Monday, August 26, 2013

Shop Time Blues

I was hoping to get in some shop time this past week to get started on the gun racks for my brother-in-law Dave, but so far that hasn't materialized.  The good news is that I should be able to at least get started on some templates.  I did sneak into the shop for a couple of hours to play with my lathe last week.

The lathe is nothing spectacular.  It's a hand-me-down from my wife's grandfather, but if I had to buy one, it'd be just short of never before I had one.  The thing works well enough for what little turning I do.  It's a Craftsman bench top lathe with a very short distance between the bed and the centers.  Great for spindle turning, but I probably won't be turning any significant bowls or platters on it.

A while back, I decided that I really need a mallet for striking my chisels with.  My hammer worked well enough.  Given that I use cheap plastic handled chisels with no striking plate on the top, though, I figured the handles would likely mushroom eventually being hit by hardened steel.

On our way back from a family vacation to Sesame Place, just outside of Philadelphia, and a trip to Ikea (groan), we stopped in at the Woodcraft store in Allentown, PA.  Danny had a blast touching all of the tools, finishes, chunks of wood, etc. that were on display.  Who would expect less from a kid turning 2 in a couple of weeks.  We did buy him his own little piece of wood since it was only a $1.99.  As for me, I was specifically looking for wood to make my mallet.  I actually wanted the head to be hard maple, but I wasn't able to find a blank of sufficient size.  I ended up settling on a 3"x3" chunk of white ash.  It was good enough to hit 90 mph fastballs for years, so I thought it could survive striking a plastic chisel handle.

For the mallet handle, I really wanted to get some bubinga.  Having never worked with an exotic, it appealed to me because I could use it sparingly.  Not just that, but the cost of a turning blank is considerably less than buying several board feet for a large project.  Well, as you may guess, no bubinga, so I settled on a nice piece of paduak for my handle.

When I got into the shop, I chucked up the ash first.  It turned pretty easily.  Of course, all I had to do was turn a cylinder and flare the ends in a bit.  When I had the ash where I wanted it, I removed it from the lathe and started to drill a 1" hole all the way through the center of the piece.  This came with its own challenges.  Let's just say after a lot of smoke, some really hot dust, and a bit of scorching- of the wood thankfully- I managed to get through.  On to the handle.

I carefully measured the hole in the head with my calipers so I'd have a guide for my tenon.  I chucked the padauk up in the lathe, and began turn it from square to round.  Keep in mind that I have next tot no experience on the lathe, and none with exotic hardwoods.  Well I ended up getting a catch while rounding the blank.  This ended up pulling the blank off the spurs of the drive center.  It was a good thing that the centers held, or it woulda hurt.  After a couple of times having to put the blank back onto the drive center spurs, it was finally round.  Had I known how hard this stuff was, I might have opted to use it for the head.

Once I had it round, I set to turning the tenon. With calipers in hand, I used my parting tool to turn the top to fit in the head.  I started with just a couple slots to establish the diameter, then turned the rest down to match- or at least as close as I could get. I also turned a bit of an angled shoulder to try to get as tight a fit as I could going into the head.  The rest was pretty simple. I just used a couple of different gouges to get to a diameter that felt comfortable in my grip.  I did add a little bead in the middle and at the base just for a bit of flair.

After pulling the handle off of the lathe, I test fit it into the head.  Yup, Tight at the very top, loose in the middle, and God only knows how it fit at the bottom.  I wasn't about to put it all in and not be able to get it apart to glue up.  Instead of using yellow glue, I used epoxy because of the gaps in the tenon on the handle.  The epoxy will fill gaps with some structure, which the yellow glue won't.  Once I get some oil on it it should give me years of use.

This is the mallet, waiting for finish.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Found It

I had been looking for quite some time and suddenly there it was, right under my nose.  I recently went to a meeting of the Sawdust & Woodchips Woodworking Association to check things out.  What a great time it was!  As might be expected, the club members are mostly older guys, but there were a few younger guys and even a couple of women also.  In fact, the president is a woman.  How's that for breaking a stereotype?

The meeting I attended was a "super show and tell."  The majority of the meeting was dedicated to members showing off projects, talking about them, and answering questions.  There were some really gorgeous pieces there.  They ranged from a shave horse to a small cherry end table.  Everyone who spoke was very knowledgeable.

In talking to a few of the members before the meeting and during a short break, I found out that there are presentations on techniques, tools, and other things at other meetings.  Everyone I spoke with was extremely friendly, and certainly didn't take themselves too seriously.  I think I'll be going back next month to become a member.  If you live in Central New York and would like to join, or at least check it out, go to for more info.  They happily welcome visitors, so you don't have to be a member to attend a meeting.