Sunday, July 10, 2011

Planer Lesson

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a planer with some money my parents sent to me for my birthday. Yes, my mom still does that.

I figured the planer would cut down wood prep time, especially since I use cedar for constructing my Adirondack Chairs. As most of you know, cedar is only roughly finished, especially on one side and the edges. I had been using a belt sander to prep the wood, but that was a two day chore.  the planer has cut that time down to a couple of hours.

The first lesson I learning was something called snipe. This happen to leading edge of a board, generally about the first two to three inches. I asked around some of my more experienced woodworking friends and they all said there isn't much I can do about this.  That section is basically wasted. So the lesson I learned was to NOT pre-cut the lumber prior to using the planer.  I still had to use the sander to smooth out the snipe so i could use the lumber.

So, yesterday I was planing my lumber and moving along nicely, creating all kinds of wood chips. But On one board I forgot to check for staples. Stapes are used to hold on the price tag on every board.  Normally this is not an issue because the staples are in the middle of the end of the board. On this occasion, the staple was right on the edge and the blades hit it. the edge is ruined. Fortunately, my blades are double-sided, so I just had to flip them around. But I have now cut the blade life in half, and the blades are NOT cheap. $30.00 for a new set.

Needless to say, every board after that had all the staples removed regardless of the location.

A Design Change

Hopefully, while you are working in your shop you are leaning or trying something new every day. Yesterday was both for me. This post will be about the trying something new, I'll do a separate post for a lesson learned.

Under the category of "Trying" I am attempting to come up with a new way to put my Adirondack Chairs together so that fewer screws are noticeable. On my latest set, I tried using a wood filler and I am not happy with the results. I have been kicking around in my head for a while now a different idea. Instead of putting the screws in front the front, I thought way couldn't I put them in from a different angle.

So I sketched out a few ideas and came up with the one I am going to try next. This new idea will mean a slight modification to the design, but not an overall re-work. The two locations I focused were on the arm rests and the back slats.

On the arm rest I am going to add a little material between the arm rest and the front legs.

I will then attach the new material to the leg and arm rest support with countersunk screws. Then the arm rest itself will be attached, drilling the screws from the bottom. This will make the screws not visible from the standpoint of the person sitting in the chair.

For the back slats I am going to use my newly acquired table saw to make dado cuts then drill the screws in from the back side.

This should make the screws invisible.  I have practiced several times with scrap wood, which I recommend anytime you make a modification or change to a design. The attempts have been very successful so I have a good feeling about this.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tip From A Reader

One of my commenter’s, Scottiebill, sent me this tip:

“…Predrilling screw holes with a countersink bit is vital. However, it is also wise to countersink a little bit on the opposite side of the hole to allow someplace for the wood that is inevitably pulled up by the screw to go. If this is not done, odds are that you won’t get a tight joint, that there will be a slight gap between the two pieces you are assembling.”

Honestly, I have never thought about this. It sounds like an awesome tip. I would guess this would be especially true if you are doing fine woodworking with hardwoods like oak and maple and several of the tropical varieties.

As always, I welcome comments. If you have any advice for other woodworkers out there, please let me know. I will provide full attribution.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shop Equipment

One of the best pieces of equipment that I own is a router table.  If you are a beginning woodworker, a router table is one of the first pieces of shop equipment I recommend you purchase.

The router gives you some flexibility and reduces time spent on certain points in your projects. One of the selling points of my Adirondack chairs is the soft corners and edges. Before I got the router table, I had to use a sander to round off the all the edges.  The problem with the sanding method is the finished work can be inconsistent. Some places you’ll have a nice 1/4 radius edge, and in other places it could be larger or even smaller.  Having consistent rounded edges give the piece a professional look.

Some Advice:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saving Wood and Saving Trees

When working on a smaller project such as the Adirondack chairs I work hard to use the least amount of wood possible. This doesn’t mean I scrimp on how much material I use, but it means that I try and use as much of a length of board as possible. For example, let’s say I am making a single chair and table. This requires lengths of 1x6 in 35, 35, 28, 28, 27, 18, 18, 17, 17, 16, and 16 inches. To use as much lumber as possible I will group the cut lengths to get as close to a stand length of board (10’, 12’) as possible.  So in this case I get two 1”x6”x12’ (12’-144”) boards and lay out the cut pattern thusly: 35, 35, 28, 28, 16 = 142” and 22, 27, 16, 17, 17, 18, 18 = 135”. This leaves me with 2 and 9 inches of scrap.

Of course, I take into account the wood grain and color when laying out my cut patterns. I want my arm rests to look like they came from the same piece of wood so I group those together. When there are pieces that aren’t important visually I can mix them across the various lengths of the dimensional lumber.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Workshop Tips

Some of you may have looked at the Adirondack Chair images and read a little about my woodworking hobby. I have recently begun to work with wood so you could call me a novice.  In fact, I will call me a novice.

What my intent here is to educate you on mistakes that I have made and little things that I have learned that could help you be a better wood worker.  Most of the tips were discovered as a way to overcome mistakes and difficult situations. Mostly through trial and error.  For the expert, most of these tips will probably be in the category of “well duh!”  The expert is not my target audience.  But if you are an expert and notice any of these tips are off base, or you have a better suggestion, please feel free to let me know.


1. Whenever possible, sand in a well ventilated area. This tip is for those of us who do not have a sawdust collection system. Be sure to always use a dust mask that covers your face and nose.  When the weather cooperates I open both the main garage door and the man-door.  This allows for cross ventilation, especially if there is a breeze. With the doors shut the sawdust is suspended in the air and eventually settles over everything.

2. Use steel wool to remove the embedded sawdust at the end of your crosscut boards. When you do a crosscut, the material between the grain can get embedded with very fine sawdust and is nearly impossible to remove.  If this finer sawdust is not removed and you stain the end of the board it will leave a whitish residue at the end of the board.  I have discovered that if you rub “000” grit steel wool after sanding it will remove the finer particles.

3. Always have some way of securing the cords on power tools.  I have a belt sander with a long cord and it can get in the way when working on longer pieces of wood.  I use a quick-clamp on the end of my bench and just drape the cord around it.  It is not tied, but it helps take up some of the slack and keeps me from running over the cord with the sander.

4. Make templates. If you do repeated projects, make a template so you can make the same cuts and patterns every time.

5. If you use screws to mate pieces together, get yourself some countersink drill bits.  This will keep you from cracking the wood as you drive in the screws. A real problem is if you put a screw at the end of a board. If you don’t countersink it will do ugly damage to the wood as you try to get the screw flush with the wood.

6. Keep your work area clean. Periodically, sweep up the sawdust from your work surface and throw away unwanted pieces of wood.  Also, when you are done with a tool, put it away. Even if you are going to use it again in a while, it is still a good idea to get it off your work surface. This frees up some extra space.

7. There will be more as I continue to work with wood.