Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Day With Konrad Sauer

Last Saturday (Nov 23rd) I woke up at 5:00 AM, I never wake up at 5:00, especially on a Saturday.  However, I had a very good reason.  Konrad Sauer paid a visit to Edmonton's Northern Alberta Woodworker's Guild.  For anyone not familiar with Konrad's work I highly recommend that you check it out, Sauer and Steiner.  He is a maker of exquisite hand planes and custom furniture. 

Konrad gave presentations on Friday evening about his plane making process, one on Saturday morning about hand shaping (using mostly rasps and files) of plane parts and table legs, and a third presentation in the afternoon about his design process.  

I was unable to attend the session on Friday but a few of my take-aways from the Saturday sessions included.  

- Similar to a handsaw, a hand plane has hang (how the tool naturally rests in your hand), and that a three finger pistol grip is generally the way to go for both control and eliminating death grip.  
- I had seen in Konrad's blog that he sometimes uses a machinist's vise to hold a twin screw woodworker's clamp which then holds the workpiece.  Seeing the setup in person was a real eyeopener as to how versatile and useful it is.  
- When designing his personal table, the design process included not just a mock up of the table in the room; The table top was set into place and the chairs were set around it and the chairs, people's feet and knees were drawn onto a map on the shop floor so that the table feet and legs could be designed around where people would sit.  

A definite highlight for the day was having dinner after the sessions were over.  There was six of us who were able to make it and getting to know another handful of devoted craftsmen is always a real treat.  Sharing thoughts on craft and design is always great dinner conversation and the opportunities for it don't come by nearly often enough.  

All this being said, by far the most enjoyable time in the day was having the opportunity to try out several of Konrad's planes.  They were all exquisitely crafted and a real joy to use.  I could wax poetic about them for a page and not come close to describing how great they are to use; a perfect marriage of form and function where both are allowed to shine as brilliantly as the sun.  Suffice it to say that if you get the chance to use one, take it! 

Konrad Shaping a Table Leg
A Selection of Beautiful Hand Planes

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Couple Small Projects

Well the expanding table is sill in the works, though progress comes in very small spurts which are spaced far apart.  After some rearranging in the shop I have been able to work on a couple small projects to satisfy my creative outlet.  

Quite some time ago my dad showed me a new knife block he had; I loved how it didn't have designated slots and was instead a box filled with a bunch of polypropylene rods.  Look here to see what I mean.  With how cool the knife block is I also knew it could be so much cooler if made out some nicer wood so I got to work.  

I decided to make the box with rabbett joints and a plywood bottom 9" down from the top.  The box was built of African Paduak which irridesces with a rich red color and I added in some African Blackwood along the edges.  I don't know how I didn't think of this before but to glue up the box I "clamped" it using plastic wrap.  It worked amazingly well, providing consistent pressure along the joints and allowing for very easy alignment adjustments. 

Saran Clamp
Finished Up and Ready to Go
The Knife Block in Use

Another small project I did recently was a tea light candle holder.  The carved tree I inserted into the back of a chair of a deskset earlier this year has become a personal favorite.  With the inspiration from a friend's recent floor lamp project I decided to combine the two.  

The project started with taping a few pieces together and a pattern on front,  With some pilot holes drilled a fret saw makes takes care of removing the waste. 

Multiple Panels Cut at Once with a Fret Saw

I went to a craft store and purchased some rice paper and rice glue, a thin coat of glue was all that was needed to apply the paper.  Note that the right edge of the two panels in the photo below are free of paper.  This needs to stay clear so that the butt joints will have wood to adhere to and there won't be a layer of paper visible on the outside.  A simple block of wood with a few rabbetts provides the base for the candle fixture. 

Applying the Rice Paper

Finished Components

Finished Candle Lantern

Friday, 18 October 2013

Replacement Nuts and Bolts

There hasn't been much progress on the table to report in quite a while.  This has been largely due to the need to get two of the central components re-milled to accept some new linear bearings in place of the existing bushings.  At long last we got the part fixed and got some new washers and the linear bearings to install.  This of course necessitated disassembling the entire table to send the parts out to get fixed and a complete reassembly. 

The new linear bearings will allow the existing rods to slide up and down better than the originally used press fit bushings.  The most common use of bearings is in a pair or rings which allows for rotational movement.  Linear bearings allow shafts to slide through tubes.  In this case the tubes have five tracks of bearings on which the steel rods will travel. 

Bushing Holes Enlarged to Accept the New Linear Bearings
Linear Bearing and Retaining Ring

Central Components with New Bearings Installed
You may be able to see some plugs in the centers of the linear bearings, these stay in place to keep the ball bearings in place until assembly when the rods push them through.  

With the bearings in place we are able to re-assemble the rest of the table including all the support and actuator arms and then proceed on to the panels. 

The Mechanism Re-assembled and Ready for the Panels

Central Star and Arrow Wedges in Place

Pie Wedges in Place, the Star and Arrow Wedges are Stored Underneath

In Transition Between Small and Large

Small Configuration, Loose Assembly of Panels

Since this is a table with moving parts it would be wrong to not include at least a little video of the piece in action.  

This first video shows the center star and arrow shaped wedges in action.  You may be able to catch a glimpse of some of the mechanisms underneath.  

This video shows all the panels in action.  Hope you like it!

It has taken us a long time to get where we are now, and there is still lots to do.  Two notable tasks will be the final alignment of all the panels and the installation of the apron ring which will conceal the mechanisms from view.  I imagine it will be quite a while before everything is actually 100% done, it feels like we've been sitting at 99% for months. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Woodworking Exhibition

Every two years the Southern Alberta Woodworker's Society (SAWS) puts on an exhibition of fine works in wood.  The next one will begin on Friday the 30th at Southcentre Mall in Calgary. 

If you want to sneak a peak at what can be seen at the exhibition, download a copy of the catalogue

Saturday, 13 July 2013

More Nuts and Bolts

So the last post just got some of the fluffy nut and bolt material out of the way, here comes the good stuff!

The table top panels all get attached to mounting plates that ride in bearing tracks.  The plate itself is made of aluminum but a pair of steel runners are attached as it will wear better over the long term. 

Attaching the Steel Runners
All the Runners in Place and Ready

The plates run in bearings which are attached to the extension arms of the central column.  These extension arms have recesses for v-track bearings.  The bearings are attached with custom designed low profile bolts.  The bolts on the left hold the bearing in place with a center mounting washer.  The bolts on the right use an off-center washer to allow us to adjust the washer horizontally for a tight fit. 

A Smooth Running Plate
Twelve Extension Arms with Bearings
We then focused on the central column of components and built outwards.  The central column gives away how we have designed the vertical movement to occur in our table.  There are a series of three identical tracks around the column in which ride bearings.  As the table is rotated the bearings travel along the track and when they reach the sloped section ride up or down it to raise and lower various components of the table. 

Central Column
The segment of black tube is affixed to the silver ring and this is set into the central column.  The roller bearings are threaded into the silver ring through the slots in the central column and then the large black plate in the right of the photo is attached on top of the black tube.  The black plate is the mounting flange where the central star of the table top is attached. 

Other Parts for the Central Column
The Roller Bearing and Track
Central Column When Low
Central Column When Raised
The central column will be set within an outer column.  This outer column provides the same type of rising and falling motion for the rectangular table top panels.  As there will be some more v-groove bearings used here another set of steel rails are affixed to the outer column.   

Outer Column and Steel Rails
The outer column will be placed inside two sets of arms.  The arms provide the support for each of the wedges and rectagular panels.  When I mentioned earlier that the tolerances were amazing this is the kind of thing I was talking about.  Each of these large pieces was milled from a solid block of aluminum 36" x 36" x 2".  The sleve bushing into which the steel rod is inserted was press fit into a recess in the alluminium.  The press fit was tapped in place with a mallet and the minor amount of compression that occurs in the bushing is what keeps it in place.  An amazing fit. 

Top Set of Arms with Steel Guide Post and Self-Lubrticating Bushing
The second set of arms rides up and down on three steel guide posts that are threaded into the first set of arms. 

Bottom Set of Arms Installed on Posts
The outer column can now be set into place.  There are recesses in both the upper and lower sets of arms for v-groove bearings to guide the rotation of the parts.

Outer Column in Place in the Set of Arms
V-Groove Bearings, Note the Two With Hex Heads to Allow Lateral Adjustment
Installing the V-Groove Bearings
Once the v-groove bearings are in place the roller bearings which provide the lift for the lower set of arms by traveling in the tracks can be installed.  These are inserted from access holes which line up with the tracks on the outer surface of the outer column.  

Installing the Roller Bearings

Central Column with Mounting Flange
The outer column and the inner column can then be attached to the base plate which will eventually be attached to the base of the table.  The base plate has a dozen lobes which stick out along its circumference.  These are the attachment points for the actuator arms which provide the lateral extension of the table top.

Central Column and Base Plate

Central Column, Outer Column, and Arms all Together

Central Column, Outer Column, and Arms all Together
The actuator arms have a pair of bearings inserted where they attache to the lobes on the base plate.  They also have some press fit self lubricating sleeve bearings where they attache to the  mounting plates for the table top panels. 

Actuator Arms and Bearings

Actuator Arms and Sleeve Bearings

We only test fit one of the actuator arms to make sure it would work.  We had to stop work here as there is a part that needs to be rebuilt and it will take approximately two weeks to get the replacement.  As this is the first time assembling the parts there are still some alignment issues to be worked out.  That being said, seeing the parts come together and work as planned was quite satisfying.  

Nuts and Bolts

The heart and soul of this project really is the internal mechanisms that make the table expand from seating 8 to 12 people.  The time and effort put into designing these mechanisms has been huge.  The use of the best veneers and highest quality woods that I could find has largely been because the complexity of the mechanisms sets the bar so high.  The mechanisms were designed by myself and a friend named Devin.  Devin is a mechanical engineer by trade and was able to design every component in 3D to be milled out of solid material.  The milling was done in China and then shipped over for us to assemble.  

As much as we sometimes hear that the manufacturing coming out of China is substandard I think it is important to remember that any manufacturing company will only produce to the level that is demanded of them.  You get what you pay for.  

I had originally hoped to get the parts in time to assemble the table for entry into the SAWS 2013 Fine Works in Wood Exhibition but that deadline sailed by.  Also, back in January I applied for and was awarded a booth at the Calgary Stampede but had to back out of the opportunity as I would not have the table in time.  These were two very big disappointments, but life goes on.  As does work on the table.  After a series of delays getting the parts the last of them finally arrived today, quite a bit later than expected.  

Though late, the parts are fantastic in fit and finish.  The tolerances between drilled out hole centers, diameters of bushings, and everything else is within a fraction of a thousandth of an inch.  In other words within a quarter the thickness of a sheet of paper. 

The Parts Laid Out and Ready for Assembly
A Wide Array of Nuts and Bolts, Some of them Custom Built
In addition to the mechanisms which drive the expansion and contraction of the table, I also had custom allignment slots and tabs milled out of solid brass.  Each on is 3" long, 1/2" thick, and is recessed 3/8" into the panels.  The curvature at the ends of the piece matches the one left by the router bit I used to make the mortises.  It is quite convenient to be able to have custom hardware like this to speed up assembly.  
36 sets of Alignments Tabs and Slots
It turns out the brass screws we ordered had threads which were a couple thousandths of an inch larger in diameter than the usual steel ones so I had to ream out the mounting holes slightly. 

Reaming the Mounting Holes
Each of the alignment tabs and slots had to be hammered into place with a mallet.  Then a center punch was used to mark the center of the screw hole.  Each hole was pre-drilled and fitted with a brass screw. 
Each Component Was Tapped in With a Mallet
One Down, Seventy-One to Go
Lookin Pretty Sharp