Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Enigma wood case…

I was asked to make a traditional wood case for a replica of a WWII German Enigma encrypting machine. The modern-day version is mostly electronic but it performs the same functions. I would need to make it to scale and similar to the original in most ways. This Enigma is mostly electronic with large selector wheels, LED numbers, switches and a keyboard. As well, the front panel (Steckerbrett) contains jacks for plugs and wires. The front of the outer box (Klappe) is latched, but flips down for access to the Steckerbrett.

Enigma wood case

Enigma Wood Case

Enigma Wood Case

Maker Faire 2016

mein Enigma booth

The build involved much research into existing Enigma wood cases and of course, the original version. I found out that the traditional wood used was oak so of course, it had to be made of oak. Next was sourcing the wood and unique hardware. There is also an inner box which houses the circuit boards and this fits into the outer box.

The design of the Enigma case call for locks, so I installed two locking latches and two inner catches for the Klappe flip-down front. I began the build. It went fairly smoothly except for one hangup. Installing lid stays would be a problem since there almost no clearance between the inner box and outer box edges. So mortises had to be created for the small lid stays. This worked out well. The circuit boards are currently bare and were only used for fitting.

Once complete, it has a busy array of lights, switches, large selector wheels, keyboard, lights and jacks and cables. The photos include the completed Enigma wood case with the electronics, wheels, switches, keyboard and plugs installed. Of course, I have my Maker’s Mark applied. The completed Enigma photos were taken at a Maker Faire venue in Ottawa, Ontario. Peter Sjoberg, the designer of the Enigma machine itself, can be seen in one photo.

On another note... so happy to be chosen as a Top 25 Woodworking Blogger by !

Friday, November 4, 2016

Slot mortiser (a new life)...

Tech in wood joinery meets handcrafted design + build. Top is a mortising unit, below is a micro-adjust created using traditional methods. The story follows. I purchased this Jessem Mortise Mill unit a few years back and although I managed to produce some loose tenon slots successfully, it was not easy to set up. I can't recall the issues exactly, but I was frustrated at times. So recently found the unit buried under a secondary workbench and decided I would make an effort at getting it to work successfully for me. I had always wanted a horizontal slot mortiser setup and thought why not set this up to create slots in the horizontal plane instead of the vertical plane. The unit was marketed to be installed vertically with board placement underneath. I'm not sure if having boards hang below the unit contributed to the issues I had at the time, but nonetheless I wanted to mount it so slots were created horizontally. First pic is before building the micro-adjust unit.

Next step was to find a suitable platform, i.e. workbench surface to be able to mount it. A rolling cart in my workshop was ideal since I could wheel the unit away when not in use and the footprint of the Mortise Mill was not large. The rolling cart has large locking casters which do a good job of keeping the cart immobile. Installed it so the surface of the base plate was even with the surface of the cart, this took some time. Used large enough 1/4-20 bolts to maintain rigidity and keep it from shifting.

Tested it afterwards and I was pleased with the results. The later addition of a L-shaped wood bracket to support stiles while they were being mortised worked well. The ends of rails to be mortised were easily supported by the wood surface of the rolling cart. Further testing with clamping of boards provided me with a reproducible setup. I liked the fact that I could permanently leave the Mortise Mill bolted to the rolling cart.

The only small issue was the vertical adjustment of the slots on a board. Since the Mortise Mill was installed horizontally, the adjustment was not as smooth as I would like due to the weight of the sliding component of the unit. Notice the etchings on the Mill are upside down. I decided to make a micro-adjust setup to alleviate the problem using some scrap walnut and maple. As can be seen in the pics, it is all wood construction with a 1/2 inch lead screw and wood handle. The end of the lead screw has a custom cradle contoured to fit the bottom edge of the sliding part of the Mortise Mill. I can precisely dial-in slot placements now! 

Since the micro-adjust was cantilevered off the vertical posts of the rolling cart, I beefed up the supports, it's probably over-engineered now. Things to watch are the exact placement of the tip of the lead screw over the center of the edge of the Mortise Mill for smooth operation. A large paddle switch for the built-in Mortise Mill dust collection was installed for convenient access.

Completed and tested, works great!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New hand tools...

Have a look.. 6 new hand tools!  Updated Tools section at Pirollo Design!  Performed the photography today.

This was supposed to be completed a month ago but had major issues (out of my control) to deal with in my small artisan business. So I was in suspense for a month waiting for things to settle. The Courses tab has been beefed up with new photography and sub-categories as well as a more up to date Blog section. I will be creating short videos on each of the tool pages to demonstrate how to effectively use the tools. Two more tools are in the pipeline before the end of the year. I enjoy learning and challenges, so spent time designing and prototyping these tools. The design and prototyping stages were actually fun, but sourcing the hardware was at times frustrating. It’s all good now, I am significantly more knowledgeable in this space than only 3 months ago.

The hand tools are predominantly shaping and measuring tools. I created these tools to address processes I use in my own furniture making. For example, the depth gauge address the issue of determining the depth of holes or mortises. I would find myself using small bamboo sticks, pencils, etc. to perform this measurement. I knew there had to be a better way. Another example, the measuring tool helps considerably in transferring measurements from one board to another. Possibly more of these small hand tools before the end of the year.  More info at

Friday, July 29, 2016

New product, handcrafted bench dogs...

I have been successfully using these hardwood bench dogs in my furniture design+build studio for over 8 years. Why not make them available as a product. For most woodworkers, time is both limited and valuable. I have the setup and expertise to make these. The result is more free time for woodworkers to do what they love.

Hardwood bench dogs are better suited to working with wood than metal ones. This solid hardwood bench dog has a 3/4 inch diameter round profile. The round bench dog is intended for use in workbenches with 3/4 inch round holes. A spring-loaded bullet catch is press fit into the sliding part of the bench dog. This ensures that the bench dog makes a solid fit with the workbench hole.

The length of the bench dog is 3.75 inches which is ideally suited to most workbench thicknesses. To ensure positive clamping of thinner stock, a raked flat notch is recessed on one side of the bench dog. Leather is applied to the face of the raked flat face of the notch to prevent wear on furniture components clamped against the bench dog. The bench dog can easily be lowered into the dog hole when not in use, and raised for use.

The bench dog can be raised to match the thickness of the stock that is being hand-planed, assuming there is a 3/4 inch through-hole in the workbench surface. The hardwood bench dog eliminates the risk of marring the metal sole or blade of a metal-bodied handplane. The hardwood used in the bench dog design is oak.

The price for each handcrafted bench dog is currently $11.50 and available through WoodSkills

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New web site...

After 9 years of blogging here, I have a new place for blogging. Along with a new web site.. WoodSkills , a new blog is now integrated into this new site.  The new site and blog will allow my readers to view my blog directly at the web site. I've had to replace the existing WoodSkills web site with a new, up to date one mostly due to new web site conventions and standards. I also decided to continue blogging here at The Refined Edge for the next while.

With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, it became critical to have a web site which rendered well on the different devices. The Internet was the wild west many years ago, web sites would render well on one browser and fail miserably on others. Today, technology has evolved to where modern web sites need to render not only on the desktop but also on mobile devices and tablets.

Other news. I have had to undergo some major surgery recently and am currently on the mend. The post-surgery recovery period limits what I can do, so not much in the way of physical activity for a few weeks. I am planning to get back into the shop later this summer, (mid-August). At this time, activities such as hand-planing are restricted as well as lifting objects. So this effectively rules out woodworking for a few weeks :( This is me on the day of discharge from the hospital. I'm up and about now and improving every day.

Please visit the new WoodSkills site for new blog posts and other information, offerings.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

New course! "Start Your Own Woodworking Business"

Over the winter and with time on my hands, I devoted another few weeks to developing a new course on Starting a Woodworking Business.I had a health scare, was sidelined for a while and this prompted me to hunker down and put into words my experience with starting woodworking businesses.The course is loosely based on my book with the same title. In today's economy it is becoming more important to become self-sufficient, secure jobs are a thing of the past. I should know having been downsized 3 times. Woodworking is a growing field and we need more woodworkers to go into business and market their unique designs. It is the business side of woodworking that drove me to come up with new and higher quality work. In this course, I guide you through the process of starting and setting up your own woodworking business. I am sharing my 20 year expertise and knowledge in this course.I provide the necessary expertise and answers questions about starting your own woodworking business in this information packed course. 

Downloadable video lectures include all subjects pertaining to starting your own woodworking business. Each video lecture guides you through the learning process of starting a woodworking business. The Start Your Own Woodworking Business Course is derived from twenty years of woodworking and furniture making expertise in a business environment. 3 hours long. 23 lectures. Course can be downloaded or on DVD. Available through WoodSkills

New, updated woodworking course...

What I've been up to. So I decided to update the Woodworking Course I have been marketing. I hunkered down and added new graphics and images to the course. It is now much more interesting to watch and hopefully a great learning experience for someone wanting to learn woodworking. The comprehensive course content is similar to what it was, the lectures are all there although a couple of lengthier lectures ( bandsaw and veneering) have been broken up into 2 individual lectures each. In the process there is a new Course Overview that I will include here. This was a huge amount of work and I broke it up into manageable pieces over a period of weeks. I enjoyed the process and it re-acquainted me with some aspects of woodworking I had been neglecting! Available through: WoodSkills

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An Excerpt...

An excerpt from the "From Hi-Tech to Lo-Tech: A Woodworker's Journey" book. This is the period when I experienced doubt about continuing in my current career and making a go at woodworking instead. Or should I say, this is but one period where I experienced this. I would ultimately make three attempts at full-time woodworking and it has worked out for me.

"This course helped me considerably in understanding the finishing process. After leaving the Cabinetmaking program, it was felt I had the necessary knowledge to begin working on my own furniture projects. Through the Cabinetmaking program, I had become intimately familiar with many woodworking machines and learned many techniques. Rough lumber could be processed and dimensioned parts created for furniture. We were taught how to work with cut lists. It was also taught how to profile the edges of boards and how to create joinery, both simple and compound.
The year was 1995 and many thoughts were racing through my mind. The thought of a career in woodworking preoccupied my mind more. I began to read stories about other people that had transitioned from a career into woodworking. At this period in my life, I was young enough to appreciate that there were many years remaining in my computer career. It would not be wise to leave such a career and instead struggle at a woodworking career. This introspection helped me to understand myself and to newly define my goals in life. Of course, the issue of money and supporting myself was at the forefront. The current computer position at DEC compensated me very well and I was able to maintain my house, a car and also outfit my new woodworking shop. Being single at the time, my precarious financial position was clear if I were to lose my employment or quit. This motivated me to continue in my computer career and to advance my knowledge to remain relevant.
Over the next while, I continued to pursue my woodworking hobby in my spare time while working at my day job. My new workshop area continued to be outfitted with additional tools and machinery; careful not to clutter the limited space in the workshop. Having created a few band saw boxes encouraged me to create larger boxes with more traditional joinery. These would be square and rectangular boxes. I had in mind to create a series of small boxes and install music mechanisms in them. The boxes would be straightforward with hinged tops. In the early 1995 timeframe, work began on these small music boxes."
Available through WoodSkills