Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pieces and Parts

Well, as stated in an earlier post, the walnut didn't work, but I'd still like to see some contrast. The only thing available right now is juniper - need lots of juniper.

Going on down that juniper road, though, isn't gonna be easy. These trees grow in some of the weirdest ways imaginable. Most taper from larger at the base to very skinny at the top making it very hard to find a consistent width that can be used.

A few years ago, a local fella said I could harvest some of his juniper that had died in a forest fire. Another friend in Bailey said the same thing. The result was a pile of stuff that may or may not be usable for this project. As with any kind of wood, the proof will be in the pudding once the chainsaw is used to discover what's inside, especially since this wood was charred badly in some cases (won't know how deep the charring is until it's gotten into).

Rough stuff that might work:

Need four "rails" for the outside of the table top (on the right side in the photo below). Looks like they're solid. The two on the left are going to be the pedestals.

Did I mention previously that my chainsaw skills pretty much suck when it comes to slabbing (still waiting for someone out there to buy me a sawmill).

Okay, these slabs vary from 4" to 7" thick in spots. That's why I say my chainsaw slabbing skills suck. Don't worry - I don't plan on EVER taking up chainsaw carving anyway!

The pedestals were a whole lot easier to cut to heights of 30". Eventually, they'll be at 27" to 28" high, and the table top will come in at somewhere between 29" and 30" high when mounted to the pedestals.

Time to set up the router planer and get to work shaving down the rails to a thickness of 2 1/2" to match the cottonwood slabs.

Lesson learned - the really long rails I've been using for planing these rails (and other sundry stuff) have way too much drag and cause way too many backaches. Luckily, I have a few spare doors that can be used as a sled of sorts (see photo above). The lengths of the rails are more than four feet. The router planer rails I decided to use are only four feet long. With the sled idea - problem solved! All I need do is secure the piece to the sled (door) using scrap blocks screwed into the door itself to prevent slippage in any direction, adjust the height of the rails, and BAM! Ready to go. When the router sled can't move any further, all that's needed is to slide the door (sled) down a ways, and continue planing to the end of the slab. Once the end is reached, start over from the other end by sliding the door (sled) back in the other direction. MUCH easier on the back, and MUCH easier to control!

After what seemed like an inordinately LONG time, all the slabs are milled down to matching thickness - well almost matching. There's still going to need to be some fine-tuning once glue-up is done, but pretty close is pretty good as far as I'm concerned at this point.

Now each slab has to have one straight edge in order to joint them and make sure there's one live edge for that good old "rustic" look.

This is one of those times I'm not sure I want to even try to do a straight edge on the tablesaw. So, the brand new circular saw will have to do. A straight edge guide will hopefully give me enough stability to be able to not mess this up too much as I cut.

The first time through I didn't adjust the depth - thought the circular saw could handle this depth of cut, but it couldn't. I went sidewise three cuts in before I realized I was going to have to make multiple cuts in order to get an almost perfect straight edge.

All told, I'd guess it took about 15 hours from looking for the right pieces to get to this stage.

Next up - fitting the pieces and parts together so it kind of sort of looks like a tabletop of sorts.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Convince me......Somebody, PLEASE convince me.......

That I'm making some progress, that is.

Some days seem to go better than others. Regardless, it almost always seems like the end isn't even close to being near for this conference table.

Every time I think things are finally coming together, something else happens to let me know it ain't over till the fat lady sings!

Got the cottonwood slabs planed down to size, and realized (after measuring, of course) they aren't going to be the desired 4' x 3' dimensions.

Maybe run a "spacer" piece of some other kind of wood right down the center? Sounds good, but how does it look? That's a 3/4" plank of mahogany in between. Certainly not big enough! Leaning toward making some juniper planks instead of this. At least I can make them the width I need to fill the space.

If juniper works for the spacer, how might walnut look along with it - at least for the end pieces? Those two pieces are certainly long enough to cover the ends, but contrast from the side rails just won't look good made from juniper (red on brown).

Better start looking for some juniper off the woodpile to see if there's anything that might work.

Convince me......PLEASE, someone! Anyone! PLEASE convince me I'm making some progress here!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gettin' back in the saddle again......

Awhile back, I had a "run in" with my table saw. Needless to say, I lost that one!

17 stitches inside and out, and I was lucky the blade of the saw didn't take half my hand with it.

Anyway, this is what it looks like as of today. Healed up nicely, but still numb from the nail on up to the tip. Time to get back in the saddle and make a cut on that durn burn tablesaw.

Not as easy as I thought it would be. Been dreading this since the accident. Seems like every time the door to the shop gets opened, that saw is right there staring at me, teeth on the blade smiling in about as evil a "I dare ya - go ahead, I double dog dare ya" look as anything I've ever seen before.

Does the word "cringe" mean anything at all to anyone but me? Even with the blade guard on, the fear, the anxiety, the trepidation - they're all there no matter how hard I try to convince myself they aren't. No matter how hard I try to convince myself I've taken every safety precaution I possibly can, the feeling I can't even describe when my thumb hit that blade comes to mind.

Well, DAMN! It's either do it or sell the damn saw!

Set the blade to height. Set the fence to width. Hook up the shopvac for dust collection. Set the outfeed roller to height. Eye protection? Check. Ear protection? Check. Dust mask on? Check. Gloves OFF! Damn straight!

Double check everything. Triple check everything. Should I check it one more time? DAMN! Now I'm just being paranoid.

Turn on the shopvac. Take a deep breath, line up the slab with the fence. Keep it tight. Turn on the saw.

Even knowing what it sounds like, it still startles. Push the slab very, very slowly into the blade. The guard backs up and raises to the height of the slab thickness. I can't see the blade through the plastic of the guard. Doesn't make me feel any better, though.

Keep on pushing the slab. Make sure it stays tight against the fence. Keep hands AWAY from the blade even thought the guard is there to prevent me from doing something stupid again.

The slab hits an obstacle and stops. Oh, yeah - it's the outfeed roller. Push the slab a little harder and it rides up and over and keeps on going as I push it. Finally, the slab is all the way through without me having an accident. Phew!

Turn the slab over. Readjust the fence to take a kerf width off the blade side of the slab. Take another deep breath and repeat the entire procedure.

Still have all my digits.

Now I can leave the tablesaw alone until the next slab is ready.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One down.......three more to go

This is what I'm up against. The slab shown below is way off. That's the result of my sucky chainsaw cutting skills. The scribe line shows where the slab needs to be in order for it to work for the tabletop. The challenge is trying to get it down to a manageable thickness using available tools (did I mention, I sure could use a sawmill right about now).

Well, guess I better get started. First step is getting rid of stock down to the approximate scribe line using the angle grinder chainsaw wheel attachment. Man, my wrists and forearms are taking a real beating on this!

It's really a slow go all things being said. It's also generating an awful lot of sawdust in the shop. That much stock removal leaves enough sawdust for someone with horses to use it for bedding in their horse stalls!

Step by step. Take it down to the scribe line every 6 inches, or so, before moving on and doing it all over again.

The last mountain to climb! Whew! Glad this is almost over!

Now THIS is manageable for the router planer.

Instead of using the 15' rails for planing this one, I decided it might be easier and less strain on the back if I were to set up the smaller planer using a door to slide the slab back and forth under the sled. We'll see.

Checking level. Yep - good to go!

This is much better than the long rails. So much easier to slide the sled!

After I don't know how many passes, it looks like it's getting down to where I want it to be.

Oops! A little thinner than I anticipated, but still very workable and functional at 2 3/8" thick.

Now all I need to do is run the circular saw on the edges followed up by a pass or two with the router on the edges, and this one should be ready for jointing to another slab.

Gotta say, this took a long time to do. Who knew the Laguna 22" bandsaw I had awhile back would be so missed! The sawmill jig I had set up for it would have made very short work of these slabs. Oh, well......

 The other slabs no doubt will take just as long for each one. That's the reality when using what's available. And that's just one more reason why handcrafted functional art such as this piece will ultimately become a treasure for someone.

Until next time.......

Friday, March 21, 2014

Did I Mention..........SAWMILL?

Yep, gotta go with the old standby - cottonwood. The thing is I have lots of cottonwood slabs, but cut them all too thick in order to leave some "wiggle room" when working with them. To top that off, widths also vary, so they needed to be trimmed in order for four of them glued up to make a nice 3' wide by 4' long tabletop. Easier said than done.

Cutting with the chainsaw was problematic because no matter how hard I tried, my accuracy just flat out sucked! The next best thing is, of course, is the router planer even though it is very labor and time intensive. I need to keep telling myself the results are usually worth the effort, but it takes an awful lot of convincing just to get started..

First step: Set the slab on its side to try to plane it down for jointing. There's about 2 1/2" to 3" of excess that needs to come off on one end. The rest kind of tapers off almost to nil. Shouldn't be too hard or take too long, should it?

Well, yes, it will (both be too hard - at least on the router - and take too long). That's really way too much for the router to handle. I mean, it can be done, but it's really hard on both the router and me. Next best thing (I hope) is to use the angle grinder with a grinding disc (Harbor Freight) to try to get a rough "plane" down to a line drawn on the side of the slab.

That actually worked pretty well as can be seen in the photo below. All that's left is to "smooth" plane with the router.

Finished one edge. In order to keep the slab steady, a prop had to be butted up against it on one side. A 6" x 6" landscaping timber cut to length and clamped to the table worked really well.

Now it's a simple matter of flipping the slab, securing it and doing the same planing on the other side.

Getting the thickness down to a manageable level for the router planer is another story. This slab was around 7" thick to begin with. Not only would that take forever with the planer, but it would be awfully hard on my already aching back (just thinking about it).

Again, the angle grinder came to mind. Scribing a thickness line along one of the finished edges gave me a depth to shoot for when grinding. Doing this involves simply eye-balling the edge and the surface to be planed to determine which edge would be best for stock removal. Once that's done, it's easy to put a long straight edge on the side and use a magic marker to draw the line.

Grinding it down is really not that hard to do - it just takes quite awhile to do it. This time I used a little chainsaw wheel called Lancelot (can be purchased at Harbor Freight and is actually made in the USA) on the angle grinder. This wheel can really mess you up if you don't take proper safety precautions. I remember on Extreme Home Makeover when the guy from Britain (can't remember his name) was using one of these to cup out the seat in a chair he was working on. Problem was he had taken the guard off the grinder, it kicked and pretty much took half his hand off in the process. Leave the damn guard ON! Wear proper eye, hand, dust, and ear protection. And, above all else, keep the work area clear of obstructions. Nuff said on safety.

This thing does take awhile to learn how to use. I found it can be used much like a grinding wheel can be used. Or, it can be used like a saw combined with a cupping motion for really great stock removal (and it stays sharp a really, really long time, too).

I am wearing a protective apron in the photos and video below which some might consider to be a hazard of sorts. I agree it can be a hazard if left too loosely tied. I tried to make sure it fit snug around my rather larger than I'd like it to be waist. That pretty much took care of keeping it away from the spinning tool.

A short video to give a little perspective on how the grinding works for those who might be interested.

That's it for now. See you next time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well......DAMN - now I'm getting frustrated

Since my last post the ants really got to me. I was making really good progress on planing down the logs for slabs, grinding out those "punky" voids and thinking this is really going to be nice when it's done. The ants had been flung out of their nests by the router whenever it made a pass, and......wait a minute. Dang it! More ANTS. Seemed like every single time I hit a dry rot spot (I'm a poet and don't even know it), more ANTS!

Time to make that all important decision whether or not to continue down that road and deal with the ANTS or scrap the wood and start over with something else. About 10 hours invested already and not a thing to show for it except the knowledge this is part and parcel of doing this type of woodworking.

With that many ANTS already exposed, the very real possibility exists that sometime down the road other ANTS inside the wood might just eat their way out and ruin the table then. So, scrap it! Give it to Bobby for his firewood project. I know he can put it to good use!

And, with that, these slabs were relegated to becoming someone's firewood. Hope they like roasted ANTS! In some places ANTS are a delicacy - at least that's what I've heard.

Now I can only hope I got all those ANTS that survived the router spinning them out of their nests into the piles upon piles of sawdust on the shop floor. Oh, yeah! That's right - I need to sweep every once in awhile. Hope that gets em'!

After thinking about it for awhile, a decision was made to try and work with two slabs of walnut that had the potential to be joined together to make a table about the size I was looking for. Did I mention the size actually diminished from the original down to a 4' x 3' tabletop? Well, it did. So, there ya go.

These two slabs were actually bookends cut from the same log. Both had large voids where the branches used to be. Thinking that crotchwood would be beautiful when finished, I enthusiastically cut into and began leveling them even though I was a little concerned with the punkiness of some of the areas right around the crotches. My hope was that solid wood would eventually show up and that the dry rot hadn't gone deep enough to affect my plans.


Can't take them down any further in order to maintain the 3" thickness I was shooting for, and the dry rot is still a problem. Grinding it out would leave voids that are way too large to maintain any structural integrity at all - too many cracks all along both the pieces mean they could just fall apart at some time in the future. Not even installing butterflies could help keep them sound.

These two slabs won't end up in the firewood pile. No, siree. They're good for something - I just don't know yet what.

Back to the drawing board once again. Thinking my old standby, cottonwood, might be just the ticket!