Cattywampus Woodworks / woodworking

Version 1.0

My family benefits from the hours I pour into the shop, or at least that is the consensus of the public that surrounds them. Unfortunately, the story isn't as deep and beautiful as it seems. The mother of a woodworker cherishes a stick with a bow and a drawing on it representing a raincheck for a rocking chair. image The sister gets a coffee table that quickly becomes useless in storage since her two active boys prefer to use it as a springboard overhanging an imaginary pool (oak floor with fireplace hearth). image The wife of a woodworker will one day get a bed that doesn't need a bedskirt and a trunk to hide the ugly commercial metal frame that was only going to be in place for two days until the sleigh bed was built. The daughter of a woodworker gets the prize.  The daughter has quickly become the queen of the family and hasn't even reached her second year at being a daughter. No surprise to anyone. The woodworker has taken a fancy to building usable items for his daughter.  This is mainly influenced by the demanding..I mean demand...of his intelligent wife. Speaking of demand, the woodworker has seen a demand for the items he has built his daughter.  This is highly influenced by the woodworker's wife being extremely educated in early childhood development and knowing just what a child needs. Pint-sized chairs, tables, beds, and stools...who wouldn't see a miniature version of something and not think of it as being cute and perfectly practical for the child? This is where Version 1.0 kicks in.   My wife tells me that a stool is badly needed.  A stool is needed in the kitchen so Sydney can access her play kitchen with ease.  A stool is needed in the bathroom so we can give Sydney a bath, and so she can brush her teeth/fix her hair (when she finally decides to grow some hair!).  A stool is needed in every room. IMG_4863 I built a stool that I believed would fit the bill.   Height seemed right.  Width seemed right in even the small rooms.   Perfect I thought.   Then it was put to use and the imperfections immediately rose to the surface.  Wrong ratio of inset of the leg to the length of the top.  Couple this and the fact that no floor in our circa 1945 house is level and a recipe for a rocking stool has been made. IMG_4873 How to combat that?  Simple!  Keep the stool and live in constant fear while building and selling what would be the replacements!   The corrected version, Version 2.0, only graces the interior of our house when I'm packing it up for shipment to a customer.  On the rare occasion, someone will feel sympathy for my wife and daughter and buy a stool from me just to gift it to my wife so she no longer has to worry about Sydney toppling off of her teetering top-heavy stool. The corrected version starts out basic.  A stool needs to be stout, but not tank-like.  A wide board with a relief cut in it will be much more stable than two 3" x 3" oak legs.  An angle introduced to the legs will help exponentially with the stability.  A stretcher between the wide board legs will help ease the load as its transferred down to the floor.  Children's stool 1    Children's stool 2 Finish nails and Titebond glue would work great, but why not use a little joinery and hide glue? Joinery.  Teach a child the way things work!  Let me phrase that differently...Teach a child the way things used to work and should work but don't because the old was replaced with cheap plastic thoughtless items that cannot be repaired.  Enhance the joinery with contrasting woods so the child can understand what is happening when the stool is used. Children's stool 3 Hide glue.  Repairable.  In 100 years when the stool finally comes loose at the joints, just heat the hide glue up, realign everything, add a bit more hide glue, and the stool will serve many more generations to come. Children's stool 4 Give a little thought into what you purchase for the wee ones. When given the ability, they will educate themselves.  Further their education by teaching them how things are made.  Teach them why they are made that way.   Show them the impractical items.  Teach them why they are impractical, but not by purchase and use! Note: Don't ask DOW where to get Hide Glue. They may not understand that a glue that has been in existence for eternity is better than any formula they can muster up.
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On Assembly

When building boats up north, I believed that epoxy was one of the best bonding agents that ever existed.  The shop would get varying parts of epoxy in 55 gallon drums.  On the shelves behind these drums would be retarders, advancers, silica thickeners, and anything else a boatbuilder may need to  create the perfect recipe for the perfect bond. Down here in my small shop in Virginia, things are a bit different.   Yes, I do have epoxy, but I keep it under lock and key from myself due to the cost. Unfortunately many customers desire the self-leveling bar coat for tabletops.  I try to keep in the proper mindset and get the customer to follow in thought that the self leveling coat takes every quality about wood that a person enjoys and seals it up so tight and slick that the wood now has qualities that match a hard linoleum floor. With that said, the self-leveling does have a great purpose in commercial use, such as the bar and bathroom sink we brought back to life while building The Palisades Restaurant and the cafe tables we built with inlaid logo for Tangent Outdoors.    I also try to not get distracted with bent laminations, as beautiful as they may be.   Again, are they natural?   Do they keep the qualities of the wood?   Thinking along these lines (AND COST!!) usually allows my epoxy usage to stay to a bare minimum.  Once I started slowly replacing epoxy with Titebond in even major glue-ups, I noticed no real difference in tightness, glue lines, and longevity of the joint.  Nothing proves this more than a cutting board.   Strips of wood, sometimes heated and dried from the abuse of the mistaken placement of the dishwasher, never set flat on its plane when stored, the cutting board doesn't have an easy life.  The more I think about it, the more a cutting board has in common with the life of a boat. Before the glue is even reached for, a check should be done for tightness and accuracy of joints.  There should be no daylight seen once dry assembled.  If there is, a quick swipe of the hand plane or even cardscraper can help remedy the problem.   One rule that almost always seems to get lost in the sawdust is that during assembly, the clamp is not a tool to rectify a measurement, nor should it have to suck the daylight out of an accidental saw kerf.  A clamp should simply be there to hold the joint barely tight enough until the glue dries.  If you find yourself clamping down with all your might, chances are you will not only have a distorted and out of square piece of work, but you will also squeeze the glue right out of the joint, weakening the bond before it ever has a chance to cure. Once assured that the joints are true, be sure that plenty of clamps are on hand and also dig around in your scrap pile to make clamping cauls to keep everything in alignment.  I usually elevate and clamp on runners that I know are Once you have a system in place, cover all caul edges, aligning pieces and clamp ends that may be exposed to glue with packaging tape. Here is the trick to keep it simple and speedy.   I usually have two small disposable plumbing brushes on hand.  One is for water, the other for glue.  Don't worry about cross contamination, unless you plan on eating or drinking it.   Submerge the one brush in water and lightly dampen the edge to be glued.    Now lightly dampen its mate to be glued to it.   Now take the bottle of glue (Titebond Waterproof) and run a small bead down the center of the plane to be glued.  Take the other brush and spread the bead out.  You will find that the dampened wood will easily let you spread the glue.   Mate the two pieces together.   If mating multiple strips, continue until all strips are done, only applying glue to one side of mating pieces. Wipe up any drips with a damp cloth .   Clamp and tighten just enough so that glue barely squeezes out of some of the joints.  The water technique will allow more open assembly time and also will keep you from putting excessive amounts of glue in a joint just to squeeze it out and ruin your hand planes and chisels on later.   What I just said may seem elementary and slightly backwards (adding water to glue) but it's the small steps that save time and allow for a great build and satisfied customer.
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Woodworkers disguised as Healthcare Professionals

A two hour trip north found my wife and I visiting her Aunt and Uncle in Harrisonburg.  My wife's Uncle wanted to take me to an Ace Hardware Store.  I thought he done fell off his rocker because there certainly can't be anything special about a chain Harry Homeowner Hardware Store.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Not only was it far from normal, they were having a huge tool show in the parking lot(s).  This tool show was so massive that there were parking attendants to squeeze all of the vehicles together in the parking lots and surrounding grass lots of the property.  The tools weren't just construction grade.  Infact, they were mostly tools for the woodshop.  Phil and I were in Hog Heaven for sure.  And in deep trouble if the salesfolk were worth their stock.  We looked at spindle sanders, shapers, drill presses, saw blades, and sandpaper, but did our best to walk off when the salesfolk whipped out the price sheet. Fortunately we made it out of the circus sized tool tent with no damage done and into the hardware store.   This store had everything!  It made Woodcraft look like chopped liver.  The damage was done when we reached the sandpaper that one of the tent attendants educated us on.  I was only going to get a pack of one grit to help me get through some stubborn reclaimed lumber, but somehow I ended up with three different packs of varying grit and a cyclone lid to make a bucket into a dust collector. We put our purchases underneath the tonneau cover of the truck so our wives wouldn't see when we got back to the house. No such luck.  They were onto us as soon as we pulled into the driveway.   My wife's only concern while rifling through my bag she confiscated was the one item that the store gave me for free..the strip of white paper.  She looked at the total on the bottom of the piece of paper as I winced and she said "$67.00?  Is that all?  Why are you worried?"   I immediately began kicking myself and wanted to go back if I was supposedly allowed to do more damage than I did.  I then began thinking just how much did she spend at the fabric store she just returned from?  It must have dwarfed my receipt.  I'm occasionally a smart man.  I left my thought a thought and didn't bring it into existence through a conversation that can only go downhill. Uncle Phil then took me down to his shop and I was quickly drawn to his nice setup.  Natural paneling on the walls, a shop centered around the tablesaw.  A bandsaw who's fence made me envious of all the resawing it could do, a workbench Phil built, all the proper tools for a shop, router tables, tablesaw sleds, and two recliners to be just worn out enough to be dedicated to shop studies and late night reads.     Phil supports his addiction to the shop by being the Executive Director at the nearby hospital.  I keep his number close at hand since he's been in the healthcare profession for quite some time and I'm still fairly new and quite ignorant to the game.  I feel like I'm always asking him if a hospital's process is correct for doing this, or can a director really do that, or how does the corporation form so many policies.  I'd be sick of my conversation if I was him.  Luckily, we were in the shop, and shop rules are the same no matter where you are: No talk about work...unless it can somehow be transformed into a dirty joke or sexist saying.  We turned in for the night with talk about going to brunch the following morning. When morning came, we loaded up and headed to Luray.  I had never been there for a destination, just driven by.  I thought we were going to a simple restaurant with great food. I couldn't have been any closer to wrong.  I quickly wanted to blend in with the landscape since I left my sportcoat at the house.   Champagne Brunch at the Mimsyln Inn.  The Architecture was original and only got better upon entrance. 12' oak doors  that opened into the lobby, a beautiful curved staircase with a detailed iron hand rail, paintings old and young by local artisans, The dining room had copper chaffing dishes, wooden tables, and clawfoot chairs.   The funny part about it all is that we spent the better part of our woodworking conversation (we try to entertain the wives by not speaking the language of the woodshop all of the time) talking about the plastic interior plantation shutters. Phil and I have many similarities with our projects and desire to complete projects that we'll probably never have time to complete.   We did everything but take the shutter out of the window while seated at our table.   We discussed the varying hinge mechanisms and rods and hooks that can be implemented to make the shutter work in various windows.  The build would be much like model making...small parts that have to be placed with precision or else you might as well have a bunch of kindling connected to a rod that functions just as good as it sounds.   I'll let Phil take the lead and make sets for his house (aka locate hardware that doesn't make it such a pain) before I join in on the shutter making. mim2 My wife and I departed their company and the beautiful Inn since I had to return to reality at the hospital on the following day.   That evening once we got home, I continued to set up my shop for a production run of children's furniture and began to make use of the dust collection cyclone lid I bought at the hardware store. The system is almost caveman like with simplicity, just introduce a bit of an angle and you'll get a torrent of wind mimicking a cyclone, which drops most sawdust and debri in the 5 gallon bucket and only lets the fine dust continue on to the Shop Vac.   I want this system to use for both my router table and my orbital sanders.  For the time being, it will also serve my compound chop saw.  With that said, I wanted it to be extremely portable yet pack everything with it, and still be able to use the Shop Vac independent of the "dust bucket".   I'm far from done, but you get the idea from the pictures below.  A little scrap plywood, some oversized casters to run over whatever may be in its path (two straight wheels in back, one swivel wheel in front), and a shape to take up as less of a footprint as possible.   I'm mounting the bucket with something that most folk forget about working with in shops...magnets.   This way I don't have to cut out a precise ring for it to fit into and it will always lock into place after I dump it....and it will be a breeze to take off and dump since there are no straps or wing-nuts to undo.  I'm also robbing an extension cord wind-up out of an old hospital cart and I'm going to wire it to a gang box loaded with 4 outlets that turn the vacuum on whenever power gets supplied to the tool in the outlet.  It may stay at 90% complete until spring.  Time and aggravation of not having all of the features will tell. If you don't have any dust collection in your shop, this is certainly the way to start out, and if you have a large dust collector, remember it won't do as good as a job with collecting the fine particulate that sanding creates.  Speaking of large dust collectors, be sure you opt for the same cyclone system, but use a trash can as shown in the bottom picture.  The setup will save your collector from years of abuse and save your back making it easy to dispense shavings and such.         
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Old Stanley No. 5

My wife sent me out the other day to find a pair of used filing cabinets and I came home with this little beaut.  It has a chipped handle, but the sole, horn, and blade are all in top-notch shape.   For the record, it has been weeks since I have brought anything home, and I have been looking for this plane for quite some time online.   $15 for this plane?  You dang right I bought it like I stole it! Have you ever walked into a big box hardware store and noticed all of the power tools and then noticed all of the jigs needed to perform the functions of the power tools?  Say I wanted to chamfer the edge of a countertop:  First I'd need a router, then a bit, and possibly even a router table or a straightedge, depending on the collet setup/etc.  But with a simple block plane, I can do the same job, no accessories needed, no hearing protection needed, and just a simple sweep of the floor.  Not even a vacuum needed since there is no fine dust from high rpm cutting blades. Another backwards feature of power tools (while I'm on the subject) is that there are power tools to remove the characteristics (read: burns, kerfs, knicks, etc) that the previous power tool gave the piece of wood.   I believe this was done on purpose.   I can easily see the scenario playing out.  The husband is allowed his very own sanctuary (aka woodshop) as long as it helps him complete his Honey DO list.   The wife wants a simple coat rack to mount on the hall.   The husband then thinks this project will only allow him 1/2 hour shop time with his hand tools.   He ponders deeply on how he can increase his shop time on such small projects.  Next thing you know, Mr. Rockwell Dewalt has invented a planer that causes tearout with its blades rotating in a circular motion instead of a linear parallel motion.  Then he creates a tablesaw that rotates so fast the blade causes burn marks and the larger kerf causes an uneven edge.   Then he invents an electrical drill to replace both the egg beater and the bit and brace.  This drill is capable of producing major blowout at the end of a perfect bore.  Now to finish all those mistakes with some sandpaper.  He starts with 80 grit, scratching the daylights out of the grain, but getting rid of most other imperfections.  He moves on up to 100 grit, replacing the larger scratches with multiple tiny scratches.  He then continues with higher grit with similar results.  For the grand finale, he puts on a coat of finish that takes away all characteristics that make wood great (smell, touch, etc), but it does what it is intended, it fills all the voids that were created from the tooling process.  The finish isn't something that you can wipe on and put to use.  It takes multiple days and multiple coats.   Mr Rockwell Dewalt has created a master process that all of us men are grateful for, he has turned a simple 1/2 hour project into one that can span a week's worth of evenings.   If done properly, the coat rack can lead into larger projects..such as a dresser!   That's a lot of sanding.  May take a year if a man works evenings.  He better be smart and take a small vacation from work...should have it done in two weeks...if uninterrupted(chances of that happening?). Three Cheers for Mr. Rockwell Dewalt!! Are you now imagining my shop with only hand tools since I have slightly cynical thoughts to their perverse cousins that spin by electricity?   Sorry for the snap to reality.  Here is my planer. FullSizeRender (1) With its helical cutterhead, 15" wide mouth, 1' deep throat, and 5hp motor, it will make anyone that catches sight of it do the "Tim the Tool Man" grunt.  The downside:  Once the 78 4-sided blades are dull, it costs $150 to have them sharpened and every time I fire it up, I owe a little something to American Electric Power Company. Back to hand tools: The Stanley No.5 is more commonly known as a Jack Plane, used to surface lumber.  It was the plane that most carpenters preferred to take to the job because it was the "Jack of all Trades" as far as planes are concerned.  Its primary function is to surface rough lumber, but depending on how deep you set the blade, one can easily use this plane in place of a block, scrub, or jointer plane. A great deal can be said about the history of a plane when looking at the blade.   The camber that the blade was ground down to and the treatment of the corners can usually dictate what wood/what kind of woodworking it was most used on.   My jack plane blade looks to be unmolested, but I'm about ready to change that.   I deal with all kinds of hard and soft wood, rarely clear.   With that being the case, I'm going to grind a 8" radius on each side, allowing the plane to shave over knots and varying grade with minimal tearout.   I'm going to keep the same camber, but sharpen her up to snuff on a glass block with high grit and it should be ready to rock!
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One Man's Treasure

IMG_1461I went on a bit of a spree at the hospital in which I work.  I collected items inspectors deemed "no longer usable" and brought them to my shop.   It began as pure innocence with a laptop cart...as innocent as a 120lb cart can be.  Being concerned with gas mileage and living some distance from work, I'd rarely drive my truck.   This gave a high entertainment value to the patients that could sit up in their bed...watching me try to rein a unwieldy cart into the back seat of a midsized sedan.  It took a few months, but the inspector finally made enough trips to our hospital, discontinuing all carts. I became blessed with six weighted tool stands on heavy duty casters.  Stools were next.  A stool is of utmost importance in the shop.  Without, a great deal of creative ability is lost since one cannot sit back and take a look at how the entire piece of furniture is coming together.  More importantly, opinions are lost due to the fact that the friends that voice them won't stop by the shop and stay a spell due to the lack of places they can sit and drink a beer while they watch you work. By this time, the hospital maintenance crew began calling the loading dock on which they would stage items to be taken to the dump "Jarrett's Porch"  since I would load up most items, making their load barely worth hauling off.   A stool was placed on my porch.  It was tall, black, had a good back, working hydraulics, and a solid metal ring for a foot rest.  It was such a fine deal that I felt as if I was stealing it, so I took the wrench that I always carry in the pocket of my chef's pants and had the thing broken down and in the trunk of my car in under five minutes. I still don't know the appropriate name of the stool I collected next.  Some doctors call it a "stitching stool" while others call it a "dentists stool".  I believe its just an exam stool...not to ever have its name reversed and used for a stool exam...I hope!IMG_4630 Whatever their name, I collected three.  Took me two trips, so I had to hide them in the linen hallway since people caught on to what I was doing and wanted to take part in collecting hospital trash for their own use. Next on the list was sheets of glass that protect the desks in Administration.  Glass to protect.  The notion has always seemed odd to me.   I understand in a widow type form, but why would you add 100lbs to protect a robust desk that has a good solid finish?  Because its not a robust desk, its made from particles and glue and the finish is more of a surface than it is a true finish.  The notion of a glass top had to be purely for fashion and nothing else.  Coffee rings and fingerprints: fashionable indeed! The glass not living up to its hype found its way to my loading dock.  The following day, it found its way home and I put it to immediate use in a gun cabinet I was building with a friend. image Next was an armoire from a patient room remodel.  The free standing structure who's only purpose was to hold an occasional coat was built like a tank.  It now houses hundreds of pounds of power tools and nail guns...to prevent them from dust and wandering eyes. The final load I have Women's Center to thank.   I've been waiting for years to turn my mitre saw stand into a mitre saw station.  With the cabinetry and countertops I was able to do just that. .IMG_4753 image1 Once the countertops were in place, it became abruptly apparent that my obsession had become a problem.  I noticed I have all these nice features in my shop, but I couldn't use them because there was no room due to the collection of junk that was waiting to be turned into something.   It became so bad that I couldn't do the simplest task without shuffling everything from one side of the shop to the other.   I had antique chests, antique refrigerators, pie cabinets, tons of scrap stainless steel, angle iron, wire, lights, even kitchen sinks.  I was going to move it all to the barn beside my shop, but it too was full of many of the same items. Finally, the line had been drawn as a lightning bolt through my brain.   Twelve loads to the scrap yard and dump later, I returned many items and gave them a few more.   I have recycled enough.  To all the hospital employees that I have infected with the Collecting Disease, I am deeply sorry.  I hope you find strength to build your immune system back because nothing will cure it, although I have found a good slap from the spouse does help slow it down at times. Now its time to get back to woodworking.  So please, all I ask is that you don't tempt me with calls of antique appliances or old wooden pieces of furniture. #Hoardernomore
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