Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bien sûr, il est difficile ... c'est français ...


Today was a big day for me. The mailman knocked on my door twice this morning, the first time to deliver a part for my modification of the Delta Sharpening machine, and the second, to deliver a saw blade that was just sharpened by Matt Cianci. Ya, I know. Small things amuse small minds.

First the sharpener machine part. A few weeks ago I posted the render of the part I needed to turn this Delta machine into something that is actually usable for sharpening. The parts I want to use on it are from the Veritas Mk II Sharpening machine. I had already purchased the majority of what was needed so the last piece of the puzzle was this custom-turned adapter.

Before I did anything in regards to that one missing part, I checked out what the Veritas machine uses to see if it might be adaptable. From the images I have, I figured it might be a good bet, so I sent off an email to Lee Valley customer service to order one.

Naturally, they questioned what I was going to do with a drive pulley for a machine I didn’t own. In the end, I had to speak to a member of management about it, a person named John who was very good at what he does. I was straight with him, and after a tiny bit of convincing, they put the order in motion. That was yesterday, and the pulley arrived this morning.

Now I have another problem. This is such a beautifully turned piece of metal, I don’t know if I have the heart to hack it up. John had mentioned that there was a short shaft pressed into a hole for it on the bottom. This is what the pulley turns on as it is not connected to the drive shaft, but instead, is driven by a belt. I need the hole back and I think getting that short-shaft out is going to tear up the pulley a bit. I looked at it after taking it out of the box and I immediately knew why these machines are $400 a pop. Gorgeous stuff, but then again, it is a Veritas product, and that is what has kept me coming back year after year for thirty years. There will definitely be a Mk II in my future, but not before this old Delta fries itself, and we all know it will, probably the day after I get it back together.

Here is a shot of the drive pulley…

Only Veritas would create a part with this level of quality.

Now for the second shipment; my Trim Saw. I have written about this saw a fair amount since purchasing it about 10-months ago. It is a cool saw, but man, is it a royal pain the arse. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the title of this posts suggests; “Of course it is difficult…it’s French…”.

This is the saw that all the dealers were selling as a “Veneer Saw”, and some are still listing them as that today. This is the saw that I had Daryl Weir refile with traditional French veneer saw teeth. This is the saw that I found out after having it retoothed that it isn’t a veneer saw at all. This is the saw that has three times the purchase price invested in it because this is the saw that I have had jointed and retoothed twice, and never used it.

Today was the day. I made my first cut with this saw and thankfully, the damned thing works, and works well. It is a bit awkward getting used to moving your arms back and forth, rather than up and down, but as golf proves, any unnatural motion can become second nature...

Matt Cianci can be reached at matt@thesawblog.com,
and you can follow his blog at thesawblog.com

Lets just say Daryl wasn’t exactly pleased with me when I emailed him to admit that I was wrong to insist he retooth the thing as a veneer saw. He kept suggesting I was full of it and I kept ignoring what he was saying. Every student makes a mistake or two…or three or thirty…so why should I be any different. I really wasn’t surprised when Daryl told me he didn’t want another go-round with this thing, so I contacted Matt Cianci about it. Matt hasn’t been sharpening commercially for long, but he has really made a name for himself over that short period of time. He is obsessed with saws, and that obsession shows in his work. One top of that, Matt is just a hell of a nice guy.

I removed the blade from the handle to ship it to Matt as I felt it wasn't necessary to pay postage on a 20" hunk of mahogany that Matt was only going to remove once he started work on it. When it arrived back, before I put it back together, I waxed everything three or four times and put a couple of coats of Waxilit, a wax that is far slicker than normal wax, made to reduce friction and sold by Lee Valley. I use it for everything, including the top of my computer station as it makes the mouse slide freely. After waxing, I put the thing together and gave it a whirl on some oak trim for the never-ending plant unit project. In about two minutes flat I was through the wood and cleaning up the sawdust. My hat is off to Matt, as he really did a nice job on this unusual sharpening job...ok...bizarre sharpening job...

The aftermath, a fairly clean cut with a saw that
followed the mitre jack like it was on rails.

When I first spoke to Matt about this job, and ever since, I kept my mouth shut in regards to how I think the saw should be configured. In truth, I don’t know much about saw sharpening, mainly because I don’t want to know, but after wasting my money and Daryl's time with the last go-round, I'm not about to make the same mistake again.

There is a reason I don't know much about, nor want to know much about sharpening saws. I remember, as a kid, watching my old man, once each month, working in the garage in the summer and the basement in the winter, sitting for a fiver while sharpening all his blades and saws. As a kid, I thought it was the most boring thing anyone could do, and, sorry Matt, I still think of it as such. I’m sure many of you would think much of what I do for kicks is boring as well, but I can assure you, nothing I do is as repetitive as sharpening saw teeth. Oh, and if you are wondering what I meant by, “sitting for fiver”, the old man used to go through a beer every thirty to forty-five minutes. In my world, “sitting for fiver” means a time frame of 2½ to 3-hours, the length of time it would take him to sharpen all his blades. Of course, I would sit there with him while he sharpened his three saws, about six to eight table saw blades; rip, cross and ply, touch up his dado blades and tune up the knives for the molding head for his table saw, a set-up he used often for kitchen cabinet trim. I can tell you, for a 5 to 9 year old kid, those few hours took forever, but I had to sit with him as it was my job to replenish the beer.

Mentioning those molding heads caused me to stop and look them up. I am truly surprised to see they still sell those things. If noise is a factor of danger, these things are the most lethal of all. I can never forget the noise they make…scared the bejeebers out of me. His old Beaver table saw took an 8” blade. It was, after all, probably made in the late 1940’s. If you have never had the honour of meeting one of these molding heads, they came  with different blades; three little ones to a set. These little buggers mount at right-angles to the head, which is a healthy hunk of metal at about ¾ of a inch thick. When those things were turning, cor blimey, they whined. While I was looking up those heads, I ran across a listing for old Beaver table saws on vintagemachinery.org. While there were a number of them listed, none were the same as his, as they were all a little newer. I scooped a photo of this one that is close, one from the early ‘50’s…
A Beaver 2200, early 1950's, listed on vintagemachinery.org.
These old Beavers were manufactured by
The Callander Foundry & Mfg. Co. Ltd.,
located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada until they were
bought out by Rockwell in 1953.

I had a love/hate relationship with this saw. He kept it in the trunk of his cars; a beat up old 40 Dodge, then he went to a 49’ Merc that the story goes, was tuned up by a bank robber who got caught, went to jail and gave it to his priest, who in turn, sold it to the old man. That was one fast machine, considering it was a boat anchor. Towards the end of his carpentry days, he picked up a beautiful two-door 56’ Plymouth wagon, the first year for the push button automatic. When he had a job to do at home, I was always his helper and the first order of business was to haul that old saw out of the car and set it up wherever we were working. While I noticed some of the guys on vintagemachine.org stated their saws were cast aluminum, I can assure you his wasn’t. His old Beaver was cast iron all the way; bed, body and fence. It must have weighed 100-pounds, if it was an ounce, especially with the old ½-horse motor hanging off the back. Every time I picked that damned thing up I got a cuff because every time I did, I would grab the fence guides, the easiest part to lift it by and the only handhold I saw when I went to lift it. Every time; “How many G_d-damned times do I have to tell you not to lift it by those”…smack! (I know he sounds like a royal dick, but really, he wasn’t) He would then grab the thing from my hands and walk away with it like it was his lunch bucket.

A quick story, I hope, about this old saw…I had a big, old outboard motor that I was going to build a boat for, but along came my son and ate up all my money, so I knew there wasn’t going to be a fast runabout in my near future. I asked the old man if I could store it in his basement, which he agreed to. I lugged it down the stairs, we built a stand for it, and I put it in the corner. The next spring, again when I was visiting, he asked me to drag it up again. He suggested I put it out on the front lawn and he would sell it for me. I thought that was a great idea as I could have used the money back then, so I hauled it up, set it up on the stand in the front yard and even ran out and got a “for sale” sign for it. The next time I was over, he beamed at me while he told me he sold my outboard. Great! Then he told me to go downstairs and see what I contributed the money to. Not so great. (ok, he was a bit of a dick, but I loved him anyhow) He took the cash he got for my outboard and bought a new Rockwell with it. I went down and had a look at it, but I have to tell you, I hated that saw from the first time I laid eyes on it. In truth, it had nothing to do with the saw, and more to do with the fact that every time I looked at it, all I saw was the clothes for my kid that should have been purchased with that money, but, what the hell, that was my old man.

As a follow-up, as my livelyhood improved and I was ready to set up a shop for myself, the old Beaver was still in the corner where the old man had thrown it when the new saw came in. I told him that I thought it only right that he keep the Rockwell for now, and I’d take the old Beaver. I just didn’t have the heart to tell him how much I hated that saw or why. I used that old Beaver forever (keep your comments to yourself), until the top finally warped after we had a flood in the basement.

So there is my trip down memory lane for this year, and a long involved explanation as to why I don’t sharpen saws, or at least that is what this long ramble started out as, remember?

Just a quick one on a subject near and dear to me…I check out this blog’s stats every once and a while, just to see what is up. It always amazes me how many of you actually read this drivel, but that is not what I wanted to write about here. Recently, I noticed a big change in the countries where the hits are coming from; the change, of course, is that Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer included on the list. That is because the boys - and girls - have come home. No matter which flag you served under, I thank you for your service and I thank you for a job well done. We are thrilled you came home safe and we will remember those that didn’t come home with you. My wish for you is that your return home is exactly as you hoped it would be.

And with that…

Peace,

Mitchell