Friday, July 28, 2017

Plant Stands, Part 2 - Shaping and Completion

With the structure complete from Part 1 of this project, I could shape the parts.  The legs would get a chamfer on the outside corners, as well as some shaping at the feet.  All rails would get a decorative bead at the lower edge.

I had never done stopped chamfers before.  The chamfers would start about 1" up from the bottom and end about 2 1/2" from the top.   I made a small knife line 1/2" from these starting points and penciled in the shape to be removed.
Chamfer laid out
Then I made a stop cut with a saw at the knifed line.
Sawed a small kerf as a stop cut
Removed bulk of waste with a chisel
Then smoothed with a spokeshave and a no. 4 smoother
Got right up to the stop cut with a shoulder plane that has a removable toe
On other legs I simply used a chisel to clean up the ends of the flat part.  Then it was a fairly easy matter to chisel the curved lead-in to the chamfer.
Chiseling the curved lead-in until the curve meets the flat part seamlessly
I didn't get a pic in progress, but here's a pic from the finished project.
Very happy with this transition
And a more straight-on view
After that, I put a bead at the bottom of each rail.  I really love using the beading planes that I recently restored.
Bead on one of the short rails
One thing about putting beads on the rails - somehow it always seems the grain is not in your favor.  You can see in the next picture how I lost a little chunk of the bead at the left end.  Sometimes I wonder if I should cut the beads before forming the tenons.  That way, I would cut off any torn chunks that happen at the end.  Would love to hear comments from anybody with experience on this.
Planing goes from right to left, but see how the grain is diving?
One thing I did to make sure I didn't get any tear-out at the quirk was to make a deep gauge line at the extent of the quirk before using the beader.
A close view of the gauge line
This made sure that I got a good, crisp quirk at the surface of the rail.
Arrow points to the crisp edge I'm talking about
With the rail beads done, I next had to put a bead on the stretcher.  This was a real challenge because the stretcher has a concave curve on it's bottom edge.
Lower stretcher has a concave bottom edge.
Bead was made using a scratch stock.
I used a scratch stock, for which I made a cutter to match the size of bead that I had cut on all the rails.  I didn't get any action photos, but here's the scratch stock.  It's easy to make the cutter - just takes a few minutes to file out the unwanted metal.
The scratch stock
Close-up of the cutter
I was surprised how fast it cut the bead in the curved lower aspect of the stretcher.  One feature of this scratch stock that helps in this regard is that the fence is curved.  This allows it to stay tight along the curved edge of the stretcher.

After all shaping was done, I focused on the top.  I planed a bullnose shape on all edges of each board.  To line up the top slats for installation, I turned the undercarriage upside down on the bench and got creative with a holdfast to clamp things in place.
Top slats being marked for location and screw holes
I had made some pocket screw holes in the upper rails before gluing the carcase together.  You can see one in the short rail in the above picture.

For finishing, I first applied three coats of shellac, sanding after each coat had dried.  Then, to give the plant stands greater resistance to the effects of rain (and sun?), I applied a few coats of polyurethane.

And here they are in service outside the kitchen windows.
My wife thought I'd just slap something together with screws to get this project done quickly. But hey, I'm a woodworker.  The mortising is good practice and I learned a few new things along the way. Everybody wins!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trees Are Amazing

A few weeks ago, we visited Russian Gulch State Park near Mendocino, CA.  We hiked a trail that eventually led to a 36 foot waterfall.
The falls in Russian Gulch S.P.
We love waterfalls.  And while the fall was nice, there were other things that really struck me during the walk.
Redwood growing on redwood stump
There were lots of redwood trees in the park.  This one was growing right on top of, and out of, a stump of an old deceased redwood.  This was really amazing.  The roots of the smaller tree were wrapped around the stump.  The older redwood was probably logged a century ago, so the younger one is likely about that old.
Another view - look at those roots reaching for the ground!
For scale, the stump was probably about 5 feet in diameter, the smaller tree about 1.5 to 2 feet diameter.

Redwoods have at least two methods of procreating.  While these trees grow to incredibly large sizes, their cones are small, not much larger than the coins in your pocket.  Seeds from these cones will germinate under the right conditions.

I've also seen downed redwoods with new trees growing directly from the horizontal stem.  I'm not a tree scientist, but I'm sure there's a word for this type of new tree growth.  I don't know whether or not other trees will do this.

Another seemingly mundane thing caught my interest during our hike.  A tree that had fallen across the path had been cut with a chainsaw.  Look where the moss is growing on this cross-section of tree.
Moss growing one the sapwood, but not the heartwood
The sapwood carries water and nutrients to the upper reaches of a tree.  It is alive and active.  The heartwood (as I understand it) is dead and provides structure for the tree to grow taller.  The moss is only growing on the portion of the tree (the sapwood) that was more recently alive.

I love the patterns that can be seen in nature.  Trees are amazing!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Plant Stands, Part 1 - Layout and Mortising

The honey-do list has included a couple of plant stands that would go outside our kitchen windows and raise plants to a level where we could see them from inside.  I had some quartersawn white oak and some red oak from tables that I saved from landfills.  The white oak will be a good outdoor wood, but the red oak I'm not too sure about.  Fortunately they won't get too wet - we don't get a lot of rain here in northern California.
Sketchup rendering of the design and location
White oak dimensioned for the smaller of the two stands (top slats not shown)
Aside from height and width, the two plant stands differ in design only slightly.  The taller one has a lower shelf and the smaller one has a single stretcher that joins the side assemblies.

I've been getting better (i.e., more consistent) at how I mark my pieces of a project.  I'm using the triangle to show the orientation of the four legs.
Triangle is on tops of legs and wide part of triangle is the front
I didn't get pictures, but the upper long rails get a similar triangle, as do the upper short rails and lower long and short rails.  I did the same for the top slats to keep them in the order I found most pleasing.
OK, found a picture.  On these short rails, I know which is left and right, which edge (with the triangle) is the upper edge, and which end goes towards the front of the stand (tenons laid out at bottom of picture go toward front of stand).
Back to the legs - I was very careful in the layout of the mortises.
Mortises for upper rails laid out
Mortises for lower rails laid out
For the layout of the rails, I ganged together parts with the same length and knifed lines as one.
Upper and lower short rails ganged and knifed
I wanted to write a little about the mortising.  My mortises are a tad over 1/4" wide.  I read a couple of years ago (I think it was on Dennis Laney's excellent blog) about lining up the mortise and the workpiece with your line of sight.  That is, place the piece to be mortised as pictured below, not across your body.
Leg and mortise are in my line of sight
By doing this, it easier to line up the chisel with the leg to make sure it's vertical.
Chisel looks to be vertical, based on alignment of chisel and workpiece
I was able to do all my mortises freehand this way, as opposed to using a Sellers-style mortise guide.  Here's a closer picture.
Looks fairly vertical
I can't easily tell if the chisel is vertical from the other direction - if I'm pushing it too far forward or too far back.  But left to right is easy this way and that's the part I think many people struggle with.

The pins of my mortise gauge were set just slightly wider than the chisel and that leaves a little bit on the sides of the mortise that can be pared away with a wide chisel.
Paring the mortise side to the gauge line
For the upper rails I used a haunched mortise and tenon.  After chopping the mortise as described above, I used a small saw to cut the haunch.  The saw can register against the side wall of the mortise.
Sawing the haunch
I did a dry assembly of the frame so that I could find the proper length of the center stretcher.
Frame dry assembled without lower stretcher
With the assembly clamped up, I made a couple of sticks the exact shoulder-to-shoulder length of the long upper rails.
Fitting a small scrap to the long rail
These sticks would be used as spacers to separate the legs at the floor so I could get an accurate distance of the shoulders for the stretcher piece.
Spacers separate the bottoms of the legs,
making a knife nick where the stretcher shoulder will meet the short rails
So much for the joinery.  Fourteen mortises on the smaller stand and 20 on the larger one.  Next time I'll write about shaping the parts, including a couple of firsts for me - stopped chamfers and beading a curved stretcher.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saw Binding in the Cut

I only have one cross-cut backsaw.  It came with my old house that I bought about 20 years ago.  It's a 12" Spear and Jackson with 12 tpi.  It's nothing special and I've been making do with it for as long as I've been working with had tools, all the while hoping to come across a better saw at a garage sale or Craigslist.
The Spear & Jackson
I've worked on this saw to get it in decent condition, sharpening with 14° rake and 20° fleam.  And I set the teeth to about 0.033" total set whereas the plate is 0.026" thick.
Saw plate 0.026" thick
But recently it has been binding in the cut.  Sometimes I get caught up in my projects and don't take the time to think about a problem like this.  I'm sure most of you have already guessed what the problem was.  When I finally got around to investigating the saw, I found this.
Total set of teeth was 0.027"!!
I have no idea how I lost the set on the teeth, but almost all of the set was gone!  Well, I guess it was time to sharpen and re-set the teeth.  I've been sharpening my own saws for a few years now and though I've gotten OK at it, I still have a lot of work to do.
See any problems here?
The teeth on the right in the picture above are fairly even.  But the teeth on the left are "cows and calves".  I haven't had this problem when sharpening rip saws, but when fleam is added to the mix it gets more tricky.  The heights of all the teeth are the same, so I got that going for me.  But the gullets are another story.  Fortunately I enjoy don't mind sharpening saws.

Well, back to the original problem.  I re-set the teeth before final sharpening and with a little rubbing of the sides of the teeth on a diamond stone I managed to get a very consistent set of 0.032" to 0.033".
That's more like it!
And now the saw cuts like it should.  What a pleasure it is to have a saw slice through the wood.

The moral of the story: when your tools are not performing properly, take the time to check them out. It could save you lots of time and headache later.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Close Call

This is a different type of post - no woodworking this time.  We had a very close call with fire on Wednesday.  We live in a townhouse complex and each building has four units.
Image result for westcourt mountain view
A typical building - there are two more attached units to the right of these two
We live in the unit third from the left (behind the tree in the above pic).  As I was heading out for a bike ride Wednesday morning, there was a commotion in the left-most unit.  Turns out a coffee roasting machine caught on fire in the garage, which was open at the time.  In less than 5 minutes the garage entrance was a HUGE wall of flame.  Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the two-car garage unit was destroyed - either by the flames, the smoke or the water that doused it.

Thanks to some heads-up thinking by painters who have been working on our complex, the resident was alerted and got himself and his kid to safety (wife wasn't home).
The next day (our townhouse is behind and to the right of the tree on the right)
Another view - flames leaped from left side of garage up to
roof soffits and completely destroyed the attic / roof
The one-car garage unit between our house and the burned-out house was not burned, but was damaged by smoke and water.  Our unit was spared.

A neighbor across the way had a surveillance camera that caught some of this on video.  Here is a link to the video .  Note the timing and how quickly this went from almost nothing to raging inferno!!

I'm not showing this for entertainment or for the shock value.  I'm showing this to get you to ask yourselves a question: do you have a plan in case of emergency - be it fire, flood, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.?  You can't believe how fast something can turn really bad.

So, do you have a plan?  My wife and I have been talking about this.  We didn't have a plan before. We do now.  It includes knowledge of where fire extinguishers are and how to use them, exit plans, what to get out of the house (people, pets, computer).  It includes periodic checking of smoke alarms and periodic review of the plan so we know what to do.  And I'm going to set a calendar reminder every three months to review the plan.

This has the whole neighborhood shaken up.  It's three days later and I'm still shaky - and our unit wasn't even damaged.  But it could have been if it were not for an aggressive fire chief and crew (those guys and gals kicked ass).

By the way - this complex had another fire that destroyed two units about 10-12 years ago (before we moved here).  The cause of the fire was oily rags balled up and thrown into a bin.  The owner had been staining a deck with some kind of oil based stain.  The rags heated up and spontaneously combusted.  Sound familiar?  We woodworkers have heard about this so many times (and many of us have doubted that it could happen).

Have a plan.  Review it periodically.  It could save your life.