Saturday, March 19, 2011

Finish Already!

So you’re probably tired of reading blog entries on the building of these boxes!  It’s been a long haul, but last weekend I spent two solid days in the shop and was able to wrap up quite a bit.  Most importantly, I was able to completely finish up ten boxes to send off to the silent auction fund raiser in Maryland.  I can’t wait to hear how they’ve done.  There are five boxes that still need lids, but the remaining 19 are complete except for the finish.  I’ll spend some time this weekend applying a Danish Oil finish to some of them.  This’ll be my first time using Danish Oil, so I’ll decide which I like better, the oil or the Waterlox finish, after experimenting on a few.
On last week’s episode, our intrepid woodworker had just finished cutting corner slots into some of the boxes, to receive corner keys.  Let’s pick up the trail and bring this baby home!
One of the best investments I’ve made recently is the Grrr-Ripper by Micro Jig.  I picked up this great set-up at last year’s woodworking show here in Minnesota.  I was able to rip these, very thin, pieces quickly and safely.  The show special came with an extra leg for ripping pieces as thin as 1/8 of an inch.  I was cutting corner keys for two different depths and I ended up needing to use that extra thin leg to cut the smaller stock.

I was originally going to cut the keys using a small fenced jig and my Japanese Dozuki saw however, after cutting two keys…I knew it was time to try some power!  (Insert manly grunting here.)
I started with the wider pieces for the deeper slots.  I ganged them together with blue tape and set up the table saw with a 90 tooth finish blade and the 45 degree cross-cut sled.  The set-up gave me some really crisp cuts, and I soon had more corner keys than I’ll be able to use.

 After such a great result on the wider parts, I taped up the narrower strips and cut the smaller keys for the shallow corner slots.

So with a pile of tiny wooden triangles, a bottle of glue and the Stars game on TV, I installed all of the corner keys last Friday night…AND the Stars thumped the Wild, 4 – 0.  A good night all around!

The next morning I set up the half sheet pad sander and started sanding the corner keys down.  I tried cutting them as close to finished size as possible, but did leave them a little proud so that I could sand them flush to the surface of the box sides.

As nice as this pad sander is, it was slow going sanding down those key splines.  There was also the added difficulty of trying to sand just the keys without hitting the sides of the boxes and creating a tapered slope…and then it hit me!  What was I thinking?  I just happen to own one of the coolest woodworking tools ever invented, tucked away at the front of the shop, hiding from me!
All hail the Ridgid oscillating spindle/belt sander!
The flat table and the oscillating sanding belt were exactly what I needed to sand down the overhanging parts while keeping the box at 90 degrees to the sander.  This genius piece of tooling sure made short work of those key splines.

After sanding the keys flush to the sides, it was back over to the pad sander to clean up the sides, the tops and the bottoms.  I sanded the boxes up to 220 grit and gave them all a wipe-down with some mineral spirits to clean up the dust. 
I was definitely ready to move onto something new after spending several hours standing and sanding.  With the boxes set aside, I turned to the lids.  I prepared the lid blanks from several species that I had in the wood pile.  I varied the thickness of the lids this time around to experiment with the “weightiness” of the final pieces.

I blogged on cutting the lids and routing a small chamfer profile at the bottom of the box in a previous post, and followed the same processes this time as well.
After sanding and cleaning up the lids, I picked out ten boxes to apply a finish to for the school fund raiser.

I set the rest of the boxes aside to finish up later.

I finished the chosen ten with three coats of hand wiped, Waterlox satin finish.  I gave them a light sanding between each coat and rubbed out the final coat to get a smooth sheen.  Here they are, all gussied up and ready to go to school.

After all this hard work I decided to treat myself to a new tool for the shop.  What could be more perfect after all that sanding than the new, high tech, carbon fiber, ergonomically designed broom and dust pan.
Guess what my next project is…

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gettin' Jiggy with it!

What Will Smith meant to sing was, “getting 90 degree corner spline slot cutting jig with it…”  Jiggy is just the industry standard nickname.
After last week’s adventure we had a whole herd of boxes, rounded up, glued, cleaned and ready to be branded…well, splined at least.

In the process of pulling the tape off each box, a priceless sculptural form appeared as if from nowhere!  Somebody call the Smithsonian.  I really think this new style is going to stick.  Ba dum dum!  I’m in town all week folks!

The next phase of construction calls for corner slots to be cut for the splines.  To do that we need a jig.  No, no, no…put your Irish clogging shoes away!  No dancing allowed in the workshop.  For woodworking purposes, a jig is a device that holds the work-piece and is used to control the location and/or motion of another tool.   The idea for this particular jig is that it’s supposed to be simple and easy to build from a scrap piece of 2X4 lumber in your shop.  This is the last piece of left-over 2X4 that I had in the shop, and I had to dig to find it.  Whew!
I know what you’re thinking…”That fancy-schmancy definition of a jig, and it all boils down to a scrap piece of 2X4!”  Stay with me though.
After cutting the 2X4 down to size, it was time to hit the jointer to flatten one of the faces and square up one of the edges.

We only need one square corner and two flat surfaces for the jig to be accurate.  The machinist’s square tells me that we nailed it.

Next, I cut the piece into two parts with 45 degree angled slopes.  I also ripped a piece of Baltic Birch plywood for the side support piece of the jig.

I applied glue to the faces that were flattened on the jointer.  For the record, I’m not a fan of these flexible plastic glue spreaders.  It’s back to acid brushes for me after this.  It was handy for removing the glue squeeze-out though, so they’ll still have a home in the shop.

The two pieces are glued to the plywood so that the two 45 degree slopes meet each other to form a 90 degree angle.  The two edges that were squared on the jointer create a nice flat bottom on the jig, and should align flush with the bottom edge of the plywood.

Once I had the parts lined up and clamped together, I drove a couple screws in from behind to add some holding strength while the glue dried.  It was important to not place the screws too close to the bottom of the jig.  The table saw blade will be cutting through the body of the jig so it’s critical to not place a screw in a position to be struck by the blade.

One final check for square and the jig is ready to roll.

I’m going to be cutting corner slots into about two thirds of the boxes.  I used the small, Cherry tester box to align where I wanted the splines to land and to make the initial cuts into the bottom of the jig.

After aligning the position of the slots and making test cuts, I marked the jig so that I can repeat this set-up in the future.

Once the jig was set up, cutting the slots was a breeze…and safe.  I felt very comfortable making all these cuts quickly and efficiently…and that makes it...well, jiggy!

I also used the jig to cut slots in the two larger Birdseye Maple boxes with the thinner walls.  I wanted a short slot at a half inch from the top and another a half inch from the bottom.  These will receive splines of a darker wood like Walnut or Wenge.
With all the slots cut, the boxes have more of a Van Halen feel, rather than The Fresh Prince.  “Might as well JIG!  Yeah, go ahead and JIG!”

The Freud rip blade allowed for slots that are exactly 1/8 of an inch wide with flat surfaces.  Any of my other blades would have left a small ridge that would have to be sanded or pared away, introducing a really tight process that would just be begging for errors.  I’ll be making splines for these slots with 1/8 inch thick Cherry, Walnut and Maple.
I may pick through the woodpile for some other species, but finding something large enough to safely run through the planer that I’m interested in taking all the way down to 1/8 of an inch might be a challenge.
The thin material fits perfectly into the slots.  It’s a nice slip fit that should allow just enough room for glue to lock them in.
These splines, combined with the, glued in, bottoms of Baltic Birch plywood will make for some incredibly strong boxes that should hold up well for years and years.
Now I just need to make…you guessed it…a jig to cut the spline pieces.  Nah nah nah nah nah nah, gettin’ jiggy with it…nah nah nah nah nah nah…I’m not dancing!