Jan 21

New toys!

I often get gift vouchers for woodworking shops for the solstice holidays and birthdays and so on, and with Covid this year there’s been no real chance to go pottering round woodworking shops in person so those all built up; over the holidays I finally cashed them in and over the last week or two the delivery guys have been dropping off new toys at the house.

First up, no more burnt fingers when sanding bowls…

I finally found a BS10 Charnwood bowl sander kit after a lot of searching – it seemed everyone in Ireland and the UK and Europe was out of stock of this and none was expected till February, but Raitt’s up in Donegal had one or two left and even though they were technically closed for the holidays, I guess they were having the same kind of holidays I was having and they had it in the post before the new year started (I will definitely be going back there). I’ve had a small play with this since I got it and it’s such a huge step forward. I’m actually looking forward to the next bowl sanding now which seems a bit off ๐Ÿ˜€

Next up, I’ve been watching Colwin Way’s videos that he was doing for Axminister all last year during lockdown from his home workshop:

They were pretty good tutorials and one of the things he kept using is in that thumbnail – it’s a small platform that mounts in the banjo of the lathe along with a velcro-attached sandpaper disk on a plywood disk which has a metal faceplate ring on the back that his chuck grabs onto, so the lathe becomes a disk sander. It’s not a new idea by any means, but the way he was doing it was very straightforward and one tutorial covered how to build it and I have an Axminister lathe myself and a second faceplate ring for my chuck so the other parts (and they’re not hugely expensive for my lathe, came to about 25 quid in total) went into the order from the Carpentry Store

It’s a nice little bit of functionality to add for doing things like small toys and such on the lathe, as well as for ordinary rectilinear woodworking stuff. Now I just need to find storage space for it ๐Ÿ˜€

Next, I finally got myself a ring live center for the tailstock. Splitting stock with a 60 degree cone center is hopefully a thing of the past now (and since that caused some mushrooms to explode on me in the beginning, I will not miss it…).

That live center is the multihead one from Axminster so I can remove the ring part and replace it with one of a few others, and I’ve seen some examples on youtube of people turning their own insets for it for things like turning spheres and the like, so it looks to have some potential.

I also got a few carving bits from Saburrtooth for the dremel. I was watching Rebecca DeGroot making some experimental bits and pieces (seriously, you need to see her stuff on instagram, it’s phenomenal) and some of the techniques she was using looked like fun.

I only had a few minutes playing time with these so far, but there’s potential there. I also have had this idea in my head for the last six months for a bowl that I want to make that I’ll need these for (though that technique came more from Stewart Furini than Rebecca DeGroot). But that bowl isn’t even started yet, I’ve only just finished getting some resin into the blank to stabilise two annoying cracks…

I might have chosen the wrong pigments for those but I think I can work with it. If not, I’ll make another smaller one. Or something. I’m still working out how to get the thing I can see in my head onto paper, let alone into wood.

Moving on, one of the things Colwin Way was covering was pen turning and I kindof always thought I’d give that a try, it seems to be mandatory if you have a minilathe, so I got a beginner’s pen turning kit. I expect the first few to be the pen equivalent to a funnel, but hey, it’s all good fun, right? ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s a rather nice mandrel that one apparently, which is blind luck, it happened to be the one the Carpentry Store stocked that fitted my lathe. Anyway, I’ll give it a go and see how it works out.

There was a bit of restocking as well. I’ve used up all the black, yellow, green and red from my sample pack of Chestnut stains on various holiday decorations and things so I ordered bottles of those to replenish (I figure I’ll keep doing that as I use the little bottles up so that I only have to buy the stuff I’m actually using), as well as some more acrylic sealer because I was out. And I got one of the little timber kits for Calum to build and paint, which should be fun:

There was a light pull drive as well because I want a friction drive to try to get Calum turning little things on the lathe, and I don’t want him using a chuck or a pronged drive center just yet – if he sticks a tool into something with a friction drive center, all that happens is the work stops spinning, rather than there being enough of a connection between spindle and work that it can throw the tool around on him. That hasn’t arrived yet, but should be fun.

And lastly… well, look, I got two nice woodturning tools last year, a Crown PM 10mm bowl gouge and an Ashley Iles 1″ skew chisel. They’re lovely tools but I’ve been afraid to go near them because my sharpening setup was… well, it wasn’t getting it done. I was grinding into the jig itself for one gouge, for another I couldn’t get the jig to clamp it at all, the axis line for the inside and outside curves on the gouges weren’t aligned anymore so I had asymmetric tools, it was a mess.

That last one is an old photo from April – I did change out the carborundum wheels there for aluminium oxide ones a few months back, but the jigs themselves are cheap knockoffs of the wolverine guides and they just were driving me nuts and they were wearing in places and I couldn’t see how to get better performance out of them, so I splurged and bought the BGM-400 kit, took the grinder platform apart and rebuilt it all…

So now I have the Tormek mounting bar, and the gouge sharpening jig, the general purpose sharpening jig that does roughing gouges and parting tools and so on, and the skew chisel sharpening bit. And it’s very very neat indeed. I’m hoping to be able to fix the bad sharpening on all of my gouges, stop shortening the tools quite so fast by keeping a consistent grinding angle rather than constantly having to grind off another bit of steel to correct a bad grind and so on. I know, it’s not a slow speed grinder and it’s not got CBN wheels, but those will have to wait for another day and with a consistent jig setup for sharpening I might be able to start using that lovely Ashley Isles skew soon…

There was one more thing, and I know this is all excessive but it’s birthday gifts and solstice gifts and some savings that would have been spent over five or six months all happening at once before Brexit really bites and we can’t get this stuff or the price doubles in the next few weeks. That’s more likely than not I think – we already are having increased problems getting stuff from the UK or Europe, DPD won’t ship to Ireland at the moment at all because Brexit has mangled both exports from the UK to the EU and shipping from EU to Ireland (we are still in the EU in case anyone was wondering ๐Ÿ˜€ ) via the land bridge over the UK, which has caused a few things to go astray (and I don’t even want to think about what’s happening to hardwood prices at the moment).

Plus as I said about the bowl sander, a lot of stuff is out of stock everywhere with no really clear restocking date; and we’ve already seen one major woodturning shop in the UK (the Toolpost) close its doors with Covid and Brexit being cited as the cause. Hopefully more don’t follow, but 2020 was not a year that gave us all a lot of cause for optimism, and so far 2021 has started off not getting out of the first week before the US has an actual coup attempt and the news cycle in Ireland has been something of a nightmare as well; we’re now 20% worse than the US for Covid infection rates per capita – literally no other country in the world has had positivity test results this bad or this fast a descent into disaster – and on top of that we just had the Mother and Baby homes report published which simultaneously informed us of nine thousand dead infants in the small percentage of religious institutions investigated and also tried to absolve from blame the religious orders running those institutions and the state that signed contracts with them. Maybe this just isn’t optimism’s best year either.

But I’m one of the very lucky ones in that I can try retail therapy for now instead of the internal screaming. This last present to myself is a real luxury – I bought a set of six cheap airbrushes (the suction variety rather than the gravity fed ones) to put the chestnut stains in. Changing bottles on the one gun was leading to a rather surprising amount of stain winding up on my hands and the bottles and the floor because of capillary action and general clumsiness – I’m hoping this will alleviate it (and there’s a seven-euro-special one as well for gravity feeding so I can try other paints). Now, the airbrushes from aliexpress aren’t exactly what you’d call good compare to a Badger or an Iwata (in fact I don’t think they’re good enough to even dust off an Iwata), but for the kind of thing I’m doing, I think using an Iwata would be an absolute travesty of waste. Those should be used by people who know what they’re doing on very fine work, not the stuff I’m doing, which is the airbrush equivalent of painting houses (badly). They’re cheap, they’re cheerful and they should be here before March and I’m looking forward to playing with them.

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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

May 18

A busy weekend…

…and almost none of it spent in the shed, but for once that wasn’t a bad thing ๐Ÿ™‚

(I know this might be confusing if you’re reading this outside Ireland, but check the international news, we wound up in it almost everywhere). Herself was canvassing and leafletting and doing her part for this for the last few weeks, and we were all a bit on edge throughout because the No campaign were being violent and abusive and just plain nasty in an attempt to drive down turnout for the vote, but in the end people remembered thirty-five years of suffering and overwhelmingly voted yes. After which, to be frank, we were all a bit weepy and wiped out. Herself went in to Dublin Castle for the official announcement, and I went off with Junior to the grandparents to decompress and grill some hamburgers, and we all went home and crashed that evening with a plan to not even move the next day if we didn’t have to.

But I figured the shed might help me unwind a little so…

First things first, grind a camber onto the new scrub plane…

I’m always convinced this stage is going to ignite six litres of shellac and finishes so I’m not hugely fond of it but needs must…

Then on to the stones to fine tune the bevel and hone it.

Well, that worked…

And a slightly less aggressive camber than Sid’s. So, Sid gets relegated to the toolbox for the foreseeable; he may be dug out again if I ever need to thickness a lot of pine or something like that, but he tended to bite me as much as he’d bite the wood, so I’d rather stick with the new plane, it lets me bleed less on the work which will hopefully improve the final finish of pieces. Happily, I didn’t have to do anything to the mouth, so the guilt of mangling an old but perfectly fine Record #04 wasn’t triggered.

In its new home.

And now my wall is almost 100% record (bar the two stanley block planes and the preston spokeshaves). Which is odd because I didn’t start out looking to make a collection, but I seem to have wound up with one anyway.

Oh well. Time to actually use the sodding things now. I have some rough cut pieces still ready to start in on…

But I’m not actually touching those today, I wanted to get a feel for what beech is like to work so I’m prepping some pieces for a simple box first from the offcut left over from doing those rough cuts.

Ripped the offcut in half and planed to matching width.

Then flattened one side and thicknessed with the new scrub plane. Honestly, this is not my favourite part of this hobby.

And it generates a lot of mess…

But I got the pieces thicknessed and flattened on both sides, and shot the ends square and then cut out 8″ and 5″ lengths for the sides of the box.

…and I don’t like the proportions. Hm. I wanted to use the rippled sycamore for the lid here, so I think I’ll let it dictate the proportions; that should shrink the width by a solid inch here which I think might work. It’ll be a japanese style tool box thing when its done, if a little bit fancier than those normally get made because I want to use pegs instead of nails and try to make it pretty. We’ll see if it works ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ll probably just futz with the proportions stuff and maybe cut the housing joints here tomorrow, and then I want to get on with the resawing and prep work on the pile of rough cuts for the box, it’s for a present and I’d like to get a start on it. And I’m seriously thinking about taking this Friday off as it’s the June bank holiday weekend and a four day weekend right now sounds almost scandalously luxurious…