Archive for December, 2011

Shelf Brackets – WIP 2

Saturday, December 31st, 2011
photo of both shelf brackets - acanthus scroll carvings

(click image to view larger version)

Shelf Brackets – WIP 1

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

One day late for “Wordless Wednesday.”

photo of partially carved ancanthus scroll

(click image for larger version)


Carving Pattern Tip

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Some of the best things I’ve learned, whether in my computer geek career, building boats, or other activities, have been those lessons learned from making mistakes. In fact, I believe that becoming a “Master” in anything means accumulating more know-how about fixing mistakes than the basic know-how related to the skill, craft, trade, or profession. The master woodcarver isn’t the one who knows how to carve a beautiful Newport Shell, but the one who knows how to avoid the mistakes in carving that shell.

photo of carving with paper patternSimple carving patterns can be drawn directly onto the carving stock. For more complex patterns, or those requiring some degree of precision, I prefer attaching a paper pattern directly to the material. Transferring by carbon paper (they still make that stuff!?) or some similar method is tedious and error prone. Normally, rubber cement is my preferred bonding agent. Patterns are easy to reproduce on the computer, and to print when needed. I attach one to a block of wood and cut through it. When it is no longer needed, the remnants are easily peeled off and the cement residue rubbed away.

At the start of the recent carving projects, my can of rubber cement was empty. I tried a couple of substitutes. A pattern was attached to one block with liquid hide glue, and to another with yellow glue.

photo of pattern ink smeared on carvingsBIG MISTAKE! Both glues led to the same problem. Moisture dissolved ink from the patterns, letting it wick into the carving’s surface. OUCH! It was OK on the Markus carving because the top surface of all the fish was carved away anyway, and the tops of the letters could be sanded clean (hate sanding!). It was disastrous with the Hannah carving (yellow glue), leaving a dark smear across the finished surface, with leaching too deep to sand away. The problem was discovered after the last step of that carving, the lettering. So, it needed a complete “do over.” The Georg pattern has a lot of ink in it, and not too far into that carving, I removed the pattern by (erroneously) softening the hide glue with water. ARRGH!

Lesson: For patterns that are to be bonded to the carving material, test to see if the bonding agents (or removal agents) will leave undesirable stains. I have a new can of rubber cement. … and am now a slightly wiser carver.

Name Signs for Grandchildren

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Our grandchildren now have name signs to mark their territory. Each is about 7 inches wide by 5 inches high. They are carved from basswood. Running in order of age, oldest first, we have… (click on images for larger views)

photo of Markus's name boardMarkus – Master of the aquarium. He keeps many colorful varieties well fed and healthy.




photo of Hannah's name boardHannah – Quiet, thinking, studious. The floral motif on her carving is taken from the philosopher’s carving on Giotto’s campanile in Florence.




photo of Ewan's name boardEwan – Transformers, Transformers, Transformers. He has a large collection and knows how to transform each of them.




photo of Georg's name boardGeorg – The builder. He’s always building interesting structures from Lego or from wood blocks. Often, he builds to great heights.

More Gouge and Chisel Racks

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Then there were three. The second is the same as the first, fit for a variety of carving tools. Yes, I like those Ashley Iles tools.

For smaller carving, I have a few small gouges, a few Pfeil palm gouges, and a few Dockyard micro tools. A rack for those tools is a little different. It’s scaled down because the tools are smaller. The angled bard is also smaller, made from a 1×3, leaving more room for the tools in front. The palm tools hang better in holes than sitting up resting on their handles, so the lower shelf has full holes instead of notches. Over at the right end, the micro tools need a little extra help standing up. Note the little wedge that forms a shelf on the angled board.

(click photos for larger views)

photo of 3 racks hanging on the wall photo of rack for smaller tools

Gouge and Chisel Racks

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The tool rack behind my bench was infested earlier this year by a deluge of carving chisels and gouges. As they arrived, all the rest of the tools scrunched together and made room. Nice, friendly tools. photo of gouge rack hanging on the wallNo, there are no wall cabinets, tool chests, or stacks of drawers in my shop. Tools kept in open racks are a lot easier to find and are quicker to come to hand. There were good intentions to build special racks for the new gouges and chisels, but other things (like learning to use them) came first.

While collecting about a bizillion pictures of chisel racks, one particular design caught my eye. This kind of rack will be at home sitting on the bench, or hanging from a French cleat on the end wall of the shop. The person who posted the pictures did not mention dimensions, but they were not hard to determine. A few sketches were useful for coming up with dimensions that ensure the tools don’t slide out and crash onto the concrete floor. The key to these racks is a “floor” piece that sits at a 45 degree angle. The rest is so simple that real plans aren’t needed. Most parts are made from either 1×3 or 1×4 standard lumber … and from a few 1x? pieces from the cutoffs pile.

photo of sawing with a bench hookOK. Let’s get started. Measuring things with rulers and other such devices can introduce all sorts of errors. (How many times have you misread a ruler?) So, I tend to use as few actual measurements as possible. This rack has only a few specific measures. The end pieces stand 8 inches tall. The long pieces are all 17 and 1/2 inches long. The bottom of the lower shelf is 3 and 1/2 inches above the bench. The holes in the shelves are on 1 and 1/2 inch centers, starting with the first 1 and 1/4 inch from one end. Everything else is measured directly from the components … and a randomly selected jar cap.

Only two pieces are actually measured for cutting, one 8 inch end piece and one 17.5 inch long piece. All the rest are cut using theses pieces as the measure. Since I use a pull saw for almost everything (I’m not a cabinet maker), my bench hook is hooked from the back side of the bench.

photo collage of making the baseThe tilted base sits at a 45 degree angle. It is made from a 1×4. The French cleat also needs a 45 degree angle.It is made from a 1×3. So, several edges need to be cut to 45 degrees. Use the bandsaw? No, it’s messy getting it setup to cut right at the very edge. Besides, using hand planes justify needing power from Milky Way bars. The work is actually very quick with a cambered blade in the jack plane doing most of the work. Get out that ole plastic triangle that’s left over from a freshman engineering course (50 years ago). Mark, rough plane, and follow up with one or two passes from a smoothing plane. Like my shooting stick? I’ll make a real one someday.

Click on the images to expand them.

photo collage of making the hole stripsThe rack has two shelves with holes in them. Make one stick. Drill a series of holes in it. Cut it in half (almost.) The layout line is actually 1 inch from one edge of a standard 1×3. The holes are 1 inch in diameter, made with an old Stanley bit brace and an auger from an ancient set of Russell Jennings bits. The extension lips needed a bit of gentle honing to remove what looks like a collision with a screw or nail. (Previously owned bits!)

A secret to success with these fine double threaded augers is to drill only partially through the lumber. Then, flip the piece and drill the remainder from the other side. This prevents the “blow out” that happens if one simply drills straight through. I prefer to use the leg vice to hold the workpiece. Two reasons. One is so I can reach underneath to feel the tip of the bit breaking through. The other is to prevent splitting. (Experience!)

photo collage for cutting a dadoTurning to the end pieces, there is a through dado for that 45 degree floor piece, and a couple of short stopped dadoes for the shelves. Layout used that 45 degree drafting triangle for one mark. Then, the actual lumber pieces were used for the remaining dado outlines. I set my shopmade router plane to the final depth I wanted (about 1/4″), and used it to mark the edges for depth. Thanks St. Roy for that tip! Pencil layout for the 45 degree dado was followed by substantial knife layout (using one of Bob Zajicek’s superb Czeck Edge knives), and then by chiseling a fine wedge on the waste sides of the lines. This produced a groove for the saw to track. Even a whippy pull saw can track a groove like that. Saw to depth. Use a bench chisel to zip out most of the waste. Complete with the router.

The short dadoes were simply chopped and pared. All of this work was at a comfortable height using the BOB.

photo collage for completing the end piecesA nicely rounded corner completes the end pieces. Measure? Use a compass? Naw, grab something round. Then use one of my favorite tools, a shopmade turning saw, along with a gigantic bird’s beak sawing fixture. Wow, that saw is a pleasure to use! Unfortunately, I need to follow up with my least favorite tool: sandpaper.

The racks that inspired this build have no visible screws or nails. Maybe the builder used only glue? With each rack capable of suspending several hundred dollars worth of sharp objects above a concrete floor, I want a little more than glue. Out comes the Goodell-Pratt eggbeater and the Fuller countersink bits.

photo collage of final assemply and finished rackA couple of clamps hold pieces together accurately while screws are used only enough to mark where pilot holes need to be drilled. More beating with the eggbeater, and it all goes together neatly. Now that the basic rack is built, a piece of cleat is measured against the rack, cut to fit, drilled and attached. The same routine goes for a strip at the bottom, which keeps the rack vertical against the wall.

Perfect. It fits nicely right next to my shop desk, which also rides on a French cleat.

The title of this posts uses “racks,” plural. Yes, there are more to come, and more French cleat runs on that wall.

… and for the guy who asks “Shouldn’t chisels be stored with the sharp ends down?” I’m going to find where you live and seal up your garage door with your car inside … just so you don’t hurt anyone with it.