Sunday, October 31, 2010

Help for Lapping Plane Blades

I went to polish my plane blades tonight, front and back.  Thing is, hanging on to the plane blade is awkward, slows you down, and usually gives you a swarf-fill cut from time to time.  I wanted a handle for the blade to simplify matters.

I have a Veritas Flush Plane I use mostly for dealing with glue squeeze-out.  The handle has a lip on the back to catch the blade and a very powerful rare earth magnet that holds the blade in place.  This makes removal trivial for sharpening.  I took the blade out and stuck my regular plane blade in.  Voilà!  A handle for lapping the front or back of the blade.

The blades don't all fit perfectly centered or anything, but the magnet more than holds the iron in place while you swirl it around.

It's interesting to see how the swarf gathers close to the magnet; doesn't affect lapping, just when you lift it :)

You could make the same thing if you aren't interested in the flush plane.  A block of wood with some really strong rare earth magnets epoxied in place and a screw left proud will work.  The screw, in this case, takes the place of the small cylinder you see in the hole; it is used to register the flush plane's blade correctly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anodizing Aluminum Because You Can!

With Halloween in the air, we need a scary posting.  What is more scary than a bucket of sulfuric acid, a current generator, liberated highly flammable hydrogen gas, and blood-red dye?  Heck, I took my life in my hands for this posting; just to make it more edgy, I even invited a knife thrower from the touring circus to come over and practice on me while anodizing some aluminum bench dogs for fun and definitely not for profit.

I recently ordered custom Qwas dogs from Steve Adams. These are low-profile dogs for planing and they include a 5/16" hole through the center so they could have something attached to them with a 1/4" bolt.  I'm not sure what I'll do with that feature... yet.

Thing is, Steve said "I can make them, but they won't be anodized like the regular ones".  That got me thinking of anodizing them as a test.

I based my procedure on a great article written by Jim Bowes "Anodizing at Home".  Mine will be a photo version of his document along with some observations and tips not present in the article.  Overall, I had good success with some other aluminum dogs, but these from Qwas had been polished with an automotive protectant and I didn't know that first time around.  That said, you'll see some pictures from the first round and second round intermingled.  If a dog has a bit of color when you don't expect it, it is from round two; ignore it... nothing to see here :)  Due to this protectant I wasn't able to 100% remove, a couple Qwas dogs were a bit lackluster.

  • Sulfuric acid, commonly called battery acid; buy it at an automotive supplier in a 6 qt box for next to nothing (I got mine at Car Quest)
  • Manual battery charger.  I initially used an automatic battery charger (regrettably in some pictures); while great for charging a battery, it intelligently determines that the acid bath isn't really a battery and won't work correctly.  The charger should supply 2A at 12V.
  • Roll of aluminum foil; this is the sacrificial stuff.
  • Roll of aluminum un-insulated wire; I found a long spool at Ace Hardware in the picture framing section.
  • Rit Dye commonly available in the laundry section of a grocery store or in great variety at a crafts center.
  • Aluminum angle (not shown).  Get this at the Borg where the angle iron is.  I got 1/2"x1/2".  Cut into two lengths slightly longer than your baking dish (they sit on it).  You will see them in use later; optional but highly recommended.
  • Glass baking dish; (not shown) I used this for the acid bath.
  • Oil drip pan; (not shown) this can hold the baking dish in case of splashes and makes a handy place to tape the leads.
The whole procedure may be a little slow first time out, but then gets really pretty fast.

Start, shall we?

First, googles or at least good eye protection, gloves, and clothes that won't hang into the acid bath are a must.  The battery charger will put 2A through whatever is between the poles... whether that's the acid bath or, say, your heart if you touch the poles with each hand.  The reaction liberates hydrogen so ventilate like you just ate the biggest burrito of your life.  Pay attention.  This is easy, but don't try for a Darwin award.

Okay, really start now...

The parts need to be clean.  The dogs with a loop were 2-3 years old and raw.  They just needed washing with soap and Simple Green.  While I didn't initially know it, the Qwas dogs were polished on the lathe with an automotive protectant and wax.  To clean these, I used 600 grit wet/dry paper then soaked them in acetone overnight.  It wasn't completely cleaned, but I'm okay with it.  While Jim's article recommends a nitric acid wash, I found it too difficult and/or expensive to get here.  Acetone will dissolve nearly any finish or wax.  A sanding with 600 or even 1200 grit wet/dry sand paper will not sand-down the part, but will polish the surface mechanically and remove a lot of grime.  To me this is faster, easier, cheaper than mucking with nitric acid and hazmat fees.

If you haven't yet mixed the dye from previous anodization sessions, mix a full dose of Rit Dye into about 2 cups hot water and mix well.  I used 2 cups of water since that's all I needed to easily cover the parts; if your parts need more, make it more diluted.  I chose red.  You'll re-use this so get a plastic container to hold it between flirting with death, er, anodizing.

Pour the dye mix into a sauce pot large enough to immerse your part.  You want this at room temperature when you finally drop your anodization parts into the dye so if you just mixed it, set the pot in a shallow dish of cold water to cool it faster.

Take a long string of aluminum wire and create a flat paddle of wire turns with an arm of wire reaching out of the pan; you will connect the cathode (negative) pole to this wire.  I ran 2-3 loops up and out of the pan for a better connection to the cathode.

Wrap the paddle portion in a lot of aluminum foil.  The parts (and anode!) will be on the other side of the dish so keep this foil paddle well on its side of the dish.

Using aluminum wire, suspend the parts to anodize on the other side of the baking dish; the anode (positive) pole needs to attach to the wire so bring a decent length outside the dish.  Again, I doubled up on the wire for better contact.

Put the glass baking dish into the oil pan.  Fill the dish with a diluted mix of sulfuric acid by adding 1 cup of water to each 2 cups of acid.  The picture shows how I re-sealed the dispensing tube.  Basically two scraps of wood and a C-clamp pinching the tube shut.  This is more certain than inserting something into the end of the tube and I never use my C-clamps :)  You can re-use the acid mix so you might plan on having a large plastic container with a screw top and plastic funnel for later.

Place the UNPLUGGED battery charger near-by.  Connect the anode (red) clamp to the wire suspending the part.  Connect the cathode (black) clamp to the wire suspending the paddle of foil.  I used blue tape to tape the leads to the oil pan so the wouldn't move.  I also labeled the parts and paddle with positive and negative in the photo for reference.  If you get this backwards, your part becomes the sacrificial media :)

Set the battery charger to 2A at 12V.  Recheck everything.  Plug in and turn on the charger.  You should immediately see bubbles spewing from the sacrificial foil and some from your part.  Set a timer for 15-20 minutes (these dogs were done in 15 easily).

This picture shows my improved setup for the acid bath connections.  The lengths of angle aluminum span the dish.  The foil paddle has its wires come up and loop the aluminum and the cathode clamps over the wires to the bar for a very solid connection.  Similarly, the anode clamps over the wire from the part.  If you had a tall dish, you could easily suspend the part from this setup.  This one is a winner.

While the anodization proceeds, get a plastic dish and fill it halfway with cold water.

Once done, turn off and UNPLUG the battery charger.  Disconnect the clamps and fish out your parts; drop them into the plastic container of cold water to wash away the residual acid.  Fish them out of here and drop them into the pot of dye.

At this point, you could start anodizing other parts.  You need the part to sit in the dye.  Shake the pot a bit, stir it with a plastic spoon, toss the parts around a bit from time to time.  You should be able to pull the part out to inspect them and see that they have taken on a color and may be a colored film.

What has happened to the parts so far is to build a thick surface of oxidation ("rust") on the surface of the parts.  Unlike common ferrous rust, aluminum rust just looks a little pale and doesn't flake off.  The oxidation layer is very porous so the dye will settle into the pores giving the color.  We need to seal the surface to lock in the color.  The rust collapses when subjected to heat like that found in boiling water.  At this point, you could transfer the parts to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to seal the surface.  Thing is, some of the dye will leach off before the pores seal. What to do!

What I decided to try on my second attempt was to simply put the sauce pan on a burner and get the dye to boiling.  No color could be leached as it is in the color.  The dye is okay with boiling heat as they directions even state that boiling water is the preferred medium for coloring (cloth in this case).  I brought it to a boil and left them there for 15 minutes.

This is the result hot out of the dye.

I cleaned them up with a little light rubbing with 600 grit wet/dry paper to remove some dots of dye that stuck to the dogs including tiny dots you could feel but not see.  Doesn't change the color, but cleans them.  Careful of the edges as those can be sanded lighter.

Some observations:
  • Black dye likely won't make specs like red did in my case; however it is important to note that the specs only happened on the Qwas dogs that had the protectant.  This could be related.
  • The second time I anodized, it took very little time getting to the point of waiting for the process to complete.  While the parts boiled in dye, I put the rest away.  Very fast process dispite the seemingly long instructions :)
  • The un-anodized aluminum sanded easily; I tried sanding an anodized aluminum part and found it very hard by comparison.  Besides beautifying the part, it makes them much more durable.  If you didn't want the color, but wanted the strength, you could do all this with out the dye; just boil in water.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Routing Laying Down

The Festool OF-1400 comes with a few interesting accessories that aren't available for other routers.  One pair of accessories I use quite often yet they are shrouded in Festool mystery (and therefore green fog :): the edging plate and the angle arm (disregard that Festool's site says it isn't compatible with the OF-1400; you'll see it is). These two accessories are shown in this picture right in front of the Systainer.

The two pieces combine to make a 90º plate that we will use to run the router on its side.  You can see the attachment point on the OF-1400 in this picture as well.

Last night, I banded some maple ply with 5/8" hard maple banding.  This is going in a closet so it's utilitarian :)  You can run this vertically on a router table and use a spacer on the top of the fence to allow the excess banding to flow into the bit, but that's awkward and very easy to tip and gouge your work.  Better to take the tool to the stock.

Here you see the angle arm attached to the router with a flush-trim bit installed.  The green knob is a micro-adjuster so you can set the cutting face of the bit to be exactly on the surface of the ply.  Personally, I back it off a hair so I can flush with a block plane, which lets me remove any router milling marks.

For this configuration, you set the bit position with the green knob so you don't have to rely on a bearing.  Here I show my two 1/4" down-spiral bits; one has a double-bearing.  Either would work, but I do usually choose the bearing-guided bit so when I place the router on the stock, the bearing prevents me from digging into the ply.  I set the bit position to just clear the banding to keep the ply veneers safe.

As shown, the router will kick up the trimmed maple right in my face.  That sucks.  That's not what you expect from Festool!  You can still mount the dust shroud that came with the OF-1400 although it is a tighter fit under the arm than I expected.  It works, to be sure, but this may be why Festool states the angle arm is for the OF-1010 as the shroud wasn't sized to easily fit over it.

Now, the shroud comes as a cylinder split in half.  We need more clearance on the entrance and exit so I've already cut the shroud on the second set of indentations using a hack saw.  This really won't affect other uses and you could always purchase a second if you are concerned.

It isn't shown above, but I installed the dust extraction hose connector (the clear one that mount above the base plate).  That's how you get the hose in the picture.  While all of this sounds long to setup, is is really fast and trivial.  And here's the router in action!

I took this picture immediately after making a flush pass; what you see is all the dust I had to deal with.  Now I will warn you that the D-27 hose can easily plug up if big strips of banding come off and are ejected into the hose.  The D-36 is always a better hose for routing.  Ooh, Halloween scary... in that picture, my thumb looks missing; believe me it is still here! what do you think I sit on all day...

This accessory pair is a winner.  The angle unit is normally used with the copier scanning set of bearings, which I have yet to use.  On its side, however, I've used the OF-1400 many times to flush banding before assembly.  I've also used it on a tall box to flush the side-to-front joints while it was upright; this particular case would have been impossible on a router table.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spooky Scary Sharp (in Three-D!)

Bud Decker, a friend of mine decided to make a quick video demonstrating the Scary Sharp method for sharpening chisels and plane irons.  The video is quick so pop over to his blog to give it a look: Scary Sharp 2.  I have to admit that my sharpening regime is, uhm, lax.  This isn't to say my planes won't make lovely curlies or flatten large panels without tearout, but I'll still say 'lax'.

Next week, I'm attending a 3-day hands-on seminar with Frank Klausz.  If I showed up with dull chisels and planes... 'nuff said.  I used Bud's video as a motivator to sharpen all my chisels and a select bunch of the plane blades.

 Now you did go watch Bud's video so here's how I did mine as there are a couple differences (and by now you caught the in 3-D reference :)

My procedure was as follows:
  1. My chisels and plane irons all needed their backs addressed.  Normally you do this once in a blue moon after the first time, but I wanted to make sure these were flat.  Remember, I was lax.
  2. Once the backs were flat, I used  a Veritas MKII honing jig to have a consistent angle throughout the grits to clean up the main bevels.
  3. I then used the jig's micro-bevel setting to put a micro-bevel through all the grits.

This is what I used.  First up was a DMT 220 diamond plate.  I love this plate for hogging off material.  All it takes is a spritz of water rather than a full-on soak like water stones (and it doesn't dish).

Next, sheets of wet/dry paper in P800, P1500 and P2000 grit.  I didn't have any float or plate glass available so I used spray adhesive to tack the sheets to a scrap of solid-surface material that I verified was "as flat as I need it today".  In the future, I'll have a wider variety of grits as it makes for less work between grits.

Lastly, taking care of the wire edge and stropping.  The plate in the front is a DMT diamond plate at 8000 grit.  The leather strop is charged with green (visible side) and white (other side) rouge.

After sharpening the main and microbevel, I work off the wire edge by carefully pulling the chisel off the 8000 grit plate; I only do the back.

Next, place the back of the chisel (or plane iron) flat on the green rouge strop and pull back.  Do not press hard on the chisel or the leather will 'wrap' over the trailing cutting edge and actually dull it.

Flip the strop and repeat with white rouge (which, for French speakers, sounds like an oxymoron :)

Lastly, prove it.  It should easily shave hair off your arm.  Man, my arm looked stupid that night...

More action shots! This is a scrap of Poplar.

...and just because it isn't a chisel, you can do your Veritas Striking Knife and you'll be able to easily shave end-grain with it.  Fun for the whole family!

I sprayed the chisels with a dry lubricant to displace the water.

After the chisels came the plane irons.  I messed up on this plane's iron as I took two strokes on 220 with the bevel angle set at 25º when it's a 15º blade.  That took a lot of swipes to correct later, but it still pulled off basically a lace doily of Poplar.

Maintenance?  Who wants to pull all this out.  Granted, it was fast and I was doing backs, correcting bevels, and putting a micro-bevel.  That's everything!  Normally you'd just touch up the micro-bevel when you need to.  What I actually do during use is keep the green/white strop handy and strop the back of my blade gently; it makes a difference.  I did that before trying this scary sharp method so I'll continue now with likely better results.

Now get to sharpening!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Turn Gravity Upside-Down

˙˙˙ǝɯos ǝpɐɯ ı 'puǝʞǝǝʍ ʇsɐd sıɥʇ
oops! sorry...
This past weekend, I made some trivial plywood-based cabinets for the inside of a closet in a spare bedroom that will someday (!?) become a reading/Foosball room.  I don't need the space for clothes, I need it for stacks of printed pictures (yeah, pre-digital, people printed photos!), CDs, hanging files, and a wireless printer.  I sprayed it with General Finishes PolyAcrylic water-based clearcoat.  But the reason for breaking the recent silence on my blog is to talk about how I sprayed it.

I have a gravity-feed conversion HVLP gun from Jeff Jewitt's finishing site.  A conversion HVLP gun uses compressed air as a propellant instead of high-volume turbine air.  It works great with my 20 gallon compressor.  "Gravity feed" implies gravity is somehow used to this gun's advantage.  The weight of the finish in the cup helps this low-pressure gun pull it down into the nozzle for atomization.  So you need to keep it pretty much upright.

So... how am I gonna finish these narrow shelves?!

Rather than use the gravity cup from the sprayer, I installed a 3M PPS cup.  You can see the system in this picture.  From top left clockwise, the rigid plastic cup, the disposable collapsible finish cup, the cap with built-in filter, and the black locking ring to hold it all together.  My crooked finger is pointing to an adapter that takes the place of the original gravity cup; this is selected for your gun.  While the attachment point is gun-specific, the top is how you attach the PPS cup.

Here you can see it all assembled on the gun with the original cup for reference.

The cup collapses during use to keep the fluids in the gun's intake, but we'll cover that in a minute. A nice benefit is that there are caps for the PPS cups so when you are done, pull the collapsed cup out and cap it.  The black cup is full of dyed PolyAcrylic from over a month ago and it's still just fine.

The lid has a built-in filter.  What's nice is that the caps are cheap in quantity so if the filter gets gunked up beyond reason, toss it.

Put the collapsible cup in the plastic cup holder, fill with finish, and press down the cap.

Lock the ensemble with the black locking ring and attach the gun.  The gun simply pushes on then a twist locks it.

The plastic cup has a hole in the bottom to allow air in for the collapsible cup.  Use that hole for your finger while voiding the cup of air.  To do this, press on the collapsible cup while pressing the trigger on the gun (connected to the compressed air).  The Venturi effect will help pull the air out (finger helps... my gun is very low volume; higher pressure guns can do this sans finger).  Quickly, the cup with collapse with no air at the top and finish will shoot out the nozzle.  Ah, that's the cool part...

Maybe I should have used black finish for this shot :)  With the air voided, I'm spraying upside-down.  You'll likely need to open the picture to see against the cabinet side.

Cooler still, it works in any orientation since the Venturi vacuum keeps the finish at the inlet.  Here I have the unit on the side spraying the sides and the shelf surface (at a slant).  Works very very well.

Putting down a gravity-feed gun is annoying; you need a stand for it and they seem built to give you the feeling that they'll drop their payload the second you walk away.  Since the vacuum stays for a very long time, I just set it down upside-down in an office wastebasket: it can't fall over and putting it down it a quick lowering by the air hose.  I left it like that for an hour between coats with a damp rag over the nozzle to keep finish from drying.

This is the collapsible cup after a lot of spraying.  To remove the cup, detach the air hose, flip the gun, and squeeze the trigger to let in air.  As soon as you do that, you can easily twist off the cup and cap it for spraying the next day (or month!)  Here I intentionally banged the cup to let in more air for demonstration.

This HVLP gun is excellent to use, easy to clean (all stainless steel), and with the PPS it...
¡ob ʇ,uɐɔ spǝǝɟ ʎʇıʌɐɹb sǝɔɐןd uı sʞɹoʍ

As an addendum, spraying those shelves on a slant worked very well.  One thing to make finishing those areas easier is to first spray the flat shelf on a slant first (slanted because you can't get the gun twisted upright) then spray the sides.  Due to the pretty extreme slant used for the shelf, you're gonna get overspray on the sides, but since you'll be spraying them seconds later, it isn't an issue.  You won't get much overspray when spraying the sides.