Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Practice, Practice .. I see the light!

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but a reasonable fax simile.

One of the recent lessons in the Hand Tool School is making bench hooks. There was a practice lesson that leads up to it on flattening boards which I had dutifully completed on an off-cut of walnut. I had some trouble with plane tracks from my jointer, so I decided to do it again

After nicking off the corners on my jointer plane and a sharpening session on my jointer and smoother, I started by hollowing out the middle of that same walnut off-cut with the jointer and then proceeded with the flattening and then checking with the winding sticks. Thankfully, there were no plane tracks to deal with. Happy day!

Satisfied, I moved on to my smoothing plane and after a couple of trial passes, I had the blade carefully centred and was happily taking the thinnest of shavings.

3-4 passes later, I decided to double check the flatness and saw something I had never seen from hand planing or from sanding. I had been looking at a fairly low angle and lost it when I moved away.

Picking the board up again, I sighted down the board and I happened to have a bench dog in view just beyond the end of the board. Here is what I saw.

Yep, a reflection of the bench top and the dog in the face of the board. I'm guessing that people have seen this before, so I'm not going to compare it to the feeling one gets when they see the Mona Lisa in a cheese sandwich, but I was pretty impressed that one could attain this level of finish without actually even applying a finish!

So, while I may not always do the rough dimensioning by hand depending on timelines, I am a full on convert to finishing with a hand plane whenever possible. Just think of the possibilities on applying a film finish. French polishing requires a completely smooth surface. Even applying poly might take less coats with a surface prepped like this. Too bad this will become my sawing hook, ha!

Tell me about the revelations you've had in your woodworking journey. Let's discuss!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Practical vs Beauty

Not all things we make have to be beautiful. Sometimes we make jigs or appliances for the shop that are quick and dirty to get the task at hand done.

This was the case today. Not for the shop however but for inside my home. As many of you know, I have a daughter. She in fact just turned 8 months old this weekend and is one of the 2 reasons for my happy existence. This morning as we were in our routine before church and she logged almost 3 laps around the living room.Visions of guarding the stairs to prevent a headlong tumble filled my head.

The time has come to start putting up the safety gates.

My boss had some baby gates that were destined for the landfill and he had asked if i wanted them and I thought why not? They'll come in handy! They're wooden gates (yay!) that have hinges to swing them aside when not in use. The problem was how to mount them in the needed location. There are stairs coming down into the living room and right next to them are the stairs going down to the basement. A set of iron pickets and wooden railing separated the two flights (typical of homes built in the 70's). There was no place to mount the latch point to keep the gate closed.

Had I not been spending my free time woodworking these past 10 months, I probably would have been searching the local borg for another solution. Or else making such a hack job as to lower the value of neighboring houses.

Instead, I put my knowledge to use to make 2 sets of clamping blocks from some scrap cherry. 1 block of each set was quite plain, but the other required routing a rabbet on 2 opposing edges to prevent lateral movement. The 2 blocks would be fastened together between two bars with screws providing the clamping force (it is supposed to be temporary after all!). All edges were softened with my block plane to prevent any little fingers from getting 'owwies'.

Finally, they each received a bath in thinned bullseye shellac and set out to dry. A light sanding after about an hour and another coat wiped on this time. I love how quickly shellac dries! I was able to get both sets of clamping blocks built and installed with the gates in about 3 hours.

changed my mind. All things made from wood can be beautiful, even if they're not meant to be. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 Minutes

Today's post isn't about woodworking. Today is the day we set aside 2 minutes to remember our vets and our fallen brethren. I'd like to share something a little more that many have seen, but many more will not. A few years ago, my wife and I were on vacation and driving around the Cabot trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. We came upon a viewpoint that was breath taking.
There was a memorial stone. Only about 3' high with a bronze plaque on it. The inscription read:

They will never know the beauty of this place, 
see the seasons change, 
enjoy nature's chorus . 
All we enjoy we owe to them. 
Men and Women who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas.
Dedicated to the memory of Canadians who died overseas in the service of their country 
and so preserved our Heritage.
As you were.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sawbench - I cant blame my tools

So, this week was taking what we had learned the previous week from the Hand Tool School on hand sawing techniques and putting it into practice. Taking what is essentially a 5 board bench design and splitting the top in two along the length for a ripping slot.

This was a fun exercise because having a proper saw bench was on my list of needed shop tools. It's not much fun stooping over a recycling bin that wants to collapse from your weight bearing over the middle of the long edge. I attributed this for my issues with staying plumb all the way through my cuts. After all, who wants to admit a shortcoming in skill?

I won't go into the details of how it's built but what I will mention is what I wished I had done differently. The overall length is about 3' with the legs 6" in from the ends. I should have put the legs within 3" of the ends because ad I'm sawing, I find that I put my weight on the end at some point and the bench wants to tip like a see-saw. My only concession to power tools for this project was to use a drill to fasten the stretchers to the legs and pocket screws to fasten the top.

After finishing, I decided to do the practice exercises again. What a difference to have a stable surface! I'm able to cut to a line, but am still having problems with staying plumb all the way through the cut. I (being right handed) put my left knee up on the bench to hold down the work piece, and have a feeling that I am leaning too far out as the cut leans out (with the tip of the saw closer to the bench than the handle). It's not drastic and it starts out plumb but about 1/2 way through, it starts to lean out of square.

I guess it comes down to me and more practice.