Monday, December 31, 2012

A Special Christmas Gift

I only made one piece this year as a Christmas gift. I believe that's one more than I made last year though, so I'm making progress. This year's gift was for my dad. I usually try to get him a nice bottle of bourbon or something; an unusual or small batch product. Well this year while looking around, I saw a bottle of Laird's 7 1/2 year aged apple brandy, non blended. Laird's Apple Jack was my dad's dad's drink of choice when he was at his hunting cabin, ( He bought 251 acres of land in the mountains near Berkley Springs West Virginia in 1957, which my dad still has ), and my dad likes it every now and then also, so I'd found what I was looking for.

Now my dad's dad was a bit of a woodworker himself and I've got some cherry that was his that is probably 50 or 60 years old. I got it about 20 years ago and it had been planed down to 3/4" but obviously with some very dull planer knives. It was riddled with tear-out, so I planed it all down to 1/2" thick stuff. Well, after buying the bottle of apple brandy, I thought how cool would it be to make a box out of that cherry that came from my dad's dad to hold the bottle that my dad's dad liked to drink? Pretty cool I thought. So I decided on a sliding lid candle box type design sized to fit the afore mentioned bottle. Turned out to be a really enjoyable little project to build. I took a minimalistic approach as far as the tools I used. The corners are through dovetailed, the bottom or back just nailed on with reproduction headless brads from Kennedy Hardware ( nice stuff ), and I just used a marking gauge and a chisel and mallet to cut the grooves for the lid to slide in. I find it fun sometimes to askew specialty tools like a plow plane for a chisel and mallet. Anyway, after about 8 hours or so of work I was really pleased with the way it turned out. So much so that I'll be making myself one soon. For a finish, I applied a coat of True Oil, let it dry, and then buffed it out with fine steel wool. Because of it's age I suppose, this cherry has such a warm patina to it right away and it really begs for a simple finish. I made a bunch of cherry shavings from some of the scraps and used these to pack the bottle in the box. I find this packing much more attractive than styrofoam peanuts. :-)

Anyhow, Dad came down day before yesterday for his Christmas visit and he was very pleased indeed. Especially with the box being made from the cherry that was his dad's. Nothing can compare to the joy a woodworker gets from seeing how much a loved one appreciates a project you have made for them. Makes you want to get right back out in the shop and build more gifts.

Oh and by the way, we broke into the bottle and toasted Pappy with that apple brandy. That was some really smooth sipping stuff.

Most, but not all, of the tools used to make the box

No, the dovetails aren't perfect, but neither am I 

Really love the warm look of this cherry

A happy gift recipient and the humble cabinet maker

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Do You Get When You Combine an Insomniac and an Old Drop Cloth?

In my case, an 18th century style haversack. Wednesday night I was having a hard time falling asleep. I went out to the garage to grab a soda out of the garage fridge and saw an old drop cloth on the shelf out there. My mind flashed to my most recent trip to Colonial Williamsburg and a haversack I'd seen at
Tarpley's store. I'd also seen some of the interpreters there wearing these. Did I need a haversack? No. Am I a historical interpreter or reenactor? Negative. Would I ever envision myself wearing said haversack? Again, I think the answer would be no. So OBVIOUSLY I had to make one. Off to Google Images. I use this resource a lot when I'm making or building something that I'm not really familiar with. Usually I find a image or two that's just what I'm looking for and I can typically build something from a picture.

So, after finding a picture that I liked, I brought the drop cloth into the living room where it was warm, dug up a sewing needle, and found my roll of cotton twine, which is what I decided to use to sew this up versus wimpy thread. I wanted to make the body of the haversack 12" wide by about 13" tall. I allowed about 3/4" on each side for a seam so I cut a piece of canvas 13 1/2" to 14" wide. I made the length about 50" because my plan was to have the bag divided by a pocket in the center, so 3 folds of 13 1/2" plus about 8" or so for the flap closure. I later decided to fore go the pocket so I have a double thick material front. After making my folds, I hand stitched the cotton twine down one side, across the bottom, and up the other side, turned the bag inside out, and had a basic bag. Next I folded over about a 1/2" seem around the flap, ironed a crease in it to hold it in place, and stitched the seam for the flap. The body of the haversack was now done. Time for a strap.

I cut a strip 4" wide by 64" long for the strap, which would put the top of the haversack at belt level for me. It wasn't difficult stitching up the strap, but hand stitching a 64" length of material was time consuming to say the least. Once done, I turned the strap inside out. This proved fairly difficult, but I figured out a little trick and once I did, things rolled right along. I doubled up the last 2" of the strap and  sewed one side on with a 1 3/4" square box of  stitching with a stitched X in the middle. Same thing on the other side and I'm calling it done except for a button to hold the flap closed.

This part's a little crazy because when I was in Colonial Williamsburg the prior weekend I bought my wife a pair of earrings from the James Craig Jewelry Shop. They also had a pewter button in the case with the "Don't Tread on Me" logo snake for only $5. I didn't have any use for a pewter button (or so I thought) but I have a t-shirt with this snake and motto on it, so I bought the button. Well, a few days later I suddenly had the perfect use for it.

Anyway, here's the finished bag. Looks pretty good hanging in the shop, which is I imagine where it will stay.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Spring Pole Lathe Measurements

I had a blog reader request some measurements on the Spring Pole Lathe so I thought I'd post some pictures of the lathe with a ruler on it for some key measurements. I'd like to add that these are just the measurements I came up with that I think will work well. But time and use will tell if they are going to actually be good dimensions. The height of the dead centers is one of the key measurements and this will probably want to change based on your height. I'm about 5'8 in boots and I'm gonna set my dead centers at 40", just about elbow height, maybe a touch higher. Anyway, here's some pictures that I hope will help.

62" width from outside to outside of vertical uprights. Bed
rails are 62" long.

About 55 1/8" from inside to inside of verticals.

32" from floor to top of bed rails.

36" total height to top of left vertical post. This post gets
no dead center.

About 48" to top of right side vertical. This side will receive
one dead center @40", probably about 2" in from the front

Moveable poppit. Around 22" overall. Will receive a dead
center about 8" up from the shoulder, but this measurement
will be made by sliding it over to the dead center installed
on the right vertical upright and marking directly from that
Bed rails are approximately 2 3/8" wide by 3 1/2" tall.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spring Pole Lathe - She's On Her Feet

Yesterday I finished getting the lathe bed rails dovetailed into the uprights and got the moveable poppet cut to shape and morticed for the wedge that holds it tight to the bed. Everything is turning out good so far. Bed rails are even and square to the uprights and the poppet holds tight to the rails. I guess the next step is to figure out what hardware I'll use for the dead centers and get those shaped and installed. I think I should probably do that before I mortice the poppet and the taller upright for the arms that will hold the tool rest as the height of the centers should dictate the height of the tool rest. I'm also just going to leave everything dry fit until the very end. Any shaping I may do to the feet or uprights I will also leave til the end. As for the location of the lathe, this looks like this may be my best bet. Guess it's either here or against the back wall.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Spring Pole Lathe - Plan B

My initial plans were to build a spring pole lathe out of reclaimed pine beams from an old barn that had blown down not far from me. After spending a significant amount of time squaring and sizing these timbers, I reluctantly scrapped them after discovering significant bug damage and fearing that there might still be live critters in them that could do damage to my shop. I really liked the look of those old pine beams too. Oh well.

By the way, I'm basing this lathe loosely off of Peter Follansbee's lathe at Plimoth Plantation, but have searched the internet vigorously and have gotten ideas from a little bit of everywhere. So these are the drawings I've come up with.

My "Sketch Up" model. I'm old school.

So, after getting over the disappointment of time wasted planing and my initial vision scrapped, it was time to come up with a new plan for some lumber. For the main frame of the lathe, I decided to go with 4 x 4's from the local home center. These were very straight and fairly knot free. Overall, pretty nice stuff. They're some sort of pine I guess, probably something from out west but I'm not real sure. The plan was to edge glue two together, ending up with around 3 1/2" x 6 1/2" pieces. So, after cutting the pieces to the rough lengths I needed, I edge jointed one face of all pieces with my 30" wooden jointer. Then, and I'm not proud of this, I took them to the garage and ran them through the thickness planer to give me two parallel sides for glue up. I take pride in pretty much doing everything by hand these days, but after working so hard on those bug infested beams, I just didn't have it in me to plane these down to size with hand planes. I don't usually do this, but I'll play the cancer card on this if I have too. Might as well take advantage of it for something. ;-)

Anyway, on to glueing up pairs to make my 6 1/2" wide pieces. After the glue dried it was back to the garage to get the pieces to the finished width and thickness. From this point on, only meat powered woodworking. The way it should be. :-)

The frame really just consist of a vertical post on one side, 46" tall, tenoned into a 30" long piece to create an upside down T. On this side, the vertical piece will receive one of the dead centers to hold a piece for turning. The other side is the same, only it's 36" tall. It's only purpose is to receive the lathe bed rails. There will be a moveable poppet toward this end with the other dead center installed in it.

I laid out the tenons on the bottoms of the vertical members, sawed them out with my rip panel saw because my tenon saw wasn't quite deep enough. ( As soon as I find a source for bent brass backs, I'll be rectifying this by building a new tenon saw with a deeper saw plate. ) I used the tenons to mark out for the mortices on the feet and drilled out most of the waste with a brace and 1" auger bit, drilling about halfway from the top, then flipping the foot over and drilling the rest of the way. Then it was just a matter of cleaning up and squaring up with a chisel. They're not perfect visually, but they fit together nicely. I'll probably pin them just to be safe.

Nice tight fit on the top side.

Not so tight on the bottom.

Nice and square with a nice assembled look though.

This is the 46" tall side that will get the stationary dead

I got the two ends of the lathe mortice and tenoned about a week ago and this morning I was able to get back into the shop to get back to work. Next step was to work on fitting the rails that will be the lathe bed into the uprights. For the bed rails, I'm using some really nice, heavy oak beams that I surfaced to be about 3 1/2" tall by 2 1/2" thick. I decided to dovetail these into the uprights as I'd seen Roy Underhill do on his bow lathe back in season two of the Woodwright's Shop. Good enough for St. Roy, good enough for me! I was a little apprehensive about ruining the work I'd done up til now with bad dovetails but figured hey, no risk no reward. I'm happy with the way the first one turned out.

The dovetail laid out on the end of the oak rail.

Saw cut made as best you can. Of course you can't really
get into the corner.

Just start taking bites. Chisel the shoulder a little, then
take wood out from the end and repeat.

Until you get to this point.

I use the dovetail tenon to mark out the dovetail "mortice"
Then make your outer cuts and a couple relief cuts in the
middle down to the base line.

Whack out the waste with a chisel and mallet, staying a
little shy of the line. Then come back with a paring chisel
to clean it up to the base line.

Looks like it's gonna be a tight fit.

A little too tight. I had to relieve a little wood on the
shoulders to let the dovetail slide in.

A nice tight fit with no wiggle at all.

Happy with this.

I'll be thrilled if I can get the other three to fit this way.

Well, time to get back out there for some more work. I'll update when I get the other three joints done. Hopefully with good news.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Comes to the Shop

After putting up some wreaths in the windows of the house the other day, I started feeling bad for the shop being left out of the Christmas spirit so I decided to do a little something about it. I thought that a trip to Michael's to buy plastic wreaths or garland just wouldn't do so I headed out to the woods with some shears and visions of Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas. This is what I've come up with so far.

The front door. Some long needle pine
branches wired together with some berries
from a bush who's name escapes me right now

The Colonial Williamsburg bird bottle stuffed with crow's
foot and the mystery berries

And a little Christmas cheer inside the shop. More crow's
foot and mystery berries in the window sill over the bench

Still need to figure out something for under the window.
Looks kinda bare I think. Maybe just a swag of more pine

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birthday Gifts and Some Simple Tool Storage

Just a quick post to gloat about my birthday gifts and show a few pics of some simple tool storage solutions around the shop.

The birthday loot:

From my wife and girls, a set of Marple's Beech handled English cabinetmakers screwdrivers from Tools for Working Wood, an 8" x 10' coil of .035 thick 1095 spring steel ( I see at least 3 panel saws and a frame saw or two in here ), and some Tremont cut box nails of various lengths. The piece of wood these are sitting on is a 4' length of 8/4 poplar, 17" wide, that I found at Woodcraft during our last SAPFM meeting. I don't know how to make a windsor chair yet, but when I do, I have enough for two seats here. Thanks for the birthday money that bought this mom. Maybe these aren't your most typical birthday gifts but they sure are MY kind of gifts.

And some shots of my tool storage:

Found a nice cask to replace the galvanized can.
Actually, the galvanized can fits inside the cask perfectly.

I love these racks. So simple to make but so versatile.

Room for more moulding planes. :)

This won't stay empty for long.

And my lumber storage rack above stairs:

Had to angle the uprights back somewhat to keep the rack
from intruding too far into the floor space.

And doesn't every shop need a place to hang your cocked hat?

No, I don't wear it when I'm working in the shop.
( Unless nobody's looking )