Monday, January 28, 2019

Paralysis by Analysis

I've had the stock prepared for MsBubba's kitchen desk for well over a week but the title of this post says it all. I didn't want the legs to be too massive so I've used 8/4 stock and that is where the stop, don't pass go has happened. There isn't a lot of meat in the legs for the short stretcher tenons and I at first had planned on no lower stretchers. That plan is out the window but still the lower stretchers will only be on three sides with the fourth stretchers, if used, biased towards the back.

So I'm still left with how do I make the short stretcher M/T joint strong enough without weakening the leg too much. The best I've come up with is a near full width double tenon separated by a shallow stub tenon plus glue blocks and lower stretchers on three sides.

If after a few weeks of use it starts to wobble it will be back to the drawing board and a new base with thicker legs.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

LV Pencil Marking Gauge

I've been without a pencil marking gauge for awhile. I had a Philly Tools gauge that had a pencil holder on the off end of the beam that I sold a little over a year ago without thinking it through. Since that time I've used a panel gauge with a pencil holder or one of the combination squares while marking with a pencil when a pencil gauge was needed. While both work, neither is the best option.

I'd been thinking off and on about making a gauge. It is easy to do, you just need some scraps and a little time. Scraps I have, time not so much.

LV to the rescue. I received a flier from them the other day and on the inside front cover was a listing for a "second" pencil marking gauge. I couldn't whip out the AMEX fast enough. Today the gauge arrived and while maybe it is a "second" it is perfect and much better than one I would have cobbled together.

I expect the supply is limited and once gone they will be gone. It is a good pencil gauge for under $30 USD.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Day Job and Government Shutdown

I'm one of what I suppose is the lucky few who has always enjoyed their work. Back when, to borrow an airline phrase, I "flew the line" it was always a joy to see what was just over the horizon, what new foods and culture I could experience and/or revisit familiar places. While those days have passed I still enjoy what I hope is paying back an industry that brought so much to my life.

Times like last week try that enjoyment. Once a year we instructors are "clients" and undergo our personal annual training. Last week was my literal turn "in the box". Our recurrent training footprint is three and a half hours of ground school, a break that depends mostly on Sim availability, and five and a half hours of Simulator training  (one hour brief, four hours in the Sim, and thirty minutes debrief) for four days.  With the best schedule it is close to a twelve hour day for the four days. When younger it made a tough week, today it kicked this old farts ass.

I was lucky enough to have drawn a very good Sim partner, young and very sharp on his first recurrent after getting his type rating in the aircraft. The Sim instructor was also good and it was valuable as always to experience the technique of different instructors. I picked up a few things I will be able to use. No matter how long you instruct there is always something you can do better or different. Perhaps the best part, my check ride was scheduled to be "observed" by our FAA Inspector because the TCE (Training Center Evaluator) was due his annual reinstatement. Not that it is a big deal as far as I'm concerned but it can be a PITA for the TCE.

Thanks to the government shut down The FAA Inspector wasn't able to show and I was able to finish my training a day early.  The TCE needing reinstatement, not so lucky. He is a pumpkin until the government reopens and an observed ride can be scheduled. 

I spent most of yesterday recovering lost sleep and doing all the things put on hold. One of the "hold" things was buying wood for MsBubba's new desk. I found some nice 6/4 and 8/4 Red Oak at the woodstore. Two hundred and fifty USDs later it is stacked on the wood pile ready to start the desk Sunday. I'm giving a check ride to a client this afternoon.


Saturday, January 05, 2019


Ralph posts about refurbishing, I post about stones and sharpening. Ralph's are at least interesting, I expect mine not so much. Everyone it seems has their own way of sharpening and never should other ways intrude.

I also have sharpening round heels. C.S. posts that sharpening should be like a marriage, one system for life, As I said I have round heels, I not sure if I'm a cad or a slut but whatever I like different types of stones, but I'll pass on sandpaper and films. The different types of stones all lead to the same place but get there in slightly different ways.

The greatest differences are in the feel of the steel on the stone and the amount of monkey motion needed to use. There is not much need to revisit oil vs. water, it has been beat to death. The only thing I'll add is neither is quicker than the other, with oil stones you spend a little more time with steel on the stone. With most water stones you spend more time working on the stone. It is usually a wash.

JNat stones will kinda fall in the middle, they are slower than man made waterstones but faster than oil stones and their maintenance needs tend to be between as well. What JNats bring to the table is better "feel", better feedback as to what the steel and stone are doing. I know all touchy feely and unable to quantify but it is there. The other advantage of JNats is the grit can break down in the sury and as the steel and stone work together you can have a fast stone give a nice finish.

Posting about the finish of natural stones, oil or JNat, is where you can call B.S. but I prefer natural over man made. A man made stone like a Shapton will give an incredible shine but when you look through a lope you will see many small scratches lined up. Most JNats will not and no Ark stone will give that mirror shine in fact when you look with a lope the surface appears almost matt like when using either type stone with a very random scratch pattern. The shine looks great but I think the matt is a very slightly better working edge.

Here are four chisel sharpened with different techniques. You can't see the differences in the photo but I can tell you about them.

The chisel on the left is a #1 White Steel sharpened on JNats with a flat bevel. The steel has a "smokey" appearance with a well defined intersection between the steel and the backing iron and a fine matt finish when looked at with a lope. The next chisel is a A.I. O1 with a grinder bevel and also sharpened on JNats. The cutting edge also has a very fine matt finish. The new production Stanley 750 was sharpened on oil stones. The finish stone was a Washita and the chisel was stropped on leather with green stuff. It has a hell of a shine and under a lope a very fine scratch pattern. The last chisel is another #1 White steel sharpened on Shapton man made waterstones. There is not much difference in the shine between it and the 750 but under a lope the scratch pattern is more defined. One of the other differences is the definition of the line between the steel and the backing iron is not well defined like it is on the chisel sharpened with JNats.

The real question is: Is there much difference when steel meets wood and the answer to that is nope.

All four chisels are very sharp, all four hold their edge as well as can be expected for the type of steel. The next question is do I have a preference and that answer is not much, The JNats give great pleasure when steel meets stone, The Shaptons are wickedly fast, The oil stones make it very hard to screw up an edge. Each type of stone will give a good working edge.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

Workbench II

I hadn't planned on an immediate follow up post but some links came up in the comments that need to be in the main body.

The first from Sylvain taking you to "A Woodworker's Musings" blog. In that posting are several other links of interest,

While here we might as well talk about some of the things that make a good bench, especially for a first time builder. Those factors can be summed up easily: Simple, easy and quick to build, cheap, and stable. Easy to state but as always the devil is in the details.

Simple and easy and quick to build kinda go together but not necessarily. A Roubo bench can be very simple, four legs, six stretchers and a slab and you have a basic Roubo. Even in that simple state it can be difficult to build with lots of laminations to get the needed size timbers and the joints while they may be fairly simple are large and require precision. When you start adding the extras such as leg vises, wagon vises, sliding dead man and so on the bench go from simple to build to very complex and time consuming. I've seen builds posted that stretch on for years.

Cheap is another place where a Roubo sucks hind tit. Wood costs, even Big Box construction grade mystery wood, and a Roubo uses a lot of wood as built by most makers.

Stable, there is no question a well made Roubo at several hundred pounds or more is about as stable as you can get. My Roubo made from Beech could hold a Peterbuilt and not move. The same with the SYP one. I'm pretty sure I could say the same about my much lighter shop Moravian not that I would want to test it. Again while weight is a factor in stability it isn't the only thing that affects stability.

I know it sounds like I'm picking on the French bench but it is the bench that is in fashion today and the point of these posts is to think about what makes a good bench for both the first time and experienced builder.

More to come,


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Workbench I

One of the more interesting threads to follow on woodworking forums are ones dealing with workbench builds, plained, in progress, or finished. Many times for the train wreck aspect. While a workbench is or at least should be highly personal and fit the users workflow and projects, most builds I see posted tend to be of the Swiss Army Knife variety.

My early benches fit that pattern as well. Another aspect is "fashion", over the years I've seen different types of benches come and go in and out of fashion. This year it is a French style bench, yesterday it was Scandinavian or German. I'm not sure if one of the better benches, the English bench, has ever been in fashion which shows just how fickle bench fashion can be. Full disclosure on this one: I'm guilty of advocating for Moravian style benches for reasons that will be covered in a later post.

Bottom line, style of build makes little or no never mind. Each style build has pluses and minuses what is important is have you thought through those factors and fit them to your needs, As an example a French bench can be very stable, heavy, reasonably easy to build but expensive to build when compared to other style benches. Where the English bench can be as stable, but not as heavy, a more complex build, and a much cheaper build.  Working on either bench is not much different, they both work but sometimes with slightly different means of holding the workpiece.

That brings up the Swiss Army Knife. This isn't much of a problem with most English builds, it seems most folks who choose an English bench do so for the simplicity of the work holding. The bench works fine with no vises. The French is another story. BTW I'm not picking on the French bench because in its pure form work holding can be almost as simple as that of the English bench. But for some reason many builders of the French bench go for the gold and try to make the bench into that Swiss Army knife.

I've seen benches with a different type vise on every corner along with a pattern makers vise hanging on one end, a leg vise, a metal QR vise, a shoulder vise, a wagon vise, a Scandinavian style tail vise, a sliding deadman on one side and a bench jack on the other. Add in dog holes lined up with every vise.  All this on one bench and with three or four different woods for contrast and you have a thing of beauty, Damn impressive as a work of art but I'm not sure it would be a functioning workbench. I expect most of the vises would just get in the way of working as would all the contrasting woods and maybe even the dog holes.

That's the train wreck, the next post on this subject will be about getting to a simple functional bench. 


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Butterfly Key

I ended up making four three legged stools. The first two seats split, the second two I finished and gave to the boy child and SIL while we were in Houston. One of the first two with a split seat I threw away, good firewood, the second just had one split that could be saved with a butterfly key. I made the key and knocked it home tonight, Tomorrow I'll plane it flush and the stool should make a nice shop stool. It is perfect height for working at the bench.

I couldn't have planned it better.


Here's Hoping All Have A Good New Year

First post of the new year. I wanted to start the year off with a post and I'm expecting to up my output this year, not to Ralph standards but more than in the past. Of course sometimes there will be difficulties such as now, Sweet Maggie Dog is nosing my elbow followed by Sam the Wonder Dog and his very wet stuffed critter being dropped in my lap. My guess it is treat time, they usually work as a team. Treat given, all is well.

Today is piddle time in the shop, I've finished installing the lower shelf on the Moravian and now working on new wedges for the tusk tenons. The original wedges were quickies and too small. The new ones are longer and wider at the top.

Here is a photo of the new wedge and the old smaller wedge:

The new larger wedge installed:

Today's other piddle job was finishing up the lower shelf install, here is a photo:

I expect this is the last time you will see the shelf this clean and uncluttered.

I'm working on a long form essay on workbench builds.  It may never see the light of day but I would like to formalize some of the things I've learned about workbenches after many builds starting with the first I built trying to copy the photos of the benches in early issues of Fine Woodworking with no knowledge and no skills. As I have posted before it was kinda like a Russian copy of a western airplane, if you squinted it almost looked the same but that was about as close as it got. BTW that bench is still working as a shabby chic table/plant holder in the back garden.

It is early in this build's life and there is always a chance something will show up that drives me bat shit crazy, so crazy I have to build another bench to fix but the early reviews say there isn't much chance of that happening. The bench has been nothing but a joy to use. About the only thing I expect to change is the tool tray, it was a quickie to get the bench operational. It works fine but is uglier than granny panties.