Saturday 25 February 2012

Defining My Vice Design...

In the previous post, I discussed a vice I saw listed in next month's Live Free or Die auction that is administered by Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools.

Before I get into discussing my design for this vice/vise, let me first point out that "vice" is the English spelling, while "vise" is the American spelling. I try to use English spelling whenever a difference comes along as, while I'm Canadian, this country was part of the English Commonwealth from it's inception through to 1982. Many of us here still tend to acknowledge our British roots wherever possible.

The renderings that I included in my previous post were just for general dimensions. While I stated in the article that accompanied them that I was thinking of having the lower screw come at things from the back of the vice, the renderings included do not reflect this.

Damien left a comment regarding my concept and felt that having the screw come at things from the rear wouldn't work as it would not keep the legs parallel. Damien has offered me his opinions a few times in the past and I tend to listen to him. Having followed his blog, Woodlooking, I have come to believe he has a far better grasp of physics than I. With respect to his knowledge, I have created this second post about this vice to explain my vision of it further, hoping Damien will return and give me the yah or nay for it. I would hate to cut up that beautiful piece of maple sitting here, only to find out it won't work.

The following render is a cut-away view of how I would like to deal with the screws...

The render shows both the screws trapped to the front upright. The main screw is trapped as it passes through the face, done so using a collar and recess so the screw is still allowed to turn freely. The second, lower screw is also trapped to the front upright in the same manner. This one, though, is trapped where it butts up against it, rather than passing through it. Both screws use female thread blocks attached to the rear upright, both centre pinned on each side to allow them to rotate vertically.

While Damien was concerned with the two uprights not remaining parallel to each other, that is exactly what I am looking for and the sole reason this vice caught my eye. I do not know if Arthur's version has a non-parallel capability, but hopefully mine will. As I want to do self-standing carvings and make odd-shaped boxes, I think having this feature on my vice would be ideal.

Note that the render shows a hole above the lower screw and below the upper. These are labeled "Pivot Capture" and are there to accept a wood pin that would pass through to them from the edge of the rear upright. Being able to fix the pivots vertically will overcome having to deal with a "sloppy" front upright when the unparalleled feature isn't necessary. I would assume that I would probably work the vice with the upper pin installed and the lower removed most of the time, as this would limit having to adjust both screws every time I use it.

I may be still all wet, but hopefully, I'm only just damp.



Thursday 23 February 2012

At My Age, Any Vice Is A Good Vice...

As you grow older, you start to leave a trail of vices behind you. It is so unfair that they are wasted on youth. As I have been married longer than five minutes and am approaching retirement age, damned if I don't have any of them left. As Valdy, a folk song writer and poet from my youth now says...

Now I'm old and tired, bent and busted,
Gray and wrinkled and I can't be trusted,
I'm just a dirty old man.

A while ago, I started to look around for a new vice. I don't enjoy gambling, so that one is out. As a kid, I absorbed so much alcohol that now I can't stand the taste of it, so that one is out too. Hell, I can't even drink beer because I have an allergy to hops. Go figure. Surprisingly, though, I do think I found one today.

Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools sends out a short list of offerings for his upcoming auctions twice a week in emails and I pour over every one I get. Their next auction is next month in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it appears they have a number of dynamite items for this one. I have been forced to dig the ol' credit card out a few times to place absentee bids for a few of the items coming up.

While I fell for one item they had listed in today's email, it is not something I would like to buy. Instead, I would prefer to make my own.

What grabbed me today was a great looking vice (see, I eventually tie my ramblings into a discussion of tools). It is from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection that the Live Free or Die Auctioneer is selling in the Indianapolis sale. It was made by a man named Arthur W. Hall of Lakewood, Ohio in 1925 and I think it is one hell of a pretty interesting vice...

What blew me away with this vice is that it works like a leg-vice, but it is only 20" high. It also appears to have far more control of the squeezing end than a leg-vice, although I bet old Arthur had some seriously banged up knees from that brass crank sticking out like it does, and the fact that the crank is bent up a tad confirms this. My thought is that the crank should come at the front leg from the rear, instead of the other way around. It would give you the same pivot control, but coming from behind it wouldn't be in the way all the time.

I have a hunk of maple sitting here that is perfect for this vice, so it looks like adding another project to the list will result in my finally getting a vice to call my own again. Life is good.

I did some dissecting to the only image I have of it tonight and came up with some basic dimensions, which I have laid out for you below. You are welcome to save that file, if you are interested, or you can download a full sized version (43" x 36") of the same drawing using this link.

Great Stuff!



Saturday 18 February 2012

I See, Said The Blind Man...

As I have mentioned here before, I have a little eyesight problem that keeps me out of the pool halls. I can see pretty well from about 4” to 10”, a little blurred from 10” to about 30”, and progressively on to a melding of colours from there, but often, I can recognize something from its blurred shape.

When I’m playing navigator for my wife, I can’t read the writing on a sign, but I can see the shape of it and by judging their length and calculating whether or not the street’s name would fit in that length of sign, I can tell my wife it is the one we are looking for so she will drive accordingly. I’m silently proud of myself for being right most of the time, although she gives me shit every time I miss one.

When it comes to people, I have learned to pay special attention to their body language as it helps me recognize someone at a distance. I can't see who they are, but I can see who they act like, which allows me to react to them "normally".

When this first came up, back in 1988, my wife and I were sitting at a stoplight and a blind guy was being lead across the road. Of course, this got my wife all choked up, as she is prone to overreactions. For me, I was just upset about how this guy was dressed as he was wearing a plaid pair of pants and a stripped shirt, both in the gaudiest colours you could ever imagine. I looked at my wife and said, “If you ever dress me like that when I can’t see any more I’ll kill you.” She answered me with, “Ya, and how will you know?”

All in all, it is one of those – deal the hand your dealt - sort of things, and as I won’t lay down and play dead, I insist it is absolutely no issue for me at all. I am not trying to pretend I can see normally, I just don't think about it much.  Sometimes, though, not thinking gets me into trouble, like what happened a few months ago. I needed paint to paint my office so one evening I went off by bus and subway to the paint store. By the time I got to the street it was on, it was well into dusk, and by the time I got out with my purchases, it was night. I found myself on the darkest street I could ever imagine, and given I can't see squat in the dark, that was a problem. As I headed back to the subway, I walked into two A-frame signs on the sidewalk and tripped and fell on two unexpected curbs. It scared me so badly, I now make a mental note of where things are on any street I walk on, just in case I find myself on it after dark.

Overall, there is only one minus with the whole thing, that being that I can’t drive, which I truly miss as I have always loved getting behind the wheel. There is, however, one very strong item on the plus side. Since my vision went down the tubes, I have noticed that there is a hell of a lot more beautiful women in the world than there used to be.

For many, sight follows waistline as we get older, both dropping to shocking levels, so with this theme in mind, I’d like to give those of you a quick run-down on how I have started to do cuts, such as making mortises for my never-ending plant shelf unit project.

Here is a quick render of how I made up the crown moulding that I am using as the top rail for the lower cabinet’s face frame…

Because of the weight this thing will carry, the top requires multiple cross-braces, so the rail was made extra deep to allow those braces to be tied into it.

Lighting is a major necessity of life in a shop and it angers me when I view someone else’s workshop that has less than adequate lighting. If yours is like that, skip the next project or tool purchase and buy yourself some damned lights.

I have two lights on my bench; one that is movable and low, and another that has it’s swing arm clamped to the edge of the bench. I use the swing arm for general lighting and when I am working on something small and critical, I bring the little table lamp into play. I bought these both from Lee Valley when they were on sale. Looking this morning I found they do not have the swing arm listed, but this little guy is still available. Because you will constantly whack these things, I would suggest spending too much money on them.

Back when I wrote about creating dovetails, many of you were kind enough to give me advice and by combining what all of you suggested and modifying things slightly to fit my situation, I came up with a fairly solid way to cut some pretty good dovetails and I thank you for it. If any of you have any more suggestions to offer on this process, believe me, I’m all ears and eager to hear what you have to say.

Mike Siemsen commented about the scribe line when that dovetail article was posted. He told me to trust it, letting the chisel grab and hold it, as it will, “lock in there like a screwdriver in a slot”. I have been following his advice ever since.

Following Mike’s advice over the course of time, I have tried a number of different marking knives to try to improve my scribe lines. Frankly, I found them all a waste of time and money. For me, the cheap, basic, blade-replaceable box-cutter knives are the way to go. I have knives in my cutlery drawer that I sharpen often and I have become so accustomed to sharpening knives, my wife won’t use them because they are too sharp. I will do the same with a marking knife, and while they cut well, they don’t cut deep enough for me as their blades are always too thick and wood, unlike a good prime rib, won’t fold away to give the blade room.

I need a good, strong guideline to start. Once I have it, I run a pencil along it so I can see it easier. A pencil seems, for some reason, to follow the deeper cut made with a box-cutter better than it will a shallower cut made by a marking knife. I use a soft graphite black pencil for lighter woods, and a white or light coloured Derwent 
ColourSoft pencil for darker.

Once I have the deep scribe line marked to stand out more, I then use a chisel to chop away a V-groove inside it, keeping the outer walls square to the top surface. This is an expansion of a concept explained by Chris Schwarz when he was on the Woodwright Shop last year. The deeper scribe line makes registering that chisel easier and holds it there better. With a shallow cut, the chisel is sitting on the wood and the blow to it has to immediately be transferred to the wood. With a deeper cut, the chisel sits above the bottom of the cut, so the blow tends to allow the chisel to follow the cut’s wall, minimizing its deflection. This is a very small benefit, but I will take all I can get.

My issue is a bit extreme as I was born with lousy eyes to begin with, and angle-closure glaucoma, retina tears and detachments, scar tissue from operations and injuries incurred when I was young have all served to make things go as they have gone, leaving me with a pretty narrow angle of view. The result of all of this is, when I focus on the closest edge of even a ½” chisel, I can’t register the furthest edge. I bring this point up because while I hate to be the barer of bad news, I have to tell you that as you age, you will find this issue will rear its ugly head with your vision as well, although definitely not in this extreme.

Ready to make the cuts with a couple of the
marking knives I have collected over time.

That is what this V-groove is for; to allow me a better chance at following the line. When I am drawing the saw, I can only check if it is following the line one end of the cut at a time. By adding these grooves, the saw blade is less likely to move off the line as its blade runs against the flat outside wall while the angle tends to make the blade slope towards that wall. Since I watched Chris explain this in that movie, I have improved my cuts 200% as I can now get them started properly, and that is half the battle.

After cutting the outside edges of the mortise, I then make cuts between them, every ¼” or so. Because I have the heavy pencil lines on both sides of the stock, I tend to see when to stop better, finding it best to shoot for stopping just above the lines.

Using a ½” chisel, I then knock out the narrow strips…

With a wider chisel, the one shown below being 1¼”, I then clean up the bottom of the mortise, checking it with a little square every so often to ensure it is staying square with the edges and consistent in depth…

Using this process, I end up with some pretty tight mortises that require very little clean up afterwards…

Where there is a will, there is a way, and while many of those ways redefine the word “patience”, workin’ wood is still a blast and something I never want to give up.



P.S.: The title of this post is from one of my old man's favourite expressions...

"I see", said the blind man.
"Bullshit" said the deaf-mute.
And the man with no legs walked away in disgust.

Friday 3 February 2012

Unlike My Wife—I’m Running Out Of Things To Buy…

The problem with tool collection is that it doesn't stay constant.

Over the last four or five years I have been searching out tools that I wanted, nothing fancy, just the normal stuff that you would find in a cabinet shop around 1900. Because of the availability of these things, they were easy to find, so I was buying one or two pieces a month. That ain’t happening anymore.

At first, the hobby is not only easy, but it is damned cheap. A trip through the “Collectables > Tools & Hardware > Tools > Carpentry/ Woodworking” category on eBay can see you scoring one little item or another on an almost daily basis, if you, your wife or your bank manager let you. There are so many little bits and pieces made to do specific processes in woodworking; you could go nuts collecting them all.

Eventually, though, you locate, buy, receive, clean, sharpen and polish about all the little guys you think you will ever need, and then some, so you start looking for the more expensive, larger items.

The larger items aren’t as readily available as the little guys. There are a lot of listings, but most are junk and not worth the shipping costs, so your purchases tend to slow down rather quickly. While I restrict my choices to a narrow timeframe, from 1880 to 1910, while not an everyday event, it is not that difficult to come up with excellent examples. When I say “excellent”, I mean examples that I won’t mind using. I shoot for the high end of the “User” category. With these, I don’t feel my neck when I have to sharpen a blade, shortening it up in the process, or see a scuff show up on the tote or something.

Eventually, you pretty much end up owning more series' and sets that you will ever find a use for, so you raise your sites a little higher, and start to shoot for real specifics. That’s when the blissful life of tool collecting really starts to drag. The more specific your quests; the higher the prices. The higher the prices; the fussier you become. The fussier you become; the less choices you have. The less choices you have; the less you buy. The less you buy; the less number of “buzzes” you get. It’s a bummer.

My Stanley plane collection, at this point, is missing an No.1, which I doubt I will buy—ever, a No.6, which I am looking for now, and a No.9, which I’m still up in the air about as I think buying one and using it would seriously make me nervous. From what I have seen available, these things are pretty vulnerable to damage.

I now have two complete sets of Stanley No.40 chisels; one for fine work and one for wailing on. I still look for better examples of the four patent dates, but if I don’t find any, it is no big deal.

I have more saws than I have room to store, so while I am still searching out a pair of excellent dovetails, I spend more time trying to figure out which maker to shoot for than I do looking for the damned saws. While I spent about a year and a half finding a matched pair of Jackson 12” saws, I have now come to realize they are a tad thick for cutting dovetails, and while they work, and work well, thinner blades would be better. As Disston made the Jackson blade in the same thickness as their own brand, buying a pair of old Disstons would be a waste of money. I would like to buy a pair of Two Lawyer saws, but at over 700-bucks for the pair, I would dust them, but I bloody well wouldn’t use them.

The only thing that seems to keep me going with this is my quest for more examples of H. E. Mitchell’s tools. I had an opportunity to buy an ultimate brace of his about eight months ago when The Tool Bazaar had one listed, but I felt he was charging way too much for it at 195₤. Since then, I have been royally kicking myself in the ass, to the point that I emailed Andy last month and asked if he would broker a deal between the guy who bought it and myself, but he declined. While I still search daily for Mitchell examples, it is pretty rare that one turns up, so even this quest has lost the luster it once held.

When I do score, though, it is like 27 Christmas’ and 42 birthdays all rolled into one, and score I did just a few weeks ago.

I have a saved search on eBay for anything listed in the tool collectable section that has the name “Mitchell”. I get emails from eBay regarding this search about twice a week. Rarely do they include the tools I am looking for, but on this particular day, I scored, and scored big.

Mateusz1979 had a ½” Ovolo plane by Mitchell up for sale. I immediately emailed him and asked if he had a “Buy it Now” price. We went back and forth a bit, feeling each other out, and eventually he emailed me a price that was beyond being fair—it was incredible. I quickly agreed, paid the bill, and a week later the plane arrived.

The plane is probably one of the better examples that I have of cousin Henry’s. I don’t know if Mateusz bought it as clean as it was, or he spent some time on it to clean it up himself, but either way, it didn’t need the coat of wax I gave it upon receiving it.

On top of that, the plane is a perfect addition to the set. I picked up a 5/8” Ovolo off of eBay a couple of years ago; a number two. Last year, had a 5/8” Ovolo Number one that I was able to grab. This one is a ½” number two, the finishing plane, so if fits into the set well.

As the buzzes come less frequently now, when you get one, you savor it longer. As scoring a Mitchell plane has always given me the biggest buzz, the image above shows you what has been sitting on my bench since the day this last one arrived. I pulled everyone one of them from the drawer, brought the plow down from the shelf, and even added the counterstamp coin to the display and each time I walk in the room, I have a look and enjoy a smile. The collection is growing—its slow—but its growing.