31 October 2020

Easy Way to Keep my Marking Knives Sharp

I have been woodworking about 5 years now and realize sharpness is very important.  I don't like sharpening any more than the next person.  I've found a simple solution to keep my marking knives sharp.  I bought one of those simple v notch knife sharpeners (think this one was around $25) that has a coarse and then a fine on it.  Since buying it, I sharpen my knife much more frequently than I did before.  While I'm out there sharpening my marking knife, I will often sharpen my pocket knife as well.  I am sure there are better ways to get even a finer edge but this is one that I use very frequently.  Now to get one in the kitchen.

24 October 2020

Some Assembly Required

As a hand tool woodworker, I don't like to S4S my wood.  I have a local company for a fee that will procure and provide width and thickness S4S wood for me.  In terms of length, they prefer to keep the boards at the length they get from their lumber supplier.  There is a set up fee for reach new dimension.  As such, I tend to determine what thicknesses I need as cutting to length and width isn't too difficult.  So, the widest board I need usually dictates what widths I will typically get.

Below is the starting pile to make a Shaker style chimney cupboard.  Though in theory it is kiln dried, I still like it to sit in my shop for 2 to 6 months before I use it.  This will be my next big project.  I'm very excited as I've wanted to do this for quite a few years and I finally feel that my skills are at a level to accomplish this.  My guess is that it will likely take me 200 hours to make this piece.  We shall see.

By the way, the photo shows the space I need to woodwork and it also shows how clean I typically keep things.  I am not obsessive about things but I do like to keep things tidy.  The wood arrived on short notice so I didn't do any special cleaning prior to the photo.  In a prior post I gave some other photos of the shop space (really it's garage where I park our cars).  Off to the right are a few more genuine woodworking tools (as opposed to home handyman tools) and a card table that collects junk.  Off to the left is a metal shelving system where I get about two and a half shelves to store this and some other wood.  Thought I would love my own separate wood shop, I can't complain about the space I have.  Life is good.

PS Just in case are wondering, the cost for this was $1000.  I'm guessing about half wood cost and half labor. If I divide this by the estimated 200 hours it will take me, my cost per hour of hobby fun is $5 per hour.  I have other hobbies where the cost can easily be a factor of 5 or 10 higher pre hour.  As such, I don't mind the money spent on the wood.  I do need to save it for it though.  Also, if I were really lucky, I would be able to make three projects this size a year and I doubt that's the case.  From a budgeting perspective that means if I can save $250 a month for wood, I easily cover my costs.  To help me do this, I can count on one hand the number of times per year I go to Starbucks or eat lunch out at work.  I enjoy those things as well but I enjoy the wood more.

17 October 2020

My First Painting - super fun

Back in 2019, one weekend my daughter was going to be off at the grandparents getting spoiled.  My wife and I had a long weekend to ourselves.  I found a place that does those wine and painting events and scheduled a nice date night that started with dinner.  My wife is an artist by day and hobby so she was super excited for this date.  I was looking forward to it but was a bit apprehensive as I have never painted.  It always looked hard (same way I feel about musical instruments).

It was a ton of fun.  The instructor takes you through the how to process and they and assistants area around to help. At the end of a couple of hours we had trees.  Of course we were nerdy and have branches that span across both paintings connecting them.  I carved our initials on one the tree and my wife did likewise.

If your wife suggests it, I say go for it or surprise her.  It will be a fun night.  What I liked about it was I got that same buzz and thrill as when I made my first Paul Sellers wall clock.  I was very new to woodworking and when I finished the clock I was super thrilled because it looked pretty good.  Also while doing it, at points you could feel the creative juices flowing (another thing I like about woodworking).  It's hard to get that buzz and it only took two hours of work.  I know that much like woodworking, painting is an art and that one can get better and better.  I will stick with woodworking but I will definitely take my wife on another date there.  It was too fun not to.

10 October 2020

Mid-Sized Tool Chest via Japanese Style Carpenter Box

For the past 5 years, I have been happily woodworking in my garage (my little slice of paradise).  Lately, I can see where I might want to work elsewhere.  There were two immediate drivers for this:

1.  My dad needed to rebuild his garage when a huge tree destroyed in the backyard fell over and destroyed it.  Figure 1 and 2.  When he rebuilt it, it was larger and he purchased an nice woodworking bench for hand tools.  Since he's an hour away and I visit weekly, I'd like to do some woodworking projects there.

Figure 1.  The tree that crushed my dads garage.

Figure 2.  Just to give you an idea as to how big that tree was.  The base was no more than 30 feet from the garage.  Given all the directions it could have fallen, my dad was lucky.

Figure 3.  The aftermath after most of the tree was removed.  Sadly the 56 Ford pickup took the brunt of it.  It has since been restored (at considerable expense).

2. I was planning to take a class in Jul 2020 at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking to make the Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) (to store my other hand tools that I don't use that often or are duplicates).  I am not a tool collector but I do have more than I need (who amongst us doesn't?).  I had signed up in Nov 2019 for this class.  Who knew Covid-19 would happen.  The class was canceled.

When I started working on all of this, it was before Covid-19 was a thing.  The goal was to make a tool chest that would be of medium size and hold most of the tools I use.  It was not to be a minimalist tool kit but it wasn't to be a full blown tool chest either.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the tools I wanted and laying them out to figure out the size.  There will be a future blog on the tools in it.  I ended up wanting a tool chest with the exterior diameters of 29" long (driven mostly by saw length), 14" wide (driven by what I wanted in the bottom), and 11&1/4" tall (driven by the 1x12 material I could get).

I debated between poplar and pine.  One day at Lowe's I saw two beautiful pine boards.  Part of the edges were damaged on each (that I thought I could work around) so I got them at 50% off.  That is ultimately what drove the decision.

As to the construction design, since I would be making a large size traditional tool chest in the class (via the ATC), I wanted to do something different.  The two designs I pondered were a dutch tool chest and a Japanese style carpenter box.  Figure 4 shows my decision.

Figure 4.  My mid-sized tool box.  I used the YouTube videos by Treebangham to make this.

It was based on Treebangham's YouTube video (well worth watching for this as well as his other content):  https://youtu.be/bbeDvPNFbdI.  For Christmas 2017 I had made small versions of this as boxes.  As such, being familiar with the making process was a heavy influence.  Also, I like the simple construction design of this sturdy box.  I wanted this to be a sturdy piece.  It's beauty would be the simplicity of its design.  Also, garnet shellac as a finish would make it look good.  I debated on painting it.  Decided the ATC will be painted on the exterior.  For this shellac it would be.

As for it's construction, it's a lot of cut nails and screws.  The bottom is 3/8" plywood that is screwed on so that if need be I can replace it.

The bottom (Figure 5) holds the saws, hand planes, router, small plough plane, and a few other items.  1/2" thick strips of poplar and 3/4" thick pine off cuts were used to make spaces for the individual tools.  Then there are some runners to hold 4 small boxes made of 1/2" poplar.  Something funny happened.  I made the four poplar boxes not thinking too much about them.  When I showed my dad and brother, the commented "ooh, dovetails."  Having done handtools now for 5 years, I don't think of that as a special joint.  I mean, how else would one make a box (yes, I know there are other ways, but really).  There is a clever trick I used for the bottom that I learned from Paul Sellers videos.  I took some 3/4 pine scraps and ran 1/4" grooves in them via my small plough plane.  Then, the 1/4" bottom plywood is housed in this.  I didn't want to nail the plywood to the bottom of the box but I didn't want to go through the hassle of needing some blind dovetails.  I just made the grooved pieces, glued them in the bottom and then inserted the plywood during box glue it.  It's easy and a good solution.

Figure 5

Figure 6  The boxes that hold the top layer of tools.  Ultimately 4 boxes were organized by commonality of tools so that a box can be removed and taken to the bench.

I like the lid locking system.  It involves a piece of wood tapered along the length and width.  It's simple and holds all in place. Figure 7 & 8.  One side of the lid has an angled width making it easy to grab and the other side has a "hidden" hand grab area.  As such, it's easy to remove.  The finish is just garnet shellac on the outside and clear shellac on the inside.  I ran out of garnet shellac during the finishing process so I used what was at hand.

Figure 7 and 8.  Simple lid locking system and lid removal.

Though I haven't weighted it when full of tools, I am guessing it weights about 70 pounds.  As such, I can lift it but I wouldn't want to have to carry it far.  I had a number of ideas as to how to transport it.  Then, I lucked out.  The collapsible wagons that come up for sale time to time at Costco were a prefect fit (Figure 9).  If I were doing it over, I would definitely have taken this into consideration on the design specs.  Glad luck turned my way on this one.

In the future I will have a blog showing the tools that fit inside of it.  Given it's weight, I am already in the process of making a smaller (much closer to a minimal tool chest)  tool chest that will be based on the ATC design.  That way, in the future if I take a class on making the ATC, I will be familiar with it and that should help me in the class.  Also, that way if I don't take a class or build a full size tool chest, at least I have a mini one in that traditional design.

03 October 2020

Christmas 2019

I try and keep an eye out for projects that would make good Christmas gifts that folks would appreciate that don't take too much work per unit.  Paul Sellers had a video series on making small serving trays that work well for a coffee and a few cookies, a location to place one's key and pocket contents when coming home, or even for holding some smaller size tools.  

As such, I decided to make them (Figure 1).  I got a late start on these (end of Nov) which immediately stresses me out).  For these, I went to the local Woodcraft and purchased 1/2" thick stock.  To make things a bit more interesting to me I purchased some woods I had never worked with before (aromatic cedar, basswood, Sapele, mesquite) and some I have used a fair bit (cherry and maple).  I was curious how the new to me woods would be have.  The cedar produced amazing ribbons off the hand plane that had a really smooth feel almost as if it was plastic.    

Figure 1 Paul Sellers small wooden trays.

As for the construction itself, it is straight forward with bridle type joints and screws from the bottom.  I did a couple coats of shellac and then wax via 0000 steel wool.  They came out nice and folks loved them.

As I write this, summer is coming to an end and I have no idea for Christmas 2020 gifts.  If any of you have ideas, please leave me a comment below.  Thanks.  We shall see what happens. I don't see it as a failure if I can't come up with hand made gifts so I'm not too stressed about it.