May272014

Green Woodworking

Not the green wood of a freshly cut tree, but the green of freshly pressure treated, the stuff that warns “do not touch, eat, or sit upon.”

busted up mail box sitting atop a stack of plastic binsThe first picture shows what happens when you buy a home center mailbox and post. After not very long, it slowly “degrades.”

We’re replacing ours because of that new wall in front of the house. The new mail box and post will be strategically placed to keep people from driving into the steps. While making one, I decided to make two. The other is for the neighbor with the ragged exemplar.

There’s no woodworking magic in these, other than being severely over built. The cross piece is joined to the post with a half-lap joint and zinc coated lag bolts. The lower pieces are also lag bolted in place. Hand sawn, hand planed, hand bored with brace and bit. The work was straightforward and since the wood is very wet, it was easy to work … even if the saw slobbered dripping moisture as it cut.

two newly constructed mail boxes and postsEvery tool that touched the stuff accumulated “gunk” and got a good cleaning and oiling. Lots of hand washing too. And no, I didn’t sit on it.

Dragging the assemblies down to where they need to be planted will take three men and a little boy, but maybe they’ll dry some and get lighter while we wait for construction in the neighborhood to calm down. Every street around is being torn up to bring this pre-American Revolution village up to late 19th century sanitary standards; sewers are being installed.


May192014

The Great Wall of Easton

Other than some more Pachysandra ground cover, it’s really done now.

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Ark of the Covenant buried here!

Ark of the Covenant buried here!

All of the excellent plant choices and most of the design are Eva’s. The three trees on the upper level are 2 new Kousa Dogwoods and a transplanted traditional dogwood (the center one). The upper level shrubs are Wintergem boxwoods. The tiny plants are creeping thyme ground cover. Plants on the lower level are all Sea Green Junipers.

We’re delighted with it and think it is really, really done now. The local mandarins have asked for no more spoils and the crime scene tape has been taken down.


May72014

Taming the Rabbet

My work with rabbets has always been haphazard with lousy results. Few projects required rabbets, so I never learned to do them well. Now, for the clock project I want to learn to do moldings well and the method I am following uses a lot of rabbets … accurate rabbets.

In his book, “Mouldings in Practice,” Matthew Bickford teaches how to steer rounds on the corners of a rabbet and how to steer hollows on the corners of a chamfer. So, I must first learn to make rabbets accurately and reliably.

A few hours of practice and plane fetteling have resulted in notable progress.

First, the planes. For some reason I don’t remember, I purchased an ancient wooden rabbet plane that has a skewed iron (nice) and is 1.5 inches wide. FWIW, it dates to the late 1890s and is marked “D. Malloch & Son, Perth.” In this case, Perth is in Scotland, not Australia. The iron carries the same mark. The plane body is beech.

When it arrived, I discovered the iron was ground to a very low angle, about 12 degrees, and the most important corner fractured off (no pictures). I’m almost certain the fracture was due the shallow angle. Other things were more interesting at the time, and I set the plane aside, neglecting it for a couple of years.

Wanting to use it now, I reground the iron and sharpened it. It’s still a bit off, with the trailing edge protruding a few thousandths more than the leading edge, but functional enough for me to gain some practice with the plane. … It was enough practice to realize that the bottom sides of the plane body, right at the edge with the sole, have worn quite a bit. The long edges that are critical to tracking are rounded quite a bit. Once again, I set the plane aside.

photo of Sergeant #79 planeI turned next to a Sergeant #79, another rehabilitated plane. It is a metal “moving filletster and rabbeting” plane. When I have attempted using it with the side fence and the depth fence, the results have been almost usable. OK, actually lousy if we want to be truthful. I removed the fences from the #79 and used it as simple rabbeting plane following the techniques Matthew describes in his book, pp 42-47.

He shows taking two passes with the plane tilted into toward the scribe line at 45 degrees. These passes provides the logical equivalent of the “knife wall” that Paul Sellers teaches for accurate sawing. This little “v” groove establishes the reference for accurate rabbeting. From there, the plane can be put back perpendicular and within 2 passes be tracking neatly along the line. Voila! Such a little point that makes such a big difference. THANKS Matthew!

photo of leaning over at 45 degreesMy practice led me to three important points. (2 of the 3 mentioned in Matthew’s book)

The edge of the iron needs to protrude ever so slightly from the plane body to ensure cutting a perpendicular wall.

The edge of the iron must not cut, or it will cut into and move the wall. I rounded over the edges of the iron, above the bevel, to minimize this problem.

Scribe the line with a marking gauge. (I use gauges with pins, nit knives.) The tilted metal plane will track to the scribe line. It won’t track to a pencil line. :) This is where I discovered the wooden plane is too worn for this technique. The vertical wall does move inward a very slight amount, to the other edge of the “v” produced by the scribe pin. Keep this in mind and compensate if needed.

Half a dozen practice rabbets showed improvement with each attempt.

photo of wooden rabbet planeWith that success, I looked at the wooden plane again. It is sooooooo much easier on the hands than the #79. In the vise it went! I planed down each side until I got very crisp and square corners at the sole. Yes, that sacrificed a fraction of an inch of width, but most rabbets are going to be much narrower anyway. The alteration also made the iron a bit easier to adjust. Before removing material from the body the iron was right at the point of barely reaching the right edge. That might be due to the tang being a bit mangled; it has seen some use. Now, it can be adjusted for that extra thousandth, or so, as mentioned in point 1 above.

Using the wooden plane, I can make a rebate of exactly the same quality (still not perfect, but very much better) as with the #79 and it’s a lot more comfortable on the hands.

I’m now a much happier rabbeteer!


May52014

Jeweler’s Regulator – Plans for Moldings

Slow progress on this project; other distractions take precedence.

photo of molding drawingsThis is the first project on which I’ll use my hollows and rounds. A lot of practice coming up. Additionally, I want to change part of the detail in the set of moldings for the crown.  Profile drawings are scattered about the 8 sheets of plans, but I’m the kind who wants to see them all pulled together and in full scale. I’m also fortunate enough to have a real drafting table with a floating parallel rule and various other drafting tools. Did you know that plastic drafting triangles bought in 1963 haven’t warped or become covered with “patina” since?

So, a few drawings. Next along this line is to change one shape in the crown and decide which egg and dart pattern I want to use.


Apr292014

Cub Scout Neckerchief Slide

photo of work in progressWeblos is the highest level in Cub Scouts. Unlike the others, this rank’s symbol is not an animal. I see it as a simplified Fleur de Lis, a predecessor to the Boy Scouts of America symbol. Carving this year’s slide was more like classical woodcarving, a classic shape rather than a caricature. (Where do the eyes go on a carnivore?)

The young recipient is growing fast!

It is carved in Basswood and finished with acrylic, topped with satin poly.

photo shows 6 views

Earlier slides:

Other carvers and their scouting slides

 


Apr252014

Jeweler’s Regulator – Stock Prep

The lumberyard I use for hardwoods, Maurice Condon in White Plains, NY, has a great selection. Like most good yards, they don’t mind customers combing through stock as long as they put things neatly back in the racks. About this time a year ago, I pulled out a small collection of cherry boards. They were so nice that one of the guys working there said, “Wow, you found that here!? We have stuff that nice?”

Of course, there’s always a “…but…” Specifications for Cherry say that sapwood is not a defect. Yet, cherry that has been stacked in a rack almost since it came from the mill has had so little exposure to light that sapwood is not apparent. Get it out in daylight. Sticker it for a few weeks. Then the sapwood fades into view, and there’s always more of it than one wants. Despite that, it turned out to be a very nice collection of boards. Some have already become boxes.

the first of 8 pages of drawings, showing a list of partsNow, let’s find a clock case in those boards. One side of each board shows mostly heartwood, the other not so much. Turn the boards to show all the sapwood and start finding parts within the heartwood. I need 30-some pieces and found most of them within three boards.  All but the long pieces for the sides and door are four-squared. The rest are now rough cut, leaving a bit of length until final prep.

a board marked for cutting 11 foot board on a 12 foot long benchProcessing  long boards is a real joy when there’s a bench that can handle them with ease. The twelve foot long bench was originally for boat building but handles this sort of work superbly .. when not affected with HSS (Horizontal Surface Syndrome, which attracts all sorts of stuff randomly collected and in the way).

This wood has been here about a year and well acclimated. It is also straight grained enough that little tension is apparent. There’s no cupping among the cut pieces and only a slight bit of twist that already existed on one piece.

a stack of about 35 rough cut pieces of woodVery well behaved wood!