Sunday 25 September 2011

Inovation Is The Mother Of Invention...

As I have mentioned, my shop space is in my office, located across a 9-foot-wide room from all my computer machinery. It is a funny thing about all the computers I have owned over the years. I have never owned one that didn't have allergies; all being specifically allergic to dust. With a room full of computers that are prone to sneezing, having a dust-producing woodworking set up in the same room isn't the smartest thing I have ever done, but it exists in this manner as there are only two other alternatives; quit making a living, or quit woodworking. Neither of those options are acceptable to me.
When a dusty job comes up, I have to use a little ingenuity to get it done without wiping out the price of a new car in computer equipment. I have tried covering everything with plastic, but that ate up too much time. I have tried popping over to a friends to do the dirty deed, but I'm not comfortable in other people's environments. Recently, though, I new one came to mind while I was out walking my dog one afternoon.
Out back of our condo building is a catch-basin, one that includes a open-angled wood retaining wall. Walking over, I checked for height, and while it is a tad too high, I figured it might be just the ticket the next time a dirty job came up. It wasn't long after realizing that wall could be useful that a job came up which allowed me to put it to the test.
I am making crown mouldings for my current, never-ending project, which is making my wife a plant shelving unit. As with anything made with hand tools, it takes forever, even though the design is pretty basic. Below is a quick line-drawing of how I am putting the crown moulding together.
Surprisingly, working with planes produces very little dust, as does scrapping and scratch work. The two big dust-producers are sawing anything and some specific sanding. When I sand finishes, it produces a lot of dust, but it doesn't get airborne, so if I vacuum up the mess regularly, and don't move the pieces being sanded around, the resulting dust is not an issue. Saw the end off a 1 x 2 piece of pine, though, and the dust seems to bred in the air and what I made, plus all its offspring, land on everything everywhere.
The cheapest and quickest way to produce the filler piece needed behind the angled face was to rip a piece of 2" x 2" poplar stock down the middle on the 45, and that, I knew, was going to produce some serious dust.
Of course the best way to handle this would be to grab the stock, saw and sawhorse, and head outside and just do it, but living in a condo doesn't allow you to do things easily. Understand that the one thing condo life doesn't have is space. You trade that off for not having to cut the lawn or shovel the snow. To explain just how tight some condos are when it comes to space, let me relate this little story. My wife and I once invested in some new condos and townhouses that were being built. When the builder asked me how I liked them, I told them they were fine, but anyone who ends up living in them would never be able to go on vacation again. He asked if that was because the mortgage payments would be too high, and I answered, "No. There is no place to store their suitcases once they return home". Hence, until I can come up with a design for a foldable sawhorse that is stable when open, I don't have one.
On the first cool summer's day, one where the temperature dropped below 80°F (27°C), I grabbed the 2 x 2 stock, a 3-foot piece of 1 x 2, my favourite ripsaw, and my latest invention...a portable hold-down, and off I went to cut some wood. Getting to the knee wall, The first thing I did was cut the 1" x 2" stock in half, then I cut a "V" in the centre of each one, as shown in the image below.
Beautiful old Disston from about 1900. When I get to Heaven, I'm going
to give "KCR" a piece of my mind for making his mark on this tool so
badly. I will, that is, if those in charge of admissions
forgave him for what he did to this saw.
Placing those two pieces of 1 x 2 on top of the wall at right angles to the 6 x 6, I then placed the 2 x 2 in the "V's", which held it on the bias. My new portable hold-down is unique, in that it is voice activated, so I tapped the 2 x 2 at a point between the two 1 x 2's and stated, "Hold wood here". Impressively, the hold-down kicked into action and positioned itself at the point I had indicated and held the stock down firmly. It was quite amazing, as you can see for yourself if you click on the thread of the image below.
Modifying and adapting one tool to do something it wasn't designed
to do is not only fun, it is quite rewarding.
While I did a great job modifying this piece of equipment, if I do say so myself, if I had to do it again, I would start with the more basic model that doesn't have voice communication. Talking to it to give it directions is fine, but sometimes it gets a glitch in its programming, and it talks back way too much and becomes irritating. While this particular hold-down looks great, I would start with the cheaper model next time as this one is way to pricy for what it does. (and with that, I'm sleeping on the couch for the next month)
As the slope in the land dropped off away from the wall, the stock was way too high to cut with traditional body placement, so invoking the French sawing position that Chis Schwarz reintroduced a while ago, only this time standing up. I positioned myself beside the stock, developed a slightly different hand-hold on the saw that Chris demonstrated, as shown below, and went to town, ripping the 8-foot 2 x 2 in about a half hour, give or take due to having to take the odd break.
A modified "French" grip made easier by Disston's addition of a second hole.
The breaks, by the way, were due to the hold-down pad's inability to maintain pressure on the corner of the stock for long periods of time. Frustratingly, it would release itself without warning, and to make matters worse, its voice abilities would kick in. The one thing I wasn't able to figure out is how to add an "off" switch to this unit. When it would let go like this, it would run on wildly and there was nothing I could do but let it run its course and once it exhausted itself, reset it and start again. (add a second month on the couch)
Even though the day was overcast, those breaks did allow me to appreciate the time and effort I spent French Polishing the handle on this saw. Many thanks to Stephen Shephard at the Full Chisel Blog for his instructions as, after viewing the results with the sunlight kicking it up, it put a smile on my face for hours afterwards.
You cannot beat French Polishing for finishing a tool's handle.
In the shop, its beautiful.
In the sunlight - wow!
Images taken with an iPhone
NOTE: The "Tools of the Trade Show" takes place Sunday, October 2nd at the Pickering Recreation Complex in Pickering, Ontario. While my exposure to vintage tool shows is limited, I have never left this one disappointed as there are always enough items to view and buy to make me happy I made the effort to attend.
If anyone needs any information or help attending this event, just email me and I will be happy to help if I can.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Ok, world, this is how it is done…

Here’s the story behind this story…
Sharpening tools is time consuming and because my time for workin’ wood is limited, I often hold off sharpening a tool that could use a touch-up. The reason for this is that I simply would rather spend the time actually workin’ wood than pushing a chisel across a hunk of sandpaper. I know this isn’t smart, so I started looking at many of the commercial blade sharpening machines available today. Two things struck me about these dedicated machines; a) they are all way too expensive for what they do, and b) the work they can do is limited to the finer points of sharpening on a single horizontal wheel. This is ok for new tools, but it seems like every hundred-year-old tool I have bought, the last one to use it didn’t have a clue about angles, flat backs and micro edges. The result is that the blades often require considerable work before they can be finely tuned.

As I did my research, the Delta Sharpening Centre kept popping up all over the place. As this machine offers up two wheels; one vertical and a fine one on the horizontal, I gave up on the other $300 machines and started researching it. I discovered it was one of Delta’s usual offerings; a sound idea made so cheaply, it crashed and burned.

From all the complaints about the machine that I found, which were too numerous to count, the base machine was fine, as was the vertical wheel. Where the problems developed was balancing the horizontal wheel so the machine wouldn’t vibrate. Downloading all the different machine’s explosive parts drawings that I could find, I soon learned where the problem lies in the Delta machine, or at least I think I did. In fact, I am so confident that there is a way to fix this issue, I started looking for a machine to purchase.

Here’s the problem with the machine…
All of the dedicated horizontal-wheel sharpening machines have a balanced metal plate under their entire sharpening surface; whether that surface is a grinding wheel or proprietary plates or sheets. The Delta 23-710 Sharpening Centre machines do not have this. To keep the costs down, they used something that is more or less an oversize washer that is about 3-inches in diameter. Expecting something this small to balance an 8-inch wheel is more than just wishful thinking; its dumb.

Re-jig the wheel mount by adding a full sized, balanced aluminum plate that will fully support the soft, 1000 grit, 8-inch wet wheel.

How to do this was something I couldn't answer until I bought one and had it sitting in front of me.

As Delta no longer makes this machine, I had some problems coming up with a good one in the used market place. One or two came up on eBay, but there was always something that kept me from buying them. The most common reason is my most common irritation with eBay sellers; being that many American sellers won’t ship to Canada. I guess turning away a potential 33-million bidders that could drive up their selling price isn’t worth the added shipping hassles. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I subscribe to Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools Auction’s newsletters that arrive in my inbox every Tuesday and Thursday. I do so because they list some pretty incredible tools in their auctions, although I have yet to come across anything made by H. E. Mitchell. Damn!

A while ago, a Delta 23-710 was listed in one of those newsletters so I entered a maximum bid of $150. I won the machine for less than that, and with’s usual professional ways, they charged my Visa for the purchase price plus shipping, and within days the machine was delivered to my door.

Oh, oh…
I didn’t have time to open the box right away but finally, a week later, I went through my unpacking ritual. As I got everything out of the box and laid out on the floor, I discovered that the machine had been shipped with the knife sharpening attachment still attached to the machine. This attachment is a wide adjustable flat that you use to rest a jointer knife on. During shipping, the post office had thrown this heavy box around so much that they snapped the casting. Every time they threw it after that, the resulting large, untethered hunk of metal thrashed around inside the box, taking out the plastic water spray guard and gouging the horizontal wheel.

Given the similar experience I just went through with the infamous Miller Falls tool restorer that will still rename nameless (email me if you want his name), I had some serious concerns about this problem which were further exasperated by discovering that the total cost of the damaged parts was $146.60 plus shipping.

I took a couple of photos and sent off an email to Martin listing the costs of the damaged parts.

This is the way a pro handles these situations…
Yesterday, I received an email in response to my claim from Kathy at In it she stated; “I made a credit on your charge card today for the full amount that you paid”.

I was astounded, astonished, dumbfounded, stupefied and literally blown away. They just didn't reimburse me for the damaged parts. They reimbursed me for the total amount that I paid for the machine plus the shipping. In other words, I got the machine for free, and now I have to just pay for the replacement parts out of the full credit.

In this day and age, who the hell treats their customers so well?



A follow-up about trying to replace the broken Delta machine's parts...
The one thing I didn't check before purchasing this machine is the availability of Delta/Porter-Cable parts in Canada, something I usually do before purchasing anything like this, new or used. While this shouldn't be a concern for this type of thing, and I hope my American readers won't be offended by reporting this, but the norm with many of these larger American-run companies is that they want to sell in the Canadian market, and actually buy up smaller Canadian manufacturers to do so, and then leave us hanging for support with the purchases afterwards. Delta/Porter-Cable is one of those companies that fall into this category.

In this case, Delta has an online parts site called ServiceNet. I went on it, found the parts I needed and ordered them. When it came time to pay the bill, their shopping cart form wouldn't accept Canadian addresses. There is no site like this for Canadians and the American site does not even include a Canadian Service Centre location finder.

I sent off an email to Delta which included a screen capture of my Shopping Cart list. I'll keep you posted regarding the results.