Woodworking Blog

This is the collection area of all of the writings I've made that pertain to woodworking in its various forms.

First Woodwork in Six Months

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As you can tell from my posts here, I've not taken much time to woodwork the last few months. We were disappointed in March by our inability to get a mortgage. The banks changed the rules on us and will basically not allow us to buy a house this year. That disappointment and the fact that I'm stuck again in a temporary home shop caused me to, albeit temporarily, give up on the whole idea of working wood in my home.

Ikea four drawer cabinet converted into a stained-glass storage cabinetBut the last few weeks I've been hankerin' for some sawdust on my hands. Adriana gave me a concrete excuse this past Friday by asking that I 'repurpose' an old Ikea dresser. It seems fitting, no, to re-establish some woodworking skills by tearing apart and rebuilding a piece built by the custom woodworker's scourge of the North? I'll need to post a full project page, although it's not really much of a project. Still, it resulted in a custom piece of furniture that just exactly meets the needs of someone in our house.

My wife is a really talented worker in glass. She's made quite a few pieces in stained glass, and she's developed almost as large a collection of glass as I have collected wood. Currently, she's storing it, wrapped in paper, and piled in cardboard boxes. Needless to say, this makes it hard to know what she has and harder still to make design decisions. This kind of shelving is quite common in stained glass supply houses. It's not meant to be pretty, but functional, and she seems quite happy with its function.

Project page: Glass Cabinet Conversion from Ikea Chest of Drawers

First up in New Shop - the Bench Legs

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After moving our entire house (and my shop) during the last four months, I've finally got my shop set up well enough to be usable. So I pulled out the parts for the bench and started working on the legs. You can see that I'm finally taking the time to work out the dimensions for the Benchcrafted wagon vice. I'll figure out the leg vice later. I had the legs and vices stored under the planer, since it's about the only tool in the shop so far with the rolling base installed. Since the photos, I've pulled out the legs and dimensioned them for length and width.  I still need to fix the depth. The front two legs will be nearly square, but the back two will not be as deep. It's a simple and practical matter of the available stock. The front legs will be 5" x 4 7/8". the back legs will be 5" by 4".

After agonizing for a while, trying to figure out how to fit the wagon vice around the front leg of the bench, I finally noticed a line in the instructions that let me off the hook . . . "These instructions do not match the way that Chris Schwartz installed the vice on his famous workbench. HIs slot is moved toward the back of the bench by several inches so the vice and dogs will not interfere with the front leg." There you have it. It's allowed. The Schwartz has spoken. :-)

Reworking bench dimensions and legs

Moved to the New House, Shop Starting to Take Shape

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I haven't posted much on the site the last four months. In late May, we were still under the impression that we were going to be buying a house here in Roswell and moving into it in early June. But then the fucked over banking system in the U.S. stepped in and told us,

"Nope, you aren't allowed to get a house. Yeah, we know your credit is fine and you've both got great jobs and all, and your kids are in the local schools, but, you see . . . a couple years back . . . you remember when we tanked the global economy?  Yeah, funny thing . . . you know how when we did that, your former employer laid you off, and the home you bought in Florida for a reasonable price back before we engineered that housing price bubble? Well, since you had to move to Atlanta to find work, and you ended up not being able to find a buyer. (No . . no, you're right, we weren't loaning money to ANYBODY then to buy a house . . . bygones.) Right. That time. Well, see, we won't loan to anybody if they have a short sale on the books for at least two years. Well, honestly, most of us say three years, but a few might do it in two.  Honestly, Mr. Oyster, I really don't see the need for such language!  Well, I never! Sir, you must calm down!  What are you doing with that file?  What the heck is a rasp?! No, you are not sticking that anywhere!  No, really . . . I think I'll be leaving.  NO. Stay back! AAAUGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!"

The new basement shop from the half stair up to the garageYeah. So we're in another rental property for at least another year.  We scrambled to find a house in the same school district, so it wasn't a long distance move. But still, I had to move my whole shop. It's taken me three months just to get started putting everything back together. After about 3 weeks of work, I finally have the basics of a shop again.  It's cramped, because the new house has the garage in the basement, so about half as much storage space. AND, since we're probably going to have to move again in 9 months, I don't have the energy to try to set things up in any permanent fashion. So here we are. The basement is a split level, with the shop floor down a flight of stairs from the garage. This is a shot looking down from the basement garage level into the shop. The best part of the new place? The house is on a steep hill, so this 'two floors down' basement has a great view out into the wooded back yard. The worst part? The shop floor is basically 30 feet below street level. There is no way I'm going to try to move my chop saw station and band saw down there, only to have to drag it back up that hill in less than a year.

Design Details on Armoire Doors

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Basic side door as originally designedNow that I've managed to complete the assembly of the main case, I can't put it off any longer. As you may have noticed from the Rev 17 armoire sketchup file, I didn't have any details entered for the construction of the front and side doors. I have to figure out the joinery and the final design elements for these four pieces before I can proceed. Here is the basic design as I had it when I began construction of the cabinet, almost 3 years ago . . .

As you can see, it is a simple mortise and tenon constructed panel door, with the only link to the rest of the design being the choice of sycamore as the primary material, and the small door handle in cherry. It seemed just a bit too plain, but I also didn't want to overwhelm the piece by putting in too much fussy detail on the sides. Then there was the other problem . . . where to place the hinges.

The hinges at the back are simple, I'll just mortise in a pair of nice bruso hinges to the rear of the door and the back edge of the back legs. Having the cylinder of the hinge sticking out the back of the piece doesn't bother me at all. I don't really want the hassle of trying to learn how to install knife hinges at this point, and clearance when the doors are open isn't really a big deal.  But on the front doors, the hinges and the clearances when the doors open is a very big deal. I realized that my original design runs the front doors all the way out the edges of the front legs. When these doors are open, if I try to open the doors past 90 degrees, the front door itself will run into the front edge of the side doors. So I had to rethink it a bit. I'm still going to keep the hinge choice simple on the front doors, so I'm going to need clearance on the sides of the front doors so the hinge barrels don't interfere with the side doors.

New design for the side doorI finally opted for two fairly small changes to the design of the side doors, but I think they help refine the overall look. First I added a vertical mullion (or munton, or "stick' is what I believe Tom Fidgen calls them on his design) to the side door. I actually added the idea because the model of the handle I pulled from the front doors already had a little slot cut for the vertical stick that exists in the front door design. Since I simply copied this handle design over to the side door in Sketchup, the handle already had this slot. So I decided to keep the slot and add a vertical stick as a design accent.

New details of the side door on the jewelry armoire

Jewelry Armoire - Built and fit last two drawers

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Closer view of the ten drawers fitted to the caseIt took something like four months, but I finally finished cutting all of the dovetails for the 10 drawers on this project. The pictures here show the drawers in place, not stained or anything, so the color variations of the cherry are still very apparent. I'm going to have to tear down my shop for the move next month very soon. So I don't know how much more of this project I'll get finished before I have to rebuild the whole work environment. This is quickly becoming a contender for my longest build ever. But, boy, am I glad to have the dovetails done. Overall, my dovetails are a solid journeyman's job. If I had to grade the quality of all 10 drawers right now, I'd give myself a B minus.

10 drawers dry fit and bit to the case in the Jewelry Armoire project

Built drawers #7 & 8 for Adri's cabinet

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Cabinet with seventh and eighth drawers installedI've decided that I'm going to finish this cabinet before we move in June or die trying. I finished two more drawers this past weekend. I've gotten into a rhythm with this. I now think of each drawer as a four step process.

  1. Cut and clean up the tails

  2. Cut and fit the back of the drawer using through dovetails

  3. Cut and fit the front of the drawer using half blinds. Fit the bottom

  4. Fit the completed dry-fit drawer into the case

So, I'm currently 8 1/4 done with the drawers. As soon as I fit the back of drawer nine, I'll be in Fellini territory. (Obscure film history reference there . . . ) It's appropriate, since this project is driving me nuts.

Drawer #6

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Built and fit the sixth drawer to the case on Sunday. My chisels and block plane are getting dull, so I've pulled out the water stones and am about halfway through sharpening them. I probably should have sharpened the chisels about two drawers ago, but . . . .you know how it goes.

Finished the four hammer/mallet brackets

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Hammers and mallet mounted in left door of the wall tool cabinetI pushed and finished all four of the 'hammer' mounts last night. This meant mounting the Blue Spruce round mallet and the Warrington hammer (i.e. cross-peen hammer).  I actually took a picture of the finished brackets this time. I sped this whole process up by using the band saw much more. Basically, I took a 3" thick piece of some wood or other from the farm, cut it to width on the bandsaw, figured out where the hole should be for the tool. I used the drill press to cut the holes into the block, but not all of the way through. Then I cut a curve out of the bottom half of the block so I don't have to go through so much material with the mounting screws. This has the secondary effect of opening up the tool holder opening I just drilled in the top of the block.

Hammers and mallet mounted in left door of the wall tool cabinet

Added Hammer mounts

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In the last couple of days, I've managed to sneak in some time to build a couple more tool fixtures for my wall hanging tool cabinet. I haven't grabbed any photos of it yet. I'll take one as soon as I get all four of my primary woodworking hammers mounted. So far, I have my el cheapo rubber tipped hammer mounted in a bracket at the bottom of the left door. I use that one for horsing out mortises and with my cheaper chisels for taking out the waste from around dovetails. And I also have a bracket installed for my bright orange dead-blow hammer.  I still have the Blue Spruce wooden round mallet to mount, and my Warrington hammer. They're all going to be tightly packed near the bottom of the inside of the left door.

Report from the Science Expo

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To get ready for the science expo, I wired the timer to the track in a semi-permanent way, then I helped Liam run a series of timing runs on the track.  This was my opportunity to walk through the scientific method with him. It was a bit tricky to do it in a way that a second grader can understand. For instance, although Liam is in an advanced math program, he is only now starting to work on the concepts of fractions. Decimals are not even on the horizon yet. So I needed to figure out a way that he could report all of the results in whole numbers. This did require me to explain the idea of milliseconds, but he got that readily enough. So we measured the mass of the car in grams, and the times in milliseconds.  He had no trouble seeing 1.042 seconds and writing down 1042 ms.

Liam's display at the 2014 science expoWe did five runs of the car at each mass. For the mass variable, I mounted a small box lid on the top of his car. Luckily, his car design has a flat top. This way, we were able to change the mass of the vehicle without significantly changing the aerodynamic cross section of the car as it travels down the track. I didn't expect him to understand the various complexities of what is actually going on to determine the time of the car, from rolling friction to air resistance to potential and kinetic energy. Nor did we go into Galileo and the Newtonian laws of motion. Keeping his attention on this for even 20 minutes at a time over several sessions was hard enough. I just asked him for his hypothesis. Would a light car go faster or slower than a heavier car? He thought a lighter car would go faster. So that's where we started. 

Liam showing off the timer at the science expo

Attached Timer to the Track

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I had to get the Arduino timer mounted on the track so Liam can run some tests for his science expo before this weekend.  Wednesday, I drilled holes in the sides of the track at 25cm from the top and 30cm from the bottom to mount the 'light beam' LEDs on the right side and the photoresistor sensors on the left side (as you look from the top of the track to the bottom.) Used hot glue to position the LEDs in the holes. Then I powered the LEDs so I could see exactly where the beam of light hit the opposite rail. That's when I drilled the holes for the sensors. Then I hot glued the sensors in place.

Since I need to get Liam to do his measurements soon, I just wired the LEDs into the breadboard to feed the Arduino inputs using jury rigged wires for now. It's not pretty, but it works. I ran his pinewood derby car down the track and took the first measurement at about midnight last night! Yay!  :-) 

I'm getting approximately 1.036 seconds for it to run with no extra weight, plus or minus about 0.006 seconds. I repeated the run about 15 times and got readings from around 1.029 to 1.042 seconds. Not too shabby.

Pinewood Derby Car #1

Timer Prototype Finished

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February 19, 2014 - OK, I first posted on this project a couple of days ago. I've got a short window to get this working. Liam's science expo is on March 7th, and I need to complete the track (with attached timer) in time so Liam and I can run a set of experiments. So late last night, I managed to finish the prototype of the Arduino timer I plan to mount to the side of the test track. It's all breadboarded now, and I'll probably just use the prototype to run the timing for Liam. After we get some results on paper, I'll worry about turning this into a sturdy version permanently attached to the side of the track.

Layout of the prototypeThe hardware work was basically done last week. I just needed to figure out the update to the sketch to figure out how to trigger the timing code using the inputs from the two photo-resistor sensors.  The picture here shows the prototype board, as it's currently working. Click the image to enlarge it.

Timer with LCD and two LED/photoresistor pairs to detect start and stop times, with Sketch#30 running

Arduino Stopwatch timer for Science expo project

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My son Liam is doing a Science expo project. It's sort of like a science fair, but in second grade they don't do judging. It's just a demonstration, and he'll get a participation ribbon. I don't really care about that, I just want him to start learning the scientific method.

He came up with a great idea. He wanted to put an ice cube in a frying pan and watch it dance around. I tried to work with him on that idea, but I realized two problems:

  1. There wasn't really a hypothesis he wanted to test. It was really just to watch something cool. I certainly don't object to that. Wanting to see something cool is at the heart of science. Plus, a demonstration of a concept is a valid topic for the expo, (not quite sure what the exact concept would be here) . . . BUT
  2. Hot frying pan in an auditorium filled with 7 year olds. Not going to happen.

Liam's first attempt at a Pinewood Derby Car. It's supposed to have a Minecraft theme. (He tends to be fairly abstract in his artwork.)I kind of steared him to do something related to our last project, which was the pinewood derby car he and I built for the Cub Scouts. 

Drawer Construction: Drawer #4 & #5

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February 14-16, 2014 -It just takes a long time to complete a project when you're a perfectionist and you're not that good. :-)

Drawer #5 dry fit in the middle of sizing it to fit the caseThis past weekend, I completed the dovetails on drawers #4 and #5 of the jewelry armoire project. I dry fit them, installed the drawer bottoms, and fit them to the case. That's the state in which I'm leaving each of the drawers for the moment. Working from the top of the case to the bottom, each set of dovetails gets to be a bigger job. Drawer #5 is the first with three tails on each corner.

Quality-wise, Drawer #4 was a disaster. One of the half blind corners was a fairly good job, initially, but then to get the final fit without blowing out the front, I ended up butchering one of the two tails. Driving the tails in when they're just a bit too tight ends up cracking the front of the drawer face, since I've only left about an eighth of an inch in front of these half-blinds; it can be a risky operation. Sanding down the ends of the tails slightly just prior to driving them into the drawer fronts has turned out to be a prudent step.

Drawer #5, on the other hand, turned out pretty good. Four solid corners without any major gaps in the joints. Practice does help.   --- Latest photos

Cabinet with four drawers fitted