29
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.


30
May 20

ex-Xmas Tree Xmas Tree Decorations

So a few years ago, some woodworkers on a podcast made an April Fool’s joke about how they always picked the same species of xmas tree so that they could mill it up for lumber after the holidays and make a chest of drawers out of them. Which was funny, until another woodworker went and actually did it (with small boxes not a chest of drawers, because there’s a lot of timber in a chest of drawers):

And this was important because until this point, the several xmas tree trunks in the back yard were just there because I had been too lazy to make a second trip to the recycling yard with them. See, after the holidays I take our now-long-dead-and-drying tree into the back garden and hack off all the branches with a hatchet and bag up the branches and the two kilograms of needles that have fallen off them on the ten-yard trip from living room to back garden. Those bags go to the recycling center because if you tried to just shove the tree into the car to bring the whole thing there, you’d be cleaning pine needles out of the car ten years later.

But now, there was a reason I was keeping those trunks 😀

And what better time than during a pandemic lockdown to do something with them? So, first up, take a glazier’s hacking knife and debark them and lop off the top foot or three until we get past the really bad shakes and checks on the surface (these things have just been drying outdoors untended for up to five years now).

Then I took the more manageable-in-my-shed lengths into the shed and cut out all the pieces that looked salvagable, trying to get at least one chunk from every trunk so we’d have every year represented. The bandsaw rendered the rest into firewood.

The oldest two trees just resulted in a handful of chunks but the most recent trees yielded a lot more material (that binbag is shavings btw, I had to empty the extractor that day)

Some of the smaller pieces turned out to be spalted when rough-turned, which is kindof pretty in a monochrome sort of way.

The shakes in this piece were just too large to ignore though, so out with the hot glue gun to make a dam and it’s resin time!

Daler-Romney pearlescent acrylic ink in sun-up blue, in case you’re interested.

It’s pretty nice stuff, and handles very well. I may need to get a few more of these. The resin pour proved messier than expected though…

And yes, the whole damn thing did in fact leak all over the live center, lathe bed and drive center and why yes, that was so much fun to clean up, how did you guess?

You couldn’t even really see the resin and its colour in the end. But it held the piece together while I chucked it up then put a jacobs chuck and 7mm drill bit into the tailstock and drilled out the center for an insert from a kit (bought mine from The Carpentry Store). I turned a small test shape to see how the wood handled, sanded it, sealed it, thought “no, that needs colour” and stained it then thought “wait, sanding sealer and stain should have gone on in the opposite order, oh bother”, and then promptly bent the ferrule learning how to get the head and ferrule into the tube running through the center.

Still. It’s only a test piece, I have three-and-a-bit trunks to play with still. And the stains don’t react too badly to pine (and it’s interesting to see how they react when you seal the surface first), and the buff-it gold compound I used as embelleshing wax works nicely (gold because, you know, xmas colours). So I learned a few things (like don’t try to pour resin into a crack in a piece while it’s still on the sodding lathe). Worth doing.

So there you go, an ex-xmas tree xmas tree decoration 😀


12
Oct 19

Drilling and Glue-up

So routed down another 8-9mm in the groove for the LED at one end to give a target zone to aim for.

Now to drill in from the back of the shelf to meet that point. None of my drill bits are really long enough bar some of my auger bits, but I’m not hugely confident of my ability to drill straight-on with the bit and brace when I can’t drill downwards which I thought would be awkward here, so I went off and bought a long drill bit from FAMAG (who got recommended by Crimson Guitars a while back, and I thought for long drill bits, well, they’d know). 

Ever feel like you’ve over-spec’d a tool for a job? Oh well. A few minutes of very careful drilling later, and…

And that’s the last bit to do before the glue-up. I’d fit the LED, but, well, the LEDs didn’t arrive (or rather, the wrong ones did – but I’ll take a look later and see if I couldn’t modify them. Might not do so though because the socket meant to go in that countersunk hole in the back of the shelf has not arrived either.

So, I can’t glue-up in the shed, it’s not big enough. There’s a small deck outside the shed I use for this sort of thing.

That reminds me, there’s a rather large cleanup due once this is finished. But for now, out with the hide glue, the clamps, the cauls, and the hammers. 20 minutes of cursing, belting, giving up and getting more clamps and sticky tape and a lot of confused staring at joints that were no longer as snug as they used to be later and…

It’s not… terrible. Though that was one of the more annoying glue-ups I’ve ever done.

I mean, I knew before day one of this project that this clamping setup would be terrible, but still, this was painful. Also, I really need to spend some time reviving those clamps, they’re fantastic things but they’ve been in the elements unprotected for too long and they’ve rusted.

Having six hands would have been useful too…

Somehow those dovetails are now less well-fitting than when last fettled. It has been some time, there would have been some wood movement but it’s still surprising. Oh well.

This one’s the worse of the two, but even at that, it looks worse than it really is because of the shadowlines – I need to spend a while rounding this corner off and fettling the flow from upright to shelf. Glue should be cured by tomorrow, I can take a stab at it then.

Six or seven hours in the clamps later, I removed the clamps and let the shelf sit in the shed to cure fully. It doesn’t look terrible yet.

Looks even enough…

Definitely too big for my shed though. Yikes.
So, still needs to cure off overnight, then shape the top corners, glue some leather to the contact points where it leans against the wall, add another coat or two of polyx (the one coat on it so far is actually quite nice-looking), polish the resin a bit, fit the LED lights… but those are mostly small jobs compared to this. We’re easily more 95% of the way there. Of course, that last 5% can ruin everything still…