Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Right Tools for the Job

I have a project I have been working on for the past few months where the entire purpose was to make mortise and tenons.  It is a high chair.  I don't plan on selling these plans, I will make an easier version to sell.  Being true to my self, I was making two, one to donate, one to sell.  Each chair takes 18 mortises.  So here is what I have learned so far.
First, I have a set of cheap bench chisels.  I have a good sharpening system so I sharpened them up. They worked well for what I can compare it too.  I did notice a couple of things with them.  I have heard that the nice bench chisels are sharp on the sides.  This is to cut the wood cleanly in the corners.  Mine have about an eighth inch of flat on the sides that crushed the fibers.  Not a big deal because no one would see them.
Second lesson was about a marking knife.  I never saw the point of one.  A pencil always seemed to worked for me and a knife line was always hard to see.  I heard that I needed to use a marking knife on mortises so I used an X-acto knife for a marking knife.  The reason is because to edge of the chisel will sit in the knife mark not on a pencil mark.  This helped keep my mortises consistent in size.
The third lesson came from the dry fit.  Mortises need to be cut straight.  I believe it was the first couple that cut were not straight and caused the entire project to be bent out of shape.  I might have been able to fix it, but I cut a mortise on the wrong side of one of the legs which was repairable.  So now I am down to one high chair to donate.
I am having fun learning this, however it does take a lot longer than exposed dowels.  The dry fit showed that it was a much stronger chair.  Hopefully it will be completed in a month.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Car Launcher





Triton tools is putting on a design competition (ends May 31).   I put in my redesigned cradle.  We will see what happens there.  I looked over the rules and there was no age limit.  It surprised me because the awards are a table saw and router.  The interesting thing about the competition was the groupings.  Top prize was the master level, then the same prizes for beginner, intermediate and advanced.  The group that surprised me was the kid’s project.  My cradle was entered in the intermediate group.  I talked to my oldest about it and we decided that we would make a car launcher.  Over the last few weeks we designed and built the car launcher.  He did most of the work and I did the write up. 
Once he approved the plans we started cutting.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would.  I will say that I was a successful parent on the project.  He had to mark all the holes and lengths.  He also had to cut through half the board before I helped.  I set up the drill press but he drilled the holes.  He assembled it.  We had to make a few adjustments to the plan along the way, and it works.
The project was basic at the core, I still learned from it while enjoying time with my son.  All wood could be purchased from a big box store.  The axles need to be purchased at an arts and craft store.  I did nothing to prep the wood either.  I have been holding off on using hand tools because I do not know how to set them up.  I fear if I set them up wrong or they are not sharp, the bad experience will deter me from using them again.  I will say, the box store saw and miter box is not very good.  I learned that even simple designs need to be adjusted.  I thought a bottom was needed and it was not.  I tried put a switch so that when pushed it would fire the launcher.  That did not work.  My oldest like the project and enjoyed building it.
I hope that this is the start of some “build it yourself” projects that I hope to develop.  That is next year.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Taping Glue Up Panels



I read a tip once about adding tape when gluing up panels to help cleaning up squeeze out.  When gluing up panels first put them in the clamps and clamp them tight.  Put masking tape on over the joint.  Remove the panel from the clamp and do it again for the other side.  Cut the tape on the seam of the joint.  Add glue and clamp the panel back up.  After the glue dries peel the tape off and squeeze out come off with it.
I am working on some more cradles and the bottom panel is solid wood.  I have a lot of ¼” material that I would like to use up.  However there is not a lot of material that I can still plane off.  I did not want to deal with removing a lot of squeeze out and planing the board much thinner.  This is why taping the glue up tip came up.
Not a bad tip.  As normal it was not an immediate success.  First was I expected the tape to come right off.  It tore around the squeeze out.  An old sharp chisel was used to take the rest of the tape off.  It came off clean.  I did not have any tear out and I only need to touch up the glue joint.  A word of caution, make sure the tape does not get inside the joint.  That will never come out.  I use blue painter’s tape so that will stick out all down the joint.
I will probably use this tip again.





Friday, March 24, 2017

Doll Cradle



I know that I only have boys in the family.  I wanted to make some different things than trucks and construction equipment.  This year I am challenging myself to do other things.  The first is the cradles.  I made four of them because I could.  Each of them was different for different looks.  I would say that I like them all but I do have my favorite.  So in order from my least favorite to my favorite.

The Butterfly Sides

The image came from the web and I thought it would look better than the cutouts on the other design.  The butterflies were just too small.  I like the detail it adds but it does not create enough negative space to make it look good. 

The Girl and Boy Fairy

This is only ahead of the butterflies because of the design.  I like the curve on the side over the straight sides.  The cutout does not add to the design.  It looks plain, more like a decal.  It looked good when it was printed out but it did not translate well on wood.  I think I envisioned something not like a silhouette.  This is the first attempt at adding color to some of my projects.

The Slots and the Rose

I liked the negative space the slots added and the rose just adds to the back of the cradle.  It was how I thought the cradle would turn out.  I did make an adjustment to the side panels of this cradle.  I grooved them and attached them to the edges of the ends.  This is a stronger joint and I think it looks a little cleaner.

The Hibiscus Flower

Hands down, this is my favorite.  The flower is large and adds to the cradle.  The painting behind it is not great but not bad for my first time blending colors. Over all it is clean and looks good.  The next time I build it I will use the joinery of the slotted cradle. 
This was one of the challenges that I wanted this year.  I wanted to add a little of clean color to my projects.  This is probably the easiest but it is a step.  The hibiscus flower got a lot of attention at my scrollsaw meeting the other day.  The glue line is not very visible and the detail was too fine for a router.  I had to explain a couple of times how I did it.  The sides are one complete board.  I resaw it in half and plane out the marks.  This is why the sides are only ½” thick.  I do make sure I have identified the top edge and front and back of the board.  When it is glued up again the glue line blends in with the grain.  I take the front half and cut out the shape, in this case is was the hibiscus flower.  On the other half I paint the color(s) that I want in the background.  I made sure to be careful not to paint where the edge was.  The paint will show thru the glue line.  Then glue the two pieces together.  Make sure to line up the tops and insides.  I used a make shift press to make sure I had even pressure. 
A little note about gluing these pieces. I wanted to make sure the pieces of the cut out did not break off.  So I put a little bit of glue on parts keeping away from the edges to avoid squeeze out.  It still happened and it was a pain to clean up.  I figured out later that should have used wood glue with a long open time on the large sections and used super glue on the smaller more delicate sections.  The super glue can be more precisely put on and has less squeeze out.  I also highly recommend the gel formula of super glue.
The project itself is made out of beech wood.  It tore up by scroll saw blades but it cut well.  The bottom panel is solid wood.  I would usually use ply but I don’t that beech ply.  When I started the project, I thought this was going to be an easy design.  I forgot some important factors.  The first was end grain is not a good bonding surface.  So I changed the side panel to the one with the slots.  It was too late for the others to change.  Then the rockers to end panels have the same problem.  I doweled them, but if I rotated the end panels 90 degrees I would not have to add the dowels.  The paint was the one thing that I was dreading and kept putting off.  In the end, I was worrying about nothing, I just needed to start.
The slotted cradle is going to be donated to charity.  The reason is because it is the design that I am submitting to instructables.com.  I donate one of everything I design to a local toy drive over Christmas.  The plans are free on instructables.com.  I have added it to a contest on instructables so please vote for me.  The remaining cradles are for sale.  These are prototype cradles so I am selling these for $100 apiece plus shipping.  It is a first come first serve.  If you want me to make another one you have the option of choosing the style and the cutout image (providing it can be done).  They will be sold for $175 shipping included.  If you are interested please email me.  Please allow a couple of months to make.  I make to order.





Monday, March 20, 2017

A Couple More Puzzles

This month's challenge in the woodworking club was to cut out a puzzle.  Kyle took my puzzle book and highlighted just about every puzzle for me to cut out.  Most were just pictures of some pretty intricate designs.  I made copies of two to cut out.  One was of a stack of cats and the other was a wizard. My oldest is into Harry Potter and wanted to make it a mix of Harry and Dumbledore.  What you get is the reason I do not paint my projects.  I cut it out and as a family we painted it.  we each picked a color and painted different pieces.  The youngest (3) did the best job painting.  The puzzle is not bad. but it did not look good plain.

 If anyone knows me, they know that I do not like cats.  Obviously I did no pick the puzzle out.  This one I stained different colors making it not child safe.  The colors came out ok.  I probably should have put a second coat of stain.  Not a bad project. 
It was nice just to get out and do a couple hour projects.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Traditional vs Modern Movement



The topic isn’t new nor will it go away anytime soon.  I have had a couple of conversations about this topic and put some of my opinions on paper.  The conversations typically flow around the idea of traditional craftspeople, the maker movement and occasionally how capitalism is affecting these areas.  Please note that my opinions are based in the woodworking community.
The club that I am is heavily dominated by retired community and has a very traditional view on the craft of wood working.  There are some that that have played in the CNC programing but most have not.  We do have a couple of vocational teachers that come to the club.  They are starting to show off some of the things that they are playing around with on the 3d printers and laser cuter.  The comment was made that this in not art. The reply was noteworthy.  It is not in the traditional sense.  However the person using a CNC machine to cut out the project still has to program the machine.  They still have to design the project and make sure it works together.  That piece, that project, is a person’s art, their achievement.  It is getting people off their games and social media to create.  Where I see this moving to as people create and as the projects grow more complex they will move into more collaborative work.  It maybe through online forums, but I hope it will move into more associations and physical groups.
There is concern more and more products are being made using CNC and cheapening the product of the “true craftsperson.”    It is true that items produced on a CNC can be mass produced faster and at a less cost than those done using power and hand tools.  I don’t think this is as big of a deal as some are making it out to be.  There will be a group of people that want the traditionally crafted projects.  I feel that this group of people is dwindling in numbers.  There are more people that change with the styles of the times.  Instead of investing in expensive furniture to last for generations, they want it to last 5-10 years and then they change their style.  This is an expensive and maybe a wasteful trend.  This is where I see the upscaling movement int.  People take someone else’s trash and change it in to something they need.  When they don’t need it anymore it goes to someone else to change to their needs.  It pays tribute to the craftspeople of the past.  They truly build pieces to last, maybe not in the way they had hoped.
Where do I fit into all this?  After talking to several people, they assume that I like the entire package of woodworking.  The truth is that I like the design, problem solving and the assembly.  I really do not like processing the parts.  I like some sanding but there is way too much of it in woodworking.  I appreciate the labor involved and enjoy the time making sawdust.  My excitement comes from the design and from the all the dry fits to final assembly.  I am currently working on some cradles.  The ends have stopped grooves in them.  I have the ability and knowledge to set up a router and make these grooves.  The entire process for all eight parts would take about four hours.  I have access to a CNC milling machine at work.  It took ten minutes of programing and ten minutes to run the parts.  I am going to use the CNC because of the time and I don’t have to worry about accidently screwing up the part.  I am also working on a truck and want to do a little inlay.  I will be cutting the inlay but I really don’t want to cut the recess or the blank that goes in the recess.  I can do it but don’t want to spend the time on the set up.  These parts will also be done on the CNC.  I am all about making things more efficient while still maintaining the craft. 
I am happy that kids are using technology to design, create and discover.  I think this is more important than traditional methods and ways of doing things.  Will it affect the craftsperson bottom line, it will.  More and more craftspeople are turning to content production rather than living off the craft.  I believe it is a good thing that more people want to try things themselves.