Monday, May 29, 2017

Horizontal slot mortiser (update)...

So I just created a 2-part video of the Jessem Mortise Mill mounted on my rolling cart. The two-part video for this can be seen at: . Tech in wood joinery meets handcrafted design + build. Top is the mortising unit mounted horizontally, below the micro-adjust system. The original story follows as this is an update to an earlier post. The Jessem Mortise Mill unit was purchased a few years back and I created a few loose tenon slots successfully with it. The original mortiser design was to mount it vertically and use a power drill from the top down. Although this worked, I found the drill pressure would push the board down no matter how much clamping pressure I used. So I put the Mortise Mill aside for a few years until recently. During a shop reorg, I found the unit gathering dust and decided to re-incorporate it in my shop. I had always wanted a horizontal slot mortise and thought why not set this up to create slots horizontally instead of vertically. Original instructions were to install it vertically with boards placement underneath. So I decided  instead to mount it so slots were created horizontally as a horizontal slot mortiser. 

Next step was to find a suitable platform, i.e. workbench surface 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. I used large enough 1/4-20 bolts to maintain rigidity and keep it from shifting. The Jessem mortise Mill requires that a shop-vac be attached to the dust port otherwise the unit begins to clog up with sawdust, this can also be seen in the videos.

Have been using it since and am pleased with the system. The addition of the L-shaped wood bracket to support stiles while being mortised works well. The ends of rails to be mortised are easily supported by the wood surface of the rolling cart. I like the fact that I can 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 carriage of the unit. Notice the etchings on the Mill are upside down. So, using scrap walnut and maple, in comes the micro-adjust setup to solve the problem. 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 for either offset or different thickness boards now! 

Since the micro-adjust system is cantilevered off 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.

The two-part video for this can be seen at:
Completed, tested and have been using for a few months now. Works great!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cabinet build...

I’ve been working on the components for a standalone cabinet lately. As well, working on the design of a second smaller cabinet with a unique focal point, to be discussed later. The cabinet on stand below features one of my favorite figured woods, domestic ambrosia maple. I have a small stash of this wood in planks so the decision was made to resaw the wide planks and create veneers. Veneers maximize the yield from the planks. The cabinet will have veneered front doors and side panels. The remainder of the cabinet, the top and bottom panels and back panel consist of conventional maple. Ambrosia maple, when finish is applied, exhibits a beautiful, warm color while accentuating the wild graphics it is renown for. The graphics are what draw me to ambrosia maple. Also, it is a member of the soft maple family, so not difficult to work with and to smooth the surfaces. One of the attached pics is an earlier cabinet I completed using ambrosia maple throughout.

I have yet to decide on the finish of the current cabinet build, definitely something that will highlight the wood graphics.The other pics are the almost completed panels I will be using in the build. The veneered panels are not exciting at this time, but application of a penetrating clear finish will pop the graphics, colors and grain. The frame and panel back is a work in progress at this time. The interior compartments will also be different but consist of dovetailed drawers in an unusual arrangement.

The dimensions in the current version will be close to that of the earlier version since the proportions appealed to me. I have not yet designed or created the components for the stand, so this might be different than the earlier version. What I typically do is build the cabinet, then begin work on the platform or stand. The process is not as overwhelming to me using this approach, as I prefer to work on a project in stages. The satisfaction of seeing tangible progress in the project motivates and excites me to continue :)   More details to follow on the individual components and joinery used.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

New Youtube channel...

I’ve been adding videos to my new YouTube Channel  WoodSkills  for a few weeks now. Through the channel, I hope to convey my methods of work as well as enlightenment in the use of hand tools in woodworking. In the most recent series, I discuss the furniture design topic. This is a topic near and dear to me as I believe that good design is essential in a quality furniture piece.

Good design also minimizes wasted resources and provides a furniture maker with essential feedback and pause when creating furniture. Loosely translated, the design process keeps the maker from rushing into a potentially flawed furniture design. The checks and balances give pause to the process as well as streamlining the build.

Furniture design

Other videos discuss hand planes, the shooting board and bench hooks. These are essential tools I use in my own workshop. Once familiar with these tools, your woodworking will arrive at the next level.

Feel free to subscribe to my channel  WoodSkills as I will be posting at least one new video per week. These past two weeks are the exception as I have been travelling. An overdue vacation in the Rocky Mountains of Canada :)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Table Saw build...

Someone might ask, why would you build your own table saw?  I agree, there are so many inexpensive ones to choose from out there. Why re-invent the wheel?  Well, there is some logic to my madness. This table saw is a work in progress and will have features not available in current table saws. So without going into any more detail, here is a glimpse of what I have so far. It is a scaled-down version of a bench saw, has an adjustable fence and sports a 7 in. thin-kerf blade. I'm actually enjoying this build and the research necessary to make my idea work. I won't be discussing the drive motor and any of the features until a later date.

There is more work to be done but at the moment it does function as a mini table saw.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Rooted" book has arrived...

A few months ago I was notified that my entry had been selected for an upcoming book on contemporary furniture. I finally managed to get hold of the book and received it this week.

The Schiffer publication:   Rooted: Creating a Sense of Place: Contemporary Studio Furniture  features a selection of contemporary furniture typically created in furniture studios by a single maker.

Quote from "The movement to buy locally, which has gained momentum in the areas of produce and food, is now spreading to arts and crafts. Through the work of over seventy contemporary furniture makers, the role of place in the creative process is explored and celebrated. Whether in terms of materials, inspiration, or the interaction with customers, these artists are rooted in their surroundings. What springs from these roots is usually unique, often edgy, and always beautiful furniture and accessories."

In a few days, I will post the first part of a series of videos on Furniture Design at my WoodSkills YouTube channel. Working on this as we speak. It began as a small exercise but I'm adding material and more of my knowledge on this topic.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Clearing the air...

With the experience of my first workshop in mind, dust control became a priority for me when designing my new workshop. I recall not only sweeping the floors in my previous shop but also sweeping the walls of dust. The dust was the flavour of the day, be it walnut, padauk, cherry, mahogany. The dark, exotic woods were the worst for dust. I installed some dust collection but it was never enough. At the time, my woodworking was more oriented towards the use of sanding in the final stages of a build, so this didn't help. The dust collection I installed was to capture the dust at the source or as it was being generated. This worked to a degree but there would always be airborne dust floating around, a by-product of whatever wood processing I was performing at the time. This is the dust that collects on walls, stays in the air and is unfortunately breathed in.

To combat this I built a 3-stage air cleaner as there were next to no commercial units available at the time or they were expensive. This helped considerably in capturing the airborne dust and I immediately became a believer in effective dust control. The shop made air cleaner can be seen here as well as a 3-stage commercial unit just above it. The shop made air cleaner is now moved into my new workshop and together these units effectively clean and circulate the air. Both units are stack-mounted in an unused part of the shop above a stairwell. The air in the shop is recirculated from top to bottom many times per hour and in the process scrubbing the air of fine particulate dust. I use these air cleaners in conjunction with two large capacity DC systems with blast gates at each of the stationary machines in the workshop. So dust control is an important part of my woodworking now. My woodworking today also places much less emphasis on sanding and instead I use hand tools to smooth surfaces of wood.

The air cleaners are turned on using a hand-held remote control. The most recent addition is the large red neon pilot lamp which indicates that the air cleaners are running. When I am using a machine, it is difficult to tell if the air cleaners have been turned on since the machine noise exceeds that of the air cleaners. The newly-installed red pilot lamp is immediately noticeable. The air cleaners also have ducting at the rear to direct air downwards to create the recirculating pattern for the shop air.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wood offcuts (save or burn)...

Not the most exciting blog post but I finally got around to cleaning out the piles and piles of offcuts I had been storing throughout my workshop. What brought this about is I literally had run out of space, piles were brimming with wood offcuts of every size. It gets to a point where it doesn’t make sense to keep collecting the wood, I’ll only generate more anyway! So how to go about this task since the most difficult thing is parting with an offcut that might be of use in a future project as this is instilled in us as woodworkers. As we all know, hardwoods have become expensive so the offcuts become more precious as time goes on. After all, they have already been processed, planed, squared, etc. Pics reflect the post-tidying, uncluttered look.

I began by tackling two large grey bins that were literally overflowing. I could not place one more scrap piece in them. The laborious task of sifting through them began. It was much like an archaeological dig of past projects. Each layer reminded me of an earlier project and once I got to the bottom I could see some of my earlier work. I moved the larger pieces to two large cardboard boxes to be stored away in a completely different part of the building. The remainder I intend to use as fireplace kindling. Once I got through the first grey bin, the second one was easy. I conditioned myself to be discriminating and if I thought the offcut was not worth saving, it would become kindling. It has been at least 3 years since these bins have been completely emptied.

Next were 3 other wood piles that had grown to an unwieldy size. One pile in particular beneath my vacuum pump had become an eyesore. This had to get sorted out. I recently purchased a new shop vac and the box it came in was a large enough size for these longer offcuts. Next issue was where to place the box. If I kept it in plain view I would have accomplished nothing except move wood offcuts from one pile to another. I needed to find an unused space, preferably out of sight. The space behind a dust collector was not used and just the right size. The large box of offcuts was also placed on a small dolly with casters I had lying around. Now I can conveniently access these longer offcuts and if necessary easily move the box to a different location.

With this all done, I tackled the shelves under two of my larger workbenches below. It is so true what they say that these shelves eventually become storage for anything and everything. By now I was merciless, I wanted clean surfaces free of clutter. This exercise also provided me the opportunity to get re-acquainted with some buried tools and hardware.

The last task was to clean the tops of the two smaller, identical workbenches below. In one case, the workbench top had not been cleaned in maybe 3 years. Everything was removed from each of the two workbench tops and put back in its place, be it drawers or cabinets. From now on I will work hard at leaving workbench surfaces free of clutter and deal with offcuts as I work through a project. After all, I have enough offcuts already to last a lifetime. Will I ever use them all, probably not. Maybe donate them to woodworkers that create smaller objects?

Last but not least is a large beast of a workbench (seen below) I made years ago. I had moved this workbench to an area of the lower level workshop and it has slowly become a storage area with occasional use as a workbench. I need to tackle this area next and cull some of the wood, tools and hardware accumulated over the years. I have always enjoyed using this workbench and want to make it available once again. So I will be cleaning and tidying up this area up tomorrow with the intent to have a usable workbench once again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Drawer pulls...

My process for creating and fitting drawer pulls is outlined here.This involves designing the pulls, selecting the preferred wood to use for the pulls, deciding on a size for the pulls, laying out the pulls, and shaping them. I need to admit this is one of my most enjoyable processes of a build. The build is at its final stages and this can be considered the "adding the icing" part. Pulls often add considerably to a cabinet both in aesthetics and design. The pulls are often a draw to the cabinet if they complement the cabinet yet impart a unique addition to the cabinet. In these photos, the pull design I is a rectangular one with a tenon extending out. The pulls are of mixed cocobolo so both heartwood and sapwood create an appealing contrast in colors. The tenon has shoulders on four sides to overlay the drawer front. This tenon fits into a matching mortise in the drawer front. The mortise is marked and created using hand tools, namely small chisels.

Creating the tenon is meticulous work and I used a small, fine saw to delineate the tenon from the actual pull area. Once this is done, I use a skew rabbet block plane and some small chisels to shape the sides of the tenon. The important part of this sequence is to accurately mark the mortise to fit the tenon. A mistake here could ruin the drawer front or involve a re-design of the pulls to correct the error. The tenons of the drawer pulls fit tightly into the mortise and then glued in. I also take some time to orient the drawer pull graphics and orientation to match each other.

After completing and installing the drawers pulls I proceed to adding a pull to the right door of this particular cabinet. This door pull is similar to the drawer pulls to maintain harmony in the design. This design involves one pull on this door to distinguish this door as the one to open first. I've always liked the idea of having a single pull on the cabinet front, it just looks like a clean, minimalist design. This door pull is also slightly offset towards the bottom of the door to minimize any impact it might have on the door graphics as more of the door graphics are now visible above the door pull.