Saturday 11 November 2017

Speaking of Things That Don't Quite Work...

This is another item that could be called an incomplete success.  One morning I found a robin's egg sitting on the sidewalk outside our house.  I don't know how it got there, but it was just sitting there, unbroken, on the concrete.  I had recently seen a video by Nick Zammetti and his attempt to encase a dandelion in resin.  I thought that I might have better luck with with the egg.

The first thing to do was to find a suitably gnarly piece of burl that had lost its bark to put the egg on.  After a little archaeological dig through my wood pile (I got as far down as 2006) I found a piece that would work and would make a nice little turned box.  The only problem was that it was in the middle of a larger chunk of wood.

I liberated a small sort of cylindrical section using my bow saw.

To keep the resin from soaking into the top of the wood I gave it a coat of sanding sealer and then made a mold using Gorilla Tape.  Is there anything that stuff can't do?

I glued the egg down with CA glue because I was afraid that it would float away when I poured in the resin.  Once the resin was poured I just had to wait a couple of days for it to harden.

When I came back to it though... disaster!  I don't know if there was a hairline crack in the egg that I didn't see or if the resin shrank as it cured or didn't harden evenly or what.  All I know is that when I came back to it I found this...

Bubbles everywhere!  It was a disappointment, to say the least.  I decided to press on though, and call it another practice run.  It really was too nice a piece of burl to give up on completely.

The actual turning of the box was a pretty standard affair so I won't go into too many details about that.  There are lots of videos on YouTube that can explain it better than I can, including the one I mentioned above.  There are a couple of things I would like to mention, though.

The first is this handy little flashlight from Chestnut Tools.

It's perfect for an application like this, where your head gets in the way of the light and prevents you from seeing into the depths of a turning.

The second was my method of sanding the acrylic resin.  I didn't want to use any liquid polish on it because I was afraid it would soak into the wood.  Instead I worked my way through the grits by sanding with the lathe running first until I had a consistent scratch pattern.  Then I would work along the radius with the same grit until the first set of scratches was gone.

When I changed to the next grit it was easy to tell when I had sanded enough because the radial scratches would be gone.  I found that if I spend enough time on the first grit the rest of them go fairly quickly.  When I was done I would up with this.

Another thing I discovered is that when you have a curved surface on the resin it acts like a lens and distorts the light passing through it, making it hard to get a good view of what is inside.

I finished the wood with three coats of General Water-Based Turner's Finish.  I thought it did a nice job of bringing out the figure in the wood without adding much color to it.

Friday 19 May 2017

Not Everything Works The First Time...

And maybe not the second either.

The third and fourth time may give you false hope but...

Five through through eleven will dash it.

In case you are wondering what is going on, I have been experimenting with polymer clay.  You buy it at your local craft store in small blocks that can be formed by hand.  Once you have it in the shape you want, you bake it in the oven to harden it.  The trick, I have found, is getting the oven temperature right.  I'm still working on that.  More to come.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Goodbye Old Friend

This was my first big project.  At the time it was the most ambitious, complex thing I had ever tried to build, and it pushed my skills and design abilities to new limits.

There was enough storage to hold just about every tool and accessory that I used regularly, and a bunch that I didn't.

The strength of the whole thing was the fence, which I built from scratch.  I even did the welding myself.  It lasted anyway.

The weakness, however, was the saw itself.  Eventually I found myself avoiding using it because it didn't have the precision I needed for some of the things I wanted to do.  That needed to change, so after 15 plus years I replaced it.

Of course there isn't enough room in my shop to keep it around just for sentimental reasons, so I sold it to someone who is just starting out in woodworking.  I hope it serves him as well as it did me, and I hope that he feels the same pride and satisfaction in what he builds that I do.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Infill Plane: Design Phase

The first of what I assume will be many sobering moments in this process occurred shortly after my post about having finally acquired the materials for constructing an infill plane.  Now that I would be able to start building the plane, I realized that I hadn't given much thought to just what I was actually going to build.  It was time to calm down and think about what I was going to do.

The thing that had touched off this obsession with building an infill was an article in the August 2006 issue of Shop Notes (Vol. 15 Issue 88) that featured the building of a dovetailed infill shoulder plane. Though it was tempting to follow the plan, the plane used a 2 piece sole and had an adjuster that needed a special blade to work.  This put it a little too far outside my comfort zone for a first attempt.

What I really wanted to build was a smoother.  Something with straight, not curved, sides.  Something simple, but with a closed tote at the back.  Something based on a traditional plane, but with enough different elements to be my own design.

If this were a movie, there would now be a montage of me hunched over my desk until all hours of the night, crumpling papers and snapping pencils in frustration until finally arriving at a glorious design after some divine inspiration.  In reality it was a little different.  There was some paper crumpled, but progress was steady until I arrived at this:

It's based on the Norris #6 smoother.  It shares the parallel sides and closed tote, but the sidewalls are decidedly less curvy.  This appealed to my desire for a simple, clean design.  The tote is about 1/4" too far back to my eye, but this was the general idea, and from here on it was about refinement.

The purpose of this post is to remind myself of the choices I made and the reasons behind them, so I want to talk a little bit about some of the choices I had made at this point.  Keeping the top line of the sidewall consistent in front of the lever cap and behind is the one thing that makes this design mine. Most infills swoop down and then rise up again in front of the blade, and the top of the sidewall is flat at the front bun.  Another idea that I toyed with but didn't include was to change the angle of the front so that it was 90 degrees to the top of the sidewall.  The idea was to make it look like one of those art deco inspired steam engines, but I couldn't quite pull it together and it wound up on one of the crumpled pieces of paper.  Maybe another time.

Another advantage to a simple, mostly geometric design was that I could easily transfer it to a CAD program and work out design details there.

The first thing I wanted to establish was the placement of the cross pins that hold the infills in the body.   This is something that seems to be an afterthought on a lot of infills and I think that it detracts a little from the overall effect of a well designed plane.  I wanted to keep the lower front pin in line with the rear pins.  I also angled the line a bit downward from front to back.  In the drawing above, I tried to make the angle the same between the front pins and the lever cap pin and the second pin.
It didn't look right though because it made the spacing between the lower pins all wrong.  The front pin is too far forward as well.  One last thing I took away from this drawing was that the 1/4" pins looked too big to use for holding the infills in place.  I switched them to 3/16."

After making those changes I added some dovetails and did some rounding at the ends of the sole. The front corners have a 1/8" radius and the back end is almost semi-circular.  The vertical lines near the back end are where the curve would start and the end of the sidewall with that curve.  I felt good enough about this to trace in the rear infill and tote.

It was here that I discovered my mistake.  When I had done the first sketch, I had set the mouth 2" back from the front of the plane.  In  the CAD drawing I had gotten confused and set the back of the mouth at 2".  What this did was solve my problem of the rear tote being too far back.  When I looked at the whole thing, however, it seemed to be dominated by the big hole in front of the rear tote.  The rear dovetail was also too far away from the back of the plane.  Back to the drawing/keyboard.

This is the final result.  The mouth has been moved back 1/4", which closes up the tote and eases the angle of the front bun.  All the dovetails have been moved back 1/8" and the radius of the curve of the rear sole has been enlarged so that the distance from the front to the first dovetail is about the same as from the rear dovetail tithe end of the sidewall.  I also changed the area around the lever cap pivot pin to be more like the original sketch.

There is a lot to do yet.  The lever cap is only a roughly sketched in, and the cap screw is barely an image in my head due to the technical challenges it presents (By the way, does anyone want to loan me a metal lathe and teach me how to use it?).  This is enough, though , to get started.

Monday 10 October 2016

My Wife Was Going To Throw This Out

This post is out of order, there are two other projects that should be ahead of it, but this is a quick one and I'm super happy with the results so I'm pushing it ahead.

A friend had mentioned turning denim soaked in resin so one day when I was at my wife's store I asked her if she had any fabric scraps she wanted to get rid of.  She pointed to a bag beside the garbage can and said "knock yourself out."  I picked through the bag and grabbed all the shades of blue that I could find, along with some neon green for accent.

I mixed up some Alumilite Clear Cast and started dipping fabric.  Did I mention it's a good idea to cut the fabric into strips first?  Do that first.  A little too narrow is better than too wide, and too short is better than too long.  You need to be wearing disposable latex gloves for this, because you are getting your fingers right into the resin and saturating the fabric.  Unless you want your camera buttons to have a permanent candy coating, you don't take pictures either.

Once I was done and had peeled the gloves off this is what I had.

24 hours later it came out of the mold looking like this.  Not terribly promising, but...

Once it was turned it came out like this.  There are a few small bubbles but overall I was really happy with it.

It turned more like wood than plastic.  The shavings were more likely to break up rather than form strings like pure plastic usually does.  If you look closely you can even see the weave of the fabric.

It takes a while to do this, about an hour or more to prepare the blank, but the results are worth it.  I have already molded another one.

Saturday 27 August 2016

This Is Called An Incomplete Success

This piece was inspired by the work of Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks.  The methods used are derived from his description which was posted on his blog.  Anything that is wrong is probably due to my interpretation.

I don't mean to run out of time.  It just seems that I can never allow for how slowly I work.

This project started because of the Guild's annual 2 x 4 challenge, to make something, anything, from a standard 8' piece of 2 x 4 lumber. (See my previous attempts here and here).  This year the projects were to be presented at the April meeting instead of the the one in march.  With an extra month, I was sure to have lots of time.

One of the things I like about this challenge is that you are forced to work with limited resources. Everything must fit within the dimensions of this one board, and it forces you to plan your use of materials carefully.  I usually find myself using offcuts that would normally be thrown away in order to get enough of a particular piece.

I started out by cutting the legs from the 2 x 4.  The legs are triangular in section and I tried first to make them on the table saw.  I angled the blade to 30 degrees and made the first cut just fine.  Then I flipped the board over and moved the fence over so I would cut out a 60 degree angle to make a leg. By the time I was about 12 inches into the cut however, the saw was starting to fight back.  It was binding, wandering, and just refusing to cut.  I decided it was about time I cleaned the blade.  This helped tremendously for about 6 more inches, then it was back to the fight.  I gave up quickly this time and did the rest of the angle cuts on the band saw.  I don't know why, but my cheap table saw just doesn't like angles.

After the frame components had been roughed out the next step was to make the strips for the lattice. The exact height and width of the strips isn't really important, as long as they are consistent.  You also need to be able to easily divide the height of the strips by three.  I used three pieces of 1/4" hardboard as the height of my strips.  Having physical 1/3 pieces is important, as you will see later.

My next task was to cut my strips on the band saw and then plane them to the finished width.  The easiest way to get them all to come out the same thickness was to use a jig.

3/4" plywood base, 3/16"plywood strips on that, just far enough apart for the plane blade to get between them.  In between is a cardboard shim topped with 80 grit PSA backed sandpaper to keep the strips from moving around.  two more wooden strips on top to guide the plane and keep the blade between the plywood strips.

A screw at the end acts as an adjustable planing stop.  Was I worried that the blade would hit the screw? Yes.  At first. It took me about half a dozen strips to settle down and plane with confidence.

The plane that I used was the one I made using the Lee Valley kit, with the adjuster removed.  I have to brag a bit because the plane worked perfectly.  It's hard to check for the grain direction on thin strips of spruce and I quickly gave up trying, but it didn't matter, the plane took great shavings either way.  There were about 30 of these strips to thickness, and this was the most use I have made of this plane since I built it.  In the process, I learned a couple of things.  The first was to be careful with my knuckles when I use this plane.  Those red spots by the adjuster are blood that leaked out when I caught them on the edge of the guide strip.  The second, more important, lesson was how a small,  unhandled smoother should be held.  I have grown up in a world where handplanes were defined by Stanley planes, with rear handles and front knobs.  I never really 'got' the unhandled infill planes from an ergonomic point of view.  Now that I understand the way they are meant to be held they make a lot more sense.
Before & after thickness.
With the strips all planed I needed a way to cut them at a consistent 60 degree angle.  Custom built miter box to the rescue.

The overall length is 36", so the 20" long strips would not overhang so much that they would tend to fall off.  Why are the sides only 30"?  Because the piece of baltic birch plywood I cut them from was only 30" long.  Why is the miter slot off center?  Because I needed the extra room at one end for an alignment block which you will see later.  Why is there only one angle instead of opposing angles? Because I took this picture before I cut the second angle, and it's a good thing I did, because it took me a couple of tries to get it right and you can't see the mess I made.

Here you can see why you need to have to have something that is 1/3 of the total thickness, or in this case 2/3.  I am using the hardboard to set the depth of cut for the saw so it will stop when I have cut 1/3 of the way through.  The spring clamps are not the most secure clamps in the world but they are light and it doesn't require a lot of pressure to cut through the spruce.  There is a lot of sawing ahead and it is best not to have too much weight on the saw.

Before I can start making cuts I need to know where to cut.  I made a little marking gauge to guide the knife for the left cut.

An offcut of one of the strips is used to mark the right side of the cut.  When the cuts are made the left mark has to line up with the left side of the saw kerf.  The right mark aligns with the right side of the kerf.  That way the opening is just wide enough for another strip to fit in.

It may seem a little strange but after all this work I still didn't know for sure that this was going to work, so I decided to do a test joint before diving right in.  The first cut was set to cut 1/3 of the way through, the flipped to make a cut 1/3 through from the opposite side.  Because of the flip, the two cuts wind up at opposing angles.  Reset to cut the right side, and remove the waste with a chisel.

This is the result.  The next cut is a little trickier.  You cut 2/3 deep in one direction (120 degrees) and then 1/3 deep in the other direction (60 degrees).

When you combine these two it starts to make sense.

The last piece is cut to 2/3 depth in both directions so that when you turn it over it slides neatly into the joint.

First try.
Giddy with success I dove in to the full project.  I laid out marks on 2" centers and knifed them on the edge of a strip, along with the marks for the right hand cut.  Then I lined it up in the miter box as before, but this time I added a stop block, also cut at 60 degrees, and wedged it into place.

Now that my distance was set I could add the rest of the strips that needed the same cut and wedge them into place.

This way I could cut all 9 strips at once.  It saves a lot of time, rather than having to mark and cut each strip individually.

After that it was a lot of remove the wedges, reset, repeat.  The actual saw cuts take only a few seconds, but setting up each cut was tedious.  You can see from the picture, too, that small errors start to pop up.  I told myself that these would just help to lock everything together at assembly time and pressed on.  Once all the cuts were made I removed the waste with a narrow chisel.

The rest of the strips required cuts in both directions so I modified my marking gauge by cutting the opposing angle on the other end.  I also notched the offcut strip to fit around the strip I was marking to make it a little easier.

When all the cuts were made I took a deep breath and started to put them all together.  All in all, it turned out pretty good.

For those of you who are into numbers, there are 81 three way lap joints, each requiring 12 saw cuts, for a total of 972 cuts.  Admittedly I cheated by doing 9 at a time, so it's really only 108, but still...

My plan was to build a triangular stand with the top and a shelf both made from the lattice.  The top lattice would be a little larger than the shelf.  

I wanted to complete the top lattice by including the asa-no-ha (hemp leaf) patterns.  When they are arranged in circles they resemble flowers.  This required building one more jig to taper them to the proper angle.

The angle is cut at 30 degrees.  Taper one side of the strip, flip it, and taper the other side.  This results in a 60 degree point that fits neatly into the corners of the triangles.  I measured the length of the leg of the triangles, did some math, and came up with a length of about one inch for each leg of the hemp leaves.  Tow of the legs are formed by a two inch long strip that is cut nearly in half.

I actually went a bit too far with this cut, but it held.  The third leg of the leaf is about one inch long and tapered to a point at one end but only tapered down to the width of the saw kerf at the other end.

When you put the two together it should all fit nicely.

In reality there is a bit of trial and error in getting the lengths just right.  As usual I was starting to run out of time and I had to just get things done.  It still looks good from a distance, but up close it's a little sloppy.

I'm not going to bore you with details of building the stand because this post is long enough already and, really, it turned into kind of a disaster.  I was out of time and it was just an ugly design anyway.
In the end all but the top went into the scrap pile.  At least that part was nice enough that my wife wanted to keep it around.