Shop's Log #21: Alabama Snow and the Meaning of Life

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Blog entry by terryR posted 03-22-2015 11:11 PM 2388 reads 0 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 20: How to Make a Handplane Tote Part 21 of Shop's Log series Part 22: FlintKnapping is my Friend »

Hi everyone, I’ve decided to try a new format for Blogs for a while and see the response. I’ve been reading Paul Sellers’ blogs nearly every day, and enjoy his ramblings on tools, woodworking, and life in general. So, thought I’d start sharing more of my shop life instead of focusing on one build.

Since I’m such a slow typist, I’m always behind on sharing recent projects from my shop anyway. Maybe this unrestrained format will let me introduce builds in progress and completed as I feel the need?

For the most part, the past 6 weeks have seen me struggle to keep our Farm working despite sub-freezing temps. Since we don’t have running water on the other side of the road, where the livestock live, that means hand-carrying water several times daily, and ice removal. Frustrating at the very least…

We received nearly 10” of total snowfall during the month of Feb…and it only takes ONE inch to shut down this entire county! Hey, sometimes the truth hurts.

My 1200 square foot steel shop remains uninsulated, so shop time also gets limited during extreme cold spells. I still have glues and finishes stored in a warming closet made of rigid insulation and duct tape to prevent damage from freezing. :(

Luckily, I was able to find enough time to complete my gift items for the most recent LJ Tool Swap! A handle for an ErikF-made saw plate, and a small brass mallet. Here’s the start of the cocobolo tote…

The design is a combination of Gramercy’s and a vintage Moses Eadon, with the double nibs that I like so much. Since I allowed the deadline to sneak up on me, I chose to use power tools for most of the shaping to cut down on time. Of course, I paid the price by dealing with all the coco dust in my shop and lungs. Oh, the horror!

The finished saw came out fairly nice IMO! Brass hardware also from Erik. I wanted to attempt shaping my own hardware, but time just ran out for experiments.

I also added another piece of coco to an August-supplied brass head for a nice heavy, little mallet. Glen-Drake styled…

...wedged with Apple, and pinned with a brass thumbscrew that I shortened. This lil tool was hard to give away! :) As a small quirk in our swaps, Paul…HammerThumb…received this saw AND my previous gift which was also a saw! He also received a gift mallet recently with a coco handle, so has a pair. Luckily, the saws are different ppi, and the mallets are different weights.

I’ve come to prefer these small mallets lately while chopping the waste from DT’s. They are easier to see around and take up less space on the bench.

Speaking of DT’s, I also made a DT alignment board, a blatant copy of David Barron’s. But, after seeing August’s recent build, and watched Mr. Barron online, I could see this would make a grand tool in the shop! previously, I’ve been aligning pins and tails with cheesy clamps and planes on their side. That method works, but the board should improve my accuracy.

Shaped from H.Mahogany and Walnut…probably my best DT’s to date. Honestly, I’ve become amazed at how EASY it is to cut DT’s. I’m still quite the beginner, but improvement seems to come quickly when I take my time. Hard to believe I was intimidated by them…since there’s no valid reason for the feeling. Cutting DT’s just takes a few careful steps. That being said, perfect DT’s may elude me for some time, but I’m OK with that! :)

I hate to admit it, but the sawdust and clutter in my shop has become a very real problem that hinders workflow! When preparing inventory for an upcoming vending event, I tend to just let the wood chips and sawdust gather on the floor. A very bad practice! Especially since my hurricane proof shop seeps water from underneath the building’s concrete foundation. That just allows the debris on the floor to soak up water, and keeps the humidity out of control.

Solution? Ummm…working on that! More concrete outside to assist with drainage, more sealers to fill gaps, and no wood debris on the shop’s floor.

After a few days of cleaning, I started on a stud wall inside to provide more space for storage. This should have been done from the very beginning, but wasn’t in the budget.

Just a 12×8 foot wall for now…that’s literally all the floor space I could clean at once without completely emptying the tools from my shop. The plan is to move stuff into this clean area, and keep working my way around the whole shop, cleaning and organizing the overwhelming amount of tools I’ve collected. AND using the shop vacs to collect debris better from today forward.

Perhaps the ‘messiest’ tool in the shop is my lathe…although I vacuum up chips several times daily! Frequently, it’s hard to even tell…

This tool provides such instant gratification, that I become addicted to it easily. Perhaps that’s why I volunteer to make so many things for other folks? LOL. The past few weeks, I’ve started laminating together a few layered bowl blanks. Not segmented, just layered vertically for now.

Here’s a walnut and purpleheart bowl in progress…note that I’m using the tailstock as long as possible to help secure the wood on the spinning lathe. Even though this is a small bowl, I still don’t like hollowing out endgrain. I need a better tool rest to keep the tip of my chisels closer to the workpiece to prevent vibrations and small catches.

There are a few more of these laminated blanks in progress…including one with ELEVEN layers!

I also turned a new shifter knob for my Ford since the OEM came unglued this past cold spell. This walnut feels so much better in my hands that I’m sorry I waited so long (10 years!)

For my shop, I also turned a nicer split nut driver from Apple, using a tip I purchased from Gramercy, As well as a new handle for my short flat head screwdriver from Koa…gorgeous stuff!

I had previously turned one of the walnut knobs above as a replacement for an LJ buddy. But, since the counterbore on the base was off-center, my OCD asked to try again. However, the 2nd attempt had a bum counterbore at the top (bent 15/32” drill bit…really?), so I had a third attempt in wait. Looking for a little help, I turned the little jam chuck above which fits into the top counterbore of this size knob. I’ll certainly use it in the future for shaping the base…

That’s enough for this blog…no time to ponder the meaning of life. Especially since all our female goats and hogs are pregnant and due any time! And 50 baby chicks due to arrive tomorrow. Goodness…

Lemme know if anyone sees my bench!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

27 comments so far

View Slyy's profile


2840 posts in 2428 days

#1 posted 03-23-2015 12:05 AM

Enjoy the general musing Terry. I’d like to pick up my blog on showing specifics of some older more complicated tools but just haven’t had the time. I’ve seen all the fun you’ve had with your lathe. While mine will be nothing special with a relatively small swing, can’t wait to get that old Dunlap up and running and give it a shot! Appreciate you sharing the experience.

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View theoldfart's profile


11630 posts in 3224 days

#2 posted 03-23-2015 12:39 AM

Terry, really good post.

Was that split tip driver from Gramercy meant to be mounted like that?

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View terryR's profile


7612 posts in 3081 days

#3 posted 03-23-2015 01:20 AM

Thanks, gents.

Kevin, I tried it with the other end sticking out for a year, but it didn’t work as well as it does this way.


-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16696 posts in 3391 days

#4 posted 03-23-2015 05:54 AM

Terry, nice blog, beautiful apple handle on that driver. Wow.

And I totally understand the catch 22 with shop renovations. Still haven’t fully recovered grom my shop floor project over a year ago!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8574 posts in 2755 days

#5 posted 03-23-2015 01:16 PM

Great blog my friend. It’ll be fun for you to look back on these someday.

We’ve definitely got the “worker bee” trait in common.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View summerfi's profile


4379 posts in 2460 days

#6 posted 03-23-2015 01:57 PM

Love seeing your shop and all that’s going on Terry. Some pictures of your place taken from outside the shop would be interesting sometime. When are you planning the big move to CO? I don’t envy all the work that will entail.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View terryR's profile


7612 posts in 3081 days

#7 posted 03-23-2015 04:40 PM

Thanks, again guys.

Bob, our move may be on hold due to jobs? I’ll get a few exterior shots of my shop…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View ToddJB's profile


8671 posts in 2903 days

#8 posted 03-23-2015 07:46 PM

Bob, our move may be on hold due to jobs? I ll get a few exterior shots of my shop…

- terryR

Say it ain’t so! I need someone to show me the ways of a real turner.

Terry, I as well love seeing your shop projects. I would love to all see the life musing, so don’t skimp out on us ;)

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View theoldfart's profile


11630 posts in 3224 days

#9 posted 03-23-2015 08:53 PM

Terry, guess I didn’t state my question very well. Was the slotted bit you bought designed to be fitted with a handle like what you did? Or did you adapt it to your design?

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View terryR's profile


7612 posts in 3081 days

#10 posted 03-23-2015 11:01 PM

Will do what I can to see CO again, Todd! Loved the small taste I had a few years ago!

Sorry, Kevin. The bit looked like this from Gramercy…

...and I really think they intended for it to slip into a screwdriver. I tend to dislike multi-tip drivers since I lose the little pieces! So, a wood handle for every driver tip in my shop. I’ve even glued a few drill bits into wooden handles. Just crazy, man! :)

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Ocelot's profile


2536 posts in 3411 days

#11 posted 03-24-2015 01:03 AM

Hey Terry,

I enjoyed your blog entry. Some time ago I added several North Alabama jocks to my “friends” list, and you’re one of ‘em.

I’m guessing you are in Jackson Co. I’m in Huntsville.

You sure have a lot of energy to do all that!

What kind of lathe tools do you use? How do you sharpen them?


View terryR's profile


7612 posts in 3081 days

#12 posted 03-24-2015 02:13 AM

Hi Paul, we used to live in Huntsville…and sometimes I sure miss parts of it. We get our mail in Princeton, the nearest town. Pretty quiet out here since hunting season has ended.

I have vintage Craftsman HSS tools that I use a little, but mostly I wear out my Easy Wood tools. Carbide tips, so no sharpening. Although, the tiny carbide tips seem to chatter more to me? I use regular steel gouges for roughing blanks, and sharpen them by hand on DMT’s. Not very good at that, but I’m learning, I think. :) getting a Wolverine jig soon…

You turn, too? Gotta check your blogs in the morning when the coffee is fresh!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Ocelot's profile


2536 posts in 3411 days

#13 posted 03-24-2015 03:16 PM

I bought a little lathe, which seems adequate in itself, but found that as soon as my tools started getting dull (probably were dull all the time, since I used ‘em out of the box), I was done, since I had (at that time) nothing to sharpen them with. I’ve heard that HSS is slow to sharpen.

That’s why I asked about your lathe. If you enjoy it, I’m sure you must have sharp tools.

I very much like the idea of carbide and have noticed that some folk on here make their own bar to mount the carbide insert. I have a spiral-head planer, so I’ve got a box of spare inserts I’ve thought about using for various things – from lathe tools to small handplanes – and even pencil-sharpeners and dowel-makers.

I don’t get much done in the shop, unfortunately. With the job and the family (wife and 4 kids) and the garden, woodworking really never gets done.

I noticed your first mallet project while looking at your project page. You mentioned that you used to just use a piece of firewood. The only project I’ve made this year is a primative pecan mallet, 2 lb, perhaps not worthy to be posted here. It in the catagory of improved firewood.


View terryR's profile


7612 posts in 3081 days

#14 posted 03-25-2015 02:02 PM

Paul, I would highly recommend a set of small Easy Wood chisels, square, round, and pointy tips. they sell small chisels especially for pen turners and small stuff. No need to sharpen at all, and the $15 tips last me at least 6 months each.

Of course, a roughing gouge is really needed to just get square stock rounded. For this, I’d stick with HSS. Cheaper, easy to sharpen on a grinder wheel without damaging the hardness of the steel. Just don’t turn the steel any color except blue while grinding, and really try to avoid getting it that hot with frequent dipping in water.

I’m a book-learner, so tend to buy books on sharpening, plane set-up, table saw tips, etc. YouTube is also a great resource for learning lathe skills!

If you have limited shop time, I’d put 3 carbide tip tools on your Anniversary wish list. Forget about sharpening stones and jigs, and just turn some wood. Mallets are a great place to start since just about anything will work fine, and you can practice with various shapes as you want. A roughing gouge can be sharpened in 15 seconds on a grinding wheel, exact bevel is not critical. Any bevel between 30-50 degrees should help you round over your stock.

Save your carbide inserts for later. you’ll be able to make your own tooling better after turning a few mallets, bowls, handles, and other small stuff for the shop.

Good luck with the garden this year! I’ve already had to mow twice out here…Spring arrived suddenly!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View theoldfart's profile


11630 posts in 3224 days

#15 posted 03-25-2015 02:10 PM

Terry, thanks. I think that bit will fit my small brace!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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