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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.