Saturday, April 28, 2012

High speed, low-bandwidth wood transportation system

I just bought some clear pine for a toolchest (and some extra) at my local lumber purveyor. I got it home fast ;-). I'm stacking and stickering at home now. Since stickers need to come fom wood that's handy, very dry, and expendable, I'm cutting strips from a scrap of 5/8 plywood.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Finishing surfaces and breaking planes.

Adam and I dug into smoothing and finishing the plant bench tonight.

Progress was slower than hoped (as always), but we had good results and relatively few mistakes. I planed one leg assembly smooth while Adam took the excess off the miter keys in the top frame with a block plane.

One leg, planed smooth and with polyurethane drying
I only got a smoothing plane recently. Up until then I was relying on a jack or a joiner plane to leave a reasonable finish. I'm still getting used to the idea of planing without flatness as the goal. It went OK. once it was 95% there I switched to a card scraper for the last bits. Still had minor problems with track marks, but I think patience and fine adjustment more or less took care of it.
Miter keys without the excess

Adam did a nice job with the miter keys. Clamping the frame was awkward, but we made it work. Since the front surfaces of my workbench are not flush, it involved some blocks. Speaking of blocks, clamping a block alongside helped prevent the corners from chipping out, but not as much as planing with the grain (duh).

Half a tine short of a fork
And then I broke my jack plane. I had recently got the courage up to grind a camber into the blade and was trying to show Adam some thick shavings on a piece of scrap. We were talking about planing off extra material to make the mitres more crisp. I was trying to point out that we could take a lot of material off quickly if needed. I took off a few shavings from different directions, dialling in the blade depth as I went, and then the adjuster-fork snapped. So I guess I'll be adjusting it as if it were a wooden plane until I try to return it. Now I'm thinking about purchasing a replacement of higher quality. EDIT: since I made this post, WoodCraft did an excellent job of replacing the part with one from the next version of this plane. It is steel unlike the one that broke, and it has worked well for me for quite some time now.

Holding the broken piece. The plane behind it is the one that broke.
An aside about my experience with a WoodRiver plane: I bought my #5 without doing a lot of research, after trying one in the store. It performed well for me for about 2 years for a variety of tasks while I learned just how the heck to use it. Since then I've read a bunch of negative stuff about WoodRiver on the internet, some of it regarding business ethics, and some about quality. Until it broke yesterday, I was still pretty pleased with it, but 2 years is far too short a lifetime for any quality tool in my opinion. The timing is unfortunate since I had just cambered the blade and felt like It was finally pulling its weight. This just happened, so I have no comment on customer service or return policy, etc. I'll most likely stay away from this brand in the future.

Adam levelling legs. Just look at that focus!
One more item, out of sequence. Last time we worked on the bench, we tried the technique the Chris Schwarz recommends for levelling tables and the like. It worked brilliantly. In 10 minutes or so we levelled the workbench and the plant bench on top, marked the lines, and clamped it into sawing position. Sawing to the line is a tricky skill, and Adam and I are both green enough behind the ears that we were noticeably off in some spots, maybe a pencil line thickness error here and there. I set it on my wooden kitchen floor and it felt solid as a rock anyway. I think this method is a real winner.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plant bench is coming together

I've been helping my friend Adam build a low table for potted plants. It's cypress, walnut, and tile, and can be disassembled into 4 parts without fasteners. Here are some recent pictures of it coming together.