Friday, November 27, 2009


Well, decided that I really need to construct a shed because every time I move in the shop I either seem to run into something or else have to move "stuff".  At the side of the house I can construct a 4' x 8' shed. In Craig's List I found a good deal on some wire metal shelving so I picked that up on Wednesday.  Went to Home Depot today and got the material for the foundation and walls.  There is a concrete slab so the plan is to put the shed on that, next to the house.  Since the slab is sloped away from the house I needed to taper my 2x4 pressure treated lumber by a 1/2" in the 4' direction.  This was done with the bandsaw but all the pieces weren't perfectly level.
How else would a furniture maker them that way?; why with a plane -- of course!  I clamped the pieces together and went to work.  What a difference planing green, pressure treated Douglas Fir as opposed to the mahogany I've been working with for the pistol cases.  Richard, my neighbor, helped me move the foundation outside.  To make it easier I assembled the framework in the shop.  As always, I probably went over-kill on it as I pre-drilled and then screwed it all together with deck screws.  Tomorrow I'll start the framing the walls and attaching the subfloor.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gimlets Anyone? And I don't mean with Vodka!

As I've said before, in my woodworking I enjoy using hand tools even if a powered one can perform the task quicker.  Don't get me wrong, I'll use power tools  but sometimes there is a definite advantage to going with the hand tool way.  You've probably been receiving Christmas catalogs from tool suppliers and maybe you've noticed that several of them offer sets of gimlets like the ones shown in my photograph.  In the course of making the pistol cases I've been using hardware that has screws as small as a #2.  Drilling a pilot hole for something that small can be dangerous!  You have a large, powered drill turning a tiny bit of hardened steel into the wood.  Any slight twist or angle change can easily break the bit -- don't ask me how I know that one!  With a gimlet you have much more control.  If you've never used one the trick that I find works for me is be sure you're putting good pressure into the wood when you initially start the hole.  Once it starts it screws itself in nicely.  What I do is use a single edge razor blade as a scraper to smooth out the edge of the hole if necessary.   Then take the usual precautions that you'd use with tiny, brass screws which for me is using bee's wax as a lubricant.  Another way you can use with brass screws is to first use a steel screw to create the hole and then remove it and replace it with the brass.  Using a gimlet eliminates that step so they are a win/win option for using small brass screws.
The two pistol cases I'm working on are just about finished.  All that's left is to attach the snaps to the straps, two more coats of finish on the exterior, final assembly, and putting on all of the hardware.  I think my next project will be constructing a shed in the side yard, my shop seems to be getting smaller!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Better Mousetrap?

When I built the original pistol case I knew that being accurate on the finger joints was important.  I  thought  that I had discovered a good jig on the web but after building it and trying to make it work found it just wasn't so!  The jig here came from a publication from ShopNotes called: Table Saw, best tips, tools, and techniques.  What made it a better jig is that the two sides ride in the miter gauge slots and have 2 pieces of 3/4" ply keeping them square.  The only negative I had is that it wanted to tip forward when cutting fingers on a long board but that was easy enough to overcome by placing my forearm on the rear portion of the jig.  It has a jig fence and what I'd call the finger fence.  You need to make this "finger fence" for each size of finger joint you plan to make, I only made this for the 3/8" size I'm using on the pistol cases.  A really nice feature is the that board you're cutting rides on a 1/4" piece of mdf, this prevents it from moving up/down in case your blade insert isn't perfectly flush with the table.  There's also a sacrificial piece of mdf on the back to help prevent tear out.  The adjustment comes from having a larger hole on the part that slides in the miter slots than the carriage that goes through the finger fence.  In my case, I had a 3/8" bolt so I used a 1/2" hole in the rear fence.  The adjustment is done through the piece on the end with the three holes in it.  This is attached to the rear fence, the single hole at the front is so that you can place a screwdriver in it to adjust the position.  I put a tee nut there (10/32) and used a cabinet handle screw to accomplish this.  Once you've dialed in the cut simply tighten the wing nuts on the back of the jig.
     One last thing I'd like to share, if you've ever made a finger jointed box with a panel floating in a dado/groove you know you can't cut that dado all the way through the finger.  What's required is some chisel work to stop the cut.  I used my test pieces from setting up  the finger joints to support the sides of the piece as I cut the stopped dado.  Of course, you could also use your router to cut that and not have much to square off but who wants to take the time to set that all up and then listen to the racket!  I used a dado blade in the saw and needed to square off the ends of the dado.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's Happening Now?

This weekend we have a wedding coming up and it's pretty exciting to say the least!  The progress on the two pistol cases is going well.  Currently I'm working on what's probably the most time consuming part of it (other than finishing) and that's making the panel that the pistol and powder horn are inserted in to.  The first  step is to cut them out on the scroll saw which doesn't leave a real good square or smooth opening.  I've learned that it's actually easier and better to fine tune the openings with a chisel rather than files or rasps.  This is especially true with the end grain -- a sharp chisel will shave cut that smoothly, almost like cutting dovetails.  Both inserts are ready and the next phase will be to cut a mortise in the back to make the barrel rest for the pistol.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

 Just wanted to share a photo of the dining chairs I've been working on and have mentioned in the past.  They're my original design and I refer to them as my Dovetail Chair.  Very difficult to photograph without a lot of distortion but the front stretcher is dovetailed into the leg.  This is a technique I tried on a bench out in the garden several years ago and it's still holding together.  The wood used is Canarywood and there are ebony plugs on the laminated back and also to wedge the tenons for the back stretcher.  There are six chairs to this set and they go with the table I made earlier.
As for the pistol cases I received a great compliment -- he ordered 2 more that are identical for Christmas presents and told me he had a gun for himself that he wants me to design a different case for.  He also thought that I'd copied the design for the case from one he had seen at the Smithsonian Museum, pretty good company to be included with!
Work has started on the two cases, I found some African Mahogany that has some pretty distinct, ribbon grain.  Reminds me of a chocolate ribbon cake -- I'll post some pictures soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pistol Case Completed

After a good 30 hours of work the pistol case is now ready to be delivered to my client.  All it's lacking is an engraved nameplate for his son that he had me make this case for.  I'm quite pleased with the final product.  I believe it achieves everything it was supposed to.  It's a good looking example of woodworking, it holds the pistol and the items needed for it, and last of all it's a safe and attractive way to transport the pistol.  The approximate dimensions of it are 5" tall by 11" wide and 26" long.
The pictures below shows how the pistol fits into the case along with the powder horn.  I decided to use a latch to close the storage compartment.  It's lined with leather and will hold the balls, caps, and wads.

I hope readers of this blog have enjoyed seeing the process as much as I've enjoyed creating this case.  If anyone is interested in any details of the construction or would just like to comment on this piece please feel free to do so.  The next item I plan on putting on my blog are the dining chairs I recently completed.  I'm going to challenge myself in another way by trying to use my new MacBook computer instead of the PC I've been using now.  Bear with me though, I seem to be pretty slow when it comes to learning new computer oriented stuff!