Archive for May, 2008

Truck Rack

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

New York City, a mere 35 miles from here, is the center of the universe. Or, so you would think if you were a Wall Street wizard, or a Broadway performer. If you’re a wooden boat builder, you are outside of any respectable lumber yard’s delivery radius. “Sure, we got it. Come pick it up buddy!”

truck rackBeing a homeowner who fixes stuff, I already own a pickup truck. Simple, add a rack and go to the lumber yards. Whoa, have you seen the price of utility racks? An affordable answer is in an article from Workbench Magazine. It outlines a utility rack that’s plenty substantial enough for my occasional use and comes in at about one third the cost of pre-built racks. The ladder in the picture is 12 feet long, the same size as the boat I’ll be building.

The astute observer now knows why I was cutting bevels.

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Keep Your Saw Shiny

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Chris Schwarz, the editor of Woodworking Magazine demonstrates how to use the reflection of a workpiece on a saw blade to make accurate 90 and 45 degree cuts. It all centers on our innate ability to easily recognize straight lines and 90 degree angles to very high accuracy,

reflectionsIt really works. I’ve used the technique many times, especially when rough cutting wood. A couple of days ago, I made some bevel cuts on the ends of simple 2 by 4s. I marked them, but found it none to easy to observe both faces of the cut at the same time. Checking the saw blade, I found that the reflection trick indeed works for this kind of cut.

The line labeled “1” keeps the cut square or directly on the 45 degree line. The line labeled “2” keeps the cut plumb across the full depth. The keen observer will note that the photo (click to enlarge) shows the reflection a degree or two out of kilter. That’s from holding a saw in one hand, a board in the other, and the camera … you get the idea.

resultThe end result shows that the technique works. (Ignore that little bit of tear out on the far edge, an unintended consequence of stopping to take pictures.) The finished cut is very acceptable for the intended purpose, obviously not a fine furniture project.

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Boat Shop – a Beginning

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

weather maps and clutterThe evidence shows he was a weather hobbyist, a little bit sloppy, and not at all handy with tools. That’s the original owner of this 55 year old home, and that’s only from the garage (single bay, unheated.) Bob just couldn’t let go of those 1958 weather maps. He wallpapered the garage with them … over bare drywall, not even primed. He also left a few 5 gallon steel buckets to rust along one wall, and later covered that part of the floor with a red substance (something like deck stain) that effectively hid the rust. Add the usual oil droppings, paint stains (from projects painted there, not from any paint used on the garage itself), and 30 years accumulation of our own junk and it becomes something on the order of a mega dump to clean up. Oh yeah, 17,346 nail holes in the wall. Hmmm, or was that buckshot?

after #1Eager to get started with boat building, my first inclination was to splash a coat of primer on it and keep moving. Then, visions of well primed tattered paper hanging all about brought me to the right decision. Clean it up right. After getting the walls done, the floor just couldn’t be left as it was. It is now epoxy coated. New lighting brought it to the current state. I’ll add wall mounted storage as I decide what I really want. That bench-like thing in the middle of the room is a “building horse” for the first boat I’ll be building, a Harry Bryan 12 foot Fiddlehead. It is horrendously over built, a reuse of material left over from a deck that might have otherwise gone to the junkyard with a lot of the rest of the old garage contents.

As with all projects involving paint or coatings, surface preparation was the biggest, and back aching, part of the work. While removing weather maps, mudding and painting the walls seemed an endless project, the floor was tougher yet. There was a lot of work down on hands and knees with paint scrapers and wire brushes. After removing everything that could be scraped or scoured off, I made a couple of rounds of scrubbing with a Behr concrete degreasing product. That product did a very good job of removing oil stains from where a car was once parked. It also helped loosen some of the remaining paint droppings. Then three more rounds with muriatic acid to etch off other stains.

after #2The floor coating I used was from Epoxy Coat. The result is far from perfect, but 10,000 percent better than before. Those rust stains were well covered. There are a couple of areas containing small voids, scatterings of raindrop sized voids. I think those are due to the product being spread too thin. There are also a dozen or two (who’s counting) small bubbles about 1/8 inch diameter. I don’t know what caused these, some sort of out gassing from a contaminant I guess. They appeared about 10 hours into the cure. Considering what was there before, I’m satisfied, and have no complaints at all about the product itself.

For those considering epoxy coating, I have three suggestions. First, surface prep is the primary determinant to success. Other than heavy, and expensive, abrading such as shot blasting, I don’t know what more I could have done. It seems to me that the only way to get that perfect showroom glossy finish is to do epoxy coating as soon as the freshly laid concrete has cured, before it has any chance to accumulate foreign matter. That would be 55 years ago for this house, or before you ever park a car for any new house.

Second, buy more than you will need. I bought a package intended for a single bay garage and it was barely enough. There certainly wasn’t enough etch acid to do the job and I used an additional gallon I already had. The coating itself was probably sufficient for a newly cured floor that was evenly etched, but I had a few rough spots and ended up with spreading too thin in some areas.

Third, don’t short-cut the squeegee step. The instructions call for spreading the material with a squeegee and then rolling with a regular paint roller. They also warn that you have about 15 minutes working time and suggest doing 10 foot by 10 foot sections. That makes one prone to rushing! Especially when considering that any place a roller can’t reach (wall joins) has to be hit with a brush. I found out pretty quickly that just roughly placing material with a squeegee and then planning to roll to out is not a good strategy. Rolling is not sufficient for redistributing the epoxy. Spread it as evenly and as completely as possible with the squeegee. Then, use rolling as a surface finishing technique.

Lastly (suggestion 4 of 3), if you anticipate uneven results, consider using the color flakes that come with the package. The flakes are very fine confetti that can be scattered on the coating just after rolling. My gray kit included a couple of fist fulls of flakes that were black, gray, and white. I thought the flakes might make finding small dropped parts harder, so decided against using them. Yet, I can see how they would have obscured some of the fine voids and bubbles.

With that little project out of the way, boat building commences sometime soon.

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A 10¢ Sharpening System

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

My first plane and chisel sharpening work was freehand. I taught myself how to achieve a very sharp edge with a minimal amount of equipment. The techniques take a bit of concentration and practice, but are basic skills learned by many generations of craftsmen.

Yet, there was this lingering curiosity about the sharpening jigs found in the tool catalogs like this one or this one. Could they help me produce a better edge? They certainly look great but they’re way out of the price range I’m willing to pay to satisfy a curiosity.

plane jig holding an ironThen, I stumbled across Derek Cohen’s “10¢ sharpening system.” Well, not quite 10¢. I had a nice piece of cherry, but not suitable fasteners. I spent $1.40 and a couple of hours labor, a very acceptable price for an old galoot of Scottish heritage.

Curiosity satisfied. I’m not sure I get a “better” edge using a sharpening jig, but I can certainly produce an edge that is more repeatable. That is, each freehand sharpening result will be sharp, but might not be exactly xx degrees, whereas the jig always produces the same angular result. Using the jig removes the need to concentrate on maintaining a precise angle from stroke to stroke. The job is easier using the jig, but I enjoy knowing that I can be successful without it.

So, this entry is the place where I’ll keep the extension settings for the plane irons I currently have. Brent Beach’s extension calculator gave me these values.

Extension settings

These are for my particular jig which is 1 and 1/2 inches tall on the long side and just over 1/2 inch tall on the short side.

For Stanley and Sargent irons that are typically 0.08 inches thick, use the tall side and these extensions.

  • 25° primary bevel – 3 and 12/32nds
  • 28° micro bevel – 2 and 32/32nds
  • 30° primary bevel – 2 and 24/32nds
  • 33° micro bevel – 2 and 14/32nds
  • 35° primary bevel – 2 and 8/32nds
  • 38° micro bevel – 2 and 1/32nd

For spoke shaves with short blades about 0.06 inches thick, use the short side of the jig.

  • 25° primary bevel – 1 and 11/32nds
  • 28° micro bevel – 1 and 6/32nds

The rest of the system

reflections on the back of an ironMany sharpening systems exist. The latest fashion uses diamond stones. Just before that was the Japanese water stones fad. Before that, and good enough for many generations, were oil stones, usually Arkansas stones. Somewhere along the way, some folks stumbled upon using sandpaper, the “Scary Sharp(tm)” method. There are proponents, and good sensible arguments for each approach. I shuddered at the cost of the water stones, and fell back upon a couple of two sided India stones I’ve had for decades. They’ll do in a pinch, but aren’t the optimal grits. So, I stopped by a glass store and bought an outcut of 1/2 inch plate glass. That and several grades of sandpaper from “the borg” rounds out the kit. I don’t go to the 1200 and 2000 grit levels suggested by some, but hone to 600 grit and then strop on a piece of card that’s prepped with white rouge. That’s plenty good enough to polish the back of an iron to a mirror finish and produce edges to hair shaving sharpness.

By the way, the first picture shows the jig in use sharpening the iron from a jack plane. It is working on 220 grit sandpaper that’s mounted on one end of my 1/2 inch piece of plate glass. That, in turn, sits atop a bench hook to keep it from sliding around.

Wood Workers Safety Week

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

\Marc Spagnuolo, the Wood Whisperer, instigated “Wood Workers Safety Week” as the first week in May. Many folks have rallied round offering all sorts of useful advice. Unfortunately, much of it was learned the hard way. Being relatively new to woodworking, I recently mentioned to Marc that quickly learning about the dangerous techniques was difficult. Yes, they’re “out there” but in many scattered places. This week’s focus has brought many tips, stories, lessons, and bits of advice together.

Following is the collection I’ve found. You, or I, might not have a particular piece of equipment now and think the tip irrelevant, but the safety tips are valuable to have in mind when we do acquire that equipment. Read them all.

Just Plane Practice

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

a bucket full of shavingsIt was a simple job, the kind assigned to a newbie woodworking apprentice. Make this piece of lumber thinner. Use those hand planes over there. Don’t even think of power tools. We don’t have any that are suitable for this job.

The lumber was a two yard long stick of common softwood, 1 x 3. I intend to use it as a mounting strip for hanging the decorative oriental rug (a gorgeous red Chinese dragon) that our son gave his mother. I wanted to use something close to 1/4 inch to minimize how much the mount stands off from the wall. This was the perfect job for learning how to use two of my “new” woodworking planes.

Stanley #40 scrub planeThe plane to use for quick stock removal is a Stanley #40 “scrub” plane. My #40 has an iron with the very old “Stanley Rule and Level Co.” trademark, which dates the plane to about 1910. A scrub plane has an iron with a curved cutting edge which is helpful for scrubbing off thick shavings. Scrubbing diagonally across the lumber makes quick work of reducing thickness while affording a reasonable degree of control.

I scrubbed about 1/4 inch off one side and then smoothed up the rough furrows with a Stanley #5 “jack” plane. Old stories say it is called a “jack” because it is the workhorse, “jack of all trades” plane. My #5 dates to sometime between 1933 and 1941. Stanley #5 jack planeThis smoothing work went faster than I expected. The first dozen or so passes knocked the high ponts off the scrub furrows. It didn’t take long to work those peaks down and start producing long wide shavings. A few minutes work and the surface was plenty smooth enough for this purpose, actually a good bit smoother than when it came home from the lumber store. I also have a good smoothing plane, but this application doesn’t need to be smoother and I was more than happy using only these two planes.

Flip the board over and do the other side. Yes, I could have done it all from one side, but this was an intentional learning exercise. Think about the “Karate Kid” waxing those cars. Practice is good.

The work went quickly and easily (ok, an hour or so of learning and practice). The most important thing I learned was how well these tools work when they are well honed and tuned. The weight and momentum of the tool does the work. It was aerobic work, not strenuous work. The time I spent learning to tune up and sharpen the tools has paid off very well, but that’s a story for another post.

BTW, anyone interested in rehabilitating old planes can get excellent advice from a seasoned sawyer in the Northwest, Bob Smalser. See his “Rehabilitating Old Planes” article, and many other useful articles here and here.