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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.


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