So the SI unit for “brightness” (this isn’t exact, roll with it) is the lux and you can measure it with lightmeters (or a lightmeter app on your smartphone if you live in 2017). A really dark and stormy overcast day is around 100 to 200 lux as is your typical home lighting (my kitchen table, for example, sees 140 lux as I’m sitting here). Sunrise or sunset is around 400 lux. A well lit office can be anything up to around 500 lux. Noon on a typical cloudy Irish day is around 1000 to 2000 lux.
Earlier today, I hooked up the third LED T8 in the shed (the one I fitted yesterday):
At my workbench, the lightmeter now reads 2400 lux.
It’s now brighter inside my shed than it is outside my shed at noon on most Irish days. I might possibly have gone a little far.
(BTW, the T8s cost about €30 each off ebay and claim to draw 44W each and should last for a few years. So yeah, I’d recommend them)
So I came across this goop watching Crimson Guitars recently (I don’t want to build guitars, I just find the woodworking part fascinating while finding the music part kinda meh).
Basically, take this plastic (which comes in little balls like styrofoam packaging), put a few tablespoons into hot water (60C/140F is where the magic happens) and it goes from hard white solid to transparent goop. Fish it out of the water with a spoon, give it a second or two to cool down so you can hold it without third-degree burns to your fingertips, and now you have something similar to mala (or plasticine or playdough or silly putty or whatever you grew up with); only when it cools down, whatever shape it’s in it sets up hard in.
When it’s back to being hard again, it’s a hard white plastic that you can saw, drill, file, tap (no idea how much load it’ll take though) or otherwise work. And when you’re done with it, put it back into hot water and it goes back to transparent goop again and you can reuse it. No idea how many cycles you’ll get from it, but I’m up to three or four so far with no sign of degradation.
So how’s it useful in the shed? Well, I use LED T8s to light the shed. Or more accurately, until last weekend I used one. Then the second one arrived last weekend and now I use two.
Thing is, when I ordered that second one, I accidentally ordered two of them. So I wanted to fit the third T8 and in between the other two is the only viable place left. But the roof has no handy single flat surface there (if I picked either of the two flats I’d get uneven light distribution and I’d go spare). So I need some blocks cut to the angle of the roof and attached so that I have a horizontal surface to mount the light to.
But I don’t know that angle, it definitely isn’t something nice like 30, 45, 60 or 90. It’ll be 57.423 degrees or whatever hastily-nailed-together-8-by-6 sheds use. So out with a few tablespoons of thermomorph, let it go transparent, cool back to translucent, and then shove a wodge of it into the roof angle (you can see it above in that picture).
And then when it cools, take it down and let it cool fully to harden fully.
And there’s your angle. Now take your saw and cut it in half so you have a flat face to present to the wood, and mark off the angles.
And now you just saw down the lines, then crosscut into two blocks, and start drilling pilot holes for screws and countersinks.
Then screw the blocks to the roof…
…and the mounting clips to the blocks…
…and then clip the T8 into the clips.
And done. No faffing about with cut-and-test-and-cut-and-test-and-plane-and-test-and-plane-too-much-and-test-and-curse-and-start-over-again.
Yeah, you could probably do this with a bevel as well, if you had a small 2-3 inch size one, but the thermomorph can get into small awkward spots a bit better than most bevels. Plus, as Ben Crowe was showing in that video above, you can replicate curves and other odd profiles just as readily as straight line angles.
And you can get different brand names as well (Multimorph, Polymorph and so on) as well as dyes in case you don’t like white, or even food grade versions of the stuff. And near-infinite shelf life too. So definitely some stuff to have handy in the shed from now on.
So, don’t get me wrong, I know this is a nice problem to have, but still…
Another new toy today. While building the crib, my favorite tool very quickly became my Record 151 spokeshave.
It’s a really simple little tool and works brilliantly one you follow Richard Maguire’s tip and take off the adjustment knobs because you can’t ever get them both to agree well enough to keep the blade properly adjusted, so instead you just clamp the blade with the cap and set it with a hammer (which is a much finer adjustment than it sounds). It’s brilliant for anything with curves, or for rounding over sharp corners quickly for that matter.
While it’s a lovely tool to work with, and far beyond cheapo Drapers and the like (I don’t care what Paul Sellars says on that one, I’ve seen the Draper spokeshave and it’s just manky), it does have faults. The casting of the body does not match the cap perfectly, for example – there are lugs on the sides of the lever cap that should fit into the body, but there’s a good 3-4mm of a gap because the tolerances weren’t finer. And you can set the blade further forward very readily and surprisingly delicately with a hammer, but you can’t retract it with the hammer, you have to undo the cap and reseat the blade back at the start and advance it again with the hammer, which can be annoying at times. It does the job, but I keep thinking there are things that can do the job better.
Well, probably the best out there right now according to everyone with a few hundred euro to drop on a spokeshave, is this:
That’s a Lee Nielson Boggs Spokeshave (Boggs being the rather accomplished chairmaker who designed it). And if you have approximately twenty times the price I paid for my 151, you can test it to find out 😀
Me, I went a different way and chased after a Preston. Edward Preston & Sons were the Lee Nielson of their day, arguably at the very top of the toolmaking world from around 1825 to somewhere between 1911 (when Edward Preston died) and 1932 (when the company was bought by Rabone). Unlike most of the other manufacturers who seem to have mostly copied stanley designs, the preston tools were markedly different. And their spokeshaves were neat, elegant, and clever. They had a well-known design (the 1391) that had very decorative casting:
But as good as it’s supposed to have been, I just didn’t like the look of it, so I went after their plainer version and finally managed to get a good example of one for, okay, just shy of forty euro including postage, but that’s still a third the price of the Lee Nielson. And just look at how pretty it is!
It’s been restored and it looks absolutely magnificent. And note that there’s only one adjustment knob so you don’t have to worry about misaligning the blade by not being in sync with both knobs, so you don’t need to adjust it with a hammer.
And the blade looks almost unused:
I’ll have to make a new sharpening holder for it, but it’s got enough steel there for a while longer yet, and Ray Iles makes replacement blades today for about 15 euro-ish.
Now, I just need to think of a new project to use it on 😀
Not been spending much time in the shed since the cot was delivered (and it fits, and Niece fits into it as well so yay!), but I have spent a few minutes on ebay. Or a few more than a few 🙂 There are still a few more things I want based on the fun of making the cot, but I have most of them now and I’m content to wait for decent prices&conditions on ebay. Especially since Brexit is about to take the price of tools on ebay.co.uk and throw them off a cliff…
Narex butt chisels. Or “American Pattern Chisels” if you’re (very) British. Basically, shorter blades and handles than the normal bench chisel:
When I was doing the dovetailing of the drawer in the cot, the chisels I had weren’t bad — but they definitely had some room for improvement and I’ve been looking at some Ashley Iles chisels for a while but they’re a wee bit expensive (over a hundred sterling or so for a set of six and there’s a bit of a back order wait because they’re handmade). So before buying those I wanted to try using a few different styles of chisel to get a better idea of what worked best for me; and Richard McGuire’s been an advocate of the smaller butt chisels for this kind of work so I thought I’d try them and there were two Narex chisels on ebay one day for about ten euro each. Narex aren’t the best in the world by a long shot, but they’re kindof the modern equivalent to Footprint I guess; decent working tools. So we’ll see if the style of chisel lives up to expectations over the next few months and then I can decide about whether or not to drop ten times that much on a set of “luxury” dovetail chisels. And I might buy a japanese chisel and an elliptical profile chisel as well if they show up cheaply, just to see if they suit me or if they just annoy me.
(Oh, and those things to the left on the top photo there are combination bottle openers/paint can openers. One will remain a paint can opener to save screwdrivers, and the other will get sharpened at the blade to use to clean the bottom of mortices, as a suggestion from Paul Sellars).
And from chisels for fine paring work to chisels for nailing pigs to walls…
Okay, so here I think I bought a bit more than I could chew. There were fifty-seven hand-cut mortices in the cot and while the ones for the slats were well suited to the firmer chisels I had, I got to thinking a proper morticing chisel would come in handy for anything much larger than a quarter inch or so. And then a few came up in a set on ebay for about twenty euro in total, split between two lots, so I grabbed them. And they’re terrifying. The scale doesn’t come across in the photos, these things are basically sharpened chunks of rebar. I can’t wrap my hand around the three larger ones fully. And the three-eights one has an overly loose (falling off really) handle with some woodworm attack and a split so I need to replace it. But these I think will be living in a box rather than on the wall. Especially the half-inch one. The thing weighs more than my hammer…
And finally got something to help sharpen my #071 router’s iron…
And something to help sharpen my western pattern saws…
And you can never have enough clamps of course…
Every schoolkid in Ireland probably remembers these, I know that’s where I first saw them. But the idea here isn’t to use this as a ruler, but as a sector. I’ll sand the markings off it and clean it up a bit, then remark it as a sector, following Christopher Schwarz’s suggestion. When I was marking out the dovetails for the cot, it took an age to get the sizes laid out and it was mainly done through trial and error with dividers; but a sector (which is in effect an analog computer, a bit like an old precursor to slide rules) would let me divide out the board correctly in a few seconds. Allegedly. We’ll see…
(And if it works, I might spend more than two euro including postage for a crappy old ruler and make one that’s less floppy)
You’ve seen this already, but since we’re mentioning dovetails, and since some new blades arrived today as well…
And this one’s a bit out of left field, and more to do with making the cheese press than the cot, specifically repairing it after Calum managed to break it. The Record 53A is a spectacularly good wood vice, but you can’t use it for metalwork really, it’s not designed for it. The Record Imp is a kindof light duty tabletop vice, designed for use for small jobs. Think “Auxilary vice”, something you’d need before you start getting to the larger Record 4 and T5 mechanics and engineers vices, which are enormous behemoths of things. Maybe in a larger shed, but in my one, this is a better fit, especially as it costed €35 instead of €150 😀
Speaking of fit, it doesn’t – the bench top is too thick. So I need to make a board with a batten that it’ll fit and which I can clamp in the 53A or secure with holdfasts, and I can clamp the Imp to that (and bolt it to it as well probably).
And lastly, two new slitting gauges because I’m sick of having no option but to keep a piece of scrap about to note the settings for my wheel gauge; as a solution it works but you’re always going to get some small errors creeping in. The real solution is to have more gauges, and they’re not hugely expensive (usually you’ll get this kind for somewhere in the €25-35 range and you’ll find them for less if you’re willing to wait – both of these cost me €20). The top one is a new Marples model and it feels just lovely in the hand. I’m wondering if the rosewood will shrink away from the brass in the face; we’ll see. The lower one is an I.Sorby model from somewhere before the 1960s which looks better in the hand than it does in the photos, it’s really in lovely condition. Both are slitting gauges (or cutting gauges? Unless you only think of the lovely japanese versions of these as slitting gauges) with knife blades rather than pins because I’ve used pin style marking gauges and I just don’t like them that much, I much prefer the edges on the wheel gauges. Maybe if I refiled the pin’s heads to a more knife-like profile… but then, I’d have made a slitting gauge then, wouldn’t I? This way I just get what I want from the start 😀
Next up, I have to start getting these things stored. There are a few things to do in the shed over the next while, getting tools up on the wall and doing general shed maintenance stuff and the like, and then I have an idea for the next building project, but I’m waiting on some bits that I’ve ordered (without a lathe, there are some things I can’t make myself).
So I’m still cleaning down the shed from the cot (finally got all the shavings under control…) but yesterday an officemate (hi Gary!) was looking at MassDrop (think “what to get for the rich geek who has everything” with a pricetag to match) and specifically at a wrist rest. For those who don’t type all day, it’s something to rest the wrist on while typing:
If you type all day every day like a lot of software engineers do, this is a pretty necessary thing or you wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve had that, it’s not fun (it’s why I’ve used kinesis ergonomic keyboards for twenty years).
So the specific one Gary was looking at was wooden, and nice enough if a bit simple:
I mean, it’s not some gel-filled cushion, it’s not articulated, it’s just a shaped plank of wood. Walnut maybe? Fourteen inches wide (the width of a MacBook Pro) and about three inches deep.
They’re charging $95 for it (or they were, it’s not for sale any longer). I nearly choked on my coffee. I told him that was insane, that it was a lump of wood and not worth it and that I could knock that up in my shed in twenty minutes from an offcut. So he said “prove it”.
That’s how I keep getting myself into these things. You’d think I’d have learned by now.
So I go home, I find a piece of walnut offcut (in this case it was a length intended to be part of the cot frame but a bad rip cut and a waney edge made it unusable for that), I cut out a 14″x3″ piece from it (I don’t even take the time to lay it out) and skim plane it to clean off the rough-cut furriness. Then I plane one face and edge to square, and shoot the ends square from that. I don’t bother with the other edge or face because they’re going to get shaped anyway. And I cut the corners curved on the front using my new toy that just arrived from Dictum today:
Well, I have a project or ten in mind that will involve dovetails and I want to try sawing out the waste on the pinboard instead of chopping it out because that took a bit longer than I thought it would on the cot drawer. I need a better place for it to live though…
I also need to finish tidying up, and one of the next shed projects is tool storage. But for now…
And from there, I get out the spokeshave and round over edges and I use the jack plane to cut a quick chamfer on the front edge and then go over everything with the spokeshave again to get it all nice and smooth, and I hit the ends with some sandpaper for a few seconds to get the last little bits around that knot on the left front side.
Total time from start to here was about 25 minutes or so (I was faffing about a bit with the new fretsaw). With machines, that’s two tablesaw cuts, two mitre saw cuts and a run-around on a router table, so maybe three minutes?
One coat on by brush, then in for a cup of tea and a bit of Richard Maguire’s latest sharpening video while it dried. Then out to the shed again, some steel wool to knock back the first coat of shellac and rag on a second. Back to the house for more tea and Maguire, and half an hour later I take the offcut piece of felt I had from lining the cot drawer and cut a small piece out of that and spread it and the underside of the rest with contact cement from the end of a tube left over from putting leather on the bench vice jaws.
Let that get tacky for ten minutes, then press the two together and trim the excess. And then a final coat of briwax on top for the shiny.
By this point I realise I’m foostering so I draw a line under it and wander back in from the shed. Total work time is about 30-35 minutes (with something like 90 minutes of waiting on finishes while watching videos and drinking tea in there too). And the test fit worked:
And it doesn’t just work on my laptop, it works in production*:
So $95 versus €2. Hell of an exchange rate, even when you count the three minutes it’d take to make with machines, labour, marketing and so on.
*That’s a joke for the other IT people btw.
Well, thank feck.
I lined the drawer with green baize felt, which was as complex as “apply glue, shove cloth in place, run knife around inside to trim”. Then I drilled pilot holes and screwed on the drawer pull. Took the drawer inside, put it in the frame, evaluated how bad the rocking was, and trimmed the two high legs and re-chamfered the new cut surfaces. No more rocking. Then I assembled the whole thing, put on the mattress and a fitted sheet, and that’s it, it’s done.
It didn’t turn out too badly I think, given that it started life like this:
Have to say thank you to Herself Indoors here for looking after Junior for too many weekends while this got done. There’s a small army of stuff around the house that got ignored while trying to get this finished, I think that’s going to be my shed work for the next few weeks (not to mention that the garden is in dire need of fixing and the shed itself is now buried in shavings and rubbish and needs cleaning and the car boot needs fixing and we really need to change the car while I’m at it and …. well, you get the idea).
All that’s left to do now is figure out how the hell to get this thing to my sister’s house…
EVEN MORE last minute fettling (levelling the legs, screwing on the drawer pull, lining the drawer) Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.
Right, I just need one or two hours of calm dry weather and…
*sigh* Feck’s sakes. Fine.
But at least I can put in the glue blocks to support the top panel. Yesterday I trued up a corner of a stick of walnut I had as an offcut from the drawer front and then cut it into four ~10cm lengths. Granted, this isn’t traditional, glue blocks are traditionally whatever cheap softwood was lying around, but I had this as an offcut so why not.
Then today I had a few minutes of trying to figure out how to clamp them in place because I didn’t know how this was done traditionally. One quick internet search later and yup, you just paint the glue face with glue (hide glue is traditional but apparently any wood glue works), rub it on the spot where you want the glue block to stick to ensure both sides have glue and there’s no air in the glue joint, then hold it in place for a few seconds and there it sticks.
Don’t give it a knock until the glue cures, and there you go, glue blocks.
But eventually there were two or three dry hours in the late afternoon, so I moved the cot outside for the last time and started fettling the drawer. Which it turns out was necessary – when I was assembling it yesterday I had to stop half-way through glue-up to shave down the width of the plywood base, but obviously I didn’t shave enough and it had pushed out the sides of the drawer at the base by a few mm, so now I had to shave back the outside with planes in order to fettle it.
But eventually I got it to fit smoothly, and I’d cleaned up the glue and joints as well. Then it was a case of pushing it in flush, finding it was hanging up on the drawer rails, trimming them to give a rounded ramp type profile at the start so the drawer would go flush, then marking off its position on the rails with a pencil, and gluing a stop block in place on the rails with a cushioning pad. I clamped those in place for a half-hour or so just to be sure, then took off the clamps and glued the rails in place. That was the last bit of construction on the crib.
Well, okay, I have to screw on the drawer pull, but I’m not counting that because.
I SAID BECAUSE.
And then it was time to finish the drawer, and I’m just going to go with shellac. I had thought of using milk paint and osmo over the top of that, but the more I thought of it, the less I liked the idea of a red drawer, even though it would have been funny. So just shellac.
And that’s the last of my shellac as well, so the whole drawer got three coats (sanding back after coat #2), and the front gets a final fourth coat.
Dovetail money shot, right there.
And in the meantime the cot got moved into the kitchen.
…and the thing rocks. The torsion the mis-bent steambent upright put on the frame torqued it out of square by about 3mm over the length of the piece, but the MDF assembly platform had gotten wet and had smushed enough to hide that. Sod. So tomorrow (I have a day off), I’ll take the drawer, put the pull in place, maybe line it because the plywood’s a bit unpleasant looking, put that into the frame and mount the mattress platform and basically put it all together, see how bad the rocking is and trim the feet to stabilise it.
And that’ll be it. It’ll finally be done.
Shit, this thing won’t fit in the car, how the hell do I deliver it?
Make a drawer Maybe add runners underneath the drawer? Finish drawer with shellac.
Glue the drawer supports into the frame. Even more last minute fettling and foostering (panel support blocks, drawer stop blocks)
- EVEN MORE last minute fettling (levelling the legs, screwing on the drawer pull, lining the drawer)
- Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.
The idea was to get the last bits done today. Didn’t quite make it, but came close.
Got the cot out of the shed first so I could do some work. Looks nice in the sunshine…
Then made up the glue blocks I was thinking about yesterday to support the top panel.
And then gathered all the tools up…
The #778 is there to cut a small alignment rebate on the inside of the tails for the dovetails, in what Rob Cosman refers to as the “140 trick”. I don’t have a Stanley #140 (it’s a rather expensive skew-blade block plane) and the #778 is a little finicky for this, but it works if you’re careful. The idea is that you cut a tiny little ledge in the tailboard and after the tails are cut you sit the pinboard up against the tails and on that ledge to align it and let you mark the pins more easily (and it works quite well).
That’s the four boards laid out to check for any obvious weird whoopsies. The coloured dots are a David Barron trick to keep track of the pin and tail boards for each corners so I don’t accidentally cut the tails for one corner and mark off for the pins of a different corner and bugger everything up.
Laid out using dividers (I use one dividers for the shoulder pins and then the other dividers to lay out the tails) and the David Barron dovetail guide.
Cut out the groove for the plywood base with a #043 plough, which is pretty much what happens when you take the unix philosophy of making tools that do just one thing but do it very well and then apply it to woodworking tools. It’s not much use for anything other than cutting this one groove, for drawer bottoms, but it’s probably the best tool out there to do the job.
Haven’t cut the tails yet here (but did lay them out) in order to put the groove in the middle of the bottom tail.
See what I mean? For any other groove, it’s not a great tool (which is why you have plough planes like the #044), but for this one, it’s just fantastic.
Sawed out the tails with the ryoba and the David Barron guide, then chopped out the waste with a ¼” chisel.
Not horrific. Cutting out the pins though, did convince me that I really need to get one of those Knew Concepts fretsaws. Chopping out the waste between the tails is one thing; chopping out the waste between pins is a whole other ball game and the fretsaw would be a lot faster (plus, cutting curves with a saw, what’s not to love? My coping saw, that’s what not to love. That thing is terrible…)
On to the half-blind dovetails for the drawer front. Marked it off against the tailboard, reinforced the knife marks, highlighted with pencil, marked the waste and sawed down the diagonal with the Barron guide and the ryoba.
Then took another trick I heard from Cosman’s youtube channel and smashed down the fibres on the remainder of the diagonal using a piece of metal with the same width as the saw kerf (in this case, a spare card scraper). This means I now have both sides of the cavity cut out fully and that makes it easier to chop out the waste.
For the last few mm I put the board upright in the vice and pare, rather than chopping.
By the way, Walnut. Wow, is this so much easier in this wood than in pine. If you want to learn to do this, don’t try it in pine. I mean, don’t learn in walnut either, it’s way too expensive for that, but try it in a hardwood like poplar. It’s so much easier than in softwoods.
I’ve left out the amusing bit where I fit the plywood base, trim it to size by carefully measuring it and double checking the measurements and then somehow managing to cut it a full inch too short anyway and having to bodge up a fix. And the fun part where during the glue-up I found that the plywood base was still too wide by a few mm and I had to disassemble it, plane down the base to width, and complete the glue-up. Thank goodness for hide glue’s long open time, that’s all I’m saying…
Also, I NEED A BIGGER SHED. Holy carp…
- Make a drawer
Cut dovetails for drawer. Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
- Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
- Finish drawer with shellac.
- Glue the drawer supports into the frame.
- Even more last minute fettling and foostering (panel support blocks, drawer stop blocks)
- Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.