Category Archives: woodworker

OLD ‘ARN……IS THE BEST ‘ARN

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Hello, I’m The Madcap Woodwright, and I am an old ‘Arn – aholic.

Yet another year has passed and I am two days into my…..ahem….46th year here on this planet. As a gift to me for this auspicious occasion, the love of my life gave me the green light to drop a little coin on a birthday gift.

The Delta 768 10″ band saw was made between 1937 and 1943….I think….which makes this one of the more rare and very desirable machines in the vintage Delta line up.

Rare, because it was only made for those 5 or 6 years. Desirable because it is, for all intents and purposes, the exact same machine as it’s larger brother the vaunted 14″ delta band saw, but with smaller wheels top and bottom.

O.K. maybe not the exact same. But all the major components are interchangeable with the larger machine and it is bristling with all the heavy, thick cast iron that the larger capacity machine has, and then some.

Since the Delta 14″ band saw is ubiquitous, this means that most if not all of the parts that may fail on this little treasure, are easily replaceable. Nearly unheard of with a machine this old.

Add to it’s rarity and desirability that is is nice and compact which makes it a natural fit for The Tiny Shop.

Do not let it’s diminutive stature deceive you though, this machine is built … well … to last a lifetime or two. It’s just a beast for something so small in overall dimension.

I brought her home, gave her a bath, assembled her and plugged her in. As the saw ran, I began tweaking some adjustments here and there to take out some play in the blade and to see what I was dealing with as far as any needed rehab. As the machine scraped and squealed I was fearing that a total and complete strip and restoration was going to have to be done.

Imagine my joy when, the more she ran, the more smooth and quiet she became. Those old “sealed and lubricated for life” bearings were providing testimony to the craftsmanship and care with which these old tools were built before the advent of disposable tooling.

I let the saw run unloaded for a while and let her settle into a very smooth and content hum. Knowing that the blade that came with this was destined for replacement anyway, I went ahead and attempted a trial cut to see if the motor was going to have enough “umpfh” behind it, or if I were going to have to replace it. As it turns out, the thing made perfectly serviceable cuts, although at a diminished feed rate, in spite of the horribly dull condition of the blade.

Mind you, this is with the saw exactly as I got it. Un-tuned, all parts just as they came on it, and with a blade that could not cut warm butter on an August afternoon in the sun. This, not 20 minutes after having assembled the thing, rust, grunge and all.

Impressive.

Plans call for new wheel tires, thrust bearings, and some new fangled blades. A nominal outlay of dosh over and above the fire sale price that the love of my life and I paid for this.

After seeing that I was in pretty good shape here, I have decided to defer any hardcore restoration of this tool. (Disassembly, painting, parts replacement/upgrade)

The patina on her matches well with the Unisaw and the Jointer, and I can see no reason to get crazy with it’s rehab. Just whatever it takes to make it as accurate and useful as all the other tooling that I am finding a way to stuff into The tiny Shop.

Now, where should I put a lathe?

 

“He Who Hesitates……”

……procrastinates indefinitely.

 

It’s not that I am lazy, It’s more a case of having a lot of ideas and not knowing how to put order to them.

Since the first of the year I have been off to a good start with my level of productivity. I have discovered that I am quite adept at disgorging myself of various literary ideas now that I have cajoled an actual periodical to publish some of my ramblings. No shortage of copy for Highland Woodworking’s online magazine of blog.

Nor have I been lacking in the work to do in The Tiny Shop. Since the phonograph refinish, I have had a string of small furniture repairs and/or refinishes. Throw in another workbench build, and you are up to date with my current state of workshop projects.

Aside from a few model train display cases and the long promised step stool for my dear wife, I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Now what?

Well, that is where things are getting a little sticky. I really need to get some furniture built as prototypes and proof of concepts. I have been wanting to get some things built not only as a means of developing some design ideas, my take on some more traditional styles, but also as fodder for my photographer son to take some beauty shots of for a hypothetical website for The Tiny Shop.

Since I have yet to actually put pencil to paper in many months, I am relegated to my minds eye for developing ideas. This poses a bit of a problem, you see I tend to bounce from idea to idea and end up with a collection of fractured ideas bouncing around in my melon.

Best to choose one, and get on with it.

My intention is to build one of three ideas I have right now. The first is the glove table I had mentioned in a previous post. Next idea would be a blanket chest for my dear wife.

Last, and most fear inducing is the design and construction of a wall unit for our basement family room. Our house is on the verge of being too large for us, but with my 18 year old son having moved in with us this summer, the wall unit may be a good way of making the largely unused family room a little more warm and inviting for him during his stay with us, and an investment in our future use of the space once he moves on to his inevitable world domination tour sometime in the future.

Decisions, decisions.

yinyang

 

…and so it begins…again.

Above: Roubo In Repose.
Resting comfortably are the Douglas Fir timbers that will soon be the Roubo. The plan is to let them rest and dry out a little bit more before beginning milling operations on them. 

My hope is that with some creativity, my Delta jointer and elderly Ryobi planer will accept the challenge that milling these beasts will present. We shall see.

Also newly arrived at The Tiny Shop, both the bench vise screw from Veritas as well as the hold fasts from Gramercy/Tools For Working Wood.

Both arrived as promised and both display signs of exceptional craftsmanship. I am well pleased.

Edit to add:

The Scandinavian bench I built a year or so ago was also a Borg lumber build. It turned out so nice that I haven’t had the heart to really do any work on her without a blanket or other form of protection. Much to my embarrassment, I have allowed it to become something of a princess bench.

The Roubo on the other hand is slated to be the real work horse of the shop once completed. At least, that’s what I say now. Knowing myself the way I do, I may be making a trip to Harbor Freight during one of their (daily) sales, and picking up still more $5 moving blankets. 

It’s not that I fear the dings and dents of the work on the bench, it’s just that I have such a weakness for the beauty each of these designs impart to The Tiny Shop.  My hope is that the first ding, scratch etc. will then liberate me to finally get to putting these beasts to work properly and without bench condoms….. otherwise, I’ll be cutting dovetails in the snow on saw horses.

“Dry my lovelies,dry!”

A Little bit about Finishing

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In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was planning to switch from my tried and true solvent based lacquer finish to a more eco friendly water based finish. A reader commented on the switch, and this lead me to jot down some thoughts I have been having on this issue…well…and as another excuse to avoid working on  The Madcap Woodwright-Thoughts On Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon manuscript.

As the Muse has continued to elude me of late, I figured that writing ANYTHING was better than hiding from my ThinkPad. (A true hot rod of a laptop by the way)

As I mentioned, my normal film finish (as opposed to a penetrating finish like Danish oil) was always some version of a traditional lacquer finish. Nitrocellulose, or “pre catalyzed” lacquer being the two main versions most commonly used, until recent changes to environmental law began making finding reliable and affordable sources for these finishes difficult.

In addition, I have many, many, MANY years under my belt using these finishes. They are wonderful, and provide a good protective, and visually pleasing finish. Ease of use and over all versatility round out the reasons why they are traditionally preferred finish choice.

Their downsides, for me at least, include toxic vapor, flammable vapor, environmentally negative, and they require specialized EXPLOSION PROOF exhaust equipment to be anywhere near compliant with safety regulations in most areas.

Enter water based finishes.

Since their initial introduction, some 15(?) plus years ago, they developed a reputation for being cranky, finicky, and generally not ready for prime time.

A lot has changed in that time.

Now, let me say here, I have yet to actually use a waterborne finish. To say that I am hopeful, yet skeptical, would be an apt description.

However, word on the street among those who have actually used these finishes, say that they act very much like their solvent based predecessors. The word is that the newest generations of waterborne finishes cure to a tough, hard, and nearly identical to the traditional lacquers they are moving to replace.

target finishes

One thing to note, ANY solvent free finish that calls itself  “Lacquer”, is NOT lacquer in the strictest sense. Rather, most water based lacquers are in fact an ACRYLIC rather than a true lacquer. This is important because it has some significant differences in performance. Acrylic finishes are difficult to strip off when doing a refinish as compared to traditional lacquer, it does not “move” in the same way a traditional lacquer does either. This is, or could be important, for instrument makers or craftsman who take wood movement into consideration.

That said, the latest generations of acrylic lacquers are said to have much improved elasticity properties, and  perform very, very closely to solvent based lacquers but tends to be brand dependent.

All of this leads me to the decision to begin working with the above pictured finish. By all accounts the Target Coatings acrylic lacquer is as close to traditional lacquer as one can get in the latest generation of waterborne finishes.

My hope is that I will find that this is the case. I really want to be able to make the switch from solvent based to water based spray-able finishes.

Much more on this as events unfold……stay tuned.

A Day In The Life … or … The spirit of James Krenov is alive and well and living in Denver.

image Now that I have made some headway on sorting the shop, my thoughts turn to just what it is exactly, I intend to do with it. Obviously, there will be much lolly gagging, and pondering over steaming cups of coffee. There will be plenty of tinkering, and tweaking, and fussing about with the machines. I can also imagine a period of building jigs, and shop cabinetry, not to mention those pieces promised to the Love of my life (LOML) once the shop is operational. After that, it is a little foggy. If I were asked what my fantasy life would be like, I would have to say that I would be quite content to stroll out to the shop early in the morning, smelling the lilac as I passed by, coffee cup in hand. I can clearly envision opening the shop up, turning on some music (perhaps Bach, or Brahms. Maybe some Miles Davis, or Duke Ellington.) and sketching something from the catalogue of project ideas I have stored up in my minds eye. Once a suitable direction has been selected, the rough dimensions and scale imagined, it is time to saunter to the lumber rack and select from the gobbs and gobbs  of North American hardwoods or perhaps something European and mysterious. Something I have yet to cut into or work with yet. Perhaps some Olive wood, or Steamed Beech. Running my hands over the rough sawn boards, I wait for one or two to speak to me. As esoteric and deluded as this may sound, I have ALMOST felt this experience as described by James Krenov in his books, from time to time in my career. The experience of being patient, and waiting for the wood to “Tell” you what it wants to be. Once the boards have been selected, it is time to begin the day by bringing these precious pieces of wood into square so that they can begin their metamorphosis from rough sawn stock, into something fine and pleasing to the touch. The anticipation of the finished piece is present, to be sure. However, there is great joy in handling the boards, discovering their grain and figure as they are milled carefully. As the day progresses, a break for a drink from a refrigerated water bottle, and a bite to eat. Mustn’t forget to feed the Koi also. I can imagine spending 20 minutes or so, munching on a sandwich, drinking cold water, and watching the Koi Hoover up every last morsel of food tossed in their pond. Once snack time is over, it is back to the shop to lay out joinery, or to take glue-up’s out of the clamps and scrape the squeeze out from the joints before preparing them for their intended use. As mid day turns to late afternoon, good headway has been made. The piece is ready to be dry fit. With the remaining time in the day, perhaps even getting the piece into glue up is possible if executed well. Should I? Or shouldn’t I? Will I have to rush through the glue up process? Or can I take my time, and allow the piece to come together, rather than bullying it into submission? Maybe there would be someone waiting to buy the piece. Someone who knows what went into it’s construction. Someone who sees the same synchronicity  between the wood itself, and the piece as a whole. This would be the ideal way to spend my days. Yes, this would be an ideal day in the life of the Madcap Woodwright. A day spent exploring my imagination, and making useful things for people to enjoy. Definitely something to work for…no question. Like me on Facebook @ Madcapwoodwright Follow me on Twitter @ mdcpwoodwright

Some Thoughts On The Modern Woodwright….OR……Chris Becksvoort Is My Hero.

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As of late, I have found it a bit difficult to sit down to tap out a post here, as has become my habit. Suffice to say, the muse has not been upon me.

That is until I began researching clamps (of all things) to use in the soon-to-be-new-to-me shop.

I remembered reading an article in Fine Woodworking Magizine some time ago, that had some pictures of one of their long time editor’s, Christian Becksvoort in his home shop.

The article was about small shops of different sizes and scale. In one of the pictures that described Mr. Becksvoort’s shop at his home in New Gloucester, Maine, there was a wall full of sturdy looking clamps. These were clamps that I had never seen before, and felt that I simply MUST have them……..as I have mentioned before, it’s a sickness.

Me being…well… “Me”, I Googled Mr. Becksvoort, and through his website sent an e-mail asking him if he would be kind enough to send me any information on those clamps if he could. (NOTE: please notice the request by him to direct any “woodworking questions” to his contact info at Taunton Press. He provides a link. I must confess that in my zeal, I did not notice this little request until AFTER I had sent the email to his business email…lessons learned, and he still took the time to respond to me. Nice guy)

Now, Christian Becksvoort is a well known name in woodworking circles. He has written books, gives workshops, edits a well known and established woodworking journal, AND finds time to produce fine, handcrafted furniture in limited quantities. In short, the man is a woodworking God to many….myself included.

So, imagine my delight when, in ten minutes time, I had received a reply from him graciously forwarding to me the contact information for the company that made his clamps. We traded a couple of emails, and that was that.

Or was it?

You see, in this day and age, it can be difficult to find a Woodwright like Mr. Becksvoort. Successful, well known, self employed, and solvent. Granted, he, like so many talented Woodwrights out there, supplements his income giving lectures, and writing, but that is only because he had made his name by hand crafting such fine pieces in the first place. The man is truly living the dream after having paid many, many dues. To me, having any expectation of getting a response from him, let alone within ten minutes, was a lot to ask. At least in my mind it was.

Anyhow, I may sound a little surprised by the personal response by one of my hero’s.  The truth is, if I really thought about it,  I shouldn’t be. Chris has a long standing reputation as a true ambassador for the art of woodworking, and also as a thoughtful and well respected “stand up” guy. I have followed his work for as long as I can remember, and can attest to this. Granted that my endorsement means very little, and that on a personal level,it is based only on three or four gushing emails traded with him in the span of an hour. Still and all, he did respond personally, and was just as gracious, encouraging, and friendly as a hero SHOULD be.

So, this begs the question, “Why so few Woodworkers like Mr. Becksvoort?” Why is it so, that so many aspiring woodworkers either never move past the hobby stage in their woodworking, or if they do try to strike out on their own professionally, fail to make a living at it? How do the Sam Maloofs, Christian Becksvoorts, and James Krenovs “make it” and others do not?

All good questions. All questions that I wish I had an answer to.

If you listen to some, you may get the idea that fine woodworking as a trade, is dead. That it is relegated to being a craft or hobby only, and that mass production and the IKEAs of the world have replaced it with disposable furniture. In some respects, and for some people, this may be true. However, for me at least, I do not think that it is asking too much of the world to make room for and appreciate finely crafted furniture. Pieces that started as a tree, and were lovingly, respectfully, and honestly worked into a table, book case,chair, or cabinet designed and built to last several lifetimes, and the people whose hands make them, surely still have value and an audience.

One of the keys to advancing this mindset, and thus securing the livelihood of present and future generations of Woodwrights,  is through connection to folks like Mr. Becksvoort. Connection with like minded artisans. It used to be that trade shows and guilds were the mainstays of this connection. Over the years, the guilds have either died off, or are only barely there, and the trade shows/craft shows have degenerated largely into not much more than living commercials for … gasp … tools and jigs that are not really NEEDED.

There is one area that has brought hope though. The internet.

The internet has been a wonderful resource not just for researching woodworking, but also for connecting like minded artisans. I belong to a handful of quality online woodworking forums. (sawmillcreek.org , woodworkingtalk.com , lumberjocks.com, etc.)These forums are an absolute treasure trove of folks who, of vastly differing skill levels and woodworking interests, gather to shoot the breeze, talk about tools, and generally be there for one another. I doubt very highly that you could ask a question on one of these forums, and not get a researched, and thought out answer. More likely, you will get several. Even more likely, you will get several DIFFERENT answers. While it may sound like getting a bunch of different answers to a question is like spinning your wheels, think about this…..

In getting several different answers to a question, you are presented not only with differing opinions and options, but also with little morsels of information  that you can use to further your search, should you not find a satisfying answer initially.
A word to the wise, if you ask a question, and get several different answers that don’t really satisfy you, go out and research what morsels you get in those answers. If you come up with an answer all your own…. go back to your original post and SHARE THAT INFORMATION.

It is through the continual sharing of information that we help keep woodworking alive. Sure, you really DO need to go out to the shop and build stuff. To spend your days writing blog posts and researching tools and blabbering about workbench design, is an exercise in mental masturbation. It feels good, but produces very little.

However, sharing information, and helping fellow woodworkers develop and grow their skills and knowledge base, is a foundational move to keeping the trade moving forward, keeping it from dying. It is through this connection with one another that we help to evolve the art of working wood in that, methods and processes, both old and new, are passed on. Questions about various joinery techniques are answered. Help with applying finishes can be had. Critiques of design ideas are available for the asking. Discussions of forestry and responsible timber harvesting, renewable forestry, and general knowledge sharing on the subject of the proper management of our forests for future Woodwrights, are all facilitated  and made much more available via the internet now.

Therefore, a simple personal response to a very simple question, asked by a VERY simple Woodwright, is indeed a hallmark of someone who values working wood not just as a means to provide for a family, but also as something worth sharing and passing on to future simple Woodwrights.

Thanks Chris.

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The Once and Future……..Shop.

As winter has begun it’s annual transformation into springtime, my creative juices have begun to thaw.

Yes, this blog has done well to quell the ongoing need to express myself, as have aspects of the classes I am taking at the Fine Woodworking Program at Red Rocks Community College. However, I find myself desperately craving to flip the switch on my “New-to-me” shop.

Allow me to recap some of the previous posts I have made here. I am the proud owner of a “lightly used” General International contractors table saw. She comes equipped with General (Canada)’s Biesemeyer rip fence. This is, by it self, worth the paltry admission price I paid for the saw. The saw also has a true 2 horse power motor, and a full cast iron top.  All very, very desirable features to be sure.  Though, on the down side, she will need arbor bearings soon. She does have the beginnings of the tell tale “whine” that signals the need for some tender loving care.
Also, if I were a smart man, I would tune the saw to the “nth” degree while I was elbow deep in the saw’s guts. Aligning the blade to the mitre slots, and also aligning the fence to the blade. In addition, it would seem to make sense to add a couple of modifications while I am at it. The PALS system, is a very, very simple add on that makes alignment procedures much, much simpler. Add the PALS, some machined pulleys, and a new drive belt, and the saw should perform quite well for my needs….quite well indeed.

Next in the line up is my “new-to-me” Inca 510 jointer/planer. Since I have not had a chance to fire it up yet, I am forced into trusting the previous owner’s description and anticipating nothing more than a good lubricating of moving parts, and waxing the jointer and planer beds. It’s promise of an exceptional cut quality, and precision have me chomping at the bit to put it through its paces.

Because the Inca is now safely in hand, I had turned my attention to finding it’s companion, and I finally got a line on one of those lunch box planers I mentioned some time ago.

The Ryobi AP-10 was the original lunch box planer. Originally designed, built, and sold in the mid to late ’80s, the little Ryobi is of advanced age now, no question about it. This does not worry me in the least. The Ryobi AP-10 has always had, and continues to have, a reputation for longevity.

Ryobi had something to prove back then, so they “over engineered” the little surfacer. They are beloved by their owners because of their ease of upkeep, solid construction, and unwillingness to provide an owner a reason to replace it. They just keep going, and going, and going. The only reason I am able to get my hands on one at all, is because the owner willing to let this one go, has a second one that he has been bouncing back and forth between. He feels that that is a bit of overkill. HA! … HA HA HA!!!

I don’t think I need to mention how difficult it was for me to keep my mouth shut. To NOT preach that there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about having two planers….It pained me like none other, but … I WANT this little planer. So discretion proved to be the better part of valor in this case.

Add to an insanely low asking price for this machine ($75), the current owner is also including the original manual, the blade setting jig, and a NEW set of resharpenable blades. Not only is the little workhorse well equipped, but it is also in really good condition based on several pictures I got from the current owner. Seems he is a bit anal retentive about his tools too….my kind of guy.
Normally, IF you can find one of these little gems for sale AT ALL, they NEVER have the manual and usually have the disposable, NON-resharpenable blades.

THIS is one of the original machines, one of the good ones.

As soon as I am able, I will be adding this machine to my current line up, thus inching closer to basic operating ability.

The only other pieces to the puzzle that need to be fitted into place for basic operational capability are, installation and powering of the “new-to-me” sub panel I acquired for free from a friend, the running of the Romex to the soon to be installed outlet boxes and ceiling lighting fixtures, and find the best deal on Pony brand 3/4″ pipe clamp fixtures and black iron pipe.

THEN

…wait for it….

BUILD MY FREAKING BENCH!!!!!!

Now, I know you all will miss my incessant blogging on which bench to build for myself and why.
So, in an effort to keep ALL of you happy, I will say that as soon as this bench is finally built, I am QUITE sure I will be dissecting it’s good qualities and failings in an effort to justify the building of a MUCH BETTER (insert a “knowing” … as in… “Knowing” I will be building many benches in the future, as it’s my weakness … tone of voice here) bench, to replace the one I just finished building.

In the meantime, I am going to go on the hunt for worthy 4×4 Douglas Fir  material for the top and the trestle. I know already that Lee Valley Tools has my two bench vises for this bench at reasonable prices. For now, it’s about the wood.

Ill be looking for dry, non-pithy, non “Boxed Heart” boards to laminate into a top. The trestle will consist mostly of 4×4 construction, but the two rails that connect the left side to the right side of the base, will most likely be 2×6 boards. The top will be laminated, yes that’s true, but the base is all mortise and tenon construction. It will be heavy, and stout.
Right now, I am planning to put a tool well on the back of the bench. As I have said before, I have never had a bench with one, and I WANT one. If I like it, it might be a regular feature on future benches I build. If not…bonus…it’s an excuse to design and build another BENCH!!!!

As it is now, I am inching closer to making the little shop that could, a reality. With any luck, I will be able to make things minimally operational this spring/summer. Once that happens, I can begin moving to fill in the blanks that will round out the tooling needs. Routers, band saw, dust collection, etc.

For now, the goal is just to get the space set up to accept the shop, and to begin tuning and using the tools I have/am getting very soon, so that I can begin both creating, and building shop fixtures. (like a super cool tool cabinet)………

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