Children and Tools

Had a few smaller visitors to the shed over Easter. My daughter and her cousins, who were quite intrigued by the place. But what better way than to show them, (and better yet), get them involved (at least as far as possible)?

So we decided to make some toy vehicles, using the same basic concept as I wrote about in a recent ManSpace magazine (and have written about here as well). A length of Tasmanian oak for the vehicle bodies, and a board of the same to cut out the wheels.

Each of the kids helped choose and design the vehicles, sketched out along the length of timber. This was then cut out on the bandsaw, sanded on the spindle and disk sanders, holes drilled (by the kids) on the drill press for windows, and edges rounded over using the corner rounding 3D bit from Toolstoday.com. More on that bit another time, but just to say, it is perfect for toy making.

Wheels were cut out using Carbitool wheel cutting bits, holes drilled for axles, exhausts, headlights etc.

Each then worked to glue wheels to axles, dowel for exhaust pipes and siren lights as appropriate.

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From left to right, we have a double-decker bus, Formula 1 car, police car and jeep. Think the kids got a good amount out of it – sure hope they did!

Later, I gave the vehicles a bit more detail, using a branding iron, and pyrography pen to add details like front grills, racing stripes etc.

It is really rewarding working with a younger generation in the workshop, so long as you have proper supervision, safety equipment (that they love wearing), and tasks that are applicable to their skill level. If you have the possibility of the occasional visitor, it is really worth having some projects up your sleeve, ready to go (and child-sized PPE). This may be no more than the concept and a mental plan, but it would be even better if you had a drawn-up plan, templates, even some precut material ready to go.

Even a small amount of involvement in a project sows seeds that can influence a child across their lifetime.

Forgot to mention- there was one casualty. The drill press decided to smoke itself (literally, but very mildly), and lost about 90% of its already limited power. I sure hope the DVR drill press is not too far away.

SawStop, and my Woodworking Assistant

On one hand, the shed is regarded as a dangerous place for the unwary, and the inexperienced. Not so much inexperience in woodworking, but inexperience in life.

On the other hand, being able to enjoy woodworking with you child (or grandchild) can be an immensely rewarding experience, for both of you.

I would normally be very reluctant to have an inexperienced hand using a tablesaw, yet while making some shelving for some kitchen cupboards, Jess (my 7 year old) wanted to help, and not just help by standing around watching. Having a SawStop meant the answer to that question was not “No” or even a reluctant “Maybe”. It was a definite “Yes, of course”.

Now she didn’t get to cut the board unsupervised or unattended – I’m not that confident! Tablesaws can do damage in plenty of other ways, particularly hurling things at you at 250km/hr!

By setting up a featherboard, having the guard in place, and standing beside her, she was able to feed boards through the blade, and not give me absolute conniptions. Even on a regular saw, she would have been safe, but knowing that there is also the SawStop technology between her and a disaster really enhances the experience of woodworking with your offspring.

And it is another activity for her to add to the crazy quilt that is life’s experiences.

SawStop really makes a huge difference in relieving some of the stress that can surround the workshop.

Woodwork Sayings

Was taking to Daniel at Carbatec earlier today, and after we started coming up with some woodworking sayings, he suggested it would make a blog post.

I’ve decided to take it one step further, and once a list of sayings is together, I will choose a number that I will combine into a file that I’ll then cut on the CNC machine.  I have a large piece of camphor laurel that may be good for the list, which I will then be able to mount onto the shed wall.

This is what I have come up with so far.  Some are traditional, some are slightly modified, and a few are my own.

 

Measure twice, cut once, buy extra just in case

You can’t do the job right if you don’t have the right tools

The success of your project starts with the right lumber

When you get to the finishing stage, you’re half-way there

You can never have enough clamps

I only hope when I die, my wife doesn’t sell my tools for what I said I paid for them

When asked when you purchased a particular tool, the answer is always “I’ve had that one for years”

A workshop is a tool like any other

A router is just a motor to spin router bits

It’s not a mistake, it’s a design feature

Use your sand paper as if someone else is buying it

RTFM

Get the board stretcher

Quality remains long after the purchase price is forgotten

 

If you have any others, please drop them into the comments, and I will compile a final list of my favourites to send to the CNC.

It’s Life Jim, But Not as We Know It

Yesterday got a bit busier than I was hoping, so last night I worked on the computer for a while to fine-tune a couple of vector designs ready for the CNC machine.

The first is a traditional Japanese dragon design, which needed some cleaning up (the benefit of having a reasonable understanding of Adobe Illustrator)

dragondragondetail

So this morning, I sent the files across to the PC laptop I am using to drive the CNC Shark Pro to get it working.  I had it set to pretty light passes – perhaps a bit slow, but off it went.

And while I was ‘woodworking’, I also managed to do the dishes, cook two cakes with my daughter for her Nana’s birthday, shop for dinner, cook dinner (slow cooker), force feed the cat (long story), and respond to some comments on the blog.  And all the while, the constant buzz of a noisy little router buzzing in the background.

It’s woodworking Jim, but not as we know it.

CNC machining is quite incredible, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.  Not only in what I have been playing with so far in carving and patterns (wooden signs seems to attract a lot of buyers), but also in part fabrication, and repeatability.  A CNC can easily become a cottage industry (as many have discovered).

If I had one of my own, I’d potentially see how far I could head down that track myself, but not to the detriment of my actual woodworking.  This is fun, and the results are mindblowing, but it isn’t an end unto itself for me.  I would see it being an incredible tool to supplement the others in the workshop without question.  Some things can be done easier on a CNC machine, some thing can be done on the CNC that I have no experience in at all, yet it allows me the ability to incorporate them into my projects anyway.

I had the machine running much of the day on a few projects – swear I can still hear the router!

The first came out pretty well – the resulting dragon.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 36Photo’s a bit blurry, but you can see it came out pretty well.  The material is a laminate of a masonite-like material on MDF.  Makes the designs pop!

My initial reason for using it was the flatness – carving intricate designs needs a very flat surface, otherwise detail can easily be lost.

There were some replication errors – I don’t know enough about CNC to know if the machine deserves the blame, the controlling software, or the V Carve program.  Not too big a deal, but I wouldn’t want to see too many errors creep in if I was looking at selling items.

Onto the second program, and this one was a serious workout.  The Mayan calendar.  Took about 4 hours.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 55Not the best material for such an intricate design, nor the best cutter.  It came out pretty well considering, but the combination of cutter and machine, and it pushed it a little beyond its limit.  Probably needed to be done in stages, as it developed a bit of a calibration issue as time went on.  There are a number of lines missing, as the CNC shark seemed to forget exactly how low zero was on the Z axis.

It really needed a method to self-recalibrate during the run.  I suspect that a more recent model would have produced a better result (and the high definition CNC Shark even better again). Carbatec now have a newer model (and there was also a high def version – not listed on their website though).  Again, such an intricate design being done in 2-3 parts would have helped in this situation, rather than one long (400,000 steps) run.

A better cutter wouldn’t have helped the creep in the zero point, but could have produced a sharper image.  I will go into that in more detail soon, but just as a heads-up, the In-groove set from Toolstoday.com will make a real difference to the finish.

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So what am I going to try next?  Not sure yet, but looking forward to it never-the-less!  Could be 3d carving, could be cutting out parts – I haven’t begun to find out all the ways the machine can be used.

 

Plotting the End of Days

Given we are still here, guess that yet another “End of Days” has quietly slipped on past.  However, the Mayan calendar (or is it Aztec?) is still one of the challenging images that are sent to CNC machines all over!

I’ve been playing with this one today:

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

It is quite a challenge for a CNC machine – results in around 1/2 a million lines of G Code to produce all the required cuts.  I started off cutting it into pine, but the initial size chosen (200x200mm), the depth of cut and the crapiata used, the results were not worth pursuing, so I cancelled it after about 45 minutes (so at least I could get a good idea how it could look).

Photo 18-08-13 13 33 16 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 24 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 45

Given how packed the garage is waiting for the new shed, working on a CNC machine is almost the only way I can actually manage any woodworking at all!  Note the precarious location for the laptop, so it is somewhat out of dust range from the router.

I then decided to find something more suitable, and this laminated electrical board was eminently suitable, given the lower layer is a significantly contrasting colour, so the pattern shows up exceptionally well.  Again, this was only a test cut on the underside – this was scaled to 300×300, and would have taken 4 hours to complete.  I stopped it after an hour, again as it was only a test, and a couple of settings I chose were causing some issues.

The other side of the board is a shiny surface, and should look pretty spectacular.  However, I plan to make it near the limit of size of the machine (a 580×580 calendar).  I didn’t start it today as I wanted to get a better idea of the settings before getting it underway.  It will also take 14 hours(!!), so I need to get some noise control in place before trying it on.  I might drop it back to 500×500, which will probably be closer to a 12 hour machining.

Photo 18-08-13 14 28 19 Photo 18-08-13 14 28 32 Photo 18-08-13 14 57 41

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed ;)

The First Computer Controlled Blow has been Struck

No photos yet (will take some this afternoon), but I’ve successfully run my first couple of jobs on the CNC Shark.

It was remarkably easy, at least in the sense of creating a basic design in VCarve, saving it as a toolpath, then importing it into the Shark Control Panel.

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It is a shame the software only works on Windows, so I dusted off an old laptop to use.  Then dusted it off again a few times while the Shark was cutting!

Control_PanelThe G Code is the exported toolpath from the V Carve program.  You can run the file once loaded, but obviously it is probably better to set up the starting point for the tool first!

That is what the Jog tab is for.  You can move the cutter manually (via the computer) to the start point, and set it to touch the work.  This is then set to be the zero point. (0,0,0)  Run the file (which will not actually start until you confirm the router is turned on).

Off it goes, on its pre-determined path, opening a new path for woodworkers.  I certainly do not see this replacing more traditional forms of woodworking, and this will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

To parallel this with another experience – I was a very active photographer back in the days when photography was solidly in the realms of chemistry and traditional methods.  I was also very comfortable creating and manipulating images with PhotoShop and the like.  But when the two worlds firmly met, and the chemical photo world was swept away under a tidal wave of digital cameras, so did my undeniable passion for photography.  I still take photos, but at a rate only a fraction of that before.  Part is my remaining disappointment in the current cameras – the quality of the build, their longevity, but also how every man and his dog suddenly thought they were photographers because of what the camera was able to do for them, and not their real knowledge, skill and fundamental understanding of the principles of photography.

I don’t see that woodworking is at that point yet, and inherently it will never fully get there – photography can fully translate and remain in the virtual world.  Woodworking, whether from the outset, or after some computer work with CNC programs, has to put tool to timber in the end.

People look at photos.  They touch, hold and handle the end result of a woodworker’s efforts.

I will be very happy to incorporate CNC into my woodworking.  Not to replace other methods, but to add an additional tool to the arsenal.  And a powerful, versatile tool at that.

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed ;)

Return to haunts of old

It was quite an experience of déjà vu this morning. To start, heading off with the family to watch my daughter’s junior netball. Not that specifically, but the frost on the ground, the nip in the air, the quality of the light, green of the hills and sunlight through the trees all gave a striking resemblance to similar scenes of growing up in New Zealand.

DCIM100GOPRO Photo 22-06-13 8 42 05 Photo 22-06-13 8 43 02

As the timing was right, I then headed towards Holmesglen Tafe. The temperature, the time of day, the drive-through at Maccas for a McMuffin & orange juice breakfast and of course driving into Holmesglen were all strongly reminiscent of when I was presiding at the Triton Woodworkers Club, and also running Triton woodworking courses there at Holmesglen (before the fall of GMC and therefore Triton).

But this time I was there for a different reason. It was to have a look around the Hand Tool event that is being held there this weekend.

David Eckert was there, with a familiar (and ever-tempting) collection of Lie Nielsen planes, Chris Schwarz DVDs, Lost Press books, Knew Concept saw and more. More on a couple of acquisitions another time. (Let’s just say, I “Knew” it would be tempting to go, and see what “Grandpa’s Workshop” may have contained had he been a woodworker!)

Photo 22-06-13 11 28 03

Chris Vesper was there, with his collection of finely (and locally) produced handtools, including one I hadn’t seen before – a “very” straight edge. (The large aluminium piece in the photo below)

Photo 22-06-13 11 48 26

The Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking was there, with Alastair in a familiar pose, draw knife in hand making staves for a Windsor Chair.

Photo 22-06-13 10 45 16 Photo 22-06-13 10 56 48

If you are interested in trying your hand at becoming a luthier, Southern Tonewoods has a collection of timbers, along with Richard Howell who runs one-on-one courses on guitar making.

Photo 22-06-13 10 45 22 Photo 22-06-13 10 45 39

Big Sky Timber has a collection of timbers for sale, some veneers, some turning blanks, boards and other pieces of tree ;)

Photo 22-06-13 11 22 42

And last, but not least, Japanese tools, with a really cool collection of mini ebony planes ($30 ea), Japanese saws, and an interesting concept, wooden nails. More on those another time (and in more detail).

Photo 22-06-13 10 56 57 Photo 22-06-13 10 57 09 Photo 22-06-13 11 17 39

Plenty of temptations, and better than that, they are there again tomorrow (Sunday).

Silicone Life

Silicone is the bane of woodworkers.

Which is a real shame, as it is a superb lubricant for metal. Way back when, while demonstrating for Triton, silicone spray was the lubricant of choice for getting the components to absolutely glide. It wasn’t until a long time later that I discovered that it has an adverse affect on wood finishes.

It may not affect a basic finish, such as a bit of wax, but when you are moving into higher quality finishes, silicone is the enemy. It does not stay put. Use it in one part of the workshop, and it will spread. Apply it to a surface, and it will find ways down through and past the existing finish to get to the timber below. Once it has contaminated the raw timber, it is very difficult to remove, even for a professional finisher.

Silicone prevents finishes adhering to timber, it can soften finishes, and will prevent stains and oils from penetrating the wood.

I have seen photos in the past of a fine finish (french polish) and how it was affected, with some star like defects in the finish. I can’t find the photos again to show here unfortunately.

What has reminded me about all this was when using some silicone sealer earlier today around the bathroom, I found other surfaces in the bathroom (particularly the floor) becoming increasingly slippery, and with the distinctive feeling of silicone lubricant. This is rather surprising, given no aerosol version of silicone was used. Just goes to show what I have heard over the years about silicone was true – it only has to be in the vicinity to cause a degree of contamination.

It may be an excellent lubricant, but not in a woodworking shop.

Silicone is often used in (non fine woodworking) finishes, especially car polishes, but others as well. Before using any finish in your workshop, or on your projects, it is worth checking if there is any silicone in the list of contents.

The following articles all refer to the detrimental effects of silicone on wood finishes.

Fine Wood Furniture

Piano Technicians Guild

Ruff Furniture

Wood Finish Supply

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 :)

The Anarchist

On yet another flight carrying me away from the shed, it proved the perfect opportunity to begin reading my new copy of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Chris Schwarz

Confronting book, because he starts off in the same place many of us are – a shed that is too small with many tools and jigs, and a shortage of space.

He then gets into tool purchases, and his many many MANY false avenues he has been down. He soon gets into one of his passions – hand tools, and particularly hand planes. As he described the standard collection of planes you wanted, I was rather buoyed to realise that by good fortune, or good planning, the HNT Gordon planes I had purchased so far over the years fitted neatly into the basic categories (I’d like to think good planning!)

Basic stock preparation: the Jack Plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane

Flattening stock and edging: The trying plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Trying Plane

Smoothing the result, ready for finishing: The smoothing plane (eg Stanley #5)

What I have:

HNT Gordon Smoothing Plane

So simply, I have no excuse not to try these tools more, become reasonably proficient with them. Given I have a few blades, I may be able to choose one to put a slight camber on it for improved jack plane performance, but will check with Terry’s site before doing that.
I am sure there is a whole heap more that I will learn, or discover during the journey.

Rest assured, I don’t intend to become a hand tool fanatic, shunning power tools (I enjoy the machinery too much). Nor am I planning relocation of shed tools!

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