25 July 2020

Sharpening Revisited

Warning - discussion of sharpening ahead.  It is one of these topics like religion and politics (or Ford vs. Chevy pickups) that gets folks heated up.  I am not adamant about anything.  I have a system I've been using and have been happy.  I am sure that there are many other systems that work well and maybe even better.

In 2006 I posted how I was sharpening.  It was the "Paul Sellers" diamond stone method (Figure 1).  It's basically the same system with just a few adjustments (Figure 2).  

Since I don't have a grinding wheel of any kind, I have chosen to use a honing guide.  On occasion, I had gotten the bevel too steep when free hand sharpening.  Using a honing guide to get the bevel back down even with 80 grit sand paper is a bit time consuming and not fun.  As such, I avoid the problem with a honing guide.

The other change is an addition of another stone.  Per Paul Sellers, the first three are coarse, fine, super fine (I don't remember the grits anymore).  For my tools that are high carbon steel, this works fine.  However, for Lie-Nielsen, their A2 steel was taking a long time for me to feel the bevel on the coarse stone.  My solution was to purchase an extra extra coarse stone when working my tools that have A2 steel.  Somewhere between 50 and 100 strokes and I feel a good burr on the extra extra coarse diamond plate.  I then move on to coarse, fine, extra, fine, strop.  In less than 5 minutes I have a sharpened blade.

It took me a few years before I really felt confident that I was sharpening well.  What helped was that I took some of my Lie-Nielsen tools to one of their shows and had them sharpen.  The sharpness and shavings was similar to what I was seeing.  As such, I felt better.

For some reason, I was afraid to use the strop for a number of years.  I don't know why.  I think it was because I was afraid of "rolling the edge."  I think that is more hype than reality.  This is done freehand.  You can tell when the angle is right as the blade moves nicely over the strop.  

Where I find the strop really handy is to "refresh" the blade.  There have been some times where I have had highly repetitive work.  I noticed the chisel wasn't working as well (mostly by just having used it a lot now and having developed a sensitivity of fresh sharpened vs. not), I pulled out the stop.  Gave it 30 strokes and there was a night and day improvement.  I had heard folks say it makes a big difference.  I was skeptical until I did it for myself.  

I won't say I enjoy sharpening but at least I am not comfortable doing it and do it often enough so that I am not working with a dull blade.

Oh, I like to use a 30 degree bevel.  I sharpening everything to 30 degrees (less to remember that way). Since I don't have any kind of grinding wheel, I don't use a secondary bevel.  I know a lot of folks do and that is fine by me as well.  It's real easy for me to set the distance form the honing guide.  When I built this, I set it up so that the side to the left and in front of my stones is the distance I need on the honing guide.

Figure 1 Image of what I had in 2016

Figure 2 Image of what I am using in 2020

18 July 2020

Choosing my Cordless Drill - Not How I Expected it to Go

In the late 1990s, my father purchased me a cordless Makita drill one Christmas (Figure 1).  I had been quite happy with it and have used it for all manner of home improvement and fine woodworking (mostly pilot holes or holes to hang the project on a wall) projects.  After 20+ years, both batteries have essentially stopped working.

Figure 1

I knew this day would eventually come and I would either send the batteries out to have them rebuilt (as my father has done a few times on his) or get another cordless drill.  I was going to send out the batteries to get them rebuilt as I hate the thought of discarding a good tool even though battery economics leans towards the tool disposal route.  Fate intervened before I sent the batteries out for rebuilding.  My wife purchased a cordless hedge trimmer (Figure 2) at some good sale price at Home Depot.  We have a fair bit of hedges and it's a bit much for the manual trimmers plus it is hot during the summer.  Faster hedge trimming would make us both happy.

Figure 2

Turns out that the single battery provided didn't have enough charge to finish the amount of hedge trimming one might want to do in a single session.  My wife was contemplating to get a second battery.  I had an moment of clarity.  I told her to buy me a cordless drill that uses the same battery as the hedge trimmer.  Cost unlikely all that different between a battery and cordless drill plus battery.  Plus, I kind of needed to do something about my cordless drill situation.  I don't think I even knew that the brand involved was Black and Decker. She purchased me a cordless Black and Decker drill (Figure 3).  I've been happy with this Black and Decker cordless drill.  It lacks a light which would have been nice but then again my Makita didn't have a light either.  It cost under $50 according to my wife.

Figure 3

I wasn't planning for my decision to be made this way.  I had planned to do a bunch on internet research, reread a Wood Magazine cordless drill review I saw in the past 12 to 18 months.  Go hold some. Agonize over which and them end up likely spending more than $50.  None of that happened.  My choice was dictated by the commonality of batteries.  If you have some cordless tools, you might consider the same approach.  Again, if you are a professional who uses a cordless drill day in and out, you might have more drivers than me as a hobby woodworker.

As for the Makita, it goes back to my dad.  He will rebuild the batteries and now have a spare drill in which he can have a different bit.  I'm glad I didn't have to toss it away.

Speaking of Black and Decker as a brand (I have no affiliation or sponsorship and paid fair street value for these tools), I have been quite happy with them.  A few years ago, we needed to make a plywood box with forty-five 3"ish holes for a school festival (Figure 4 & 5).  The cordless drill with the hole saw bit could do one hole but it was slow and completely  wiped out the batter after one hold.  As such, I needed a corded drill.  I went to the local Ace Hardware and basically bought the more inexpensive corded drill I could find.  It was made by Black and Decker (Figure 6).  I was amazed at how much torque it has relative to either cordless drills I own.  It was at or under $50.  That's now three times (corded and cordless drill, cordless hedge trimmer) I have been happy with their products.  I probably wouldn't have considered this brand otherwise but so far so good on three of their products, at least for a hobbyist.

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

11 July 2020

Wall Hanging Small Curio Cabinet

My wife these mice figurines from MA called Wee Forest Folks.  I am happy that they make her happy as it makes an easy gift.  There are lots to choose from so it's a matter of going through them and finding one that somehow captures a special moment in our family and buying it as a gift.  After a decade of a couple a year and they "collection" has grown.

My wife wanted to have something special to store them.  Fine Woodworking Issue #198 (May/Jun 2008) had a Craftsman Wall Cabinet by Ian Ingersoll that looked to be perfect.

I downloaded the plan and made some modifications to meet my wife's needs.  Also, I wanted to use hand tools, have the top and bottom attach to the sides via a housing dado, and one clear glass panel.  I wanted to attach it to the wall using a French cleat.

The woodworking itself was straight forward (part of the appeal) as it reminded me of making the Paul Sellers style clocks.  Just more housing dados.  The door was a new challenge.  I took my time, went slowly, make sure everything was square and used half laps  It came out nice.  There are plenty of flaws throughout.

I used Horton Brasses hinges.  I really liked the quality so I will use hardware moving forward.  

After getting the door square and twist free, the next proudest accomplishment was getting the underside bevel done with my hand plane.  I was able to keep to the lines on all three bevels.  Not that this is all that difficult.  However, for me, it was initially hard to do.  This work showed my skill is getting better.

At the last minute, the wife wanted some rows so I made some simple half width shelves that split the height using butt joints.  Simple and suitable.

I made it out of cherry.  I used garnet shellac that I dissolved up to around a pound and a half cut.  I really like how it came up.  Until I find a better finish, garnet shellac on cherry will be my go to default.  I do want to experiment a bit was well.  Better yet, my wife really likes it.  This was the first time I used a French cleat system for attaching to a wall. I really liked it.  I will use this system more.

This was a good project and I am overall very happy.  Plenty of mistakes but none that diminish my enjoyment of making it or how it looks with my wife's favorite figurines inside them.

04 July 2020

My Childhood Tool Chest

I was born in 1968 (makes me 52).  When I was about four years old, my dad purchased me a tool chest designed for kids.  It was a very common item during that time and I have seen similar ones on eBay.  My is special because it was, well, mine.  They can easily be purchased even to this day though.  I hadn't seen it in 15 years as it was still in a moving box I hadn't unpacked.  Recently, I was going through a moving box (more free time due to Covid-19 so like many I'm cleaning up and organizing more) and found it.  I was very excited.  Even as an adult in the early 2000s I was still using this kit from time to time.  

Now that I have 4+ years of experience with hand tool woodworking, I can look at this kit with a different eye.  It has a lot of useful tools with it.  The current project and the one in the batter's box are fixed.  What I would like to do in about six months time is to make a project of decent complexity using just the tools from this tool kit.  To help me make this kit more flexible, I will use the tools in this tool kit to make a poor man's router and poor man's plough plane like Paul Seller's teaches.  

I don't plan to tell my dad about this.  I plan to show up one day with this tool kit was well as the project I made from it.  I know that will make his day seeing this old kit and what I can do with it.

I have absolutely no objects if folks want to use machine tools.  A big problem we have as a society is getting off the couch where we watch tv and doing any sort of hobby.  I am happy when I see anyone do a hobby.  What I do like about hand tools is that the skills I am learning and within my body.  I should be able to use these tools and do a good job.  We shall see.