Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walnut Dresser: Lumber Picking

    Today I spent an hour and a half in the barn going through the walnut I had selected from the wood pile outside. I had purchased this lumber from the Indiana State Fair last year for a pretty decent price. Most of it was left overs that no one wanted. Now I can see why. After running the boards through my planer and removing just enough to see the grain past the coarse marks left by the vintage saw mill at the State Fair I saw a lot of knots, reversing grain, and sap wood. Not to mention a whole lotta checking and other cracks here and there. Now, I'm not very experienced when it comes to woodworking and doubly so when it comes to wood picking. What did I know? Lumber is lumber, right? But when I think about the price I paid it was still a pretty good deal.
    Here I am in the barn wood shop. This is where I keep all of my power tools and where I fight the seemingly constant battle between metal and rust. I'm using my Rigid planer which I have been very happy with. It's connected to a Harbor Freight collector which, for the price, I have also been very happy with. I had intended on planing only enough to be able to see the grain but the thickness varied by a quarter inch in some cases. I just put in new knives so all went well.

    After planing the boards and looking at both sides I laid them out on the floor. Today I'm looking for what I will use for the carcass sides and top and bottom. A cheaper or "secondary" wood like poplar or pine would normally be used for the bottom, back and interior parts which do not show. I don't have a lot of poplar and what I have cost more than the walnut, so I'll probably use walnut for most everything else except for the drawers.

    So here's my plan so far. I'm going to pick the boards I want for each side, taking grain patterns and color into consideration. Then I'll cut the pieces to length just adding a few inches. Since this project will probably move at a snail's pace I'll store the parts in the cottage workshop to dry out a bit more until I can get around to properly flattening each piece, gluing them up, and then get down to the dovetails.
    Well the family is home and we're going out to the in-laws for a cookout and Beatles Rock Band!



Monday, October 5, 2009

Hand Drill Restoration

    Here is my "new" Miller's Falls No. 2 hand drill. The major part of its restoration involved making a new handle. I chose to make it out of crab apple wood given to me by my neighbor last year when she had the tree cut down. I really like the figure and color of it and have a bunch more logs drying out to use in the future for small bowls, tool handles, etc. I prepared the blank, turned it to size and shape, and fitted the ferrule. The ferrule is the metal collar on the end of wooden handles. It keeps the wood from splitting apart when its fitted onto the tool as well as when the tool is used.

    The first thing I did was to cut the crab-apple blank just a bit over-size and find the centers of the ends for when I put it on the lathe. Then, on my drill press, I drilled a hole in one end to accept the post of the hand drill. To drill the hole straight I used the tenoning jig for my table saw. I clamped the jig to my drill press table and it holds the handle blank nice and straight.

     I placed a wood plug into the hole I drilled and centered it on the lathe. After turning the square blank to a cylinder I transferred reference lines to it with a pencil. Holding the original handle next to it allowed me to mark different areas where the size changes or where certain curves start and end.

    Using a parting tool and calipers, I remove wood at the point of the reference marks to match the size of the original handle at the same point.

   The rest of the operation is just "connecting the dots" with a few hills and valleys along the way.  I held the original up to the lathe often during my progress. It didn't result in an exact copy, but for my humble turning skills it was close enough.

    After adding a few more details at the lathe and being careful to keep the ferrule end bigger than needed, I put the blank in my pocket and  went over to the Home Depot to look for a suitable ferrule. I see a lot of woodworkers using copper fittings for ferrules so I went to the plumbing department to take a look. I found some copper fittings that would have been good but I was happy to find a brass end cap for about 5 bucks. I thought shiny brass would look much nicer so I got it. And, as a bonus, it was perfect as-is so it wouldn't need to be turned or shaped at all.
    After I got back home I turned the end of the new handle to size making sure it was a snug fit into the brass end cap. By "snug" I mean that I needed to tap it lightly to get it on the handle. I took the brass cap off and put it in a clamp so I could drill a hole in the end. This wasn't as easy as I would have liked. I soon learned that it went much better after I slowed down the drill press (I guess those drill press speed pulleys are actually good for something) and took it really slow. Before that the drill bit would catch, pulling the brass cap from the clamps.

    The new handle was slathered in boiled linseed oil which does absolute wonders to the crab-apple wood. I assembled everything together and lubed it up. Very nice. This will definitely get some use in the shop, helping to keep the Rigid charged for the big stuff.

    As with all projects there are things I would do differently the next time. If I were to restore another hand drill I would probably avoid using a sandblaster to remove the old paint and rust. While this drill does work well I can feel some aluminum oxide (sand from the blaster) inside the moving parts. If I do use a sandblaster again I'll be sure to mask and seal all of the moving parts more effectively. Flushing it with WD40 has removed a lot of it but the rest may take a while. It may never come out at all. I could take the gears apart and clean it out but I think I may have to grind or drill out the pins holding them in. In any case, it ain't gonna happen today or even this month. If anyone has any comments or suggestions about the sand in the gears or any other parts of this project let me know.
    Well, I suppose the lawn ain't gonna mow itself. Until next time...