back from beyond…

September 20, 2011

to all loyal listeners…if any…I’m back.

Basically life got in the way a bit. long story.

I got momentarily sidetracked by social media – but I have come to the conclusion that social media  isn’t a good fit because I am too long-winded and dont read emails 493 times a day.

The bottom line is the I’m going to be moving house soon. This is a bit of a horrorshow for me. Biggest issue is that I have been in a duplex with a basement and back yard for 15 years.  So what? Well…I have had 15 years to accumulate stuff (I really like stuff).

Problem is that I have a LOT of stuff.

Apartments which my wife and I can afford at the moment (a moment of diminished circumstances)  sort of frown on band saws in the living room.  I’m pretty sure they have little interest in me running the compressor for the airbrush during Dancing With the Stars either.

Bottom bottom line is that we are out of our frigging minds trying to find a place which will have room for all this stuff, but you cant fight reality. Its looking like the WOODWORKING (capital “W”) stuff is going to end up on hold.

So bottom bottom bottom line is that things might get a bit introspective.

I still love wood and have some great apartment-sized wood ideas (hide the children!)

Please stay tuned.


What just happened?

May 24, 2011

I have been going through some STUFF – things have been hard but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I can tell it has been a while because WordPress has completely changed the look and feel of the dashboard etc.

I didnt realize that it had been since 2009.

Anyway – I decided that I’d rather throw effort into something that is a little more longform than Facebonk.

Hopefully bring this puppy back from the dead.

I need to approve the 3 (THREE!!) messages which appeared in as many years, and I’ll be off and running.

Lots of new stuff coming – I promise.

Harmony Uke Project

March 5, 2009

harmony soprano

harmony soprano

I started this post a while ago – it has been lounging in the draft pile.

A coworker, Kathy, found her family ukulele during her most recent summer visit. It’s an instrument that she remembered playing with as a small child. The uke recently turned up in the attic of her parents house after a 30 year or so hiatus — living with the unmatched socks or wherever family heirlooms hide undetected for 30 years.

Anyhow the uke is back.

There is a bit of a story here. The uke as found was in pieces. Dry as a bone. The top and back had the graceful modern curves of a Pringle.  The sides were still connected but the shape had bowed out to half way between a pineapple uke and a standard uke silhouette.

Kathy brought the parts in to show me. She asked casually how one would go about re-gluing the uke. I gave her the 2 minute explanation of how I would attempt it. Flatten the top, draw the outline of the flat top on a piece of 3/4″ plywood. Add a zillion brads around the outline. Soak the body and stuff it behind the brad fence. Let it dry for a while then glue/clamp the top to the sides as best as possible, then repeat with the back. I offered her clamps and glue.

Little did I know…she was actually going to re-glue the uke (!!)

not too bad

not too bad

It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty damn respectable job considering that she didn’t have any clamps.

So here it is.  My task is to get a bridge and some tuners on the uke and make a new nut – At the least make it into a decent wall-hanger.

Yeargh!…The dilemma.  What now?

Please don’t tell Kathy, but I may take the top off again.  I went ahead and made some one-off bridge clamps, but a closer look reveals what appears to be a healthy crack in the top. I originally thought I wouldn’t have to take the uke back apart.

Closer look #2: It seems that the strings won’t clear the  top where the neck joins the body. That with the fact that there is no bracing gives me visions of loud pops followed by hail of splinter shrapnel if I tried to string the uke in this condition. I can’t imagine that the book-clamped glue on the top taking  take the strain even if the crack didn’t fly open.

I have never seen a Harmony uke up close. They are surprisingly rough – especially considering that they command decent prices when they are found in good condition.  The wood seems to be dyed birch. The top and back are solid wood, but a fairly clunky 1/8″ thick. The sides are the same thickness. The teeny holes on the pegboard make me think that it originally was outfitted with scrawny ancient  tuners on it at one point. Not sure what age range this puts the uke, later than the violin-peg tuners, but still with a wood fretboard.

so where did the pegs go?

so where did the pegs go?

The frets are that old thin gauge brass – pure unobtanium, so I can’t replace the 13th fret (there were 13 frets?!?!?)  The 12th fret is present and accounted for – so close enough. The fret markers are paint dots. The neck is pegged into the body with a single dowel. The nut looks like it was made of rosewood.

Atlas 6″ Lathe

February 5, 2009

6" Craftsman/Atlas Lathe

6" Craftsman/Atlas Lathe

Just before Thanksgiving I pre-inherited my fathers second Atlas 6″ lathe. Actually its Craftsman branded, but these were made by Atlas I believe. My father somehow ended up with two of these (?!). The story gets a little muddled – one came from a clockmaker and the other from the Want Advertiser.  The paperwork which came with this one says its from 1972.  Bottom line is my dad had two  – one set up in his shop and the other one in pieces under a mission oak desk he has in his laundry room to fold sheets on.

I got the parts lathe. It’s 99% complete. It came with a 3 Jaw chuck (with 2 sets of jaws) and 4 Jaw chuck, a plate and two dogs, one dead center, a keyless drill chuck and a box with miscellaneous bits of cutter stock, center-drills, end-mills, a straight holder, and a small vise.

After a few stumbles I got it up and running. And it’s noisy! It isn’t the bearings – they are nice and tight – the noise is from one of the gears on the quill (??) is loose and rattles around noisily – there is a pin which is supposed to hold it to the rest of the gear train which seems to be jammed open (??). I’m not sure what this gear is for, but its not doing any harm and I’m not sure I know what the lever that engages this rattly gear is even for. More research necessary. But for the time being – everything works! 

The first gotcha was that the keyless drill chuck is shot.  The damn thing is either bent or the jaws engage at some funny random angle. Whatever the case may be, its not centered and seems to absolutely defy centering. . I was thinking about taking it all apart and bla bla bla. A quick comparision on the web and I realized that buying a 1/2 chuck and a 1MT to 6MT shaft from Grizzly with shipping cost 3$ less than buying the same thing from Rockler. I am getting better at not re-inventing the wheel.


My name is: Chuck

The minute I got the lathe set and working I started drawing a blank. The same sort of blank that I draw in the video store. The second my eyes land on the “new Releases” shelves – POOF – my mind clears. 

So now what? Over the years I had needed a lathe for various projects. Making film rollers for a medium format panoramic camera I never built . Turning nozzels for model rocket engines I never made: model plane engine parts – steam engines.  None of those hobbies are currently active.  The gears are turning.

I have not been posting regularly – so to all of my 3 or so readers out there, my apologies. I’m going to make more of a routine of posting and less of a routine of repeatedly rewriting posts to the point where they never actually get posted. I am up to 15 unpublished drafts. Enough on that for now though.

I have almost completely sworn off yard-sales and flea markets. The urge is there, but I have been able to restrain myself. Mostly.

Anyway about a month ago, after doing the Saturday running-around/shopping routine, I passed these two gentlemen packing up what had been a huge tool yard sale. I couldn’t help myself.  Besides it was 2:00 in the afternoon – it was safe…what could possibly be left which was worth buying?

I recognized one of the men as a picker that I used to see all the time when I was really yardsale-sick. He’s the guy who always manages to get to a yard sale about 2 minutes before you. The guy who you see putting the box of hand-planes into his trunk just as you pull up to the sale.

Stanley #10 Rabbet Plane

Stanley #10 Rabbet Plane

Anyway there were still some fantastic tools. An early Stanley #10 caught my eye right away – the #10 is basically a open sided rabbeting version of a #5. The blade was worn to a nub and the price was a bit too rich for me (70$). I briefly entertained a fantasy of having a new blade made. Fortunately, I sobered up. I really wasn’t planning on making any timber frame buildings soon and all of my massive rabbeting needs (so far) have been satisfied by my Stanley #190.

I bought a couple of newer #3 planes with decent parts. I got a nearly mint Millers Falls iron hand drill, and as an afterthought – I asked about a Bedrock.

stanley bedrock 605

Presenting...Stanley Bedrock #605

“A user”?  the man asked.

“Yeah nothing pretty, I want to actually to plane with it.”

He walked into his house. A minute later he brought out a flat side #605 with a round chip near the back. Beautiful wood, clean sweetheart cutter, with plain “Stanley” cap, decent Japanning. I tapped on the sole, it didn’t have any structural cracks. 

“Exactly…so how much do you want for this”?

I bought it for 35 bucks which seemed fair. So for $50, I bought the two #3 planes the Millers Falls hand drill and the Bedrock #605

Three screws total to adjust mouth

Three Screws Total to Adjust Mouth

The Bedrock cleaned up nicely. I switched my Hock cutter from my “old faithful” #5 and gave her the sweetheart cutter. With the Hock cutter installed, the Bedrock plane cuts like a dream. But my plain-Jane #5 also cut like a dream with the Hock blade.

I guess I am still in the break-in period. After my experience with the 605 1/2 – I am not sure that there is any Bedrock “magic” out there.  Bedrocks are definitely a little bit better plane. They are definitely more adjustable, but does any of that really matter?  When is the last time that you tried to adjust the mouth on a two-handed plane? In my case…almost never. Is that extra margin of adjustability going to offer you the piece of mind needed to start hacking into that nice piece of birds eye maple with a hand plane?? rather than a scraper?? Im not so sure.

Chip isn't structural

The Chip Isn't Structural

So…is the Bedrock design worth paying the extra $$ that the name usually commands? Offhand, I’d say no. If you can get a Bedrock pattern plane for the price of a Bailey pattern plane, then by all means, do so. If you need to shell out a significant premium to get the Bedrock pattern, then you might want to think about getting a Lie Nielson. If you actually want to use the plane and the ancient Bedrock you are eyeing is roughly the same price as a new Lie Nielson – don’t be a fool. The cutters on the Nielson planes are thicker and more solid than anything Stanley ever used.

All Hail the Grand Poobah! - sort of, anyway.

All Hail the Grand Poobah! - err...sort of.

No-Name Ancient Mahogany Uke

September 30, 2007

no name front and back 

Another Ebay treasure.

I think I lucked out on this one. This uke is in good structural shape overall. It looks like it hails from the 1920’s, but this might be wishful thinking. There are no markings, no clues that I can find to identify this uke. I’m a novice though, it’s probably some super-common factory-uke, but I don’t know. If anyone out there can identify this puppy…any help would be greatly appreciated.  

It arrived pretty much as it appears here. Before I took any pictures, I started soaking the old glue off the body where the bridge was attached. Its a bit cleaner in that area, but the otherwise the uke is as found.

no name side

I have been looking for a uke that is more or less “original” – original tuners, original finish etc. A uke that is as close to original as I can find. Most of the older ukes within in my price range on ebay are fairly sad looking.

It is made of paper-thin mahogany. It has the original tuning pegs. There is a dark seam strip on the end – I have no idea what wood this is made of, but its dark. The uke has an oddly off-center back-bow. You can sort of see what I am talking about in the first picture.

This uke is a petite 13″ scale. A lot smaller and more delicately made than any uke I have had before. I really like the shapely and graceful lines. It is several steps above most of the clodhopper ukes coming out of Asia at the moment. From my small experience bending uke sides, the deeper the bend, the more difficult the bending. This uke is very carefully made.

Repairs should be fairly easy (insert sound of knocking on wood here). Probably fabricate a new bridge – the chip out of the top plate was still firmly attached to the old bridge.  So that will be easy, I see one closed body crack on the back, one closed side crack, and a 1″ section of seam opening on the back. One brace is loose inside – fabricating a clamp for this spot will be harder than actually gluing the brace.

The hardest operation will be making a decent 12th fret. I think this size of brass fretwire is totally unavailable these days. I’ll either make it from sheet like a bar fret, or fool around with model railroad track that is about the same size.

No name 12th fret missing

The finish is decent (looks like it was refinished long ago). The scratches look like they can be rubbed out rather than slathering the uke in new varnish.

The bridge is puzzling – it seems as if it fell off at some point and was reglued with something like Duco cement (?? whatever it is, the stuff is still pliable and pops off the old hide-glue like it was stuck on wax-paper). It was probably at this point where some madman (or madwoman) attacked the top around the bridge with sand-paper. Pity they didnt manage to actually sand any of the old glue off – just scratched the heck out of the finish.   

 no name bridge area

So there is something funny going on here…either the bridge was reglued 1/4″ to 1/2″ too far back on the top? Or this is the wrong bridge. I see some evidence of the bridge being up about 1/8″ higher on the body than the most recent location, but not enough far enough to make sense of the measurements. I think that this uke lost its original bridge and had a replacement (the wrong replacement) botched onto it, by the mysterious sandpaper bandit.  

 no name bridge and pegs

The bridge that came with this uke has a built-in saddle. Dead-on 1/4″ tall. The string notches are tapered holes drilled into the end of the bridge then opened with saw cuts. I think I remember seeing this style on several different brands of older ukes.

The bridge is a good match to the uke in color and age, but I can’t make the measurements jibe. For this uke to be tuneable…this bridge would need to be placed on the top in a space where there is strong (original?) varnish.    

I have not finished puzzling-out this uke yet, but there seems to be no way I can think of that this is the right bridge for the uke. This bridge came with the “original” strings still attached. One gut and two nylon and one unaccounted for. Who knows?

no name replacement bridge

Last minute pic of some replacement bridges I am working on. All are from an old Honduras Mahogany scrap I had lying around. The bottom is not quite finished being shaped and is still raw mahogany. I treated the other two with dichromate to see if I can get a decent match with the color of the original wood. The center is the dichromate, the top has a single coat of dark seedlac over the dichromate. The color match looks good. Sorry about the dark shadows in the photo.

My Grandfather’s ID Button

September 30, 2007

id badge 

This is my grandfathers old employee id badge. The precursor to the barcoded, magnetic striped, RFID spiffyness that we use today to keep enemy agents or whathaveyou out of our workplaces.

The height of security technology – back then – appears to have been a Button Magic machine and a mugshot camera. Those were the days.

The tag is probably from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Possibly a wartime thing? My grandfather worked as a tool and die maker in Aurora IL for most of his life.

He was also a league bowler and member of the Elks? Moose? Whatever the club name, it was a social club with a Friday Fish-Fry and keg-beer. Thats the part that I really remember as a kid.

My father got his dad’s badge when he was cleaning out my grandfathers stuff after he passed. Supposedly my aunt gave away all my grandfathers bowling stuff. Half a century of jackets, shirts, trophies etc. –a closet full. 

The badge is still a great momento, and a lot more portable than a closet full of bowling trophies.

This is the smiliest picture I have of my grandfather. I think he liked his job. Maybe they took the ID photos on payday? Bottom line is that he looks a lot smilier in this badge than I remember him.