Saturday, September 29, 2018

Boys and their toys...

Here is a quick follow-up on that massively thick table top that I made last week. As requested,  the top was a ridiculous three inch thickness, and weighed 65 pounds. 

A little overkill, but hey - if a customer requests it, I build it. 

After finding the center and laying out a circle, I mounted the legs. 

Jeez, if you thought the table top was big, these legs make that look tiny in comparison. Made of 3/8 inch plate steel, each leg weighed 24 pounds. They slante out at 10 degrees, and the top bolts were countersunk, so that the top was flat. 

And ready for weaponry! 

BTW, that curved cut-out in the corner is where the shooter sits. 

 This table was so heavy, we had to disassemble it to get it home, but that is when the fun began!  Here is the weapon as it is supposed to sit - propped up with a sandbag in front, and   whatever-the-thing-is in back. 

Can you tell I am not a shooter?

 This table is making one marksman in town a very happy fellow tonight, 

and I am just happy I don't have to move this table around anymore!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Veritas Beam Compass... what a gem to own!

Before last week, I'd never heard of a shooting table. But when a customer requested a beefy one, and I read a little more about it, I took on the job of making one from solid Baltic Birch plywood. Three solid inches of plywood! 

This thing is a beast!

After making the blank, I needed to mount some custom made metal legs - speaking of beasts, these legs weigh 25 pounds a piece, and are welded from 1/2" steel stock. 


We used three legs instead of four, so that the table would sit without rocking wherever it might be placed. For stability, I needed to mount the legs equidistantly from the center, so my next step was to draw a large circle on the plywood top. Finding the center was easy - draw lines from corner to corner and their intersection is the middle. While I was at at it, I drew some lines at 120˚ intervals, making the position of each leg.

Last step? Draw a big circle using that counterpoint. But since it was pretty large, and the compasses around the shop were much smaller, I needed a device for drawing larger circle.... hmmm.....

Enter my Veritas Beam compass. 

To be truthful, this hangs on a peg most of the year, but when I need it - there's no better way of drawing circles. 

 It consists of four parts,  

and once they're attached to a long 3/4" piece of scrap wood,

 you have a large compass at your disposal. 

 Put the pin end in the counterpoint, and move the other end to the radius that you want. 

It's the most low tech, yet effective system there is! 

I'll tell you this - I don't use it often, but there's NO better way to draw large circles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Woodworking can change the world... a high school shop class made urns for the ashes of unclaimed veterans.

Remember that old Crosby, Stills and Nash song... we can change the world? 

Here's a link to sing along, and I'll warn you - once this song gets in your head, it might stay there all day. 

The lyrics seem more fitting than ever.  

I was reminded of that song when I read this terrific article about a high school shop class that made urns for the ashes of unclaimed veterans. Bravo to that shop teacher!

It's a great idea, you can read about it here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

RIP Beth Wheeler

The woodworking community here in Las Vegas lost a valued and talented member this week. Beth Wheeler passed away in her sleep early Thursday morning after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. 

There wasn't a more prolific woodworker in our group than Beth; these pictures prove that! 

She was a force in this world - not just in the wood shop but as a very successful entrepreneur, too. Whip smart, with a nearly photographic mind - Beth had the amazing ability to devour woodworking articles and almost instantly master whatever she attempted. As I told her many times - she was one of the most talented students who ever worked in my shop. (I can count on one hand how many people are in this category.) She purposely tackled techniques that stretched her talents, and employed them into projects chosen for their difficulty. 

Life isn’t fair, and Beth’s passing should be a reminder to us all about embracing challenges and enjoying the journey. I’ll miss her enthusiasm for hand tool work, and for her monthly show and tell projects - from difficult chairs and stools, to simple fun pieces for her grandchildren. Although her woodworking career was brief, it was rich with variety and personal goals - all of which she met head-on.

RIP Beth, our world here burns a little less brightly with your absence. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sand-Thru sticks - where have you been all of my life!?

Can I go off a bit about staining wood?

When my customers request something made in darker wood tones, I usually suggest that we use dark wood from the start. Staining lighter woods can be a huge challenge, both in the way in which wood accepts color, and later in the process, when wood can be damaged.

If we start with darker woods, it's easier to apply a clear finish, like Danish Oil. In fact, that's why we use clear Danish Oil on just about everything that we build in my shop.  

I've seen more projects ruined by a poor finish than just about any other problem out there.  

Someone can build a perfect piece - with excellent design and proportion, perfect joinery, excellent sanding....  but if a bad finish is applied, the overall impression of the piece is often ruined. 

So... staining is my pet peeve.

 Now, don't get me wrong - I stain a fair amount of work, but a huge complaint is that when wood that is stained gets dinged or chipped, the resulting blemish exposes the lighter wood underneath, and it looks horrible. 

Either way, it's a lose/lose situation. 

I recently built a giant thermometer for a church - you know those thermometers that keep track of fund raising efforts?  

Sure, you can buy a wall poster to hang up, and keep track of your progress that way. But this church wanted one that they could use over and over, and commissioned me to design a nice one. 

To keep some costs down, we decided upon a stained outer frame. Over the course of  building it, I had to stain the wood, which caused the grain to raise a bit. I usually use a soft sanding block with 400 grit sandpaper on it, to knock down the roughness, but when I did that, I accidentally exposed some of the lighter wood underneath.  

(On darker woods, that wouldn't have occurred.) 

It's really hard to touch up those areas, because you don't have a ton of control where the stain flows. 

It's easy to darken the surrounding areas when you're trying to just touch up the lighter ones. You can chase your tail all afternoon doing this!... trust me, I've been there.

Then I found a game-changer. 

I stopped by my local Mohawk dealer, to pick up some finishing supplies and asked if they had any suggestions for touching up small stain defects, and lo-and-behold, they led me to this...

Who knew?! These sticks are nothing short of a lifesaver to me, and I can't believe I had never heard of them before. In fact, I bought a variety of them to keep in stock, for future problems. 

It's nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve when problems arise in the woodshop!