18
Mar 17

New toys…

Not been spending much time in the shed since the cot was delivered (and it fits, and Niece fits into it as well so yay!), but I have spent a few minutes on ebay. Or a few more than a few 🙂 There are still a few more things I want based on the fun of making the cot, but I have most of them now and I’m content to wait for decent prices&conditions on ebay. Especially since Brexit is about to take the price of tools on ebay.co.uk and throw them off a cliff…

Butt first…

Narex butt chisels. Or “American Pattern Chisels” if you’re (very) British. Basically, shorter blades and handles than the normal bench chisel:

When I was doing the dovetailing of the drawer in the cot, the chisels I had weren’t bad — but they definitely had some room for improvement and I’ve been looking at some Ashley Iles chisels for a while but they’re a wee bit expensive (over a hundred sterling or so for a set of six and there’s a bit of a back order wait because they’re handmade). So before buying those I wanted to try using a few different styles of chisel to get a better idea of what worked best for me; and Richard McGuire’s been an advocate of the smaller butt chisels for this kind of work so I thought I’d try them and there were two Narex chisels on ebay one day for about ten euro each. Narex aren’t the best in the world by a long shot, but they’re kindof the modern equivalent to Footprint I guess; decent working tools. So we’ll see if the style of chisel lives up to expectations over the next few months and then I can decide about whether or not to drop ten times that much on a set of “luxury” dovetail chisels. And I might buy a japanese chisel and an elliptical profile chisel as well if they show up cheaply, just to see if they suit me or if they just annoy me.

(Oh, and those things to the left on the top photo there are combination bottle openers/paint can openers. One will remain a paint can opener to save screwdrivers, and the other will get sharpened at the blade to use to clean the bottom of mortices, as a suggestion from Paul Sellars).

And from chisels for fine paring work to chisels for nailing pigs to walls…

Okay, so here I think I bought a bit more than I could chew. There were fifty-seven hand-cut mortices in the cot and while the ones for the slats were well suited to the firmer chisels I had, I got to thinking a proper morticing chisel would come in handy for anything much larger than a quarter inch or so. And then a few came up in a set on ebay for about twenty euro in total, split between two lots, so I grabbed them. And they’re terrifying. The scale doesn’t come across in the photos, these things are basically sharpened chunks of rebar. I can’t wrap my hand around the three larger ones fully. And the three-eights one has an overly loose (falling off really) handle with some woodworm attack and a split so I need to replace it. But these I think will be living in a box rather than on the wall. Especially the half-inch one. The thing weighs more than my hammer…

And finally got something to help sharpen my #071 router’s iron…

And something to help sharpen my western pattern saws…

And you can never have enough clamps of course…

Every schoolkid in Ireland probably remembers these, I know that’s where I first saw them. But the idea here isn’t to use this as a ruler, but as a sector. I’ll sand the markings off it and clean it up a bit, then remark it as a sector, following Christopher Schwarz’s suggestion. When I was marking out the dovetails for the cot, it took an age to get the sizes laid out and it was mainly done through trial and error with dividers; but a sector (which is in effect an analog computer, a bit like an old precursor to slide rules) would let me divide out the board correctly in a few seconds. Allegedly. We’ll see…

(And if it works, I might spend more than two euro including postage for a crappy old ruler and make one that’s less floppy)

You’ve seen this already, but since we’re mentioning dovetails, and since some new blades arrived today as well…

And this one’s a bit out of left field, and more to do with making the cheese press than the cot, specifically repairing it after Calum managed to break it. The Record 53A is a spectacularly good wood vice, but you can’t use it for metalwork really, it’s not designed for it. The Record Imp is a kindof  light duty tabletop vice, designed for use for small jobs. Think “Auxilary vice”, something you’d need before you start getting to the larger Record 4 and T5 mechanics and engineers vices, which are enormous behemoths of things. Maybe in a larger shed, but in my one, this is a better fit, especially as it costed €35 instead of €150 😀

Speaking of fit, it doesn’t – the bench top is too thick. So I need to make a board with a batten that it’ll fit and which I can clamp in the 53A or secure with holdfasts, and I can clamp the Imp to that (and bolt it to it as well probably).

And lastly, two new slitting gauges because I’m sick of having no option but to keep a piece of scrap about to note the settings for my wheel gauge; as a solution it works but you’re always going to get some small errors creeping in. The real solution is to have more gauges, and they’re not hugely expensive (usually you’ll get this kind for somewhere in the €25-35 range and you’ll find them for less if you’re willing to wait – both of these cost me €20). The top one is a new Marples model and it feels just lovely in the hand. I’m wondering if the rosewood will shrink away from the brass in the face; we’ll see. The lower one is an I.Sorby model from somewhere before the 1960s which looks better in the hand than it does in the photos, it’s really in lovely condition. Both are slitting gauges (or cutting gauges? Unless you only think of the lovely japanese versions of these as slitting gauges) with knife blades rather than pins because I’ve used pin style marking gauges and I just don’t like them that much, I much prefer the edges on the wheel gauges. Maybe if I refiled the pin’s heads to a more knife-like profile… but then, I’d have made a slitting gauge then, wouldn’t I? This way I just get what I want from the start 😀

Next up, I have to start getting these things stored. There are a few things to do in the shed over the next while, getting tools up on the wall and doing general shed maintenance stuff and the like, and then I have an idea for the next building project, but I’m waiting on some bits that I’ve ordered (without a lathe, there are some things I can’t make myself).


19
Feb 17

Drying day.

My original plan was to make the drawer today, but that plan didn’t take into account things like drying time on glues given the current low temperatures. Titebond PVA glue would be grand, but hide glue is something I’m still figuring out, so I’m giving it lots of margin for error. Especially as I found today that I almost had a major error during the glue-up; the use of a mallet to drive the top crossbar and back support into the mortice put torsion stress on the two end joints, as I knew it would (stupid mis-steam-bent upright) but I thought it’d be safe enough.

Nope. Small (1.5cm long) crack right there. Not critical; the wood is now stabilised by the glue and it’s holding well; but enough to give me a moment of thinking “wow, that nearly destroyed a week or so of work without the raw material available to do it over…”

I might just try to get a little glue in there and clamp it closed tomorrow, just to be safe.

Meanwhile, the rest of today went on getting the frame out of the shed onto the assembly table in the late afternoon, getting all the clamps off and holding my breath to see if the glue had cured (it had), and doing the last bits of trimming on drawbore pegs and the like. And then the last coat of shellac got touched on in a few places to cover some scratches and once that had dried (it dries fast outdoors), I moved it back into the shed as it was dark outside by now, and got the first coat of osmo going.

Just ragging on a thickish first coat here, in two parts (you can see the contrast here between the untreated side panel and the just-treated top panel). The plan was, on with the first ragging, leave for 30 minutes, rag off the excess and immediately on with another ragging, wait 30 more minutes, then rag off the excess again and leave to cure until tomorrow evening. Then tomorrow, I’ll take 400grit paper or wire wool to it, and rag on a thinner coat, leave for 30 minutes, then rag off the excess, then leave to dry until the next day, and we’ll do at least four coats of that.

In the meantime, I’ve a drawer to make up as well.

Also, this is WAY TOO BIG to be doing in this shed…

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Last minute fettling and foostering.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

16
Feb 17

Complaning

Y’see this happy chap? It’s from startwoodworking.com btw, it’s surprisingly hard to find a good side-on photo of how you use a hand plane. You’ll notice that he’s pushing the hand plane along the wood using his leg muscles more than his arm muscles, by leaning into the plane as he pushes it. This is normal, natural movement that you do any time you push an object that isn’t sliding round like a greased pig in a swimming pool.

Do you see what else he’s go there?

FECKING ROOM TO MOVE.

This is the shed at the moment.

Lean into the plane? I’m doing well if I can reach the shagging thing at the moment.

*sigh*. And I have to thickness drawer sides, which means taking off wood, half a millimetre at a time in a 2cm-wide strip. Over a whole board. Evenly. By about eight millimetres. Gah. See this thing?

This is a dewalt 735 planer thicknesser. It costs nearly €700 if you’re silly enough to buy it in a shop in Dublin where the prices are usually 50% too high. And if I had the room to store it, I would have bought two of them by now. I mean, finish planing, that’s one thing. It’s awkward, but even on the largest panel in the crib it was doable.

Granted, you need the card scraper in places and it’s a pain having nowhere to stand at times.

But thicknessing, that’s a whole other story. There’s no finesse in that, it’s just lots of pushing through wood and hoping it ends soon. Christopher Schwartz was right, the first power tool you should get is a planer thicknesser. It’s just that they’re also bloody loud. This is not a machine that endears you to the neighbours if you use it at 2200h on a worknight. It’s about as loud as your wife finding you feeding the neighbourhood cat. To the blender.

I mean, ideally, I’d resaw the boards to thickness, but honestly, I’ve had enough of that. The ryoba is just not up to the job if the plank is more than two or three inches wide, and I’m still waiting for saw files to sharpen the western saws I have but so far they’ve just not made the task any easier. A bandsaw might, but (a) where the hell would I put it, and (b) bandsaws that can resaw an eight-inch-wide board are not like bandsaws that are just used for cutting curves; they are not small things. You have to use wider blades for reasons that involve clearing a kerf, physics and metallurgy, and those wider blades need larger wheels in the bandsaw to cope with bending radii, and that leads to a big freestanding monster of a machine.

So basically, I’m stuck inside the limits of the 8’x6′ shed. At least for now. But every so often, it’s helpful to complane (see what I did there?) about it.

At least the top panel is finish planed and one of the drawer sides is now thicknessed.

And the final coat of shellac is on the mattress platform and on the rear upright.

 

So not a totally wasted hour or two in the shed.

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Finish plane top panel
  • Make a drawer
    • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
    • Cut the drawer front to size.
    • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
    • Cut dovetails for drawer.
    • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Assemble and glue-up and drawboring of everything.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

13
Jan 17

Testing

Last few days have mainly been testing; both in the “new toys and new ideas” sense and in the “three days off from food poisoning and losing ten pounds in the process” sense. Happily, I only have photos from the former.

I did get some work done on the cot before the enforced break set in, the biggest and trickiest of the mortise and tenon joints is now all fettled and the slats have been picked out and I’m working on the spacing for them. But apart from that, it’s been small stuff only.

I was wondering about the exposed end grain bits there will be in the cot and then I saw this approach by Brian Halcombe :

It’s downright pretty. I wondered if I could do that so I sharpened my smallest gouge and dug into a scrap bit of walnut:

Well, the idea works at least. I need a bit more practice, and maybe a slightly narrower gouge (and it needs to be a lot sharper than mine was, I just stropped it, but it needs to go back to the stones properly), but that might be a runner.

Then the new toy arrived…

For anyone who’s not seen one before, it’s a dovetail guide. There’s a magnet inside to hold the saw against the guide so your angles are correct, some low-friction pads over that so the saw can slide freely, and a bit of sandpaper to help keep the guide in place against the wood:

It’s pretty simple to use:

I had a bit of a play when it first arrived, just cutting saw kerfs to see how it handled, and then tried giving it a go for an actual joint. It works as advertised, but there is a point the instructions don’t warn you about, namely, be careful where you put it down on the bench…

…or else you get a ball of magnetised sharp edges and points to deal with 😀

Apart from that, it makes the process much easier.

I made life a bit difficult for myself here though, because the pieces of wood I was using weren’t wide enough for three tails given the size of chisels I have; I wound up cleaning out the waste with the tip of the marking knife in the end because my smallest chisel was over twice the width of the gap between pins. And between that and general fumbling, there were gaps all over the final joint:

But for a first attempt at dovetails, it’s not too bad. Besides, I was having trouble feeling my fingers, it was a bit chilly in the shed:

Eeek. No glue-ups possible at that temperature…

 


28
Dec 16

In the shed, nobody can hear you scream

So, job one, get the end crossbars in place. Time to chop some mortices with damn near no margin for error at all…

The new mortices for the end panel are within a millimeter of the other mortices for the side panels. In one case, there’s an actual small breakthrough.

But it held and that’s one down. Then on to chopping mortices in the steambent upright, which is equally stressful because if you stuff it up, it’s a lot of repair work.

Awkward to chop too. There was a bit of spokeshave work before this, I figured do that before cutting holes in the thing…

The holdfasts really do make this a lot easier.

Then assembly and fettling…

Ah, feck. Can you see the problem?

Yeah, I’m going to have to rethink how the crossbar at the top attaches here. Poop. The earlier idea of the tenons being on the crossbar and going in from the side probably won’t work. Tenons on the uprights and mortices in the crossbar I suppose.

Then get on with the panel as I can do that now. Squared up the end grain, then marked off the right width, ripped off about 2cm of material to get to final planed width. Took out a rebate with the #778:

And then flip the board over and push it in from the edge a bit and use the jack to plane a small bevel on the panel. Then it’s fitting and fettling and…

Not bad so far. That’s the three side panels done now, leaving only the top panel to be set in place, I’ll wait to get the crossbar idea sorted first, then I’ll rip that panel to width, do the rebates and bevel, and use either the #44 or the #43 to cut a groove for it, bearing in mind that the bars getting that groove already have one groove on the bottom for the side panels and will have mortices for the slats as well. It’ll all be grand when it’s all glued up, but during construction it’s going to be a bit fragile…


22
Dec 16

Getting technical

So this:

is a shooting board (this one’s from Popular Woodworking, mine’s not as neat). Idea’s simple – for thinish boards (once you get up to an inch thick, you start just holding it in the vice and running a block or bench plane across it), you feed the board into the plane which is on its side and it will true up the end so it’s exactly 90 degrees to both faces and edges. Which is handy for making things that don’t look like they were drawn by Escher while drunk. Problem is, most of my planes don’t have big sides – they’re the traditional bailey pattern and have rounded cheeks:

Which works, but it is a bit tippy. And the sides aren’t quite 90 degrees to the sole either, they’re a degree or so off. No problem most of the time, but for shooting board use, it’s a pain. Plus you have to use the lateral adjuster to get the blade exactly vertical and then use it again when you finish using the shooting board and so on. There are specialist planes made for this sort of thing, like the Veritas one:

But that’s about three hundred euro, so no 😀

However, Record did make a plane that was intended for use in schools, called the T5 (for Technical apparently):

(that photo from recordhandplanes.com btw, which is an excellent reference for these things)

So I’d been keeping an eye out for a T5 in decent nick on ebay and recently saw one and won the auction for it (by about 51 pence, cheekily) for a sixth the price of the veritas, and today it arrived:

It’s in marvellous condition, perfect paint job, perfect varnish on the handles, shiny brass, damn near ready to use out of the box (the blade needs sharpening, but that’s normal). It’s probably in better shape than any of my other planes, except a #4 that’s also immaculate (I don’t think anyone ever used that #4, it just got displayed and then sold 60 years later). If you’re looking for this sort of stuff, I’d recommend the ebay seller I bought this from, lovely chap to deal with and excellent quality stuff.

But enough on the new toy (which will be getting a workout with the slats for the crib I suspect), on to the day’s work, and today was to finish fettling the back panel. This proved fiddly, eventually turning out to be off-square because of an unevenness in the groove for the panel in the bottom rail because the fence of the #44 plane was riding on the benchtop. But I got it square and most of the gaps were gone or down to less than half a millimetre. The idea of drawboring these grows more and more attractive (that block of white wood behind the T5 above in those photos is an offcut I got a while back which is a lovely contrasting colour and is perfectly straight-grained, perfect for making small dowel pins with. I’ll test it on some walnut off-cuts and see how it goes.

With that done, I cut the front panel using the back panel as a template, cut the rebate in the back and the bevel on the front, making the rebate a bit deeper on this one because I’d like the center of the panel to be lower than the rails or at least level with them as it’ll be butted up against the side of the bed.

Then on to the frames, again cutting the long rails using the back rails as a template and then marking the mortices onto the curved front rails from the back legs. More mortice chopping and tenon cutting and cleanup and fettling followed.

By the way, when cleaning up tenons with a chisel, don’t blink…

Those things are just plain unpleasant…

Anyway, some fitting and checking and fettling later, with a lot more stress this time because a mistake with the curved rails would be difficult to repair, and the front frame was done… okay, minus the grooves for the panel so it’s not fully assembled but here we are….

Heh. Elephant-y. Lets stand it up…

Er. Hm. This was a problem I had not considered. That is literally touching the ceiling on both sides and sitting flat on the bench. The foam isn’t holding it up – it’s actually in compression like a spring between bench and table. Assembly… may be challenging. I may need to do it outside the shed, and the weather is not forecast to be great (as in, driving rain and gale force winds and freezing temperatures, none of which react well with hide glue, walnut, ash or humans).

Gonna need a bigger shed.


21
Dec 16

That whooshing noise…

…is a rapidly approaching deadline 😀 So there’s been a lot of work and not a lot of photos and typing.

I’ve been testing some finishes…

So there’s shellac on the walnut, I’m testing both shellac and osmo wax on the ash, and milk paint on the poplar. The latter is very vibrant going on…

…but after it’s dried the next day, it’s faded a bit…

…which is disappointing, because I’m not a fan of this modern shabby chic chalk paint nonsense. But if you put a layer or two of osmo over the top of it, it picks back up somewhat. Well, it’ll have to do.

Meanwhile, all the panels are now planed (holy carp but kiln-dried ash is god-awful stuff to work with even if it does look nice, especially long heavy pieces), all the frame pieces are cut to length and we’re into the joinery and fitting stage.

And sharpening. Soooooo much sharpening. Stupid kiln-dried ash.

I really need more storage space. And yes, the floor’s a right mess. It normally wouldn’t be, but I managed to pull something in the small of my back two days ago doing the shopping for the xmas dinner (lifting heavy things into and out of deep shopping trolleys in a rush at the checkout must do in more backs than any gym). When I can lift my left knee more than two inches without the stabbing pain in my back again, I’ll clean the floor up.

Meanwhile, I can work while standing.

Trying out a slightly less fancy morticing method (a lot faster too, I’m becoming quite a fan of holdfasts) and it works quite well. The mortices for the slats will have to be quite a bit smaller than the ones for the frame though, there’s so many of them to do. Mind you, those slats don’t have to hold the thing together, so smaller mortices will be fine.

Sawed out the tenons on the waste side of the line and then snuck up on the fit with chisel work. This was a bit slow – need to saw to the line next time. The fit might be less tight, but there’s enough meat there to drawbore if needed…

And then there’s the grooves for the panel. This was easy enough once I had the piece secured in the vice, it’s only got a grip on the bottom few millimetres of the rail so that the fence on the #44 doesn’t snag on the bench. I’d like to have the fence on the outside of the piece (but the vice chops would catch it then), but the configuration of the piece means that can’t be done. Oh well.

Fettling the panel was a bit of a foostering. Actually shaping it was not too shabby (though it’s not completely finished there), but getting the width perfect and the joints all closed up… yeesh. And that’s still not perfect yet, I have to trim a millimetre or so yet, that could be another half-hour tomorrow. But for now, the back panel is done…

Tomorrow I’ll finish fettling this, give the ash panel another skim with the smoothing plane to deal with the little bits of tear-out and add the bevel on the ends of the panel as well, and once it’s all perfect, I’ll take it apart again and use the pieces to mark off the various mortices and so on on the other frame and panel pieces and try to get the front panel done; then it’ll be the end frames and the end panel and the drawer front, then take it all apart again and cut the mortices for the slats; then make up the drawer and then it’s finishing and assembly.

By Christmas day? Er… hmmm… suuuuuure, no worries…


17
Dec 16

Tool night

Holidays started, and a couple of new tools showed up in the post (well, rutlands was having a black friday sale and some nice things popped up on ebay for decent prices).

A few fairly cheap rasps. Machine-made, no hand-stitched french rasps in my budget for a while (these cost about twenty euro for the set, a single hand-stitched one would cost a little over a hundred euro more than that). Might be useful for the curved parts of the crib when I’m finishing them.

One of these dividers is new; one of these is older than the modern state of Ireland. And they both work pretty damn well. (They’re for laying out the dovetails in the drawer of the crib).

I kept having to set and reset my existing veritas gauge using scraps of wood with the gauge lines in them (which works great until you drop the scrap down behind the workbench where it’s bloody awkward to get to), then I noticed that other people got round this by having a small army of the things and using different ones for different measurements during a project (no you can’t set them off a ruler, you’ll inevitably get parallax error setting it and make a mistake that shows up glaringly later on). I might be getting a few more of these over the next while. The built-in ruler is kindof nice, as is the microadjustment feature.

Already had both of these (and a #50 that I need to add a fence to as well at some point), but had to add the wooden fences to them, finally got round to doing that this evening. And then there was the blades, which were horribly manky. They went into white vinegar for a few days, then they were rinsed off and soaked in water and baking soda for a half-hour to neutralise the acid, and then wrapped in kitchen paper and a cloth to dry off (that’s them on the workbench in front of the planes above).

Then it was time for the luthier’s trick. Out with my MDF board that I use for this (it has a small cleat underneath that goes into the vice, and it just keeps the worst of the muck off my bench.

Down with the masking tape.

Tear off a bit of 120 grit sandpaper from the roll and dribble some superglue on the masking tape.

Then flatten the sandpaper down on the masking tape, give a little wiggle to spread the superglue, and hold down for 10-15 seconds while it sets.

And now I can apply as much shear force to that sandpaper as I like, it’s not going anywhere. And I take the set of blades for the #50 and the #40 and get going. Drag both edges along the sandpaper twice, then both faces, then pull back on the bevel once or twice, then rub the bevel back and forth a few times to get the first stage of the sharpening process done (I’ll do the stones later) and flatten the back of the blade for a few seconds as well. Then on to the next blade.

Once done, just lift the masking tape (that’s why I left an inch or so over on the ends, to be able to grab it. Lift vertically and only the masking tape’s adhesive is acting against you and that’s very weak and the whole thing lifts off easily and without damaging the surface.

And the #50 blades are clean again and ready to be properly sharpened (but I won’t be using them for this project I think, unless the groove size I need isn’t in the set of the #40).

I can see that T&G blade being damn useful in the future though. And the #40 blades come up nicely as well.

I also found and dropped the semi-scrub blade into the #5½ plane; the next job on the list is planing the last ash panel from rough to smooth. And I am learning that Richard Maguire was right about kiln-dried ash. It looks nice, but it’s a pain in the arse to work, it’s like trying to plane a Jacobs cream cracker. I’ll be glad when that last bit is done. I still have more boards to plane, but they’re walnut and poplar and those are so much easier, I can probably get them all done in a day, and then I’ll have all the component’s stock prepped and it’s on to cutting joints.

I am having to contemplate the mortices for the slats though. Given the timetable, I may need to use the router for them instead of cutting them by hand with the chisel. I’ll give it a try, but the clock is going to be the final decider on that one.


22
Nov 16

Sapele

Last time I was at the timber yard, they gave me a small offcut of sapele to play with.
I now know this was that “first free one” famed in drug dealer PSAs…
img_9908a img_9911a

Just look at that grain!


img_9907a
Also got to use the lidl chisels a bit after sharpening them. They came with flat backs along the first few inches in all bar the widest one and that only needed a minute or so of work; they take a nice edge and hold it reasonably well and they fit my hands fine. For less than a tenner, that’s a damn good bargain.


13
Nov 16

Okay then…

…let’s see if he was right.

img_9851a


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