30 March 2009

HSS and the Final Slot

Following a conversation on UKWorkshop last week, one of the forum members was having a lot of trouble with a Veritas marking knife and it seems that other people were having the same sort of woes...the tip kept breaking off. This seems to be a bit of a strange thing to happen, particlularly as Veritas equipment is so highly regarded. In a round about sort of way, things progressed as they do, and he eventually decided to try out one of the by now infamous 'Blokeblade's but instead of sending me some cash, he's swopping it for a set of three DVD's on rather excellent workshop practices and jig ideas, which ought to be very useful.
As usual, I make the kinves in pairs as it's as easy to make two together, so I started on them and all went fairly smoothly as I've done so many of these things now that I can knock them out reasonably quickly.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a new rack for my chisels and fitted them all out, but I've got a spare slot at the end that needed one more tool and I've been scratching around trying to fit something into it...a 60mm gap definitly looks untidy.
Then I had one of my all too rare flashes of inspiration. Last summer, Pete Newton make a very tidy small chisel with a blade made from a HSS metalwork hacksaw blade, the idea being that it was just narrower than the scratch stock blade that he'd made so that the end of a stopped inlay line could be easily cleaned out. So that's what I decided to do, a small chisel the same as Pete's, as it's something I'll need shortly anyway for the table. I already had a decent octagonal handle in ebony made some time ago. I thought I'd use an oddment HSS machine hackswaw steel as well for the blade, which is first for me... but have you evermade anything from HSS? If you have, you'll know all about it, but if like me, you've never used it except as a drill, it's probably one of the toughest and most difficult metals to work with...even a standard HSS hacksaw blade won't touch it! Fortunatly, I had a Proxxon mini drill with a set of thin grinding wheels which proved ideal to slice off a piece and then I used the side of my big wheels to carefully shape it...not ideal I know, but a file won't touch it either. Anyway, the little chisel is going to look quite good when it's done.
I also had a chance to play around with a set of new tools, of which a lot more later, as I've yet to contact the company and submitt my findings...suffice to say that they were very good indeed!

27 March 2009

In the frame

I spent another fairly productive evening yesterday in the 'shop and managed to get all the rough shaping done on the table, so now I've come to grinding halt and can't do much more until I get hold of some burr material for the infil next week at Yandles.
I started to rummage around in the timber storage area in the 'shop and found a bit of something suitable to make the frame saw with. This happened to be some of beech left over from the days of wooden sash cramp bars (now long since gone) and I reckon it'll prove ideal for the job. I haven't yet recieved my bits of bandaw blade from Dragon Saws but I'm looking forward to getting them over the weekend. I'm sorely tempted though, to get hold of a proper Jap universal blade as well from Dick tools in Germany...they don't seem to be readily available over here, though I think that Rutlands sell frame saws, so I think I'll have to do a bit more Googlistationing. The main thing I've got to do now is to scurf t'internet and find out sizes and dimensions, particularly the hole centre distance on the blade so that I can use one of the Jap blades if needed.
Ought to be an interesting project

25 March 2009

Parcels of Loveliness...part trois

What a morning it's been! I got into work and within about 10 mins a very irate SWIMBO was on the 'phone...she was lost in Bath and could I direct her etc etc to her course? "Yes dear" is the only rational reply that any sane husband could utter, so asking for her mobile number, I went away and found out where she was supposed to go, which I did within a few minutes, 'cept that when I attempted to ring her back, she'd given me the wrong number. Eventually though, things got sorted out more by luck than judgement...just need to remember to keep a straight face tonight when she gets in!

Then when I opened my 'puter there was an email from the MD of one of the largest suppliers of tools and machinery in the country asking me for a review of certain items from 'distant lands'...even as I type they're in the post, so that's another parcel to open. I've also got my Chinese furniture book coming this week as well as some off-cuts of bandsaw blades for the frame saw project, so with all these parcels in the post, it's going to be better than Christmas.

I did a little job last night in the 'shop which was to grind and sharpen an old scribing gouge. Now this was something I'd picked up from Penny Farthing Tools a while ago and was high on my 'tuit' list. A couple of weeks ago I knocked up a half-decent octagonal handle in some English Walnut and as the gouge had been glaring at me in the chisel rack for the last month or so, I decided to do something about it.
I don't know if any readers of this sad missive have ever attempted to grind a scribing gouge, but if and when you do...it ain't easy!! Firmer and carving gouges (with the bevel on the outside) are straight forward but an inside bevel is a different kettle of worms altogether as the edge must be kept dead square (or as square as you can make it) to the sides. The way I went about it was to use a Proxxon mini-drill with a conical grinding wheel to very carefully produce the initial bevel and then I had a tiny, very fine, pink wheel to grind the cutting edge which I polished with a conical felt mop and some Jeweller's Rouge. The big problem in doing it this way is that owing to the rotation of the stone, only one half of the bevel can be done...if you catch the other corner of the blade, the bloody thing whips itself over and you start to grind the 'flat' side of the gouge as well as round off that corner, which is really frustrating! The only way round it is to reverse the gouge in the vice and grind from the opposite direction, which again is difficult 'cos you then have to try and pick up the grinding angle again.
Anyway, after about 40mins of concentrated effort, I'd managed to obtain a good enough edge which was capable of fine cuts from an oddment of English Cherry, so I was a reasonably happy bunny.

22 March 2009

Possibly skewered...

I've finally got to the part this weekend on the cherry table that I'd been worried about for a while...how to shape the insides of the frames. I thought initially that I might be able to do it with the end frames and panels glued and assembled, but in the end I decided to do it with the bits separate, which is probably the safest way...much less chance of a cock-up! Firstly though, each cross rail frame was shot in to a tight fit so that there's just a shaving or two to remove later for a snug fit. The only problem with the idea of shaping them separately is that I didn't have quite the right tool to do the job, one of those hugely expensive LN skew rebate planes (about £200 now) would have been ideal as I was working into a wide 'rebate' across the tops of the legs, as you can see from the pic. I got round the problem by using the big LN shoulder plane and smoothing almost to the rail with a block, just leaving a smidgen to clean up when the assembly's glued together later on.
The shot on the router table is my dainty mits routing out 3mm from the top of the wide panel, the little stubby bit at each end will eventually be smoothed into the leg in a curved sweep...you can see the other half of this on the shot with the shoulder and block plane.
This little table is proving to be quite tricky to bring together, there seems to be a lot in it, but with any luck and a following wind, it should all come together quite well...though I'll be needing that bit of burr material (and some ebony 'line', if I can get it) fairly soon, so roll on Yandles...
I had a package in the post from Michael the other day which contained a couple of reprints from F&C on Chinese joinery, with a recommendation for a good book on the subject. SWIMBO was obviously feeling beneficial that evening 'cos she went onto Amazon and ordered it for me...and I got the last copy!

20 March 2009

In the frame

I'm coming up to the point very shorty with the cherry table when I'll need that lump of burr stuff to go into the recesses machined last weekend, but as I won't be able to get hold of some until early April, another small project is looming.
Some time ago F&C's ed, Michael Huntley came round to my place for a natter and a brew (he also dropped me off some stuff for review, of which more later) and amongst the many and varied topics that we rambled on about was the ongoing series about the Barnsley 'shop and the sort of stuff that the lads get up to. Particularly interesting was something that's appeared now in a couple of issues and that's the use by the apprentices of a large continental style frame saw to cut curves (apparently the head honcho doesn't allow them to use a bandsaw in the early stages) and ever up for a bit a challenge...
...I volunteered to make one! Michael had mentioned that he'd asked a few of the boys if they'd fancy having a go at making one (to go into the mag as an article) but his suggestions fell on stony ground, so yours truly is going to have a go. The first thing I've got to do is to source some decent blades for the project but as luck would have it, I may be getting a couple of offcuts in the post next week from the now defunct Dragon saws, who by all accounts, make the best bandsaw blades in the UK.
Also in the course of the conversation that evening, we mentioned a small article in the current mag on the construction of those fiendishly difficult Far Eastern joints that don't use glue but rely on mechanical dovetails to hold everything together.
Give yourself a treat and have an extra biscuit to dunk in your tea if you can guess who's going to have a go at making one?

Better make that a whole packet...

18 March 2009

Systems that suck

I'm well into this fantasy stage now of machine upgrades for the 'shop in what will be less than a couple of years now. My original train of thought was maybe a bit too enthusiastic, certainly regarding the Jet SS which now tops out at over £1500. Interestingly the new Record compact saw is about £600 and has all the main features that I want...mainly though it's a 250mm blade and a smaller footprint than my current Kity 419. I think also the p/t that I'm after will be the Axminster one with the cast iron fence as it got very good reviews from F&C a while back and again, it's about £600 as opposed to nearly £1K for the Jet equivalent. I'm still not decided on a bandsaw, except that it needs to have a 250mm depth of cut, so there's still plenty of time to mull over what's needed. Something I have been toying around with though is the idea of having just one decent extractor and plumbing in a pipe system with blast gates for all the other machines, but I'd still need to keep the Axminster WV1000 for power tools and the disc sander. It's an interesting idea...the machine I've been looking at is one sucking 2200cu.m/hr which is a hell of a lot of air, but it would have to go where the lathe is positioned at the moment. That's not too much of a problem though, as I want to downsize the lathe anyway and go for a small Jet lathe with 510mm 'twixt centres, which is a lot smaller than the current one. The Jet pillar drill still has pole position though as it seems to have better bearings that the equivalent Axminster and after my 'near misses' with the existing one at the weekend, it's a definite candidate for renewal.
It's always puzzling is this sort of thing, 'cos I want to get the best value kit for the 'shop but spend the least amount money...so it's back to scurfing t'internet for a while.

16 March 2009

Sticks no more

The pics show that a bit of progress was made on the table this weekened, so it's turned from just a pile of sticks to something that now resembles a bit of furniture, or at least the beginings of a piece. They show the long mortises in the leg and wide side rail which will have a loose tenon made from 6mm birch ply, one shot shows the mitre being trimmed and the other is of the router table, with arrows showing the start and stop posititions. Also shown is one of the end frame assemblies with the centre section routed out to a depth of 2mm, this is going to have a peice of burr veneer (and Yandles is coming up in a couple of weeks...how convenient!) of some sort inlaid with an ebony line round the outside. The leg will also be slightly flaired top to bottom so that the panel and leg surface will eventually be flush and not raised as shown. The other pic shows one of a pair of frames with the wide end panels...there'll be another pair that will sit in the cross halving joints to make a sort of 'cross' shape and the marble fossilised top drops the recess. Although it can't be seen from the pic, the underside of the top rails has been grooved to receive a length of 12mm steel...just a bit of 'belt and braces' to reinforce the joints. You can also see from the pics that there's been quite a lot of drilling of holes which was the only thing that actually went slightly wrong this weekend, but nothing too drastic I hasten to add. The reason for that is that I've got some mdf on the pillar drill table that was slightly skewed, or tilted which meant that the holes weren't quite dead true...not too much of a worry as I'd deliberatly left a margin for error and eventual shaping. On one particular leg though, I didn't have enough packing under it as it was being drilled...don't you just love breakout!

13 March 2009

Cage and ferrets

I've had a couple of days of enforced inactivity in the 'shop, entirely of my own making really because I took part in a 'team building' walk on Wednesday along the Jurassic Way, from Lulworth Cove to Weymouth and back, via the 'Smugglers Inn' at Osmington Mills. I really enjoyed the exercise, but as I don't do enough of it, the legs are paying the price now! The good news is that I'm just about recovered and looking forward to a bit of practical activity in the 'shop at the weekend. When I do these sorts of events though, logic and common sense says that you need to keep the carcass well hydrated and even though I had a full water bottle, I didn't seem to want to have anything...I had plenty of food, but didn't drink any liquid. As luck would have it though, my particular section of the walk finished at the pub and having just walked fourteen miles up hill and down dale, I was ready for a pint or four. I'm propped up at the bar then, trying to decide which variety of Badger ale to down, the inside of my mouth feeling like the bottom of a bird cage...'Tanglefoot' or 'Fursty Ferret', which one... decisions, decisions? To tell the truth, I can't remember, I just pointed weakly at a pump, limply handed over my fiver and watched the frothy brew decant slowly into the glass. Now to be absolutely truthful and honest, I can't even tell you if the ale was wet...it went down so fast it didn't even touch the sides!
If you've ever seen that great black and white movie, 'Ice Cold in Alex' you'll know the feeling...

08 March 2009

Mitre tape...

I managed to get quite a lot done over the weekend on the cherry table, but this job is pretty complex and is seeming to take forever without any real progress being made. The shots show my arrangement for making mortises using the router...I use a pair of 'arrows' marked on the wood that line up with the sub-base on the router so I don't even have to look at what the cutter's up to, it's just a bit of a pain to square up the mortises when they're cut. The reason I do them like this is that they're dead true and also that the top edge is straight so none of that slightly jagged effect that you get with a machine mortiser or even with a chisel. Another shot shows the router being used to make the bottom of the halving joints flat and true, cheating I know but it's guaranteed to make them spot on. The third woody sort of shot shows the wide rails that go into the legs and you can see the long mortise for them as well as the mitres on each corner...and therein lies a tale. I'd made up a rebated chisel rest with one end shot in true at 45 deg and I'd used this successfully on another project last year. When I used it this time though, I found that the mitres were at least 5deg out when I checked them...so what's going on? I rechecked the block and found that it was slightly out so I planed it again on the mitre shoot to get it accurate and then tried again on the cherry. When I tested the corners for a second time the bloody things were still 5deg out! I was totally baffled...the mitre chisel rest was spot on but the actual corners weren't...totally infuriating. Calming down and trying not to hurl tools and timber through the door, I had a good think about how to get round this seemingly insurmountable problem. The only way I could see to solve it was to skew the mitre block by sticking three layers of masking tape into the rebate at the far end (which had the effect of raising it) and then using a LN block plane to true up the mitres rather than a chisel, so it took three attempts to get these mitres accurate. It was worth doing though as at glue up time I'd have been more than slightly miffed if the joints hadn't pulled up.

04 March 2009

Hawaiin Cast-Iron

I'm coming up to that time in life when the end of my working days doesn't seem to be far away and I can then concentrate on some serious woodwork. I've still got about three years or so to do but I've already started to grind the wheels together up-top to attempt to sort out what sort of income I'll be on. SWIMBO had been quietly pestering me for some time now to find out what my retirement benefit (at 60) from 20 years teaching would be, so the other night I dug out some details and 'phoned up to get some figures. I thought it would be quite irksome and prolonged to get hold of the information (which is why I hadn't done it) but after about three minutes I had the exact figures, both for the lump sum and the pension... and I have to say that I nearly fell of my chair when I saw the amounts! Then of course they'll be something similar (though not as much) from about 10 years as a Civil Servant when I do eventually retire.
I can see that you're quietly chundering to yourself about what all this has to do with woodwork, apart from the prolonged time factor? In answer, part of the lump sum(s) will be used to upgrade all the equipment in the 'shop as I've had my existing stuff for about ten years and whilst it's good kit, it's a bit limiting regarding the size of stuff I can tackle, so the Axminster website has been taking a bit of a hammering over the last few days. It's difficult to quantify what I do want but in essence it's going to be all Jet stuff, such as the SuperSaw, a 10"doc bandsaw, the 10" planer (and extractors to suit) a decent bench mounted pillar drill, decent router fence and a new slightly smaller lathe. I'm hoping to get all this lovely stuff from Axminster as I'll hopefully be able to wangle a reasonable discount and some other 'hand tool inducements' but the other useful feature of using them is that they will deliver into the 'shop rather than dump a load of very heavy cast-iron pallets in the road outside...definite bonus!
The only down side to this little escapade is that when I built the 'shop a few years ago, I didn't make the suspended floor robust enough, so the plan is for the existing machinery to be sold to create some space, the floor will come up and a couple of new sleeper walls laid to take the additional weight.
The upside is also that we're going to have a bloody good holiday that year as well...might even go back to Hawaii!

02 March 2009

Still sticks...

Things have been progressing in the 'shop over the weekend. I intended to get out there on Sat but as the brake blocks on the Blokebike (say that after a couple of pints, could end up as Blokeblocks on the brakebike...) were worn down to the rim, an urgent trip into town was called for to get hold of some replacements. Sunday was a good day though and I managed to crack on a bit with the table. This job is only small, but there seems to be a hell of a lot work in it for its size, sixteen ordinary mortise and tenons, sixteen 'birds mouth' m/t with loose tenons as well as eight halving joints and a lot of shaping work, which reminds me...do you know just how bloody awkward a supposedly simple halving joints is?
Halving joints are beloved of all woodwork teachers (and I'm no exception) being an essential part of the time honoured tea pot stand that must have been made in their millions in schools years ago. The actual joint requires extreme precision to go together really accurately and has to be made under size and then shot in to fit well. I made the rails 20mm thick which is fine, but then when a halving joint's made with material that size, what tends to be forgotten is cleaning up the sides for the final assembly, so there you are merrily planing away on all four sides ...and then after a shaving too much you find that you've got a sloppy fit, with gaps at the intersections! Now maybe that's not too critical in a school workshop situation, but when it's a piece of cabinet work, things take on a slightly different perspective...there can be no gaps. What I decided to do was to make the halving joints 19mm wide which is then going to leave me .5mm each side to shoot in so hopefully, with any luck and a following wind, they should pull up in the approved manner...squeeky tight! The halving joint is a traditional hand tool, 'galootish' sort of joint (which is why it was always done in schools) but I decided to go the extra mile and level up the horizontal part with a router so I know that at least that bit's spot on.
I digress. During the course of my beaverings on Sunday, SWIMBO got bored after scurfing t'internet for a couple of hours and decided to check on progress mid morning outside in the 'shop. I'd enthusiastically recounted how I was getting back 'in the groove' after a week away and I suppose she was hoping to find at least something partly assembled that vaguely looked like the outline of a coffee table.
"So where's this table then?" she asked as I just pointed to the pile of wood under the bench..."but it's still sticks!" You cant' win.