Saturday, March 21, 2009

Building the Jointmaker Pro (Part 1)

Christmas continued at my house this week with the assembly of the Jointmaker Pro. I received the unassembled version of the Jointmaker, which provided a great opportunity to understand exactly how the machine goes together.

Before starting, I cleared and vacuumed the benchtop. I only wish I had also vacuumed the floor: there are a lot of small parts (with no extras), and I managed to drop three of them. The game of hide and seek would have been easier on a carefully cleaned floor.

The tool parts arrived securely boxed. Inside they were packaged in protective plastic bags, carefully wrapped in paper, or nestled in perfectly-sized high impact Styrofoam compartments.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a lot of small parts and the assembly requires a lot of patience and care. If I had not had such short lengths of time to work in, and not taken so many pictures along the way, I think it would have taken about three hours to assemble. As it was, it took about 4.5 hours plus time to solve the two troubles I encountered (more on this later).

The hardware was divided into manageable groups of parts, and I kept them in their bags until I neared the end of the process. The logic of the sorting was not always obvious, but there was a logic: all of the same sized screws were in the same bag, and all of the orange aluminum parts were in the same bag, all of the square topped bolts, etc. When I looked for a part, it was usually in the bag I look in first.

In addition to the Allen wrenches Bridge City shipped with the kit, they mentioned the need for a #2 Philips head screw driver, a small hammer, a 9/16" open ended wrench (or adjustable wrench), and needle nosed pliers. I quickly found that a small, accurate square was also required for referencing some of the parts, and I wished many times for Allen wrenches that had screwdriver handles for the two largest sizes that Bridge City supplied.

The front and back panels were wrapped in individual heavy plastic bags to preserve the quality finish of the tool.

The stretchers each had a perfectly fitted seating on the back of the front and rear plates. These were then easily screwed into place.

Doesn't it look good already? But a tool looks good because it works well, so there wasn't too much time spent admiring it. I didn't get nuts with the pictures until later in the assembly process (I really did go nuts), but assembling the shafts to the keel was when the square became useful: it was the perfect tool for ensuring that bearing blocks are square and flush with the keel edges. There are pictures in the manual showing exactly how the gears should interlock. At first it seemed to me that I couldn't do this incorrectly, but the slots in the keel allowed some play in the positioning of the shaft. I found it easiest to check the correct placement by feel: the gears should interlock so that the teeth meet on exactly the same plane.

A blurry picture of the gears after both shafts are attached:

With the shafts assembled, the working part of the tool starts to take shape.

I found the hardest (most nerve wracking) part of the assembly to be inserting the spring pin that attaches the front height shaft to the spine. Needle nose pliers truly were necessary for this, and though the instructions recommend using a small hammer they don't make clear how hard that hammer has to strike to drive the pin home. Too lite and the pin just waggled around. It took a solid blow to get it started enough to abandon the pliers and pound directly.

With the pin fully seated, this is what the connection looks like.

Next, the front and rear height shafts are screwed into the keel. This is where the work of raising and lowering the blade takes place. The instructions have specific lengths mentioned that should protrude from the gear bushings. This was another place that I found the sliding combination square handy: I set the rule to the required height and used it as a depth gauge.

After this step, the keel was held upright in the bench vise, as recommended in step 7. The pitch adjuster screw was inserted and the rear spine guide attached (again with the combination square to seat it properly square and flush to the keel). The next part involved tightening down a screw that threads into the rear pitch adjuster until it is tight, then backing it off slightly. This captures the spine between two washers and allows free movement of the screw while the spine pitch is adjusted. A simple and elegant solution.

Notice the Allen wrench in the top of the spine. There is a very small hole there for inserting this into the trap screw, and the instructions have two names for this screw. I note that one writer on the Bridge City forums had quite a time finding this, and if I hadn't done this in the same sesiion that I threaded the pitch adjuster and trapped the spine, I might also have had troubles.

That ends the first part of the assembly. I'll post the other half of the pictures soon.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bridge City Tools Jointmaker Pro: It's Here!

My Christmas present arrived yesterday afternoon. The box of Jointmaker Pro parts was left leaning against the front door, and I started to assemble it.

I will post pictures of the assembly process later, but my first impression: there are a LOT of pieces, and you don't want to lose any of them before you get the machine assembled. I'm glad to be assembling mine, but if you don't like assembly or know you are not careful about assembly projects it will be well worth spending extra and have Bridge City put it together.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

6/4" Poplar Board

I spent time this morning consulting the U.S. Forestry Service's Wood Handbook. I was looking for an affordable wood that would not move too much, carve fairly well, take paint, and be available in 6/4 rough. I settled on Poplar over Basswood (lower movement coefficient and better paintability, especially with latex), and headed off to Downes and Reader.

I just love the lumber yard. I spent a minute just browsing all of the wood. I was tempted to look for more than I had come for (there was still some of the Friejo I bought the last time down) but the memory of the full wood racks and the pile of ash that will need to be added in a month or two when Sean leaves his current house made me decide to stick to my shopping list: at least 10 feet of 6/4 poplar in a board at least 6 inches wide. What I found needed to be cut to fit in the car, so I had it cut to slightly longer than the sword will be: 4 feet. I plan to make two sword blanks simultaneously, so that if I screw up the first one, the second will be ready to go.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Lumber Run and Joint Maker Pro

Tomorrow I'm off to Downes and Reader to get the wood for my next project: a wooden sword. More on this as things develop. It is a fantasy sword commissioned by a reader, and I'm trying to invent a way to sheath it without a sheath, so that the whole sword is visible on his hip.

Oh, and the Joint Maker Pro shipped from Bridge City Tools. I've been coming home with hopes of finding it on my front porch, but it does take packages a while to get all the way across the country!


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