Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gone Batty!

While working on the bent laminations for the box lids this weekend, inspiration struck in the form of a five year old with a passion for putting bad guys in their place.  Okay…maybe I like putting bad guys in their place too, but I swear it was all his idea…kinda.
According to Danger Boy the bending form looks a lot like Batman’s boomerang.
While it is bat-like, the aerodynamic form doesn’t look very promising.  A little research revealed many variations of the Batarang.  This one received the approval of the five year old contingent of superhero experts in the house.

After tinkering with various sketches…
…we decided on a final form and got ready to do some cutting.  I stacked six pieces of 1/4 inch Baltic Birch plywood together with double stick tape and attached the template.

First stop was the band saw.
Once all the big chunks were cut away, the scroll saw took care of all the small tight cuts.

Next it was on to the oscillating belt sander.  Have I mentioned how great I think this thing is?  It did a great job cleaning up all of the burrs and saw marks, and smoothing out all the bat-curves.
With all of the super, top-secret manufacturing processes compete, we found ourselves staring at a collection of the keenest, most advanced, bad guy thwarting weapons technology known to man.

They were breathtaking to behold.  The thrill of the call to justice overwhelmed us and we were swept up in visions of glorious battle with super villains bent on wrecking havoc on the helpless innocents of Maplewood, MN.  So focused were our thoughts that we began to plan for all eventualities that evil might throw at us…and then it hit us…”What if we run out of Batarangs?!”
Double production…STAT!
With a healthy supply of the latest Batarangs, it was on to the weapons testing grounds to put these marvels through their paces.
Danger Boy completed several rounds of testing and gave his hearty approval for the design and performance of the latest addition to our arsenal.
You now find yourselves the recipients of a rare treat indeed!  Actual test footage has just been released by the police commissioner for public viewing.  Our hope is that anyone with villainous intent will witness this display and think twice before perpetrating any nefarious action in our fair city of Maplewood.   We now bring you Official Batarang Test Flight #74291-34R.

Now that successful testing has been completed, the latest production run will move on to exterior augmentation, receiving an anti-detection, friction eliminating coating and a protective layer of indestructible polymer shielding…and, maybe some cool looking stripes!
Bad guys, be warned!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Four Day Weekend

Ah…four days to stretch out and tinker in the workshop…four days to play with some designs and try some new things…four days to…what?  Wait a minute!  What do you mean it’s over already?!
I’ve been on Google, Bing, and the Weather Channel…no jumps, holes or blips in the space-time continuum, so I guess it’s true…four days have really already flown by!  Fortunately I did get to spend some time in the shop and was able to play with some new tools and techniques.
My big project for the long weekend was to design and build some custom lids for two Birds-eye Maple boxes I made a couple months ago when I was in a box-making, berserker rage…frenzy…thing.  After several sketching sessions I landed on a Wenge, lift-off lid with a bent lamination handle of Wenge and Padauk.

I’m thinking about utilizing a small mortise and tenon at the base of each end of the handle.  I’ll see how that works out after I’ve laminated the form.  You can see where I marked them in on the sketch.

Originally I was a little torn over the thickness of the lid, so I picked out a slab of quarter-sawn Wenge that would yield enough for a 1/4 inch thick piece and a 3/8 inch thick piece when resawn on the band saw.

Now this falls into the “I’m a Big Dummy” category.  After resawing the Wenge slab I noticed that my cut line didn’t come out very vertical.
Throwing a square up to the blade revealed that it was quite a bit off square from the table!  (Insert “I coulda had a V-8” slap to the head here!)

I was lucky that, after face jointing and planning, I was still able to get the 1/4 and 3/8 inch pieces.  After placing each version on the box, I’ll definitely be going with the 3/8 inch lid.  I like the heaver look and I’ll need some thickness to work with to cut the rabbet that will fit into the box top and for the mortises needed to attach the handle.

For the lid handle I decided on a bent laminated arc of alternating strips of Wenge and Padauk.  I had found a great video on You Tube demonstrating how to safely rip thin strips on the table saw, and was ready to build my own jig when I saw a link to another video demonstrating the use of Rockler’s Thin Rip Table Saw Jig.  Not only is Rockler less than 20 minutes from the house, but their jig was on sale.  After a quick field trip for Danger Boy and I, we were the proud owners of our own jig (and a few other items that Mommy doesn’t need to hear about.)

The jig locks into the miter slot to the left of the blade and the guide plate slides perpendicular to the blade.  The jig is set so that the bearing at the “point” of the guide plate contacts the wood and determines the width of the strips.  I set the jig to cut 1/16 inch thick strips.  After each strip is cut, the rip fence is moved to the left until the work piece contacts the bearing…then rip again.  No measurements needed after the jig is set…very easy and very safe.  I highly recommend this jig from Rockler.  You could make your own, but it’s only $20 and is rock solid when it’s locked down.  As an aside, a zero-clearance insert is a must here to ensure your thin strips don’t drop into the insert opening and bind up with the blade, or worse, become a missile.
The Padauk slab I used has a small section of white sapwood, so I made sure to cut some strips that showcase the contrast with the rusty, red heartwood.  I’ll laminate two strips of Wenge with three strips of the Padauk, with the heartwood/sapwood combo strip on top.

I cut enough for three bundles of 18 inch strips which is well more than I need.  After cutting them in half I’ll have enough for six handles to experiment with.  Having a few extra should come in handy as I think that little tenon piece could get tricky to fit.

With the lid and handle stock milled and cut to size, it was time to venture into new territory.  I’ve never done bent lamination before, however I’ve wanted to try it for some time now.  I’ve seen lots of great examples, demos and videos, but I was really inspired by Neil Lamen’s videos over at his blog/podcast  I was watching some of his older video podcasts a couple weeks ago and was really inspired to break out and try some new stuff, and really start pushing myself.  Thanks Neil!
The first thing I tackled was playing with the arc of the handle a bit.  I sketched what I thought was a pleasing looking arc, but the more I looked at it, the lower I thought it should be.   I used an extra Padauk strip and some string to experiment with different heights and ended up bringing the highest point of the arc down a little from my original design.

Once I was happy with the design layout on the piece of plywood that would become part of the bending form, I doubled up the thickness of the form by gluing and screwing two plywood slabs together, and marking the waste side of the form.

After letting the glue set for an hour I cut out the form over on the band saw, and then smoothed the surfaces of the arc on the oscillating belt sander.

After a little experimenting with clamp placement I cut some strategic notches in the form to maximize clamping pressure.  Danger Boy exclaimed that it looked like Batman’s boomerang and asked if I can make another one for him…and then he moved on to skateboarding with the neighbor…whew!

After a quick test run with a stack of the strips…

…I attached the arc form to a flat plywood base with glue and screws and lined the surfaces with wax paper (to keep the glue from adhering to the form during the lamination process.)

Once everything was set, it was time to bite the bullet and glue up a set of the strips.  Here they are, clamped up at seven points.  You can see the portion of the arc that will be used between the two vertical lines drawn on the form.  These points will be the beginning of the flat base that will make contact with the surface of the lid.

This brings us to the end of our four day weekend.  Stay tuned for more to come.  I’ll pull the glue-up from the form and work on the joinery and shaping later this week…and evidently I’m now in the business of arming Batman.  Man, it was so much easier when he was Spiderman!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Back in the Workshop

It’s been quite a while now since the machines were humming in the Second Wind Workshop, and since any blogging has gone on around here.  Danger Boy and I have been able to steal a few moments out in the shop from time to time, over the past six weeks, however our attention has been otherwise diverted…
We’ve recently traded in our chisels and routers for bottles and diapers!
He sure does get upset when we do go out into the shop without him!

We’re excited to announce the arrival of our latest shop assistant…little boy, super hero style nickname pending.  Of course this is about all he does…
 …well, that plus the eating and the pooping!
In those brief moments when he is sleeping, we’re able to sneak out to make some shavings and sawdust.  Read on for a rambling display of scattered woodworking adventures from the last month and a half.
There were a few of the boxes I completed a while ago that needed some attention.  The bottom of this Wenge box had chipped out while routing the bottom chamfer profile.

One of the corner keys didn’t seat all the way into the slot on this Wenge box, leaving a small gap.

For some reason all of the other box lids came out beautifully except for these Birdseye Maple lids…even while using the same set-up, at the same time.  Weird!  Nothing that a little chisel work can’t fix though.

To take care of the chip-out on the Wenge box I fired up the router and cut a larger chamfered profile around the bottom.  It’s a bit more exaggerated than I would normally add, but it does salvage the box and doesn’t look too bad.

While cleaning up the Birdseye Maple lids with the chisel I ended up slicing a little bit of material from one of the edges.   I used the router to chamfer away that error too!

After a little clean up with a sanding block…

…we’ve got a box and lid combo with some extra flair.
I also spent some time working on the “odd boxes.”  These are the Birdseye Maple and Padauk boxes that were made along with the large batch of Doug Stowe designed boxes.  The dimensions are different (the Maple boxes are even made with thinner material) so they didn’t receive lids as part of the mass production process.  They’ve now been sanded and have a small chamfered profile routed around the bottoms.  The design of the lids will make for some nice, small projects to work on between feedings and poopings.

Several weeks ago I was planning to haul one of the small benches out onto the driveway to work on sanding the display table (Project 146) however, the evening before I was reminded of what Spring looks like in Minnesota!

Fortunately it was only a couple days later that we were back into the low 60’s and the sanding could commence.  Just a few more little touch-up projects and the table will be ready for a finish.

Lest you think I hogged all the shop time for myself, Danger Boy also found some time to get some work done.  After some much needed workbench organization…

…he spent some time working on screws and nails.

After some critical lumber selection…

…he also completed his first official glue-up.  Boy was he excited to use those clamps for something other than his parents’ fingers!

Despite the increased level of sleep deprivation it’s nice to get out into the shop for some hands on therapy every now and then…even if it is only until the next round of bottles and…did I mention the poop?