Saturday, November 26, 2011

a small box for ralph, and a look inside my toolkit

At my work, we've enjoyed a certain contractor gun-for-hire software developer to help shore up all manner of rats' nests in a complex environment. Ralph was above and beyond the call, and unfortunately my company is not going to re-up his contract, so next week is his last one for us. Anyway, I wanted to make a simple box for him to put doo-dads in. It's my first time with padouk wood. Love it's spicy smell and the striking red color that oxidizes into a brown over time: Its lid hinge is just a lateral wooden dowel affixed to the inside going right into the sides of the box, nothing fancy:

A fellow named Jeff asked about my Japanese tool box pictured in the previous post. I said I'd show a few details of that here.

The design is heavily influenced by Daiku Dojo. The impetus to get a tool box housing my tools precipitated from a lot of the buzz over the past year in the lead up and wake of Schwarz' The Anarchist's Toolchest. I bought his book and read it over a couple times and all I can say is that I respectfully agree with two essential points: a) you need an enclosure for your tools, and b) you can get a lot done with a small amount of them (just what fits in the chest).

I think a lot of people, myself included, got hung up on his use of the big "A" word and what "subversive" means. I suppose one can be subversive by not going to Ikea to buy a piece of furniture. but that's a fairly minor way of being an anarchist. That said: setting my tools out in the open air on my *gasp* IKEA shelves, was a cluttered mess that attracted dust, the bane of all iron tools, and a personal shame for too long! I salute Christopher Schwarz for his work regardless.

Looking over the pictures, it is also obvious that this chest is heavily influenced by the tool kits my dad and I carried to airplane competitions. The box develops over time, to contain the tools as you need them, arranged in a way that is very base-brained. One should be able to find a particular hemostat or tweezers, or glue, without even looking. In "the field", you cannot at all be wasting time foraging through your tool box for a particular item. One should be able to reach for a razor blade, or CyA glue, or piece of reinforcing balsa without thinking, eyes focused on the broken spar, or damage. Gotta catch that thermal brewing on the flight line. You know you have about 5 minutes until the next one develops. That's 300 seconds to load a balsa fissure with super glue, install a new motor into the fuselage, wind the timer, and walk out to your winding stooge, and launch pylon for a new attempt where your flight judge is waiting with binoculars...oh I drift back to those years.

Anyway, here is my kit. I used a bunch of reclaimed redwood fencing from my favorite architectural salvage site, Urban Ore. Ran the wood through a planer and ended up with 5/8" thick planks that I edge jointed into a box whose LxWxH is roughly 45"x14"X14". Held together mostly with nails and drywall screws. I repurposed Sarah's old desk with particle board top (Schwarz has a good term for particle board: "Termite Barf"). This desk elevates the chest to about bench height, and then I put this all on casters. The casters are great. You have a portable tool tray where things can be set without cluttering the bench top. They can be easily repositioned around your work with minimal effort, they are always at an arm's reach and yet out of the way. The rolling service desk idea came from a surgeon who commented on Schwarz' blog and I cannot agree more with the utility of such an approach in an operating room, having been the recipient of much surgery over the past decade or so:

I borrowed heavily from Anarchist's Toolchest in setting up the interior. Two sliding trays of increasing depth allow me to separate my tools into groups that are sensible to me. Measuring stuff is low profile and always at the top, followed by my beloved few knives and chisels, and marking guages. Then the planes and saws at the bottom.

I'm content with the housing for the few hand tools I have. There are not a lot, but the ones I've got get me pretty far in my work. I can lift the box and carry it around fairly easily, although the cargo weight is biased towards cast iron planes which has in turn piqued my interest in wooden body planes.

I close with an excerpt from Toshio Odate's excellent book, and his brief comment on the toolbox: “Note that the toolbox is nailed together. The Japanese are especially careful about the joints in their work, and are, in fact, noted for the skill and beauty with which they create these joints. But While the dovetailing and other joinery in a cabinet may reveal the shokunin’s care, the drawers in the cabinet, like the joints in the toolbox, are nailed.

An American craftsman pointed out this seeming contradiction to me, and I had no answer for him, so natural did the use of nails in drawers and toolboxes seem to me. Yet, on reflection, I believe that the sight of a shokunin carrying on his shoulder a beautifully painted and carefully joined toolbox without nails would provoke me to an overwhelming sense of awkwardness.”


* Japanese Woodworking Tools Their tradition, Spirit and Use, Toshio Odate

Sunday, November 13, 2011

entryway bench in reclaimed douglas fir

we wanted a bench for our entry room to keep the wall company. a plane bench and a plain wall. Sarah was happy with it and in the end that's all that really matters. The wood originated from Urban Ore...some rough 2" roughcut fir that looked like it was used in a had a lot of concrete stuck to the sides and needed vigorous wirebrushing before the stark power of my Lee Valley Scrub plane. Originally I had tried doing some of the hard work with my thickness planer, but the neighbor complained about the noise and I was in no mood to get into a bad situation, so it was all hand tools here 75% of the time in this sort of a project is scratching your head and other body parts trying to come up with an idea on how to "design" something so simple. Lots and lots of looking at what other people do, knowing certain dimensions are almost invariant (18" is a good rule for height, give or take a thou). I suppose I could just have copied a design out right, but there are always certain factors in the way from me doing that. I like to draw and do it all the time at the office. just doodles while listening to people making noise with their mouths over speaker phones in sterile conference rooms. sometimes an idea or a shape will take hold and I will draw hundreds of variations on should the legs look? How should they curve? How many curves are there? Then there's the sort of design that happens from working the this case it's doug fir. the wood had a gorgeous ring density and I knew it would be pleasing once done, but while working it over with the scrub plane, it clearly would be a negotiation rather than a dictation, on how this piece was going to come together. The grain went all sorts of directions from the knots. I'm a sucker for knots. Here is how I keep track of the legs, the grain emphasizing a roundedness which will be important since these legs will be finger tennoned into the top Each step along the way increases the stakes in the project. I knew it would be important but I could not tell from my sketches on paper how I would resolve this joint in the finished piece. It took a lot of exploration with the plane, the spoke shave, a knife Turning over to work on the surface, I originally thought of this as a dished piece, cupping your posterior as you put on your shoes for whatever was next. but this is a hall bench and you don't want a cupping, cupping means you stay put, you want something to instead just be a temporary rest where you lace up, and then shove a convex shape seemed to make more sense here...don't get too comfortable. various hand planes make this happen. Glue-up, each tenon split on my band saw for a wedge of some hard wood, pounded into position and making these joints for keeps I used tongue oil. It accentuates the grain and warms everything up, but also makes those wild fluctuations in the coloration of the wood more apparent. It's a matter of what you're into. I like my pizza burnt and am a little suspicious of those who dont

Saturday, October 1, 2011

wood gloat!!!

Woodworking forums invariably have threads started by enthused members who just came across a good wood "score". There seems to be an unwritten rule that these threads must always be titled "Wood Gloat!!!" and while I'm not starting one on myself(at least not *yet* but the more I look at this the more I want to!), I thought Dad would like to know the shipment has made its way down to my Oakland garage.

From a windstorm during the Autumn of 2003 in my parent's neck of the woods, scores of trees went down. Their driveway (1 mile to the county road) had trees fallen across with great frequency. They worked with their neighbors, helmets on, and chainsaws screaming to clear the way. In the wake, a small contract logging operation milled some of the larger ones on site. Many of the hemlock planks were used to repair fencing for Mom's horse pastures. But much of the alder and doug fir was reserved in the barn. During a recent visit, Dad asked me to make a few choices for shipment back to my shop.

It almost goes without saying that there is something special about working wood from the land you grew up on. I spent 18 years among these trees. They are inked into the lore of a farm that my two intrepid parents built from the ground up in the middle of the woods. They did this when they were kids; 22 or so. I'm honored to have a part of that history sitting here in front of me in my garage...pondering what sorts of things I can make for them from it. a cabinet? a box? ideas roll and ebb. Thanks to Mom and Dad for this gift!

The longest boards are 10', no knots. most of the alder is 2x10" the fir is 1x8.

A 250 Pound package wrapped in cardboard, then tyvek, and then metal strap reinforced wood banding for good measure:

Staples didn't go too deep into the wood itself

clear vertical grain doug fir

This will be a first time for me working with the alder. it looks like it will behave really well with hand tools, so I'm looking forward

Sunday, August 14, 2011

experimental silk media paginator

By way of India, Michael, and his collaborator Santosh a group of paintings on black saree to adorn our house before our tentative voyage to CLEVELAND last year. I wanted to create a paging mechanism for the work, kind of like a book.

Sarah and I brainstormed the idea a while back for the living room. The main challenge was how to create a light weight framing mechanism that can handle the forces involved. the beams are split lengthwise for the length of the painting. this slot then receives about 1/4" of fabric, and the two halves are pinched together with some brass screws.

Turned out to be pretty difficult to achieve when all you got is lap-n-plaster to mount the device to. We jammed a trimmed wine cork underneath the lower extremity of the mounting shoulder to help support the assembly when the "pages" are turned.

I tested the mechanism out in my garage, but without the weight of the cloth, still not sure how things would work out.

Project began with some reclaimed doug fir that I ripped with the band saw, shaped with the spokeshave and a sander

The blade mounting harness was also shaped from fir, using a hollowing plane from Lee Valley to get an interesting final texture to the surfaces

A drill press was essential in positioning the paging axes

I joined the shoulder support to the wall mounting bridge using a few 1/4" dowels. This whole shooting match will be attached to a dovetailed cleat affixed to the wall. Some very shallow dados help orient things

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

bookshelf prototype in reclaimed fir

First, hello to any of you visiting via the Unpluggedshop's blog aggregator! Mr. Luke Townsley who manages that site recently included this blog into his pipeline (along with a handful of other intriguing ones).

I hit Unplugged Shop's front page at least 3 times a day since so much cool stuff is happening there. While I read nearly all of the new blog entries, I always take close note of what Bob Rozaieski, Rob Porcaro, and Adam Cherubini are up to.

Start with the end here. I'm trying to set up our guest room as a library of sorts and am experimenting with various book shelving approaches:

Project started from recycled, old growth fir from my my favorite crustacean pit. Much work ensued removing rusty nails and getting the wood fairly true with my bench planes. The 2x12s forming the shelf planks were terribly cupped and twisted -- a real test of one's muscular stamina. The joinery itself was very simple once I decided on the approach. It's gappy even by my standards, but this is a prototype.

I wanted to minimize the 'thick-ankled' appearance of the material by tapering at the edges. A spokeshave and a scrub plane performed a majority of the shaping while a random orbit sander was invaluable during clean up some of the tool marks.

Glue up is always harried, but successful today. A rubber head hammer helped knock it into approximate squareness.

Now with a little tongue oil, ready for installation.

It's bolted to the wall via some tabs screwed/glued to the top shelf using toggle bolts:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

propeller dojo

Todd E. showed up this morning to get a bit of a primer on how one might go about carving balsa propellers for these wonderful indoor/outdoor models he's been building from various kits recently.

We began by milling some stock, and marking, carving and sanding to lines. We started with two blanks and took turns switching off to keep the blades reasonably symmetrical.

Somewhere along the way, Takumi, Ling and their two beautiful daughters stopped by for levity.

Todd wanted to attempt a freewheeling prop with a cleat much like what you see in the plastic props. Being the sucker that I am, figured "why not?" and so we cut a "cleat" into some aluminum tubing to act as a shaft for the this picture, an observant modeler might be able to see what I did wrong:

ANSWER: I cut the notch in the wrong directioN!!!! much cussing had occurred as we had glued the thing in with CyA. Todd, being the optimist had some add'l tubing that fit around the existing piece, so we cut a notch into that one in the correct direction, and then glued it into place. We'll see how it works, but now that Todd knows how to carve a propeller, I expect he will have all sorts of opportunities for trying new configurations.

The model looks like a really nice flier and just with a few practice winds, it flew "right off the board" in our garage (and into my sketching easel -- hope the leading edge spar repair goes well for ya, Todd!)