Friday, December 24, 2010

Defeating Uri Geller

The best laid plans of mice and woodworkers gang aft agley, as they say. Well they do if they're a Scottish poet without a spell checker anyway... Thus it is I once again I have found myself with nothing to blog about. You might have noticed. But enough was enough, and suddenly an odd urge to make something and complete it came upon me. Why a spoon, and frankly not a great spoon either (in any sense of the word "great"), I know not. Bit of a bias crept into the bowl, so it's the world's first right-handed mustard spoon. Yup, needs work.

Anyway, here's hoping for a bit more actual w'shop time in the new year. It's not as though I'm going to be able to spend time by the fire instead - there's no room...

Which merely leaves me to wish my reader


See you in 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ship augers

As I happened to suddenly be spending so much time in the w'shop - and with the camera handy - it occurred to me I could snap a pic of those single twist, lead screw-less augers. Amazingly I knew exactly where they are; hanging safely on the wall of the timber store. Alas, I'd forgotten what lay betwixt me and them in the narrow gangway of said timber store...

Bedlam. And I must find somewhere safer to stow the saw vice. However, using the genius of a zoom lens you can see they do actually exist:

My notes tell me the bulk of them are 24" long, so should you wish to bore a hole in something on the bench whilst standing on the other side of the workshop, let me know.

Anyway, that's my little cache of shipwright's tools, should things ever reach the point where an ark is necessary. A caulking mallet and irons, the ship augers and adjustable auger handle, and a mast or spar shave or knife (A heavy duty large-sized drawknife). Of course, one can only hope that by the time the flood comes I'll have tidied up so I can get to them. We'll draw a veil over the laughable idea that I could get any project finished before I was already 200 ft under water...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Profile appendix

I can give this up any time I want. Yup. But I had to try the edge trimming plane idea, didn't I? Of course I did. Don't you roll your eyes at me...

So I raided the exotics scraps box. Bearing in mind what I keep in the regular scraps box, you may imagine I hang onto the minutest fragments of such things as Rosewood, Box, Purpleheart, Nutmeg (Yes, Nutmeg) and Ebony, and you'd be right. I used to wonder about the sanity of this - although why this and not about everything else is anyone's guess - until I read The Tool Chest Of Benjamin Seaton wherein the inventory of contents includes such things as Ivory (1" x 1/4") and "four fragments of tulipwood cross-banding". The way things are these days, a whole cornucopia of hardwood species are getting to be as valuable as Ivory, so I hang onto them all and feel not a qualm.

Thus it was that I found just the thing lurking between a 1" long (1/4" square) piece of Pink Ivory and a 1/2" square piece off boxwood. Don't laugh; they're just the ticket for Miniature Mallets such as these). Anyway, a piece of Rosewood approximately 2" long, 1 1/4" wide and 1/8" thick - from which to cut a wee fence for the wee plane. A bit of doubled-sided tape, luckily slightly the worse for age so not as terminally adhesive as it can be, was cut to stick it on.

And there we are. Simples. Naturally the thickness of the fence dictates how far in from the edge it'll cut, so you could conceivably have a whole range of fence thicknesses. Don't look at me like that; it ain't happening.

Getting the scored line lined up with where the plane actually cuts is, of course crucial and to be honest, a bit of a fiddle. But a couple of tests to get it right and then I took it for a spin on another piece of wood that died horribly at the hands of the router.

As long as you concentrate on taking a full length shaving every time, the depth takes care of itself, and the result isn't half bad.

So, as expected, it works, but unless you're absolutely lost without a fence - or have the edge trimming plane but not the shoulder plane - I'd still opt for the shoulder plane. It's a lot less fuss.

If you haven't got either, don't tell anyone, but it's a wonder what you can do with the humble file...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Determined Profile

Before we start, a little blog admin (blogmin?). As you may have noticed, I'm now requesting commenters put a name to their comments. This is an attempt to make dealing with the ridiculous number of spam comments slightly less time-consuming. If you don't put a name to your comment, I will treat it as spam. We'll see how it goes, but if this doesn't help I may have to change to only allowing comments by registered users, which I'm obviously reluctant to do. So help me avoid that, and Sign Your Name. Thank'ee.

So where were we? Here. So how does one make a profile in the edges of a very small piece of wood by hand?

Option 1. The moulding plane.
Obviously my first choice, however two good reasons for it to fail in this case. Firstly, I may have a wide range of tools from which to choose, but a moulding plane of a suitable miniature-sized profile? Unlikely. Secondly, how d'you plane something that small? Even holding it to allow the plane access is problematic in this case. I briefly dallied with taking the work to the plane. i.e. Hold the plane in the vice and move the work over the cutter. But at the correct spring angle and without planing your finger tips? Across grain?

Forget that then.

Option 2. Scratch stock (Yeah, most of you were probably way ahead of me here)
I like scratch stocks. A lot. Despite owning two, commercial beaders just don't gel with me the same way as a homemade scratch stock. I find they're often too cumbersome and, in the case of the Stanley #66, the angled nature of the cutter means you can't easily change direction when the wood demands it - one of the real benefits of scratching lost, in my opinion. So I broke out the scratch stock I made for this article in the Lee Valley Newsletter (Vol. 1, Issue 1) and filed a suitable profile in a piece of saw blade (Thanks, BB). I even went to the lengths of honing the edges on a fine Arkansas slip too. Well this thing needed to be really sharp for the task and it wouldn't hurt.

Now I don't recommend scratched profiles across grain as a rest cure. It can work well, but it depends on whether the timber wants to play ball, and that can vary not just from species to species but also piece to piece. Applying a spot of shellac first seems to help, but you might as well resign yourself to a fair amount of work with abrasives from the start and then rejoice if you happen not to need them as much as you feared.

Okay, so I admit that when it comes to comfort the commercial beader wins Scratch stocks tend to ask a lot of the thumbs and I knew all about it when I'd done.

The result won't ever be mistaken for something done by a router, that's for sure, but it was okay. The second one was worse, and I had to do some remodelling with a file. In the end I think that result was probably better anyway. For the third, in beech. I switched to using a single point cutter from Lee Valley and a slight chamfer on the top surface, which sort of looks vaguely cushion-y to me. I quite like it, but whether the little horses will, I dunno. Not to put too fine a point on it, that's all they're getting...

Naturally, it's only after the event - and the cramped fingers and, okay, yes, aching back (I must improve the vice on the bench-on-bench so it's more useful for this sort of thing) - that it occurred to me that I'd missed an opportunity to see whether some of those miniature tools could really come into their own. Naturally, I had to have a try. First I scored deeply for a shoulder/quirk/ whatever it is. Is there a simpleton's guide to mouldings out there somewhere? Surely The Schwarz has found some tome from 1904 that tells you everything you ever need to know by now. But I digress - and ever-so slightly cattily at that. Sorry, Chris. It's teasing with affection, honest. Even if you are busy putting up the price of Woodworker annuals... Anyway, I used the fairly small 3-in-1 brass gauge for that, but could have gone down in size a tad to the Pocket Gauge if I'd had one.

Then guide the Miniature Shoulder Plane against the scored line. First the back side to prevent the back edge breaking off.

And finish off the rest of the cut the usual way.

At this point I can hear some readers having kittens at the idea of trying to hit the line accurately. You don't. If you're slightly shy, the chips will tend to break away cleanly at the scored line anyway. And once you've managed one or two passes, there's shoulder enough to guide the plane. Use your fingers underneath the plane as a simple fence, take your time, and it's really not as hard as you imagine. I mean, it can't be, can it? I can do it. Although overnight I had a further thought, and wondered if a shim of suitable thickness (or rather, thinness) double-sided taped to the fence of the miniature edge plane could give you the same result, but fenced. And a skew cut for added cross-grain loveliness. Not tried it yet, but don't see why not.

Then to the fairly small, but not actually miniature Little Victor Block to round over the edge.

Alas, it was a piece already chewed by the router encounters so I couldn't complete it to demonstrate a good finished result, but after a little work with some fine-ish abrasive, you can get the gist. Not bad really. In fact I'm not a little annoyed I didn't think of it earlier. Sigh.

Anyway, I have Made An Effort - which I hope will at least be something. It was also a challenge which got the old brain cell working on something wood-related for a change, and that can be nothing but a Good Thing. As a bonus I'm finding the idea of dealing with large lumps of Southern Yellow Pine suddenly rather appealing in comparison. Yes, gentle reader, the workbench thoughts are a'stirrin' again. Take to the hills.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Profile Problems

Or How I Remembered Why I Hate the Router.

The tailed router, obviously. The hand router I like. If you were to see how many I have of the darn things (and in truth, I'm not absolutely sure myself) you might say I have a router problem. This is not so; they've just kind of accumulated. At some point there's going to be the mother of all tool sale lists, honest.

No, it is the Tailed Demon that I hate, loathe and do my level best to avoid. I think all my really serious woodworking disasters can be traced to the router. The plunge lock has failed, the collet's failed mid-cut, the whole thing has just ceased to work after very little use, that sort of thing. The electric router and I are Not As One. It's largely responsible for my embracing of the humble hand tool - essentially it boils down to the fact that I can't muck things up quite so fast with hand tools.

But a friend made a request. Yes, I can hear the seasoned woodworker saying "Uh-oh" already. But no, there was no pressure, and if I was to back out entirely I was given to understand our friendship would not automatically be at an end. But ya know how it is; you want to please, don't ya? So I offered a tentative "Um, o-kay...". The task? Little wooden plinths for model horses.

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of real horses, and the idea of having models of the daft creatures about the place leaves me as puzzled as my elder brother's desire to spend his limited spare time trying to wire up his model train layout. But there we are, model horses it is. You customise them and stuff, I gather. There are shows. Anyway, my second mistake. I'd failed to appreciate the sizes we were talking about. These things are small, ergo the little wooden base upon which they decoratively stand are thus also small. The longest dimension was no larger than 110mm (approx. 4 3/8") in this case. So essentially we're talking very small bits of wood with a profile round the sides.

Obviously one for the scrap box then. If you've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed my "project stock" would sometimes struggle to make it into some folks' off-cuts bin, so you can imagine what my scrap box is like. But the gods gave this sucker a break and offered up some suitable stuff for the required three bases, plus some spares. Just as well about the spares really. So I planed it up, cut to size, all ready for the fancy bit.

Obviously this is the kind of thing the router lives for, right? In other hands, yes. In mine? Well, it went like this. First I went to the Drawers o' Cutters, hacked my way through the cobwebs, and refreshed my memory of what profile cutters I own. It turned out there were two. They came in a set I bought, ooo, waaaaaay back when I first started my running feud with the router. The set was by Freud, which could have been taken as prophetic - the use of them leading me to the brink of needing some sort of psychoanalytic help. Anyway... One was an over-exciteable Ogee which was too large for the 10mm thick stock. The other an Ovolo. Or rather it would be if I could get the bearing off in order to make it one instead of a fairly tame roundover.

I've never removed any of the bearings from any of the cutters in that set in all the years I've had them. I know what you're thinking; I was thinking it too. I laid my hands upon the appropriate hex wrench and... it came undone just like that. I didn't know it then, but the gods were merely lulling me into a false sense of security. So no bearing, and given the size of the workpiece anyway, this was a job for the router table.

If the reader has a long memory, he or she may recall I couldn't resist a "bargain" and bought a Piece o' Tat ( ™) router table during a fit of insanity.

I'd love to say it's proved itself a useful w'shop stalwart, but in truth I've not had call to use it. In the back of my mind I had a thought to leave it permanently set up to do stopped grooves for box bottoms - a task I do not relish with hand tools - but first you need to make something approaching a box side to groove. Anyway, now it could shine, and so I cheerfully fitted the cutter in the collet, finger-tightened it and looked round for the collet spanner.

Which has gone AWOL.

Okay, not a problem. I have a wide range of spanners for all eventualities always handily hung on the wall. I selected a couple of probables, found the 24mm did the job, and finished tightening up. Then I went to adjust the height. With 10mm thickness to play with, this is an exact science. Half a mm here or there made it look All Wrong. This router is not designed for exactness. Which, as it turned out, was lucky, 'cos that matched the router table it's fitted to. Eventually I got there, lined up the fence, clamped the table to the bench, got out the My Little Dalek 'shop vac' and went to apply hose of same to dust extraction point in fence. Which didn't fit. Where is my all-rounder, rubbery, fits damn near anything, hose reducer doodah?! Gone! Vanished!

Reader, this was a numbing blow. I've had that widget since the early days and it's saved my bacon on numerous occasions. But extensive search has failed to find it. I admit I may have directed suspicious and pointed glances at the Old Man, but he claims innocence. What's worse is a replacement apparently demands spending over Eight Earth Pounds. Egads. And you just know it'll turn up as soon as the new one's on its way...

However, I recovered from this shock, dragged myself from my knees (whence I had fallen, a cry of "Noooo" torn from my devastated person), slapped myself about the cheeks and advised myself to get a grip. Which I did, with the aid of a clamp and directing the hose in a general router direction below the table. Cutter set - check. Extraction set - check. Power on - check. Fire up the Piece o' Tat ™.

For the love of Norm, now I remembered the other reason I hate routers. Just running the thing makes it sound in horrible pain. Actually risk adding wood to the scenario and the thing sounds like it's being tortured with red hot pokers. Reader, I applied wood to router, but in truth my heart wasn't in it and it knew it. It chewed, it spat, it managed to defy all logic and create a result that shouldn't have been physically possible. Feeding finicky little pieces that demand pinpoint accuracy to get a reasonable looking result into the jaws of that router table with, as it turned out, sufficient enough flex in its top to make the result look like hell is not for me. It wasn't for the wood. The router wasn't keen on it either. We decided a mutual separation was the best answer. The router gets the cutters and I can take them to the zoo one weekend a month - if I want to - and I get the w'shop.

Now about now you're saying "But Alf, you could easily make this jig" or some other sound advice. And you're right, I probably could. But while I will apparently spend hours on the end result, I absolutely loathe spending a moment on making jigs. Especially when I won't use the thing again - and chances are it won't work for me anyway because it involves a router. Besides, I had another Thought.

I own a WoodRat. You have to be wondering why, given the preceding anti-router sentiment, but I do, and I'm reluctant to sell it because it is useful. It's probably been responsible for nearly all the successful routing I've ever managed.

The WoodRat could hold those finicky little pieces easy-peasy. A nice controlled cut, easily set up? What could go wrong. Well there's just one problem with the WoodRat; by the nature of the rodent you lose a certain amount of depth of cut. Naturally I'd forgotten that. I put the bearing-less profile cutter in the DeWally, plunged merrily away and...

See that fragment of red in the middle of the picture? That's the cutter at full plunge depth. Yup, about as much use to me as a chocolate fireguard.

By this point I'd spent an hour getting absolutely nowhere, I was extremely fed up, depressed at all the reminders of how things had got up and walked away waiting for me to actually ever being in the w'shop again, and to top it off had managed to nick my fingers on the cutter not once but three times simply because it was so cold I couldn't actually feel my fingers. I was about ready to declare I would henceforth go through life utterly friendless and be better for it. You don't want to know what I'd have done to any model horse unwise enough to gallop across my path at that moment.

So I went and considered some suitable phrases to break the news to my friend. My sorrow and regret would drip from every word, but alas, the w'shop had burnt to the ground and I couldn't do it... No, no, Alf! Is this the attitude that founded empires? It is not. Empire builders tended to steer clear of routers and favour the honest toil of subjugated natives. I wondered if I could find a Cornishman to do it.

No, I didn't really. As ever, I turned to hand tool methods to see if they would save those little horses from going plinth-less. But I'll tell you about that tomorrow...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Not so routine drill

So we have some theories.

I quite like the idea from Michael and Stephen that it's the lead screw that makes it an auger rather than a drill bit. Except what about the bull nose Single Twist or L'Hommedieu variety with no lead screw?

Wadda you mean "The what?" You don't all have them in assorted sizes...? I do. (Auger problem? What auger problem...?) But unfortunately I have a slippery slope of the icy rather than the toolish variety twixt me and a photograph of same. But trust me, very definitely augers without a lead screw. Favoured by shipwrights, I gather. (Ah, Darrell LaRue's page has some here. Couldn't find that page when I looked before; thought it had died. Does the world need another brace bit reference? Probably not. That'll save me some work then...)

Howard wisely zeroes in on the spiral or helical screw of the auger, but as we know, the average person asked to point out a drill bit would pick out something also with a spiral cutting edge. An email correspondent takes it further though, and I think this may be the closest we'll get to a rule that'll stick. Viz:

"We typically call any drill bit where the helical vein is less than the root diameter a "drill bit" and any drill bit where the helical vein is larger than the root diameter an "auger bit.""

Bend your brain to that one, gentle reader, and see how you like it. It doesn't cover every eventuality either really, but I think the essential problem with trying to define the difference is the initial labelling is rather wayward. We know from custom what we'd call an auger and what we'd call a drill bit, but how often does custom come into being based on a precise and technical definition of something? Yeah, exactly. We may be on a hiding to nothing here.

Happily though, we have side benefits and discussion as a result. Such vital questions as "Why do catalogues list braces and not the bits to use in them?" and "Whither the forstner bit?" These are good points.

The forstner bit for braces, I have no idea about. Where are they? I've never seen a single one. Not one. Not even my encounter with the patternmaker's tools lead to finding any, and that was as likely a source as any. Like 12" and 14" braces, were they just something listed in catalogues but really only Americans ever bought them? I have no idea. Of course there are modern ones with round shanks, which leads us to question two...

Modern braces, but no brace bits. I confess I was a little horrified to hear this. Last I checked - and in fairness, it was a while ago - Axminster, for one, listed Clico Jennings Pattern auger bits. But not any more. Lee Valley has a few square-tanged brace bits, such as these Spoon Bits, but it is indeed a bit of a desert out there for new bits. Having said which, do not modern braces tend to be designed to take hexagonal and even round shanks? I know certain older models of brace chuck were also able to do that, and indeed a basic two-jaw brace will generally cope with hex-shanks pretty well in my experience. So you could argue they are listing bits that'll fit the braces they sell, they're just not what any right-thinking neanderthal would consider the bits of choice.

Personally I think a serious revival of hand boring methods is well overdue and we should all jump on the band wagon in a hurry before The Schwarz finishes inadvertently putting the price of admission completely out of our reach. Although I'm still kinda hoping he'll discover the joys of a fluted drill bit in a hand drill so someone'll put them back in production. In the meantime, I fear it's to the car boot, the flea market, and the dreaded online auction site if we wish to feed out brace bit habit.

Which we haven't got. Well I haven't; can't speak for you...