Aug 20

Tarot Boxes

Been a lot of lathe work of late ‘cos it’s novel, so back to some rectilinear stuff. A friend was looking for some boxes for her favorite tarot card packs and I don’t quite get the tarot thing, but the artwork is interesting and there was a box design I’d been thinking about doing for a while…

Adrian Preda’s stuff is almost therapeutically methodical and precise sometimes. I didn’t go with walnut for the sides, and I did the base differently, but I mostly followed what he did here.

German steamed beech for the sides, and some curly cherry for the lids seemed like a good idea. I ripped the wider board down the middle so I could get all the sides out of it for the larger box and let the grain at least flow around two of the corners (it flows round all the corners on the smaller box). Before crosscutting to length, I used the #778 to cut the top rebate for the lid and the #043 to cut the rebate for the bottom – only 3mm wide and 3mm in but for a box this size, that’s fine. Then a forstner bit in a pillar drill cut out the thumbhole by just offsetting the point just to the edge of the board and slowly cutting down so the bit didn’t want to dive off to the side. I also rounded the bottom corner and put the top bevel on the sides with a handplane.

After all that but before cross-cutting to length, it was time to bring out the donkey’s ear and shoot the ends to a 45 degree miter (but I rough-cut the miter with a saw beforehand just to save on rough work as the shooting plane edge shouldn’t be a roughwork tool).

Okay, dryfit looks good, time to glue up and clamp.

There are better ways to clamp this kind of box, I’m certain. And there’s good reason for those ways to exist, because I cocked this one right up:

Clamp pressure was unbalanced enough that the miters slid slightly out of alignment and there wasn’t any nice way to fix this, so out with the saw and a framing trick:

The idea was to cut the joint in – you saw down the exact line of the joint and your kerf trims both sides so what’s left matches perfectly.

Yeah, didn’t work quite so well and after the second glueup still didn’t look right for one box (the other was grand) it was time for emergency measures and out came the veneer.

I know, it’s ugly, but I Have A Plan.

Both boxes glued up, cut the lids out now and then on with the fixing of mistakes.

I mean, shaping the lid has to come yet, but getting a nice fit first. This…. isn’t perfect but it’s not bad. Now, onto hiding mistakes…

The idea is to plane the corners with the low-angle block plane to get a small flat spot and then the dreaded power router will make a pass and cut the groove for the banding to go into. But cutting a grove down into a narrow flat spot on the apex of two sides is awkward so I think a jig is needed.

Bit of ply, mark a bolt pattern and a center spot, hole saw out a chunk, and now we need two rails which will have 45 degree slopes on them. Just grab a lath of softwood for that, but holding it on the donkey’s ear was awkward so masking tape goes on the donkey’s ear and on the lath and a bit of superglue goes on the tape and…

Nice and neat. Now crosscut in half and glue to the base of the jig with room for the router bit between and be careful to centralise it as much as possible.

And once that’s dried, it gets bolted to the base of the router, the box goes in the vice with the corner up and I route out a shallow groove and then it’s out with the inlay tools and I cut the banding to rough length and glue it in place using the syringe of glue.

After trimming with the chisel and some sanding with 120 grit, it’s nicely blended in and the miter corner is hidden, including the messed-up one. Sssh. Don’t tell anyone.

After that, I carved out two matching counter-grooves on the underside of the lids where the thumbholes go with gouge and rasp and a sandpaper-wrapped dowel and then shaped the ends and sides of the lids with a handplane, and thought I was done. And then noticed that one of the lids had a serious check in it, running half-way into the lid and that was probably a structural issue. Plus, a small piece had splintered out of the mitered corner on one box. So I thought I’d try to mask and repair both in one go.

Draw along the check on the surface and rounded end of the lid with pencil and do it in half-arcs that intersect in an organic sort of way, then out with the dremel and a small ball bit and route out the wood along the lines down into the check by about 3mm or so in order to let the resin get down into the check proper and act as a structural fix while also looking a bit pretty. And of course, mix some colour and some glow-in-the-dark pigment into the resin because why would you do anything else?

The lid worked out grand. The side…. not as well. The resin leaked both out of the surrounding tape (well, that’s fixable) but also into the grain of the wood in places, which I’ve not seen before. Bother. A top-up pour of clear resin fixed the leak out of the tape, and then #04 plane and some 120 grit to tidy up and it was good to go.

Finishing was all that was left, and I went with a coat of poppyseed oil to start, just slathered on and the excess cleaned off and left to cure for a few days, then two coats of melamine lacquer was sprayed on and cut back with 0000 steel wool between each layer, and then some Yorkshire Grit over the top of that and buffed well to a nice gloss. Then out with the buffing wheel on the lathe and I tried something new, a coat of Hampshire Sheen (the original gloss stuff which the carpentry store still had in stock even though they don’t make it anymore) and buffed that off on the softest wheel I had (so some beeswax got mixed in there as well). Then I cut some felt to fit the bottom because the plywood could look nicer and glued it in place and that was that.

Came out nice:

Jul 20

Ten Years

So ten years ago today…

Claire and me just after getting married!

The traditional gift guide says ten years is… tin. Hm. Really? Was tin some seriously sought-after material at some point in the last few centuries? Weird. But okay, tradition is tradition…

We can at least make a nice box though. I have some walnut and I still have some of that lovely rippled sycamore Custard gave me when I was searching for thick veneers…

Simple design from a joinery point of view, so just mill the components and cut to size to match the tin…

Grooves in the base of the front and back panels and in the sides will hold the base, which is 3mm boxwood (lovely material, it’s a shame it’s so hard to find).

It’s almost a single-use plane but it’s the best tool for this task really. The depth of the groove and the distance from the bottom of the panels is set using the boxwood base directly.

Then just groove away.

For the sides, because you don’t want to run off the ends with the groove, a different approach is needed; and at this point I discovered the narrowest of my usual chisels was 5mm wide and the groove is 3mm. A 1mm gap on either side would be a bit unsightly, so I was about to get out the grinder wheel and convert one of the older chisels to life as a narrower chisel when I checked the less-used ones and bingo…

3mm almost on the nose (actually a tad under). Hilariously, this wasn’t some engraving tool or fine work chisel, this is a morticing pigsticker designed to go through several inches of oak…

This gave me a giggle or two, but then on with chopping out the mortices for the base in the sides.

Tappy-tap-tap, as they say. Very shallow mortice, only one pass with light taps required, then a bit of scraping with the tip of the chisel to clean up and then check for fit.

The cross-grain mortices are less straightforward because they’re cross-grain and very narrow. You can’t really chop along the mortice for these. I tried cutting them like a housing dado but that wasn’t really getting it done, so I resorted in the end to knifing in the edges of the mortice rather deeply, chopping a little with the morticing chisel to a mm or so down to define the mortice, then drilling out the rest and cleaning up with the bevel-edged chisel.

Worked pretty well.

Then just repeat on the other side.

There’s a fair bit of fettling with all this as well but it got there in the end. I also drilled holes in the back panel and lid for the barrel hinges (butt hinges on this scale are something I still can’t get right). Then it’s time to knock it all back apart and sand the panels and the inside of the sides and the base and prefinish the insides because it’d be much harder later on, and then I gave everything a coat or two of poppyseed oil (it’s very light so it doesn’t darken the sycamore much).

And then glue-up. Just titebond here, no need for the hide glue and it was cold so it wouldn’t flow well without faffing about with hot water.

Along the way to here, the lid changed from rippled sycamore to more walnut because of a realisation about the size of the box and the lid (ie. that the lid was too narrow to cover from front to back unless it was sitting inside the box and I didn’t have the hinges for that). But the walnut had a knot so it was resin time again (I mean, it’s me, of course it’s resin time).

And that came out nicely after scraping and sanding down the lid. It’s a little beauty spot. But the box is a bit… chunky at this point. Not to worry, that’s part of the plan. And now I get to try to be delicate with industrial tools…

Angle grinder and a flap disk in 40 grit and one in 120 grit. It’s like using a power router only without the convenient handholds or the reference surfaces or the safety features. Exciting times

Worked though. And now a lot of handsanding with every grit from 80 to 240. The cloth-backed sandpaper from the lathe was very useful here especially with the parts in the carved grooves.

Okay, now for finishing. First off, wipe off all the sanding dust with a dry rag, then with kitchen paper soaked in isopropanol. Then two coats of poppy seed oil.

Makes a difference!

Next up, a new lathe toy, the burnishing wheel. It’s not a fancy one, it’s just the chestnut products basic one. Works well. I will say that I didn’t expect it to be quite so grabby though, and it did bounce my hand off the chuck which wasn’t fun. Be careful out there folks…

And yes, I mixed carnuba and beeswax at the final stage. Also, I was unprepared for the sheer amount of cotton fibres this thing throws everywhere. It looks like the spiders were working overtime in the shed.

Worth it though.

And after that, two coats of blonde shellac with another buff on the final wheel after each coat, and finishing was done. Final job was to epoxy in the barrel hinges (finishing was easier with the lid separate) which was a tad fiddly because of course it was, hinges are my nemesis. But it worked…

The resin dot glows in the dark!

Also, yes, that’s a tin of spam.

And also, no, I’m not that bad.

Tin is the traditional gift, but tradition can go jump in a lake.

Jul 20

Sharpening station

So ages ago I made one of Paul Sellers’ kind of sharpening stations – effectively just a plank with carved recesses for diamond plates (in a small shed, the diamond plates work best for me because they’re less muss and fuss than everything else would be in that space). It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece or anything (though I still think waney edge plywood will come into fashion), but it worked quite well for years.

It has gotten slightly grubbier with use (that’s the steel dust and the lapping fluids and so forth) and I added a handle because I started keeping it under the bench and the handle made extraction easier. But you still have to pull it out from under the bench and have room free on the bench to put it on before you can sharpen and that’s… uncommon in the shed. I mean, if you have a 12′ bench, I’m sure there’s always some room but my bench is about 5′ long and I only recently got to see the top of it again after a major effort in tidying for the first time in six months so that space is just not a thing in my reality.

So, a few months ago when I moved the tumble drier out of the shed (no, not kidding, don’t ask) and reclaimed some space, I decided some of that space was going to be used for a dedicated sharpening station. Maybe not a full-blown Shannon Rogers affair with two grinders and a tormek and plates and drawers and so on, but something at least that I could use for most of my sharpening. So I had a good rummage around online and found these:

So, one cheap order and a bit of waiting and an offcut and some fiddly installation later and just as the lathe was making its first chips, I had a folding shelf.

…and then I did nothing for several months. I mean, okay, there was the whole pandemic thing but mostly I just got buried doing other things. But in the last day or two I got a bit into doing shed jobs. I rebuilt the lathe tooling shelf because it went from reasonably tidy:

To a complete and utter pile of disaster waiting to happen:

Yeah, I might have bought one or two things without planning where to store them. So I pulled that shelf off the wall and disassembled it (and if you ever wondered how strong titebond II was, well, this is what happened when I hit the shelf with a lump hammer to break the glue line holding the shelf from the piece that’s actually screwed to the wall):

Anyway, took a scrap of pine left over from something else, and did some mucking about with the pillar drill and the router:

Put a small routed channel in at the back for the centerfinders to be propped up in against the wall, and end caps from plywood scraps that might stop them falling off the ends, and a small routed rectangle on the left for other stuff like a diamond hone, a spindle centerfinder that’s a bit awkwardly shaped and a few worm screw spacers on a little tower-of-hanoi holder thing.

I know it doesn’t look like it, but that is an improvement. Even if things are now looking busier than I’d like…

But anyway, today’s project was to finish the sharpening station so I pulled two of the four stones from the existing sharpening plate holder (the coarsest and finest ones):

That glue wasn’t messing about, it held onto the writing 😀

I won’t be losing the strop btw, I’ve found stropping to be very much worthwhile but I usually use a dedicated one that I leave lying around the bench which is just a length of 2×4 with some leather nailed to it that I made back when I was making the bench years ago.

Next I trimmed the edges of the poplar offcut I’m using here, planed it, and marked it out for the plates.

And I routed out the bulk of the waste with the power router. Have I mentioned I hate that thing? It’s loud, it’s scary and holy crap the mess.

But it was a bit easier than chopping the plate recesses out with a chisel. I prefer to cut mortices with chisels, but for large wide areas of excavation, it’s hard to beat a power router. It’s awkward to be precise with them though, so I routed to within 2mm or so of the lines and then did the rest with a chisel or two and a mallet and some patient thwacking. A touch of epoxy to glue the plates in place and some remounting with predrilled screw holes and…

(The paracord is for hanging the window cleaner bottle I use for lapping fluid from)

And now I can touch up a chisel from not-sharp-but-not-yet-dull to yikes-thats-sharp and be back to work in 30 seconds. Literally, I tried it (and it’s easier when you’re not holding the cameraphone in one hand):

Next job, the dust extractor cyclone has torn out of the lid of the drum it’s on so that has to get reinforced with plywood temporarily until I can build a 4″ cyclone lid (the flat kind like this) to replace it, and I have to make some holders for sandpaper (for which I might have to rebuild the printer head on the 3D printer which is acting up at the moment) and for the kitchen rolls I use in there for finishing on the lathe, and the wire-burning bits and bobs need to be rethought a bit because they’re literally a box of wires and two handles with holes in them right now which is just a messy pain in the backside, and the saw vice needs a proper home to hang on as well (probably on the wall behind the lathe low down like the little record imp machinists vice), and then I can get on with actually making stuff