Sunday, June 20, 2010

Base of a Future Entertainment Center

Ages ago, I bought some 8/4 Walnut for an entertainment center base.  Long story why it sat.  Resawn for a bookmatch, this is going to be nice...

Some closeups...

This is the inspiration for the piece's design... you'll have to wait for more.


The 2x stock I get around here sometimes comes with a plastic staple, sometimes a metal one.  I have a SawStop PCS (which I love, btw) and metal staples always make me wonder if I'll pop the brake.

Long ago, I had a discussion with the SawStop tech folks.  Generally, staples won't kick the brake because they don't alter the detected capacitance of the blade.  Only those large staples used on large corrugated cardboard boxes might trip it based on capacitance alone.  The problem is this: sometimes when the blade hits the staple, the staple bends around the tooth and stays there until the tooth swings around to the brake.  There's only 1/16" clearance between the blade and brake so the staple can make electrical contact with the aluminum brake, which definitely changes the capacitance.  -bang!- another hotdog is saved.

Their suggestion was to put a strip of packing tape on the aluminum block that faces the blade.  The theory is this: when the staple flies by, it won't make electrical contact with the block and typically gets knocked off when it bumps it anyway.  This in no way affects the brake's performance as the detection mechanism will still detect the capacitance change for a finger or hotdog.  The other suggestion (not as preferred) is to back off the brake so there is more clearance (naturally, both methods can be used if you're super staple-paranoid).  The negative effect here is that the brake has to fly further to stop the blade so you might get a more serious cut.

In related SawStop news, summer 2010 will debut a new 1 3/4 hp @ 120V version of the SawStop PCS (which is 3hp @ 220V).  This can be great news for people unable to get a 220V drop.  Currently priced at $2,299.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crosscutting with the Fence

It's funny that a small nondescript block sitting on a saw fence gets asked about more than anything in my shop.  Maybe the rest is too messy... This block is simply two pieces of 1/2" MDF glued together with a 5/16" hole drilled in one edge.  I use it to do crosscuts with the fence.

When crosscutting, you cannot normally use the fence since you're highly likely to pinch the offcut between the fence and blade setting up a spectacular kick-back.  This block, being 1" wide, makes a perfect spacer for aligning a cut to the fence (plus a burned inch)...

...but it isn't involved once the cut gets started.

The 5/16" hole in the top works well with a fence clamp.  I usually don't use the clamp as I'll put the block there, align the stock, and remove it. The size of the block stows perfectly on top of the fence between the sides.

And so this isn't completely boring, voilĂ , what 20lbs of Cocobolo and 5 lbs of Ebony look like... lots of plugs, miter keys, inlays, handles, and other nice things to come.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spring Fresh Hand Planes?

Tonight I was creating transition molding for my entryway from Walnut.  I planed all four face sides before applying the profile.  -grumble- ...every shaving was clinging to the plane tenaciously from static cling (it's dry here).  Flip the plane and they'd stick or cling to my arm.

I fought back.

Recalling my previous tip to eliminate static cling from floor mats, I took the dry version.  Make that the dryer version: a used dryer sheet.

I rubbed down the plane with the dryer sheet, especially the mouth and sole, and the shavings no longer stuck to the plane.  Flipped upside down, they fell from the plane and mostly didn't stick to my arm.  Joy!

The secret is an anti-static chemical in the dryer sheet.  Rubbed on the plane, it neutralizes the charge from the shavings as they come off.  Remember: used dryer sheet.  New ones have a lot of waxy substance on them to distribute "Spring Freshness".  Used ones do not.  Used ones still have enough chemical to affect the magic.

Down side is, I'm single. That sheet is probably from last year!  And here, a gratuitous shot of the planed molding.  (The multibeads go all the way across, but I couldn't get a raking light to show that well.)

To the old curmudgeons crying foul that somehow this anti-static chemical will alter the ultra-precise alloy's composition and negate all benefits of the cryogenic hardening... chill.  It's just iron.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bridge City Toolworks HP6v2 Multi-Plane

My recent post on designing mirror frames used the Bridge City Toolworks HP6v2 Multi-Plane to apply a multi-bead profile to the mirror frame.  I realized I never discussed this little gem before so this post is an introduction.  But first, a warning.  Bridge City Toolworks (BCTW) is a slippery slope.  While the first hit isn't free, it has the same addiction.  While many buy the tools and keep them in a box only to be creepily admired, I prefer to use them.

This is the current humble composition of my HP6v2.  The plane body is in the back along with various fence profiles.  Four different molding profiles are shown next; the black part is the blade hone with the blade leaning against it.  The brass pieces form the toe and heel of the sole that complements the profile.  The leftmost blade is leaning on a honing rod as it cuts a bead.  The syringe contains diamond honing paste, although its availability in a syringe is clever given the addictiveness of BCTW.  Just saying.

The plane body (shown here with the optional fence attached) does not come with an iron or sole.  Each profile set contains a full sole (toe and heel) along with the profile blade.

The blades are robust and thick; they are also double-ended.  The profile is duplicated on both ends.  This allows you to quickly hone both ends before starting and simply flip the blade when one side stops cutting phenomenally.  The blade position is set by the screw on the top of the body; the blade can be removed and replaced (or flipped) without losing the last blade projection making mid-work honing error-free.

There are many profiles available (beads, coves, multi-beads, dados, etc.) plus each comes in a variety of sizes.  The blade width is the same for all, but beads and coves come in a variety of radii.

Honing the blade is done with a custom hone for each profile  The black bar shown is an anodized aluminum hone that has two profiles, one on each side.  For a particular type of profile (here, multi-bead), the hone will accommodate two available radii.  Notice how the sole complements the cut profile; this greatly helps the plane track on successive passes regardless the fence.

To hone the blade, spread a little water-based diamond paste on the hone and hone the bevel.  There is an optional honing guide, but the thick size of this blade makes hand-honing trivial.  The diamond paste cuts very quickly; only a few passes will give a razor's edge.  Do both edges while you're here.  Since anodized aluminum won't rust, I can leave the dried paste there and hydrate it next time; after a couple uses, though, discard it since it will have swarf in it.

You never hone the back of the blade.  But you do need to eliminate the wire edge by dragging it flat across a strop.

 The soles attach to the plane body with dovetail keys that pull the sole into recesses in the sole for a positive lock.  Adjusting the toe gives the throat clearance while the heel should always be abutted against the back of the iron to eliminate chatter.

The observant types will have noted that in the first picture of the soles, some had holes in the corners.  This model body is the HP6v2 as in version 2.  The original HP6 attached the soles with 8 screws.  Much slower.  The v2 accepts soles for both models while naturally the v1 cannot accept the v2-specific soles.  I will say that I wish there was an adaptor sole; that is, a thin brass sole with 8 holes for the v1 sole to attach to along with the dovetail slots on the other side thus converting a v1 sole to a v2 sole.  Naturally, people would buy many to retrofit popular profiles.  The blade can easily project far enough to compensate.

One blade profile deserves special mention.  The dado profile comes in a variety of widths including a tiny 1/16" dado.  Shown here is a 1/4" dado.  The dado blade itself hones with a flat stone as you would any other blade; the black hone you see in the background is for the double knicker.

The knicker sits in the toe and scores the material before the blade cleans up.  This makes for exceptionally clean dados even cross-grain (yes, I know, dado is cross-grain by definition, but the term is tossed around a bit; good grooves, too :).

The projection of the knickers can be adjusted to match the blade.  A more interesting use comes when you don't even use the blade.  If you needed to score a line either using a fence or riding the plane body up against a fence, you could easily do it without using the blade.  This can be handy if the score line is to mark the outside of a much wider dado you'll cut with a router for example.

The 1/16" blade (that I don't have, yet) lends itself to even more eccentric use.  With the fence and the 1/16" dado blade with knickers in place, you could score the edge of a tenon getting the fibers perfectly scored before completing the cut with a tenon saw and back-paring with chisels.

Don't say I didn't warn you; slippery indeed.

Designing Mirror Frames

Does remodeling ever end?  Soon, actually.  Two mirrors to hang and frame then I can call it done.

I have two mirrors to install over a vanity.  From the picture, you can see where one will go (above the sink) and to the right is a glass-bloc window that pretty much lets in indirect light all day (it was 1 am when I snapped this though).  In this entry, I'm going to describe how I designed the profile as well as how I made it using power tools and hand tools.  Likely some nose picking too, but we'll skip that.

So how to design the molded edge of the frame?  The front of the vanity has vertical fluting on the stiles and is a mix of stains and glazes to look in the neighborhood of walnut.  The doors under the bowls are coopered.  My thinking went like this:
  • Use walnut for the close color, but let the grain show for interest.
  • Use a cove to work with the coopered doors.
  • Use fluting or beading to match the stile profile.
The profile of the frame can be split into two halves: half nearest the mirror and the outside half.  Both can be profiled independently.  The frame sides aren't wide enough to have more regions.

The inside half will be a cove sloping down to the mirror; a straight bevel would work, too, but the cove will be nicer.  The cove also faces the user better than a bevel, which gives more appeal.  The outside half will, in my case, have multiple beads.  I want beads since flutes would have too much "concave" in the profile between the side cove and flutes.  The multiple beads will also be subtly highlighted by the raking light during the day from the glass-bloc window.

So, now that you've seen the resulting profile, how to make it (this is just like high-school calculus! start with the answer and work backwards!)

There are hand planes with cove profiles.  You can also split a rock with a mallet.  I chose to use a router for this and steal the profile from a panel raiser with a cove.  The back-cutter wasn't involved.  I had the bit completely raised to the final position and moved the fence back until the full profile was cut.  If I instead cut the full width of the cove but raised the bit for each pass, the back-cutter would have cut my molding.  Take light passes since the resulting edge is just 3/32" (edge towards mirror); light chipout will take the edge with it.

For the multi-bead profile, I used a Bridge City Toolworks HP6v2 Multi-Plane.  This plane has interchangeable irons and soles to give a number of profiles including the multi-bead I'll use here.  (I have a more detailed introduction to this plane here.)  The iron is a little under an inch wide and happens to be just the right size for the side of my profile.  If I needed a wider swath of multi-beads, I could scoot the plane over and use a couple beads from the previous passes to anchor the fence and complete the cut.

It does make hamster bedding rather well!

Next up will be finishing the molding (dye, stain, finish) then assembling it into the mirror frames.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Canadian Mosquito Wings

Nothing crazy happening in the shop today; had company over :)

I did, however, grab a 12"x12" chunk of crotchy walnut and jointed one face flat with my Veritas Low-Angle Jack plane.  I have it set to a 37° attack angle and it seems unstoppable (as is the A2 blade).  Coincidentally, my friend Bud also posted an entry about the same plane (he had always eye-balled the Veritas low-angles, but my raving might have pushed him over the edge :)

This block was resawn long ago before I had a clue what I was doing with the bandsaw.  As such, the cut was wavy and rough.  The left half I jointed with the Jack plane while the right is still off the bandsaw.  You can see there's a lot of nice swirly grain and a nice crotch bookmatch that will need a special project.  These could be further resawn to make a nice four-way bookmatch and I'll consider that after I get them jointed then planed.

As for the Canadian mosquito reference... the provincial bird of Manitoba is the mosquito.  As such, they are big.  Most people talk about taking mosquito-wing shavings with their plane, but I find that takes forever to level a hilly board like the one shown.  Instead, I take Canadian mosquito wing shavings... 0.019"

The board isn't completely smooth yet, but there is almost no tear-out despite the crazy grain.  The side is flat and I'll wait until after I have these two resawn before taking it down to a smoother and, maybe, scraper plane.

Now, a project...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Applying Drawer Fronts

Yes, back at the drawer fronts.  This time, I'm applying the fronts to the drawers.  If these were flat fronts, it would be easier, but this isn't terribly difficult.

To the left you see the fronts dry-fitted to the front of the cabinet. The bottom stick of wood is clamped for the overlay under the bottom drawer, a piece of blue tape to the bottom drawer's left marks it's horizontal position.  The other drawers are all positioned relative to the bottom drawer using the blue tape up the middle of the cove that was put there before slicing the large panel into fronts.

Between the fronts are slices of wood the thickness of my saw kerf since that's what's missing from the originally coved panel.  A wider or narrower reveal would introduce discontinuities in the cove's progression up the fronts.  Just say 'no' to discontinuities.

The glue-up strategy is to apply the topmost drawer front and work down.

Steps are easy: remove drawer and apply glue to front of drawer (like a layer of latex paint).  I use a rubber roller.  Re-insert drawer, put drawer front on the kerf spacers, align horizontally to the vertical blue tape, squeeze to the drawer.

While the drawer is there, apply a clamp in the middle then the outsides (since the outsides are on the bevel, if you put them on first, it is possible they'll shimmy the front over).  Slide the drawer out, stand it up on it's back and...

...apply every clamp you possess to ensure it is nicely held in place. :)

Remember that the PVA glue is water-based and when it hits the back of the fronts, they'll swell a little and cup away from the drawer.  This is why it is important to clamp the be-jeez-uz out of it.  The picture to the left is of two drawers.  The one in the foreground is a 8" deep drawer so I pulled out the long-reach clamps (the two big red ones in the middle).  They are 36" long so I have a cell tower in my bathroom at the moment.

Here are the other three drawers.  It is so ridiculously important to make sure you apply the drawer fronts in the correct orientation... I think I checked three times before gluing each and just before typing this, I checked again (though it would be too late now).

Now, admittedly, I could have cut custom cauls for each side of each drawer as the bevel is different for each, but this is annoying when you already have the clamps lying around.  How better to justify buying them?!

However, my clamp hoard is officially empty after this... -sniff-  Note that parallel clamp would have been somewhat useful at the outer edges or in the flat sides around the cove.  Since I had more K-style clamps, I just used them.

Now, to make this posting somewhat useful, I present a different way you could use to apply a flat drawer front to a drawer (cuz if you applied it elsewhere, well, you'd be silly).

In this picture, I have a drawer box without a bottom in it.  There's a piece of MDF on the left face pretending to be a birds' eye maple applied front.  Wishful thinking.  The two parallel clamps in the box are configured as spreaders and are spread to just touch the front and back.

The two parallel clamps on the outside edges of the drawer are clamping a BowClamp across the front of the drawer.  You could have 2 across the front for a lot of even pressure without a ton of K-style clamps to try applying even pressure everywhere.  ...and if you say, "oh but my stock is flat!", well, it will be until it hits the water-based glue.

So you ask, "why the spreaders inside the box?".  Well, this drawer has no bottom so the pressure from the BowClamp will likely flex the front of the drawer box inward and the glue will set it.  The spreaders make it that both the front and back are holding back the pressure.  These drawer boxes are just 5/16" Beech and they didn't flex noticeably with the spreaders in place.

Is this better than your clamping strategy?  Dunno, it is just an option if you have BowClamps around.  Oh, you could just use parallels as spreaders inside the box and use K-style to pull the BowClamp flat on the outside edges... I couldn't show you with my scrap :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Drawer Fronts - Attaching Handles

If you've read previous entries, you know that I've been working on some interesting drawer fronts for a closet built-in.  Work and onset of summer lethargy kept me away from it, but tonight I sliced the drawer fronts from the large coved panel and attached the handles.  Attaching the handles was an interesting project as I wanted no visible means of attachment.  There are some interesting steps involved so I thought to share.

The drawer fronts were cut from a single panel that was coved.  I hand-shaped 5 handles that were custom-sized to the spread of the cove at their attachment point.  I created a shallow recess where the handles sat so they could be better placed.  In the picture to the left, the handles are just sitting in the recesses and are not yet attached.

First step was to mark the locations of the cuts to separate out 5 drawer fronts.  I did this by clamping the drawer-front panel to the front of the cabinet and marking directly off drawer locations.  Since I'll need to line up the drawer fronts dead-straight or risk the cove staggering, I put a strip of blue-tape up the middle so visually I can line up the edges of the tape to the adjoining fronts when applying them in-situ.  Yes, I could use the outside edge, but the cove is the key; the outside edges can be faired later if any deviations happen.

I placed the drawer front across a gap I have between two co-planar benches.  I took a 1/4" brad-point bit and drilled a hole at about 45° in the recess through the board from the top.  I did this to both pads with the holes angling inward.  The goal is to insert dowels in these holes to mechanically lock the handles in place (besides epoxy).  These are applied drawer fronts so the hole in the back where the dowel will be inserted will be hidden.

The tricky part is to get holes bored into the handle without going too far and that have next to no play.  Since these dowels are going in at an angle, if the hole is off the mark, it won't work at all or it will lift the handle to get the holes to align.

I inserted the drill bit into the hole from underneath and sighted the maximum depth I want the hole.  Marked the bit with blue tape to indicate the depth.  This step needs to be done for each hole.  Normally I tried the same setting on the other hole for the same handle and it would be correct, but from handle to handle, it tended to be slightly different.  Mind the projection of the brad and spurs.

I clamped the handle in place so it wouldn't move at all.  Use the existing hole in the drawer front as a drill guide and bore the hole in the handle.  Go slowly so you don't risk it wiggling away or you punching through.  Only do one hole.  Why?  Because the cove is the thinnest part and as soon as you apply any pressure to lock the handle in place, it flexes.  If you bored the second hole now, you would be locking a flex in the back.

Here I inserted a dowel to lock one side of the handle then backed off the clamp until a straight edge showed no flex.  Now you can bore the second hole.

Here you can see two dowels dry-fitted in the holes and the handle was rock solid.

I use West System epoxy to attach the handles.  There'll be some in the recesses and the dowel will get covered before insertion to fill the hole.  I'm using hardwood dowels for doweling jigs that have glue recesses on the sides; I think a tight-fitting smooth-sided dowel wouldn't work as well.  I also added a little TransTint Medium Brown dye to the epoxy to better hide it.  I also used the 404 filler for the epoxy since it needed to gap-fill; the dye masks the milky color of the epoxy with the filler.  If I had to do it over, I would take plane shavings from the drawer fronts and grind them in a whirlybird coffee grinder and use that to fill the epoxy as it would be nearly identical in color.  Eh, next drawers.

The glue-up was essentially applying epoxy to the ends of the handles, to the handle recesses, and slathering the dowel before inserting it.  I did this over the gap between benches so the drip of epoxy landed in the garbage can.

The end result of the glue-up.

After 4 hours, I cut off the nubs of the dowels with a flush chisel and Japanese ryoba (the one I use for cutting casings, not the one from Bridge City!!)

Ready for install!