Turning a Hollow Form and Vase

My father bought a few burls while on a trip to Oregon and brought them to my shop about 2 months ago.  One of the burls was an odd “L” shaped piece of madrone.  I cut the ends off to get a rectangular block leaving 2 burl caps to play with.  Once I made the first slice at the bandsaw I noticed there were worm tracks throughout the block.  Initially I was disappointed and apprehensive as I didn’t want a potential outbreak of bugs eating my lumber stash so moved the burls outside to monitor the worm activity.

A c0uple weeks later, I took the small burl caps and decided to turn one into a small 5″ vase and the other into a small spherical hollow form.  I mounted a blank to a waste block in the chuck with hot melt glue and pressed it into place with the tail stock.  Once the glue was cool and set I began the initial shaping of the outside form.  The video shows my process for shaping the outside.


When I reached the desired shape of the form, I sanded through the grits starting with 150 grit and finishing with 600.  Then I drilled a hole in the center to establish the depth of the form.  I drew an image, seen below, though not the actual shape of the form I made, that shows the series of cuts to hollow the small vessel.

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I start the cuts at the center of the edge of the drilled hole and pull the scraper/gouge toward the outside making single smooth cuts.  As the form is hollowed further I switch to the bent hollowing tool and make push cuts in and toward the center.  Hollowing is much different than bowl turning as you can’t typically see what you are doing and all the cuts are done by feel.  Surprisingly, you can tell if there are ridges and bumps as the scraper will have some resistance as you level them out.  The final cut should be made with a scraper from the opening to the bottom of the form.

The vase was similar only more simply made.

To finish the pieces I used a wipe on Danish Oil.  The first coat was allowed to dry then sanded off completely and reapplied.  This helps to fill the grain for a very smooth surface.  Each subsequent coat was sanded with 600 grit and reapplied for a total of 5 coats.  After the final coat had cured, I buffed the surface with a 5,000 grit automotive sanding pad to achieve a satin shine.



Though I am not finished working on these pieces one could call them done.  I am going to further this project by preparing the insides for metal leaf, either copper or dutch metal (imitation gold).  But that is a topic for another day.


My Polyurethane Varnish Technique

The video below is a guide to follow for any satin oil polyurethane varnish application so I will simply list the items you will need to do what you will see in the video tutorial.  All items are affiliate links.

Oil Finish:

Danish Oil, Tung Oil, Boiled Linseed Oil, or Teak Oil (for outdoor applications)

Gloss Oil Polyurethane (Minwax)

Satin Oil Polyurethane (General Finishes Arm-R-Seal)


Paint Filters


Cotton Applicators


Mineral Oil

Mineral Spirits

Sand Paper/Pads: 320, 400, 600, 1200, 3000, 5000

DIY Hollowing Tool

A few years ago, I bought a router from Harbor Freight (HF) to use in my horizontal mortiser, which I still need to make.  The router came with a fence and the rails were removable.  Ultimately, I discarded the router base and all the accessories except for the two rails for the fence.  I felt there was some sort of purpose for them but didn’t know what at that time.

Smash cut 2 years later, I just finished gluing up my daughter’s headboard panel and had time to kill in the shop as it was still early (10 pm).  I saw one of the bars from the HF router sitting on my counter (yes, 2 years later it was still sitting on my counter) so I picked it up and decided it would make a good hollowing tool.  Yes, I have ADD but have not been clinically tested.

With my metal vice and a MAP/Pro torch I began heating and bending the shape of the hollowing tool.  There are two types to make.  One with a slight bend for initial hollowing and one with a more aggressive bend for final hollowing.  I chose the latter for this one.

After bending the shape I then ground the cutting end and heat treated the steel to harden and temper it.  While the steel was in the oven tempering I made the handle from a scrap piece of maple and a 3/4″ copper cap.  Didn’t want to waste time.

When the steel cooled I inserted it into the handle, spray painted it black, and touched up the top and the bevel at the grinder (15-20 degrees) and with fine sandpaper.  It was then time to see how the tool worked.  Surprisingly it worked well and I was happy with the result.  I will be using this tool to make more small hollow forms in the future.

DIY Kid’s Workbench with Downloadable Plan

My son, Vinny, has been asking me to help him make his own workbench for a while now.  Since Father’s Day was approaching we made an agreement that he could come out in the shop and build his bench with my help on that day.  As an aside, I milled and cut all the parts to final dimension before we began the build.

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There is a plan you can purchase (see sidebar) and a video (below) that you can use as an overview on how the bench goes together.  It will take about a day to complete while you wait for glue to dry and if you decide to mill all the material the same day.

As a side note, I made Vinny’s bench with a split in the top for a planing stop and tool rack.  If you want a solid top be sure to measure the width of the legs and make the top pieces wide enough to span that distance.

The result is a nice bench for your apprentice to use for a few years and when he outgrows it you can use it as either a saw bench or a place to sit on your patio.


Shop AC Installation, Part 2: The Insulation Installation

In part 1 of this series, I outlined what weather stripping product I used to seal my garage door.  Now it is time to insulate the oven, I mean, garage door for less than $150.  The afternoon sun beats down on the door as it faces west.  The heat that radiates from the inside of the door is a constant reminder, or question, about my reasoning for living in a desert.

Let me get to the work.  First, I needed to choose a type of insulation for the garage door.  There are kits available for garage doors but they are expensive, coming in at about $75 per box, which contains enough insulation for a single bay door.  That would cost over $150 for my double bay door.  Then there is the fiberglass insulation that is wrapped in paper, or a paper-like material.  These are usually pre-fit to the door panels or are cut to size and fixed to the door with “pins.”  Not wanting my garage door to look like a fluffy 1970’s headboard with buttons, I chose to pass on those kits.  4′ x 8′ rigid insulation sheets seemed to be the best option.  These come in a variety of thicknesses from 3/4″ – 2″ and some have a radiant “foil” side and a plain white “styrofoam” side.  My door panels are 1-3/4″ deep so I chose to buy 1-1/2″ thick sheets.  The R-rating, or value, is next to consider.  This doesn’t mean the inanimate sheets will start swearing at you randomly (though they should if you do stupid things in your shop).  The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance.  The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.  These ratings are also used with camping mats to insulate your body from the ground.  The inexpensive rigid foam insulation comes in at just over $15 for a 4′ x 8′ sheet and has an R-value of 5.78, which is better than nothing.  However, the polyisocyanurate sheets have an R-value of 9.4 and cost roughly $10 more than the former rigid insulation.  This was clearly the winner, thanks to Dyami Plotke for the suggestion.  Looking back at the cost of the kits ($150) and the cost of 4 sheets of the polyisocyanurate insulation at $26/sheet that is a savings of $46, which was spent on other materials.

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The down side of these sheets is that both faces are covered with the “foil” lining.  I didn’t want a reflective surface in the shop, for filming purposes, so I decided to paint the inside face white.  This was done with a rattle can of Rust-oleum Universal Spray Paint (affiliate link).  This stuff sprays on easy, thanks to its trigger but it didn’t last long.  I needed a case (6 cans) which cost me $35 and that covered all the panels with $11 to spare.

I cut the sheets in half to be more manageable at the table saw and then painted the surfaces.  Once dry, the sheets were ripped to width and cross cut to final length.  Half of the door had different length panels so keep that in mind.

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Now there are several different ways to install these sheets.  One is to cut them slightly oversized and rabbet the ends and sides to fit the door panel frames.  Another is to cut the slightly oversized and bevel the edges to allow you to slip them into place.  I used both and found both to be equally as difficult as they were annoying to install.  One thing I did to utilize the off cuts of insulation was to put the strips in the deep sides of the frames.

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After some serious finagling I got the sheets to fit into the frames and the door completely insulated.  I won’t lie.  It was a lot of work and it took a full day.  And at 115 degrees outside and 108 inside the shop it wasn’t pleasant but the end goal is in sight…A/C.


Make a Scratch Stock

The Nicholson bench I will be building in the coming months require a profile on the edges of the ship lapped boards for the shelf.  Well, it isn’t required but I like the detail it will add to the bench so I am going to make it a requirement.  I want to build the bench with mostly hand tools and I don’t have any moulding planes so the solution is the scratch stock.  There are plans available for this and the Nicholson bench on the sidebar.

I searched the ether for a few minutes and finally came to a scratch stock style that I liked as it looked comfortable in the hands and functional for different sized cutters.  So the build began.

I have a sizeable scrap bin in my shop (as most may) and I rummaged through it looking for something that would pair well with brass.  I found a perfect sized piece of rift sawn 8/4 walnut I had left over from a coffee table build but it had a good deal of sapwood in it.  Not a problem as Dark Walnut Danish Oil blends it fairly well with the heartwood.

I pulled out 3 washers, 3 threaded inserts, and 3 brass knurled thumb screws to use as the holding power.  Some of the designs I saw simply used machine bolts and nuts that you tighten with a Philips driver each time you need to change the cutters.  I wanted something a bit faster and stylish, naturally.

To start, I sliced a 1/4″ off the material at the band saw and set it aside.  At the drill press, I bored a few 3/8″ diameter holes 1/2″ deep for the threaded inserts.  Changing out the drill bit for a 1/4″ bit, I bored the holes through until the brad point exited the other side.  Flipping the piece over and finishing the hole so I didn’t get any blow out.  I used a 1/2″ bit to mark the countersink for the washers.  Finally, I used a 1/2″ Forstner bit to flatten the countersink so the washers wouldn’t bend over time.

I resawed the material in two equal parts.  Initially I cut the piece leaving 1″ at the back to hold the stock together.  This made it so I couldn’t fully tighten the thumb screws at the end completely to hold the cutter fast.

Now the inserts were driven into the 3/8″ holes.  I used a machine bolt to help drive the inserts into the stock.  The machined slots are too soft for a slotted driver and will strip so using a bolt adds the ability to use a Philips driver for extra control.  After all three inserts were in place and slightly countersunk, I glued the 1/4″ slice back on keeping the grain aligned.  After the glue was dry I cleaned it up with chisel and plane, then cut the reference faces on the stock.

The bevels on the horizontal reference surface were marked and cut.  These allow you to tilt the scratch stock for the initial cuts to establish the profile.  I cut these by hand and then cleaned them up with a chisel.  You could cut them at the bandsaw if you tilt the table.  It was just faster for me to cut these with a hand saw.

Shaping was the last order of business.  I chose to round over the corners that were to be handled and then chamfer the edges.  I used a combination of rasps for the round overs and a block plane for the chamfers.  In the end, the feel and look of the scratch stock are great.

The cutters were made from pieces of my old Wood Slicer Bandsaw Blade.  I cut the piece to length, drew a profile on the face at the corner, and used a combination of flat and round files to shape the profile.  To sharpen the the cutters you can just rub the faces on a stone as you would a marking gauge cutter.

A little of the aforementioned Danish Oil was wiped on and it was ready to go.  Simple, quick, and a good use of the scrap wood and old saw blades you may have laying around your shop.

Make a Point Tool

While at Woodworking in America 2015 I attended a class with David Marks showing his woodturnings.  He passes some tools around and one that caught my attention was the tool he referred to as the point tool.  He went on to say how to make it and I left with an idea for a new tool in my turning arsenal.

After making the brass mallet from an old machinist mallet seen here, I had a 6″ length of bar stock in my possession.  What to do with it?  Turn it into a point tool.  But it was plain mild steel.  Tools need to be more durable than mild steel to keep an edge.  I have seen plenty of videos on how to make knives from old saw blades or rail road spikes to know how to harden and temper steel so I decided to give it a shot.

So I began.  The first issue was how to get the three bevel equally around the bar stock.  The solution was within the high school subject of Geometry, triangles specifically.  The equilateral triangle has 3 congruent sides and 3 congruent angles.  There is part of the solution to my problem.  The next was finding the center.  There are different types of center in triangles: Centroid, or the center of balance in a triangle, the outcenter, the center point which a circle can circumscribe a triangle and touch each apex of the triangle, and the incenter, the center point which a circle can inscribed a triangle and be tangent to midpoints of each side.  Since I had to drill a hole for the steel rod to be fixed into the answer was simple: the incenter.  To find the incenter the intersection of the angle bisectors need to be found.  For any other triangle this isn’t as simple.  A compass needs to be used to bisect the angles.  BUT since this is an equilateral triangle, the nature of the triangle states that the angle bisectors will pass through the midpoint of the opposite sides.  Hence, all I needed was a straight edge.

Now with the incenter found I drilled a 7/16″ through hole and glued the rod into it to keep it from slipping or twisting whilst grinding the bevels.

I then started grinding slowly until the bevels were approaching the appropriate length, which was found by multiplying the diameter of the rod, 7/16, by 1.5.  So 7/16″ x 1-1/2 (or 3/2 for ease of multipying) = 21/32″.  I then drew a line on the grinding platform as a reference point for the grinding block (triangle) and finished the bevels.

Now to heat treat the steel.  Using MAP/Pro torch, I heated the 2″ of the end to 1500 degrees (when the steel turns red) and then quenched it in oil.  Water could be used but oil is better for mild steel.  Then the steel is tempered in the oven for 4 hours set to 400 degrees.  No need to dilly dally here, use this time to turn the handle.

I chose a piece of figured Maple with a copper cap as the ferrule.  I like to use caps instead of pipe because the cap covers the end grain in the handle.  I drilled a 7/16″ hole in the blank, in the cap,  and turned the tenon on the end to fit the ferrule.  The shape of the handle is entirely up to the user.  For fine detail tools I like to have a shorter handle.  This may change over time and if it does I will just remove the rod from the handle and make a longer one.  No glue on this means it can be disassembled.  It is still very snug but it can still be disassembled.

With the handle shaped, sanded, and the ferrule on, I applied the finish.  My finish of choice for most tools is a Natural Danish Oil.  It wipes on easy, brings out the figure in the wood grain, and dries quickly.

After the steel has had time to temper and cool to room temperature it could now be driven into the handle.  I put a scrap block of wood down with the point of the tool on the block and tap the handle with a dead blow mallet until it is seated.  Then I regrind the bevels and it is off to the races for this new (reclaimed steel) tool.

If you are interested in making a point tool of your own I would suggest buying a length of high speed steel (HSS) or tool steel bar stock so you can skip the tempering process.  It will also hold an edge much longer.


Shop AC Installation, Part 1

My shop conditions are great 2 months out of the year.  That is early spring (April) and late fall (October).  All the other months the heat is miserable or the cold is not glue or finish friendly.  I have tried to combat the heat (108+ degrees inside in the summer) by running fans as the added air movement makes working a little more bearable.  Sweating on my projects isn’t something I enjoy doing, though it does show what the work piece may look like when finish is applied.  For the cold months I run a ceramic heater next me but the sheer amount of space to heat is inefficient and ends up costing more on the electric bill than the warmth it offers.

Now, in the space’s current state, the weather efficiency is very bad.  I have finished walls (insulated) and a ceiling but the latter is not insulated.  Furthermore, the shop faces west with a non insulated metal garage bay door.  When the summer sun hits the garage door the heat that radiates through essentially turns the shop into an oven.

The first order of business I am taking to make the shop a comfortable working environment is to seal the garage door.  I had the foam garage door seal nailed to the side and top frames of the door but it has since dried up and become more than useless.  Time to replace it with a longer lasting seal.  Enter the vinyl seal.  This stuff looks great, is easy to install, it’s paintable (latex or oil based), will last (so “they” say) forever (who ever “they” are don’t live where I do), and it comes in 9′ lengths.  Available on Amazon here: Frost King Garage Door Side/Top Weather Seal (Affiliate link).


Step 1: Remove the old seal.  This is easily done with a claw hammer.  Just pry out the nails and toss the waste in the can.


Step 2: Close the garage door and take measurements.  The height of my garage door fame is 84″.

Step 3: Cut the weather stripping to length.  I cut a 45 degree bevel at the end that will touch the top frame.  With the garage door closed, I place the stripping against the frame with the rubber flap against the garage door and slide it so it applies a little pressure on the door.  Not too much and not too little.  It should be just enough to flex the rubber seal.

Step 4: Nail the strips to the frame.  I use an 18 gauge brad nailer with 1-1/4″ nails but a 16 gauge finish nailer would work fine too.  Some folks would even pre-drill a few through holes in the stripping and drive some nails through for an extra hold.  I just nailed the hell out of it.  It ain’t going anywhere.


Step 5: Place the top piece into position.  I left the end square as the seal will overlap with the 45 degree seal from the side.  No gap.  Hold the strip with one hand (though a helper is always good to have) and shoot the nails through the vinyl strip to hold it into place.  Work your way to the end of the strip and move the seal as needed to maintain good pressure on the door.  Nail it some more.  If the slight gap in the corner and the nail holes bother you (as they do me) just fill them with paintable caulk (I’ll be painting the house later anyhow).


Step 6: Measure the remaining distance and cut the piece to that length.  I did it that way as I didn’t want a bunch of scrap pieces by measuring the middle point of the frame and cutting to that point.  It doesn’t matter to me, it is a seal not tiling…or a boat…or a piano.  I did, however, cut the end that meets the other strip at a 30 degree angle so it would overlap the seal on the other strip.  Then  repeat Step 5.


With the door now sealed from the weather it is time to move on to the next most economical portion of this process…insulating the garage door.


Stay tuned for the next installment of the shop insulation project and AC installation.

Up Coming Bench Build-Off

The Dusty Life crew (Brian McCauley, Kyle Toth, and Myself) is hosting a Workbench building event in the late weeks of August and into September.  The event is conveniently called the Bench Build-Off.  There is a sizable list of sponsors who are pledging prizes to be given at random to several lucky builders.  You can find that list here.

Brian and I will be participating and I plan on building a 19th century Nicholson Bench.  I have drawn up a model and put together a 24 page PDF set of plans for my bench which are available here.  This bench is 8′ long 27″ wide and 31″ tall.  It features a fixed crochet on the right side, a sliding crochet on the left, and a shelf for storing your planes during a project.

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Also, I have designed a smaller version for kids if you have any apprentices running around the shop.  Plans for that are found here.  Once the kids outgrow the bench it can be used as a place to sit.

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Keep an eye out for the announcement and if you are interested in making a dedicated workbench, start planning now.

The Make it Forward Project, Part 2

This is my portion of the second edition of the Make it Forward project.  In short, it is a collaboration where 9 craftsmen and craftswomen pass a project along after adding their own work.  I contributed a hand cut dovetail box frame constructed of vertical grain douglas fir.  Now it is time to pass it on to Kyle Toth for his addition to the work that  Sam and I have done.

You can follow the Make it Forward project on Twitter @makeitforward

Follow the makers at the following links:
Sam Schiavitti – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxhBMX0MNjw
Brian McCauley – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMzsLPeyQvCcSyCRX0w9Cdg
Kyle Toth – https://www.youtube.com/user/HomedepotKt
Mike Murray – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVbL0re_pt7CqiN3CKE-J6w
Matt Cremona – https://www.youtube.com/user/mcremona
Sean O’Grady – https://twitter.com/F2_MetalWorks
Doxie Lain – https://twitter.com/ms_doxie
David Gunn – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6yWkNydj9DfGcJ4OEk1-5w