Working with Wood

This is my year of woodworking and this post is a status report. It’s been a couple months, things are going well and I’m still very interested in continuing. I don’t necessarily engage in woodworking on a daily basis, perhaps because I don’t have that many interesting project ideas. I had the same problem with computer-programming — I couldn’t find anything interesting to make within my skill/patience level. And for woodworking, I need to stay within a tiny budget and keep the projects on the small-side.

My primary hobby right before this was philosophizing and transcribing my thoughts into this blog. It turns out I can’t fully escape that path. I’ve been filling the quietude of woodworking with podcasts, usually spirituality-based ones. Funny enough, I can’t otherwise listen to such things — but by having part of my attention focused on woodworking and my hands busy, I can listen to someone drone on for a couple hours, easy.

My most recent projects are a couple of small boxes and a magic-wand with scrap-wood stand. I’ve tried a few spells such as Expelliarmus and Expecto Patronum but no luck so far. I mainly used my Morakniv whittling knife to carve the wand out of a 16″ long 5/8″ poplar square (I also used my Shinto Saw Rasp for some material removal). And just to note, I’ve been coloring most projects with an easy-cleanup water-based wipe-on stain, either Pecan (light) or Walnut (dark). The shiny box has a polyurethane coat as well (the soap & water cleanup kind).

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Cool Tools Ep. 1, Drill-bits

Bosch Quick-Change

Ever since I saw Norm Abram from The New Yankee Workshop using a quick-change drill-bit adapter on his drill many years ago, I knew I needed one. And now, I finally have one — this Bosch is it. I also have a Kobalt Quick-Change set I got at Lowes a couple weeks ago and it sucks in comparison to the Bosch. The bits go right in without any finagling, it’s truly a one-handed operation.

 

Dewalt Countersink Set

To go into the quick-change drill-bit adapter, I needed some drill-bits of course. For woodworking I’m mainly driving #6, #8, #10, (and sometimes #4) wood screws. These screws go in best with countersunk pilot-holes, so the ideal drill-bit performs this operation as a single step.

Previously I was using standard drill-bits that I’d tighten in my chuck, then I’d follow-up with a #2 Phillips-head screwdriver to ream out a countersink-hole for the screw head. Yes that’s right, I was twisting a screwdriver back and forth using it as a crude countersink tool every time I put in a screw. Madness!

And now with my quick-change adapter I can easily swap to a #2 Phillips bit after drilling — I can drill and screw as much as I want very quickly compared to when I had to unscrew the chuck every time to switch bits.

 

Snappy Countersink Set

The Dewalt countersink set is decent and it comes with tapered drill-bits which is a neat adaptation. I also purchased these Snappy ones because they’re not tapered and they come with a #4 wood-screw sized bit. The countersink cutters on the Snappy came dull and I had to sharpen them before they’d work effectively — they’re pretty decent now. I still kinda like the Dewalts a little better, but sometimes the top part of the taper can be a little roomy for the incoming screw.

All-in-all, these particular tools have made woodworking much more pleasurable when compared to tightening and untightening the chuck to insert various round drill bits then swapping in a Phillips bit and using a #2 screwdriver as a countersink tool. It seems I was correct in my analysis from last month: it’s not that woodworking sucked or I sucked at woodworking, I just needed more tools.

Tool Drool Ep. 1, Drills

2018 is my year of woodworking, and I’ll admit, it’s not so much about the wood, but the tools. I love tools.

Bosch PS32 cordless drill

For no good reason I was browsing drills over at Amazon and found this beauty. It’s a Bosch PS32. What I like about it most, is the small size and light weight. The battery is mostly embedded in the handle, making the drill more compact compared to other cordless drills that typically have large batteries hanging off the end. It also has a charge-indicator as well, which my current drill lacks. Of course, it’s a higher-end drill and has a price tag to match, so I can’t justify a buy at this time, but it’s definitely on my wishlist.

 

Black + Decker cordless drill

This is my current drill, a Black + Decker, purchased because of its price. It’s definitely a capable drill and performs perfectly fine. I don’t even charge it that often. Back in the day cordless drills sucked, the batteries couldn’t retain their charge over long periods of inactivity, took overnight to charge, and were very bulky. This drill is always ready to go and charges quickly. My one complaint is the tiny LED light, it could do better at illuminating the drilling area.

 

Hand Drill

And this is my Stanley hand drill — when I was a kid I found it in my father’s older toolbox, he never used it so one day I moved it into my toolbox. I probably asked him first. I do like using it, it’s very smooth and doesn’t overdo it like the motorized drills can. Besides speed and power, the main drawback is that it requires two hands to operate.

 

Schroeder Hand Drill

This one is a smaller hand drill, and it’s on my wishlist just because I like hand drills and wanted a backup for my old Stanley should the need arise. But for fine, delicate work, this would be a good guy to have.

Let There Be Light

Working with electricity! I purchased a simple lamp kit over at Lowes which included a bulb-holder with switch, a threaded stem with tightening nut, and some cord. I also purchased a second bulb-holder which came with a pull-chain instead of a push-switch (I used this one, not the switch that came with the kit). I got the kit because it was my first lamp project, next time I’ll probably just buy individual parts now that I know what I’m dealing with. The wiring step is very simple, I just followed the included instructions.

This is more of a prototype project where I was experimenting with lamp construction. In this lantern-style lamp I used actual parchment paper, utilizing a little bit of wood-glue to keep it in place. The primary frame is constructed out of 3/4 inch poplar squares. The lamp is about 19 inches tall and 7 inches wide and sits nicely on my desk. I’m using an LED bulb which doesn’t give off heat — but because it’s parchment paper (which is typically used in ovens for baking), and open on the top and bottom, I don’t think an incandescent bulb would be a problem.

As a bonus, I cannibalized the old lamp that the lantern-lamp replaced and made a scrap-wood standing lamp. I pulled apart the old lamp’s bulb-holder and un-wired it, pulled the wire through, unscrewed the threaded stem — then whipped up a simple standing base with whatever wood I had laying around. I reused the old lamp’s lampshade on this one though.

I Choose Wood

In the Ghostbusters (1984) movie, the boys are told by Gozer the Gozerian to choose the form of the destructor. Ray accidentally thought of the “Stay Puft Marshmallow man” and there it appeared, a giant angry campfire treat. The boys were then challenged by the manifestation of their thoughts.

I wonder whether our own challenges in life come from the topics we focus on. For instance, if we concentrate on relationship drama, medical drama, legal drama, career drama, financial drama, etc. — will we manifest related obstacles into our life? If I think of nothing but ailments, will I receive the very thing I think about?

If this is true, then we must focus on the form in which we want our challenges to take. And so for this little experiment, I choose woodworking. I believe I can handle woodworking drama. Thus, anytime my focus drifts, I must purposefully shift it back to woodworking until that becomes the source of all obstacles.

In other words, “Is that a woodworking problem? No? Then it’s not my problem.” For the time being, I’m all about tools and fasteners, boards and dowels, hardwoods and softwoods, alignments and measurements — and that’s it. This is the problem I’m willing to have. Oh and Jesus was a carpenter by the way.

Odyssey of the Wood

It was almost Christmas, my wife mentioned that she needed a bookcase to organize a basket full of loose books in the living room. I had some time and some wood laying around, so I began to build. The wood was left over from previous woodworking projects, so just a random assortment. We’re not talking 2×8 rough-cut planks here, we’re talking small 3/4″ square-dowel-like pieces for the legs mixed with some 1/4″ thick by 4″ to 6″ wide boards tying them together, and luckily I had a short 1×10 plank for actual shelves (and some dowels for the bottom).

There’s no wood-shop by the way, just the floor in my office. I usually pick-up wood at Lowes since they have an aisle full of “appearance quality” wood with various sizes to choose from.

I actually had a pretty frustrating time assembling the shelf, although I was somewhat pleased with the final product considering the limitations of materials I had to work with. I was so frustrated in fact, that I had the feeling I was DONE with woodworking after this project, that it just wasn’t for me. And, I was ready to give up on tools in general. But after the bookcase was completed, I started thinking about how things went so poorly because I didn’t have the right tools for the job.

Bookcase

Then a revelation: I didn’t need less tools, I needed MORE tools!! Of course! As someone that grew up watching This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop, The Woodwright’s Shop, and as someone that wanders tool aisles with candy-store caliber delight, I couldn’t give up on tools. And so, I resolved to make this upcoming year, a year of woodworking.

I’m still a small-project kinda guy, so no power tools beyond a cordless drill (although sometimes I even opt to use my Stanley hand-powered-drill instead). For cutting I use Japanese pull-saws — so quiet and quick. I had the idea that I should bootstrap my woodworking by selling completed pieces on Etsy in order to pay for more tools and wood. But since it was Christmas, I received some cash-presents from family and used that instead. I still have to commercialize in some form to keep it rolling, I think — well we’ll see.

I’m writing right now because I’m waiting for some tools to arrive today. This is my latest piece, a shelf.

Shelf

O Christmas Tree

Starting with a piece of 2 1/2 inch wide by 3/4 inch thick wood, I sawed out a basic triangle and a trunk. Then the whittlin’ began, just hackin’ away until a pine tree appeared. A rasp and file helped too. The saw was also used to trim out some outer branches. And once the woodworking was done, paint was applied. A couple different greens for shading and a couple browns too. Finally, a bit of white paint was added for a touch of snow.

A small amount of work for a decorative little item, standing at 3 1/2 inches tall. And as a bonus, the organic nature of the subject-matter makes mistakes of little concern.