Monday, August 28, 2017

Rough Looking Customers

 I was forced to attend my wife's summer party for the her students that patciapta in her charity "Smiles for Success" - they perform free restorative dental work for women who are abuse shelters.  It's wonderful but difficult work and these young ladies really do spend a great deal of effort on the program.  Sadly I was forced to attend this event, do standard man stuff like BBQ, wash dishes and in general publicly display my subservience to my lovely, yet fierce wife.  You can see my wife' disapproving gaze after some comment I innocently provided.

To make matters worse, some of the young ladies insisted on me taking them sailing.  It was an arduous task that history will one day determine rivals Hercules Labors.

Steve-theWargamer remarked in a comment on the last post that my sailing milage is down significantly this year.  That statement is true.  I do think I've managed to upgraded the crew quality.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Woodworking for Wargamers: Miter Saw Workbench Design, Post #5

Planning is as important as doing in woodworking.  In fact it can save you money as it's a lost cheaper to make mistakes on graph paper than cutting wood the wrong size.  The design for my Miter Saw bench comes from the Wood Whisper website.  My version will look a bit different (not as nicely done and I'm going to have the saw off center (two feet to the left of the picture.  You can purchase the plans for this item from WoodWorkers Journal.

Google is your friend here because there are tons of free plans to use for just about anything.  Just make sure you makes those plans your own by redrawing them on graph paper.  That helps me "see" and remember the details and also figure out if I want to make changes.

Theres so much information on the web it can be very easy to become just a virtual woodworker - always planning, watching your tube videos but rarely doing.  Go at your own pace but when you try something (and fail) the learnings are really helpful and make a lot of the terminology start to make sense.

Some progress last night and a bit of a setback.  The basic frame has been assembled and is really sturdy.  I still need to add the cross braces and will do so this morning.

What's the setback?  I used very cheap 2x4's from Home Depot and was a bit careless in my selection.  If you look closely at the picture you can see the right side of the bench is level with the floor but the Upper left corner lifts off about 1/2 inch from the floor.  The wood I used for the stretchers (the 93 inch long pieces) weren't perfectly straight and I was both too lazy to plane out the boards (straighten them) and just didn't notice.  As Lasergunpacker pointed out in a comment to the previous post, the wood you purchase at  big box home improvement store really isn't top quality and you need to take your time in selecting the wood.  I'll do a post on wood sourcing and selection but it looks like I need to do some more research!

To repeat myself, woodworking is essentially a series of mistake corrections and I think the weight of the bench top and saw will force the frame to be square.  If that doesn't work I'll need to add some more braces and there will be some swearing, lots of swearing - the magical incantations of woodworking.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Woodworking for Wargamers: Miter Saw Bench, Post #4

 Ok enough preliminary ramblings - lets build something!  One of the first things any new woodworker builds is a workbench - it's the heart of a workshop and something that you can decide how good it should look.  I love building workbenches and have built at least 20 - mostly for friends.

The first picture shows my brand new Festool track saw all set up and ready to rip (cut length wise along the grain) a 8 ft x 4ft sheet of 1/2 inch plywood.  The resulting 2, 8ft x 2ft sheets will form the upper and lower decks of the workbench.

Looking at that gleaming festool straining at the starting line makes me think "Gentlemen, start your engines" - varooom!

 It cut like a champ but then I realized I set the depth 1/16th of an inch to short so all I did was cut a very straight deep channel through the plywood - Dooohhhh.  Actually woodworking really is just a series of mistakes that you learn to cover up better and better - just like miniature painting.  Rather than reset the track saw, I got out my trusty japanese saw and separated the sheets in 20 or so seconds.  Cuts like "butta" as they saw in New York.

I went out and purchased all the materials in the am, which consisted of 12 8 ft 2x4's.  When doing a project its good to make all the basic cuts at the same time.  Pictured are the 6 main supports for the bench and each is 31 inches long.  It's really important that these be exactly the same length or my bench will not be level.

I needed to use 2 of the eight foot long 2x4's to cut the 6 31 inch lengths (3 from each).  So how can I really tell if their the same length?  Eyeballing isn't always that accurate, but I could....

 Check the cut-offs.  Since each board is 96 inches long and I'm using 93 inches for each of the three legs there be a bit less than 3 inches remaining.  Also any mis measurements will be magnified 3x in the cutoff so comparing those pieces is the fastest way to ensure the parts are all the same size.  Looks pretty close to me.

SAFETY TIP: just behind the cut-offs you notice that my table saw blade is fully retracted.  Whenever I'm not using the saw I fully retract the blade to prevent damage to it AND me.  I also unplug the unit.  The protruding "shark fin" is the riving knife which is stationary and not sharp.  It's there to help prevent kick back.  Some people take these off their saws as they can limit the things you can do.  Almost invariably, those people acquire the nickname "Stumpy".  Leave the riving knifes on your table saw.

 A note on cutting.  Marking the length with a straight edge is really important but you also have to remember the blade has a width to it - usually 1/8 of an inch.  In the picture, I've marked a length of wood 24 inches and I'll place my saw blade to the left of that mark.  I tried to draw out the width of the blade. I'm sure it's to scale.  Positioning the blade so it's right side just touches the line on it's left side ensure a clean and accurate cut.

As you progress in woodworking one of the first things that change is your tolerance for cut accuracy.  When first starting out its 1/4 of an inch +/- is fine but as you get more experience that gap reduces.  I'm a mid skill person so I'm in the 1/32 on an inch range.

 All of the parts are now cut to length.  If you "embiggen" the picture you can see my highly detailed plans for the bench.  Ok there just some rough scribbling which I'll clean up and post later.
 There are six vertical supports on the bench.  I cut lap joints on the four corner supports.
On both sides!
 Initial assembly of the end caps for the bench.  I got out my trusty DeWalt cordless nail gun to shoot 1 1/4 inch brad nails into each joint to hold it in place while the glue dries.  It's important to ensure everything is square so I used a framing square (it's a triangle but called a square, go figure).  Wood glue was place on each part, and the I put four brad nails in each joint.  You don't have to have a nail gun - clamps work just as well.
The two end caps all glued up and set aside to dry.  It's dark outside so now its' time to stop.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Operation Clean Up: Day 2 Some Progress.....

 Some progress has been made and a lot of stuff has been removed to the rubbish bin.  The assemble table has been cleared off and is ready to start todays project - a rolling miter saw workbench.

Which will go here (I think) and replace the current metal brace I'm using now.  I'm sure I'm using it wrong as it get too much variability in cut lengths.
 The tool cart is in a temporary location but the tops have been organized.  Eventually I'll build some cabinets under the work bench to the right (which has the drill press) which is where I'll store all my terrain making materials.  Hopefully the definition of eventually is this coming Friday!

I "rediscovered" my workshop desk!  Its good to have a planning are in a shop where one can sit down and have a think or, more likely, find creative ways to procrastinate.   The three cardboard boxes are 4" inch caster wheels which I'll be using for the rolling workbenches.

I am awaiting delivery of a new band saw (my old one broke and the new one's price was less than its repair cost.  I really hadn't planned on a new band saw but then the whole "accidental" click into my cart on Amazon and well I thought it would be rude to cancel the transaction.
This is what the shop looked like the night before.  I'm pleased with the progress to date but need to head off to Home Depot to grab some lumber to build the Miter saw station.

I've been listening to a great book on Audible from by Nick Offerman (who also narrates) entitled "Good, Clean Fun, Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop" which is his thoughts woodworking.  It's very funny and a light listen.  I didn't know Mr Offerman was a woodworker / stage builder before becoming a actor.  He does have a quirky style, which I find funny but he does make fun of consumerism and fru-fru coffee swilling. I heartily approve.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Operation Clean Out: Underway

 Our Summer clean out operation has commenced and after 1/2 day limited signs of progress can be seen.

In the background is the rather brightly colored orange rubbish bin I've rented.  Orange is the color my wife hates the mosts and there have been accusations of me deliberately choosing this color to tease her.  Honestly, you're really not given color choices when renting a rubbish bin.

Doesn't look like much progress, does it?
Ahhh - a corner has been cleared out!
 Of course piling stuff upon the surfaces that will be retained has some negatives.
After a few hours work the bin isn't all that full - we'll see about that over the next few days.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wood Working for Wargamers: Hand Tools Post #3

Pictured is what I think is a good set of hand tools one would need to be able to start into woodworking.  By now I've got 5x this number but these are the ones I use the most.  Total cost for all of these new is around $400.00 but if taken care of, they pretty much last forever.  I priced mid-to high end as I've found it never pays to go with really cheap tools.  They're cheap for a reason.
On the left are the safety and measuring marking tools.  In the upper left are safety glasses, ear plugs (really only needed for power tools) and not pictured a dust mask.  Next are a combination square, speed square (the big triangle) a level.  The more esoteric tools include a marking knife and wheel marking gauge.  In the lower right some screen drivers and pliers.
In the center are the cutting tools, which are (from L to R) a coping saw (the "C" with a handle) and standard push saw and two Japanese pull saw.  Push and Pull refer to which stroke the cut is made  Next are some chisels (I wouldn't find all of them) a rubber mallet and a hammer.  The rubber mallet has been dubbed "the Persuader" and has gently nudged many a part into place.

The last group contains a cordless power drill.  I prefer DeWalt tools and is a mid priced model.  It came with two batteries which is really helpful.  Also pictured at the bottom is a black plane and clamps, lots of clamps.  You'll NEVER have enough clamps - ever.

The uses of some of these tools may not be that obvious but, hopefully, over the series of post I can explain how to use them.

I really need to get my work space organized which will be next weeks project.

Here's a list of all the hand tools I think you should have.  Other's may have different opinions but these have worked well for me.

Hand Tools      
   Cost    Source
Eye Protection  $5.00   Home Depot
Dust Mask  $5.00   Home Depot
Ear Plugs  $2.50   Home Depot
Measuring and Marking      
2 Tape measurerers, 16 ft or greater  $10.00   Home Depot
Combination Square  $10.00   Home Depot
Wheel Marking Guage  $17.00
Marking Knife  $8.00
24 Inch metal Ruler  $5.00   Home Depot
Framing Square  $12.00   Home Depot
Level 9"  $5.00   Home Depot
Pencil  $-     Your Desk 
Hand Tools      
Screw Driver set  $15.00   Home Depot
Chisel Set (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 inch)  $14.00   Home Depot
File set  $20.00   Home Depot
Pliers  $10.00   Home Depot
Hammer  $5.00   Home Depot
Mallet  $5.00   Home Depot
Push Saw  $10.00   Home Depot
Coping Saw  $8.00   Home Depot
Japanese Pull Saw  $48.00
Block Plane (#4 size)  $20.00   Home Depot
Cordless Drill w bit set  $75.00   Home Depot
Clamps (you'll never have enough)  $75.00   Home Depot
Total  $384.50    


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Woodworking for Wargamers: YouTube is Your BFF! Post #2

My best tool for woodworking doesn't reside in any tool box.  It isn't a crazy expensive power tool.  It's free and easy to use.  It's youtube.  Why?  Woodworking, like any skill based craft, involves a lot of arcane language (tenons, mitre cuts, rabbits, etc) and is something that requires physical skill.  It's always better to see someone do something like that than read it about it.

It's really not that different from miniature wargaming which has an array of scales and play styles plus all of the stuff one needs to stock up a painting work desk (paints, brushes, scenic materials, etc...).  It can all be a bit intimidating at first but once you dive in and get started things start to gradually make sense.

I have developed a set of goto video channels on youtube which you may find helpful.  These are personal favorites who I've chosen because I like the style of the video presenter as well as the technical details they are trying to convey.  You may not care for the particular individuals I've selected so look for others.  There are a zillion of them and a lot seem to be making a good part of their incomes doing these videos.  At least they seem to be getting free tools to demo!

One of my decision criteria for the following list is that I have chosen video channels where I think the presenter is demonstrating good shop safety skills.  You'll hear something about shop safety in every post because its the most important thing I can try to teach you.  Good safety skills means you'll have more time to practice woodworking.  Bad safety skills means you'll likely spend a lot of time outside of the shop in rehab.  There are a lot of videos where the presenters don't demonstrate safety skills and I've seen cringe worthy things like people reaching across a spinning table saw blade, not using push sticks and the worse offense of all - not wearing eye protection.  I realize I may sound like an over protective nanny but it's important.  Yeah that and I do like to lecture.....

Enough moralizing from me

Here are my favorite YouTube channels:

Dave Stanton
Dave is an Aussie who has a very inviting style and a deliberate pace that allows you to follow along in the shop.  I may even wear a blue T-shirt in my workshop (watch the videos you'll understand).  My new goal in life is to get to Australia to buy both Dave on Paul O'G (of the Man Cave blog) a beer together.  Australia's a small island so I'm sure they live close to one another.

Steve Ramsay
Steve makes videos that are aimed at the beginner and he uses a limited set of tools.  He also has a quirky sense of humor that I like.  He has a really good series of posts titled "wood working basics" which I highly recommend.

The Wood Whisperer
Marc Spagnuolo's video channel.  This is a full fledge business with a supporting webpage and some really good books (that I have bought and use constantly).  Marc's has honed his teaching skills so this is a great channel for more complex projects.  Marc also does exceptional tool reviews that cater to both the beginner and power user.

Jay Bates
Jay is a young guy who's an exceptionally talented wood-worker and also a very skilled video editor.  Jay uses CAD (Computer Aided Design) program sketchup to create his projects and I'm using his videos to learn how to use the program.  My son is a CAD expert and laughs at my feeble CAD attempts.   I also really like the design of Jay's shop.

Paul Sellers
Paul is the Mac-Daddy of hand tool users.  He doesn't use power tools and proves that anything can be made with just hand tools.  His skill level is off the chart.  Every time I fire up my table saw, I wince a little because I know somewhere in England Paul Sellers is looking down upon me in a disapproving manner.

That's enough to get you started - there are a lot of others so find one that you connect with and use it to both learn and gain some confidence.

Next Post: Suggested Hand Tools to start with

Monday, August 14, 2017

Garage and Basement Clean Out

We're sailing in troubled waters here in the Uber Geek's Lair - Executive Management has decreed that no new tools and/or miniature shall pass through our doors until I've cleaned out the garage and basement.  Shickingly, my lovely, yet fierce wife has the notion that a car needs to be able to fit into a garage/  ALL THE WAY IN no less.

Dark times, indeed.

Now these proclamations were delivered in the "I'm not kidding" voice which compels my obedience.

As a result, I have scheduled next week off from work, ordered a 20 foot long rubbish bin and purchased a pallet load of Aleve pain reliever.

Cleaning commences next Monday.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Uber-Geek's Guide to Woodworking for Wargamers Post #1

I've decided to start a new series on my blog entitle "Woodworking for Wargamers".  As with most of my endeavors there's just a rough outline of what the series will be and we'll all wing it from there.  What could go wrong?

Pictured at the top is a game table I built for my friend Steve MacLaughlin.  I really enjoyed building the table and every warmer should have a table as a house warming present, shouldn't they?

First, a few caveats.

(1) I'm not an expert woodworker, My skill level is, at best, moderate, having started just a few years ago.  That means I may have some techniques that are just plain wrong or not that effective.  I'm very open to constructive criticism from all of you as I'll likely be learning along the way.

(2) I'm a cautious woodworker.  Workshop safety is both a skill, a mindset, and a hallmark of a quality woodworker.  It's the most important skill to develop.  Modern power tools create huge efficiencies and improve accuracy but they must be respected at all times or they will cause gruesome injuries.  Remember the only measure of success in working is starting and ending projects with the same number of digits AND their all at original lengths.  Anything else is an EPIC FAIL.

Your most important safety tool is your brain and you really must have it tuned to a safety first attitude.  Please don't attempt any of the things I will be trying without a safety first mindset.  Lastly, If you do follow any advice I may give you are doing so at your own risk.  Remember, I'm pretty much a standard issue moron.

(3) The pace of the series will ebb and flow as my work/life balance does.  I do move at a deliberate (OK, slow) pace with woodworking - pretty much due to item 2 above.  You can always spot fast woodworkers as they are the ones with less than ten fingers.....

(4) To be honest, one of the reasons to do this series is to create excuses to give to my lovely, yet fierce, wife to buy new tools.  Those of you with spouses understand and value the benefit of appropriate acquisition cover can provide.

(5) Power vs Hand Tools.  There is nothing than can be built with power tools that can not also be built with hand tools.  The trade-off is time and skill level.  It's kind of like the trade-off between Muskets and Longbows.  Where I can, I'll try to demonstrate how something can be accomplished with just hand tools vs power.  This series will be gauged at the beginner so I'll be assuming you don't have a lot of tools.

(6) I'm going to try to make some video how-to's as well as my normal "wall of text with blurry pictures".  Who knows?, maybe I'll start my own YouTube Channel and become a major star in the wargaming woodworking circuit and garner all the fame and fortune that ensues.  Then again this aspect may die in editing as I tire at looking at my edifice and throw it all out.  We shall see.

For those of you who have made and posted video tutorials, any advice on equipment and "how-to's" is greatly appreciated.

Potential Topics:
Here's my list of potential post/video topics.  These will change and likely right after I hit the "publish" button in the upper right of my screen.

- Information Sources
There are a lot of really interesting websites and Youtube channels dedicated to woodworking which I get a lot of value out of.  So will you.  All of the sites/channels I'll refer you to are way more experienced than me.  If their advice contradicts mine, ignore me!

- Shop Safety
See item 2 above, this really isn't something to take lightly.

- Shop Layout and Basic Tools
Having some form of a workspace is really important and knowing how to scale your projects to fit that space.

- Cutting and beveling MDF for terrain and troop trays
A bit simple, but there are easy ways and hard ways to cut and bevel MDF and we all put off doing it.

- Types of wood
Woodworking has a similar tradeoff in wood species as we have in plastics vs metals.

- Lets build some dice trays
Ohhh joinery - joinery is the how two pieces of wood are joined together.  There's lots of different ways and I mean lots......

- Wood finishing
How to make an ordinary job look extraordinary.

- Dice Tower Project
It's just a dice tray with a superiority complex.

- Storage units for miniatures
OK this is a fancy way of saying shelving, but we all need more storage.

- Terrain Panels
Who doesn't want to hear the "oohs and ahhhs" from passer by's at a con?

- Travel cases with display tops
'Cause we all like to show off just like in "Show and Tell" in grade school.

- Organizers and player aids for various game systems
I'm taking suggestions for what to build here and for which game systems.

- Basic and High End game tables
I feel like building some game tables and likely retro fitting mine.  There will be a charity auction for any tables we build at the end of this series.

- Painting Desk
Why not have a custom layout that meets your specs?

Well there you have it.  I really open to other project/topic suggestions (as long as they facilitate my main goal of having an excuse to buy more tools).  Please let me know if there is something you'd like me to cover.

Hey Tango!  Since I'm banned from TMP can you cross post it over there?
(OK I just couldn't resist that one)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

30th Wedding Anniversary, New Power Tools and a Blog Series idea

 Last week (July 25th) was my wife and I's 30th Wedding Anniversary.  Thats a pretty big milestone, so we decided to splurge a little bit and spend a week at our favorite place in the Florida Keys - Little Palm Island.  We had a very nice little cabana and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  If you like to fish or just see wildlife, the Keys are an amazing place and every day we were either kayaking, fishing, snorkeling or spearfishing.  It really is a fantastic place.

 We also had a firepit that we enjoyed each night.  The suites do not have TV's and internet is very limited so it really forces you to unplug which is another plus.
 Here's my lovely bride - looking forward to the next 30 years
 The place has a few key deer, like this fellow named Trace who swim between the islands.  He's not very shy is he.

Mary Beth took most of the good pictures - we bought a few disposable cameras for snorkeling. I'll post those a bit later.  It was a wonderful week.
 Of course we returned to an overgrown garden
 with just a handful of tomatoes. cakes and peppers
Some of the tomatoes where a bit overripe so it was time to haul out the food mill and bring them down
 "Blood for the blood god"
Tomatoes sauce, which will become....
Red Gold!
One of the many blessing I have is my wife who knows what I like and what I need and manages to combine the two into really cool gifts.  This anniversary is no exception and see got me some really nice Festool power tools, like the TS-55 track saw pictured above.  Festool is a german company and they make the Mercedes Benz of power tools - both in terms of quality and pricing.  I also got a certificate to get a few more Festool items like their Domino DF-700 Joiner system.  Oh my, I'm in tool heaven.

People either love Festool (because they have them) or hate them (cause their super expensive).  I'm at that stage in life where I just don't care what others think and I can put these tools to good use.  Bring on my shop's Festool conversion!

and this brings my to my last point for the 5 of you who have waded though my ramblings above.  I'm thinking of doing a series of posts centered around basic to advanced woodworking skills for wargamers.  Essentially a series of how to articles that may range from:

- basic woodworking skills and shop safety tips
- cutting and beveling MDF for terrain pieces
- building dice trays
- building dice towers
- organizers for specific game systems
- display trays
- storage units
- terrain panels
- basic and high-feature gaming tables

I'll do a more specific post about what I'm thinking of doing but would love to hear any ideas from others on what they would like to see.