Thursday 29 December 2011

Mother-In-Laws...You Gotta' Love 'Em (don't you?)...

Take every mother-in-law joke you ever heard, the good, the bad and the ugly, and wrap them all up in a 4’ 2” package, throw a piece of ribbon around it and you will have my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law is one tough cookie. She survived loosing her mother at 6-years of age, being orphaned at 10-years of age, loosing all her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins after being transported to Auschwitz at 16-years of age in a cattle car, jumping off of trains getting out of Europe after the war to ensure her future sons wouldn’t become part of the Russian Army at 20-years of age and she survived raising my wife for the rest of her life. God bless her for it and I love her to death because of it, but damn, she can become one angry bull when anyone doesn’t do what she wants.

My father-in-law was the family’s forth generation to enter the painting profession, his family’s business doing everything from fresco ceilings to exterior house painting. In Europe, to become a painter back then meant a five-year apprenticeship learning to do everything from making your own paint to graining. Having lost all but one brother and his sister to the camps, his family home and business destroyed, he didn’t argue when his new wife told him she wanted to leave for places yet decided. When he finally hit Canada, he had a second shock; the profession he held near and dear wasn’t respected here the way it was in Europe, something he still doesn’t understand to this day. Past destroyed and pride wounded, he picked up his brushes and rollers and went to work with the rest of the painters. While he never gained the same stature he had at home, he worked himself up the chain and started to earn a fair living for his family.

By their tenth anniversary of arriving in Canada, the old man was making enough money to allow his wife to start decorating…well…everything.

Now I’m not saying she did it single-handedly, but if you ask any of the old fabric hawkers, they will tell you that there was a worldwide shortage of green velvet material back in the mid-1960’s, and it caused quite a commotion. That was the same year my mother-in-law started decorating her home.

In her livingroom sits a couch that, she proudly likes to tell anyone who will listen, is the first king-sized pullout bed ever made. Now a king-sized mattress is roughly 80” square. You then have to have room for the mechanism and then the arms are added outside of that. So while she is proud as punch of that couch, the reality is, the damned thing is 2” shy of 8’. It has to be the biggest couch I have ever seen. As with all manufactured products built prior to the late 70’s, this manufacturer didn’t skimp on the gauge of the steel, so the damn thing is as heavy as it is long, probably weighing in at 250-pounds, if it weighs an ounce.

Added to the 3 ½-square miles of green velvet fabric that covers this thing is a low-back easy chair, a matching love seat and six diningroom chairs, all, you guessed it, covered in green velvet. But it doesn’t stop there.

When I first came on the scene, the walls were covered with embossed wallpaper that reminded me of the doilies that my grandmother had on all the arms and backs of her chairs. If the design wasn’t bad enough, it was done in some sort of short, green fuzz that, to my mother-in-law’s eyes, looked like green velvet. This, of course, using those same eyes, made this paper a perfect match for the furniture. I’ll tell you, I am lucky I suddenly became comatose during that first visit, because if I hadn’t, I would have run screaming from the place and would have never got to marry my wife, who, I will mention, hates anything made of velvet  - in any colour - with a passion – thank bloody God!

Married to a painter, my mother-in-law wasn’t shy about serving him up a busman’s holiday, insisting that he repaint often. The first time around for the “green” rooms, off they went to order more of the same paper. The old girl was dashed when they told her that the paper was no longer in production. My father-in-law, bless his heart, took it on himself to carefully steam the paper from the walls, cleaned all the glue off the back of each piece, rolled each one up and when the painting was done, re-hung it. He did this, not once for her, but twice. The second time he damaged enough paper that there wasn’t enough to do both rooms and hallway, so the hallway got painted an “almost matching” green. He still says the paper was getting brittle with age, but I think the crafty old bugger tore the stuff on purpose because he was tired of looking at it.

The beloved paper might be gone, but the sea of green velvet still exists. When they moved into their new abode she drove me nuts pushing me to try and arrange that furniture in the in the same arrangement that they had been living with for these last forty-three years. Because the layout of the new wasn’t anywhere near the layout of the old, it was impossible to do exactly, but I got it as close as I could.

Now you would think she would be happy, wouldn’t you. Here she is, 70-years older than she ever expected to be, living in a nice condo high over the city, in reasonably good health and surrounded by her furniture and nick-knacks. Nope.

The other day I noticed that her livingroom drapes were closed all the time so I asked her about it. She told me she couldn’t open them. I thought there was something wrong with the rod, so I went to look and found nothing, the drapes moved, as they should, and as I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back to her and reported this. She told me that she could open and close them herself, just fine thank you very much, but she couldn’t open them because then she would see the drapery rod.

Now this took me off guard, seriously off guard. The rod was new, and was an exact match to the old one in the old place. I know this because I had purchased and hung it myself; taking this upon myself because I felt the 40-odd year old one was yellowed and worn. I then honestly thought she was joking, and even chuckled. Oh, boy. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong thing to do. Her eyes flashed black and this small, frail, four-foot nothing woman suddenly appeared to tower over me.

Seeing that I had royally pissed her off, I tried logic, asking why, after forty-odd years she suddenly didn’t like the look of the rod. I think you can categorize that as mistake number two. I spent the next ten minutes trying to convince her I didn’t think she was crazy as it was obvious, now that I took a second look at it, that this new rod was completely different than the old. It wasn’t. It was the same style and worked exactly the same way, but I had a much better chance of convincing her that it was my mistake than I did convincing her they were the same. I left shortly afterwards defeated.

For the rest of that afternoon I thought about what I could do for the old bird so she would open her drapes again and get some sunshine in their lives. Whatever it was, it had to be something I could make as, if I did that, I knew all would be forgiven.

I did get an idea, but there was a catch. It involved bending some small pieces of wood.

I had steamed a lot of wood when I replaced the bottom of my boat; so bending wood wasn’t new to me. My problem is that I didn’t have a steam box or a place to use it if I did, so just before dinner than night, I tried something else; something I had read about, but never tried.

I filled my wife’s stockpot almost to the top with water, added a little rock salt and set it on the stove to come to a boil. I went into the office and dug out some scraps of oak; 3/8” by 1 5/8” by 12”. When I had trimmed them equal, I threw them into the pot. I then returned to the office to make a mold.

I let the wood cook for about an hour, pulled them both out, and with my wife doing the deed with the clamps; we clamped them both together around the mold.

Once I had devised a mount that would take my mother-in-law’s abuse, here’s what I came up with…

I have them finished with four coats of varnish, ready to install tomorrow. They will mount under the windowsill and will allow the two panels of drapes to be connected in the middle and be “swaged” to each side.

This is how it will mount and work…

I know this isn’t a faithful reproduction of George Washington’s potty-chair to you guys, but to me, it is huge. If there is one thing I hate more than green velvet, it’s “swaged” anything, especially drapes. After these get installed, every time I walk into that room I’ll have to face those droopy drapes and know that I did it, with protest, but I still swaged those damned drapes.

Awe, well. Its Christmas, and these just might bring a smile, and hopefully a little sunshine, onto the old girl’s face.

And with that, I wish all of you nothing but health, happiness and good fortune throughout this coming new year.



Thursday 15 December 2011

Trying To Be Sharper Than I Appear To Be…

I finally tore apart the Delta Sharpening Centre I bought through Martin J. Donnelly Auctions a few months ago.

To bring you up to speed, these machines were expensive and notorious for being useless for sharpening, which is the reason it had such a short run. It is kind of hard to sell a machine called a “Sharpening Centre” if it is useless for sharpening things.

When the Delta arrived, it was obvious the Post Office had beat it up pretty good.
In reality, though, I could only find one issue that made the machine junk – its horizontal 1200 grit wet wheel; the reason why everyone bought the machine in the first place. Paying close to $300 for a machine and discovering that it isn’t worth a shit when it comes to the job you bought it for can be a very quick turn-off indeed.

The reason behind this problem is something that plagues many of Delta’s machines. To reduce their production costs, Delta under-engineers some of the most critical parts, resulting in a machine that doesn’t work worth a damn. In this particular case, one of their well-paid engineers miscalculated the weight and centrifugal force an 8-inch wet wheel can produce. That mistake lead to them using only a 2¼-inch collar faced to the arbor that drives the horizontal wet wheel. Because of this, that wheel is difficult to balance, and if you do get it balanced, it is impossible to keep it that way.

The Delta machine was designed to fail.
While the imbalanced sharpening wheel made it useless as a sharpening machine, I think the bones for a machine designed for that purpose are all there. It turns at 650 rpm, it has the second vertical wheel station that accepts the usual assortment of grinder additions and its motor and casing are beefy and reliable. As a result, I bought it.

So now that I have it, what am I going to do with it?

Enter the Veritas Mk. II Sharpening System.

This sharpening machine that is sold by Lee Valley makes the most sense to me, but I find its $400 price tag way out of line for my sharpening requirements. It has an 8-inch turntable that turns at 650 rpm, so it and Delta are the same when it comes to the basics. Where the Veritas machine pulls away and leaves the Delta in the dust is its unique turntable and platter system.

The Veritas machine has an 8-inch well cast aluminum turntable that mounts to a 1¾-inch spindle that is belt driven. The turntable has a collar cast into it that registers it on the spindle and it is fixed in place using two machine screws. This is a pretty well engineered mount, especially when compared to the way Delta attached their wheel support. On this machine the arbor is machined with a face on its side with a matching face on the 2¼-inch collar. The collar just slides over the end of the arbor, the wheel lays on top, and a small, brass 5/8-inch nut buried in the centre of a 2-inch plastic cap holds the lot of it down.

In this image you can see the Veritas turntable and how it
compares to the useless collar the Delta uses.

The Delta only has the 1200 grit wet wheel available, although other manufacturers produce wheels of other grits that will fit, but it is a bit of a pain to change them. The Veritas, on the other hand, has seven different grits available in self-sticking discs. These stick to a platter, available in 3mm for the finer grits and a 4mm platter for the heavier grits, with the platters being held down by a small centre-located brass thumbscrew. The result is an assortment of grits that are quick to change.

The Veritas machine has two tool guides, one for honing the primary bevel and the other for lapping the back. The Delta has one tool guide for working both surfaces. My machine will use the Delta system as the base, but instead of riding the tool on it, I’ll mount the tool in the Veritas Mk. II Honing Guide, and ride this guide on the tool guide. This will give me all the advantages of the honing guide that I love with the speed and quick-change ability of the modified Delta.

To make these modifications, I need a single part turned by a machinist; a collar that fits the cup cast into the bottom of the turntable that is bored and threaded to screw down on the Delta’s arbor. I have been in contact with the machinist that rebuilt my old man’s Stanley No.6 that I thought was a 7, but he has yet to reply. If I don’t hear from him by the end of this week, I will put the feelers out for another machinist.

Modifying the Delta to fit the Veritas parts is really pretty simple.
As you can see from the rendering below, it will also require three threaded holes on the top-side; two for the machine screws to fix the turntable to it, and one for the thumbscrew that holds the platters in place. The result uses the Delta collar to support the machined collar, the Delta’s arbor thread to hold the machined collar in place, and the rest of the assembly matches that of the Veritas machine.

All I need to make this work is a simple collar.
Because the Veritas turntable is beefy, well cast and balanced, and because it is only supporting lightweight platters and discs, instead of heavy stones, the wobble should be history and a versatile sharpening centre that also seconds as a grinder and polisher should rise from the Delta disaster.

Now I think that is pretty cool.



On another note, I have found a machine shop here in Toronto that will I can contract with to produce new pizza wheels (roller cutters) for the Stanley Metal Bar Gauges. I believe the same wheel was used on the Stanley No’s 90, 91, 97, 98, 197 and 198. I haven’t finalized the price as yet, but I am assuming they will be offered at somewhere between $12 and $18 Canadian. If you would be interested in purchasing one that is within this price-range, let me know and if there are enough responses, I will finalize the deal.

If you are interested in purchasing a new pizza wheel for your Stanley gauge, let me know.