Friday, September 4, 2020

Covid 19 week 22, 23, 24 - Walnut picture frames

 As I've been starting my blog posts with a covid update for the last five months, why not continue. Covid in the USA is still running rampant. There was the first confirmed case of re-infection reported this weekend. NYS is continuing to drive the infection rate to below 1% so we are actually reopening museums, schools, etc. Seems like if any state in our nation is in a place where schools could be reopened somewhat safely it would be in our state.

Week 22

We ordered some Korean week 22. I got the seafood pancake and my wife got Chicken Teriyaki. The Chicken Teriyaki may not be the most Korean dish (I think it is Japanese) but it's pretty tasty and it warms up well. This last weekend we ordered Italian from our local mom-and-pop restaurant. It was good but chicken Parmesan doesn't travel well and mine was a bit tepid by the time we got our food home. I didn't have to cook so that's good too.

Anyway to the more interesting things, I pulled a walnut board from my wood stack and cut two 24 inch lengths from it.  I want to make two 8x10 walnut frames to hold some water paintings we purchased on a trip to Saint Martin ten or more years ago. With a 24 inch length I could get an 8 inch side and a 10 inch side from each rip and have plenty of extra wood for my miters. 

After cleaning them up by jointing one side then running them through my planer I had two boards that were about 7 x 3/4 x 24 inches each. I'd not paid sufficient attention to the sections I'd cut out of the larger board and ended up with a large knot and some swirly grain in one of the boards. Fortunately, I'd also done some bad math. I'd forgotten I was going to go for a 5/8 inch rip cut which got me about seven lengths of walnut. Getting one piece of frame from each, that's not quite enough for two picture frames...  <---  and there was my bad math. I'd cut the boards to 24 inches so I actually had enough wood in one length for three frames (plus a little).

Enh, so be it. I put the knotty board aside and selected the two lengths with the most sap wood to make into a frame. I'd originally thought that I would make the frame 5/8 inch wide and 3/4 inch tall but after looking at it I decided to make it 3/4 inch wide and 5/8" tall. I cut the rabbets with two passes on my table saw then cut the miters using my new table saw miter sled.

Calculating the length of the frame is pretty easy. Each length needs to be the side's length (8 inches or 10 inches depending) plus twice the frame thickness. The frame thickness is the overall thickness (3/4 inch) minus the rabbet (1/4 inch) which gives me 1/2 inch thick frames. So my 10 inch side needed to be cut to an outer dimension of 11 inches plus 1/8 inch for wood expansion.  My 8 inch side needed to be cut to 9-1/8 inch.

The sample looked great.

It's summer...  That was pretty much the weekend.

Week 23

We ordered dinner out again this week. We ordered Italian from one of our local mom-and-pop restaurants. Again dinner was a bit tepid... I'm remembering why I never liked take-out pre-pandemic. It was still a nice change from our regular fare.

I took the rest of my frame pieces and went through much the same process as I did with my sample pieces with one minor difference. My sample pieces have square edges and I wanted to soften them a little bit. I took a couple of hours and a sanding pad and cleaned up all the faces and also rounded over the corners. To be honest when I started I thought it would be quicker than it was. Looking back I probably should have put a 1/8 inch round-over in my router table and zipped them through there.

After rounding the corners I cut my miters on my spiffy new table saw miter jig. The cutting process went fine; however, my corners were not nearly as nice as the prototype. This kind of thing happens to me a lot. It is a natural progression. The first samples I take a lot of care and the pieces come out fine. On the second batch I must be taking less care or it is that I am moving from cutting a single piece to making batch cuts.

Out of my second batch of three frames two came out okay and the third was bad. I was using blue painter's tape to hold the frames together while the glue was drying. After pulling the tape I figured we could use two but the third was bad enough that I decided to pull it apart. A trick I learned a few years ago is that if your glue is set but not necessarily completely dry you can throw you project in a microwave to reheat the remaining water in the glue which allows you to pull the project apart.

After pulling the third frame apart I scrapped whatever glue I could from the frames. Then after giving the glue over night to set I trimmed about 1/64 inch from each end of the frame pieces and reglued the frame. It still didn't go together quite right so I am wondering if maybe the frame pieces might be slightly twisted or warped.

Miter joints really need to be reinforced somehow. Professional framers used to put a nail through the corner and then fill the nail holes with wood putty. Now days there are cool staplers that will hammer a waffle cut piece of metal through the back of the frame across the miter. The easy way for a home woodworker who doesn't have that kind of tool is to cut a spline in the corner. There are many ways to cut miters and many types of jigs to hold the work piece while making the cut. Mine is a table saw jig that rides on my fence. One side is set up for cutting tenons and panels, the other side has a V-shaped fence that holds my miter pieces at the right angle for cutting a spline.

So, I set up my jig and cut slots in each corner of all my frames for holding splines. I went ahead and cut slots in my just glued up frame as well even though it was still being held together with tape. It seemed to work just fine.

The next step was to cut the splines. In the past I've always just set my fence really close to my saw blade and used my narrow push stick to complete cuts. This is a non-ideal way to cut thin strips as it is more difficult to control work pieces. This time I made a thin strip cutting jig. It amounts to a piece of plywood that can run between the fence and the blade with a "heel" the pushes the wood through. This eliminates the need to keep resetting the fence as your board gets narrower and gives more control over the off-cut by moving it away from the fence. 

Mine worked out fairly well but there was still a tendency for the spline to want to rise up. I think I might add an adjustable strip of wood that will act as a hold down.

I used a 45 degree table saw jig to cut the long lengths of spline into shorter pieces appropriate for gluing into the frames. By cutting the splines at a 45 degree angle I was able to get more pieces out of a strip. I'd cut off one spline then flip the strip over to cut off a triangle shaped spline. I cut my strips to be slightly thicker than needed and then hand sanded each spline to fit the groove in the frame.

Unfortunately while my freshly glued frame survived having the spline slot cut it didn't survive me trying to wedge the spline into the groove. I was already disappointed with the frame so I just shoved everything together and hoped it would come out okay.

Week 24

Did I order takeout again? Yes I did! We had Thai. It was tasty.

I didn't get a lot of stuff done in the workshop this weekend. I started trimming the splines using my new flexible flush cut saw. It's a short flexible pull saw where the teeth have no set. This allows you to run the saw right against a finish piece without scratching it up. To be honest, since my next newest handsaw is probably 25 years old it was really nice to use a sharp saw.

After cutting the splines short the next step is to trim them perfectly flush. The way I've seen this done on TV is using a super sharp chisel to slice the end grain of the spline flush. I have chisels but they aren't sharp and sharp chisels are a must for this operation. 

Sharpening is my huckleberry. I have a slow speed grinder. I have oil stones. I have water stones. I have diamond stones. I have sandpaper...  I'm just not very good at it. I've been saving tool budget money for a while not and decided to get a Tormek T4 sharpening system. It's a wet grinding wheel on one side and a leather honing wheel on the other. The benefit of a wet grinding wheel is that you don't have to worry about the steel over heating. With the slow speed of the wheel and the addition of the water it is literal impossible for the steel to overheat.

So I read the instructions...  yeah, I know...  But it's a power tool and misusing it could hurt the tool, my chisels, or even me. Then after setting up the Tormek I started practicing on my older cheaper chisels. These chisels have been used hard and one of them got dropped on my concrete floor by a workshop guest. Yeah, I know... I try to be more discerning who I let use my tools now days.

I haven't actually finished sharpening them yet. Still trying to learn how to use the tool. But I almost cut myself on one of the chisels after flattening the back. I figured it wouldn't hurt to see how it would do in walnut end grain so I pared all my splines flush. Now I just need to go back with a sanding pad and clean them up.

What's next

I'm heading into a four day weekend. It is Labor Day here in the USA and with a little paid time off I am getting a four day weekend. I'm hoping to finish learning the basics of using my Tormek and maybe get my hand tools sharpened. I also want to get the walnut frames sanded and painted. I also want to get a shadow box made to display some old circuit boards I have currently sitting on a shelf.

My winter project this year is going to be a traditional hand tool workbench. I need to get my plans made for that, figure out what wood I am going to build it out of and get that purchased. However, that's probably not going to be this weekend.

I still owe my blog a write up of my miter jig. I may as well add some pictures of my spline cutting jig while I am at it. I'll have another write up for the picture frames I am making.

[Edit 2020-10-04 I'm not going to bother doing a write up for my miter jig. Michael Alm already has an excellent video on his latest version (posted this weekend) so if you are interested, just go watch that.]