Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Party Part 2: Oscar Meyer vs. SawStop

Hot Dog 1 / SawStop 0

     One of the exciting things at our Christmas Party was a real, live, SawStop demonstration.  Jamie had managed to obtain a blade and a new, replacement cartridge from SawStop so that we could see the machine in action.  SawStop was good enough to also donate a bunch of their hats with the logo prominently displayed on the front -- really nice hats!
     I think that most of us had seen a video of the SawStop in action and it's really an amazing technology.  Being a retired shop teacher I'm only too aware of the joke about a shop teacher trying to order ten beers with a number of his digits gone!  But, check this out, the video below is the one that Jamie took and it should open up easily.  After you watch that one, click on this link:


     Lupe took this with her I-Phone and it even has a slow motion section to it,  I can see why the insurance industry likes this piece of equipment.  I do admit that in my career as a woodshop teacher I've only had one serious accident and that was with a hand held chisel.  I'm sure that as a student, kids are pretty apprehensive  using  tools, the danger comes when we get accustomed to our machines.

               Happy New Year to you All

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sin City Woodworkers Christmas Meeting 2011

     On Wednesday, the twenty-first of December we held our now traditional, end of the year, show &  tell Christmas Extravaganza at Wooditis.  This is the time when members bring in an example of their work and gives everyone a chance to put the woodworks to a face!  It's always a treat to hear about the  projects that  members of our group are  working on our have done in the past.  We had some holiday libations and snacks and lots of interesting conversations about just about everything!  Among those items members brought in was beer, wine, cookies, nuts, and cupcakes,  mmmm good! As the members started to arrive, Ann was in charge of the raffle tickets making sure everyone got their name into the hat -- a SawStop hat of course!

Donated DVD from Jimmy Clewes
     One of the donated items was a DVD from Jimmy Clewes and his lathe work.  Jamie and Ann had recently taken a class from him and this raffle prize was won by Pat.

1" Marples Chisel
     Another donated item was a 1" wide, Marples chisel that was won by that lucky Jim!  Not sure but he might consider a career as a professional gambler since he seems to have good fortune on these games of chance!  There were two very nice water bottles won by Aaron and Rich, Nikki scored a new, but empty, glue bottle while Bill was able to get his name drawn and selected a cooler sleeve from Rockler.  Kate started the raffle off by winning a cool looking T-shirt from Western Dovetail drawers.

     Next was the special drawing for all of the dues paying members of the group.  With the remaining funds from dues received this year, Jamie bought gift certificates from Lee Valley, a company any woodworker would be glad to get goodies from!  Aaron received a $25.00 gift, Ed a $50.00 one and that lucky Jim scored with the grand prize of a $100.00 gift certificate.

     The next activity was to have members that brought things in to share do their show & tell.  This always generates questions regarding technique, materials, costs, and anything else that went into the piece brought in.  Here are the items and projects that were brought in to show.
Ed's Leg Vise

Ed brought in his recently completed leg vise for the huge workbench he's making.  He was kidded about the fact that some members thought it was a nutcracker in keeping with the spirit of the season!

Stanley #55 and Cutters
     Another item that he brought in was a set of cutters for the Stanley #55 Plane that his son got in a tool sale from Craigs List.  Once Ed figured out what they were and the value of them he immediately  went to E-Bay and found a complete #55 in good shape and at a decent price.  Having experimented with the equally complex #45 I'm anxious to see how he makes out with this.

Jim's Sleigh

  Lucky Jim brought in one of the first woodworking projects from about 15 years ago or so.  It's this really neat sleigh, I believe the plans were from Shopsmith.  In any case, he carefully routed the sides to give the appearance of  boards and laminated thin Oak pieces to form the runners.  The suspension pieces were from a kit offered along with the plans.

Neals' Cutting board and portfolio of Work
     Neal brought in a beautiful cutting board which at first glance, seems to be a checker board!  If you've ever worked to smooth end grain you can appreciate how nice it was.  He also shared the projects he's been doing on his cabin in Utah.  Lots of great looking rustic pieces of knotty pine and logs.  He said he likes working with the logs because if you're within a 1/4" that's close enough!  Glad to see that his terrible injury from an accident last year is on the mend.

Aaron's Display Wall
     I wish I could show this project but since Aaron didn't bring in the wall the pictures will have to do!  His house had three openings between two rooms and his wife asked if there was anyway to close them off.  He came up with a really cool plan that included adjustable shelving and rope lighting to add that custom touch to the work.  Jamie mentioned that a job such as that could easily cost $5,000+ and seeing how he spent somewhere  in the neighborhood of $600.00 for all the materials it was not only a great looking project but quite profitable.  That's one thing we all have in common, being able to produce quality work at a cost much lower than a contractor may charge.  Plus, we get the satisfaction of knowing what we accomplished -- I think that's called bragging rights!

Ted's Portfolio
     Another member who brought in his portfolio of work was Ted.  When he was in the San Diego area he became acquainted with a rich client (don't we all want one of them!) and through the course of about five years did an amazing amount of work for him.  Many of the projects that Ted designed and built were a combination of antique styles but they all incorporated design elements that were in the house already.  I saw most of our group cringe when he told of the Mahogany paneling that had been painted sometime during the homes history.

John's TV Tray Redux
     John brought in a set of three tables that are his take on a modern TV tray.  They're Walnut with Zebrawood inserts and can be used as a trio of low display tables but work best as separate side tables.  Several members were surprised at how stable they were since they only have three legs each.  The legs are splayed out and attached with a through tenon that was wedged with Maple wedges.

Ann's Bowl with Aniline Dye Rim
     Ann and Jamie recently attended a turning class by Jimmy Clewes and brought in the "fruits of their labor". Their work was stunning, you can see the vibrant colors that she managed to get into the rim of this Ash bowl with Aniline Dyes.  She said they would put on one color, sand, then add another color, sand ....... until she came up with the results you see here.  She also made a lidded box (lower right corner of picture) that had the turners "pop" when the lid was removed.

Jamie's Bowls and Lidded Box
     Jamie completed a similar design bowl and used blue tones to color the rim.  For her lidded box she chose a tray that has the box in the center of it.  I could see where this would fit right in with her sushi plates she does with her ceramics.  It was pretty amazing the quality of work that she and Ann came home with after the class with Jimmy Clewes.
Lupe and her magic Spirit Box

     The final act of the night was presented by none other than Lupe, our resident magician!  She brought in this box which she referred to as a Spirit Box.  How she did what she did is a complete mystery!!!
Some how, by inserting ropes colored red and white into the box from different ends they became knotted.  Then, as if that wasn't enough, she put a rope completely through the box, threw in a solid metal ring, and some way or another the ring ended up on the rope!

Everybody walked around scratching their heads over that.  The final act of the evening was the amazing hot dog vs. SawStop and I'll talk about that in my next blog ---- like they say on TV "film at 11 o'clock"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adirondack Chairs Meeting

Jamie "holding court" in her Lyptus Chair
     At our Sin City Woodworkers meeting last Wednesday the featured topic was a show and tell of the recent class Jamie taught on making Adirondack Chairs.  It seems only right that a very tired Jamie would run the meeting from her "Lyptus Throne" after several long days helping her students to get ready for the evening.  The chairs were absolutely stunning and as a teacher I can really appreciate the work that goes into them and teaching all of the skills needed to the entire class -- well done Jamie!
     Adirondack Chairs originated in the Adirondack area of upstate New York which was a playground for the rich and famous.  Their design is perfect for kicking back and having your Manhattan iced tea or whatever else you like to unwind with.  People who sat in the various chairs the class made all commented on how comfortable they are.  Although the designs were similar, each chair was customized by the builders to reflect what they wanted.   Materials were chosen by each student and price varied from from $100.00 or so for those made of Poplar or Alder,  a Redwood example was around $140.00, Cherry @ $150.00, to Bobbie's Mahogany pair at around $250.00 each.

King & Queen Version by Bobbie
     These chairs, although they look similar, have subtle customized features.  One is slightly larger in width and since Bobbie and her husband have long legs they feature a deeper seat.  The Mahogany used will be oiled and should be beautiful.

Nikki's Version
     Nikki designed her's for an older friend who needed a somewhat larger version than the standard size.  She also elevated the seat to make getting in and out of the chair easier.  That was one of my concerns, I can imagine sucking up a bunch of libations to unwind and then not being able to get out of the chair.  Guess that's better than an anti-drunk driving interlock device on my car!!

Lupe's Cherry Version in Foreground, Poplar Example in Back
     Here is one made of Cherry and the example below is made out of Redwood.

Steve's Redwood Version

     Members noted the subtle differences with each chair.  The designs of the back slats gave each one a distinct personality.  Inspiration for one of them came from a chair the builder remembered her grandmother had.  Other ones varied the spacing between the boards but the most obvious change was how the tops of the boards were cut, angled, or curved.  On average the chairs took about 25 hours to complete -- time well spent to create a beautiful, heirloom project.

     Before we started our discussion/admiration session on the chairs we talked about our next meeting, the Christmas end of the year one.  We'll have an informal show & tell from all of us where you can bring in a project you've completed and want to share with the rest of the group.  We did this last year and it was a good opportunity to see what type of work we like to do.
     SawStop -- who hasn't heard of this machine?  Well, it should be a lot of fun to watch this hot dog cutting machine in action!  Jamie has gotten an extra blade and cartridge so we'll all get to witness first hand how this technology can save our digits.
     An other thing for the Christmas meeting is there will be some kind of raffle for paid up dues members.  From what I know they will be gift certificates to our favorite woodworking stores.  The last item that came up was some samples of Smoked Poplar that Peterman lumber brought over for us to look at.  Not sure how the process goes but it's purpose is to mimic Walnut, it'll sell for around $4.00 b/f in 4/4 stock.
      The meeting ended with trying out the various chairs and just talking wood!  Here are a few pictures of us during the meeting:

Everyone's Paying Attention!

The blue chair is not an Adirondack!!

Just Waitin'

     See you all at the Christmas Meeting, think about what you may want to bring to share with the group.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Field Trip to Ed's Shop

Field trips are always nice, because we woodworkers love to see what other people are doing in their shop. This month - we found ourselves in Ed Thiessen's woodshop, checking out the classic Andre Roubo inspired workbench that he is building.

Ed's plans were featured in the Aug 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, but
he recommends this book for anyone who might be thinking about building this bench.

Because the bench wasn't fully assembled, we had an opportunity to see some of the details that are going into the construction of it. Here, you can see the top of one of the legs, and how it will attach to the top. Ed cut these joints by hand, with a variety of handsaws and chisels.

He's still working on the leg vise, and hopes to be done with everything soon.

With the top approaching 200 pounds, he's going to need a couple of strong buddies to flip this bench into place.

The meeting was well attended, though we almost needed a shoe-horn to fit into his shop! We had some new faces in the room, which was great. Our group grows with every meeting.

His wife even supplied some banana bread, which was very sweet.

Ed mounted his router under one of the side tables on his tablesaw, so that he can share the fence with both tools. His vacuum system eliminates almost every speck of dust.

With a shop this size, Ed stressed that everything must be well placed for efficiency. His bandsaw tucks behind the door when not in use.

The chop saw fits into a dedicated base with extends his fence in both directions. Ed scored the base cabinets for this saw from another cabinet shop that was going out of business. That seems to be a familiar theme around this city!

Clearly - organization is key to working in a shop like this. Pegboard helps Ed keep everything in order.

At the AWFS show this past summer, Ed bought a Wood River plane, comparing it to a much higher priced Lie-Neillsen
plane. He loves the plane - and kept the box that Tommy Mac autographed!

Finally, Ed brought up his pet project - the Toys 4 Smiles group here in town. If you're unfamiliar with them - they make wooden cars and trucks (from donated wood) for needy children in the Las Vegas area. They do wonderful work, and have made nearly 100,000 toys for our community. Their funding comes from community donations, and they're always looking for volunteers.

You can bet this chair gets a lot of use at the end of Ed's long days in the shop!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Marquetry with Ann Casey

     At our last meeting, our featured speaker/demonstrator was Ann Casey. Before I get into that let me go over some of the other issues from the meeting.  First of all, it was brought up that several members did not get the link to the Cafe Press website for the Sin City Woodworkers.  This site features the logo that Allison Lull, one of our members, designed.  There is quite a selection of things you can get with the logo and Allison mentioned that if there is something in particular you want to let her know.
Here is the link for the site:  
     As I mentioned, I decided to order one of the journals with the task layout as an attempt to organize my time.  I make lists but get so involved in the first item or two that it takes a few days to get to the end of it -- hope this will help!
     One of our members, Ed, offered the use of his new shop for next month's meetings.  It's been interesting hearing him talk about the progress of his dedicated woodshop the past couple of months and it'll be great to see it up close and personal.  Since he lives in a gated community we will need to give him a list of everyone who's planning to attend that meeting.  Between Jamie and I, we'll start to compile that list a week prior to then.  When I get my new task journal I'll write myself a reminder to do that, it'll be my test!
     Another thing that was brought up were plans for our end of the year/Christmas party/meeting.  It was agreed that with the money left over from the dues we've paid will be used for the refreshments. Any surplus funds will be used for a raffle for all of the dues paying members.  This raffle will feature gift certificates to your favorite woodworking supply.  Right now the two that come to mind are Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley.  If there's another place you'd like to have the chance for a gift certificate to, let either me or Jamie know.

     Alright, let's get to the meat of the meeting!  Ann applied and was accepted for a week long Marquetry class at the College of the Redwoods.  They're located in Fort Bragg which is a coastal community in Northern California.  The class had an all day (9-5 I think) schedule but Ann said that many students came early and stayed late.  After she started explaining the process we all understood why.  It begins with drawing your design on different species of wood that is 5/32" thick.  Your base and contrasting design wood is then taped together and cut out with a precise angle with a fret saw.

And this is why most Marqueters are cross-eyed!

It's all in the wrist!
Here you see Ann cutting the wood on a support known as a Donkey, probably because it looks like donkey ears.  The Donkey is at a precise angle so the parts will fit together with the bottom piece going up into the upper piece.  As she cuts, it's important that her fret saw remains perfectly plumb and perpindicular to the work.  Failure to do that will result in holes in the design.

Ann's class Project: 37 pieces I believe -- Wow!
To complicate matters, you need to start with the piece that will be in the back of the design and work your way up to the pieces that make up the front of the design.

Some of the 5/32" materials used for the marquetry 

Ann's first project/practice piece

Lupe having a go between the Donkeys Ears!

Handy Glue Applicator
This little glue applicator was used to assemble the pieces as they were cut out.  Because they are cut at a specific angle they fit tightly so you can continue working on your piece almost as soon as you glue it.  Ann mentioned that even if you make a mistake you can glue your piece in, then cut it out to mask that mistake with the next part.

Assorted pieces of wood and Ann's current project

Ann giving some guidance 
    An interesting observation I made during her demonstration is that a number of us (me included) really thought that this was a lot of close-up and intricate work and weren't sure if we'd want to take that on.  I think that as woodworkers we all have our own limits as to what we find interesting or too difficult to attack.  Some woodworkers enjoy the power tool process, some the hand tool process, some the carving process, some ........... well, you fill in the blank that suits you.  It's just nice having a group of like minded individuals that can share and appreciate the work we do.  See you next month in Ed's new shop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Business Cards, Name tags(?), & Dovetails

     At our meeting last Wednesday, we had quite a good attendance with several new faces.  As is customary, we went around the room and introduced ourselves with a 15 second bio to make our new folks feel invited and jar the memory of some of the "old" folks who can't remember names!  The remark was made, somewhat tongue in cheek, that we should use name tags.  Mixed response to that but ........... another suggestion was offered that we could all make our own name tags out of wood to wear at the meetings.  What do you think?  Maybe an informal competition as to who makes the most unique, talented, craftsmanship like, silly, serious, whatever!  Give it some thought.
     The next order of business had to do with the generous donation of time and resources made by Steve Mongrain to provide the club with business cards.  We can use these to invite other woodworkers to the group, I doubt that many in the Las Vegas valley really know who we are but we are growing.  Hopefully everyone of you picked up a few to put in your wallet and keep with you to pass out.  I forgot!, I'm sure Jamie has them so if you're like me you'll have to get them from her.  If any of us in the group need business cards, flyers, announcements, etc. here is a LINK to Steve's business website.  If you want to contact him directly his email is
     Next up was the demonstration on making half blind dovetails and I appreciate the interest everyone showed as I did this for you.  It's one of those woodworking process that either goes well or else can go terribly wrong!  Come to think of it, most every step involved with woodworking could end in disaster couldn't it?  Who hasn't cut a board on the wrong side of the line or split it as you drive in a screw, that's what makes it so intriguing, the challenge of it all.  Probably isn't hard to tell that I love the handwork aspect of woodworking, quiet and relatively dust free.  My nature is to pit myself against an obstacle and then figure out how to overcome it.  The method I used is not the only way to go about it, just what works for me.  Thanks to Allison for her fine photography, here is a photo essay of the process:

Using a dovetail marker (1:6) and marking knife to lay out the tails
Making the initial cuts for the tails
Paring the shoulder to the scribed line
Transferring the tails to the drawer front (pin board) 
Initial cuts with the backsaw for the socket the tail will fit into
Using a piece of a hand scraper to sever the fibers inside of the socket
Chopping out the sockets, leaving the pins

Removing socket waste

Much trial and error to get the fit -- patience required

Ahhhh -- Success!
Close up of completed joint, no glue yet