Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tools of the Trade

So, I recently started getting into wood turning (see my post about my first batch of Magic Wands), and that has lead to a general interest in wood working. I've been watching a LOT of videos on woodworking and wood turning lately, and two things have jumped out at me from them. One- use good quality materials. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Two- use the right tool for the job.  There are tons of specialty tools out there, designed to make your work easier and better. Some you have to buy, but some you can make yourself.

The first tool I made for myself to help with my wood working is this cross-cut sled for the table saw. It is large and simple, and it gets the job done. It hold the work piece securely and perpendicular to the blade for cross-cutting boards. It's also good for ripping pieces of ply-wood to keep them square. That doesn't sound like much, but it is a huge help and goes a long way towards improving the quality of work produced.

The cross-cut sled is nice, but it is big and bulky. I really only need something that big when cutting larger material. I also wanted a much smaller sled for dealing with smaller pieces. The first project I did with this sled ended up being small boxes for holding candles at my shop, so the sled got purposed into a box joint jig by the addition of a little wooden spacer glued to the bed. I will probably take the spacer off eventually, and make a few box joint jig templates with built in spacers of different sizes that can be interchanged to be used with this sled.

My lathe came with a 6" tool rest, that has a flat edge. I would prefer a rounded edge, so that the tools slide on it easier. I have already had to use a file on my tool rest, twice, to smooth out the top. The chisels keep  putting nicks in the top edge, which makes them catch and not slide smoothly down the work piece. I also wanted a longer tool rest, so that I could rough out a typical wand blank in two passes instead of having to reposition the tool rest at least three times. I found a long round topped tool rest at a lumber yard tool center, but it was $50. Then one day I stumbled upon several 5' lengths of stainless steel 3/4" round stock that my dad had buried in the back of his workshop. I cut off a 10" length and welded it to a large bolt that was the right diameter and would fit into my tool rest stand. Huzzah! a $50 long round topped tool rest made for free from found parts in about an hour and a half. It would have been faster, but I spend a lot of time gouging out a flat indent on the round stock so that the head of the bold would fit into it and give me more surface to weld.

My most recent home made tool is a wood working mallet. There are a lot of times, especially when working with wood, when you need a hammer like object, but a regular hammer will mar your work piece. You can use a rubber mallet, but sometimes they just aren't hard or heavy enough for what you need. Enter the wooden mallet. There are several designs, each better suited for a specific job,  but I like the square block style for a general purpose mallet, and if I find that I need one of those other styles, I can easily make them myself too.

For this mallet, I used a block of ash wood for the head, and an old hammer handle for the handle. I didn't want to mess around with trying to make an oblong mortise in the ash block, so I turned the tip of the handle round on the lathe, then fit it into a 3/4" hole drilled through the head. The hardest part was squaring up the rough block into the shape of the head. With no flat sides or square faces as a reference, it was hard to get squared up. It still isn't perfect, but it is good enough for a mallet. I put a slight bevel on the front and rear faces of the block (the striking surfaces), so that as you swing the hammer in a arc, the hammer face falls flat. I also chamfered the edges all the way around to help prevent splintering. The handle fit pretty snugly, but I used a wedge anyway. I wanted the top to look smooth, so I went for a wooden wedge, acting like a wedged tenon joint. I cut a slit in the tip of the handle with the band saw, drilled a small hole at the base of the slit to prevent further splitting, and drove the handle into the head. The tip of the handle stuck out a little bit. I hammered a thin wedge of scrap ash into the slit to secure the handle in even more tightly. I was hoping to then cut the tip, with the wedge, off smooth with the top, and the wedge would just look like a stripe of light colored wood running through the dark colored handle, but the wedge broke off a little below the surface as I was hammering it. It works, but now the tip of the handle is smooth with the top of the head, but the wedge is jagged and recessed. Maybe I will put some wood filler in there. I finished the new mallet with a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil.

I'm tempted to get out the dremel and carve some Nordic symbols on the side faces to make it look like Thor's hammer. Maybe if I get really bored some day.

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