Friday, March 30, 2012

Making Something to Make Something

I've been working on an idea for my next project, a cabinet with a drawer and a couple of shelves.  It will be mostly functional, a project because I want the end product, more than a project of craftsmanship.  Of course anything worth doing is worth doing well.  So while I'll be using leftover plywood and using as much of what I have laying around as I can I do hope it will be something that I can be proud of.  Anyway all that is for the next blog.  Today's blog is about making something to make something.

Dad was a master of this.  His shop was full of shop made jigs and templates.  I was always amazed by how cool some of the stuff he made was whose only purpose was to allow him to make the cut or hold the thing that he was actually trying to make.  So tonight I was following in his footsteps.  I will have to make dados and rabbits in the cabinet I want to make and I don't have a dado blade insert for my table saw.  The solution, make one.

Dado in the middle, rabbits on each end.

But what is a dado anyway?  As seen in the picture above it is really nothing more than a groove across a board.  This picture also shows two rabbits, no not the cotton tail variety, the grooves shown on the ends of the board.  So a dado is an enclosed groove and a rabbit is an exposed one.  The dado blade will let me stack a group of special blades together on the arbor of the saw (the shaft thing that holds the saw blades) and make a single pass with the boards.  This will cut the dado which I will then set a mating board into.  

So getting on with it.  To make the insert I chose to glue up a layer of hardboard, a layer of plywood and a finally two hardboard feet.  I traced the outline of the standard insert and cut them out on the band saw.  With all the pieces cut I glued them up and placed a piece scrap over the two.  This created a gap so I just set another piece of hardboard scrap in the middle and clamped them down.  

Taping insert to blank as a pattern.
Shaping at the router.
After the glue dried I used some double faced carpet tape to hold my metal standard insert to the insert I am making.  This tape is strong.  You can see the two white strips and when put together I have to use a putty knife to separate them.   

Then it is off to the router table.  I took the fence off and put the feed pin in.  You can see the feed pin in the picture.  It's that black post sticking out of the table at about 4 O'Clock of the pattern bit.  To keep control of the work as you bring it into the moving bit you rest it up against the pin and rotate into the bit.  Once the bit is cutting you can move it right along and it's OK to lose contact with pin.  You need to be careful as you change direction and move up on the end grain.  Remember the end gain blowout in Emma's Picture Frame Part II?  Anyway I just followed the taped insert all the way around using it as a pattern.  When I got done I separated two pieces and there you have it a new insert.  

Cutting the insert opening.  

Of course at this point the face is solid so the next step is to put the dado set on the saw and place the insert over the dropped blades.  I used a scrap board clamped to the end of the saw to hold it in place and turned the saw on.  Then slowly I raised the blades up and cut right through the new insert.  

The next step will be to place drops of silicone rubber on the feet and level the insert to the table.  Once the silicone is dry I should be able to set it in place and have it be at just the right height.  I actually did this once already, however the silicone was old and didn't cure.  So after wiping and a little be of scraping I'm ready to try it again.  Of course that will mean another trip to the big box store.  

So I'm hoping Dad would be proud.  I used a bunch of material laying around and made a tool that I would have otherwise had to pay 50 or so dollars for.  I have to admit this was kind of fun.  Another night in the shop, thanks Dad.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emma's Picture Frame Part III

Finished all hung at Emm's

I continued with spraying polyurethane coat after coat, five in all.  Each time I would hit with 220 grit sandpaper or 0000 steel wool.  I cleaned up the glass put the print in and then backed it up with a piece of hardboard.  I had seen a brass tab that could be used to hold it all together but couldn't find them.  So I use a washer and small screw.  The hooks are kinda neat.  They are like opposing fingers that interlock.  I secure one on the frame then one on the wall.  As this a bit heavy I thought two would be better than one.

Hanger and Washers
Well thats about it.  Now I just have to get it down to Emma and hope she likes it.  I love the watercolors she brought back and think this frame does it justice.  Oh and my favorite feature, its the contrasting black walnut plugs that tie in the tenions.

I'm sure I could write another post about all the mistakes and flaws, but you know there is a time when you ask is it done?  And you stand there and say it's strong, it's smooth, it's what I envisioned.  You say to yourself yeah it's done.  And so it is.  Thanks Dad!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Emma's Picture Frame Part II

Well after letting the glue dry for a good 24 hours I took the claps off.  The first order of business was to square out the rounded corners of the rabbit in the back.  With all these power tools the best tool maybe the oldest a good shape chisel.  Well in my case it is not the oldest of my tools and by no means the best but it is fairly shape and should do the trick.  .

Not being able to put it off any longer, it is time to sand.  What I quickly realized was that I drew a lot of lines on the face of this project.  No big deal I figured I'd just sand them away.  So sanding was the order of evening.  

Ya gotta love electricity!  Only corse sanding for now.  The next step is sure to leave some scratches on the face so at this point I just want to get the lines off and smooth out the tool marks left by some not so sharp router bits.    

This is a feature I envisioned from the beginning,  contrasting plugs tying in the tenons.  Our neighbor lost a lim from their black walnut tree a few years back.  It fell onto our side of the line so I was there when they started clearing it they were cutting it up for fire wood.   I volunteered to finish cleaning it up for them.  This block is from that effort.

I used a plug cutter from Dad's shop and made these plugs.  I had to take the cutter and block into work to cut them, but hey what's a little government at work?  I then made this drilling template to be able to set the spacing on the frame.  You can see the all important forstner bit I had to by to be able to drill the quality of hole needed.  

After drilling the dozen holes I doped up the black walnut plug with glue and set them in place.  The fit was perfect, I had to drive them home with a mallet.  When I got back up stairs I was told that Toby went a bit nuts every time the mallet was a malleting - sorry Toby.  After the plugs were in place I placed a board across half of the frame and clamped it in the middle.  The next night it was time to trim them.  I then hit them with the block plane, bring them level with the rest of the frame.

Then it was time to sand and sand and sand.  

I remember telling this story about Dad.  Dad was a teacher by training and while he spent must of his career as an engineer, but for me and my brothers and sister he never stopped teaching.  I recall once Dad and I were down in the shop.  I was working on a project and had gotten to that point where I was sanding.  To be truthful, sanding is not my favorite thing.  I ask Dad if I was done sanding.  He responded "is it smooth",  kept sanding.  After a bit I asked again, and again he responded, "is it smooth", I went back sanding.  Again I asked and again Dad responded "is it smooth", this time however I said yes.  Dad then said "well then I guess your done".  Dad often taught this way, by bring out of us what was there all along, to coach, to let us see that we could succeed.  Thanks Dad!

So I sanded.  I went from 60 grit, to 100 grit, to 150 grit, then finally to 220 grit.  I used the power sander, I used towel backing,  I used hard backing,  I sanded until I could say "yes it's ready, it's smooth".  

Then I cleaned, yep that's right I cleaned.  With all the dust I just made I had to get as much of it picked up as I could so it wouldn't fall back on the frame as I started finishing.  

Finishing:  I stood in front of the finishes this afternoon for what must have been an hour, (OK maybe 5 or 10 minutes).  What I decided on was a spray glossy polyurethane.  Let's hope I get the results I want.  Coat one done.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Emma's Picture Frame

Back in 2008 my daughter Emma went to China on a school trip and brought back a beautiful watercolor.  At that time I said, "hey I could build you a frame for that".  And now 4 years later I finally am.  The main idea in doing this post is to show Emm that I actually did make her the frame.

I started by selecting a couple of cherry boards that my Dad had given me probably 15 years ago.  The cherry has started to oxidize and take on the deep cherry color it is so well known for.  I setup the table saw and ripped them to width.  I also made a pattern for the top.  My idea is to make a simple rail and stile  frame with the top rail being an over sized cap with a shape inspired by a Chinese pagoda.

For as much time as I spent in the shop watching my Dad work I am realizing I never really made a whole lot.  For instance I never recall making a mortise and tenon joint.   But I really wanted to use this classic joint for this project.  So while I have a lot of what my Dad had in his shop I don't have a way to use his mortising jig.  I had to figure out a way to cut them with what I have.  I also remember watching Norm (Old Yankee Workshop) using a tenon jig to make the cheek cuts, also something I don't have.

Tenons first.  I put on the two outer blades of my stacked dado set on the table saw.  I don't have a dado plate for the saw so this was all I had room for.  I then simply cut around board and nibbled away at the remainder until I had a pretty decent tenon.  I used a brass setup bar to set the right depth on the saw.

  The mortise was made with the router mounted in a table.  I can see way Dad loved these rockwell routers.  (Now sold under the porter cable brand.)  While they are as fancy as many of the newer routers on the market today this thing just work.  The are centered and stay put where you set them.  I purchased a new up spiral bit which made the cuts clean and well nice if I do say so myself.

These picture are for Emm's benefit.  With the amount of work I put into making these joints I wanted her to know there was more than a few boards slapped together.  Here you can see most of the mortise and tenons in the project.  It's taking shape!

With the major joints cut it's on to the cap or top or pagoda or what ever you care to call it.  I spent pretty much a whole evening drawing it out and making a pattern.  I traced the shape on the board and off to the band saw I went.  ( Thanks kids!!!!)  Tables saws are great for straight cuts but if you have a curve the band saw is the way to go.

I then taped the pattern and board together with some double face tape and headed to the router table with a pattern bit chucked up.  Things were going really well and then OOPS.

The bit grabbed the end grain and..., well time for a redesign.  Luckily my first design had enough over hang that I could cut off the ends and not lose the rest of the board.

By now things are getting closer.  I wanted to put chamfers to accent the project.  Back to the router table with a new chamfer bit.  

The last cut, again at the router, was a rabbet around the back of the frame to hold the glass, picture and backer board.  Keeping all of the lines I've been drawing on the parts is beginning to be a chore, but I actually got all the cuts made and they all seem to be where I intended them to be.

A final dry assembly and glue up.  I need to remember to make a trip back to Owego and get some of Dad's claps.  For some reason I only have a single bar clap.  For the life of me I can't figure out why I only got one bar clamp.  Oh well, innovation was the call of the day.  An old cargo strap along with a square ( you know to make it square) and I'm up here writing this as Emma's Picture Frame is down stairs drying.

And So it Begins

After my fathers retirement he grew a beard and jokingly started calling himself an Old Goat.  He was a life long woodworker, if not by trade by heart.  As he spent his retirement in the shop we often heard him dream of creating a woodworking business that would be called Old Goat Enterprises.  Well Dad, sadly, is no longer with us but his love for woodworking has finally grew in me.   It's taken a long time, so long in fact I now consider myself an Old Goat.  (Thanks Dad, couldn't you have picked something a little more nobel?)  So while I have no intention of ever creating a business, I'd like to dedicate this blog to my father's, and now mine, passion for woodworking.