Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Making and Mastering Wood Planes" in Print

Short and sweet:

This is an excellent book, not just for learning to make James Krenov style hand planes, but also for understanding how planes work. I found that much of the information on fettling the blades and chipbreakers applies directly to cast planes as well.


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fettling: Making the Shop More Functional

I think beginning woodworkers (and I still consider myself a beginning woodworker) are challenged by all the setup required for the shop to work well. Many tools are sold looking like they are functional, but with serious flaws. And even those that don't have serious flaws need fettling to perform at their potential. These tasks often seem endless.

The router table pictured above came from an estate, complete with router, for about $25. I knew I needed a router table, and I also knew it would be a while before I make the one I have planned. This seemed like a good solution (still does), but the the stock fence, which was designed to look like would allow straight guided cuts as well as small scale jointing, had challenges.

Ryobi is the manufacturer, and the table and fence are made from aluminum. They look like they were cast and machined to be flat, but the fence itself curves significantly. When I placed a straightedge against it, there was a visible deflection of up to 1/8" at the center. Whether I used it with the plastic guide surfaces or without, the fence caused anything that ran over it to stall when it hit the gap, and the act of correcting this problem would put a wrinkle in the line of the routed groove.

I had to fix the router fence before I could route the slots on the cold frame lights. And to do that I needed to finish setting up the jointer (finally). I spent a night last week setting up the jointer, and about an hour and a half this weekend flattening a fence and setting it up to receive the bolts. Two more fettling tasks done. And the router table performed to the tolerances I required (something it would not have done before adding the new face to the fence).

It turns out that the new surface is not actually flat, and some day I may sink the bolts further in and run it over the jointer while it is attached to the fence. Today is not that day.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Very Small Router Bits Used for Inlay

About a year ago I saw a post by Jameel at Khalaf Oud Luthiery discussing his process for inlay. In it he mentioned very tiny router bits (3/32") which he used to route the most of the mortise. Today I found a site where you can get bits as small as 1/32".

Very cool. I expect this will be useful one day.

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Exploded views of the Cold Frame

Exploded Frame

Exploded Light

The exploded views above give a good idea for just how simple the Cold Frame design is. The 2 x 2 strips at the bottom of the frame are sacrificial parts that can be replaced when the rot gets too bad.

The hardest part of this project is making the sloped sides and cutting the notches for the central brace. The notches really should have a sloped bottom to match that of the frame sides. I achieved this on my frame by marking 1 1/2" down on the top side and 1 5/8" down on the bottom side of each support. I cut to the lines with a hand saw (so the bottom of the kerf was sloped) and chiseled out the waste between the two. For some reason, on both frames the slot on the front of the frame was perfect, but the slot on the back of the frame had side-to-side slop. I think I still need practice cutting to a line, especially with a cross-cut saw.

This weekend I will start preparing the parts for the lights. This should be fairly simple: I need to route 1/4 inch slots in the sides, create the stops (the little blocks that hold the glass in), and cut the frame parts to length. If I have time left over, I'll also make the notched sticks that allow propping of the lights.

I chose to make the lights with tempered glass, which should deliver next Friday. It is very expensive: $88.62 per pane of tempered glass. When I priced other materials, I found that either Plexiglas or regular glass was 25% less expensive, and Polycarbonate was 25% more expensive: $101.28 per pane. Wow!

I hope this frame will still be working in 20 years: that might make the investment of time and materials worthwhile. The experience of making it? Priceless.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Compost Bins Completed

At the beginning of the summer I designed two possible compost bins based on designs in the book "Let it Rot". Last weekend I finally finished the one I chose to complete (the model with boars on four sides, which won on the merits of hiding the pile from our neighbors).

This is what we had before:

This is what we have now:

There are a lot of nuts and bolts in this beast:

And especially in the middle posts:

The bins look great and are functional, but given the choice to start over I would definitely go with the other design. All the hardware on this design was very expensive, as was the 1 x 6 lumber. The other design would have been easily as functional and because the floor and three sides are made with 2 x materials and cheaper connectors it would have been much less expensive and easier to construct.

But this design taught me quite a bit: I a built a jig for drilling the holes in the posts an equal distance apart, that worked perfectly except that I measured incorrectly and had the holes about 1/8" further apart than on the slats. It wasn't so much of a problem with the outer sides, where the bolts go through one post and one slat, but it was impossible to get through two posts and one slat. I ended up bolting through one hole and drilling out the second hole for each slat once the sides were mostly assembled. Also, did I mention that there are a LOT of nuts, bolts, and washers? And on the center side I was so distracted by the puzzle of getting the bolts in, that I installed the two back posts upside down. So I was able to take out and reinstall those 12 bolts twice. Fun.

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