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My Woodworking Blog

Archived blog entries are still available here:
Jan-Jun 2006

Nov 27, 2006:
Over the Thanksgiving holiday my shop time was spent focused on completing my Toys For Tots contributions for this year.  I managed to complete 5 yo yo's and a gaggle of drawing spinning tops.  You can check out pics and more details here.

I also processed a truckload (literally) of sugar maple logs into turning blanks.  I used my new sawbuck which made life much easier and safer - check it out here.  A couple fresh coats of Anchorseal on the endgrain, and they're now neatly stacked at the end of the driveway waiting for me to rough them out.

Nov 17, 2006:
Spent most of the time since the last entry working on the lathe. I made a few turned boxes for the first time. Check them out on here. They were quite fun, and I have a number of blanks ready for more. Now that I take another look at that page I remember I have a couple other boxes completed that I need to add to the page. I also roughed a few more bowl blanks (including a drop-dead gorgeous hunk of english walnut) that I look forward to finishing in a few months when they're dry.

I also spent some time doing a little carpentry type work to build a sawhorse/sawbuck for chainsawing logs into turning blanks. I'll be documenting that with pics and a new web page this weekend (if the weather permits). I'm also starting to look at new chainsaws since my Craftsman 16" saw is showing its age and is a bit limiting in size. Chainsaws sure are expensive (not to mention they scare the bejeezus out of me in use).

I should probably build another web page to document some of the work I recently completed on a set of el-cheapo Harbor Freight turning tools. You can find a set of 8 tools on sale for under $40, and they're decent for a beginning set of tools. Since I'm lucky enough to already have a very nice selection of high quality spindle and bowl tools I used the HF junkers to fill holes in the collection. I ground the scrapers into shapes I didn't have (a side cutting box scraper, a double-dovetail scraper, etc). The small spindle gouge was ground into a nice detail gouge. I'm not sure what I'll do with the skews yet, but I'm eying a couple more scraper shapes. It's well worth the time to sand the rough lacquer handle finish to get a smoother feel for the handles. In the end they're going to be a servicable set of HSS tools that will compliment my other tools nicely with only a couple duplicates - all for $5 per tool!

Oct 23, 2006:
Has it been almost 3 weeks since I updated this thing? Sheesh - better get on the stick! I've been spending most of my shop time on the lathe. I finished a new enclosed form bowl (pics and details here), and also roughed out a number of fairly large bowl blanks. Those are now set aside to dry for several months before I finish turn them. I've also been turning a few yo-yo's for Toys for Tots. I don't yet have them photographed but I'll post a link here when they're all finished.

Since my last update I also managed to get the shop deep cleaned, so I snapped a bunch of new pics and updated my shop tour page. It's been a while since the last update, and quite a few things have changed. Since the place was clean my wife and I did a new inventory of all my tools so that we can update our insurance policy tool rider. Not exactly a fun task, but certainly a necessary one.

Oct 3, 2006:
Well, the picture frames are FINALLY done. Nothing fancy, but they look fine. I'll get pics up on this page in another day or so. No more frames for a while.

On a more enjoyable note, I recently took a day-long bowl turning class with David Marks. You can read about it and see a few pics on this page. Twas a good time, and it got me even more excited about advancing my turning skills.

I also finished the book Turning Green Wood by O'Donnell, and I'm now working to get through about 50 old FWW issues I recently purchased. In reading these old mags it's readilly apparent how much "recycling" of tips, topics, and projects is done over the years. One good example is this sharpener from issue #1 in 1975 which clearly refutes that the new Jool Tool sharpener is an "innovation".

Sep 22, 2006:
I've been in a woodworking lull lately. I just can NOT get psyched about making picture frames. Ugh. I did finish one of them - an 8x10 beveled frame made from cherry. I need to make two more, and I'm planning to do them from poplar and paint them. Just so booooring....

I have noodled around a bit on the lathe. I got a few old bowling pins from a friend and turned a mallet. Quite fun! Read about it here, with pics too. I also managed to completely ruin a nice big spalted beech bowl blank. It ended up being very punky and cracked in a jillion places. Just couldn't salvage anything with my meager skill lever, so I used it to practice various cutting techniques. Created a bunch of shavings, and had a lot of fun even though nothing tangible came from it.

Aug 28, 2006:
The blanket chest is done and installed. Pics and details can be found on this page. I'm very happy with this project.

Next on the list are a few picture frames. Not my favorite project, but they'll go quickly and they're generally easy to build. I think two will be painted and one will be made from leftover cherry. Details to follow as progress is made....

Aug 14, 2006:
The blanket chest is completed except for the finish. It looks pretty good, except I'm not sure that I'm happy with the front arched base board. I selected a grain patter that would accentuate the arched cutout, but I think now that the grain might be a little too strong and distract from the rest of the piece. I'm going to apply a coat of finish and judge then whether I need to replace that board of if it harmonizes as I'd hoped.

The new lathe continues to be a distraction in the shop. I couldn't resist finishing a few bowls I had previously roughed out (see pics at the bottom of this page). I'm happy with the bowls, but I'm very excited about the lathe. I'm hoping to spend some more time with it when I complete the blanket chest, and I'm sure it's going to help me improve my turning skills.

I've finished Flexner's 2nd edition, and I also quickly got through the Beeksvoort Shaker book. Beeksvoort's book is a great reference for authentic Shaker pieces, and I was surprised how much decoration was present in the later Shaker furniture (apparently an influence from the Victorian age). Next up is Raffan's "Turning Bowls" book.

July 31, 2006:
The blanket chest is firmly in the home stretch. It's basically done except for final fitting of the drawer. The moldings are made and installed, the lid is sized, the base is finished, and I just have one corner to finish on the drawer before it's fine-tuning and sanding time. Oh, I guess I also need to get some aromatic cedar from the Borg, but that will be one of the last things I do.

I've been getting distracted by the new big yellow thing in the corner of my shop. I've turned a couple spindles for a windsor chair our club is working on, and I've finished 5 bowls that I had previously roughed out. In a word the lathe is awesome. I'm not sure my skill level justifies such an impressive lathe, but it's such a pleasure to turn on and I know that my skills will improve with more practice.

I finished the new edition of Flexner's Understanding Finishing book, and I'm trying to get through a stack of magazines before jumping into the Beecksvoort Shaker book next.

July 17, 2006:
While it may not sound like much, I actually made some decent progress on the blanket chest over the last week. LOML took the kids to the pool on Sunday and left me with the entire morning in the shop. That's in addition to my normal "few minutes here" and "few minutes there". :-)

I was able to get dados in the box routed, and the box is now glued up. I spent a bit of time cleaning up some of the dovetails with wedges and glue, but thankfully most of them were nice and tight and didn't require any repair. The carcase is also planed and sanded, and I patched a small knot that bugged me a bit in the interior. Next up is to make the base, trim moldings, and to dimension and profile the top panel. Oh, and a drawer too - drats, more dovetails!

I also twiddled with a few shop rearrangement issues that resulted from squeezing in the new lathe. Just the usual DC duct tweaks, moving a few things on the wall, and general clean up. I'm going to like the new shop layout, but I'm not quite happy with the new placement of the drill press. I moved it over between the dust collector and bandsaw, and it's new location is a bit close to a drain pipe from our upstairs bathroom. I'll need to address that space issue and also relocate the bit storage cabinet to be closer to the drill press. Details, details. It's funny, I'm still not quite recovered from the last shop re-org from when I built the Twin Twin Bench, and now I've got a similar issue once again.

July 10, 2006:
I was on vacation all last week and spent most of it with the family having a great time, but I did manage to get some time in the shop to progress the blanket chest. The 4 main panels are now fully sized, planed smooth, the drawer front is cut out, and the dovetails at all the corners are cut and fit (by hand). These panels are tall (23" IIRC) and I used thin pins, so there was a lot of cutting and a TON of chopping. The LN chisels held up pretty well to all the cherry end grain, but when I upped the bevel angle to about 34 degs they held their edges incredibly well - best I've ever used by far. The project should be all downhill from here - cutting divider panels & dados for them, glue-up, build/fit a drawer, make the moldings, finish, hardware. Can't wait to see it done.

One of the reasons I'm not further along with the chest is that I finally managed to sell my old lathe, and so I took delivery of a new one - a Powermatic 3520b. Wow, what a monster! I picked it up from the terminal in my truck, and getting it downstairs was quite an event. I took it down in pieces, and the beds and headstock were still incredibly heavy even by themselves. Getting it assembled was equally fun, but I managed to get it together without throwing out my back or crushing anyone or anything. Running power to it was an exercise in frustration just because nothing seemed to go my way, but I finally got it powered up a few days ago. Having the variable speed is amazing, and the sheer mass of this lathe is such a big benefit. Believe it or not, the first thing I turned was a small spinning top about an inch in diameter. I had no bowl blanks prepped and I wanted to continue to focus on the blanket chest, but I couldn't resist making a few shavings. Can't wait to really test it with a big bowl. Pics and a full "review" will follow as I get more time with the lathe.

If you've actually read this stuff and would like to send me a comment or two, fire off an email.

© Copyright 2006 Chris Billman