Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Gothic Geometry"?

In an ongoing effort to try new things, I decided to veer off a bit from my usual works into an unknown area I'll just call "experimentation". 

I've always wanted to try and sculpt something....just not with a chainsaw. All the tools are present to carve stuff (rough finish), but, as it was with even getting started in what I've done previously, this new genre requires some personal kicking in the rear end to get going.

With that.....

Finding the right pieces:

Raw materials are plentiful. They're just buried under about a foot to two feet of snow (no photos of me digging them out - you really don't want to see me doing that. No, you REALLY don't want to see me doing that, or maybe I should say "hear" me doing that). Most of them are about 6 to 8 feet in length, too:

The best way to get them to length with a reasonably level bottom on both pieces was to use the chopsaw. Still an "iffy" proposition because there's really no way to secure the pieces to the saw to prevent kickback, and, yes, there were a couple of passes that scared the living bejeesuz out of me.

Setting them up to lean against each other was easy. Scribing them to make the cut was also pretty easy because of the pre-planning I did to get relatively level bottoms on each piece (pre-planning is one of my strongest fortes', don'tcha know).

But, dang it! That chopsaw ain't gonna work at cutting an angle like I need. Guess the old fashioned way with a handsaw is the only way to get this done right! Reckon that pre-planning forte' isn't so durn burn good after all!

Decisions, decisions. Small ripsaw? Japanese pullsaw? What to do? What to do? Love that Japanese pullsaw, but the kerf is so small and narrow, the saw keeps binding up on me. That means.....you guessed it....small ripsaw (my Dad's old one at that....a little bit of my Dad is going into this piece, too).

After a whole lot of back and forth, back and forth, the shoulder muscles are beginning to ache, the hand knuckles are already aching, and I'm about ready to call it quits. But, before I do, the end fell off! Just like it was supposed to. Now, for the other one.....

Thinking I might just be done for today. This is going to take some more of that pre-planning forte' I spoke of earlier -- how, exactly, to glue this up without having either of the two pieces slip and slide out of place before the glue sets. Any ideas? Can't clamp them (odd shapes). Can't screw them together (chances of them being "flush" after being screwed freehand are about nil). Can't dowel them together (see problem with screwing them together). Can't get them under the drill press clamped together. Can't get them into a vise clamped together.

What to do? What to do?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

After months (seems like years) of no projects being worked on (still trying to convert the old barn over to my new/old shop), it felt really good to finally get working again on a bona fide project....a bigger bona fide project, that is.

As usual, the ease is in the perception....at least to begin with.

Katherine saw something online she thought might be a good seller. I took a look at it and agreed. My thoughts went immediately to the degree of difficulty (my usual mode). Hers went to how easy this should be, especially given the fact I already had two pedestals done and ready to go:

Curious yet as to what these are going to wind up being? Too bad! Not ready to let the cat out of the bag just yet!

Each one of these needs a top. The top needs to be a diameter of no less than 25 inches assuming the top will be kind of "roundish".

There were three cottonwood crosscut slabs on top of my scrap pile I thought might fit the bill. No such luck, and that's when the ease of perception decided to take a hike in a southward direction BIG time!

None of them were over 22 inches in diameter. So, all three of them got set aside, and off to the portable garage I went for one of the big boys:

Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' bout! This big boy definitely fits the bill. Over 36 inches in diameter. Yeah, baby!

Wait a minute....there's a really big crack in this crosscut slab. Gotta get rid of that in order to make this work. Will it leave the requisite 25 inch diameter? Whew! Just barely. Now, the only thing to worry about (constant worrier, don'tcha know) is whether or not that crack will extend any further.

This is the fun part, at least for me it is, the shaping....

Tried chiseling off small portions....got really tired of doing that really fast.

Tried pounding in a wrecking/pry bar....got really tired of doing that really fast, too.

Looked for my splitting wedge....couldn't find it.

Puzzled over this for awhile, and then had one of those legendary senior moments (brain farts for some)....splitting maul! Yep! That's the ticket!

A few (a relative term, to be sure) less than well placed swings (well, maybe not to some of you younger whippersnappers out there), and the deed was done. Just a little bit of the crack left over which leaves just enough extra to work with when doing more shaping in that area.

All of this was done with the slab on the floor. Next step is to grind it down to about a 4 inch thickness. But it has to be lifted onto two sawhorses to get it up to a height I can work with.

DANG, but that's still heavy! Good thing it's been drying out for, what, 4 years now? Leverage is a beautiful thing....especially when you know how to use it.

All set up and ready to go, except the thickness that has to come off this slab is way more than I anticipated it would be. This thing's about 7 inches thick, and it needs to be about 3 inches for a finished slab. Well, that means about 3 inches off the top and another inch off the bottom.

At one point in my woodworking life, I would have used my router planer to take down the extra stock. After burning out two routers in the process, it's become readily apparent there has to be another way.

Enter the handy-dandy angle grinder with chainsaw grinding wheel:

Sharpened that chain, and away we go!!!

After grinding down about half the stock on this side that needs to be removed, it was time to quit for the day. Neck, shoulders, elbows, hands, and fingers are all so stiff and sore, I'm hoping they'll calm down at least a little bit for tomorrow's work.

The picture above really doesn't show the amount of stock taken off, but, trust me, it felt like it was way more than it actually turned out to be.

Hopefully, the photo below will at least give some idea of how much still has to be taken off before flipping it over to work on the other side:

After the rest of the stock has been removed on this side, it's flip the durn burn thing over, and grind down another inch on the other side. Then, and only then, will I take the router planer after this thing and smooth both sides flat!

Have you guessed yet what it's gonna be?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pipe Bowl Display Stands

It's feeling pretty good to kinda be back in the saddle once again and working on an actual project. Only this time, the work being done is in my "new/old" shop.

After moving everything....and I do mean EVERYthing....over, I was finally at a point in putting things away and organizing to actually have the room to make something once again.

Shawn, our Son, asked if I'd be able to make some kind of display stand for some novelty pipe bowls, and that's what this post is all about....the process used to do just that.

I'd made a rough piece for e-cigarettes to show him, and he thought it would also be nice to have a rack for his pipe bowls in the display case sort of like this, but with multiple holes for multiple bowls (I'm a poet and I don't even know it):

First thing to do was to agree on a size since space in his display case was limited. We agreed to do a tiered (only two tiers for this "experiment") piece with holes to accommodate as many as would fit in 20, or so, inches and 5 inches wide. The top tier would only be two inches wide.

Next, what kind of wood? I have lots and lots of scraps in my wood pile, but this had to look nice. It had to "fit" with the overall tenor of his shop, and it had to kind of set a tone for similar pieces to be made in the future for those buying customers of his.

We chose mahogany. It just so happened I had quite a lot of tongue and groove pieces of mahogany 3/4" flooring sitting right there in my shop - a gift from a good friend of mine.

The tongues and the grooves had to go through the "ripping" process on the tablesaw in order to remove them from all edges, and the smaller tier had to be ripped from an intact piece.

Once that was done, the real work could begin.

Next step? Cutting both pieces, on the chopsaw, to identical lengths:

Mind you, these pieces had been sitting around for quite awhile in different kinds of temperature and moisture conditions, so quite a few were warped and bowed. Hunting through the stack to find just the right pieces was a pretty good challenge because they're all kind of "buried" in the end stall of the new/old shop under all the stuff that has yet to be gone through and organized.

So, when I found these two pieces that "fit" together kind of seamlessly, I was pretty durn burn happy:

They both needed a little sanding....not much....but a little:

Have I ever mentioned how much I like my radial drill press? I really, really do....like my radial drill press, that is.

This thing is so versatile, it not only allows me to drill holes at an angle without angling the "table" the piece sits on, but it also allows me to move the drill head back and forth to accommodate the length of the piece being drilled into....up to 24, or so, inches.

The only thing is, I needed to clamp everything, and I mean everything, to the table in order to make sure nothing flew back in my face as I was doing any drilling. That....that right there....took more time than anything else to set up.

Did I mention before that I really like my radial drill press? Oh, yeah....I did. But I really, really do like this thing. And here's another reason why:

In the photo above, the mark for the very last drill hole is farther out than the drill head was originally set for. It was a simple matter to adjust the drill head a little farther out to accommodate this dilemma. Problem solved.

Well, after stressing and straining over all the holes that needed to be drilled, this is the result....a two tiered display rack for those novelty pipe bowls (Darth Vader here, but many others to be displayed in like fashion):

Now, the two tiers need to be glued together and a finish applied. Gettin' there is half the fun!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jessi's coffee table: finishing - 3 coats of lacquer

Today was a big day! Three coats of lacquer and the job could, I say "could", be done, but it isn't.

Unfortunately, a spray setup isn't something available to do this job at this point, so brushing it is going to have to do.

It's actually kind of amazing how quickly this stuff dries, and how the brush marks seem to get a whole lot smaller as the lacquer dries. The photos below really don't show the gloss of the third and final coat, but believe me, it shines!

The wood grain really pops, too.

And the tiles? I was really worried about how well they'd show through all of this, especially after sanding the epoxy multiple times and the finish then looking very cloudy. Again, the photo doesn't really show it, but the lacquer finish is almost as shiny as the epoxy would have been had it not been sanded at all!

Bottom line? This process, so far, is something I'm going to make a regular part of my finishing regimen.

Final steps? There are still some dust nibs that must be taken down which requires some finish sanding which will then require polishing to get the sheen back to the gloss finish I want.

Went to the Internet once again and found some advice from the experts on how to rub out lacquer. They recommend a waiting period of at least 7 days before starting the final phase of finishing including the rub out in order to let the lacquer cure to its best hardness. DAMN! Was hoping to get this done tomorrow. Not going to happen. A week is what it is, then! In the meantime, I'll bring the table down to the house to let it cure in a more heated and dust free environment.

Have also been consulting with a friend on FB who's been doing refinishing with lacquer for a very, very long time (thanks, Paul Horn). His advice has been invaluable (spray is the best - hope to maybe do that next time).

The rub out process in the last phase will be shared in the final blog post on this project once it gets going.

Talk to you then.

Jessi's Coffee Table - Finishing: Sealer Coat

After doing a lot of research on finishing, a command decision was made, by me of course, to try something new (to me) on this coffee table top - lacquer.

As far as I'm concerned, the best finish will be durable, but also yield a high gloss finish similar, if possible, to what I'd get with an epoxy/resin pour. Some of the videos I've watched make this process look very promising. In fact, one of them showed the finished process looking pretty much like a mirror or sheet of glass looks. Impressive.

If a lacquer finish works, I'll be using the process on every "flat" piece I do from now on. Sides, nooks and crannies, and voids are another story altogether. Those will continue to get the old tried and true hand rubbed polyurethane treatment if, for no other reason, than they are so damn hard to "polish" when all is said and done - something required in the lacquer finishing process as the last step. But flat surfaces? Here's hoping.

One video recommended sealing the top with a half and half mixture of lacquer thinner and 100 % lacquer. It just so happens, I have the right ingredients:

The plastic jug on the end in the photo above served as my mixing bowl.

Once the ingredients were poured into the jug, they were stirred thoroughly to make sure of an even flow when brushed on.

Am I doing this right? Every video I watched said to resist the temptation to keep "painting" the lacquer. The temptation is strong to go against that advice. As the lacquer was applied, I could see brush marks and "pooling" just about every step of the way. Must resist......must resist.......

Maybe I need to use a wider brush? The one I'm using is a good quality, which is also something highly recommended in those videos, but the brush marks left behind seem to be pretty "pronounced". May have to do some "light" sanding to shave off those brush marks before going to the next step if they don't disappear by themselves.

Anyway, this was completed at 9:30 AM. The instructions on the can say to let it dry for 2 hours. Hmmmm.....guess I'll write up a short blog post in the interim on what's going on. Hard to wait until 11:30 to apply the first full coat of lacquer. Must resist......must resist......

DANG, but I hope this works! The lacquer on top of the epoxy really makes the tiles pop! Am a little concerned about that bonding chemical reaction everyone talks about with lacquer. Will it affect the the epoxy? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Coffee Table for Jessi ---- Redux

Seems like, well, like forever since I started this coffee table for Jessi. Actually, it was started before we went back to CT to help out after Papa Paul's major surgery (he's doing much better now). I've been working on it in fits and starts ever since, and was finally getting to a point where I thought I was almost done. Little did I know:
As you can see in the photo below, on either side of the epoxy inlay, there are strips of what appear to be areas that either aren't accepting the varnish (they accepted the penetrating stain just fine) or there’s something else going on. 
The wood is cottonwood. The stain is dark oak oil based penetrating stain. The varnish I've been using is hand rubbed Minwax. One coat of stain, and what you see in the photo above is actually the third coat of Minwax varnish.
In between coats, I did the requisite fine sanding with synthetic 0000 steel wool (dry). The last time before applying the third coat, I sanded using mineral spirits in the synthetic steel wool, wiped up excess, and let it thoroughly dry before applying another coat of varnish.
Those strips of fuzzy were there before the mineral spirits sanding, but I thought they’d disappear with more coats of varnish——- NOT!
The rest of the table top is coming along better than I expected, but those two strips are really perplexing me.
My thought was to let everything cure overnight, go at it again the next day with the mineral spirits sanding, dry thoroughly, and then apply multiple coats of water based varnish over everything.
In the meantime, I consulted with fellow LumberJocks on that website to get their feedback and learned a whole lot - probably more than I really wanted - and the consensus seemed to be to sand the whole thing down and start over on the top. No one seemed to know what was going on that would cause that dull matte area to appear. One guy on FB who's been doing refinishing work for 37 years said he's never seen anything like it.
Well, leave it to Katherine to come up with the most likely cause of this problem. I'd used water along with 000 synthetic steel wool to sand and buff the epoxy and some of the water wicked into the wood during the sanding process. Cottonwood is notorious for absorbing and holding water, and this simply made sense. That the water in the wood wouldn't allow for absorption of the stain and varnish seemed like a "DOH"!
So, back to the sanding, tedium, patience (something I was beginning to kind of run out of the more I had to do).
Well, for those who’d like to know, I wound up having to strip everything down to bare wood on the top of the table. Started out hand sanding the affected areas with 400 grit:
Not taking it down at all. Switched to 200 grit:
Not taking it down at all. Switched to 60 grit:
That seemed to work pretty well, but the results left the rest of the tabletop in need of similar sanding. So, got out the trusty old belt sander and took the rest of the finish off using that – worked pretty quickly, I might add:
Went back to random orbital sanding to take out the scratches made by the belt sander, and I’m done for the day. Shoulders ache, mind says keep going, but body says NOT!
Seems, too, like when one problem is solved (at least eyeballing it tells me it is), another one rears its ugly head. Now, because the problem area I removed was so deeply embedded in the wood, the epoxy is sitting a little proud of the rest of the top.
The next day, I sanded everything down on the top including the epoxy strip using a 60 grit on my random orbital to begin with. Still wasn't taking the epoxy down to where I needed it, though, so switched to the belt sander knowing the scratches would be significant, but also knowing with a little patience (actually a whole lot of patience - running short, though) I’d be able to get them out. It worked! Epoxy was flat enough.
Next step was to go back to the 60 grit to remove scratches. When that was done, switched to 80 grit, and to 120 grit last. Then it was hand sanding with 150 grit and that was enough.
Here’s the end of the sanding:
Hauled the table upstairs (man, is that thing heavy) for staining, and this is the result (that little lighter square in the photo on the table is just light from a window shining on it):
And, finally, the area that caused the problem to begin with – looks pretty good if I do say so myself. The epoxy is dull from the sanding, but if I do the finishing right, it should really pop when done:
Upon recommendation from a friend on FB who's been doing refinishing work for 37 years, I've decided to go with a lacquer finish, and because I found this in my collection of miscellaneous stuff:
Truth is, I'd never really considered lacquer as a finish - always thought it was a pain in the butt to work with. Once I watched some Youtube videos of the process, it didn't seem so intimidating anymore.
I’ll let ya’ll know how it goes when it's done.