Welcome to my blog. Let what you see stimulate your imagination and inspire your own creations.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Tip for the New Year

When I start moving from basic bowls to more elaborate projects, I studied segmented bowls, made on the lathe, to get some ideas. What I noticed, consistently, was the use of veneer to set off decorative rings. Although not cheap, veneer is less expensive than thin wood, and can sometimes be obtained in thicknesses as great as 1/16". For the new box book, I experimented with dyed colored veneer, and was very pleased with the results. It works similarly to padauk, or any other wood that can bleed if you're not careful, but otherwise presents no special problems.

Constantines, located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, is a reliable source for specialty veneer, as well as other interesting stuff. I visited their store last summer, and was impressed with their stock. I was sorely tempted by a beautiful piece of bird's eye maple veneer, dyed a gorgeous blue, but could not think of a way to use it. Of course I'm sorry now to have passed it up. They pack the veneer carefully, so mail order is not a problem.

Since they're a small outfit, they are responsive to special requests, and seem to choose their stock carefully. If you're looking for a way to make your projects stand out, give veneer a try.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Wishes to All

Just wanted to wish you all the best in this holiday season, and to promise you a bunch of new and fun projects and helpful videos in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Model number for the elusive pad sander

I've received many requests for the model number of the pad sander that I use for shaping and sanding bowls, especially those with curved sides. I recommend buying from Klingspor, since they seem to have the best prices, and their customer service is excellent.

The basic tool is the 2" hook & loop pad, FP50200. Add some 10 packs of 2" scalloped discs. in various grits such as 80, 120, 180, 220, 320, and you're good to go. The scallops generally protect against gouging, but if they get in the way for a particular job, just cut them off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Back to the drawing board

Since it's impossible to test your own instructions, I asked my partner, Joe, to make up some pivot-lid boxes that will appear in my new box book.

He made up a few, and filled them with candy. We gave out two yesterday, and within a matter of minutes, one of his grandkids snapped off the lid of her box.

Although I thought the dowel I used would be strong enough to resist shear, I was thinking "adult" not "child". We quickly drilled out the broken remnant and substituted brass rod, instead. I think that should work, and even though I'll have to take a new set of process photos, I was glad that I had the chance to improve the design.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Please read the instructions

The current Holiday supplement that Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts magazine sends with a 2-year subscription (and is also available separately) contains plans for a collapsible basket similar to the one pictured. I wanted to make the entire basket from a single 8" x 8" piece of wood, and used scrap left over from the main cutting for the base strips. So far, so good.

What I didn't anticipate is that people would not read Step 2 all the way through, to the part that says to save the scraps for the base strips. If you don't do that, then it will appear that no wood is provided for them. If I knew this was likely to be a problem, I would have highlighted that part in boldface or italics, but who knew?

So, if you've tried to make the basket and are wondering where to get the wood for the strips, just check back to Step 2.

It's a really neat project, and a great way to use up scraps. It also works well when made from a single piece of wood.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All packed and ready to go!

The new book is finally finished, at least at my end of things. I sent out 3 DVDs on Saturday, with all the text, instructions, process photos, etc., and will have UPS pick up the boxes (33 plus 6 variations) on Tuesday to pack them and ship then out out to Fox Chapel.

Just in case you were wondering, it's my responsibility (and cost) to make sure they get there safely. For the first book, I was tempted to drive out to Pennsylvania and deliver them myself, given the hundreds of hours of work invested, but reason prevailed. So, Tuesday morning, the folks from the local UPS store will come to my house and take them to the store for packing.

When the project is submitted, it's unpacked and organized, and the editing process should begin in February. I've already gone through about 4 rounds of edits, and each time I catch more errors, but I think I've taken it as far as I can.

And I finally get my dining room table back! When I'm cleared to "go public" with the projects, I'll post pictures of everything all lined up and ready to go. They're such fun projects--I can't wait until the book comes out!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old items, new uses

As I continue editing the manuscript for the new box book, I'm struck by the way we get locked into using tools and materials conventionally.

For example, baking parchment, which is silicon treated, is a good alternative to wax paper for keeping clamps from sticking to wood during glue-ups. If you can get the heavyweight kind, it will last almost indefinitely.

And, for getting epoxy into small holes, a #3 cake decorating tip works much better than a toothpick. Use plastic wrap or a glove to protect your finger, and push the epoxy right into the hole. Drop the tip into a small amount of acetone to clean it when you're through.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

LI Woodworking Show

I spent yesterday at the LI Woodworkers Show, talking to people, and showing bowl construction to anyone not familiar with the technique. As always, it was a lovely show, and highlighted the projects made by the many talented members of the club.

Monday, November 8, 2010

LI Woodworking Show

I'll be appearing at the LI Woodworking show this Saturday, and will be at the Advanced Machinery booth doing demos and signing books. Check out this link to their site for more info. Should be a lot of fun.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tight, but it fits!

With colder weather, and in accordance with my condo's rules, the car has to be garaged overnight in our one-car garage. We put all the tools on mobile bases, and although it's a tight fit, it works. Shows what you can do when you're really desperate for your own shop.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Professional photo shoot

I had the really neat experience this week of having process photographs for an upcoming magazine article taken by a pro. It was actually a lot more work than taking the shots myself, since I needed to have the project ready to shoot in various stages of completion.

I'm pleased to say that although my own shots are not as photographically polished as the pro's, I think are just as clear for teaching purposes. Since I now have all the work done for the new box book, (33 projects proposed, with 10 to 25 shots per project) I feel confident that my very low-budget photos (often taken with one hand on the wood and the other on the camera) will do the job.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bowl class at Norwalk, CT Woodcraft store

Well, yesterday was my all-day bowl class. Of my four students, one had never used a scroll saw, one had a little experience, and two were beginners. I am pleased to say that by 4PM, everyone had completed and sanded a decent looking bowl, including the brand new scroller.

I was exhausted by the end of the day, since except for the 30 minutes I took for lunch, I was constantly helping someone with one thing or another, and I'm not used to being "on" for such a long period of time. But I'm glad that I did it, and would do it again--but not for a while!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preparing for class

I'll be teaching an all-day bowl-making class at the Woodcraft store in Norwalk, CT tomorrow. Although I've done demos, this will be the first group I've taught where they will be doing the work, not me. I have no idea whether anyone in the group has tried making bowls, so it's sure to be an interesting experience for all of us. I even washed my shop apron for the occasion!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Watching the grain

When you make bowls that use two, or even three sets of rings, be sure to keep the grains in alignment. This is particularly important if there are differences in color from one side of the board to the other. This piece of padauk was used for the second try at a stacked ring box. For the first attempt, I accidentally switched sides on one of the pieces. This resulted in a box that was darker on top on one side, and lighter on top on the other side. It was an interesting effect, but not at all what I had in mind, so I bought some more padauk and did it right this time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How do you price your work?

Last week, while visiting friends in southern Vermont, I brought some of my bowls to the owner of a really high end crafts store in Brattleboro. I've not yet sold any of my work, but my house is getting very crowded, and something will need to be done pretty soon.

I took home all their paperwork, which gives commission rate, policies, etc., and there was nothing there that was objectionable, but my biggest stumbling block is how to price my work. Since pricing ultimately depends on what people are willing to pay, I've always been stumped by how to figure this out. Sometimes I'm tempted just to give things away to people who like them. That's why writing books and articles is so pleasant for me--I can make stuff, get paid for my work, and don't have to worry about sales.

It can't be rocket science, and obviously other people have done this, but it's always been an issue for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A good product for sanding

After trying various kinds of sandpaper for the final sanding of my projects, I've determined that these foam backed gold sheets that come on a roll are the most effective. They come in grits from coarse to very fine, and the foam backing gives the control and flexibility that you need for tight places. They are also ideal for that final sanding of curves, where you want a smooth flowing line that is difficult to achieve with mechanical sanders alone. Not cheap--runs about $.50 per sheet after shipping for small quantities--but well worth the money.

It's called "goldflex" and the brand name on it is "Mirka". I don't know if there are other brands of the same type of product, but this one is really good.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why you need a bowl press

I had to glue up a tiny lamination, about 3" x 3", so I put it in my bowl press to dry. By using a piece of wood under the lamination and spacers, it worked pretty well. I wanted to do another one, and didn't want to wait until the first was dry, so I tried to do it conventionally, by using various clamps. What a nightmare! And even worse, the glue-up wasn't as tight as I wanted.

While making the press (which can't be called a bowl press in my box book, for obvious reasons) takes a little effort, it is extremely useful for any small project that needs firm, even pressure and is susceptible to slippage. I think the picture tells it all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Well, I got away lucky, this time. I was trying to sand the inside of a pretty deep box with my inflatable ball sander but kept hitting the opening on the chuck of the drill press and taking off little chunks of wood. I didn't have a flex shaft, but I did have a 12" extension, so I attached the ball to the end of the extension, chucked it into the drill press, and started to sand. Well, either I forgot to tighten the chuck or the rotation was just too fast, and the long shaft just sheared right off and sailed across the garage. Fortunately, nothing was damaged (including me) but it was pretty scary.

I removed the little remnant of the shaft remaining in the chuck and started sanding again. Suddenly the whole chuck, including the taper, feel right off! I guess the force from the spinning extension loosened the taper enough so it just slipped right down. We tapped it back in place, and it seems fine, but that's one experience I'm not going to repeat.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dealing with glue spots

Some of my projects involve a lot of fidgety gluing and glue spots have an annoying way of showing up despite all my efforts to remove excess glue. To find the spots, I give the project a sealer coat of shellac, which causes the glue spots to stand out very visibly. I mark them with chalk as soon as the shellac is dry enough for the chalk to adhere. Once the shellac is thoroughly dry, the glue spots become harder to see. I find that shellac works better for me than mineral spirits, and gives a good base for additional coats of shellac or spray lacquer.

The project in the picture is a small box with a loopy bow. The blue tape on the top of the lid keeps the area where the loops will be glued on free of shellac. Once the box is finished, the loops are glued on and sprayed. This project is for the "Boxes with Bows" chapter of my new book, which should be out in about a year or so.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sanding tip for bowlmakers

After several years of making bowls, I've developed some techniques that really make a difference. This one is helpful for getting a nicely rounded lower edge on a ring before you glue it to the base. Turning the ring upside-down makes it much easier to see irregularities. You can also see how much wood you have to work with, so you don't risk having too little wood for gluing.

The ring should be angled as you sand, but if the inside face does not come out quite right, you can "tweak" it when you turn the ring right side up.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The versatile inflatables

I resisted buying an inflatable sander for the longest time, primarily because of price. However, I found that the flexi-pad sander was really not suited for sanding inside curves, and I wasn't about to fabricate my own sanding ball. I've never regretted my decision.

To get started, the only things needed are the ball, a small hand pump, and a set of sleeves of assorted grits. The ball chucks into a drill press, which leaves your hands free to hold your project. As I started working with square and rectangular shapes, I found the small drum useful for getting into corners.

And, once you have these tools, you'll find all sorts of uses for them. The adjustable firmness gives a degree of control that you just don't get with rigid spindles.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A neat little detail sander

I am far from the neatest gluer, and usually put too much glue on my pieces. This means a major clean-up while the glue is still soft, and some tricky sanding once the glue has dried. To get into tight or hard to reach places, I use a small piece of adhesive backed sandpaper stuck around the end of a very thin flat file. This gives me more control and greater pressure than finger strength alone. If you don't have a small file, a flat blade screwdriver will also work.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bowl presses are really worth making

I always recommend the use of a press for gluing up rings, rather than boards and clamps, and have a simple plan for one in my bowl book. I've been using it for everything, from gluing on box bottoms to laminating wood and veneer, and even have a square version for larger areas.

Well, a few days ago I got lazy, and decided to try gluing on a small box bottom the conventional way. As the pieces slipped out of alignment, I quickly regretted my decision and reached for my press. The control over the pressure, not to mention the likelihood of the parts staying where they are supposed to, convinces me that even people who don't make bowls can benefit from this handy shop-made device.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sanding tool hints

I find the flexible pad sander to be a useful and versatile tool, but the velcro on its face tends to wear out over time. A small and inexpensive pad that attaches to the face with hooks and loops helps preserve its life, and provides extra cushioning for the discs.

To solve the problem of disc storage and organization, a plastic 3x5 card file is a quick and easy solution.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What is it?

I've been having a good time creating projects for my new book. My goal is to have the book filled with things that will be fun to do, different, and within the capabilities of the typical scroller. I wish I could share more of what I'm doing, but that would spoil the surprise when the book is finally published, late next year.

However, this came out so well that I just had to share it. It's obviously part of a larger project, but I'm wondering if even in its unfinished state it looks like what it's supposed to. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Working in the summer heat

One of the downsides of my new home workshop is that it has no ventilation, unless I open the garage door. Although this is usually not a problem, I keep seeing little chipmunks scampering across the door opening, and have an occasional visiting wasp. I use a wall mounted fan to get some air flow, which helps a little. I'd love to start work by 7AM to take advantage of the early morning coolness, but I'm in a cul-de-sac of a condo, and 8AM is about the earliest I can start.

If any of you have dealt with a similar situation and have come up with some solutions, I'd love to hear them. Meanwhile, it's still better than working in air conditioned comfort in a noisy shop with poorly maintained tools.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Hegner scroll saw

I've now been using my Hegner 18" scroll saw for several weeks. I'd used the DeWalt 788 for several years, so I expected some period of adjustment. Since the Hegner is a much more expensive machine, I was curious as to whether I would really notice a difference. The answer is a definite yes!

The Hegner blade clamping system is completely different from the DeWalt. I was never able to tighten the blade clamps on the DeWalt without my little homemade device that slipped over the knobs, so using a tool for blade changes was not a big deal. Although lining up the blade for the Hegner clamps does take practice, once clamped, the blade holds beautifully. And there's an accessory that lets you release the upper clamp, so bottom feeding, which is what I do, is no problem.

The biggest change I noticed was in the accuracy and smoothness of my cutting. Doing the same project with the same blade, the difference between the two saws was remarkable. My cuts are definitely smoother with the Hegner, with less distortion on thick wood. Cuts that were problematic are no longer difficult, and my "remedial sanding" has been reduced dramatically.

Lacking an opportunity to "test drive" different high-end saws, I chose the Hegner because of its small size and extremely helpful and responsive customer service. I ruled out the Excalibur from the start primarily because I wanted the photos in my books, articles, and posts to show a saw with a tilting table, not a tilting head.

I knew I could not go wrong with the Hegner, but I was not prepared for the tremendous difference a quality tool makes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dust collection system for the drill press

In addition to making dust while sanding, I also create quite a mess with Forstner bits. So, I needed to supplement my box fan and filters with something that could handle coarser material. I considered making a device which would hold the shop vac hose in place, but found a commercial product that seems to work quite well. Several different nozzles are available, and this wide one gathers dust and debris from a large area. Other nozzles can be placed closer to the drill bit.

I spent several hours sanding today, which gave it a good test run. When I did this much sanding down at the community shop, I needed to vacuum my hair, arms and clothing. Today, I barely needed to clean up. I don't know how the shop vac will hold up under such constant use, but for now, between the two systems, I have an effective, inexpensive way to keep things relatively clean.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Wedding Cake

Well, the wedding was a huge success. The weather cooperated, and everything went off without any major problems. And the cake was delivered safely, securely wedged in the front seat, in its packing box. My son and new daughter-in-law were very pleased, and the feedback was terrific, both on looks and taste. Most wedding cakes are afterthoughts, and commercial, and not very tasty. I was amazed that people had room for cake after all the food, but they did. And the top layer is a dummy, which will keep indefinitely if protected from moisture, rodents, and insects.

I used commercial flowers, instead of making my own, so I would not have to worry about humidity, and kept the air conditioning on throughout the two days needed to get the cake together. With all the shelves removed from my refrigerator, the box fit in nicely.

I packed away all my cake decorating gear last night, until the next occasion, and can now get back to my shop with a clear head. But I'm glad that I did it--it's special to be able to make the cake for you child's wedding.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cake update

Started baking at 6:30 AM, finished cleaning up at 6PM. Cakes are filled and waiting to be covered with fondant icing, stacked and decorated. I stayed out of the shop all day--feels funny to have a day without wood. Also too much tasting of the batter and icing. Tomorrow should be fun as the cake takes final shape--can't wait to get to that part at last. Also, not used to working these hours anymore. Appreciate the support out there--thanks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another use for my scrollsaw and for Weldbond glue

I used the scrollsaw to cut down the cake drum to just under 18", so it will fit in the packing box for transport to the wedding. The board is covered with satin, for an attractive presentation and another board is glued to the underside to make it easier to move the cake. This picture shows the glue-up on the underside of the board. And tomorrow I bake!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One for the cake, one for the box

I often use scans of pictures, printed in miniature, and framed, to personalize cakes. So, it was only natural that I'd incorporate this approach into my woodworking. The picture on the left, of my son and his fiancee, in a frame of royal icing, is one of several which will be incorporated into the wedding cake. The picture on the right, of Joe and me, is mounted on wood, and a decoration for one of the less conventional projects in my upcoming box book. I'll post pictures of the wedding cake next week--Friday is baking day, Saturday decorating, and Sunday I become a mother-in-law (gasp!).

Friday, July 2, 2010

A small break from woodworking

I've had to reduce my shop time, temporarily, because I am making the cake for my son's wedding on July 11th. I finished up the top ornament yesterday, which gives me some time off before the actual baking and assembly next week. I'll post pictures when it's done--I'm pleased with how it looks so far. Since many of my woodworking ideas have come from my experience as a cake decorator, it was fun to go back to my "origins" and see how many parallels exist.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Really good hearing protection

I bought this hearing protector, Peltor H10A Optime 105 Over-the Head Earmuff, based on customer reviews and a reasonable price (under $20). It is really effective at muffling sound without resorting to fancy electronics. It's nice when a product does just what it's supposed to do.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to Make a Box Fan Dust Collector

If you do a lot of sanding with your drill press and would like to make a dust collector like the one I posted, you'll need a 20" box fan, two 20" furnace filters, and some masking tape. One of these filters should be a standard one, and the other should be one with a higher rating that is meant to trap smaller particles. Here's how to do it:

1. Tape the two filters together so that the standard one is on top of the finer one, with the arrows pointing away from you.
2. Place the box fan with the back side facing you. This is the side into which air is drawn. You'll feel the breeze on the opposite side.
3. Tape the joined filters to the back side of the fan. The air will first go through the regular filter, then the finer one, then out the front.
4. Place the dust collection system close to your drill press, filters facing the drill press. You should be able to see the dust fly into the filter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Capturing dust from the drill press

Since I use the drill press for sanding, as well as drilling, I needed a way to capture the dust that goes flying all over the place. Although we may eventually construct a holder for a shop vac hose, this quick fix--one box fan and two filters--does a surprisingly good job on fine dust. I place it at the end of my work table about a foot away from the drill press, then just put it on the floor when I'm finished. The sawdust on the filter is from walnut, which is why it's so dark, but it's positive proof that this simple device is really working. And yes, it's time to change the filter!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dust collection for the combination sander

Since space is an issue, we decided that the shop vac would do double duty as a dust collector for the combination sander. The problem was to figure out the best way to connect the vac to the 4" dust port. The answer was a deli container that fit into the dust port, a piece of wood cut at an angle to fit the deli container, a hole cut in the wood for the shop vac hose, some rubber roofing membrane to stabilize the lip of the deli container, and a hose clamp to hold everything in place. And the best part of it is that it works really well!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Low tech is often very effective

As I flattened out the side of a strip for a glue-up, I was reminded of how much use I make of this simple sanding device. It consists of a granite tile with a sheet of sandpaper, about 150 grit, glued on with repositionable adhesive. I use it to prepare the faces of bowl rings before gluing them up, and for final "tweaking" of cut surfaces that need to be glue-line flat. When the paper is used up, I just remove the old paper, clean up the granite with mineral spirits, then fasten on a new sheet. If you've never tried doing this, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shop is up and running

Well, the tools are finally in place and I've started living in my new "home". Only the bandsaw remains to be assembled, but all my basic tools are up and running. The space we're using is a one car garage which must still be usable to park a car (condo rules), so we put all the heavier stuff on mobile bases and can get the car in without difficulty. We rigged up an adapter for the sanders so we can use the shop vac for dust collection, and we're using a box fan with two filters for the drill press. Here are some pictures of the main wall.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Scroll Saw Arrived!

I finally got my own scroll saw! Hanns Derke of Advanced Machinery, distributor of Hegner scroll saws, was kind enough to set up my saw and show me how to use it. So far, I've mastered blade insertion, and tomorrow I'll graduate to actually cutting my first project. It's a sleek and elegant tool, and marks my transition from "yellow" to "orange".

Monday, May 17, 2010

my shop is actually happening!

Sorry I haven't been posting--I've been too busy cleaning out the garage to make room for my new "mini shop". So far, the drill press is up and running, spindle sander has to be returned because it was damaged, and scroll saw and combo sander should be here later this week. An old cabinet will do as a work surface, and we'll add storage as we go alone. Here's what it looks like so far--updates to come. Any ideas for small shops are welcome!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Demo at Woodcraft store, Norwalk

Had a good time at the Woodcraft store signing books and showing lathe turners and other woodworkers how to make bowls with the scroll saw.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Demo Saturday May 8th at Norwalk, CT Woodcraft store

I'll be doing a demo at the Norwalk, CT Woodcraft store this Saturday, May 8th, from 12-2. If you're in the area, please drop by to say "hi", and if you've been doing bowls, bring your work along and we'll have a "show and tell". Hope to see you there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Here's a useful cutting tip

In making bowls, most of the cuts are made from the top side of the blank, cutting clockwise. Sometimes, however, you need the bottom of a ring to be a particular size, as when making a flared top for a vase, and aren't sure what the top diameter should be. The easiest way to handle this situation is to turn your blank on its face, draw the size ring you need, allowing a generous margin all around, and cut along the line at whatever angle you're using, going COUNTERCLOCKWISE. Then you can turn your wood over, face side up, and proceed as usual.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A shop of my own, at last!

After several years of using a community woodshop, I'm finally cleaning out our one car garage so I can get my own tools. Fortunately, for the work I do, all I need is a scroll saw, drill press, spindle sander, and vertical belt-disc sander combo.

Having my own "shoplet" will also let me shoot videos more easily. Videos made in my kitchen are OK, but sometimes just a little limiting. I'd love to be able to make videos "on demand" to answer any questions that come along.

I'm starting to research drill presses and sanders, so if any of you have any good (or bad) experiences with particular pieces of equipment, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Same for any good ideas for working in a limited space.

I'll post pictures in a few weeks--wish me luck!

Friday, April 23, 2010

One more sanding tip

The other day in the shop I was sanding with a 60 grit sleeve on my inflatable ball sander, and it was taking forever. I found that although the grit looked fine, it had less sanding power than the 220 grit sleeve I replaced it with (only one I had around). I could have saved myself quite a bit of time and frustration by changing it about an hour earlier, and will try not to make that mistake again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Need help?

If you run into any problems while making your bowls, please let me know. Chances are good I've run into the same situation at one time or another, and am likely to have an idea or two that will get you back on track.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ten Rules for Sanding Success

Ten Rules for Sanding Success

1. Less is more

Unless you must remove a lot of wood quickly, sand in small increments and inspect your work frequently. Although sanding errors be used creatively, it’s better to go slowly and stay in control.

2. Match the grit to the wood

Coarse grits are too aggressive even for rough shaping of soft wood while harder wood needs the extra abrasiveness. Use the finest grit that will get the job done to avoid removing too much wood or leaving deep scratch marks.

3. Change grits gradually

Moving slowly through the grits lets you sand out scratches, not sand them smoother.

4. Keep it clean

Clogged sandpaper does not sand effectively and may burn the wood. Change paper frequently when hand sanding, and use a cleaning stick for mechanical sanders.

5. Use a gentle touch

Too much pressure creates gouges and causes burn marks. Don’t make extra work in an effort to save time.

6. Defuse the disc

Disks rotate faster on their outer edges; the more aggressive sanding can quickly add unwanted curves. If you use the whole disc, hold work on the “up” side firmly to prevent flinging and its consequences.

7. Let your fingers be your guide

Touch, as well as look, to catch irregularities. Use fingers to locate bumps and hands to check for symmetry.

8. Finish today’s work tomorrow

When you think you’re done, put the work aside and look again when you’re fresh. You will always find something that you missed.

9. Accept imperfections

It’s better to live with a drill mark, a scratch, or a flaw in the wood than to ruin your project.

10. Start by machine, finish by hand

Machine sanding reduces stress on shoulders and arms, but there’s no substitute for a final hand sanding.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finishing enclosed areas

A question came up on the scroll saw forum about finishing the inside of a vase. While a nice finish inside and out sounds like a good idea, enclosed spaces tend to hold odors, especially when oil is used. Once the inside of a vase is sanded smooth it should look good enough so you won't feel embarrassed if someone decides to take a peek.

That said, if you really want to finish the inside, spray it with shellac before gluing it to the other section, being careful to tape the gluing edge with blue tape so you don't get spray on it. Then when it's done, just remove the tape and glue it up as usual. Shellac odor dissipates pretty quickly, and brings up the color and grain enough to give a more finished look than just leaving it plain. It's really a matter of preference.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Northeastern Woodworkers Association Show

I went to the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Show in Saratoga Springs last Saturday. Some really nice work done by the folks up there, and as usual, a lot of good energy. And, of course, I bought some "treats"--2 pieces of redwood burl and 2 small pieces of ebony. Problem for me with special wood is that I get so afraid of wasting it that I tend not to use it.

Also, I saw some scroll saw bowls on display, and was pleased to see how well they were done. I especially like when someone takes the work off in their own direction, one I hadn't thought of. If you have a bowl that you've created that you're proud of, send me a picture so I can post it and share it with others.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Problems with Patterns

Here's the last part of my series on why instructions are sometimes so difficult to follow successfully. It focuses on something that seemed clear to me, but apparently not to everyone. Hope this helps.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Proofreading errors

No list of reasons why some instructions are difficult to follow successfully would be complete without including errors in the text or diagrams. If you've ever tried to proofread your own work, you know what a difficult task it is. You tend to see what you expect to see and overlook obvious mistakes. I still can't believe that instead of writing "(6) 6" x 3/8" carriage bolts", I left out one of the 6's. I checked the text many times, as did at least two other people and we all missed it. I am grateful, through the scroll saw forum, my blog, and my blog email, that I have a chance to provide a quick fix, rather than wait for the next printing. And I am grateful to those who have taken the time to ask for corrections and clarifications.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unconscious Competence

I came across this term in a professional baking magazine, and think it helps explain why some instructions are harder to follow than others. The term refers to a situation where a teacher is so familiar with a given area that he or she forgets to break instructions down into all the steps a beginner needs. For example, if I direct the reader to "use the flexible pad sander to flare the upper lip" without a picture, video, or more detailed instructions, the reader is left clueless as to how to proceed. It's like a recipe instructing you to "cook until done" without telling you how long it should take, or what it should look like.

The best instructions are written by someone who has the skills of an expert, but can still think like a beginner. As you gain more competence in a particular area, you may find that instructions that were not clear when you began now make perfect sense.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I did it again!

After posting a caution about the importance of reading instructions, I ignored my own warning and had to redo my work. I was using Inlace, that resin that looks like stone, and it didn't harden properly over the padauk portion of my project. I scraped everything out, and decided that I should probably use acetone to clean up any oil from the wood before trying again. As I looked over the instructions that came with the Inlace, I found a clear warning to use acetone with oily exotic wood or the Inlace might not harden properly. Fortunately the area to be removed was small, and I only gouged my hand once trying to clean things up. Ironic--you'd think I'd know better by now!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Confusing instructions: why does it happen?

I recently received the good news that my book is going into its second printing. This gave me the chance for corrections and clarifications to make the instructions more accurate and easier to follow. It also led me to think about the various causes of problems or confusion when someone tries to follow instructions.

For starters, sometimes problems arise when, in our eagerness to get going, we fail to read the introduction or notes that contain vital facts, and plunge right in. When I started making collapsible baskets, I wondered why my cutting angle was always different from the one recommended. Three years later, I noticed, for the first time, the sentence that clearly said that when you enlarge or reduce a pattern, you have to change the cutting angle. I still don't know how I missed it, but there it was.

However, sometimes even careful reading is not sufficient to prevent difficulties. Over the next few days, using my perspective as both a user and provider of instructions, I'll cover other factors that may interfere with the successful completion of a project.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Layering to create interest

This is a close-up of a project I'm currently working on, which illustrates how to generate interest by layering. The center ring started out as a 20-segment lamination from my book--time consuming but not difficult. I added pieces of 1/8" oak on either side, then added 2 pieces of veneer to each side on top of the oak. This blank was already used for another project; the current project was sized to use the remainder. I still have enough left over for something small, and will probably add another layer of 1/8" wood for a different effect.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Suggestion for Elegance

I've been playing around with veneer, as a less expensive alternative to thin wood, and am pleased with the results. If you want to dress up a basic bowl, cover your blank with a layer or two of veneer, gluing it up well, then cut as usual. The thin lines between layers gives a totally different look for very little extra work. Just be sure that your blank is flat so the layers can adhere properly. If you want to use your bowl press, cut the blank oversize, but small enough to fit in the press, then clamp it tightly.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Drilling the perfect entry hole

If you've ever had problems with your bowl blank "jumping" at the start of your cut on an inner ring, here are some tips that should help.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Four-part video series on sanding scroll saw bowls

Here is the complete four part video series. I've deleted the earlier video posts because of viewing problems. Hope these videos help answer any questions you've had about sanding. If you still have questions, please email me, and I'll be glad to help you out.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swags complete--a success story

Add Image

In the third video on swag alignment, I showed a technique to use when gluing up swags to be sure they line up properly. I just completed the project that I used for that video, and am posting a picture of the finished bowl along with one showing how irregular it looked when glued up. The most important thing is to have faith that this method works. Even knowing that it does, I did re-check the glue-up just to convince myself it would be OK. If there's anything that needs further explanation, just let me know.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Video on How to Make a Basic Bowl

I've bumped up this post containing a link to the video I made at Fox Chapel to accompany the swirl bowl project appearing in the Holiday, 2009 issue of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts. It provides such good coverage of the steps involved in making a basic bowl that I wanted to be sure that people who have just recently started checking my blog don't miss it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back-up plan for videos

Since some people have been having trouble at times accessing the videos from the blog, I've also saved them on You Tube, and have given the link with each post. Part 2 had to be shortened slightly to less than 10 minutes, but the other two are identical.

I didn't realize that two of parts were listed as "private" on You Tube, but I fixed that up. I think this should solve the problem. Sure hope so--let me know if there are any more problems.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Swag tutorial Part III

Here's the final video in this series. I'll post some additional pictures of the bowl when it's completed, along with some work in progress pictures. Please note two things: first, when using a plywood glue-up for a center ring, the ring is cut with the table level. Second, instructions for using a center ring are in Chapter 6, not Chapter 5.

If the video is not available, you can access it through You Tube

Friday, January 22, 2010

Working with Swags Part 2

Here's the second video, covering the alignment phase. Hope this
clarifies matters, but please email or post any questions you may still have.

If this video is not available, use this You Tube link.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Working with Swags--plain wood and plywood

In response to requests for information about aligning swags and working with plywood, I've made a three-part video tutorial that covers both. Here's Part One. Hope you find it helpful.

If you cannot access this video, use this link to You Tube.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Scroll Saw Fixed--Hooray!

Well, the scroll saw is back, seems fine, and I'm ready to move full speed ahead on all the projects I've been planning, as well as some video tutorials. Now that more people have started making bowls, I'll try to make various tips and suggestions a regular feature. And please don't hesitate to write to me to share your work, concerns, questions, and progress.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My scroll saw is broken

My scroll saw developed a knocking noise which got worse with increased speed. I asked advice on the scroll saw forum and tried the suggested fix--to lengthen the rod that attaches to the tension cam. To my dismay, not only did the noise not go away, but the rod jammed and I couldn't put the saw back together. Fortunately, the shop member who is responsible for repairs called a DeWalt technician, who came on Monday, and discovered that there was a broken part at the rear of the arm which had been causing the noise. He took the saw away, and will be bringing it back on Saturday. In the meantime, I'm using this "down time" to prepare some new blanks so I'll be ready to go. I'm glad I'm under no time pressure, but the empty stand looks so lonely as it waits for the saw to come back.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sanding Tip #3

Remember to check your rings for flatness before gluing them up. While individual rings have some flex, when it comes to gluing together two ring sets, or gluing a ring set to its base, the lack of flex may result in small gaps, despite pressure from the bowl press. The easiest way to be sure that the gluing faces are flat is to glue a piece of sandpaper, about 150 grit, to a flat surface, such as a granite tile. Use temporary adhesive so you can change the paper. Then rub the surface on the sandpaper and that should solve the problem.