• More and more sawdust

    Posted by Steve on Sat, 06/09/2007 - 9:28pm

    With a challenging software project winding up, the top floor reno winding down and my tools reunited with their friends in the basement, it was time to turn my attention to the crime scene that used to be my shop. This cleaning has to last several months because it will probably be that long before I'll be using the tools again.

    I don't mind working in a messy environment but I can't start a new project unless everything is neat and tidy, with every tool in its proper place, the table saw waxed, stationary tools aligned, blades sharpened, etc. This is my operating room, after all, and you don't open up a new patient with the last one's blood still on the walls.

    Today was the marathon cleanup of the past nine months of mayhem. It actually began last night because I needed to catch this morning's garbage pickup. Did I mention how much the Sanitation guys love me? They even autographed one of my garbage cans a few years ago, scrawling "Balls!" on it with black magic marker.

    Out went four large garbage cans of wood scraps, some of it legacy leftovers from earlier renovation projects -- a lot of it short pieces of crown moulding and casing that had been piling up for six years. I'm all done with the windows and doors so out it went. With it went a bunch of drywall scraps, most of it damaged in a small basement flood last year. This morning I saw that I'd gained about 40 square feet of usable shop space! That motivated me on a minimalist mission to get rid of more junk. I had the urge to purge. A few hours later, I had six more full garbage bags. Workshop bulimia!

    On these cleanup safaris, the rock star in the shop is the central vacuum. My Vacuflo way outperforms any shop vac and, more importantly, it doesn't throw fine dust back into the room nor does it stir it up. It's all ventilated outside under the back deck. In fact, despite what the snobs say on rec.woodworking it works well enough to double as my dust collection system. I have dust outlets on most of my tools which plug into vacuum ports in the ceiling.

    Today was my personal record: 11 gallons of sawdust and other debris sucked up by the vac. As I said, it was a mess.

    One thing I want to install in the shop are speakers so I can pipe in XM radio from the living room DirecTV. I only watch TV in bed so that satellite box is pretty much dedicated to XM's Deep Tracks station fourteen hours a day.

    I've got a blaster in the shop that's stuck (literally and sadly) on Q104.3, NYC's oldies station which seems to believe that people want to hear "Touch Me" by the Doors five times a day, every day, year in, year out. If an alien landed here and only had "the Q" to listen to he'd think that humanity was so artistically devoid that it only managed to create a hundred or so songs over the past forty years. And that a lot of them suck. Sorry, but who nominated Meatloaf, Kiss, Styx and the Steve Miller Band for history's musical time capsule? Finally, to complete my rant, didn't they teach these guys in DJ school about another pop phenomenon in the 60s called Motown?

    I completed building and installing the drawers in the master bedroom cabinet. There's not much to show there. I was going to go fancy on this with dovetailed joints and poplar drawers but decided to go with birch ply for stability. Dovetails don't look very good on plywood, even if you can manage to hammer them together without separating the plies, so I used rabbeted joints made on my radial arm saw with a dado blade. I used 1/2" birch ply on the bottom because these are big, deep drawers and I don't want any sag.

    This is one of the drawer faces I built. I decided to extend the carvings I did on the cabinet's upper rails to the drawer fronts. These are a different design though. I hope that cabinet's not going to look too much like "hey, look what I can do with my router!"

    Here's one of those cabinet carvings, pre-crown moulding, stain and finish. I really hope this works.

  • New Stained Glass Projects

    Posted by Steve on Tue, 12/11/2007 - 10:09pm

    I have several stained glass tasks in the queue here. Some, like the upper cabinet doors in the living room media cabinet, have been on hold since 2003. Others, like the funky stairway skylight, I've wanted to replace since the day I first saw the place.

    While stained glass construction is fairly mechanical and basically just woodworking joinery using glass and lead came, the design, templating and piecing out can be very time consuming. Most of the glass I've done here is fairly simple and angular to match the existing stained glass. But I wanted something a bit more ornamental for these new projects.

    The delay is mostly because I suck at drawing. I can muddle my way through Photoshop if I have to and I've even built a few nice web page banners using "creative appropriation" of assets conceived by others. Change a few lines, overlay a mask or two, morph a few elements and, poof, it's mine. Derivative art.

    While a Photoshop geek might be able to design stained glass using it, I ain't one of them. So I plonked down a considerable chunk of money for professional stained glass design software from Dragonfly, Glass Eye 2000. This software does everything but cut the glass for you. While it's expensive, it's less than I would pay to have just one of these projects professionally made. I'll talk more about Glass Eye in a future installment.

    Back to the project, up first are two pairs of doors for the master bedroom, technically the last piece of the long-running master bedroom renovations. One pair is for the bedroom cabinet I built last year and the other is for a window from the bedroom into the hallway. The latter was a redundant doorway after I had merged two bedrooms into one. I decided to put a window in that opening to bring natural light into what would otherwise be a dark section of hallway.

    Measurements done, the first thing I have to do is construct empty frames for those doors. It will be made from red oak (of course) -- standard 1" stock ripped to 2-1/2". For all practical purposes, I'll be constructing them like a raised panel cabinet door. But instead of a raised wood panel I'll use a fabricated stained glass panel. There's a bit more to it than that, but later for that as well.

    So it's downstairs to the shop to make the blanks for those doors. These were ripped from a couple of 1x6s I picked up at Lowes last summer. I wanted to give them a few months to season in the shop to make sure there weren't going to be any issues with twisting or warping. Believe it or not, the Brooklyn Lowes carries nicer red oak stock than our local hardwood yards. The boards were run through a surface planer to make sure they were of identical thickness. This is an important step for rail and stile construction. Then it was on to the chop saw to cut for length, then the table saw to rip it to width.

    After the blanks were cut it was on to the router table. Paneled cabinet doors usually employ two stiles (the vertical perimeter members) and two rails (the horizontal members). Sometimes those rails and stiles have architectural beading. This is achieved by two bits, appropriately called a rail and stile set.

    Why two bits? After all, cabinet beading looks like it could be done with just one. Actually, it is. The second bit cuts a negative profile of the first bit. It's used on the ends of the rails so they can fit snugly inside the stiles, something like a tenon. It creates a large glue surface and a very strong corner.

    The trick with rail and stile sets is making sure that they (a) cut a deep enough recess for the panel and (b) they're aligned to each other. What I do is rip several pieces of scrap plywood and use them to set the router depth. While experience and eyeballing will get you in the ballpark, it's still pretty much of a trial and error process. Needless to say, when you've got the router adjusted for a bit you should make all your cuts that use that bit.

    A few more tricks:
    • It can be tough to visualize the profile that a complex router bit will cut so label your bits with a Sharpie. I have my rail/stile bits labeled, "Lateral"/"End". I have three rail/stile sets so I've also got them color coded.
    • Make cabinet doors about 1/8" over-sized in both planes. A little trim on the table saw will gives you a smooth joint. This can also save your butt in case you slip up and build the doors slightly out of square (eh, it happens).
    • It's almost unavoidable that there will be some tear-out from the end grain bit. You can mitigate this by doing your end cuts first, working slowly and keeping the router RPMs high. But if it happens, don't worry about it. You can trim off the "hair" later with a utility knife.

    Here are the blanks with the lateral cuts.

    Here they are with the end cuts.

    And here's a dry fit of the joints.

    Finally, here's the assembly. I like to use Bessey K-Clamps for things like this because adjusting tension on the clamps helps bring the fabrication into square. You can test for square by measuring diagonal corners but on smaller assemblies like this I prefer to use a rafting square. I wish I had more room in the shop for a real assembly table. But then I'd probably want a hydraulic clamping system.

    "HEY! You forgot to put in the panel, dummy!"

    As I said, this is a little different than building a raised panel door. The problem is that while the edge channel on the stained glass panel will just fit into the 3/16" dado left by the router bit for the raised panel, once I solder it it won't. I'll have to whack out the thin backing lip with a chisel to insert the panel, then add a moulding detail to hold it in place. This actually works out better because the panel can be removed for repair later.

    I have one more set of cabinet doors to make with a different beading and a frame for the bathroom skylight. My next post will probably be about the Glass Works design software.

    Talk about it the Stained Glass Forum.

  • Returning to the stained glass saga...

    Posted by Steve on Sat, 08/09/2008 - 1:33pm

    Let's see. I finished painting the back wall, the tomatoes are flourishing, I lost 20 pounds... I've managed to exhaust all my excuses for not starting another project. Rather, I'm returning to a project I said I was going to have done by now.

    This marathon stained glass project breaks down to six sub-projects, or milestones in TechnoSpeak:
    1. Two door panels for the master BR bureau.
    2. Two window panels for the master BR hallway window.
    3. Two upper door panels for the LR home entertainment unit.
    4. Skylight over the staircase.
    5. Bathroom skylight.
    6. Three sealed light boxes for the back yard fence.

    Up first, are the bureau panels. I'm not sure if I ever posted a pic of the completed bureau but that was another tail dragger. I think the finished doors sat against the wall for six months before I hung them. Yes, another fine example of HSC: Home Stretch Complacency.

    Anyway, here it is, with my large cache of Nantucket and motorcycle teeshirts. Each stained glass panel is 11"x31". And here's what they'll look like, as designed in GlassEye 2000.

    GlassEye is an amazing piece of software. I'm totally (like totally) sold on it. But one of the things it doesn't do is impart judgment on the part of the operator. My concern with this design is that it might be a little too detailed for such a relatively small area. This will be a lead came, not copper foil, job so at the very least I'm probably going to need to use a maximum of 3/16" face came. I hope Albert Stained Glass carries it. Shipping lead tends to get expensive.

    Some of the cuts are way too tricky for a wheel glass cutter, even with a grinder. So I did what I always do to kick myself out of an HSC stupor. I bought a new tool.

    It's a glass bandsaw, a Gryphon Omni-2 diamond wire saw. I've been wanting a glass bandsaw for a while, ever since I had to cut twelve small circles for another project. I spent an entire evening with a glass grinder doing those. YGlass.com had it on sale with a coupon for three replacement diamond blades so I bit.

    The next step is acquiring the materials. Albert has a pretty decent stock of art glass on hand so I'm hoping I can find something to approximate these colors and textures. GlassEye has a large database of commercially available glass but I doubt that any local vendor carries more than a tiny subset of it.

    Talk about it the Stained Glass Forum.

  • "George is gettin' frustrated...!"

    Posted by Steve on Sun, 08/10/2008 - 7:02pm

    The saga continues on the stained glass design for the master bedroom bureau. I created two more designs (below) that look nice but seem inappropriate for this piece.

    I'm beginning to think that stained glass in general is too heavy for this cabinet. I considered using cane instead except my cat would make short work of that. Trixie hops up on the window sill, opens the sock drawer and sleeps in there. Giving her a climbing wall would be a mistake.

    Then I remembered something I've seen in old movies: wire glass. You see it a lot in Hollywood set depictions of judge's offices. It's like chicken wire safety glass except the wire is more decorative and usually made of brass. I've never actually seen this stuff in real life so I don't know if it's an actual product or something you sandwich between two panes of glass. All I know is that I spent a fruitless afternoon Googling for it. If you ever need to know about glass coat hangers or glass-impregnated wire, ask me.

    Does anyone know what this stuff is called and, better, where I can find it?

    Anyway, the DA on the TV show "Law & Order" has the glass I'm talking about on his law book cabinet. On that note, I ripped one of the designs below from an old John Grisham movie, "The Chamber", last night. The movie kinda sucked but there was a scene in a court house with a stained glass door behind the actors. I hit Pause on Tivo and copied it in GlassEye. It's the whitish design. Nice, but too angular for the cabinet.

    I get a lot of design ideas from TV and movies. The paver design in my back yard was stolen from the Dudley Moore movie, "Arthur". My window trim formula was ripped from "Once Upon A Time In America". It's not that I watch a lot of TV just that I'm a set design freak. In an earlier career I apprenticed as a film set carpenter and gained an appreciation for the art. Some of my favorite movies aren't great movies. It's because their period set decorations blew me away -- films like "Victor, Victoria", "Blade Runner", "Practical Magic" and "Moonstruck".

    Finally, the last two stained glass candidates I designed with GlassEye 2000. I'm not sure why they're rendering in different sizes. Both are 11"x31".

    Talk about it the Stained Glass Forum.

  • We have a winner

    Posted by Steve on Sun, 08/17/2008 - 11:45pm

    Yesterday was a rough one for me. For those who keep up to date here (there are a few of you and I really appreciate it), you know why.

    But today was a new day and, in a weird way, I figured I owed it to my buddy Chopper to get this place one step closer to completion. After all, this was his home too. So I returned (again) to the stained glass. While I have five stained glass projects ahead of me, at least the design of ONE of them is finally locked in. What did that take me? Sixteen months? I can't wait to post about the completion of this project, presuming blogs are still around in 2015.

    A lot of the credit for settling on the design goes to the folks on Old House Web forums and to a couple of people on the forum at Brownstoner.com. I was reaching the point of cognitive overload, scratching my head about whether stained glass even worked for that cabinet. I was getting ready to slap a couple of sheets of plywood in those doors until one of the OHW users, probably tired of reading my bellyaching about it, took one of the designs and 'shopped it into a photo of that cabinet.

    Pretty slick, eh? Why didn't I think of doing that? I was blown away by how he got the aspect of the glass correct but he's an art director for a television station so he probably spends his whole day in Photoshop blurring out license plates and obscuring the faces of mob witnesses. That picture sold me. That was the design.

    Color-wise though, something didn't look right about it. It was the green. While it looks great in context with the cabinet, there's no green anywhere else in the room and I've been kinda hardcore about wanting to have just two main colors in the master bedroom: the stained oak, which is repeated in the floor and furniture, and the wedgewood blue, which is repeated in the window shades and (soon) the duvet cover on the bed. So I went back to GlassEye and my trusty ColorPic utility and tried to make it so it wouldn't introduce a new color pallette to the room. I still like the first cabinet rendition a little better by itself but I'm thinking "big picture" here.

    Here was my considerably less skillful rendering of the same design, different colors. I think the original colors work best with the cabinet but these work best in context with the room they'll be living in. Or maybe I'm full of shit. Incidentally, the white glass isn't white. It's opaque clear glass. That's just how it renders in GlassEye.

    Got your own opinion? I added a poll to the right side navigation menu.

    Anyway, I printed out the base template, cut template and the materials list. All I have to do is hit Albert Stained Glass in Park Slope to get started on it.

    The glass bandsaw will be delivered tomorrow so I'm looking forward to playing with a new tool, which reminds me that I need a new diamond grinder replacement.

    I need to be careful with my finances for the next few months though because even though Chopper didn't make it, his vet bills are still very much alive: almost $6,000. Does anyone else remember when vet bills, and dentist bills for that matter, used to be almost out of pocket? What's next? $500 chiropractic adjustments?

    I think I need to hit a kill shelter this week and rescue an orange kitten. I'll probably never find another cat with Chopper's personality but I can try.

    Talk about it the Stained Glass Forum.