Thursday, April 7, 2011

Making a Level: Glamour Shots

Well, as glamorous as I'm willing to go without the assistance of a boa and leopard-print fabric.

The level is sanded to 400 grit and has four thin coats of wipe-on polyurethane and two coats of dark paste wax.

Over time, the brass and cherry will darken (my preference).

One person asked in the last post what happens if the wood moves over time. How will I fix it so it's still level?  I'll either lay a sheet of sandpaper on my table saw and rub the bottom of the level back and forth until it's flat again or I'll handplane the bottom.

Thanks to another commenter for this idea: you can check for level by laying it on your table saw, taking note of the position of the bubble, spinning the level 180ยบ, and checking the location of the bubble again. If it's in the same place, your level is level. 

The brass is not polished as smoothly as I'd like. I rubbed it with 220, 400, 1200, and 4,000 grit sandpaper and still there are scratches.

I asked an old college chum who now makes jewelry (and some very cool tags for dogs) how she achieves a mirror polish on metal.

She uses polishing papers, working through the entire set, then puts the jewelry in a tumbler. While I'm not planning to invest in the last item, I am going to try the paper.  I don't know if it will also work on wood or not but I'll give it a try. The fact that the sheets are washable and reusable (and inexpensive) is pretty enticing.

Now....what to build next?

28 comments:

Stephen Shepherd said...

Kari,

That is very attractive, you did a great job. My only suggestion is to line up all of the slots on the screws in the same direction. I know that is a bit picky, but gunsmiths and instrument makers do line them up.

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks, Stephen. I like your idea of lining up all the screws, and I'm sure it would look great, but it's at odds with my love of randomness. :o)

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Now that's what I'm talking about!Beautiful!
To polish brass to a mirror finish I use 120,180,240,320,400,600 & 800 grit wet & dry followed by white chrome polish on a leather strop.220 is quite coarse & to jump from that to 400 then 1200 is going to leave a lot of fine scratches.Fibral mopping is also good for intermediate finishing as it's a flexible nylon material that will go into scratches & soften the edges making mirror polishing possible even with marks left by 320 grit.Even using liquid Brasso on a cotton rag will soften scratches enough that going through the whole series of papers again may be unnecessary.

ART said...

Great job, thanks for sharing the project.

Brad said...

From an old retired submarine sailor who has polished his share of brass...

Almost anything you use produces residue that may color the wood of the level body. The best polishes are liquid/paste based (Never-Dull brand is great) etc. and they aren't good candidates due to the liquid chemicals that'll stain the wood or at least remove the finish. If you want to take the brass plate off to polish it that's another matter, but if you head down that road it’ll be life-long job – keeping the brass polished….

As you said, I’d just let them darken over time. The brass will even color unevenly based on where you touch and hold it most. Lovely.

Jeff Branch said...

That is the best looking level I have seen. What do make next? How about one for me? Just kidding.

Jeff

Vic Hubbard said...

Quite beautiful!! I'd call anything I used to check level with that, level. It's too good looking to second guess.

Simon Frez-Albrecht said...

!!!!!!
Awesome! I have been following the progress, and at first I thought I was looking at several close-up shots of a hefty hunk of brass, but then realized what I was actually looking at.

I agree that you are getting a less than perfect finish probably due to skipping so many grits. Metal is a bit less forgiving than wood when it comes to polishing it up. You could go back through the grits, or polish it on some fine sharpening compound (I've used my green compound strop as an impromptu jewelry polisher). In my silversmithing days we often used steel wool before a soft buffing wheel loaded with red rouge.

Maybe you could continue with a fine wood layout square. That seems a bit pedestrian after this fine piece of craftsmanship, however. Perhaps some wood bodied planes with brass soles. They would probably be quite attractive.

Trevor Walsh said...

I vote for a brass and beech hammer type saw set. With hardened steel anvils... I'm working up a version of the Lee Valley newsletter one from 1.5 I think it is.

Philip R said...

I think you should make something that requires the use of a level!

Oh, and final polishing with Silvo will leave less scratches than Brasso, since the later has some grit in it.

Darnell said...

Beautiful, Kari, beautiful. I really like the sharp creases and crisp peaks in the thick cherry body. Well done.

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone!

And thanks for all the great ideas for polishing brass. I was hoping that people would post their methods. I don't mind a few scratches because the level will get nicked up in the shop, but I knew there must be better ways to achieve nicer results.

The Village Carpenter said...

Trevor, I wasn't able to find the saw set article in the LV newsletters. If you come across it, can you let me know?

woodcanuck said...

I've used turner's micromesh pads and wet sanded through 12000 grit. The pads or sheets can be had fairly cheaply through LV and other places that have turner's supplies. After 12000, any scratches are very fine and can be buffed out with green honing compound or automotive polishing compounds and a buffing pad in a power drill.

It's one of those patience things...(ie, something I struggle with) :-)

It's been really great to see this project come together, fantastic work.

Ian

Trevor Walsh said...

Here is the link http://www.leevalley.com/US/newsletters/Woodworking/1/5/whatisit.htm

Eric said...

Bravo Kari!
Absolutely splendid!
Thank you.

Tico Vogt said...

You must be plumb proud!

John Cashman said...

Beautiful, beautiful work, as always. I am particularly overwhelmed by the cutout in the top of the brass for viewing the vial. Very elegant.

I second the motion on micromesh. They can be had in many sizes, from small 1-1/2 inch cushioned pads up to 5 inch discs for ROS. Great stuff.

bubba squirrel said...

If you want a high polish on the brass use a buffing wheel on a bench grinder and use a little jeweler's rough. Alternatively, use a felt wheel on a Dremel with a little buffing compound.

David Scott said...

Very nice work wish I could do this level

Gorges Smythe said...

WOW!

Jerry said...

Glad your blogging again this year after your break. Cool level...

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks again for all the nice comments!
Trevor, thanks for the link. That's a really neat saw set! Wonder what kind of steel you need for the hammer and how you bend it.

Trevor Walsh said...

I would use 1095 for the spring portion hardened and then tempered blue, the hammer portion I would probably uses w1 just because I have a ton of it.

rgdaniel said...

I'll second the suggestion for Micro Mesh sheets or pads... I use mostly the pads, they quickly put a very nice polish on pens and other small turned items, right on the lathe... I've not used them at "human" speeds though, but I imagine it's the same process as with the polishing papers... patience and stamina...

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - nice job on the level. I actually use those 3M 'polishing papers' as a honing medium and can honestly say it's the best stuff I've ever come across. Stick it to a piece of 10mm float glass and use with your favourite honing guide (or not, as the case may be) for a really razor sharp, mirror polished edge - Rob

The Village Carpenter said...

Trevor, thanks. Looking into it...

Thanks Bob and Rob for the advice. I have some new fun things to try.

Steve Branam said...

Gorgeous! Brass and wood are such a beautiful combination, whether it's boats or tools.