Sunday, May 24, 2009

What IS a hand tool?

What is a hand tool, really? What distinguishes a hand tool from a non-hand-tool? We would all agree that a simple chisel or gouge is a hand tool. No worries, there. After that, it starts to get a bit... foggy.
I've been feeling guilty about my electric lathe. It somewhat offends my hand tool ideals. Maybe I should have a foot-powered pole-lathe. That would be a hand tool, right? Or would it? A lathe is a machine. It turns the workpiece so that you can use gouges and chisels (hand tools) to act upon it. So a foot-powered pole-lathe is a body-powered machine, as opposed to an electric machine, but it's still a machine and not a hand tool. In that respect any lathe 'should' offend my hand tool ideals.
I'm safe with the rest of my tools though, right? Hand saws, chisels, mallets, drawknife, spokeshaves... spokeshaves? Yes, spokeshaves are alright, as are hand planes, because although they do the holding of the cutting tool for you, they don't move the cutting tool or workpiece on their own. They're not a machine in that respect. What about an egg-beater drill? Well, an egg-beater drill is a machine. It's a hand-powered machine, but in the purest sense of the word an egg-beater drill is no more a hand-tool than a cordless drill is. I, however, feel that an egg-beater drill is much closer to my hand tool ideals than the cordless drill, so obviously I must not follow the purest sense of the term 'hand tool'.
Is it just about the electricity? Is that all it is? If I had a table-saw, planer, band-saw, and all manner of wood-working machinery in a line-shaft-driven shop with a few shetland ponies driving it, would that be a 'hand tool shop'? Obviously not, and yet there would be no electricity.
It's must be the mechanization. The fact that the force of work comes from an agency other than the body of the worker (or at least a human helper). So a great-wheel lathe doesn't greatly offend my ideals, even though the turner isn't powering it (the helper is) but a pole-lathe would be closer to my ideals, because the turner powers the lathe directly. Even closer to my ideals would be a drawknife and shaving horse - bypassing the lathe entirely. What if somebody hooked up a recumbent bicycle to a small lathe such that they can sit and pedal and turn pens or whatever? That would be cool, but is it less of a 'hand tool' than a pole lathe? Is it just the antiquity of the idea that lends respectability to a tool? So are my cutting-edge (har!) Veritas planes less of a hand tool than an old woodie?
These are tricky questions to answer, but the process might be worthwhile.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Photographing Small Projects

Here's a simple write-up on how I set up a still-table for photographing small objects. A wood turner, for instance, might find such a set-up useful.
I based my still-table on an old work-mate.

I set a piece of old counter-top on top of the work-mate to give me a larger, flat surface. I then added two cheap swing-arm lights with full-spectrum daylight bulbs.
I added a piece of black felt from a fabric store, and by picking different wattages for the bulbs in the lights, and moving them back and forth, I can get different effects.

And here is the final image from this little example shoot:

I guess my point is that you don't need a particularly elaborate setup. By using the swing-arm lamps and the camera on a tripod with no flash, you can preview the image and get the shot you want without much trouble or expense.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alternative in-use lathe tool storage

I have seen this style of tool rack around here and there. It can be handy for people who don't have much storage space near their lathe, and can't reach the lathe tool storage easily. There is a block under the ways with a tee-nut in it, and the black knob has a threaded stud in it such that when you tighten the knob it pinches everything together to secure it to the ways.
I see two drawbacks to this style of rack, which is why I haven't, personally, made one. The first drawback is that the tools are stored blade-down so you can't easily see what you are grabbing. The second drawback is that it precludes you from easily sliding the tail-stock all the way back to get it out of your way when you're hollowing or working on a face.
Still and all, it's a far better solution than many, so I thought I'd show it.
The example above is owned by Mack, the same guy who made the other rack that I based my rack on.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lathe tool storage - finished for now

So here is the current state of affairs. It stores both chucks, the jumbo jaws, the various live and dead centers, tool rests, and calipers. The tool rack above has been modified for storage of a knockout bar and extra-thin cutoff tool. I have more tools on the way, so the storage will need to be expanded soon. I'm adding a special place for the drill chuck and a few bits. I also want to make a proper depth drill.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Storage for Lathe Stuff

Those who have been reading this languid journey for a while will know that one of my favourite solutions to tool storage problems involves a sheet of wood on the wall, and a bijillion shaker pegs all over it. It's the old-timey peg-board.
I've got the sheet of wood set up, and now I'm trying to arrange upon it the things that I want to store. No doubt I will change my mind a bijillion times during this process, but I'll get there eventually.
I haven't had much time to work on this recently, having had many call-ins of late, but I'll get it done soon enough, and then my workshop can be tidied properly and all will be well again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Medallion saws

These are my two new Medallion hand saws that followed me home recently. The bottom one is a five-point rip saw, breasted, with progressive rake. Lovely saw. The blade is ground for minimal set. The tote, shown below, is of a figured apple wood, and has plenty of real estate for a good two-handed grip for heavy ripping.

The other saw is an eight-point cross-cut saw with a caramelized birds-eye maple tote. Just lovely. This saw is also ground. It cuts like a laser, but like a fine dovetail saw you only get one chance to get your line right on the cut. It's not easy to correct the cut once it has been started. Of course, this is only a problem when cutting joinery where you're cutting with the line of the saw teeth perpendicular to the face of the board. If you're cross-cutting normally where you have the teeth at a 45 degree angle to the face of the board it's no problem to keep it in line. In the photo below, note the nib on the rip saw below the cross-cut tote. Both saws have nibs. :)
Beautiful saws with beautiful totes (check out those lamb's tongues on the totes!) that are hand-made by a guy who still cares about quality. Just lovely.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Experimental Rack is finished. For now.

Yes, this rack is done. Sort of. I mean, I finished cobbling it together, and it works, but it needs some tweaking. The bottom rail needs to be moved up a bit to give the chisels a bit more force inwards, for one thing.

Additionally, the 5/8" bowl gouge (second from the right) actually touches the wall when it's in the rack. This is sub-optimal. Another obvious issue is the little 1/4" spindle gouge, which looks ready to fall right out of the rack, though in actuality it's probably more solidly placed than any of the others. I think I'll make a couple of 'bushings' to adapt individual pockets for the two tools that don't fit right, then it should be golden.

This, of course, is only the first of a series of storage devices that will be required for the lathe. I need to store tool rests, chucks, centers, and all manner of goodies. Can't wait. :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Turning Tool Rack

It is time to make some racking/storage for my turning tools. My shop is becoming a nightmare with stuff piled everywhere. The general concept of this rack comes from American Woodworking, March 2008 edition, and more particularly I found out about it from a fellow turner on the Canadian Woodworking forum. This is a picture of the rack that he made, based on the aforementioned plans:
This is a very simple rack and yet it appeals to me for several reasons. Firstly, it doesn't really matter how long the tools are, and turning tools can vary a fair bit in length. Secondly, the bottom board being angled is very clever because it not only sheds shavings but it 'pushes' the tool handle into the recesses to hold the chisel in place. I think it's very clever, so I'm trying the idea out.

First, to make the 'corrugated' cross-pieces. I take a board and lay out the hole centers and drill about half way through with a hole saw in a brace and bit.
Now I flip the board over and finish the holes from the other side. By drilling them part way from each side they won't splinter out on the back. After drilling I planed each side to get the worst of the whiskers off, then I re-drew the line through the hole centers and ripped the holes in half. Now with another rip cut I will have two corrugated boards.

All I need now are the sides and the bottom piece. Easy peasey. I'll probably finish making it in the morning and post it then.