Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Studley Exhibit at Handworks 2015, Not Sold Out........at least not yet

Issues with the web page for buying tickets for the Studley display at Handworks 2015 has led some to believe that the event was sold out the first day. Not so.

Follow the link below to Don William's blog for an explanation:

http://donsbarn.com/yes-there-are-still-ho-studley-exhibit-tickets/

Ron


We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
   ~ George Wilhelm Hegel
 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sometimes Opportunity Knocks at Exactly the Wrong Time

During the period of time when I made furniture on a full time basis I was not much of an enthusiast about turning. Basically I did what turning I had to do and I wasn't very accomplished so you could say that I had the ability to worry things into the shape that I wanted because I certainly could not say that I was very accomplished at these task.

Because I wasn't that interested in turning I didn't invest much in turning equipment or tools. I was working on a Grizzly 14 x 40 lathe that wasn't a bad machine but most seasoned turners would have laughed at the prospect of that being a proper lathe. I had mounted this lathe to a large cabinet made from plywood and also made a bed extension in order to increase it's between center capacity. Other than that it was what it was. The truth of the matter is that I did a lot of good work on that lathe. It now belongs to someone else and I'm sure it will serve them well also.


Fast forward several years and I find myself having designed a line of planes that require a custom front knob. Obviously I have to turn them. After a certain amount of time turning knobs I became a more proficient turner. That spurred an interest in turning other objects and so I set about making Shaker style stools for my grandchildren and other assorted items.

A couple of months ago my friend Charlie Levan took delivery of a Robust American Beauty lathe. I showed up one fine day along with several others to help put that machine into his shop. It then occurred to me that there were much better machines available for turning and if the opportunity arose I should probably consider the acquisition of a better lathe.


Of all the older machines I saw that were available the Powermatic 90 lathe appealed to me most and among the knowledgable people on the OWWM forum this lathe seems to have a formidable reputation as a fine machine. The other fact is there were many of these lathes in school shops because they were built like tanks and the kids couldn't hurt them.

As I began my informal search it seemed that most of the lathes in good condition were at least a 2 or 3 day drive from my location. I figured I didn't have one the day before so it wasn't a big deal if I didn't find one in short order and I really didn't want to drive for 2 days to see a lathe and then decided I did not want it.


As luck would have it a machine came up in an auction from the Dekalb County school system in Atlanta. An equipment dealer in Stone Mountain Ga. had purchased this and many other machines. This machine was only an hour and a half driving time from me, however it wasn't running and it did not have a tailstock.

Fortunately there is a lot of information about this machine online and I started researching this machine thoroughly. I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with this machine before I actually went to see it in person. I also knew that as long as the spindle was in good shape I could always convert this machine with new drive components driven by a 3 phase motor controlled by a variable frequency drive.

If course there was always a possibility that I could have been paying a premium price for a large bit of scrap metal and of course this opportunity came up at the worst possible time given my schedule for producing planes at the time. I finally decided it would only take half of a day to have a look and transport this machine home. As you can see in the above pictures of the lathe in my truck, that's exactly what happen. The dealer sweetened the deal considerably given that the machine was not running and because there were a few missing parts. I was now the new owner of a machine made in 1966 and the cost of this machine at that time was about the same as an automobile. Try wrapping your head around that one. A lathe and a 1966 Mustang having a similar price tag.


The lathe sat covered in the back of my truck for 2 days before I finally was able to get it up on casters and rolled into the shop. Once in the shop I had to return my focus to plane making for several days in order to keep my commitments to my customers.

The next weekend I spent a Saturday morning trouble shooting the lathe. It was actually simpler than I thought. The inline switch was faulty and as soon as I bypassed that switch and put the speed control lever in the correct position the lathe started right up.

The lathe needed a few more tweaks to get it ready for use and I spent some spare time over the last couple of weeks getting those completed. I made a on/off switch enclosure with a magnetic base so it can attached to the late virtually anywhere there is ferrous metal, I installed a new belt and put the lathe on a mobile base. The base has a capacity of 600 lbs. I'm obviously very close to the limit on the base because I have to use a block and a pry bar to get it up on the wheels to make it mobile and I also have to let it down using the same block and pry bar lest it come down with a bang.

Turning on a lathe of this quality is a real pleasure and I'm now glad I took the time to seize the day on this tool, and luckily it looks as if I have found a tailstock.

Ron


The secret to getting ahead is getting started, Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Disbanding the Dovetail Saw Collection

I enjoyed putting together a collection of dovetail saws by nearly all of the contemporary saw makers over the last years. It was my way of doing business with people that operate very similarly to myself and it was also a way of investing in the hand tool community.

It was also a lot of fun for me and many others to be able to pull out all those saws and compare them side by side. I think a lot of my friends made decisions about which saw they might purchase after having the opportunity to go thru my collection and try each saw.

Lately I've started feeling a bit guilty about these wonderful tools not fulfilling their destiny and being used so I decided to liberate these tools into hands that will actually use them for cutting dovetails and building hand wrought furnishings.

The Wenzloff Harvery Peace saw was the first to go. I posted this for sale on The Woodnet "Swap and Sell" forum and it sold in a matter of minutes. This morning I've posted three more saws and the Medallion Toolworks saw (pictured below) also sold within minutes of posting.



The Gramercy Saw has a great looking etch on the plate and this saw was purchased completed from Tool For Woodworking. It was not a saw made from one of their kits.


 The Lie-Nielsen saw was one of the only saws that I did not purchase directly from the source. I actually got this from Bob Zajicek at Czeck Edge Hand Tools.



All of these saws have experienced very limited use which is why I stated that I was "liberating" them from my tool chest. They deserve to be used.

Once these are sold I have one more to list. Of the saws I've decided to sell I've saved one of the best for last. No it's not the Eccentric Toolworks saw from Andrew Lunn. Sorry.(grin)

FYI. All 3 saws are sold.

Ron

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards." 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

and the Floor is Gray

I mentioned in my last post that I intended to paint my shop floor a light gray color. The floor is now gray.

We have red clay soil where I live and frankly the white floor looked pretty terrible. On Friday afternoon I looked around and estimated it would take me about 45 minutes to move everything out of the way and clean the floor in preparation of painting. Having tool chest on wheels greatly facilitated the process, even though it actually took an hour and a half, however before I quit for the day I had the edges cut in and one coat of paint on the floor.




Friday night the monsoon set in. It had not rained here in quite some time so I wasn't complaining about the rain, however it did put adding a second coat of paint in question. I decided to cut in the edges and see if that would dry. I was running the air conditioner to help dry out the air. Given the amount of rain that was falling outside I didn't know if this would make a difference. When finished with the second cut in I was off to the store for another gallon of paint. When I returned the cut in areas had indeed dried so I commenced to rolling on a second coat of paint.




I was able to let the floor dry all Saturday evening and most of the day on Sunday. The rain persisted thru the weekend and has continued off and on this week. Once again I'm not complaining about the rain, we need it and the paint has dried just fine.

One thing I noticed on Monday while returning tool chest and other assorted items to their proper location. The hard plastic wheels on the tool chest casters did not mark the floor. The softer rubber casters on the dollies I used for the items that did not have wheels did leave some black marks on the floor especially at the points where we made turns to arrive at the unloading position.

My shop is beginning to look like a proper place of work and I have to say that I'm enjoying the new environment immensely. Now it's time to use this space for it's intended purpose. Creating tools and works of wood.

Ron



The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shop Evolution

The brown paper backing on the insulation batts reduced the efficiency of my light fixtures a great deal.
When I first constructed my shop I was the manager of an engineering department at a metal working business and never imagined I was constructing a place that would be the location of my full time occupation. Also I did not have a large budget for the shop. As my Dad used to say, "this was back in a time when I didn't have two nickels to rub together".

That might be a slight exaggeration but this was a period of time when Julie and I had 3 young children that had needs much greater than my needs for a workshop. Once dried in I didn't think I needed to spend much time or expense in finishing the interior of my shop. After some years I made the decision to become a full time furniture maker and as such I needed a space that would allow me to work during all kinds of weather conditions. At this point I did install batts of insulation in the walls and ceiling of the shop and I also installed drywall in the ceiling.

This sufficed for a while. Making the transition to full time plane making changed the requirements for my shop. The room that was added as a finishing room changed to a room where I did all my metal working. I had less need for major woodworking tools so my large 25" planer found a new home.

A couple of years ago I installed a new floor in the shop. The original floor was made from yellow pine boards and they had become smaller over the years. Heating and cooling had become more of a challenge so I installed T & G subfloor and to enhance light reflection I painted the floor white. A white floor might seem impractical however it did help with light reflection.


Historically my home town goes on vacation the week of the 4th. When the textile mills were the main employer they shut down for the week of the fourth and so the employees had no choice but to scheduled their vacation for that week. Even though the textile mills are defunct this tradition still continues and most of my home town goes to Panama City, Florida for the week of the fourth. Many restaurants are closed for that week, as are many other businesses.I wasn't officially on vacation this week  but I was awaiting materials to arrive for the next planes I would be making so I decided to spend a couple of days installing wall covering in the shop. This was a long overdue upgrade and I was looking forward to getting this accomplished.


As you can see in the pictures this has been quite the upgrade. The white walls maximize the out put of my lighting fixtures. I can now finally think about painting the floor a color that will be more practical to live with on a daily basis.

My shop has evolved just like anyone's shop. I went thru an upgrade in woodworking tools during my time as a commissioned furniture maker and then saw another transition to metal working tools as I set about making my shop a place to produce tools.

I worked for so many years in my shop with the kraft papered insulation batts showing that this week it almost seems that I'm working in someone else's shop that just happens to be configured just like my shop and holds my tools.

Like all transitions I will gradually grow accustomed to this new environment. The white walls have increased the volume of light in my shop significantly. Once again I'm asking myself why I waited so long?

Ron


A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Just a Plane Box?



A customer asked if it was possible to have a wooden storage box made for his plane. In this case the "Willie Davis" plane. I've not had this request in the past so I asked for a bit of time to think this over.

I needed to think over a configuration that would function as requested yet not escalate to  becoming a work of art. In fact the specifications were that it just be functional and not overly elaborate. I couldn't resist the urge to say "so you just want a plane box huh?

I immediately imagined a structure much like the simple packing box the character Thomas constructed in the book 'The Joiner and Cabinetmaker". This enclosure would however be hinged and would have a painted finish.


 I don't presently have a thickness planer and so I set about re-sawing some pieces of popular I received from my friend Jon Fiant. I then planed this material to final thickness using a jointer and smoothing plane. This was easily accomplished and the extra calories I burned that day afforded me an extra biscuit at dinner that evening.


The construction could not have been simpler. Butt joints joined with square cut nails. I am always amazed at the strength and holding power of square cut nails. I glued on a hinge and latch strap at the top and bottom. Besides providing a place for the hinges and the latch it also bridged the joints where the pieces of the sides came together at right angles, re-inforcing these joints.


The top was merely two boards joined with two wooden cleats or straps, assembled using more of the square cut nails. I cut the lid boards from one board that was amazingly flat prior to dividing. This board was a drop piece that had been hanging around in Jon's shop for quite a while prior to arriving at my shop. Any wide board that had stayed flat thru time in two different shop environments was a good board for the lid parts.



The paint was a Sherwin Williams sold color exterior stain.Cape Cod Red. It looks quite a lot like milk paint when applied. After two coats I sanded it with 400 grit sandpaper and then rubbed it down with maroon Scotchbrite. I then applied a provincial colored stain. This helped me achieve the final color and gave the paint a subtle sheen. The next day I applied a bit of shellac to seal the stain and paint.


The bottom panel was made from some white pine and left  unfinished to contrast with the red. (not shown) Then a layer of 1/2" thick foam. I used 2.5" thick pluck and pull foam in the area where the plane was to reside. You just remove as many of the 5/8" squares as required to fit the object you wish to hold. This is topped off with another layer of 1/2" foam.


This plane enclosure is just what it needs to be in order to function as planned and still have enough character to make it visually interesting.

Ron

"The important things I know I learned from dogs"

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Willie Davis Plane

Every once in a while you get a request to make something out of the ordinary. I have resisted the idea of making one of a kind planes because if a plane is worth making once it's worth making more than once. Besides there are many different combinations of metals and elements to explore and even though a plane may be the same model as another, with the differences in wood and other details all these tools really are one of a kind.



I like to refer to planes with special features as a Special Edition version of that model plane and that brings us to the Special Edition "Willie Davis" Winter Smoother.



This plane has several features not present on the standard version of this plane. For starters, the sole and bedding plate is made from 440C stainless steel. Secondly this plane features a new style lever cap screw not used on any Brese Plane to date. The most important visual change is the brass sides used on this plane and the Italian Olive wood tote and knob. The Italian wood has a unique look that is just a bit different than the African variety, but I like Olive Wood no matter it's origin.



The brass is treated a bit differently in that it's been oiled and the finish cured in my wood drying kiln. The surface is finished with Scotch Brite to a satin sheen and the oil gives it a deeper gold color. I think it looks pleasing and it's also pleasing to the touch and resist finger prints as well.



In case you're wondering, "Willie Davis" is not a famous blues musician. He's a friend and customer that happens to be a woodworker. It makes for such a catchy name I just couldn't resist using it as the name for this version of this plane.



Now, what's your name or nickname? (grin)

Ron