One surface to protect them all

One surface to resist glue, One surface to deny it
One surface to protect the rest and save your machines besides
In the Land of the Shed, where the glue resides

The Wood River Silicone Bench Mat from Professional Woodworkers Supplies is the solution to a problem you forgot you had.  I know – seems strange, why solve a problem you didn’t remember?

The fact is, there are a number of activities in the shed that would cause problems if not dealt with, and we normally resort to a variety of make-shift solutions, that this simple 18″x24″ silicone bench mat solves.

First one – glue-ups.  You have a workbench that is used for a myriad of activities, including glueups, but the one thing you don’t want to do is drip glue all over it.  And more importantly, you don’t want to inadvertently glue your project to it!

In steps the silicone bench mat.  Problem solved.

silicone-3

 

Glue will not stick to the surface.  Any glue that dries on the surface peels straight off.  Cleanup is simple, and the project will not become a permanent fixture either.  You can still use your good workbench (or your tablesaw!) for glueups, without risking the glue wrecking things, or sticking objects to one another that were not meant to be joined.

The silicone mat is also good as a non-slip surface, waterproof and oilproof, and with a couple of mm thickness, makes it a good surface to sand or plane on, or sharpen on as a couple of examples.

If you want to protect a larger area, a couple of overlapping mats works well, as the overlapping area doesn’t slip (easily).

Back to gluing for a second (and it doesn’t just have to be gluing).  Do you use a machine for some operations where glue, or a finish is easily dripped or flung off?  For example, using CA glue on the lathe (such as when pen turning), or applying oil to a moving surface.  The silicone mat can be used to protect the surface of the machine (or floor).

silicone-2

Here the mat is protecting the bed of the lathe, as a CA glueup is completed.  It is also very useful when doing the polishing step, as the micro mesh acrylic sanders drip a lot of water onto the cast iron lathe bed – not a good idea.

I think Wood River could take the whole concept further, developing a small range of products from the material, including a shop apron particularly suited to very messy operations.

It is not only messy operations where the mat excels. As a soft, forgiving surface it is ideal for machine maintenance, such as changing blades.  Items put on the mat tend not to roll around or slip off, and the amount of give in the surface protects tools dropped on it.  Here, a blade change is operation is enhanced – the table top is protected from scratches, while the tungsten carbide teeth are protected from being chipped and damaged on the hard CI surface.

silicone-1

I’m seriously starting to think that just one of these mats is not enough.  2, even 3 would not go astray in a workshop for all the different roles they can perform.

I don’t think the mats are listed on PWS’ website yet – contact Grahame for their availability – sure it won’t take long, especially if there is a bit of interest shown!

One Sharpening Station to Rule Them All

Dropped past Carbatec today, and on the front counter was a solution to end all solutions for the sharpening station

The Tormek TS-740 Sharpening Station

Photo 19-02-2014 9 26 34

Drool.  Seriously.

The website spiel covers the basics:

Height 750-830mm, width 578mm, depth 390 mm

Moisture proof composite worktop
Centralised key locking
Scratch resistant metallic surface
Drawers to fit Tormek kits
Auto-return soft close drawer function
Aluminium handles
Fully extendable drawers
Holes for hooks
Adjustable legs for comfortable working height
Rubber feet to protect the floor

But what a way to keep all the accessories organised, protected, easily to hand (and looking cool!)

getdata.do getdata2.do getdat2a.do

 

Saving some electrons

So I got a little motivated reading Schwarz – it sounds so easy, all this hand planing etc.

Got out the hand planes, and my DMT diamond whetstones, and sharpened my plane irons.  I used the camber roller on the Veritas Mk II to produce a slightly rounded front edge (according to Chris, this is good for Jack Planes for heavy stock removal).

DMT Diamond Stones

From left to right, the plates are the Extra-extra coarse, the extra coarse/coarse (double sided), the fine/extra fine (double sided) and the Extra-extra fine DMT whetstones.

The extra-extra coarse is a ripper – the rate of metal removal is impressive, and it takes next to no time to get the blade to the shape you want, even when it has been used for other purposes (opening paintcans is a pretty typical activity for an abused chisel!)

The extra-extra fine gives that mirror finish.  The other four grades allow you to work through each, as is good sharpening practice.  As much as I don’t mind the double-sided concept, I would really prefer to have each grade the same physical size as the larger two I have, and ideally single sided.  The cost is really in the diamonds, not the base material.

The larger size is ideal for something like the Veritas Honing Jig, especially with the larger plane blades I sharpen.

The other secret about diamond plates is they actually get better with use.  Yeah, weird, but it is a fact never the less.  DMT plates have very consistent diamond size – nothing like a rogue diamond to scratch the hell out of your otherwise finished blade edge, so a quality plate avoids that danger.

Camber Roller

You can’t see it in this photo (didn’t have the right lens with me) but there is now a very mild camber to this blade, stopping the corners from digging in while ripping off massive amounts of the surface of the timber.

I needed to clamp up the piece of Camphor Laurel I had chosen for the exercise, and needed some more dog holes.  While marking these up, I discovered just how warped the surface of my workbench was.  That might explain a few things I’d been experiencing.  Not sure what I will do about it (if anything).  Problem will be solved by making my own workbench (one day).

I chose the Camphor Laurel as it had been resawn with the chainsaw jig on the Torque Workcentre, and had quite significant ridging – a perfect candidate for a Jack Plane.

Ridging

Ignoring the step (this being the other side of the board fwiw), these were the ridges I wanted to see disappear.

Started off with the Jack Plane, and really couldn’t get anything happening.  Just isn’t right – something not working.  Then I remembered reading something in the Anarchist’s Tool Chest about Chris talking about using the Jack Plane across grain – the fibres being weaker in that direction.  Sure enough, that worked a treat, and great swaths of timber came flying off.

Shavings

From there, I moved onto the trying plane to create a flat surface.  With the long bed, it rides on top of the ridges so they get cut down until such time as you get full-length shavings. (These were performed with the grain, rather than across)

It was about this point that I was really discovering that hand tools are:

1. lubricated with perspiration (it is quite labour-intensive!)

2. more involved that you’d expect – a powered tool that takes 1000 cuts/minute (or more correctly 16000 – 40000 (2 flutes on a router bit running at 20000 RPM) is quite different to a blade skimming along the surface at a fixed attack angle.  You can get away (easily) with a (comparatively) blunt blade on a powered tool, whereas a hand tool needs to be razor-sharp.  Imagine how impressive a powered tool would be with the sharpness of a handtool.  Required motor power would be so much less, finish significantly high.

3.  slow, and take a lot of physical effort.  And quiet.  Power tools are noisy, and produce a lot of wood dust along with fine wood shavings (the result of thousands of tiny cuts, rather than one long cut).

Smoothing cuts

Then moved onto the smoothing plane.  This is quite a bit shorter, and is designed to take fine shaving cuts, leaving a smooth finish.  When properly tuned, the finish can be shiny, providing a mirror finish.

So I got a semblance of a result.  A bit too scalloped out of the middle – must have concentrated a bit much effort there.  Not sure whether it was harder than expected, but it does go to show that even if you are very proficient with powered tools, that knowledge does not readily transfer.  Gives one a real respect for those who live with handtools (or had no choice through the ages).

Need another woodshow so I can pick Terry Gordon’s brain about the basics again!  Using handtools to prepare a board – one of the new show demos for TWWWS 2013!  I’d sit in for that :)

When less is more

A recent release from Woodpeckers, this new square is of significant size.

Woodpeckers Mini Square

Woodpeckers Mini Square

Significantly small that is!  When so many other items work to convince you that bigger is better, this goes the other way and proclaims “less is more”

As with other Woodpeckers squares, this is guaranteed square (and to stay square for the gauge’s lifetime) to 0.001″

You may notice inside the stylish container, that Woodpeckers products are made in the USA, and that not only being small, it has decent width.  One use of the gauge is for checking that a sharpened chisel is square to the sides, and that width makes it easier to align the gauge with the chisel edge.

Checking a chisel is square

Checking a chisel is square

This is not the only use for this gauge, as given its small size it can easily get into small spaces (such as a small box or drawer), and check for square.  That ability to fit into small spaces isn’t something to undervalue – resorting to folding a piece of paper to create a makeshift square will not achieve 0.001″ accuracy!

Available in Oz from Professional Woodworkers Supplies for under $40.

 

Steak Knives, Take Two

When I first made some scales for the steak knife set (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) about a year ago, things were going well until almost the final step when excessive tearout occurred when the roundover bit got a tad aggressive. That project has been set aside for a little longer than I expected (or realised when I looked at the date of the first effort!). So time to try again. I’m not sure if this specific set is still available, but there are plenty of other knife projects available here.

Unhandled knife kit

I didn’t take a photo of the knife kit again this time, so have recycled the first photo here. Now on with the new attempt (and yes, there is a more successful conclusion!)

To start, I have a new timber for the blanks (for a bit of variety!) This time the handles will be black hearted sassafras. The blanks have been roughly sized, and ready to be machined accurately.

I have improved the method I use to sand thin stock on the drum sander by making a sled.

Thin stock sled for the drum sander

With a piece of MDF, I have attached a thin fence to one edge with a couple of 4mm dominos.

Thin stock sled in operation

The sled carries the blanks in and through the sander – the increased area of the base works well with the sander to ensure no slippage occurs when the blanks impact the sanding drum, decreasing any chance of snipe or burning. These were sanded to 8.2mm to match the knife bolster.

Next, cut an angle on one end to match the knife blank. In this case, 36 degrees, which is easily done using the Incra Mitre Gauge HD, and even better when coupled up with the Mitre Express.

HD Gauge from Incra

Mitre Express

The Mitre Express makes machining small items safer, and minimising tearout.

Knife Scales

The resulting knife scales ready for the next stage. I needed to drill 3.5mm holes, but found my drill bit that size had the end snapped off from a previous job. So for a bit of a diversion, off to the Tormek and the drill bit sharpener jig.

Tormek DBS-22

This jig quickly turned the broken tip of the bit back into a well-formed, razor sharp bit, better than new (originally a 2 facet bit – this jig allows you to develop 4 facets on the tip).

Preparing the scale for drilling

With double-sided tape, I attached one scale to the knife, then the second scale to the first. This allows me to drill both sides simultaneously, and any breakout can be minimised.

Drilling the blank

After drilling, I drew around the handle, then detached the knife. After roughing down on the bandsaw, I sanded right to the line using a combination of the disk sander and spindle sander.

The scales are then glued to either side of the knife, and the pins inserted. They are longer than necessary, and get cut and sanded to size once the glue sets.

Handles ready for final shaping and finishing

The knives were then returned to the disk and spindle sanders to finalise the shape.

From there, I used a random orbital sander to sand all sides, and round over the edges (done with the ROS held upside down in one hand, and the knife handle bought to the sander). After a while I decided the microcuts were becoming a bit excessive, so finished the job wearing a kevlar carver’s glove.

You may notice the knife bolsters are no longer polished – while shaping some of the bolsters got damaged unfortunately, so it was better to have them all sanded evenly to match. It may look a bit exaggerated in the photo, but ok in reality. Not the preferred result, but such is life.

The knives have already been used a couple of times – it is rather cool using a knife you’ve made the handle for, and the knives themselves are heavy, very sharp and slice steak to perfection.

Forgot to mention – they were finished simply by rubbing them down with Ubeaut Foodsafe Plus mineral oil. This is ideal for chopping boards, salad bowls, and of course, knife handles.

Finished knives


(just reread this post the following morning- I really shouldn’t write entries at 2am: so many typos, including the title. “Sneak knives”. Either that is autocorrect gone mad, or I have!

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season……

You are deep into a sharpening session on your water-cooled sharpener, and the next job would be best done with the wheel turning towards the edge, rather than away from it. What do you do? What DO you do? I know what I do – compromise! I know the T7 (in my case) weights 14kg, plus around 3kg in water (the wheel soaks up about 2kg, and there is an additional in the waterbath). I could pick it up and spin it around, then back again for each job, but I don’t.

And I am not the only one. In fact, it must be rather common as Tormek have come up with the RB-180. A rotating base for their sharpeners.

RB-180 from Tormek

It is specifically designed for the Tormek footprint, and has rubber feet so the complete unit doesn’t start slipping around on the bench. I have found there can be a little movement between the sharpener and the rotating base. I may put down something a bit more anti-slip, but I didn’t notice it causing me a problem during my first sharpening session since putting the new base under my sharpener.

The rotating base has a very low profile – particularly important for those people who have already taken the time to ensure their sharpeners are set at the optimum height.

Underside

Looking at the underside for a sec, and you see those rubber feet, and the lock for the rotation. Also the cross reinforcing to provide stiffness.

Fitting Simplicity

Fitting the base is just a bit easy – pick up sharpener, put down the RB-180 (with the lock facing the front), place the sharpener on top. Done deed.

Simple push down on the locking lever, and spin the Tormek around.

Turning

Turning…

Done

So a useful addition, particularly for the 17kg (wet weight) Tormek T7. It has been a while since I’ve seen this side of the sharpener – looks like it is due for some dusting!

I took the splash guard off for this, as where I have the T7 there isn’t a lot of room, and therefore even more reason for the new base. Check out http://www.promac.com.au for more information and to find an authorised dealer near you.

Diamonds are a Tool’s Best Friend

Diamonds.

Pure carbon, but not something that is going to upset the greenies, or the skeptics.

The hardest natural element known, it can only be scratched by other diamonds (a simplification, but good enough for our application).  It is not the toughest substance known – good compared to other gemstones, but not as good compared to many engineering materials.  However, it is this hardness that we are particularly interested in for tools – when sharpening, you are scratching the surface (which is where diamonds excel) with increasing finer grades, until a mirror polish is achieved.  If a diamond does fracture, it reveals another facet, and continues to do what it does best.

A diamond whetstone then is a powerful sharpening tool in the workshop.  Unlike other sharpening surfaces, a diamond whetstone actually gets better with use.  Cool huh!

DMT are my preferred diamond product company – they have some innovative products, and use a serious manufacturing process which binds a quality diamond in a high concentration, with a very consistent diamond size – important in sharpening situations (you don’t want deep random scratches from a rogue diamond).

Interestingly, it seems they have not continued with their fine ceramic stone – that always confused me from a diamond specialist company. (Or perhaps it just wasn’t listed on the handout included with my latest shop addition)

So their line up of grades is now:

Extra-extra coarse 120 micron

Extra coarse 60 micron

Coarse 45 micron

Fine 25 micron

Extra fine 9 micron

Extra-extra fine 3 micron

From there, you get into the pastes (and not something I’ve tried), which comes in a 6 micron, 3 micron and 1 micron grade.

They have DiaSharp stones, folding whetstones (plastic covers), Wavy plates (used to match the internal and external radius of curved tools, such as gouges, and the Aligner for kitchen and pocket knives (including serrated blades).

Not everyone wants to use diamond for sharpening, and that is a perfectly acceptable perspective.  I personally like the very soft, yielding surface of the japanese waterstone.  Others are fans of oil stones, or Arkansas stones, or ceramics.  All of these will wear unevenly because of what they are made from, and to get the sharpest surface, you need a flat sharpening surface.

You might use the sandpaper technique – a piece mounted on a sheet of plate glass to produce a flat surface and rub the stone on that.  Or another technique is to rub two stones together.  But there is another solution, and it will be of no surprise, it is a DMT diamond solution.

The latest product from DMT is the Dia-Flat Lapping Plate.  Each plate is hand checked and certified as being flat to +/- 0.0005″ (+/- 0.01mm).  It is the same as an extra-extra coarse stone, but with extra focus on its flatness, and a stripped back to fundamental design to come up with a bonding process to ensure the stone is durable enough to cope with the torture of flattening other stones (oil and water stones).  That inflicts some serious punishment, and this is a stone that laps that sort of punishment up (yeah, a very intended pun!)

At 10″ x 4″, it is an uncompromising size – taking your entire favourite whetstone, and flattening the entire surface in one go.

Check out this video by Stan Watson, the Technical Director for DMT on using the Dia-Flat to flatten a waterstone.

Mine will be subjected to the ultimate flattening process shortly (most likely over the coming weekend)  No more hollow sharpening stones for me!

 

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