Monday, February 20, 2017

Hand planes (how to use and maintain)

So this week I have three new videos uploaded to my YouTube channel. In these videos I discuss how hand planes have evolved over the centuries. I also break down a few handplanes and talk about the components of hand planes. Some components are common between hand planes, other components are specific to certain specialty hand planes. The videos discuss my preference for hand planes and why and how I use them. So I go into more detail about handplane characteristics in these next three videos. Of course, I am limited in the length of videos so I broke the series down into parts.


My appreciation for hand planes has grown over the years and I will more often than not reach for a hand plane instead of setting up a power tool to perform a task. There has been a resurgence of hand tool use in woodworking shops and the benefits are many. I particularly like the tactile feel I get from the wood itself as it is being hand planed. I get much more control over the wood. This one attribute of hand planes is especially beneficial when working with highly figured woods, both domestic and exotic. As I mention, as long as the hand plane is tuned and the blade sharp, it is a pleasure to use a hand plane. I do use machines in my work, but really only when I have to or the pre-processing of lumber into boards. If you like what you see, please subscribe to the WoodSkills channel. Next up is either one or two videos on shooting boards, how I use them in my work. I will be posting at least one new video per week depending on how prolific I feel :)

Woodskills YouTube Channel

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hand planes (how to choose and use)

So this week I have two new videos uploaded to my YouTube channel. The videos discuss my preference for hand planes and why and how I use them. There isn't an overwhelming amount of detail into the characteristics of each plane because there is a recommended length to each video, which incidentally is not long. What I have done instead is to break the videos up into parts. The first of the parts discuss the availability of hand plane sizes and what they are typically used for. In the second video I actually get to use most of the hand planes, In a future part, I will discuss hand plane characteristics in depth as well as the honing and sharpening process. I will also discuss a few other specialty type hand planes that I use more infrequently.

Hand Planes - how to select and use hand planes


My appreciation for hand planes has grown over the years and I will more often than not reach for a hand plane instead of power tools to perform a task. There has been a resurgence of hand tool use in woodworking shops and the benefits are many. I particularly like the tactile feel I get from the wood itself as it is being hand planed. You end up having more control over the wood. As I mention, as long as the hand plane is tuned and the blade sharp, it is a pleasure to use a hand plane. I'm not a Luddite by any means and do use machinery in my work, but really only when have to. If you like what you see, please subscribe to the WoodSkills channel. I will be posting at least one new video per week depending on how prolific I feel :)

WoodSkills Youtube Channel

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Clearing the air...

With the experience of my first workshop in mind, dust control became a priority for me when designing my new workshop. I recall not only sweeping the floors in my previous shop but also sweeping the walls of dust. The dust was the flavour of the day, be it walnut, padauk, cherry, mahogany. The dark, exotic woods were the worst for dust. I installed some dust collection but it was never enough. At the time, my woodworking was more oriented towards the use of sanding in the final stages of a build, so this didn't help. The dust collection I installed was to capture the dust at the source or as it was being generated. This worked to a degree but there would always be airborne dust floating around, a by-product of whatever wood processing I was performing at the time. This is the dust that collects on walls, stays in the air and is unfortunately breathed in.


To combat this I built a 3-stage air cleaner as there were next to no commercial units available at the time or they were expensive. This helped considerably in capturing the airborne dust and I immediately became a believer in effective dust control. The shop made air cleaner can be seen here as well as a 3-stage commercial unit just above it. The shop made air cleaner is now moved into my new workshop and together these units effectively clean and circulate the air. Both units are stack-mounted in an unused part of the shop above a stairwell. The air in the shop is recirculated from top to bottom many times per hour and in the process scrubbing the air of fine particulate dust. I use these air cleaners in conjunction with two large capacity DC systems with blast gates at each of the stationary machines in the workshop. So dust control is an important part of my woodworking now. My woodworking today also places much less emphasis on sanding and instead I use hand tools to smooth surfaces of wood.


The air cleaners are turned on using a hand-held remote control. The most recent addition is the large red neon pilot lamp which indicates that the air cleaners are running. When I am using a machine, it is difficult to tell if the air cleaners have been turned on since the machine noise exceeds that of the air cleaners. The newly-installed red pilot lamp is immediately noticeable. The air cleaners also have ducting at the rear to direct air downwards to create the recirculating pattern for the shop air.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wood offcuts (save or burn)...

Not the most exciting blog post but I finally got around to cleaning out the piles and piles of offcuts I had been storing throughout my workshop. What brought this about is I literally had run out of space, piles were brimming with wood offcuts of every size. It gets to a point where it doesn’t make sense to keep collecting the wood, I’ll only generate more anyway! So how to go about this task since the most difficult thing is parting with an offcut that might be of use in a future project as this is instilled in us as woodworkers. As we all know, hardwoods have become expensive so the offcuts become more precious as time goes on. After all, they have already been processed, planed, squared, etc. Pics reflect the post-tidying, uncluttered look.


I began by tackling two large grey bins that were literally overflowing. I could not place one more scrap piece in them. The laborious task of sifting through them began. It was much like an archaeological dig of past projects. Each layer reminded me of an earlier project and once I got to the bottom I could see some of my earlier work. I moved the larger pieces to two large cardboard boxes to be stored away in a completely different part of the building. The remainder I intend to use as fireplace kindling. Once I got through the first grey bin, the second one was easy. I conditioned myself to be discriminating and if I thought the offcut was not worth saving, it would become kindling. It has been at least 3 years since these bins have been completely emptied.


Next were 3 other wood piles that had grown to an unwieldy size. One pile in particular beneath my vacuum pump had become an eyesore. This had to get sorted out. I recently purchased a new shop vac and the box it came in was a large enough size for these longer offcuts. Next issue was where to place the box. If I kept it in plain view I would have accomplished nothing except move wood offcuts from one pile to another. I needed to find an unused space, preferably out of sight. The space behind a dust collector was not used and just the right size. The large box of offcuts was also placed on a small dolly with casters I had lying around. Now I can conveniently access these longer offcuts and if necessary easily move the box to a different location.



With this all done, I tackled the shelves under two of my larger workbenches below. It is so true what they say that these shelves eventually become storage for anything and everything. By now I was merciless, I wanted clean surfaces free of clutter. This exercise also provided me the opportunity to get re-acquainted with some buried tools and hardware.



The last task was to clean the tops of the two smaller, identical workbenches below. In one case, the workbench top had not been cleaned in maybe 3 years. Everything was removed from each of the two workbench tops and put back in its place, be it drawers or cabinets. From now on I will work hard at leaving workbench surfaces free of clutter and deal with offcuts as I work through a project. After all, I have enough offcuts already to last a lifetime. Will I ever use them all, probably not. Maybe donate them to woodworkers that create smaller objects?



Last but not least is a large beast of a workbench (seen below) I made years ago. I had moved this workbench to an area of the lower level workshop and it has slowly become a storage area with occasional use as a workbench. I need to tackle this area next and cull some of the wood, tools and hardware accumulated over the years. I have always enjoyed using this workbench and want to make it available once again. So I will be cleaning and tidying up this area up tomorrow with the intent to have a usable workbench once again.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Drawer pulls...

My process for creating and fitting drawer pulls is outlined here.This involves designing the pulls, selecting the preferred wood to use for the pulls, deciding on a size for the pulls, laying out the pulls, and shaping them. I need to admit this is one of my most enjoyable processes of a build. The build is at its final stages and this can be considered the "adding the icing" part. Pulls often add considerably to a cabinet both in aesthetics and design. The pulls are often a draw to the cabinet if they complement the cabinet yet impart a unique addition to the cabinet. In these photos, the pull design I is a rectangular one with a tenon extending out. The pulls are of mixed cocobolo so both heartwood and sapwood create an appealing contrast in colors. The tenon has shoulders on four sides to overlay the drawer front. This tenon fits into a matching mortise in the drawer front. The mortise is marked and created using hand tools, namely small chisels.





Creating the tenon is meticulous work and I used a small, fine saw to delineate the tenon from the actual pull area. Once this is done, I use a skew rabbet block plane and some small chisels to shape the sides of the tenon. The important part of this sequence is to accurately mark the mortise to fit the tenon. A mistake here could ruin the drawer front or involve a re-design of the pulls to correct the error. The tenons of the drawer pulls fit tightly into the mortise and then glued in. I also take some time to orient the drawer pull graphics and orientation to match each other.




After completing and installing the drawers pulls I proceed to adding a pull to the right door of this particular cabinet. This door pull is similar to the drawer pulls to maintain harmony in the design. This design involves one pull on this door to distinguish this door as the one to open first. I've always liked the idea of having a single pull on the cabinet front, it just looks like a clean, minimalist design. This door pull is also slightly offset towards the bottom of the door to minimize any impact it might have on the door graphics as more of the door graphics are now visible above the door pull.












Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Enigma wood case…

I was asked to make a traditional wood case for a replica of a WWII German Enigma encrypting machine. The modern-day version is mostly electronic but it performs the same functions. I would need to make it to scale and similar to the original in most ways. This Enigma is mostly electronic with large selector wheels, LED numbers, switches and a keyboard. As well, the front panel (Steckerbrett) contains jacks for plugs and wires. The front of the outer box (Klappe) is latched, but flips down for access to the Steckerbrett.


Enigma wood case

Enigma Wood Case

Enigma Wood Case


Maker Faire 2016


mein Enigma booth


The build involved much research into existing Enigma wood cases and of course, the original version. I found out that the traditional wood used was oak so of course, it had to be made of oak. Next was sourcing the wood and unique hardware. There is also an inner box which houses the circuit boards and this fits into the outer box.

The design of the Enigma case call for locks, so I installed two locking latches and two inner catches for the Klappe flip-down front. I began the build. It went fairly smoothly except for one hangup. Installing lid stays would be a problem since there almost no clearance between the inner box and outer box edges. So mortises had to be created for the small lid stays. This worked out well. The circuit boards are currently bare and were only used for fitting.


Once complete, it has a busy array of lights, switches, large selector wheels, keyboard, lights and jacks and cables. The photos include the completed Enigma wood case with the electronics, wheels, switches, keyboard and plugs installed. Of course, I have my Maker’s Mark applied. The completed Enigma photos were taken at a Maker Faire venue in Ottawa, Ontario. Peter Sjoberg, the designer of the Enigma machine itself, can be seen in one photo.


On another note... so happy to be chosen as a Top 25 Woodworking Blogger by www.toolversed.com !


Friday, November 4, 2016

Slot mortiser (a new life)...

Tech in wood joinery meets handcrafted design + build. Top is a mortising unit, below is a micro-adjust created using traditional methods. The story follows. I purchased this Jessem Mortise Mill unit a few years back and although I managed to produce some loose tenon slots successfully, it was not easy to set up. I can't recall the issues exactly, but I was frustrated at times. So recently found the unit buried under a secondary workbench and decided I would make an effort at getting it to work successfully for me. I had always wanted a horizontal slot mortiser setup and thought why not set this up to create slots in the horizontal plane instead of the vertical plane. The unit was marketed to be installed vertically with board placement underneath. I'm not sure if having boards hang below the unit contributed to the issues I had at the time, but nonetheless I wanted to mount it so slots were created horizontally. First pic is before building the micro-adjust unit.


Next step was to find a suitable platform, i.e. workbench surface to be able to mount it. A rolling cart in my workshop was ideal since I could wheel the unit away when not in use and the footprint of the Mortise Mill was not large. The rolling cart has large locking casters which do a good job of keeping the cart immobile. Installed it so the surface of the base plate was even with the surface of the cart, this took some time. Used large enough 1/4-20 bolts to maintain rigidity and keep it from shifting.

Tested it afterwards and I was pleased with the results. The later addition of a L-shaped wood bracket to support stiles while they were being mortised worked well. The ends of rails to be mortised were easily supported by the wood surface of the rolling cart. Further testing with clamping of boards provided me with a reproducible setup. I liked the fact that I could permanently leave the Mortise Mill bolted to the rolling cart.



The only small issue was the vertical adjustment of the slots on a board. Since the Mortise Mill was installed horizontally, the adjustment was not as smooth as I would like due to the weight of the sliding component of the unit. Notice the etchings on the Mill are upside down. I decided to make a micro-adjust setup to alleviate the problem using some scrap walnut and maple. As can be seen in the pics, it is all wood construction with a 1/2 inch lead screw and wood handle. The end of the lead screw has a custom cradle contoured to fit the bottom edge of the sliding part of the Mortise Mill. I can precisely dial-in slot placements now! 



Since the micro-adjust was cantilevered off the vertical posts of the rolling cart, I beefed up the supports, it's probably over-engineered now. Things to watch are the exact placement of the tip of the lead screw over the center of the edge of the Mortise Mill for smooth operation. A large paddle switch for the built-in Mortise Mill dust collection was installed for convenient access.



Completed and tested, works great!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New hand tools...

Have a look.. 6 new hand tools!  Updated Tools section at Pirollo Design!  Performed the photography today.


This was supposed to be completed a month ago but had major issues (out of my control) to deal with in my small artisan business. So I was in suspense for a month waiting for things to settle. The Courses tab has been beefed up with new photography and sub-categories as well as a more up to date Blog section. I will be creating short videos on each of the tool pages to demonstrate how to effectively use the tools. Two more tools are in the pipeline before the end of the year. I enjoy learning and challenges, so spent time designing and prototyping these tools. The design and prototyping stages were actually fun, but sourcing the hardware was at times frustrating. It’s all good now, I am significantly more knowledgeable in this space than only 3 months ago.


The hand tools are predominantly shaping and measuring tools. I created these tools to address processes I use in my own furniture making. For example, the depth gauge address the issue of determining the depth of holes or mortises. I would find myself using small bamboo sticks, pencils, etc. to perform this measurement. I knew there had to be a better way. Another example, the measuring tool helps considerably in transferring measurements from one board to another. Possibly more of these small hand tools before the end of the year.  More info at www.pirollodesign.com

Friday, July 29, 2016

New product, handcrafted bench dogs...

I have been successfully using these hardwood bench dogs in my furniture design+build studio for over 8 years. Why not make them available as a product. For most woodworkers, time is both limited and valuable. I have the setup and expertise to make these. The result is more free time for woodworkers to do what they love.

Hardwood bench dogs are better suited to working with wood than metal ones. This solid hardwood bench dog has a 3/4 inch diameter round profile. The round bench dog is intended for use in workbenches with 3/4 inch round holes. A spring-loaded bullet catch is press fit into the sliding part of the bench dog. This ensures that the bench dog makes a solid fit with the workbench hole.

The length of the bench dog is 3.75 inches which is ideally suited to most workbench thicknesses. To ensure positive clamping of thinner stock, a raked flat notch is recessed on one side of the bench dog. Leather is applied to the face of the raked flat face of the notch to prevent wear on furniture components clamped against the bench dog. The bench dog can easily be lowered into the dog hole when not in use, and raised for use.



The bench dog can be raised to match the thickness of the stock that is being hand-planed, assuming there is a 3/4 inch through-hole in the workbench surface. The hardwood bench dog eliminates the risk of marring the metal sole or blade of a metal-bodied handplane. The hardwood used in the bench dog design is oak.

The price for each handcrafted bench dog is currently $11.50 and available through WoodSkills

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New web site...

After 9 years of blogging here, I have a new place for blogging. Along with a new web site.. WoodSkills , a new blog is now integrated into this new site.  The new site and blog will allow my readers to view my blog directly at the web site. I've had to replace the existing WoodSkills web site with a new, up to date one mostly due to new web site conventions and standards. I also decided to continue blogging here at The Refined Edge for the next while.

With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, it became critical to have a web site which rendered well on the different devices. The Internet was the wild west many years ago, web sites would render well on one browser and fail miserably on others. Today, technology has evolved to where modern web sites need to render not only on the desktop but also on mobile devices and tablets.

Other news. I have had to undergo some major surgery recently and am currently on the mend. The post-surgery recovery period limits what I can do, so not much in the way of physical activity for a few weeks. I am planning to get back into the shop later this summer, (mid-August). At this time, activities such as hand-planing are restricted as well as lifting objects. So this effectively rules out woodworking for a few weeks :( This is me on the day of discharge from the hospital. I'm up and about now and improving every day.



Please visit the new WoodSkills site for new blog posts and other information, offerings.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

New course! "Start Your Own Woodworking Business"

video

Over the winter and with time on my hands, I devoted another few weeks to developing a new course on Starting a Woodworking Business.I had a health scare, was sidelined for a while and this prompted me to hunker down and put into words my experience with starting woodworking businesses.The course is loosely based on my book with the same title. In today's economy it is becoming more important to become self-sufficient, secure jobs are a thing of the past. I should know having been downsized 3 times. Woodworking is a growing field and we need more woodworkers to go into business and market their unique designs. It is the business side of woodworking that drove me to come up with new and higher quality work. In this course, I guide you through the process of starting and setting up your own woodworking business. I am sharing my 20 year expertise and knowledge in this course.I provide the necessary expertise and answers questions about starting your own woodworking business in this information packed course. 

Downloadable video lectures include all subjects pertaining to starting your own woodworking business. Each video lecture guides you through the learning process of starting a woodworking business. The Start Your Own Woodworking Business Course is derived from twenty years of woodworking and furniture making expertise in a business environment. 3 hours long. 23 lectures. Course can be downloaded or on DVD. Available through WoodSkills