Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Innovative Way to Carry Lumber in a Car

A friend of mine sent this amusing link that was posted on the Fine Woodworking website.

Trust me, before I owned a cargo van and a truck, I had to resort to some innovative methods for transporting material!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Waterfall glazes

A few people have written asking if I'm making any tile these days. I used to blog about my tile escapades fairly frequently, but it's been a while since I posted anything about that. But the truth is - lately, I've been working on more tile work than woodwork!

The Waterfall Brown glaze featured in the book Mastering Cone Six Glazes has been an obsession of mine for a few years. But lately, the different blue variations of this glaze that I developed have been cranky with me. They've become somewhat difficult to work with - producing pinholes and blisters. And a major headache for me.

Since I developed so many different colors of this glaze, I went back to square one and decided to work with the glazes that produce consistent, gorgeous results. Here's a current favorite - Waterfall Teal. Since cobalt can often result in some glaze problems, I decided to go back to a glaze that doesn't contain any cobalt.

Here are some leaves that were fired a couple of days ago, using that teal glaze.

By slow cooling the kiln, you can get some wonderful crystal formations, like the ones shown below.

And when the glaze is applied a little thicker, the color is more vivid and interesting.

It doesn't matter whether you're talking about wood or clay, if you have consistency in your work, you can start getting good results.

I've learned this - the secret to working productively is to take good notes and learn from the good things you produce. You're better off chasing good things, than spending a lot of energy chasing the bad ones.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Adjust Your Miter Gauge

In the last post, I showed how the Wixey digital cube has revolutionized setting up a tablesaw. Getting your blade perfectly plumb with the table is often a problem in the woodshop, but that device lets you see the exact angle of the blade.

But here's another device that might be even more helpful - a digital protractor. These come in different lengths, the one shown here is a 12" model. This particular model is sold in 4", 8' and 12" lengths, but I felt that the longest one would be most accurate for the type of work I do. If you make smaller things, the 4" might work fine for you.

Start by placing it down on the table, next to the blade. You want it right up against the blade, with no gaps.

Then turn it on, and zero it out, so it reads 0.0.

Now swing the other leg of the protractor down, against your miter gauge fence. You've attached a wooden fence to your miter gauge, right?

If your miter gauge is adjusted correctly, it should read 90.0. You can see that mine is off just a little. But that "little" will mean that nothing I cut will be perfectly square.

Loosen the knob on the miter gauge, and re-adjust it until it reads a perfect 90˚. Once you get it adjusted, re-tighten the knob.

That's all there is to it! It couldn't be simpler, and it is VERY accurate. Now there is no excuse for bad miter joints.

I bought my two digital devices here, but they're available at most woodworking supply retailers. Shop around, there are some deals out there.

Now if don't want to buy a device like this, you can certainly use a large framing square to adjust your miter gauge. I did it that way for years. But the truth is - even with a good square, it's easy to be off just a little bit. This digital protractor was only about $45 - it might be the best money I've spent on tools in a very long time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wixey Digital Angle Gauge

A gentleman who recently took my Basic Woodworking class told me about the Wixey digital angle gauge, which he had just purchased. I wasn't familiar with it, so he brought it in to show me how it worked. It didn't take me long to understand the importance of this device, so I bought one immediately.

This thing is amazing!

I put it down on my tablesaw, and zeroed it out, so it read absolute 0.

There are three magnets on the bottom of it, so I cranked my blade up all the way and attached the Wixey to it. Here you can see, it's reading 90 degrees,

which means my blade is perfectly adjusted. Since the cube is accurate to a tenth of a degree, you can micro adjust your blade to whatever angle you desire. I don't care how careful you are with a square, you'll never get the sort of accuracy like you get with this jewel.

Next stop - my jointer. Here, I placed the Wixey on the table, and zeroed it out again.

The I flipped it over to the fence, and checked the squareness of it, in relationship to the table. Ninety degrees, baby... that's what I'm talking about.

There are a lot of places that sell the Wixey, but I bought my Wixey here, and got a great deal.

On top of that, I bought a digital protractor, which works much the same way. It's perfect for adjusting my miter gauge. I'll try to get some photos of that, too. Stay tuned!.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


You've heard of Mega-millions, or MegaDeath, or Mega Man, but have you ever seen a Mega snowman? My mom sent me this photo, taken from her neighborhood in Ohio. It's a little tough to tell how big this snowman is, but it's larger than a car.

Whoever built this even wrapped some lights around the carrot nose, so it would be illuminated at night. Imagine how cold it must have been when they were building this!

Well, maybe I don't want to imagine how cold it was.... to all my friends and family back east, please stay safe and warm.

I'll be back to blogging about woodworking shortly, but classes are starting up this week and I've been busy preparing for them. I'm working on a video tour of the woodworking school, so stay tuned!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Set design (gone bad)

If you poke around through some of the books in my office bookcase, you'll see more than a few on theater set design.

I've always had an interest in building sets - I love the way they compress life into a flat canvas, and everything is fake, yet seems real. In fact, I was just reading another woodworking blog and the blogger mentioned that when she watches TV, she finds herself paying more attention to the furniture and the set, than the actors and the plot.

I get it. I do that too.

Which leads me to this video...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cleaning up the shop

Classes don't start until next week, but I've been doing a good deal of maintenance and cleaning of the school during this break. I've even rearranged some tools, for a better work flow. Every woodworker I know does that fairly often, until they get that "perfect" set-up.

So today was "clean out the tablesaw cabinet" day, which I always dislike. There's something about being on your hands and knees, with your head in a box full of sawdust, that just bugs me. The bad news is - as soon as I cleaned it out, I remembered that I had to rip a buttload of wood down. So I should have waited.

I also tweaked the dust collector system, checking each joint for air leaks, and tightened all the clamps. How do those work themselves loose? I know I have a woodshop ghost, but surely that can't be something she's interested in.... right?

Next up - filling all the glue bottles. Those five gallon buckets of Titebond are a PITA to pour from - they're heavy and hard to handle, and every now and then, they "burp" out a huge glug of glue. Usually it end up all over my hands and the bottles I'm filling.

The easiest way to pour glue from one of those buckets is to lay it on it's side, with the spigot on top, and verrrrry slowly rotate the bucket, so that the glue can pour in a controlled manner. Well, that's the plan, at least.

I use two kinds of glue - dark wood glue, when joining darker woods, like Walnut or Cherry.

And regular yellow glue when working with... you guessed it, lighter woods.

That way, if you don't have a nice, straight edge on your boards, at least you won't see a visible glue line.

I got a little tired of holding the big bucket, so I gambled and let it drain on it's own.

Luckily, I remembered to go back and check on this, just as that bottle on the floor was filling up to the top.

Here's a tip for anyone who buys glue in gallons, and needs some smaller glue bottles to hold the glue. Go to a restaurant supply store, where they sell plastic bottles in a variety of sizes - cups, pints, quarts - you name it. They're extremely inexpensive at these stores. I just bought some nice quart bottles for 55¢ a piece. Can't beat that!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Mechanical Movements in wood

A woman who recently took a class with me told me about a group of artists who make contemporary automata. They call themselves the Cabaret Mechanical Theater, and if you've never seen what they do, you're in for a treat.

Seeing all these mechanical devices reminded me of a couple of bottle stoppers I'd gotten from my grandmother's home when she passed away. A little research shows these came from Italy, made by a company founded by
Anton Riffeser. In 1926, he started a company called the House of ANRI, which were the first two initials of his first and last name.

Here's the first stopper, which features a couple puckered up and ready to kiss. (Is it just me, or does this look like two men?)

There's a small lever on the back, which controls their heads.

Push the lever down and their heads swivel around, where they meet in a kiss.

The other stopper I have is the drinking man. When he's resting, he's got a bottle of booze in one hand, and a glass in the other.

Rotate the knob and he leans over to pour himself another round.

Rotate it in the other direction, and he drains the glass.

Both of the corks have long since broken off of these stoppers. Still, they're a highly sought after collectible. Here is a little more info on them.

There is even a cool book about the ANRI woodcarvings.