home. The house had not had much done to it in years. It was at the end of a dead-end street, a dark brown Dutch colonial. The only occupant an old woman, and my guess is that fear made her come across as mean.

My parents bought that house because of location - there was a good elementary school within walking distance and my father could walk to work, size - this house was big with a full attic and basement, and I'm sure cost - because of the work it needed it was less expensive than other houses in the area.

Once we moved in my parents got to work fixing the house up. Wall paper was removed, paint added to walls and the like. And this is where my grandfather enters the picture. Granddaddy Art worked in the building trades. He didn't live close by, but as long as there was apple pie for dessert he would put his expertise to work for my parents. He was also adept at salvage so when my parents decided to replace the claw foot tub in the bathroom with a more modern model he acquired one. I have vivid memories of riding home down the Massachusetts Turnpike in the back of the new bathtub.

Granddaddy Art would come for several days or a week to help with the rehabilitation of that house - fixing the wainscoting on the front stairs, rebuilding the chimney, ... I loved to watch this work. Although he worked on our house I don't have an image of my father building things . Granddaddy Art built things. We spent part of most summers at his "camp" in the Berkshire hills - a cabin he'd built. Later I learned that he'd salvaged a house from one of the towns on the site of the Quabbin Reservoir and reassembled it for his family on a lot in Springfield. His grave is in site of that house.

When Granddaddy Art was at our house I would follow him around, not too closely as that would get me in trouble. I can remember sitting on the basement stairs while he and my father worked on some creation, and standing on a ladder with my head peeking out of the hatch in the attic watching him rebuild the chimney. I was always curious about what he was doing, but never learned any secrets from him. He was a traditional sort and construction wasn't a vocation he thought suitable for girls.

I think it was watching him that gave me the confidence to think that I could make things. I'd seen it done and it didn't look so hard. That was the spark, and it's why this blog has the name it does.

One regret I have is that he died and his tools were sold off, before I caught the woodworking bug. I would love to have tools from his shop, or to have learned from him. I'd like to think that he'd have mellowed by now and would be proud of the things I build.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Thursday - Class Night

I ran through all the work I had planned for class pretty quickly tonight.

Here's what I did:
  • Cut extra panels sized to the nightlight light panels. I'll use these to back up the panels when I scrollsaw them this weekend.
  • Cut the shoulders for the tenons on the table parts - aprons, top, stretchers.
  • Planed the filler for the mortises, which I'll use to fill the first tenon while cutting the second in the legs.
  • Cut parts for a new project - a small box for the bathroom to replace the basket that's we used have on the back of our toilet before we replaced the toilet.
  • Trimmed the shelves for the wall cabinet.
Since I finished so quickly at class I had time for a little work once I got home and finished the router work on the leg mortises.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mortises, Mortises, Mortises

I'm working on cutting the mortises for the challenge table. There are three in each of the breadboard ends, two each in the front legs, and three each in the back legs. For those keeping count that's 16 mortises.

I started cutting these on the dedicated mortiser at class. This is a large free-standing, foot operated machine. Like most of the equipment at the school it has been used and abused for years. (I can't find a picture of anything similar on the web. I'll try to get one on Thursday night.) Even with all of my careful setup, the mortises ended up off center - some worse than others. After careful examination of the mortises I decided that I wasn't happy with them. This left me with two choices - fill the mortises and recut the mortises or recut the legs. Since I'm trying to make this table as perfect as possible I decided to recut the legs, which I did at class on Thursday night. I'd only cut two of the mortises in the breadboards ends and those were acceptable so I didn't cut new breadboards ends.

I decided to finish the mortises on my router table. First up was the purchase of a new 3/8" straight router bit which I did a few weeks ago. I hadn't realized how dull my router bits are until I loaded this one up in my router and made a test cut. So I've added finding a service to sharpen my router bits to my to-do list.

With the new bit in the router, I set the fence. I'm using Norm's method of cutting each twice - running each face of the wood against the fence to ensure that the mortise is centered. This is possible because I haven't yet cut the tenons, so I'll be able to create those based on the thickness of the mortises. Last night I milled the remaining mortises on the breadboard ends. Tonight I finished marking the mortises on the legs, and began the cutting. I decided to start by drilling out most of the waste out with my drill. I chucked a drill bit which is slightly smaller than the final width of the mortise into my drill and started drilling.

I thought I'd carefully measured the depth I needed, but clearly I should have triple-checked it. The drill went completely through the leg! This wouldn't have been that bad except that it chipped out the face which was intended to be left solid. After creating a plug to fill the errant hole, and readjusting which leg is which and which face is the intended outer face I got back to the job at hand. First up - remarking the drill bit, then after cutting a whole lot of holes - one mortise on each leg is 4 1/2" long.

Finally, after checking the router fence using a piece of scrap leg stock, I started working the mortises on the router table. It's going quickly since I've already removed the bulk of the waste. I've got 3 more passes to make on this face of the legs.

On the back legs there are two mortises which intersect - one faces the other back leg, the other faces the front legs. This leaves a very small section of wood on the inner corner of the leg and requires very careful cutting. In preparation for this I've milled a board to fill the mortise that's already been cut and support that small section of wood (come back later for a picture). That wood is a little too thick so I'll need to do some planing/sanding before I start on the other two mortises.

When the router work is done, I'll clean up the corners with chisels. After that I'll be ready to start working on the tenons that will fit into those mortises. 30 days left....

Update 5/3 - Added pictures.