This is the current page, posts from 11/15/18 through today. Older posts -
Last time I was at the shop I proposed taking a couple of projects home to finish. Joe was agreeable, and they have given me a chance to do some productive work while social distancing at home. We are not under "shelter in place" in Winston-Salem yet, which I attribute partly to the quick actions of the city government in closing down restaurants, bars, and non-essential services, and partly to the stolid nature of the old Moravian stock, many of whom practice social distancing in all times, good and bad. So far, we have very few cases of Covid-19 in the Triad, with most of the North Carolina outbreak concentrated in Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte. But even so, I have cut my own grocery store trips and made an effort to stay home as much as possible. It has been nice to be able to spend some time each day on shop work.
In front is the burl-inlay cherry box. The inside of the lid is almost as spectacular as the outside. The cherry wood is from a lot I bought at Wall Lumber a while back. It is essentially "trash" wood, narrow boards with knots, splits, rough edges and internal stresses, things that make it hard to work and less desirable to professional cabinetmakers trying to make production. On the other hand, this kind of wood has better figure than straight-grained stock, and we like figure.
Behind is a tray to hold up to three half-gallon bottles of liquor. This will wedge into an area on my boat and prevent the bottles from ending up on the cabin sole when we are making to weather. Joe refers to this tray as "the liquor cabinet". Clearly the Cruzan stock is running low, this second week of social distancing. But the ABC is still open, and I'll make a visit soon. The local ABC has gone back to something I never expected to see again, counter service. You go to the door, tell them what you want, and they bring it to the front for you. In the meantime, I will break into the Luksusowa.
Cherry box with burl inlay top. The first coat of thinned finish has been rubbed on.
A box top with cherry burl inlay. It needs a little more filling and sanding, then it will be ready to be finished and hinged onto the box. The polyurethane finish will intensify the colors and contrast.
Back in August of 2015 we built a rack to hold my computer and external hard drives. It has served its purpose well, and ought to hold up long after the electronics are gone. I have to conjecture that in 50 years someone will look at it and wonder what it was for. The mini-ITV motherboard format that the Shuttle is built around was considered very small for the time, but my next machine will probably fit in one of the hard drive bays, or just plug in to a port on the hub of whatever flavor of USB is running by then.
The Toughbook box with five coats of spar varnish and a lid support. It's ready to take to the boat with me next time I go, but there are a couple more details for when we have time. It needs a slot for the power cable to pass through when the lid is closed, and it needs a handle. I may also glue in some padding so the computer can't slide around inside the box.
I am setting up a Panasonic Toughbook as a chart plotter on my boat. As sturdy and weather-resistant as these machines are, a little extra protection is worth having in a marine environment. We built this box out of locust to hold the Toughbook. It is finished with a coat of penetrating epoxy, and I am in the process of layering five coats of Minwax Spar Urethane over that to provide UV protection. We will add a handle and a lid support hinge later, for now I need to get the box finished so it can go to the boat for the next trip.
Locust is not known as an especially attractive wood, but Joe and I both disagree with that assessment. The logs we processed to get our stock had been laying on the ground for perhaps 10 years and there might be some mild spalting contributing to the figure. We also purposely left some saw burns in the wood for visual interest. Locust is high in silica content and very hard, thus the circular saw leaves a lot of burns. Even so, it splits, planes and sands easily (planes with a Stanley bench plane, that is - it would probably be the dickens on a power planer). So, once past stock preparation, a pleasant wood to work.
Our friend Mark cut down a cherry tree on his property a while back and saved some burl wood for us. Today we started sawing off 1/4 inch slabs that can be used for inlay. This should make for some spectacular box tops. The figure will pop once a coat of finish goes on it.
After a year of work, this cherry case, the lower part of a kitchen hutch, is almost complete.
A couple of kitchen mallets, yellow locust heads and maple dowel handles. Joe milled the points on his new router table.
The first time Lars got the wheel off the truck we glued it back on. The next time, I epoxied it to make sure it didn't come off again. This time he broke it off at the axle.
An early project from December 2013, this small tool tote that we made for Levi and Marie is holding up fine. I went into it yesterday, for a screwdriver to replace a cover plate on an electrical outlet. Lars and Lex break things playing and Levi is a complete klutz at fixing them. It's a convenience to me to have a set of household tools all in one place when I make repairs.
Joe worked up a few of these medal holders out of bits of nice wood left over from other projects.
This exceptionally well-preserved old Stanley Bailey #4 came from an antique mall in central Florida. It's not too often you find a deal on a bench plane any more, since everyone can see what they sell for on Ebay, but I got quite a deal on this one - $30.50, including tax. Maybe the seller wasn't able to make the identification that this is a desirable Type 11, made sometime between 1910 and 1918, even though the three patent dates, low front knob, and small adjuster nut are a dead giveaway. It's a real beauty, with a gorgeous rosewood tote. The only defect is some slight gouging on the back of the mouth that I hopefully can clean up with a file. I'm looking forward to giving this plane a good fettling and putting it to work at the shop.
OK, Joe convinced me. If you include crates, we have probably built about 200 boxes and crates. We counted at least 20 in use in the shop, 5 more waiting for disposition, and I'm sure Marcia has 20 or so upstairs. I counted 13 more at my house. We have given away boxes by the dozens to friends and family. They have been big sellers at the charity auctions. So, yes, it could well be. And we're not done yet. Just the other day we milled out enough locust and pine to start another production run of 8x10 slide tops. I'm thinking of changing the name of this website to The Box Factory at Joe's Basement.
Joe thinks we have made 200 boxes, which seems outlandish to me. I think maybe more like 100. Here is a small box out of cherry scraps, offcuts and resaws, to hold an assortment of necessities for light sewing jobs - scissors, seam ripper, screwdriver, seam tape, pins, needles and such. It's easier to keep these commonly-used items together in one place instead of having to hunt through boxes of supplies. I asked Marcia what kind of things she would keep together for light jobs like putting in hems, fixing open seams, turning collars and jobs like that. Her list was much longer than mine - in fact, if we make her a box for them, it will be more on the lines of a steamer trunk.
We got a vast amount of work done today, including but not limited to: building a raised floor to go in my boat to accomodate a composting head; insetting hinges on a set of doors to go on a kitchen hutch; putting the last touches on a whole series of boxes to get them ready for finishing; and constructing a new cross-piece for the d-handle of a narrow-bladed spade. Our friend Mark brought in the spade and Joe turned the cross-piece out of locust. Mark took the picture of Joe at the lathe.
A wheel came off the Smith Bros. road tractor so it had to go into the shop. It will be an easy repair and the rig should be back in service by next week.
A quick project, dividers for a drawer that goes under the settee on my boat. They will make it easier to organize electrical tools and supplies.
Some recent projects: a Sellers Bench in oak that Joe built; and two joint efforts, a cherry slide-top box and a small poplar tray. The first two will probably be donated for a benefit sale, while the tray will hold a collection of old photographic slides taken by PATH member Gordon Burgess.
One of our first projects was a small dining table for Marie and Levi that we delivered early in 2014. Lars was born a few months later, so it has always been in his home. Here we see him sitting at the table after school doing homework, under Levi's watchful eye.
A big slide top box for storing the PATH photographic archives of Gordon Burgess and David Emrey.
A while back I had the idea to make a 12 volt LED light fixture to use on my boat. We made a quick and dirty model which I tried out last time I was aboard, and it worked nicely. Now Joe has made a much improved model with a better switch and the bulb shielded in a box. A sheet of frosted plastic will slide over the front to cut glare. I'm going to suggest lining the light box with aluminum foil to get more light intensity.
It's usually worth spending a few minutes making a jig or fixture that will let you do routine tasks quicker. We made a gauge for the table saw so we could set up dadoes without having to get out the setup blocks or try to read measurements from a ruler. The gauge works for 1/8th, 1/4th, 3/8th and 1/2 inch dadoes. To use it, you crank the sawblade down, then set the gauge slot over the blade. Then raise the blade until it touches the top of the slot. Then bring the fence over until it pushes the blade to the edge of the slot. Remove the gauge and make the first cut. Then put the gauge back over the blade, back off the fence and set the gauge to the other side of the slot, bring the fence over and make the second cut. Now the two edges of the dado are established and it is just a matter of plowing out the center with repeated cuts (we don't have a dado stack). We tried it today and found it fast, easy and accurate.
Joe's current side project is this set of slide top boxes for the twins. They will have felt-lined trays for the girls' chips and enough room at the end for a pack of cards and a pearl-handled Derringer. The girls are avid poker players. Faith is methodical and careful, Hope is an outrageous bluffer. Both are dead-eye shots at close range.
We built this little power pack out of locust with the bottom and slide top of plexiglass. We measured it to hold an array of ten AA batteries to provide 12-13 volts from rechargeables. Somehow we lost a sixteenth here and a sixteenth there, and the array, a six-pack and a pair of two-packs, wouldn't quite fit in the completed box. I chiseled a bit out of the inside of one end, but it was still tight. After I looked at it later in the day, the answer was obvious - turn the two-packs sideways. That left plenty of room. That done, I installed two 1/4 x 1 coarse-thread bolts (a standard bolt size on the boat) to use as attachment points for the battery leads. They extend through the case and can provide power for appliances with alligator clip leads. I added another set of leads through holes in the case to an XT60 terminal. The three battery packs are velcroed into the case.
Attached to the power pack is a 12 volt LED lamp that we built for a utility light on the boat. The 3 watt LED draws about a quarter of an amp and provides equivalent light to a 30 watt incandescent bulb. The power pack should provide about 2 amp hours so that would run the light for 8 hours.
Mark had one more big locust log that he saved off his burn pile for us. We decided to split it on site to make it easier to handle. We started a split in the end and then worked wedges in all along the side until it came apart. Locust is straight-grained so it wasn't too hard, though Joe worked up a sweat and broke several wooden wedges after he decided that my slow and steady stroke was taking too long and took control of the maul. In this picture Mark looks on with interest while Joe has just thrown down the maul and is getting ready to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. We then split the two halves and got four lengths that were manageable for handling. We loaded them in my truck and retired to the shade of a big catalpa tree to enjoy a round of IPAs.
Glue-up. The weight keeps the whole mess from flipping off the table due to the overhanging clamps. Joe and Marcia go to a lot of yard sales and pick up weights any time they find them for a reasonable price. We find a lot of uses for them in the shop - in addition to keeping things in place on the table, a stack of them will flatten a warped or cupped board over time, or apply pressure to a glue joint that can't be clamped.
How about combining a little 12 volt electrical with woodworking? My boat runs on 12 volts, Marcia and Joe's RV does too. LED lights are way more frugal of battery power than incandescents or fluorescents. 12 volts DC are benign, they generally won't kill you the way 120 AC will. So I drew up a rough sketch of a 12 volt LED light that could be velcro-ed anywhere on a boat or RV that was close enough to a hot lead and a ground to drop a jumper. We used two pieces of scrap walnut to build a block with the insides chiseled and drilled out to fit a socket, a switch and two wires. We had a bit of trouble soldering the hot wire from the socket to the switch, melting two switch bodies with a gun, but once I hit it with a proper iron, smooth sailing. I think the gun produced so little heat that by the time it got the prong warm enough to melt solder the heat had migrated all the way up into the plastic switch case. Once the switch was wired in, I glued the two sides together (no clamp, had to wrap it with masking tape until the glue set), hit it with four coats of spray-on poly, and potted the exit hole for the wires with shoe goo. Then for the test - I jumpered it to a 12 volt car battery and it lit up. It's a good prototype, it works and I think it will serve to illuminate the wretched tight engine compartment on my boat, saving me from having to hold a flashlight in my teeth when I am working on the A-4.
The Atomic 4 engine on my boat sits under a linoleum-topped counter just below the companionway. It runs better when it is cool, so I usually remove the counter to give it some air. No matter how well things are stowed, they start flying around in heavy weater, and sometimes end up down in the engine well. We built a hardware cloth screen to replace the counter when the engine is running. That should allow for air circulation while keeping random items off the engine. I still need to paint it since the location under the companionway means it will catch some rain and spray in bad weather.
Sometimes when it is hard to position clamps, weights can be substituted. The panels in the doors for the cherry hutch we are building are essentially home-made plywood, three layers of 1/8 inch wood stacked and glued. Our hope is that this will prevent the doors from warping. Since we don't have clamps with deep enough throats to reach the center of the panels, we weighted them down to get a good glue seal. We have gradually accumulated a number of weights. Joe recently helped Marcia clear out one of her rent houses and found a substantial number of them.
One of our early projects was this Japanese Toolbox, built in cypress. We finished it in October 2014. I use it to carry galley supplies to my boat on the coast. It has made the round trip at least 35 times. Despite getting slammed around in the back of the truck or trunk of the car, tossed from the dock to the boat, and slid across the cabin sole in heavy weather, it's still in solid condition. There is almost no glue in it, just in the rabbet joints between the ends and the bottom. All the other joints are butted together and held with big cut nails. That allows the wood to move. I'm not too concerned about wood movement in furniture that stays in modern climate-controlled houses, but this box that sees extremes of temperature and humidity needs to be able to flex and give, else it will tear itself apart at the joints. We had it in the shop for a few day, giving it a fresh coat of poly as the original finish was starting to wear in a few places. Now it is as good as new - not the same as new, but just as good. The wood has darkened with age and the box has many scrapes and dents, but it is still just as solid as when we built it.
Joe built this step-stool for Marcia's sister RoseMarie while I was off sailing for several weeks. The back legs fold into the front so it stands flat for storage. It is built out of salvage oak and is very sturdy and stable. I know that when Joe delivers it at the Hudson family reunion, more people are going to want one, but he says he won't build any more. We'll see.
Joe pieced together wood from a couple of old furniture items that he parted out to make this stool. The lathe is set a little low for Joe's height, and he half-sits on the stool to get himself slightly lower, so he doesn't have to hunch over his work. He tells me it is much more comfortable - enough so that he thinks he will do more turning in the future.
We worked again today and finished this crate, among other things. It is made of 3/8th inch battens cut off the edges of offcuts and boards with a lot of rot and nail holes (scrap heart pine from Mark's burn pile). We can pick out decent lengths of 10 and 16 inches to glue up as panels, and then rabbet the edges to drop in the sides and bottoms. It's a good use for wood that otherwise would be fire scrap. I find the 10x16x7 inch crates to be very handy for storage.
We finally got to do some shopwork yesterday, after a three-week spell of first me, then Joe and Marcia, being out of town. Joe has taken on a project for Marcia's sister, a folding step-stool, to be built out of some straight-grained oak salvaged from an old bedframe. We looked at his drawing, discussed a few design details, and then glued up panels. We left them to dry and did a couple of small projects, things I need for the boat. We built a pair of bookends to go on two irregularly-shaped shelves at the front end of the saloon, and a measuring device for getting angles where the corner is rounded, not square. Then we resawed some cherry to make panels for the doors in Marie's hutch. The panels will be three-ply and drop into rabbets in the door frame. This should help insure against the doors warping. Finally, we put a coat of Waterlok on the boat projects. We'd usually let the glue set overnight before finishing, but again we are pressed for time as I get ready to go back to Edenton. We should be able to get in one more day of shopwork later this week when we can put a second coat of finish on the items.
We built the rocker for Lars back in February 2016. He sat in it today while he examined bugs he found in the grass.
The two Sellers benches that Joe has been working on got first coats of finish today.
While I was in Florida, Joe cut out two more Sellers benches, in cherry and pine. We glued them up yesterday. Here is one ready for final sanding and finishing and the second still in the clamps. These are going to a Firefighters auction in July.
The city is having its annual bulky item pickup this month and I found some desk drawers along the side of the road that looked too good to go to the dump. At the shop, we removed the pulls and put them in the hardware box. Later, Joe broke down the drawers into constituent pieces, from which he built the pictured crate.
Here is a photo of the toy box that we made a couple of months ago and the joy it has brought. This truly makes the effort worthwhile.
When we first started the shop, we made three wooden mallets. The first was Thor, the second was Junior, and the third never acquired a name. In my opinion, Junior is the optimal shop mallet configuration. Since we have copious supplies of locust, an ideal wood for making tools, we decided to make a couple more mallets patterned on Junior. While Junior has a white oak head, the new ones have locust, and all have maple handles. So here we have a picture of Junior, Junior II and Junior III. One of the new ones will go to our friend Mark, who has endowed us with much good salvage wood, including the locust.
Now and then I like to check up on things that came out of the shop. This toy box is one that Joe made for Lars a while back. When it's not full of toys, Lars likes to push Lex around the house in it.
A couple of step-stools in front of the heart pine bench show the basic design relationship. I drew the initial design to allow for a quick, simple step-stool to be built from 3 linear feet of construction grade 1x12. It is very similar to a Sellers Bench, but lower, smaller, proportionally wider, with a dropped stringer. Since the first two, from February 2016, we have built them in several sizes and woods, and now scaled up as a bench.
First project with the heart pine that we saved off Mark's burn pile. It's glued up and ready to sand and finish. We don't often get a chance to work with this kind of heavy stock, 1 1/2 inches thick.
A friend offered us some old planks that he had obtained years ago for a project that went by the wayside. I took an offcut to the shop for us to examine. We found the wood to be heart pine, in good condition. Heart pine is the slow-growing heartwood of longleaf pine. All the old stock has been harvested, so no more is coming to market. The only sources are salvage and dredging up old logs from the bottom of rivers. I told Mark we would take whatever he wanted to give us. He was getting ready to put it on his burn pile and was willing for us to take it all.
We ended up with several good planks, six to eight feet long, nominal 2x8 and 2x6. All had nails, but they were in regular patterns and easy to find. Most of the nails were corroded and loose. We cleaned the nails out of a couple of planks and will get to the others as time allows.
It's not often that we get our hands on this kind of heavy stock. A lot of it will get milled down for boxes, but we hope to use some to build a substantial trestle bench modeled on the step-stools we have been building, scaled-up and lengthened.
Along with the pine we brought home another large chunk of locust. That made a truckload. There is more locust that we will get later, a couple of big logs. We will probably try to split it into halves or quarters on the spot as it is almost too heavy to move.
Today we delivered a set of shelves to our friend Dee. We never sell anything or charge for our work, but when someone offers us lunch we don't turn it down. Pastrami and Provolone on rye, toasted and spiced up with German mustard, with a cup of fresh-brewed strong coffee (I took mine with molasses and cream). Dee is one of the best cooks I know. She cares enough to take the time and effort to turn out something good, even just for a quick lunch.
The first project we did in the woodshop, back in September 2013, was a set of shelves for Marie's room, back when she lived at my house. Since then, we built her another to go in the house she and her husband Levi bought after they got married. We built one for Levi's sister, Sally, and maybe another one or two others. We have built so many of these bookshelves that we're getting really fast at them. This one took less than three hours, if you don't include the time spent picking up the wood from Home Depot. This is just the kind of thing we wanted to make when we started the woodshop - solid, simple, inexpensive furniture for friends and family. I'm glad we have been able to stick to this vision, with the worthwhile addition of making lots of things for the firemen's and burn survivors' groups to auction to raise money for their projects.
A friend was getting ready to burn a pile of old 2 x 8s in his backyard and told us we could have them if they were of any use for woodworking. I took a piece back to the shop and we milled it into 1 1/2 x 3/8 inch slats. It was heart pine in excellent shape. I emailed him and asked him to keep it back from the burn pile and we would take it all.
He also had a few old trunks of yellow locust that had lain around a neighbor's yard for years, then around his yard, which he offered to us. I took a section home to see if we could work it. First we split it down into quarters and then we flattened two sides of a quarter with a plane, enough to get it to ride through the table saw without wobbling. We milled out a 1 1/4 x 1 3/8 inch stick that I will use to build some cleats for my boat. We will probably mill some slats and also some blocks for mallet heads. We will also try turning it. If we can cut it on the lathe, it would make excellent tool handles and dowels. Like the pine planks, I asked him to hold on to all of it for us.
Even though we don't sell anything, (we give things to friends and to charity sales) we still call it payday when we have several things to finish at once. Today we brushed polyurethane on two slide-top boxes, a step-stool and a set of shelves. The shelves are for our friend Dee. She once gave us a beautiful old-growth yellow pine board. We won't forget that generous and perceptive act. The step-stool is for Marcia's grand-daughters, so they can reach the top shelf in the bathroom. The slide-top boxes will go to a charity sale, perhaps.
In the background, behind the steady stream of boxes, crates and totes, we usually have a major project. Last October we started on a kitchen hutch for Marie. The base is coming along, and then we will build a set of shelves to go on top. It is in cherry, mortise and tenons with floating panels. The cherry is easy to work. It's not surprising that it has been a favorite wood for American furniture makers for many years. This is a complex, difficult project for us, and it is taking a lot of time. Today we managed to glue up the case and get the lower shelf installed, which feels like a real breakthrough. I told Joe we should have it finished by Christmas. I hope we finish it long before then.
This box is something Joe has been working on for quite a while, and as of today it is finished - although he will rub a coat or two of wax on it once the polyurethane finish is thoroughly cured. It is made of mahogany that he found - free - on craisgslist. The top design is laminated mahogany and maple on a mahogany base. He plans to donate it for sale or auction to benefit the firefighters through his burn survivor group. A lot of work out of the shop goes there.
I have many albums of prints that were taken by my friend Gordon Burgess. The pictures document the work of Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers maintaining the Appalachian Trail in southwest Virginia. I have posted scans of hundreds of these pictures in an ongoing project to preserve the images and the club history they document. As far as I can determine, Gordon shot mostly Kodacolor, but he would have slides made from some of the negatives and present slide shows at club events. The slides were all stored in Kodak Carousel rotary trays. I think the days of slide shows have passed, since digitized images can easily be displayed on big-screen TVs and monitors. The trays are bulky and hard to store, so I decided to pass them on to Goodwill. Perhaps an antiquarian or Luddite photographer might find them there and get some use from them. I'm not quite ready to throw away the slides, so Joe and I built a slide-top box to hold them for long-term storage.
We had some nice cherry off-cuts, scraps and resaws from a project. We used them to cut out and glue up parts for two standard 8x10 slide-top boxes. When we were done, we found that we had enough left over to build another box of about 4x6 inches out of second-order scrap. What was left we threw in the fire so we didn't get stuck in an endless recursive loop of building smaller and smaller boxes.
I'm working on a side project at home, a model of a New York pilot cutter from the 1870s. I started it years ago but quickly decided I was in over my head and set it aside. After working in the woodshop for several years I felt I had built up enough skills and confidence to proceed, so I got it back out and resumed work. So far it is going good. The hull is almost finished and the next step will be the deck houses and fittings, then on to the masts and rigging. While much of the hull work is best done with the model in hand, the later steps are easier with the boat right side up in a cradle. So we built one at the shop out of scrap wood. Once the model is finished we will build a permanent stand out of some nicer stock.
Joe built this laminated fishing net for his occasional trout-fishing trip on the Watauga River near Boone. It is very similar to one I built at Dale's shop 40 years ago.
Here are a couple of projects that I have completed for some friends. The maple cutting board is for D'Ann, the ends are tongue and groove so to stave off splitting, and the pine toy box is for Liz's new baby daughter. I used the stacked alternating corner method that we have had so much success with and there is no top to pinch fingers. I welcome requests sometimes as I lack inspiration frequently.
This simple, small box came out nicely. We fitted the hardware and rubbed on a final coat of finish today. It will probably go to one of the charity auctions next year.
This box is one of Joe's projects, though I had the pleasure of helping with it today. It is made of mahogany that Joe found on Craigslist, free from a man who had some left over from a project. Now, a lot of things are called mahogany these days, very few of which are the traditional Cuban or Honduran mahogany, the furniture wood of choice in America and England during the Colonial period heyday of fine furniture. Cuban and Honduran mahogany are endangered species that are almost unobtainable these days. Sapele, Luaun, Utile, all are marketed as mahogany. The closest thing to traditional mahogany is African mahogany, which is in the same genus and has many of the same characteristics. My guess is that this box is made from African mahogany. This wood is beautiful, with attractive grain and color, and is very easily worked. We are lucky to have a chance to use it, since it is under heavy pressure itself, and will probably become endangered in our lifetimes.
This box is getting an inlaid top with ash as the light wood. Joe had completed constructing the bottom and sides as well as the sub-base for the top. Today we started cutting and glueing the inlays onto the base.
This is the current page, posts from 11/15/18 through today. Older posts -
Copyright © 2018, 2019 Paul M. Clayton
Email us at woodshopatjoesbasement
Copyright © 2018, 2019 Paul M. Clayton