Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Changing planer blades - part two (sort of)

This has been one crazy week.

For anyone hoping to read the final installment of the planer blade changeover, don't despair. The blades have been picked up from the sharpening shop, and I've started shooting the pictures for the next blogpost.

Sorry to make this so short, but I've gotten a few e-mails asking if I'm OK. So I just wanted to let everyone know I'm fine.... just busy! Crazy busy! I'm finishing up a couple of big projects, and should be back to regular posting soon.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Changing planer blades

There's something enjoyable, almost
meditative, about working on tools. I'm not sure why some people buy tools and then never tear them apart to find out how they work. Of course, I did that with a motorcycle when I was 15, and couldn't get the damn thing back together again. It had to be hauled back to the dealer so they could put it back together for me.

Lesson learned? Hell no!

I've been tearing apart most of my equipment for the past few weeks, changing blades, performing maintenance, and making them look pretty. And while some would groan at those tasks - for me, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

So I decided to let everyone in on one repair that I just tackled - changing the blades on my Bridgewood 24" wood planer. I bought this tool in 1994, and it's been a remarkable machine over the years. I had never heard of Bridgewood tools when I bought this planer, but
I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a wide planer at an affordable price.

Everyone always says that you should buy
the best tool you can afford, and it's true. I'm particularly reminded of this because I recently dug five different routers out of storage, only to find that all were in various states of disrepair. One was missing a screw, another missing a handle... you get the picture. Finding parts for some off brands of tools is a PITA; that's my major complaint. So buying a tool from a company that's been around a while (and will stock the parts for you) is the best arguement of all.

I've taken very good care of this tool, you can barely tell it's fifteen years old.

Here's something pretty funny, I had to call the company that sold me this planer , and they asked the model number. So I walked over to it, and read it to them - notice it says BW-200P. Well, that's wrong. Somehow, this planer got tagged with the wrong model plate. It's a BW-240P.

So much for quality control.

A good place to start would be unplugging the beast.

Another little tangent - let's talk about manuals that manufacturers supply with their tools. I'm very careful about my manuals, in fact, I have a huge binder in my studio, where all my tool manuals are kept. I also make a copy of the receipt, and staple it to the manual. Anal? You betcha! But very helpful.

Some tools come with special devices for their maintenance. In this case, the planer came with a tool for helping set the height of the blades. I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but even though I've never used it, I knew exactly where it was for this repair. If nothing else, there's an order to my madness.

The manual that came with this tool is almost worthless, so I was a little frustrated when starting this repair. Perhaps manuals are written a little vague on purpose, so you can't hold the manufacturer accountable if they tell you some misinformation. Or if they re-engineer the tool, they can keep using that same (lame) manual. Who knows?

But when a manual just says "remove the blades" and you're scratching your head and wondering where to start... well, that's a problem.

Getting to know your tools is important. I like to take my new tools apart just for the fun of it. Kitchen appliances, too. Haven't you always wanted to see the inside of a toaster? Or the motor on a blender? I even took our washer apart and repaired it. Sweet.

If you don't have that curiosity, maybe you should quit reading this right now.

The first place was to figure out how to find the cutterhead. I knew it was tucked inside, probably behind this dust hood.

Step one, pull off the hood. Just two bolts held it in place, so
that was easy enough to figure out.

They have handy little messages tucked all over the place. Those are sort of ominous.

While I was trying to figure out what to do next, I became very curious (and distracted) about what was under this big cover with all the stickers on it. (Someone went sticker crazy at the factory.)

I'm a sucker for big gears like these, so this felt like tool porn.

Honestly, I've had some furniture designs rolling around in my head for years, based on huge gears, and mechanical pieces and parts.

These gears were covered with fifteen years of grease and grime, so I took a wire brush and cleaned the schmutz off.

The good news is that the belts were in fine shape. If they had needed changing, I would have been in real trouble. There's no way the manual would have contained any belt replacement tips.

So the next step was how to gain access to the cutterhead. I sat there staring at the machine for about 15 minutes, looking at all the bolts, trying to decide which ones needed to be removed.

And then something dawned on me.
I noticed a couple of hinges.

Just lift the sucker up!

Yup, it was as simple as that, no bolts to remove. Of course, the piece that I had to lift up was extremely heavy. Still, just the fact that it hinged up was pretty sweet.

And here we are - twenty-four inches of lovliness.

This was the main reason for changing the blades - a medium sized chip in the blades that created a sickening ridge in every board I would plane.

Each blade is held in place by a dozen screws.

Metric screws, no less.

I swear - just as I was starting to loosen the first screw, I had a fleeting thought about putting on some gloves, to protect my hands.

No comment.

Thanks to two springs that are located under each blade, when all of the screws loosened, each blade pops right up.

There was a good deal of sawdust and crud built up around those screws, so I vacuumed all three blade slots.

That small hole is where the spring is held.

Here's one blade, laying on the bed of the planer, by my tools.

And here are all three, on their way to the sharpening shop.

While I'm at it, I'll take the blades from my jointer, too. Luckily, I have two sets of those, so I never have any "down time" when changing blades.

I'm fine with the fact that the blades won't be ready for a few days. It'll take that long for my hands to heal. Stay tuned for part two - re-installing the blades.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Star Trek Fans building their own personal Captain Kirk Command Chair

Back in December, I blogged about a fellow who built a replica of Captain Kirk's chair from Star Trek.

No doubt, it was a cool chair. Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who agree. Check out this hilarious article in the New York Times about these Star Trek fans "Getting their Kirk On".

These people have designed their chairs to match the original command chair, right down to the color of paint and the lay-out of the buttons.
Amazing, although I can understand why that one guy's wife threatened divorce if he brought the chair into their living room.

I love it when someone takes their passion and turns it into a woodworking project. What's your next (passionate) project?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sin City Woodworkers

The second meeting of woodworkers in the Las Vegas Valley accomplished a few things this past Saturday. First, we adopted a name for our group. From now on, we'll be known as Sin City Woodworkers, and everyone seemed pleased with that moniker. I love to play around with graphic designs and logos, so I told the group I'd try to come up with a couple of logos for us, and will hopefully bring some sketches to our next meeting.

As far as numbers, we had just about the same number of people (about 32) attend the session. From the sign-in sheet, I could tell there were nine new faces, which means we lost about nine people from the last meeting. A few of the no-shows had written to tell me that they couldn't make the Saturday meeting, so I feel optimistic that we're holding steady at about 40 members.

Rich Daugherty gave an interesting talk about some of the hand tools he uses, including a couple of awesome bow saws and a miter shooting block, perfect for truing up mitered cuts. The more I hear guys like Rich talk about hand tools, the more interested I become in acquiring a few. (Oh great, more tools to purchase!)

And I gave a short demo on the Router Buddy, a nifty little device that allows me to cut perfect circles with my router. I've experimented with a number of methods for machining circles in wood, and this is the best system I've found. It's easy to micro-adjust the radius of the circle, and absolutely simple to use. Even better, I mentioned (for the woodturners in the crowd) that the Router Buddy can be used to cut perfect discs in wood. That's great for any lathe owner, who doesn't own a bandsaw, but needs to knock the corners off of turning blocks.

Ed from Peterman Lumber gave us a tour of the facility, and discussed all of the products that they carry. Many of the people in attendance were thrilled to learn about this new source for materials here in Las Vegas.

All in all, we couldn't have asked for a better place to host our meeting. (Thanks, guys!) I'm trying to secure a location for our next meeting ... stay tuned for details!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our second meeting... a reminder

There is a little too much on my plate right now, so this post will be brief.

I'd like to remind everyone about the second meeting of the Las Vegas Woodworkers Group that is coming up. We're meeting Saturday, March 14 at 10:00 AM at Peterman Lumber, for a tour of the yard, some free-bies, and hopefully, a vote on a permanent name for our group. I'd love to come up with a name that rolls off the tongue a little better.

The meeting is open to anyone, and anyone who has the slightest interest in woodworking is invited to join us. Scroll down a few blog posts and you can read a little more about the upcoming meeting.

I forgot to mention that there isn't any seating available at the lumberyard, so feel free to bring a lawn chair or something to sit on, our last meeting lasted two hours!

Meanwhile, I had a root canal today, so I'll be closing for now, and getting intimate with a bag of ice and some pain pills. You know that saying - I'd rather have a root canal than (fill in the blank with something you want to avoid)? I'm here to tell you that anyone who says that is a moron.

See you Saturday!

Monday, March 09, 2009

A cool game for the geeks of the world...

If you've worked with wood for a while, you've probably acquired some relevant skills, like being able to tell a board's width by just looking at it. Or knowing the grit of sandpaper, without turning the sheet over to look at the numbers on the back. Or being able to add fractions without even blinking.

You know,
useful skills.

See, when you're a woodworker, you're probably doing everything else in your woodshop, too. From making the coffee, to taking the photographs, to making a sales call, to designing your business flyer. You name it, and I've probably done it.

Along the way, one can acquire some pretty silly skills all in the pursuit of working with wood.
So imagine my delight when a reader of this blog wrote and shared a site with me that that's not particularly useful - but totally addicting.

This game t
ests your skills at eyeballing various geometric configurations.

Oh, don't go running away.... geometry can be fun.
As Matthias Wandel explains about his game - this tests your ability to see things or locate things. Like the center of a circle. Or if two lines are parallel. Or if lines are straight. It's very simple, and completely addicting.

The rest of his website
is great, too. It's full of plans, project pictures, woodshop photos, jigs and woodworking tricks... honestly, between all of the interesting things on his site, and the Eyeballing game, you'll lose a day's work. Maybe more.

Here's one of my games in progress. Note the "0" at the bottom, as the score on the convergence test. Zero is as good as it gets. Sweet.

Have fun!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Some serious grub for a working girl...

...no, not that kind of working girl.

I'm talking about this woodworker.

So the other day, I was out running errands, picking up some material from the lumberyard and dropping off some samples to a client, when I realized I was hungry.

No, more like starving.

I'm not much of a morning eater; I've never have had an appetite in the morning. A gallon of coffee and I'm good to go. So here it was, late afternoon and I hadn't eaten yet.

Now there are a ton of great restaurants and carry-out joints in Las Vegas, and I've blogged about them before. But I was in the mood for something different. Something new. Luckily, I keep a running list in my head of some places I need to try, so imagine my delight when I found myself on the side of town near POPS.

POPS stands for Pride of Philly Steaks, and I'm here to tell you, they fulfill their promise of the best Cheesesteak in town. And even better - they're open 24/7/365. Yup, that's right - you can get your grub on any time you'd like.

Their sandwiches are huge and authentic. Who else would put Cheeze Whiz on a sandwich and serve it with a straight face? If you're unfamiliar with a Cheesesteak, read this and you'll start salivating. I know I did.

So here's a hat tip to all the independently owned restaurants in town, putting out great food, with pride and skill. My family was in the restaurant business, and I know all about putting out a good product for a fair price, and earning your customer's loyalty.

OK, on a related note, I have to say that this website is one of the funniest and most bizarre sites that I've seen in a while. I check it almost daily, to see what I'm missing in life. I'm not a serious health nut, but even I realize that eating some of the stuff they feature is a sure recipe for a heart attack. Yikes.