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