Sunday, December 28, 2014

Turning wooden mallets

I have some old wooden mallets of the rectangular head style with through handles, one of which has definitely seen better days and the other in the need of some attention. I thought I would try my hand at turning some carvers mallets.

I found a branch of an old gum tree (not sure of the species but it is quite resinous and extremely dense) that had fallen and dried. I cut it up with the chain saw and trimmed the side branches and made it more or less roundish. I then turned the mallets to the right on my lathe, one larger and the other for more delicate work. It is a long time since I have done any serious turning on the lathe and even then I was not that good. Hopefully I will get better with practice.

The larger one had a serious crack which I filled with epoxy then used a scraper to smooth. One of the characteristics of this wood is that it tends to shrink considerably as it dries leaving some quite significant cracks down its entire length. I turned my wife a dibber from a piece of green wood and after drying it now has some cracks, although not serious. I did finish it with oil although I probably should have used a sealer to slow the drying process.

The smaller mallet was made form a section that was mostly crack free. When the wood splits the crack seems to spiral slightly and only appear on one side. Unfortunately the tree does not grow that large and is extremely brittle and drops branches all over the shop.

I finished them by applying a coat of shellac then a couple of coats of a 321 wiping varnish (3 parts thinner (gum turpentine in this instance), 2 parts poly and one part boiled linseed oil) rubbed in with 600 grit wet 'n dry then finally a coat of wax.

I expect that these will be extremely durable given the toughness of the wood. One is about 600 grams and the other about 350 grams.

I am not entirely convinced by my first attempt and with what I have learnt may try again this time using greener wood and a more refined shape. I think if I can get a larger piece and use only one half of the branch (slice it down the centre before I start) It should not want to crack so much, just oval as it dries. Also finishing it while green may slow the drying process and hence it may want to crack less.

Restoring an old paring chisel

 I inherited an old paring chisel from my dad who was a carpenter by profession. The family has some very nice old furniture that he made, possibly using this very chisel.

 The blade is 220mm from the tang which provides very good control over the chisel and it has a primary bevel of about 18 deg and a secondary bevel of 20 deg. This makes it very hard to sharpen. The handle was made by me a long time ago on an old bargain basement  mini lathe (which has since gone to join the choir invisible). the tang ferrule is a piece of copper tubing and the end ferrule is some chrome tubing from a bed that I used to sleep in as a child. Why I thought a paring chisel needed an end ferrule is beyond me.

I think it may be time to make a much nicer handle for it but after I clean it up some more.

In any case I set to yesterday to try to give the edge some much needed TLC and I managed to get a very nice edge to it as can be seen form the photograph below.  I have  not yet had a chance to use it in anger but i tested it by taking a sliver of of a piece of scrap and it came away very nicely indeed.

After many years of being used as a paint tin opener I think that this nice paring chisel is very pleased to be used for what it was designed for. In truth it has probably never been sharper.

Too Many Chisels

Like remote controls, power tools and kitchen appliances it is impossible to have too many chisels.

Over the years I have accumulated quite a collection of chisels of various vintages and provenances.  Some are only a few weeks old and others come from my father's time as a woodworker and would be 80 or so years old at a guess. They are in various conditions but I have started to bring them all up to a useable state with my grinder and water stones. I did have a slight issue with a really nice long thin 1" paring chisel (far right, first photo) which I will get back to but they have mostly come up pretty well. I spent maybe 2 days in total (over several weeks) working on them but am pretty pleased overall with their condition. They have mostly surface rust which is not much more than cosmetic but their faces and edges are in pretty good condition and are pretty serviceable. There are some average and also some pretty good chisels amongst them.

The photo to the left is of older chisels I am restoring. the four on the right and the one on the far left are all (as far as I can remember) from my dad. The heavy chisel fourth from the right is from an old morticing machine. It was a huge affair made form cast iron with a very long counter-levered handle. It had a sliding bed into which you could secure your work then move it in either direction by a couple of large wheels. You would them plunge the chisel into the wood and move it along plunging as you go to hollow out the mortice.

The second and third from the right are firmer chisels with a high angle for roughing work or hand cut mortices and tenons. The smaller of the firmer chisels has the original handle but the larger one (1") has a handle made from scrap by me many years ago. It happened to have an embedded dowel which you can see if you look carefully, but I was never the one to let a recovered piece of furniture go to waste. The chisel on the right is a very nice paring chisel. I made a bit of a meal at my first attempt. The min problem is that the chisel angle is very low, less than 20 deg so I had another attempt (more in a later post). Again, this is a replacement handle made by me many years ago. The ferule is from a piece of copper tube and the end ferrule is a length of chromed tubing from an old bed which fell apart. The chisel on the far left is a long bench chisel with a large bevel, perfect for dovetails. This handle was also replaced by me many years ago. The leather ring on the end was recovered from the old handle. The remainder are carving tools and chisels that I have picked up over the years. Some my mother bought when she was woodworking and the gouge I bought when I worked at an industrial supply store in the early 80s.

This next lot are mainly newer chisels. The two to the right are obviously Marples blue handled chisels. I inherited them from the previous owner of my current property. They are the older type before Marples sold out. The next two are some nice Stanly chisels that I bought at a closing down sale from a local hardware store a few years ago. They have had a lot of use lately. The yellow handled chisel is a cheaper Stanley that was in the same batch as the blue Marples.

The last four on the left are brand new Veritas chisels. They were on special at a local woodworking store. The first three are part of the Veritas A2 bench chisel range and the stubby is MP-V11 steel, and very nice it is too.

I have enjoyed restoring and using the old chisels and will be interested to see how they fare against the new Veritas chisels. I think that however good the old chisels were in their time, and I think the better chisels were very good,  the technology in the new Veritas chisels make them a far better chisel. However, to replace them all with new chisels would be in the order of a thousand dollars so the set of basic Vertias bench chisels is good enough. For paring and roughing work I think the old chisels are more than good enough so long as I continue to look after them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Table Saw

I have used it quite a bit over the last few years since I bought it and when I finally decided to hone my woodworking skills I decided that it was time to give it the once over.

One of my neighbours was selling off his woodworking equipment and this Jet 10" table saw was amongst the items he was selling. I paid $200 for this saw and another $100 for a 1 HP twin bag dust extractor.

I started by cleaning the top. It was caked with many years of resin from the various woods that had been cut on it. It made a very nice hard protective coating but did nothing for its smoothness and accuracy. I tried various solvents but nothing seemed to shift it. I suspect that if I soaked it in Turps for several weeks it would have softened over time but being an impatient lad I decided to take a more aggressive approach.

I tried various methods but I finally settled on a 4" angle grinder with a stiff wire brush. I tried it first on a small corner of the table. It did a great job of removing the gunk without any damage to the surface. It took me about two hours of hard graft to clean it up and it came up like new. A final coat of wax and it is like a bought one.

I have adjusted the carriage to straighten the blade but there is one bolt on the front right that is extremely difficult to get to. It still requires a tune up consisting of shimming the side tables (which angle up by one or two mm) cleaning the rust from the rear fence slide, re-adjusting the carriage, and cleaning an lubricating the gears.

All in all it is a great workhorse and cuts very nicely despite its limitations.