Sunday, August 31, 2008

Updated Woodworking Link Farm

This morning I went through my Woodworking Link Farm to make sure the links still worked. I had to delete a few, but for many of them I was able to find the new address, and in the case of Bob Keye's Bench Pages, I was happy to find I could use a Wayback Machine link.

If you're looking to browse woodworking (and related) Web sites this could be a good start:

Even though I was going quickly through the links (to finish in one sitting), it was still fun to browse through these again.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Handscrew Genius

So I recently bought six handscrews (two each of the 8", 10", and "12 jaw length). I put them on the rafter near the workbench and radial arm saw where I can reach them easily if I need them, and I can tell already I'll be using them a lot. They've been here less than a week, and I've already used them for several tasks:

As an impromptu saw stop,

To hold a smaller machinists clamp (that held a modified hook that I had cut and was filing smooth), and also to serve as a third hand to hold up a chair rail (I attached the handscrew to the door frame at the height where the bottom end of the rail went and set that end of the rail on the hand screw. I could then hold the other end with one hand and attach it with the other.).

If I was at all unsure of the purchase of these handscrews, I'm now convinced of their flexability and importance for workholding. In fact, I picked up 4 more of the Rockler 10" hand screws for the bargain price of $20.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ash and Canvas: Gers in Camp

Quite a few of the camp members got together during the last year and built gers (popularly called yurts) for this year's Pennsic. They bought air-dried ash from a saw mill, and built rather impressive tents. Anne and I have had a ger for the last five or six years, and they are extremely comfortable camping – even when it rains (or pours) steadily for six days, like it did last year.

One good thing about gers is how they resist wind. Because they are domed at the top, and all the force of the roof's weight is transfered down to the walls, when a strong wind comes it pushes the entire structure tighter to the ground, using the same aerodynamics that lift an airplane (only in reverse). I'm always glad of this when heavy thunderstorms come through. It wouldn't survive a tornado, of course, but as long as the materials hold, I'm fairly confident that the tent won't fail in linear winds.

Another plus is the fact that they have holes at the peak of the roof that can be uncovered in good weather. This lets air circulate as though the entire tent were a chimney. With the smoke hole open and the tent walls slightly raised, the air flow keeps the tent almost the same temperature as the outside.

Gers have walls that support rafters pegged into a roof ring. There are no internal supports, so a 16' diameter tent like the one Anne and I use, is entirely usable space with five or six foot tall walls at the outside and rafters that rise to a peak of 8 or 9 feet. The walls are a lattice of cross-bound staves that are arranged like those expandable baby gates: the lattice opens out to form a wall of diamond openings (see below). The latice is very flexible and can rollup fairly tightly.

The red column above is the wall (called the khana) of a 16' diameter tent with 5' walls. Like all of the new gers, they stained the wood of the khana, rafters, and roof rings to match and attached the staves of the khana with aluminum aircraft rivets.

The pile of red wood above is all the rafters for the same ger. These fit into a roof ring at the top and sit on a wire at the bottom. In some designs the rafters are notched and sit on the x of the lattice walls

Above is the wall and door of another tent, being assembled. This is the same size tent as the red one. In this case, the walls are held fast by the door frame and by the wire that encircles the top of the wall. In traditional gers, there are belly bands that encircle the lattice of the khana and prevent the circle from expanding during use.

Here is the roof ring that supports the top end of the rafters. It is leaning against the outside of another of the new gers.

Above the roof is being put on the ger. In these a ladder is used, but in many constructions the ring can be raised from the ground. In fact, traditional Mongolian gers have two poles that lash onto the roof ring and allow the rafters to be assembled by one or two people without the use of a ladder.

Several of the new gers had quite impressive wooden doors on them. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures of them. Adding a wooden door to our tent is a project I've had in mind for some time now. Perhaps I'll make one for next year. For now, we're comfortable with a canvas door panel.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Comment Moderation Turned On

Today I had to delete and repost an entry because of spam commenting (the comment didn't even have something to do with Woodworking). As a result, I've turned on comment moderation so I can stop this type of abuse before it happens. Don't worry: I'll only block your comments if they are somehow inappropriate for the site.


Bench Finishing

This summer during vacation I managed a rather large woodworking project to completion using volunteer labor. My friend Sean had come up with plans for breakdown benches that would look medieval, and store flat. I'm actually working to make a pair of these benches in my shop, but I'm much slower and my shop is more primitive than Sean's: I expect to finish my two before we go to Pennsic next year.

Sean, on the other hand, is a powerhouse for bulk woodworking. You may remember the post I made about his 20 box run. At the time he completed the boxes, these benches were a pile of rough cut lumber in Sean's barn. In less than two months he converted that pile to what we thought was 30 collapsible benches (it turned out to be 29 bench tops and 28 complete benches).

The bulk of the bench parts were sent down to Pennsylvania with Jay on Wednesday, but Sean stopped by our house to deliver most of the bench sides at 11 p.m. Friday, the last possible moment we could have taken them with us. These benches would be outside for the next two weeks, and needed to be finished before being put to use. I promised Sean two things before I left: first, that I would take pictures of the benches after they were finished and assembled; second, that they would be properly stickered for storage during the following year. Implicit in those promises was a third: that the benches would be stained, sealed, and assembled.

So the first week of my vacation, I took a trip to Home Depot looking for staining and sealing supplies. Jay wanted to stain the benches green, so they would be identifiably ours, and after long deliberation, I chose Minwax water-based stain in an Olive tint rather than Hunter Green. Minwax Helmsman spar varnish would be the sealant. This started a two-and-a-half day marathon of staining, sealing, and convincing people to help complete the project.

With 28 total benches being finished for assembly, we recruited everyone willing to wield a brush. We went through a lot of protective gloves during this: probably 15 different people helped out with this project, the most important being Anne, who started staining and coordinating volunteers while I was still finishing the sand table. At one point the gloves we had made us feel like villains in Firefly. "Two-by-two, hands of blue".
Eventually (after several runs to The Borg) there were enough stickers to properly stack the benches between sessions. These came in handy during the finishing, since we could sticker them while they were drying from stain or sealant. Here's the full pile of 28 benches stickered while the Spar Varnish was drying:

Everyone's technique was slightly different: some charged the brushes more than others, some spread the finish more thinly or evenly than others, and some were faster than others. At the time, I could have cataloged these differences and told you who had sealed or stained each bench part, like looking at a finger print. It was fascinating to see all of us doing the work in essentially the same way, but having visible differences in the outcome. It makes clear that running samples for different finish combinations and techniques can be a valuable exercise.

The benches were completed by Wednesday. Nicodemus assembled the benches once they were dry and we enjoyed using them for the rest of the two weeks.

Sean expected the benches to withstand at least a 500 pound load (something they could plausibly be asked to do). I don't think they were ever tested to that degree, but through two weeks of use, being hauled about and seating up to four people at a time, the benches were enjoyed by the entire camp, and served without sign of failure!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tool Shopping

Today I went on a bit of a tool shopping spree at Lee Valley and Rockler. The initial motivation was to replace a pair of Crash Scissors I misplaced at Pennsic.

Of course a trip to the tool shop is never safe, even if just on the computer. I ended up finding a list of clamps I had jotted down a few months ago after I read Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings, so I got those and (oh yes) some hones I've been intending to get since Beauty is using dull knives in the kitchen and I'm carrying a dull knife in my pocket. For good measure I got a dust hood to install on the Radial Arm Saw. So here's the complete list.

From Rockler:
From Lee Valley:
The damage for both purchases combined was about $187. Ouch. I hope to resist buying tools for a while: Christmas is coming and Beauty gets mad when The Beast uses up her good gift ideas.

Photo courtesy of Lee Valley.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Sand Table Assembly

The sand table was assembled and used for East Kingdom battle planning during the Pennsic War this year. I completed the parts just before leaving on vacation, stained them in camp during the first days I was there, and then assembled them into a sandbox on legs the following day. Here are all the parts, ready for assembly:

The key pieces where the legs, which I had pocket screwed together with the Kreg pocket hole jig. Each leg has a shelf that makes assembly easier and helps support the weight of the sand. Each of the side pieces has a ledge that is glued and screwed on. These sit flush with the top of the leg shelves, and the sides screw directly to the legs:

The addition of a lower stretcher makes the table side stable:

The second side slides into place much like a puzzle piece:

Installing the additional sides and stretchers makes a solid pedestal for the table:

A plywood bottom slides in to create the sandbox:

Five bags of sand filled the box:

A plywood top makes a functional table when the sand table is not in use.

The project was a success. The only thing that needs changing for next year is more or better sealant for the box (especially the lid). Moisture from the sand caused the table top to curl upward a little at the corners, and made the bottom swell enough that it took some force to knock it out at the end of the two weeks. Both of those problems should be corrected after a year of dry storage.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Return from Vacation

I'm back from two week's vacation and will start posting again soon. I did not find the primitive woodworking I had hoped to see while on the trip, but did have some woodworking experiences. I'll post pictures of the sand table and bench finishing projects soon.