Monday, December 26, 2016

Workshop Makeover, Part 1

We're full on into snow season here in upstate NY so I'm really enjoying my basement workshop. With the insulation of the earth, added insulation I put in the walls it is the most comfortable room in the house.

I've decided that this year it is going to be all about the workshop. I might slip a small project in here and there; however, I'm going to give my workshop a makeover.  When I started doing woodworking I wanted to just dive in and start making things. I'd grudgingly make jigs when forced; however, I'd also try to jury rig things or worse hold things by hand which resulted in a lot of mistakes and low quality work. It was probably two years before I stopped using loose chunks of 2x4 to hold up the off-cuts from my chop saw. When I finally made a very rudimentary permanent support I finally had my eureka moment. Stop jury rigging things.

Since that moment, I've gotten a lot better. I've build a number of jigs to make my woodworking a lot more accurate and safe. However, I've never taken the time to give my workshop a full makeover. I'm still using the lumpy and uneven bench I inherited with the house to hold up my miter saw, I've got dust collection hoses stretched across my floor which create a tripping hazard and take up space. I don't have enough wood storage, my plywood is leaning against a wall, I've got old kitchen cabinets - also inherited - that aren't usable because they aren't accessible.

As an added complication I'm getting work done on one of my foundation walls this spring. I've got salt from vehicle runoff in my garage infiltrating through the cinder block walls.

The fix is pretty simple which is to clean up the block and install a vapor barrier. This should make the wall last longer than my life time. However, to get make room for the masons I need to clear out that area of my workshop.

There's not much on the wall, just some pegboard and some power outlets I don't use. I'm thinking I'll just remove it all. I do have tools stored on that wall; however, I'm thinking I can come up with something more efficient. I also have some longer wood off-cuts from previous projects leaning against the wall.

I have some ideas on what I'd like to do but the first step is getting an idea of what I have and what space I have to work with. Today I measured up my basement and made little cut outs for each of my tools.

The washer, dryer and utility sink aren't going anywhere. I also need to leave enough space around them do get laundry in and out. The utilities - furnace, sump and hot water aren't going to be moved. The rest of the basement is fair game.

Next step, planning the new layout!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dresser, Part 8 - The Top

As I've been ramping up my woodworking for this winter I've been spending some time on the top to the dresser. I don't have a lot of pictures mostly because despite it taking me two or three weeks to get it ready for the finishing room there's not really that many steps to it.

I had started a top previously but gave it up. The top requires a panel glue up that is 21" wide and 44" long. My plan was to glue up two pairs of board and to use my planer to make them flat again. Unfortunately my boards had wild enough grain that there was no direction I could pass them through the planer without getting severe chip-out. Frustrated I gave up and used those boards for other parts of the project. This was probably two years ago that I had reached this point.

The point I am at how is that the top is pretty much all that is left. Once the top is on I can put the back on - it's been ready and waiting for a year - and I can actually start using the dresser even as I finish the last few details.

I decided to attempt to reuse two of the boards from the old top and I added two new boards. I followed the same process as  I did the first time. When the planer started chipping the boards I tried a technique suggested to me by one of the clerks at Woodcraft which is to wet the tops of the boards with mineral spirits to soften the fibers and then send them through the planer.

This was a horrible idea. The first board passed through without any issue but the second board got stuck halfway through. When I stopped the planer and took a look at the board I saw black rubber marks on it. The rubber from the drive wheels on the planer was being dissolved by the mineral spirits! GAH!!!

I unplugged the planer, lifted it to its maximum height and wiped the rollers down with paper towels as best I could. I then let it sit for a day to finish drying. It's a quite expensive planer and I don't want to replace it because I do something dumb. Fortunately when I ran some boards through it the next day it all seemed to be fine.

But I have a new tool! I pulled out my new drum sander and it did a stunning job of removing the chipping from the boards. It took three or four heavy passes and the boards were then flat and chip free.

The next step was to glue the two pairs of boards together to make the full glue up. I took great care to get the boards to come out as even as possible. What little difference there was I removed with hand planes and my random orbit sander.

I used my circular saw and a straight edge to true up the ends, then I used my extra wide fence on my table saw to trim both ends straight, true and clean.

The top needs two more details. It gets a 1/4" bevel on the bottom of the sides and front and it gets a back rail. I used by 2 1/2 HP Dewalt handheld router and a large chamfer bit with a guide bearing to take small increments - about 1/6" each - until I  was down to the desired depth.

I'd made the back rail while the top was gluing. It's just another quartersawn white oak board that gets a 1/16" bevel around the top.

After chamfering the top and the back rail I glued the two of them together. One of the things I did to minimize glue squeeze out that I'd have to scrape off the front was to put a stopped groove on the bottom of the rail. I did this by setting my table saw fence to set the blade just a little inside the the thickness of the rail. I raised the blade so it'd make very shallow cut and marked the spot the blade entered and exited the top. This allowed me to drop the rail onto the blade, push the rail through until I hit the stop mark and then turn off the saw.

The glue up went well. I had plenty of squeeze out in the back and only a small spot to cleanup in the front. The groove worked.

It was later that night when I was thinking about the next steps that I realized I hadn't trimmed the width of the top yet. When I measured it I had a 22" wide board and it needs to be 21. Simple enough to fix. I just ran it through my table saw and reapplied the bevel to the front bottom.

After that it was a up to the finishing room where I could wipe the dust off with mineral spirits and apply my Watco Dark Walnut Oil. After two coats of oil I wiped the top down with shop towels until they came back mostly clean.

So far I'm pretty happy with how the top has come out. It's flat enough - not perfect but good enough. I kind of wish I'd remembered to put the wide board on the outside so when I trimmed the top to size it would be closer to the same size as the other boards. But, I'm happy enough with how it looks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dresser, Part 7 - Drawer Fronts

[Note: This posting is going up in December 2016; however, the progress was actually made back in June 2016 time-frame. I just got too busy to write it up.]

It took me most of my woodworking time for a weekend to get all the drawer fronts mounted on the drawer boxes. The process seems so easy. Drill a few holes for the hardware, drill some counter sunk holes in the boxes for attaching the drawer fronts, sink some screw and Bob's your uncle. Turns out there's a lot of holes each of which need some level of countersinking.

But before getting into drilling holes I needed to put slick tape into the  drawer openings. Slick tape is UHMW plastic with a sticky backing. It allows drawers to slide very smoothly. Unfortunately halfway though I ran out and had to order more. Even more unfortunately I couldn't find the same stuff I'd bought a few years back for my nightstand. All the stuff I was finding was much thicker. This is an issue because I'd sized the drawer boxes to just fit the openings assuming there was thinner tape. I ended up ordering a wide selection from Amazon until I found one I liked. After putting tape in all the openings I moved onto mounting the drawer fronts.

Slick Tape

First step for me was to mount the drawer fronts to the drawers. I drilled holes in the four corners of the drawer box fronts and countersunk them on the inside. I then put the drawer in the dresser and centered the drawer front. I used double faced tape to stick the drawer front to the drawer box. After getting the drawer fronts positioned correctly I used the holes in the box as a guide to predrill the screw holes for the front and then put in the screws holding the fronts to the boxes.

I never have good luck with this technique. I almost always have problems with the fronts shifting after I've pulled them out. I don't remember if I had this issue with these drawers or not. I may have just used copious amounts of tape. What I've done in other cases is to use the holes drilled for the pulls and use a bolt and nut tightened from the front of the drawer to hold everything in position until I could get the screws in.

Drawer Interior

So where are we at with number of holes drilled? Well, it's four per drawer; however, it required two different drill bits: one a little bigger than the screw for the clearance hole and one the size of the screw shank for the drawer front and a chamfer bit.

Next is drilling the holes for the drawer hardware. This is another three step hole. The pulls have a stem that needs a countersunk hole in the drawer front, a smaller clearance hole through the drawer box and then another countersunk hole in the box so the machine screw heads are recessed. I made two different jigs, one for each drawer size, which helped me get consistent results placing the hardware. This last step required three more drill bits.

Finally, I added some blocks in the back of the drawer openings to set the spacing. The blocks were supposed to be screwed in place but I was having problems getting the drill in to get the screws to go in straight. Instead I just grabbed my brad nailer and shot a couple of brads through each. That'll hold well enough and if I ever need to remove them they'll just pry right off.

Drawer Stops

In any case, the job is done - well, mostly - and looks pretty good all things considered.

Dresser with drawers installed

That said, there are three issues already.

At least two of the shelves the drawers ride on aren't flat. It wouldn't be a big deal if they bowed downwards but instead they are bowing upwards. This means there is a little "click" each time the drawer gets closed from the false front clipping the drawer dividers. I mitigated some of the issue on one of the drawers by using a block place to shave the drawer box to not have a lip in the front; however, the false front still hits the divider. I still need to work on the other drawer.

Unfortunately there isn't much more I can do about this issue.

The only other serious issue is that I wanted my drawers to be tight and one of the small drawer openings is a wee bit smaller and none of the drawer boxes fit. To keep from having a sticky drawer I'm going to have to make the drawer a bit thinner either by planing the sides down or sanding them on my stationary belt sander.

This issue is at least solvable.

The last issue is that I'm not real excited about how well the false fronts fit the openings. I did a sloppy job cutting them to width and length and as a result when I look at them closely the gaps around them aren't consistent.

This issue is merely a cosmetic issue that I will probably be the only person to notice.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wooden Wallet

"Wooden wallet? Are you messing with me?" - Nope.

I have a friend...  Let's call him Daquanne to preserve his anonymity. He found out I did woodworking when he saw one of my wooden business card holders. He thought they were stunning and asked me to make him a wooden wallet. Basically one of the business card holders but a little thicker.

I must admit I had two thoughts. The first was, "this is the stupidest thing I ever heard of." The second was, "I wonder if the geometry will all word out."

I thought that perhaps he'd take a super minimal wallet. More of a money clip to be honest. To make a prototype I took a 1/4" thick piece of poplar  and using my belt sander I thinned the edges out to give it a fair curve on the back leaving the face flat. I then took some sandpaper I folded down to about 1/2" wide and used it to put a slight recess in the back. by basically sawing it against the grain. I bought some elastic band and stapled it to the back stretching it around the front. It actually worked quite well for holding a couple of credit cards and a few bills together.

Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it and I cannot find it. If I come across it I'll update this post.

More unfortunately Daquanne was quite displeased with it. Let's just say he's lucky I felt like giving it another try.

So instead of figuring out if the geometry of a thicker business card holder would work I offered to make a card holder that had the same basic geometry of a zippo lighter but large enough to hold a credit card, some cash and a bus card. Since I was working with a time constraint I decided to see if I could just throw one together out of some scrap Wenge and Padauk I had lying around. I did take a couple of minutes to sketch out a plan.

I started by planing my wenge down to about 3/8" x 1/2". It's not exact but doesn't need to be for this purpose. I then cut it into pieces for the sides, top and bottom mitering the corners. I reporposed and old jig I used for making picture frames and glued up the wallet frame.

I cut the long sides about 1/8" longer than I needed so I could use my table saw to separate the top and bottom pieces. I then sized the padauk to width and separated the top pieces and glued them on. Then I fit and glued the bottom pieces on one at a time.

You can see in the left picture that the paduak on the top piece doesn't cover all the wenge. This is because I wanted to use the wenge stubs for my hinge as you'll see in a bit. You can see I also left the paduak a little long. After gluing the front and back on I trimmed off the excess with my bandsaw.

Then I drilled a hole and inserted the hinge pin. Once the case was being held together I spent some time at my drum sander to make the padauk flush to the wenge and to round the corners slightly. I also softened the edges with some sandpaper.

For finish I took the suggestion of my wood monger - I don't know if monger is the correct term but it sounds cool - anyway, Valarie suggested I use shellac to seal the wood before pulling my standard oil and urethane on as the oil would darken the wood and I'd lose some of the bright red color. So I bought a can of spray shellac and hit the outside of the magazine case with that. Then since shallac really isn't an appropriate final finish for something that's going to be carried in a man's pocket all day I put two coats of my standard wipe on oil and urethane finish.

I still think a wooden wallet is stupid; however, for something I threw together with minimal planning I think it worked out pretty well. Most important, Daquanne was happy with it too.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Magazine Boxes, Part 4 - Finishing

I used my standard finish on all the boxes which is General Finishes Oil & Urethane Satin thinned with Mineral spirits 2:1.

I like this finish because it is very forgiving. I get a lot of open time where I can deal with drips, pools and dry spots. Since the finish is thinned it self levels very nicely and since it is self leveling I can apply it with a rag instead of a brush. This means I can use a disposable shop towel and when I am done applying finish just hang the towel to dry. Once dry I just throw it out in the garbage. This makes cleanup a breeze. The finish cures quickly enough that I get very few dust nibs too.

There are exceptions. Some woods like cherry can end up looking blotchy with just an oil finish on them. Another issue comes up with woods that have a lot of natural oils in them. In these cases the oil in the wood keeps the polyurethane from curing correctly. I don't know of any North American woods that have too much natural oil; however, quite a few imported species do. This is why I always try my finish on an offcut first whenever I'm not familiar with a species.

The fix for both of these issues is to seal in the problem with shellac. Shellac doesn't have the same refraction properties as oil so it doesn't cause blotching and seals the pores so oil finishes put on top don't blotch. It will also seal in issues with oily woods.

I didn't have any oily woods in my magazine boxes but I did want to try sealing the cherry. We - my wife and I - were sending a miniature plinth for a friend that was so oily that we needed to seal it before putting my oil & urethane on it. Since I was going on a trip, my wife volunteered to do share the finishing for me. I have such an awesome wife.

We started by putting shellac on the plinth and the cherry magazine box. I gave the cherry magazine box a very light sanding them started putting the oil and urethane wiping finish on all of them. The downside of the wiping varnish is that the coats are so thin it take a lot of them to get a good coat. I got the first couple of coats before I left on vacation and my wife did the rest while I was out of town.

When I got back from my trip I rubbed the boxes down with kraft paper - brown paper bags - to remove the few dust nibs, filled them with magazines and put them on my shelf.

I'm pretty happy with how they all came out.

New boxes

New and old boxes (from right - Zebra wood, Walnut, Purpleheart, Walnut)

[This was originally posted in December 2016; however, the finishing work was done over the 4th of July 2016.]

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's Late Fall/Winter!

It's winter in upstate NY... Okay, technically it is still fall; however, we had over a foot of snow last week and I had to clear the driveway. That makes it winter in my book. Regardless, whether the season is fall or winter, it is definitely woodworking season again.

I've cleaned up the detritus of summer projects which involves putting tools away that were just set down rather than stored, throwing out scraps and cleaning up piles of sawdust. I've also done a couple of quick projects to get back into the swing of things.

Cat Scratching Post:
Our cat post had seen better days so I decided to strip the frayed carpet off and recover it with sisal rope. One thing I realized is that it is easier to have two people doing it so I enlisted my wife's help. The issue was that as I twisted the rope around the post it was torquing the rope and making the brain tighter until it kinked. This was solved by having my wife rotate the post while I kept the rope tight. I fastened the two ends of the rope to the post with staples intended for holding romex down.

I left the square of carpet on top because I didn't have a good idea how to wrap the sisal around the top and that carpet was still in good shape.

Also, the kittens are almost full sized but still super cute.

Wooden Wallet
A friend of mine asked me to make him a wooden wallet. I'm skeptical as to the utility in a wooden wallet; however, I figured I could throw one together. He asked for Padauk and Wenge. I happened to have to some small pieces lying around so I got it started this weekend.

I took a small strip of Wenge and cut two lengths that were 3/16" x 1/2" x 7". The pieces are effectively quartersawn. If I were to make another I think I'd make a point of using the plainsawn face for the edges. I cut a top and a side piece out of each and mitered the corners. I reused a jig from another project to hold the pieces a 90 degrees to each other while I glued them.

To glue the two halves together I used a scrap piece of Wenge and some tape to hold them together. I kind of wished I'd used a little more tape. When I checked on it a few hours later one of the pieces of tape had come loose. Still, it lasted long enough to get the pieces glued.

After the glue was set I cut the top piece from the bottom as I wont be able to after the faces are glued on. I used my small parts jig shown in this picture for cutting all these little pieces.

I also trimmed the faces and glued the top faces to the sides but failed to get any pictures of that. I'll put them into my next update.

Weekend Summary
It's kind of a slow start but it is a start. Workshop cleanup, a couple of small projects finished and started and I also trimmed my boards for the top to my dresser. I'm planning on focusing on my dresser in order to get it completed this year.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Magazine Boxes, Part 4 - Final joints and assembly

A couple of weeks ago I took a weekend afternoon to cut the final joints in the magazine boxes and glued them up. The final joints went pretty quick since it was just a matter of cutting a number of 1/4" dados and rabbets. It helps that there are only a couple of saw set ups.

My first step is to install a 1/4" dado blade in the table saw. I then clamp a sacrificial fence to my fence which I slide over until it is just touching the dado blade. After setting the blade height to 1/4" I run a couple of test boards through to check my setup.

I then cut the rabbets on the fronts and backs that will hold the sides. These are 1/4" wide by 1/4" deep.

Fronts and Backs
I also run the bottoms through to create rabbets on all four edges.


With my rabbets complete I turned my attention to making the grooves that would hold the bottoms in place. I remove my sacrificial fence and set the table saw fence using the same template I used to shape the feet. This is accurate enough of a method for setting the fence because it is most important to have the grooves all be the same distance from the bottom rather than a specific distance. In the fronts and backs this is a 1/4" deep groove, in the sides it is 1/8". I use scrap to test the cuts and ensure they are the correct depth. I use my template to locate the position of the groove.

All the pieces
With all the joinery complete it was just a simple matter of gluing up all the pieces. The first thing I did was to dry fit the pieces in order to make sure glue up would go smoothly.

Dry Fit
Often the tongues on the bottoms would be a little thick so I'd use my shoulder plane to shave the thinner until I had a good fit. After I was happy with how all the parts were fitting together I'd glue them up.

Glue up
I used another clamp across the top; however, I took this photo without for better clarity.  After twenty or thirty minutes I removed the clamps and cleaned up the glue squeeze out with a chisel.

The finished boxes got some final sanding and then got move to the finishing room for cleanup.
Assembled boxes (Tulip, Chechen, Cherry, Spanish Cedar, Black Palm)

Next up: Finishing!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hexagons, Part 2 - The project and some math!

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my wife paints little plastic and metal figures. Her work area is a folding table that has seen better days. She's also acquired a bunch of materials that are stored in bins that are stacked around the desk. I want to build her a new painting table that includes storage for her paints, brushes and other materials. The focal point will be the top which will be a maple and walnut hex pattern mimicking gaming maps.

Step 1: Make some decisions

Yup, the first step is to make some decisions. I already know I want a thin border of walnut around my maple hexes so that decision is already made for me. The next decision I need to make is the size of the hexagon. If I was making a gaming map I'd make the hexes 1 inch because that's the most common size. However, since this table is going to be used as a hobby workbench and not a gaming table I can make the hexes bigger which will result in fewer pieces so I'll look at making 1 1/2 inch hexes too.

I'm going to build my top as a 1 inch thick butcher block (end grain on top) like in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Example hexagonal butcher block

Step 2: Do some calculations

As Jack Burton says in Big Trouble in Little China, "This is going to take some crackerjack timing, Wang." In this case it is going to take some crackerjack setup. One trick to precision is to not change the settings on the tools in the middle of the process because they'll never go back to the exact same spot and tiny errors accumulate. Since I cannot go back and make more hexagons if I run short, I want to make sure I have all the material I'll need for the table and then a little more for tests and waste.

To figure out how much wood I need I could try to just calculate the total board feet of the completed table top; however, my process for making the hexagons creates a fair bit of waste so I need to take that into account. My basic process will be to calculate the number of hexagons I'd need to fill the surface of the table, then multiply that times the length of each hexagonal block plus some for waste.

Step 2a: Calculate number of pieces needed for table top

My plan for the table gives it a top surface area of 30 in x 60 in = 1800 in2.

A hexagon with a height of 1 inch has an area of 0.866 in2.  That works out to about 2100 pieces to glue up into the table top. Yikes!

A hexagon with a height of 1 1/2 inch has an area of about 1.95 in2. For my table top that works out to about 925 pieces. That would be a lot less daunting. I think I'll go with 1 1/2 inch hexes.

How did I figure out the area of a hexagon? I'd like to say I remembered my geometry; but, that wouldn't be true. I'd like to say I figured it out the hard way by breaking the hexagon into a square and some triangles; however, that wouldn't be true either. In actual fact I used a web application that did the math for me.

Step 2b: Calculate total length of maple needed

Since 1.5" high hexes look like the winner I know I'm going to need 925 hexagonal pieces 1 inch long (the thickness of the table top).

But I'm not done.

I also need to calculate the waste for the width of the saw blade when I separate the pieces from the column. For a small number of cuts it probably wouldn't make that much difference but I'm going to be making over 900. My saw blade is about 1/8 inch in width so each little hex block is going to require 1 inch plus the 1/8 inch saw blade kerf.

This is a bit easier to calculate. I need 925 pieces  that are effectively 1 1/8 inches in length which comes to 1050 inches.

I may as well do my waste calculation now too and add 30% more for waste which brings my total length to 1365 inches or about 115 feet.

Step 2c: Calculate the total quantity of maple needed

My process for cutting a hexagonal column involves first cutting a rectangular blank and then clipping the corners. To figure out the size of the blank I need to know both the height of the hexagon and the diagonal. For a 1 1/2 inch high hex the diagonal is just under 1 3/4 inch.

Figure 2: Hexagon Blank with Numbered Sides
Figure 2 shows how I'll get a hex out of a rectangular block. It is basically just a process of removing the wood shown in grey.

My total maple purchase needs to be:
    height * width * length   =   1.5 in * 1.75 in * 1365  in   =   3583 in3   =  25 bf

Twenty five board feet at current rates for maple ($6.40/bf) is going to cost me around $160. Making custom furniture isn't cheap.

Step 2d: Calculate how much walnut is needed

Figuring out the amount of walnut needed is quite a bit easier. My final walnut border around each hex is going to be between 1/32 inch and 1/16 inch but I'll probably make my walnut strips by ripping 1/8" strips from a board that is thicker than the length of the side of the hexagon.

I got the length of the side of the hexagon from my calculations above and for a 1 1/2 inch hexagon it is 0.866 inch. I'm thinking if I can buy a 5/4 rough walnut board the strips I rip off it will be plenty wide.

I'll need six strips - one for each side - as long as my hexagonal maple column [ 1365 in ]. I'll probably actually rip the strips a little thinner than 1/8 inch but that works well for rough calculations. I also need to figure in waste from the saw blade kerf which is another 1/8 inch.

Total walnut needed:
  (strip + kerf) * length of hexagon * 6 = (1/8 in + 1/8 in) * 1365 in * 6 = 2050 in2

I'll need 30% waste here too so that works out to 2665 in2 or 24 bf of 5/4 walnut. At current rates ($9.95) it is going to cost me $230. Yeash...  could be worse... Wenge is going for almost twice that.

Step 3: Shopping list

I've done a lot of calculations but thankfully my shopping list is going to be much simpler.

I know I need 114 linear feet of maple that is 1 1/2 inches by 1 3/4 inches. The easiest way to get that is to buy 8/4 maple and rip it into 1 3/4 inch wide blanks. This simplifies things because I know I can get a blank out of every 2 inches of width so if a board is 6" wide I'll get three rough blanks out of it. If the board is twelve feet long that means I'd be getting 36 linear feet of maple blanks out of that 6" wide board.

My walnut strips are going to be ripped out of a 5/4 board 1/8 inch thick. This is going to be the same kind of calculation above. I can get one strip for every 1/4 wide the board is. I need six times the length of the maple which means I need about 684 linear feet of strips. If I get a six inch wide board that is twelve feet long I'll get 288 linear feet of walnut strips.

The shopping list:

  • 8/4 maple - 114 feet x 2"
  • 5/4 walnut - 684 feet x 1/4"

Easy Peasy!

That was a lot of work but at least I know how much it's going to cost me and how much maple and walnut I need to buy.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Hexagons, Part 1 - Getting started and working through ideas

I wanted to make a hexagon. Why? Well, I play board games and often times they are on hex maps. What is a hex map? It's like graph paper but instead of squares there are hexes. Always trying to find ways to merge my hobbies I thought it would be cool to be able to make hex map themed items. I pondered for awhile and came up with a number of ideas:

  • Hex map shaped trivet
  • Table top
  • Gaming Board
Next I started thinking of how I'd make the hexes.

Idea #1 : Inlay

I was thinking I could build a template and use my router and a pattern following bit to create a groove I could later fill with a contrasting wood inlay. 

It'd have to be a short piece because I'd want to be able to make small boards (1' x 1') and larger boards (4' x 8 '). A 4 foot wide template would be difficult to use on a small board. It would be easier to create a 1 foot long template that I could use on a section, move it and then route another.

It seemed like a good idea until I tried to figure out how to create the template. The accuracy needed is well past what I could do by hand. I thought about hiring someone with a laser cutter to do it for me so I started putting some thought into what it would look like. I'm still thinking through this process but I wondered if there might be an easier way.

Idea #2: Veneer

A lot of cool things can be done with veneer. I could cut out little hexagonal shapes from paper backed veneer, tape them together and then glue them down to a substrate. On the downside, I've never done veneering. On the upside it would give me an excuse to buy a vacuum bag.

Then I thought about having to cut out thousands of little pieces of veneer to a relatively precise shape. That doesn't sound like a good idea for a first veneering project. 

Then I started thinking of how I could use jigs and my power tools to cut the veneer more precisely and in bulk.

Idea #3: Parquetry

I didn't think of a good way to cut veneer on the table saw but sitting at work in a boring meeting I came up with a way I could make a hexagonal column. I could then cut pieces off of the column and fit them together. This form of woodworking is called parquetry.

I've run a couple of sample columns and it seems to work relatively well and consistently. There are a bunch of pluses to this approach. Since it ends up showing end grain so it'll be like a butcher block and I can worry less about face grain and grain direction. I can make my final work piece any thickness I want within reason. I can make hexes up to a couple of inches high out of a single board and if I want bigger I can laminate my blanks.

I think I have a solution I like.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Magazine Boxes, Part 3 - More sanding and shaping

Finish Sanding

I spent a few hours with my random orbit sander on the fronts, and sides. I learned a bit about my new drum sander in the progress. It is set up with 80 grit sandpaper. It does a pretty good job but the consistency isn't great. There must be a couple of large grains somewhere on the roll because the end result isn't perfectly smooth and the pieces have a couple of deep grooves.

I should probably have replaced the 80 grit with a 120 grit but instead I just gave each piece a little extra loving attention with my random orbit sander with 80 grit and everything worked out fine.

Next I used the template to draw the feet on the front and back and rough cut them on the band saw. The next step was to clean up the cuts by using the template and a flush trim bit in my router table. It worked out okay excepting a few pieces where I should have back routed to avoid tear out. A little sandpaper cleaned up most of that.

The next steps are to mount a dado blade in the table saw and cut the grooves and dados in the fronts and sides and the rabbets on the bottoms. Then it's just a matter of gluing up all the pieces and finishing.

I've got a long weekend coming up so hopefully I can get to at least the finishing stage.

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's Spring!

It's spring here in upstate New York. We actually had a pretty mild winter this year but it is still much nicer out than it has been for the last six months. We've got clear skies. There's this giant yellow orb in the sky that is kind of bright that disappears for months at a time.

Anyhow, I've not had a lot of time for woodworking this last month. I did get a couple of drawer fronts mounted on my dresser but I'm going to hold off until they are all on before updating that project. But otherwise it has been being busy at work and yard work that has been keeping me busy.

Also, we got these Wednesday last:

We adopted these two cuties along with their mom. That's Heimdall on top, Idris her sister is on the bottom.

Last fall we lost our puppy Linnea Destroyer of Worlds. She was ten years old but still my puppy. This spring we lost Ginger our cat who was twenty. We'd had Linny since she was ten weeks old and Ginger since she was around four.

It's taken a few months but we were missing having some animal companions in the house. The new kittens have settled in and are having a romping good time. Their mom Luther, has been having a bit harder time adjusting but she's calming down.

So... play with kittens or go do woodworking...  it's a tough choice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ten Year Temporary Router Table

I built this router table in an evening about ten years ago. I needed a router table for a project (I don't remember which one) and I needed it quick. The quickest and easiest router table is to drill a hole in a sheet of plywood and attach the router directly to it. I decided to go one step up.

My router table is effectively built from a half sheet of 3/4" plywood. The main table has a plywood skirt and then to prevent sagging I added a couple more gussets across the middle.

That's my old 2 HP Dewalt router. It served me well for a number of year but then fell prey to wood chips getting into the motor and messing up the spindle (or some such thing). It still works but it makes a horrible grinding noise. I've since replaced it with a 3 HP Porter Cable router. I went with the bigger router because I wanted to be able to use large panel raising bits. I haven't done that yet but I could if I wanted to.

The fence is also pretty basic. It is essentially two pieces of plywood with more plywood keeping the back stiff.

I don't remember why I started with only two supports. I think I may have run out of screws. Those two supports were made from the router plate cut out. Very thrifty if I do say so myself.

As you can see from the picture I just use a couple of clamps to hold the fence in place. If I need to nudge the fence I just loosen one of the clamps, give the fence a bump with the heel of my hand and then clamp it down again. Again, not too fancy but it works.

I've got the box setup on sawhorses for the picture and that's pretty much how it is today. It has moved to a different spot in my shop but is essentially the same. My thought originally was that I would be able to set it up and take it down as needed to keep the space available. Practically speaking it will probably take up about as much space  not on the saw horses as on them. I also had this vision that I would be able to take the router table on the road if needed. So far the need hasn't happened yet.

My plan was - and still is - to build an official router table. Maybe this fall. Until then this table will keep serving my needs.