The Dovetail Diaries

The advancement of one man's woodworking skills.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BLO your top...

After some research on finishing black walnut, I decided that I would apply boiled linseed oil (BLO) to the walnut Shaker side table.  As I was building the table I kept imagining what the wood was going to look like with the oil and could barely wait to see it.

I haven't used boiled linseed oil much before this project.  I used it on some fir 1x2's that I placed on the edges of my french cleat system and I liked the way it made the wood look and feel.

As the weather warms, I've been pretty busy with my other hobby, kayak fishing, I've hardly spent any time in the shop and knew that I needed to get the side table done and in place in the living room soon. 

I removed the top and applied a very liberal coat of BLO to both sides.  The oil really brought out the reddish tone in the air-dried walnut.  I was impressed with the look and hopefully the picture will do it justice.

I still need to finish the epoxy patch on the leg and scrape or sand the rest of the table before I apply oil.  I'm planning to let the oil cure for several days and then apply several coats of polyurethane varnish using a ScotchBrite pad.  I'll be sure to post some pictures.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hand Plane 101

My wood plane technique has developed by watching Renaissance Woodworker videos along with the clumsy fumbling that is often referred to as 'experience'.  Those of you who read my earlier posts on the Shaker side table may have realized how surprised I was at the results of my efforts.  I simply did not expect it to work as well as it did.  Even though I was pleasantly surprised, I wasn't quite satisfied with the results.  I'm always looking for a way to do something better, faster or more efficiently and this is no exception.

I figured that I had a couple of choices to help improve my knowledge of plane usage, and since Roy Underhill wouldn't return my calls I decided to purchase one of Christopher Schwarz's videos on hand plane usage.  It was a tossup between "Handplane Basics" , "Building Furniture With Hand Planes", and "Coarse, Medium, and Fine".  After considering the description of each video, I ordered "Handplane Basics: A Better Way to Use Bench Planes".

The video is 71 minutes long and promises that after watching you'll know how to select the proper plane for the job, sharpen the iron appropriately, and use the plane properly to make "perfectly flat and gleaming panels".  In my opinion, it delivers on all three promises.

Different types of bench planes are discussed and viewers are instructed on how both the length and width of a plane affects its usage. Christopher relates the three basic functions of a plane and how a particular plane and iron combination would work better for each function. 

Christopher also demonstrates how to true all six sides of a board.  I don't know why, but it was a surprise to see that the ends of the board were trued using a plane and shooting  board.  It may be obvious to an experienced hand plane user, but I hadn't even considered using the plane for this, instead using my table saw and crosscut sled.  I blame Norm.  (Just kidding!)

I've been trying to decide which plane to purchase next, a long plane for jointing, or a better smoothing plane than the Dunlap 3DBB that I'm currently using.  Thanks to this video I've decided that the next plane will be a long plane or jointer-sized plane, probably a Lie-Neilsen No. 8.

In my opinion this video was very informative and answered many of my questions.  Some things were covered that I hadn't even thought of yet.

In the end it reinforced the need for a good workbench. And a shooting board.  The workbench will have to wait until after my back-ordered copy of  Schwarz's 'Workbenches' arrives, but I'm already scouting scrap material for a shooting board.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sketch Me If You Can

Google's SketchUp has gained popularity among woodworkers as a great way to not only sketch out their ideas, but also to share them with others by exchanging drawing files.  I've used SketchUp to view others drawings and even used it to model a small side table that I built for my wife.

While I saw the potential, I was frustrated by the apparently clumsy interface that required so many mouse clicks to zoom, pan, and orbit around an object.  I also had problems trying to draw joinery components.  The tutorials at Sketchup For Woodworkers helped, but I still didn't feel that it was as quick as drafting by hand.

Perhaps that was partially due to my background as a trained draftsman.  All my drafting classes in high school and college were 'on the board', or manual drafting..  Each program introduced computer-aided drafting (CAD)  the year after I completed the program, so I have very little experience with CAD.

When Popular Woodworking Magazine announced their ShopClass On Demand course "SketchUp for Woodworkers – Part 1: Getting Started", it caught my attention.  The scheduled release was about the time that the Wood Whisperer Guild build was winding down and it seemed like a logical next step.

Within 7 minutes of starting the course I felt like it had already proven it's worth.  I've only watched the first of the four files, but I've already learned how to easily pan, zoom, and orbit without excessive clicking.  I also learned how to customize my toolbars to access features that I didn't even know existed.

It's beginning to feel a lot more comfortable to me and I'm only a quarter of the way through the course.  I can hardly wait to see what's next.

I wholeheartedly recommend this product for anyone that wants to not only create their own drawings, but learn how to easily move around the many drawings that are available online.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

And to top it all off...

As the Shaker end table project progresses, I find that I'm leaning more towards hand tools than power tools and I really can't explain it.  Throughout this project I assumed that I would cut the bevels on the underside of the top using the table saw.  You'll see that I reconsidered.

When I started thinking through the setup for the bevel cuts and the fact that the front/back bevels are a different angle than the side bevels, I decided that it might be easier and quicker to cut these with the plane.  I figured that even if I used the table saw, I would still need to use a plane to remove the saw marks.  I learned how to cut a bevel with a plane from one of the Renaissance Woodworker's podcasts, "RWW Episode 81, Hand Tool Tips # 1" (Thanks Shannon!), so I had a pretty good idea of the process.

Because I had to bevel all four sides of the top I chose to bevel the end grain first so that any tearout would be removed when the long grain sides were beveled.  I started with my No. 6 that I recently refurbished.  I installed a new chipbreaker and iron in the No. 6 but haven't had a chance to hone the iron yet.  The crossgrain bevel was showing too much tearout, so I switched to the block plane.  It did the job perfectly.

Before beveling the underside,  I used the No. 6 to level the top and bottom of the table top.  I followed it  with my Dunlap 3DBB smoothing plane and then a cabinet scraper.  I decided to sharpen my scraper before starting and I'm very satisfied with that decision.  The surface of the top is silky smooth, even in the many areas where the grain reverses.  I can hardly wait to soak this top in boiled linseed oil.

I'll put up a better picture later, but here's the table sitting in the corner of the dining room.  I still have to install the screws to hold on the top and install the drawer stop and side guides.  The drawer also needs some minor tuning to eliminate a tight spot in the travel.

I'm looking forward to getting this table finished and getting a picture to Marc over at The Wood Whisperer.  If you haven't yet heard, Marc will be donating $5 to the American Cancer Society for each table completed by a Guild member.  Marc also has several sponsors that have committed to matching his donation.  Each table will generate approximately $50 in donations.  At the time this is being written, an additional $4005 has been donated by individual contributors through a link on Marc's site.  It's amazing what can be accomplished when people work together.