Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Plane by Scott Meek Woodworks

I have had this plane for awhile, but have yet to publicly give major kudos to the man that made it.  When I first got the plane, I immediately broke it by hitting the wedge too hard to seat the blade and cracking the pin.  I was mortified and after calling Scott, so was he.  Even though it was clearly my fault, he offered to fix it or make me a new plane.  Mind you, this plane is not cheap and yes, I know many woodworkers who make their own wood body planes.  Here's where the value comes in.  I have quite a few metal bodies planes that function extremely well.  Some are vintage Bedrock, Stanley and Sargent planes, other are Veritas.  Why Veritas?  I've used Lie Nielsen planes at Woodworking in America and, while they are very sweet, I am much more impressed with the innovative approach that Lee Valley/Veritas take toward making planes.  They really just make them better than the old vintage planes.  Lie Nielsen are the cream of the crop for making beefed up replicas of the old planes, but they don't innovate, at least as far as I've seen.

What makes a Scott Meek Woodworks plane stand out?  Exceptional quality.  The plane arrived sharp.  While I couldn't bring myself to actually take Scott up on his offer to fix or make a new plane, I did manage to fix the break myself.  I drilled a small hole, used a very small C-clamp and dripped some epoxy in and let it set.  Luckily, when I went back to use it, the wedge still fit properly.  The ergonomics of this smoother is fantastic.  The design of the plane makes long sessions very comfortable and no matter what grain or wood I have tackled there is NO tear out.  I can barely see any gap at the mouth.  I've had the chance to use other wooden body planes, including Ron Hock's Krenov.  Not even close.  From what I've heard within the internet woodworking community, the others that have bought Scott's planes seem to feel the same.  I may make a plane at some point, but I don't really feel the pull to make any of my tools.  The money spent on this purchase was money very well spent.  Thanks, Scott!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Art Deco and Bent

At the end of my last post you can see the hot pipe bending set up I built.  My buddy, Ken, gave me some bed rails someone was getting rid of off a waterbed.  They're 1 inch plywood and are perfect for an application like this.  I built the bending rig for some upcoming light fixtures I'm planning on making for the house.  Two of the fixtures definitely will have curves.  I'm hoping to use some of my old growth Fir to make all these.  

Before I tackle a specific project I wanted to get some practice in.  I don't like to be too wasteful, so didn't want to bend just to bend.  So, I decided to see how many Christmas presents I could get out of the experience.  Ken had taken down a Russian Olive tree and noticed the ends of the logs were a deep chocolate color, so he dropped a couple firewood size logs off for me to cut up.  It's actually quite pretty.  It seems to continually darken, but is nowhere near as dark as the ends of the log were.

I quarter sawed the log to yield around 13 slats approximately 3/16th inch at the bandsaw.  I currently am running a 3/4" Laguna Resaw King on the saw.  It produced really nice resawn boards.  After cutting out a basic design from heavy craft paper, I transferred that to all the boards and started the rough shaping, again, at the bandsaw.  This time I switched to a 1/8 inch Timberwolf and changed out my regular Carter blade guides to the Carter guide for curve cutting.  It works really well and allows you to really ride the back of the blade when cutting a curve.  After soaking overnight, which I don't think is necessary, I started bending.  

I had a pattern on a piece of plywood I was trying to match.  I wasn't clamping any of the bends to help retain that specific shape, but I was trying to approximate it as close as possible by over bending to account for spring back.  I then let them dry completely.  Because of that, none of my spoons or "salad tongs" are exactly the same.  Each was finished shaped on the Rigid oscillating drum and spindle sander.  I had several of the original slats that weren't large enough for the pattern and a few more that I bent too fast or too much and split.  

Here is an example of a set.  

While I was waiting for the spoons to dry I also started up a project for my wife, Sylvia.  We have been using a Senseo coffee machine for a couple of years.  Unfortunately in the United States, Senseo has been eclipsed by the Kuerig.  It's the whole Beta-Max / VHS thing from my childhood.  Beta-Max was a superior platform, but VHS caught on first.  I personally don't like the Kuerig, because of all the plastic that ends up in land fills.  Also, it's not nearly as good a cup of coffee as the Senseo.  Anyway, to the point, we bought a little "5" cup (two of ours) cone style coffee maker.  Not as good a cup of coffee, but I'm not willing to deal with a plunger pot each day.  The following show the project from rough sketch to some full scale drawing to the finished piece.  
My tablesaw sled and the Grrripper push block were invaluable in cutting the little parts.  The faces are rabbited at angles to accept the end pieces.  Figuring out the compound angles was a challenge.  I don't have a trig calculator anymore.  I managed to find this site for a behind-the-scenes math solution.  
Although I can't say I'm a fan completely of every genre, I do like more elements of specific genres, Art Deco being one.  
I'm still debating adding little birch feet. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Facelift without the Kenny Rogers Look

As always, I underestimate everything.  I really wanted to not wait until I had a huge amount of information to report, but again find myself needing to write a rather long post.

The summer was, well, fantastic.  I got to go to my first hands on training with Seth Rolland, we entertained quite a bit, ate a lot of good barbecue, took some great hikes and I got to shoot a lot of "film".  It's still bizarre for me not to consider the medium film.  You'd think I'd be over it, since the digital age of photography has enamored me like the young Swedish maid that I've always tried to talk Sylvia into would.  Like wood working and design, photography will be a life long pursuit.  There's no way to get to a point that you've mastered the art.  You can always get better and I will continue to try.  You can check out my photography at or click on the little Flickr badge on the right of the blog. But, for now, the shop is back in focus and I'm excited to have everything mostly the way I want the shop organized to function well.  I'm what my doctor likes to call ADHD.  She says I'm not truly OCD because I fidget too much.  I have a "need" to have a place for everything and everything in its place.  I tend to come in and blankly stare at things when they get too "out of hand".  I do realize that my sense of what is out of hand varies greatly from the norm, but my little behavioral problem is actually something I embrace.  Most times our weakness is our strength and vice versa.

So, changes.  Let's see. I have a new heating and cooling system for the shop.  I put in a ductless heat pump (DHP).  Now that I have this unit for the shop and the DHP system I had installed in the house a couple years back, I'm thinking my 1000 gallon propane tank will last a good ten years once I get it filled again.  That's a lot of barbecues!! 

I took down eight feet of shelving to enable better vertical lumber storage.  For now, I have shorts on the remaining twelve feet of shelving, as well as assorted kitty litter bucket.  They're the new version of old five gallon buckets I used to collect.  Quite handy.
One thing I'd been waiting on was a proper outfeed table for the table saw.  I knew approximately what I wanted, but once I found out I was going to be able to take the bending course with Seth, I put it off until I got through that.  I couldn't easily build the table like I had studied and seen on Marc Spagnuolo's site, The Woodwhisperer because I really don't have anyone that is readily available to lift heavy objects.  To see how it is supposed to be done check out Marc's video.  This table is to be my outfeed/assembly/bending table.  Instead of the approach Marc takes, I started with a simple box as a base that was level and square.  I don't really need more storage, so did not opt for a set of base cabinets.  Once the box was in place, I put the box skins (plywood) down.  I drill pocket holes in all of the "ribs" to enable me to suck the bottom skin up to the ribs, which it seemed logical would be level, if set atop the level base.  Luckily, logic prevailed.  Here is an in progress shot of the build.  
After the ribs were set, I glued and brad nailed the sub-top to the ribs.  Through out the process I checked for flatness with a long piece of steel stock I have for just such occasions.  I have one corner that dips about 1/64", which bothers me, but not enough.  Next came the final, top layer which is only screwed down.  This layer is to be sacrificial, but I'm guessing it will be years before I need to address it.  The entire assembly sits about a 1/64" to 1/32" below the level of the table.  Oh yeah, I also replaced the off cut table for the saw with one of the exterior doors I still had.  The original was very cheap particle board.  The last things to do were to route out the miter slot extensions and install a shelf to house the veneer and bending equipment. 
I needed to run a new dust collection leg and needed some extra pipe and fittings, so now was a good time to rebuild my sliding compound miter station's dust collection, install a proper fence and finally get a table on the right of the saw.  The design for the dust hood originated from Mark Hochstein over at Gunpowder Woodworks.  He has a phenomenal shop and recently completed a very beautiful dining table.  You should definitely stop by and check it out.
This new hood is very effective and once I get the rubber/plastic strip curtain in place will work even better.  I increased the pipe diameter to 5" and being the first branch out of the cyclone, there is plenty of CFM.  The strip curtain will provide velocity and direct it wherever the saw penetrates the curtain.  Quite ingenious of Mark.
Adding another leg to my existing system was relatively easy, as I have a couple Ys I installed to facilitate expansion as I grew into the shop.  Here's a shot of the piping in the crawl space.  To all my energy and building associates: YES, I KNOW I'm supposed to have a vapor barrier down.  I'm in the desert and will get around to it one of these days.
After getting the pipe secured below, I got all my Ys, corners and blast gates install up top.  I also installed a boom arm to use on any tools that will require dust collection.

Since I'm getting ready to start designing some lamps I went out this weekend and got all the parts to make a hot pipe bending rig.  It will also come in handy to do small bends on scale models for future designs.

I told ya it was gonna be a long post!  The next thing I'll be adding is probably a proper router table.  I've been using a top and fence I made years ago that mounts on a couple saw horse.  I have the dust collection port in place for when I get around to that.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Icarus Landed on His Feet

A little update on the piece that was started as part of the bending class I took at The Port Townsend School of Woodworking.  I got home and found this in my email and thought I would share with all of you.  I wish I could get over to Bainbridge Island for the show!

Its finally done!  trimmed, sanded, with enough white stain to look like bone and some small walnut dowels as spacers.  If you want to see it in person, it will be part of my show at The Gallery on Bainbridge Island August 3rd to 27th.

I hope you are all having a great summer!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Tour of Tumblewood

Periodically I'm asked to do a video tour of the shop.  Today, I have it fairly clean, so here you go.  I hope you enjoy.  Feel free to ask any questions you may have on set-up, etc.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Butler Really DID Do It!!

In my previous post, I mention my friend Todd Butler and his wife, Elizabeth were at the wood bending class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.  He just posted a small bit on the class over at his blog, The Butler Did It.  He also links you to his Photoshop site where he has a ton of very detailed shots of the different procedures we studied in this weekend class.  It's definitely worth the time to look at all the shots.  He has captured a lot of details.  Good job, Todd!

Bending with Seth Rolland

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my first live woodworking class.  I belong to The Woodwhisperer Guild and Shannon Roger's The Hand Tool School and I've been to a few seminars, but this was two very full days at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking learning bending technique from Seth Rolland.  Seth is one of my favorite modern woodworking artists.  You can see some of his work at Seth Rolland Custom Furniture Design to understand why I was so excited to take this class.  In this post I will discuss the different methods we covered in the class.  There was a lot of information, so I will not go into great detail.  I encourage you to read all you can about bending and, if the opportunity arises to study with a professional, take it!

The school is located in beautiful Port Townsend, Washington where my brother spent time in the Coast Guard manning this lighthouse.

This was his view every day.

The town has a vibrant and very funky vibe.  Located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountain, it is lush, but only receives 18.75 inches of rainfall per year.  This was the view off the deck of the house we rented for several days.
On our first day of class some of us got to go the the local farmer's market, which although smaller than the local market here in Pasco, WA had much cooler fare to offer.  I had a Big Bob sandwich which had fresh salmon and egg among other things.  Delicious!  I also very much enjoyed that the town is extremely dog friendly.  Many people had their little and not so little buddies with them.

On the first day of the class we got the prerequisite safety talk, which is more a philosophy of mindfulness than anything else.  Because this class was focused on bending and only two days, Seth had all the material we would need for the two days already prepped and ready to go.  He did take us into the machine room to show us how he made regular and tapered laminate strips.  For any size that can be done on the tablesaw, he prefers to do them there, using a thin kerf blade.  For tapers, he will either use a sled that is equipped with toggle clamps to create the tapered laminate on the tablesaw or a simple sled that holds the laminate for use in a planer. I apologize that I didn't get photos of those particular items.  For laminates that are wider than the tablesaw's capacity, he suggests a bandsaw and a drum sander or planer using a sled to keep the thin strips from exploding as the force of the planer knives engage the work.

The first class session was bending laminates using forms.  I wish I'd had this class prior to building Gretchin's Cradle.  The form I built for the laminated legs was way too much material and going with a positive and negative form made the glue up much more difficult than it really needed to be.  Seth quickly shaped a half elliptical form in the machine shop, fared the curve and drilled some holes for clamping.  We then arranged the laminates according to the cabinet makers triangle Seth had placed on them earlier and got to rolling on the glue.  The other form was to show acute and concave bends, which take much more care to accomplish without blowout.

After lunch we got to tackle free form bending utilizing a vacuum press system.  This was a lot of fun!  We first stacked the laminates in the vacuum bag and drew a vacuum.  Then we moved the laminates into the form we wanted to create.  Once satisfied with the form, we had to create blocking to hold the form.  Then it was a matter of removing the laminates, applying glue, re-installing the laminates into the vacuum bag and getting everything back into position and clamped down.  That and a bit of clean up brought our first day to a close and we were off to have some beers and then some great Indian food with Tim Lawsen, the Executive Director of the school.

The second day of class we returned to the free form bend.  The vacuum bag was removed and we embarked on a complimentary free form bend using surgical tubing.  This is something I can't see myself ever doing on my own.  There is just too much going on for one person.  You need one or two people bending ahead while another feeds the tubing ahead of the person drawing it tight.  The results were still quite good.

While we were stretching tubing we had the steam generator going to heat the steam box.  Seth's generator was an old electric deep fryer with a trouble light dome caulked to the top.  It made copious amounts of steam, but chose this day to die.  After a bit of excitement with the local fire department we quickly got other steam boxes going.  A Twitterverse buddy of mine, Todd Butler (@Tbdi0629) had come to the class, along with his wife Elizabeth.  Together they run The Butler Did It Woodworks.  Todd had the Rockler steam generator and a PVC steam box with him.  Tim Lawsen had built the steam box outlined in the Veritas Steam-Bending Instruction Booklet.  We got those up and running and discovered that while the steam got to temperature in the PVC steam box, the box itself was dissipating, instead absorbing and holding the heat.  With a small modification, we connected Todd's steam generator to Seth's steam box.  Seth's steam box design seemed to do the best for holding heat and I liked that it was made to easily add sections for longer pieces.  The box is made from CDX plywood, has blocks on the bottom at angles to both support the bending pieces and allow for good steam movement.  All the edges are sealed with a heat resistant caulk and screwed together.  Simple weather stripping is used on the door and flanges to prevent too much steam escaping, although you need to allow some steam to escape, so that boards can be fully engulfed for even steaming.  Weep holes are place on the bottom to allow condensation to drain.

The basic principle of steam bending is that you are softening the natural occurring glue, called lignin, so the fibers of the wood can move past each other.  This shot of a failed bend shows the lignin between the fibers.
Once the lignin sets up again, minus a bit of spring back, you have a bend.  In this shot, you see we twisted a piece.

To do that we first bent the wood along one axis, then along the perpendicular axis to break all the lignin bonds.  Once done a clamp was affixed on the top and we twisted the piece.  You can see how the fiber slid past each other in this shot.

We also got instruction on hot pipe bending, which is used quite a bit in the luthier trade.  Be sure to not to use galvanized pipe, as the coating takes a long time to burn off and is not good for you.  You want the pipe hot enough to make drops of water dance, but not evaporate.
 Hotter than that and you'll too easily scorch your wood, cooler and it will take forever to relax the lignin.  In the following shots, you can see the set up of the propane torch and how high to set the flame.

Here are some shots from the class and a short, my apologies, poor video of us bending on the elliptical form.

While in Port Townsend I stopped at the local Rockler and picked up my steam generator.  I also have the basic bending hardware as well as the transition hardware on the way from Lee Valley Tools.  Soon I will finally build my outfeed/assembly/bending/router table on the back of the tablesaw.  I'll keep you posted, as always.

There was a in depth discussion on glues and why Seth uses the glue he does on laminates.  Urea Formaldehyde found in glue such as Unibond 800 and DAP Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue, which create a rigid glue bond, is classified as a carcinogen.  While there are some, like myself, who don't seem to be sensitive to formaldehyde, there are others, like my wife who are very sensitive to these type of environmental toxins.  A person's sensitivity can increase dramatically from prolonged exposure.  From discussions with Titebond, Seth had decided to primarily use Titebond II for glueing laminates.  If you do use a Urea Formaldehyde product in your shop, be sure to wear appropriate safety gear and try to limit your exposure time.  To learn more about Formaldehyde do some research.  Here are a couple links to articles I found: ;

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Twisted Timber and the Dogs - Fini

That would be a good name for a band!  Next up was the gap/stop.  The Split-Top Roubo has a few, what I consider, advantages over a solid slab top.  Mind you, this is from someone who is mostly knowledgeable from reading and a bit of doing.  The main and most advantageous aspect to building the split-top is being able to handle all the operations without help.  That's not to say help wouldn't make the job of flattening the top easier, but it is less convenient to have to schedule the help.  The other aspect is that the gap/stop can be flipped from the flush position to being proud of the top and acting as a stop for planing.    We'll have to see how much I really use that.  I tend to want to do the major stock removal, which is where one would employ the stop, at the machines.  I really believe the forefathers of woodworking would have gladly used machines to do the "menial" tasks.  But, then what would have happened to apprenticeships and how would that have impacted the future of woodworking?  Something to ponder.

I was getting my gap/stop from a twelve foot 2" x 12". After setting up the support at the bandsaw, I ripped the 2" x 12" in half.  I had to be careful feeding the board to avoid binding or stressing the blade.  

After ripping, I used my custom made winding sticks to evaluate the twist.
They're simply two pieces of 1" x 4" mdf.  One has an edge painted black with a Sharpie and the other is the factory white.  I have another piece about ten feet long that I use for setting up infeed and outfeed support.


I find if you use and place infeed and outfeed support correctly, it's not that hard to get the twist out of a board without loosing a lot of thickness.  

If you can have one of the supports at the crux of the twist you can begin the cut with the downward pressure at that point.  

I was a little off from the crux of the twist, but not too bad.  You can see the progress in these photos.

Once jointed, I set up and sent the board through the planer.  The entire process only wasted 3/8" of the thickness.  I went from           1 13/16" to 1 7/16".  
That left me enough to get the entire gap/stop from this half of the original 2" x 12".  I went back to the bandsaw and resawed the board and again ran the two halves through the planer.  I got to each being 5/8", which was perfect.  There was enough material to get the five center dividers from this board, too.  

This shot is from the next evening before I started working again.  The old growth Fir is dry through and through.  That has really been the joy in working with this old wood.  It just doesn't move.  

Here you can see what I find so special about old growth Fir.  This old tree experienced some good droughts in Eastern Oregon.  There is one section that had 4 growth rings within 1/16".  

To keep things aligned during the glue up, I used the method I'd seen David Marks use on DIY Woodworks.  For each divider, I tapped in two small brad nails and clipped them, so a nib was sticking up.  Before applying glue, I aligned and pressed the assembly together, so when I did apply the glue the pieces fit and stayed in place as I applied the clamps.

The final step in the build for me was to make the sliding dog hole and all the dogs.  The sliding dog hole was made the same way I made the other dog holes.  After gluing up the board, it was simple to cut and fit to the Benchcrafted vise hardware on the bandsaw.  

This seemed to be as good a time as any to go ahead and do the final flattening on the top.  The finish I'd already applied made it easy to see my progress.
After creating a bunch of shavings, I had a dead-flat top.  I took six passes diagonally and six more with the grain.  I didn't worry about tearout, and there are still some planing marks, but it is flat.  
I'm really happy that I installed the floor sweep on this side of the shop.  Most of the mess I make on this side will always be able to be swept without putting dust into the air. 

The process I used to "mass produce" dogs was first milling some stock to be close, but a little oversized for the holes in the bench.  I ripped the stock first at the band saw, jointed, edged and thicknessed at the jointer and planer, then crosscut to length with the tablesaw sled.  

A stop block on the bandsaw stopped the long cut on the dogs and the little "chin" was cut using a square piece of plywood for a guide.

I had some of the dog stock left and ripped some strips at the bandsaw.  I only needed one side to be smooth for gluing, so I left the other side rough, figuring it would help keep the dogs in place.  I cut the spring pieces to length with my 2" chisel and also put the inaugural chisel marks in the top at the same time.  By clamping the dogs in the vise at an angle, it was extremely quick to put the angle at the bottom of the dog where the spring would be glued and screwed to the dog.  A one man assembly line later and the dogs were done.
 And THAT, my friends, concludes my participation in The Woodwhisperer Guild's Roubo Bench Build.  This was, as always, more time consuming than I originally thought.  I'm still getting the processes of building more efficient within my shop.  This build changed the location of my bandsaw and opened up some other idea for changes.  I'll get into those when I make a firm decision.  

This is the completed bench:
 And this is me actually using the bench to build my Br'all.  A full tutorial can be found on my friend, Chris Wong's website Flair Woodworks.  After all, EVERYONE needs a Br'all!
 The beautiful wooden plane pictured is made by my buddy Scott Meek.  He's a very talented plane maker.  This smoother is heaven to use.  Be sure to support your boutique tool makers.

If after following this blog for the last few months, you're still jonesing for more of that bench building fever, check out these other fine people doing their versions of a woodworking bench.  If I've missed anyone, my apologies.  Contact me and I can add your site to this list.

And, of course, you can sign up for The Woodwhisperer Guild and learn from Marc Spagnuolo.  Marc is taking the Guild through the building of this lifetime woodworking bench.  With his usual easy delivery and thorough understanding of the process, he makes this very large project easy enough for the beginner, who has a very basic tool selection.  

I hope you have enjoyed the building process.  Woodworking is what I want to do until I die. It is what gives me peace and is my passion.  If you think you may be interested in woodworking, contact me and I will try to get you pointed to a resource near you and/or online.  Thanks for taking the journey!