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Rikon Tune-up, Part Deux

In addition to the earlier Rikon tune-up, consisting of a new lower tire, a new 1/4″ blade (although I am likely to supplant that with a 3/8″ blade) and tweaking the guides, I also recently re-installed the original rip fence augmented by a curved single-point resawing block.  My own view of this setup is that a fixed rip fence is almost nonsensical on a bandsaw, given the almost inherent drift in the tool design.  But, a band saw that is set up to rip and resaw well is a joy to behold.

Many, many articles and videos have been made about “truing” a bandsaw’s cut.  Personally I find these a fool’s errand for the most part on a small-ish bandsaw if the end objective is to turn the bandsaw into a precision sawing machine.  Sure, I stone both sides of the new blade when it is first running after being installed, to remove any distortion/excess at the weld joint.  I also round the trailing edge of the blade with the stone while the blade is running.  These two steps increase the performance considerably, but almost never result in a cut that is perfectly parallel to a fixed fence.   One option in response to this,  which I have used, demonstrated, and even included in a video, is to cant the fence to the degree of the run out.

A single-point resawing block is a preferable solution, IMHO.  Somewhere along the line I picked up a Kreg brand block and had it available to affix it to the original rip fence as illustrated.

The beauty of the Rikon fence design is that I can have one side outfitted with a curved single point block and leave the other side with a half fence, which is also pretty usable (I have found that anything longer is useless on a band saw).  I do not mind using both sides of the fence and thus cutting in two different orientations, one on the right side of the fence and one on the left side.

BTW, I notice that both Woodcraft and Highland have these little beauties on sale right now.

Not A Novel Virus, But A Novel Tool

Part of my process of refining the raw “slum gum” unfiltered beeswax from the honey factory delivered in a case of roughly 6-inch thick slabs from the bottom of a five gallon bucket, involves a step wherein the coarsely filtered molten beeswax/hot water slurry (removing the bee bodies and gross debris) is poured through fine pasta strainer into a cake pan and allowed to cool undisturbed.

After cooling and decanting the water with any remaining water soluble adulterant, I am left with a big block of beeswax with a fairly uniform layer of sediment on the bottom face of the block.  This needs to be removed before moving on to the next step of filtering.

Normally I try to time the scraping off step for when the block of wax has cooled enough to be fairly solid, but still warm enough to be scraped easily with a large knife.  There are times, however, when I do not get to this step soon enough and the block of wax with its accretions hardens fully.  And with enough cold, it can get pretty hard.  Scraping this is not impossible but it is some hard work when I am doing several of them at once.

Recently I had a great idea while rummaging through my “Giant Files” drawer and pulled out this little curved Surform tool.  I found that for a fully hardened block, even one that is chilled and rock hard, it removes the precipitant easily and quickly.

That smack is the sound of my pam striking my forehead.  Usually in  just a minute or less the block is ready to be put aside for the next melt during which time it will be getting its final filtering from me before moving into Mrs. Barn’s domain and one final filtering before casting into blocks.

I love it when caprice like this happens.

Bench Top Bandsaws

Recently I was corresponding with a reader who asked my opinion about bench top bandsaws, a preferred option for him because his career led to frequent moves.  I answered him that I have two benchtop bandsaws I use frequently, one a 9-inch Delta bandsaw that must be close to forty years old by now, and a 10-in Rikon I bought about fifteen years ago from either Highland or Woodcraft, I honestly cannot remember.  Each bandsaw has a critical role to play in my work, the Delta is my tool for sawing veneers for parquetry and the Rikon for pretty much everything else of modest size.   (I also have a free standing Delta 14″ and a Taiwanese 14″ with a riser block for resawing.)

In the back-and-forth of our correspondence once I understood his situation I recommended he look into the Rikon.

Some not-too-long-ago maintenance on the machine confirmed my overall impression formed several years ago that it is a superb tool.  Last year during a workshop the saw broke a tire, and after setting it aside for the 9-inch Delta for the remaining days a new tire was on-hand and eventually I replaced the broken one.

Swapping out the tire was the easiest time for that task ever.  After removing the retaining ring on the axel of the wheel and cleaning off the detritus of the tire I started the new tire at one point on the wheel then placed that section of the wheel in my Emmert metalwork vise and was able to install the new tire in approximately one minute.

Since I had the wheel off I gave the lower section a through cleaning then did the same to the upper section including scraping the upper tire with a boxwood carving tool with a knife edge to remove the accreted crust but not cut into the tire, then put on a new blade and readjusted all the guides so that it ran perfectly.  Unlike my other bandsaws I have found that the factory originals work just fine.

I know that in the coming decades this might be my only power machine (along with a drill press), and I am confident that the little Rikon will serve me well.  Even now I cannot think of any recent project that it could not have completed.  Perhaps not quite as fast as some ther machinery, but it would get the job done.  I keep a variety of blades on hand to use whatever suits the task best, and find that a 3/8″ blade suits me 95% of the time.

I’ve have recently added a nice standard feature enhancing the machine’s utility immensely.

Stay tuned.

Conditioning Silica Gel

One of the very useful tools for me is a desiccation chamber for drying out wet things, like uncured tordonshell, a fresh plaster casting, wet wood, or something similar.  I achieve such a chamber by using either a Gamma pet food container or a five-gallon pail with a Gamma retrofit sealing lid.  I load the chamber with desiccated silica gel and it is ready to do its work.  Put something damp in there, tighten down the lid, and the moisture gets sucked out of whatever it is you are trying to dry.

But the silica gel eventually gets damp itself, or at least adsorbs all the water being removed from the object in question.  Fortunately silica get can be re-conditioned an unlimited number of times.  My regimen for drying it out fully involves one of two routes typically.  For much of the year I simply place a mass of the crystals into a slow-cooker and turn it up.  In about 12-24 hours of cooking there the gel achieves a moisture content such that a sealed container holding it after cooling is at about 2-3% RH.

Another option for me in the winter is that I can dry out the gel in pans on top of kerosene heater I sometimes use to jump start the heat in the morning, or leave it on when the temperature is chilly but not yet frigid.  I keep a plate of aluminum on top of the heater to increase the heating efficiency by integrating a large radiant plate, and this often serves as a tray for heating things in the winter.  As with the slow cooker the total cooking time is somewhere between 12-24 hours, with the same 2-3% RH end point.

In either case, the slow cooker or the kerosene heater, I cover the batch overnight when I turn off the heat source, to prevent it from adsorbing moisture from the night air.

Silica gel can also be conditioned to a specific RH buffer but that is another topic.

Where Did I Put That Stinking Knife Handle?

Recently I was sitting down ready to incise the pattern into the block that would become the pattern for the mold for making my soon-to-be-available Blend 31 block wax.  It was at that moment that I realized I had put the handles for my detail knives someplace for some reason I could not remember.  It was not that I had misplaced one of my handles, I could not find any of them, suggesting I had collected them for some purpose that I could no recall.  Fortunately they will be found as soon as my task is completed.

In the mean time, I needed a handle for the knife blades I needed to use.  So I made one.

Taking a piece of dowel stock from inventory I sawed a small slot with a fine Japanese back saw, inserted the blade into that and bound it with twisted copper wire, much in the same manner as quill brushes.  It worked just fine for the carving of the mat board that was the detailed surface of the block pattern.

An hour later I had the design incised into the surface and the block was ready for making the rubber mold.

 

And sure enough, the box with my micro tools was found right after this was finished.  Sigh.

Up A Creek Without A Polissoir

At the recent gathering of the Professional Refinisher’s Group one of the presenters was addressing a topic that would have fit seamlessly with the use of polissoirs.  When I asked the host for his, I was informed it could not be found.  I canvassed the group and none was to be found.  Even I had not brought one with me!  While I normally travel with my rolling Store for some reason this time I did not.

But with a little thrashing around and some yeoman’s help from TomD we made one that worked enough or the task.

The starting point was the old shop broom, a roll of twine, and my dull Victorinox multi-tool knife (dull because I had cut some wire and had not sharpened it.  My bad.)

After cutting of some broom fibers we set about trying to find the string necessary.  We could not find anything really robust, what we found was some soft twine similar to macrame yarn.  So we used what we could find.  (I think the broom went back to hang on its nail, ready to go to work albeit a little less effectively).

Working carefully, and celebrating the fact that my broken arm from two years ago has recovered almost all of its dexterity and strength, I started putting it together.  My biggest challenge was trying to work right up to the limit of the tensile strength of our soft twine.  Normally I use heavyweight waxed linen cord, which I literally cannot break by hand, resulting in a polissoir so tight it has a sharp sound when rapped against a hard surface.  This undertaking did not yield such a result, but the polissoir was tight enough to serve well enough for the task at hand.

I trimmed one end  and we put it to work.

I’ll know to never travel anywhere without a polissoir in the future.  Note to self: when packing for a trip, it’s glaucoma meds, toothbrush, and a polissoir.

All A-buzz

Many times in the studio I need to shake something, just a teeny bit.

For example, when casting plaster or plaster like materials, such as ceramic media for lost-wax casting investment, it is sometimes necessary to tap on the mold container to dislodge air bubbles that all too often get lodged against the surface.  If they remain there the casting will be diminished, even ruined.  Many years ago I looked into getting a vibration table for buzzing the molds while the medium was still liquid, loosening the bubbles to rise to the surface.  After pricing the available devices I decided to go another route.

What could I use to cut the cost of a vibrating table down to near-zero?

Hearkening back 55 years to my times with Stan the Barber I recalled two things — Stan always had the latest comic books for the boys to read, a real treat for me because we were too poor to get them, and the tickle of the vibrating electric clippers on my neck when he was trimming up.  Could electric hair clippers be part of the answer?

The next time I ran across some clippers at the thrift store I decided to roll the dice with a buck-and-a-half for the clipper.  I combined the tool with some scraps of wood, two pieces of plumbing strap and a few screws.

Viola’.  A vibrating table for a couple bucks and a couple minutes.