Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bar assembly instructions (because it's done!)

The purple glow-in-the-dark bar is done! (Scroll down to the bottom to see it assembled)


Thanks to Charlotte, Frank, Patty, D, and Abby for all your help, and thanks to all my camp-mates for your encouragement and ideas to make this project a reality. And thanks to my friends Matt and Samuel for helping with these photos on short notice.

This post will show how the structure works for those who might want to build something like this. This bar is meant for serving drinks to friends at a week long camping trip. It will be used outdoors, in the woods, rain or shine. Tarps will keep it dry and black lights will keep the artwork on the top glowing at night.

But for the people I'm camping with next week who will arrive before me, these are the assembly instructions you will need when you get to the campsite. 

Assembly instructions:

Pick out a location and unfold the legs on the base unit. Lock all 4 of the brass leg braces by pushing the middle until they are straight.
Legs, ready to be unfolded.

The legs open in pairs.

Lock the brass leg braces with a small push.
Flip over the base and set it in location. This is a good time to make sure it is level and not sinking into mud by shimming pieces of wood under the legs as necessary. If the whole bar is still packed up and strapped together, another option is to flip it as a unit.

The base can be handled by one person.
Take a moment to make sure it is level. (This is easier indoors)

One thin piece of plywood should be enough to avoid sinking into the mud.

To adjust the height of one leg, Add other scraps and shims. The shims can be slid sideways to fine tune the height so the bar does not wobble. Avoiding wobble is more important than getting the bar perfectly level.

Another option, (which might be useful if it is raining and you are under a small tarp), is to keep everything strapped together when you flip it onto it's legs. This is heavy, so make sure the straps are tight and get another person to help.
Get the front piece ready within arms reach. The two recesses on the front should be on the top edge.

I'm pointing to the hinge recesses.

 Pick up the top layer of the base unit so that it becomes a parallelogram and then a rectangle.
 While holding the rectangle open, fit the front-piece in. The recesses should align so they are ready for hinges to land in them.
Installing the front-piece.

The hinge-recesses align. Also shown is the metal T-nut where you will install bolts soon.

Remove 6 bolt-washer pairs and the wrench from the included yellow hardware bag.

6 bolts with 6 washers and an 11/16" ratcheting wrench (from the yellow hardware bag)
 Install them around the perimeter of the front piece. There are 2 on top, 2 on the bottom, and 2 on the ends (1 each). It is easiest to install them if you tighten the top ones first. They should be snug, but not super-tight--when you can't turn the wrench with 2 fingers, you are done.
Installing the bolts on top first. The notches in the wood show you where the bolts go.
These ones on the end will align a lot easier if the top bolts are already tight.

Next you will install the bartop. Make sure you have help lifting this because it is heavy. The top piece is wide and has the logo and yellow breadboard ends. The front facade piece is unadorned and hinged on to it. Take care to lift the front edge of the top first/highest so the front hangs freely swinging from hinges.

AVOID lifting the back edge higher than the front at any time. You would essentially be asking the hinges to open wider than 90 degrees, which they can't do without ripping themselves out.

IMPORTANT: lift the bartop in this orientation so the front piece is free to hang vertical. You can raise this up to vertical or lower it down to horizontal, but not down past horizontal. This is all about not straining the hinges.

set the bar top on top of the base. The front/facade of the bartop should be up against the front of the base.
Here, I'm pushing the bar top sideways until it clunks into the centered position.

Once it is on top, move it side to side until it is centered. You will here a clunk when the hinges on the bartop fall into the matching recesses in the base, and then you have done it.

Good, now it's centered.

Retrieve the 5 brass screws and screwdriver from the yellow hardware bag. install them from the inside of the bar, into the [brass threaded inserts in the] facade. Like with the bolts, they should be snug but not crazy-tight.

5 screws, one screwdriver.

4 screws in the front, from the back.
Install the last brass screw up through the center-back-top of the base into the bartop. This keeps that thin piece of plywood from sagging.
One screw in the top, from below.
This screw goes near the logo, towards the bartender-side.
  Before you walk away, double check that the screwdriver and wrench go back into the hardware bag. Keep it in the bar so it doesn't get lost.

Hardware bag, safely resting in the bar until you need it for disassembly

 Congratulations, you have assembled the bar! Time to load it with booze, have a drink, or go put your feet up.
The bar is done!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I am coming around to purpleheart.

I've been working with purpleheart lately for this bar I'm building with some friends, and I have to admit I haven't cared for the stuff much up until now. It's heavy, eats steel, and it really likes to stab me with brittle needle-y splinters.

But now that I got through final surfacing and I can see it with a wet coat of wiping varnish, I am coming around. It can take a smooth surfacing, and there is depth to the color I did not expect--magenta and red and hints of orange even.

It looks like the finish is already starting to dry in this photo I took 1 minute after wiping it on. That's probably a good sign.

Now I am just hoping it cures. I used acetone to remove some surface oils, and thinned my go-to polyurethane with mineral spirits. I am pretty sure this will work, but the seed of doubt has been planted--people on the internet talking about shellac.

I'm also interested to see what the sun will do to the color. Time will tell on both counts. It has a habit of doing that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

how to mess up your dovetails

I came across these old photos from when I was making my anarchist's tool chest, and thought I should share some of the mistakes I made while learning a lot of techniques.

But there are already too many blog posts with contradictory information telling you how to cut nice dovetails, so I'm going to tell you how the mess them up:

Use a jack plane with a heavily cambered iron to surface your lumber, then decide that's good enough. Do this on the inside surfaces to ensure visible gaps.
Crosscut your lumber after surfacing. This means more work to get out large cups & bows, so you definitely won't have energy left over to get out a smoothing plane.

Warm up your sawing arm with some haphazard cuts.

Decide that dovetails are first class cuts and waste lots of time making knifewalls, even though the angles don't really matter on the tails (assuming tails first)
If that takes too long, decide they are second-class cuts so that you still waste some time with knifewalls.

Orient the board so you are cutting against the grain. (Actually I was using a dozuki, so this was the right way).

Train your eye to see square by looking at an engineer's square from the wrong direction. Don't "undercut", because it might be considered "cheating"

Cut the tails way inside the lines so it doesn't fit right off the saw.
Fuss with the joints a lot so you have plenty of opportunities to go past your lines.

Glue it up with the minimum of clamps so that the glue has a place to go.

If you're cutting grooves, make sure they go out through the end (this is from a different project)

Repair the blemishes with a few small slivers of wood and some glue, or if the gaps are small, just hammer the endgrain until they disappear. Flush plane them and they'll look fine. I'm serious about this one--it's easy to repair dovetail problems.
...but you can still point out your mistakes to anybody who sees the tool chest.
You can also point out your mistakes to the whole internet.
And don't paint over them so you can keep pointing out your mistakes.
But seriously, you can fix all this and they will come out great. The important thing is to make the attempt so you have the opportunity to succeed.

drawbored breadboard ends, step-by-step

If you saw my earlier post, "extrapolating myself into unknown territory", you might be curious if my experiment with drawbored breadboard ends actually worked out. So far, it seems to have. If it explodes in the future, I'll mention it here.

I photographed to entire process to share. More info about this project is available by using the "purple_bar" tag.

This process starts after the joinery has already been cut, which means 5 haunched tenons and mortises in a groove to match. I've already drilled 3/16" holes (one for each mortise/tenon) in the yellow board on the drill press before where the photos pick up the process.

First, I tap the breadboard end in place.

Using the same brad-point bit I drilled the hole with, I make a mark in the tenons. One light tap is perfect. Deep marks will interfere with subsequent steps.

I removed the mortised-board carefully using this slender pry bar. This takes a little time to do without damage, but it's easy with a nearly-sharp pry bar.

Finding the marks can be difficult, but holding the end piece up next to it helps show where to look.

The original mark has been highlighted with white pencil. Here, I made a new mark, offset towards the tenon shoulder. This is the crucial step for drawboring. The offset is about 1/16" in this case.
Drilling holes, following the new marks. For a relatively clean exit-hole, spin the sharp brad-point fast, and push down gently. These are 3/16" holes, using the same bit as I used for the yellow end-piece. Eyeballing vertical is good enough. 
Here, I'm using one of these WoodTek bits that are meant to cut sideways. First I get it spinning fast in the eggbeater drill. I didn't do this to the center hole, which can stay round.
With the bit spinning, I tilted it back and forth. I Leaned over further on the holes further from the center hole, so those will be wider slots. This method provides lots of leverage, but one must tilt slowly to avoid jamming the bit.
Now, back to vertical. I push sideways in each direction to finish making the slot. These slots are the crucial step for breadboard ends, so humidity changes don't ruin the project later.

Don' forget to brush away the chips! It sounds stupid, but missing this step would cause big problems. 

Next I tap the end piece back into place, using the center hole for horizontal alignment, since it is still a circle. These holes will not fully align in the other dimension though, so the peg can pull it tight.

Easing the offset holes with drawbore pins. Nail sets also work for these small holes (both shown). A little push and twist from each direction is all it takes. I might be able to get away with skipping this step, but I'd rather not find out the hard way I can't.

Next I prepare the pegs by rubbing paraffin on them. Not necessary, but an effort-saver. These pegs were formed earlier by pounding purpleheart through a dowel plate. Note the slight taper on the left end.
Driving those pegs home! That blur is my hammer. The tapered tip snakes through the offset holes and pulls the joint tight. It should hold well for a long time, and without glue.
For a minute, I forgot to flush cut the pegs on the bottom.
After a little surface prep, I am satisfied with the way this looks.

This is starting to look like a bar!
Bartender's view.