Friday, April 21, 2017

Copper Elder Sign Box

I thought I had posted this item, but now I can't find it anywhere on this blog, so, I guess I will do a quick post about it now. I made this Elder Sign box several years ago. It started as a small cheap trinket box that I bought on clearance from a local wholesale club. It had a nice dark stained rustic wooden body, that was well made, and a ceramic tile set into the top. The tile had Christmas art on it- a snowman, I think. I liked everything about the box, except for the art.

I had purchased wooden boxes with tile tops from this place in the past, and the last ones I had, I sanded the surface of the tile, painted over it, and added a cast resin applique to the top, and sold it in my shop. No pictures of those ones I'm afraid. This time I thought I would try something different.

A couple of years ago, I found a roll of heavy copper foil on clearance at the hardware store. It had an adhesive backing on one side and I guess you are supposed to use it as flashing around the foundation of your house. I think it is supposed to repel termites. I don't know, I threw away the box a long time ago. I bought it because it was a big roll of copper foil, and fairly cheap.

My first few attempts at using this foil, I was tempted to make use of the adhesive that is already on the foil. It seemed pretty strong, as it was a bear to get the vinyl backer to peel off. Unfortunately, the adhesive does not stay strong. Over time (a few months), it will inevitably loosen up and the copper foil will pull away from whatever you stuck it to. So, I have since learned that I must scrub off the adhesive and use a different glue. Kind of a pain, but whatever.

This box has a cast resin Elder Sign appliqued to the top, underneath the copper foil. I carved the sigil by hand out of a block of wax (years ago). I think this was actually the first thing I tried to carve in wax. Then I made a latex rubber mold of the carving. I use the rubber mold to cast all kinds of stuff, plaster and cement disks, resin appliques, whatever I need an Elder Sign for.

I put the resin casting on a work surface covered in vinyl contact paper (a.k.a. shelf liner). Vinyl contact paper makes a good non-stick work surface. Then I cut a square of copper foil and covered the casting with room to spare around the edges. I used various sculpting tools, mostly ones with round metal tips, to work the foil around the casting and into all the contours and creases. Sort of like chasing. When it was done, I carefully peeled the copper loose from the table and the casting. I sprayed the reverse side of the copper with strong spray glue and put the casting back into the cavity. Then I masked off and sprayed the tile with glue too. I glued the foil, along with the casting, down to the tile and trimmed the edges of the foil. Then I smoothed everything out and worked the edges of the foil around the edges of the tile, making them disappear. I didn't do anything to weather or seal the copper. I just let it gain a natural patina.

I had this box on the Rogue Cthulhu prize table for a while. But lately I have been thinking of giving it as a gift to someone in the Mythos prop community. I'm just looking for the perfect thing to put inside of it first.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Copper and Oak Bowl

This is my fourth attempt at turning a bowl. I'm not quite sure why, but bowl turning has not come easily to me. I have had numerous problems with every aspect of the endeavor. The most serious of which are very bad catches. That's when the chisel or gouge gets caught in the wood and either tares a big chunk out of it, or the chisel, or the work piece (or both) go flying across the room. They are dangerous, and scary as hell. I don't know if it is the lathe speed, my tool choice, my tool technique, the tool sharpness, the grain orientation, the tool rest position; I don't know what the hell the problem is. I watch video after video on bowl turning, and it all looks simple enough, but when I put it into practice, it all goes to shit. My best bowl I've made to date is the one I rescued from the garbage. I've seen several other YouTube-ers turn their first bowl, and it looks gorgeous- and it's starting to piss me off.

So, this is my fourth attempt at turning a bowl. I'm doing my best to do everything right. I'm using hardwood, I'm trying to follow good technique. I'm being patient and taking my time.

I started with a big block of 3"x 8"x24" oak cribbing. The surface was really nasty and black, and it has some cupping, so I used a hand plane and my new drum sander to get the two main faces nice and smooth. Then I cut it into two 8"x8"x3" blocks and glued them together along the freshly smoothed face to make an 8"x8"x6" bowl blank. I was surprised at how nice this nasty chunk of wood looked after it was cleaned up and smoothed out.

After the glue was dry, I found the center , scribed a circle with a compass, and used the band saw to rough cut the block into a round blank.  Then I drilled a 5/8" hole in the marked center, about 2" deep. Into this hole, I screwed a screw chuck, which I will use to attach the blank to my lathe scroll chuck.

Once the block was chucked up on the screw, the first thing I did was true up the blank, making it nice and round (cylindrical), and squaring off the bottom (the end not attached to the chuck). Then I marked a circle with a pencil, on the bottom, that is the size of my scroll chuck jaws. I carefully cut a mortise in this circle, so that after I finish shaping the outside of the bowl, I can turn the blank around and reverse chuck the blank using this mortise. I take extra care to shape the mortise so that it has the best chance to be held tightly. I have had problems in the past with blanks getting pulled out of the chuck when I get a catch. I think this has been because I did not shape the mortise or tenon (I used a tenon in the past) correctly. I'm hoping my improved technique will help overcome that problem this time.

Then I start shaping the outside of the bowl. This does not go terribly well at first. I get a few bad catches, like before. I get a chunk tore out of the blank that I have to try to fix. So far it's looking like it always does. Then I decide to slow down the lathe, and switch to the carbide scraper, and take very light passes, and things start going a little better. I didn't get any pictures of the early parts of the build, because I expected this to be a test bowl, that would probably fail.

Before long, the bowl started to take shape. But the shape was very boring. Since I sort of expected this bowl to fail, I decide to experiment with a technique that I have seen done, and wanted to try- copper inlay. It's actually quite simple, in theory. I used a detail gouge to turn a small groove around the circumference of the piece. Then I used CA glue to glue a piece of solid copper wire into the groove. Once the glue was set I used a carbide tool to gently scrape the bulk of the excess copper away, then I switched to sand paper. Copper is soft, so it can be turned pretty much like wood. It also sands just like wood. You just sand the piece until the copper wire ends up flush with the surface of the piece. Unfortunately, just as I was about finished, the wire flew off at high speed and stuck me in the stomach. The heat from the sanding had softened the glue.

I decided to try again, this time, using epoxy instead of CA. The epoxy should be less susceptible to the heat buildup. I also put a second groove in, about a half inch from the first. I mixed up some quick set epoxy and spread it over the piece, pushing it into the grooves. Then I used masking tape to help hold the wire in the groove while the epoxy set. I also used electrical tape over top of the masking tape, so that the stretchy-ness of the vinyl tape would add some compression and keep the wire fitted snugly down in the groove.

Once the epoxy was cured, I removed the tape. I slowed the lathe down to lessen the heat, just in case. Then I started sanding down the excess epoxy and the top half of the copper wire. Success! It looked amazing! Now, if I could just finish the inside of the bowl without screwing it up. This is about the point where I started taking pictures. The success of the copper inlay gave me hope that this bowl might not turn out so bad after all.

I finished sanding the outside of the bowl and applied a couple of coats of Shine Juice before un-chucking the piece and turning it around. Then I put he jaws in the mortise and using reverse pressure, snugged them up tight.  I had never done a reverse mounting before, so I was hoping for the best.

The next step was to hog out as much material from the inside of the bowl as possible, using a forstner bit. I set the bit into my Jacobs chuck, in the tail stock, and very slowly and carefully, started drilling out the inside of the bowl.  The bowl is a little more than seven inches in diameter, but the biggest hole I can make with a forstner bit is two and a half inches. Drilling this out was tedious, and slow and made a lot of smoke, but I got it done.

Now, I just had to widen the hole with the gouges. I decided to just use the carbide tools, hoping they would lessen the chances of getting a bad catch. I started with the round carbide bit, but found out that the square one seemed to do a better job, and was less prone to catches and tear-out.

I was very careful and took my time, making very shallow passes with the tool. It took forever, but I managed to get the inside hollowed out. Then, I was just about done, and I decided to try to make the bowl wall a little bit thinner, and BAM! - I got a catch bad enough to make me shut the lathe down in a hurry. I could tell something broke by the way it caught. looking at the piece, the side wall had cracked and a big chunk was about to fall out. Fortunately. all the pieces were still there, so I gently massages them back into place as best as I could, and started sealing up the cracks and gaps with copious amounts of CA glue.

After about a half hour of repair effort, I was finally satisfied that the cracks were all filled. I was too afraid to try to smooth out the excess glue with the carbide tool, or to try to make the wall any thinner, so I decided to put away the tools and start sanding. I had a LOT of sanding to do. The inside of the bowl was still really rough, and the CA glue was mounded up thick over the cracks. It probably took me over an hour to sand it down to an acceptable level.

After a crap-ton of sanding, I put several more coats of Shine Juice on, inside and out. Then, just for goods measure, I rubbed the surface with a block of carnuba wax and buffed it with a paper towel.

Ta-Da! Finished. What was only going to be a practice bowl, and which had a near fatal blow out, turned out to be my best bowl yet. The mortise worked, the copper inlay worked, the repair job worked. And this one even looks less like a flower pot and more like a cereal bowl. I was just about to give up on bowl making, but now I am less discouraged.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pointy Two-Tone Pendulums

Here are some more turned hardwood pendulums. These ones are two-tone. They were made by first laminating two different colored pieces of wood together with wood glue and clamping firmly until dry. Then the laminated blank was turned round and then into pendulums. I started at the tail stock end, turned a pendulum, parted it off, then turned another, right up the length of the blank until I ran out of wood.

I intentionally made the two colored pieces of wood different thicknesses, so that the parting line did not end up in the center. I did't want the sharp tip to be on the glue line, in case there were any imperfections in the joint. And the asymmetry looks good to me.  These are half walnut, and half ...something else.

A while ago I made my first two tone blank, back when I was making the pendulums large and chunky. I made two of them like the one below. It is a large two tone, but I didn't turn a point on it. Instead, I drilled a 1/4" hole where the point would be. Then I made some small points out of a stick of black ebony, and made sure that the stem (where the eyelet and chain would attach) was turned to a diameter of 1/4" This way, the stem from the ebony point can be friction fit up into the hole in the large two tone pendulum. I also put an eyelet on the ebony point, and used a lobster claw latch instead of a jump ring to attach the chain. This way, you can use the large pendulum with the ebony point in it, or you can pull the ebony point out of it, and re-attach the chain and just use the ebony point by itself. Two pendulums for the price of one!

Most people probably don't want a pendulum this big for their personal use, but I think the large pendulums would work great of you were doing a demonstration, or teaching a class, or if you were doing pendulum divination for a larger group of people, and you wanted everyone to be able to see the pendulum easily.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bricks are Heavy

From time to time I find myself scouring the workshop looking for something clean, compact and heavy. Even more so, now that I have been doing wood working. With increased frequency, I need to weigh something down, usually while glue is drying. Usually I drag out the old used bolts bin, and the large chisel box, and maybe a few large blocks of wood that we use for cribbing. But I would prefer to have something that is cleaner and more easily stackable.

Coincidentally, I have several bags of old cement products (mortar mix, floor leveler, concrete, etc). I'm sure some of them are no good any more. The only way to be sure is to test them, but then they are almost certain to go bad once opened. Anyway, I really just want rid of them. They take up space, and who knows when I will need them again, or if they will be any good when I go to use them. I would prefer to just buy new when I have a need. But I don't just want to assume they are all bad and dump them, so I am testing them, one bag at a time. if it is bad, I dump it. If it is good, I am turning it into bricks.

I found an old plastic shoe box that is a good size and shape for making cement bricks. It looks like a plastic bread pan. First I mix up a small cup of the material and let it set overnight, just to be sure. If the material sets up OK, then I mix up a batch in the plastic pan.

Solid cement blocks are decently heavy, but to make them even heavier, I am adding pieces of scrap metal. I have a bucket where I throw anything metal that needs disposed of. When the bucket is full, I usually just set it out on the curb with a sign. Within a day, one of the cities scrap collectors will nab it. Well, I decided to make use of some of the smaller bits, like broken bolts and hand tools, to add to the cement mixture to make the blocks heavier.

I leave the blocks to dry overnight, and then I de-mold them. Pretty simple. I might paint the blocks at some point, or even wrap them in some cloth, to protect my work piece. I have some regular clay bricks that I covered in cloth at my store workshop to use similarly. But for right now, they are just plain cement bricks that I can stack on wood pieces while the glue dries.

I'm not sure how I'm going to like storing these, or how often I will use them, but this cement was basically going to be thrown out anyway. And the bricks will probably be easier to store than 60lbs. sacks of cement. If I end up not liking using or storing these bricks, I will just smash them with a sledge hammer, pull out the metal scraps, and throw the crushed cement out into the gravel driveway.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Double Wide Rack

Some years ago, I bought out the remaining stock of a small shop that was going out of business as my local mall was dying. They carried a brand of incense that is traditionally displayed in glass jars on a wooden rack, called Wild Berry. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it. It is made here in Ohio, and it is very good.

Although the incense is very good, and I still stock it, this post is actually about the wooden display racks that I inherited from that little shop that went out of business.

I don't prefer to display my incense in open jars, because of the overwhelming smell and because of people who don't know how to put incense sticks back in the jar where they found it, and because I'm not interested in selling sticks one at a time. I pre-bag my sticks and hang them on a spinner rack.  So I ended up re-purposing my two wooden racks to display other items. I scraped off the Wild Berry logo decal and stained them a darker color, to better fit with the store's decor. They are very nice little racks, and I like them a lot, but I needed one more. I like using one over by the window sitting on the main counter, but I need two over at my new incense station across the room (as it turns out, they also fit the cartons of HEM brand incense really well too). I could have bought another one from Wild Berry, but they are a little expensive. They seemed to be a fairly simple design, so I decided to see if I could replicate it.

I actually have room for two and a half of them over at the new incense station, so I figured, if I am going to make one, I may as well make an extra long one, then use one of my existing racks at the window, leaving me with a spare!

I don't have a lot of pics from this build, because I didn't really plan on documenting it. I took most of the  pictures after the things was built, and was being stained and finished.

The side walls and rear brace on the originals were made of solid oak. I used 3/4" cabinet grade plywood for my side walls and a piece of 2-by scrap for the rear brace. The vertical faces were made from 1/4" Luan plywood. I don't remember exactly, but I think my shelf bottoms were also made from the 3/4" plywood. I used pocket holes to lock the shelf bottoms and rear brace to the sides, and I used wood glue and pin nails on the rest.

The fabrication of the parts went pretty smoothly, but the assembly and glue-up was a bitch. I probably needed to make some sort of jig to hold the shelves in place as I put it together. I know that doesn't make much sense to any of you, since you can't see the assembly method, but, take my word for it. It needed a jig.

I also had a bit of trouble with the stain. I made the mistake of applying a coat of shellac before the stain, thinking I needed a sanding sealer (which is just dewaxed shellac) to help get even absorption. What I actually needed was pre-stain, not sanding sealer. Oops! Afterwards, the wood didn't want to take the stain at all! I couldn't get even absorption on all the pieces so it looked kind of ridiculous. I ended up basically painting it with stain mixed with shellac to get some color on there. At least no one will really be able to see it when it is in place and loaded up with incense.