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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The new swag bowl

As promised, here are pictures of the new swag bowl. The matches are not completely perfect, but they are a lot better than I've been able to do in the past. I used the technique demonstrated in my swag video, and find that it consistently works well.

The one addition to the technique that I'd suggest is that if it's hard to see the ends of the swags clearly for gluing up the rings, try sanding one of the rings just a bit to get a better look at what you have. If the rings have been cut properly, there will be enough extra wood to allow you to do that without jeopardizing the glue-up. And just to play it safe, consider gluing up just one ring at a time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Closing in on the gaps

I discovered that when a board comes off the drum sander, it may look flat without really being completely flat. This may be the heart of the problem I've been having gluing up some of my bowls.

I discovered this when I ran a freshly sanded board over the SandFlee, and noticed that the sound it made wasn't the same throughout the length of the board. When I put the board on a completely level surface, I could get a very small rocking, about 1/64" inch, barely noticeable. I gave the board a number of passes through the SandFlee, and when it sounded flat, I checked it again, and there was a tremendous improvement.

I've finished gluing up and sanding the new bowl, and had very little problem getting the rings to lie completely flat against each other. In addition, the wood I had glued together to get the pattern I wanted was so well sanded that I could not even feel where the strips were located. I guess when you're working with such close tolerances, these small differences matter.

I'll post a picture of the bowl that I made with that blank as soon as it's finished, probably by the end of the week. It was an ambitious project, using laminated swags that spanned three rings and the base. Came out quite well, and the more I understand all these nuances, the better equipped I am to help others make better bowls.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Woodworker and Teacher

I was pleased to locate the reviewer of my bowl book on Amazon, who described how he used the book to teach retired folks to make bowls with the scroll saw. His name is Bob Taylor, and he is a retired carpenter, whose interest in doing trim work helped him develop the patience needed for scroll saw work.

During his winters in the Rio Grande Valley, he runs a weekly bowl class, charging only for the wood. I was impressed with his sensitivity to people’s feelings, and to their desire not to look foolish. Bob even uses “mistakes” in his own work as teaching opportunities. He distinguishes between those students with “passion in their heart”, who have the patience to do the best job they can, and those who just want to find shortcuts.

I’m pleased that my book was clear enough to be helpful to people like Bob, who reflect the dedication, sensitivity, and decency that I find in so many people in the scrolling community.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jury still out on the SandFlee, and a new sanding tip

I finally have the SandFlee operating properly, although it took a 1/16" shim under one of the hinges to get the table level by the drum. I've installed the fence, which was an easy job. I haven't yet used it as a jointer, which is one reason why I bought it, but a preliminary test on a ragged edge looked promising. I need to plan out an interesting glue-up to give it a "field test".

However, I have been disappointed using it to flatten rings. I assumed that passing it over the roller would automatically remove any irregularities. What I seem to be finding instead is that when a ring is cut at an angle, forces may be released that prevent the ring from lying completely flat. This doesn't always happen, but has happened frequently enough to be an issue to contend with. When this happens, just sanding the gluing surface evenly, whether with the SandFlee or sandpaper glued to a flat tile, does not change things. The spaces are generally small, 1/32" or less.

What does work is selective sanding with the sandpaper glued to a tile. I look carefully at where there are spaces. You can use a flashlight or bulb, or strip of paper, to confirm. I then sand the surrounding areas that are too high by exerting unequal pressure on those spots, or if it's a corner, by just sanding that corner slightly. Then I check, and repeat the process as often as needed. The payoff is that you will not get a visible glueline between the rings. Sometimes there is enough flex in the ring for it to flatten out with pressure from the bowl press during glue-up, so it often becomes a judgment call.

The situation to avoid is a space that will not close when you exert pressure. That will result in a product that you won't be proud of. Take a break when you've "had it", then come back later. You'll be happier that you did!

Friday, March 11, 2011

An interesting and gratifying review on Amazon

I regularly check Amazon reviews to learn about reactions to my book. Two days ago, I found a new review, describing how my book was used to teach bowl-making to retired folks, some with no prior woodworking experience. I wanted to contact the reviewer to thank him or her, and to find out more about the classes, but Amazon does not release the identity of reviewers. However, it was permissible to paste the review into my blog.

I was intrigued because I, too, have found that complete novices can make bowls successfully. Also, because of my long-standing involvement with elder issues, the idea of seniors (like me) successfully embarking on a new hobby makes me smile.

So, here's the review. If you have written it, or know who has, please contact me so I can give thanks for a most interesting post.

Making Bowls started as idea not to waste wood. I'm a scroller for 4 years and after making several of these bowls, I was asked if I would teach a class on making bowls. Started with 12 retired folks, of which 2 were ladies with no experience with wood working tools.But they knew how to run a sewing machine and that put the men a a slight disadvantage.Pictures and instructions were understood by the class once they knew they had to follow the instructions.Extra time was spent on reading and understanding the making of the first bowl, which made making the rest in the book fall right into place. One of the ladies went home to her home state and ended up teaching her wood shop of retired woodworkers how to make wooden Bowls.Every one in last years class is back and advancing to the more interesting and challenging bowls.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Search Feature Added

If you look on top of the right hand column, you'll see that I've added a search box. Just type in the subject you're interested in, such as "swags", and you'll see a list of posts on that topic. Should make accessing information a whole lot easier!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good tools, good service

When several vendors sell the same product, at about the same price, customer service is often the determining factor for where to spend your money. I recently had some trouble with my inflatable round sander, the workhorse tool for making bowls, and could not have been more satisfied with King Arthur's response to my problem. I especially like when the phone is answered by a real person, and I can speak with someone who is familiar with the merchandise.

I've also been told that the customer service at Klingspor's Woodworking is very responsive to problems with their products. They've even replaced tools that failed through no fault of theirs, which is really nice of them. They are my go-to place for the hook & loop sanding pads.

The jury is still out on my new small Sand Flee. I'm having some set-up problems, but that may be due to my inexperience with a new tool. I'll let you know how I make out, especially if I need to contact their customer service.

Let me know if you've had any experiences, particularly good or bad, with any of the vendors I've recommended. If I make the recommendation, I do feel some responsibility for the outcome.