Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chopping Mortises

I'm making a side table for the girl child, The top will be a frame and substrate to hold one of MsBubba's ceramic mosaics. The base is some near 8/4 Sapele I had in the shop.

The top is made, it just needs cleaning up and the legs are dimensioned but not shaped. The aprons are dimensioned waiting to saw the tenons once I finish chopping the mortises. I'm half way through chopping the mortises, two legs finished and two to go.

While chopping the mortises I thought about making a post about technique. My guess is everyone has either tried and discarded this technique or they are currently using it and it is no big deal because I have a history of riding the short bus. Anyway one of the problems I've always had with chopping mortises is keeping the hole straight. To fix that I've started knifing the reference mark, the one on the face side and then coming back and undercutting the knife line. This gives a nice "v" grove on the reference mark that give a positive stop for the mortise chisel. Angle the chisel slightly, drag it to the reference mark, when it stops stand it upright and square, give it a whack. Lever and repeat until you have removed everything that doesn't look like a mortise hole.

A couple or three photos, I don't know if you can see but click 'em to big 'em and whatever, one is of the mortise.

Knifing the reference mark.

Cutting the grove:

The mortise hole:

One other thing I happened to find today. My favorite pig sticker it turns out is 5/16", I never knew that. I just knew it was smaller than 1/2" and larger than the 1/4" which made it perfect for table leg mortises. I usually clean out the mortises with a LN 1/4" mortise chisel just because I don't worry about braking it and because it doesn't really need to be that sharp. Today I wanted a sharp chisel, in other words a bench chisel to clean up the ends of the mortise. Lot of luck bubba, out of the hundred or so bench chisel on the walls of the shop there is not one 5/16" chisel. As luck would have it the new Pfeil chisels I bought the other day had a 8mm in the set. 8mm is just a thin red one larger than 5/16"so all was not lost but damn you would think out of all those chisel there would be a couple of 5/16" ones somewhere. But no joy.

Off to Mexico tomorrow AM for a couple or three days of beer, beach, tacos, and watching the dogs swim and grin from floppy ear to floppy ear. It doesn't get much better.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Japanese Steel Porn

I've had three hand made high carbon steel Japanese kitchen knives for long enough to love 'em but a short enough time to still be amazed every time I use one . Like good Japanese chisels the knives are small works of art. They take a wonderful edge and feel good in hand with great balance and yet are very simple in appearance, ,almost looking unfinished compared to western knives.

A skilled blacksmith hand working high carbon steel can make magic. The cutter, chisel, plane iron, or knife produced can take and hold a cutting edge like no other. Every time I use one I break into a ear to ear grin.

The middle knife on the left is for slicing vegetables, the bottom right knife has a thicker blade and is used for de-boning and cutting heavier meats, and top right knife has a thinner blade and is for general purpose use but works very well slicing thin cuts from lighter meats such as fish.  BTW, how do you like the way I snuck into the photo three of my natural water stones. 

Last week when I was testing "sharpness" all three knives tested sharper than my best chisels, I can babble on but the only way to appreciate how good they are is to use 'em. After the first cut they no longer seem expensive. 

About the only downside is they take more care than the typical stainless steel kitchen knife. BTW, nothing wrong with a stainless steel kitchen knife, I use them every day but when I'm in the kitchen for pleasure the Japanese knives come out to play.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Pfeil Carpenter Chisels

As posted before I need more chisels like another hole in my head but....What can I say, the Pfeil chisels are very nice and at a good price point. To paraphrase Fabulous Frank, "Chisels will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no chisels", or something like that.

Of course when I made it home with the new chisels I had to re-arrange the chisel racks and find spaces for the new ones. The good news after much butt scratching and several test placements I found useable homes for all the chisels except for the crank-neck glue scrapper from Woodcraft. For now it will live in the center fill of the main work bench which is not a bad place for a beater chisel to call home. BTW, I can find many excuses to not make anything...Oh damn my chisels need re-arranging, that rocking chair will just have to wait.  Look squirrels!

Here is a photo of the behind the main workbench chisel racks. There are two more racks, one over the sharpening bench and the other on the wall over the jointer. They are all full.

If the rest of the Pfeil chisels work and sharpen as well as the 19mm "test" chisel, I expect they will be used interchangeably with the Ashley Iles chisels.

My downsizing of the shop, of course, is not going well, it seems I throw or give away one thing and two replace it the next day. I swear someday there will only be 10 lbs of stuff in the 10 lb bag, but it may take awhile. Right now the biggest problem with space in the shop is wood storage. I have some very nice wood stored but because without fail nice sized cutoffs (and some not so nice sized) end up on top of the stored wood I can not get to it with out moving, I will not say tons of cutoffs, but a bunch of cutoffs. With the way the back is acting up I need help getting everything organized and MsBubba has been off playing Grandmother and when she's home our work schedules do not match. Oh woe is me. Whatever, I expect there is a nice weenie roast in the near future.

One of the things I'm going to try is using 50 gal trash cans to hold shorter cutoffs. It probably will not work any better but what the hey it will at lest make it easy to move 'em to the fire pit.

See you guys on down the road,


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Photos of New Toy

I grabbed a paring chisel off the rack and tested it. Off the rack it tested to 330 grams. After sharpening on Spyderco brown and white stones it tested to 210 grams.

See photo:

After stropping on leather with 'green stuff' it tested to 160 grams:

I'm not sure how accurate either test was because I was holding the chisel with my left hand while shooting with the right but the numbers are in line with other tests.

Now the next question is: Is 150ish grams a good number or should I be working to lower it? So far 150 grams is the range I've found on different chisels with different steel, O-1, K-510, White Paper, and using different stones and freehand as well as jigged.

More fun with meaningless numbers to follow.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

New Toy

Well the new toy arrived but via USPS instead of the UPS girl.

The system is simplicity, a calibrated 'string' and scale to measure how much force it takes to cut the string. The unit I have has a 5 gram resolution, for a few dollars more you can have one with a 1 gram resolution. I figured 5 grams is close enough for my use. I haven't found anything on repeatability or range of error but with running several test on the same edge it seems to fall within a narrow range of results of about 5-15 grams difference maximum. Most of the time within 5 or 10 grams raw numbers.

The chart of "common edges" lists a double edge razor blade as taking 50 grams to cut the test string, a high end knife as needing 300 grams, and if it takes more than 400 grams the edge needs sharpening.

First the good news: Stropping with 'green stuff' on leather will lower needed force by about 40 to 50 grams. While it will take more tests to confirm, the type of stone makes little difference. I sharpened chisels from the same maker on Spyderco, Ark oil, and Shapton glass, all three before stropping took around 200 grams to cut the test string. And all three after stropping were in the 150 gram range.

Maybe the most surprising result was I ground one chisel on the Tormek to 25 degrees and then sharpened using the LN jig set for 30 degrees. While it was within what I suspect is the margin of error before stropping it took 20 grams more force to cut the test string than a chisel sharpened freehand on the same stone. After stropping the difference was 5 grams.

Will the toy make a difference in woodworking....not much but now I have a way to quantify sharpening technique. Is it better to strop, or not and gives a way to test longevity of different sharpening methods such as the same old question does a stropped edge last longer than one that is not.

I know what I've found and believe over the years but now I can put numbers to it instead of just 'because'. And maybe it will show me where I've been wrong as well.

Anyway bottom line a fun little toy and a lot cheaper than an ESM.

Sharpness Measuring

With woodworking tools the only measure that matters is: Does it pare, chop, cut wood as needed and leave a surface that works as intended. Ok that's out of the way, now on the the reason for this post.

There are so many variables in sharpening, oil stones, water stones, natural, man made, diamonds, sandpaper, strop with compound and without, leather, MDF, maple and on and on. Like many folks I have tried many of 'em and the eternal question is which works the best. The answer is usually: "It depends." Because the answer many times depends on what steel, O-1, A-2, PM-v11, D2, K-510, and more, as with stones the number is almost endless.

BTW, I will cut to the chase.  The other day I ordered an Edge-On-UP sharpness tester. I've not a clue if it will tell me anything but I figure it was worth taking a flyer on. At a minimum I hope it will settle the strop question and if it does it will be worth toting the note. What I'm also hoping is it will help determine if there is a difference in oil, water, and/or natural vs. man made, and jig vs. freehand. I expect the answer will at the end of the day still be....It depends.

Big expectations, the UPS girl should deliver it sometime today. Did I ever post photos of my UPS girl? Damn I know better but sometimes I can't help myself.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017


Toy box with a 'pull' on the lid, it is now out of the shop awaiting delivery:

Several days ago I posted about Pfeil Carpenter Chisels, as a follow up, as dumb as it is to add chisels to my chisel collection I ordered a full set of the Pfeil's. It is hard to get all "these are the best" over chisels but damn Pfeil hit the sweet spot with these chisels with every thing from the price point to how they feel in hand, to the steel of the blade. Of course bottom line is YMMV because chisels are so subject to personal preference but if you are looking to buy some bevel edge bench chisels, do yourself a favor and include the Pfeil's in your search. BTW, as much as I like the Ashley Iles' chisels I expect the Pfeil's will replace the AI's as my daily go to chisel.

This next is an Old Fart writing about his medical problems...Mostly so I have a record of when things happen. Pass on by if you find it as boring as I do.

For several weeks I've had very bad lower back pain, I'm pretty pain tolerant, as an example back in the '90's I worked and flew airplanes for three months with a broken jaw. BTW I thought that was bad pain but compared to the last couple of weeks it was a walk in the park. Anyway cutting to the chase the pain was so bad I spent Saturday afternoon in the ER because I couldn't wait until my scheduled Doc's appointment Monday. The pain meds and whisky just weren't doing the job anymore. The ER started some meds that relieved some of the pain, the Doc's appointment Monday brought good news. The odds are I will not need surgery, that the problem can be controlled with meds and PT.

Don't get old, it is literally a pain in the ass.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Kinda finished....needs a lid stay and a lid handle:

With the lid open:

With the lid closed:


Pfeil Carpenter Chisels

While at Woodcraft buying hinges for the peanut's toy box one of my friends that works there showed a new stock Pfeil bevel edge chisel. For some reason Pfiel is calling these chisels "Carpenter" chisels. Very strange, the chisels in this line are well thought out beveled edge bench chisels with a low chrome content steel blade and a very nice Ash handle. They are about as far from a "Carpenter" chisel as you can get. 

In my hand the chisel felt great, small, light, and well balanced. The Ash handle has a "grippy" natural finish. My friend stated he was thinking about buying a set and asked if I knew anything about them. Of course I knew nothing but the chisel felt good in hand and had IIRC K-5 something steel hardened to 60 RC (all information from my friend doing his homework). On a whim I picked up a 19mm to take home and give a run. 

Once home I sharpened it on a medium grit brown Spyderco stone followed by a white Spyderco polishing stone and a leather strop. It went quickly, the back was slightly hollow and the bevel was ground 25 degrees primary with 30 degree secondary. The white Spyderco gave a nice thin burr that came off with a single 'pull'. Both the back and bevel had a good polish even before stropping. After stropping the edge felt and looked sharp. I do not normally 'test' for sharpness but as this was a test I did. The chisel did a good job of paring both Pine and Oak end grain with ease leaving a smooth surface with no noticeable dulling of the chisel.

Last night I used the Pfeil chisel to chop and pare the hinge mortises for the peanut's toy box's lid. I have no use or need for more chisels but this line of Pfeil chisels are so nice and at a price point of around $40 USD I expect a few more will follow me home. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Grandpeanut's Toy Box

Is in the short rows. I've maybe one more coat of the 'Brick Red' undercoat before I start on the 'Federal Blue' final coats.

I love the look and feel of milk paint. Both Art (with a capital 'A') and craft need to show the hand of the maker. When it does not, is too perfect, it loses its soul and no mater how beautifully made I lose interest in it very quickly. A Old Fart's cultural reference....It is like looking at Sandra Dee vs. Sophia Loren. Ms Dee was very pretty but....Ms Loren moved your soul. Or maybe, if you are not a Dirty Old Man of a certain age, it is like looking at an Ansel Adams photograph vs. a Roy DeCarava photograph. One you think is very nice the other you can come back to forever. Art is like that, it should grab you and never let go.

Damn that was a tasty rabbit...As I was saying, Milk paint feels organic, it invites touch to feel the surface of the wood under it and as it wears, which it will, it exposes the paint and wood underneath. With milk paint the piece of work becomes more as it ages and is used.

A couple more days of painting, putting on the lid hinge and I can do the Omni, Omni, VOR over the toy box and move on to something else.

See you guys on down the road,