Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why some businesses fail while others thrive.

As is my usual Saturday habit, I ventured to one of the well-known machine and woodworking tool distributors for snoop and my customary, usual purchase.

     The first thing I noticed was that there was  no one in the parking lot.
I was the only vehicle.
I thought that perhaps that branch was closed for some reason.
I parked and looked through the window and the lights are on so I ventured to the door.
There are double doors leading to the display area with an atrium to prevent heat loss during the winter months.
Plastered all over the glass and doors were terms and conditions for sale and the return policy. They had been printed on a laser printer and stuck on the glass with scotch tape leaving the impression for me at least that I had just entered some second-rate flea market.

    I glanced over my right shoulder and through the glass I could see the loan cashier playing a game on her I Pad while holding same under cover of the counter.
I presume she wanted to hide the fact that she had no interest in participating with this operation but perhaps was merely punching the clock and waiting for quitting time.

No doubt a simple question like “Where’s the sandpaper?” would have baffled her at this time.
I opened the door and ventured in only to see the cashier continue playing with her I pad.
 She didn't even bother to look up. ( I was less than 4 feet from her.)

    The store occupies roughly 5000 ft.² and is littered with machines and tools on display for sale.
There was one other customer in the store and he was proceeding to leave as I entered.
 I worked my way down one aisle looking at this and that. Much of it had price tags and many did not.
      A small advert pasted on the wall half way down the display area announced a 3 day sale from April 9th to April 12th. It was April 20th today making the pricing questionable to say the least.

    The manager, whom I have known for more than a year, was tinkering with one of his hobby creations and attempting to set it up on one of the wood lathes on display.
He looked up and acknowledged me but quickly went right back to playing with his toys.

     I gradually made my way back to the front door and left the building taking careful note that no one looked up or acknowledged the fact I was leaving.

 Next time I hear someone complaining that employers don't give entry-level staff a decent wage and I will reflect back on this situation and question why employees, while being paid, don’t try to give anything back to the employer.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Making home made veneer hammers

My journey into Veneering.
I started making a small jewelry box few weeks ago and part way through I began to want to dress it up a bit with some veneer material I’ve seen examples on YouTube that were stunning and intriguing so I set out to make one on the style I had seen.
I’ve done some small pieces with veneer but this called for something a little more robust. 
   I quickly realized that I would need for veneer press and at the very least, a veneer hammer.
When I checked around for the tool I could only find the professional model which I felt was beyond my budget for this single project.
As we all know that’s often the case with us amateur woodworkers.
I had some brass stock in the garage and found a piece long enough to mail for the burnishing side of the hammer.
Using my 4 inch belt Sander I was able to flatten the curve side of the brass rod and carefully grind a triangular burnishing edge on one side. The rest of the project involved turning a couple of handles in making a wood mount to hold the brass insert.
I “freehanded” the cutting of the hammer heads and could have made them more symmetrical but for shop tool it’s good enough.

The first picture shows the two hammers side by side.


The second picture shows the hammers from the front view with the brass inserts in the drying position.

This picture shows the basic shape of the brass inserts where they contact the veneer.

This picture shows both hammers side by side.
The larger one is 5 1/2 inches wide while the smaller one is 3 inches wide.
I cut a wedge and glued it to the back of the hammer body to offset the handle from 90° to approximately 105°. This just makes it more comfortable to draw the hammer along the veneer.
The corners of each brass insert are carefully rounded and smooth to be sure that they would not cut through the veneer during the squeegee process.

Finally the last two pictures show the materials I used.

1. Three-quarter inch maple stock.

2. Inch and a quarter square mahogany.
3. Inch and three-quarter by 5/16 by three-quarter brass stock.
4.Final picture shows the brass stock as it was ground to size using the belt sander.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trammel-Jig Trivets

I found this idea for making attractive wood trivets in the magazine called woodworkers Journal issue winter of 2013.
The jig is fairly straight forward but you do have to read the text a couple times to make sure you understand the instructions properly, or at least I did. The size of the wooden blanks is critical in order to make this jig work properly as is the distance from the pivot point on the trammel to the outside edge of your chosen router bit. The spacers are also critical so make sure when you make them that you do them all at once or be very careful if you need to do two batches.

The first picture shows the jig which is the 22 x 22" plywood sheet with the 90° corner attached to it. The corner and the axis for the trammel need to be lined up to the corners of the 22 inch square to make sure that the router cuts the semicircles consistently.

This picture shows the position of the blank to be cut and the V notched hold down to prevent the blank from skidding around on the plywood.

I glued 100 grit sandpaper on the top to prevent the wood from sliding around while routing it.

The instructions suggested a 1/2" spiral up cut bit but I don't have one on hand . Instead I used a 3/8" cutter and it seems to be just fine.

The first mistake I made was not giving myself a line around the trivet on which to stop the cut. I found it difficult if not impossible to see inside the router chamber and determine exactly where  that was without a headlamp and a nice dark pencil line to follow.

The second mistake involved not setting the depth of cut stop securely on the router. After a couple of cuts the bit eased out and spoiled the first bank.

I also found that making several passes with the router produced a cleaner and sharper groove that just dropping the bit and plowing through the wood. There was negligible burning this way as well.

I started to hit my stride on the third attempt and shown here are two examples that made the grade.

With Christmas coming up you may want to give this project a try and make some useful stocking stuffers.

They sure to be a hit with the cooks in your family.

I managed to get 2 pieces cut so far as I had to mill pieces of walnut and Manitoba maple to 1/4" thickness and glue them up before cutting blanks. The trivet on the right has an extra piece of walnut down the center as I couldn't find any 6" stock in my horde. It is coated with Claphams salad bowl finish but I will just use mineral oil on the rest I think.
 This is a shot of the trammel showing the peg on which it pivots. Note the 1/2' stick at the right end of the jig that serves to land the router at the end of each pass.
 This picture shows the carbide cutter just clearing the walnut to expost the lighter maple wood.
 This shows the set up for cutting the opposing side of the trivet.

This one looks like it will do. A little deeper on one pass but I will live with it.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

My quest for Customer Service

One of the things I'm regreting is selling my five horse power, twin lung compressor with  60 gallon tank. The mere fact that it put out a continuous 12 CFM of air at 90 PSI was overlooked in my zeal to close down the shop.
I do have a compressor in my shop now but it's only a 1 hp on a 20 gallon tank and struggles to put out 4 CFM at 40 PSI.
Last week I found myself picking up one of my favorite spray guns and attempting to lay down a decent coat of water-based lacquer.
It became rapidly evident that wasn't going to happen and instead I ended up with runs and orange peel.
Thus began my search over the Internet to find a low-volume low-pressure (LVLP) gravity fed cup gun that I could use to finish my wood projects.
These guns are reported to put out a decent spray at as low as 4 pounds per square inch at 30 psi albeit slower than the HVLP style guns.
I located one in California that seemed like a good start

I found it listed at Amazon  and proceeded to go through the maze of instructions, blockades password instructions, wrong passwords, new passwords and finally to the order page where I was once again interrupted by an offer from Amazon to sign up for one of their credit cards for an additional $10 discount.
At that moment I wasn't in the mood to sign up for discount or for that matter try to jam another credit card in my wallet.
I just wanted the damn gun!

After several attempts to appease the computer “robot God” by filling in the order form I finally got to the place where I could actually submit the form for approval when the robot informed me that this particular gun could not be shipped to my area.

Yippee!  I cried, I get to search all over again!

The next merchant I found carrying the product was called Wayfair.  The advert clearly showed it would ship to Canada without filling in the whole data template first like Amazon. That robot seemed to take my information without pause after only two attempts I was ready to place the order. A screen popped up and asked me if everything was okay I said yes and the screen closed.

The next morning when I looked in my mailbox I had mail!
A letter informing that I had not completed the transaction now I have to return to the website and okay the transaction again.
 I did that momentarily and have now received a confirmation that the product I ordered will be shipped tomorrow with the usual transaction fees and charges that bringing the cost of delivering the product to almost 75% of the selling price.  Gawd, I luv Free trade!

Just for the record, I feel you all should know that I did first try to make this purchase locally.

The first stop I made was to one of the quieter retailers in the area that rarely has any customers, at least when I visit.
I had no trouble grabbing a clerk as I knew both of them that run the floor so I took one over to the spray guns and popped the question.
"Do you have, or can you obtain, LVLP spray guns?"

 His reply was "Don't you mean HVLP?"

 I told him no that's not what I meant and he told me no he didn't have them.

While we were standing there I picked up a spray gun/turbine that was on display and priced at $349.
(My next stop was to be KMS tools where they had advertised the same machine for $329.00

(Nothing like checking your prices when a competitors flyer comes out!)

 The clerk made no motion when I fumbled with the gun except to say maybe I should get that one. He never asked me what I was going to do with the gun for that matter he didn't seem that interested in finding out so I put it down an excused myself to the front of the store and proceeded to leave.

I should mention that on my way back to the front of the store I looked at a digital readout gauge that was packaged (perhaps in China or Taiwan) with a poor picture and no instructions on the cover.
 I asked the other clerk who is the manager of the store if he had one open so could see what it did. He said no. (INSERT AWKWARD PAUSE HERE)
I said okay, what does it do?
He picks up a package and wanders over to one of the table saws and holds the package in front of a table saw fence and tells me "it could go on here". Then he says "or maybe here".
I say where does the readout page go? He waves his hand over the tabletop and tells me “anywhere up here”.
I decided against pursuing the device any further as it was obvious that this man had no intention of opening the package and letting me see what I was purchasing nor did he have even a remote clue of how exactly it would be mounted and what, if any advantage, it would offer me.

The long and the short of it is, these people are not trained, have no interest in being trained, and are simply minding the store for hourly wages.

I really believe that as the Internet matures and local warehousing becomes more frequent in Canada that retail stores such as this are going to find it difficult making ends meet.

Right now I'm looking forward to having my new low-volume low-pressure spray gun in my hands in the next two days. It's being delivered via Federal Express and they're awfully good.
 last Friday the gun arrived I was able to put it through its paces .
 I had a bit of trouble setting spray pattern  because I was used to using a lot more air pressure to fan the paint and essentially more air to propel it .
 I also found with the new acrylic formulation I'm using that I had to use roughly about 10% of the extender product  to level out the acrylic lacquer at the new lower pressure. I think I'm close to hitting the sweet spot with this gun and I attach here a couple of postings of my first attempt.

 I have scarcely 20 minutes on this new toy but I feel confident that this is my new go to tool for applying all my clear finishes and stain.
  The cost of the gun was quite reasonable ( under 50 bucks ) so if need be I will purchase another one for stain and keep one just for clear coats.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An electric chainsaw sharpener- good and bad

Over my lifetime I've sharpened a few hundred feet of chain on various saws with mixed results. It seems each time I do it by hand I get really good at it just about when it’s finished which means that I have a variety of teeth all sharpened at slightly different angles and usually a couple is skinned knuckles.I looked at  electric chainsaw sharpeners the past but never found one that really fit my hobbyist budget. Generally speaking, the ones I saw were well in excess of $100 or more.On Saturday, as is my custom, I visited the local Princess Auto (toy store) which for all intents and purposes fills the gap left here in Canada by not having a Harbor Freight outlet.After seeing this unit in the flyer I was delighted to see a full palette of them on the floor and I rushed over with a couple of other guys wherein we took part justifying the purchase together and each wandered away with the sharpener underarm. I bought an extra stone for mine while I was there because as luck usually has it they're out of stock when I need one so it's better to have a extra than to be short.Like many low-end products today this one was made in China and required the usual tweaking and adjusting to make it function as it should. The instruction that came with it were just awful with washed out pictures and a parts list that only and eagle scout could read accompanied by English text that left everything to be desired.The first problem I ran into was that the two removable guide plates that held the saw blade in the proper position were loose and I couldn't get the back of the chain in between the plates without using an instrument to hold them apart. I solved that by slipping elastic band between them as shown here:chain-sharp-3

 The next problem  I ran into was that the nut holding the chain stop in position was
shipped  out with the thread stripped. That would have been a minor consideration had the bolt holding the stop not been of a special design that prevented me from using a substitute.

After several attempts, I managed to pack enough washers on the ball I was able to grasp a bit of the thread and temporarily repair the defect.Apart from a few adjustments to snug up the assembly I was nearly ready to do a trial with an old chain.There are enough stops on the machine to allow you to slide the chain through the slot as shown above and up to the stop.when it’s in position you can decide which direction to turn the pivoting head to either sharpen the right or left set of teeth or swing the head back and forth.There is also stop at the back of the machine that limits the depth of cut so you don't damage the actual chain body  removing the chain back and forth during the sharpening process.Once the chain is adjusted against the cleaned saw stop You can snug it up with adjustable chain tool as shown below.From that point on It's simply a matter of moving the chain forward and repeating the process till you're finished.chain-sharp-6The reason for building the small table to support the jig to allow the chain itself to hangdown away from the underside of the jig and  to allow the chain to slide forward and backward as adjustments are being made The last picture shows An example of  one of the teeth Just sharpened on this rig.chain-stop-5Once the machine was set up for the chain it became very consistent and actually quite quick.I do recommend that you turn the machine off while adjusting the chain as there is little room for error and the machine could bite you if you're not careful,chain-sharp-8

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Refurbishing a Vintage Jewelry Box

I found this jewelry box in a second hand store a couple weeks ago and thought it might be fun to try to refurbish it. It had seen better days but the style and size were still very popular. I have seen new ones similar to this retailing in the $200 to $300 range so I figured it wouldn't  be a really bad investment to see what I could do with.

Here's a picture of it before I started disassembling and repairing several scratched and dented areas plus removing the well used and well-worn velvet liner.

I cleaned up the several dings around the box and filled the area with furniture wax filler sticks from Lee Valley. They are mostly comprised of resin and colored to approximate several popular shades wood. I use an alcohol torch and a Dental Instrument to apply the patching material and smooth the patch with the back of an instrument to approximate the surface.

A little bit of gentle sanding and the dings were flush with the surface and ready for a bit of staining.
One of the feet was missing so I took a pattern of the opposite side and reversed it and milled out the profile on my router table and with a little judicious filing I was able to approximate the style of the other feet. 

 As you can see from the picture below the liner had seen better days so I very carefully spent a few minutes removing and storing it away in a safe place until I could get some more velvet and some card stock for backing.
Rather than completely remove the existing outside surface I chose to apply water-based stain to the entire surface and adjust the tone of the wood exterior to match the top which required complete stripping due to the damage on the surface.

 Here is a picture of the box stripped out with the hardware removed.  It looks like they used some sort of a hide glue originally.  The material I have on hand sets rather quickly so I decided  to use  Elmers' spray adhesive that I'm more familiar with .

This shows a picture of the blended stain which I hand rubbed with a piece of paper towel to even out the repairs and the several different shades that the many years of use of taken on the box.
 Shown here is the finished box with the nameplate reinstalled. I couldn't find a new plate for it at this time so I gently sanded off the original name and polished the brass the new flat surface . The finish that I'm using is an acrylic polymer from Target coatings.  It handles in many respects very similar to nitrocellulose which is no longer available to me . I find it will burns in quite well, it's relatively clear, and it responds well to polishing compounds used industrially .
  This picture shows the bottom drawer open with the new velvet added. I have yet to glue down the side liners as I wanted to complete all fitting of the liners to be sure that there weren't too many obvious flaws.
  This final shot shows the top and bottom along with the movable tray finished with the red velvet .  The color was not my first choice but here in the "Great White North" purchasing velvet can be a bit of a trial  both from the perspective of obtaining quality product and  having more than a limited choice of colors.  For my taste, I would have chosen a deeper royal red but surprisingly, this shows quite well .

Saturday, February 2, 2013

An adjustable miter frame for pictures

After an "exhilerating" experience with some offshore miter clamps I decided to investigate making something more reliable.

I started out with a 10 inch wide piece of 3/4" plywood and a rudementary plan from
Caution, it's metric and translated into decimal inches. There's no directions so take your time and work it out.
I cut 4 - 26" strips 2-3/8" wide for the adjustable arms and layed out first the 3/4" recesses for the bolt heads and secondarily drilled the dimples out left by the forstner bit with a 1/4" bit to allow the bolts to pass through.

Next chore was to cut the 4  V blocks that the frame corners would sit in and the cross pieces to join the top and bottom members. The next picture shows the blocks notched and drilled and the cross bars milled and drilled. I chose a 5/16" threaded rod for more stablility than the suggested 1/4" .
Heres' the frame clamp assembled.

Here it is with a 50" mirror frame in place for the picture.
The jury's out until I get a couple of frames under my belt but it looks promising and it isn't from China!
 I can undo the center toggle and it stores quite well without taking up too much space.
here's the finsihed mirrors hung up on the dining room wall.