Thursday, August 28, 2008

Heat alert for Las Vegas

Don't worry, everything's OK.

It's just that we're in the dog days of summer here. While everyone else in the country is starting to cool down, we had a heat alert today. I was running some errands this afternoon and the thermometer in my van said 114˚.

The weather here is lovely about ten months out of the year, but some days... well, you just wish for a cool wave to blow in. I want to wear long pants again. I want to put on a pot of soup and fog up the windows. I want to see some snow... no, wait... I'm not that crazy.

Still, it's brutal right now, as you can see.

I've been working on a few interesting projects, but mostly, I'm just trying to stay hydrated and out the the flightpath of our nearby airport. We've had two different small airplanes crash in our neighborhood this week.

It's never boring here in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Onion's poll of woodworkers

Interesting "woodworking" data at the 1:12 mark in this video. I had no idea that woodworkers were polled about their choice in the upcoming election.

Latest Poll Reveals 430 New Demographics That Will Decide Election

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making arched top doors - part five - finishing and hanging

I'm convinced that two major things separate the professional from the amateur woodworker. The first is having the proper tools. Good tools are obviously expensive, and most people aren't going shell out $400 for a scru-gun or $4000 for a wide board sander. I'm lucky that my woodshop is fully equipped, so regardless of whatever situation I find myself in - I usually have a tool to get out of it.

Need to cut a piano hinge to a certain, odd size, or round the corners for mortising with a router? No problem.

Or make a piece of hardwood trim because you can't find the proper profile at the lumberyard? One word - piece-o'-cake.

So being able to adapt and problem solve in the shop is of major importance.

But an even more important aspect of woodworking is hardware. Just as location is everything to a retail business, installing hardware properly is key to providing quality woodworking. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone build a reasonably nice cabinet, only to be disappointed in how the hardware was installed. Let's face it - hardware for your cabinetry is like it's jewelry. Install it poorly and it diminishes the whole effect of your work.

So installing these two way hinges for the doors was a bit of a challenge. The last time I used something like this was in a set of pass-through doors in a restaurant, many years ago. I knew that accuracy was critical to the doors hanging properly, so I used some custom cut spacers to accurately position the hinge on each door.

Unfortunately, I got on a roll when I was hanging these doors, and forgot to take pictures.

Once the hinges were installed on the doors, I removed them and installed them on the jamb. The only difference is that the hinge location on the jamb was a half inch higher, so that the doors were spaced a half inch off the floor tile. But I used the same spacers, so that everything was aligned properly.

A little tweaking with the spring tension, and the doors are hanging perfectly in the archway. I generally get all of my hardware installed - but before I installed the locksets - I removed the doors once again to paint the doors their final color. In this case, I heavily textured the doors to match the surrounding wall texture.

After some texture, primer and a couple coats of paint, the doors were ready to be hung.

Add the knobs and call it a day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Making arched top doors - part four - shaping and fitting

The next day, I unclamped the first door and prepared to do the final shaping. I rigged a cart in my shop with a drywall mud bucket, I know, this looks sort of crude. But in lieu of a shop helper, a sliding cart system like this really helps with cutting or sanding large pieces like this.

Trimming the curve on the bandsaw is simple, just make sure you stay outside the pencil line. Then make the long cut on the tablesaw, ripping the door to it's final width.

Once again, my cart system comes in handy for sanding the radius on my sander. With a fairly coarse belt, sanding this curve is simple and quick.

My first finished door. With the door propped in place, I can tell the curve of the door perfectly matches the curve of the jamb.


OK - did you get all that? Then do it again, making the second door!
The only thing that is slightly different is that I put the two doors side by side, marking the height of the finished door onto the door that still needs to be cut down.

This way, they will both end up exactly the same height. Back to the woodshop, to repeat this whole process. With proper tools and working fairly quickly, I made both these doors in roughly 5 hours. This doesn't include the time it took the glue to dry, just actual work in the woodshop.

Here are both doors propped into place. And a crooked picture.

I must have bumped it when jockeying the doors into place.

They still need painted and hung, but you can see they're going to fit quite nicely.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging... not!

OK, this is weird. Every Sunday, I try to work a little bit in the yard, trimming things, pulling weeds, whatever. Why Sunday? Monday is trash day, and it's just nice to move the clippings right to the pile of trash.

So last week, there were a few out of control Chaste Trees that needed serious attention. If you've ever been around a Chaste Tree, you know they smell like... well, they stink. It's a miserable job, as soon as I finish trimming those, I usually run inside and take a shower to get rid of the smell.

But this time, I kept trimming and plucking - a couple of palms, a dead yucca, even the lantana that had taken over. I finally made it to the shower, and noticed a couple of red welts, vaguely remembering the fight I got into with the palm tree thorns.

Oh well, these legs are never going to be used in a swimsuit ad, trust me. Just a couple more scratches to look at.

By the next morning, one of the welts had turned into a full blown something - volcano is the first word that comes to mind. I won't sicken you by putting links to pictures of similar bites, but suffice it to say that after some medical consultation, we've figured out that I was bitten by a brown recluse spider.

Now we've had some weird things turn up at our place ... we found this swimming in the pool.

And this...

I'll get back to posting about the Arched Door Project in a day or two, as soon as the Benadryl stupor wears off. Meanwhile, just be glad I didn't include any pictures of my bite.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Politically incorrect humor

Not sure why, but the passing of Bernie Mac made me sad today.

I know, people die every day. But sometimes you hear about someone dying and it just hits you a little differently, even though you didn't know them.

If cursing and politically incorrect humor bothers you, then don't watch this clip. But if you want to laugh out loud and you're not too prissy, then check out Bernie in this clip.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Making arched top doors - part three - altering the door

The doors and hardware came to just around $100 from my local big box store. The arched opening is 46" wide, so that means two doors of roughly 23" a piece. That's perfect - 24" wide doors will fit the bill, without too much waste.

Time for a little math, the first thing is to figure out is the final width of the doors. If the opening is 46", each door (in theory) would be 23" wide. But - that's not taking into account the width of the hinges, as well as the gaps wound the edges of the doors.
I determined how much room the hinges were going to need, about 1/4" each a piece, so I measured and marked the long edge of the door that would need to be trimmed. Each door needs to be about 22 3/4" wide, so I drew that line all the way up the door.

I placed the door flat against the wall so I could trace the arch directly onto the door, lining the long edge of the door up with the jamb.

Tracing the arch wasn't easy, since the corners of the jamb were rounded. There wasn't a good way to get an actual contour of the curve drawn, so I used a piece of stiff cardboard, which allowed me to draw the exact arch profile on the door.

It actually sounds more difficult than it really was, but it certainly helps if you have someone hold the door for you while you're marking the arch.

Once it was traced, the outline of the curve was cut on the bandsaw, where I removed all the wood about 1/4" past the pencil line, on the waste side.

You can start to see the door taking shape.

Over the years, I've had shop helpers on and off, and generally found that I prefer to work alone. That's more a statement about me and my work methods, than about having an assistant. I tend to do a lot of thinking, and the work in a flurry. So it's tough to have someone standing there, waiting for me to figure something it. And it tends to make me feel rushed, which I don't want to do when I'm pondering a problem.

So working alone has taught me how to rig up some amazing temporary jigs and aids in the shop. I had to rig up a cart to support the door while I was cutting the curve, you can't see it here, but you'll see something similar later, when I sand the door. A cart moves easily and supports the door while I cut on the bandsaw, and it's a perfect way to accomplish a task like this by yourself.

Years ago, I read Jim Tolpin's book "Working at Woodworking", he had some great ideas about carts in a woodshop. Since then, I've used carts in nearly every facet of my shop. If you're having problems with the logistics of your wood working, you might want to check out his book.

A rip
on the table saw and I'm left with a hollow core door that's ready to have some internal blocking glued back into the voids.

But first, you have to clean out some of the cardboard inside the door, so it won't interfere with the wood block you're going to be installing.

A long chisel helps, but I first broke the cardboard loose with a long scrap of wood, and then simply cleaned up the cardboard residue with the chisel. It comes off quite easily.

Several pieces of scrap 2 x 4 was used to glue up the blocking that will go back into the door.

I put a few pieces down over the curve to determine how to glue the blocking up, and once I got the layout figured out, I marked the 2 x 4s so I could clamp them up in that same position.

Since I have to alter two doors, I glued up two of these wood blocks.

Once planed, you can see how they will fit into the door at the top, and give that curve all the strength and structure it will need. Then I concentrated on the long ripped edge.

Once again, I cut and planed a piece that would fit into the hollow area, and at the top, where the arch was just starting to make it's curve, I doubled up on the wood there, to give myself a little more beefyness.
Note that where the two pieces of interior blocking meet, there is an angle. I marked the wood, and cut the angle on a chop saw.

Dry fit everything!

I even marked where the top filler piece should be located with some pencil lines, as a guide for me when gluing this.

I don't want to have to guess if I'm in the right spot, so this step saves me a hassle down the line.

Since it's so warm in my woodshop, I knew gluing needed to be quick, or the glue would skin over before I could get it all together. Gluing is tricky enough, without having to fight the heat, and that generally means working fast and sloppy.

My buddy, Dave, actually has nightmares about gluing things up; he freaks out when working against a glue clock.

Luckily, I save my freaking out over other things in life.

Time to work fast, and as I learned from a Paul Levine video years ago - let gravity be your friend. I pour a liberal amount of glue into the door area, and again, on the wood piece. Gravity will keep the glue from running and dripping too much, and both surfaces will be coated properly.

Once the glue is spread, the top block in slid into the door.
Do the same thing with the long rip, apply glue, slide it in place, and make sure everything is outside of the pencil lines before you clamp it.

You want the wood blocking to extend outside the pencil lines so that when you trim it to it's final size, you get a clean, solid edge.
Let it dry over night, and toast a good day's work.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Making arched top doors - part two - the hardware

One of my beefs about the commercial hardware companies I deal with is that they are often more expensive than buying things from my local Ace hardware, or one of the big box stores. Oh, they'll try to convince you their product is better. But when I see the exact item on sale at a cheaper price, it's hard to believe their argument.

So I called a couple of my suppliers, only to find that the hinges were about $100 a set. OK, these are commercial hinges, very heavy duty, but I'm not sure they're worth that price. It's not like these doors are heavy, nor are they going to receive heavy traffic. Those are two important aspects to consider when choosing hinges.

On my next trip to my local store, I found a similar two way hinge for about $16.00 each, about 34% cheaper than for what my "wholesaler" sells them.

What's up with that?

Which brings me to another topic - as a small business owner operating in this economic climate, I'm always looking to save a buck. One thing I've learned is that my suppliers are not necessarily saving me money, even though they claim wholesale prices.

I recently bough a gallon of glue - Titebond Brown Glue, which has been my adhesive of choice for many years. Every now and then, I'll get lucky and find it locally. I used to buy it in 5 gallon pails, which offers a huge savings in cost. But in this hot weather, I can't do that. So I'm back to buying it by the gallon, even though it pains me to pay more for it. So I called my "wholesaler" and ordered a gallon, and a few days later, I got the bill - $33.00 and change for a gallon.

#@(% me.

Then I checked at Rockler, and learned they were selling it for $18.99.
Learn from my mistakes - sometimes your best deal isn't with your supplier. Loyalty is a two way street. If they want my business, they need to sell things at a fair price.

Buying sandpaper is another one of those things that makes me want to scream. I can't tell you the number of sandpaper vendors that call me for an order, or send me samples, trying to get my business. I've been ordering sandpaper online for years now, saving a bundle. No, I don't own a piece of this company; I just know they're nice to deal with, they ship fast, and I can't buy sandpaper this cheap anywhere else.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Making a set of arched top doors - part one

I'm working on a project that requires a little thinking outside the box. Assignment: putting doors in an arched opening, at a price that isn't going to require a second mortgage.

After some investigating, I realized a few things. First, pre-hung arched doors are outrageously expensive! Beyond that, since archways are plastered by hand, they are usually not a perfect semi-circle. So even if a pre-hung door was used, there's no guarantee that it's going to fit properly in the opening. A few rough measurements with a tape measure and a string compass prove that the arch I was working with was low in some areas, and high in others.

My friend, Phillip, and I discussed this project over some Cuban food and a beer. He's not only a fabulous tool maker, but one hell of a woodworker, too. It's funny how getting a second opinion about a design problem really sheds light on how different artisans solve things. Not to be cliche, but two heads really are better than one.

So Phillip suggested a couple of interesting things- first of which was building the doors to fit the opening. While we discussed essentially building a hollow core door, with 2 x 2s, some interior torsion box waffles, and a couple of door skins, it finally dawned on us that it might be easier to simply buy a couple of hollow core doors, since they're cheaper than buying all the individual components. Bingo!

Short of laminating a jamb frame, there wasn't an easy solution to hinging the door into the opening. As we were leaving the restaurant, heading out the back door to the parking lot, we pushed a set of doors open to walk outside. They had two way hinges on them, springing closed after we went through them. Sort of like old two-way saloon doors.
The second light went off in our brains! Bingo, a perfect hinge for mounting a door into an opening. No jamb needed.

These doors will enclose a home office, and don't need that complete privacy that a door with casing would provide. Time to figure out what size doors to purchase, and make a few calls to locate the hardware.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Waterfall Glazes

The kiln gods have been kind lately, I've gotten some outstanding
results from the last couple of loads. Here's a textured platter with two
versions of a Waterfall glaze on it. I believe I sprayed a coat of Waterfall Brown on this, and then layered a coat of JR's Blue over it.

JR's Blue? A blue version of Waterfall Brown, named after the two men who came up with it, John and Ron.

If you double click on the picture, you'll get a better view.

Here is the same glaze, only without texture.