Saturday, July 14, 2018

Pimp My Van Continued

The insulation and paneling mentioned in the previous post made for a quieter vehicle, but it still was a bare bones beast. This-mind you, was what I was looking for.  The excesses SUV's and even pickup trucks came with were irritating on general principle and function. They resulted in vehicles meant to transport people in comfort with screens and cup holders up the wazoo. It's funny how one's prejudices can work against you as I would have never considered a Mercedes Benz to embody utility together with a Spartan sensibility.
So I like bare bones, but not having a place to store stuff out of sight other than a glove box is asking to have your car broken into. Thus I looked for after market storage solutions on Google and in the Metris Forum; none of the solutions fit my needs or aesthetics. The options were a cheap looking metal box designed for file folders or plastic consoles with- cup holders. I wanted something that could store my gym/work bag so that it not be visible from window view. Locks were not needed as if someone broke into the car a padlock would not stand up to a crow bar. So back to the shop.
One of my 2017 woodworking resolutions had been to learn dovetails and this was an opportunity to practice that skill. The BCTW Jointmaker makes the task easier but not by any means fool/newbie proof. A modification specific to the project was to make a taller fence attachment (the purpleheart piece) to hold the panels of the console securely.

 The design had to accommodate an uneven floor, thus the cuts on the left hand side on above photo, and be able to clear the armrest. It should also be able to work as a writing or laptop surface. At the same time sufficiently tall to hold my backpack. Other jigs made themselves useful in the project
My Moxon vise made the fret saw cuts and tracing the tails to make the pins.
It also was invaluable in the glue up of the Cosman wood hinge. This was my third project using this  hinge and, while still having room for improvement, was much better than the previous two.
The La Forge screw jack is one of my favorite woodworking toys- an aesthetically cool object and way useful.

Here it served to help in planning a awkward piece to hold- the part used to wedge the console to the lower part of the dash area

Here is the piece used to secure the console to the front. and another piece as shown below allowed the console to be install without drilling any holes to the interior.

The finished project prior to installation
While not a trunk, there's much more room for concealed storage.
Two weeks later, while filling up at a local gas station, the attendant remarked that my van had a Home Depot smell. More specifically what he was smelling was Watco.


Monday, July 9, 2018

My mom, a cargo van, and the next chapter.

This entry is the second after a  more than year long hiatus. An elaboration of a very brief explanation given in the previous post seems in order prior to continuing hopefully more regular postings. I'm not much on making my private life public, thus this blog has been mostly about my hobbies. The why and the wherefores of what will follow in subsequent posts need the context of the passing away of my mom last year. Like I would imagine is the case for most of us, it was a sea-change event. Anyone who knows me well knows that I was a world class mother's boy. Many of my actions and decisions come by my love of my mom and desire that she stay with me and live on in some way by what I do going to do going forward.
Mom worked her whole life in the Los Angeles Garment District. She worked her way up from piece work to pattern maker- made the prototype from the initial pattern prior to mass production.  In forty some years, she only had three employers. This was despite having to deal with an asthmatic kid  (me) early in her working life- in the era before albuterol and steroid inhalers- who required frequent absences from work.  Aside from the work, what was left behind from that part of her life were her two industrial sewing machines. Toward the last four years of her life, she could no longer use them. None the less, she would not part with the two machines. Despite all practical considerations, they moved with her in her small assisted living room and stayed with her until the end.
Another sad rite of passage is what to do with what is left behind. Newspaper articles, even books are written regarding dostadning. We had already done some of this five years ago when she made the transition from living in her own home to assisted living. All of her belongings were either donated or disposed except a recliner (think Frasier's dad's chair) which sits in my sister's living room and the machines as they were as much a part of her as any material object could be.
We had room for the machines at our home. Further, DW was a pretty accomplished seamstress before she gave that up due to work and family demands on her time. How to get the sewing machines to from LA to Salem was the next step. Family friends kindly offered to store them for a limited time until I could return for them. There were several options involving rental trucks but none were cost or time effective. This brings us to how I came to owning a Metris as that is how they machine found a new home.

A Mercedes Benz had been predicted for me by one of my colleagues at the  LA County Assessor's Office when I left there for medical school. However, John M. foresaw my wife driving it while  I continued to drive the old beaters I was known for. In LA, at least at that time, you were what you drove. One of my supervisors had taken me aside and kind of in jest remarked that I made enough money to get a presentable car as what I was driving was a disgrace to the office.
My Saab had done pretty well as a utility vehicle.
But there was no room for a 4x8 sheet of drywall or plywood. That requirement was a running private joke between DW and I when at car shows over the years. I had ideated on a Ford Transit Connect in the past couple of years although alas it did not have the capacity for 4x8 sheet goods. The price and size otherwise were right, however.
Low mileage Transit Connects were nowhere to be found in several weeks of looking. The local dealers were completely disinclined to negotiate on price- one guy could barely suppress a yawn when presenting his offer. Other small cargo vans were considered "gutless wonders" by their users or not very reliable by consumer ratings. Also, DW was not all that enthused about driving underpowered, high point of gravity, poorly handling and questionable quality vehicles which was her impression of the options I had thus far looked at.
Thus I started looking at Metrises and found a local dealer who was open to negotiating on a low mileage 2016 model. DW wanted rear door windows for visibility. As I could purchase a low miles Metris for the price the dealers wanted for a base level new Transit Connect, it was purchased and we went to L.A. where it came in handy for a number of tasks associated with my mom's memorial service.
I would not have bought a cargo van for that purpose only. When our car acquisition would come up in conversation DW would refer to it as Sal's two seater midlife crisis Mercedes. In a way it an accurate assessment it's role in my life's next chapter will become apparent in subsequent posts.
This project's first stage was posted on Lumberjocks a wood working site.
Soundproofing the interior was not a want but a need as the interior noise qualified as a low level health hazard by OSHA standards. Paying for the paneling and soundproofing is what most owners do. But that would have been boring and expensive. Thus, I made the side panels, ceiling and wheel well covers. 
As they say, when you're a hammer the world looks like a nail.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

La Forge Populaire--> Royale and Another Bookshelf

It's been more than a year since anything's been posted here.  Among the disciplines/hobbies/interests I'm engaged in, blogging is the first activity to go by the wayside when my spare time becomes limited.  Anyway, woodworking/carpentry had also been in a several month hiatus. Another activity, reading had continued. As we like to keep the books we read, at least at this stage of our lives, between DW and I, we ran out of bookshelf space. Adding another bookcase was not an option given our furniture arrangement.
So I added a bookshelf. Simple enough, except when its 12 foot long and 13 feet above the floor. Since placement was over a clerestory bank of windows, support underneath, while best structurally, would look- sorta pasted on. A pure floating shelf design was not feasible with the shelf thickness I had in mind and with the weight bearing capacity needed.
A triangular bracket secured from above would solve the above issues and also serve as bookends if the brackets could be modified so that books could lay flat up against the bracket. Here is a Home Depot $13 bracket used for support.

The solution probably a bit over-engineered, as I have more than one accused of, was as follows. It allowed to have the bracket screwed on securely first to wall and shelf, then covered so that a book can lay flush and perpendicular to the bracket.


This part of the project made good use of my miter jack jig. A post a while back called it a Populaire as I did not spring for the expensive wood screw and assoc hardware associated with Benchcrafted's design. Well, my solution did not have sufficient torque, so I bought the wood screw and nut with much improved function. At least I tried the least expensive route first.


There was a bit of a time constraint as I needed to have the parts finished prior to having DW's family over for Mother's Day. There was no way I was going to be able to install the shelf without an extra pair of hands on another ladder. It's my good fortune that my in-law family is used to my putting them to work when they come visit.

Half an hour of setup, bolting and removing aluminum ladder from living room and we could proceed with Mother's Day. The next day I anticipated an hour's worth of time putting the covers over the brackets which fit flush and perpendicular. Only one little problem:


Due to my over-engineering, chopping off the overhang would not solve the problem as there is still metal and 2 different types of wood to cover up. Here is a close up of the cap with to cutout to accommodate the metal bracket end.


Here are the shelf brackets/bookends in place.


So I'm thinking the project is complete and I'm looking at the shelf from below installed, To my dismay it looks wrong. While the square ends work for the shelf above it because of the pattern, the lower shelf needed rounded ends.


 I was not about to take down the shelf to do this, so the cutting had to be done in situ and with hand tools to minimize dust. A good coping saw, hand planes and rasps let me finish before noon and with minimal dust production. The added shelf space should provide sufficient space for a year's worth of additional book hoarding vs home library expansion.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Black Hole Box








This small tools box is only 220 cubic inches.
But it contains a good part of two weekends worth of leisure time, along with packing a number or firsts: my first wood dowel hinge, a DIY dowel centering jig, miter spline in a dovetail pattern, use of a western dovetail saw (needed a wider kerf), glue+shavings for patches, and skill developed with dovetails and use of cyanoacrylate glues. Much experience was gained in the making of the little box, or- as Oscar Wilde put it- what old people call their mistakes. Thus the density metaphor.

The project started with a need for organizing some spare parts and small tools that were often needed but because of their size were often misplaced and then took way too long to remember where I last put them. The default storage was a little packaging box for some Lee Valley doohickies.
It was too big for the small items and too small to work as a hold the small essentials tool box.

Thus it began as a open box to hold a number of essentials in dedicated compartments and for practice making dovetails. When the dovetails turned out better than expected, my ambitions for the little box grew. I'm anticipating needing to travel with some of my tools in the coming months. If the box is going to work for taking essentials back and forth, a latching lid would be needed. Looking for hinges for an inset lid for a box with  3/8" thick sides and lid was an unexpected challenge given my inexperience with this scale of construction and not wanting to spend an hour traveling to and shopping at the nearest Rockwell and Woodcrafters. Internet searches led to Rob Cosman's wood hinges.
Image result for rob cosman wood hinge
As presented on YouTube, it was a very elegant solution, but with two initial obstacles before getting to the "devil is in the details" aspect of achieving the hinge itself. He stresses that a major requirement is the ability to drill a hole in the center of the dowel for  pins to link the hinges. Entrepreneur that he is, Cosman then notes that he offers metal jigs built for that purpose. After some daydreaming about an alternate solution, a more readily available jig could be done with the right sized drill bit and forstner  bit. My solution was $7 for the forstner bit vs $53 for his jig with shipping.
The other tool requirement was a core box router bit that BAM carbide- a blade and router bit supply and sharpening store 3 miles away from home had in store.
Now comes the hard part. Due to the tails being in the way, I needed to route out the groove in two different orientations which made for a suboptimal groove for the dowel hinge. Further, using CA glue for this application was a bad choice. To end, the joint failed which put me in a funk. DW noted- hobbies are supposed to be fun, right? But the silver lining to this black cloud was using a paduak replacement for the segment of the top removed to make a new groove. Making a new back portion using a pins first approach was another first. While the pin orientation remained an issue, the second try was a success using good ol' yellow glue. However, I was limited by geometry in how deep I could make the groove. Cosman notes that you need to cover close to 2/3rds of the dowel to avoid exposing the embedded pin.
In order to embed the dowel to the optimal depth the rear side needed to run through on its top edge, but as the pins were higher than that edge and were not symmetric, it was necessary to run the piece on it's side which allowed for only a quarter of the dowel to receive glue contact. I then got greedy and in planing the hinge flush partially exposed the pins at one edge.
Thus, it's a weak hinge. In future projects until I develop a reproducible and reliable approach to this technique, it will be best to make the hinge first and then build around it. It's an attractive and effective joint if properly executed and will be worth the effort in developing competency. I might even get Cosman's jig.
The jointmaker table saw has made small size projects safe and enjoyable.
While the compartment piece miter cuts off the JMTS  could have been glued together effectively, using my miter jack jig made them dead square. I'm in the habit of splining my miter joints when doing picture frames and good ol' Cosman has another fun technique- false dovetails, which are basically angled splines. Simple enough, but my handsaws of choice (Japanese) have too thin a kerf to make a structurally significant spline. So, I purchased a western saw (another first). This joint shows the difference in kerfs.
I didn't ruin anything, but cutting by pushing instead of pulling took some getting used to.
The last part was organizing stuff so it was readily accessible, yet would not get banged around or move out of place. The BCTW Kerfmaster made the dado cuts easy.
There is a triangular ruler that is used frequently enough to merit a place but due to lack of foresight was a bit too long. Here is the solution.
I was going to drill a hole in the front of the box as a hatch, but DW suggested looking for latches online and I found one suitable for the thickness of the sides and top. I then got ambitious and decided to try and inset the parts with resulting splintering and irritation. The CA glue mixed with fine sawdust along with a small sliver glued with CA saved the day.
Here are views of the finished little box.








DW requested an earing storage box for her Bday. That will be late in the summer. Also in the future is a hand tool chest that will have a compartment for this box. Fun, fun, fun!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Sofa Armor

Our living room sofa is one of the few remaining vestiges from my bachelor days. It's 25 years old and  for the past 18 years has served as the anchor furniture item of our living room and principal scratch post for our three cats. It's associated with lots of memories and that's likely the reason why DW is as attached to it as I am. It's one of the remaining reminders of the two cats we lots last year
But it's an eye sore in several locations.

Some can be hidden from view with appropriate placement. Locating the sofa against the wall and flanked by side cabinets keeps Girlfriends work obscured while preventing Andy from cauing further damage. Andy, however, took to the arms with a vengeance and we have not been able to modify that behavior.

We were exploring re-upholstering the sofa, but couldn't decide on the covering in the likely case of not being able to find a closely matching material. Then there was the also likely case that Andy would eviscerate the poor sofa again.
An alternative approach developed while researching miter jacks (see previous post).
couch table
Our couch's arms with it's curves and angles, along with the location of the area needing shielding presented a number of challenges in adapting that idea to our problem.
Which brings back a previously used quote
Make sure that your next project is beyond your skill and requires tools you don't have. You won't regret it.
I had used kerfing but with drywall and a long time ago. I wasted 2 sq feet of walnut and an afternoon of time before admitting the need for instruction- the problem was that the kerfs needed to be perpendicular to the grain for optimal flexibility. In retrospect, this would seem be obvious, but being a master of the obvious sometimes eludes me. Kerfing with hardwoods and at a fairly tight radius left me fairly humbled (not anything new) and required the band at the upper aspect of the curved panel to hide the gaps between the top and the side panel as well as the areas where the thin obvious patching on my first attempt at curved panels.

The thin band used for this required thin kerfs , something that the BCTW Jointmaker greatly facilitated.
Much to my chagrin while sanding and finishing three small faults developed when the area under the kerf was too thin to hold up to the pressure applied when sanding and finishing.
That was my clue that I needed to leave the stress lines on the curved panel surfaces alone.
A valuable aspect of hobby activities is that it allows risk taking and to indulge my bent for impatience and "winging it". While the result is serviceable, to my liking and has DW's approval, there's much room for improvement. The next attempt at this sort of thing will be closer to 1/8th rather than 1/16th along with using a hot soaked towel to help with molding. I've also read that using a mold pattern to allow for the panel to dry in the desired shape also helps a lot.
In the tools I don't have dept, a spokeshave (along with investing time to learn to use) and a good quality coping saw will be necessary investments if I'm going to significantly improve with curved pieces. A spokeshave would have come in handy when trimming the curved portion of the top to match the curved panel. That was the one place where I could not use the loose tenons to guide placement.

Here's the couch armor in place from the side
And the front view


Saturday, April 22, 2017

La Forge Populaire Miter Jack



I first came across the La Forge Royale miter box when looking through the Benchcrafted  blog in preparation for building my workbench. It was an elegant device that was filed away in my mental future project list.
Image result for miter jack
My interest in this appliance resurfaced when researching ways to make small picture frames without holding small hardwood pieces with one hand  between the sliding saw fence and  the sawblade set at 45 degrees. A miter box was one solution. A Stanley 150  model in good shape and a fair price was bought on eBay and could be used with a Japanese saw ( I stayed away from boxes using Western saws).
After modifying to accept a Japanese saw, it worked but required trimming to achieve a precise 45 degree edge. I sent the box off to my machinist cousin who would work on it between his larger orders. It's been 2 months since I sent it, but given his kind offer to do it for fun, I have not bugged him about it; maybe I'll call him this weekend.
It also seemed when reading about their use that most miter boxes produced results that require additional trimming. A dedicated miter trimmer was an offered solution in these articles but seemed  too limited in use to make sense in my shop. In the mean while a Jointmaker SW came up on eBay and for once the bidding on it was not out of control. While with depths less than one inch, it was dead square, when working with thicker pieces there was a slight drift. This got me to thinking about a miter jack again.
They tell me if you can see the line you can cut to the line. That doesn't apply in my case at least when I comes to chiseling across lines interrupted by pins and tails. It became an OCD objective when it became clear that as a dovetail novice, I could use help with that task. Given that deficiency, I would have more use for the 90 degree surface than for the 45 degree face.
An  initial obstacle was the wood screw mechanism. At the time I was preparing to start building the jack, Benchcrafted sold the metal parts for connecting the screw to the movable part of the vise.
Image result for miter jack vise
I was on my own, however, with regards to the wood screw and nut.

I had no interest in learning to make wood screws and nuts or acquiring the hardware needed to make these. Metal screws were used in other DIY variations but these seemed to have either a limited travel range or appear excessively large for the task.

Then I had an Eureka moment where it dawned on me that the solution was quite possibly on my benchtop already- a Veritas quick-release wonder dog.

I began the build 2 weekends ago. DW wanted something to cover a clawed up sofa, but as mentioned above, the miter jack had become an "obscure object of compulsion" to paraphrase the title of an old Spanish movie. I used the Benchcrafted directions for the most part except for a few changes; hence the "populaire" name change.
Instead of  2 inch thick quartersawn maple I glued together 4/4 planks with the rings in alternating direction. Resulted in a little thicker base. I also had the base extend past the fixed jaw for an additional clamping area when held perpendicular.
Instead of a solid block to form the vise jaws with the angle cut with a band saw, I serially ran 8/4 boards through my table saw at a 45 degree blade tilt, then used dominos to maintain position while gluing.
Much to my dismay, the last 45 degree cut exposed the dominos.

Which is why the purpleheart rectangles are on the upper part of the jaws along with the medial aspect of the jaws featuring  a purpleheart insert running along the middle.
The most difficult part of the project was achieving  true 45 and 90 degree faces on the jaws. I needed four tries to achieve the final result. Even with use of the table saw for the 45 degree cut, there was a lot of  maple end grain hand planing. Painful but necessary as that reference surface is (to keep the French thing going) the raison d'etre for the Jack.
Any possible use for the 22.5 degree insert the Royale featured was not worth the extra effort on my part to make it. If it does turn out to be sufficiently useful, I can add it later on. Thanks to the pattern maker vise and Veritas surface clamps, I can hold the Populaire in a 90 or 45 degree orientation without resorting to making the accessory base
Image result for miter jack
As it turns out, Lake Erie is making a run of the wooden screws and nuts used in the Benchcrafted build. The Royale is prettier and more free-standing than my Populaire, but its $200 saved and I didn't have to wait for the anticipated June delivery. The quick release dog is easy enough to remove and replace if needed
Here is in standard position secured by bench dogs:
At a 45 degree angle:
And perpendicular held by surface clamps:
The next project is something along these lines to cover up and futher protect our poor couch against Andy's claws.
couch table
The above is courtesy of She Works Wood- the author is way up on the food chain both as blogger and wood worker.