Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update 09 Sep 2018

I know, I know .. I missed a week.  Last week was the US Labor Day holiday and I took some extra time off including the work holiday to get more time away.  The time off from the day job also meant time away from the shop - I really needed a bit of downtime.  We did get some hiking in at nearby parks which was fun, bought a new car to replace the truck, saw some family, at a few burgers and drank some beers.  It was good to get away from it all for a while.

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This week was also short (due to holiday, see above) but I got a little shop work in.  I got a request to finish off my last Button Box which had sat on the shelf about 2 years because it needed a bit more work and then I got on to other things.  So, I set about making the two new locking bars I needed. These weren't a ton of work but took up a night or two.  They are in and working well.  The old ones were slightly short and made the assemblies a little too smushed together.  I did some extra sanding and fitting, added a few of the other secret bits and put two coats of danish oil on.  Looks nice now.  I just need to wait several days for the oil to cure, add some poly, do final assembly and send it out.

I also finished a constellation ring cipher wheel center for a friend who like the constellation ring.  That got some sanding, slight fixing of any letters that weren't painted well enough, and then it's own oil treatment.  It too will wait several days before getting a top coat.

I expect work to pick up more now.  The local maker space, The Fab Lab, near me is open again so I can get in to do the laser engraving for the engagement box which is the last major piece for that.  I look forward to wrapping that up.  I have a sign to engrave.  And I have an article to finish and send off.  Then, it's on to new projects (or possible picking up older shelved ones).  I've had some requests to do another run of my original puzzle box, the aptly titled Mysterious Wood Puzzle Box, and I have some ideas to do a new design on that.

Nothing ground shaking in this update.  Until next week, stay dusty.

Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update for 26 Aug 2018

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Hey, I've got a new drill press table!  If you read last week you'll know I was working on a new table but I ran out of 1/4x20 t-nuts and had to wait for them to show up.  Thanks to Lee Valley I had them in hand by Tuesday and was able to finish up the main table.  I already like it and I haven't even had to really use it yet.  With all the mounting points I can use every jig from my table saw sled here as well.  Just having all the toggle clamps available is so nice.  I milled out the center to take 4x4 inch pieces of 1/4" material so I can both rotate and flip them as they get chewed up.  I made a few out of some scrap pine.  The fence is pretty dirt simple, straight piece of baltic birch ply with a few slots cut it in - just move it around as needed.

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Next up came a plate to mount my cross slide vise on that would also have holes to mount on the table.  I like having the cross slide and I think I'll use it more now that it's easier to mount.  It was a simple job, just lay out some holes to put some bolts that lined up with the mounting points on the vise, drill out some recesses with a forstner bit and the bolt the vise to the board.  Before you bolt it, though, drill holes that will line up with the holes in the drill press table.  I used my CNC for that to get them really precise.   Now, whenever I need the vise is a simple task to pop it on the table and lock it down.  I have been asked a few times if I mill on the drill press and the answer is no. Drill presses are terrible mills - you could damage the machine or have a chuck fly off and maybe get hurt.  But these vises can hold all manner of small things and move through the x-y axis nice and straight.  

I spent a lot of time this week on writing my upcoming article.  So that consumed most of my shop time.  I still consider writing about woodworking to be woodworking, though!  It's coming along nicely, at least I think it is.  I've never written a magazine article before.  

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I wrapped up the week dusting off my last remaining copy of The Button box.  This has been on the shelf a while.  It needs two new parts created, which is why it got shelved earlier.  These are just the slide locks and aren't a very difficult job, just a bit tedious to make sure the match up.  The original two were a slight bit short I didn't like how they worked.  Once those are done, I can put some oil on and then top coat.  This box is already spoken for, hence why I'm wrapping it up.  I just always seemed to be working on something else and never got back to this one.  Hopefully it'll be ready in a few weeks.  Feels good to finish this one up.  This was a fun run of boxes where I learned a lot.

On a slight side note, I wonder if anyone else has been on a walk in the woods, looked at all the trees and sighed, knowing you can't use any as lumber?  I love hiking and being out in the woods, but sometimes you see such great trees and know they have good lumber!  But we can't use it all.

Until next week, stay dusty!

Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update for 19 Aug 2018

I got to have some fun in my bits of free time this week and use some of those jigs for making cube puzzles.  I cut up a bit of cherry into a bunch of 3/4" cubes.  I got pretty good accuracy but my variation was still from .001 to .003.  I'd prefer if it stayed within .001 as it does affect to working of the puzzle.  I think it might come from the tiny amount of play in my puzzle makers sled and if I put a little more force on one side I can shift the cut ever so slightly.  It's hard to take out that last bit of play because if I tighten it any further the sled can bind up in the miter slots.  So, I'll continue to work on it.  Perhaps a new hold down assembly will let me hold the block in place so I can have an even push of the sled with both hands.  It's close, it's real close.

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I was glad to have made the edge beveling jig.  The first time I made some cube puzzles I beveled by hand on the sander and it took a long time with questionable accuracy.  This time, probably 5-10 minutes to finish 30 cubes and have them all come out nice and even.  Then it was over to the corner gluing jig which also worked great.  I just put a small amount of glue on the faces that needed it, held them in a place about 30 seconds and moved onto the next cube.  I made the 5 piece puzzle from Brian Menold's book.  Gluing went well, I had forgotten to glue one piece that I had to fix, but that's better than gluing one wrong!  I had to do a tiny bit of sanding on a few pieces to make it fit and work well.  All that's left now is to clean up the edges and add some oil to pop the cherry.

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Then I was about to take some pictures of my drill press table for my upcoming article and I thought, you know it's about time I made a new table.  I wanted something with more functionality and it'll look really good.  I like the attachments on the table saw sled and knew it could be used on a drill press table.  After a bit of head scratching, some measuring and time with v-carve I had a toolpath for the CNC.  I'll have 50 or so attachment points and a replaceable center.  Wouldn't you know it, though, I ran out of t-nuts and I can't finish till that order comes in (luckily Lee Valley is pretty quick!).  I know it's a lot of hold downs, but I figured add a lot, they come in handy.  The CNC process took about an hour to finish the top and bottom layers.  The bottom layer has the holes for the t-nuts with a recess for them to sit in.  The top has the through holes and the cut out for the replaceable plate.  There are also holes for the bolts that attach the table to the drill press.  Once this is done I know that having the same toggle clamps and stops I use on the table saw available will be a big help.  Plus I can make a holder for the cross slide vice so it's easy to attach.

Bit of a light week, but nice to have some time to put another shop aid in place.  These can make a big difference down the road when I'm deep into other builds.

Until next week, stay dusty.

Week Ending 05 Aug 2018

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I'm going to call this week "Why won't my finish dry?"  Last Sunday I put the Danish oil finish on the 2 constellation cipher wheels and then waited until Wednesday to start the Minwax wipe-on poly.  That should have been plenty of time for the oil to cure, it's how how I usually wait.  After applying the first coat of poly, which usually dries in 2-3 hours, it was still tacky several hours later.  I waited until morning, still tacky.  I put them outside whenever I saw the sun, still tacky.  Finally got them feeling pretty good by Friday night, put on another coat, same thing happened.  Let them sit with a fan on them Saturday, then out in the hot sun on Sunday and they are finally starting to feel like the finish is curing.  My thinking is that the US East Coast has had a monsoon season lately and it's very humid.  If the oil hadn't completely cured, it could slow down the poly.  Plus, humidity can slow down poly curing anyway.  So, it's a waiting game.  If they get pretty dry, I may just do a final coat of shellac to seal anything away.  And here I wanted them listed on Etsy today!

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The week was light so I decided to put some time into making a few a things I've wanted.  The first of these was a cube beveling jig out of Brian Menold's Wooden Puzzles book.  For a guide on how to make cube puzzles, this is a great book.  I don't know Brian or have any relationship with him, I just found his book very informative.  I whipped up one which is just two little beveled strips glued to a board that has a runner that rides in the disc sanders guide slot.  You put the cube in and sand each edge.  Keep flipping till they are all done.  This makes every bevel the same.  When I have a few more free minutes I plan to add another set to the other side with a slightly wider opening so I can do different bevels.  

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After that I turned to my puzzle makers sled for the table saw,  I've needed to get some new attachments done for it, and this was the perfect time.  I made new stops that I can use together to make very small adjustments.  You can see in the picture the two stops above the right side of the fence.  The right most one stays fixed and it's separated from on to the left by some paper spacers.  Those bits of paper are around 0.015 inches, so by adding or removing them you can change the distance to the blade and make very small adjustments.  And it's as easy as loosening the left stop and making the change and tightening it back down.  Then I made the hold down you see on the left into a slotted adjustment so I can position it in more place - here you see it spanning the blade to hold a part in place. Keeps me from putting my hands that close!  I took some of the other toggle clamps and made their bases have slotted holes so can put them in more positions.  This was just a few hours and some scraps but it makes the sled that much more useful.  I have the stops made in both 1/2" and 3/4" thick varieties depending on my needs.  

I'll make some more stops and hold downs for the sled.  Last time I was at the home store I grabbed a bunch more button head bolts in varying sizes so I have plenty around to hold things on.  Good to keep a bunch of these and washers on hand to make the attachments needed!

I also started working on a new project, but this on is writing about the process of woodworking.  I'm going to love doing this, I have quite enjoyed keeping the blog up lately and also writing my Creative Thinking Blog.  I won't release too many details yet, but there may be some bits and hints over the next few weeks about what I'm doing.

The week had very little major project work, but some good time spent building and maintaining jigs.  That's time that can really pay off in the future.  I can totally recommend putting time into jig making, it will always help you.

Until next week, stay dusty!


Week Ending 29 July 2018

Where oh where has the week gone?  I could swear it was just Monday.  This happens far too often when you're an independent woodworker with a day job and a variety of other personal duties.  We try our best and we find times to still make a bit of dust.  And I managed to get some quality time in the shop regardless.

I have two of the new cipher wheels with the constellations on them oiled and drying.  The main work here was to carve the second one, get it painted and then cleaned up.  Then came time to make the dials that let you turn the inner disc.  These are just two discs made from 5/8" walnut.  I went simple and these and just drew them with a compass, cut them on a jig saw and sanded to my lines. 

Where I added some challenge was to make a hole in the center to hold a threaded insert.  I wanted a flat bottomed hole down to 1/8" from the bottom.  Regular brad point drill bits would have their points go through that last 1/8".  So, I mounted them in the CNC and made a quick program to cut them.  I had to put in a v-bit so I could align it's point with the center of the disc (from the compass), clamp it down then switch to a 1/8" spiral and make the cut.  Sure, it was probably overkill, but it worked great.

I installed the threaded inserts back at the drill press.  It's helpful to have another set of hands or clamps here (I had a wife!).  I cut the head off a 1/4 20 bolt so I could put it in the drill chuck them put the insert on it with a few nuts to hold it in place.  From here, lower the quill and turn the chuck by hand.  I repeat, turn this by hand!  Pressure on the quill while turning sets the inserts totally straight.  It's a great way to get the job done.

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Last was a bit of sanding, glue on the dials and then put a few coats of danish oil on all the parts.  Wipe them dry a bit later and now I'll let them cure a few days before top coating with some wipe on poly.  They oughta look great then as I get them posted to Etsy.  Oh yeah, after doing some photography.  Making some new videos would be cool too.

I'm also looking for other alternatives for laser work to finish off the engagement box commission.  The shop I wanted to use is closed while they move and it appears they are taking longer than expected.  Made some calls and have a new person to see this week.  We'll see.  I had hoped to use the Fab Lab maker space so I got the experience of using the laser.

That about did it for the week.  Not a lot happening, but really good to see some projects move along.  Progress is progress, always good to look at it that way.  Each day brings new challenges, new failures but new successes as well.  It's the successes we have to keep our eyes on.  Failures are just there as guides on what not to do.

Until next week, stay dusty!

Week Ending 22 July 2018

This week was mostly about drawing, but fortunately drawing for use in woodworking.  I recently purchased as Wacom Intuos drawing pad because I had wanted to get better at drawing and found I can use it for woodworking drawings too.  I have wanted to make new symbols for use on the cipher wheels and after a bit of looking and searching I decided to make a set of constellations.  These are similar to what you'd see watching the old Stargate show (love that show, hope it comes back sometime!).

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Using the pad and another tool, Autodesk Sketchbook (currently free for hobby/student use) to draw all the constellation symbols.  I used some pictures found around the web as a guide.  The trickiest part is getting the thickness of the lines right as these will turn into v-carve paths for the CNC.  Sketchbook has tools for drawing straight lines or circles plus all the freehand methods.  It was a combination of both, some guided drawing then a bit of free hand to fine tune.

Once I had them drawn, I could save this as a .TIFF file and moved over to V-Carve (I use desktop 8.5, I should upgrade at some point).  Here I can import the tiff file and then trace it.  Since I drew the constellations as solid black shapes they traced well and I didn't need any editing.  All that was left was to group the right lines to make the full constellation and then arrange them around the ring, create the toolpath, export and carve away. 

I used the Oramask again and got some very nice cutting.  I found if I slowed down the CNC a bit I had less of a chance of lifting the mask.  It does add some time, but I'd rather wait a few more minutes than fix issues.  All the usual followed - paint, wait, peel off all mask and marvel at the new piece.  It came out looking great!  Painting did take a while, lots of little bits to fill in.  I tried a sample with spray paint but that has a tendency to bleed (maybe due to the alcohols in it).  Maybe I can get around that by first sealing with some spray shellac first.

I also carved a second center but didn't have time to paint it.  I had a few chip out spots I'll need to fix first (cut and stick little pieces of the stencil mask) before painting anyway.  I did mill up some new edging and wrapped the cipher wheel body.  Soon I'll have two new cipher wheels with the constellations as one of the cipher languages!

The other shop work was a bit of maintenance - coating the cast iron surfaces with some Boshield T9.  I've used that for several years now with pretty good success.  Spray on, wipe off and then I find after I wait a few hours I have to buff it down as it dries a tad sticky.  After a light buffing it gets nice and slick again.

Bit light this week, I know.  I'm hoping the Fab Lab is open again so I can get there and do the laser work for the engagement box and wrap that project up.

Until next week, stay dusty.

Week Ending 15 July 2018

Well, I wish I could say this work was more devoted to woodworking than it was, but too many other facets of work and life intruded.  I was out several nights this week and then Saturday was taken up doing work around the property.  Sunday opened up a bit, so I took advantage of what time I had.

The CNC club met Thursday night.  So, while I wasn't working myself I was watching and talking about woodworking.  A demo was done of 2 sided cutting with V-Carve then run on the Axiom. (kinda wish I had this one!  I don't work here, just who I know sells them.)  I liked the technique and have to try it out.  Plus, i would love to have a water cooled spindle - they are so quiet it's eerie.  With one of those and the Festool CT26 I wouldn't need hearing protection CNC'ing.  Plus we got to see some cool engravings on acrylic with a diamond bit and then lit with LEDs that looked awesome.

Sunday I was in the shop and decided that the test of cutting a cipher wheel with the Oramask went so well I should just finish it.  So I wrapped it with walnut moulding.  I do this with a 22 1/2 degree cutting jig attached to my table saw sled.  I cut all the pieces to rough size, then I cut one side of each edge piece to the angle, then I can set it in place and mark where to cut the other side.  I use the next piece as a test to see if I was cut exactly - you'll feel a little ridge if it's too long.  Plus, you can look at the inside edge and see if there is any shadow meaning it's a bit long.  The jig lets me shave off really small amounts if needed.  Too short, well, then your stuck, no fixing that except with a new piece so be careful.  Some glue and some blue tape, wait a few hours and they look great.  Now I have to decide what new symbols I want to put on the inner ring.  I'd like to do hieroglyphs or constellations.

I worked on the design of the main cipher wheel and discovered I can make the outer ring letters a bit bigger.  I did this in V-Carve, created a new .tap file for cutting and then made another.  It looks good.  I did all the cutting and just have to do the paint filling.  One bit of the logo on the back had the Oramask come free but I think I can fix that by cutting a small piece, sticking it on and knifing it to the exact size.  I had the spare blank so I figured why not have another.

I swapped out the 27mm hose on the CT26 and instead used the 2 1/4" hose from the old shop vac.  I get much better pickup this way.  Still running it through the Dust Deputy.  On the CNC there was only the dust that was left right in the cut, most of the rest was captured.

Cut down an old apple tree, so that sort of woodworking.  Needed to swap out the chain and the big saw and then it went through like butter.  Well, until I popped the chain off in a cut and might have bent it as I couldn't put the chain back on.  This is my life, just when I'm getting somewhere something dumb happens to derail it all.  I'll have to check the sharpener to see if this is fixable of the chain is trash.

That's the week.  Kind of light, but that's how they go sometimes.

Until next week, stay dusty!

Week Ending 08 July 2018

This was a vacation week for me.  The day job was on holiday all week (it was an extended 4th which is normally just 2 days).  I had planned to do some traveling and some hiking, but the Northeast here was in a heat wave most of the week and hiking wasn't much fun.  So we stuck around home and took it easy.  This might mean I should have done lots of shop work, but the point of vacation is to take a break and that's what I tried to do.  It wasn't all non-woodworking though!

Throughout the week I taught myself a bit of photo editing.  Why, you ask?  Well, for the engagement box commission I need to do a laser engrave of a picture.  The one he liked had some extra people and things in the background.  After an hour or two with GIMP and a few YouTube tutorials I had deleted those other people from existence and completely filled in the background.  Now it's on to the laser!

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A new friend arrived in the shop.  I now have a Festool CT26E for dust collection, to replace my old Rigid shop vac.  One benefit of a day job is some occasional bonuses that for me came in Amazon form.  I wouldn't have bought one of these but the bonus really offset the cost.  This little fella is really quiet.  Like, amazingly quiet.  Strong, too.  It's different from a shop vac as it really is best when hooked to a tool.  Suction drops quickly about an inch from the nozzle.  But when connected, it's great. I still run mine through an Oneida Dust Deputy to preserve the filter bag in the CT26.  I have it hooked up to the CNC.  It seems to leave more dust on the surface (the dust shoe on this isn't that great) but that's quickly vacuumed up after and nothing is blowing around.  I may see if it has a larger hose, though, it's a fairly narrow one.  I love the quiet, though.  it's just amazing.  When hooked to my sander I can work without ear protection as both tools are really quiet.

I got a roll of the Oracal Oramask 813 and gave it a try cutting a cipher wheel.  It worked very well.  I took off the backing, set it down and rolled it with a j-roller.  I had a bit of an "M" lift slightly but I was able to set the mask back down.  I filled the letters with acrylic paint and then peeled it off when dry.  it stuck well, and lifted a bit of grain, but came off easily enough.  It was tedious as I needed to go around with a knife to get the pieces up.  The letters were super crisp.  I love the look.  it takes more time but the result is quite good.

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Lastly I tried a carving for the lid of the engagement box.  I wanted to put a fleur pattern on with the names as well.  The fleur is rather large and even with a 90 deg V-Bit it had to carve pretty deep.  But, I put on the Oramask, carved the decoration and the names (names were with a 30 deg pencil bit)  I decided this time to tape off the top and try spray painting the letters.  It's drying as I write this, so I'll see what it looks like tomorrow.  It was an experiment, so who knows, maybe it'll look great.

That was my work.  Until next week, stay dusty!


Week Ending 01 July 2018

This was a very light week woodworking wise.  I just didn't have much time at all to do any real work.  But I did get up to some work in the shop, it's just that I was working on the shop instead of making things.  I told myself when i started these weekly updates I would always do them even if I didn't get up to much.  I'm a part time woodworker and occasionally time is at a premium when the rest of life sneaks in.

When I said it was a light week I should have said it was a week of lighting.  My shop was dark and I had wanted to upgrade the lighting situation for a while.  My lighting had been a pair of 2x4ft  T12 bulb shop lights and one LED.  Then I supplemented with task lighting at tools.  I always had shadows, it was dark taking pictures and just overall not very friendly.  It was high time for a change.

I spent some time online looking at options.  I wanted to use linkable LED shop lights.  I didn't like the selection at my local Lowes but found some nice units at Home Depot.  I will say, when I was shopping I was a bit bewildered by options and numbers.  I'm not a lighting expert and I don't want to become one.  So, I ended up getting one light and taking it home to try.  And wow, what a different a single light made.  So a few days later I picked up 5 more.  Now, I had hoped to just get the longer linking cords (the ones in the box and only a few inches long) but of course they aren't carried in store.  Luckily, I was able to hook up everything using some light duty extension cords.

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 I used 6 of their 4ft linkable integrated LED shop lights.  These put out 3200 lumens (and I didn't know how much that was until I hung one up) and have a bright white color intensity.  I like this color as it's not the super bright blue or soft yellow.   Installation was pretty simple, just time on a ladder to put in some eye hooks then hang the lights on the chains.  The worst part is that it's really hot here and the top of my 10ft high shop is even warmer.  I started with the lights hanging a bit low but found it overly bright so I raised them to about a foot from the ceiling.  Coverage is pretty decent with only a few slightly dark areas in the corners. It's definitely cheerier and I have enough overlap that shadows are pretty minimal.  

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There was a bit of other woodwork that happened this week.  I had several large pine trees taken down near the house.  I didn't have to do anything except sign the check.  Well, until now, as I had them leave the logs for a neighbor to use in his outdoor maple syrup stove.  The logs are bucked into rounds but I get to haul them around.  Nice to get rid of these problems that were literally hanging over my head.  One of the trees had a serious lean towards the house.  I still have 3 more big pines to go but I can only get so many done at one time.   We've had more high wind events and wet heavy snows so I'd love to get rid of all the monster trees standing by the house.



Coming up is a hot week.  That'll mean a little trouble getting into the shop - I don't have AC.  But I try anyway.  I'd like to use my nice new lights!

Until next week, stay dusty!