Wednesday, January 28, 2009

19th c. Grease Box

Dennis Kunkle, Director of Facilities at the York County Heritage Trust , was last night's speaker at our woodworking club meeting. Dennis made a replica of the 19th c. grease box on display at the Historical Society of York County and brought step-by-step examples of the building process. Grease boxes, he surmises, may have been used by mechanics to lubricate machinery. His contains beeswax instead of grease, which he uses to lubricate screws. Needless to say, my love of boxes was roused and I plan to build my own someday.

1. Layout the rough shape on a block of wood. Dennis suggested using a nice piece of figured walnut.
2. Rough cut the shape with your tool of choice.
3. Saw the lid off.
4. Clean it up with a shoulder plane so it's seated perfectly when closed. Remove saw marks made within the kerf by laying a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface and scrubbing the workpiece clean.
5. Lay the lid in place and realign the grain. Because of the kerf, the lid will sit lower that the top surface of the box, so you may need to reposition the lid slightly in order for the grain to match.
6. Drill, countersink, and screw the lid to the box.
7. Plane the top of the box flush with the lid.

8. Inlay a decorative diamond or other shape on the lid. Dennis cut the inlay piece first (curly maple) and cleaned up the edges on sandpaper that was laid on a flat surface. Rub the piece's edges on the sandpaper at a very slight angle to create a bevel. Trace the outline of the inlay piece onto the lid and use a chisel to remove the waste. Glue the inlay piece in the recess. Plane flush.
9. Use a large forstner bit to drill the cavity for the inside of the box. (You may also choose to chisel this out instead so you can match the outside shape of the box.)
10. Trace the box outline onto the workpiece.
11. Cut the shape with your tool of choice. Dennis used a bandsaw.
12. Clean up the rough edges with your method of choice.

Dennis sprayed Deft as a finish and did not finish the inside. He melted beeswax and poured it into the cavity. He also brought to the presentation a set of matryoshka grease boxes, the smallest of which was approximately 3/4" long, complete with inlaid diamond.

It's a neat little project—one that can be made in a few hours and still has a useful place in the shop. I was not able to find any historical information about grease boxes, so if you have any info, please feel free to share.

Final dimensions of the grease box are approx. 4.25" long x 2.25" high.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Extreme Homes

These two homes in my neighborhood are within a half mile of one another.

But it's the smaller of the two that has a view of the mighty Susquehanna River.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sharpening a Drawknife

The best advice I can give someone who is new to woodworking is: Learn to sharpen more than one way. Not all tools can be sharpened using the same method.

My personal preference is to sharpen chisels and plane blades with Japanese waterstones, carving chisels with a leather strop, gouges with a contoured leather strop or contoured felt wheel chucked in a grinder, moulding plane blades with slipstones, and carving knives with ceramic stones.

And there are more methods available than just these.

After hearing Mike Dunbar's presentation at the WIA Conference, I remembered an old drawknife I had purchased (and never sharpened) when I was new to woodworking. Following is how I sharpened this tool, but there are other ways to do it.*

First, sandpaper was used to remove the fine layer of rust that had covered the blade from sitting unused in my basement for 16 years.

A drawknife cannot easily be sharpened by holding the blade and moving it along a stone, as you would a plane bl ade. Instead, it's easier to keep the drawknife stationary and take the stone to it.

So, I used an 80 grit diamond stone to "scrub", in a circular pattern, the flat side of the blade. You can see the swirl marks in the photos.

Note: Please be careful with this sharpening technique. It's very easy to slip and cut yourself. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

A 600 grit ceramic stone followed the diamond stone, followed by an 1800 grit ceramic stone. I used ceramic stones because they cut quickly and are small & light, making them easy to hold. I would not use waterstones this way because the blade might gouge the stone.

The blade was very dull, so a circular motion was a fast way to remove steel. But I changed to carefully sliding the stones back and forth as the blade became sharp.

The same technique was used to sharpen the curved side of the blade, except that I was careful to maintain the shape of the convex bevel.

This drawknife can benefit from a little more sharpening to remove scratch marks, but I took it for a test drive anyhow. It worked great and rounded the edge of a piece of cherry effortlessly. And after 16 years, I'm finally able to put this fun-to-use handtool to the work it deserves.

*Mike Dunbar uses sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood to sharpen his drawknives.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Philadelphia Furniture Workshop Open House

The PFW is hosting on January 30 & 31 a FREE open house. Ongoing demonstrations by some top woodworkers including Adam Cherubini, Christopher Storb, Jim Blauvelt, Mario Rodriguez, Bill Grumbine, Alan Turner, and Joel Moskowitz will focus primarily on handtools.

A few tool and hardware vendors will have booth space.

It's a great opportunity to check out the PFW's shop & classes, chat with other woodworkers (and you know we are a chatty bunch! In fact, who here among us can't talk for 5 days straight about woodworking?), and learn some new techniques.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My First Love

For the first 10 years of my woodworking journey, people who found out that I'm a woodworker would ask excitedly, "Oh, do you have a lathe?"

"Well no, I don't really need one. But I have just about every other woodworking tool." They always responded with a look of mild disappointment.

Years later, a horrible thing happened. I realized that I had purchased every tool I would ever need to build the projects on my list.

So, like a good woodworker, I started to look for projects that would justify purchasing a new tool—a lathe. Because once you buy a lathe, you'll need to outfit it with chisels and gouges, chucks and spindles, and loads of other accessories. Life was good again.

First it was pens. Who can't use a pen? Why, I could make my own Christmas gifts for the rest of my life!

Then I figured I could make drawer pulls, legs for tavern tables, bowls for gifts. And there are endless ways in which turning can enhance a piece of furniture.

So now I've signed up for 8 woodturning classes and hopefully one day I'll produce some nice lathework.

However, my first love will always be woodworking. It's how I identify myself—as a woodworker. There are woodworkers who turn and woodturners who build furniture, chip carvers who make treenware, cabinet makers who whittle, and the list goes on.

You can learn to work with wood any number of ways, but you will always have your first love—the way in which you identify yourself—whichever woodworking discipline it may be. (But that's just my opinion—feel free to prove me wrong.)

Not sure what I'll do once I've purchased everything I need for lathework. But a quick glance around the shop reveals that I don't own a scrollsaw....

The photo above is of two tops I turned after taking two woodturning classes. The cherry turned much more easily than the poplar which tended to chip and fuzz. They're nothing impressive, but I still have six more classes to go!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

PA Farm Show

Agriculture is the #1 industry in Pennsylvania. And the largest indoor Ag event in the U.S. —the Pennsylvania Farm Show—has been housed at the PA Farm Show Complex for the last 90 years.

Some main attractions include a life-size butter sculpture and farm equipment displays; competitive events such as livestock judging, cow milking, equine showcase, carriage racing, and sheep-to-shawl; and food contests like Blue Ribbon Apple Pie and Greatest Cocoa Cake.

There are also rows and rows of farm animals. Alpacas are my mom's favorite (photo #2). To get a sense of the size of the Alpaca named Samson, my mom measures 13.2 hands at the shoulder.

The food court offers local goodies like fresh squeezed milkshakes, funnel cakes, mushrooms, and maple syrup desserts. Not a good place for dieters, only 5 of which reside in Pennsylvania.

This year, and the sole reason I went to the show (besides the chickens), was a display of a 1/12 scale model of one of the most recognized barns in North America--the Star Barn, c.1872. The star motif represents hope and good fortune for the farm and land.

The model builder, Terry Spahr, spent 11 months constructing the exact replica which includes 15,000 roof shingles, real stone, and miniature metal hinges; and the hog & chicken barns and corn crib outbuildings.

As luck would have it I was able to talk with Terry, who explained that most of the wood he uses is douglas fir and balsa, and that 2-part cyanoacrylate glue holds the pieces together. He uses 10" and 6" table saws with Piranha saw blades, a band saw, and dremel tool in his shop (among other tools) and builds by the addage "If it's something worth doing, it's worth overdoing it."

I can believe it, having seen his work in person.

Fully replicated interiors include staircases, stalls, feed bins and if you look closely in the last photo, you will see that the support beams are chamfered.
Even if chickens with puffy tresses and bunnies the size of tractors (there's always lots of big hare at PA farm events) aren't your thing, the Star Barn replica makes it well worth the smell of admission.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dare to Move Your Light

Unless you're planning to spend all your time standing beside your finished piece with a task light shining at an optimum angle, it's a good idea to inspect it with light shone at various angles while it's still under construction.

This is especially true in carving, such as cabriole legs, lettercarving, shells, and anything in which you have to shape a piece with handtools. All will benefit from this kind of scrutiny.

I'll forewarn you...this is not an exercise for the faint of heart. Just when you think your fine skill has generated perfection, a readjusted light will make mockery of your workpiece and reveal with glaring clarity just how imperfect a creation you've painstakingly crafted.

However, it does give you the opportunity to make corrections and ensure that your work will look its best under any kind of light.

Even the type under which it will eventually most likely be found — boring, indistinct, overhead light. (See last photo....ew.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Drawer Front

The drawer front on the sawbuck table has a raised decorative shape. A template from paper was used to trace the outline onto the wood. Then I incised the outline with an exacto knife, used a chisel to define the line, and used gouges, chisel, and shoulder plane to remove the waste.

A little touch up with sandpaper and it's ready for the date to be inscribed.

There are a few dings and mistakes, but that's one of the things I like about PA German furniture: it's okay to see tool marks and imprecision. That's what gives it its warm appeal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Creating A Cove

The original sawbuck table (pictured at right) has a raised panel on the drawer front, comprised of sloped edges that rise up to a decoratively-shaped field where the date and drawer pull are found.

All of the raised panels I've ever made have had flat slopes, but the sawbuck's are concave (cove profile).

If you don't have a moulding plane that matches the cove's shape (raising hand) and believe it's too dangerous a task to be performed on a table saw (raising both hands), then you need to get resourceful.

It's all about stock removal. How you achieve it depends on the tools you have and your personal preference.

The top edge of the slopes sits a bit lower than the decorative field, so I reached for a tool I'd never used before, a Record 043, to define the depth of the recess and the width of the slopes.

Even though I spent time sharpening the Record's blade and flattening the fence and depth stop, it worked very poorly—tearing up the wood like kids unwrapping Christmas gifts. It was difficult to keep the fence tight against the edge, due I think to the type of wood—curly cherry.

So I employed my Sargent combination plane, which worked superbly.

From there, a block plane, moulding plane, rasp, scraper, and sanding block finished the profile. Some of these steps could have been skipped, but I was figuring this out as I went along.

I'm sure there are a number of other ways to create a cove so feel free to share your own creative methods.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Caution: Woodworking Links Ahead

I recently came across a woodworking site where the owner, Jim Boyett, has compiled a heaping helping of links to sites about hand tools.

Careful, though. I recommend only visiting the site when you have lots of free time at your disposal.

Jim's Hand-Tool Woodworking Links