Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Sharpening Station, At Last!

Many of my tools will benefit from regular sharpening.  This includes handplane blades, bench chisels, carving chisels and woodturning tools, all of which I use often.  It's well known among woodworkers that sharp tools are necessary to achieve the best work, while dull tools are inefficient at best and dangerous at worst.  My problem was that I had no regular place to sharpen my tools.  Instead, every time I wanted to sharpen my plane blades or chisels, I had to get out my stones and set them up on my workbench, then move them out of the way when I was finished with them.  My woodturning tools are sharpened on a heavy slow-speed grinder that was inconvenient to lift from under my workbench every time I wanted to do some turning.  I use a Koch sharpening system and Shapton stones for my carving chisels and, once again, it was stored in an inconvenient location.

The eventual outcome of all this inconvenient, of course, is that the job of honing gets put off until no small amount of resharpening will suffice to restore the tools to peak condition.  And it means that tools get used when they are dull, poor practice indeed, but one I'll admit to practicing.

Gluing up the drawer
The solution is a dedicated sharpening station, something I've yearned for over the years and even planned but never built.  Fortunately, my good friend and business partner Jeff Fleisher came up with some surplus property that provided a solution.  First was a slightly damaged cabinet with a wide drawer opening and double doors leading to a moveable shelf inside.  Then, a local restaurant was renovating and he snagged some thick Formica table tops for each of us.

With these two pieces in hand, my job became simple.  I attached rotating wheels, pin nailed the table top to the case and built a drawer to fit the opening just under the new tabletop.  Then I added drawer pulls and finished it all with a coat of shellac.

My sharpening tools
Even before the drawer was completed, however, I put the station in operation.  The tabletop measures 48 X 30 inches and is large enough for all my sharpening equipment--a Tormek T-7 water-cooled grinder, a Koch sharpening system for my carving chisels, a low-speed grinder and a tray with my Shapton stones at the ready.  My strop is hanging on one side.  Tormek accessories and other small tools are in the large drawer.  Water jugs (I have no water in the shop) and other large items are accessible through the double doors.  Being on wheels, the whole sharpening station can be easily rolled near the workbench when wanted there and then rolled back out of the way when the floor space is needed for assembly and the like.

The finished sharpening station
I feel certain that this improvement to my shop will greatly enhance the speed and quality of my woodworking.  If you don't have a sharpening station, consider building one similar to this.  If you can get hold of a surplus cabinet or tabletop, so much the better!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Adding a Laguna Bandsaw

For a long time now, I've wanted to build boxes.  Beautiful boxes.  Boxes that feature beautiful wood.  And for some time now, I've been building up a stock of highly figured woods that could make boxes that are attractive and, I hope, salable.  I've got several nice, thick pieces of crotch walnut, some with gorgeous feathering, that would look lovely gracing the top of a box.  I've got some figured ash as well.  And small quantities of tiger and birds-eye maple.  Plus a goodly amount of less figured woods that would make attractive box sides to offset the figured tops, woods like quartersawn white oak, maple, cherry, hickory and mesquite, among others.

The thing about boxes is they are generally built from thinner than usual pieces of wood; 3/8" and 1/2" are common thicknesses.  While it's possible to plane wood to these thicknesses, it wastes a lot of valuable and perhaps irreplaceable wood.  So resawing--slicing wood vertically through its width--is the preferred solution.  Resawing is best done on a bandsaw.  Though a tablesaw can be used for narrower boards, for boards over 5-6" in width, a bandsaw is required.  In all cases, a bandsaw is both safer and takes a smaller amount of wood for a kerf.

I have a 14" bandsaw, a Grizzly GO555, and it's perfectly adequate for many operations.  But I've never had good results when resawing with it.  Drift is a big problem, plus I'm limited to 1/2" blades like Highland Woodworking's Woodslicer.  While this is a good blade, I'm looking for something even better.

Enter the Laguna 14" LT14 SUV.  It started with a sale that Woodcraft had on this saw.  So I did some research.  Actually, a lot of research.  This SUV model (SUV stands for "Souped Up Version") has several attractive features, including some that are new to this model.  It is driven by a 3 hp. motor.  It has a large table (slightly larger than 15" X 19") that is easily adjusted and that tilts in both directions.  It has two 4" dust ports.  It has a resaw height of just under 14".  The 125" blade is available in a 1" carbide tipped version called the Resaw King.  Amazingly enough, this 2-3 tpi variable pitch blade has no set, which helps it achieve a smooth cut.  The saw uses ceramic guide blocks that are easily adjusted above and below the table.  The fence has two positions, high and low, and can be quickly adjusted for drift.  Most reviews are high on this saw, which is said to give a superior cut when using the Resaw King blade.

The nearest competitor is the Hammer N4400, a 17" German saw from Felder, which will accommodate a 3/4" blade, quite adequate for resawing.  It has a 3.5 hp. motor.  The nicest thing about this saw is that the tires are flat, rather than crowned, so drift is never a problem.  I'd have easily have gone for this saw--I've seen it in action--but it costs almost $700 more than the Laguna's sale price.   As far as I can determine, each saw delivers excellent results when resawing.  Price being an important consideration, I decided on the Laguna.  It's on order now.

I'll be keeping my Grizzly bandsaw.  I've got plenty of jobs that call for smaller blades.  And, I'll slice logs into lumber on the Grizzly, leaving the Laguna for resawing and protecting the expensive carbide blade for high quality cuts.

Naturally, I'm eager for it to arrive.  Getting it off the truck (the crate weights 420 lbs) will be the first issue.  Then I'll need to go through the whole setup and testing process.  After I've had time to test it for myself, I'll write a review.

Have you used the Laguna bandsaw?  If so, share your thoughts with other readers by leaving a comment.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using Pinterest for Woodworking Research

I recently signed up for Pinterest.  I've got to admit it straight out; I'm not a big social media user.  Sure, I have a Facebook account and I read it sometimes but seldom post.  And I'm on LinkedIn as a passive presence.  I don't Tweet.  So frankly, I wasn't sure why I'd want to be on Pinterest.  All that said, I decided to give it a go.

My first idea was to post links to my business, Shenandoah Tool Works, and I created links to photos of the woodworking mallets and birdcage awls my partner Jeff Fleisher and I produce.  But then, upon looking around, I began to see photos of things I'd like to build for myself.  So I created boards in Pinterest for several projects--a cabinet to store hand tools, saw tills, a rolling lumber cart, table designs and decorative boxes.  After creating the boards, I searched each of these topics, scrolled through what I found and pinned the photos I liked best to my boards.

Already I've used the photos to design a rolling lumber rack that combines several features I saw in the Pinterest photos--racks for boards, storage for plywood, bins for offcuts, a panel saw and clamp storage.  I can already see that it will reduce the clutter in my shop and add functionality as well. 

If you haven't tried Pinterest yet, you may find it useful for designing projects.  The good thing is, it is not only easy to use but it's free!  If you like the project boards I've set up, you can always follow me.  My site is my name--Norm Reid.  If you decide to use Pinterest, let me know how it works out for you.


Monday, October 6, 2014

A New Name, A New Design

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll notice that I've renamed it and applied a new design.  Since I've come to call my basement shop the Cobbler Mountain Woodshop, it seemed right that this blog should bear the same name.  And, in view of the fact that I'm no longer a novice woodworker, a changing subtitle and design were in order as well.

Why Cobbler Mountain Woodshop?  Simply, because my home is situated at the foot of Little Cobbler Mountain in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, with Big Cobbler Mountain lying just behind it.  It's a lovely location, the mountain visible out the kitchen window on all but the foggiest of days.

The address for this blog is still the same as it was,  Only the title has changed, though a search on Cobbler Mountain Woodshop will find it as well.

The photo beneath the title and the design are new as well.  I chose the photo--of my no. 4 Lie-Nielsen smoothing plane working a natural edge walnut coffee table--to reflect my growing use of hand tools.  It also represents the fact that I've been teaching hand plane use and restoration at northern Virginia Woodcraft stores for the last several years.

As I see it, these changes represent more than a design upgrade.  Instead, they reflect my evolution from a complete novice--which I was when this blog began--to a maturing woodworker with a number of increasingly complex projects under my belt.

I look forward to describing my woodworking adventures here and hope you'll join me for future installments.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making Space for Hand Tools

Like many contemporary woodworkers, I started out with power tools.  I assembled the usual array--workbench, tablesaw and bandsaw, jointer, planer, router table and sanding equipment, among others.  I set up shop in a basement cleared of accumulated clutter and installed my power tools within reach of a good dust collector.  Convinced that power tools would meet all my future needs and desires, I went so far as to declare I'd never need to use handplanes.  I mean, just how wrong can a fellow be?

It wasn't long before I began acquiring handplanes and learning how to set them up and use them.  Then it was chisels.  And handsaws.  And so, I converted from a complete Normite to a hybrid woodworker with a growing desire to build things using hand tools.

But while my woodshop afforded me space for my power tools, there was no good place for hand tool work, no spot where I could use a sawbench to break down lumber, no place for a sharpening station, no open area for assembly, no way to keep my burgeoning lumber stash from frustrating my attempts to move around the shop.  I began to have visions of building a new woodshop outside to meet my growing need for space.  My wife even went so far as to suggest just that.

It took my friend Jeff to see what I could not--the potential for reorganizing the space available right in my basement to yield more usable work area.  And so, with his vision and assistance, we transformed the cellar in a few short hours and opened up at least half again as much space as I was already using.

Now all my power tools are in one area and my hand tool operations in another.  Now I can walk past my lumber rack without fear of tripping.  I can saw a board with plenty of clearance.  I can wheel my assembly table into an open space for four-sided access when needed.  I have room for a sharpening station near my workbench.

My wonderful wife was ready and willing for me to build a new woodshop.  Fortunately, with her support, I've been able to get nearly the same result at little expense.  I think I now need to build something to repay her.  But that's what it's all about, isn't it?  I think it's time to head down the stairs to my cellar woodshop and start something special.