Friday, January 22, 2016

The verdict is in, and the jig is up......

As the title of this post says, the verdict is in, and the jig is up.....WAY up, in fact. If I had a rating system of 0 to 5 with 5 being the best, I'd rate this jig a 10. As you can see, I must confess I've never been that good at math. But, not to worry because I'm not testing myself on way, no how!

The other day, it was warm enough to actually do some serious carving with this jig. Then it got cold....too cold to work in the shop without heat.

Did I mention that turbo jet heater (which I've since found out is a heater with many names) doesn't work very well for a woodworking shop like mine? My fellow Lumberjocks gave me advice on wood stoves and flash explosions, and, based on what they told me, the risk of carbon monoxide is pretty high. That sold me on doing something else for heat.

Today, it was, once again, warm enough outside to make some serious sawdust inside, and that's exactly what I did!

After I got the piece turned upside down from what it was the other day, I could get to work on the bottom half. That involved getting it clamped in....

Lines drawn to guide the carving....

And getting going, and I didn't even need to clamp the jig to the workbench because the weight held it very firmly in place....

Once again, though, after the first flutes were taken down as far as I wanted them to go, the piece had to be tilted at an angle to be able to work on those side flutes....

It took awhile, but mission accomplished was a really good feeling to have.

I should also note that I used a leaf blower in between flute carvings to clear sawdust out of the shop, and that's why there's no sawdust mess in any of the photos....

One other thing that needs mentioning here; my long neck Makita die grinder with coarse round rasp is awesome! That baby gets cradled right in the crook of my right arm as I'm working, and it's, is it steady for carving. This thing is well worth the price (not telling), and will ultimately come in very handy when I start doing more intricate carving later on. In the meantime, I'm still learning along with honing those carving skills bit by bit.

Well, that's it for today. It's supposed to be warm again tomorrow, but there's a whole lot of other things going on. I guess the next step in this process will have to wait until after the snowstorm we're expecting on Sunday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Carving and Shaping Floodgates are Now Open....

Today was a good day to use my imagination deciding on a design for one of the two rock salt lamp stands currently in the works. The weather was actually nice enough to allow for working in the shop without a drippy nose and numb fingers. So, I got to work.

Before I get to describing the actual carving, though, there's something that's been on my mind for a very long time, and I decided today was the day to address it. The question? How long does it take to make something, start to finish?

Well, I really don't know how long it takes. Truth is, I never really kept track of time spent on doing this kind of work. If I did, I might shed a tear or two over how much time it really does take. I don't even know if I WANT to time a project. The reason? Well, actually the reasons are in the plural:

Each project is different.

Each project presents unique challenges.

Each project requires different tools and techniques.

So, my answer invariably has always been a tap dance of sorts along the lines of if I charged by the hour, people really couldn't afford this.

That's been bothering me though. How much time does it really take? Well, today, I decided to try and find out. Today, I timed how long it took to carve and grind the first of those rock salt lamp stands ---- just the carving and grinding of the upper half of the first piece. That'd at least give me an idea, right?

The setup wasn't included, nor did I even stop to think of wear and tear on the long neck die grinder or the carving rasp or any of the other normal overhead type things that should go into figuring this sort of stuff out.

The final tally revealed I was right all along ---- even I don't want to know how long it takes! The timing effort is now finished before it really even got started. No more. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Bet you're wondering what the results were, right? Well, that's a secret that's gonna be kept, but time actually spent in this experiment does go to the pricing dilemma I face on these kinds of pieces. The experiment revealed I was right; that if I charged according to time spent, no one could afford them.

That, in turn, made me wonder if maybe I need to develop my skills a bit more in order to be able to crank them out faster. That, in turn, made me chastise myself because I, and I alone, know what goes into making pieces of functional art like these.

See where I'm going with this? See what angst if causes? That....that right there, is why I've been so reluctant to tally time spent. Oh, well.....

Anyway, after all was said and done, more got done than said on the first piece.

Remember that handy dandy shop jig I made yesterday? Well, it works. It works very well, in fact. That blank didn't budge even a little bit all throughout the carving.

Setup included clamping the base to the workbench using "jaws" and then tightening down the pipe clamp shop jig to secure the piece.

The next step was to figure out the "design".

I decided this one was going to be a variation of my first ever attempt at doing this, and the design was drawn free hand using a black magic marker. Markers work best because the lines are easy to see even with all the sawdust generated by the die grinder.

My hope is that, over time, design's will get more intricate. But until I get better at using the die grinder, the simpler the design the better. There's certainly a lot of stock removal ahead.

In the photo below, the long neck die grinder used to scallop out the design is taking a well-deserved break.

None of the scallops are exactly the same, and that's the way I wanted this to look.

By the way, did I say how well that shop jig apparatus works? I'm thinking this was a great idea, especially for the top and the bottom carving and grinding.

A different photo angle.

In order to do the sides, though, the whole apparatus, including the piece, had to be turned on its side in order to get the right angle to be able to work on it.

At the start, I wasn't really too sure how turning it on its side like this might work, but not to worry. The nice thing about this setup is every time one scallop was done, all I had to do was loosen the clamp, turn the blank, and the next one was positioned just right. Turn the crank back down, and the piece was nice and secure.

One down, not sure how many more to go.

After all of the top half was finished rough carving, this is how it looks. Of course, it'll need to be rough sanded to shape and smooth it some more, but it's also beginning to actually look like something.

Just another photo angle of the "flutes".

Depending on weather tomorrow, I hope to get the bottom half done.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Necessity -- The Mother of Invention

Wow! Two blog posts in one day! That's pretty much a record. Should I go for three? Naw....that would necessarily require that more work get done in that cold, cold, shop. Just getting this far made my nose run and my fingers get numb, and it ain't even that cold outside! It's windy, though, and that makes for a pretty cold shop interior.

Anyway, after I got done routing the recess into the second lamp stand, it became pretty clear an idea I had for a shop jig just HAD to get worked on.

So, the photos I took of the lamp stand blank with recess routed out will just get posted my Facebook page.

The shop jig idea came about because I get really skittish when it comes to work pieces that aren't held down tightly while I'm sculpting, cutting, and grinding on them to get the shapes that'll make them the unique pieces they are.

So, here's the deal....the last stand I did was hard to do because it kept wanting to twist and turn. I finally clamped it into the long throat vise shown in the last blog post, and that kinda sorta worked pretty well. That's the thing, though --- pretty well just isn't good enough.

The issue was that the blank had to be loosened up and turned, loosened up and turned, loosened up and turned....well, you get the picture. Every time I was done with one groove or area, it required time....more time than I was willing to devote especially this time of year when it's so damn cold in that shop. Did I mention how cold it is in there? DAMN cold!

Time to come up with a better idea.

The hole through each piece is 1 1/4" in diameter. There's a whole bunch of leftover 1" pipe from other shop jig ideas I've had just waiting to be put to use for something else (multi-use, don'tcha know) and I have several sets of 1" pipe clamps that fit them.

The first idea I had was to try using both ends of the clamp to hold the piece steady, but that was very quickly discarded. That wouldn't allow for vertical work.

The next idea? Well, take a look at the photo below. All I need to do is to screw the flange down to the workbench, slip the piece over the end, and voila....instant whatever I decide to call this in the end!

Not so fast, Dude! You really don't want to screw down into the workbench, do you? Nope. Too restrictive. What if, Heaven forbid, I decide to change my mind, and to move it somewhere else to work on it? Mount it to a piece of 3/4" wood or plywood, and it's good to go.

Let's see how this works. So far, so good. The flange actually snugs up inside the hole and helps hold it more steady, but it still isn't steady enough to be as safe for grinding and shaping as it should be. Darn it!

But wait! Just one end of the pipe clamp, the end with the screw down, might just work. Okay, put it on, screw it down, a little more. Yup! This is definitely going to work!

Now, all I need to do is turn the base on the workbench instead of screwing things down into it, and we're off to the races....or should I say the floodgates are about to be opened? Well, maybe tomorrow....hands and fingers are too cold, and the nose is still dripping.

Ready to Sculpt ---- Releasing the Floodgates!!!

A few days ago, I shared a post on Facebook cuz I was stoked.....STOKED, I tell ya! Our neighbor helped get a drill press our daughter had given me from their place over to my shop. The process was long and difficult, it required 4 wheel drive and snow chains to get the neighbor's pickup to the shop, but, in the end, it was mission accomplished!

This is what I've been waiting for in order to drill deeper holes in some of the projects too long for the radial drill press which is a table model.

While this drill press does need a new belt, the only other thing it was in need of (some would call it a dire need, but not me) was some lubrication to get those old, old pieces and parts moving again the way they were intended to move.

The biggest worry, though, was whether it would even work when plugged in. Not to worry, though. It fired right up and purred like a kitten. Those old electric motors are, quite simply, amazing!

Long story short....well, kinda short....the length of a piece was no longer an issue to be able to drill at least a pilot hole with a forstner bit to get things started.

Heck, I even used the forstner bit extender to get the deepest pilot hole I possibly could, and that worked like a charm.

The depth of the bit and extender allowed for a 5 1/2" pilot hole. Now I just needed to figure out how to get all the way through rest of this piece.

Not to worry on that front, either. Some call 'em spade bits. Some call 'em paddle bits. I'll go with spade bits. This one is 1 1/4". Even with a little extra length, I had to use a bit extender to be able to get all the way through. I'm beginning to think I might just need to invest in a longer shank spade bit. Oh, well.

The issue with lengthening the bit is the drill press had a lot more torque being placed on it than it could handle. So, I pulled out the old handy dandy Black and Decker industrial drill, loaded the bit, and went to work.

To hold the piece secure, and to make sure it didn't twist and buck while drilling the hole, the piece got secured into that handy dandy long throat Black and Decker vise I've featured in other blog posts. Have I said before how much I like this vise for this kind of work? Just in case I haven't said it before, I'm saying it now whether it's a repeat or not....I really, really like this vise for this kind of work!

That drill is a BEAST! The spade bit is getting a little dull, but the drill powered it right through!

Next step is to route out the recess for the lamp base followed by sculpting and shaping with the angle grinder and long neck die grinder using those specialty carving accessories that go along with them.

Later, Dudes and Dudettes!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ready to sculpt.....Hold on There, Pilgrim!!!!!

That passive-aggressive attitude? It's just gotta go! I'm sometimes left wondering why it seems so hard to get going, to just slog through some of the reluctance to get my ass up into that cold, cold shop and DO SOMETHING!!! Might the cold, cold atmosphere in that cold, cold shop have even a modicum of something to do with that reluctance?

Today, I resolved to do that, to just slog through that reluctance and see how far I'd get. This blog post is the result. I thought the next step would be to actually get to a point to be able to start sculpting. It started out that way, but, in the jargon of the previous blog post, "The best laid plans......", or would it be more appropriate to go with today's blog title, "Hold on There, Pilgrim!!!!!"?

A few days ago, the project involved just getting the tops and bottoms of the two pieces that will eventually go up for sale parallel to each other.

If any good came out of any of that day's work, other than the job at hand was accomplished before it got too cold, it was that I discovered the rails for the router sled were sagging under the combined weight of the router and the sled it runs in. That ain't good, and it'll need to be addressed before any larger projects loom large on the horizon.

It doesn't really look like the one on the right in the photo below fits the description of "top and bottom being parallel", but I'd like to point out once again that I simply despise my photographer! This is really an optical illusion. Please! Ya gotta believe me! I was there! I know this to be true!

OK, those previous photos were from days past. The rest are from today.

The plan for today was to get the recesses routed out before it got too cold, once again, to continue.

Mission was kind of accomplished....sort of.

Setting up the handy dandy jig to route out the recess was easy. That little Black and Decker expandable vise works really well for this kind of work. The single drawback to this whole setup is the jig had to be secured by drilling two screws down into the top of the piece to hold it in place while routing out the recess. That'd be all fine and good if it weren't for the fact there's gonna be two screw holes left behind after the jig is removed. To solve this problem, the jig got positioned so the screw holes are located where sculpting will cut them out. Dang, but I am one smart cookie!

The finished recess with the jig still attached:

The finished recess with the jig removed (you can also see the two screw holes if you look really hard - don't worry....this isn't a test to see if something can be Waldo, or a panda, or a cat, or whatever. They're there, and you really don't need to strain your eyes to find them (no photoshop skills on my part to help you out, either).

On to the next piece. Step one....attach the router jig. Check! Step two....see if the router bit fits into the pre-drilled cord hole. Should have known better. The hole is one size too small, and I don't want to set up the plunge function on the router because it's starting to get too cold and my fingers are starting to get numb.

That floor model drill press really needs to be over in the shop!

Well, that's it. Two rock salt lamp stands in progress, and too cold to go any further today. Guess you're just going to have to wait awhile longer to see where this all ends up.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Even the Best Laid Plans.......

The plan was sound. The implementation of the plan? Not so much.

The thinking here was to cut two similar logs that were originally intended for bench pedestals basically in half, and to take those halves and make more rock salt lamps out of the 4 log slices.

Good idea, right? I thought so.

Problem: how to cut them so the tops and bottoms are parallel to each other.

Using some of that inborn ingenuity as a planner and wannabe engineer, and searching through the rummage sale in waiting that may be in store for some of the stuff I have a tendency to hoard, I thought of the plastic sawbucks that came with those plastic sawhorses that broke the very first time they were used, and which those plastic sawbucks never got thrown away.

The reason? Well, those logs were already finished, and, in my infinite wisdom (or lack thereof), the thought was to make one cut which would save having to refinish the whole thing. So, the log got elevated above the workbench to allow the cut to go all the way through without having to turn the log to do so. The last time I tried this, the log had to be turned to get all the way through which resulted in an uneven cut that had to be planed down using the router planer. Not a big deal, but, hey, if one step can be eliminated, what the heck......

The first step here was to try and stabilize those sawbucks. Clamps and shims oughta do it. Marked what I thought were equidistant measurements from the end of the log, and began the cut using a handsaw. Yeah, I know; a chainsaw would have been a lot faster and less work, but I'm never sure how uniform my cuts are gonna be doing it this way. A handsaw, as long as the cut is eyeballed very carefully, can be smooth and accurate. That's just not something I'm very good at with a chainsaw.

Here's where the plan went South. The deeper the cut with the handsaw, the more wobbly the entire apparatus got. Even with a tie-down holding it, the sawbucks wanted to shimmy as the cut was being made.

Plan B: elevate one end, leave the other end in the middle groove of the workbench (which was designed this way for just this purpose....Sheesh! It shouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to figure this one out), tie it down, and get to the cutting!

This kind of cutting does take a LOT longer than using a chainsaw! It's a lot harder work, too!

Whew! All the way through! Finally! Wait a sec! That isn't even close to being parallel to the other end! Geez! The best laid plans....

Oh, well! Now the plan is to make a choice to either leave the slant (character, right?), or to plane it parallel to the other end. It'd be a lot easier in the long run to plane it down (routing that recess would be a piece of cake on a parallel plane compared to a slanted plane).

Gotta cogitate on this for a bit, plus it's lunchtime and my arms are aching, and my neck is sore, and my wrist hurts, and........

Later folks!