Sunday, January 28, 2018

Making a Traditional Joiner's Mallet

The next step of my hand tool journey was to make a traditional joiner's mallet.  The joiner's mallet is obviously used for hitting things, but mainly for striking the handle of a chisel when chopping mortises.

The typical style for this mallet is a rectangular head with a handle through the middle.  The Woodwright's Shop has a good episode (Season 37, Episode 6) on making this type of mallet.  Paul Seller's also has a great series of videos on making these, and that's generally the process I followed.

I used some plans that were created by Chris Schwarz based on a mallet made for him by Roy Underhill.  It's based on traditional joiner's mallets that have been used for centuries.

I made the mallet head from a live oak log given to me by a friend.  It spent a few years drying in my garage before I started working on it.  The handle is made from ash that I cut from a tree in my yard.  The live oak is really difficult to work with due to its density and the interwoven grain, but it looks beautiful and is very durable.  The ash was a dream to work with by contrast.

I learned alot of new techniques with this project:

  • Working with difficult grain
  • Working with very hard wood
  • Splitting logs with a wedge and sledge
  • Turning logs into lumber
  • Cutting deep tapered mortises
I'm very happy with the end result.  I've been using the mallet almost every day for weeks and it's been a joy to use.  I'd highly recommend this as a beginning project for new woodworkers.  Not only do you learn alot in the process, but you get a new tool with a centuries-old lineage.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Homemade Christmas Ornament

My wife and I give each other Christmas ornaments every year.  This year I decided to make the ornament.  This was my version of a design from Paul Sellers.  Paul's is much better than mine, but it went pretty well and was alot of fun to make.  

It's quick to make, you can use wood scraps you probably already have on hand, and it exercises several different hand tool skills.

Oh, and my wife really liked it.  Thanks Paul!

Tuning up a Hand Plane

I tuned up a seldom-used hand plane recently to give to a friend.  This was a plane that I had been sitting on a shelf for a number of years, and I hadn't used it mainly because I'm too picky.  It's a decent plane but it has plastic handles, and I prefer wood.

Then a friend started asking me questions about flattening rough lumber; the sorts of questions that make me talk for a long time.  He politely listened to what I had to say and as a reward I decided that this plane would find a better home with him.

So before I sent it to its new home I tuned the plane up to the best condition I could make it.  The video above walks through everything I did.  There are lots of different ways to rune up a plane, and this is just the steps that work for me.  Your mileage my vary.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Free Bandsaw Reborn

I spent the last week or so cleaning up and repairing the free bandsaw I got a while back.  It's a 12 inch Craftsman bandsaw made during the 80s.

The saw ended up being in pretty good shape, it just needed tons of cleaning.  I took the entire band saw apart down to the nuts and bolts, cleaned it, and re-assembled it.  The wheel bearings were in decent shape.  I re-packed one of the bearings with grease since the original grease had fossilized.

The original table insert had gone missing and a replacement insert costs more than I think it's worth so I made my own using a fly cutter on my drill press to cut a circular insert out of one-eighth inch hardboard.

The only thing that truly needed to be replaced was the band saw tires, since they were both in some state of disintegration.  The motor belt was a bit worn which I suspect was adding some additional vibration to the machine, so I replaced it as well.  Even the blade wasn't in terrible shape.

The final report is that it cuts pretty well even up to around 4" thick wood.  I haven't tried anything thicker yet, but the motor doesn't seem to strain.  All told I spent about $30 in parts.  Not bad for a decent band saw.

I did eventually invest in a 3tpi blade to try out the re-saw capability.  The new blade cuts through wood like butter; now I just need to make a resawing sled so I can start to saw small logs into boards.  But that is a post for another day...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Free Roller Cabinet

I was walking in my neighborhood the other day and came across a decrepit roller cabinet that someone had put out for the trash.  It was one of those bright red sheet metal things that mechanics use (or at least I assume mechanics use them, but maybe that's a stereotype).

I had planned on building some kind of a stool or small table to hold up a toolchest that I'll also be building soon.  But maybe I can use this sheet metal thing instead and save myself some effort, and keep something out of a landfill too.

Before I could use it, the cabinet needed some attention.  The cabinet door was included but was off its runners and just lying inside the cabinet.  The drawer runners were a little mis-aligned.  The bottom of the cabinet was pretty rusty.  And the casters looked like they had been replaced at some point but rather than drill new holes for the casters, they had just put one bolt through one (of four) mounting holes in the caster.

I worked on the drawer and cabinet door runners and got them working properly again.  The casters it came with were in good shape, they just needed proper mounting holes drilled.  I sanded off the rusty parts of the bottom of the cabinet and sprayed on a coat of red gloss paint for protection.

It's still a little ugly but the cabinet works now and I've already found some uses for it around the shop.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Workbench Add-ons

After building my workbench, I needed a few extra accessories to help out with various tasks.

Holdfast Pads
I bought some holdfasts from Gramercy.  Check out the video if you're unsure what a holdfast is; it will likely revolutionize your woodworking.  I really like the holdfasts but if you don't put something between the foot of the holdfast and your workpiece it could dent or otherwise mar your workpiece.  Most people put a small block of scrap wood between the holdfast and the work piece, but I decided to attach a permanent leather pad to the foot of the holdfast.  This way I will never forget to protect the workpiece.

Planing Stop
Next I created a very simple planing stop out of some oak dowels and some scrap wood.  When the planing stop is dropped into a pair of holes in the bench it creates a brace for face planing a board.

Doe's Foot
A doe's foot is a thin batten used to secure a workpiece.  I made a really simple one by cutting a 90 degree notch in a scrap of quarter inch plywood.

Bench Hook
I made a bench hook based on a design by Paul Sellers.  This accessory is used for securely holding a workpiece while crosscutting it.  This design also has the advantage of working as a shooting board which is useful for sneaking up on perfect 90 degree cuts on a workpiece.

Holdfast Vise
The last piece of equipment is probably the least common one, and I'm not sure when it was invented.  It's quite possible that it's a recent addition.  I'm calling it a holdfast vise, and it's really a way of using two holdfasts and a block of wood to replace the face vise that workbenches usually have.  The main use for it is when you want to hold a board vertically, like when you are cutting dovetails.  I based my design on this one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Adafruit PiGRRL 2 Review

Last year I got a PiGRRL 2 kit as a gift and just recently assembled it.  Overall, I was pretty impressed with the kit.

The instructions were accurate, and very complete.  Much of the assembly process involved soldering, and while I'm an experienced solderer, I think the instructions would be sufficient if you are a beginner when it comes to soldering.

The kit provides nearly everything you need except for the plastic case, but Adafruit provides the files necessary to 3d print your own.  I don't have a 3d printer (yet) so I had a generous friend print the case for me.

My only significant complaint with the kit involves, surprisingly, the screws.  The kit didn't come with the required screws, so I substituted some screws I already had on hand.  I ended up having a number of problems because in some cases the screws were a little too long (and would have pushed through the case) and in other cases the heads of the screws I used were a little too wide so they didn't fit into some recesses in the 3D printed case.  In the end, I was able to work around these issues by cutting off the ends of the screws and drilling out some of the recesses, but since the case was clearly designed for a specifically sized screw it would have been nice if those were included in the kit.

The PiGRRL 2 without its clothes

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Workbench complete!

I finally completed my Knockdown Nicholson workbench.  I previously posted about my chicken-and-egg problems of building a workbench without a workbench.  With many projects I get to the last little bits of it and I have to drag myself over the threshold to completion as my motivation wanes, but for this project it stayed fun through the whole process so I kept making steady progress and it never felt like a chore.

This bench was designed by Chris Schwarz based on a much older design by Peter Nicholson.  While the plans for the workbench are free, I would highly recommend getting a copy of the November 2015 issue of Popular Woodworking, since that has step by step instructions which will greatly simplify the process of constructing the bench.

This bench has no vice and is intended to be used primarily with hand tools.  An ancient tool called a holdfast is used to hold work pieces while you work on them.  There are also a few other bench appliances that I made that help to perform various operations on the bench.  I'll make a separate video on that in the future.

I won't really go into detail on the construction since I think the article referenced above does a better job than I could.  But I can say that I've done a bit of work on the bench now that it's finished and it's a joy to work on; everything is securely held and that just makes every operation on the bench that much more fun.  It's feels like a case of having the right tool for the job; this bench is the right tool to pair with hand tools.