Monday, March 30, 2020

A Clean Tool is a Happy Tool

Keeping your tools sharp and clean is very important in any shop, but even more so for the green woodworker. My task of modifying the birthing pen for the goat moms-to-be left me with some very sticky tools!

If you have dealt with pine pitch, which would even include anyone who has had to adjust the Christmas tree in the stand. You are familiar with the fact that it sticks to everything and even soap and water did little to clean it off. Simply put, pine pitch isn't soluble in water. 

To dissolve pine pitch you can use either alcohol or spirits (mineral or turpentine), either one does the job. I currently have about 2 gallons of denatured alcohol on that needs to be used, so that's what I grabbed. 

I also keep a can of used mineral spirits for paint clean-up that I would probably use normally. I do my clean-up and recycle it back into the can.

If you want to go "au natural", I suggest using spirits of turpentine or ether. Neither of these are not mechanically process and 100% safe to use. 

Finally, if you wish to learn more about the solubility of different gums and resins, I suggest picking up a copy of Shellac, Linseed Oil, and Paint; Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes by Stephen A. Shephard. This was one of the books I used as a text during my years of teaching preservation. 

Cleaning with alcohol is a simple process; simply wet it down and brush it a little to help the alcohol dissolve the resins. 

After a few minutes, the resin will be completely dissolved and the alcohol will quickly evaporate, harmless to the finish of the tool. 

Another tool I had to clean was a drawknife I had used during a recent shaving horse build. I had planned to use green pine for the leg and pegs, but ultimately only used the pegs. I was sucessful, however, in making the drawknife all icky-sticky in the process. 

This is the auger bit I used during the goat pen chore. In the end, I switched to using wire nails, but if you read my earlier post, you already knew that. But as little as I used it, this auger still needed a cleaning. 

This is my number 7 bit that I always leave on one of my braces. I use it every spring to bore holes for my maple taps and also for any for drawbore holes at the bench. The old auger bits were numbered according to size, each to the sixteenth of an inch, thus this auger bit is equal to 7/16 inches 

After cleaning I like to give the tools a quick rub down with a linseed oil and beeswax mixture. There are many different mixture recipes out there, but there is really no wrong way to do it. I toss them in an old crockpot and cover the beeswax chuncks with lindseed oil. I like the mixture to be a little on the softer side, more oil than wax, so when it cools I will add more of one or the other to my liking. 

Clean-up is also when I give the tools a quick sharpening. Do yourself a favor and stop freaking out about how to sharpen. There is no secret to it, just learn a quick repeatable method and do it often. 

This is the hatchet after cleaning with the alcohol. 

And this is the hatchet after honing and oiling. I even oiled the leather cover this time. NICE!

You may not always have the opportunity to keep your tools in flawless condition. I sometimes have to leave to get things done ans saddly the tools have to wait on the bench until I get back. Do what you can, respect them, and they will last you many years, 


Friday, March 27, 2020

The Solution at Hand - Making a planing stop

I picked up a book not so long ago from Lost Art Press called The Solution at Hand, by Robert Wearing. You can find it HERE. This book contains many of Wearing's jigs and work helpers from his many years of printing with Woodworker magazine. My goal with this book is to try out as many of these items as I can and pass the results along to anyone with an interest.

The book starts with a workbench, guess I will skip that one for the time being. I really don't need another workbench, but I may use the designed later if someone wants one or I get another apprentice.

The first item I found of interest were two L-shaped pieces to lock your workbench in place. Well, even 'The Beast" will walk away from some heavy planning from time to time. I made these out of some scrap maple plywood and installed them at opposing corners of the bench.

I haven't had any more problems with movement, even with a lot of test work to try push the racking of the bench as much as possible.

Moving on to the next project, I decided to build a simple planing stop. I don't currently have one morticed into the bench top, so I figured I would follow one of Wearing's templates and make one I could clamp into the vise and that could handle narrow or wide boards. It would also use one of the holdfast locations I installed the day prior.

This old shelf has been under my feet for months. I've been hoarding it for over 10 years and four different workshop spaces. I have yet to find someplace worth hanging it in this shop so it has officially volunteered to be recycled. 

I took it apart, saving the brackets and 2x4s for later projects. I honestly hadn't even planned on keeping the shelf this long. 

I ripped a length from the shelf, 3-inches wide. Notice the holdfast being used!

I then took one of the scrap 2x4s and planed one edge slightly out of square. This detail will force the plywood strip down to the workbench top when the stop is clamped in the leg vise. 

I glued and screwed the two pieces together and the planing stop is ready for use!

It's such a simple jig and takes mere minutes to make. You can also make multiple stops at varying thicknesses as needed.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Holdfast to the course, Mr. Smee. This worktop be gettin' holey!

I've been using my current workbench for well over a year now, waiting for it to tell me where a holdfast would be beneficial.

I look through the woodwork forums and always see the same bit of advice: "Only install holdfasts where they are needed." 

That sound good, but whenever I could use one I found myself inventing some other method to hold my work in place. After the task was over, I simply forgot about the problem and moved on to the next job. 

Guess what? You don't NEED a holdfast, like everything else in woodworking, there are multiple ways of getting things done. None of them right or wrong, just differing opinions. 

Anyway, I finally got around to adding some holes in the current bench. 

My first hand tool workbench in 2010 had holes set 2-inches from the front edge, every 6-inches to accommodate the very small tail vise I had installed. Most of the lumber I used at this time was pre-milled. I had very little use for the multiple holes. 

My second workbench, built around 2015, was a design was taken from one of  Roy Underhill's books and I followed the holdfast pattern as it had been laid out. I used this work bench mainly at woodworking shows and conferences. I used wedges to hold pieces in place in conjunction with the holdfast. 

The "Beast", my current bench, has a worksurface 6-foot long, 26-inches deep and 3-inches thick. It also has a tail vise that sees as much use as the leg vise, not for pinching a work piece to the surface but as an awesome quick-release second vise. I may add that ability in the future, but I get along fine without it. 

Searching for advice on where I should place my holdfasts, I located a couple articles written by Schwarz that laid out his favorite locations and the reasoning behind it. I emphatically advise you to search them out for yourself.  I used the drawing above as a source on where I wanted to place my holes. 

I bored this hole out without once thinking about how close it was to the leg. Luckily, it skimmed the outer edge of the leg, but doesn't stop the holdfast from functioning. 

I used my own measurements to lay out the spacing, allowing the holdfasts to overlap slightly in reach.

I've owned these Gramercy holdfasts since bench number one in 2010. Using 3/4-inch holes, they have a 9-inch shaft. Rather short for a holdfast, they are barely long enough to handle the 3-inch work surface. I will probably notch the gripping surface of the holdfasts to improve the grab even more. 

The reach is about 7-1/2 inches, so I spaced the holes on the work top to 14-inches on center. 

Here are all the highlighted hole locations. Five are located 4-inches from the back edge, these are for use when planning across the grain. The other three are for use with the planning stop, morticing and holding the work piece to the bench hook. 

More on the plane stop next time. 


Monday, March 23, 2020

Birthing pen fence up-grade?

It's not exactly the most festive of times with the current pandemic and some people have resorted to helping out by relighting their Christmas decorations. Odd as it sounds, it helps to have a little shiny in such bleak times that have really taken a toll on the mental state of a lot of hard working individuals. The rumor is that the relighting began with an individual who never bothered to remove their decorations after the holiday season.

If you are curious, our official time to remove decorations is by the first of the new year. This tradition helps to bring in the new year with a clean house; no decorations, no clutter. However, many don't follow this self-imposed custom and leave them up through out the winter... and summer... and normally back to the next holiday season. Whatever, if it helps people get their minds off the current situation and calm down, I'm all for it.

With the goats, we always put a calling out for Christmas trees after the season is over. It's a nice treat for them and it eases some of the boredom brought by the need to stay inside with the same 4 walls and boring hay pile. The winter season is only about halfway through by that point, and they can all use a little pick-me-up in the form of yummy, green, spruce, pine, or fir.

After the goats are done cleaning the trees from their spikey foliage,  I may leave one or two in the pen, but the remainder of the de-leafed previously festive evergreens are thrown out the door so I can ignore them until spring.  

Last fall, after the birth of our twin goats, Elizabeth Collins and Willie Lumas, we realized the birthing pen needed some upgrades prior to the next birthing (approximately April 1) like a higher wall. Ah-ha, something to do with the holiday offerings!

Armed with my hatchet, I took all the limbs off the trunks. That provided me with 7 or 8 posts between 4-7 feet in length.  The now-removed limbs went into the burn pile. I did try to use some of the limbs for pegging, but that didn't go as anticipated. 

(For the record, you can peg into green wood and it will cinch itself tighter as the wood shrinks with the loss of moisture. A totally dry piece of wood will not shrink and thus won't hold a peg very well at all. If the peg had square corners and some notching, it may help, but not when pounding it into an unsecured frame causing all the joints to bounce apart.)

Taking the posts, I sawed them into lengths approximately 2-foot-ish. The final length is not important, they will hang over the top edge of the frame. I found an old piece of left-over stair rail in the barn that fit perfectly between the back of the chicken coop and the inner wall of the old stanchion. 

I simply nailed the posts to the existing railing (a recycled porch railing) and to the stair rail frame located about 18 inches above it. I did start by boring and pegging it to the stair rail, but that oobviously wasn't going to work as I thought and moved on the regular wir nails. You can see the pegs in the first few posts on the left in the picture above.  I also notched the posts about the 18-20 inch mark to better set it into the stair rail.

The completed wall extension got a seal of approval from the missus and now I just have to improve upon the gate leading into the pen.

(Where are the rest of those posts? Oh yeah, I threw them into the goat pen to give them a little something to play with for now.)


Friday, March 20, 2020

Tools be hanged!

I spent much of the last year in the new workshop procrastinating. It got so bad that I was constantly putting stuff in the workshop anywhere I could find room and no projects were completed because I always felt I needed to clean up first and it was a daunting task. The occasions that I did work in the shop, I would have to move this and that, knocking over a tower of tools in the process. Finally, my wife came to the rescue with logic allowing me to get past this depressing workshop era.

I can't quote her precisely, but it was along the lines of, "Take out everything you don't need. You don't need to get rid of it, store it in the attic until you figure out what to do with it." So that is precisely what I did.

I had house carpentry tools, roofing tool, blacksmith tools, and lots and lots of extra tools. So then began the great purge.

Most of the tools in the shop are now used on a daily basis. Mind you there is still plenty of room for improvement but as long as progress is made I am much happier.

One of the things I've been needing to do is organize my hand drills and hammers, which have been littering the mobile bench because I had no clue what to do with them. I don't find that I use the hand drills much, but I hope to change that in the future.

I have all these glorious ideas of hanging them using pegs and if I could only find the time to do it, I would be happy...but time tends to be a precious commodity of which we all lack. So I decided to hang them using finish nails for the time being, a more attractive solution may present itself later, or not. Whatever, it works for now.

I begin by eyeballing the approximate position I want the tool to be located. 

Measuring the gap gives me a span for the hanger, after adding a little extra so the tool isn't pinched, but not so much to all the tool to slide right through. There is not a lot of leeway on these hand drills. 

I mark the location for the nails and make an indention using a nail set. The nail set reduces the chance of your nail or drill bit riding away from the mark due to the hardness of the grain of the wood. I also predrilled a hole about 1/4-inch deep to guide the nail and reduce the hammering needed to set the nail in place.

I then copy the technique for the second drill. I had about six of them, so all the spares will be hung in the hallway leading to the shop as decoration. 

I follow a similar technique with all the hammers. I decided to keep three on hand in the workshop, all older. I've noticed that I tend to use the smallest on the most. My giant framing hammer has no use in the workshop so I set it aside for now. I plan to make a mobile work box for him and his friends later.

I drilled holes in the mallet handles and hung them in front of the drawshave. The smaller one is used on holdfasts and the other is a mortice chisel beater.

There, that definitely works for the time being! 


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Restore a Table Finish

After the glue had cured, I removed the clamps. I wasn't surprised that the project still needed a little persuasion of the mallet. With the multiple layers of folding pieces, it wasn't possible to get all the glue squeeze out. The addition of the painters tape made the "unsticking" a little easier, but not by much. I was still extremely worried that prying it apart would cause the remainder of the old glue joints to fail. Luckily, a few subtle taps and the table was operating as intended. 

I took a some 100-grit and hand-sanded the old polyurethane finish down a bit. This removed a little of the surface dirt and grime. 

I then gave it a rub down with Restor-A-Finish, a product I've been dragging along since North Carolina. I've never actually used it before, but looking at the MSDS showed me that it's basically mineral spirits and mineral oil. 

Nothing in this product will film or protect the project, and they even advise further coverage with their version of a wax product. Which, I'm fairly certain is a company packaging of paste wax. The only purpose of this product is to add a little oil back into the piece, which would shine and cover up smaller scratch marks. 

Since it is mineral oil, it wont cure and would cause certain other finishes not to bond. I would most likely cover it with a coat of linseed and beeswax, my go to finish. 

This restored table will be used by my wife, she is a Scentsy consultant and the table will come in quite handy during her visitation parties. I also made her a set of shelves which she also takes with her, but that would be another post. 


Monday, March 16, 2020

The 1st (or 100?) Blog Post / Repairing a Hand-me-down Folding Table

I've recently had a yearning desire to reestablish my presence on the blog. I'm certain this happened prior to the Coronavirus situation currently sweeping the world. So, the fact that plan to stay home anyway and reopen this blog is merely a coincidence.

I haven't decided what the upload schedule with be, but I work at home almost every day of the week so I have plenty to share.

An extremely condensed update of life since the previous posting in 2014:
- I graduated the ECC Historic Preservation Program.
- I worked freelance for about and then taught for ECC.
- I moved to Vermont, twice.
- The workspace has been officially christened as Dan's Wood Shoppee and is now located in the house. No power sanding or major power tools allowed, it's mostly a hand-tool space.

There, you are mostly caught up. I may expand on these things at a later date but for now I want to talk about the folding table.

Dad's Folding Table

This little table was built by my father and given to me in 2010, when I was roaming the USA.

The table was built of red oak acquired from a big-box store and joined using wood glue, no joinery. It held up about 10 years. After that, most likely due to temperature and humidity, the glue finally gave out. I set it and the few now-loose pieces aside until I found the time to repair them. In other words, cleaned the shoppee.

Last week, I pulled the table from its resting location, a little spot leaning against the wall in fron of the mobile bench shoppee and decided to repair the two slats that had experienced glue failure. I decided to use dowels as a hidden tenon and leave the original look of the piece. I could have used screws, but my OCD and back ground in preservation wouldn't allow it. As I tapped the first of the two repairs in place, the slight jarring of the tapping cause a majority of the remaining glue joints to fail completely. I now had one piece clamped in place and about five newly-loosened pieces littering the bench top. I had a moment of surprise and then proceeded as any sane person would, and laughed. I finished clamping the repair I had started and let the glue cure, planning to finish later. This is where the photos begin.

This is the starting point after the previous clamping and cure time. I've already cleaned off the old glue with a chisel. 

I decided to put a little painters tape this time as I noticed I couldn't get all the squeeze out cleaned up and I had to break away some of the excess glue. 

I begine by drilling out holes 5/16 diameter and about 1/2 inch deep. I then clean up the top edge of the hole using a countersink bit.

I then insert these little center finders to mark the joing piece. 

Like so. 

This is the dowel I've been cutting up to use as plugs. 

Round the leading edge. I used a pencil sharpener. 

Then I insert the dowl and mark it with a knife. 

Using a pencil, I then insert the same dowel into the receiving mortice. The use of a pencil for one hole and the knife for the other ensures that I can tell the two marks apart. 

Using a metric scale, I add both the marks together and mark the final length of the dowel 2-3 mm less than the total. 

After cutting it to length, I sanded it to reduce the diameter of the dowel slightly. 
Glue the dowel. 

Clamp it down. 

Repeat as required and wait for it to cure. You may have noticed that I clamped it to the bench. Thankfully, I have plenty more to work on. 

Thanks for following and feel free to leave comments or questions.