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Making Hard Cider

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. – Psalm 104:14-15

With Aaron’s help, I made a video about the making of a batch of hard cider.  It can be found on YouTube.  I’ve added some notes on the cider making process below that wouldn’t fit in the video.

After adding the yeast, I realized that I’d forgotten to add the pectic enzymes.  This helps the pectin in the cider to settle and makes for a very clear batch of cider.  Without it, this batch of cider is a little cloudier than previous batches of cider I’ve made.  However, the cranberry juice I added makes it so it really isn’t noticeable, and since there is no taste difference, I don’t miss it in this batch at all.

I really like the addition of the cranberry juice.  It adds a brightness to the cider that I really enjoy.

Sanitizing is done every time the various containers and tools are brought out.  I didn’t show all of it in the video, but make sure to sanitize something before you use it.  Every time.

It seems I didn’t add enough potassium sorbate after all.  If you look on the counter at that point in the video, you can see the potassium sorbate I spilled everywhere.  I did add more after I spilled, but I seem to still have undershot.  After sitting for a few weeks, some of the bottles are very carbonated.  One was to the point that just opening it made cider shoot all over the table and me.

Make sure to look up the amount you should be adding if you make cider with real fermentable sugars.  To avoid this problem altogether, xylitol is usually used because it will not ferment.  However, xylitol does not agree with me in anything over very very small amounts, so I’m trying to avoid using it at this point.

The clip at the end of the video is entirely Aaron’s fault.  :)

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Milling Firewood

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

8" Grinder
8″ Grinder
The Thursday before Independence Day a post popped up on the local Facebook group about a tool sale. Always interested in a good deal on tools and the fact it was just a couple miles down the road I hopped in the truck to see what was there. There were some nice tools, in fact I picked up an eight inch grinder. What really caught my eye while looking around was the neatly stacked firewood behind a number of tools in the barn. From the ends I could see that a number of pieces of maple were spalted. And several pieces seemed like they would produce enough wood to be usable in smaller projects. Especially pens which Elizabeth has been showing a lot of interest in turning. The woman (and her son) who were selling the tools graciously allowed me to buy some of the pieces of firewood and I loaded them up into the back of the truck.

Spalted Maple Firewood
Spalted Maple Firewood

I brought in a couple pieces of the wood into the shop. Since I don’t have a moisture meter I figured I would try a couple of the pieces and see how they react. I didn’t want to cut up everything and find out they all curl and twist. It turns out it is a good thing I didn’t go too wild milling it all up as there is still enough moisture in the wood that it will cup and twist as it dries. Though there are a couple tricks to deal with that, like microwaving the thinner pieces at lower powers for a while.

Firewood on the Jointer
Firewood on the Jointer
The first step to milling is getting a couple decent reference edges. For that I brought the wood over to the jointer and removed the blade guard. This is not suggested behavior, but I’ve found when more or less free-handing like this the guard just gets into the way. I started with the heartwood and holding the log so the outer part of the log was mostly level to the bed of the jointer. Next I needed a reference edge 90º to the bottom and rotated the log. This edge does not need to be the entire edge as it is only going to be used as a reference surface on the bandsaw table in the next step.
Rough Reference Edge
Rough Reference Edge
So rather than removing a ton of extra material as wood chips I will still get a decent portion of the log as usable material. Trying to minimize waste is essential to getting the most usable lumber out of the logs.

The heartwood of the log does not have any spalting through it so it really isn’t as desirable for my purposes. If you were going to be milling up some wood that you would otherwise not have access to or wanted more of the wood, you could obviously choose to skip this next step. I removed the heartwood by cutting with the log on the rough reference edge on the surface of the bandsaw table. This left me with the remainder of the log having quite a bit of spalting throughout.

Ripping Parallel Edges
Ripping Parallel Edges
I then turned the log 90º to rip the rough edge parallel to the partially cleaned up edge from the jointer. This revealed what I figured would be the case, that a line of spalting would separate the darker heartwood of the tree from an outer lighter sap wood which head been weakened from the mold colonies. I could see some of that along the ends of the logs, but it was nice to see that it would carry through both edges.

Removed Bark Edge
Removed Bark Edge
Removing the bark edge is the next step. This worked out really well since I had tried to make the bottom about as parallel as possible to the outer edge of the log. Since the sap wood was quite a bit softer, not quite to the punky state that some spalted wood gets, it cut very easily. The rest of the cuts I went nice and slow with to get the best cut I could manage, this one was about half the time. The outer edge did not show much of the lines of the mold colonies. This makes sense since the edges will likely not be near the surface of the log.

At this point I have a four sided square log. One of the tougher parts of this step is trying to imagine what you might find within the wood. In my case I took one of the edges and cut about a 5″ portion off the end with the miter saw to make a small bandsaw box. With the remaining section I ripped two small boards about 7/8″ thick in a quarter sawn fashion. This gave me the two book matched pieces which I will turn into a pen box. Additionally I left another piece together which was a couple inches square and about 9″ long, which I will probably try turning either a goblet or candlestick. Some additional pieces were used to make pen blanks for my wife to make some pens.

Usable Material from Log
Usable Material from Log
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Carbide Tip Lathe Tools

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! – Isaiah 10:15

Back in May my folks picked up a lathe for my birthday and Christmas. My wife has expressed interest in turning so for Mother’s Day I picked up a pen turning kit with which she turned her first pen. One of the things she discovered was that turning the burl with the high speed steel lathe tools was… less than effective. So in the end I can’t give her a less than effective Mother’s Day gift so something must be done. We borrowed my father’s carbide lathe tool so she could finish up the pan and it worked great.

There are two major components to carbide tip lathe tools, the metal bar the carbide tip mounts into and a handle. I suppose you could get away with one, just using a bar, but that would seem like a shame since you are presumably making beautiful items with the tool on the lathe and making a nice looking handle really isn’t that much work.

I used 1/2″ square and round steel bars. Each of the metal bars were cut down to about 12″ in length. At the bench grinder I ground away a rabbet about the thickness of one of the carbide cutters about 3/4″ down the length of the bar. Then using a file I cleaned up the rabbet to make a flat mounting surface. The bar was then mounted in a vice at the drill press to have a hole drilled to tap for a machine screw to mount the cutter. The machine screws needed a small amount of counter sinking so the hole was followed up with a wider drill bit just below the surface of the rabbet.

Tapping the hole is a bit of an art form. As you screw the tap into the hole small bits of the metal come off the walls of the hole which gum up the gullets of the tap. So you can only take a couple turns before the tap will just break off if you don’t reverse the cutting and clean out the gullets. A little machine oil helps keep things going mostly smoothly. Each hole took several minutes to tap since it took 5-8 times of screwing the tap in and reversing it to clear out the gullets. Testing each of the holes after tapping was also necessary to make sure that the threads engaged correctly.

After the holes were tapped the nose of the tool then needed to be ground back. Back at the bench grinder the tip is rounded so that then cutters will engage the wood without having the material on the lathe hitting the nose of the tool. Also, for smaller cutters it was necessary to grind back nearly all the way to the counter sink. But make sure you leave a complete flat surface for the cutter to rest on when tightened into the tool.

I rummaged through the scrap bin for small pieces which could be machined down to 3/4″ and about 12″ long. Then I matched the pieces I had remaining into groups of 2 matching pairs. Each pair was glued up to make a 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ half of a blank. Then each of the halves was hand planed flat so that it would join smoothly with the other half of the blank.

At the router table a dado was just slightly oversized into both halves of the blank about 4″ long. When the two faces were then placed against each other a bar could slide into the square hole and the bar was snug. The two halves were then glued together using a bar slid into the hole for alignment. Then removed once the clamps were applied.

Once the glue was dried a 1/2″ plug was created and cut flush with the end of the blank. This plug would be used on the tail stock side of the lathe to center the handle. The handled was then turned round at about 700 rpm. Once round the lathe was turned up to about 1500 rpm. By the tail stock a tenon for the ferrule was cut about 3/4″ long. Then the rest of the handle was shaped. Most of the handles wound up with a bulb on the end and another bulb around the ferrule. The last one was shaped with a slight taper from the back to front for about 2/3 the length and then widened slightly for the last bit up to the ferrule, which is a preferred shape in my hands.

I had a couple 3/4″ copper pipe fittings which I cut in half on the lathe. I turned a quick 3/4″ dowel and used one of the carbide cutters to cut the fitting in half. At least that was the cleanest method I came up with without having a pipe cutter to use.

Assembly was done with epoxy. The epoxy was mixed and a little spatulaed down the hole in the handle. The bar was scored a couple times with a file and epoxy smeared on it and the bar was slid into the hole. Finally a little bit of epoxy was applied to the wood on the ferrule and the copper ferrule slid into place. The whole assembly was then clamped together and left to cure.

Due to the excessive amounts of epoxy all over the place I had to use an old chisel to scrap it off the bars. Then I used a file to file the epoxy off of the ferrule, which was good, since they looked much better after being evenly filed. And the handles themselves were re-sanded to 600 grit because of the epoxy all over those. Finally boiled linseed oil was used to finish the handles and they were hung up and left to dry.

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Settlers of Catan

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Summers Woodworking hosted the 3rd Annual 2×4 Challenge Contest this year, which is basically a challenge to make something out of an 8′ framing 2×4. A number of youtube woodworkers enter the challenge by creatively designing and creating an interesting project with that limitation and each year so far the entries have been impressive. This is the first year I’ve entered, hopefully with an entertaining and fun build for people to enjoy.

In college a friend introduced me to the game Settlers of Catan. It was one of the first euro-style games that became pretty popular in the US and for good reason. It is very well balanced and a style of game which keeps all players engaged from start to finish. My friend and I are competitive to say the least, cut throat and back-stabby might be a better description. My girlfriend at the time (and now wife) at the time often was often manipulated into turning the tide in games where it was coming down to either him or I winning, so she really got tired of playing and since I haven’t played the much at all. But out of respect for the game, I thought it might be fun to enter the 2×4 challenge with a build of the game.

I will cover the hardest technical hurdle to pull off this build: making a satisfactory card for all of the resource cards in the game. I’ve seen others try different ideas, but mostly those involved re-sawing on a bandsaw and winding up with a fairly rigid card. My goal was something closer to a playing card. During April I prototyped the idea with some shavings from the Puzzle Picture Frame panel glue up and eventually moved to pine 2×4.

The first issue that had to be addressed was material. I started with some .001″ shavings of maple. The shavings themselves were curled and ripply, so I used an iron to smooth them out. This worked acceptably well for the most part, but the really thin shavings just did not hold flat very well and the ripple would return with humidity. I adjusted the plane to .005″ and took some shavings off of some scrap 2×4 in the shop. These would start to shatter as I uncurled them which was a show stopper. I then came up with the idea of dampening the wood before ironing it. This worked great as the wood would absorb the water and soften up and allow me to uncurl it before pressing it with an iron. Issue #1 solved.

The shavings themselves were not sufficiently stable to use for cards and could break or chip easily. Laminating up the now ironed shavings was the next tricky aspect to address.

I thinned out some wood glue and brushed it on to each side of a shaving and offset the joints to make a 2 layer sheet of shavings. I spread this sheet out between a top and bottom layer of wax paper and pressed it between two sheets of glass. The glass itself was about 5/8″ thick and over a foot wide and even longer. Not sure how long the setup should cure, I left it for two days. After two days the shavings were still damp and the glue had not cured. I took the top layer of wax paper off to allow it air to dry. Once it was dry the shavings were as stuck to the wax paper as they were themselves. Not going to work.

Another iteration was attempted with a heavy cut of shellac. This also proved a failure when pressed between the sheets of glass as the shellac would not cure. When removing the weight of glass and the top sheet of wax paper the sheet of shaving did cure. However without being pressed together the shavings curled at the edges and did not bind between the upper and lower strips. All I got out of it were some shavings with shellac. This was attempted again with lacquer with similar results. Lesson: finishes are not glue.

A final attempt before looking at an epoxy, I stumbled upon contact cement. Interestingly you need to provide your birthday when purchasing contact cement. I’ve not been carded more for buying contact cement than alcohol. A thin film of contact cement was applied to a single side of a shaving. Then each shaving was lined up next to each other with a slight overlap. A top layer was then laid out on top of the previous with a thin layer of contact cement. Then the wax paper and glass treatment. I left it to cure overnight and in the morning we had success. The edges of the sheet was frayed, but the over all integrity of the sheets were sufficient for card stock. Due to the overlapping at the seems a quick sanding knocked those down into a serviceable surface to be able to do laser toner transfers.

Much of the rest of the project was fairly straight forward to accomplish and is covered in the video. A fair bit of it is just standard woodworking with a the usual challenges. The dyeing of the components is something featured in the Puzzle Piece Frames video with a slight variation. And the making of the dice is covered also in this video with the making of the pips perhaps one of the most fun parts of the build.

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