Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ura-Dashi/Tapping out the blade

So after using dremel and sandpaper to grind down the ear of the blade until it fits in the mouth...

Time for my first try at ura-dashi/tapping out

Here's my ura-dashi layout.

-Hickory log, smooth on the top
 -tiny cross-pein 
-Tablet playing Iron and Wine

A minute in: 

Nice! I don't want to go overboard. Just gotta get a good feel for the process first. 

Now to follow Jason's advice: Grinded the offending side on 80 grit for a while. 

Then put the full blade on, with the pressure still on the offending side. 

Then proceeding from 80, 150, 220, 400 sandpaper; 800 waterstone; 1000 waterstone; 6000 grit to finish up. 

Not hanging on it's bevel...yet.

Sloppy camera work, sloppy bevel...

But how does it work? 

Translucent shavings...but the board isn't flat, so it isn't taking perfect shavings. 

But...just to show how well the chipbreaker is working now that it's fitted...Those shavings were taken against the grain. No tearout. 

                                                           taking thicker shavings, it's working well!

Still a really great polish, even from thick shavings, and no sight so far of the tracks....

On pine...Chipbreaker is working much better. Not only preventing tearout but curling and shooting out shavings perfectly, except when my hands are in the way. 

Also...translucent shavings in pine are solid shavings in cherry.  I blame the widely different growth rings in pine. 

Pretty darn square! Either that or my cheap square is out of square! 

I didn't add tape yet. It's working pretty well, though. Big thing was it turns out the whole reason why I couldn't adjust the blade was the blade was too wide for the mouth...

Now it's still not perfectly even, pretty close, but I can adjust the blade now, and that makes a huge difference. A few more sharpenings with the pressure on the right side will soon make it perfect, I think. 

And I think another round of tapping out, too...The line was thicker at the beginning but all the grinding back has it once more thin. The hollow is starting to look like a pinched-off pot, though...

Thanks to Jason for his comments, his blog posts on ura-dashi, and also to D and M King's blog posts on tapping out! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kanna trouble...

So I made a quick basswood practice box.

And my dovetails are really getting better, at least in forgiving wood.

But what caused the few gaps that were there?
1. I inserted the walnut bottom and it was slightly too big, wedging some of the bottom dovetails slightly apart. 

And then:

2. None of my pieces were perfectly uniform, causing some problems.

Part of the problem is my laziness and desire to just churn out a box in 20 minutes. 

Part of it is my slowly burgeoning skills with planes not being perfect yet.

And part of it is my kanna. 

My kanna is a cheap student's kanna. I thought it would have no problems and would be easy to learn on.

Well, it's still pretty awesome. It still cuts translucent shavings and makes awesome looking surfaces. I have learned a ton and I'm glad I didn't waste money on an auction only to get a bad tool, or a tool that needed too much work for a beginner.

However this kanna has problems. 

First can be seen in that picture: The blade is too wide for the mouth.

The second is a huge problem, and since I flattened the bevel and made it straight and even again, the problem has only gotten worse:

The blade takes slanted cuts. If I'm not careful, the wood ends up like this: /. At a much shallower angle, that is. 

I've had the plane for a year so I feel like I can now safely alter the kanna without worrying about it being screwed up in the next seasonal change.

So the side that the blade protrudes the most on, I removed the wood that was stained black from the paint-stuff that the blade is covered in to look similar to a forge finish. 

Now the blade is loose...but the slant is still there.

It's still there with two pieces of paper in the other side.

No amount of tapping the blade on the left side will get the blade to even out on the right.

I'm about to be just completely overwhelmed...and kind of want to buy a new kanna...

but Dammit, this kanna still takes translucent shavings! I just need to fix it!

If anyone has any advice, that'd be awesome. I might try grinding the side that's too wide and see if that fixes anything. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Catching up on a Workbench

To those who are not well-aware of Twin Maples Traditions, your humble narrator would like to inform you of the most esteemed tradition here: Midnight half-coherent rambling.

Well today's post is two hours before midnight, but I'm tired from pneumonia, so I count it as midnight anyways. 

So one of the things I've been doing is finally making a workbench.

I have a large amount of respect for those who use Japanese methods of workholding. But besides the obvious discomfort of sitting on wood on a muddy/slushy, cold concrete floor in winter,  there's also the fact that my bad leg just doesn't have the strength to hold down work. The saws, no matter how lightly I saw and how sharp they are, always pull the work away.

Holding things with my arms does work, but as a metate pointed out, that's where Western saws have the advantage- one arm is used to hold the saw, one arm to hold the work if there's no vise, the rest of the limbs are free, whereas Japanese saws need two arms and a leg.

It's a sin to show un-finished joints in the woodworking blogosphere...

but this is...


ye...'art'. Totally not legs and scrap wood. 

The Absurdity of Man and his Manipulation of the Perceived Background.

All this for a mortise.

In each project that is a shop project I take it upon myself to try to advance my knowledge.
This one I placed importance heavily in getting things right without adjustment, no cleaning up surfaces unless necessary, totally not influenced by crappy pine that tears out even if you sand it...Some boards are nice, some are awful. My grandma once found a 2by4 that after four hours of planing and sanding and painting and re-sanding, still splintered.

Along with using rough-hewn, 'live surface' stretchers. I got these from the woods, deadfall softwood that I believe to be poplar, and hopefully the beetles are long gone, killed by cold and sun. Should I pour acid or something on the wood? I chose the sections with no holes or as little holes as possible, but still...

so one of the results in this experiment was, on both sets of legs, one side came out really nice...but the other side? Slightly angled. The same amount on each end. 

The mortises were dead on. But the tenons were not. This resulted in one side being a perfect, snug fit, the other side being loose...solved with sawdust, glue, and wedges.

I could blame the lack of a true flat surface on the stretcher parts, but rather I blame my inexperience in working with these kind of timbers, and will strive to perfect my usage of these elements in the future.

An unattainable goal, but the closer I get, the better- perfection is more of a dream than a reality.

There ends most of the joinery, I wanted to try a lot of nailed construction in this build, both for quickness and as it seems to be trendy. Plus my ol' books recommend nails for woodworking over screws, screws being brittle and unmoving.  

So, me having the attention span of a starved squirrel that just found itself in the midst of a diverse plethora of nuts, I decided to try forging a nail with a propane torch. So some problems: A. I have no tongs, need to make those. B. My anvil has no hardie hole, so I used a cold cut chisel, while holding the stock with my legs and balancing the nail on the anvil. C. No nail head forming thing, either. D. Where would the nail go if I did use that nail head forming jig?

So my mind went "Well, Steve, let's look at cultures with anvils that often had no hardie holes." Vikings, Middle Eastern traditions, African traditions,  various traditions throughout developing countries, China and Japan. I can't speak for India/Nepal.

Now I don't have nails from Viking era, though they did have headed rivets and nail formers, so I'll have to do research on that. The 'Viking era' is also a bit vague...

So some 'Viking anvils' are small ones, smaller and lighter than my steel hunk, and some are fancy ones with horns on beaks. Many times Norse blacksmiths just used a boulder, with one story of an Icelandic smith,   Skallagrímurswimming deep into a lake to haul up a boulder that was just right.

They found the stone: 

Anvil stone at Raudanes

Photo Credit:

Gotta love blacksmithing. Can't afford an anvil? Go grab the right rock, you'll be all set, bro. Split a branch partially down the center to use for tongs until you can make real tongs as well (I've used that, they work sorta, dip them in water and use a fire-resistant species. I ducttaped two oak scraps at one end and used that for a while). 

Don't have nails from anywhere else I mentioned, except for Japan. 

So in these two photos, we can see Top: Japan Middle; My two-minute 'nail'; common wire nail. 

The Japanese nail I think was for boat building, it looks like ones Douglas Brooks over at encounters.  

 it seems to be tapered on only one side, straight on the other. The head looks to be formed by bending the top over.
                                Perhaps the fact I'll think about how nails are made is why I'm not the most popular person...I never would've thought I would un-ironically analyse nails.

                             I feel like I have an obligation to go skydiving or something to get out of the negatives in my Coolness-factor.

                                             Perhaps skydiving while wrestling a bear.

I end with a picture of trimming up the workbench top. Yes, there is about a four inch gap between the two top boards in my new workbench.  The workbench overall is loosely based on a cheap English workbench.

Ok, not so much 'based on' as I saw a picture of an English workbench and went "huh, nifty." 

Only the gap is much, much wider...instead of a small board in there, I'm hoping to put a small workbench-shelf that can be fitted to stand 2-4 inches above the rest of the workbench, for kanna work and small work. When not in use it'll hopefully sit below the main top, to store things on. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Copper and Wood

One thing I have been working on lately is coppersmithing- getting up there to make some nice copper hinges to go with the cherry box. Making sure to save scraps and copper dust for future pit firing experiments.

First piece was learning basic forming operations with copper and torch colors. 

Stick the guitar pick upright in a crack, heat up the tip to almost melting- it needs to be as soft and thin as possible. 

Second object was a copper bracelet.

Copper is fortunately soft enough that raising and sinking procedures can be done on wood, such as this maple branch I used to create the bracelet. For anticlastic forging, the serpent beaker can be metal, wood or plastic; metal hammers are used on wood/plastic, wooden/plastic hammers on metal beakers. 

I also chopped up a tree I found in the woods, and sawed it up. Soft wood, I believe it is poplar.

Sadly the sawing revealed beatles larvae. I will cut off the beatle tunnel sections and hope there will be enough wholesome wood to use for a forge stand.

Yep, I have some welding goggles now and hope to take another swing at forging; hoping to make great bellows soon.  

Oh, and I found a great video on PBS:

Got some good info there, shows making good crucible steel, not the inferior steel made in Europe and Japan, and pretty much everywhere until the Industrial Revolution.  Would've loved seeing more forging and less mock-battles/ swordplay.

. It's fun seeing a smith with such a mix of traditions: Viking sword, Viking forge, staple vise, waterstones, dog head hammer and sledgehammer- although knowing the world, the staple vise probably is not a pure Japanese thing- the 'Japanese saw vise' is identical to Viking clamps, the 'Japanese box bellows' was introduced to them from China. 

I think it is quite silly to separate oneself into either all-hand tools, all Western tools, or all Japanese. There isn't a single 'perfect' way of doing things, just what you like. I hope to one day soon be working with a nice workbench, even if I'm using Japanese saws.

 Now, can I use a 3/4" bolt for a shoulder vise?

Edit: a user on reddit has been answering my questions on bellows. While bellows are easy to build, especially Viking bellows, if the fabric/seams aren't done right and the bellows burst, severe hearing damage will occur...maybe I should give box bellows another shot. 

In Memorial of a Father and a Teacher

So, the blog has been inactive for quite a while now.

I don't think there are many regular readers, but even so, I feel like I should explain why the blog has been inactive.

My father was an excellent man- he was the finest example of a teacher that one could find in New York State. There are people out there that consider teachers to be lowly, a job for those who are not able to accomplish whatever they are teaching- effectively, 'those who can't do, teach'- but those people have not had the pleasure of knowing a great teacher, and if they have, then they have their head so buried in the dirt that they may be able to tell you what the earth's center looks like.

A great teacher inspires, engages, and educates, both in the subject matter and in the entirety of life. My dad was definitely one of those- and knowing what he did makes me believe that teaching can be the position for an artisan.

  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.

Teaching is one of the hardest trades to master. There are many who can say what they are doing, but to be able to get a student to understand, is a different thing. It truly is a skill that few possess.

It is not standing up in a room and saying "2 plus 2 is 4." It's telling the students WHY 2 plus 2 is four. It's actively engaging kids, helping them with their problems, and paying individual attention to their problems. My father, like many good teachers, was available almost any time his students needed him. Others look at the kids and not want to spend the time on them- they don't want to deal with them, or they don't think they can succeed with their disabilities. My father did. 

Did he make things with his hands? In a way, he did. He wrote and graded assignments and gestured. But he made things with his mannerism, his speech, his whole being. These things may not be inanimate objects in a corner or put into a cabinet, what my father created was far, far more important. He made people believe in themselves. He nurtured literacy and life skills. For much of his career, he fought for the rights of the union- going on trips. 

Despite all teachers do, and all my father did, they face hardships in the face of many people in America going after education and unions. Teachers are not paid well, but there are those who believe even that is 'too much'. 

Despite the stress my father faced, he still went to work every day. He didn't ignore a student's email or text. He went with his fellow teachers to the pub, the bartender joking how he can always tell the young teachers from the old as the young teachers still have hope in their eyes. He smiled and he laughed, and dealt with the politics and the bullcrap with the patience of a great man. Then he came home and helped us clean up and asked us how our days went. 

He volunteered throughout the community, coached soccer for many years. He loved a good craft beer and among his multitude of famous dishes, pulled pork and gołąbki were the ones many family friends looked forward to, requesting them frequently. He frequently remarked how 'you can never beat a good burger,' and loved going to the NYS State Fair and getting chocolate milk, a potato, and a free shirt. 

He was hoping to retire early, none the less; the February break we had with him he was immensly happy. For reasons we can only guess with, he decided to spend time with me and my sister at the doctors getting allergy shots; he remarked how nice it was to not have stress for a week. He really was hoping to retire early, even if it meant he wouldn't have as much money. 

He was looking forward to another summer break of visiting parks and camping.

The Monday following, February 22, he got up early, and pet the dogs while reading. He talked with Mom, told some jokes, said "I love you", watched me get on the bus, and went to work.

After a meeting at work, he got up, said "I don't feel good," and collapsed.

I was pulled from history class, not knowing why until I was told my father collapsed by my mother; when I got to the hospital, he was dead. 

Besides being a great teacher, a great chef, he was a great father. When I was slightly depressed after getting a bone disease and unable to play soccer, he was the one who brought a dusty scroll saw out, and told me I can either sit around feeling sorry for myself or get over it. 

He helped me build my first longboard, showing me how to use the jig saw and sander to shape it correctly. 

He was the one who could get everyone to laugh, a favorite uncle of his family. A wise man with a near-permanent sly smirk. 

Goodbye, Dad. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Big Softie (Tooth Profile)


Never leave an instrument on the floor! Must be a freshman. 

So, been sharpening a big old saw, with some of the largest softwood teeth I've seen. A lot of rust. 

This came out absurdly blurry..

But anyways, here's what confuses me. Look how thin the teeth are. So a gap that size should be two teeth snapped off...yet there's no valley in the middle. I'm presuming that is where the bottom of the teeth was originally, but frequent sharpening brought it farther down. 

Trying to figure out the best way to get pictures of the teeth... 

Can you see my inconsistent file holding? 

Shameful. Almost as shameful as leaving an instrument on the floor. 

I need more files, I also need to make a taller vise that brings the saw closer to my eyes and so my back isn't hunched over constantly. Oh and to work on my 'skill'. Give me a year or two...Hopefully I have that much, cone dystrophy is progressing again. It's annoying trying to get accommodations for tests, all I'm asking is for a dark room, with how the board is acting it's like I asked them for the answers. 

I'm trying to use the rust as a reference to whether my angle is correct or not...that works ok until I find teeth with deep rust. 

A lot of work needed to be done after this. Got more done, but my camera was too stuffed to take more pictures. 

And so starts the unleash of the posts. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Late Night Thoughts on Tensioning

So, I was thinking awhile ago, and have decided to risk it and post my thoughts.

Saws are tensioned so they perform better by being straighter. 

But, how does this tensioning work?


First, we have a regular piece of paper.

Secondly, wave it through the air. It flops around like a fish trying to swim through air. 

Thirdly: We fold the piece of paper along these four lines...

Four: And the paper is straight as it's waved through the air!

Fifth: The more folds we add to the paper, the straighter the paper is, while getting stiffer and stiffer. 

Perhaps the same can be said for saw blanks. 

I was talking to my  brother Mike, after having to spend two hours trying to get rid of a chip in my blade, which has also become slightly rounded; he showed me some bench grinders from Harbor Freight.

I told him about the hand-held grinder, and he simply replied, "We live in 2016, we have electricity now, we can spend less time working." Yes, we do. And I desperately need more time- six or seven hours of sleep is considered extra sleep now. But...

Lately, with all that China has been doing...It sickens me more and more to consider sending money to China. There are many many innocent people who would benefit from the added income, and I hope they do- we're seeing China is going through the Industrial revolution Europe and America went through so long ago, only with nukes and technology- however, surely the Chinese government would also get some of this money. And the Chinese government lately has been warmongering and behaving like villains out of an environmental cartoon. 

Why is it always the innocent majority who suffer? Why are humans installed with a need to follow, no matter what the consequences are? 

The children, the families, all injured and hurt through war and destruction; the countless species and oceanic beauty destroyed by greedy men who wish to 'conquer' a region for possible fossil fuels. Reefs pulled apart by fishermen's boats, so they can get at the gentle giants and butcher them, and then a crew comes in and piles dirt on the reefs until a new base of terror is constructed.

Yet at the same time, China is starting to become 'nicer', allowing just a tad, a micron, of more political criticism. 

Truly the world is not Black and White, no matter what we try to impart on it. There's no distinct lamination line, no knots we can pop out of the board. 

Everyone's a hypocrite, and I am no different. 

But we can change ourselves bit by bit, and heal ourselves and our brothers and sisters- and surely, we're all brothers and sisters in this chaotic family- through love, honesty, and dedication.

And so, from looking at a couple pictures online, I started designing a hand-cranked bench grinder. Drawing with Pilot varsity fountain pens is reaaaal nice, I'll tell ya that. Much easier to get straight lines. 

The proportions are a bit off, I would appreciate any photos of the interior gears if anyone has them.

on the bright side, I finally got these nice new clip ons for my glasses, make me look like a rock star!

Non-polarized, ruby lenses, so I can see the computers at school much easier. Also give me the added benefit of less pain, less migraines. Life's a bit more joyous. 

Plus everything is pink, adds a bit of novelty!