Sunday, 25 July 2010

Using Winding Sticks

In a previous post, I introduced winding sticks but did not explain in detail how they are used.

Winding sticks are used in pairs.
If your two sticks are of contrasting colours it is much easier to see them independently. Sticks of the same colour tend to blend into each other making the sighting job more difficult.

One stick is laid at each end of a board or plank, while the user then sights over the two sticks - try to center your view and align the middle of the two winding sticks. (This is why I put center-marks onto my pair of winding sticks.)
Align your view so that you just see the farthest stick sticking out above the top of the closest stick.

On a good and flat board/plank, as pictured above, you will immediately see that the two sticks are aligned. As you dip your view lower and the farthest stick disappears from view, the entire stick disappears from view at the same instant.

On a twisted, non-flat board/plank, as pictured above, the two sticks will not line up. The farthest stick will have an obvious slant in comparison to the closest stick. The illustration above shows a board with an exaggerated amount of twist, but I guarantee you that your eye will see even the slightest twist immediately, if you use these sticks as directed.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Buying a plane

I need a plane to flatten boards for my table, so I have been shopping around. All that seems to be available is the Stanley no. 4 planes. I want a larger plane, preferrably a No 7.
I've been to numerous shops, starting with a few pawn shops in the area. My thinking is that most second hand planes should be good. A plane could/should last a lifetime!?! Not so?

I eventually found a larger plane at the supplier where I bought my table saw. New.
I was well pleased, since I am happy with the saw, although the price is a bit more than I wanted to spend initially. But, I need the plane, cannot find one anywhere, so let's go for it.

The plane in question is a No6 Jack Plane by Industro. I have no idea about brands and such, but I reckon that if Pretoria Tool Center are selling them, they should be pretty decent.
I brought my new plane home, and immediately was upset. The bolt on which the blade-depth screw turns, was completely stripped.
I called up the next morning and the manager tells me to bring the plane back, he'll swop it out.
I drive all the way to center of town the next day. The one other plane he has in the shop, has exactly the same problem.
I should have cut my losses right there.
Instead I allowed him to replace the defective bolt and screw, with a similar part from a smaller plane. I headed home with my fixed-up, brand new No 6 jack plane.
I tested it and tested it, and for the life of my I could not get the blade square. It kept digging out chunks of wood with the right-hand edge of the blade, no matter what I did.
Let me make it real clear right now .. I am no expert when it comes to woodworking, but I am not a complete idiot. I can figure most things out.
I eventually took the blade out for the umpteenth time and held the side of the blade to my try-square handle... with the blade being 58mm across, it moved away from the try-square blade by 1mm across it's width.
I know this method of measuring cannot give me great accuracy, but this comes to around 10 degrees by which the blade is not square on the cutting edge. I am simply not happy with that.
I called up the supplier and the manager told me about the lever which moves the blade from side to side, suggesting I use that to straighten the blade. That does not work, I have it moved over as far as possible and that corner still bites into the wood.
The manager suggested that I then tweak the blade 'skew' against the cap-iron, in order to get it straight at the mouth.
No way!!! ... If I buy a car, the dealership cannot expect me to crank the steering wheel all the way to the left .. in order for the car to drive straight!

I'm taking it back.
The manager did not sound to happy, and mumbled something about giving me something of equal value.
That's not going to work either.
I do not need anything else.
I do not want anything else.
... a plane ... a No 6 or a No 7 ... a decent working one ... that's what I want, or my money back.

In honesty, I could have fixed the stripped bolt problem. Although, being 'backwards' thread it would have cost a little bit extra to get a bolt.
I can also have the blade re-ground to 90 degrees at an engineering shop, or if I find a sharpening place... but you know, I just spent R595.00 on this plane. Why should I still need to go to all that trouble to fix it when it's brand new?

This will be the third trip to the center of town, 30km each way. Plus it's been helluva inconvenient.

Winding Sticks

While making my table top, I needed some way to check if the boards were flat. Eyeballing the boards is not really accurate. I read up about it and found out about winding sticks.
I took a piece of scrap wood from my offcut bin and broke it in half to test the theory.
Wow! These little planks really work!
They are extremely easy to use and accurately tell you if the board is not flat.

The wikipedia entry on winding sticks mentions that contrasting wood is often used.
Guess what .. that's exactly what I have.
Contrasting Obeche and Sapele Mahogany strips which are waiting for my boat build to start.
I simply pasted them together to form a stick.
Once I saw them finished, I decided to get a little fancy and insert a strip of the opposite wood as a "centerline" on each stick.
I am hugely satisfied with my new toys.
One benefit to making the winding sticks, was getting to see the colour of my strips with some 'finish' on them.

I used Deep Penetrating Furniture Wax from Woodoc. This brought out the colours with amazing depth. I was actually quite stunned at how beautiful the Sapele Mahogany is. I have subsequently put on a few layers of Antique Wax, also from Woodoc.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Chasing your tail .. and getting bitten

Sometimes life gets frustrating for no good reason.
I have waited patiently for the wood strips to arrive for my boat project.

In the meantime I have been dabbling with various other ideas for projects which could run concurrently to the boat project since the boat is really a long term thing.
First off, I must repeat that the space I have is really limited and the boat will take up a great deal of it. For that reason I have been trying to decide if I should make tackle some of my other ideas first.

I need to make a second dog kennel for selling. This will not take very long, but it's a project that would be completed with more ease, if the boat forms are not yet installed on the strongback and taking up two thirds of the garage. Material needs to be ordered if I go ahead with this idea.

A friend caught up with me a few days ago and wants a custom piece of furniture. If I can complete this project to satisfaction, there will be an order for two more immediately, with the possibility of more orders after that. I think this project has serious potential and am waiting for the customized draft plans for the piece before I can proceed with it.

This led me to buying a book which has a plan similar to the custom piece my friend wants. The book has been tempting me for a while and I just needed a reason to buy it. Now I have the book, for a good reason and amongst other things, there is a beautiful plan for a dining table... for which I have some lovely wood for a top.
I think I must make such a table.

So much to do.
  1. Boat
  2. Dog Kennel
  3. Dining Table
  4. "Custom" furniture order (more about this later)
So my strips arrive on Thursday. This is nine days after delivery was due, but as I said earlier, I waited patiently.
The strips are beautiful and I am very happy, but they never sent the two sapele mahogany boards that I ordered with the strips. I thought I had more mahogany strips than ordered, so I figured they cut strips from all the planks, instead of saving two.
On Friday I went to the lumber merchant to get clarification.
When I got there, the guy who always helps me, rushed to tell me that he had my two planks and they were due for delivery again that same day. Ok, cool! (They've not been delivered - apparently I can now expect them on Monday. Tuesday will be fourteen days after the original promised delivery date)

So since I was already at the lumber yard, I bought a little extra wood for legs, rail and support framework for the dining table project.
One of the lumber yard customers approached me, asking if I could make him a special wine-rack. I gave him my cell-phone number. Seems like I get approached for things from all quarters.

Whilst busy selecting wood, waiting for the planks to be trimmed and planed, I got distracted and "lost" my cellphone.
We called it from the office, it rang to voicemail, then when it was called again it was switched off. It's nowhere to be found - so it's undoubtedly been pilfered.

It's such an inconvenience. 6 years worth of numbers and contact details gone. I cannot get a replacement until Wednesday at the earliest, but I'll try to get my existing number...
My wine rack customer is probably calling me and wondering why I never answer my phone.

If the Mahogany planks were delivered as they should have been, I'd never have been at the lumber merchant on Friday afternoon.
The boat already has a sad memory attached to it. :(

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Understand wood distortions...

In a previous post I mentioned that I did not know the correct term to describe a specific distortion in wood. So I have been doing some reading research.
So far I have found that wood will distort in four principal ways. These would be the four general ways of describing boards which are not flat.

In these pictures, the distortions are shown, in comparison to a normal flat board.
  • Bow - the board curves in it's length, around the wider side.
  • Cup - the board is curved in it's width, whilst it stays flat in it's length.
  • Spring - again, the board is flat but is curved in it's length, this time it curves around the thinner edge.
  • Twist - the board twists up in opposite directions around the ends.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How I create a butt-joint

Simply said, a butt-joint is a very easy joint to make, but it is not very pretty or strong. Much depends on which method you use, but most often this joint is held together by the glue in the joint.
I try to always add some dowels to my butt-joints. The wiki entry has some good descriptions and pictures of butt-joints, but here is my version.

Most often I use 6mm ready-made dowels. These are normally slightly grooved and thus hold a bit more glue. Another option is to purchase a 6mm stick and cut custom lengths.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Step-by-Step tutorial to create a desktop router table. (Part I)

Original plans for the basic table referred to in this tutorial come from Jeff Greef Woodworking. Modifications were made to suit my preferences.
All measurements and joints can be altered to your requirements or skill levels. Since my lack of tools and/or skills prohibit me from making even simple lap-joints, all joints used in this table are butt-joints with dowels and glue holding it all together.

Materials Used:

All these pieces are from 16mm MDF (Supawood)
  1. (Number 1): 670mm x 50mm x 16mm (2 pieces)
  2. (Number 2): 250mm x 50mm x 16mm (6 pieces)
  3. (Number 3): 470mm x 50mm x 16mm (4 pieces)
  4. (Number 4): 318mm x 50mm x 16mm (2 pieces)
  5. (Number 5): 670mm x 495mm x 16mm (2 pieces)

Step 1: Using 2 feet pieces (Number 1), lay them out parallel, 395mm apart.

Step 2: Create the left side using 2 uprights (Number 2) and 2 crosspieces (Number 3). This side fits into the center of the foot piece as shown.

Step 3: Duplicate Step 2 to create the right side.

Step 4: Use 2 uprights (Number 2) and 2 crosspieces (Number 4), to create an end piece.

Step 5: Use 2 tabletop pieces (Number 5), aligned with the foot pieces, to create a table top.

This is your basic table for a router.

Attaching a router to the bottom of this table top is not an option with the table top being 32mm thick. We need a router plate.
  • Using a 200mm x 200mm x 8mm piece of aluminium I cut a center hole for the router bit (60mm dia). In future, additional router plates can be cut, which would have larger or smaller holes for different bits.
  • Drill holes to fix your router to the router plate - these holes will vary depending which model router you have.
  • The hole in the table top for the router plate is cut off-center, simply as it is my preference - gives more table room for work pieces. The router plate hole is 8mm deep and 200mm x 200mm. I simply set the router to 8mm deep, and clamped guides to the table top and routed the hole. The rounded corners were chiseled square to accommodate the square plate. (You might want to round the corners of the aluminium plate rather, but again, it is personal preference.)
  • Leaving a lip of 15mm around the inside of the router plate hole, a 170mm x 170mm hole is then cut all the way through the table top.
  • This leaves us with the router table, complete with router plate to which to attach a router.

I will continue this tutorial later by creating a fence for this router table.

There's nothing like getting a job done...

I needed a router table and not being able to afford buying what I want, I decided to look for plans to build my own. Searching the internet I found plans for a desktop version which I thought was suitable at Jeff Greef Woodworking. I modified this plan slightly in terms of size mostly, due to wanting to use what wood I had available.
I found plans for a split fence at Sawdustmaking 101. I modified these plans slightly to accommodate what I could find locally.
Thanks to these free plans which people so graciously supplied, I now have a piece of equipment that would have cost me a small fortune if I went and bought a similar product.

Here are some pictures of the (almost) finished product.

In the following picture, the knobs "A" can be loosened to allow the complete fence assembly to slide on the T-tracks. (Click Here to see how I made the T-Track)
The nuts "B" are loosened as required to adjust the near fence (forward fence) in order to allow thinner or deeper cut. These are then tightened prior to making cuts.
A close-up of the pillow-blocks and the threaded rod which attached to the "forward fence". This fence is adjustable in relation to the "stationary back fence" and this adjustment allows me to choose how thick a slice to route off the edge of my material.
I know that these pillow block bearings are pretty large and probably excessive, but I got them dirt cheap and they do the job just perfectly.

There are probably a million changes that could be made to these plans to make things better or more accurate.
One feature I have not yet completed is a small "box" around the cutting area of the fence which will facilitate the control of dust from the cuts. I want to make something that will attach to the vacuum.

For now I am pretty happy. This is portable and small enough to serve as a table when not in use. Whilst I was building it, I used the table as a bench for the drill press. No reason not to continue using it for that purpose too.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Still waiting...

I've been patient in waiting for lumber to arrive, but it's mind-numbing.
I've tidied up a fair bit and built new shelves along one wall. One shelf for holding stock materials in the 3m range - and my strips will live there too. A second shelf for tools and general odd & ends, which helps general neatness.

I am working of a router table (desktop version). The idea is from various internet sources, but I am struggling to incorporate a few of the ideas.
I am now busy sourcing a router plate, and also building a split fence. The fence is taking some time to get aligned properly. I might have to redo one small portion.
I'll post pictures as soon as I have anything decent.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Lumber ordered .. now the wait.

I went to my local lumber merchant on Friday and ordered the lumber for my boat. It's getting delivered, so hopefully it will be here tomorrow (Tuesday).
In preparation to mill my own strips I decided to spend money on a new saw blade which has a thin kerf. (Kerf: a groove or slit in material caused by cutting) This would waste 2mm per cut, instead of 3mm. Since each strip would be 6mm thick, this means an extra strip per each six cut strips. Nice!

Planks from which strips will be cut are generally 150mm-200mm wide, they are around 25mm thick and vary in length from 3m to 4.8m. The strips need to be approx. 19mm wide, 6mm thick, by the length of the plank (preferably 6m - but this is not available).
This picture gives you an idea of how the strips are milled from a plank.

This milling operation has been really stressing me. It's a huge task to accomplish alone, when you are lacking a lot of tools to help ease the job.

A 3m long plank must be fed into the table saw, keeping the plank tight against the fence, maintaining a steady speed, and the same plank must be caught at the outfeed side, together with the strip which has been cut.
Space is my primary concern, but the amount of noise I would generate would be a second and valid concern too.

When I got to the lumber merchant, the man helping me, milled some sample strips. I was dumbstruck, since the lady on the phone told me that it was impossible for them to mill the strips.
Anyways, after seeing this, I went straight to the lady and requested that the wood I order be milled into 6mm strips. Since I showed her the sample strips, she happily agreed. Wow. How nice is this? I'll be getting my strips delivered (together with a few planks which I need to custom cut) with no further work required.
I walked out of there with a huge smile on my face.

Oh, and least I forget, the wood I ordered was Obeche for the main body of the boat and African Mahogany for the accent strips, for the keel, king plate, gunwales, seats, etc.
I am fairly certain that there will be no problems with the mahogany. As far as the Obeche is concerned, I am hoping for the best since I have no idea if this will be acceptable. Personally I see no reason why this wood is not going to work just fine for the task I have in mind for it.
I spent a good part of three months looking for help regarding which wood I could substitute for Western Red Cedar, which is the designer recommendation. Obviously I need a substitute which is readily available in South Africa. The only cedar I found here, are short planks of 2.4 meter length and horrendously full of knots. It is my layman's opinion that every single strip will crack at a knot, somewhere along it's short length.
Looking for advice has been an absolute dead-end.
I have written to numerous people and requested advice. Of all the people I wrote to, I received two one-line replies and the rest never bothered to answer. I wrote to a boat designer, a naval architect, an expert woodcrafter who claims to have learnt his craft in the boating industry, a few lumber mills, a specialist in lumber procurement and a company specialising in supplying the marine industry, amongst others. I also posted in forums, one specialising in wooden boats and never got any advice from there either.

So, at the end of the day I am left to my own devices, having to make choices based on my limited knowledge. Hopefully I can come up with the right combination of choices, build my boat, and end up being able to pass along the advice to the next guy looking...