Sunday, 24 January 2010

Travel Carving Tool

This post features my prototype Bocote,brass,stainless,mild & high carbon tool steel,travel carving tool.The tip of this tool is interchangeable thanks to a clutch mechanism that locks the cutting tip in place.This allows many different tips to be carried in a relatively small space,say a leather wallet & the handle may simply be stowed in a pocket.

I am 95% happy with how it turned out,just a minor tweak to sort out repeatable blade alignment but all in all it's almost retail ready.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Hand tool versus Power tool,Tradition versus Progression

To my mind the hand tool versus power tool debate is primarily about control & involvement.

Many power tools remove that involvement,once you set them up it's simply a matter of feeding your timber through so there's more involvement with the machine than the timber.If you are a professional woodworker who relies on speedy production so that you may eat then chances are that you will be won over by the most efficient way to complete any said task,this usually means some form of powertooling.

Of course,there are some professionals who market their work as handmade with handtools & are fortunate enough to thrive doing this but I suspect that they are in the minority.

If you are a hobby,or escapist,woodworker then chances are you want to be more involved with the wood,to have a more therapeutic experience.This involves using not only the hands but also the eyes & the ears,well actually,the whole body(should we call them bodytools then?).You know when a plane is correctly set by the feel of that first shaving & the sound it makes as it is peeled from the surface(hiss-swoosh).

When I think about the hand tool versus power tool debate it makes me think about the past & the future,tradition versus progression.

Being self taught I am not what could be called a traditional craftsman.In fact I eschew the very term "traditional" & prefer "proven",it's a semantic quibble but I feel an important one.

The term traditional means to me"the way it was done by our progenitors".

Now,I'm sure our progenitors were sensible people,the course of technological history has proven that.I just wonder at what point did people start to look to the past in a more favourable way than the present?In my opinion a belief that things were done better in the past negates the possibility of advancement & that just doesn't make sense.Of course it would be utter foolishness to ignore the past,it is a treasure trove of ingenuity & invention but it doesn't hold all the answers simply because all the questions haven't been asked yet.There are techniques that work but I believe in finding a way to make things work better.

I have no time for romance in woodworking,I have no time for tradition for its own sake.

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."
Frank Zappa US musician, singer, & songwriter (1940 - 1993)

Monday, 18 January 2010


I have decided that I need more discipline & with that in mind I am going to start & finish at least 1 item per day,be it pendant,cufflinks,earrings,small box,etc.

My usual script is to work on a large number of items at once,drill a hole in a pendant then do the metalwork on a set of cufflinks then apply finish to a box,I am usually actively working on more than 30 things within a 1 week period.Because of this fact a large number of items tend to take months,even years to complete (not very lucrative!!!)as I am always starting new & exciting projects & "forgetting" about older ones.I'll still be doing this,I enjoy flitting from project to project but I need to have "production".

I am also going to make at least 1 mushroom a day to keep my skills honed & also to sell.I haven't sold my wooden mushrooms for years,but if I am going to be making them for practise it won't be long before our house is overrun with the little,pointy blighters.

Starting price will be £2 for a 40mm or 1.5 inch tall version & will increase in price depending on which wood I use & what size they are.Not more than £5 or much bigger than 70mm 0r 2.75 inches tall.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Mahogany Mushroom

In the first video I will show how I prepare a piece of square section Mahogany to be turned into a mushroom.
First of all I round & taper one end on a sanding disc then turn a corresponding socket in a Birch ply faceplate then glue the Mahogany into the socket with medium viscosity cyanoacrylate.I would normaly use the thicker CA as it has better gap filling properties but the shop was out & medium is sufficient if not ideal.I warn you to be very,very,very careful with THIN viscosity CA,it is incredibly fluid & can give a nasty burn if spilled onto skin.
The sanding disc has 80 grit paper PVA glued to a Birch ply faceplate.
The turning tool is a 2.5mm square graver that is sharpened like a parting tool on one end & like a round scraper on the other.It has a friction fit into the mahogany handle & is easilly swapped end to end when required.
You will notice that I sprinkle some dust onto the base of the blank after gluing.This is to soak up any spare CA making the bond stronger & it also speeds up the curing time.
I will usually leave the blank for a minute or so to cure but Mahogany seems to react slightly with CA making it take a little longer to set.

The second video is of me turning the actual mushroom.
I must confess,I didn't use the Mahogany blank I mounted in the previous clip as that one took me a tad over 10 minutes to turn & I didn't realise that Youtube has a 10 minute limit for videos.I'm actually happier with this mushroom though,only took 7.5 minutes to turn & is a slightly better shape than the first.
As well as the 2.5mm graver I used to mount the blank I also used a 1/4 inch spindle gouge sharpened to a ladies fingernail profile.I parted the mushroom with a piercing saw fitted with a 3/0 blade.
Much of my work is finished to 600 grit then given a wipe with good old petroleum jelly.Not the most durable finish in the world but it is easy to reapply & allows the true texture & warmth of wood to shine through.

I need to have a word with the director & lighting technician of the video as neither of them seem to have much of a clue...

Here's a pic of the finished article.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Drum Sander

I've just completed a quick & dirty drum sander out of some recycled Beech butchers block,Birch plywood offcuts,hinges,skateboard bearings,8mm 0-1 drill rod,M6 cross dowels & bolts,6mm diameter,green,heat weld,lathe belting & a grinder that is close to death.

I've made it to be completely collapsible so that I can adjust or replace components if need be.It may not be pretty with rough sawn edges & worn out grinder but it runs very smooth & quiet & the only further work I'm planning on doing is to add a 10mm thick plate of tool steel to the ramp as the ply has a little too much flexibility to be really accurate.

I won't take full credit for the design of my sander,I think I took most elements from a lad on Lumberjocks although using skate bearings & the redundant grinder are my ideas.It's actually my old lap lathe,used for at least 15 hours a week for 5 years until the constant switching on & off melted the switch.

What's a lap lathe I hear you say?

Well,it's a lathe that is actually a grinder mounted to a laminated block of plywood 60mm thick by 450mm long.The right hand wheel & all cowling for the both wheels is removed to reduce vibration(no such thing as good vibes in turning).The last 2 grinders I had utilised an M12 thread to secure the grindstone to the spindle so it was a simple matter to just make up a bunch of little faceplates using extra M12 nuts.I simply roughed them up with the grinder itself then superglued them into holes I had drilled into some Birch ply discs making them into perfect little gluechucks.I do practically all my small turning on this setup just sitting in my lap.

Why do you have it in your lap in the first place?

Well,I'm something of a night owl & at first it was so I could work at night.Even turning something as small as a 10mm Padauk mushroom was so noisy that I was curfewed by 10.30pm,we live on the top floor of a Victorian tenement building & I feel it's only fair to the neighbours that I stop the heavy,percussive noise at that time.Mounting the grinder on the plywood & turning on my lap is so quiet that I can work through the night even with Karen lying asleep less than 6 feet away in the next room.

I actually prefer turning this way now,you're much more involved with the work,like whittling as opposed to carving on the bench top.I also use this setup as a disc sander,leather faced wheel for honing,fibral mop(non woven nylon abrasive for matt finishing silver)& standard stitched wheel for polishing.I retain the smooth stone on the other side of the spindle.This not only gives me the ever ready ability to sharpen my gouge & chisels but also acts as a gyroscope stabilising the whole contraption.I've been meaning to put some turning demos on my blog,think I'll start tomorrow....

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Carving Tools

Been meaning to make some carving tools for a while so here we are....Made using a O-1 tool steel,brass tubing ferrules & various woods.Top row,Maple,Mahogany,Beech & Yew.Bottom row,Sapele,African Blackwood,Boxwood,Walnut & Piquia Amarello.The gouges were made on the lathe by drilling a hole the appropriate width for the chosen sweep down the center then half the material was ground away to leave a U shaped cross section that is easilly sharpened into a gouge.The largest gouge is also forged a little to open the sweep so that an 8mm diameter drill rod yeilds a gouge with a 9mm sweep(I'm not that enamoured with this tool,I'll be making another 9mm sweep gouge when the 13mm drill rod arrives.)The straight chisels were 5mm drill rod that I heated in a propane/butane torch until red hot then hammer forged to rough shape then ground to final dimension on the lap grinder.The skew & fingernail chisels were simply ground.All have been successfully heat treated & take & hold an edge that is "shaving sharp".I thoroughly enjoy making these wee tools & imagine I'll have a lot more before very long!