Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another 50 minute masterpiece!

One of my most favorite tools in the shop is the 

Veritas Journeyman's Brass Mallet, from Lee Valley. Damn, I love their tools.  

So when the handle broke (for the third time!) - I had to take an hour out of the day to make a new one. It didn't take much prodding - playing on the lathe is always a nice diversion.

 I found a piece of very straight grained oak - perfect for a handle.

 I prepped it for mounting it on the lathe, 

and then turned it down to a comfortable size. 

I used a small scrap of baltic birch plywood so that I wouldn't hit the chuck with my lathe tools. 

Every now and then, I'd test the size by gripping it - I didn't want it too big for my (small) hands.

Eventually, the size and shape was perfect - I made it a bit longer than the original handle.

That one alway seemed a little short to me!

A little shellac and wax, and then it was ready to mount to the mallet head. 

The small tenon on the end came off with a chisel and a bit of sanding.

 And here it is - another 50 minute masterpiece! There are times when these little projects are just what I need - quick and easy diversions to the bigger pieces I build. Plus - they're much easier on my back!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Working with a Maneater

The school has been so busy lately, that I'm running out of bench space. Right now, the benches are 60" square, but some students come in to work and take up a whole bench, when really - the benches are designed to be shared by two people.  So I'm making smaller benches, sort of using this design as a guide. 

I found this online - I have NO idea where I found it, but I like it. (Note to self: bookmark sites you like!) It's just simple and sturdy and straightforward. I like that. (If this bench/image belongs to you - I'm sorry I can't give you credit for it! Contact me and I'll be happy to place a link to your site here!)

So - I'm making a prototype of a workbench that I want to use at my shop. The work is going smoothly, although I did make a couple of (fixable) errors. That's what prototypes are for, right?

I'm getting ready to do the last bit of shaping and routing, before I assemble the two sides - and it's time to pull out the router and round over some edges.

Remember that old Hall and Oates song - Mateater? 

 That's how I feel when using this router bit. It's a 3/4" round over bit, perfect for making large round overs on sharp corners. I don't use it often, but when I pull it out and throw it in the collet, I know things are going to get dicey!  It's a wood eater!

Over the years, I damaged more than a few corners using this bit. It's so easy for the bit to grab into your wood, cutting an area of wood that you hadn't intended to round over.  So - here's a tip - clamp some scrap on either side of the wood you intend to rout. Just make sure the clamp isn't in the way of the router base.

The scrap wood gives you a broader area on which to rest the router base, and it reduces the chance of an errant cut, 

leaving you with crisp, rounded edges. 

OK, back to work for me!... hope you're having a productive day in your woodshop. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

OCD Woodworking: Measure seven times, cut once..

This beast of a gorgeous kitchen island is nearly finished - and it's amazing! All that is left to build is the shelf below; it will eventually hold some storage baskets. 

I saved a couple of gorgeous wide boards for the shelf slats, and since this piece is going to be stained to look like weathered driftwood, I decided to give the shelf the appearance of an ocean pier, with some spacing between each slat. Also - I didn't want dust and schmutz building up over time in the corners of the shelf. So the gaps allow the dust to fall through to the floor, easily vacuumed when cleaning house. 

I cut the shelves to size, and then notched the corners to hug the legs. Notice that template I made - it helped me work out the right sized gap before cutting my actual wood - I've learned that lesson before! 

My latest mantra has become - measure seven times, cut once. 

These Lee Valley's set-up blocks really make it easy for deciding upon the right sized gap.

 Here is the shelf in place. I left it unattached, so that staining would be easier.

This client wanted to give this island an appearance of driftwood, with an aged effect. So I distressed the piece a bit - which is always fun for relieving a little aggression! I simply took some various tools and beat up the piece - simulating wear and tear. It actually feels a little odd to break the edges you just spent time so carefully sanding! 

It's always tough when you deviate from the finishes that one normally uses - but I experimented with two different finishes - ones that I'd never used before. 

They chose the silver-grey two part stain, which gave me about six hours of working time. 

It was hot and humid when I applied it, and it was drying more quickly than I had hoped - so I had to work my way around this piece at a very fast clip. 

Luckily - by the time I had made the 360˚ loop around it - I'd gotten the application evenly applied and blended. 

It's so easy to get spoiled by using Danish Oil - which is incredibly easy to apply. Slap it on, wipe it off. Not so much with this stuff. I will probably find splotches of silver stain on my arms and legs for the next week or so! 

I re-attached the Baltic Birch plywood top that will eventually have granite placed upon it - and stood back to admire the piece.  

With a little luck and a lot of muscle, this piece will makes its way home soon. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I have to make a version of this....

If you've read this blog for a while, you know I'd do just about anything for my girl Stella. 

She's loyal and funny and sort of smart. Kind of Aspergers smart, and I mean that in a loving way. She once got lost in a walk-in closet. But she can remember where she left her favorite rock in the yard, a week after she put it there. 

Here she is after a long play-session - she's unapologetically enthusiastic about playing, 

and she's the best four legged companion I've ever had. 

And she laughs more than anyone I know! 

When it's time to eat, she gives me this look:

She eats her meals in about 3.6 seconds flat, so when I saw this video, I knew what I had to do. 

Stay tuned - I'm totally making one of these for her!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jimmy Clewes at my shop!

A few years ago, my friend Ann and I decided to enroll in a lathe class with Jimmy Clewes.  You remember Ann - we've done some fun things together - like going to the Star Trek convention here in town. 

She'd been wanting to learn to use the lathe, and I needed to brush up on my skills, so we took a two day class with Jimmy.  If you're not familiar with Jimmy - let me just say that he's probably one of the best wood turners on the planet. He travels the world giving demonstrations, classes and lectures, and his work is some of the most creative turnings you'll see. 

On top of that -  he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. So I'm thrilled to announce that he's coming to my shop this coming Wednesday, July 16, for demonstration at this month's Sin City Woodworkers meeting. I've been trying to get him to do a demo at my shop for years! 

When I attended Jimmy's class, I made this beautiful bowl on the first day. It's made of Ash, and we used various aniline dyes to create the gorgeous colors on the rim.  

But the project on the second day was spectacular. I started with this base, leaving the corners square. If you're not careful -  those corners can smack your knuckles while you're turning it. (I left his shop with more than a couple of bruises!)

 Then I made the small lid 

and wound up with this.

 This piece was spectacular, if I do say so myself! 

In fact - when I brought this piece to my shop, the very first person who saw it bought it from me. It never even made it to my house! I don't consider myself a wood turner at all - I just fool around with it from time to time, because it's fun. But I swear - taking a class from Jimmy will jump start your lathe skills beyond your wildest imagination.

 If you're free this Wednesday - stop by the school and watch Jimmy do his magic. You won't regret it. The meeting starts at 7:00, and I'd recommend that you bring a chair - the shop is going to be packed!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What Do Tree Rings Sound Like When Played Like A Record?

This is just crazy! 

Ever wonder what wood would sound like, if you could play the annual growth rings within a log? Someone actually turned a log section into a playable "album" - here's the result. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Building something BIG

My last post was about building something BIG - but this video below dwarfs all projects!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Weaklings need not apply

There's no rest for the weary - so I'm on to the next project. My back hurts just looking at this initial sketch of it - with its beefy legs and huge components. 

I've turned my iPhone into a "time clock" so that I can keep track of my hours... in this case, I started this project on May 11. Damn, I love technology! 

Because the legs were so beefy, I knew I'd have a hard time trimming the ends flush after they were laminated. Even my 14" radial arm saw couldn't cut through this in one pass!

So these legs were glued together at their exact length - no trimming necessary.

Once they were squared up on the jointer, I determined the length of the aprons and stretchers connects them together. 

And then the fun began!  

I bought a Domino XL just for building this piece - but after using it just once - I know I'll get a lot of mileage out of this tool. The floating tenons are massive - and inserting two of them into each apron gives this kitchen island more than enough strength. 

Laying out and cutting all of these joints took about two hours - saving me an incredible amount of time and labor. Had I cut mortise and tenon joints - my time would've been quadrupled. In fact, I might still be standing at the mortiser, instead of writing this blogpost!

I did a little rough assembly to make sure everything fit together - it was spot on. 

Thanks, Festool! 

Here are the sides are assembled independently - they're unbelievably heavy, and I was already starting to sweat over the thought of the final assembly. But my buddy John pulled through for me - I texted him at the last minute and asked if he could lend me a hand. He was at my shop within 20 minutes, and we clamped and grunted and coaxed this piece together. Trust me– this was not a job for weaklings! 

(Thanks John - I owe you!)

Unlike my last commission - this piece should be a breeze to finish. I'm going to add a half-shelf underneath, and distress the wood, so it looks weathered. 

After that– all that's needed is some stain and plywood top - so that a gorgeous piece of granite can be dropped over the top of this. I sure as hell hope they don't have to move this thing once it's finished - I can't even begin to guess the weight! 

I should probably just break down and buy stock in the company that manufactures Advil - it's becoming a daily necessity!