Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A good time in the shop is ...

Getting the chance to introduce your GIT (Galoot in Training) to the joy of pounding nails.

I know it's almost cliche, but for some reason it is a very effective hook. I think it was getting to use a real hammer instead of his little plastic one.

What he really enjoyed was when I showed him how to use the claw to take some finish nails out of the board. Once he figured out how to do that, he was taking them out and putting them back in again over and over.

This gave me a chance to build a four-foot French frame for my second prototype. this frame includes two 1x3's for the sides (poplar) and two of the cleats were ripped from 1x3's.

But the most fun was working with the GIT.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Workshop Crawl and Wood Purchase

Went on the workshop crawl with the North Carolina Woodworker group. It was a lot of fun meeting in the flesh those with whom I've already met virtually. And we got to see six interesting shops with some very different approaches, work and methods.

My favorite, because it speaks to the way I work, was John's shop. After an episode of Fun With Tablesaw Kickback, John discovered the joy of hand work. He has turned his garage into quite an amazing workshop.

From the very Schwarzian saw bench:

to the massive logs lying around for riving (Peter's name was mentioned a time or two)

to the very nicely executed Roubo

it was definitely a shop after my own heart.

But what was really extraordinary, as you can get a hint from what was on the workbench, is the extra tool he built in order to make the posts of the bed he is building. You see one lying on the workbench,

but another is still in process.

Yes, that's a seven foot spring pole lathe. He did an amazing job of building it and it seemed to work quite well.

Overall, a very fun day.

I did leave the crawl with more than pictures. I picked up a couple of pieces of wood for very reasonable prices.

I don't have a lot of wood beyond some left over pieces of maple from the workbench, and some dimensional borg stuff, so there's not much of a wood cache to pick from. Which is ok since I'm not able to do much work anyway. But I couldn't resist these two pieces.

One is Sapele. It is 4/4 rough sawn, a little over 10" across and almost exactly 6' long. What really attracted me to it was the figure and the price.

Even with the lousy light in my shop last night and with it still being pretty rough sawn (I took the top most fuzz off with a few passes of a plane, but it's still pretty rough) you can still see the grain popping out.

One for scale on my five-foot bench (didn't even try to correct the horrible light)

And one with a flash.

This one I'm going to have to think long and hard how I want to use it.

The other board I picked up (with great difficulty, if truth be told) is a rather large piece of quarter-sawn red oak. It's about 17 inches wide, by 90 inches long. It's 5/4 rough sawn, and like the sapele, even rough sawn the grain pattern pops right through.

Here's one side:

And for a real close-up

And the other side:

And to get an idea of scale in my shop:

And here with a one-foot ruler:

The rays and flakes are more pronounced along one edge of the board and extend about half-way in. I'll have to think about how to use this. I didn't get a pair of bookmatched boards from the same tree as this piece and about the same size. I may regret not having the option of making a two-board, quarter-sawn oak table.

Regardless, it's fun to have some wood around for inspiration. Another step further along in my evolution.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

French Frames: Part 2

I got some time yesterday in the shop and was able to put together the first prototype frame and make a couple of holders for it. I learned some drawbacks from the design and I learned some of what I need to keep in mind when designing holders.

Overall, I think this might work, but I can see that I may need longer frames. Three feet may not be long enough to hold everything since a lot of tools hang down and so you're not able to use every rail on the frame.

Ok, so here is what the frame looks like when it's built.

I had a small cabinet hanging on this wall over my over-stuffed book case so I took it down and hung a cleat on the wall for my testing area.

As you can see, it's nothing much to look at in southern yellow pine. God, that stuff is ugly. Anyway, here's how it looked going together.

As I wrote last time, I first made a jig to standardize the cleats going across.

I merely have to put the board in the slot, run my circular saw up against the fence, and voila! I have a cleat for the frame, and a matching cleat for a holder.

So, after I did my first board to show that the jig worked, and it works great except if the board is particularly warped, I started cranking out two-foot sections for all the cleats on the frame.

This is faster to do on my bench hook with my disston backsaw. I guess I could set up another jig on the end of my other one to cut two foot sections on my circular saw, but I just don't like the screaming machines and only use it when I absolutely have to.

So, once I got my rails together and cut them into cleats I built my second jig, the one that will help me construct the frames square and consistent. What I needed was a simple board that kept the two sides straight and parallel to each other and I wanted a quick reference to place the cleats for nailing. I used an old piece of woodstalk fiber board for the base, and a couple of 1x2 for the side rails. I ran my gauge up one side of the board to get a reference line then nailed one of the side rails in place. I then measures where I thought the other line should be and drew a line on the board. I then took my cleats and used them as a reference to double check my line, and it was right on. I then nailed the second side rail in place.

I worked out spacing for the cleats and figured that about five inches between the bottom of one cleat and the bottom of the cleat below it would give me enough clearance for whatever holders I might use. The top cleat didn't need to be down so far from the top, so it's just four inches. You can see my spacing on this next picture.

Now, my jig is only twenty-six inches long, so I start with the two side pieces of the frame pushed up against the front of the jig and line up my cleats down to the 24" mark. After I nail them in place with three 1 1/4" bright finish nails on each side, I move the frame so that it lines up at the bottom and because there are two inches left on my board at the bottom, and two inches left on my frame at the bottom, I can use the last two marks, the 19" and 24" marks as the 29" and 34" marks for the last two cleats. This may help with the explanation.

Here you see the 19" mark is also marked as 29"

I turn it over and nail on another cleat to the back that will allow the frame to hang on the wall and Bob's your uncle.

Here you can see the nails and how I put them in to try and minimize splitting.

So, the next step was to try and make some holders. I decided to try a chisel holder first, and somehow got the idea of drilled holes, with slots cut in to go back to the holes which would then hold the chisels.

A couple of problems.
1. It was a really stupid design that didn't work.
2. The wood was really brittle and kept breaking off in between the cuts
3. It was a really stupid design that didn't work.

So, I moved on to something to hold my squares. I settled on a board with slits cut in it to hold the blades of the squares. I ended up pulling out my tiny 1/8" pigsticker mortise chisel and cutting the slits. It worked pretty good, but it's very difficult to get a clean mortise in poplar at 1/8". But it was good enough.

I glued and nailed it to the mounting cleat and hung it up.

I discovered one the shortcomings of this frame design. When you have a weight hanging out away from the frame, you must stabilize it in front or else it tends to tip out of the cleat. I also realized that since there is no back to the center of the frame (remember, the cleat, being merely nailed on, stands 3/4" out from the wall) I also need to either to use only full width cleats so that it touches the side rails in back, or need to add something to give it a back or front when I make something that could tip out like this one. Later in this post I'll show you a kind of holder that doesn't tip out, even if it was short enough to fit between the sides.

To try and counter the tip-out I did a quick and dirty nail-glue some small pieces along the front of the hanging cleat to see if that helped.

It did help, but not by much. I need to have a more substantial front piece. So, I'm in the process of re-doing this holder.

Meanwhile I made another holder, this time for my chisels. I have a bunch of odd chisels and one unified set. I tried to decide if I wanted the set all by itself, or to mix it in and arrange them by all by size. Since my set is just a cheap Czech.-made set (but they're good chisels, just not terribly fancy) I decided to just add them in and keep them all by size for now.

I was not going to go back to the really bad design I started before, so this time I remembered what I had originally thought for a chisel holder way back when I started thinking about this system. I took a 1x4 of "clear pine" and started cutting out grooves. The only measuring I did was to put the chisel down on the board, get it fairly straight with a small square, trace along the edges of the chisel and then cut down a ways with my back saw, then chisel out the groove. When I do this again, I'll set the depth of cut with a reference line, but I was pretty much freehanding this to see if it worked.

The wood was soft enough that I used my mallet to do a controlled cut at each end, but the middle stuff I could take out by just pushing the chisel along. These went very quickly. I only had a couple of pieces between the grooves chip out, but I just put a dab of glue on, pressed it down for a few seconds, and went on. It all got sandwiched in later and is fine.

Here's where I made another mistake. In my desire to keep my bench as clear as possible, as I cut a groove for a chisel I would put it away. The problem I encountered is that by not having all the chisels there as I cut, I ended up not taking full consideration of handle width as blades got narrower and narrower. I kept a fairly consistent distance between blades, but what i really needed to do was keep a fairly consistent distance between centers of the grooves. As the blades got narrower, the total distance between the centers of the grooves got smaller and smaller so in the end I couldn't fit two of my chisels into the holder as I had planned. Lesson learned.

After cutting the grooves, I glued on a wider piece of poplar to the front. I used a wider piece in order to hide some of the sharp edges of the chisels that were longer than the 1x4. This gives a more finished look and helps avoid any accidents as I reach for something on the frame.

You can see towards the end with the small chisels they're pretty crowded. Bummer. Otherwise, it worked out great. Since this picture was taken, I have started to use this blank space on the front. I have hung my sliding bevels on small nails, and cut a rabbet into a small piece of poplar and glued it to the front so I can put my steel rulers up there as well. Pictures on that later.

Here's how it looks hanging on the whole frame, and then with my sub-standard holder for my squares.

And here's the back of the chisel holder to show you the ends of the chisels hanging down out of the 1x4 and why I put the wider piece of poplar in front.

So, with this kind of holder, where the weight is pulling straight down, and there is a piece that is flat against the front of the cleat on the frame, it works perfectly. I can see that for other kinds of holders, such as the shelf holders I'm envisioning for my planes, I will need to makes sure the hanging cleat is enclosed in a way that keeps the whole from tipping out of the angled connection. It's a good lesson to learn now, with my crappy SYP prototype.

I'm getting the hang of just what works and what doesn't and just what goes into making a holder for these frames. The tricky parts will be making hanging boxes or other types of holder for small things I've got in boxes on shelves at the moment. But that will also be some of the fun. And right now I may end up creating a frame for a whole shelf, but in the end I may not want all of that stuff that's currently on one shelf to be together. That's where the flexibility of the system comes into play. Once I have all of the frames together, then I can move the stuff around to fit how I work.

I'm excited to start making some more holders and figure out what works and what doesn't and get this party started. I think, in the end, that if I make the frames longer, and get creative with the holders, this will be quite a fun system for holding and storing tools. It kind of reminds me of the Shaker system of pegs where they could hang coats or whole cabinets off of pegs. It's flexible, easy and cheap to make and allows me to change my mind, add tools and change around my shop. It's not as beautiful as some of the gorgeous furniture the real joiners make, but I think it will work for me and my shop.

Update: Here's a picture of the addition of a ruler holder as well as the sliding bevels hanging from the front. Not sure if I want to keep these two types of tools with my chisels, but I'm just experimenting with different kinds of holders.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

French Frames: Part 1

I mentioned in an earlier post an idea I've been toying with regarding a way to store, display and basically keep organized all of my tools. I've thought about cabinets, about shelves, etc... but I keep coming back to an idea I got from a picture in a magazine, and a commercial shelving system I've seen in several stores.

First basic concept to understand is the French cleat. A French cleat is basically a board with one long edge trimmed at an angle. (I've discovered that 30-degrees seems like a good angle that compromises strength with holding power) The board is screwed into the studs with the angle facing into the wall, so the wider face is outward, and the narrower face against the wall.

The second part of the French cleat is a mating piece that is also cut at the same angle. This is affixed to the cabinet, or shelf or whatever you're hanging from the French cleat on the wall. When you slip this angled piece down into the slot formed by the piece screwed to the studs, the hanging shelf or cabinet is held close against the wall and secure, yet able to be moved quite easily. You just lift it up and move it. This wonderful, and simple, invention is the basis for the whole design.

The basic idea is to make a frame about 24" wide by 36" tall. This frame will have a french cleat in the back and hang off of a cleat running around the perimeter of my shop wall. Each frame will also contain a set of french cleats running across the width of the frame. These will be used to hang various forms of holder and even shelves to store, display and basically keep organized my tools.

In this way, I make a series of interchangeable, flexible, hanging frames that allow me to create all kinds of various solutions for hanging my tools on the wall. And as I add more tools, or change the place where I want to store them, I can easily move the individual holders.

I like the idea of my chisels all hanging together in graduated sizes. But what if I get more chisels? What if I decide to get a new set, or get carving chisels and want to store them in the same place? If I've created a fixed cabinet, then I have to either make a new cabinet, or re-arrainge the old one. Both of which are much more labor intensive than making a new holder for the new chisels and shifting the current tools around to find room for the new hangers.

I've been thinking about this for quite a while but I've had my Roubo bench to finish. Well, now I'm mostly done, at least for this work, and so tonight I had the opportunity to get some shop time in and I began the process.

I'm going to first create a prototype out of a bunch of 1x4 southern yellow pine. It's not pretty wood, but I have a lot of it, and if I screw up this wood, it's not a big deal.

One of the keys to building this system will be standardization. If I had a table saw, I could set it up for 30-degrees, set the fence and go. I don't have a table saw. I did try cutting the boards with my rip saw. I can do it, but it's a real pain because to cut at an angle, I can't use the sawing bench very easily and get a good, consistent angle. I have to put the wood upright in my vise. Again, it's difficult to get a fairly consistent result.

What I do have is a circular saw. So, what I did tonight was to build two jigs. These are my first jigs ever. I've built appliances for hand tool work, but never a jig for power tools. One of the jigs holds the two-foot section of 1x4 and includes a fence for my circular saw. I plop a piece of wood in the jig, fire up the saw and saw right through. I still need to take a pass or two with a hand plane to make the surface nice, but this gets me consistent enough results.

The second jig I created is for construction of the frames. I took a piece of fiber board and nailed some cleats on it exactly parallel and 24 inches apart. I can then place the side stiles of the frame in this jig and it has the locations for the French cleat rails that extend across the frame marked on the side cleats to facilitate affixing them to the sides.

I cut up the wood for the first frame tonight and got it laid out. It works out quite well. My next question I will hopefully answer with this prototype is how exactly I will affix the French cleat rails to the frame. I'm thinking of a dab of glue for luck, and either nails or screws. Nails will look better, I'm thinking screws will hold better. But I could, if I wanted to go to that much effort, do a clenched nail since the frame will stand out from the wall at least the distance of the thickness of the French cleat on the wall. I think I'll have to look up clenched nails again and see if that's what I'd like to do.

Tomorrow I should be able to get this frame put together and work on making some holders. They may not be pretty to begin with, but I've got to start somewhere, and this is only a prototype. Right?

Update: After doing a little research online, I think I'm going to try and clench (aka clinch) nails to hold the cleat rails on. I'm going to have to look for some good nails that are about 1.75" long with a wide head. Nails can be incredibly strong, we usually underestimate them, and this technique supposedly can increase the holding power quite a bit. We'll see tomorrow.