Spent this evening’s hour in the shed getting the next four laths ready for the resawing by ripping them out of the prepped plank from yesterday.
It’s a tad finicky making a long rip in a board with a ryoba saw, at least on the initial setup. I mean, once the saw is established in the groove and the board is upright, it can tend to track like a laser down the board (unless it hits a knot at a glancing angle); but if that initial inch or so is off-line, then the saw wants to keep going in that initial incorrect direction and it can be a pain to correct because the teeth at the other side of the ryoba will dig in if you turn the blade even a little and the lack of any set means the kerf is nice and thin but it also means you have no room to turn the blade. So that initial setup gets very finicky…
Richard Maguire’s got a slightly different way of doing this, but if your shed is all of eight feet tall at the absolute highest point (and five feet at the lowest), his approach is not really all that possible…
Maybe if I ever get round to building a sawbench I could manage this, but that won’t be for a short while yet (I have the material and an idea for a design but I need to rework that if I’m going to allow for standing on the thing while ripping)
Mind you, when it tracks right, it leaves a lovely clean cut that needs at most three or four strokes with a plane to clean up. And now I have four clean laths ready to be resawn down to slats, which will give me a total of 27 to use in the crib (I’ll probably drop one for symmetry, which will leave me with six unused slats to test finishes on and practice joinery with, or to reuse in other small projects around the place).
Yeah, I know, an edge or two needs squaring up. I’ll do that before the marking up for the resawing. But you have to admit, that ash has some lovely grain to it.
Tonight was mostly cleaning down from the weekend. I broke down the jig, saving the screws and while the sharp hammer blow took care of the glued on blocks, it did it by removing the block and the top millimeter of the MDF. Oh well. Have to rebuild it anyway. Need taller blocks and I’ll probably cut a bit of the MDF base off to make a drying form as well (the idea is you bend it on the bending form, let it on that, then take it off, remove the bag and the strap and all that, and then clamp it to the drying form and leave it there for a week to dry and set fully).
Then it was time to start in on the next eight slats for the cot. I got the remaining half of the 72″ ash board I got the last eight from and cut 31″ off that (the ends were a bit ragged so I left room to trim it back to 30″), and brushed off the muck.
Kindof mucky still really, but that’s what you get if you sit about in a timber yard for ages and then a shed. But fifteen minutes with a jack plane on the faces, edges and on the ends with a shooting board later…
It’s just lovely. It feels like slightly textured glass, there’s lovely grain in it, it’s just downright pretty. It cleans up well 🙂 It was almost painful to mark it up, but it needs to be broken down so I set the gauge to 46mm (it’s 189mm wide) and marked off the first lath. I’ll rip that out tomorrow, then plane a fresh clean edge and mark the next and so on. Ash is pretty. I need to buy more of it 🙂
There was some experimentation this weekend, some of which didn’t work and the rest of which were… learning opportunities. I got the last slat planed to thickness, but lost one along the way because I couldn’t get it to thickness, there was a split in it from poor resawing that was diving down below the minimum line and it wasn’t recoverable. So next week I’ll take another 30″ off the ash board I have, plane it flat, hack it into 2″ wide laths, and resaw them down and wow does this ever teach you why we invented bandsaws.
Meanwhile, I had two experiments to run. One was to try to avoid drowning in the growing mound of shavings I’m generating…
Honestly, it’s getting silly now. I’ve lost two clamps to it. Seriously, somewhere under there is a sash clamp, a lidl F-clamp, four boxes of lawn seed and a container of round-up. And normally you’d just use a broom, but the space is so small and restricted that a broom would honestly be more hassle than help. So I got an aldi wet-and-dry shop vac and tried that, but while it could grab the dust and some shavings, the shavings clogged it up pretty fast. Well, there’s a solution to that – it’s a thing called a cyclone seperator. Think of a conical funnel with a lid on it. The vacuum connects to the lid, and you connect another hose to the side of the funnel angled to cause the incoming stream of stuff to spin, whereupon is slows down and drops to the bottom of the funnel and into a barrel mounted there.
And there it is…
…but it doesn’t work. There’s very little suction, because it leaks air everywhere. Normally the barrel underneath would be air-tight (they’re normally used to store liquids after all), with a seal in place around the lid. Here, it’s a bin and the lid is a chunk of mdf clipped in place by the handles. I suppose it was asking a lot of physics 😀 I’ll have to find a proper barrel, pay more attention to seals, and try again. The bin will go to waste, as in, I’ll use it as a bin for garden waste, but I foresee a trip to somewhere that sells barrels soon. Which, oddly enough, is a very short list it seems. I’m a bit hesitant to order one off amazon because who the hell posts a barrel? I’d never be able to look the postman in the eye again. Not to mention the point that if the Firearms Unit hears I’m getting barrels posted to me, they might take it up the wrong way…
The other experiment, which went slightly better, was to test steambending walnut. The idea is simple – wood is stiff because of a (fairly complex) chemical called lignin. It melts around 150C (well, there are several melting temperatures because your average tree will have lots of slightly different lignins – apparently it’s a challange for people studying the stuff to seperate them out, there are so many), but it will soften around 100C which is a nice convenient temperature as you just have to generate steam and that’s fairly easy.
So the theory is, take the wood, expose it to steam for a time (the rule of thumb is one hour per inch of thickness), then clamp it into a jig and bend it to the desired curve. This is normally done with a sealed box of some kind (either made from wood or PVC pipe or whatever) and then you pull the wood from the box with big thick gloves and as quickly as you can, clamp it into the jig and bend it before it cools. You have to bend it beyond the curvature you want, as it will spring back and how much overbending is needed is something you need to know by experience. Lots and lots of videos up on youtube show how to do this, but to be honest, they all looked like high-waste kinds of learning processes — especially because I only have kiln-dried walnut and this process really works best on something that’s never seen the inside of a kiln — and I didn’t feel like trying them at all as a result. And then I found this:
But anyway, his genius idea is to encase the wood in a plastic tube – specifically, the kind of continuous poly tube that you’d make smaller bags out of using a heat sealer – and pump the steam into that tube. That lets him put the wood in the jig, steam it for an hour, then bend it while still steaming it and hold it in the bent shape in the jig while still steaming it and then control the cooling-off process. Apart from the benefit of being able to work on long timbers for boat hulls, which is his thing, he gets lots of other bonuses, like being able to take his time doing the actual bending, controlling the temperature seperately from the bending process, and being able to keep the lignin softened even after the bend is done, and letting the stresses in the bent wood settle out before letting the lignin harden. This leads to far less spring-back to cope with.
I took one look at this and thought that’ll do. So I get a wallpaper stripper, some poly tube (it’s very cheap on ebay) and some metal plumber’s steel strap and prep to get bending. The strap is needed to go around wood on the outside of the curve – the reason the wood is bending at all is that with the lignin softened, you can compress and collapse the inside of the curve. You can’t stretch wood y’see, it’ll snap and splinter if you try, so the strap keeps the outside from stretching and the inside in compression.
This was, incidentally, one of the mistakes I made – I forgot the strap until the wood had been steaming for a half-hour and had to make up and apply the strap while the wood was around 100C. That does not lead to fine tolerances and unrushed work.
The first step though was to build the jig, so I needed a flat surface and some blocks around the curve to clamp to. I had a few sheets of MDF that I don’t really want to save for anything because honestly, MDF is awful. So I glued enough together to give me an inch-thick slab of MDF, and I started laying out where the blocks should go.
Then lots of drilling, a quick run to woodies because none of the screws I had were up to the job, and then screw&glue the blocks in place. That may have been a mistake, but not an unrecoverable one; I’ll need to disassemble the jig and rebuild it, but a solid belt of a hammer might fix that glue problem.
Then put the walnut offcut I’m testing with into the tube, being sure I had a half-meter off either end, and put in a spacer (in this case a paper cup) to stop the tube from collapsing on top of the steam pipe and melting because of a high concentration of moisture and heat.
And then it’s just a case of clamping one end of the wood into the jig, filling the wallpaper stripper with water and plugging it in. It takes 20 minutes or so to get up to 100C and then start steaming, then I wait an hour (actually a little bit more because the steamer ran out of water before I was expecting it to and it took a few minutes to refill it so the temperature dropped for ten minutes), and then I start bending.
The bending itself is not exactly a delicate operation. You don’t quite get out the hammers, but you put on gloves and oven mitts, grab the wood and then it’s just muscle to pull it into the bend. You grab it with clamps as you go and then it’s a case of pull it to bend it a bit, tighten the clamps to hold that, then pull some more and pretty soon you’ve got the bend in. If you’ve not heard any loud splintering noises, you’re good.
Now leave the steamer finish off the last of the water that’s in it, so another half hour or so of steaming, and then unplug the steamer and start letting it cool down.
Now there are a few mistakes I’ve made here. For a start, I forgot the compression strap until half-way through the steaming and had to put it on outside the bag.
It’s also not the full width of the piece being bent, so a good bit of the wood is not supported. And then there’s the point that there’s no scrap bits of wood between the clamps and the wood being bent (and of course, as the wood is being softened, the clamps really dig in and deform the wood.
On the left, the supported and properly bent walnut (still quite damp); on the right, the unsupported part that split.
Still though, I’m not too unhappy. I know what to do now for the real thing. But first, I want to watch that experimental bit for a few days to see how much it springs back and how much overbend I’ll need. I will need to rebuild the jig though – those blocks are not tall enough off the mdf to do the job and need to be redone. I’ll also want to make up a proper compression strap setup and some scrap bits to protect the walnut from the clamps.
And all that in the middle of being swallowed whole by a slow-moving avalanche of wood shavings as I resaw another 8″x30″x1″ ash board. And I want to get that all done before I go buy more wood on Friday…
Four more slats planed to thickness and squared off today. Counting that first experimental slat, that’s fifteen in total so far. One will need to be revisited though, it’s too wide by quite a margin. Measuring all of them, they’re all between 10.5 and 11.5 mm thick, bar one (and there’s always one) that’s just hair under that; and they’re averaging 42mm wide, with a few a hair under and a few a hair over, bar one which is 40mm wide and another which is 45mm wide. That one is getting a few more swipes with the plane to narrow it up to 42mm, and once that’s done, I’ll have a standard deviation of 0.87, which for hand tool work from a newbie is acceptable. These are all going to need finish planing, which won’t affect the thickness too much. At 11mm thick on average, they’re basically a sixteenth over the original finished thickness goal of ⅜” — but then that goal was a loose one at best anyway, chosen by picking out an offcut I had and going “that looks like the right thickness” and then using that as the template in the thicknessing jig. Five more to go, and that’ll be the slats ready for joinery.
The shavings are getting a bit out of hand at this stage though. But not to worry, I have a plan. I just need to find one last component (a barrel or large bucket in the 30L range or therebouts) and I can put that plan into motion. More on that later.
Last thing for the evening. I’ve had several sheets of 4mm MDF sitting in the house for another project (basically, the one that put me on this road, building a hideaway for Junior inspired by this), but a little while afterwards I learnt just how nasty MDF is, so the idea of Junior sitting in a box of the stuff breathing it in is now not quite so pleasant. The hideaway can get made from something else instead (plywood probably) and that means the MDF is available for pretty much anything else because I don’t want to use it in anything we’ll keep around, so it’s now disposable material. An expensive mistake, but sod it, new lungs would have been more expensive.
Brief hint for anyone looking to start off in woodworking by using MDF — don’t. You can’t cut the stuff without making dust (well, it’s not even dust, it’s technically stuff called fines, which is even worse), even if using hand tools; the dust is part wood (which does your lungs no good) and part urea-based glue (which does your lungs no good whatsoever). You have to have specially rated filters on your respirator (don’t just use any old paper dust masks or even just standard filters on a proper respirator, the fines go straight through them). It doesn’t take finish fantastically, if you get it wet at all it swells up and is ruined, and you pretty much have to seal it and paint it no matter what you build. It’s quite weak compared to other sheet materials like OSB or plywood. About the only positives to it are that it’s cheap (though in the US plywood’s cheaper, here plywood is far more expensive than MDF), and that it’s almost always almost perfectly flat. Except for certain things, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
I’ve used one sheet as an assembly&glue-up table surface for building the bench and I did have a plan to build a knock-down assembly table and I’d surface that with MDF as well. As surfaces that aren’t load-bearing normal to the surface, MDF is actually quite good and useful. These four sheets have been glued together to form a base for a jig for the most complicated and worrying bit of the cot build. I’ve some more work to do for that jig over the next few days, and hopefully I can get a test run this weekend on a test bit of wood. More on that then…
You can only thickness so many slats before you need to take a break 🙂
First off, I finally made a choice between the Nikon D70 and the Canon 450D I was comparing. It kindof came down to these photos. Taken from the same spot (though the Nikon had a different lens so it’s got different framing), the Nikon just had worse noise constantly. Look at the back of the camera over on the left or at the black lens on the camera on the bench (you’ll have to click on the image and zoom in):
Then compare that with the Canon:
The framing’s different because of the different lenses, yes, but that noise is pure sensor, nothing to do with the lens. And yeah, it’s a low-light environment, but I don’t see me adding four thousand lux to the shed anytime soon. So I returned the D70 and bought the 450D. Still though, even the D70 was a big step up from my last decent camera (an old Fuji Finepix which has long since died).
Some of the photos the D70 produced are just, well, pretty:
But when you zoomed in the noise spoiled it. The Canon doesn’t have that problem, even if it can’t quite match the framing as easily because it’s using a prime lens:
And I was mucking about with a borrowed telephoto lens just for fits and giggles today. I can confidently say it’s utterly without use in the shed, but I did get one nice photo out of it:
But I think something like an 18mm or less prime lens is probably what I’d want along with the 40mm I now have. And maybe later a tripod. First though, I want to get the battery grip for the Canon because it’s too small for my hands. Oh well, they’re relatively cheap for the clones at least.
Then, footering about complete, I got on with some stock prep. I wasn’t quite ready to return to the slats, so I finished up what I’ve been doing for the last two days:
2″ wide walnut laths for the frame, ripped from 4-5″ boards and planed with the jack. They’re an eighth over 2″, and are going to get some more trimming later, but I’m going to get them prepped like this now and try to see if I need more walnut or not for this build. There’s a lot of sapwood though…
Although, apart from the waney edge bits that have eaten around a fifth out of each board (but hey, those are experimental bits for testing finishes and steambending and so on), the sapwood itself isn’t that ugly looking…
The grain’s a bit of fun though. I think the card scrapers are going to get a workout.
And with those done, I went back to work on the slats. I now have ten slats planed to thickness and squared. If I can get the rest done by the weekend, I can get the other walnut boards planed and ripped over the weekend (and sort out the dust collection and maybe some of the electrics) and then the following friday I’m going to the timber yard for some oak and poplar (and if I get those bits done, I’ll know how much extra walnut and ash I need).
I shouldn’t let four-year-olds near finished cheese presses 🙁
So he was spinning the handle happily and it generated so much pressure with the crossbar cinched down that the nut in the center broke its epoxy bond and pulled right out of the crossbar. Doh. And the pusher plate is epoxied at one end and the handle at the other. Double doh. So I think about it at work and eventually discount the idea of drilling a hole and soldering in a pin because really, you’d want to weld that and I have no welder. Also, metal droplets at several hundred degrees centigrade hitting all those wood shavings beside all those finishing chemicals… er, no.
So instead I clamp a clamp in the vice (workholding for this was painful), and cut a slot in the nut with a hacksaw (a new fullsize one because that Draper dross was unusable) and widen it with a file:
This takes a while to do, but I have a cunning plan…
I had to get some brass for the cot anyway for drawer bearing surfaces, so I got a little extra and cut a small piece off it (the rest will get used in a few other things). I couldn’t find any JB weld, but I could find an araldite metal epoxy, so I mix up some of that, fill the slot with it, shove the brass in, slather some more epoxy on that, and then swear many, many times at all my clamps as they all fail to clamp it in place, and I eventually resort to tape.
I’ll give that a few days to cure and then I’ll cut a fairly precise (ha!) mortice in the crossbarwith the marking knife and a small chisel and epoxy the nut and the bar back into the crossbar. Hopefully that will act as an anchor for the nut in the crossbar. We’ll see…
Then on to the slats and thicknessing.
It’s very simple. You put the slat in the jig, you put the plane on the slat…
…then you push the plane back and forth until the slat is at the right thickness…
…or until the blade of the plane chatters, catches on the slat because the slat is slightly bowed, and smashes through and over the stop at the end of the jig destroying it. Oh, bother.
Well, what good is a planing stop that can’t act as a stop when planing, right?
Still, it worked and let me get on with it. So now I have four slats planed to thickness and with squared edges (though there’s some slight bowing…)
So first off, a small message to Draper. Don, you’re a very sad individual. And now a message to Draper, the tool company. This sucks:
Yeah, it’s a junior hacksaw, but the operative word here is saw and I think you could almost be sued for false advertising for calling this piece of worthless dross a working saw. It’s for the bin, and I’ve now got to go find a decent hacksaw to work on saw sharpening. Ugh.
Anyway. That pain in the toolbox aside, the cheese press is now done. It came out too tall yesterday so I trimmed it down a bit last night and then did the finishing. Four coats of shellac, cured overnight and then some briwax and buffing the next day. Then I assembled everything, epoxied on the pusher plate on the main screw and added some feet to the base and that was that.
I’m not saying this is fine furniture, you understand – in fact, to manage expectations, this is what this started out like last thursday:
And in the meantime I’ve painted the shed (twice) and finished off the resawing of the slats for the cot. And today the cheese press looks like this:
I mean, it’s not horrible for a pair of 2×4 offcuts and a short length of threaded rod.
Anyway, wee man was a bit ill today so no real shed time; I did get to go out for a half-hour or so, and clean up after the press and set up for planing the slats.
Someone asked – the thicknessing jig is the width of my #5½ plus a quarter-inch between the walls (and I really need to cut a 45° angle on the near walls to stop myself barking my knuckles on them) so it rides happily on the rails without being slewed. It’s butted up against the planing stop on one side and against a batten&holdfast at the back:
In operation it’s quite simple – put the slat blank into the center, put the jack plane on top of it, shove jack plane to the far end, repeat until the jack’s not cutting anymore (flip the board at some point to be sure you have two reasonably smooth sides). You can optionally hit it with the smoother towards the end if you want.
Twenty slats (well, nineteen since I did #1 already at the start) to thickness, and then plane to get their edges square. This is going to be my planes’ eye view for a while I think…
That point where the first coat of paint or finish goes on is such a dramatic change in the thing being finished, it really does seem like a magic trick of some sort. Even if it’s a cack-handed sort of affair. Today was two of those moments. First off, with the shed, which took quite a bit longer than your average david copperfield affair, eating two hours to get it done. Mostly because all of the funny things people tell you about painting while you’re stuck in a bush are pretty close to the truth. Still, it doesn’t look horrible:
Okay, the tarp on the bush to the left looks horrible, but that’s how I’m keeping it from being a pine needle finish. Plus, it makes painting from within the bush a bit easier. Second coat in the next day or two, and then off comes the masking tape and the spiders can move back in to cover the whole thing in webs again…
Second up was the cheese press. I’m not hugely happy with the main nut on the crossbar for this, I think there will be more epoxy and a few small wedges employed, but at least it’s in an out-of-sight area; but I wanted to get the shellac on first today as all that’s left is bitwork after that really. I removed the metalwork and took the #4½ with its new 40° angle bevel and the cap iron crowded right up on the cutting edge, and smoothed the planks off. There’s something terribly gratifying about getting wispy-thin shavings after trying a slightly new way of setting up a plane. I think this one counts as a success. I did some last bits of whittling as well on the handle just taking off the absolute worst bits. I’m not happy with it at all really, but at least I learned how not to use a spokeshave.
Then on to the shellac. I’ve had some button shellac sitting in isopropyl alcohol for a few weeks now as another experiment, so I used that. One coat, wait 30 minutes, sand back with old beat-up 120 grit sandpaper (I didn’t have any 400 grit sandpaper. Something to sort out for when I finish the crib). Four coats in total.
Clockwise from top left for each of those for each successive coat.
Tomorrow once it’s fully cured, I’ll hit the surface with 000 steel wool, then use the same wool to apply some briwax and then I’ll buff that out and that’ll be the finish done. I’ll drive the wedges to secure the center nut at the same time, add the metal hardware back in and assemble it and that’ll be that.
No work on the crib today, but the planing begins in earnest after the last bits of the cheese press are completed…
So the early start plan kinda went to pot because of other duties, but I did manage to get to woodies and get another tin of the willow colour of paint to do the second coat on the shed. And then, annoyingly, got the second coat out of the remainder of the first tin. Gah. Oh well, I’ll find something for it. Meanwhile the shed’s looking okay, but I didn’t manage to get the first coat of the cream colour on it, so that might make getting everything finished tomorrow a bit of fun.
Can’t say that it looks like a massive difference with the second coat, especially as the colour darkens very noticeably on drying, but this stuff really does need the second coat when you look at it close up.
Then on to getting the cheese press done. I picked up the needed bits of threaded rod and such at woodies while getting the paint.
The threaded rod will get cut into 1′ long sections to form the two side supports and the main screw and the various washers and nuts will secure it (the hooks are for my bench brush which is in need of a better home than hanging on the quick-release of the vice).
The more difficult part of this has been getting a 2×2 chunk of wood down to something that vaguely looks like a handle if you squint and are blind. I was able to saw out a big chunk of the waste, and carve the basic shape very roughly with the gouges, but trying to get it even close to smooth was being a pain so out came the spokeshave, which promptly tore the crap out of the surface no matter how I twiddled with it. So I took a tip from Richard Maguire’s spoon rack series, took off the adjustment knobs completely, and set it by keeping the base flat on the bench and letting gravity put the blade in contact with the bench, then tightening the clamping screw. And it worked like a charm. It went from biting and skipping and destroying the face of the wood to looking like an actual woodworking tool being used by someone who was competent. Not sure how it managed that last bit, but I wasn’t complaining much. Before long I had an ugly lump-shaped chunk of tree branch and figured I should stop before I broke it too badly.
Some butterfly nuts on the two side supports to cinch the crossbar on to the top of the cheese vessel, and a chunk of wood on the bottom of the screw to push against a plate in the cheese vessel and that’s your cheese press, more or less. First, some nuts needed epoxying and there was a small void to fill on the face of the board.
Tomorrow I’ll clean up the boards and get them flat and shellac them, add the block on the end of the screw and I think that’ll be it finished. It’s not a very fancy thing after all. I’d like to put some springs on the side bits of threaded rod, but I couldn’t find any. Oh well, easy retrofit.
Of course, that last spokeshave session had a casualty…
I know I said I’d make a hardwood vice face later on, but I think it might be sooner than I thought. I re-screwed it on, but I don’t want to glue it and I’m not sure those two screws are going to last. I’ll have to think about this one.
First though, on to resawing ash for slats. One or two of the resawing boards tonight were pains in the fundament with the blade wandering out of nowhere, but I was able to use the disston to get the line back on track and finish the cut without losing a board. Which let me write a very nice number indeed…
20 slats out of three boards, with another three definitely unusable and another one as a very marginal call (ie. use it if we really need just one). That’s all the original plan called for. I don’t doubt I might find I need another two or four more, but I’ll try not to 😀
In case anyone was wondering, yes, you can resaw 1″ thick 8″ wide ash boards by hand, and it’s not actually the most strenuous job in the world… but it’s not a lot of fun either really, and it can be finicky keeping the blade from wandering. As soon as I’m able to house it, I’m going to get a bandsaw.
Now, for the coming week, it’s planing in the thicknessing jig to get those 20 slats all down to size…