Out of a Jamb

I am proud of myself.  In the past week, I have finished several projects which have been waiting for a while.  Some for a week, some more than six months.  That I am not proud of.  But it’s a fact of life.  Stuff gets put on the back burner and is left there.  While I may put things on the back burner, I don’t forget about them.  In some cases, I don’t have the tools or materials and in other cases, these tasks simply have low priority.  Even so, I think about them almost daily.  Really.

The first of these jobs completed was a matching set of salt and pepper mills.  The idea was to make them out of dogwood to match the dining table I built last Christmas.  About half a year ago, I discussed the idea with the client, Dave, who also happens to be my supplier of wood.  We use the barter system and it works out well for both of us.  We agreed on a set of 8″ salt and pepper mills.  Yes, that’s a salt mill, not a shaker.

Dave provided a nice chunk of 2-1/2″ thick dogwood and I cut it into two square blanks about 10″ long.  I cut them oversized to allow for any checking that may occur while the wood acclimatizes itself to the humidity of my workshop.  Also, during the turning process, about 3/8″ is lost turning a tenon for the top to fit into the bottom.  That’s a 1/4″ tenon and 1/8″ of waste from my parting tool.  The pepper mill is slightly spalted heartwood.  The salt mill is dramatically spalted heart/sapwood.  This made them easy to tell apart.

We had also agreed not to skimp on any aspect of the project.  That’s typical of both him and I.  So a couple weeks later, I located the hardware for a Premium Ceramic Salt Mill and Premium Steel Pepper Mill at Craft Supplies USA, in Provo, Utah.  From experience, I knew that customs can be costly, so I wanted to combine the order with other supplies.  So I asked some friends at work if they would like to order anything and together we placed an order for a couple hundred bucks.

A week later the order arrived and I inspected the hardware and read over the instructions.  To hollow out the inside of the body, a 1-1/8″ drill bit is used to bore a hole through the body of the mill.  Okay, fine.  I picked up a sturdy 1-1/8″ saw-tooth bit at Lee Valley.  The bit was about four inches long overall and I needed to bore a hole over six inches long.  Using my drill press, I could easily bore 3″ deep from each end, but good luck in the two holes lining up well!  Not good enough.  So for about a month, I scoured the world for a drill bit extension that would accommodate a 1/2″ shank bit.  I asked at the local tool stores, I tried on-line, and I tried catalogs.  Nothing.

Convinced that no such thing existed, I reassessed the situation.  I knew that extensions for 3/8″ shank bits were on the market, so I decided that that would be an acceptable option.  Now to find a 1-1/8″ saw tooth bit with a 3/8″ shank.  The only bits with 3/8″ shanks were available in increments of 1/4″ over 1″ diameter.  So I took a step back and re-reassessed the situation.  I figured out that if I put the mill blank on my lathe, turned it round, steadied it with a spindle support, I would be able to bore the hole perfectly in line with the axis of rotation.  And the misalignment in the center caused by drilling from both ends would be nil.  So I experimented once on a scrap and it worked perfectly!  I could not even feel a ridge in the middle.

Once I got the hole bored, the rest was a cake walk.  Start by turning the blank round, cut a tenon at the end of the cap to later fit into the body, then part off the cap.  Bore that 1-1/8″ hole through the body, as well as a 1-1/2″ hole 1/2″ deep in the bottom for the grinding mechanism.  Shape the body.  Chuck the cap into the lathe and bore a 1/4″ hole through it for the shaft, then turn it to shape.

I gave myself a challenge by shaping the mills with a flush joint where the cap meets the body.  There were no beads or chamfers to hide any misalignment.  I took my time and it went well.  I sanded to 320x and made sure that they fit together well.  I filled the few small voids with epoxy, sanded them flush, and sprayed on three coats of precatalyzed lacquer.  I had no idea that precatalyzed lacquer existed in an aerosol can.  Big finishing shops use it regularly, but they buy it in 55 gallon drums.  I happily forked over $40 for the can (made by Mohawk finishing).  They look great and I couldn’t be happier.  Now to get out to Dave’s to deliver them…

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At least a month and a half ago, Home Depot had a sale on interior doors.  We decided that the two upstairs bathrooms could use an update, so this seemed like a quick fix.  I can hear you saying, “Yeah, right – ‘quick’!”  We got them home and rolled on two coats of white enamel paint and let them dry.  They were left in the garage for a while to let the offensive smells dissipate (they didn’t bother me though).

Then I spent a week and a half in Arizona, then a week back home, then half a week in California, then back home.  During my time away, the doors somehow migrated into the main bathroom, where I successfully ignored them for two weeks.  Nobody was bothering me to get them installed, and the door weren’t either.  But today I decided to put them in.

I did not want to wrestle a door down to my workshop, so I decided to do all the work upstairs.  First, I removed one of the old doors and pulled off and hinge to make a hinge mortising jig.  I went down to the shop and used the table saw to cut a notch in a piece of fir I had laying around the shop.  I test fitted the length with the hinge to ensure a perfect fit.  I also compared the width of the mortise in the old door with a combination square.  So far, so good.  I screwed on two “legs” made of scraps of maple.  I bought a case of 500 1-1/4″ coarse pocket hole screws and use them frequently when building jigs (not that I build jigs often).

I marked the hinge locations of the new door directly off the old door and clamped the mortising jig in place.  The picture below shows the jig placed on one of the old doors to give you an idea of how it works.  I set up my laminate trimmer (love my PC310!) with a 1/2″ hinge-mortising bit and routed out the recess accurately and efficiently.  I routed the hinge mortises on the front porch, clamped to the railing, to keep the sawdust out.  I screwed the new door in place and gave it a test.

It closed with some resistance, so I removed the door and clamped it to a wall and planed down the side opposite the hinges with my low-angle jack plane to fit.  Five minutes later, I reinstalled the door and closed it. It closed beautifully.  I installed the privacy door knobs.  One of the reasons I bought my cordless drill with a 1/2″ chuck is so that I could use a hole saw to install locksets.  Yessiree, I am glad to have it.  With one down, I moved my tools to the second bath room and installed the second door.  And it went just as well.

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Afterwards, I shook all the sawdust off my tools and brought them down to my workshop.  God forbid I bring sawdust into the workshop!  I spent fifteen minutes sweeping up the big shavings and vacuuming up the small shavings.

By the way, when you test a door for fit, be sure to PULL the door closed.  There’s nothing worse than having a door close beautifully and not be able to open it again.  Don’t ask me how I know this.  There is really nothing for me to show you about these doors unless you have never seen a door before.  But I took some shots of the installed hardware just because.  There’s an interesting reflection of somebody in the door knob.

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This last picture is a of my bedroom door.  I found this beautiful piece of hardware during spring clean-up.  Somebody was tossing out a steel entrance door with this attached!  So I unbolted it and installed it and brought it home.  I would have installed it on the front door, but the dead bolt was in the way.  So instead, I installed it on my bedroom door.

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