Thursday, January 24, 2019

Bike Cable Lid Support - Woodworking Tip #23

For a cyclist a broken brake cable just means longer stopping distance. For a pilot a broken elevator cable means landing, look mom, “no hands,” using flaps, power and trim for pitch control. For my lady a broken jewelry box lid support cable meant holding the lid with the left hand as the right hand sought the day's adornments. Really, not bad: after 29,251 cycles this bike cable lid support broke, though not the cable itself. The cable pulled out of its crimped ring connector on the lid. It was easily replaced with a fresh piece of bicycle brake cable and a new ring wire connector.

Using Soss hinges, as I did, on this walnut and cherry jewelry box with a full-width earring tray and music movement, the hinge itself provided no lid support. Furthermore, the full tray under the lid allowed no space for a scissors lid stay.  A light cord or chain tends to either get kinked or ends up draping outside of the box.  The solution was found in of all places my cycling ditty box. Taking a brake cable I cut the nipple end down to about 6 inches, threaded it through a diagonal hole in the support dowel for the earring tray and crimped the end to an uninsulated ring wire connector. The ring connector was then screwed to the underside of the lid. The clearance of only 1/16” between the tray and side of the jewelry box still allowed the cable to slide by, though during this recent repair I relieved the side of the tray slightly to permit even easier movement.  If you use a rail instead of dowels to support the tray the diagonal cable hole would go through it.

The barrel nipple at the end of the cable hits the bottom of the box when the lid is closed and neatly slides forward along the bottom of the box. The real beauty of this system is that the bike cable is rigid enough to have no tendency to fold or kink. Surprisingly, little pressure must be exerted on the felt as it appears completely unmarred even after 29,251 cycles.  There you have it:  a synthesis of two of my loves, cycling and woodworking, for my love.

To view all previous Woodworking Tips just type "woodworking tip" into the search box at the top of the blog's first page.  Unique woodenwares made from saved wood are available at our eco-friendly Etsy shop:  FlyingCircusStudios

Thursday, January 17, 2019

New Needlepoint Collaborator

My wife's lifetime role of educator has taken a new turn with her granddaughter Amelia as student in needlepoint.  Much love and patience were injected into this lovely still life, though ofttimes the progress of the piece suffered its own still life.  Nonetheless, our six-year-old Amelia, turning seven just at completion, persevered and accomplished a fine first needlepoint, a gift to her parents.   Readers of this blog might realize I fabricated the accompanying frame out of cherry wood as I have done with my wife Sara's needlepoints, ten framed pieces so far.  Amelia also helped out some with the framing, bringing out the rich cherry wood color with applications of Watco oil.

A hearty congratulations to the artist and also to her dad Josh whose birthday is today!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Southwest Christmas Tree 2018

Our Southwest Christmas Tree aka Yucca flower stalk has re-emerged this year albeit with only a couple new additions as we steadily replace the ornaments made in China with ornaments handmade by our friends and family members.  This year a fine hummingbird carved by Tom McDevitt of McWidget Studios joins the throng adding song, crackle and movement amidst the yucca flowers.  Also, a family heirloom, yes, handmade, though by whom, unknown, hangs now.  It's a cut glass crystal that once graced the family dining room chandelier.  Other handmade ornaments can be seen in the background:

The Baltic birch scroll saw cut angel mentioned in last year's Southwest Christmas Tree blogpost was fabricated in a limited number for Etsy with two finishes even.

Happiest Holidays to all and best wishes for a great year ahead.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Twin Hungarian Shelves

The wedges must scare people. I find it unbelievable that the best shelf system out there, to my mind, is still not, as of this date, available even at IKEA. The wedges satisfy me: nothing like tapping in the wedge, the last step of mounting the shelf, and seeing the shelf align rigidly 90º to the vertical standard. Hungarian shelves are dynamic and interesting with elements of simple machines: wedges, fulcrums, levers. It's almost as if Hungarian shelves are busy working right in front of you supporting their loads.

These twin Hungarian shelf units were designed to fill the voids on either side of a large fireplace and chimney as well as provide both library space for books and display space for artifacts, sculpture and artwork. Though the eye wants desperately to make these shelves appear symmetrical they are not, every shelf width and vertical spacing actually different. The lowest shelf is 12” wide, stepping down 1/2” per shelf until the top one is 10 1/2”. The height between shelves also decreases 1” per shelf.  Compare to the pillars, not really parallel, at the Parthenon. All the shelves are solid red oak, one of the 12” shelves actually a single piece of wood, quite a rare find at a lumberyard these days.

The joint that joins the shelf to the upright standard is technically called a cross lap joint. Because the notches or slots in each standard must be exactly in line I cut all the notches simultaneously by clamping them together, then clamping a guide at right angles to the set and running a router with a straight bit through all the standards. Typically I do the same thing to the shelves by standing them all together on their long front edge and routing notches on the back side. Alternatively, I've clamped the shelves together, placed them back side down on a table saw sled and pushed them through a dado blade. In this case, however, their large size and varying widths made this difficult. Thus I opted to cut the shelf notches with a tenon saw and chisel, thus proving two things: that Hungarian shelves can be made with just hand tools and that retired guys have more time on their hands.

I should add that SketchUp helped give birth to these twins, my first foray into using this 3-D CAD program for furniture design (dimensions removed for clarity):

I want to thank my fellow Columbia alumnus David Heim, a SketchUp for woodworking expert, for his generous advice and even a little personal YouTube tutorial critique of my design. I used his extremely well-written and helpful book SketchUp Success for Woodworkers every step of the way.

I also want to thank Tony Fuhrman of Summit Woodworking in Tucson for use of his shop facilities, as well as thank my favorite mechanical engineer Kyle Colavito for first introducing me to Hungarian shelves many years ago.  Find pics of my other Hungarian shelves by searching this blog or on the very first page of Google images.

Thank you so much to these and all my other patrons...
, of course, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Find useful wooden objects including wedges for Hungarian shelves at: 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Meyers Collaboration X

Clearly there's some tomfoolery going on here. Or is it teddy-foolery for this turkey with inflated vest, spectacle and oversized pocket watch is a bit reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt, well noted, you know, for his bullying, braggadocio and bluster. But note the red tie: did Teddy wear those? Of course, this turkey is really a pilgrim, and all these references are likely connected. Anyway, quite a neat bird, a lovely product of Sara's craftsmanship, a perfect complement to our Thanksgiving celebrations.

As before the word collaboration is used loosely as the handmade frame of oak takes so little time to construct compared to the exquisite needlepoint stitching. I did, however, help out in one other way: spending near an hour going through dozens of bins at Ace Hardware until I found the exactly sized set of washers which compose all the circular forms here, each then painstakingly wrapped with thread.  The gold chain was found in a flea market in Sierra Vista.

Find our online shop at:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Pipe Clamp Supports -- Tool Tip #20

One of the old saws of woodworking is that you can never have enough clamps. I will attest that this is certainly true despite owning a fair number of them, relying mostly on the inexpensive but powerful pipe clamps by Pony, Bessey, Harbor Freight, etc. If you've done more than two glue-ups with these you've already run across the issue of the tail end of the pipe falling and the jaws bucking up off the workbench. This is not a frustration, of course, when the clamp length is appropriate to the width of the glue-up, but during multiple glue-ups one migrates inevitably toward clamps too long for the job.

To control this little bucking bronco I always put a long strip of wood about 7/8” thick underneath all the ends of the hanging tails. This does the job nicely of keeping all the pipe clamps level and in a single plane so the boards can be laid in with no difficulty. I've thought of using pipe insulation placed on the tail for the same purpose, but such insulation is not thick enough. Too recently it occurred to me that your typical pool noodle would provide exactly the right thickness to keep the tail from falling. So now instead of a bunch of bucking broncos, we corral a well broke line of Ponies. Hope this helps.

(The astute observer will observe that the photos show a situation where the noodle was actually not needed, but I was nonetheless eager to share the use of my other noodle.)

Find the online shop at:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lotion as Hand Cleaner -- Tool Tip #19

One of the neatest things about my 1970 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 were the convenient repair kits that Toyota provided. Packaged in their individual red boxes were everything you needed to rebuild, say, a universal joint or a brake assembly or the master clutch cylinder. I think the idea was that if you filled a modest satchel with a bunch of these kits you really could head out in the boonies and fix most anything on the run. I, however, worked on our FJ40 in the driveway, used quite a few of those little red boxes and got my hands mighty dirty. Back then I used Goop or Gunk or Gorp, whatever, to dissolve the grease and grime, pretty nasty products actually, maybe a step away from washing your hands in gasoline. Took quite a while before I incidentally discovered that most any ordinary hand or body lotion also works well as a hand cleaner. Frankly, for myself, those expensive balms and creams that are supposed to do magic for working hands are mostly hype.

Ever since this discovery, several times a day, I slather lotion on generously as a hand cleaner, and using no water (reduce cracking!) just dry my hands on paper toweling or a terrycloth quite well. The dirt and grime transfers to the toweling.  Plus your hands don't end up marinated in petrochemicals or dried out by soap and water. Those little lotion tubes and bottles turn out to be perfect to drop in a tool bag during installations.  Alas, I've come up with a fairly lame excuse to post a couple pics of my favorite vehicle, but on the otherhand certain individuals in your life may appreciate hands that feel more like 220 grit than 40 grit.  To see all 18 previous tool tips type "tool tip" into the search this blog window.  You might find something you can use in your own shop.

Useful wooden objects including hand carved teaspoons at: 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Meyers Collaboration IX

As with all our previous collaborations, in which my wife Sara does the needlepoint, and I make a custom frame, 98% of the labor is hers and about 2% mine.  We are particularly fond if this particular piece for its lovely colors and simple symbolic elements.  Take the heart to symbolize our love for one another rather than a heart perched over a handlebar moustache symbolizing my love for cycling.

I finally abandoned using biscuits to secure the miters in small frames as they inevitably interfere with the rabbet cut for the glass and mat.  Discreet brads secure the corners instead in the black walnut frame.

This beautiful work is photographed with the glass intact, the reduction in reflectivity due to the use of non-glare glass, something we should have used all along.

Useful wooden objects including hand carved teaspoons at: 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

SketchUp Success for Woodworkers -- Woodworking Tip #22

The 22nd woodworking tip is:  buy this book and use it to learn SketchUp!!

And yes, here I thought I was the only woodworker graduate from Columbia. Turns out I was wrong, for David Heim, one of my fellow alumni, is not only a fine fine woodworker, specifically wood turning, but also one of the country's leading experts on the use of the 3D modeling program SketchUp as applicable to furniture making, cabinetry and all the other lovely objects made from wood. SketchUp is a complete drawing program, useful not just to woodworkers, but to interior designers, architects, landscapers, city planners, etc. What David Heim has done in his excellent book SketchUp Success for Woodworkers recently published by Spring House Press is extracted and tuned the aspects of the program which enable woodworkers to produce attractive, realistic 3D models of their ideas, designs and projects.  (At this point I have finally stopped my word processing program's constant urge to turn SketchUp into ketchup.)

If you stop reading here, my advice to you woodworkers is get David's book and learn SketchUp! While you're at it also visit his online shop at Etsy:  to see some of his beautiful turnings.  You can also buy his book through his Etsy shop.

So how does design happen? Starting to learn SketchUp got me reflecting about the evolution of the design tools I've utilized throughout my woodworking career. Now please don't ask why I still have this, but it all begins here:

Back in the day, while the girls were sewing and muffining in Home EC class, the boys were combating Sputnik by taking Mechanical Drawing. I don't think this was an elective either; it was a manly skill.  The main object of the course was converting some fanciful 3D object, often resembling the parapet of a Medieval castle, into front, top and side views. A lot of your grade depended on placing a dotted line where superman's Xray vision would have detected a change in form on the opposite side.

Years later when I took up professional woodworking, home computers, let alone drawing software, had not yet been invented, and thus dredging up this old junior high school skill proved most useful. At this point we call it "drafting."  I found myself even building drafting tables for myself and customers as well as gathering a nice collection of those green plastic Staedtler templates.  These templates helped me learn such important things as curves are French.  Still the plans did not appear all that different from those in 8th grade:

Continuing on: thanks to the urging of our son Josh we were one of the first families on the block to own a computer, a handmade XT. Fast forward years later Josh has opened his bicycle trailer and accessory business BikeShopHub and required a CAD-CAM program to operate a ShopBot CNC tool in the manufacture of his novel bicycle travel case the Cello. The Cello amazingly converted a BOB one-wheeled bicycle trailer into a travel luggage box for not only itself but also the bike that pulled it! The chosen program was bobCAD-CAM (ironic, but no relationship to the trailer company), and thus thanks to my son I myself moved to the next stage in design: computer aided drafting using BobCAD-CAM. Without question the greatest benefit of CAD was what I call “dimensional integrity,” no more struggling with finest line on a triangle scale to extract a particular dimension or carefully adding up a series of dimensions to verify sums. Any part of a plan could be measured, and the numbers were precise, perfect, always added up!

So now I have reached the latest stage in the evolution of my design career: starting to learn SketchUp using David Heim's excellent book SketchUp Success for Woodworkers. My first recommendation and his too is to pass over the online program and download SketchUp Make 2017 (still available free as of this posting). Then with program running follow David's clear step-by-step instructions: from choosing a template to setting up your first file to learning the basic tools to creating your first board. He is easy to follow. The centerpiece of the book, his four rules for success, makes enormous sense to anyone who has ever encountered a table saw and attests to his major investment in both mastering and adapting SketchUp for fine woodworkers. What I particularly like about David's approach is that he walks you so very carefully through the SketchUp learning curve. I would not expect to become adept overnight, but you could not have a better guide.

Perhaps only second to the joy of creating, for a custom fine woodworker, is the joy of working directly with your clients, getting to know them and their vision of the environment they desire to inhabit. Yet with few exceptions the difficulty has always been offering a clear picture of what exactly they were commissioning. Shop drawing and blueprints are generally insufficient in this regard. Once I even had to build a piece completely over again because I could not see the “picture in the head.”

I only wish I had had a tool like SketchUp throughout my career. I could have then offered to clients a fully 3-dimensional model, built in the chosen woods and with the right stain color, something they could “walk” around. In the later chapters of his book David explains how you can import any wood grain or texture to your model or even render it realistically. Clients are always finding photographs of some piece or environment they like, and you will even learn how to initiate your design using one of these. Both client and creator benefit. You will be able to push, pull, stretch, shrink, reshape, add components, subtract components until the picture in your own head is achieved.

Afterword: SketchUp and computer assisted manufacturing (CAM)

Though in most cases I did not use the CAM side of bobCAD-CAM, occasionally it came in very handy especially when both precision and duplication were required such as cutting the triangular solid oak countertops that formed this 15-sided customer service center. The screen shot of the bobCAD-CAM file used to cut these on ShopBot is pictured above along with the finished product. SketchUp Success for Woodworkers does not cover using SketchUp files (.skp) to operate CNC machinery, but a quick look on the web indicates that conversion to CNC files is possible. I am no expert on drawing programs, but I do know a good guidebook when I see one. David Heim's book is the first place to go if you want this powerful tool in your tool bag...happy sketching!

I would be remiss not to mention that Flying Circus Studios is also on Etsy.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Double-Sided Sandpaper -- Woodworking Tip #21

I'd say at this point in my woodworking career I've folded 17,635 pieces of sandpaper for the purpose of hand-sanding. By hand-sanding I mean just that, nothing more than hand and sandpaper. Technically, of course, using a sanding block is hand-sanding, but so often more precision is required for such tasks as smoothing a joint, removing a blemish or scratch, especially smoothing curves or contours, etc. Nothing like fingers and a little piece of folded sandpaper does the trick. Doubling the sandpaper by folding it in half seems natural and provides better purchase. Years ago I thought wouldn't hand-sanding be easier if the two smooth sides were not always slipping and sliding about? This could be accomplished merely by gluing the fold together. As is often the case with our own best interests this fine approach to sanding was defiantly deferred. Until last week. I finally took the typical quarter sheet strip of sandpaper (2.75”x 9”) used on a standard sanding block, cut it in half, creased the pieces in two, sprayed the backsides with light duty adhesive and then folded the tacky surfaces together.  Voilà!  Using three sanding block strips I made a half dozen of these all at once.

The grip provided by the well-attached double surface allows use of every bit of the sandpaper right to the edges and corners. Five of these double-sided sandpapers proved sufficient to rough sand very effectively 10 of my wooden teaspoons. Even the hardest part, sanding the bowl of the spoon, went quite smoothly. While this specialty type of sandpaper is produced commercially, it is not commonly available. Gluing your own is quick, easy, inexpensive and right out of your own stock of sandpaper. In this case I am using Norton ProSand 180 grit, one of my own favorites. My regret is not doing this with piece #1 vs #17635. Try it yourself; you will be pleasantly pleased!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Southwest Christmas Tree 2017

The earth has spun around the sun another year, carrying us all reliably through the winter solstice place on its orbit, caring not a jot about the tumult of the inhabitants on its surface:   the holidays arrive. We have lived another year, such a good thing, certainly another year wiser and why not happier too, yes, let it be. For the fourth year our Southwest Christmas Tree has traveled its short orbit from Arizona room to living room, and once again is festooned with many handmade ornaments, some of which are displayed in the Southwest Christmas Tree from 2015. Special this year is the lovely needlepoint ornament made by my lovely wife and pictured close up here:

Another ornament made of Baltic birch and using a stock scroll saw pattern was being considered as an item for our Etsy shop, but never made it into production...perhaps another year, angel with bugle:

Happy Holidays to all, and as my fellow Columbian said it, "to all a good night!"

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ultralight Coffee Table

If we reckon the coffee table the truck and the TV tray table the car, then the ultralight coffee table must be the crossover. Light enough to pick up with one hand but just large enough for a nice spread of hors d'oeuvres, this small table was designed to accompany my side tables called Three Easy Pieces. Just five pieces of wood, the coffee table is assembled in the same manner as the side tables with the black walnut legs embedded into mortises routed slightly more than halfway into the underside of the top. The tripod design make these side tables just precarious enough to be interesting and keep one alert.

The tops of the side tables are straight grain old-growth California redwood salvaged from architectural shelving in the home of an early Northern Arizona ranching family, a gift from them to me. The top of the coffee table, however, is actually old pine salvaged from a kitchen door jamb in my son's home by the Arizona Inn in Tucson. The jamb was cut into thirds, glued up and then stained to match the redwood using Mohawk Wiping Stains, one of my favorites. All the many nail holes both in the redwood and pine were filled carefully to make them mostly disappear. Finish for all four pieces is multiple coats of satin Waterlox, which provides an even wine-resistant coating.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Meyers Collaboration VIII - Framed Needlepoint

Marriage is often described as compromise, but why not collaboration? Our husband and wife collaborations of needlepoint and woodworking allow us to labor quite easily together without getting into one an other's hair. In this eighth collaboration it was necessary to turn the typical flat 2” cherry molding sideways in order to keep the overall frame size down due to location space constraints. In order to add interest to the perimeter two 1/4” square black walnut strips were embedded into the cherry. If any future refinisher wants to sand down this frame they will certainly never go through such so-to-speak veneer:

We are currently using a somewhat unconventional method of matting needlepoint. Our first collaboration, however, was mounted in the typical fashion of stretching the needlepoint canvas over a masonite board with heavy thread. Frankly we found this very difficult and required extreme care not to distort the canvas. Since then we have developed this cheating method which is much easier:

  1. A sheet of thin cotton batting is attached to a piece of mat board, the same dimensions as the exterior of the cut mat board, using spray adhesive.
  2. The canvas is then “stretched” flat over the cotton batting using one's palms. Interestingly the cotton acts as a type of weak Velcro and adheres to the canvas keeping it in position. Also the white color is an excellent background for visible holes in the canvas.  Furthermore the thickness of the batting (about 1/8") prevents knots behind the canvas from telegraphing to the front.
  3. Lastly a couple of continuous strips of double-stick tape are attached to all sides of the back of the cut mat which is then placed carefully in position, centering the art piece exactly in the cut hole.

In none of our pieces using this method has the needlepoint slipped out of place or sagged. No promises, though, as to how long this will last.  Stretching with thread is still probably better.

I continue to be impressed by the enormous number of hours stitching a piece such as this still life demands. All things considered the extra detail inlaying black walnut into the frame may have raised the proportion of my work for one of these collaborations from the usual 2% to maybe 3%.

Notes: As usual the mat was expertly cut at Sarnoff Art Supplies & Framing in Tucson.  The glass was removed for the purpose of photography without reflections.  The frame is finished with multiple coats of  Waterlox Sealer Finish.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at: 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

21 Indelible Comments

They are like tunes stuck in your head but, instead, stuck in your life. Surely dear reader, you too remember comments people have said to you that are still with you. Can you at this very moment recall any? Yet these comments were not especially poetic, not necessarily aphoristic, not notably brilliant, not always true, not, in fact, even "memorable," but nonetheless they remain indelibly. I have searched for some commonality that unites them but find none:  not speaker, place, time, circumstance, age, etc. I can say, however, with some confidence, that they number no more than thee dozen or so. By opening myself up to their remembrance they have come back to me quite easily over the course of only a week or two. If I ever come up with 21 more I'll post a further collection.

Yes, indeed, a few tool tips are included for those of you handy with your hands, which turns out to be the case with me as I did follow my college professor's advice in the very last comment:

1) Washing Hands
To really clean your hands, wash something else. (J.M.)

2) Turds
If you are impressed with the size of your turds then you're getting enough fiber. (M.K.)

3) Marking along a Template
For real accuracy don't hold the pencil upright but keep the cone against the guide. (N.L.)

4) Spray Cans
Always ignored the cleaning advice about spraying upside down, and they work just fine. (M.D.)

5) Intersections
Look first to your left on account that vehicle will hit you soonest. (J.M.)

6) Finches
Lucky to have them move in as they will sing their little hearts out for you. (K.C.)

7) Sleep
Don't worry about not sleeping...just rest. (F.A.)

8) Jail
Spend some time in the builds character. (F.A.)

9) Cookies
Broken cookies are healthier. (O.M.)

10) Early Days of Windows
I love how you can go in first thing in the morning and open all your windows. (B.C.)

11) Mental Agility
Avoid the calculator; doing math longhand preserves mental agility. (J.A.)

12) Hammering
Ear protection, of course, for the loud tools, but try it for ordinary hammering. (T.K.)

13) Chairs
You know you're getting old when you make noises rising from your chair. (N.B.)
14) Advice from our XT Builder (1984)
Just remember the first rule of using a computer:  always back up your work. (J.H.)

15) Right Color
Kurt, you don't look good in blue. (D.G.)

16) Coffee
For the perfect cup pour coffee and cream simultaneously. (D.K.)

17) Vacation
Sights are without end; a true vacation is dolce far niente. (F.A.)

18) Olives (Eyeballs) and Children
As soon as you eat ten, you will like them. (J.M.)

19) Speaking Your Mind
Now that I am old I speak my mind, a freedom I lacked in youth. (J.A.)

20) Meditation
Awaken yourself each morning at 3:00 AM, the ideal time for meditation. (A.L.)

21) Academics
Kurt, don't go into academics, it's a nasty business. (L.T.)

Readers are offering a few of their own "indelible comments" which I include below.  As with my own I am not providing a context, leaving that to the imagination, the important thing being that these words have stuck with the person:

22)  You can always go to the bathroom if you try.   (from D.&L. D.)

23)  Because I said so!  (from D.&.L. D.)

24)  Stick to theoretical work.  (from M.N.)

25)  Gotta eat.  (from S.T.)

26)  Has it changed?  (S.H.C. debating the merit of a second visit to the Grand Canyon)

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tapering Legs with a Miter Saw -- Woodworking Tip #20

To an open mind the woodshop is a cornucopia of novelty.  A new approach, an improved jig, a shift in methodology all provide considerable joy.  Tapering, as an example, is typically accomplished with a sliding jig on a table saw.  I would usually make a quick jig out of 3/4” plywood for the required angle...never did own one of those new-fangled adjustable tapering jigs. Given the commission, however, of making short solid maple tapered legs for a couch, the thought of pushing a small block of wood into a table saw blade set 4” high did not seem appealing. The idea occurred to me of using a miter saw to cut the tapers as shown below:

Rather than rotating the blade to the desired angle, cut a guide board to the correct angle.  Use the horizontal vice to hold this piece firmly. The saw blade is simply locked on a 90º cut (see above photo). The leg stock is then placed against the scrap wood angle and secured with the vertical vice pressing down upon a wooden bridge between the leg stock and another scrap piece of such a height that the bridge is roughly horizontal.  With this set up cut one of every pair of tapers for however many legs you need.

The next step is to rotate the blade toward the left the number of degrees of the taper angle.  By flipping the guide board forward to back you can use it to set the blade precisely.  Clamp the guide board back in its original position adjusting it left or right as necessary.  Place the cut side against the guide board and cut the opposite side of each pair.  Really, this is not as hard as it sounds and becomes obvious when you do the set up.

Voilà have a short tapered leg.  Do realize that a sharp blade on the miter saw really helps as your machine struggles to cut through some 8” or so of hardwood!

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tool Bed Polishing -- Tool Tip #18

My clearest early memory of silicon carbide sandpaper, if such is the stuff memories are made of, is in the hands of a lovely female luthier as she gently hand rubbed the newly lacquered surface of a gourd-shaped Neapolitan mandolin. She used the tiniest piece of very fine grit black paper following the round curve of the instrument's back perfectly with her fingers until the entire surface was uniform powdery white and ready for yet another coat of lacquer. Few of my furniture commissions over the years required this type of mirror finish, and most of my uses for silicon carbide sandpaper, typically 400 grit, have nothing to do with finishing wood itself. I have already written about its excellent application in sharpening chisels when glued to a plate of plate glass:

Read more about this particular use at:  Fast Sharpening

Another blog post suggests silicon carbide sandpaper in order to prevent slippage between the surface of a miter gauge and a piece of wood:  Anti-Skid Miter Gauge

Today's tip is about yet another excellent application. Use 400 grit silicon carbide sandpaper attached to a hard rubber sanding block to clean, smooth and polish machine tool beds and tables as well as other machined metal surfaces such as the sole of a handplane. The block can also remove gunk, grime, high spots and burrs from the base plates of jigsaws, circular saws, plate joiners, etc.  Expect the sandpaper to load quickly and have extra sheets on hand.

You have a machine shop in your hand. Move with the grain of the factory machining. The few first passes immediately reveal low and high spots on a tool bed, such as at the throat of a jointer where you definitely don't want any miniature ski jump. Do stop short though of trying this on the cylinder head of that old Chevy V8 engine you're rebuilding.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:


Friday, January 6, 2017

Glass as a Cabinet Scraper -- Woodworking Tip #19

I first encountered the use of glass as a cabinet scraper in the Chelsea studio of the Greek artist Michael Lekakis. Michael was a brilliant postwar abstract sculptor working primarily in wood, his works shown in preeminent galleries and museums on both sides of the Atlantic. The glass was a surprise to me. Its use often provided the final finish to his wood sculptures as he had an aversion to sandpaper as far as I could tell.

Scraps of glass are plentiful and easy to come by from framers, hardware stores, glass businesses, etc. I use pieces roughly the side of a 3x5 file card, big enough to put two thumbs on without having to worry about the precision placement required by texting. The glass is drawn toward one at roughly a 45º angle give or take. Few furniture makers have the skill to create that perfectly hooked burr on the edge of a metal scraper, but here 8 very sharp edges are immediately available. They make lovely curled little shavings. They do not dull easily, but once they are, toss the scraper into the recycling bin. The photo shows the glass scraper in use to trim the edge of a drawer for a good fit. If using a glass scraper on a large surface the corners will need be rounded, sandpaper works, thus preventing possible scratches.

I have used glass scrapers with great success most all of my career and am hardly the only woodworker to do so, though the practice does not seem widespread, deserving of further dissemination.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Meyers Collaboration VII -- Framed Needlepoint

This is the seventh collaboration between my wife Sara Meyers and myself in which she stitches the needlepoint work, and I build the frame. As mentioned in previous posts about these pieces the use of the term collaboration is really a misnomer as 98% - 99% of the work rests in the stitching, a rather rigorous art requiring the difficult friendship of patience and concentration.  I am simply amazed by her beautiful work. The heart shape, however, provided a significant challenge to matting.  We checked at least four commercial frame shops in Tucson, and none were able to cut the inner mat precisely to the shape of the heart, though the outer mat was nicely cut, as always, by Jinou Naval at Sarnoff Custom Framing. Our friend Nathan Benson took up the challenge, and through a time-consuming and considerable sequence of image transfers and manipulations he was able to program his laser engraver to cut the inner mat very close to the perimeter of the heart. Sara then added a background continental stitch of gray thread around the silver heart perimeter to fill the small remaining gap and cover the raw canvas. Nathan was also able to add the nice touch of a subtle and delicate "signature" and date to Sara's piece:

Several combinations of speed and power proved unable to eliminate laser scorching of the paper, though 50% power did work better.  The edge of the mat was completely Cajun and brown flares radiated onto the surface.  This is not surprising considering the low ignition point of paper, Fahrenheit 451 if I recall, a number we might keep in mind.  Interestingly, about 90% of the surface scorching could be removed with a simple white eraser which did not alter at all the texture or sheen of the mat board (also obtained from Sarnoff).  When it came to removing the charred surface on the mat's cut edge 180 grit sandpaper worked very well.  The image below shows the mat board prior to removal of the scorching:

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at: