Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is it worth it?

Awhile back my daughter, Jessi, found some tools for free on Craigslist. She asked me if I wanted them, and, well, the rest is history.

The first one I'm working on is a very old hobby jointer/planer from Sears Roebuck. I did some initial research on it and found an owner's manual online I've been using to help in the rehab.

The knives on this thing are very questionable - pretty deep nicks. After following the instructions, they aren't too bad but still have a few nicks I'm concerned about, and that's why I titled this post "Is it worth it". Replacement knives are available, but cost upwards of $22 for all three of them. I know that sounds minuscule, but right now it means I'm going to have to keep on working on these knives to see if I can hone out the nicks at least for a trial run eventually.

The table has some really bad stains, too.

I tried steel wool - didn't work very well. I even added some brake cleaner fluid to the mix - that didn't work very well either. Then I tried WD-40 with the steel wool. That seemed to work a little bit. As a last resort, kind of, I decided to try a little 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper with the WD-40 and started making noticeable progress (bottom right corner is the only part left after the first go round).

Fingers started going haywire, shoulders started aching. It's a bitch getting old. But I got most of the rust off in the second go round.

Whether I like it or not, patience will definitely need to be a virtue in getting the top into usable condition.

Is it worth it? You bet, especially since it was free, but even more importantly because it was a gift from Jessi.

Updates to follow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Coffee Table for Jessi

Well, now I gone and done it! I started on the coffee table for Jessi that I had promised her for her birthday way back in January! This project is gonna be a real trip!

First, the tabletop. The table slab will be two pieces of cottonwood joined together. I've had these two pieces sitting around the shop for quite some time and had already used the router planer to bring them down to a manageable thickness. But I wasn't sure they'd actually work for something like this. In fact, I'm still not totally sure they'll work because I've heard the butt ends of big pieces like this don't generally stay joined together very well. Hopefully, by doweling them I won't have that problem.

The joint has to be pretty doggone smooth in order to appear to be almost seamless. The pieces are too weirdly shaped to be able to use the table saw to cut a straight edge, so the circular saw had to do. Not too bad if I do say so myself!

Not quite perfect, though. So, I got out the router and inserted a Diablo 1/2" straight bit 2" long, measured for a guide since this bit didn't have a top roller bearing, and made the first pass. Nice! Go to the other piece and do the same thing. Still nice.

Because the pieces are approximately 3" thick, another pass from the underside has to be made on both pieces using another Diablo 1/2" straight bit. Only this one has a roller bearing on the bottom. So, it's a simple matter of flipping the pieces over and running the router along the edge. Even nicer results. The edges look almost seamless when aligned.

Now for the fun stuff. This is where being "artsy" comes into play. I like rounded, flowing edges for virtually all my works. For this slab, I used my saber saw to trim off the edges to get that rounded look. Later, I'll be using the angle grinder to further shape the curves, but for now this will do.

Well, the two slabs come together pretty nicely, but one is thicker than the other, and more has to be trimmed off to get it to the 4' length Jessi wants.

I decided to plane both pieces down to the same thickness before glue-up just in case I had a screw up.

Easier than I thought it would be, although time consuming and back breaking are to be expected when working on such a large area with the router planer.

Once the planing and trimming are done, the slabs will be a little over 4' long when joined together. This is the size Jessi wanted, so that's what she's going to get.

Using the dowel jig, four holes were drilled in the edge of each slab, both the edges received a generous helping of glue, and it was time to smush the two together.

Such weird shapes! Clamps aren't holding too well in some spots. Think I'll try a ratchet tie down. Durn thing keeps slipping - not much help.

After a whole lot of moving, re-clamping, adjusting, and frustration, the top of the joint came together nicely. Problem - the bottom has a gap.

Man, I tried everything I could think of including criss-crossing the clamps to draw the underside together. Nothing worked. Guess I'll just have to fill it with a sawdust glue mixture. It's on the underside, so really shouldn't matter all that much. Most of the time my faux pas aren't noticed by anyone but me. That's a good thing cuz I ain't gonna point them out to nobody!

Next up - shaping the edges of the slab.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ahhhhh Done!

Not gonna belabor the point by showing a whole photo gallery. This is it, three photos.

Still trying to wrap my head around the fact it's finally done! What a trip it's been!

Learned a few things, got frustrated with some things, started all over with some things even right up until the very end.

I'm totally stoked with the results!

Next up - our own TV stand. Been putting that one off for quite awhile now. Gotta get going on it again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

That elusive finish line just got owned!

Well......sort of. Not really owned quite yet. But getting closer. That counts for something, right? Right?

Ok, I figured in order to make a base, I needed a template - the more rigid the better. That's what that white thingy is on top (or bottom depending on which way you're looking at it) is supposed to be.

Scissors didn't work well, so had to use a drywall knife to score it and then it was ready to seek out that all elusive base up in the barn.

Once a viable piece of cottonwood made itself available, it was a simple matter to grind it down to rough thickness using the angle grinder with chainsaw wheel.

Getting there, but am very concerned about the "punkiness" of certain portions of this piece. It looks ok setting on the pedestal, but am thinking it'll just fall apart when it comes time to fasten it.

So, Katherine came up with the idea that I should make "feet" for the pedestal and incorporate them into some of the nooks and crannies.

Finish line just moved a little farther away again - not so far that I can no longer see it, but far enough that I know it'll take a couple more days to finish this project up.

Oh, well.

After hours and hours and hours (not really) of searching, these two pieces (the ones on the outside) jumped out at me as possibilities. The idea was to incorporate them as best as possible into the pedestal to make them look sort of like branches or roots - again depending on how one is looking at it.

Set up the first one, drew some scribe lines, and hoped the scribe lines would be fairly easy to follow (not).

Set up the second piece, eyeballed it some, drew some scribe lines, and thought I was ready.

This is going to be more challenging that originally thought. The irregular shapes of the feet made them almost impossible to grip in the vise, so a clamping system along with a scrap 2x6 screwed into  the bottom held it tight enough to work on.

Not too bad a fit.

One coat of stain to see how the two pieces meld into each other. Not bad, but not good either.

Looks kind of like a lava flow from a volcano, eh? Not as symmetrical as I'd like. Will probably need to grind off some of the toes on this foot.

Second piece fits pretty well, actually. Not nearly as difficult as the first piece.

All fastened up and ready for balancing test. Still pretty tippy to one corner of the table. Need another foot. This one kind of looks like a little boot that fits very well into the crevice.

I'm really glad Bobby has muscles I don't. Without his help, this table would have remained upside down forever.

Now with the carpet glides installed on the bottom, the last step is to cross over that elusive finish line by giving the feet their three coats of water based poly.

It's really satisfying to see this one come together. All through the process there were doubts, lessons learned, and trials and tribulations. I'll definitely be taking all of those along with me on my next project.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thought I saw the finish line.....for a second

Today was supposed to be a big day. It started out that way, but the best laid plans.......well, you know how that goes.

Ran to the hardware store and picked up some timber fasteners. I've found these modified lag screws hold so well nothing really compares. All that was needed was four 6" screws drilled down into the pedestal top to hold the runners/supports for the tabletop. Man, are they tight!

Next step is to attach the pedestal to the underside of the tabletop. With Bobby's help, we got it set up and measured.

Once the measurements were accurate and equal on all sides, lines got traced as guides for the slots to come.

I hate using a plunge router! Probably because I haven't had call to use them enough in the past to familiarize myself with how they work. So, chicken that I am, I used the good old fashion drill with a spade bit to drill 4 pilot holes to accommodate the router bit once it was set to the proper depth.

Next step was to set up the guide for the router. Easy enough. Just measure the distance from the router bit to the first line (2 7/8"), set the guide bar, and screw it into the tabletop to hold it in place. No worries because this is the underside of the table. A little sanding along with a good coat of varnish should hide the holes pretty well.

One side done.

Using a 3/4" straight bit means two passes for each slot need to be made. Took awhile, but the results were really good.

The proof in the pudding....slots accommodate the runners/supports and the depth was perfect.

Next step is to secure the runners to the underside of the tabletop. Maybe it's just overkill, but the more screws the better in my experience. The tabletop is two inches thick. The screws used were 1 1/2" long. Just wanted to make sure when screwed down they didn't pop through the top.

Turning the table upright was a bit of a concern as we didn't know for sure the screws would hold what with weight of the pedestal maybe tearing them out. All went well. The overkill was worth it.

And this is where things kind of went south a little bit. The concern over balance was well founded.

Once Bobby and I set the table up the way it's supposed to be, I put some weight on the short ends - nice and solid! Now the long sides - it didn't take much to tip it forward. Damn! Was looking at the finish line and now I have to find a piece I can make into a base to stabilize the whole thing.

Not only that, but at least 1 1/2" to 2" had to be taken off the bottom of the pedestal in order for the finished product to maintain that all too important 29" to 30" height I'm seeking.

Set up the router planer, adjust the height, begin planing. This is going faster and better than I'd anticipated. Wait a minute....router really slowing down. Time to change the brushes. Really don't want to take the time to do this, but will ruin the router if I don't.

Ok, brushes changed. Turn on the router, goes ok for the first pass. Second pass it slows down even more. Can see some blue "flame" inside the router housing. Maybe it's just at the end of its rope. This thing has served me well and done some things it probably wasn't actually designed to do. I won't give it a burial just yet, but will have to switch to something else for sure.

Time to get out the big daddy plunge router from Harbor Freight. Get it all set up and go to town. This router is HEAVY! It actually bows the angle iron of the sled a little bit if any pressure at all is placed downward on it.

Well, the pedestal is now planed down to the right height. Next in line? Figuring out which piece will become the base. Dang, where the heck is it?