Tuesday, September 11

Tuesday – Handle Blanks

I got in here at my usual 8:15 this morning, checked and responded to e-mail, and got to woodworking at 9:00. Today I am cutting out the handle blanks. The process goes like this:

Attach templates to one of the thin boards we made up yesterday. Most boards average 4½ feet long, and a board with few or no defects will accommodate 7 templates. If defects are present, I have to work around them and get fewer pieces from the board. If lots of defects are present, I’ll set the board aside; we’ll find something better to use it for than this project.

Then it’s over to the band saw – now equipped with a thin, fine tooth band for following tight curves. I chunk-up the board by cutting between the templates, then trim each piece to 1/8” away from the templates. I have to be careful not to cut into the templates though, in a moment the precise shape of these things will be very important. Cutting out pices of them would be a bad thing!

When the whole board is cut up and the pieces trimmed close to the templates I take the stack over to the drill press, which has been fitted with a Forstner bit. I’ll drill 4 overlapping holes – which is what Forstner bits excel at; over lapping holes – to clear out the majority of the waste in the handle-hole area.

That done, the stack goes to the router table, which is fitted with a patternmaker’s bit. This bit has a pilot bearing at the upper end of the bit that will ride on the template, and the cutters will pare away the excess wood so that the resulting piece is exactly the same size and shape as the template. This is where cutting up the templates becomes a real problem: oddly shapes templates mean oddly shaped handles.

Then I remove the templates from the completed handle blanks, fasten them onto another thin board and repeat… over and over and over.

The process takes me about 25 minutes per board and typically yields 7 blanks. By lunch time I had 14½ pair of perfect handle blanks and 2 pair that encountered minor tear out and will need some work.

By supper time I had 31½ pair of good ones, 5 pair needing work and 2 pieces that suffered terminal tear out and were tossed.

Tear-out results from the router bit snagging the fibers of the wood and lifting it instead of cutting it away. Sometimes it tears out a small chunk, other times it tears off a strip that gets into the body of the handle and ruins it. Two things contribute most to tear-out: trying to remove too much wood too fast, and a dull bit.

If there are woodshops in Heaven, I’m sure they will be blessed with cutting edges that are eternally razor sharp. But in this world, cutting tools need frequent sharpening and/or replacement. In making 100 bag handles, I will completely wear out 1 thin kerf re-saw band ($40.00), a 3/16” fine tooth band ($15), a set of planer knives ($45) will be taken about 1/4 through their useful life and I will need to re-sharpen the three pattern makers bits I have about 5 times. After two such jobs, these bits will be tossed out and replaced ($20.00 each).
These are some of the hidden costs that people don’t think about when they decide whether something like this is worth its cost. Though simple looking, these handles are time consuming to make and are hard on my equipment budget.

I use a pair of diamond paddles, one Fine, one Super Fine for my "in the field” sharpening. The edges would last longer if I had them sharpened professionally, but I’d need a half-dozen or so bits to get me through this job before I could send them out to be sharpened again. Eventually I may have that many on hand, but for now I touch up the ones I have until the job is done, then send them out.

It will take another couple of days to finish this phase of the project.

See you next time.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Appropriate comments are welcome. All comments are reviewed before being posted. Spam messages (anything not a direct discussion of this message) and all profanity will be deleted. Don't waste your time or mine by posting trash here.