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Making sawdust

I finally got a chance to spend a few hours in the workshop last night and progress some pieces. My current focus is to finish setting up the workshop, and to make a cat-run for the balcony, both of which are grinding along slowly.

The cat-run is in theory a simple task, which is proving maddeningly slow. It’s just a set of 9 slats of low grade pine (25mm x 30mm, if I recall correctly), to be connected with nuts and bolts so it can be collapsed, and some lengths of dowel to provide horizontal support. I’ll post photos when it is done, of course. Cutting the timber to length was quick and trivial, now that I’ve got a good cross-cut and and a good rip saw for doing small work. Next step was to drill holes… but then the cheap and nasty electric drill from Wilco packed it in, and the cheap and nasty drill bits from Wilco started to break. Plus I needed a spade bit to do the large holes for the dowel. Off to Wickes (which is the Bunnings analogue, for Australian readers) to get slightly less cheap and nasty drill bits, and a new 16mm spade bit. So last night I popped the bit into a brace, bored a scrap piece of timber… and realised that I had 18mm dowel. So that’s one project back on the waiting list.

The other focus for the workshop at the moment is storage. I need boxes, and some racks for storing timber. Yes, I could have gone down and gotten plastic boxes from somewhere fairly cheaply, but that’s not quite the point. Instead I want to make a set of boxes for tools using just 19mm boards and plywood bottoms, largely for the practice of sizing and cutting and preparing the joints. Not too long before the plan to move from Australia to England crystalised, I bit the bullet and bought the (fairly expensive) Leigh dovetail jig. In the time between acquiring it and heading to England, I made a total of one box before it had to be packed away, so essentially this is a new piece of kit that I need to get on top of.

Now, this is a fairly complex jig, with a number of precise moving pieces. Two of the key parts are the specific e7 Eliptical Router Bush, and the 1/2″ collet reducer for their specific router bits. And a router of course. So there was a delay while I ordered a router (which arrived just before we went to Dijon), and a delay while I familiarised myself with the router, which I was doing last weekend. As an aside, the Trend T11EK is an awesome router, I think much better than the Triton I’d had in Australia – it’s quieter, has a soft smooth start, and the depth adjustment (while initially cryptic) is very accurate and simple.

So last weekend I got the router out, did a variety of test cuts on scrap timber, and sat down to get the Leigh jig working. I’d been smart enough to ensure that I’d grabbed the Trend universal base plate for the router, and the Leigh base-plate adaptor. Now where did I put the other pieces… yep, the Router Bush and collet reducer were nowhere to be found. By the time I discovered this, it was too late to get out to Axminster to grab replacements, so I went out to the storage unit to check if they had been missed when unpacking. To my relief, the Router Bush was there, but the collet was nowhere to be found. Another delay, while I ordered a replacement collet reducer, which arrived during the week.

Long story, I finally had all the pieces ready to go for the jig, and whipped through some test cuts to get the jig setup for box joints. I’d pre-cut the sides for the first box, so that should have been a quick project. Except when time came to cut the joints, I cut the joint for one of the end pieces onto one of (longer) side pieces, and vice versa. Sigh. Back to the timber pile, re-cut the sides, re-route the joints. Based on the first attempt, I tightened the joint slightly, and then found on this second attempt that it was slightly too tight. Nothing that a mallet cannot fix, I thought as I tapped the sides together. Wham! That’s the corner of the mallet into my finger and thumb, substantially mashing the side of my finger. I said rude words, checked the box for square, then nailed a plywood base on.

Three hours, a hell of a lot of sawdust (which reminds me, I need to get a shop vacuum), a mashed finger, and the satisfaction of one initial dodgy box. The good thing is that on the weekend I will be able to knock out two or three more in short order.

Subsequent to these tool boxes, I’ll make some racks for timber, just to get it up off the floor so that I can figure out what to do next. At the rate things are progressing, I anticipate being able to start producing re-enactment and re-production pieces by around October. It’s been a long wait.

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