Saturday, December 29, 2012

View from A1

I've occupied my current shop space for just over 4 years now. The whole space is subdivided by pillars, all of which have stenciled letters and numbers near the top. I'm assuming this is for the building owners to be able to reference and specify locations in the (enormous) building.

Anyway, once in a while, I step over next to pillar A1, and take a shot of my bench area, as it exists. And it's interesting for me to see just how far things have come.

Checking out the space. What you can see of the space is roughly half of the length of the building, maybe 1/3 of the width, and this is the 6th floor. We ended up renting half of what you can see.

Early on... Desk in the corner, turned around so I can use the drafting board. Shelves are up, with auxiliary bench underneath, and some old library card catalog drawers under that, which contain everything from random hardware bits and pieces to a complete locking doorknob set, big hinges, string, sharpening stones, extra plane blades... and lots of other things that I have no immediate use for. Shelves were filled with all kinds of stuff, as was the auxiliary table.  Just to the right, under the end of the table, is an old school tool chest with sliding tills inside. A newly built 6' bench is the primary work space, underneath the pendant lamp. Off to the left is a table that supports the grey bank of drawers that's filled with all kinds of odd hardware, and a shaving horse that hasn't figured out where to sit yet.

The big cabinet in the back, to the left, was an initial solution to the sense that I just had too much junk in the work area. In retrospect, storing even more crap in the work are seems like an odd solution. But it is what it is. The desk has been moved out, as I wasn't using it much... even though the drafting board on the back was so cool.

The space starts to hit critical mass. At this point, I've moved the big Sjoberg bench in from the machine room. The auxiliary table is off by the window, and is storing unfinished projects. The old tool chest is underneath. To the left of that is a filing cabinet. Corner bookcase now holds my NBSS tool chest, and the library card catalog full of random stuff, and a pile of other things I don't usually use. Patterns are on the wall next to it. The grey drawers are in the tall cabinet, and the table that used to support them is under the shelves, next to a plastic set of drawers that serves no obvious purpose. The shaving horse is still running wild. I have almost everything I could possibly need to do almost anything... except for space to do it in. 

The exodus of stuff has begun. The shave horse and the old tool chest have been exiled to the loft. The auxiliary table has been broken down and stored. The Sjoberg bench is next to the window, with the (blocked from view) filing cabinet still by the window, and the general floor plan is much more open... open enough to build something like this bookcase. The big cabinet has been moved to the right of the shelves at this point, and the shelves have been shifted to the left. They're still full of stuff. 

The open floor plan is well established at this point. The tall cabinet has been moved into the back corner of the machine room, as I've realized that anything I'm not actively using (hardware, misc junk) doesn't belong in my active work area. Well, except for the patterns that are hanging above the desk, which returned from exile as I began to realize that a) it's still a cool desk, and b)that I need to actively organize the work that's done on the bench, and the work that I need to do to organize the business. The filing cabinet's contents are in the desk drawer, and the filing cabinet is gone. Shelves are now mostly empty, so that I can use them for projects that are in motion.

The current Logjam... This project will be on its way out the door sometime soon. It has definitely tested the limits of my open floor area... and slabs that big and thick are HEAVY, which has meant that moving them around was something that I just didn't feel like doing, even as I tried to work on other projects at the same time. For the most part, everything in the frame is something I have regular use for, or something I'm in the middle of working on.

Things continue to evolve...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rockler Glue Brush Update

Again, I'm not a corporate anything. But the Rockler glue brush has continued to perform as advertised, which is something I rarely find, especially in woodworking specialty stores these days. It's very easy to clean.

I was in the store the other day, and found that they have released a smaller version, which was pretty much the only improvement I would have wanted. The standard version is pretty big. There are tasks for which it is very well suited, (both ends, at that... the paddle end is great for spreading glue on Festool Domino tenons) but there are also tasks for which is feels a little ungainly. The new version has a small brush, and a nub on the other end for working glue into tight corners.

I have an upcoming project that will involve more joinery, so we'll see how well it works when I get that far.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Dremel as a router

I spent a lot of time inlaying butterfly joints in the slabs this past week. It's a lot of material to remove, and this project has been lagging, so I decided to go with the less traditional methods of waste removal. I drilled out holes with the cordless drill, and then proceeded to handle waste removal with a Dremel tool mounted in the router base that's made by Stewart MacDonald. The butterfly joints go pretty deep, so I went with one of the high speed spiral bits to help handle trimming, since the cutting edge is full length, and they're long enough for the job.

As a hand tool purist, I would be disgusted with myself if it didn't feel so much closer to a hand tool in use than a regular router does. It's slow and steady, pretty controllable, and because it's underpowered, (and because it was cutting through an inch of walnut) it offered more tactile feedback than a regular router would: A full-strength router might buck just enough to let you know it ruined something as it goes by, but not necessarily. So I'm pretty happy with this setup.

There's only one real problem, and it's the reason the ear muffs are in the photo. It sounds almost exactly like this:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shop update

Still loving the Japanese chisels.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Simple Shop Jig of the Day

Just a fancified stick with a ruler on it.

Way back when, I was setting up my crosscut sled, and didn't need the first six inches of stick-on metal tape. There are other jigs where I took a big chunk off the back end of the tape, that works, too.

The point isn't to take a measurement, though. I have a lot of jigs and setups that require little more than a clamped-on block as a reference stop on one end or the other. Inevitably, it needs to be moved by about 'that much,' to complete the operation.

In this case, I'm referencing a notch from the end of the stick on the router table, for some coped window muntins. Too much off the stick, and the part will be too short.

Now I can see, based on the scrap of scale that's glued to the block, just how much I'm actually moving the block when I adjust my reference stop. It made this particular operation much easier, and more accurate than using pencil marks.

Why So Serious?

I was having a conversation about shooting boards today. Some folks just go too far with the fancy.

There are times when I might go for something with a much longer fence, but for day to day, this one does just fine. The 90 and 45 are accurate, but short enough that a little bow in the molding won't ruin your day. The whole thing is small enough to be easily put away.

Low angle jack plane has mouth wide open, but blade set for minimal projection. That lets it take big bites down to 45, but make fine adjustments when care is needed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Planning tool: small drafting board

I get that sketch up is becoming a thing, I get that computer drafting tools are very robust and efficient once you get the hang of them. But I'm a traditionalist, and there are times when I think that drawing things out by hand is more useful. Because it's a physical exercise as much as a mental one, the process of drawing out the details of a project engages the mind in a different way than CAD or sketch up does: You have to fill in the details by hand in the drawing, nothing is automatically generated. And as you put those details down on paper, you have to work them out in your mind. It's the shortest route I know to really wrapping my mind around a project.

I know from experience that many people have the same attitude: "I can't draw." The whole point of a drafting table, or a board like this one is that you have rulers and square edges to guide your pencil. You don't have to be a skilled fine artist to make a drawing of a piece of furniture. Some drawings are more involved than others, but the whole point of drafting in the first place is to build the piece on paper, first. The drawing is a place for you to work out the kinks of the design, and it's a representation of the physical object that you aspire to build. If the details of the drawing are too complicated for you to puzzle out, then constructing the actual object probably is, too.

Making mistakes and erasing them on paper is much easier and cheaper than making your mistakes in wood, and the simple truth is, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn from struggling with a topic. If you don't always have time to spend in the shop, or money for wood, time spent drafting new designs will be well spent, and allow you to spend time solving the puzzles ahead of time.

When I went to school, we had large, 40" x 5' long drafting boards for doing full size drawings of furniture. I have one at the shop that's 50" x 6', and it's great for that. But not everything demands that much real estate, so I came up with this small board, that's great for working out individual details, or doing small, scaled drawings on regular 8.5" x 11" sized paper.

It's just a small piece of MDF, with vertical and horizontal reference edges along two sides. These edges need to be square to each other, but other than that, there's not a lot of time or skill that needs to be invested in this project, which makes it great for beginners, both as a small project, and as a tool to help them plan out larger projects. It's very simple, very inexpensive, and all you need to make use of it is a pencil, and a drafting triangle or two. It's perfect for doing some quick head-scratching, and working out how something will go together. And I feel a lot more comfortable using this in the shop, than I would an expensive laptop.

At some point, I'll make another one to use at home. When I do, I'll probably make it wider, so that I can reference more of the triangle's bottom edge when I'm drawing vertical lines on the right side of the page.  Chances are pretty good I'll simply make a square version.

Shop drawing for a door, with stock list along left edge.