Sunday, August 30, 2015

So, the teenager walked into the pub...

                                            70% of the time, the skies in Rochester look like this. Taken yesterday, believe it or not. Today was a rare sunny day, though!

So, I decided I'm going to try to use as much local material in my take-down desk. I'll use lumberyard pine for the top, though. There's no maple pieces large enough for the top, besides that giant L shape (bout 20 inches diameter, I think), and I can't split or move that behemoth. 

I could use hickory, but that stuff takes forever to get close to flat. Maple splits so much nicer. 

While hiking, one of my brothers found this. Hoping it's wrought iron. 

Righto, so the plexiglass got messed up, had to make a new door that will let me salvage the plexiglass. Same joinery, although this time I carved a nice walnut pull:

If you can't tell, I was trying to give it the appearance of a jewel. 

So, to the title of the post:

One of the things I've encountered time after time since I started woodworking two years ago, and now blacksmithing, is what the hell to specialize in. 

Furniture, boxmaking, chairmaking. 

Luthiery, boatbuilding...

Planemaking. Shoji, carpentry...

It's nice to be general, but almost everyone has that 'specialty', the one field they do great in, the one they love, and the one they have a full toolkit for. 

I love music. It's pretty much equal to my love for nature, and is some ways the two are very closely intertwined. I'm not the best at it (Spend more time woodworking than practicing), but I love listening to it and fooling around. One of my favorite genres is Irish folk; numerous pubs have Irish folk sessions, if your good enough to know almost every jig and polka there is, bring your instrument, pull up a chair, and start playing. 

So, at one of these sessions (I am NOT good enough with my tin whistle to join in), I was listening and intrigued by a rather unique instrument. When the session took a pause, I asked the man, "Excuse me, but what instrument is that?" 

He said it was a Greek bouzouki. He saw my reaction of surprise, and explained why he chose his instrument:

"If you ever want to be good at something, pick an obscure instrument! If your the only player in the city, you'll be the best player." 

Slightly paraphrased, of course. 

Right now, I'm leaning towards instrument making...My favorite project so far was a kantele, and I am planning on making a 10 string model. I'll try finding the picture of it, it was given as gift to a friend. 

Chairmaking is something I definitely want to get into one day, though. Very useful. 

Now to blacksmithing...

I eventually want to make saws. That'll be a long time in the future, as of now I will be making a proper saw vise and learn to sharpen, flatten, etc.  I am working on a setting hammer and a tensioning hammer. Judging by the tensioning marks on my disposables, a small rounded hammer should be good. Question is whether the mild steel I'm using (I think it's mild steel, it was in the carbon steel drops) will work. 

I think I'll have to do any saw sharpening or hammering inside, however. Freezing temperatures would probably make the steel too brittle. 

For now, though, I am going to focus on small work. Small forge, focus on making small laminated plane blades. Any chisels or carving tools will probably be single steel, but in a Viking style. 

I love this setup: 

From here:

Two very simple, easy to make bellows. I could easily do something like this, I'd probably use dirt mixed with ash though. 

This guy, I love his bellows:

The one thing with these bellows, though: The top one, is the most realistic bellows for me. The bottom...Maybe. The big thing is to have a forge that is out of the snow. 

Now...Here's the thing. I don't know how big a fire I could get with the twin bellows. I'd also need to either figure out a way to set a pole up so it pumps one bellow at a time, to have a continuous air flow. 

Big thing, the fabric may not hold up to the outdoors. The topmost bellows would be easier to store inside, however. double lung bellows are pretty much right out the window, despite how well they work. 

Now, to look at the costs...I'll have to figure out how much material, metal, etc. Then I'd have to compare it to a fuigo. 

My first box bellows were terrible. Entirely misguided. I didn't even use a gasket. When I tried adding fabric, the piston refused to move. It seems whenever I want a close fit, I get gaps, and when I want gaps, I get a close fit. Argh. 

I'll have to calculate how much board feet I'll need for a fuigo, or how much plywood it'd take, and compare that to the costs of the double bellows.  I would probably use plywood, the solid wood would get painted over anyways. 

No way am I leaving solid wood anywhere outside without as much paint as possible. Even with paint wood tends to rot. 

Gabe, you wouldn't remember how much yours cost, would you?

I hope your fuigo is working well!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Gripes 'n' Dovetails

So. Ran into quite a bit of problems involving epoxy and plexiglass that set back the library finish date.

This library is taking quite a while.

So, I got out my axe, and started hewing up some lumber from the maple branches, using a chalk line and a level to make the marks to hew to. 

I was going to split this to make into a shaving horse, but I noticed just how crooked this thing is, there's no way to get a clean split here. Did not want to spend the next five weeks sawing this thing, so I decided to hew it in the chance I can use it in the future. Plus, this is real fun work.

One thing, Stanley chalk lines SUCK.

Just awful. I got one nice clear line, but the others are really fuzzy and barely noticeable. Really thick cotton string, really hard to get the chalk to get on the string and then it falls off the string when unraveling it...

Still a ways to go. 

                                        So, Gabe mentioned he is having trouble cutting dovetails at an angle.

For me, I'd be having the same trouble cutting at a bench: Pretty much everything is new to me.

I am having a lot of trouble cutting dovetails in small sides, and I found holding the piece like this really helps.

The accuracy seems to have improved. This time I went with two tails, and they look more like box joints than anything. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vise is Finished

My bleeding heart died today. 

Alright, as melodramatic as that sounds, it just means my bleeding heart bush, my favorite flowering bush, bloomed one last time before fall and is now all wilted up. Hopefully it'll come back next year. 

I ended up taking some nails that were in some of my charcoal, and as the charcoal burned up and turned into ash, the nails were annealed.

Even with that, I couldn't upset the other end; that just pushed the nail out the other side. I ended up just clinching the nails over. It seems to be working so far. 
So, here's what the vise looks like from the side: 

From the front

I was removing all the paint, but then I thought, isn't the distressed look in right now?
And shouldn't I leave some remnants of the original purpose of this wood, to remind myself where I got it? 

The vise uses an oak wedge, I whittled it but it was too smooth to stay in; after sanding it with 40grit, the wedge gripped much better. 

It works OK. I have trouble wedging it, as the saw falls out of the top before I can put the wedge in. The right side seems to pinch the blade without the wedge in, but the left side is too lose. I'll try putting some paper on that side. 

So, I used the resaw saw to slice up basswood to start on a nativity scene. I decided to name the saw Oromis, a character from the Inheritance Cycle who had, among other names, the name of The-Cripple-Who-Is-Whole. That seems to be an apt nickname for a saw that works perfectly, but has a big chunk missing. 

First I carved the crib, 

Then I roughed in Mary. Mary is three pieces, I carved the hands like this: 

Then drilled a corresponding hole to fit the hands in. 

The two seem to be scaled right, when the glue dries on the hands I'll work more on Mary. 

So, besides that, I also worked on installing acrylic glass to the door frame for the library. I also tried my forge; I got metal red hot, but ONLY when I moved the tube back into the middle. It turns out that's the only way I can get red hot metal with my 3/4" tube, but even that I can only get small parts of the metal red hot. I think I'm done with blacksmithing for a while, at least until I can find a way to get more air into the fire. 

Perhaps I'll just have to retry box bellows, if I want to keep smithing. However, I may not; I'm getting a migraine from the light of the fire each time I forge. I'll have to get darker shades. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bad forging day

So, here's the massive toolbox, at 50" long. 

I think a Dutch toolchest will be better; This toolbox takes up a big footprint. I'll keep it for now, as it's the only way I can transport my tools to a deck I'm helping one of my dad's friends repair. 

So, that bottom piece I forged yesterday, out of tines I flattened. I used pine bark, it turns out to act very similar to charcoal. One big advantage was, unlike my charcoal, the bark stayed lit no matter what. The charcoal stopped flaming as soon as the air was cut off. I will try running just bark soon, hopefully before school starts in three weeks. If I can forge weld using bark, then I am finally free from the charcoal chains! 

The two pieces above it are flattened tines; those are what I worked on today. For some reason, even after switching from my foot pump (Lots of holes that are repaired with duct tape) to a shopvac, and putting my 3/4 tube from the middle of the forge to the side of the forge, I couldn't get anything hotter than grey today. After an hour I decided to stop and conserve fuel.

One thing I noticed: My forge was about two feet wide. Exposed on two ends and open roofed, so a lot of the charcoal as it got finer and finer (It started maybe as 1/4" cubes, I think I will try having larger cubes next time) just blew away.
So, I rearranged the forge to the shape in this picture: 

Jason, think it'll work better? Or should I stick with the open walls? 

Bellows seem to be the most annoying thing in blacksmithing: Shop vacs are loud and annoying, powered blowers as a whole need extension cords to reach the forge, box bellows take quite a bit of work, time and resources; Foot pumps, invented and at one point used by countless cultures, work; in the Charcoal Foundry, a book I got for my birthday, the author says he uses a foot pump to melt iron and steel. 

So obviously, I am doing something wrong. Probably in my charcoal.

Foot pumps, anyway, also take a LOT of pumping for air; Use a foot pump for all your work, you'll never need to do leg day at the gym.

The golden bellows to me seem to be a hand cranked blower. Pity those things are proving hard to find (Along with pretty much anything blacksmithing in my area), not to mention way out of my reach to buy one new. 

However, a user on Reddit said in Nicaragua, all they used was pine bark, makeshift anvils, and homemade hand cranked blowers. Maybe I found my winter project? 

He also said blacksmith apprentices prepared the bark by putting it into a burlap sack and whacking it with a stick, or chopping it with a machete. I can imagine having smaller pieces of bark would make a more concentrated fire. 

Started work on the saw vise, decided to use some reclaimed pine. I tried putting it together with screws: That didn't work. Hemp twine didn't work either. And nails worked for a second, then the sides separated and refused to come back together. 

This should be easy! Vikings made these clamps before saws were even common! 

I have a bit of wrought iron, salvaged from a plane blade; perhaps I can make some soft rivets. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oh come on!

So, here's a little catch up: here's the library so far. The floor and roof pieces aren't in the picture, their drying from paint. It's been taking a long time painting this OSB, especially with all the rain. 

Here's the door frame; More problems here: Home Depot miscut the acyrylic for the window. I laquered the frame then went with a tape measure and got the right piece. 

Also started gluing up as many scraps as I can, for cutting boards or cheese boards.

While waiting for the many things to dry, Tried my hand at mini dovetails. Bit difficult, didn't turn out as nice as when the material is 3/4" thick. 

I also brought my resaw saw to Pittsford Lumber, to show off, lol. Many people were interested in it, I got an offer to buy some nokogiri if I restore more.

I also picked up something that caused the horror story down below. 

So, here's the bad news: I picked up this month's issue of fine woodworking, there's an article on Japanese saws. one of the methods detailed was holding the piece of wood vertical on saw horses, with your foot holding it from the top, with your other leg for the wood to rest on. Please don't mind  all the glue-ups.

Here's the massacre that resulted when my left leg started wobbling around due to my knee issues. Normally my knee wouldn't be messing up this much, but when I tried running around today with Meeko the Cattledog, she tackled me and the kneecap started sliding around. 

That dog may be small and adorable, but she is STRONG, and builds up a LOT of momentum.

Doesn't help she was bred to trip and herd cows.

I'm sticking to vices until my knee starts working. 

Luckily, with six teeth missing ( The saw arrived with three teeth broken half way), the saw still cuts. In fact, it cuts smoother, quicker, and straighter. The only 'curve' I could find in this saw was in this area. 

What's weird, was not a single one of these teeth were buried in the wood. The very tip of the middle tooth was engaged in the wood when the wood fell. At the most, maybe half a tooth should've broken off. 

Here's why I think so much damage occurred: Those three teeth were previously welded to the body. There were  'newer' sen marks around them, a welding line, and many hammer marks around these three. I think the teeth had some issues, and the metate tried fixing them by massaging the steel, to get the teeth to fit with the rest of the saw.

The saw still works, but I will try welding the teeth back on. If that doesn't work, I'll probably file a curve to that gullet. I am also thinking of cutting two smaller teeth into the other broken teeth, or maybe slightly angling them. 

Daniszewski Resaw Master, with Smart Gullets. 

I am so sorry, I have broken your gift, Sebastian! 

On friggin' douglas fir from Home Depot. This saw had no issues with all the abuse it suffered in the hickory, but it broke before it was even a millimeter deep in a 2by12... 

If it helps, I was sawing the 2by12 for a saw vise. Maybe I'll just find some more suitable wood.

Oh, and I found this picture:

A viking comb vise, found here:

It appears identical to the Japanese vise in principal. I don't think many things some people claim to be invented in Japan, or entirely Japanese developments, are truly alone. I think there are examples of parallel evolution in human culture and society, especially in tools. And Viking tools and Japanese tools are similar overall: Laminated steel, pull saws, wedge-activated clamps.

Here's the thing: The guys at Woodcraft, when I bought my first Japanese saw (it's lost 10 teeth over 2 years, but I still use it almost daily for dovetails, rip cuts, and crosscuts) said the Japanese invented pull saws as they believed the act of pulling 'pulled' energy into your work, appeasing the kami of the wood. 

But, on further research, the first saws were pull saws, and pull saws are found all over...So ya. Marketing.

The kanna, now that may be due to Shinto beliefs. But again, there are Roman planes that may have been used both pulling and pushing.  That, and pulling a plane makes sense ergonomically if you are sitting down, or standing up: Standing up, the act of pulling a kanna is similar to a bow, at least the way I use a kanna on shorter pieces of wood. You reach as far as you can, curving your spine, then you pull back, springing your spine back straight. 

This mechanism, of a spine acting like a bow, is common in nature. 

Read all of the above like what it is: The late night ramblings of a distraught teenager after injuring one of his favorite tools.
I'm going to go rock back and forth and tell myself it's going to be all OK. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hickory in Two Parts

So, I decided to try removing the bits of rust from the resawing saw, by using a chisel as a 'sen':

It worked! From most angles, the rust is gone, and there's no difference from the rest of the plate. From some angles, such as this one, it is visible where the new scrape marks are. 

One of the hardest parts on resawing this hickory is figuring out how to hold the board. This worked, until I got to the last 6 inches.

From there, I tried sawing like this. Not as effective.

The end with the split wood is where I had that curved cut. I couldn't saw through that, as the saw kept bending; I ended up cutting off that section. and splitting the rest. The surface from this saw is very smooth. 

I also found a good source for sustainable, Upstate New York-grown Eastern White pine. Two  inch thick, wide boards ( I think 14"), at 100 inches long, for $30 (after tax); This is also incredibly good quality pine, almost no knots in most of the boards. The store was Lakeshore Hardwoods' retail outlet in Victor, the owner also crosscutted the boards so they'd fit in the car.

I used the wood to make a massive toolbox. I'll take a picture of it later: It took two hours to build, nailed together from this pine and pallet wood. After seeing how much space a toolbox would take up (The entirety of my working area, pretty much), I think I will maybe make a dutch toolbox for when I have to carry tools places. 

And it will be from pine. This hickory has a beautiful color, but it is the heaviest wood and hardest wood I have ever worked. It dulls tools very quickly, as well. 

Monday, August 17, 2015


On closer examination, I realized the resaw saw wasn't bent, it was just mounted at an angle. So I removed it, and the saw looked straight. No bends or anything. 

Time to resaw some split hickory, because scrub planing was taking hours to get anything 'flat', and then I am NOT going to plane 2" of material away. Too much waste in that. I really wish this was maple or pine; The maple branches from my tree split perfectly, almost no planing needed to get a good surface. And pine is softer. Hickory is the heaviest, hardest wood in America, I think.


So from this side, the saw kerf is straight. Perfectly straight.


And from the opposite side, it's curved.


How does this happen?

Seriously...I have no idea. I can't find any bends. The flaws with the saw, from my limited experience:

1. Two broken teeth.

2. A cut off tang, although that's how it's original user intended it to be.

3. A spot or two of rust.

Maybe there's too much set on one side? 

I started from the other side, but I realized it was going to end up with the same result. 

I really need this hickory sawn, I'm going to help at one of my dad's friends house, and I have NOTHING to hold my tools in a car. 

Maybe I should slap together a box from pallet wood.  

Sebastian, yo necesito ayuda, por favor! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

So, yesterday ended up being another hiking trip!

This time, it was to Stony Brook. A great park, a classic in my family. This was the only picture I have right now, the rest are on a waterproof camera with really low quality pictures. I had to use the waterproof camera, since most of the hike requires trekking through the creek. A great time! 

So, I finally got to Klein Steel Direct! All 36 pounds of carbon steel in this picture cost $30! The big cylinder is my new anvil. It'll be a great replacement for my 'sledgehammer': The biggest problem with the sledgehammer is it had NOTHING resembling a flat surface. Not even a regular curved surface. Rust had eaten a quarter inch in most places. half inch in others, resulting in an incredibly twisted surface. 

In the dying light of the day, here's the saw stand: 

I tried making a very very slight angle on the sides.

Oiled it up, along with the shelf for the tiny library. Should be dried by tomorrow, the shelf will require an additional day before it gets a coat of polyurethane. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Saw stand

Started with this

And with a lot of this


and this, 

I got this. It somehow fits all my saws, except my pruning saw, which needs a handle. I'll take a picture of it in the daylight tomorrow, so more details can be seen. 

I was thinking it wouldn't fit Willow... Yet it did. 

This did not take long, maybe four hours. I should've been working on the library, except I need paint and hinges to finish that. Before Project Mayhem, the project would've taken eight hours; in my first year of woodworking, this project would've been out of my limits. And I'm 17...Jeez, maybe I will be able to one day make a structure incorporating timber frame joinery. 

And having all these saws on every available space definitely cluttered up the shed, which will help speed up my work flow, hopefully. 

Things I learned on this project: 

A.  Pencil and Pen lines really aren't too different...The pencil line is fatter, and leprechauns seem to love stealing pencils. I didn't lose a single pen on this project, however! The pen isn't extremely thin, though I may get a thinner pen (I'd make one of those bamboo pens, or use my nib pens, except having a pot of ink in a gardening shed seems like a bad idea). The main advantage is cleaner lines, and the pen doesn't get dull or fatter. The pencil makes just as deep lines as the pen, although that may be because I used extremely poor quality wood that was lying around the shed. 

B.  I definitely like center lines, though. Much more accurate, I don't have to worry about having perfect parallel sides, and it replicates how I make joinery in sketchup. That definitely simplifies planning! 

C.  I also learned that, while my new resaw saw has a very slight  bend in it in two planes that causes the saw to slant to the right, the willow leaf is almost perfect; it has an extremely beautiful signature, it has sen marks, the tang is forge welded and is almost at the same thickness as the saw...It just seems the tang is slightly bent. 

It still cuts extremely straight, and I'm loving the slight curve to it's cutting surface. I think the bend may have been on purpose, this saw seems to have been a master's saw, and masters often made modifications to their saws to make perfect joints.