Always Something to Learn

IMG_1944In woodworking, one of the most satisfying things is that you never know it all. Everyday there is something knew to learn. That’s one of the things that keeps me looking and listening and trying new ideas. In the left-hand photo, you see how I’ve set up to bend stringing since I first began working with the material. I grabbed a length of pipe in Vise-grips, clamped it into my bench vise, heated the pipe and bent the stringing over the pipe using a metal-strap backer. If you look close, you see a nail set slipped between the grips and vise. I sometimes found that downward pressure as the bend was taking place could cause the setup to move in the vise, and that’s not a good thing to have happen. The nail set stopped that.

As I’ve demonstrated this technique to different woodworking groups, I’ve had occasion to see a few interesting string-bending setups, including  a massive three-pipe selection that bolted to a workbench and allowed a constant flame to keep the pipe at the correct temperature for bending – whatever that is. I’ve also been asked so many times about using a heating iron as does Steve Latta; sorry Steve, that’s way too slow.

I did, however, learn a new setup while teaching my session at Woodworking in America this past weekend (the reason there was no post on this blog last Sunday). I traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C. without my Vise-grips and nail set. When it came time to demonstrate the technique, I was at a loss. Until, that is, I grabbed the F-style clamp I tossed in the conglomerate of stuff I’d taken along. With the length of pipe secure in the clamp, I set it into the bench vise with the handle resting against the top of the vise. No amount of downward force would cause the setup to move. And as long as you remove any plastic fittings from the clamp, heat from my torch was not a worry. It worked great.

IMG_1943There’s always something new to learn in woodworking.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Back to Basics, Inlay, Jigs, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

Table Legs & Terrific Technique

IMG_1883The LVL desk build continued with the legs. I milled 8/4 material, then joined two pieces to form four 3-1/2″-square legs. Square wouldn’t do, so we decided to taper the 28″ lengths over 24-1/2″, leaving a bit of square at the top. Tapering legs is best done at a jointer, if you ask me. As long as you hit your layout lines, you can nail each leg so that they are all tapered exactly. It took only minutes to taper all 16 sides.

Still, the legs didn’t have the right look, so we decided to chamfer the corners. But how do you stop the chamfer at the perfect location? You don’t. We trimmed the corners along the legs entire length; that left the square portion at the top end tapering out of the cut made at the router table.

IMG_1885To join the legs to the top, we went with a simple idea – dowels. If we would thought of this at the beginning, we could have drilled the leg ends while the blanks were still square. But, of course, we didn’t, so the set-up was a bit more involved. I rotated the table on my drill press, clamped a straightedge in position then centered the 1-1/4″-diameter bit in the leg, which was clamped to the straightedge. (Told you it was more involved.) Holes were drilled about 1-1/2″ deep because the arm of the press came down onto the rotated table to stop the cut. That wasn’t enough of a hole in my opinion. Afterward, each hole was set another 1-1/2″ in depth, and dowels were glued in.

For each leg to fit tight and flush with the bottom surface of the tabletop, it was imperative that the 1-1/4″-diameter holes drilled through the top be square to the large flat surface. IMG_1892There’s no better tool than a router for this work. I don’t, however, have a router bit that diameter, so there was no way to plunge the holes as you would when knocking out adjustable shelf pins. The next idea worked perfectly. drill through the top in the correct location using a smaller diameter drill bit (in this case I used 3/4″), then enlarge the hole using a top-mount pattern bit. All that’s needed is a scrap piece of plywood with a hole drilled exactly to size; that’s easy with the drill bit already in the press.

IMG_1891To use the jig, clamp the plywood piece in position on the table’s top over the previously drilled hole, slip the router setup into the hole with the bit’s bearing riding along the plywood cutout and rout a perfect matching-size hole in the top. To get through the entire 2″ of top, we had to remove the plywood and repeat the steps using the trimmed portion of the hole as a guide. Easy, peasy!

IMG_1897With the holes drilled and the dowels sawn for wedges, we slipped the legs into the top, spilled a little glue into the sliced dowel then drove walnut wedges to bring everything tight. The final look with the dowels and wedges trimmed look good. Plus, there’s no wobble in the table, especially after the glue dried.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Desk Build, Jigs, Joinery, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

LVL Desk in a Weekend

Steve's deskIt’s a holiday weekend. Yeah. I have an extra day in the shop on Monday that I intend to fill building a quick desk with my younger brother. He’s looking for something a bit toward contemporary and I’ve sold him on using LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) for the top with legs that are simple to make; he wants inexpensive and quick. The most time spent – at least I hope it takes longer than other parts – is time building a pencil drawer.

I took two hours to rip, square and assemble the pieces of LVL for the top one night after work. That includes time spent watching glue dry. The process is easy. Here are the steps in case you want to play along (or build something similar down the road).

2M4A2152I began with two LVL beams that were 1-3/4″ x 11-7/8″ x 10′-0″. After chopping the beams in half lengthwise, I set up at the table saw to rip each piece to 2-1/8″. Of course, one edge was ran over the jointer to give me a square edge to start. Using a 50-tooth combination blade, LVL cuts easy. The beams I purchased had a bluish painted surface, as you can see in the photo. That worried me little after making the jointer pass. Then after ripping the pieces and turning them on edge, you begin to see the final surface. To make up the 30″ in width needed to the desk, I ripped all four half beams, which produced 20 strips that were 1-3/4″ x 2-1/8″ x 60″+.

2M4A2153From the table saw, I returned to the jointer to true one of the two yet-painted edges to provide a solid glue surface. A single pass flattened all but two of the pieces. Those two pieces were areas where the lamination overlapped causing a bump in the face. I ran them a second time in order to achieve a flat face. You still see bluish paint in the left-hand photo because only one face has been flattened (all faces run over the jointer knives are downward facing, waiting for the planer.

2M4A2156A ride through the planer was so easy. All I needed was to flatten the second face for glue. The planer I used is setup with a spiral cutterhead. Even though there were no problems with the three-knife arrangement at the jointer, the planer surface was smoother. (This is why, when asked, I suggest that the planer have the spiral cutter, but it’s not that important on your jointer – the jointer is seldom the last surface of your work.) The first pass was great except for, you guessed it, the two pieces that needed the extra pass at the jointer. When those two were feed through the planer, the final surface was untouched in a couple places. A send pass through the planer was required, but only for those two pieces.

To my surprise, the most difficult process in assembling the two planks for the top was the glue-up stage. Spreading glue on the 19 pieces (yep, I had one strip left over after attaining the 30″ width) was a pain. 2M4A2159I decided to lay the strips out as if I were gluing panels for a case side. With the finished face up, I then rotated each piece to a glue face. With the pack tight together, I squeezed glue up and down the face leaving small lines covering the surface. I spread the glue using a thin scrap of wood. Scraping along the length was no good, but across the pieces worked like a charm. With one side gooey, I flipped the strips abd slathered up the second side. I was amazed at how sticky the pieces were as I tried to align the ends – I needed a mallet to move the individual pieces. Than goodness I assembled the 19 pieces in two separate groups. When finished, I added clamps and let the half-tops set. All in all, I used almost 3/4 of a quart of glue.

Out of the clamps in 45 minutes and all that was left was to clean the squeeze-out off and make a pass through the planer to level the two surfaces. When slid together – I still need to assemble the two halves – you get a good idea of how the top looks. My guess is it’s even better when a bit of finish is applied. Next week I’ll walk through the legs. Get it?

Build Something Great!

Glen

2M4A2161(1)

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Filed under Desk Build, Methods of Work, Power Tools, Shop Tips

Best Glass Cleaner

IMG_1878Here’s a quick tip to clean glass panes or windows. Forget Windex Glass Cleaner. Forget those local community car washes that use newspaper to clean car windows. The best way to clean glass is with – wait for it – steel wool. That’s right steel wool. There’s no need for any liquid cleaner, but you have to use the right steel wool. You should use #0000 (four aught) steel wool.

I learned this tip from a friend years back. He was in the automotive repair and body shop business and was forever cleaning windows. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg (that’s Midwestern for joshing me, kidding me or otherwise telling me stories). As soon as I got back to the shop, however, I gave it a try. The results are great. I never turned back to any other method for cleaning my glass windows. Give it a try on your home windows, too. But make sure you’re not scrubbing any UV film coverings.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Four-squared Boards

2M4A2095I needed a single board for a project that I’m building in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The only surface I need to look good is the front edge which faces the front of my cabinet. With no milled lumber available other than a few natural-edge cutoffs, I laid a straightedge on two of the cutoffs to remove the natural edges, made cuts at a band saw, jointed the edges and glued the two boards together to make one. A great method to stretch lumber on a project.

As I assembled the pieces, I thought back to classes in which I’ve taught woodworkers proper milling techniques using machines. Step one is to flatten a face. In my system, step two is to use a thickness planer to create a parallel face. For some woodworkers, step two is to square one of the edges while at a jointer, but I disagree. If you square an edge, does that edge remain square as you flatten the second face, especially while flipping the board end-for-end during the milling process to keep the exposed surfaces at equal moisture content? There’s a chance that it doesn’t – if your board rides up on an elevated edge of the planer bed, or if a small chunk finds its way under one of the corners as you send the piece through the planer, you could change the squareness of that edge of the workpiece. That makes step three, for me, to then create an edge that is square to both faces. It’s at this point that I often run crossways of students in the class.

Many woodworkers feel that it’s necessary (step four) that you rip the board at the table saw. Is it? The answer is that it depends. If you’re simply joining two or more boards in a panel glue-up, it’s not important that the boards are ripped into a four-square configuration. Why waste the wood. Make your step four at the jointer. In fact, one of the best techniques for hiding seams when assembling panels is to cut a board for a better grain match, which removes the four-square measurements from your board. If however, you’re preparing a board for use in your project, then make your step four at a table saw. You need to think through operations and not simply be guided by a set of rules. We all know that rules are to be broken.

If you’re preparing your lumber using handplanes, you need to go about the work differently. You also need to answer a question for me – what the hell is wrong with you? Milling lumber is grunt work. Use a machine for the grunt work and use your handplanes for finish work. C’mon man!

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Tall Clock Fast Finish

IMG_1874If you’ve followed this blog for anytime at all, you know I’ve been working on two tall case clocks. I’m happy to say that one of the clocks is done. Mine! Why is the clock I built for me complete and the other for a customer not yet finished? The answer is two-fold.

If you watched any of the episodes of the New Yankee Workshop, Norm always built a prototype. Even though I was building two clock simultaneously, I worked out the details on  the clock I was building for myself before moving to the customer’s clock. (Believe me, there were quite a few adjustments along the way.) As a result, their clock is much better. I experimented on inlay, door design and most recently on how to best position the hood door; it took two attempts to get the location right.

The second reason my clock is complete while the customers languishes on is due to the clock dial pan. Many of these antique clocks had hand-painted dials. We’d talked about the dial many times, but it wasn’t until recently that final decisions were made as to what would be painted. With a decision made and the painter contacted, the customer’s dial should be completed in November. Step_1I, on the other hand, have not yet determined what I’d like to have painted on my dial. So how did I get my clock finished? I cheated.

I visited an antique clock dealer’s web site, selected a clock that I liked, checked that the dealer had shown a front-on view of the painted dial (where the red arrow points), then copied the dial into my computer. You can see the page at the right. (If you click on any of the photos, they will enlarge for a better view.)

Step_2Once the dial was loaded, I went in and stripped the interior of the image out using PhotoShop – I’m not overly experienced with this program, but I squeeze by. I pulled the interior out because I have a movement complete with hands that I want to use, so there was no need for the hands. Also, don’t have a sweep second hand (the miniature dial just below the XII) although those are very cool in antique clocks. Lastly, I didn’t want my clock signed by Aaron Willard from Boston (not that I wouldn’t be thrilled to own such a clock). With those steps complete, I manipulated the image to match the dial pan size and hit the print button.

And in case you think I’m pulling one over on you, below is a photo of my clock with the hood off. When I figure out the painting for the dial, I’ll make the change. But until then my paper cheat is going to work fine.

Build Something Great!

Glen

IMG_1875

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Hole in the Round

IMG_1867I learned this trick way back when I transformed countless wooden knobs into cupboard turns. I needed to drill the rounded portion or tenon of the knob – the part that generally was glued into the door or drawer – so I could insert a short section of dowel that would extend through the door. That dowel would have a wooden finger attached that would turn down onto a small wedge attached to the backside of the door. I could have simply purchased the turns, but the knob design seldom matched the other wooden knobs used on the piece.

Today, while using more brass than wood for pulls, knobs and turns, I use the technique only sparingly. But it’s a great technique when you need it.

IMG_1868Begin by drilling a hole into a scrap that is sized to the diameter of the rounded object; generally that would be the knob tenon when making a cupboard turn. In this case, I’m drilling a hole in the center of a dowel, so in my example, I’m drilling the diameter of the dowel (shown at right). Drill the hole deep enough to allow the base of the knob, if that’s what you’re drilling, to sit flat against the scrap. (You should do this with a drill press to make sure the holes are straight and true.)

Change drill bits to the diameter of you’re new hole, and drill clear through the scrap using the center of the first hole as a guide to align the second hole. The idea is that the first hole holds the piece to be drilled in place and the second hole locates the exact point of the new hole. To put this in terms of drilling out for cupboard turns, the knobs would have a 1/2″-diameter tenon into which I would fit a 7/16″-diameter post. There was little room for anything but exact alignment.

IMG_1865To use the setup, insert the tenon, or short piece of dowel in this case, into the appropriate diameter hole, align the drill bit with the second diameter hole (as shown at the left) and drill down. It’s that simple. Plus, every time you use the jig, the results are the same (as shown in the opening photo). And it doesn’t matter what diameters you use, as long as the second hole is smaller.

Put this trick into your pocket. Some day it will come in handy.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Jigs, Methods of Work, Shop Tips