The Promise of Future Projects from the Ghosts of the Past

Once, I’m sure, it would have been regarded as a stunning architectural feature of the Menzies Building, but the original timber ceiling is no longer the flavour of the month and has been replaced with a modern suspended one.

I had a scan of my collection of digital photos taken over the years, and found one that at least gives a small taste of what the ceilings used to be.

timberroof-1Rather than see that timber wasted or worse (such as landfill or burnt), I have been fortunate enough to have a good portion dropped off at my place (yeah, just in time for me to then have to relocate it to the new house!)

While part of the ceiling, the boards are secured together in groups of 3 or 6, with a board nailed across them (bet that was some apprentice’s job!) The majority are 90 x 30mm, and 1.8m in length.


To take them apart, I initially tried a hammer, but decided there was a much better way – the Worx Pro Jawhorse.

By clamping the crossbrace in the jaws, it only takes a little encouragement (and gravity) to neatly separate the two, leaving lengths of very straight, very dry timber.


Just goes to show how stable the Jawhorse is!  And a tonne of clamping force to boot.  From there, the boards got stacked onto a pallet.  I haven’t measured it, but it’d be close to 2 m3.

I used a bit for toy kitchen for my daughter’s Christmas, and there are a fair few projects to come out of this lot.  Can’t wait!  So awesome (and inspiring) having a good collection of timber!


Stop Motion Finishing

An interesting way of demonstrating applying finish to a project. Looks pretty cool! The video primarily demonstrates how the stop-motion was done.

Wish I had that much time on my hands!

Rediscovering tools

Back in the dim depths of the past, when there was still a company called GMC, selling cheap Chinese-made tools, I bought an air compressor.

It was a direct drive, GMC 40L air compressor, and I thought it might be useful in the workshop, but I wasn’t sure – the compressed air for cleaning up sounded promising.  Well that was then.

These days, I am convinced that compressed air is a great resource for any workshop, and even so I am not maximising how much I could use it. I have used it to clean up (compressed air), inflate basketballs, pool toys.  The impact driver to free rusted bolts from reclaimed timber, and nail guns obviously, large and small.

The one tool that came in the various kits of cheap air tools that I have never used is the paint/finish sprayer.  With 30 metres of lattice to paint (15 m double sided), spraying was definitely the method of choice.  My (budget) HVLP paint sprayer was missing the pickup nozzle (haven’t used it for a few years), so decided to try the paint spray attachment. (Similar to the one pictured)


Worked really well – perhaps not surprisingly, but I shouldn’t have been ignoring it for so long – would make an interesting finish applicator.  (I have 2, so one dedicated to paint and one to wood finishes is easy enough to prevent cross-contamination).

It was a hot day, and although I had thinned the paint right down, it became increasingly difficult as the day progressed.  A few blockages as the paint inside the container dried on the walls, then some flaking off blocked the jet.  The paint that I had watered down (thinned for spraying) was trying to form a skin, so I used a kitchen sieve to capture any lumps of paint as I refilled the container.    The 40L air compressor really struggled to keep up – I could have finished the job in half the time (or better) if the compressor had a larger reservoir, and/or refilled faster.

The heat of the day really did play a part, not only on the paint and the tools, but on me as well.  Hydration only goes so far, I needed to keep the sun under control.  A hat is fine, sunscreen as well, but I needed to really get the sun off me, and my solution would have made Ford Prefect proud.

Still, I am impressed with the air compressor – I have shown it no love for the years it has been languishing in the back shed, pumping away without care or maintenance.  The last time I emptied the tank of water condensation, about 20L of water came out!  I am constantly amazed the whole thing hasn’t failed years ago, but it keeps pumping away.  It wasn’t until near the end of the day that I remembered the compressor was still buried in all that sawdust from the failed dust bag.  When it does finally give up the ghost, I will replace it with a serious compressor with a decent reservoir, but until then, it can keep pumping away!

Back to the spraying, and it really got difficult – it was spluttering, bursting (as in a puff of paint, then just air, then paint), and often spraying so little paint that I was painting with air.  It wasn’t until late in the piece that I realised what was happening.  After the first few fills of the container, paint was building around the upper edge and lid, and it became (semi) airtight.  The air was blowing, but without atmospheric air pressure inside the container, no paint was being drawn up!  I solved it temporarily by opening and closing the container regularly, and finished the job, but in the long term it will need a hole drilled.

But despite the setbacks, and the lessons learned, it worked, and the lattice got painted.  And my sprayer finally got commissioned – only been about 10 years!

The Turri Effect

Saw this reposted on Wood Whisperer, and was blown away to put it mildly.  A couple of videos of Michael Turri’s final project for the Mechanical Engineering/Fine Arts program he was doing.


If only the Stanford’s Graduate Design Program concept had been available at Auckland University – this would have been the degree I was looking for!  (I spent so much of my time during my engineering degree haunting the Fine Arts library, and spent many an engineering lecture reading books on photography!)

The first video uses stop motion, combined with a kaleidoscopic effect as Michael has taken 1200 end grain slices through a heavily figured piece of timber (the video depicts approximately 1 inch of timber every 3 seconds), photographing and dressing the end grain each slice.

The second video is a short piece as he developed the concept

You can read more about this on Michael’s website, and on The Wood Whisperer

Goodnight, Sleep Tight

It took pretty much two months to the day to build the cot, given that we were snatching half a day here, half a day there.

Friday evening was the final push, and we just kept at it until all the final issues were solved (making the side rise and fall, how to assemble it, etc etc).  Took us through to about 12:30 at night, but we got it done.  It isn’t sanded and oiled as yet (that’s a job for the expectant father!) and the final bit of time he has before his world becomes somewhat busier!  Looking back at the earliest posts, and we were a bit naive in our predictions on just how long/how many sessions it would take.  Just Friday night was a bit of a marathon – not that it wasn’t a good time, just that tasks always take longer than planned!  3 sessions?  More like 5 or 6 (really lost track!)

But first I’ll back up a bit, for a quick summary / overview, and then with more detail from the assembly of the ends.  As mentioned earlier, the focus was very much on the planning and construction of the cot, rather than documenting the process.

Session one was getting the bed itself made – the surround and base for the mattress.  Everything in the project was made from Tasmanian Oak, and machined down (and out of) large slabs such as seen here:

Tassie Oak Slabs

It was glued up in a later session (clamped up with Frontline clamps), with a rail under the bed supporting the MDF bed base.  This was also drilled with a series of large holes for ventilation.

Bed section clamped up

Session two involved making the slats (and some testing to get the distances between slats right, so it was even over the cot length.  Again, the actual glueup happened in a later session.

Making the slats

All the rail components

We also resawed, dressed and glued up the pine end panels in this session.

End panels

A month then passed while we both had other distractions.

Session three commenced with a glueup of the various sections.  The bed (as seen above), and the rails.

Rails glued up

Each end panel had the 3D routing done, and the rails for the cot ends made.

Session four was time for the legs to be made.  These were each notched so the bed rested firmly on them, transferring the load directly down the legs rather than through a mechanical joint.  A T Track was routed into the two front legs, using a slot-cutting router bit.

By the end of the day (including some extra work done afterwards), the ends were done.  This is where we pick up the story.

After producing the inserts for the ends (10mm thick pine boards, joined to produce a full panel), routing the 3D pattern into each end, it was time to cut them to their final dimension.  The question is, how to use the tablesaw to cut boards with uneven ends.

There are a whole host of methods promoted, sleds that clamp down on the piece, extension tables either built into the tablesaw (or added on, such as the Triton Extension Table) etc.  Actually, speaking of which, the Triton extension table would have been great for this project, if I had somewhere to actually put it!  This project really demonstrated how tight the shed has become. Assembly, and even moving around the larger components was a real problem.  Could really do with another shed, either to spread the overall load, or to use more as a project area / workbench area rather than the actual timber shaping/component construction.

Back to cutting the panel.  The solution I used was to attach a temporary straight-edge to the board, and it ran along the tablesaw fence, so the opposite side could be cut parallel.

Using a straight edge

In this case it was simply a piece of MDF and a couple of screws into what would become waste.  FWIW, I hadn’t set up the saw at this point, changing the blade to a crosscut blade and then replacing the splitter and guard.

The top and bottom rails were dominoed onto these boards (biscuits could have been used), glued and clamped, then the whole assembly glued and clamped to the legs to form the cot ends.  This was done over a number of days (availability of clamps, and time), ready for the final session.

Assembling the panels

Cot ends

(Yes, I know you have just seen this image – as mentioned, I was concentrating a lot more on the build than on documenting the process! Sorry :) )

Session five – our late night marathon to finish.

A bed takes shape!

There was a lot of bolting and unbolting of the ends as we finished off the various components and steps, and the beauty of the cot is it can be flat-packed when no longer needed.  Just with the ends bolted on, the rigidity was obvious.  An extra stringer between the ends would be ideal, but with a combination of bolts and the corners being recessed into the legs is enough.

The back rail was added, again bolted to the bed itself, and with dominos into the legs.  These were left unglued – more than enough strength left just like that.  In time if it proved necessary, a small hole and a piece of dowel inserted through the leg and the domino as a pin would lock them together.

The final job was getting the front rail so it was functional.

At first it was pretty tight – a roof screw running up and down the track.  With quite of bit of trial and error, sanding the track a bit, adding some plastic tube to cover up the exposed screw threads, adjusting the height of the screws so they run cleanly in the track, and finally lubricating the track with Ubeaut Traditional Wax.  Whatever it was (and more likely a combination of them all), it went from being a bit average, to running as well as any commercial solution.  With spring-loaded catches at the top edge that automatically engage when the rail is lifted, the cot was finished (at least as far as my involvement).  Still needs a bit of sanding and oiling, but other than that, a really successful, enjoyable build.


Side dropped to lower position

The final view

So the cot was done – getting it out of the shed was a mission – we took it out assembled, and it was a rather tight fit (leveraging it around the bandsaw).

Getting it into the covered trailer was also interesting.  Another 5mm in leg length (perhaps even less), and it would not have fitted.  Also in length – it was like absolutely built with the trailer dimensions in mind!

So that’s it – another successful project conclusion.  There is always that air of relief, satisfaction, remorse, disbelief when a project is over.  Fortunately, there is always more timber out there, and so many more projects to build!

Pandora’s Lid

One of the big decisions when it comes to completing a box, is deciding on the lid.

I deliberated for quite a while on this one, searching through my timber piles looking for inspiration.  I noted the slice of Brown Mallee Burl a couple of times, sitting on one of the shelves where it has been since about October 2008, but was a little undecided.  I kept coming back to it though, and finally decided this was the project that it was destined for.

It needed some truing up, and for some warp to be removed.  I’ve had it under boards to try to flatten it for almost 4 years, so it was as flat as I could make it, and so a little machining was required.

Truing up the Brown Mallee Burl

I took some care to ensure the sides and back were cut to suit the box, so the two corners of the natural edge met the front corners of the box.  Not being one to throw away timber, even offcuts, the two larger pieces cut off this burl were put back on the shelf, rather than the bin (or worse).

Test of lid sizing

I wanted to preserve the natural edge of the burl, and is the first project that I have done this on.

The next big decision is the hinge.  To hinge or not, that is the question.  I wanted this box to have the lid attached, so hinging it is my best option in this case.  There are still plenty of options – metal, wooden (shop-made) or other.

I went with concealed barrel hinges, which need a couple of holes drilled to fit the hinge.

Laying out the hinges

Using my Incra rule, the holes are laid out precisely, and it is over to the drill press.  An 8mm Colt wood boring drill bit is used (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) as is the drill press laser to ensure the holes are exactly where I want them.

Fitting the concealed hinges

Here you can see a couple of the concealed hinges, as well as the laser cross hairs.  The Colt bit is particularly suited for this job, drilling clean and straight, with the double helix guiding the bit.

Once the holes were cut, I needed some beading around the edge of the lid.  This was needed for two reasons.  One, I wanted to break up the line of the lid, so it wasn’t a simple straight piece of timber (irrespective how good it looks). Secondly, I knew the lid was too thin for the hinges, and the holes would be right through the lid, so the beading was needed to disguise the holes.

Turns out it was a really good thing I kept the offcuts!

Shaping the beading

I looked at, and even tried a few different router bit (and their profiles), but in the end decided to go with one that cuts rounded beads on the upper surface.  I chose a router bit height that cut three beads, then transferred the timber to the tablesaw to cut that beading off.  These were all then taken over to the drum sander and the thin material carriage.  They were passed through a number of times until I achieved a thickness I wanted for the beading.

Cutting mitres

The beading was to look continuous around the outside, so it made sense to mitre the back corners to 45o.

Laying out the beading

I didn’t want beading across the front, so chose to end it as the burl became sapwood.

Ending the beading was a real debate, and I decided to have it chamfered at 45o.

Achieving that would be interesting.  For one, the beading is pretty thin, and narrow.  It is also a bit fragile (being burl).  The solution came to me – using a tool that I have where I want to control the angle of something as it is being ground – namely a blade sharpening jig!

I chose to use the Alisam, but could have done this with any of the blade sharpening jigs.

Creating a chamfer

Once again, you can never have too many clamps!

Gluing on the beading

This was done very carefully, so the beading didn’t slip as the clamping pressure was applied.

The lid finished

Once the lid was glued up, it was time to apply a finish.  This was done very simply, with a few coats of wood oil wiped on.  This is a combination of Tung Oil and a few others, and a drier.

Makes a lot of difference!

The lid, finished

H.O. Studley Tool Chest

I was sure I had posted about the Studley tool chest in the past, so sorry if this isn’t new (but a search of the site didn’t turn anything up!)

Henry Studley was a piano maker from the late 1800s (1838-1925), who is still famous today, not so much for his pianos and organs, but for the magnificent tool chest he made that houses over 300 tools in a 40″x20″ case (closed).

Photo from Fine Woodworking Magazine

There is a poster that sell of the Studley case, and I had it on my iPhone as a screen saver for a long time (although the details are a little hard to see!)  What the poster does not reveal is the magnificent details of drawers and hinged sections, sliding shelves within the drawers etc.

Thanks to IS for linking me to a video by the New Yankee Workshop, we can get to see the real detail that a static photo hides.

And for those particularly interested, Lost Art Press (aka Chris Schwarz and co) are coming out with a book in 2013 specifically about the chest.

Anyone prepared to draw the unit in Sketchup?!

This Land

“This is fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it….This Land.”
Hoban “Wash” Washburne – Firefly

Found these model kits in the Reject shop, and at $5 for the larger two, and $2 for the smaller one they seemed too good to pass up.


They are very cleanly cut, but with no burn marks. I suspect it has been done by water jet, as it is so fine and without the telltale burn marks.

I got them with the idea to see if they can be used as templates to duplicate. They look pretty cool even so. Might end up having a couple on my desk at work (aka, like Wash- character from Firefly). I already have a pteranodon and a tyrannosauaurus rex I made from a dinosaurs you can make book.


One day I want to make one or two of these sorts of models to 6′ to 8′ in size for an unusual Christmas display. In the meantime, I have these models to work out how to duplicate:) (Not to sell)


“Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
Wash – Firefly

Jan to Feb Project

I’m sure we have all done it: started a project, had it drag out a bit, such as starting one early Jan, and still be completing it late Feb. Same here. Started this project in early Jan….2011! And only now getting close late Feb 2012. Not a hard project either, just been getting bounced around, bypassed, forgotten, rediscovered, and, well procrastination personified!

A year ago, the board looked like this (as a conceptual layout)


Since then (and all only just recently), I’ve made some progress.

Step one was taking the slab that had an initial rough sanding on the Torque Workcentre and giving it a good flattening sand.

Best tool I have for that is the BS105E, otherwise known as the Festool beast – a 105mm, 6.5kg $1500 belt sander. Yeah, still blows my mind too that a belt sander can be worth that much. Beautiful tool to use though. It has the sled that allows the sander to be floated over the surface, either aggressively cutting to the full depth of the paper grit, or raised so high that only the tips of the abrasive is impacting the surface. Typically, you use it somewhere in between!


The shear weight of the sander means you only have to guide the sander where you want it to work. No additional downward pressure required at all.

The surface at this stage was already becoming alive. Perhaps it is the natural oils in the Huon Pine burnishing the surface with the sanding, but it looks like it doesn’t need an actual finish! Doesn’t mean I won’t, but what that finish is will need a little research.

Onto a final sand, this time the ETS150/5, sanding up to 320 grit.


Possibly a bit out of order, bit it was then onto the tablesaw to trim up the ends. Given the slab has two natural edges, and two non straight edges, I used a sled to carry the slab through the tablesaw to get the first straight edge. The Incra Mitre Express worked well in this case.

Once the first edge was cut, this then was placed against the fence to cut the second edge parallel. The final two edges I’ve always intended to be left natural.

20120215-224621.jpg (Guard removed for photo).

Next, taking a holesaw, a cavity was cut for the steam pressure gauge. It was a little undersized (not having exactly the right sized tool). Getting it sized correctly only took a few short minutes on the spindle sander.

The brass items needed a real clean and polish.

With a can of what anyone in the military would be well familiar with (Brasso), each of the parts were given a good polish. Perhaps not to military spec, but I didn’t want them to be completely deprived of their history/age. Not sure where my before & after photos are- still in the camera I suspect! Will post them later.

I then tried my layout again. 12 (13?) months since I last laid it out, and it has become more refined. I have also finally figured out how to attach the cartridges, and other odd shaped items to the board. Time to source some copper wire.

Anyway, this is looking like it might be a layout I’m happy with. Now to bring it home, and finally finish a project off!

20120215-231511.jpg (Taken on my iPhone, so sorry if the colour balance is a bit off!)

Painting with Fire

I had a bit of a play yesterday with the Hot Wire pyrography set, rather than just abstract scribbles I tried to be a bit more serious and actually create something.

This is my first attempt- it isn’t very good (especially compared to those out there who have years of experience), but still, it is quite interesting painting with fire. It is not just charring the timber- you are right at the point of ignition of the timber.


I used a couple of pens, so I didn’t have to keep changing the nibs. I’m going to do a bit of an edit to the tool as well, so there are two plugs for the pens rather than just one, as I was finding changing from one to the other that everything felt a little flimsy, and if I kept doing it, one day something would break. So if I add a second plug point, and a switch so I could choose which pen was heated, then this will no longer be a problem.


The speed that the pen heats is excellent- no real waiting around for it at all- 10 seconds maximum from switching on to having it at working temp. Also means varying the tip temperature is very responsive as well, and at the end of a session, the pen doesn’t remain hot and a fire hazard for long either.

When you crank the temp up (800C or so), you really are painting with fire!


Quite fun all up, and something I can do without treking out to the shed if I don’t want.

Now I just have to get one of those computer controlled lasers (or a small CNC machine and give it the pen to hold rather than a router). Hmm- wonder what a computer plotter costs- give it the hot poker rather than its normal pen!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,577 other followers

%d bloggers like this: