Friday, October 13, 2017

Sellers-Inspired Step Stools

I don't have a lot of space to be storing scrap wood "that I'll eventually use in just the right project".  Yeah, right.  So I've been trying to use up some scrap wood and a good start is making a few step stools.  I gave away the three stools pictured at the end of this post on and the response was so immediate that I'm using a bunch more scrap and making 5-6 more.  Lots of pictures, so I'll let the captions do the talking.
Leg stock started round 1 1/4" diam.  Made marks where the bulge will be.

With 7/8" circle marked on ends, planed from bulge marks to end
You can tell when you're done that facet when you nick the 7/8" circle
Top view of same showing the nick of the circle
Four sides done
Starting to round the corners left over
Just about there
This leaves many facets from the plane
But with spokeshave ...
... and curved scraper (in wooden holder) ...
... we get a nice rounded leg without using a lathe
Marking a found table top that will become three 9 x 15" oval stool tops
Marking hold locations and sight lines
Jig to align bit and brace
Always helps to mark things to avoid mistakes
Jig lined up with sight line
Easy to see I'm lined up in this direction
But I used a mirror to check the angle in the other direction
First time using the mirror trick - worked nicely, though the mirror is a bit large
Some tops I sawed close to the oval layout lines and then chiseled and planed to shape
Others I sawed relief cuts and then chiseled and planed to shape - first method was quicker I think
Legs fitted into the holes with a lot of patience.
Test fit, find where it's rubbing, scrape a little in those areas, repeat
After glue-up, shimming the legs so the top is parallel to benchtop
Scribing the legs ready to cut to length
Legs were glued and wedged into the holes.
Three coats of shellac used as finish.
One of the stools I experimented with octagonal legs (left in pic).
Octagonal, tapered, bulge in center.
Turned out that was far more work for little if any benefit.
I'm now in the process of making 5-6 more stools from scrap and found wood.  I've found that one reason I'm so slow is that using found wood requires a LOT of extra work to get useful parts.  Some of these stools will go to a local school where the kids need a little help getting up to the sinks.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Another Way To Octagonize

Once in a while I have need to make a workpiece that is square in cross section into an octagon.  Last year, Greg Merritt gave us "The Octagonizer", a nifty gauge that will quickly mark out the guide lines needed to guide the material removal at the corners of square stock to make an octagon.  While I haven't made one of these gauges, I have octagonized parts using a similar method.

I read once in Dennis Laney's blog another method to octagonize square stock.  It turns out that the ratio 7:24 gives an almost exact approximation to find the location of the guide lines.

A little math first - bear with me.

A square with 1" sides and octagon lines drawn in
In the square above, each side can be divided up into three lengths; x, y and x.  "y" is the length of each of the eight sides of the octagon.  "x" is the distance from a corner of the square to a corner of the octagon.

Consider one of the small triangles formed in a corner of the square.  As Greg wrote, the Pythagorean Theorem gives us x^2 + x^2 = y^2.  We also know that for any side of this square, x + y + x = 1.

With a little algebra, we can combine these two equations and solve for x.

x = 1/[2+sqrt(2)], which is equal to 0.293.

So if you have square stock that is 1" on each side, you can mark lines 0.293" from each edge to find your octagon vertices.  For stock larger (or smaller) than 1", you can use the 0.293 as a multiplier to get the proper position.  For example, in stock that is 1 1/4" square, the lines for octagonizing will be 1.25 * 0.293, or 0.366" from the edge.

I keep an Excel sheet with decimal equivalents for every 64th of an inch.  0.366" is between 23/64" and 24/64".  So I set my marking gauge to that and mark the workpiece.
Setting gauge to just over 23/64ths
Dennis Laney's method uses the fact that 7/24 (which is equal to 0.292) is almost exactly the value of "x" shown above.  This means that you can take a 24" ruler and place it diagonally on a workpiece with 0" at one edge and 24" at the other edge.
24" ruler kitty corner on the stock, pencil pointing to the 7" mark
If you make a mark on the wood at the 7" mark and the 17" mark (7" from the each end of the ruler) and mark gauge lines on your stock through those points, these will be excellent guide lines for octagonizing the stock.

On some legs I'm making for a step stool, I've tapered the blanks to the top and to the bottom, with a fat part below center.
Square tapered legs; 1 1/4" thick at widest part, 7/8" thick at ends
I wanted to octagonize them, so I set the marking gauge to 1 1/4" * 0.292 to mark the fattest part just over 23/64" in from the sides.  And at the ends, the marking gauge was set to 7/8" * 0.292, or just over 16/64".
Gauge mark locations for ends and middle of the tapered leg
Marking the middle at just over 23/64" (but not pulling the gauge along the side)
And the gauge marks at the ends at just over 16/64" from the edge
Then it's a matter of connecting the gauge marks and planing to the lines.
Parts marked and ready for planing
Four legs tapered and octagonized
I like that I have to use the noggin while woodworking.  And (for me, anyway) it's a bonus when I get to use some algebra and geometry in the process.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Case of Non-Buyer's Remorse

What An Oaf!!  I can be too cheap or too practical for my own good sometimes.

At a garage sale on Saturday, there was some kind of device that is used with a power router.  So I talked to the son of the home's owner about what type of woodworking his father had done.  After some discussion, I asked if his dad has any old planes or saws that they might want to get rid of.  The son went into the garage and returned with a very dirty old Stanley #7C with a lot of light surface rust and a very dirty Stanley #45 in it's original box.
Here's the #7 jointer plane - it's going to need some work
The jointer plane is a type 10, made from 1907-1909.  I have a Stanley #6 and a Lie-Nielsen #8, but no #7.  Did I need a #7?  NO!

Here's the thing.  I ended up buying the #7 and passed on the #45.  The #45 had most of it's parts.  I don't know these planes very well, so I'm not familiar with all the parts that should come with it, but it was missing one of the rods that attach fence to plane body.  Most, but probably not all, of the original blades were there.
Image result for Stanley #45
Photo from
I discussed it with my wife and basically I talked myself out of buying it.  I had read that while the #45 is a jack of all trades, it doesn't perform many of those trades exceedingly well.  BUT THE SELLER ONLY WANTED $40!!!

Over the next 24 hours I agonized over this decision and realized I should have bought it.

I'm not a tool collector, I'm a user.  So if I buy a tool, I don't need it cluttering up my way-too-small shop.  But dang it, it would have been worth it to buy the plane just to see for myself how well (or not) it can work.  And while I have planes that do some of the tasks it can do, some of its functions would be new to me.  If I didn't like it, I could sell it, probably for far more than $40.

When I left their house, the son put the #45 back in the garage.  So I thought there might be a chance it didn't get sold.  The day after the garage sale, I left a note in the mailbox at that house asking them to call me about the plane.  When my phone rang I was very excited, but the lady told me they had sold the plane.

Very disappointing.  Arrgh!!  Why do I have to be so *@!$&# cheap and practical!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Finding Center on the End of Cylindrical Stock

For the Sellers-inspired step stools I've been building, I need to mark a 7/8" circle on the end of a cylindrical leg blank.  I'm using an old wooden curtain rod for the legs, so I didn't have the option of marking the center while the blank was square.
Cylindrical leg blank
There are devices that make this easy.  For instance a centering head used on a combination square will work nicely, but I don't happen to have one.  I'm sure there are other devices that could be used (please write in the comments if you know of one), but I don't have them either.

So what do you do?  You improvise.  For this project I made some very useful helpers in holding round stock.  I made these cradles fairly accurately so that the angled walls are very close to 45° relative to the top (and bottom) surfaces.
One of four "cradles" I made for holding round stock
I can use one of these cradles with a square to draw a line through the center of the end of the leg blank.  Set the leg blank in the cradle so that the end is even with one side of the cradle.  Then clamp them in a vise so that they are about 1/2" to 1" above the benchtop - this just has to be enough to use the combination square.
Use a square lined up with the vertex of the cradle and draw a line on the stock 
Reference the square on the bottom surface of the cradle and have the square's blade line up with the vertex of the cradle's angled cutout.  Draw a line on the leg blank.  Then rotate the blank in the cradle and repeat.
Rotate the stock and draw another line
Where the two lines meet is the center of the blank's end.  Sometimes I'll draw a third line, as my stock is not perfectly cylindrical and this helps get a "weighted" center.
That's pretty good
As a side benefit, the cradle is great to use for clamping round tapered legs.  I put a piece of leather in the cradle's cutout section, put the leg in there and clamp in the vise.  The leather protects the leg and keeps it from moving so I can work on the other end.
Clamping the tapered leg with the help of the cradle and some leather
A closer-up view

Friday, September 29, 2017

Drawing An Ellipse

I'm in the process of making a few Sellers-inspired step stools and I'm making the tops elliptical.  I once read about a method of laying out an ellipse in Dennis Laney's excellent blog, so I thought I'd try it out.  Dennis outlines a few different methods - this is just one of them.  This method uses a set of trammel points, and I had just made myself a set a few months ago.

I started by drawing the major and minor axes on poster paper.  My ellipse was to have major diameter 15" and minor diameter 9".
Axes drawn longer than size of ellipse
I set the two trammel points to a distance of 4 1/2" and 7 1/2" from the pencil - these are half the ellipse diameters.
Setting the trammel pencil and the two points
Then got a piece of scrap with one square corner and laid that in one quadrant of the drawn axes.  I used some plywood that was thicker than my trammel pins are long.  That way, the edge of the trammel from which the pin protrudes (the wooden part) can ride on the edge of the board and the points won't dig into the poster paper.
Using a squared-up scrap to guide the trammel points
Then, while holding the scrap board down firmly, I run the two trammel points along the two squared edges of the scrap board (both trammel points must remain in contact with the board at all times), while dragging the pencil trammel on the paper.
Starting the ellipse - pencil point is right-most
Sliding the trammel points along the board, keeping both in contact with an edge
Finishing the first quarter of the ellipse
Then it's a simple matter of moving the scrap piece to the different quadrants and repeating that process.
Working the next section of ellipse ...
... and the third quadrant ...
... and the fourth
And here is the result - a very pleasing shape.
Completed ellipse
I'll use this as a template for laying out the tops of the stools.  More on that later.