Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bevel Up or Down?

At Woodworking in America this year, Graham Blackburn was a last minute addition to the seminar lists as David Charlesworth was not able to attend due to pneumonia. Ouch!

Well, I had the pleasure of attending two classes on plane craft by Graham and the one thing I came away with on the second seminar was:

"If you plane is properly setup, you should be able to take it to any piece of wood in any direction and get zero tearout"

I thought, "Come on! Not possible! No way!"

He said the secret (which is really no secret, only a lesson that needs passing on to those of us learning on our own), is to:
  1. Keep the mouth of the plane open only as wide as the thickness of shaving you want to produce; and
  2. Keep your Cap Iron as close to the cutting edge as the thickness of shaving you want to take.
So, what about bevel up planes I asked. He said at the end of the class that in order to take a plane to any piece of wood in any direction with no tearout, you have to have a cap iron. I was starting to despair that my investment into bevel up Veritas planes was for naught.

Well, I decided to write it off as fanatical dogma. You know, sort of like saying that pins first is the ONLY way to get tight fitting dovetail joints (just ask Tom Iovino and his experience at the Hand Tool Olympics).

Well, when I got home, I decided to give it a try as it had been bugging me for a couple of weeks now and I finally got an opportunity to put it to the test.

I set up my bevel up smoother to take a really fine shaving and closed up the mouth as tight as possible and set out to work on a piece of curly maple. I then did the same with a bevel down smoother.

To my surprise, I was able to get a very clean surface with both planes. It may be that there may be a more gnarly wood out there that will really prove Graham's statement to be true, but I'll have to wait to find that piece of wood another time.

So, bevel up fans, do not despair. At least from a smoothing point of view anyway. I'll be testing this theory in other configurations, but that will be for another post. Thanks Graham, you've helped me grow in my skill level and although I may dispute your statement on the cap iron, it made me think and that's a trait of any great teacher.

WIA Day 2

Okay, I'm late with this post. So sue me :) Actually, please don't.

One thing I'll mention for the class setups is that after the first day taking 4x 2hour classes, at the end of the day my brain was fried! Okay, maybe it was the 1 litre beers and the mental image of Tom Iovino (and others) dancing on the benches of the Hoffbrau House the night before. I think it would be better to spread out the learning over the 3 days. But that's my style.

The returning 2010 bloggers
I actually ended up only going to 1 class and I found it hard to focus. Instead, I spent a good deal of time in the marketplace (socializing and buying stuff) and at the Hand Tool Olympics (socializing and competing). What a great time! This has been what going to WIA has been all about for me. Without WIA, you could go an entire lifetime without meeting the other personalities that you read from day to day on your reader.

So, my priorities at 2011 WIA? Meeting the other personalities, then the marketplace, then the classes.

If the subject matter held in the classes were different, I might have put them higher on the list, and that might happen again next year anyway depending on the classes offered and if I can reign in my impulse to buy stuff!

That evening was filled with friendships, good food, and lots of alcohol. I admit, I probably went a little overboard myself even and I spent the next morning sitting on the hotel patio drinking gatorade. Ouch.

So to Popular Woodworking, thanks for putting on a great show and hope to see everyone again next year!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

WIA 2011 Arrival & day 1

I'm back!

So, where have I been? Sure it's been a while, life gets that way sometimes. I'll bore you with the details another time.

But it's the end of summer and that means it's time for Popular Woodworking Magazine's annual hand-tool enthusiast's convention Woodworking in America down in Covington KY.
Graham Blackburn "Handplanes for Joinery"

I heard about this event last year too late to be able to arrange to go and negotiated a weekend pass with my family to attend this year. Sweet!

Car pooling down with Ian and Adam took about 10 hours and it was a very entertaining ride. Arriving in KY around 5 pm yesterday, we almost immediately started running into all of the other internet personalities whom I never knew I'd really ever meet. Kari Hultman, Tom Iovino, Scott Morton, Rob Bois, Wilbur Pan and Aaron Marshall just to name a few.

That evening, I found out about a challenge that had been issued to all bloggers to put their money where there blogs were and participate in the Hand Tool Olympics in team format. I found myself partneted with Wilbur and Aaron (mentioned above).

After a good night's rest (I left the bar around 11), a day filled with seminars began. I found myself taking Graham Blackburn's classes on hand planes and their uses in joinery and how and how any plane should be usable on any piece of wood in any direction. He then demonstrated using a smoother on a beautiful piece of curly maple. Simply amazing. I also took my turn at the Olympics and it was great fun. I also managed to capture Kari and Emily (one of the Olympic facilitators) on video using the frame saw to cut what looked like a 10x10 beam. I'll post that one as soon as I can :)
Wilbur Pan cutting his tenon in the Hand Tool Olympics
The evening found a few of us at the Hoffbrau house which is a German themes brewhouse pub with a live polka band. Yes, a polka band. The upside was it wasn't hard to get in the spirit with 1 *liter drafts*!
Bois and Tom chatting over 1 L beers
Lively discussion at the Hoffbrau House (Steve - Aka Torch, Aaron Marshall and Kyle)
There's a reason I'm focusing more on the people. It's the real reason WIA is so successful. Sure, the seminars and marketplace are great, but without the opportunity to meet the people you have associated with, but have never actually met is simply amazing.

Tomorrow looks to be just as fun, I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh, if you are blogging about WIA, send me a link and I'll make a central post to all blogs featuring WIA posts at the end of next week. You can reach me on Twitter via dm.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Turn, turn, turn

Last couple weeks have been pretty busy. Seeing as I would have had nothing to write about, I decided to spend the time in the shop and try out some turning.

I picked up Richard Raffan's book "Turning Wood" over the week after Christmas and decided to start small. Pens and spinning tops. This of course required a quick trip to my mecca (Lee Valley) and I picked up the mandrel and 5 slimline pen kits.

Overall I found the pen turning process to be a great way to start. You can turn at a fairly high speed because your blanks are small and you have the bushings as a guide for your finish thickness at the ends. Just be careful not to cut too deep in the middle (or risk revealing the brass)! I was fortunate and avoided that mistake. The pens were turned from birch, purpleheart and ash. Nothing fancy really. The tops were turned from construction grade 2x4s and are about 1.5" tall.

Not being satisfied, I stared looking for something more challenging. A bowl. I didn't have any blocks big enough to make one. Nor did I know of any tree cutting going on to try green wood turning. Finally, I didn't want to buy a blank for my first try. They tend to be expensive mistakes if you screw it up. So that left me with a segmented vessel. If you're interested in learning more about the process and learning more about turning in general, go to Wood Turning Online. They have a great section of projects from beginner to advanced.

I chose to make a 6 sided bowl to minimize the number of pieces I would have to cut and glue up. Total, it was 18 pieces plus the base which was solid. Wood selection was walnut and maple. Yes, I've made a number of projects from these 2 woods, but that's what I have in surplus. I chose the following to make my bowl:
  • For the base, I chose a piece of walnut that had some cool grain that I also hoped would have some glimmer when finished.I cut it to 5" in diameter;
  • For the first ring, I chose maple for the large segments and cut a strip 2 1/4" wide, then into wedge shaped segments on the mitre saw with 30 degree angles on each side. I opted for 3/8" walnut spacers for in between the maple segments. These had to be cut cross grain so that the I wouldn't be creating opposing grain movements which would cause the bowl to split in the future.
  • The top ring was chosen to be walnut again with straight grain to make up the rim. 6 segments again at 2 1/4" wide by 4 1/2" long. 
  • All pieces were 3/4" thick
Gluing up the segments for the top ring was a piece of cake. Gluing 2 wedges at a time and rubbing them together until suction took over and then place on a flat surface covered with wax paper then adding a 3rd segment to get half the ring. The next day would involve flattening the edges of the ring halves to ensure gap free mating.

The middle ring on the other hand presented some problems that caused me to have to go back to the drawing board. Titebond glue has a water component to it. After applying it to a wedge of maple and then to the 3/8" walnut spacer seemed to be okay. But the moisture absorbed into the fibers and caused the spacer to warp so that there were gaps you could park a semi in once the glue dried.

I ended up cutting off the spacers and making new ones. This time 3/4" thick and the glue up went flawlessly. It did have the effect of making the ring a little bigger, but I'll keep that in mind for next time so that I can make the top ring bigger as well.

Once all the glue ups were done, I flattened the rings (and took the corners down) and glued them to each other and onto the base which had been fastened to a glue chuck.and mounted to the lathe using a faceplate.

There were a couple of close calls where the entire project almost ended up as kindling, but in the end it worked out. It measures 6 7/8" across, 1 3/4" tall and he sides/base are about 5/16" thick. Got to say I'm happy with how it turned out. Oh, and the base didn't disappoint with some very interesting figure!

It will be auctioned off in a silent auction happening in February in support of the Mississauga chapter of the Army, Navy Air Force club which supports local veterans (different from the Royal Canadian Legion).

Turning is fun, but there's still a lot to learn about how to best use my gouges.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another number of firsts

Well, Christmas has come and gone and another decade is upon us. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and even better New Year's party. We got to spend the week before Christmas with my mum in Halifax and Boxing day with my wife's parents. It was all good. New Year's Eve was spent quietly at home which while not a party, was a fine way to wrap up a hectic year in my opinion.

Not going to go into great detail on this build as it was pretty straight forward. I made a jewelry box for my special lady. One made of Ash and Walnut with Maple inlay. The box making process was taken from Fine Woodworking Magazine's web article by Matt Kenney. You will need to be a subscriber to see the whole series. The inlay process was taken from The Wood Whisperer episode on router based inlay.

It was my first box other than the one made with my bandsaw previously, but still a first. It was also my first attempt at router inlay. I chose a Calla Lilly as the focal point of my lid, and with that I chose a nice straight grained piece of walnut so as not to detract from the inlay.


The other thing was I have taken the plunge into turning. I have picked up a Delta 46-455 midi lathe and have tried my hand at some pen turning and want to take a stab at other things like bowls, furniture legs, lamps ... the list goes on and on and on. Taking a look around the web, there are some fantastic creations.

Oh, if anyone has some tips on skew chisel sharpening, please let me know. It's one tool that's been frustrating me so far. Sharpened very carefully, I'm only getting dust in my attempts to get peeling cuts.

What about the ever so infamous year in review and plans for the coming year? I think I'd like to go into that, but that's for another post.