Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sense of Progress

I really feel like I made quite a bit of progress over the past few days.

I assembled and tested my vacuum veneer press kit that I got from Joe Woodworker. Several trips around town were necessary to pick up the special PVC pipe and the tap I needed, but once I had everything in hand it came together reasonably quickly. It looks a bit like a scuba tank or something, but it uses the tanks to store vacuum created by a venturi. Very cool! I am actually now in the position of being ready to do some veneering! Wait - not so fast. I better do a test piece or two first just to get the hang of it.

A very generous neighbour had given me several long planks of walnut last summer. They were from his nephew who had them milled out of a tree on his property in Oregon many moons ago. They sat outside the neighbour's house for several years and were much the worse for the exposure to the elements. I finally got them all cleaned up, cut out all the splits and wane-y pieces, then ran the remainders through the jointer and planer. There are some very nice pieces, although the longest one is only about 2' long! Since they were air dried and not kiln dried, the colour is gorgeous, really deep chocolate browns, with purple and other dark colours mixed in.

I also had a couple chunks of locust that I cleaned up. One piece that I had been given by a friend, I cut into a dozen blanks for planes (or whatever) about 2 x 2 x 12 inches each. I noticed that it was starting to crack so I thought this would be a good way to relieve the stresses. The other piece I picked up on the beach last winter, I was going to do the same to it, but I noticed that it had not started to crack, and it has some beautiful small ray flakes on one face, so I just cleaned it up and arranged to store it better. It's about 12 x 12 x 3 inches, I split it out of a larger piece and the one face is 'quartersplit'.

Lastly, I finally got some wheels put on one of my Alaska mills. These should really reduce the amount of effort required to push the saw through the log, as the wheels will just roll along the side of the log and prevent the saw and/or various parts of the mill from rubbing on the side of the log. I am keen to test it out, the design is different from other wheel designs I have seen.

Happy new year to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Console Crisis

I found a bit of time recently to make a bit of progress on the consoles for the bookcase. (Consoles are the little doo-dads that hold up the shelves.)

Unfortunately I made several false starts on them, but think that now I am back on track.

My initial thought was to go with two piece brass shelf supports that Lee Valley sells. These are not too bad, but I was hesitant to use them because I thought they would be quite visible and contrast-y with the panels and the shelves, they are not adjustable, and I wasn't sure if they were appropriate for a heavy bookcase.

So I thought I would make my own consoles, and I was inspired by the ones made by Craig Johnson on his cabinet here.

I thought I'd make them out of some left over elm from the panels, ensuring they blended in as well as possible. I also thought that rather than carving them as one piece items, I'd drill the backside and glue in a piece of dowel, the other end of which would fit in the hole drilled into the panel. Voila - easy!

I decided that I would make the dowels myself out of a scrap of a very hard wood that I had, greenheart. It's not much to look at, but a very very hard tropical wood, so this seemed like the perfect application for it. since I don't have a lathe, I made the dowels by driving a piece of greenheart through a hole drilled in a piece of iron. Needless to say the resulting dowel was like a piece of spaghetti, plus it had these strange 'hairs' or barbs on it. Time for plan B - I bought a couple pieces of dowel made of birch.

Lee Valley brass shelf pins, home made dowel, elm console prototypes.

Then I made up several prototype consoles out of elm. I quickly came to realize that on a small item like this, the coarse grain of the elm was not really working. So I rooted around and found some teak that is close to the tone of the elm, just a touch darker, and I think it will work.

I decided to take a break from fooling around with the consoles themselves, and made up a jig to drill the shelf holes. It took a bit of care to make sure that the holes were as deep as I could make them without going through the other side of the panels!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout V

Slabbed up a couple of cedar logs recently. On Thursday by myself then today with a friend. I am sure they are all from the same tree, the logs were a bit misshapen and kind of rotten one side. I got 9 slabs in total (well 8 plus two half slabs). The biggest was probably 28" wide by nearly 8 feet long. There are still two more big pieces left, enough for probably the same amount again. Plus a crotch pieces that thought I might work at later. Unfortunately it had quite a large crack in it, perpendicular to the best way to cut the crotch. So I am not going to bother with it in light of that.

Not entirely sure what kind of cedar they are. My guess is Monterey Cypress, which is a somewhat common street tree here in town, although it is endangered in its native habitat. Had a lovely mild aroma, I think is kind of a cinammon spicy kind of smell, my friend thought it more like tobacco. In any case definitely milder than our local red or yellow cedars, I would say milder than Port Orford cedar too, but most similar to that one.

Some of the boards have some nice grain in them, good colours and nice straight grain. Others are a bit gamey with knots and wild grain that is not particularly attractive.

One of the saws is running well, the other is giving me some grief. I have been having problems with the chain getting quite loose very quickly It also makes some disturbing noises when it runs, it sounds like the sprocket or the clutch. The motor itself seems fine. I have been using it just for the first cut, then switching to the other saw for the remainder of the cuts.

Hopefully this will be the last of the slabbing for a while. I need to get back to the bookcase and I also need to build a bigger storage area in my backyard for more slabs!