Computer Monitor Pedestal for Dad

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My Dad is a civil engineer. That means he loves to build things, and, if necessary, he’s quite resourceful at crafting viable solutions. That’s my way of saying that around the house, he jury-rigs things to suit his needs.

So when I plopped down at his desk during a recent Mesa, AZ visit it came as no surprise to me to find his computer monitor sitting on two, side-by-side lengths of 2 x 4s. That’s it. No joining, no equal board length, just a raggedy-looking monitor pedestal to keep the heights of his two monitors at roughly the same level.

The makeshift pedestal was functional enough. But it was an eyesore. Wood + eyesore = perfect opportunity to build a project to expand my skills.

Visions of figured burl veneers swirled in my head. “Yes,” I thought. “This is the project that I’ll finally get my veneer-cutting feet wet.” That thought died after pricing veneer. While I could stomach the price, I couldn’t stand the idea that the pieces that were affordable were small. Meaning that the grain would not have been contiguous across the top and sides. Hell. I don’t need to spend a lot of money to make a project look bad. I can do that with pine.

To flesh out a design, I took a whole gaggle of measurements: the desk cubby opening; the diameter of the monitor base; the length & width of Dad’s glasses and more. My spectical-wearing father uses lots of pencils and needs places to put both. So I included features to accommodate those needs.

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I also chose to make two small drawers to house various Dad nick nacks. My workbench storage drawer build used false fronts for the drawers. However, I didn’t make them high enough to hide the carcass frame. It was my first drawer handy work, so I let it pass. But that error begged to be corrected on this project. If only to establish the concept in my mind for future builds.

The build
I had some old (tight grain, near-knot-free) pine boards 11 inches wide to work with. From one long board I cut the top and bottom parts plus the sides.

 Joinery
Since the pedestal was going to be a gift, it was only fitting that I use the Veritas skew rabbet plane Dad gave me for Christmas to rebate the top/bottom edges to accept the two sides.

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While the dry assembly felt pretty solid, I decided to fortify the carcass against the weight of the monitor with a ¼” plywood center divider. A couple of passes at the router table established the dados to accept the center support.

Top details
With the internal carcass joinery complete, it was time to finish the lid. A pass of the lid across a cove bit at the router table established the pencil well. A quick test showed that the ¼” bit made too small a groove because it took a lot of time to dig out the pencil. So to enlarge it, I set the fence back about ¼” and made a second pass.

Originally, I was going to excavate a ¼” deep eyeglass caddy, then line it with felt. However, after considering my Dad’s work habits, I left the top alone…he’ll put his glasses wherever the mood strikes him.

A dry-fit showed that everything was square and ready to accept some yellow glue on the joints with clamps to hold them in situ until the adhesive set.

The drawers
The drawer dimensions were ½” thick 1” deep by 10” long by 6” wide. With the pieces cut to rough length, I zeroed in on the final dimensions with a shooting board. This approach has served me quite well on past box projects and is a fundamental reason my glue-ups turn out square.

I would have preferred to join the drawers using half-blind dovetails. However, the ½” thick stock seemed too thin to cut my teeth on this new skill. Rabbet joints would have to do.

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To add a little eye candy, I selected cherry for the false fronts.

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Looks ok, but not an ideal match with the pine I’m thinking. To give the finished drawers a more refined air, I lined the 1/8” plywood bottoms with green felt.

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A fruitless search for drawer pulls at the local big-box store prompted me to build my own.

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To make the concave finger holds on both sides I used a number 4 round woodie that I picked up at an antique store several months ago.

The reveal
After finishing with tung oil, this is what adorned my desk.

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May Dad’s new pedestal be as pleasing to his eye as it is functional. And may his favored trinkets quickly find their new home in the green velvet fields within.

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Restoring a $3.00 garage sale backsaw find

The Craig’s List ad said there were some old woodworking tools. That’s it. No pictures, no heart-throbbing prose. Still, the garage sale was in an older neighborhood. And close by in case it was a bust. So I fired up my Chili-Red Mini and motored on over.

Five minutes and $5.00 later I walked to my car clutching a Disston 16″ backsaw, some brass screws and brass l-reinforcing thingies. The saw cost me 300 pennies. A bit of sleuthing on the Disstonian Institutes’ Website revealed that the saw was born between 1878-1888 per its medallion.

P14-Disston and Sons Backsaw Medallion

Here’s the prize of my quest:

P2-BEFORE collage

As grungy as it looked, I was very happy overall. The top horn was split off but I figured I could find some apple wood to mend it.

P1-horn chipped

A Horny Situation
In the interests of expanding my rehab skills, I decided to fix the horn. And to ensure an aesthetically-pleasing repair, I sought out two vintage handles. But that didn’t work out too well. The aged applewood didn’t pair well with either of the two donor handles. So I set them aside to wait for another handle repair. The horn would stay as it was.

 The Rehab
I gave the sawplate the usual rehab as I’ve detailed here and here.

Handle
After experiencing a “glassy” look from the use of polyurethane finishes I decided to go with BLO followed by wax. That’s it.

P8-finished handle

I like the natural feel of the wood in my hand. BLO + plus was works pretty well.

Sharpening
The original tooth line suffered from calves and cows so I had some evening out to do. I also tried adding some slope to my sharpening for the first time.

P4-Before-After Sharpening

Here’s the finished rehab.

P5-Before After Picture Comparisons

P7-Before-After saw spine

The Testing
This baby has some pleasing heft to it. I also like the longer, 16” length versus my 12” Disston backsaw. I find it easier to keep it true through the cut. And the longer length allows for a longer stroke through the work piece.

P10-test cut using bench stopP11-test cut using bench stop2P12-test cut quite square 

And here’s a look at the cut finish.

P13-test cut fairly smooth

So all it took to add a nice user to my saw next was a five-minute drive, three dollars and two fun-filled rehab hours.

P6-Added to Saw Nest

Not bad for a 125-year old saw. I wonder if 125 years from now (c 2138) some woodworker will get as much pleasure from finding this treasure as I did. I can see her driving up to the garage sale in her fusion-powered Mini Cooper (some things never go out of style.) “I found it among some other tools on a table,” she’ll say to her husband. “And I only had to hand over three $1,000 bills!” Her ever-supportive husband is sure to reply, “What a steal sweetie!”

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Building a chess-piece box that’s better than the pieces it contains

I’ve always loved playing games. As a kid living in Puerto Rico, my parents complemented the street Spanish I was learning with a Monopoly game in Spanish. I still have it today. By the time I got to high school, I was battling out Gettysburg over a monster, multi-map edition by SPI. Then it was off to college. My dorm room had no surplus space for games. But it did come with a roommate, Roy. So I picked up a cardboard chessboard along with some wood pieces to take my mind off the tough time calculus was giving me.

The pieces came in a wood box that was a bit crowded…

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…and painted a terrible orange.

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 I suppose that’s great if you’re a Bronco fan (which I am,) but not so great now that I’ve become a self-proclaimed woodworker. The quality of the chess pieces themselves pale in comparison to the memories they’ve given me over the last 32 years. So I decided to give them a finely-crafted home.

The old box got the once-over with my ruler. That scrutiny led to this plan.

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 Materials selection & rough-cutting pieces

Classic French furniture draws upon a lot of beautiful mahogany. And if it’s good enough for Louis the XIV it’s good enough for my box. I harvested the side pieces from a piece of African mahogany I had left over from another project. It was ¾” thick so I resawed and planed the pieces to form two 5/16” halves, which were then cut to form the sides and front/back pieces.

For the top panel I resawed a 4/4 piece of maple and edge glued the pieces to yield a book-matched grain worthy of royalty.

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Pre-glue-up details

My design called for everything to be assembled—bottom, lid, divider—for the glue up. So I had to complete many steps before the sticky stuff hit the edges.

With the pieces all trimmed to exacting size on a shooting board, I routed slots for the bottom (1/4” plywood) and the top panel (1/8” wide groove). The top panel got rabetted around the edges to give me a 1/8”.

The box has a divider to separate the black pieces from the white ones. I prefer this setup because it cuts down on the time it takes to sort and separate them for play. The divider is also made of ¼” plywood. I routed stopped dados in the front and back side panels to accept this piece, leaving a tinsy bit of room to accommodate the green lining that would adorn it. Next came a coat of Danish oil for the interior. Once that dried I applied the remaining green felt liner.

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Joinery and glue-up

After dry-fitting the pieces, and tuning a bit here and there on the shooting board, I glued up the box. Once dry, I reinforced the butt joints by drilling 1/8” holes to take brass pins cut from a rod. These were glued in place with 5-minute epoxy.

After that, I sawed off the excess parts of the rods and sanded the entire external surface, progression from 180 to 2000 grits until I had a pleasing, shiny surface.

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Final touches

The next step was to separate the lid from the rest of the box. I don’t have a table saw, nor do I trust sawing it off accurately by hand. So I put a 1/8” straight-cut bit into the router table and used it to make the kerf to separate box from lid. I took several passes, increasing the depth of cut each time until only the last 1/32” remained. A box cutter dispatched this last bit while also helping to dress up the edges to make them clean and true. A razor blade served to trim the green felt so that it was even with the top edges of the lower-half of the box.

After two coats of Danish oil dried, I attached cheap big-box-store hinges to join the lid with the box body, and a latch to secure the lid. I was a wee bit off, with the lid hanging over one side by about 1/64”, and under by that amount on the opposite side. So I planed these surfaces smooth, sanded them and finished them with Danish oil. The next day I applied two coats of paste wax.

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The fun part came when I transferred the chess pieces to their new home.

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Now they have a quality resting place to match the wonderful memories I’ve collected with them. And when I pass them on to my chess-playing nephew they’ll keep the pieces safe so the next generation of my family can make chess memories of their own in style.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 4-Restoring, sharpening and testing the saw

In the last post, you read about how I finally tracked down a soul-mate for my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox. Next it was time to clean it up, sharpen it, test its cutting ability and add it to my tool kit.

Clean saw plate
The blade was in pretty good shape overall. I progressed through the grits 220-600 followed by a coat of paste wax. To preserve the etching, I only used sanding-block mounted grits 320-600.

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Clean handle and saw nuts
I loved the aged patina of the handle and elected to keep it rather than sand it off. This got a good cleaning with alcohol followed by a wiping down with Howard Feed-N-Wax wood polish & conditioner.

Since I maintained the aged appearance of the handle, I decided not to polish the nuts and kept the 80+-decades of patina intact.

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Sharpening
While the saw cut ok as I received it I wanted to give it a good jointing and filing of my own.

A query to the collected wisdom on the Lumberjocks “Saws, using collecting, cleaning and buying,” forum helped me settle on these sharpening specifications.

Rake: 25°, Fleam: 30°, Slope: 0°

A jointing was followed by shaping of the teeth. Then another light jointing followed by the fleam-imparting sharpening. A quick test showed that I didn’t need to add any set.

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Test cut
The 28” x 5” Disston has some serious heft to it. It’s nice because the weight generates momentum to propel the teeth through the cut.

The length of the saw is perfect too because I can take a full back stroke without unseating it from the saw guide. Not so for my Ingersoll Rand miter saw which is about 23” long. It used to slip out of the saw guide repeatedly until I figured out that the hole in the top tip of the saw was to house a cotter pin to prevent this very thing.

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My two-foot-deep workbench sits flush against the garage wall. I wanted to be sure that the saw didn’t bump into the wall at its full extension, which it didn’t. The unimpeded clearance gives me liberty to take full-fledged stroke and enlist a large percentage of the saw’s teeth to make a cut.

I was in the middle of making a peg-board clamp holder. The three-piece lamination had dried and it was time to cut the ends to a consistent width. Sounds like a perfect test of my sharpening job.

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Very nice! The 96 year-old saw slid silky-soft along the guide posts and left a baby-smooth finish.

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And most importantly, the cut was square.

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All in all, I’m quite happy with my miterbox, its restoration and the acquisition of a great saw to go with it. I have an excellent user that will serve my miter-cut needs for the rest of my life.

I think that a part of me will pass to it, just as the artisans of years gone by have added some essence of themselves. So that 50 years from now, a future lumberjock will wonder into my estate sale and hear a Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox whisper to them, recounting projects long-since done. And they’ll say to them self, “You’re coming home with me.”

And thus, the circle of woodworking life will be renewed.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 3-Finding a suitable vintage saw

In my last post, we talked about the restoration of my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox. I also detailed the fabrication of missing parts, as well as the process of mounting the whole affair to a base. Next, I’m going to share with you my six-month journey to find a suitable soul-mate for my miterbox—a backsaw.

Boy. You’d think that tracking down a Disston miter saw stamped with a “Made Expressly for Goodell Manufacturing, Co.” etching would be a simple task, (***heavy sarcasm***.)

P29-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miterbox-Ideal Saw with etching

Well, that was my dream anyway. After six months of “no-dice” searching, it dawned on me that my hopes to pair the box with a reasonably-priced, era- and model-appropriate backsaw was too pie-in-the-sky-ish.

During those months I implemented Plan A by combing Ebay and tool-dealer sites for my prize. Plan B failed. Apparently miter saws with 5” under the spine aren’t as plentiful, nor being put up for sale as often, as they were 85 years ago.

Hmmm. Time for Plan B. Lie-Nielsen offers custom miterbox saws for the paltry sum of $195.

P30-cust_miter_box_sm-Lie-Nielsen

Well, it would be paltry if I was married to Kim Kardashian. But I’m not. So while I’d love the quality, beauty and performance of their saw, I was in no mood to pony up that ransom. Nor could I quite shake the fading hope of keeping the whole restoration vintage.

So I turned to Plan C…which was thinking a lot about what to do next. Odd. Now that I think of it, Plan C didn’t work too well either.

The stork delivers a bouncing, baby 28” x 5”, named Disston
After Plan C fell flat on its face, I was consoling myself by reading the positiverake.com woodworking blog. On it, I came across an article about Mike Semple, a renowned saw collector/chronicler and member of the MWTA. And that gave birth to Plan D-network with fellow woodworkers.

So I emailed Mike and asked him if he, or someone he knew, could point me in the direction of finding a 28” x 5” vintage miterbox saw with a “Made Expressly for Goodell Manufacturing, Co.” etching. And do you know what he said!!!

Nope. Don’t have an etching like that. But he did have a Disston 28” x 4 7/8” miter saw with a Millers Falls Langdon Miterbox etching on it he’d be willing to part with. And for what I thought was a very reasonable price. God bless Mike. Not only did he send a high-quality vintage saw my way, he did it before I could put a check in the mail to him. The man truly is a class act.

Less than a week later I was admiring this, perched atop my workbench.

P8-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Disston Miter saw as foundP9-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Disston Miter saw as found-Millers Falls Etching

The medallion dates the saw to between 1897-1917. That means that it predates my miter box by about 5-10 years. But that’s ok by me.

Here’s a bit of the saw’s history that he shared with me by email.

“I’m glad you like the saw. It is a nice example and those five inchers are not common. I think I had it about fifteen years and only used it once, when my son and I installed 6″ crown molding in my living room.”

With the saw getting used to its new home, it was time to spiff her up for use. And that’s what we’ll talk about in my next post.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 2-Restoration, fabrication of parts and mounting to a base

In my last post, I talked a bit about acquiring my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox and researching its history. In this post, I’ll detail the restoration I did of it.

The restoration
When I was a kid, I was great at taking things apart—radios, kitchen appliances and such. But I wasn’t so good at putting them back together. Just ask my parents.

So before removing so much as a single bolt, I broke out my Canon PowerShot and snapped oodles of photos. That was my insurance policy against ending up with a useless doorstop.

Disassembly
My disassembly strategy was simple: That which could easily be taken off, was. Everything else stayed where it was.

I didn’t want to break anything, nor lose tiny pins or nuts nor itsy parts that might “appear” as inner workings of sub-assemblies exposed during the break down. Basically, that meant removing the saw guides, end slide hardware (clamps and thumb screws) and back panels.

P28-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miterbox-disassembled parts

Sanding
The saw guide posts got the royal treatment because they get a lot of up and down motion in their housings. That meant sanding them through 220-600 grits then polishing the steel on my grinder buffing wheel until they gleamed. The back panels got 150-400 grits while bolts and hardware got the wire brush. The bottom steel latticework enjoyed the dremel treatment. So did the left and right, grooved bed panels.

Masking & Painting
After preparing the surfaces, I masked the angle degree scale and anything else that I wanted to remain paint free.

The latticework supports, back panels and saw guide housings all received three coats of Rust-oleum semi-gloss black paint. The red accent trim was painted using Rust-oleum Sunrise Red. That’s the same stuff I used in the restoration of my Goodell-Pratt hand drill here.

The Reveal
After about 10 hours of effort, this is what my still-tacky-to-the-touch miter box looked like.

P10a-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Full shotP10ba-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring overhead shotP10c-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring with saw shotP14-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Collage

Accessorizing parts long since lost
This miterbox originally came standard with two accessory slides. To facilitate various angles when cutting moldings, a vertical post was attached to a slide that moves to and fro along the left-hand side groove. The right-hand groove accommodates a length gauge. Both of these were missing by the time I acquired it.

My idea is to track down a reasonably-priced machinist to fabricate these pieces. So far, I’ve collected the parts’ specifications from a post to a forum I did here. And I’ve made prototype slides out of wood and priced out steel online. But to really do this right, I’m going to need a specialist who works magic in metal. So that will wait for now.

P22-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-slide dimensionsP23-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-length gauge

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To hold the slides in place, the box came with a clamp, affixed by a knurled knob.

P12-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Original knurled knob hardware

The left-hand slide groove was missing both the clamp and knob. So I purchased a knob and crafted a clamp myself from steel bar stock.

P13-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Replacement knob and bracket hardware

Mounting the miterbox for use
Using a miterbox entails all sorts of force, back and forth, not to mention the side-to-side shear that can be generated. So to prevent sliding I mounted it to a base.

But how should I do this? And what base is best?

For those answers, I queried the Lumberjocks “Miterbox of your dreams” thread. The collected responses set forth three potential options.

  1. Mount the box to a bench or tabletop. While solid, this would essentially create a dedicated work station. And since I already have my Ingersoll-Rand miterbox bolted to the top of an assembly table, I decided against this.
  2. Mount to ¾” plywood and add a cleat to secure it into a bench face vise. An intriguing option, but this approach limits the mobility and use of the box to a benchtop. Strike two.
  3. Mount to ¾” plywood. A good solid option whatever the century.

A quick trip to the big-box store revealed that plywood is relatively expensive. So instead, I brought home a $3.00, 4’ x 1’ particle board shelf. From that, I extracted a base of about 1’ W x 2’ L. Rather than centering the box on the base, I moved it a bit forward. There’s still room to clamp it to whatever, but I get an additional few inches of clearance by doing this so the saw tip doesn’t hit anything in use.

Next, I countersunk holes in the bottom to accommodate the bolt heads and washers and mounted the whole assembly to the base.

P10-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Full shot

To further guard against slippage, I affixed cupboard shelf paper (the rubbery kind available inexpensively at Walmart) to the bottom with a staple gun.

P11-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Mounted with cupboard liner on bottom

The shelf paper is so sticky that I can almost get away without having to clamp the box to my bench top. Almost.

Next up, I’ll detail the saga of finding a proper saw for the miterbox.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 1-Acquisition

During a rust-hunting expedition last summer, I picked up six saws and a miterbox. I didn’t really “need” it because I already had two sitting on shelves at home. Still, this one had all the earmarks of an industrial-age tool—definitely the early part of the 20th century.

It spoke to me.

I could hear the whispers of craftsmen, shadows of an age long since passed, calling to me. I could feel them working grueling 14-hour days to eke out an existence in depression-era America. I was in a trance. The only thing I liked more than the history oozing from its patinaed steel was the $7.00 price tag. “You’re coming with me,” I muttered.

Once I had it home, I took a closer look.

P2-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found backP1-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found front

P3-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found top

 

P4-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found bottom

P5-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found detail collage

A brand new 20th-century manufacturer…to me at least.

When I first inspected the box, I couldn’t discern its pedigree. But after some initial rust removal, a maker’s mark emerged.

P6-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found detail-TWO collage

Goodell Manufacturing Co. Hmm. I’ve heard of Goodell-Pratt, but what’s this other company?

From what little I could glean from online sources, Goodell Manufacturing Co. was established in 1902 by Henry Goodell along with his son-in-law, Perley Fay. The humble affair manufactured miter boxes and drill chucks in a quaint one-building factory.

P17-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory

After Goodell’s death in 1923, William Pratt, the president of Goodell-Pratt, assumed the presidency of Goodell Manufacturing Co. Seven years later, the company passed into history with its acquisition by Goodell-Pratt in 1930.

Dating my miterbox
The front saw guide has an inscription “PATD. FEB. 9, 1904.” That tells me this specimen rolled out off the assembly line at least two years after the company was formed.

However, the 1904 patent illustrates sliding bar grooves that have flat bottoms.

P18-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-Flat-bottomed slides

P19-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-Flat-bottomed slide patent

My miterbox, by contrast, features a V-shaped sliding bar groove.

P21-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-V-bottomed slide picture

P20-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-V-bottomed slide patent

That’s consistent with Patent, 1,517,706 originally filed, January 27, 1923. So I would date my box to between 1922-1930.

Having determined its age, I turned my attention to making it a good user. So given the rusty, grungy condition of it, I decided to restore it.

And that is the topic of the next post.

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