Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Passing of one of the “Good Guys”

Tommy (on the right) and Ray (on the left)

I was greatly saddened to hear this morning that we have lost a really, good guy.  Well…at least someone who could greatly improve the mood a cloudy Saturday morning with his wit and antics... Tommy Magliozzi, the older of the two “Tappet Brothers” on NPR’s Car Talk.  I’ve been a loyal listener for most of the 25 years or so that they have been on the air.  

In case you did not "know" Tommy, he and his brother Ray had an 11 AM (at least here in Pittsburgh) Saturday morning show that ostensibly was about cars and car repairs but as the newscaster said this morning, “…was really more about two brothers who loved life and each other.”  My wife, who is not a car buff by any stretch of the imagination, looked forward to listening to the show any time we were riding around together on a Saturday morning.  One time, she was even able to answer a caller’s question about “spongy brakes” because she had heard a similar question on a previous show and had retained the information.
Anyone who has heard the closing of the show is familiar with their list of fictitious “staff members” with unique names (all puns), like “Picov Andropov”, the Russian Chauffeur.   

When I was first got into wood carving, I did a number of pieces based on these names and I thought that this would be a good time to show them off.  (Note: These were "early works" so I don't feel that they are quite up to my "more recent" standards:-( but I wanted to show them off in memory of Tommy).

Chief of Tire Technology  -- Yessar Itsaflat
Russian Chauffeur -- Picov Andropov....Yep! that's a bottle of Vodka behind him!

Australian Tour Guide -- Joaquin Matilda

Greek Tailor -- Euripedes Imenedes
Head of Buildings and Grounds (not the sharpest pencil in the box) -- Moe D'Lawn

I guess it is fitting to close with a quote...well, no...not one, but actually, two quotes...

Ray:   "Don't drive like my brother!"

Tommy:  "Don't drive like my brother!"  (these make much more sense if you have 
listened to "Car Talk")

'Til next time...Keep makin' Chips!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yet Another Warther Museum

Way back in 2010, I visited and the blogged about my visit to TheWarther Museum in Dover, Ohio.  If you haven’t seen it, it is a place that all woodcarvers should visit at least once.  It houses the most amazing collection of works by possibly the world’s best woodcarver…well …OK…at least the best carver of wooden trains. 
As I mentioned on my blog back then, “The museum is not terribly impressive on the outside but on the inside it is like a fine jewel box. Each locomotive is mounted in a display case, backed with a velvet curtain, and is beautifully illuminated for maximum visibility.” 
Most of the trains have moving wheels and drive rods with tiny, dangling chains (each with dozens of individual links).  The trains are not carved from nice soft basswood (like I use) but out of unbelievably hard materials such as Walnut, Ebony and Ivory.  If that doesn’t impress you, then a glance at his tiny shop with its meager tool collection will.  How anyone with could manage to produce such fine works in such a tiny place without the aid of any power tools (if you don’t count the drill press) is beyond me.
Close up of the Rigging
Well, now, history is repeating itself.  Dave Warther is following in his grandfather’s footsteps with one slight difference. Instead of trains, he carves beautiful sailing vessels from ivory.  His ship models range from the Nile barge of the famous Egyptian pharaoh, Cheops to the largest model, the Coast Guard training ship “the Eagle”. 

Cheop's Nile Barge
Perhaps the most striking features of the ships is that even the ropes in the ships’ rigging -- of which there are hundreds -- are “carved” from ivory.  When he was only a teenager, David developed a technique for reducing the diameter of an ivory “stick” down to a strand measuring only 0.007” in diameter with amazing flexibility.  Lines that are to appear to be “pulled tight” are straight but lines that are intended to droop, do so very convincingly.

The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria
He has taken a page from his grandfather’s book.  Each of his 80 ships is displayed under a glass cover with lighting worthy of the crown jewels.  In fact, the lighting is almost too good.  The ships are so dazzling that, because of my inexperience with my brand new camera, my photos did not come out as nicely as I had hoped they would.
David’s museum located about 20 or so miles west of Dover (between Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek on Route 39) and it, too, is definitely worth the time and effort to see. I have no idea if many people get the treatment that we did, but we were lucky enough to arrive on a day when the museum tour was led by the artist himself.
So if you are visiting the Amish country of central Ohio, don’t pass up a stop at the David Warther Museum.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Blacksmith

The Blacksmith
Remember me?  I have a woodcarving blog called Carvin’ Tom’s. Maybe you’ve heard of it????

It has been so long since I posted anything that I half expect that it will be months before “my regulars” even notice that there has been a new posting.  I’m sorry about that, but life sometimes kind of gets in the way and some things have to slip.

I have wanted to do a carving of a blacksmith working at his anvil for at least 5 or 6 years.  This piece is the culmination of…I hesitate to call it “planning”…perhaps “waiting” is the word…those years of “research”.  Early on, I actually managed to con my fully-grown son into humiliating himself by posing as a simulated blacksmith holding a hammer over a simulated anvil while holding a simulated iron bar with some simulated tongs -- right there in the middle of our suburban driveway.  Just a few more sessions with the therapist and I expect that soon the emotional trauma will subside and he will be as good as new :-).

Quench Bucket and Coal Bag
I turned the quenching bucket on the lathe and used a wood burning tool to define the individual staves.  I just freehand carved the bag of coal. 

The coals in the forge and in the top of the bag are made of the gravel that they sell for use in birdcages. I drip a ~25% mixture of white glue in water with a few drops of dish liquid over the gravel and let it dry. The dish liquid makes the glue flow easily to fill all the little voids.  I then painted to look like coal – unburnt, burnt and otherwise.  
Irons in the Fire

I glued a few very thin wood shavings into the coals of the forge and painted them to look like flames.  I think that worked out pretty well. 

The piece of steel that our blacksmith friend is pounding flat and the tongs in his hand are made from some short pieces of coat hanger wire.  The steel that they use is pretty tough to cut but it is relatively easy to work.  I easily hammered it flat and I was able to work it into the two tong pieces.  I drilled a hole through each of them and hammered a short section of 14 gauge wire into a rivet to hold them together.  I used a drop of superglue to bond the tongs to the work piece.  The tongs just sit in his hands and the work piece rests on the top of the anvil.

Tongs and Work Piece

The Forge

The tin roof of the forge is a folded from a single piece of cardboard from a manila folder.  Many thanks to my high school shop/drafting teacher, Mr. Randolph, for teaching me how to layout sheet metal.  I wish he were still around 50 years later to see that I still remember and can use what he taught me, way back then.

I never really know until I stop what such a piece should include.  I knew I wanted to make this some sort of a diorama and I knew that it had to be built of pieces that would fit through the rather narrow opening of the curio cabinet.  I know this because I have one carving that I did many years ago that “would” have fit inside the cabinet but unfortunately wouldn’t fit though the door opening (see: That Eureka Moment ).  As a result, it adorns (read: “is collecting dust atop”) my chest of drawers in the bedroom.  Since then, I kept in mind that any diorama must be designed to be disassembled, passed through the door opening and then, reassembled -- “ship-in-a-bottle” fashion -- once all of the pieces are there.  This one works that way.

Overall, I feel very good about the forge, the anvil, the quenching bucket and even the bag of coal, but I have to admit that I’m not all that pleased with the figure itself.  The body is pretty good but I don’t like the head at all.  I lost track but I think that he is sporting either the 3rd or 4th head that I carved.  Even after 12 years of carving and dozens of figures, heads and faces are still a problem for me.  My wife even asked, as I was working on the blacksmith, “Was I going to make it look like (son’s name withheld for psychological reasonsJ).”  My response was, “I just hope that I can produce something that looks sort of like a face.”  As it is, I feel that the hair looks about right but the head is a too big and the face a little too flat and has a pretty brainless expression.  Not a handsome figure in my opinion.

So there it is.  I hope you like what you see.  Let me know.

‘Til next time…hopefully not so long…Keep makin’ chips!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sanding Station with Dust Collection

Yeah, I know.  I haven’t been posting much recently.  There seems to be a lot of “stuff” going on that reduces the amount of my available Blog writing time.  It is time to finally get back at it.

A couple of weeks ago I implemented an idea that has been bouncing around in my head since the beginning of my workshop renovations and that is: “A good place to do my hand power sanding while keeping dust to a minimum.” 

I was -- as hard as that may seem – actually starting to run out of available bench space and I didn’t want to add yet another port to the dust collection manifold.  So where to do my sanding??

As I was installing the dust/shavings bin under the lathe it suddenly struck me.  If I could come up with a nifty platform that would sit flat on the lathe, I could use the lathe’s dust horn to route the dust into the collector.

(Unfortunately, for reasons known only to the 'Blogspot Pholks', I wasn't able to insert my photos this time.  So check out Top View photo in the Picasa Photo Album to the right.  You need to do this a couple more times so look for the links in the lighter colored font.)
Look here for a shot of the top of the platform.  

So, I built a small (about 12” x 18”) frame that I can fasten down to the lathe that holds a chunk of peg board.  The dimensions of the deck were chosen so that it the headstock base and the dust collector hood edges would help “capture” it and prevent it from sliding around.  I chose the pegboard so that dust would tend not to accumulate under the piece being sanded and yet still get sucked up.

Look here for a shot of the bottom of the platform.  

You can see that I added an additional cross-piece under the deck.  This was partially to add additional support under the deck but mostly to provide a point to attach a mechanism to grip the ways of the lathe.  It had to be off-center a bit to clear the end of the motor.
I inserted a long ¼ -20 bolt into a counter-bored hole in the cross support.  I used a couple of washers and a split lock washer to ensure that the bolt can’t twist when the lower wingnut is tightened against the bottoms of the lathe rails.
When the deck is in position, the bolt extends down between the two rails of the lathe.  A short wooden clamping bar (narrow enough to slip between the rails) is slipped onto the bolt.  The bar drops down between the two rails and is tightened up with a wingnut. 

Look here for a shot of the clamping bar.

You can see in this shot how the bar grips the bottom of the rails to lock the deck into position.  I stuck a nut on the end of the bolt with a drop of “Lock-tite” to prevent the wingnut from inadvertently spinning off and getting lost.  I plan to replace the wingnut with one of those over-sized, off-the-shelf plastic knobs at my first opportunity because trying to tighten this tiny one “blindly” while reaching under the deck is kind of a pain.

Look here for a shot of the sanding deck in use.

I didn’t bother with including dimensions, materials, etc. because every situation is different and you are in the best position to decide what will work for you.  Having said that, if you want to reduce your dust and you are looking for a quickie project, this idea is really simple and works very well.

'Til next time...Keep makin' Chips!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Assembly Bench

Ah, we are coming close to the end of our new shop tour…probably just one more installment after this one. 
Assembly Bench

The Assembly Bench counter top was recycled from the old shop.  It was one of the first items that had to be removed to begin the process.  It used to be right where the wood rack is now.  

I have had quite a number of things (e.g., a sander, a grinder, a previous small band saw, etc.) bolted down to it over the years so when I pulled it out it looked sort of like a piece of Swiss cheese.   However, the tightwad in me could not see throwing out a perfectly good looking top…well…"good looking" if you ignored all the holes. :-)    I discovered that if I tapped short lengths (of the proper sized dowel rod smeared with wood glue) into each hole and immediately wiped off the excess glue with a wet rag that I could quickly and easily remove its “Swiss-cheesiness” and restore it to reusable status.  I would never try that on a Kitchen counter top, but here it works!

The supports are the ones that originally supported it, just relocated.  I have been using this sort of cantilever bench supports for years in several different houses.  They have the distinct advantage that they have no front leg to bump your shin into or to have to sweep behind. The support is made from 3 pieces of 2x4 (1 vertical member that is flat against the wall, 1 horizontal member to support the top and a diagonal member to complete the triangle.  I used ¼” bolts to hold them together.  Their original position allowed for (or perhaps , that is “required”) the use of toggle to hold them in place.  In the new arrangement they are hung on the (2-sided) wall using long bolts with big fender washers on the opposite side – 2 bolts per support: one near the top and one near the bottom.  For maximum strength the bolts go directly through the 2x4 studs.  (That accounts for their rather random spacing.)

Once the top was in place, I added a new bit of pegboard to provide more tool storage.   I have a lot of tools in place and more to go up.  I have to decide which locations and mounting/display method work best for each tool.  A lot of people, perhaps even most people, like tool boxes.   Personally, I  have nothing anything against toolboxes…in fact, I have several… but really I prefer to have my tools out and close at hand.  Aside from the convenience, I think they make a nice “decorative” statement.

I moved, cleaned and remounted a 4ft fluorescent light fixture over the bench.  Mounting wasn’t easy because of all of the furnace pipes that run through the ceiling right there where they are most in the way.  I ended up having to mount it to a 2x2 frame that I hung from the ceiling joists way beyond the ends of the fixture.  But, the improved lighting was well worth the effort.

I added a few little finishing touches for convenience:
1.  a paper towel holder
2.  an ex-“Crisper drawer” that I swiped from the old refrigerator that we recently decommissioned .
3.  two small shelves to hold finishing supplies

One other little nicety I added is a foot rest.  The top is at the normal 36”counter height.  I have a couple of tall stools that work but they lack a foot rest that is the right height for me when I sit to work.  I used a couple of chucks of 2x4 with a ¾” hole drilled for a piece of steel pipe that I uncovered during construction.  I am amazed how much stuff I found just laying around that I could use for this shop reconstruction project :-)

If you look carefully at the right hand end of the top you will find evidence that my clamp rack isn’t done yet :-)

One more installment to go, then we're completely back in business!