Monday, December 30, 2013

New years resolution

I took the opportunity after my last project to clean out the workshop.  I emptied all the crap in out into the back yard with the idea of cleaning out the workshop from top to bottom but was shocked at the volume of scrap I have.  I briefly considered throwing out every off cut under six inches but there were too many nice pieces.  There was no option but to start using those scraps for the projects I had planned.  First project off the rank was a set of Steve Ramsay train whistles. An enjoyable little project which took a couple of attempts to work but resulted in some nice toys to give away.

PS - Yes that is an unfinished 14 foot canoe in the background.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In praise of pine

I have used hoop pine a lot over the years for all sorts of projects.  It is light and strong and good quality boards are readily available thanks to well established plantations.  I have sometimes struggled, however, to achieve a good finish.  It is a very pale wood which is not the most visually appealing for furniture.  Very old pine furniture tends to develop a very nice, mellow, golden colour.  There is no question that the best treatment for new pine furniture is paint.  I have had some success trying to apply an aged or distressed finish but I have also had some disasters applying stain.  Hoop pine seems to bring out all the artificial colour from a stain.  For this project I have tried to create an aged patina starting with several rubbed coats of linseed oil.  I have then stippled and wiped a stain to create and interesting colour and texture.  It is finished with several coats of wax.  I am happy with the finish and I think it will improve as the linseed oil darkens.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I have been putting the finishing touches to a warping mill for Mrs Tinkerer when I popped down to the local hardware to buy some 1/4 inch BSW wing nuts only to find that they don't stock them because there is no demand.  What is the world coming to and what does the world use to fasten a light frame assembly without tools?  Back in the workshop I pulled out one of my small hole saws and cut blanks out of some scrap.  Drilled a clearance hole for my 1/4 inch coach bolt and a counterbore with an interference fit for a standard 1/4 inch BSW nut.  I then pressed a standard nut into the wood and rounded over the edges on the router table with a jig to keep my fingers away from the cutter.

The warping mill has been an interesting project because I have never seen a warping mill let alone know how it is used.  I have had to learn a bit about weaving to be able to make a usable device.  The mill is similar in function to a the warping board I made earlier in the year but is capable of preparing a warp for a much much bigger weaving project.  I set up at least three prototypes with bits of wood and G clamps and tried to wind a warp before I was confident I could build the final unit.  One prototype idea that made it to the final version was to mount the mill on the back of two standard chairs rather than build a frame which needed to be stored when not in use.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

South Channel Fort and Pile Light

It was a fairly late start launching at Rye at about 3.30pm but a steady south westerly kept us going almost all day.  The first point of interest was the South Channel Pile Light built in 1874 to guide ships through the narrow South Channel.  The light house was manned until 1925 but now is occupied by seals and sea birds.  We reached the South Channel Fort by 5pm and sat down for a cuppa and a walk around the island.  The South Channel Island is a man made island built during the 1880's as part of Port Phillip's strategic defence network to protect the colony against Russian aggression. The wind shift and incoming tide took us further up the coast that we would have liked leaving us a slow tack up the coast to come in at about 7.30pm.  Three hours at the helm brings my total to 143 hours.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A folding table

The second quick project is a small folding table for Mrs Tinkerers table loom.  Examples of this design are all over the web and I have never really understood how they would go together so I have been wanting to make one for a while.  This example has been adjusted so that the loom sits quite low compared to a normal table height but the dimensions are good for a table 700m high by 800mm wide.  The four longer members are 900mm long with a pivot dowel at the mid pint (450mm) and 30mm from one end.  The shorter four members are 600mm long.  There is only one longer length of dowel and 4 short lengths.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The tinkerers tool stool

Just when I had resigned myself to padding and polishing all summer to finish my wardrobe, Mrs Tinkerer has requested a number of simple projects to support her new interests in weaving.  This is a golden opportunity to move scrap from my workshop to the house so I'm not going to let it go.  First project off the rank is a low bench so that Mrs. Tinker can work at her new floor loom without having to constantly stoop over.  Generally with these type of jobs I prefer to whip something up out of scrap and use it rather than labour over the design details.  If it proves useful and usable I can recreate the design in exotic timber with fine joinery at a later date.

I have had the idea of making a pair of tool stools in the form of a scaled down six board blanket chest since the rash of bloggers who started making and writing about the English and Dutch tool chests.  My theory is that two smaller and lighter boxes would be easier to move around and be more useful as saw horses.  These two his and hers stools are 36 inches 18 inches high and 10 inches wide.  Hers will be used to store spools and shuttles until I can recreate it with fine joinery.  Mine will be fitted with a saw till and screwdriver rack.  The tops are pinned in place with 1/4 inch coach bolt and have a hand hold in the center so they can be easily moved around.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Major milestone for Abe

With the addition of doors and knobs the construction phase of the project is complete.  By far the most challenging job so far was to turn eight IDENTICAL knobs on my spindle lathe.  Under normal circumstances this would be the project where I upgrade to a lathe with a scroll chuck but I am trying to work to a budget this time round.  There has been a lot of free hand filing and sanding to shape the knobs but in the end I identified matched pairs and allocated them to specific locations so you can't notice any major differences (don't tell any one).

The next job is to pull it all apart, sand, stain and apply finish.  If I don't surface before Christmas it will be because I'm still sanding.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Drawers, dovetails and diversions

The last little while I have been focusing on constructing the drawers for my armoire.  The drawers have half blind dovetails set into the fronts and through dovetails at the back, so as you might imagine, it has been a bit time consuming.  They are reasonably large drawers so I have made them with 7mm ply to avoid saggy bottoms.

Part of the inspiration for this build came from an article in an April 2011 Fine Woodworking article by Christian Becksvoort.  In the article titled "Classic Shaker Cupboard", Becksvoort suggests a central drawer guide to keep wide drawers in line.  His idea is a grooved center strip fitted on top of a center stile with a dowel sunk into the back of the drawer to run in the groove.  I have simplified this slightly with a central runner screwed to the front and back frame rail and two lugs screwed into the drawer back to keep the drawer running true.  The central runner is set back from the front of the frame rail and doubles as the drawer stop.  Initial trials seem to suggest the arrangements work very well but I guess I need to wait to see how it holds up over the coming years before I start promoting the idea.

In the mean time I had started to turn handles from a scrap of NZ beech when my trusty, el cheapo, second hand lathe went up in a puff of smoke.   Many thanks to Mr wash fix from ebay for the replacement starter cap and the quick service.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Abe stands on his own feet

Abraham the armoire is starting to develop some character.  The carcass work is complete and I have built a  base and crown which locate on the carcass without any fasteners.  Compared to what I see in the furniture shops this wardrobe stands fairly tall at 2.15m and is quite an imposing sight.  I wanted to be able to move it without any fragile protuberances so the base and crown can be separated and moved independently.  All the timber has been bought and the material cost is about $550 which, unfortunately, means that I can't beat the Swedish flatpack alternative "Hemnes" at $399.

Next job is to construct the drawers.
I wonder what the Swedish word for half blind dovetails is?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tinkerers portable workbench system

I had a comment last week about the low worktable my wardrobe was sitting on.  Regular readers may remember that I was given an old flatpack kitchen earlier in the year.  It sat stacked in the middle of my workshop for months.  Most of my chessboard build was done on that stack of melamine chipboard and I have to say it was perfect for the job.  It was a durable, smooth, flat surface and was infinitely adjustable buy taking boards on and off the stack.  It was decided then.  I would build an auxiliary workbench.

So here it is.  I call it my Josh Finn, Ron Paulk, Garry Smith inspired Tinkerers portable workbench system.  It is basically a standardized set of beams and boxes which stack together.  The boxes are a foot and a half long and I have pairs of five and eight foot beams.  All the components are one foot square which means they are light enough to move single handed but plenty strong enough to sit stand and work on without any deflection.  The boxes have cleats which help them nest like a set of Lego.  The beams have two flat faces and two faces with access holes and flanges.  I have been surprised at how stable they are simply stacked but for any tinkering jobs that require big hammers I generally clamp them together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The challenge

Mrs Tinkerer recently requested a new wardrobe ... with doors ... for the spare room.  I personally don't see the functional value of doors on wardrobes.  They obscure the view of whats inside and they take up space when you open them.  My chipboard, stackable, "storage solutions" I made in a weekend when we moved in eight years ago worked well, I thought.  Never the less, I was happy to accompany Mrs Tinkerer to our local Swedish flat pack showroom along with every other Melbournian one Sunday afternoon.  I don't mind looking at furniture show rooms because I usually come away with some good ideas.  One "wardrobe" on display for $59 was like a tent for clothes with a zip fronted door.  Probably great for long term camping.  The cheapest wardrobe under consideration for our spare room was called "Hemnes" and was $399.  I liked the name but it was made from something resembling cardboard.

"I could make something better than that" I said.
"If it has doors then go ahead" said Mrs Tinkerer.

Back home "Abraham" the armoire was sketched roughly with a face frame, two doors and three wide drawers at the base.  In an effort to keep the cost down I have used radiata pine frame and 4mm ply panels along with a selection of various timbers from my vast timber store otherwise known as the scrap pile.  The carcass face and all the visible trim will be finished in hoop pine.  To date I have spent $380 and I have yet to buy material for the doors and drawers.  My big miscalculation was the waste from a sheet of ply.  The back frame has two ply panels cut from one sheet but the left over is not big enough to use any where else.  I might have to fit cardboard boxes for drawers and curtains for doors to keep the price under $399.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stove Number Three

Stove number three project started months ago as a way for me to warm up both my welding technique and my electrode before tackling some routine repair jobs.  I have used some of my 2mm mild steel sheet stock and the idea was to make a simple top loading camp stove with an inlet and exhaust baffle.  The initial firing wasn't that successful.  As with stove number two I seem to consistently under estimate the volume of air required to maintain the burn.  I found I had to keep the lid open to maintain the heat so it sat in the back of my project pile waiting for modifications.  Since then I have been put on a "transition to retirement program" courtesy of my previous employer, so I have found myself with some extra free time but not enough cashflow to start my Paul Gartside 30 foot cutter retirement project (that's a joke by the way).  Instead I have dug out my stove and drilled some additional vent holes.  Testing seemed to be successful and being able to boil a billy for two cups of tea in under ten minutes makes for a useful camp stove.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inner city sailing

The plan was to head out of St Kilda and potter round the beaches but the conditions were too good to go home.  We launched at St Kilda and the first mate decided he would prefer to tack into a headwind all the way out of the channel rather than row.  He would have had my full support if it weren't for the multi million dollar obstacles. Out on the bay we popped in for lunch at the Kerford road beach, then headed off across the bay to Williamstown.  It was so much fun we headed back to Port Melboune then back to Williamstown by which time the wind had died off.  The last crossing back to St Kilda was a more leisurely pace and took about an hour.

Six hours on the water, three hours relaxing on deck with video camera and three hours at the helm bring my total of hours at the helm to 140 hours.  Next time I'll stop in for a cappucino some where.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Launch day for Maeve

I thought it would never come.  There was always something else on, or the weather was not quite right, but today on a whim I decided it was launch day for Maeve.  There was a slight onshore breeze but I managed, after a few initial spills, to head out on the water and return without falling in or getting swamped.  There was no support crew or fanfare but I'm glad I finally got her into the water.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where was I?

Three months ago I started making a home for a friends Isle of Lewis chessmen.  I have been lucky enough to have done most of the construction steps twice, including the construction of the internal dividers.  Initially I was trying to use some of my old cedar but it proved too soft and fragile to be able to cut and handle such thin pieces.  I remade the dividers with some hardwood and made internal covers and lined them with felt to keep the pieces in place during storage and transport.  The panels slip in under end cleats much like the Japanese toolboxes I have made.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't do it.

"I wonder if I could carve some salad servers from kiln dried Jarrah?"
Probably not is the answer.  I have spent more time sanding than carving.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keeping the magic alive.

I'm back at work tomorrow so I have been making meatballs, eating cheese and crispbread and drinking lots of weak coffee to keep the Swedish holiday magic going as long as possible.  I have also fitted a handle to my new carving blade and given all the new knives a good test run.  The only knife I was really on the lookout for was the open sweep spoon knife but the prices were so cheap for the Mora knives I bought one of each of the carving knives.  I probably wouldn't normally have chosen these knives because they are longer than I like.  Watching the pro's wrap their hand around the blade to use the tip makes me a bit nervous.  I have discovered that if I pinch the work piece with my thumb and forefinger of my left hand I can use it as a stable fulcrum with my right hand driving the tip from the safety of the handle.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Roskilde highlights

Well.  Australian Customs have kindly allowed me back in the country with my bizarre collection of flea market souvenirs and I'm almost ready to start using power tools again.  Without question Roskilde was the highlight of my visit and well worth the detour out of Sweden.  The museum building itself was fascinating but the outdoor sights were just as interesting.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

K. A. Almgren Silk Mill

Approaching the end of our trip I was taken along to see the K.A. Almgren Silk Mill in the Stockholm suburb of Slussen.  The facility is a Jacquard silk production loom from 1862 and what I found particularly interesting is that local crafts people still use the facility to make silk so, unlike many other historical museums, you can talk to people who know how the equipment is used.  The Jacquard loom uses a chain of punchcards to drive the headles and create different patterns automatically, greatly increasing production speed.  This type of museum is fascinating to me because it shows how a very sophisticated product can be produced from fairly simple materials.  Most of the equipment is timber framed and made by hand.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nordisca Museet

The last time I was in Stockholm I ran out of time to visit Nordiska Museet which was a mistake.  The museum has a fantastic collection of all things Nordic including everything from old wooden spoons and bowls to modern design.  Definitely should be the number one priority for any visitor.