Le Workshoppe Rearangeé

I think I did not show you the inside of my workshop, except for the pieces visible around the various pieces of knives and machinery that I have shown in my crafting posts. And since I have totally overhauled (and cleaned) the shop these last few days, I have decided to give you a quick tour of the new layout. The workshop is a bit ad-hoc and furniture is made from mostly scraps.

So let’s start with the north wall, right behind the door.

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On the right, you can see where my lathe is stored. I do not use it very often. Right next to the circuit breaker hangs my woodcutting helmet and fire extinguisher.

In the middle of that wall is a huge shelf packed with various things. At the very top are old baking trays, then a plastic tray with some pieces of graphite. Neither of those things I need often, thus the upper shelves. Then come abrasive cloths and papers sorted by grit. Under them are some cleaning, flammable and corrosive chemicals, and a little basket with magnets inside to collect steel dust. Next comes the shelf with various fixtures and jaws for the vice, follows shelf with knives in progress and knife templates, and a shelf with big massive pieces of steel and aluminium. The second shelf from the bottom is now filled with various lubricants and the lowest one currently occupies interesting-looking stones for suiseki and bonsai. The various plastic bottles are mostly sunflower oil for quenching and one bottle for cutting oil.

To the left of the shelf hangs a board with various chisels, scrapers, planers, and knives.

Leaning against the shelf are various wooden dowels, staves, bow staves, pipes, and long wooden prisms.

To the very left, you see the beginnings of my first workbench, made yonks ago. It is three meters long and would not fit in one picture.

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Above and below the workbench are cupboards repurposed from kitchen renovations. In the corner, you can see two racks for thin metal profiles and pipes and the motor belongs to my tumbler. I have put it on this part of the workbench because it is somewhat inaccessible to work on and I have nowhere else to put the tumbler where it would not be in the way. I think I will be able to run it from there too, which is a plus.

The red vice is right under a light and in a spot where all the chisels, hammers, saws, rasps, and files are no more than one step away. On the cupboard right above it is also a thermometer so I know how warm/cold it is. Inside the cupboard above the vice are empty plastic containers for when I need them during work (like for example to sort screws into when disassembling/assembling something). In the drawer below it are small files and brushes, in the next drawer various pliers and shears, next wrenches, and the bottom drawer is filled with clamps.

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The forge in the middle is there because it needs repairs – work for tomorrow. Under it is a place for storing the table saw when its not in use, a small stool to help me to reach the upper shelves, a bucket for steel dust, and a shop vacuum cleaner.

Above the forge is a shelf with various writing instruments, gomtry tools like compasses, rulers, curves, the most-often used screwdrivers, and a roll of paper kitchen towels. The papers hanging on that shelf are laminated steel heat-treating charts. I will add in near future data sheets for the steels that I use. Inside the cupboard are nails and on the very top shelf accessories for the greenhouses. Again, the upper shelf is occupied with things that are not used often.

Next, you can see my unbender, now permanently fixed to the workbench. I have also spent one more day making it sturdier and improving the design a bit. Next to it, at the end of the bench, is now permanently fixed my drill press. It is lifted slightly above the bench so I can reach under it with a small broom to tease out the metal chips that collect there. I have also put there a piece of PVC flooring to protect the workbench from dripping cutting oil. The tables hanging on the cupboard above it are a drill-speed table for various materials and a conversion table between trizact and grit abrasive ranking.

Below the drill are various small brooms and seldom-used cutting instruments. In the drawers are some abrasives for my handheld belt sander and some ppe, like gloves.

Above the drill press, right at the end of the picture, you can see a small shelf packed with old cookware for when I need to cook something that is not fit to do in the kitchen. Behind it is a small shelf filled with various drill bits.

Now we come to the south wall.

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You have already seen my abrasive belt rack and my small heating stove. The basket and plastic bucket are for wood off-cuts. Normally they are not this full, but I did not need to heat the workshop for quite a long time now, obviously. The grey plastic trumpet is a vacuum attachment for collecting wood dust from the belt sander. The black barrel beside it with a similar metal trumpet is for collecting sparks and metal dust.

The green shelf to the left has buckets with various chemicals and abrasives on the top, some drums for the tumbler on the top shelf, and various metal offcuts on the rest.

Now we are reaching the newest addition to my workshop, one that has spurred the complete reorganization – the east wall with a new workbench.

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On the right is now permanently affixed my small bandsaw. I hope that fixing it to the bench will reduce its vibrations and improve the lifespan of the saw bands, they were snapping rather quickly.

Below the bandsaw is a small cupboard with bonsaist equipment and various attachments for the belt sander.

The small brown shelf between the windows contains various screws, glues, popsicle sticks, bbq skewers, strings, wooden wedges, metal foils, and a first aid kit. On the right side (out of view except the baseball cap) hang various ppe, like face shield, earmuffs, respirator, and goggles. On the left side hang various bits of wire. Below it is a cordless drill and my two angle-grinders.

And on the left side of the bench is the belt sander. Originally it stood where the unbender is now, and it was a pain in the nether regions. It got in the way of reaching the cupboards and working on the drill press and it ate a lot of the workbench so some manual works were awkward or even impossible. Here it should not be in the way and there is enough space to the right side of it to build various attachments – I plan a lathe, a drum sander, and a disc sander.

The drawers in the grey cupboard below contain various measuring instruments, ball bearings, cork, popsicle sticks, and some other various stuff.

In the cupboard itself are boxes with assorted screws, spacers, springs, locks, keys, handles, and similar small diverse things that do not fit anywhere else.

Between the cupboard and the new workbench is about 9 cm space. I have thought about what to do with it and I have decided that it would be an ideal storage space for all of my knife- and tool-making steels, so I have put them there.

And on the very left of the picture you see where my various electric cables and gas burners hang.

That was the grand tour through my small workshop. Writing it took a lot longer than I have expected, I hope I did not bore you to death.

A New Workbench

Today was lazying-around-doing-nothing-in-particular-day. I needed it, my back hurt as if I were shoveling gravel. Four days in a row I was working as much as I could on making the best of the bad weather and making a new work bench for my workshop, something that was desperately needed for a long time by now.

I have started by taking some ca 5 m long boards from their storage in my garden-shed half of the workshop building.

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These super long spruce boards are reclaimed from attic renovations when a few years ago the old board flooring was replaced with OSB boards. They have some insect damage, but not excessive so they are still strong, and they are super dry. Thus whilst they are straight lengthwise, they are slightly bent across. They also have fitting tongues and groves.

I have cut 10 of 2300 mm long pieces and 17 of 700 mm long pieces and cleaned all the grooves and tongues first with a chisel (they were full of decades-worth of dust) and then with sandpaper. After that I have put five long boards next to each other with the concave side up and I flattened them with my handheld belt sander.

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The concave side of the boards required less material removal than the convex side would have, therefore the belt sander was sufficient. And it has also removed the oil oil/wax finish on the boards.

Flaterooned boards could be glued side-by-side together, forming the base of the workbench. To keep them together I have lashed them with four Spanish windlasses.

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I have used PU-based glue for his bench but I have used PVA for my first one and it worked too. The PVA only needs a longer time to cure and the PU has a further advantage in that it foams up, filling neatly small voids, etc.

I did not wait for the glue to set, however, and I started sanding the convex sides of the short boards straightaway.

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When those vere sanded flat, I started gluing them to the base and attaching them with screws to hold them in place. That was my first workday finished.

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So I have two layers of boards, perpendicular to each other, glued at flattened concave sides. The next day I removed all the screws and then came the hardest part of this whole ordeal – flattening the convex sides of the bords in the upper layer and of the five remaining long boards.

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The convex sides needed to remove more material than the concave sides, thus belt sander alone was not sufficient. I had to take out the one tool that I actively hate – the electric hand planer. I never figured out how to use it properly. It hogs material away quite successfully, but it also makes gouges in the boards no matter what I do and the gyroscopic force makes its movement extremely difficult and tiring. And it is extremely dangerous on top of that. And it makes an unholy mess.

But I have managed to get the sides at least somewhat flat so I could glue on the long boards as the top layer. again using screws to hold them in place. That was the second day finished.

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The next day I again removed all the screws and I filled all the holes and gaps with bbq skewers, popsicle sticks, and/or a mixture of PVA glue and sawdust as appropriate.

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It has cured very quickly so in the afternoon I could flatten this side, using mostly the belt sander, but I had to use the dreaded planer too a few times. I made one unseemly gauge on the surface :-/

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I had to fill in some voids again, but I was able to give it the first coat with strongly diluted acrylic paint that very same evening.

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At this point, I was so physically tired that I could not even sleep properly. Fighting the electric hand planer made my back and neck ache something awful. But at least the 2300x720x70 mm workbench board was mostly finished at this point. It is not tutti flatti perfetti, but it is flaterooni enough.

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The third day was thus finished, the first coat of paint dried overnight.

The next day I have again filled some cracks with sawdust and acrylic paint mixture, gave the whole thing a coat of undiluted paint and I weighed it. It weighs approximately 42 kg. It did take some work to get it through the workshop door and into the workshop, but I have managed it and I managed it solo. I was afraid to ask my father for help because he could easily hurt himself. I was more comfortable with banging the board about and eventually breaking something than with him getting some serious injury. Luckily I did not break anything, nor did I injure myself, I was just very, very tired at the end of that endeavor and I have not made any pictures of what I have done inside the workshop. I just remembered to make this one picture at the end.

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The board is fixed to the wall on the rear edge and supported by two legs on the front two corners. Under it are some reclaimed furniture cupboards that were there even before, just without a nice continuous workbench above them. Because it is fixed to the wall, it is very sturdy and It can take my whole body weight in the middle without bending.

That was the fourth day finished. I was still too tired to even sleep properly, so I did not.

Now that it is in place, it will get two more coats of paint (one is drying right now) and then I will put on it the machinery. Either tomorrow or the day after that, depending on how fast the paint cures and how I feel.

I intend for this workbench to be a permanent home for my belt sander and band saw and also, in the future, a lathe. That should free my first workbench significantly, allowing me to do manual work more comfortably and have more than one vice.

A Big Commission – Part 9 – Da Pictures

Today the customer has picked up his brand new machete. He was apparently delighted, at least he said so. His exact words were “This is much better quality than I have expected, especially the leatherwork.” So today I did not feel like a total waste of space. Here are some nice pictures for you to look at. I did not have to do too much post-processing after all.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Spatzenbaden

We do not feed the birds in the summer but there is an old baking tray among the bonsai trees that we fill with clean water once every few days, especially in this heat. Today I managed to take a few pictures of sparrows frolicking in the water.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

A Big Commission – Part 8 – Photographing

I do not need to make nice pictures for the webshop for this one – unless the customer rejects it, which I hope he does not – but I do want to have nice pictures for myself, for Instagram and, of course, for Affinity. And since it was a nice sunny day today, I took my photography session outdoors. One advantage of that is the sunlight, one disadvantage of that is way too focused light. Shade has, of course, diffuse light, and whilst it is very bright on a cloudless sunny day, it is alas also of the wrong color for this thing and I did not want to spend too much time with corrections in either the camera or on the PC.

So I have rigged up a small thingamajig to make pictures in diffuse light whilst getting the benefit of direct sunlight’s color whilst getting it a bit diffuse. I will have to edit out an occasional ant or piece of debris though, so I am not entirely sure I have saved time in the post-production at all. Well…

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A slightly overcast sky would be best but despite my valiant efforts, the weather still refuses to obey my commands. Mind you, if I could command the weather, I would not command a slight overcast right now, I would command a week of slow, drizzling rains and make the pictures indoors.

Pictures will be posted here and on Instagram after the customer picks up the item. I hope it will be tomorrow, but it might take a few weeks too, depending on circumstances.

A Big Commission – Part 7 – Missed Opportunity

AAAARGHHH! Amidiotextrordinaarggh!

Today I have sharpened the machete, thus de-facto finishing the commission. I have decided to test it in a way that poses minimal risks to the nice surface finish and still tests its cutting capabilities. By cutting milk boxes filled with water standing on a pole. That is a good way of testing an edge because a blunt blade just bats the box away from the pole, a sharp-ish one cuts partly through, tears the rest, and throws both pieces away, and a really sharp one sails through the box, the top falls off and the bottoms stays on the pole. A bad cutting technique may lead to a bad cut, but not even a perfect technique can lead to a good cut with a blunt blade. It does not test an edge’s durability – a well-sharpened bronze sword would perform well too.

I considered filming it and then I thought to myself “Nah, nothing interesting ever happens, waste of time”. Then I cut the first box and I immediately cursed my laziness and stupidity.

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I cut the top of the box cleanly off, and it stayed on! I have cut dozens of these boxes when I was testing my own machete and this has never happened. And since there was enough of the box left for a second cut, I went on and cut it a second time.

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And the blade sailed through like there was nothing there and both cut pieces stayed atop the bottom part. If my hair was long enough to grab and tear out, that is what I would be doing. A rare thing happens and I did not film it because I was lazy to go upstairs and set up my tripod.

Of course, I went upstairs for the tripod in a hope that I will be able to replicate it or at least get some interesting footage from the remaining three boxes that I had at hand. On two I got useless footage because I messed up my cutting technique. Probably nerves. Definitively nerves. On the third attempt, I did manage to get three clean cuts through the box, but the first two stayed on only because they remained connected on a minuscule (~1 mm) strip of paper – I was standing a tiny bit too far from it. After the third cut the top fell off but the bottom stayed on the pole so at least there’s that.

It is a wicked sharp blade, it cuts like a lightsaber. It will be a good tool. But I missed an opportunity for getting good advertising footage. Bigly.

A Big Commission – Part 6 – The Sharpenstone

Today I have made the last piece of the puzzle – a small whetstone for edge maintenance in the field. I expected it to take me two to three hours, it took me twice as much. Partly because it was the first time I was doing it so I did not really have a clear plan on how to properly proceed and what will work best, partly because I screwed up and I had to start all over with one part. But I think that if I were to make another, it would indeed be those two hours that I used for price calculation.

I started with a piece of native, strongly metamorphized phyllite. It has visible big garnet grains and it is very hard.

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I cut a strip off with a diamond stone cutting wheel in my angle grinder. I have used that wheel also to roughly shape it and thin it.

For the second, fine layer,  I have used a piece of old roofing shale. Those can sometimes be found around here on building sites and even in my garden.

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Those are not native stones, they are the remnants of long demolished houses from before WW2. Initially, I wanted to use a different piece of local phyllite, less metamorphized, softer, and with finer grain, but I screwed up and it delaminated down the middle, becoming too thin. So I went for the shale for my second try because it is stronger and I wanted to be definitively done today.

Using five-minute epoxy, I glued both roughly shaped flat stones on a thin jatoba board, making a small stone popsicle.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

After the epoxy cured, I shaped the outline, covered both outward faces with adhesive tape, and submerged it whole into linseed oil for a minute or so to soak the wood.

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After that, I had to grind down the faces a bit again, it was just a bit too thick to fit into the pocket. I ground them down with the diamond wheel and then flatterooned them on granite stone with wet&dry carborundum abrasive paper on it.

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Both phyllite and shale are soft enough so they can be shaped with abrasive cloth or paper, but hard enough themselves to abrade steel.

This is not a stone for serious sharpening work and I have told the customer so. Its abrasive action will be relatively mild compared to modern carborundum-based whetstones, even on the rougher phyllite side. But it should be excellent at maintaining an already sharpened blade and giving it an occasional touch-up during work. I have used pieces of phyllite or shale for exactly that, although those were stones found by the wayside, impromptu flattened and used out of necessity, not nicely crafted like this one.

Thus almost all work is finished – tomorrow I will sharpen the blade and make nice pictures to present here and on Instagram.

 

Frog Chillin’

Today I was watering bonsai trees in my bonsai hospital (where my last Japanese maple tree already probably succumbed to the heatwave). I am using the water from the pond at the end of my sewage cleaning facility for that. And this is the sight that greeted me today.

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Every day when I come there I hear several splashes as the frogs sitting around the edges of the pool jump into the water when I disturb them. Today I got lucky and this one was just chilling in the water and did not scamper until I plunged my watering can into the water.

I take this as a sign that my sewage cleaning facility works well, despite the official tests coming just on the edge with regard to ammonia content. I haven’t seen any tadpoles, unfortunately, but I do have happy frogs every year, plenty of dragonfly larvae and water beetles, an occasional water mollusk, and as you can see, the water is so clear that one can see right down to the bottom of the pond. It will get a bit worse in the fall when the trees shed leaves, especially the walnut tree, but that has nothing to do with the sewage cleaning efficacy.

A Big Commission – Part 5 – The Stitchening

The original sheath the customer provided as a template has the tip reinforced with plastic. I cannot do that of course. Making a metal cape would be an option, but an expensive one since I would have to make multiple metal templates to press it and then solder it, polish it and all that jazz. So I have convinced the customer that reinforcing the tip with 4 mm thick leather should suffice. Which I think it should.  But I did make an extra step to make that thick leather just a bit harder – I heated it to 70-80°C in water and kept the heat until it shrank to about 80% of its original size.

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This makes the leather inflexible and somewhat brittle in bending, but very hard. Hard as plastics in fact. Caskets or boxes can be made that way. It has several caveats that need to be taken into account, however.

  1. After it is taken from the hot bath, it remains pliable for some time but not very long and it keeps shrinking for a while. If it needs to be formed in a specific shape, it needs to be pressed into the form quickly and left to cool down and dry in form.
  2. Because it shrinks, any decorative carving that is done can only consist of outlines. Any fancy pressing or stamping simply won’t work. And the shrinkage has to be taken into account – as well as the fact that the shrinkage is not completely regular in all directions and predictable.
  3. As it shrinks, it gets also significantly darker, dark brown. So it reduces the possible dyes that can be used to change the color to any shade you wish, as long as it is black.
  4. It needs to be heated up carefully. If overheated, it curls up and becomes way too brittle.
  5. If there is a risk of any bending stress, it should be reinforced with fabric or untreated leather. It is hard and scratch resistant but breaks when bent.

For my purposes, I needed two flat plates, so I left them to cool down and dry under two flat pavement bricks.

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On the top, you can see the already dry pocket taken out of the form. On the right is a glimpse of my impromptu cardboard template for the sheath.

Working on a complicamaticated thingamajig like this the ooo is very important – order of operations. If one glues and sews together some parts it can make some other parts impossible to add or modify, so I had to think carefully about how to progress. For example, on the outside, I had to first sew on the pocket flap, and only after that I could sew on the pocket itself.

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The kukri sheath is wide open on the back and the blade itself is thus held in place with a flap with two snap-fasteners. To avoid rubbing of metal on metal, I have pressed the lower part of the fasteners on an extra piece of leather and glued & sewn that onto the sheath.

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When making the belt strap, I had to form it, glue it and sew it together about 90% of the way, then I had to leave it with the threads hanging, glue the eye shut, and sew the rest. The strap is sewn from two layers for several reasons – I have used relatively thin leather and I was afraid it would not support the weight of the whole assembly, which will be over 600 g, and the way the sheath was cut, on the strap it would be the suede side of the leather facing out, and on this one, it is not particularly pretty.

I have possibly slightly overengineered the whole thing – there is double stitching along the edges as well as stud reinforcements and I have spent several more hours with it than I planned to. I do hope that it bears out in durability, I need satisfied customers to spread the word.

I have now applied some dye to the finished product and it hangs outdoors in the shade to dry. I have also applied linseed oil to the handle and it hangs outdoors in the sun to dry. Tomorrow I will condition the leather, and sharpen the blade and I am nearly finished. All that will be left is to make a small sharpening stone that fits into the pocket. I hope that won’t take too long, a few hours at most. Although I have some funny over-engineering ideas there too…

A Big Commission – Part 4 – Surface Finish & Glue-up

As I said because this blade is supposed to go “only” to 100 grit, that in no way meant that polishing it will be an easy task. I had to polish it on the belt sander to 150 grit in fact, and then remove all perpendicular scratches with 100 grit wet&dry sandpaper manually with scratches that follow the curvature of the blade. It was a bit of work not only due to the steel being hard but also because the surfaces are fairly big and wide when compared to even the biggest knives.

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After it’s been polished, I etched the logo and number and put the whole thing into oak bark extract overnight, then I washed it off, made the handle scales, and put it into the extract overnight again. Today morning it had a nice dark grey color all over.

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You can see the boundary between the hardened blade and soft tang near the sharpening notch. I forgot to tell the customer about that, I hope he won’t mind. In my opinion, the boundary is really neat and it is just another small detail. A good sign is that there are no such sharp boundaries anywhere on the blade. I have tested the whole blade by scratching but this is yet another confirmation that the whole blade is properly hardened and tempered.

Today was glue-up time. You have seen that already, but this time I think I have a nice picture to illustrate the construction of the handle here.

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For kitchen knives, I only use dowels 6 mm in diameter, 2 bamboo ones in the middle, and two metal ones on the front and back. However since this tool will probably encounter a lot of impacts, bends and vibrations, I have decided to use 2 metal pins and 3 beech wooden dowels with 8 mm in diameter (the third pin is there for the lanyard). The wooden pins are there for the glue to have something to really adhere to and the metal pins protect the assembly against shearing forces. And because none of them go all the way through, there are no visible pins on the outside. Except the one for lanyard, which must go through the wood otherwise the end would most likely split sooner or later due to the lanyard.

And so today, after the glue fully cures, the machete is 90% finished. All that remains is apply linseed oil to the handle. But before I do that, I will have to make the sheath otherwise I would have to wait several days before the oil hardens. So tomorrow is leather cutting and maybe leather glueing and stitching day.