Sunday 29 January 2012

cutting gauge

It's time to install the threaded inserts for the locking nut. It would work just as well with the thread tapped directly into the dense ebony but as I had to use an insert for the blade nut (best not to tap into end grain) I thought it would look better to be consistant. The M5 inserts are from Lee Valley (their shelf support inserts) and the M4 inserts were bought on E Bay. The photo shows me using a lip and spur bit which is the same size as the slot to locate the exact centre of the slot in the head below.

Now the 7mm outside diameter insert requires a hole of 6.75mm to give a nice tight fit, that is unless you are using ebony or something equally as dense. This wood has no give and a trial fit as suggested simply split the wood. So the only choice was to drill a 7mm hole and glue it in with a dab of epoxy resin. The rather nice knurled nuts I'm using were made by Phil Edwards of Philly Planes. Phil can make various sizes and the prices are very reasonable even for small orders.

Here are the inserts installed, they look very neat although in use they are hidden, shame!

With the blade prepared and honed here is the finished gauge, sorry about to poor picture! The concave notches on each side are not just for show, they are there for your second finger to drop into and provide lateral pressure keeping the head agianst the work. The left hand notch is for lefties.

The giudes were finished with two very thin coats of Osmo Matt Hardwax Oil which gives a nice looking durable surface which feels good in the hand. With batch complete they are ready to box up.

Thursday 26 January 2012

cutting gauge

Here I'm routing a housing for the cutter in the end grain of the stock. I'm using the sliding fence on my Veritas router table with a clamped on backer board to avoid tearout. This is safe if you hold the stock firmly and move things slowly. Reversing the stock keeps the housing dead central but it takes a bit of fiddling on scrap to get a nice tight fit.

Here's the result, a nice friction fit leaving the blade flush with the stock. I tried a test model without this housing and the blade had a tendancy to skew when tightening up the screw (not yet fitted) or making a heavy cut.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Band saw update

The motor for my band saw has returned. The diodes needed replacing, whatever they are!

The electrical company charged £109 in addition to the labour costs for the two visits.

I've had my vintage Minimax bandsaw longer than the Startrite and its been faultless. It cost me less to buy than this latest repair bill, they don't make 'em like they used to!

Sunday 22 January 2012

Cutting Gauge

In the November 2010 issue of Furniture and Cabinetmaking I wrote an article on the making of a small cutting gauge. Until now I haven't actually had time to make any to sell! The wood I'm using is Macassar Ebony which I've had in stock for a few years. The picture shows the wood for the head stock which has had a 20mm wide groove to a depth of 3mm.

Here I'm starting to rout the grooves in the stems. This is a lot easier and safer to do before cuttting to size.

All the grooves have been cut. Note the backer board, which was attached with double sided tape, to prevent tearout on the underside.

The heads were cut up on the table saw and then rough shaped on the band saw (that's the Minimax, still no news on the Startrite). The curves were refined with two different sized bobbins on the spindle sander

The completed heads and stocks ready for final fitting.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Dovetails on U Tube

The filming for my third DVD ran into a second day, as we thought it might. So while the cameras were on site we shot a little film for U Tube on hand cut dovetails. It's amazing how a video lasting less than 10 minutes took nearly two hours to shoot! I decided not to join the latest film craze to see who could cut dovetails the fastest but hopefully the little extra time produced a better result. Anyway you can see for yourself in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Hand finishing DVD

Here are the two cameramen, they don't like the tables turned! I thought I'd get this one in before they subject me to a days filming.

Here are just some of the props I need for the film, I could fill this table twice over with the rest of them!

Here are two consecutive boards of highly figured Madrone, the one on the left is finished with shellac and the one on the right has been oiled. The shellac board has a much more even colour and there is real shimmer to the finish. The shellac has sealed the pores of the undulating grain whereas the oil has just sunk in leaving a much more blotchy finish.

Here is a set of sample woods to show the difference between water based finish (front), shellac (middle) and oil at the back. Different woods react in different ways and one finish is more pleasing than another depending on the wood and your taste!

The birds eye maple showed the most marked difference, the oil on the left was the darkest and was a bit blotchy around the 'eyes' (I know how that feels!), the shellac was darkened but really popped the figure and the water based acrylic was almost unchanged in colour but left a flat surface.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Startrite Bandsaw

I have fallen out of love with my Startrite band saw! The first 18 months were fine and we were good friends, plenty of power and 16" depth of cut to match my planer. However 4 months ago a blade broke and ripped half the tyre off the top wheel. Annoying but not too much problem, just get a new tyre. Wrong! you have to buy a new wheel at a cost of £250! Unlike every other manufacturer Startrite machines have flat wheels with the tyre crowned after fitting. In the old days the tyres were welted on (a heat treatment process) but for the last few years they are simply glued and can be pulled off.
After pleading my case the cost was drastically reduced to £86 but they didn't have one in stock! Ten days later one arrived from Italy on a neat little pallet. There were no instructions but after a phone call I was told the wheel should just slide off after removing the locking nut. The nut came off easily but the wheel would not budge. I even drilled a hole in the back of the casing and hammered a tommy bar against the wheel but to no avail. An engineer had to be called, more cost! He couldn't move it either. He returned with a 'puller' but it was too small and came back with a larger one. Eventually with enourmous effort the wheel was finally removed. The new one was fitted with a lot of help from a lump hammer and all was well.
I have to say Startrite were helpful all the way, but surely a cost of £120 and my main band saw out of action for 6 weeks is a bit excessive for the sake of a new rubber tyre!
As all this happened last year I had put the experience behind me but guess what? When I was cutting out some hammer handles (below) the saw died on me. It is currently standing lifeless in my workshop minus the motor which has been taken to an electrical repair shop. I will report on progress.

Dovetail guides

I use a little jig on the drill press to bring each side back to horizontal for drilling the holes for the magnets. The magnets are 20mm x 5mm and the hole is drilled to 5.5mm deep to allow some room for the epoxy glue. The magnet must not protrude atall as this will effect the saw angle in use.

This picture shows the other components of the jig. The squares are low friction or slick tape which is cut slightly smaller than each face and its edges are bevelled with the very useful little Bridge City finger plane. The two riding surfaces are faced with 100 micron 3M paper which helps maintain the position of the guide whilst cutting the dovetail. A bit like the old trick of gluing sandpaper to the back of a steel rule. The 3M paper and slick tape are attached with super glue, using an accelerator on one surface to speed the process up.

The batch of guides is now complete and is ready for boxing up.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Dovetail Guides

The batch of hammers is complete. The last job was to square the protruding end on a disc sander and seal with a dab of super glue. This allows the hammer to stand on end. It can also sit on its face or on its side, one things for sure it won't roll off the bench!

The next job is to make some more magnetic dovetail guides. I take a 2' long x 60mm square blank of Concalo Alves and cut the profile on the table saw. I then carefully cut the blanks at 10 degrees each side using a cross cut sled on the table saw to give the guides in the picture.
I try to use blanks with the grain running at 45 degrees to reduce the risk of breaking with weak cross grain.

Friday 6 January 2012

Chisel hammer

This picture shows the cross pin in place, this prevents the head from twisting and makes sure that the head will never come off! I like to chamfer the hole and put a small chamfer on the pin, which leaves a neat slightly recessed finish. The pin is 1 mm smaller than the diameter of the head to achieve this.

This picture shows the blackwood wedge set at right angles to the grain direction, to prevent any risk of the wood splitting. This is how wedged joints should always be done. The wedge is in line with the head for neatness. All little details....... but they matter.

Here is the batch with the heads all wedged, ready for the cross pins to be drilled. The holes are drilled with a 4.7 mm drill bit and the pin measures 4.76 mm. This ensures a tight fit!

If you want to see a more comprehensive description of the making of my hammers see my article in issue 162 (Jan 2010) of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine. There are many of my articles on line at

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Chisel Hammer

Over Chritmas I've been making a batch of my chisel hammers which should last a while. The work is enjoyable but fairly repetitive, I prefer smaller batches but a run in December cleaned me out!

The wood in this batch is particularly nice rippled ash which really shimmers. I take extra time when finishing ash as the open grain is a magnet to dirt which really shows up against the light wood. The first two coats are a heavy cut shellac which seals the wood nicely. This is followed by two satin coats of Osmo Hardwax Oil and finished off with a hard carauba wax blend.

All I need to do now is put them together!

Monday 2 January 2012

Jewellry box

Here's a picture of the box glued up, it's the first time I've used 'hounds tooth' dovetails and I think they look good. They were a little more trouble to cut, but worth the effort. Using hard maple for both sides of the joint needed extra care, this wood splits for fun if the joint is too tight and the light colour makes sucessful gap filling difficult.
The curly maple was discovered amongst a pile of ordinary maple at Yandles wood yard and was a real bargain. Luthier suppliers would charge a fortune for wood this nice. This will be a jewellry box with a few lift out trays and I'll be showing this at Celebration of Craftsmanship later this year. For now I will be concentrating on building up my stock of tools ready for the new show season.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Barr Quarton Chisels

Welcome to my new blog, I've been meaning to do this for a long time! My Christmas present (to myself) was this fine set of chisels made by Barr Quarton in America. They came razor sharp and I used the 1/4" and 1/2" to chop out the waste on 36 dovetails in hard maple (see below). The edges stood up extremely well and were still sharp enough to pare end grain, impressive!

The set of four comes with a very sturdy leather tool roll and cost $335 + $50 postage. I've ordered the 1/8" and 3/8" sizes which will complete the set.

A more comprehensive review of these chisels will be published in the March issue of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine