Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Portable tool chest, review after 1 year of travelling

It is a little more that a year ago since I finished the green tool chest that I bring with me on the ship.

I have brought it back and forth in my bag/suitcase every time I signed on and signed off.
So I feel that I am able to give an honest review of this type of tool chest if anyone feel the need to make a small chest to accompany them on their travels.

My tool chest measures 16" x 9.5" x 8.25" (length x width x height), so it will not fit very large tool inside.
The corner reinforcements were made out of some old sheet metal that we had lying around. They have succeeded in keeping the chest free from damage despite it being thrown around by baggage handlers in various airports. In addition to that, I also think they look good.

The bottom is the weakest link in the tool chest. I wanted a clean look of the outside of the chest, so the bottom was simply nailed on inside a rebate. I never added any nails from the outside, but so far I have only noticed one or two nails starting to creep out, but a light tap of a hammer brought them back in. So unless i load it with lead ingots, I suppose it will be fine.

I really like the two tills that sit in the top of the chest. The smaller one was originally intended for a pencil, but it has been filled with hinges, screws, nails and locks instead.
The larger till is sufficiently large to accommodate my three chisels plus stuff like my oil stone and the marking gauge.

The shooting board doesn't see much use, but that is because I have taken a fancy in making stuff with sloping corners and other shapes. But when I need a shooting board it is nice to have. 

The lower part of the chest which is the main room has got just enough space for my plane and the two irons for it. A mallet, a small dozuki, a grooving plane and a moving filister plane. Until a week ago there was also a small jar of glue that had survived almost two years of travelling before finally giving up.

I have discussed the tools inside previously, and the only addition since then is a moving filister.

As it can be seen, there are no lifts on the chest. I really don't think they are necessary given the small size of the chest itself. It is so easy to just wrap an arm around the chest and carry it around. I think that while lifts can look fine they would distract from the clean look on this chest. they would also add some weight which is not a good thing for airline travel. 
Totally I think the chest including contents weighs something like 26 Lbs.

For a travelling tool chest that needs to handle all the tools you really need, you would probably have to make it a wee bit larger. That would be to accommodate a larger saw and a hammer. Those tools I normally borrow from the ships workshop, so I don't really need to bring them myself.

A solution to the saw could be a frame saw that can be taken apart, and having one crosscut blade and one ripping blade.

I haven't been stopped by custom officers yet and had to explain the tool chest to them, but I suppose it should be OK.
If you travel between countries that have strict regulations concerning bringing items made out of wood across the border, it might be best to tick off that box on the declaration board and avoid getting into trouble for forgetting it. 

The little I know about wood products crossing borders, is that they tend to be mostly concerned if the bark is still on the wood. Or if the wood is attacked by insects.

Green travelling tool chest.

Lid open.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bagage irregularity report.

I signed on the ship yesterday, and as usual I brought my homemade green tool chest with me.

Since I have traveled with the chest for a bit more than a year now, I had intended writing a kind of review based on my experiences with the chest.

But thanks to SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), the review is a bit different than what I had intended.

Upon arriving in Bergen I discovered that I was unable to pull out the handle for using the wheels on my bag. That made my alarm bells start ringing.

Today I tried to grab a clean T-shirt from my bag, and it was stuck to the tool chest. At first I thought that it had just caught on one of the corner guards. But when I looked  closer it was also stuck to another T-shirt. I examined the corner thoroughly and it dawned upon me that they were not simply attached to the chest - they were glued to it!

I unlocked the chest and tried to raise the lid - impossible.
So the sad fact is that the bagage handlers of the SAS have mistreated the bag in such a way that the small glass of white glue I had inside have been broken, and due to the bag being thrown around, the glued hadn't just stayed at the bottom of the chest, but had managed to seep along the side to the top, gluing everything on its way.

I brought the chest to the engine control room, and I have succeeded in opening the lid and removing the large till. But the rest is still stuck.

I have filed a report to the SAS, but I doubt that I will get anything out of that. So I will try to see if I can pry the parts from each other.

The chest now with the lid able to open.

The glued up corner of the chest.

This is the corner where the glue has seeped out.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Saw handle blanks from mirabelle prune wood.

Tomorrow Asger and I will take the train to Munich to visit Brian Eve of Toolerable. I wold have liked to bring a suitable slab for a table, but I doubt that the trains stewards will find it amusing if I show up with one. Plus it might make it difficult to navigate the various platforms when we need to change trains.

So instead I decided to make some saw handle blanks for him.
Last time I was home I trimmed a mirabelle prune tree, and the lowest part was large enough to yield a couple of blanks.

This morning I sliced it with the saw mill in 5/4" thickness.
There was a bit of rot in part of the trunk, which was partly the reason for the trimming, but there is enough for some saw handles.

I have read that apple tree was once common for saw handles, and it should be steamed while the wood is still green.
I have some apple wood, but it has been downed years ago, so it is close to bone dry. And the pieces are not sufficiently large to make a saw handle from the heart wood alone.
So the prune was still my choice.

The slicing was pretty fast, so in order to stretch the experience a bit, Asger and I rigged my small deep fat fryer up to make a steam chest that could be used for steaming the blanks.
It was a low tech solution consisting of two plastic buckets mounted on top of the deep fat fryer that was filled with water.

The wood steamed for about one and a half hour, and then we stopped to go in for some lunch.
I'll let Brian Eve take a picture of them once they are dry to see if the colour has changed at all.

Mirabelle prune, fresh from the saw mill.

The steam set up.


The outer bucket helps to keep the temperature high and the steam inside.




Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making saw nuts

Several readers (OK two) asked if I could write a post about how I make my own saw nuts.

My blog has been accepted to such prestigious places as Unpluggedshop.com and norsewoodsmith.com, both places dedicated to hand tool blogs.
I hope I won't get expelled by having a single post where the majority of the work is done at a machine. And it isn't even woodworking.

As Jeremy cleverly remarked, having access to a metal lathe is step 1. But if you have got that, there is no reason why you shouldn't make your own saw nuts. I won't go into details about how to use a lathe, but merely show step by step how I have done it.

Corresponding text is written below each picture.



A finished set of screws and nuts for a children's saw.


Making a saw screw:

Step 1) 
I turn the overall dimensions with a roughing tool. This leaves some angled transitions where the diameter changes


Step 2)
I removed the angled transitions with a parting tool.


Step 3)
A square is made using a file.


Step 3) 
View from a different angle.


Step 4)
Cutting a thread with a die.


Step 5)
Turning the compound rest to an angle of approximately 5 degrees.


This is the "normal" position of the compound rest.



Step 6)
Parting the screw using the feed of the compound rest to form a slightly cone shaped head.


Making a saw nut follows the same principles. But the thread is internal.

Using a parting tool to remove the transition.

Screws and nuts as they look after parting. 
The small piece on top is cut off with pliers and filed smooth.

A screw is mounted in the chuck using two regular nuts to protect the thread. The head is sanded using grit 280 emery cloth. 

The nuts first receive a slot made by a hack saw. I mount them on a regular screw with the same thread before clamping the regular screw in the vice. After the slot is made, the regular screw is installed in the chuck of the lathe, and the head of the nut is sanded the same way as the screw.



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dovetail saw with copper back, children's size

Sunday I had the opportunity to spend some time in the workshop, and I managed to finish the handle, mount the back on the plate, produce some saw nuts and assemble the saw.
After the test assembly I disassembled it again to varnish the handle.

At some point I decided that the back was too tall for a child's saw, due to the weight of it that is. The raw back weighed 385 gram, so I was afraid that the saw might feel to heavy to be comfortable.
Therefore I removed roughly 1/4" from the lower part of the back. Making the new height of it approximately 9/16". In addition to removing weight, it also made the proportions a bit prettier in my opinion given that the saw plate itself is 2.25" high.

The handle was shaped using mostly a round file, and after I was pleased with the overall shape, I used sand paper starting with a grit 60 and ending with a grit 280.
I had never expected the handle to turn out as well as it did. But a lot of time with sandpaper really helps. also I am not used to making things that are this highly figured, but once I overcame my reluctance to start it, it was quite liberating not having to worry about square corners and parallel surfaces. It just had to be comfortable to grip.

The saw nuts were tuned on the lathe from some brass stock. The thread is M5, in order to make them fit a small handle.
I am fairly skilled at using a metal lathe, so turning something like this doesn't take very long. I didn't time myself, but I estimate that it took maximum 10 minutes for a screw and a bit less for a nut.
I filed a square on the screws and sawed a slot in the head of the screws. The slot is a bit too narrow to fit a usual screwdriver that wide, but since it is made using a hacksaw, the back side of a hacksaw blade is a perfect size.

Since I had removed the lower part of the back it did  no longer grip the blade sufficiently tight, so I took it back to the press to compress it a bit again. I figured that it was the most clever thing to do before I started removing the tool marks.
Those were removed by using a couple of files and some emery cloth / sand paper. To be able to work on the sides of the back, I made a small arrangement similar to that used for planing mouldings.
Two flat sticks were mounted horizontally in the vice, with the aft stick protruding 1/4" above the front stick. I then screwed in a small screw to act as a "planing stop". So the back could now lie on its side supported by the aft stick and the planing stop screw at the end.

Finally I found found some old varnish, very nearly dried up. I removed the dry layer and added some paint thinner. I used a piece of an old rag to apply the varnish.
The handle was sanded lightly between each coat, and I think I gave it 5 coats in total.

Now it just need to be used by some child in the workshop.


Children's dovetail saw with copper back.

Plywood handle.

Sawing the handle.

Workholding for the back.


Homemade brass saw nuts.






Sunday, March 13, 2016

Backsaw with copper back 3, the saw plate

When I attended the ATC class at Dictum five years ago, Chris Schwarz told me that it was possible to make a backsaw using the steel from a plaster scraper, if a person just wanted to try making his own saw, and do it in a cheap way.
I found a shop in the port where we are at now, that has cheap tools. So I walked there the other day and bought myself two 10" scrapers at around 10$ a piece. 

Normally I dislike destroying usable tools, but I decided that this destruction would serve a higher purpose.

I didn't want to accidentally bend the steel plate, so I decided not to bash the handle with a hammer to loosen it. 

After a bit of experimentation, I decided that the easiest way to remove the future saw plate from the scraper was to first split the upper part of the scraper where the two halves met. I think the two handle parts were cast separately and pressed together later. There was a clear joint that was easily split using  hobby knife.
With the plate mounted in the vice, I used a heat gun to soften the plastic on both sides.
As soon as the plastic softened, I pulled the two halves from each other. That made the upper part of the plate accessible.
A bit more heating and I cut through all the plastic that was in the holes of the plate.

I didn't time myself, but I think the process of removing the plate could be done in 10 minutes, if you don't try to experiment with other removal methods first.

The plate itself is 0.5 mm thick (0.02"), and on the plastic handle it said "Made in Sweden", so I guess that the steel is also Swedish. There is a very slight cupping along the length of the steel suggesting that it came from a roll. But it is easily within the capabilities of the back to keep it straight.

I used a tool bit from the lathe to scribe a line on the plate, so I could cut off the holes in the top. A small file or a permanent marker could have done the same. A pair of metal shears easily cut the thin plate.

The dovetail saw I have at home has got 20 TPI, but I didn't think I could manage to file that fine a set on my first attempt. So I settled for something a bit easier: 18 TPI.

I printed out a diagram, but it was 7% too small, so instead I wanted to use a trick advocated by Pedder from Two Lawyers Toolworks. The trick is that if you are going to make very fine teeth, you can use the blade from a hacksaw with the same toothing as a guide.

After about a third of the saw plate, I decided that it didn't work very well for me. Probably due to a crappy work station. I couldn't stand in a decent way with the file, and the whole idea of a narrow saw vice was somewhat destroyed by the way I had fixed the plate.
I took a quick decision and removed the hacksaw blade - and made the rest of the teeth freehand.
In hindsight I should probably have read up on how successful people file a set of teeth, but I never bothered.
My approach was to file every other tooth, and then reverse the plate and file the remaining teeth. It doesn't look too pretty, but the saw works which is the main thing. I'm sure the correct tools will help quite a bit, but it can be done without them as well.
My file was a triangular needle file, without a handle, so I ended up wrapping some tape on it to protect my palm a bit.
At first I just made an indication of where each tooth should go, then followed up with a second stroke to form it.

Raw material for a backsaw.

Splitting the handle.

Heat and a hobby knife gets the plate out.

This is what it looks like.

Nice looking Swedish spring steel (presumably). 

Start of filing the teeth.

These were filed freehand.

Half the teeth done. The other half started.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Backsaw with copper back 2, making a handle.

There are a couple of wood species that are fairly classic for saw handles. Apple, elm, beech etc. But given my limited sources of wood out here, I had the choice between spruce or plywood. Technically I have a small piece of oak too, but it is too narrow to make a handle of, so that isn't really an option anyway.

So I opted for the plywood. I guess it is some sort of birch but I'm not sure. The thickness is 28 mm, or 1" 1/8. That is way too thick for a saw handle for a child, but removing a layer or two shouldn't be too hard.

Two Guys in a Garage has got a really nice page with loads of scanned handles. I decided that the Kenyon dovetail saw model looked nice.
If I lived in the USA, I would seriously consider buying a folded back and a saw plate from those two guys. Their prices seem more than reasonable,. And from what I can see on their home page, the backs look fabulous. (I am not affiliated with TGiaG in any way etc. etc.)

The only problem with the handle scans are that I can't figure out how to print them in the correct size. I tried various settings, but I still couldn't get it right.. I'm better at woodworking than setting up a printer..
So the handle ended up being 7% smaller than the original, but again since it will be a children's saw, that's just fine. Plus it saves me from the trouble of having to reduce the size.

The plywood is the same that is used for table tops out here, and it is sandwiched between two fat pieces of grain imitating plastic laminate. To mark out the outline of the handle, I taped the print out onto the plywood, and used one leg of a divider as an awl (I haven't got an awl out here). When I had made dots all the way around the handle and also marked the centers for the holes to be drilled, I removed the paper and headed for the pillar drill.

Someone has once purchased a 26 mm drill a bit similar to a Forstner bit. That was perfect for the larger holes on the print out.
The holes for the saw nuts, I only drilled with a 3 mm (1/8") drill, so I can use them later on for exactly marking the saw plate.
One of the large holes was a size of which I didn't have a drill, so I just used the 3 mm drill and made a series of holes next to each other following the curve.

I used a hack saw to saw as close as I felt comfortable to the dots. By doing that I ended up having a coarse shaped fat handle.

The next task will be to reduce the thickness of the handle and refine the shape.

Handleshaped plywood.

Thanks to TGiaG for provinding scans.

End view of the plywood.