Archive for ◊ March, 2009 ◊

• Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Shooting has no equal for producing an accurately square (or angled) end on a board while incrementally removing minute thicknesses of wood to make a component fit just right. This shooting board has seen many years of use because it meets my preference for jigs to be simple and adjustable for tolerance.

It is easily constructed using a 9″ x 26″ x 3/4″ piece of MDF for the base. Plane the working side of a dressed quartersawn mahogany board, 6″ x 3/4″, straight and square. Attach it to the MDF with screws, leaving a 3″ track on which the side of the plane will ride.

The track is covered with adhesive-backed 1/32″ thick UHMW slick plastic which makes the plane ride like a sled on ice. Screw a short grain fence, about 7/8″ thick, a few inches in from the end. To attach the fence, use oversize clearance holes and adjust the squareness until you’re satisfied.

Break in the new jig by taking a few shavings off the side of the mahogany to create a miniscule rabbet. The outermost part of the plane’s sole will ride on the uncut straight edge while the tiny blade projection will nest in the rabbet.

In use, don’t worry if the woodworking gremlins confound your attempts to produce a square end on a board even though the fence is “perfectly” set. Just use a piece of tape or a shaving judiciously placed on the face of the fence to produce the squareness you seek. The same goes for squareness across the end of the board – use shims logically placed on the shooting board surface to get the desired result. This is microadjustability under your control!

A thicker fence can be attached for thicker workpieces or to stack workpieces to distribute blade wear. I seem never to use miters in my work but a fence could be attached at any angle. The scale of this shooting board is more for drawer making but I have used it to shoot carcase boards by using an adjustable support alongside the workbench. Remember, the shooting board also works great for long grain edges on small pieces.

A low angle, bevel up plane is ideal for shooting. I like the compact mass of the Lie-Nielsen “iron miter plane”. Don’t even think about shooting without a very sharp blade.

• Friday, March 20th, 2009

I enjoy watching the Science Channel television program “How It’s Made”. There is amazing ingenuity and capital investment involved in producing almost all of the human-made things around us. Most of the items the show demonstrates could not be produced at all without sophisticated machinery, and certainly not cheaply enough for practical mass consumption. This is the means by which we get our stuff in today’s world and we can be grateful for what we have earned with technology.

As I sit watching robotic arms assembling a construction vehicle, I wonder where we small scale woodworkers and our products fit into this world. Is our work a quaintness for a few owners to appreciate only in passing, without the consequence of “necessities”? Do we use our method of production, a small shop using small machinery and hand tools, only because there is maybe so little demand for our products, or perhaps because we have not bothered to find a more efficient way to produce? In short, does our work matter, and why?

Yes it matters, because our work is personal, in vision and execution. Our small shop methods are vital because they allow personalization in design, workmanship, and detailing. A craftsman’s work is his song, that he sings, and people appreciate and value it as that.

A modern person is likely to own only a few things of which he knows who is the designer-maker, the person, not just a label or a company. That personal identification and connection make these among the most cherished possessions. That chair, for example, is not any chair, however elegant, it’s a Maloof chair. The table that you, my fellow woodworker, made for yourself or a client will forever be your table, linked to you, with your name on it. A client owner knows exactly from whence it came, perhaps even playing a role in its design, and values this distinction.

That is what we small shop craftsmen have to put forth and, I believe, will never become obsolete. On the contrary, this offering will be increasingly valued in a world filled with growing numbers of nameless technological wonders. Personal woodworking – it matters.

Category: Ideas  | 3 Comments
• Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

When I was shopping for a new bandsaw last year I was not able to find much written by Minimax E16 users so I am posting this to help woodworkers looking to buy a new bandsaw. I’ve been happy with the E16. It is a very important tool in my shop and I’d buy it again. This is my view of the machine, unprompted by the company in which I have no stake.

The MM16, which has a 4.8 HP motor and resaw capacity of 16″, is probably the better choice for many woodworkers, but I bought the E16 based on its price and size that fit my needs. The E16, with a 2.4 HP motor and resaw capacity of 12″, is about 200 pounds lighter and has a smaller table, making it more maneuverable in my small shop, a critical consideration for me.

The performance of the saw has been excellent. The E16 has ample power to handle everything I’ve thrown at it, showing the moxie, for example, to accurately and smoothly resaw 10 inch wide walnut and some very dense 8 inch pear using a Timberwolf VPC 3/4′ x 0.25″ x 2-3 tpi blade. The blade runs true without barreling. A carbide tipped blade also can be used on this saw.

Set up involved a lot of clean up, though that did give me a chance to learn about the saw. I think this is typical of most major woodworking machinery. You will need to obtain and wire your own power cord. The mobility mechanism, using the lever bar, is easy to use, plants the machine steady on the floor, and saves the hassle of buying and fitting a separate mobile base. The doors do not open separately as was described by the seller, but I really don’t mind.

The manual is poor and, while I have long experience bandsawing, it could be a problem for someone new to it. Virtually everything on the saw can be adjusted as needed and I found most of the tuning to be straightforward and intuitive. The Minimax folks were knowledgeable, helpful, and responsive when questions arose.

I like the simple, heavy cast iron rip fence which is easily adjustable for drift. The table tilt mechanism is solid but can be a bit balky when making large angle adjustments. The trunnions give the table good support. The table insert is easily leveled. Tracking the blade has been easy and so far I haven’t even had to change the factory setting for the lower wheel position on its axis. Blade changes are about as easy as I can imagine on a bandsaw. (It still would be nice if they magically changed themselves!) The spring and frame are easily strong enough to tension the resaw blade. The tension gauge, just a printed sticker, could use an upgrade, but at least it allows for approximate repeatability once you determine good tension for each of your blades.

The rack and pinion guide post is a pleasure to use and, over its excursion, accurately maintains the positions of the bearings relative to the blade. I had to hack saw off a bit of the blade guard in the back to allow the upper thrust bearing to move into proper position for some blades. This does not affect the safety aspect of the guard. I think this is a design defect and I have notified Minimax. (photo above right)

I had wondered if the Euro style blade guides would be a problem, not having prior experience with this type of guide, but was happy to find them easy to adjust and they perform well. The hex head screw that holds the position of the lower thrust bearing was awkward to reach with a wrench so I replaced it with a thumb screw. To allow outside access to the screw that locks the lower blade guide assembly, I drilled a hole in the sheet steel and replaced it with a longer socket head screw. (photo right)

The electro-mechanical brake works fast and is a handy feature to keep work moving along in the shop. I used a file to round the rough corners of the foot pedal.

Dust collection is excellent. The dust port is not a standard 4 inch fit – it’s just a bit too big. I rigged an adapter using a short length of plastic hose.

The videos on the Minimax website are well done and helpful. Particularly instructive are Sam Blasco’s videos using the MM16 machine. Product support from Minimax has been excellent.

In summary, based on my experience with this machine, if this is the general category of bandsaw that will meet your needs, I heartily recommend the Minimax E16. The best thing I can say is that when it’s time to use it in a project, I feel confident and at ease. That’s what you want from a good tool.

Category: Product reviews, Tools and Shop  | Comments off
• Monday, March 09th, 2009

Camellia oil is a pleasant, easy to use rust inhibitor for tools. This oiler makes it quick and neat to apply.

The project starts with squared-up blocks, each 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ on the end grain. One is 3″ long, the other 1 1/4″ long. I used poplar since I had some on hand and it is not so dense as to make the boring and shaping too tedious. A 1 3/4″ Forstner bit in a drill press is used to bore a 2″ deep hole, centered on the end grain, in the larger block. This is a lot to ask of a Forstner bit so much of the waste is best removed beforehand with multiple 1/4″ holes. For safety when using the Forstner, I immobilized the workpiece with clamped blocks on all sides. I never fully retract the bit and reenter the hole with the bit spinning; it could catch the edge of the hole and violently throw the workpiece.

Similarly, a 1 7/8″ diameter hole, 7/8″ deep, centered on the end grain, is bored in the smaller block. By sawing, planing, rasping, and sanding the larger block is formed into a cylinder with a wall thickness of about 1/4″. Turners could accomplish these steps on the lathe and may wish to use denser exotic woods.

Next, a heavy coat of epoxy is applied to the bottom and inner walls of the holes in each piece and to the end grain surface surrounding the rim of each hole. This prevents oil from bleeding through the wood. After the epoxy has dried, the area around the rim of each hole is flattened with sandpaper which gives it a non-sticky, matte finish. The outer parts of each piece, where there is no epoxy, are finished with two coats of varnish.

For the oil wick, cotton T-shirt cloth is tightly rolled and bound with string. The bundle is about 2 ½” long, to project about ½” beyond the rim of the cup, while its diameter fits snugly.

The cotton is generously soaked with Camellia oil, repeating as the oil slowly permeates the bundle. The oiler is stored upside down with the projecting cotton fitting into the hole in the smaller block, with clearance around the sides and below. The cotton acts as a substantial reservoir for oil which is replenished as needed. A light swipe of the oiler over tool steel surfaces will leave a thin coating of the Camellia oil. The design allows one-handed use.

For general oiler construction and dimensions, I used information in Toshio Odate’s superb book, Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use, which describes a traditional Japanese oiler made from a section of bamboo. The general idea of an oiler stored upside down in a holder is borrowed from an oiler made many years ago by a woodworker.

This oiler has passed the test of practical use in my shop: it’s simple and it works. I hope you find it useful.

ADDENDUM: Here are a few afterthought improvements after using the oiler for some years.

I now line the oiler with rolled felt from a craft supply store instead of cloth. This makes the oiler neater in use.

If I had to make this again, I would adjust the diameters of the holes in the top and bottom sections. The top section hole should be 1/4″ smaller (not 1/8″, as above) than the bottom section hole. This would make it easier to plant the top section into the bottom without catching the edge of the liner on the rim of the hole in the bottom section. You can adjust the dimensions of the block and wall thickness of the top section (make it a bit thicker) accordingly, depending on the wood available to you. Remember that you can, of course, always glue up stock if thick stock is not available.

Category: Tools and Shop  | 4 Comments
• Saturday, March 07th, 2009

An extremely accurate granite surface plate might seem superfluous in a woodworking shop but I find my 9″ x 12″ x 2″ 30 pound rock to be very handy. It is simply a smooth and very flat slab of black granite, with a phenomenal surface tolerance, even on this economy model, of 0.0001 inch, which is about 2.5 microns.

Its main use in my shop is to accurately flatten other tools, such as plane soles. I use aluminum oxide or silicon carbide abrasive paper adhered to the plate with only water, or just hand held or taped in place for working on small tools. I can flatten the sole of a 9″ smoothing plane, especially easily if it is a bronze plane, or even somewhat larger planes, though certainly not a 22″ jointer.

Used with a feeler gauge, it serves as a reference to verify the accuracy of layout tools, such as straightedges, and any other tool that is supposed to have a straight/flat surface. For those who like sandpaper sharpening, the granite plate can be used as a base for the abrasive paper when extreme accuracy may be desirable, such as when flattening the back of a new blade.

I like knowing that there are a few dependable references in the shop – the granite plate, a Starrett straightedge and square – with which to vet other tools. They’re like the Constitution of the shop and the woodworker is the Supreme Court. However, I then have only myself to blame for the inaccuracies in my work!

I bought my granite plate at a local industrial supply house for about $35. Woodcraft, Japan Woodworker, and Enco have good buys on them. A 12″ x 18″ x 3″ or a 9′ x 24″ x 3″ plate may be more useful but the weight goes way up to about 85 pounds. Obtaining your plate locally will save a lot of money on shipping.

Category: Tools and Shop  | 4 Comments