Friday, November 21, 2008

Of Mice & Men & Design Changes, Part 2

When last we met, I had finished making the handles for the pulpit that my pastor had been asking for. They are made from four pieces of red oak, with oval shaped cut outs in the middle. To remind you, here is a picture showing what we're shooting for when it's all done.

Once I had finished shaping the handles, I clamped one against one of the sloped sides and carefully traced it onto the plywood. I had all of the boxes bolted together, so I would make the cuts in the two sides simultaneously. After tracing the handle block, I carefully measured & cut a straight guide that the shoe of my jig saw could ride against while making the vertical cuts.

I then began to cut out the notch. The cuts I ended up with weren't as clean or straight as I would have gotten had I been able to make these cuts before the boxes were assembled, but they would have to do. I even had to cut some wedges to slip in between the notch & the block on one side. This was the first one I had cut; the second one came out much better.

Here's a picture of the better of the two cuts after it was cut & before the handles were glued in. As you can see in the picture, I did get some tear out. I own a cheap Skill jig saw, and my skill with it isn't terribly great. But that thing does jump around a lot & is hard to control.

After making the cut, I cleaned it up with my belt sander & a file. The sander wouldn't fit in the entire notch -- that is, it could only reach the forward most 3 inches of the bottom. This allowed me to get that area pretty flat, but I needed the file to work on the rear portion. With about 30 minutes or so of work, I was able to get the blocks in to the notches well enough that any final clean up could be done with a ROS or block plane.

Here's a picture of the finished notches with the corresponding handle blocks in place but not yet glued. As you can see in the photo, the notch was cut a little over size. Believe me, though, it was a lot better than the other side.

Because the fit of the blocks wasn't the greatest, I decided to use 5 minute epoxy to glue the handles in the notches. The epoxy would fill any voids & would even glue the end grain to the notches. The result would be a very strong bond that should hold up to even my weight pulling on it.

After gluing in the handle blocks, I proceeded to fill in the remaining spaces with stainable wood filler. I will probably have to give these areas some extra attention to get the color to match, depending on how everything looks after final staining. Here's a picture of the pulpit with both handles in place & wood filler applied.

While this completed all of the retro-fitting work that needed to be done, there is still work to do on these handles. The cap rails that go over these areas will have to be shaped to make the handles easier to grasp. But that will have to wait until after I make the rails some time in the next couple of weeks.

Next time: Mitering the Base Mouldings

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Of Mice & Men & Design Changes

Back in October, I decided that the lectern was too plain as originally designed. The design for the improved lectern appeared in my head almost as a vision. I could see what I wanted to do. So I put together the change in Sketch-Up in a couple hours. The picture below shows the idea I had.

Essentially, the lectern will be shaped like a tomb stone with a 1/4" wide strip of maple inlaid 3/4" in from the edges. And there will be a purple heart cross inlaid in the center of the field created by the maple inlay. I'm going to need to purchase an inlay kit for my router to do the inlay. Luckily, these kits aren't too expensive. These will also be my first inlays. I intend to practice a little before doing it for real.

Through out the summer, my pastor kept asking me to add "handle bars" to the pulpit design. At first I thought she might be joking. But she often feels dizzy while preaching as the Holy Spirit works through her and felt she needed something to hold on to, in order to keep from falling over.

After determining that pastor wasn't kidding, and after making the obligatory jokes about putting chopper handlebars & a seat on the pulpit so she could take the pulpit for a spin, I began to wonder exactly how I was going to meet this request.

A number of ideas presented themselves to me & were discarded. One was to actually get a set of motorcycle or bicycle handle bars & add them. That got discarded quickly -- I just couldn't see how to make that work. And I don't think anyone would take seriously any pastor preaching from behind a pulpit so equipped.

Then I had the idea for what I call the "towel rack". This would be two triangular gussets made of maple a full 3/4" wide rabbeted into the corner posts of the center box. Between them would be a rod or dowel made from purple heart a full 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter. This would give pastor a place to hold on. But this still didn't work for me. All the pulpit would need at this point is a pair of wheels in the back & you could tilt it back & push it around.

Then, one night while driving to the Men's Ministry meeting at church, I had another vision of a change to the pulpit. As originally designed, the boxes had nothing but square corners. I saw the pulpit with the inside corners of the center box & the adjacent outer boxes cut off at an angle. And our Elder Jack then suggested cutting an oval hole through the partitions.

This idea appealed to me so much that I started working on modifying the drawing that night. After a few hours work, I came up with the design shown in the picture below.

Since the partitions are made of ply, I first cut the corner off of one of the outside boxes. I then transferred the line to other outside box so they would be cut identically. I then cut the corner off of that box. Next I transferred both lines to the center box & cut those corners off. These cuts were made with my circular saw & straight edge guide. Because my straight edge guide uses a carriage to hold the saw, I couldn't get the blade low enough to cut all the way through the corner posts, so I had to finish these off with my flush cutting saw.

The boxes were then bolted back together & everything sanded with my belt sander. The photo below shows everything after all of these steps were completed.

The next step was to make the handles. I didn't just want to cut oval holes in the ply, as that would make the plies visible. Plus, I wanted to round over the edges of the hole to make the handle more comfortable to hold, and there just wasn't enough room to get a full size 2 1/4 HP router base in there at this point.

So I decided to make the handles out of solid red oak, cut notches to accept the handles in the ply, and glue the handles in. The next step, therefore, was to actually make the handles. Since the boxes come apart, I would have to split each handle in half & glue each in to a different ply partition after the notches were cut.

As you can see from the Sketch-Up image above, these pieces are parallelograms. I drew the shape on one of the ply partitions & set my bevel square to the angle. I then used the bevel square to set my miter gauge. It turns out that the correct miter gauge setting to cut the shape in the drawing is about 25°, give or take a few tenths of a degree.

So I took the two failed bottom rails for the center box & ripped them to 2 1/2" wide. I then cut them into blocks for the handles. After cutting 5 blanks from the two rails, I layed out the oval holes.

Originally, I planned to make the holes by drilling 3/4" holes at the ends with a Forstner bit, then clearing out most of the waste with the same bit. Then I'd clean everything up with my chisels. I also figured I'd use one as a pattern & use a flush trim or pattern bit to get all 4 holes identical. It's important that someone holding the handles doesn't feel any uncomfortable edges because of inconsistencies in the shapes when the boxes are bolted together.

Well, the first attempt didn't come out very well shaped. And the holes were a bit tight on my hands. And when I tried to pattern rout one of the other handles, I inadvertently made a climb cut & the handle split in half. Luckily, I was able to glue that blank back together & you can't tell where the split happened without looking at the end grain.

I decided the best way to recover was to increase the hole diameter to 1 1/8". This was the minimum size I needed to remove all traces of damage to the grain within the hand hole. This time, I did a better job of cleaning everything up & the handle came out much better, as you can see in the next photo below.

Next, I ripped the four blanks to the thickness of the ply and rounded over the hole edges using a 3/8" round over bit in my router table. The photo below shows the handle after rounding it over & sanding everything smooth.

That's enough for now. More on installing the handles next time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Momentous Week

This is going to be very short. I'll write something in the next few days about the pulpit.

This has been a very momentous week for the nation, and it turns out, for me, too. On Tuesday, we elected Barack Obama for president. A man who has no track record in a leadership position. I guess we'll see if we were right or not in time.

On Wednesday, I got laid off. Another victim of the faltering economy & globalization. This is the second time I've been laid off in my career. It's not as hard this time around, though I am going to miss all of the fine people I used to work with. I'm also going to miss the regular paychecks.

As of now, my woodworking future just got a lot murkier. I'm going to finish the pulpit, since I have just about everything I need for it. But I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing in the coming weeks after that. I do know I'll be looking for a full time job.

I just want everyone to know that since I've come to know the Lord, I know that He will take care of us & everything will work out even better than it was before. Of that, I have no doubt. It's just a matter of getting through to the other side.

At any rate, it's time for me to get into the shop & make some progress on the pulpit. Later, dudes.