Archive for March 2020

102 Tequila Gift Boxes   3 comments

I got a significant order last month. It was another collaboration with my engraver … and her client, as well. The cable network Starz wanted to do something nice – very nice – for the makers of their series Vida, which premiered its third and final season this week.

Clear Image Printing produced a lovely book about the show. Lavene & Co, my laser engraving partner, produced custom shot glasses, sand blasted & personalized bottles of Patron, and then laser engraved the lid of the custom wooden box that I made to hold it all.

The boxes I made were custom designed to tightly hold 4 shot glasses, the bottle of Patron and the commemorative book. I worked through 5 different prototypes, tweaking the design with the client to ensure it would be precisely what they wanted.

This was not a small order for my one man shop. I started with 600 board feet of 1/2″ Hard Maple. Now, typically, I have no way to store that much lumber at once. Fortunately (?), however, I was on an event break due to the Corona virus while working on this project, so I used the cargo trailer for temporary lumber storage as I was working on machining the 19x parts each box required!

The first thing to do is to break the lumber down from 12′ lengths into 6′ lengths that are easier for me to manipulate in the shop … and store in the 10′ trailer, for that matter.

I start with lumber.

Once the lumber was in the trailer – and protected from the rain that was on the horizon – then I was ready to start machining the parts.

102 boxes times 19 parts each equals 1,938 parts.

It’s all about the parts.

102 boxes times 4 shot glasses each equals 408 holes to be drilled.

Thank goodness for the CNC, which did these shot glass holders in groups of 4.

The box lids needed to be assembled first, so they could be engraved. That meant building them, then staining them, wiping them dry and getting them to the engraver.

Mrs M made a rare appearance in the driveway shop annex to help with the staining. That gives you some indication of how far behind I was when the deadline was breathing down my neck.

Then, I could start on the boxes themselves.

It was during a late session that things got, uh, exciting. That’s not good in the shop. Ever.

I was cutting the Patron bottle holders. They fit under the bottle neck to cradle it and keep the bottle from moving. I ran 10x at a time on the CNC, then had to cut them apart. That’s when I screwed up.

I made the cut, which was open faced (translation: no blade guard possible). The off fence side was not pushed through with my push stick; only the fence side was supported.

I’m not sure what happened … but I do know that one of the pieces was kicked back. That’s what got exciting.

Launch angle: about 30 degrees

Exit speed: 102 miles per hour

Elevation: about 5 feet

Throw distance: about 12 feet

Impact: spectacular

Here’s the piece:

You can see where the blade grabbed the workpiece, and then the straight line where the sawblade propelled it upward, forward, and straight into the light fixture at the rear of the table saw. It bent the metal fixture, and then exploded both of the flourescent tubes.

BANG! Glass rained down on the shop. She said, while standing in the driveway shop annex, “WHAT HAPPENED?”

That’s the dent in the fixture, with one tube now replaced.

Like I said, it was exciting. All my fault. So, clean up that mess, correct my Grrr-ripper so that both sides of the workpiece are supported, and get back to work.

Come to find out, I had to build and stain the box carcass, then stain the individual inner pieces (the bottle neck holder, the 1/4″ divider, and the shot glass holder) before they were mounted in the box. This was the only way to get an even stain coating on all visible surfaces.

Once the boxes were assembled, my least favorite part was upon me: installing 214 hinges and 107 latches.

After one very, very long night and a couple of long days, I was finally done. The boxes got picked up … and the client was very pleased with how it all turned out.

From The Shop: That Glue Problem   1 comment

It’s my least favorite job in the shop. I hate glue ups. Lamination. Whatever.

It’s a sticky, wet mess. And, glue flies everywhere. It ruins shop clothes. It’s all over my hands. It builds up on clamps … and that’s a problem. Get enough glue residue on the clamps, and they don’t work properly.

What’s a woodworker to do?

My solution for the past several years was to apply masking tape to the metal bars of each clamp for the width of the boards being clamped. That does protect the bar, pretty much, but does nothing for the clamp ends that build up glue deposits. When those glue deposits get mixed in with some wood splinters that come off of the work pieces, then you’ve got a real problem.

Plus, the bottoms of the metal bars are left unprotected. Wet glue flows downhill, and eventually glue will accumulate that will have to be scraped off. Or something.

My normal approach now has me “picking & processing” 50+ pieces, or “blanks,” at a time. I’ll generally do gluing for 2 days to get everything laminated … then I take all of those pieces to the finish line. I’ve currently got 44 clamps that are 2′ long, so I can typically do somewhere between 14 and 22 glue-ups, depending on how wide the work pieces are. When all of the wood has been “picked and processed,” and is taped together ready to be glued up … I will fill the available clamps in about 2 hours.

And, no, I don’t have enough clamps. Nor do I have enough space to store the ones that I do have.

An alternative to taking the glue off … is not letting it get stuck on in the first place.

Bates Glue Release won’t let glue stick to a surface, once applied. You wipe the watery, glue-looking stuff onto the clamps. If feels a bit waxy, and the clamps are definitely more slippery once the Bates is applied.

And the glue can’t stick.

At all.

I’ve used Bates for a few months now. Some clamps have gotten 3 applications, some just one. What’s clear is that the new clamps still look new. The Bates application doesn’t affect the glue already on the clamps … but no new glue will gather if Bates is on the clamp.

Bates is highly recommended. You can buy it here.

Tools for doing the actual glue ups:

  • Clamps, of course. I prefer Jet parallel face clamps
  • 1-1/2″ masking tape (I buy factory 2nds by the case for $2.68/roll)
  • A false top for my workbench so most of the glue gets left on the replaceable, melamine top. Glue will wipe off of melamine … but the build up will inevitably start!
  • Titebond III (my glue of choice; I buy 2 gallons at a time from in a Fast Cap “Glu-Bot”
  • A rubber roller to spread the glue
  • A bowl of water
  • A kitchen scrub pad (I buy big packs from a kitchen supply store and cut them up for a usable size)
  • Paper towels

I follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on how to apply Titebond III:

  1. Apply it generously to one surface being laminated
  2. Spread a consistent thin layer over the entire joint
  3. Apply clamps
  4. Wipe off the squeeze out with a wet kitchen scouring pad
  5. Wipe off the watered down glue on the board with paper towels
  6. Leave the board in the clamps for at least 60 minutes
  7. Don’t machine the board until the glue has cured a minimum of 24 hours

Note that I have found that letting end grain cutting boards cure for 72 hours is actually better. Otherwise, water-swollen wood fibers will remain expanded while you sand. When they dry and shrink, your glue line will be left proud of the new, sunken wood surface. Better to go slower and let the wood shrink to it’s normal size.

And, one more pro tip: removal of dried glue from woodworking clamps can be done by soaking each clamp in vinegar for a few hours, then scraping the softened glue off. Just don’t leave the clamp in the vinegar too long, or you’ll take the chrome plating off of the clamp.

You can guess how I gathered that knowledge.