Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Year in review

So did I get everything done this year that I wanted, no.  Did I reach the goals I wanted to do this year, no.  Is this disappointing or unexpected, no.  There are always things that I want to do but I do not get to because something more interesting comes up.  So here are some of the highlights:
  • I had a goal of making enough money to buy a lathe.  I did not even come close.  I did have some sales but as most hobbies, I lost more money than I spent, but I almost broke even.  My wife says I will never get a lathe because there are more important tools that I need or want.  To be honest, she is probably right.  I am going to need another belt sander.  My current one is starting to jump the belt and I feel it is going to die soon.  I also need to build a router table and get a plate for it also.  I am also going to need a miter saw.  I will someday have to return my father's saw, but right now it works where it is at.  In fact I have his planer also.
  • I still want to make the Marvelous Transforming Toys from a few years back.  I even have some of the patterns attached to blanks.  There are just other things that came up.  I did catch up on all the construction equipment in the Wood Magazine publication and then another one came out a couple of months ago and there will be another piece in a month.  It never ends.
  • I never did any of the craft shows or online sales.  It is not that I cannot do it, it is the fact that I am scared.  I have a firm belief that if I commit to something then I fulfill the commitment.  These toys and projects take a lot of time and I want to make sure they are safe.  I want to have the toy complete before it is sold rather than take orders in fear that I will miss a child's birthday or Christmas.
Enough with the things I did not accomplish this year and on to the stuff I did do.
  • The biggest thing is that I now have a garage. I can go out there when I want (and if it is ok with the wife) and spend a few hours and then come in to spend time with the family.  I have a decent set up and I like how it all came together.
  • I have switched to shellac.  Not a huge thing but it is a pretty drastic change for me.  I am glad I have all the equipment to use it.  
  • I finally finished a bed that fits a mattress.  I love it.  Beech was very nice to work with and it came out great.  I have one more to make.  I do not know if is going to be a bunk bed or not.  We had a recent addition to the family so I have a couple of years to plan it all out.
  • I have become a lot better at the scroll saw, evidenced with the last Christmas project.  I am starting to lean more that way.  The projects tend to take less time and setup is a breeze as long as I do not change the angle of the blade.  I do not believe I will ever get into intarsia.  It seems a little too precise and a lot of "sand until it looks good" projects and all the pieces have to fit perfectly together.  
  •  I am listening to the Wood Talk podcast and realize there is a lot of stuff that I do not know about woodworking.  One of them is strictly hand tools and so I am not even in the same league.  It is interesting the things that I am picking up and they have the same problems that I encounter.  So I am moving into using some of the technology that I have had at my fingertips. 
  • I also learned there is a difference in sandpaper.  I am in love with the Ekoforce by Uneeda.  I am getting smoother finishes, the paper is lasting longer and it does not clog up.
Goals for this year:
  • Finish the monster trucks! I am almost done but the handwork is killing me.  I also have some planes I need to finish.
  • Of course catch up on the Wood Magazine construction equipment.  It is a fantastic set.  Maybe I will design one that is more toddler friendly.  The acorn nuts keep coming off despite super glue and they are a choking hazard.
  • We just got a CNC milling machine in the sample shop I manage.  I am planning on learning it.  I will not abuse my responsibility but I do have some access for personal projects.  This is not the CNC machine that will carve ornate figures or designs.  It is meant for sheet goods.  The smallest tool I have on it is a 1/4" ball end mill.
  • Of course there is a Christmas project I have one planned.  I don't think it will out due this year's.  I am open for more.
  • Last but not the least, not to accomplish anything but have fun doing it.
I am amazed at the traffic my blog gets.  It isn't that great but it is interesting.  I will occasionally see the traffic that comes through, where it originated and what they were looking at.  To my surprise the most popular post is the "rocker template".  I do not know why.  There are a lot of hits also on the construction equipment and scroll saw projects.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas presents and decorations

I guess I can post this now that these have been opened and given away.
In the grocery store I was looking at the hobby section and there was a scroll saw holiday issue.  I found some things that looked interesting and so I purchased the magazine.  This is the first of a couple of projects that will come from this publication.
The picture does not do it justice: "O Night Divine" with the star and a dove
Each side has a depiction of the the nativity.  The top does come off so things can be put in it.  I cut the notches in the side panels on the table saw.  It would be impossible for me to cut a straight line that far into the wood on a scroll saw.  This way the sides fit together snugly.  I made four boxes so I stacked them all together to give me a good stable base to cut the grooves.
Mary, Joseph and Christ
Shepard and sheep
Camel and Angel
Three wise men
The blue tape was a life saver.  I would have never been able to sand off the pattern without damaging the project.  There were a couple of areas that did not come out as I had hoped but they still came out.  I made four of them.  I thought my wife would like the maple one but she opted for the figured oak one because maple did not have the color for a Christmas decoration.  The cuts were really not that difficult when I had a sharp blade.  I knew when the blade was getting dull it would walk all over the place, especially in the figured oak.  There were a lot of holes that needed to be drilled.
 The interesting  part of this project was all the sharp cutouts.  I though I would have a lot cutouts all over the floor.  I did but not as much as I had thought, most were really thin or the cutout completely turned to sawdust. It also was neat to discover the blades can go through very small holes.

The second project came from a project that I did 25 years ago.  It was made in leather.  This was not a good medium for me.  I am trying to redeem myself and make them out of wood.  The leather ones have slowly fallen apart and are being thrown away this year.  My grandmother had ornaments with all of her kids, their spouses and grandchildren.  I am doing the same for my mother this year.  I have plenty to add to the family still.

Here are the original sleds that were made 25 years ago, what  is left of them anyway.

Here are the new sleds.

These were my design.  I had fun building and figuring out how to make the fixture to put them together.  They are still a little more fragile than I would like them, but I think they came out nice. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Projects

So I have been making a couple of Christmas gifts this year.  My wife says one of them is her favorite thing that I have ever made.  Unfortunately for you, the reader, I am not going to post any pictures of the finished projects because they are gifts.  I will go through the set up.  The first project is a scroll saw project.  I keep hearing to use painter's tape to protect the wood and it is easier to remove the pattern.  I think I will be investing in painter's tape from now on.  Sanding these patterns off would have been a nightmare.
The other part of the scroll saw is that designs can be cut inside of the wood.  Starter holes need to be drilled to to put the blade through.  There were a lot of holes on several parts.  My sons did help drill the holes on some of the parts so their initials also appear on the project.  I cannot take all the credit. 
One thing I did learn about the scroll saw: Don't use it to blow off steam.  It will be even more frustrating.  The blade comes loose, or the board is not cutting where it should be cutting and is all because forcing the board on a thin blade does not make for a good combination.  There is much more finesse and art when using the scroll saw and it does not like being pushed around.

On to the second project.  I am diving more into smaller scale things.  This project I wanted to make several and so I build a jig to make repeatable assemblies.  These things are not as easy as I thought.  The first one I cut with the parts that were going to fit inside the jig.  I assembled the jig with the proper spacing and found out that the parts were too tight to even fit in.
The second attempt I got the spacing right and the first one came out just fine.  I would call this beginners luck. The second, third, and fourth I broke the parts trying to remove them because I was not pulling them straight out.
The third time is a charm, right? well at least it is in this case.  I drilled large holes in the bottom to push the low pieces out.  This proved to be a better way to remove the part without breaking it.  I thought better of drilling all the way through the first time.
There are the setups for my Christmas projects.  Pictures will follow later of the finished projects.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Noah's Ark

I finally completed the Noah's Ark Maypole.  I liked the Nativity one so much I bought this plan also.  I am not as excited about this design.  It is flawed in many ways.  Here are the problems with the design:
  • The sides I would thin up.  This would allow the base to be lower to the bottom.  Right now it sits about 3/4" above the base so the noses of the animals don't hit the ark.
  • The top of the ark does not allow the base to to spin very much.  
  • The animal legs are so thing they are attached with 1/8" dowel.  So the animals are glued into place instead of being removable.  
  • The strings tend to catch on the top stopping it from turning.
  • I would probably use a lazy susan base if I did it again.
It works and look nice but the finished product really did not excite me.

A couple of weeks ago my company sponsored us in a color run.  I took my younger son and we had fun.  I turned out looking and feeling like a Cheetos.  On the same day in the area was the Wood Working Show.  I wasn't really impressed again with this show.  It has become extremely small.  The majority of the show space was Peechtree and Wood line vendors.  The only tool vendors that showed were Jet and Bosch.  There was no good deals.  I was talking to some of the clubs to see if there were any in my neck of the woods.  Supposedly there is but I cannot find them.  I will have to email the contacts I made to see if they have phone numbers.My son loved the show.  I think it was the first time he saw some of the tools being used.  I was disappointed that we were not able to see the lumber mill band saw demonstration.

On a more upbeat note I did learn a new trick from the scroll saw group.  It was probably in the instruction manual but I didn't get that far.  When doing inside cuts I always loosened the top arm and blindly put the blade through the starting hole on the back side of the part.  If I loosened the bottom arm the top arm has enough movement to pull the blade all the way out.  I can now see the end of the blade and the hole, making it much easier to thread the blade through the small starter holes. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Finally After the Third Bed

I finally finished the bed for my son.  He had about six more inches before he grew out of the converted the crib.  We also needed the crib for the next one.  So the changes from the last bed:
  • I used beech not pine.
  • Already had a mattress so I had the actual dimension instead of going off the internet.
  • The sides are the same rather than having one a complete slab.  
  • Added more mattress supports.
  • It is finished in shellac instead of polyurethane.
  • Tried a new profile for the drawers.
  • Reduced the height of the drawer box .
  • Used handles not knobs for pulls
So why beech, because the company I am working for is starting to use it.  Since I am asked a lot about the characteristics of wood I thought I would try it out.  It is interesting because it is harder than maple.  It has ticking like oak and is a reddish in tone but is closed grain.  It is a substitute for maple in a dark finish; the ticking is still visible in lighter finishes. I found it to show tooling marks more.  These were easily removed with a light sanding.  Granted my tools may not be the sharpest in the world.  It was a good wood to try, but I think I like maple better.  Maple is whiter and looks better with a clear coat.  Just some random information about the wood and why beech is becoming more prominent. It is actually German beech and they have a better sustainable forest system than we do in the States.  Beech has constant buys for all the grades of lumber so not a lot of the tree is firewood or press board.  Maple is going up in cost by a lot.  The demand is high while the supply is shrinking.  Maple is also not as clean as beech for the same grade of material.  This gives a better yield and less scrap.

Mattress supports are more important than I originally thought.  I put about eight slats on the last bed.  The problem is that they have a tendency to move so occasionally I will sit where there is no slats and sink further than I would like.

The profile change was because I wanted to try putting a bead inside the slab.  It was alright.  I burned in the corners.  The setup was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I clamped some scrap boards and used a bushing and a router bit to rout the inside profile.  It made it a little nicer.

The first set of drawer boxes we about a 1/4" from the top of the frame.  It makes it a deeper drawer box which is better right? Wrong! We tend to pack drawers full of clothes and clothes are not very consistent.  If the stuff in the drawer was above the drawer box by more than a 1/4" the drawer would not shut.  So by lowering the drawer I have psychologically proven to myself that the drawer will not get stuck as much. The other thing it did was create a perfect yield on a 5x5 foot birch plywood sheet.  I think I wasted a half a square foot total.

Why handles, because kids cannot unscrew them!!!

I still had my issues.  For some reason I could not drill my glide supports straight.  Then there was the small mistakes and underestimating the lumber that I needed.  Overall the bed came out well.  The beech will make it last longer and does not scuff as easy.  I am glad I had a respirator.  The fumes on shellac are strong even with an open garage.

For the record, my kids did help me put this together.  They picked out the large screws for the bed and the small screws for the drawers.  They also screwed in the screws if they could or gave me parts.

Here are the things I love about the bed; I can fully disassemble and reassemble  for moving and everything should be interchangeable but that is still to be discovered.  It is a solid bed and can be jumped on and abused.  The style will last and looks a whole lot better then the metal frame and it will not be out grown as my kids grow up.  It has full extension glides with deep drawers (drawers only pull out 3/4 extension).  My kids have jumped in the drawers and they work fine and hold up.

Plan, Think, then Measure Twice and Cut Once

So most people have heard of the old phase measure twice and cut once.  There is nothing more frustrating than cutting a board and only to realize the board is an inch too short.  There really no way to fix that mistake.  I have added two more steps before that phase.
Plan - There are many times where I think it is just like another project that I have made in the past only to realize that parts have had to go together in a certain way.  The other thing that happens a lot more than I would like to admit setups.  There are times that I have a machine setup and cut the pieces I needed only to realize that I could have used the same setup on other parts.  For example: I am working on a bed for may younger son.  There are three drawers underneath.  So I cut the grooves in the drawer sides and ends for the bottom panel.  I then tear it down and cut the bottom panel.  Then I have to cut the grooves in the drawer sides for the drawer ends.  When all it really should have been is adding a couple of blades to the stacked dado.  Plan your similar cuts and operations to maximize efficiency and reduce setup time.
Think - Never think that there is such a rush not to think through the process and what the desired result should be.  I am understanding there are several ways to reduce the blowout and plan defects where they will not be seen.  However I need to start thinking through the operation first.  Couple of examples; first if I rip after cross cutting, I can cut out the blowout that always happens.  I am also working on some monster trucks.  If I thought through where the blowout was going to be I would have realized all my marks where on the wrong side.  I can fix it but it is going to be a lot of sanding.

Now onto my little venting session.  If you do not want to read further I don't blame you.  I was on Facebook the other day and this add popped up:

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I have learned to accept Saw Stop and the technology that it contains.  Obviously it works and saves people from severe injury.  I cannot pay over $1700 for a base model for the saw stop.  You can argue the "if you lose your hand, would it not have been worth it?" card.  If I didn't want to get in a car accident I could stay home all day too.  It is extremely frustrating that a group of lawyers is trying to profit off these injuries because one one table saw has this technology and the other manufacturers understand safety but the technology prices them out of the general market.  This technology is great but it is not in the price range of the average consumer.  This all stems from a law suit where an individual was awarded $1.5 million for making a free hand taper cut on a table saw.  If he did not have the correct tools to make this cut it is another story, but he wanted to save time.  This just makes things more expensive for the end consumer.

In short: Know your equipment and know how to use them, then think.  That is the best safety advise I can give you.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Random Thoughts and Projects

Here are a couple of weekend projects I finished some time ago.  The first is a step stool. It does not look like much but it was designed by my grandfather.  We found the pieces and the pattern while cleaning out the garage after my grandmother passed away.  It is the only pattern that I have heard was found.  I have copied a couple of other projects of his but no plans have ever surfaced.
 It works great and is very sturdy.  The nice thing and bad thing is, the kids can carry it.  So overnight they grew 18".

The second is called a safety cupboard.  This is where all the safety equipment is supposed to go.  I cleaned it to take the picture.  I still need to put the hooks in to hold everything on the peg board but it still functions to keep the dust off of the safety equipment when not being used.  The main piece is the respirator.  It is not fun to have dust accumulate in the mask and then put it on.
The cabinet is made completely out of scrap.  One thing that I did on purpose is to put a melamine door on the front.  The reason for this is the door can now be used as a sketch pad.  Pencil will wipe off with a damp rag.

So the one thing that I do not have in it that I should is a first aid kit.  I have them inside the house and in the car but not one at my disposal in the garage.  I am going to go into a little bit of specifics on the first aid kit that I want in the garage.
  • Random selection of band-aids.  This is pretty self explanatory.
  • Good set of tweezers.  Splinters need to be dealt with quickly or they get forgotten about and infected.
  • X-acto knife or hobby knife.  This has a sharper point than a utility knife and can cut skin.  My mother dug out splinters with a pin or needle.  This is effective but when digging it tears skin instead of cuts it.
  • Gauze bandages, large. If it is not a small cut it is a large one.  
  • Gauze wrap.  I hate the tape on skin and hair.
  • Medical tape.  Something has to hold the gauze wrap in place.
  • Anti-bacterial ointment.  Another thing that is self explanatory.
  • A trauma pad.  I hope to never have to use this.  It is a pad for lots of blood. From what I understand a super absorbent maxi pad is the best, but I know nothing about feminine products.
I have been lucky.  I have had my fair share of splinters and minor cuts, but nothing too serious.  I have had sawdust lodge itself in my eye, I was wearing safety glasses.  And I nicked my finger with a router bit.  It did more damage to the nail than the finger and this was completely my ignorance and poor setup.  I am in no way putting off respecting the safety and rules of the equipment.  This is why my injuries have been minimal.  I make toys and they have a lot of small parts.  I will sacrifice clamps and scrap wood before I risk a body part.

I do not really complain about the weather in California.  Let's face it, in the middle of winter we have the Rose Parade and it is gorgeous outside while most of the US is is covered in snow. This past weekend was extremely humid and hot.  I made it a point to stay hydrated.  It is really easy to get to  really focused on what you are doing and forget to hydrate - water is the best and soda does nothing.  Heat stroke and dehydration are not fun and the affect can last for days.  Please know your body's limits and not to push too hard.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Circle Sander

So I have been making several wheels from a hole saw on a drill press.  This leaves a ragged edge that has to be sanded. The technique that I usually use is a bolt chucked into the drill press with the wheel on it.  This makes the drill press like a lathe in some aspects.  There is still some play between the bolt and the axle hole which does not allow for an consistent sanding.  I have been wanting to make a circle cutter for my band saw.  So this became the prototype.  It works well and is not that hard to make.  It took me about 4 hours.
Back end view of the sanding jig
Side view

Peg acts as stop so the there are no flat spots on the wheel
The adjustment on the glide allows for the wheel to just touch the paper so I only sand about a 1/16" and the base to be close to the belt for support.

The Body
I took a 3/4" piece of scrap plywood and grooved it in the center about 3/8" deep.  The depth of the groove is the thickness of the glide minus the thickness of the top piece.  The width of the groove depends on the width of the glide.  I then took the glide and put a rabit on either side so the bottom of the rabit sat just below the surface.  I then took a 1/4" piece of plywood and nailed it to the top of the piece of 3/4" plywood.  I then cut a groove through the 1/4" piece of plywood for the glide to fit in.  I made sure it was a tight fit.  I then sanded the glide so it was a smooth tight fit.

The Glide
To finish off the glide I drilled a 1/4" hole at one end.  Most hole saws have a 1/4" starter bit.  After that I marked on the bottom of the glide two lines.  I then marked a 1/2" scale starting at the hole all the way to the end.  I marked on the other line a 1/2" scale starting 1/4" from the hole.  At each of these marks I drilled a 7/32 hole.  This fits an axle peg.  This is used as a positive stop.  I now have a positive stop every 1/4".

Things to Note
The table for a belt sander is not always centered on the belt.  This is usually the case when there is a disk sander that is all with the machine.  This is not a huge problem because any part of the belt will work.  It is probably better to be on one side anyway.  Sanding circles does wear a groove in the belt about 3/8" wide.  I would not change the the fact the groove was centered.  Right now the jig is clamped to the table.  I will put a stop on the jig that will square it up with the table and make sure that it is not touching the belt during setup.  It will also allow me to attach it from the bottom so the table is completely free.

Wheels with a Hole Saw
If you are wondering how to cut wheels on a hole saw here are a few tips.  Buy a hole saw 1/4" larger than the wheel is needed.  Hole saws are measured by the outer diameter and the wheel will be the inside of the diameter of the hole saw.  When cutting the wheel out there are two things to consider. First, the hole saw makes a lot of dust.  You can get a much cleaner cut if there is a hole or edge that is open to expel the dust.  Just make sure the hole or edge does not create a flat spot on the wheel.  Second is that this is a two step process.  Cut about 90% through the board then flip it and cut the rest of the way.  This also makes it easier to pull the wheel out of the hole saw.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Construction Equipment

I am now caught up on all the construction equipment from the Wood Magazine series.  I just found out in the next edition of Wood Magazine there is a new front end loader coming out.  I have to say this is my favorite series.  It looks good, the parts move well, the toys look professional and best of all my kids love them.  Here they are in no particular order:

The Skip Loader:

The hands down favorite of my wife and two kids.  So popular it has been broken once already.  It is the smallest of the construction series.  The hardest part was drilling the holes through the chassis and the counter weight.

The Dump Truck:

Much more solid construction than the other two that I have built.  I like the threaded rod construction of these.  It does make the set an older kids set unless the kids are being closely watched. The tail gate does not swing open easily but that is because it does not have the wear and tear as the other toys do.  One thing that I did realize is the skip loader fits exactly into the dump truck.  I don't know if this was planned or not.

The Scraper:

It looks really neat and does what it is supposed to do.  I thought it looked really flimsy and then I saw one and it functions about the same as the toy.  The actual ones have a lot more hydraulics to them which make them a little sturdier.  This is the only toy that is not intuitive to work.  The kids still love it and it does it's job on the construction sight: scraping the ground so that it is level and then using that dirt to fill in the low spots.

These sets used a lot of 1/4" material so I was grateful to have a band saw and planer.  It saved a lot on wood.  The scraper had a fair amount of angles in it which took a little more set up time than I was used to.  All of these are made out of walnut and maple and stained in shellac. 

I also finished several tugboats (I was out) and a tone drum.  There were a lot of things that I had been working one and it feels good to have some of them finished.

On with the discovery of the sandpaper.  Uneeda gave me a couple of their sampler pads.  I am pretty sure that they were 220 grit but they were not identified.  The abrasive was white because when the abrasive wears it does not leave a colored dust on the project.  There were several things that I noticed that were different with this abrasive pad.
  • It was a softer pad than the store bought ones. This made it easier to form around curves and get a consistent sanding in small places.
  • It dusted the sealer and top coat instead of making worms (I don't know what else to call them).  I always thought the finish was suppose to clog the sand paper and form these threads of finish.  This pad actually created a fine dust.  It also did not clog.
  • The pad lasted longer.  The pad lasted though two coats of top coat for all the construction equipment, eight tug boats and a tone drum.  The pad still feels like it did before I used it.
  • I have never put on a smoother finish on pine before.
I am very pleased with how these turned out and the things I have learned.  A big thinks to Uneeda for showing me that all abrasives are not the same.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

AWFS and Other Things

It has been a long time since I have posted. It is not because I have not been doing wood work, although that is part of the reason.  The main reason is that I have been busy.  Work has kept me pretty busy and I have moved.  I finally have a garage to put most of my tools.  Yes, there are some still at my parents but the majority are now in my possession. I am not going to lie, it is nice to walk out in the garage and see my tools ready to be used.  I did just finish several things.  The last three pieces of the construction set are now complete.  I will post about them later after I take pictures of them.  My kids were so excited about one they all ready broke it.  However, it is now fixed.
Last year around this time I wrote about going to IWF in Atalanta. This is the west coast version.  I usually go to the Woodworking Show put on by Wood magazine.  It is a show that is becoming smaller in southern California.  I believe the main reason is the internet and online purchases.  It is a hobbyist and small business show.  Lots of retail and gimmicky items to put a neat touch on your work.  If this show took steroids it becomes AWFS. This is for the larger businesses and people who make their living in the woodworking industry.  There are hardware vendors and larger machinery vendors.  The paper and vinyl vendors are there along with the lumber mills.  The power tool companies and retail venders are not there.  Rockler only had a small booth.  This was a time to meet with vendors, talk about new ideas and see how the industry is changing.  Here are some things I noticed walking around the show.
  • Super glue is becoming more popular.  I am not sold on it yet.  I use it for repairs but that is it.  It is not water based so there is no grain raise and faster drying.  I can still buy a gallon of wood glue for the same cost of 12 oz of super glue.
  • Printing and engraving capabilities are on the rise.  I saw a fair amount of laser cutters and etching machines.  These are fasinating to watch.  They had a couple that could handle an eight foot wide board.  Printing has come a long way.  It has also come a long way on paper and vinyl laminates.  There are some really nice looking papers that look just like wood.
  • CNC machining.  There are a lot more vendors and the price is coming down on these machines.  They do nice work and allow for personal touches to make pieces stand out.  It is always fun to see what new design these companies come up with to showcase their product.  Last year I fell in love with a knock down rocking chair.  It was back and no, they still would not let me have the pattern.  This year there was a kids picnic table. These machines have come a long way and I hope to learn how to use them. It will be through work; they are still out of my price range.
It is always fun to pick our vendors brains about their expertise.  They are experts in the field and know more than I will ever know about their industry.  It was getting to the close of the show and I started talking to our sandpaper vendor.  The company is called Uneeda Enterprises.  I have sandpaper that was passed down to me from my grandfather.  It is called garnet paper and I wanted to know what was a good abrasive.  I knew aluminum oxide was good from a class I took in college but I was wondering what I should use for woodworking and finishing.  It was interesting to hear some of the science that goes into the abrasives.  Aluminum oxide is still a very good abrasive but they are not all the same.  An abrasive should break and remain sharp instead of wear down.  I will talk more about this on my next post.  I used the samples they gave me for finishing today.  I am just going to say that I was more than impressed.
I am going to end on this tidbit of understanding I learned from the show.  There are two groups of people that come to these shows.  The business people and the wood chuckers.  I get to play in both groups.  The business people are not looking to see how many pens, tape measures, candy, and weird and unusual things they can collect at the show.  The wood chuckers are trying to get all their supplies for free.  The vendors really do not want to take anything home with them.  It costs shipping and it is a pain.  The last day of the show is for all the wood chuckers.  I was not there for the last day of the show, however I was looking for deals.  Some of the tools were interesting but nothing that I wanted to buy.  I did get some weird silly putty stuff and a picnic paper goods holder.  It was a good show and I'm glad I work for a company that also does woodworking.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I have discovered a new finish for the toys I make.  It is Shellac.  Actually I have known about it for a while and used it once.  I did not like that it was not a water based clean up and the fumes were pretty bad.  I have always stuck with the water based polyurethane.  The issue I have with the polyurethane was it was too thick to run through my air brush and had to be thinned.  Shellac is the perfect consistency.  I used shellac to finish the two trucks.  It also gives the lighter wood a little bit of an amber hue. 

If you are wondering about the toxicity of this finish, it is non toxic after it cures.  It takes about 30 minutes to dry and and a few days to cure.  The fumes are bad and that is why I wear a respirator.  Shellac is found it lots of different places.  It is used on the coatings of pills and some candies.  Over time the shellac will increase in hardness and durability.

I have always avoided it because it is a pain to clean up.  In water based finishes I would put the air brush in water and wait for the parts to dry and sand then put on the second coat.  With shellac I am cleaning the air brush while the parts to dry just to spray them again and repeat the cleaning.  Now having the finish already at the correct consistency is worth more than the cleanup time.

Massive Semi Trucks

These are the transport truck for the construction set in the Wood Magazine series.  The other pieces that are part of the series are found here, here, here, and the crane which I cannot find on the blog.  The flat bead actually holds the other equipment for transport.  My four year old son stands on the bed and say it is transporting him.  It is roughly 40 inches long, taller than both my kids.

This is the flat bed truck.

Here is a better picture of the cab.
This is the side dump truck.  The bed is made from a 4" diameter PVC pipe, but the rest is made out of wood.

I really like the construction set that Wood Magazine is putting out.  I do not know how many vehicles they are going to do.  Every 4-6 months they seem to come out with another one to add to the set.  I am behind a skip loader and dump truck and next month they are come out with a road grader.  The set is all made out of walnut and maple.  All the vehicles are similar in design and they are build to be played with.  Nothing is really difficult with these trucks just the small parts.  This is why I am grateful to have a band saw and belt sander.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Working in Another's Shop

Last week I had the opportunity to work in my employer's sample shop in Mexico.  The cabinet maker there is truly a master at what he does.  We were working on a prototype design for a new bathroom cabinet and I went down to answer design questions and help out where needed. 
One of the first things I noticed was it is a pain to use a right handed person's shop.  I now understand why some people have a hard time adjusting to my set ups or where items are placed after a machining operation is complete.  However it is good to be one of the elite, so I think I will remain left handed.
There is also a different way to do set ups.  In this shop they measure and cut a part.  If it is correct they nail a stop block to the bench to make the rest of the cuts the same.  I measure from the blade and clamp a stop block to the bench, then start cutting.  When marking parts, they make a template and trace.  I just draw them all out.  Both work.
I also believe that everyone becomes accustomed to a tool and it becomes the go to tool for that individual.  They can do anything with this tool.  For the sample shop I manage, it is the table saw.  They do everything with this machine.  They are also mainly doing sheet good work.  Down in Mexico the tool of choice is the router.  I was amazed at what he could do with the router.  He cut everything from arches to small parts with a tabletop router. My tool of choice has to be the sander.  I am not proficient in any tool so I just keep sanding out the mistakes.  Actually I am decent with the table saw however I want to get more into the band saw and router.  I am starting to play around more with template routing and grooving.  My goal is to try new things and that is how I grow. 
So in the spirit of what I have learned about the router I would like to share a few things that I have learned about routers.
  • Know what you are going to use the router for.  There are a lot of different different routers and options.  I started out with a Craftsman 1/4" collet, stationary base router.  It works fantastic and still use it today.  I started to do more and more furniture and so I wanted to do doors with a cope and stick feature and those bits only came in a 1/2" shaft.  So I tried to use my fathers plunge router.  It is nearly impossible to to adjust the height on a table.  It works great for plunging and cutting grooves but fails where it is not meant to used. So I ended up purchasing my Bosch router with interchangeable bases, one plunge and one fixed.  It also came with a 1/2" and 1/4" collet.  This does not make my Craftsman obsolete.  Now I can do multiple operations without changing set ups.
  • Have an idea of what you want the router to do.  The router is capable for a lot of different operations.  I started out with a lot of profiling and rounding over the edges.  I still do a lot of this however I am branching into the template routing.  Is the router going to be mainly used for door, drawer and box making or profiles, or is it going to be making several parts from a template?  This leads into the next topic of bits. Is the router need to be basic or does it need the horse power to do deep cuts.
  • I purchased a set 20 inexpensive bits.  Do I use them all, no.  there are still some in the protective coating.  I would recommend a cheap set of bits though.  You will burn out the bits and know which ones you should buy better then the cheap versions.  I do a lot of round overs and grooving.  I have a good 1/8" round over and a good set of downward spiral bits.  I was doing a fair amount of doors so I spent the money on a good set of cope and stick router bits.  I am doing more template work so I now have a good flush trim bit with the bearing on the top.  I will probably need more sizes in the future.I will probably also invest in some with the bearing on the bottom.
  • I have played around with the bushing system with the router for template cutting.  I am finding the it is a pain to center the bit in the bushing and then keeping it centered.  I like the flush trim bits better. 
  • If you can afford to buy a lift table for the router, do it.  It makes setups faster, bit changes easier.  Certain lifts only work with certain routers so make sure the router and lift match up. 
  • Table tops are designed around specific routers.  Don't mess with trying to center your router with a generic top, spend the money to get a top that will center your router without you having to drill more holes.
The router is one of the more versatile pieces of equipment.  Use it well. I technically have three routers and use them all.  Two routers are not duplicates

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bucket List and Tiles

There are couple of things that I do desire to do before I pass on.  One of those things has come to pass.  My name is now on a patent (it is pending right now). I know don't count your chickens before they are hatched but this is close enough.
I came up with the idea for an integrated socket to attach a ball bearing glide to a back panel.  It doesn't seem like much but the other methods are screwing on sockets and then sliding the glide into the socket.  This was a decent labor savings for the company.  My name is on the patent but my employer owns it.

Tile boards
I did not put on the picture, paint or frame, I cut and grooved the piece the picture goes on to.  They came out really nice.  Who would have thought that MDF could look so nice.  If you are interested I can make the boards.  I do not know if the person I made them for sells them. If you would like more information please let me know.  I can make them any size and any grooving pattern

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Box and a Clock

Today I had the experience of helping the 11-year old scouts make camping boxes.  If all my projects went this smooth it would be great.  The only problem we had was snapping the the heads off a couple of screws.  These were the nicest camping boxes ever made, and that is an understatement.  The boxes were made out of solid butcher block maple.  Hopefully this is what they got out of this experience:
  • Understanding how to develop a project, sketch it out and cost the materials.
  • Know how to use basic hand power tools.
  • Know safety for oneself and other with tools.
  • Knowing that they can accomplish a task if they want to.
  • How to drive in a nail with a hammer.
All the parts were cut to size and grooved for an easier assembly before today.  The scouts had to bore holes for rope handles using a drill press.  Using a cordless drill, they had to pre-drill and countersink all the holes for the screws.  They also had to mark and attach inset hinges for the lid.  They also had to burn their names in the lid.  That was the only place were we had injuries. It was a fun project and we completed seven boxes.  All the wood was donated by RSI Home products.
 I hope the parents that came also had an enjoyable time and learned something too.

This is probably my one and only clock that I will make.  The face was $13 and it is only 1 3/8 in diameter!  It was a tough scroll saw job but it came out nice.  I need a pen to go with it, so I need a lathe.

My photography teacher would kill me for this picture.  If you look at all watch pictures, the hands are at 10 and 2.  Mine are at 8 and 4.  The hands make a sad face not a happy face.  Little tricks learned.

If the words did not come out well it says "Squeezed for time."  I do not know where I found the pattern.  It was free off a website.