Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

Taming the Rabbet

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

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!

Jeweler’s Regulator – Plans for Moldings

Monday, May 5th, 2014

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.

Jeweler’s Regulator – Stock Prep

Friday, April 25th, 2014

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!

Jeweler’s Regulator

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Since my 47 year old mechanical school clock left home, there’s been an empty spot on the wall where eyes land several times a day, finding little but a faded outline and silence. It’s time to change that.

Jeweler's clockBack when clocks and watches actually had mechanical things inside, watchmakers and watch repairers (often jewelers) needed an accurate timepiece from which to set and check times. “Regulators” were accurate enough, probably not quite as accurate as H4, or other chronographs used for navigation, but close.

Many case styles exist for regulators. Two of my favorites are movements with longer pendulums, the Vienna Regulator and the Jeweler’s Regulator. Here we have a Jeweler’s Regulator that has been offered for many years by Klockit. I’ve admired it for as many years, keeping it on my bucket list as one of the clocks I want to build. Nope! I am NOT building a kit. Klockit offers drawings for this clock, 8 large sheets. I’m working from those drawings and using some Cherry that I bought last year. However, I will be using the mechanical movement components the clock was designed around, a Hermle regulator movement. When I built that school clock 47 years ago, mechanical movements were very plentiful and reasonably affordable. That was a decade and a half before the rise of quartz movements. The transition to quartz is now nearly complete and mechanical movements are becoming rarities. Demand has fallen, resulting naturally in fewer choices and dramatically higher prices.  So, I caught this one during a 20% discount sale before its cost escalated yet more.

Rarely do I build from plans. In this case, I’ll stick close to the plan but will make some alterations, specifically to allow some carving. At the moment, I’m thinking the biggest change will be replacing the dentil molding in the crown with egg and dart. Maybe more…

In any case, we now see the reason I jumped on that set of hollows and rounds a while back. They were bought for clock moldings. Learning curves ahead…

A Better Glue Bottle

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Glue is something that I try to avoid as much as possible. Carving rarely needs glue, but box making does and so does the most recent project (more on that in another post). For most work, I use Titebond glues. The glues work well, but I really dislike the bottles. How does this work for you? Pick up the bottle, turn over and shake 1, 2, 3 times to get some glue near the tip. Then, pull open the tip … or most likely wrestle with opening the tip. After two good yanks, the tip is still stuck. So go find pliers. Then, find the slot in the nozzle blocked. Scrape it out; danged stuff really sticks on the cap almost as well as the wood. Phew, finally open. Squeeze and use. Clean the tip off this time before closing. One big PITA, and that’s NOT pita bread.

photo of honey bottle filled with glueBeing the cook, and grocery shopper, I’m seeing more and more products being sold in bottles meant to be stored inverted. SOME of those bottles actually have valves built into the lids. Two notable examples are Wallmart’s Great Value brand honey, and Heinz’s tomato ketchup. Wondering how well that valve handles glue, I cleaned out the last empty honey bottle and refilled it with Titebond glue.

photo of bottle valveWonderful!!! Pick up the bottle, flip the lid, squeeze and spread. Set the bottle back down closing the lid all in one motion.  No, it doesn’t have a long pointy nozzle, but how often do you really need that type of nozzle? Tilt this bottle a bit and there’s plenty of control. It works a bazillion times better than Titebond’s bottle. What’s more, the lid’s plastic surface is super slick and doesn’t hold on to spillover glue the way Titebond’s nozzles do. What little glue gets left on the lid slides right off.

Goodbye Titebond bottles; I’m sticking with the sweet ones now.


Catch Up – December 2013 Completions

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

The months leading to Christmas have extra security around the shop. Guards are posted to prevent word getting out about possible gifts being created within. Blogging is ignored. All of the gifts made it out in plenty of time, but the blog didn’t write itself, and the wimpy guards wouldn’t write anything, heading for warmer regions the moment this winter’s cold arrived.

I did take a few photos, but am not excited with them. Dark Walnut needs a lot of light to photograph well. I don’t know whether these photos suffer from my capability, getting used to a new camera, or the dearth of real light bulbs.

One might surmise from what I show here that there are four grandchildren, each having 3 parts to their names, one family liking lighter color wood and another liking darker wood. Correct. Each of the grandchildren now have a pencil box, either of Cherry or Walnut, and each supplied with “The World’s Best Pencils” and a sharpener. Each of those boxes uses standard pencil box construction, simple dovetails, sliding lid, solid base.

photo of a pencil box made of cherry with the initials E J E carved in the lid photo of a pencil box made of cherry with the initials M A P carved in the lid photo of a pencil box made of cherry with the initials H E P carved in the lid photo of a pencil box made of cherry with the initials G N P carved in the lid

photo of a walnut walking staffA young woman in our family puts up with a very strange nervous system malady and sometimes appreciates assistance when walking. I thought she needed something better than the mass-produced piece of aluminum tubing she has been using. The walking staff is dual purpose, long for use as a staff, and with a handle for use as a cane. The twisty part is a double helix, similar to one of the symbols of her profession.

photo of a walnut box with an oval rose carved in the lidThe oval rose is one of my favorite classical carvings. I’ve made several of these carvings. The box with the oval rose is about 9″ by 6″ by 2 3/4″ high. The lid is a flip up lid which will stand open at just a bit beyond 90 degrees. No pencils in that box. It traveled with a load of cookies.

Finish on all of the boxes is shellac and wax. All of the Walnut items have additional dark stain, Min-Wax Jacobean. The walking staff has  a polyurethane finish, better for exterior use.

oval-rose-patternUPDATE: In response to Shannon’s comment, I’ve attached the pattern for the oval rose, both as an image and as a PDF.  The pattern is free. The carving sequence is an exercise for the carver.  :)

… and for hints on how to transfer complicated patterns, see the “Ponce on That” section of a recent post.