Jul 20

The great Shed Tidy-Up 2020

It happens to us all, or so I’m telling myself – you start one project, it gets interrupted by another two which are a little more urgent, you’re playing with something on the side on the lathe because that doesn’t interfere with the bench, and suddenly you’re ankle-deep in shavings and can’t see the bench because it’s covered by six boxes and you can’t reach the tools anymore.

Thought I was exaggerating, didn’t you? So. Where to start. Well, hoovering up and putting things like the grinder back on the wall was the obvious bit, but I was still left with a literal shed-load of clutter on the bench. I tried organising stuff into boxes so that projects-in-motion like the new lathe tooling and such were at least corralled, but it became obvious that, well, this just isn’t very good as workspaces go. Take the tools under the bench for example. They’re in those plastic boxes to the far left (the cardboard box in front of them is a burn box for offcuts and the like). To get at those tools, you have to pull out the relevant box (and they’re plastic and a few years old and cracking), and it’s never the first box no matter how you stack them, and they’re heavy so you have to get right down on the floor for leverage and once you have the tool you need, the boxes all have to go back so that you can then use that tool and when done, you have to put it all back into the boxes again and it’s been a pain for a long long time now.

So, I started thinking drawers. I mean, shaker workbenches are basically a set of drawers with a worktop on them, so why not. Make a bunch of plywood boxes, put them on drawer runners because fitting six drawers will take a while, and just fit them into that space and maybe move the thicknesser over to the right so we have a single contiguous space to fit drawers into… and here’s the rub. Plywood’s not cheap (and getting to a timber yard at the time was akin to buying drugs). Drawer runners for this sort of weight (because those boxes are all handplanes and rasps and basically lots of solid metal) are not cheap. And all this would take time. Which I mean, I don’t have a boss here, this is a hobby, but feck it, there are things I wanted to do. And then I started looking at the background in one of John McGrath‘s youtube videos…

Hm. Ready-made drawers you say. Hmmmmmm. ‘Course, it turns out that working in a small shed complicates things. In a larger shed, you’d buy those exact ones from halfords and they’d be reasonably cheap (by which I mean you couldn’t build them from ply and drawer slides for the same money). But when you have a very specific space that they can go in and a large amount of stuff to get into that space, your choices narrow a bit and almost inevitably not to the cheapest option. Even so, the one I finally found after a month of searching worked out cheaper than building my own (just) and it introduced me to a new source for bits’n’bobs that I’d never heard of before called TED.

How in the hell I never heard of anyone with a catalog like this I don’t know, especially when they’re a 15 minute drive from my house, but anyway, a quick phone call and four days later and they had a large box for me…

Ever have the worrying sense that you’ve measured wrong and the thing you’ve just bought for a not insubstantial amount of money is a centimeter too wide?


Less than a centimeter to spare (actually less than 5mm…)

But, now all my tools are *available to use*. It’s a monumental luxury…

And there’s one or two boxed sets of things like a socket driver set in the top part of the case. It’s not as easy-access as the drawers, but you can get them out a damn sight easier than you could with the boxes. There isn’t quite as much space – some stuff didn’t make it to the drawers but most was rubbish that went in the bin and I’ve no idea why I was hoarding it, but one of those plastic boxes did get half-filled with stuff I’ve never used but can’t bear to dump and it’ll go live in the attic, photographed so I can double-check what was in there instead of climbing into the attic and rummaging through it.

But with that done, I still had crap on my bench. In fact, more because I had managed to leave my tub-o-finishing-stuff without a home. So. No other option. The sarlacc pit needs to be organised.

So I had a few 2×4 lengths left over from putting shelves in the timber storage box, so I crosscut them with Calum’s help, then ripped them in half for the corner posts and into four 3/4 inch laths for the rest and then glue-and-brad-nailed together a very quick-n-dirty wheeled shelf cart thingy.

And then all I had to do was remove the lathe, pile six tons of crud on top of the stuff on top of my bench, rip out everything that was in the sarlacc pit and hoover up all the shavings and stuff and move the hand drill holder two feet to the right and the air hose as well, and added two more magnetic bars (one to let me move the saws around a bit for space and one to improve the lathe tool holder so it has two parallel magnet bars, not just one – it’s more stable now). With that done, I could clamber back into the space and immediately lock myself into the shed behind a mountain of even more crud while I got the cart into position.

Understand, at this point I’m somewhere between ninty minutes and two hours of work in (it shouldn’t take this long but the tight quarters and lack of elbow room always delay everything and stuff just slows to a frustrating crawl). A few minutes more of wrestling the cart over my head while holding my breath and pirouetting elegantly on my left toe and…

Oh for *#$@s sake.


Gah. I think that’s the most anger I’ve used a prybar, lump hammer and ryoba in. Pretty sure I taught someone a new word as well. But…

I actually had to remove 5mm off the bottom of that part of the bench apron. At least I didn’t have to re-brand the bench. Small mercies.

There’s a good 2mm of clearance all round now. Yeesh. It’s on castors btw, so you can just pull it straight out from there for access (I’ve done that since, it’s dead easy… once you’ve wrestled the lathe out of the way…).

Yet more “it just fits”. Now, I just need to pull the lathe back in and finish tidying up and cleaning down….

It. Never. Ends. But, finally, after another half-hour of work…

Yes, there is still some sandpaper and colouring stuff on the far right, I have some holders to build yet. And yes, there is still two boxes of stuff I’ve lined up for turning projects on the far left; but I’ll work through those and I can put them under the lathe if needs be. But I CAN SEE MY BENCHTOP. And I managed to clean it and give it another quick coat of BLO. And everything is finally tidy again. No, really…

There’s even floor space to stand in! It’s fantastic! I even got the saw sharpening vice finally mounted (that’s me testing it there with that western style vintage dovetail saw that I keep wanting to sharpen properly). I do need to find that a home on the wall behind the lathe alongside the Record Imp metalworking vice. So not yet completely finished, but only small jobs that are already in the queue anyway and then it’ll be completely clean and

for *#$s sakes IT NEVER ENDS

Jul 20

Colour and shape

Was mucking about with the lathe last month. I was wondering if buying a thick plank and cutting my own blanks was a possibility a while back and while I’ve managed to find a solid source for them since (Home of Wood in the UK in case you’re in Ireland and looking for a source, but what effect Brexit will have is something we’ll have to see next year – I already can’t get replacement bandsaw blades from TuffSaws because of that), I still wanted to try a square bowl so I took an offcut of poplar that I had and chucked it up with a dovetail faceplate, which are really nifty little things – I have two so I can have two blanks on the go and if I take one off the lathe, I won’t have concentricity errors when I put it back on, at least none that matter for woodturning levels of precision:

Loving that natural light from the window. I do need to finish that sharpening station there by the door, and I’ve since improved on the lathe tool holder as well.

Then just fire it up and very, very carefully start cutting the curve. Those corners are fun, you’re cutting air most of the time with those which takes a bit of adjusting to.

Seeing through the work like that is just a tad freaky 😀

Mostly you just start the profile in the center where there’s a full 360 degree cut, then pull the cut out to the corners, relying on muscle memory to not just shove the gouge off that profile line so that the rotating corner doesn’t come down on anything but the cutting edge (if it hit the shoulder or the shaft of the gouge, I think lots of bad things would happen in rapid succession at a very interesting pace indeed and I don’t want to investigate that at all).

The final resul is quite nice, though that rough semi-circular bit on the edges will have to be cut away or sanded away later.

Also, I love poplar, it’s a really underrated wood, but the point of using it here was that I also wanted to play a bit with colouring the piece using stains. Blame Stewart Furini and Martin Saban-Smith.

A few layers of different stains from black to red to yellow to orange gave a nice enough effect. I mean, it’s an experiment, it’s fine 😀 I’m actually not done playing with that one, but I did want to test a new paint on the other side. I’ve tried black stain before:

And I’ve tried burning before:

And I’ve not turned any oak yet but I have ebonised oak in the past with a mix of tannin tea from oak shavings and an iron mix made by soaking steel wool in vinegar for a while:

But I wanted to know if this new paint I came across was comparable. This paint called Vantablack got invented a few years ago but the inventor didn’t release it to the general public, it’s got some sort of exclusive licence and so – as always happens – someone else invented something that did the same job (perhaps better). Stuart Semple is the chap’s name and the paint is just called Black 2.0 or BLK3.0 depending on the one you get, I got the 3.0 to test.

I also got a few more of their pigments (each of which is the MOST blue/green/yellow/pink/etc according to their advertising, I was going to use it in resin). And I got LIT which is their glow-in-the-dark pigment. Haven’t trialled them a lot since but the little bit I have tried worked rather nicely.

And there we go. Two coats on the left half, three on the right (the third is still a bit damp here). On camera, it’s a black hole. In person, well, the human eye it turns out has more dynamic range than almost any camera ever invented, so we can go from broad daylight to moonlight and see shades in both. So when you look at this in person, it’s nowhere near as featureless a void as it seems on camera, but it is remarkably black. This piece has been off the lathe while other stuff was done for a month now; it still looks as black. How it holds up to the other approaches…. well, it doesn’t sadly. You lose the effect with a topcoat and the paint isn’t very sturdy itself (it does not weather well, as they say). But it’s a neat tool to have in the toolbox.

Speaking of, I really must get this back on the lathe and finished at some point. There’s just so much more stuff to do first…

Jul 20

Long time no type

So yeah, a whole month went by without posting here. Work was a little crazy. But there was time to turn a few more bowls…

Spalting had gone just a touch far on this beech blank, and a check had formed along one of the spalting planes, so I knocked it off with the chisel and that sortof defined what the final shape would be.

Rather pretty in the end. And there were a few new toys that finally arrived three months after ordering them (they’d come from China all the way to my office… which was in lockdown. But they cleared out the mail room a few months in and dropped everything out to us – thanks for that Robbie, if you’re reading this):

The centerfinder in black also has these raised steps that are set distances apart so it’s both a centerfinder and a gauge to set your calipers against. Useful enought that I’d printed off my own copy of one on the 3D printer a few months ago – that’s the one in green on the far right. The black centerfinder on the far left is a handily sized one for small spindles no more than a few inches in cross-section, and the red one is for larger blanks – very handy for the bowl stuff.

There’s also a longer T-bar for the chuck but despite it being sold for this chuck, it has the wrong size of square bit on the end so I’ll have to grind that down a bit to make it fit right, which is annoying.
Less delayed was a buffing wheel setup which will prove handy for finishing. It’s nothing special, just the chestnut products one:

More than good enough for my level though. Oh and a box of pipettes, a small handful of which are in the cup in that photo and which have so far fallen all over the place three times in the shed. There’s about a kilo more and if you think a kilo of 3ml pipettes sounds like a silly number, you’d be right. Turns out some things you can only buy in bulk before you’re paying a euro or two for one pippette – but order a kilo and you get 2000 of the things for the price you’d have paid for ten of them in a sensibly-sized box. They’re very handy for getting resin into exactly the right spot when filling knots and the like.

There’s been a few other projects since, and I have photos and things already taken on the cameraphone of them, I must spend an hour posting them up here later on. Especially since I just finished a long bout of shed-tidying-up with some nice results.