Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update 09 Dec 2018

As I look back at my previous blog entry I realize that almost a full month has passed. The last month had it’s ups and downs - both of which rather limited my woodworking time. I had done some traveling to visit my wife’s family in Central Illinois who we hadn’t seen in some time. Then I went straight to a week long team gathering in Cleveland, Ohio for the day job. I came home with a horrible cold (and I wasn’t the only one to get sick) that hung on for almost 2 weeks. I still have a cough I can’t quite shake. So my month went away pretty quickly.

Photo Dec 09, 2 19 41 PM.jpg

But that’s all done, the kerosene heater is fueled up and running and tools are making noise and dust again. The first thing I wanted to tackle was the lid top for the engagement puzzle box. I hadn’t liked just having the keyholes on it so I made some hearts out of walnut to cover them. Then, a few magnets and washers and I had a great accent that added one more bit of a puzzle to the box. The next step was to add the names and carving. I had wanted to do this with a laser but I was having trouble getting to the site that had it what with timing, costs, classes to learn it, etc. So, since I’ve gotten good with the stencil mask on the CNC I went that route. I purchased several stencil border image packs off Etsy and picked what I like. Then it was a simple matter of getting it right in VCarve, exporting the toolpaths and cutting away. Paint, remove mask and viola, great looking top!

Next up came the task of getting a picture of the couple onto the underside of the lid so you see it when opened. Again, this was meant for laser work, but see above for all the holdups. I did some research, watched a lot of YouTube videos and found several ways to transfer photos to wood. After many tries and failures I got something that worked out nicely.

First was printing with an inkjet onto label paper where the label were removed. The ink won’t try so all you do is put this face down on your wood being careful not the move it, rub it to transfer the ink and viola - great image. Well, not so much for me. Maybe because I wanted black and white or I had too much details or something, but it looked terrible.

Then I tried using water based polycrylic. I only had Generals high durability clear coat on hand, so I put down a layer of that and then pressed a laser printed image (you want laser as its the toner you are transferring) onto the finish, smoothed it out and waited till it was dry. Then you wet the paper and rub it off with your fingers, sponge, toothbrush, etc. It was barely passable.

Then I went and got regular polycrylic satin finish and used that. Same thing, lay down a coat, press the image in, wait till dry and wet and wipe off. It was better but big chunks of the image came away and I wiped away the wet paper.

Then I saw another video that said to gently wipe just some of the paper. Hit it with a hair dryer to set everything, then wet and very gently wipe away again. Repeat until it’s pretty clean and you don’t dare try more. This worked nicely. The image came out looking great, only a bit of the toner came up but nothing that hurt it. Let it dry thoroughly (or use the hair dryer again) and you may still see a lot of what looks like white paper showing up. Don’t worry, spray on some lacquer and that will disappear and just the image is left. Plus the lacquer will sharpen it up.

So that was my Odyssey over the weekend. My foray into crafting, I guess. But hey, we can use all these skills in our work. Why wouldn’t we. We can make great things.

Until next time, stay dusty!

Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update 14 Oct 2018

So, a few weeks got away from me. The day job was busier than normal, a few more personal obligations than normal and suddenly I find myself not in the shop. These things happen when you are a part time woodworker. Occasionally my non-woodworking life takes over. The important part is to try to limit the amount everything else takes (where appropriate, things will happen).

I didn’t get a ton of time back in the shop, but I got some! I have several things to do so I just had a to pick a place to dive in. I chose a rebuild of the iris drawer which is part of the engagement box commission (more on it’s hold up in a bit). The iris was beginning to bind up in the oppressive humidity we’ve had lately in NE Pennsylvania recently and wasn’t working smoothly. Initially, I wanted to get this done and just glued the box together, top and all. Which, of course, means I had no way to fix the mechanism. So, I decided to make a new one which had a removable top. The main build was quick, just four side pieces. I had the plans for the CNC so cutting new iris parts was simple. The change I made was to add corner blocks with threaded inserts which would hold bolts that come in through the top. That just took a bit of measuring but was pretty simple. I also didn’t extend the dowels of the iris up through the top so it looks much cleaner. Lastly, the parts are made from cherry ply to match the rest of the box (I didn’t have that initially). My retaining ring did break and I had to make a new one, but that was no big deal. Bead moulding is on the front, recess for the latch is on the bottom, oil is applied. Now I wait a few days before topcoating.

I had a bit more time to turn my attention back to the lid of the engagement box. I had wanted to make some hearts that would cover the keyholes but could swivel aside. This just took a bit of time in v-carve to draw the design then a mere minute or two to cut on the CNC. I have to clean them up but they look nice and will add a bit more visual flair to the lid. I’m thinking of trying a relief carving for the top as well.

The hold up on the box has been the laser engraving. I want to use a nearby Fab Lab (makerspace) so I get to learn the equipment and can continue to use it in the future. Back in June they were moving to a new space and were supposed to be done my mid July. Well, that turned into early September with delays and problems. Once they were running again I called to grab some time only to find out the laser wasn’t venting correctly and a fix could take another couple of weeks. So, here I am in Mid Oct hoping I can get the last pieces done soon. Hey, the delay gave me time to make the new iris drawer so it was kinda good, I guess?

About 2 weeks ago I also completed my article for an upcoming issue of The Metagrobologist Magazine. The publisher loved the article and is working on getting it in place. Very excited to see that move forward. I loved writing the article and it’d be great to do more. I can’t believe I’m going to be published. That’s a direction I didn’t originally see my life going. Some of that old college education is coming in handy.

Light week for me, but at least a few things happened!

Until next week, stay dusty.

Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update for 23 Sep 2018

Some tools ran, noise was heard and dust flew (hopefully into the dust collector). I did have another week that had a lot of extra time for the day job and my shop time was minimal. I made do with what I had though.

Finished Button Box. Smalljpg.jpg

Through out the week I worked on getting the last Button Box finished. The weather here has still been very humid and that makes finishing a project hard. Humidity slows down drying times, occasionally by a lot. I use Minwax wiping poly as a top coat and on a good day I can put on 3 coats. In this weather, I could do maybe one a day. The dry time is that much slower. Plus that means I wind up with more dust nibs and need to do some extra sanding with a 0000 sponge later to smooth them out. But, after putting on a few coats with long wait times in between, the last box is done. I waxed the moving pieces, glued on those I didn’t want to move and I’m ready to ship it out. This was done as a request so it is spoken for already. Now, how do I create a product for just one person on something like Etsy so I can accept the payment?

Then finally, late Sunday afternoon, I decided it was time to get some new projects going. I don’t know quite what I’m going to do, but I know I want to use the general structure of my engagement box. I like the size and it gives me room to add in other mechanisms. So, I got into the shed, pulled out some boards and decided to mill up enough stock for 7 boxes. Everything is just a bit over long and thick so I’ve still got some wiggle room. I’m using different woods this time: 2 from cherry, 2 from maple and 2 from red oak. One more will use both cherry and maple and will likely be the box I keep and the one I do my main setup and testing on. I didn’t have enough in to get one more out of a single species but had chunks of cherry and maple to use up. Milling up is a tiring step but yet somehow fun. I cut the rough stock to size, often by hand to crosscut boards down. Rip them to near width, then joint and plane. The planer needs it’s feed roller cleaned first and the tables waxed. I use a product called Slipit - always worked well for me. After that it’s just feed and flip and feed and flip, making some adjustments if I read the grain wrong and got some tearout. The only problem I have is that maple likes to take a long chip and clogs my planer’s dust chute. I’d love to replace the old Delta at some point. Maybe even sell the planer and jointer and go for a combo machine instead.

It wasn’t a huge week, but it felt good to finish the Button Box and get some stock prepped for new boxes. I know my time is going to stay sporadic so having big operations done means I can get in bits of work throughout the week as I have time.

Until next week, stay dusty!

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.

Last Button Box Small.jpg

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

Drill Press Table - Editied Small.jpg

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.

Cross Slide Vise Mounting - Edited Small.jpg

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.  

Final Button Box - Edited Small.jpg

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.

Cherry 5 Piece Cube Small.jpg

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.

Drill Press Table Small.jpg

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

Cipher Wheel Drying in Sun.jpg

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!

Photo Aug 03, 7 27 03 PM.jpg

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.  

Table Saw Sled Stops and Hold downs.jpg

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.

Constellation Cipher Wheel Oiled Small.jpg

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!).

Cipher Wheel Constellation small.jpg

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.