Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jewelry Box: Upper Tray Dividers

OK, now that the straight dividers for the lower tray were milled up I needed dividers for the two upper trays. Since these trays are designed for smaller pieces, such as rings; finger and ear; I didn't want something with as much mass as the lower tray dividers, nor did I want boring old straight dividers.

Cue the lathe!

I decided to add yet another wood to the mix and went out to the log pile where I cut a couple blanks out of a Red Heart Cedar that had died last winter. I chucked the first into the lathe,

then turned it down to a cylinder. In the process I made sure to remove all the weak, and frankly boring, sapwood and get right down to the heart of the tree.

This is probably as close as I'll ever get to posting a selfie on line. Turning wood can be a risky business.  chips fly off every which way, dust fills the air, and sometimes things explode sending high velocity wooden missiles everywhere.

I wear a heavy denim apron from neck to knee, heavy leather gloves and face/dust protection. The apron has a knit collar that fits snugly to keep chips from slipping down behind my armor,

I used to have a fancy battery powered face shield. It was similar to a welding shield except the the viewing area was much larger, it sealed around my face and it pumped filtered air in to keep me alive. Over years of nearly daily use that shield slowly failed in one way or another until it was useless. Unfortunately the dang thing is very expensive to replace so now I use a standard face shield backed up by a dust mask. Not near as handy or comfortable, but way more affordable for us retired types.

Turning produces piles and piles of chips. After spending hours picking chips out of my boots and socks, (If you don't get them all out of the socks before they go in the wash with other people's clothes you are going to get an ear-full about stray chips showing up in all the oddest places! Been there done that!!) I picked up a set of snow gaiters. These keep the chips on the floor where they belong rather than down my boots where, in addition to causing laundry disasters, they stick me in my girlishly tender ankles.

Once I had my blank turned down then it was time to produce rings. The process is fairly simple. First I clean up the outside of the future ring,

then cut into the end of the blank to produce the inside of the ring. This takes a steady hand and must be done carefully otherwise the tool will catch in the spinning blank and send bits flying everywhere.

While it's still attached to the blank and easy to handle,  I sand the ring down.

Because I'm also rounding over what will become the top of the ring as I sand, I start with 60 grit to remove the bulk of the corners then work my way down through the grits to a silky smooth 400.

When the sanding is done I wrap the ring in tape from bottom to top when facing the blank so the tape won't unwrap when the blank is spinning, which it does from top to bottom. Without this step the ring is liable to shatter and end up all over the shop. Then I use a parting tool to separate the ring from the blank.

At this point it would be nice if the rings all came off in one piece, but I'm not too upset when they don't, as long as they don't shatter too much since I will be using more segments of rings than I will whole rings anway.

While still taped I cleaned up the bottom of each ring by swirling it around on a full sheet of 100 grit sandpaper laid flat on the bench,

then clean up the inside corner with some 320 grit paper. I don't get too anal about this since my goal is not flawless perfection but handcrafted with care.

Starting from the outside of the blank I turn a set of progressively smaller rings until I get down to about an inch or so. Smaller than that is just not very practical, besides, at that point it's just showing off. Then I clean up the face of the blank and start another series of rings from the outside in.

While I still had a little blank to work with, I turned a couple knobs. These would go right in the center of the small trays so each one can be lifted out with one hand. I made no effort to make these knobs identical. In fact I made sure they each had their own personality.

I used up one and a half blanks before I felt that I had more than enough rings and knobs to work with. Many of the rings I cut were just unusable, either because they shattered into pieces too small to use, most of which are still hiding somewhere in the shop. or I cut them too clunky looking in the first place.

Once I had a supply of rings I was happy with I started experimenting with placement, cutting and fitting and sanding and re-cutting until I had something I liked.

Once I was happy with the ring placement I took photos and made drawings then carefully numbered each piece on the bottom edge so I could put it back where it came from. (When it came time for actual assembly I did manage to alter this layout somewhat, but the gist of it survived.)

Then it was time for finishing. I cut tiny little pieces of double-sided tape and attached each ring, ring segment and knob to a scrap piece of board. I did this for the straight rails also. This would let me apply multiple coats of spray lacquer without blowing the tiny little things all over the shop.

I actually had to tape everything down twice. I find that the first coat of anything I spray ends up slightly rough so I had to lift each piece off and hand sand it back down to smooth with 400 grit then stick them all back on the board again. Fortunately I usually only get the rough finish on the first coat. The followup coats seem to lay down smooth without any problems.

For each pass I lay down a light, but complete coat, little more than evenly dusting the finish onto the pieces. This ensures a nice smooth, run-less surface in the end, but it does take more time to build up a proper finish this way, (I had 6 coats on these before I was happy.) and  I have to watch the clock pretty close since many of these finishes, if not re-coated within two hours, require waiting 72 hours for the next coat. If I miss my two hour window but get impatient and don't wait the 72 hours I risk getting a frosted or hazy finish, and nobody wants that!

Now I have all the major players lined up and next it will be time to start the assembly.

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