Kelley Bagby

I grew up around woodworking tools (see picture, age 4-5ish) but only recently started doing some of my own woodworking.

Sep 012010

We have a new addition to our Down to Earth Woodworker’s video collection. Steve Johnson offers up an easy and cheap way to add an air filter to your workshop using a box fan, a basic filter, six feet of J-channel, a length of chain and some miscellaneous hardware. Check it out below, and visit the Highland Woodworking YouTube channel for more great videos.

Aug 262010

The altogether autumn-like weather we’ve been experiencing in New England this week has made me start thinking about when I won’t be able to go out to the garden every day and pick fresh vegetables for dinner. Luckily, my boyfriend Bradley gave me a solution for my birthday – a design for a planter we can build that will hopefully act as a greenhouse for the first month or two of colder weather (before it gets really intolerable!)

The planter is designed to fit out on our back deck – tucked in next to the grill that Bradley says he intends to keep using all through the winter – and will be approximately 1.5 feet wide by 4 or 5 feet long. We’ll install some wiring over top and fit plastic to it to create a greenhouse of sorts. If this works, we may build several more planters of varying sizes and perhaps fill our backyard with them, or at least the areas of the yard that get sun in winter.

Our little greenhouse. Pretty sweet, eh?

So now we get into the harder questions: what methods should we use to make sure the planter is airtight enough to not let in too much cold and potentially kill the plants dwelling within? Do we want to allow some ventilation? Should we be lining the planter with material to help insulate it? What wood should we use to build it?

A view without the roof

Bradley built the planter in CAD, so we can actually take it apart completely on the computer and create our materials list and cutting schedule pretty easily. But materials and methods are not completely clear in this case, as opposed to what we might get with a pattern created by an experienced woodworker. I’m excited for the challenge though, and hopeful that anyone reading this might have suggestions for the questions I mentioned earlier. I’d love to hear them in the comments.

The plan is to go out and do some materials shopping this weekend. We’ll see what we come up with!

Aug 242010

As these things tend to do, our floor finishing project dragged out over 3 weeks, rather than wrapping up in the two days I had (naively) imagined. But I will say, now that I’m standing on my beautiful wood floors at the end of the three weeks, I think it was worth it. I wrote about the first weekend in an earlier post. Here’s an update on the finished project and a few thoughts.

Before - no sander has touched this floor in years

'Halfway' through, but more like 33% finished, once all the other steps were added in!

Really and truly finished. And literally, finished!

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the safety concerns that two of my friends and fellow Highland Woodworking columnists brought up. George (Terry) Chapman and Steven D. Johnson both emailed me soon after my first post went up on the blog and gave me a full, concerned description of what precautions I should be taking while sanding paint off the floor (or any surface) of an older house. I’ll summarize their advice here for any other beginning woodworker who is embarking on a similar project.

  • First of all, get a lead testing kit and test all the layers of the paint you are taking off. In our case, the test showed up negative for lead on all layers, but I still took a bunch of precautions to make sure I wasn’t inhaling more of the sawdust than I needed to.
  • Wear a respirator (preferably with highly rated filtration), eye protection (I started by improvising with swimming goggles, but will be picking up a real pair of safety glasses for future woodworking projects), and if you are using a power sander, you will want ear plugs as well. It wasn’t an issue for me, but Steve Johnson suggested that if you have a hard time getting the edges of the respirator to form a sure seal, use a little Vaseline around the edges. This step will help to catch any dust that tries to creep under your mask, as well as prevent chafing of your skin where the mask makes contact.
  • Create positive air pressure in the room by putting a $20 box fan in the window (blowing out) and seal any open areas around it with plastic – a heavier quality plastic drop cloth and some duct tape will work fine. Close the door to the room while you sand. You will, in effect, be creating a pressure differential in the room where you are working (lower pressure in the work room, higher pressure in the rest of the house) and dust will stay primarily in the room you are working in.
  • Dispose of the collected dust as hazardous waste – double bag it and check your local codes on whether it can be put out with regular household trash or if it needs to be disposed of differently.
  • Clean up stringently and carefully. Vacuum and wipe down any of the sawdust on all surfaces (window screens were tricky but a damp rag did the trick.) Make sure to hit up all the surfaces outside the room too, such as hallways and adjacent rooms and, in some cases, all the way down the stairs and around the corner where you would never imagine the sawdust could reach.

A revelation: I have a hand tool for that!

While sanding the threshold piece for one of the closet doors (also known as the door’s saddle, I’ve heard – love the new lingo I’m picking up!) it occurred to us that perhaps planing these pieces would be more effective then sanding them. Maybe you’ve read the recent Fine Woodworking piece on Sander vs. Handplane – which is faster? Well I can tell you in this case, the handplane won full out. Part of it had to do with the wood we were working with – a lot of traffic and weathering had caused the different sections of the wood to be much higher or lower than the rest, and after an hour with the sander, it looked no different than when I started. But after pulling out my Lie-Nielsen 102 block plane as well as my Lie-Nielsen low angle jack plane, we had each of the saddles done in about 10 minutes of work each. And look at how nicely they turned out:

After two weekends of sawdust, plane shavings were a welcome sight.

Now I'm going to have to plane all of our other weathered door thresholds so they look as good as this one does...

I’ll confess right here that I was almost embarrassed to admit I used a couple of planes for this, but mostly because the planes are so elegant and this seems like such indelicate work for them to be doing. But, Lee Laird from Lie-Nielsen did tell me that my planes would be ideal for almost any kind of smoothing work, and boy were they.

Once we were done with all the sanding, it was just a matter of applying a finish. We used three coats of a water-based clear semi-gloss finish, and sanded and wiped it down in between each coat (as well as allowing 3-4 hours for each coat to dry). After the last coat was applied we allowed a week for the finish to cure (what’s another week at this point?) before moving our furniture back in. Honestly, I am reluctant to move all of the furniture back in because more furniture = less gorgeous floor exposed to look at. And don’t even think about putting a rug over top of it, even if it is going to get down to 5 degrees in winter.

All in all, I think this whole experience has been a great introduction to what I have to look forward to with woodworking. And it taught me a few things: technically, I gained some knowledge about sanding, planing and finishing, and practically, I learned that you should give a project a good 500% overage on your time budget if you want to be safe. I also learned to appreciate the details of the work you are doing, and enjoy it for the work itself, and not just the finished project. The extra two and a half weeks made me think long and hard about that silver lining…

And now, it’s time to move on to the next project!

But first, a quick acknowledgment to George T. (Terry) Chapman and Steven D. Johnson, who expressed great concern and who I am eternally grateful to for their assistance and comments. These guys know their stuff – thank you for the suggestions!

Aug 172010

We were hoping to have our friend Matt, from Matt’s Basement Workshop, come down to Atlanta this fall for Peter Galbert’s chairmaking class. We know from listening to one of his recent Wood Talk episodes (hosted by The Wood Whisperer, Mark Spagnuolo and also featuring Shannon Rogers) that building a Windsor chair is one of the items on Matt’s bucket list. Alas, he is unable to attend this year, as he notes on his blog. We hope he can make it out to a future class!

What about you – what is on your woodworking bucket list?

Aug 132010

Our Down to Earth Woodworker, Steve Johnson, is at it again. Take a look at Highland Woodworking’s YouTube Channel to see more of Steve’s videos, and make sure you bookmark it for later – we’ll be adding more Down to Earth Woodworking videos as well as some demos and other entertaining pieces shot right in our store!

Aug 062010

Today we have a special guest blogger – Peter Galbert, who will be teaching a week-long Windsor chair building class this October. Peter shares some of his techniques for turning the shapes that make up the balusters in the article and video below. If you found this as fascinating as we did, you ought to consider signing up for his class this October! Enjoy the tips below from a true master.

Good Turnings are in the Details, and the Process

When I started turning parts for chairs, the first hurdles that I faced were creating the shapes that made up the balusters. The bead and the cove are the basic elements, and learning to make them is challenging. I spent countless hours making rows of useless bead and rows of useless coves.

Why not just turn the whole leg?? Well, I found out quickly that trying to turn out a leg was an act of futility and frustration, plus, it seemed like I never got any better! Turning a whole leg before mastering (I use the term loosely!) the individual elements is like trying to play a symphony before learning to play the individual notes: sure, on occasion you might hit the right one, but good luck repeating it!

One of the benefits of creating practice shapes, besides not tensing up for fear of wrecking an actual chair part, is that you can see your problem areas quickly. When making a row of beads, I make one side of the bead all the way down the line, then I turn the other side on the way back. This also helps to highlight the problem areas. Once again, fussing around with one perfect bead won’t teach nearly as much as repeating a move over and over down the line. Even if you are left with a row of rather poor shapes, you are getting the feel for the motion. This familiarity and comfort with the motion becomes the key to making consistent turnings.

The biggest hurdle to overcome, after mastering the separate shapes, is making them in the right spot and the right size in the design. This sounds easier than it is. I found that the key here is to make the shapes in the same order, move for move, each time that I turn a leg. Each turner will of course come up with an order for locating and making the shapes that works with their turning technique.

Here is a video that describes how I create (and practice) the most complex portion of the baluster turning. In the video, I will make three practice areas to different levels of completion. As you watch, you’ll see how soon you are able to anticipate which move comes next. To me, eliminating the question “What comes next?” is a vital part of making consistent turnings, it should become as natural and familiar as driving to the store to get a quart of milk. Any misstep or problem area will become apparent instantly. Good luck and happy turning!

A few useful links:
Signup for Peter’s October Windsor Chair class
Peter’s Chair Notes blog
The Galbert Caliper: “The Woodturner’s Tape Rule”

Aug 042010

The August edition of Highland Woodworking’s free online newsletter, Wood News, is on the stands and chock full of interesting reads.

Our Down to Earth Woodworker, Steven D. Johnson, takes some time to discuss getting in and being in the “zone” in his woodshop. Check it out if you’ve ever been in the “zone”, and hope to find a way to spend more time there!

We’ve brought back one of our original columnists with a reprint of a fascinating article written by Wallace Macfarlane about the importance of having “the eye”, as well as one of the intriguing responses we received from a customer who read his article and had his own opinion on the subject.

Featured in our Show Us Your Shop column is Ken O’Neal’s unique workshop that contains no drawers or doors on the cabinets. And Tom Guralchuk’s beautiful woodworking is highlighted in our Show Us Your Stuff column.

A newly updated class schedule and many exciting deals make this Wood News a great read for anyone, and there is much more that I haven’t even mentioned here! You should really just go check it out yourself. Enjoy!