Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Garden Planters Build Part 1

Garden Planters Part One

I have mass produced a whole load of parts using the dedicated mortiser and the router table for the framework of the planters. The material used was 44 x 44 (1 3/4" square  pre-milled meranti from a local wood supplier. I felt it was cheaper for them to supply the ready milled stock rather than me do it myself as there was quite a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in.

Routing the legs showing the starting stop block
The mortises are 25 deep x 30 long (1" x 1.1/4") by 3/8" wide (the mortise bit is imperial!).

The plywood I'm using for the sides is a good quality external hardwood ply 1/2" nominal thickness which actually measures 11.35 mm.
I cut the slots using an 11mm routing bit that I have.

Routing the legs showing the stopping stop block
I also had to break out my excellent Record 778 rabbeting plane (rebate plane for us English people but I prefer rabbet) and took off a thin shaving all around the edges of the ply so they would drop in OK  I would have used the router but it was late last night and I didn't want to disturb the neighbours.

Record 778 rabbet plane forced into service
I have to say that this plane is superb and very easy/quick to use. Just keep the blade well honed and it will give many years of sterling use.

Dry fitting the parts
Then it just came to dry fitting everything. There are two cube boxes like this one and two larger rectangular boxes. I have ordered some tongue and groove Western Red Cedar to clad the boxes but the carcasses will be finished with some waterproof General Finishes Exterior 450 prior to the cedar being screwed on with stainless screws (no ring nails on this project as I don't want to risk splitting the sapele).

The base panels are to be made from 4" x 1" pressure treated softwood nailed in place with some stainless brads (yes I managed to get hold of a bunch of them :) )


Monday, 22 April 2013

Display Cabinet Part 4 - Completed and delivered

I completed the display cabinet and delivered it to my customer.
I had already worked out that the cabinet should fit in the car but when we tried to get it in we found that due to the curved shape it would hit on the underside of the boot/trunk compartment. My wife had the brilliant idea of using her convertible sportscar to put it on the back seat. We opened the hood and lifted it over onto the back seat. It was a little like the Antiques Roadshow where you see the ancient French 2CV convertible with a huge grandfather clock on the back seat.
The cabinet fitted in with no problems...I knew that sportscar would be useful as a load lugger one day!

Here are a few pictures of the finished article in situ.

I really must change my car for a truck!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Nu-Tool mortiser modification

Some time ago I bought a second-hand mortiser made by Nu-Tool (No I've never heard of them either!) from my brother's father in law along with a whole bunch of tools and a decent lathe for just £30GBP (about $45US). I didn't have a mortiser at the time and found it useful for batching out a number of mortises.
Unfortunately over time the clamping mechanism and the fence have worn and it is a chore to use it.
I had an old machinists drill vice and decided to make some modifications to the machine to make it more serviceable.
Here are a couple of images for the same machine from Kristian Dalziels entry on WooduLove.com http://www.woodulove.com/blog/nutool-mortiser-nm-2-2/ (I forgot to take pictures before I modified mine!)
The mortiser is 230V 370 W (2.35 Amps) and is
rated for 1/2" mortises which is fine
for most hobby woodworkers

The problem as seen in this picture is that the knobs hit each other
there is also not enough adjustment in the fingers
and also the fingers are cast aluminium and not
strong enough to resist the tool pulling out.
I removed the sacrificial wooden top to reveal a great cast iron base. Also the fingers and fence mechanism have been removed.
Cast iron table with two new M8 holes
Then taking the machinists vice I positioned it so the fixed jaw line was on the centre line of the spindle in the side elevation finally using a sharpie to transfer the shape of the slots in the vice through to the cast iron table surface.
Carefully marking the centre of each slot with a measurement from the front face I drew a line right across so I could drill two holes. Then on the drill press I drilled two 6.8 mm diameter holes right through the cast iron. If you have never drilled cast iron before this is one material that you can drill without lubrication - another is brass - and get a clean hole. Then I tapped the holes out to M8 and cleaned up any fragments.

Then I set to modifying the machinist vice by removing the fixed jaw and clamping it to the centre of the existing aluminium fence that I had removed from the mortiser. Then transferred through the holes in the jaw into the fence, removed the jaw and countersunk the new holes in the fence.
Replacing the jaw, seating the fence in position and inserting longer countersunk screws ensured that the whole assembly was solid.
Machinists vice with original fence now fitted
Then it was a simple matter of bolting the vice into rough position and setting up the mortiser. Marc Spagnuolo has a good video on his Woodwhisperer website (thanks Marc) showing how to set up a mortiser so I won't repeat it here.

Clamping some timber in place


Finished mortiser
After setting up a running a few test cuts I found that the operation is now this:

  • Adjust vice so that the workpiece is parallel to the face of the mortiser chisel and the correct distance in.
  • Clamp vice in place using the two bolts.
  • Adjust depth of cut

Insert workpiece using end stops clamped to the fence if necessary.

  • Tighten vice screw
  • Make mortise
  • Loosen vice
  • Move workpiece slightly
  • Tighten vice
  • Make mortise

Repeat the last few steps as many times as you require to make the full length mortise. I've found that light pressure on the vice is all that is required to hold the workpiece in place and the tool pulls out cleanly.

Possible further improvements

  • Bolt steel guides to the cast iron table to guide the vice and keep it square.
  • Modify the vice screw to be at a slight angle relative to the base to apply downward force as well as a clamping pressure

Summing up

So I have brought a perfectly good tool back from possibly being scrapped by reusing a redundant vice and reusing some components from the original setup.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Garden Planters

My wife has asked that all the other projects are moved back as spring in the UK has finally come (about 6 weeks late!)
She has requested that I build some hardwood planters.
I am making the structure out of yet to be determined hardwood and will comprise 2x2s jointed with mortise and tenons glued with West Systems epoxy.

The base will be pressure treated softwood cut around the legs and resting on the framework. I think these will be held in place with 18G brads. Anybody know if you can get stainless steel brads? If so leave me a note.
The panels will be 1/2" exterior grade plywood set in grooves
The entire structure will then be clad in western red cedar tongue and groove with capping trim in the same material just with the tongues and grooves ripped off. I am using stainless steel annular ring shank nails to fix the cladding.
It will match the cladding that my shop is clad with and that was Mrs McK's suggestion.

The inside of the planters will be lined with a generic pond liner with drainage holes cut in the liner. I will hold the liner in position with some cleats below the top edge and use a box cutter to remove the excess.

The sizes of the boxes are 21" x 21" x 20-1/2" high for the cube box and the other rectangular one is 21" x 42" x 20-1/2" high.

I have designed this using Sketchup so if anybody is interested I can place the Sketchup design in the Woodtalk Online Sketchup library. Let me know.

I have estimated that material costs in the UK for the small one is around £100 and the larger one is £140. Obviously local currencies and the price that you can get the raw materials will dictate the price you will pay.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Display Cabinet Part 3 - Blue tape is your best friend

I had assembled the carcase of the display cabinet and did a rough fit for the shelves. These simply sit on metal pegs that are in a series of holes with metal liners inside.

Cupping after glue up

Obviously wood being organic it had decided it was going to move after the glue up (doesn't it always?). The centre upright decided it was going to cup near to the rear edge midway up the board. This meant the nicely straight edged shelves had a big gap at the rear on the right hand bay and wouldn't go in on the left hand bay.
Out came the pencil and I traced the form onto the shelves and cut out the now slightly bent shapes. I then glued a thin 1/16" 1.6 mm veneer of oak to the end grain on all of the shelves.
When dry I trimmed with a block plane. Then out came the random orbit sander and the shelves were sanded to 320 grit.

End grain exposed on curved uprights

I also had a problem with the unsightly change of grain direction grain showing on the curved front of one of the uprights. As they were made by glueing 2 boards together and then shaping the curve on the bandsaw/router table it had exposed the end grain but there was a portion where the glue up met where the grain showing was not nice. Unfortunately I don't have any clear photos of this to show just this photo with the veneer attached. I have enhanced the contrast of the picture so you can see the glue line.
You can see where the two boards making up the end
upright are glued up. I was unable to hide this split
when I cut the profile as I had to cut bad
timber from the rear edge (in this shot) away moving
the split line into the path of the curve.

So I found the scrap strips that I had cut off when cutting the boards to width. I then run them through the planer to get them down to 1/16" thickness or less. To do this I used some double side tape on a piece of scrap ply and stuck the cut-offs to it. I produced 6 veneers (1 spare in case I broke one) all the same thickness and about 1-1/4" wide by 48" long.

These I glued to the front edge of each of the components making up the carcase.
I didn't have any clamps that could cope with the slight taper on the top and bottom of the case so I used blue tape as a clamp. I didn't think it would work very well but it did.

Have you met my friend Blue Tape?

Veneered front edges


The next job after all the veneering was completed was to fill a few minor gaps that were left by glue voids. I try not to use any filler in my work but I have found a product that was recommended to me by a retired cabinet maker.
It is Artists Paste which is a colourless, acrylic modelling paste used by artists to thicken paints 
I used this artists paste mixed with a little oak sawdust for colour to fill the voids.
It truly is wonderful stuff and I can't recommend it enough.

Then out came the random orbit sander and I sanded this to 320 grit. Next I filled the pores with some pore/grain filler as the material is French Oak. The filler used was transparent Jenkins Jecofil thixotropic grain filler. This is applied with a soft cloth with the grain and any excess wiped off across the grain. It is left to dry for 12 hours or more and then sanded back with 320 grit.
This does take some time to do and you may need to do it more than once but you are rewarded with a beautifully smooth surface ready for finish.


The finish on this piece is a colourless, sprayed General Finishes waterbased PolyAcrylic top coat. The first application raises the grain and you have to knock it back using 320 and then another two coats were put onto the carcase knocking back with 400 and then 800 between coats. The top and top surface of the base were given an extra coat.

The entire piece was left a couple of days to harden off before hitting it with 2000 grit to remove dust nibs.

I have the shelves left to finesse fit and finish so that will be in the next post.

Blue Tape

I almost forgot! Blue tape can be used for a multitude of tasks and won't leave a sticky residue on surfaces (if you remove it in time):
  • Mask off an area before painting (its default task)
  • Used in place of clamps
  • Tie up your pants if your belt snaps
  • Cover a wound if you have run out of field dressings
  • Repair cuts or holes in your shop dust extraction collection bags
  • Stick engineering/woodworking drawings/photographs to the wall
  • Use on the base of a power tool (jigsaw) to prevent scratching the surface of what you are cutting
  • Use around a drill shank as a visual depth gauge.
If you know of any other uses leave a message below.