Happy Solstice!

Shortest day of the year so least work done. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Started off with presents – some arrived yesterday but I couldn’t get to them and some arrived this morning, so yay!

Not Moore&Wright, but cheap and cheerful. I’m trying to cure myself of my combi-phobia. Is Moore&Wright. Offset calipers for scribing lines parallel to an edge. Nice idea. 3″ Record clamp. I have 2″ and 4″ ones, figured it’d be useful to see if something in between was useful.And a 2″ clamp because it was going in the lot. Another 2″ one that was in the lot. At a fiver, cheap. Have a few of these already and they have a habit of being useful.And a pair of 4″ clamps (I have three, I’m always needing a fourth. There’s another still in the post because I know the minute I have five I’ll need a sixth). I don’t like painting wood with latex paint much, it’s a bit meh. But I saw a nice guitar or two being done by the Crimson Guitars mob with these water-based stains and there was a cool demo panel they did with them that I had an idea for:

Might be able to replicate that. We’ll see. On with the presents…

A six and seven hollow to try a decorative element I’ve been playing with…

Shows promise; needs more work though. Don’t need this till later so that’s fine.Nice V-tool. I bought a tiny little one from proops last week for two or three pounds and made a rudimentary handle for it, sharpened it up and it was useless. It must have been meant for a power carver tool or something. This one however, without any sharpening, was miles beyond that:

Proops on the inside, Mattheison (the new one) on the outside. Soooo much better. Still needs work, but that’s for another day.

And then the biggie…

Frame saw! 700mm blade filed rip, compared to the ryoba’s 300mm. so you can see why it would have an advantage. This is the English pattern frame saw, not the French one with the blade in the middle, but for resawing this shouldn’t make any real difference. The blade length obviously will (the French pattern ones can be four feet long or more); but shed has a problem with French pattern frame saws…

Specifically, there’s not enough room for a full throw on a 700mm blade (the handle is in contact with the wood store there); a 1200mm blade would require a small window be cut in the wall of the shed… but even I’m not ready to do that. As it is I’ve had to move a few pieces of wood around in the store.

So obviously, this needs testing in something other than pine (which was the first test cut).

Poplar, 9″ by 4″ thick. Took 12m 30 seconds including a bit of faffing about moving plywood out of the way and all that, but I figure that’s built in fudge factor. So how does that scale up? I have a few 5″x15″ pieces and 6″x17″ pieces along with the 7″x16″ top/bottom plates.

So I thought volume removed might be a good guide; that’s the saw kerf times the square area cut through, and the kerf won’t change so just look at the area. Should be 0.347 minutes per square inch, right? That means the 5″x15″ pieces should take about 26 minutes each. Yikes. Okay, let’s give that a go.

Holy crap. An hour. It took a sodding hour. I mean, it’s a lot less effort than the ryoba was and maybe I just need to get the swing of it, but a stinking hour…

Cut quality is okay. Ryoba’s better but then it’s a finer plate. Maybe I need to sharpen the saw? The teeth are sticky-sharp but maybe they just need a touch-up.

So how long does it take to thickness off that quarter-inch by scrub plane? 15 minutes. And that’s to thickness and flattened and with the twist taken out. I ditched the saw idea for the sides and thicknessed them by scrub plane as well. And I had to mill another piece because the side I had sawn went from three-quarters of an inch sawn to half-inch when smoothed out enough to use. Gah. So that’s the shelf 😀

That’s the downside of the thicknessing approach really. You convert material into waste at a fair clip. That floor was clean this morning, that’s all from today.

But we have all the parts milled and squared and I could get started in on joinery at last.

Enter the rebate plane again, and I took a quarter-inch by one inch rebate off the backs of the sides.

Then out with saw, chisel and router plane and I cut the housing joint for the shelf.

Even got to use my side rabbit plane to trim the joint a bit. Slightly fiddly but…

Sorted. Fairly late at this stage and I started on the top and bottom which will be dovetailed into the sides. They needed a bit of treatment on the shooting board and then I realised I hadn’t cut the bottom to width yet (doh) so I marked out for that and I’ll hit the bandsaw in the morning and do that and the box blanks I have lying around.

And then I’ll make up that Japanese saw hook and get to dovetailing.

That was it in the shed for the evening; had to hit the kitchen to make gravlax for the family xmas dinner. Pretty simple recipe.

Take your fresh salmon trimmed and de-pin-boned to your liking. Measure its weight. Now mix a quarter of that weight in salt in a bowl with an equal weight of castor sugar and an equal weight of grated beetroot. cut a lime into wedges and fillet out the pulp and discard it; cut up the rind to small pieces and throw that into the mix. Now throw a good sized bunch of dill (chopped) into the mix. Put the salmon into a sous vide bag or lay it on some clingfilm or use tupperware, just keep this contained because beetroot is a great dye. Douse the salmon in the mix, then wrap it in your chosen containment method and put it in a secondary containment tray, put another tray on top and weight that down and then put the whole assembly in the fridge for a few days. Turn the fish upside down daily. Three or four days should do it. Then you remove, rinse off the salt/sugar/beetroot/dill mix and pat dry; slice thinly and serve on blinis or however you like to eat smoked salmon because this is like that only tasty.

Also, whatever you do, don’t put it in the fridge and relax for an hour and then remember when writing up the recipe for the blog that you left the dill sitting on top of the counter and the mix was missing a key ingredient because then you have to reopen the bag and chuck everything into the bag and squish it around a bit and get covered in beet juice a second time and you’ll have an opening in the glove that lets the salt in to find the four or five small nicks you got from the chisel and cleaning the throat of the fillister plane earlier.

 

 

By the way. Meet our new breadbin, courtesy of TK Maxx. Made from bamboo.

Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Or does that crooked joint at the top of the tambour drive your fingernails into itchy mode as well? The whole top hasn’t even tried for a square joint with the sides. It’s a good ten degrees out.

 

 

There’s nothing for it, I’m going to have to make a better one, aren’t I?

Starting again…

I figure, with six projects sitting in component form in the staging area of the shed, best get to work making even more components for a seventh project. Because Reasons.

Anyway, the first video I ever saw by Richard Maguire was about building a small wall cupboard (in a sort-of, kind-of, if-you-squint shaker style probably best described as “`English colloquial” 😀 ):


I’ve wanted to build this for a while. But I don’t have the ten feet of pre-planed three-quarter inch thick pine his plans call for. What I do have is a pair of boards of inch-and-a-quarter rough-sawn poplar, mostly free from green stains…

That should work. And sod feeling bad about doing the rough-cuts with a power circular saw. Do you see room in there for me to swing a full-size handsaw? Or have a sawbench? Besides, do you know how they did this back in the 17th century? Apprentices!!! (And there isn’t room for one in there either, even if you can find smaller rooms being rented for the price of a car a month on daft.ie). So.

Woodwork al fresco. Yes, the deck’s a mess. I’ll tidy after the solstice when there’s time.

Right, that’s the rough-cut chunks for the cupboard on the left, a chunk intended for another project (yes, that’s eight, I know, hush), and offcuts that will probably become bandsaw boxes or the like.

Now, time to figure out layout a bit better.

Design, meet wood. Wood, meet design. This is the humming and hawing stage when I try to think through the size in the design and how to break down the parts best, and whether stuff is getting thicknessed by scrub plane or resawn or whatever.

Resawing is a pain to do, thicknessing is only slightly better, but a lot of parts in this can be under three inches wide and those I can resaw with the bandsaw reasonably easily. I do have a frame saw on the way for wider stuff to see if it helps (lots of people say it does), but the thing’s in Cologne with no sign of moving for the last week. Sodding DHL.

Round one with the bandsaw. I’ve planed a reference edge with the #05 and #08 and marked off the far edge with the panel gauge after sharpening the pin a little with the diamond paddles. I’ll rip those on the bandsaw and get widths (there’s some damage on the edges – the boards must have been near the edge of the pack in the timber yard I guess).

And I’m trimming up the bandsaw blanks while I’m at it.

Right, that’s the edges sorted. Plus I get a few pieces to test finish on.

Then I start marking off various parts. By the time I’m done, I’ve used almost all my gauges (you don’t unset the gauge until you’re sure you’re done with that measurement; that ensures you’ll only have to reset the gauge for the one cut you’ve forgotten instead of five or six times).

And time for round two with the bandsaw (after lunch):

Right. Now I plane a reference edge and face on each part and mark the relevant parts for resawing or thicknessing. And then change my mind about thicknesses – I’ll leave the front of the cupboard three-quarters of an inch thick (which is a standardish sort of thickness for these things) rather than a half-inch. The back panel will still be a half-inch, and I’ll make the sides three-quarters and the top and bottom of the carcass and the shelf will be half-inch and so will the top and bottom cap pieces (so top and bottom overall will be an inch thick and the sides a quarter-inch less).

This is about the point where I discover that my favorite small proops brothers engineers square is… not. Square that is, it’s out by almost a full mm across its arm, I must have whacked it off something without noticing. I know I didn’t drop it. I don’t know if you can true one of these back up with the kit I have available. I may just need to buy a new one (for all of a tenner or so). In the meantime, I have another engineer’s square and the new Moore&Wright sliding square so that’s fine. Except that I had to reshoot a bunch of edges to get them back to square. And then marking them out for resawing.

And back to the bandsaw for round three…

Right. That’s the rails and stiles for the front door, the boards for the back, and the sides and top and bottom will have to be resawn by hand.

Just clamping and stickering them for now to let them dry overnight without too much warp.

Yeesh. Really do need to start joinery on something soon, if only to clear space. I only just finished tidying this up on Saturday…

Also finished up the bandsaw box. Two coats of garnet shellac on top of two coats of danish oil, and then some hardware, and then some felt for the base and the drawer gap. More photos tomorrow.

And then there was this idea from Paul Sellers:

And it looked simple enough that I could do it with Calum, so I prepped a piece of pine and this evening we drew lines on it, sawed it with a small ryoba rather than using the chisel Sellers used which would be a little dangerous for a five-year-old (or for me in close quarters with a small child holding a surgically sharp pointy lump of metal for that matter), and cleaned it up using “his” number #03 plane (because it has two places to hold that keep small fingers away from sharp edges). And then split it with a hammer and enough glee to convince me it’s a good thing we don’t have a cat.

Then break out the green spraypaint and masking tape and do the next bit outdoors 😀

Came back a bit later with spray-on snow and drilled a hanging hole…

Not bad for a five-year-old.

Resawing sucks.

Honestly, if there is a better argument out there for buying a large bandsaw I haven’t heard it yet.

Yes, I’ve heard of roubo frame saws. My shed hasn’t enough room between the face vice and the wall to use one.

Yes, I have western hand saws. I either need to resharpen them or recut their teeth because the best one I have didn’t want to cut.

Yes I have a bandsaw already – it can’t resaw anything over 75mm. That there is 115mm.

So, wax blade, yank handle, shove handle, repeat till ticked off enough to pull board halves apart by brute force, plane off worst of the gack in the middle with scrub plane, give outside a few passes to mitigate uneven drying, repeat.

What, you thought there was an art to this? No, it’s just donkey work. And if you get too ticked off and pull the board apart too early…

It rewards you with a great big divot out of one end. Well, at least I don’t need the full length of any of these boards.

Left them standing upright to dry and warp overnight.

At least I got both boards resawn. That was more than I had expected to do.

So I had a play with my Lee Valley scratch stock and a gouge. I was watching some old Peter Follansbee videos and saw what I thought would make a nice decorative element on the rails of the chest. This kind of stuff shows up on the 17th century oak furniture he specialises in and was very common in the period, and since this is basically a 17th century design tarted up a bit, it seems appropriate.

Plus it’s pretty fast and simple to do, though I do need to experiment a bit more – I really need a round or beading plane or a custom scratch stock to form the surface in the middle before cutting the segments out. This took all of five minutes or so to do by the way – it really is fast when you know how (scratch stock bead line with a fence, chop at right angles with a gouge at regular intervals on that bead line, scratch stock bead line on the other side of the chops, then carve one scoop from gouge chop to gouge chop with the same gouge). How to actually end it when the rails hit the stiles is the main problem. I’m not sure how to continue it around the stiles/posts you see. I mean, I could try freehanding it but that seems wrong somehow unless I can get the rails and stiles utterly flush.

And the threaded inserts didn’t arrive today. Bother.

Tomorrow I’ll square up the stock and try to get the panels cleaned up a bit more and do something about that lid. I’d like it to have a small curve to it if I could, but the only way I can think to do that involves taking an inch-thick board and carving it with planes. And I don’t know about that – it’d be heavy and I’d have no way to prevent it warping with movement, which a frame-and-panel lid would address. I mean, according to the bible, it’ll move by 2.8% tangentially over the 30% humidity change between a summer and winter indoors around here (gotta love central heating), that’s almost a full centimeter of movement across the width of the lid. Make that from a solid block of wood and you won’t have a lid for half the year.

What’s the bible? Fresh from abebooks.co.uk:

Basically, a few hundred species of tree, with notes on things like general working properties and data like how much it moves when seasoning and when doing a 30% humidity swing and what its density and tensile strength is and so on, all done by a UK government office back in the days when this was what governments did. Yeah, it’s 1956/7, but tree species don’t change that much that fast (other than going extinct).

Bloody useful books.

Toothy prep

Well, that decided where to start for the evening I guess. I ripped the panels first, and then changed the blade because it was just wandering too much, and then cut the rails to approximate thickness and the stiles to rough thickness and straightened.

Before:

After:

Bunch of small thin stock gathered as well. I’ll leave that dry on its own, see if it stays unwarped.

Then on to cleaning up edges on the panels.

And then checking to see if I have enough width on the panels…

Yup, all good. Just resaw those and it’ll be grand.

Then on to cleaning up the faces of the rails and stiles. Started on the stiles and on the first pass it became obvious there was a problem.

Even a close-set #5 left huge tearout, really nasty stuff. So, time for the secret weapon.

Meet my new #6 toothing iron 🙂

Thing about these is, they leave a shitty-looking ridged surface, you’re never getting a clean finish with these things – but you also never get tearout.

So you can get the board flat with this, then come back with a tight-set smoothing plane and scrapers later and clean the surface up.

So got all the rails and stiles processed that way.

All set. Just resawing to do, but now it’s 2130h so I just marked up the resawing with a cutting gauge and called it a night.

Not sure if I’ll use the ryoba or the rip handsaw. Might try the handsaw first.

I still have to sort out what I want to do for a lid, I need to check my stock and have a think. The floor will be cedar for the nice smell, I have some set aside for just that purpose for the last year or so.

Oh, almost forgot, dove into Lenehan’s pick-n-mix…

Score. I’ll have to trim off 25mm or so with the dremel and tidy it up with a file, but that beats a bolt that doesn’t reach the tabletop fully. Now if the inserts would just arrive I could get on with the table build. At this rate, if I can resaw one panel board per evening, I might be ready for joinery on the chest by the weekend and if the inserts get here, I might be ready to start finishing the tabletop by then as well. That’d mean both would be ready by the time I want them ready.

And I’ve a bandsaw box I want cut over the weekend as well, but that should be much faster than before now that I have the bench sander.

Not progress…

Hm. Well, I guess not every day is going to be a great shed day. Stupid “job” and stupid “mortgage payments”…

At least the walnut blank for the bandsaw box came out allright.(That white glue streak is from where the bad saw cut was. The design will have to cut around that).

But I couldn’t drill the tabletop for the threaded inserts because they’re not here yet, so I just cleaned up the glue squeezeout from the table legs.

The new plastic razor blades were actually really useful here.

I guess you could just have a thin plastic knife for this (or a scraper if you didn’t mind then scraping out any scratches from the surface finish). But they were on sale and try anything once.

I got out the feeler gauge as well. There were places here and there where I could get a 0.2mm gauge in, but only on one shoulder was that consistent. And the ends didn’t look too bad.

Mind you, the bolts that are to hold the tabletop on… they were 70mm. They really should have been 75mm (but I couldn’t find those. Time to go hunt round the pick-n-mix hardware section in Lenehans and Woodies I suppose).

I mean… they’re nice and all but… I don’t think 5mm of thread is going to have much strength, y’know?

So, suitably annoyed I turned to the new project. Now it was 2100h by this point, so anything noisy was right out, but there was still some marking up to do. And I had to hunt up some timber for panels.

This should do it, but there’s a catch… that has to get resawn.
I’ll rip it down the centerline (well, not the centerline but the center line of the grain pattern, for symmetry) and trim off the edge waste with the bandsaw, but the resawing has to be done by hand because the panels are too wide (they’ll be 4 and five-eighths wide and who invented this stupid system of measurement and I’ll be converting this to mm as soon as I finish converting the rules-of-thumb on panel sizes and groove depths).

I remember the resawing from the cot. I’m not looking forward to this. I’m just hoping that it’s easier to resaw a 4 and 5/8″ board than an 8″ one. And maybe I’ve gotten better at this in the last year. Maybe.

So the posts are cut long to leave horns (yes, that’s the term) above and below the mortices (and leave space for legs as well). Once the mortices are chopped and the tenons fitted those horns can get trimmed off but during the mortice chopping they give some extra strength to the piece. I forgot this when making the front legs in the sidecar cot and chopping those out was a bit of a faff as a result to avoid accidentally splitting them out.

Then looking at the rails and stiles. The rails are straight enough, so I have face and edges nominated, and I marked them off for a 3/4″ thickness.

The stiles on the other hand, all have a kink that I’ll have to cut out.

Lovely rays though.

I’ll just mark off the straight portion and roughcut that on the bandsaw and then plane the faces (I’ll do something similar on the rails – roughcut outside the line and plane the faces – I’d like to save a chunk of the waste though, quarter-inch stock is handy for boxes).

Prepped for tomorrow. I’ll run a scrap through it to see if those guides are behaving themselves first, but I may need to swap them out and maybe the blade as well.

Six weeks and counting…

Realised in the last few days that the delivery date for the cot (hehe, see what I did there?) is six weeks away. Yikes. Need to finish off the stock prepping more quickly. So tonight I got the last three laths and resawed them down to slats using the Tyzack saw to start the cut and taking over with the ryoba after the first six inches or so. This seemed to work quite well and a lot faster than the last few resawing jobs.

img_9792a

I am wondering how I’m going to do the panels in the drawer box at the bottom though. I don’t mind thicknessing them down by a quarter-inch or so (with a scrub plane that’s about three minutes of work), and I suppose the weight at the base will add to stability which is a plus. Some thought required. Meanwhile, on with prepping the slat blanks. Out with the thicknessing jig and got one down to thickness after a quick stropping of the jack and smoother plane blades (the new higher angle on the smoother plane works brilliantly on the ash, I’m seriously thinking about adding a back bevel to it just to increase the angle even more now).

img_9797aOnly got through one slat though, and had to plane a good three mm off the edge so there’s ample room on all of these to get them down to size. I think I’ll get all 8 readily from these (I’m counting that as improving 😀 ). That gives me a total of 27 slats, so I’ll do 13 to a side and have one spare. I should have these all finished by Friday, and I plan to get the steaming jig built over the weekend as well as run the power cable out to the shed, and then next week it’ll be prepping frame and panel pieces and the following weekend I can do some steambending. That gives me four more weeks and a few days to get the joinery, assembly, fitting and finishing all done. It’s doable, but I’m going to have to start mucking about with finish testing soon as well or I’ll wind up messing up at the far end.

Nothing like a nice relaxing hobby to take your mind off work deadlines 😀

One of those days

Feels like lots of work for not much progress really.

Started the day driving to woodies and buying a plank of pine to put a shelf in the new garden box to get the lawn seeds and chemicals and stuff off the floor so it’d be less cluttered, and buying a padlock so the newly organised chemicals were out of junior’s reach.

Then finished off the hammer holder.

img_9778a

And then immediately remembered the other two hammers sitting in a box in the kitchen waiting to come out to the shed. Feck’s sakes…

Then took the frame and the door off the shed, and fitted better hinges than the ones that were on it, learning as I went just how much expense was spared when building this shed. Honestly, I’m rather surprised it’s still standing, it was so shoddily assembled. But I got it re-hung on the new hinges after a lot of faffing about to get it to swing cleanly, and then I moved on to changing the hasp from a simple bolt to a van lock type of thing.

Which wouldn’t fit. At all. I’d have to hack a four-inch section out of the door frame altogether and even then I’d have to take down the interior wall to fix it properly. By the time I found that out though, I had three new 8mm holes drilled in the door. Ugh.

So I reassembled the old crappy hasp, putting screws in all of the screwholes this time just to be wild and carefree about it, and I’ll have to go order another one off ebay tonight. There have been some burglaries around here over the last year or so, no point tempting fate.

So after having wasted half a day on that, we then had the trick-or-treaters round for a few hours, and took junior to see his first fireworks, which was fun.

By now I’m starting to realise I’ve spent a four-day weekend working on the shed and the crib hasn’t seen much progress. So feck, it’s dark and I can’t get the jig built. I can at least resaw a slat. My new Tyzack 1900s era saw arrived in the post on friday, with a set of teeth on it like it hadn’t been sharpened since it was made. But here’s my new Bahco saw file, one of the best saw files available today according to everyone from Paul Sellers to all the youtubers who copy his stuff ad nauseum (with their own added errors just for fun).

img_9783a

If this is the best saw file available today, I think we’d better get used to disposable hardpoint saws.

Despite the thing snapping within the handle not just once, but twice, I eventually managed to get some sort of sharpened teeth on the saw (but honestly, I’m going to have to file them all off and recut them from scratch sooner or later, they were in brutal shape), and I resawed one slat with the new saw.

Or rather, I did half of the resawing with the new saw. It does cut, and it’s more steerable than the ryoba if it drifts, but it’s horribly slow by comparison to the ryoba so in the end I just gave up and used the ryoba on it. I don’t know if it’s the teeth on the tyzack or the kerf or what, but it was dog slow getting through that ash. And it splintered the corners on the exit quite a bit, it was not a clean cut. I should be able to use both slats but only because I already finished one face; there’s only enough margin to clean up one face from the cut, it was that bad.

And that’s it. Four days off, one lath resawn to give two unfinished slats. This was not the kind of day that leaves you feeling like you’re making progress…

More resawing prep…

Even the end grain is pretty

Spent this evening’s hour in the shed getting the next four laths ready for the resawing by ripping them out of the prepped plank from yesterday.

img_9704a

It’s a tad finicky making a long rip in a board with a ryoba saw, at least on the initial setup. I mean, once the saw is established in the groove and the board is upright, it can tend to track like a laser down the board (unless it hits a knot at a glancing angle); but if that initial inch or so is off-line, then the saw wants to keep going in that initial incorrect direction and it can be a pain to correct because the teeth at the other side of the ryoba will dig in if you turn the blade even a little and the lack of any set means the kerf is nice and thin but it also means you have no room to turn the blade. So that initial setup gets very finicky…

img_9707a

img_9710a

img_9712a

Richard Maguire’s got a slightly different way of doing this, but if your shed is all of eight feet tall at the absolute highest point (and five feet at the lowest), his approach is not really all that possible…

Maybe if I ever get round to building a sawbench I could manage this, but that won’t be for a short while yet (I have the material and an idea for a design but I need to rework that if I’m going to allow for standing on the thing while ripping)

Mind you, when it tracks right, it leaves a lovely clean cut that needs at most three or four strokes with a plane to clean up. And now I have four clean laths ready to be resawn down to slats, which will give me a total of 27 to use in the crib (I’ll probably drop one for symmetry, which will leave me with six unused slats to test finishes on and practice joinery with, or to reuse in other small projects around the place).

Even the end grain is pretty

img_9721a

Yeah, I know, an edge or two needs squaring up. I’ll do that before the marking up for the resawing. But you have to admit, that ash has some lovely grain to it.

Cleaning up

Tonight was mostly cleaning down from the weekend. I broke down the jig, saving the screws and while the sharp hammer blow took care of the glued on blocks, it did it by removing the block and the top millimeter of the MDF. Oh well. Have to rebuild it anyway. Need taller blocks and I’ll probably cut a bit of the MDF base off to make a drying form as well (the idea is you bend it on the bending form, let it on that, then take it off, remove the bag and the strap and all that, and then clamp it to the drying form and leave it there for a week to dry and set fully).

Then it was time to start in on the next eight slats for the cot. I got the remaining half of the 72″ ash board I got the last eight from and cut 31″ off that (the ends were a bit ragged so I left room to trim it back to 30″), and brushed off the muck.

img_9682a

img_9685a

Kindof mucky still really, but that’s what you get if you sit about in a timber yard for ages and then a shed. But fifteen minutes with a jack plane on the faces, edges and on the ends with a shooting board later…

img_9695a

img_9702a

It’s just lovely. It feels like slightly textured glass, there’s lovely grain in it, it’s just downright pretty. It cleans up well 🙂 It was almost painful to mark it up, but it needs to be broken down so I set the gauge to 46mm (it’s 189mm wide) and marked off the first lath. I’ll rip that out tomorrow, then plane a fresh clean edge and mark the next and so on.  Ash is pretty. I need to buy more of it 🙂

FOR SCIENCE!

There was some experimentation this weekend, some of which didn’t work and the rest of which were… learning opportunities. I got the last slat planed to thickness, but lost one along the way because I couldn’t get it to thickness, there was a split in it from poor resawing that was diving down below the minimum line and it wasn’t recoverable. So next week I’ll take another 30″ off the ash board I have, plane it flat, hack it into 2″ wide laths, and resaw them down and wow does this ever teach you why we invented bandsaws.

Meanwhile, I had two experiments to run. One was to try to avoid drowning in the growing mound of shavings I’m generating…

img_9609a

Honestly, it’s getting silly now. I’ve lost two clamps to it. Seriously, somewhere under there is a sash clamp, a lidl F-clamp, four boxes of lawn seed and a container of round-up. And normally you’d just use a broom, but the space is so small and restricted that a broom would honestly be more hassle than help. So I got an aldi wet-and-dry shop vac and tried that, but while it could grab the dust and some shavings, the shavings clogged it up pretty fast. Well, there’s a solution to that – it’s a thing called a cyclone seperator. Think of a conical funnel with a lid on it. The vacuum connects to the lid, and you connect another hose to the side of the funnel angled to cause the incoming stream of stuff to spin, whereupon is slows down and drops to the bottom of the funnel and into a barrel mounted there.

img_9629a

And there it is…

…but it doesn’t work. There’s very little suction, because it leaks air everywhere. Normally the barrel underneath would be air-tight (they’re normally used to store liquids after all), with a seal in place around the lid. Here, it’s a bin and the lid is a chunk of mdf clipped in place by the handles. I suppose it was asking a lot of physics 😀 I’ll have to find a proper barrel, pay more attention to seals, and try again. The bin will go to waste, as in, I’ll use it as a bin for garden waste, but I foresee a trip to somewhere that sells barrels soon. Which, oddly enough, is a very short list it seems. I’m a bit hesitant to order one off amazon because who the hell posts a barrel? I’d never be able to look the postman in the eye again. Not to mention the point that if the Firearms Unit hears I’m getting barrels posted to me, they might take it up the wrong way…

The other experiment, which went slightly better, was to test steambending walnut. The idea is simple – wood is stiff because of a (fairly complex) chemical called lignin. It melts around 150C (well, there are several melting temperatures because your average tree will have lots of slightly different lignins – apparently it’s a challange for people studying the stuff to seperate them out, there are so many), but it will soften around 100C which is a nice convenient temperature as you just have to generate steam and that’s fairly easy.

So the theory is, take the wood, expose it to steam for a time (the rule of thumb is one hour per inch of thickness), then clamp it into a jig and bend it to the desired curve. This is normally done with a sealed box of some kind (either made from wood or PVC pipe or whatever) and then you pull the wood from the box with big thick gloves and as quickly as you can, clamp it into the jig and bend it before it cools. You have to bend it beyond the curvature you want, as it will spring back and how much overbending is needed is something you need to know by experience. Lots and lots of videos up on youtube show how to do this, but to be honest, they all looked like high-waste kinds of learning processes — especially because I only have kiln-dried walnut and this process really works best on something that’s never seen the inside of a kiln — and I didn’t feel like trying them at all as a result. And then I found this:

BTW, if you’ve not seen this guy’s channel, go there now, it’s fascinating stuff.

But anyway, his genius idea is to encase the wood in a plastic tube – specifically, the kind of continuous poly tube that you’d make smaller bags out of using a heat sealer – and pump the steam into that tube. That lets him put the wood in the jig, steam it for an hour, then bend it while still steaming it and hold it in the bent shape in the jig while still steaming it and then control the cooling-off process. Apart from the benefit of being able to work on long timbers for boat hulls, which is his thing, he gets lots of other bonuses, like being able to take his time doing the actual bending, controlling the temperature seperately from the bending process, and being able to keep the lignin softened even after the bend is done, and letting the stresses in the bent wood settle out before letting the lignin harden. This leads to far less spring-back to cope with.

I took one look at this and thought that’ll do. So I get a wallpaper stripper, some poly tube (it’s very cheap on ebay) and some metal plumber’s steel strap and prep to get bending. The strap is needed to go around wood on the outside of the curve – the reason the wood is bending at all is that with the lignin softened, you can compress and collapse the inside of the curve. You can’t stretch wood y’see, it’ll snap and splinter if you try, so the strap keeps the outside from stretching and the inside in compression.

This was, incidentally, one of the mistakes I made – I forgot the strap until the wood had been steaming for a half-hour and had to make up and apply the strap while the wood was around 100C. That does not lead to fine tolerances and unrushed work.

The first step though was to build the jig, so I needed a flat surface and some blocks around the curve to clamp to. I had a few sheets of MDF that I don’t really want to save for anything because honestly, MDF is awful. So I glued enough together to give me an inch-thick slab of MDF, and I started laying out where the blocks should go.

img_9622a

img_9624a

img_9626a

Then lots of drilling, a quick run to woodies because none of the screws I had were up to the job, and then screw&glue the blocks in place. That may have been a mistake, but not an unrecoverable one; I’ll need to disassemble the jig and rebuild it, but a solid belt of a hammer might fix that glue problem.

Then put the walnut offcut I’m testing with into the tube, being sure I had a half-meter off either end, and put in a spacer (in this case a paper cup) to stop the tube from collapsing on top of the steam pipe and melting because of a high concentration of moisture and heat.

img_9638a

And then it’s just a case of clamping one end of the wood into the jig, filling the wallpaper stripper with water and plugging it in. It takes 20 minutes or so to get up to 100C and then start steaming, then I wait an hour (actually a little bit more because the steamer ran out of water before I was expecting it to and it took a few minutes to refill it so the temperature dropped for ten minutes), and then I start bending.

img_9648a

The bending itself is not exactly a delicate operation. You don’t quite get out the hammers, but you put on gloves and oven mitts, grab the wood and then it’s just muscle to pull it into the bend. You grab it with clamps as you go and then it’s a case of pull it to bend it a bit, tighten the clamps to hold that, then pull some more and pretty soon you’ve got the bend in. If you’ve not heard any loud splintering noises, you’re good.

img_9651a

Now leave the steamer finish off the last of the water that’s in it, so another half hour or so of steaming, and then unplug the steamer and start letting it cool down.

img_9661a

Now there are a few mistakes I’ve made here. For a start, I forgot the compression strap until half-way through the steaming and had to put it on outside the bag.

img_9664a

It’s also not the full width of the piece being bent, so a good bit of the wood is not supported. And then there’s the point that there’s no scrap bits of wood between the clamps and the wood being bent (and of course, as the wood is being softened, the clamps really dig in and deform the wood.

img_9673a

On the left, the supported and properly bent walnut (still quite damp); on the right, the unsupported part that split.
Still though, I’m not too unhappy. I know what to do now for the real thing. But first, I want to watch that experimental bit for a few days  to see how much it springs back and how much overbend I’ll need. I will need to rebuild the jig though – those blocks are not tall enough off the mdf to do the job and need to be redone. I’ll also want to make up a proper compression strap setup and some scrap bits to protect the walnut from the clamps.

And all that in the middle of being swallowed whole by a slow-moving avalanche of wood shavings as I resaw another 8″x30″x1″ ash board. And I want to get that all done before I go buy more wood on Friday…

Stochastic Geometry is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache

%d bloggers like this: