Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shop Tour

Photos of my shop, which is located right off the bedroom, in the morning light. A woodworker's shop is never really complete. I have a number of workstations I'd like to build, an assembly table that needs a top, a sink base that needs doors. By the time I finish everything that I'd like to build for my shop, I'll be too old to do woodworking. Then, we'll probably sell the house to someone who'll turn it into in-laws' quarters...

Colossal Cat

Nothing to do with woodworking. Just continually amazed at the size of our cat who, I swear, we do not overfeed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Santa's Workshop

Today, several of us from the woodworking club got together to make toys for underprivileged kids in our area that will be distributed by Volunteers of America at Christmastime. Each year, my club makes at least 75 cars and trucks. We'll put wheels on them next week and drill the "windows". Although very simple designs, the toys are given to very young kids and we're told they love them. The good part about these toys is they can really take a beating (they are 6 year old tested and approved). All wood is donated by a local lumberyard and the Woodcraft Store lets us use their woodworking shop to build the toys, so it's very much a team effort. (In the group photo, I'm the one on the right.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

2 Great Planemakers

Today I went to the Brown International Tool Auction & Dealer Show, which comes twice a year to within 10 minutes of my house. To tool collectors and users, this is "kid in a candy store" land. Imagine a banquet hall filled with a sea of metal & wood handplanes, other tools and antique books, and well...I'm starting to get choked up....moving on...

At this event, there are well-known dealers and makers of tools. One plough plane maker, Jim Leamy, whose shop I've had the good fortune to tour, kindly spends a great deal of time talking with me at these shows. You wouldn't believe what this man can do with metal and wood. He makes every part of these planes himself, including the gears and threaded arms, and has a back order of 18 months. His planes are already collector's items. After talking with him, I never know if I should be inspired or depressed!

Jim introduced me to another planemaker, a maker of miniature planes, Paul Hamler, who is also extraodinarily talented. That little plane to the right is sitting on an actual coin. The slipper plane below is about 2 inches long and hand engraved. Seeing that I was so interested in planemaking, Paul ran out to his car to retrieve a wooden briefcase filled with his miniature tools. One little plane was, and I'm not kidding, less than 1/2" long and made of solid gold....AND it cut wood!

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I'm in awe of these guys.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trick or Treat

Here are our next door neighbors. Poor little Frankenstein was scared of Sister Skeletor! (click on image to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cleaning Wood Furniture

Just bought an excellent book on wood finishing: Foolproof Wood Finishing, by Teri Masaschi.

In it, Teri explains the correct way to clean and maintain wood furniture. First, toss out the Pledge and furniture oils, such as Old English. These products merely put a superficial shine on your piece and smell good, but they do nothing to help restore or protect your furniture. In fact, they may attract dust.

Teri suggests regular dusting with either a slightly damp cloth or [better] a microcloth, that is 70% polyester, 30% polymide, lint-free, washable and non-abrasive, such as Miracle Cloths. For heavy duty cleaning, mix 1/8 to 1/4 cup Murphy Oil Soap in a half-gallon of water and wipe your furniture with a wrung-out cloth. Allow dampness to evaporate and apply paste wax.

Paste wax can be applied however often you like. She suggests purchasing a high-quality wax that is a blend of carnaba, beeswax, and sometimes paraffin. You don't want a wax that's too soft and smudgy, nor one that is too hard, like a bowling alley wax that will be difficult to buff out. She recommends Behlen's Blue Label Wax or Liberon's paste wax. Waxes come in different colors, so choose the one that is the closest color to the wood. Waxes produce a dry, non-greasy surface that does not attract dust and liquids tend to bead on the surface. When applying wax, work in small sections and buff out as you go; don't apply wax to the entire piece all at once. Apply a thin layer and buff out with a clean cloth (I use worn out socks and tshirts).

I've found that using cheesecloth with a small bit of wax folded up inside will apply the right amount of wax on the surface, a thin consistent film.

Another benefit to using wax is, if you decide to refinish your piece, wax can be removed easily with mineral spirits.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not Ready for Primetime Planes

I have built a total of 7 handplanes, which does not make me a plane maker. I'm not sure what the magic number will be when I can claim that title, but I figure I will know it when I get there. That big pile of shavings was my attempt to plane the perfect shaving: no breaks and the full length of the board. Alas...

I learned to make handplanes from David Finck and Tod Herrli. David makes planes in the Krenov style and has written the best book on plane making available. Tod is a master of making moulding planes and panel raisers. The panel raiser class I took from him at Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe was four exhausting 10-hour days and worth every second.

While I still am not able to achieve the "perfect shaving", all of the planes I've made at least produce a shaving that you can read through.

Of the woods I've used to make the planes, bloodwood, osage orange, and beech have worked the best as far as durability (not wearing from use) and holding a sharp edge (meaning, when shaping the planes themselves, a cut into the wood will produce a crisp, clean edge). Applewood smells like cider when you cut it, but the wood moves a lot and I have to re-flatten the sole twice a year. Maple's great, just kind of boring.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kids & Woodworking

You'd be surprised what kids can make with wood, even at an early age. Bird houses, toys, puzzles, picture frames, shelves. There are several good books devoted to teaching woodworking to children.

I don't have kids of my own, but two other people and I helped the youth group at our church learn how to correctly use hammers, electric drills, and handsaws...and we and the kids loved it. Kids need to work with their hands. Learning woodworking at an early age builds confidence, mathmatical skills, eye-hand coordination, resourcefulness, and problem-solving skills. 10 year olds can be taught to use a scroll saw and younger children can be taught to use hammers, hand drills, hand saws, and all sorts of measuring tools.

Creating things with your hands is becoming a lost art in our younger generations, who instead prefer to sit in front of a computer or text their friends (I know how curmudgeonly that sounds, and I'm only 43!). If you have a child, I encourage you to build something with him or her. You'll be spending time together, you'll be creating something, and I guarantee that you both will benefit from the experience.

Link added 10.20.07 for kids and woodworking programs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Things I Learned...

...at the Women's Woodworking Club meeting last night:

1. It's legal to work inside your home completely naked and you can even walk outside your home and work in the yard, also naked. As long as you don't offend anyone, you won't be arrested.

2. It's possible to hold four simultaneous conversations, at the same table, with the same people, and everyone will hear what everyone else is saying.*

*this excludes yours truly, who obviously must be missing an x chromosome.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Nature of Woodworkers

(At the risk of sounding corny/naive/Gomer Pyle-ish): Just a quick comment on what I've found to be the nature of a vast majority of woodworkers (of course there are always exceptions, as in any group). They seem to be such a kind bunch of people, happy to share their woodworking knowledge. Without fail, every single famous woodworker to whom I have written—folks who write ww books, are contributing editors to ww magazines, and in one case, has his own ww show—have all written back, often within minutes of receiving my email, and have been eager to help.

I'm not sure if it's a particular personality type that is drawn to woodworking or if it's woodworking that brings out these traits in people. Nonetheless, it's a great community of which to be a part.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Progress Report

Two burly male friends came over yesterday to move the behemoth bookcase upstairs. Today, I installed the shiplapped and beaded back and moved it into its final position. Next, I'll build the crown molding and once that's added to the top, I can cross this one off my project list.

Incidentally, that flag hanging on the wall belonged to my great grandparents, immigrants from Sweden. It's a pre-1912 flag with 45 stars and I'm sure it meant a great deal to them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What a View!

Here is one of the many reasons I live in my tiny town: a spectacular view of the capitol city! Rich in history, my town was the most northern point the Confederate army reached during the Civil War.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Queen Victoria

Would you believe that Queen Victoria was a woodturner? How cool is that? According to The Ornamental Turning Center (OTC), the Queen, and others of wealth and royalty, enjoyed turning decorative rosework and swashwork on a machine called an Ornamental Lathe (which is not the same as a regular lathe). According to the OTC website, the Ornamental Lathe was developed in Bavaria around 1525.

Paraphrased from Sandor Nagyszalancy's book "The Art of Fine Tools": In 1794, John Jacob Holtzapffel opened a lathe-making business in which he developed foot-powered lathes with an overhead drive system. A treadle-drive flywheel was coupled with a system of pulleys & drive belts which powered a revolving cutter. By fitting any of a wide variety of cutters, the user could create an unending profusion of surface decorations.

Beautiful, decorative pieces could be made with an ornamental lathe (of which only a few remain). No wonder it appealed to the Queen. Obviously, the creative spirit can be found in any group of people, including royalty.

Photos from "The Art of Fine Tools", Sandor Nagyszalanczy.

Shiplapped & Beaded

One of the best things about woodworking is that you have several choices of techniques and tools in making any given cut. And when you're a hobbyist, you have the luxury of choosing the technique that suits your safety needs and preference. My preference is to use hand tools, unless I'm in a hurry (which seems to be never). So in making the back for my partner's bookcase, I picked up one of my antique beading planes and my Stanley #78 antique rabbeting plane. Sharpened and honed, they are two very sweet tools.

Why use a beading plane when I could my router table? Several reasons: 1) sawdust makes me cough 2) by working with handtools, it seems more like you're shaping the wood rather than a power tool creating the shape 3) you don't waste wood making practice cuts 4) faster set up time 5) it's quiet 6) it's a great workout 7) it's safer 8) wood shaped with handtools seems to have more character (but my power tool buddies would beg to differ! : )

In fact, it took me only a little longer to bead the boards by hand than it would have taken me with a router. I averaged 2-3 minutes per each 7' long board with 11 passes with the molding plane.

Once the beaded edges were done, I started on the rabbets with the Stanley #78. The first board took 30 minutes to plane the rabbet to width and depth. I've got 12 boards to rabbet, front and back. That's 24 rabbets x 30 minutes. 12 hours!

Hmmmm....my table saw's looking pretty good right now....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Queen of Half-Finished Projects

If you ever need advice on how to drag a project out as long as possible, I'm your Go-To Girl. I told LOML a year and a half ago that I would build a bookcase for her, and well...it's getting there. I still have to build the back, which will be ship-lapped & beaded walnut, and then build the crown molding. Good thing LOML is patient!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

2 DP Dust Collecting System

Here is a photo of my 2DP (dog power) Dust Collecting System.
At 6-7 years old, it still collects sawdust remarkably well.
One time, Daisy (black) stuck her head in a pile of pine sawdust and emerged looking like a Nordic sailor.