Shop update, June 2011

Clearly it’s been a while since I last posted, but while the busy-ness of life has limited my shop time in recent weeks, I’ve been getting a few things done here and there.  Some of it has been shop set-up and clean-up and such, but some has been actual woodworking.

Early last month, my brother, who just bought a brand-new 14″ Jet bandsaw, brought over my dad’s old Craftsman bandsaw (which he no longer has any need for), so I built a new stand for it and set it up.  It’s a three-wheel model, the venerated (by some) Sears model 103.24300, purchased second-hand by my father in 1951, three years before I was born.  He doesn’t know how long the guy before him had it.  But when I plugged it in and fired it up, it still worked!  Resaw capacity is probably all of three and a half inches (!), and I’ve still had little luck tensioning the blade properly so I can cut a reasonably accurate curve; the rubber tires on all three wheels are as hard as rock and need to be replaced, but be that as it may, this thing still works!  I’m sure that one of these days I’ll set it aside for a newer, bigger, better bandsaw, but I doubt I’ll ever get rid of it.

The bandsaw came to me with a rickety, wobbly stand that I suspect came with it when my dad bought it in ’51, but I quickly decided that it needed a more sturdy base, so I ripped up some reclaimed plywood and made one, relocating the motor in the process–the motor had been hanging off the back end of the old stand, and I made a little hinged platform for it underneath the stand and mounted the motor below the saw, cutting a slot in the top of the stand for the belt (and I did buy a new belt–the original was pretty cracked and worn).

So that was fun.  I’ve also continued to work on various types and styles of boxes, nearly all made from offcuts and reclaimed wood of various species.  One recent box I made (the largest I’ve made so far) has no fewer than five species of wood in it, including mahogany, curly maple, walnut, cherry and pine.  That box is intended to be a tea box (for storing various flavors of tea bags), and will be a housewarming gift for some dear friends.  (I’ll post photos in my next post.)

I made two other small boxes, both inspired by Doug Stowe’s boxmaking book, Basic Box Making.  One, which is very similar to the one in the foreground on the cover of the book, will be a gift for another dear friend, and the other was more or less an experiment in joinery that turned out pretty good–I gave it to my lovely wife.

I’m working on some other ideas and designs, but along the way I’m also learning a good deal about resawing on the table saw (since my bandsaw is pretty useless for that at the moment).  Except for the larger amount of waste involved in the larger kerf, I’m liking this method of producing thin stock.  After planing, I can sometimes get two quarter-inch thick boards from a three-quarter-inch board, which makes a lot more sense than planing two thirds of the thickness away to make a thin board.  My DeWalt 734 thickness planer has no trouble planing stock down to an eighth of an inch thick–so far I’m really pleased with that machine.

Some of the wood I’ve used on a couple of these box projects came from an old drawer front from a broken-down chest of drawers that sat unused in my garage for more than a decade. I have no idea what kind of wood it is, but it has a beautiful, tight grain that is sort of a creamy tan color.  It isn’t maple, walnut, cherry or oak–and it’s definitely a hardwood.  The drawer fronts on this chest were actually glued up from two or more pieces of this wood; and the fragrance of this particular wood is really amazing.  It seems like a familiar scent, but I can’t place it.  I’m going to get to the bottom of this, because if I can find more of this wood somewhere, I will definitely use it again. The only downside I’ve found is that it seems to be just a little bit brittle, but I wonder if that’s partly because of its age (and dryness)–I wouldn’t know for sure.  But the next time I’m in a lumberyard, you can bet I’ll be sniffing boards 🙂

The issue of dust collection is becoming one that I will probably have to address soon–I’ve noticed some sinus issues, particularly after working with mahogany and walnut, and when I run my planer (or my router, or my saw, or my random-orbit sander–okay, ANY power tool), the dust makes a mess.  I feel like I spend more time cleaning up than I do in actual woodworking, but what’s more important is, I’m afraid to think about what’s happening to my own lungs in this process.

I’ve tried to use the cheap-o dust masks, but they nearly always cause my eyeglasses to fog up, and I’m nearly blind without my glasses.  That’s probably the problem–I haven’t ponied up for a “real” respirator mask yet (yeah, I’m cheap).  Even if I could afford a small DC system, I have no idea how I would shoehorn it into my shop.  But I have a feeling (cough, cough, hack, snort) that I will have to deal with this issue pretty soon.

More news later…and photos of my box projects…

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