Getting in the Groove

This is a follow-up post to my recent article, In The Groove, as suggested by Nick Roulleau.

When I’m in the groove, things go smoothly and nothing can frustrate me.  When I’m not in the groove, I feel tired.  I feel unmotivated.  I feel like going back to bed.  That’s how I feel right now.

Here are some strategies that I employ to try to get myself back in the groove:

  • Turn on some music.  When I’m frustrated, I like to play loud rock or metal like Fear Factory or Hail The Villain (until I blew up the speakers of my stereo).  It doesn’t usually get me in the groove, but it gets me doing something.  Sometimes chill music like Anna Gilbert or Colin James helps me relax and start enjoying what I’m doing (even if it isn’t enjoyable);
  • Work on something that excites me.  Some tasks, especially repetitive, monotonous ones, are difficult to get motivated to start.  So instead, I work on something else that interests for a half hour before switching to the less interesting task; and
  • Do something.  Anything.  Putting tools away and sweeping up shavings require little thought or focus yet are productive.  No matter how minor or inconsequential the task, doing SOMETHING will help me gain momentum.

These are three strategies that work for me.  Now, if I was in the groove when I wrote this, I might have a longer list.  Since I’m not, this is what I have to share with you.  And that brings me to one last strategy which just occurred to me:

  • Get someone else involved.  Having someone else around, either in person or virtually, can stimulate your mind, motivate you to start, and inspire you to excel.

I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas of how to get in the groove.  Share them in the comments section.

Maple Trestle Table, Session 6 – Making Battens and Installing Countertop Connectors

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top;
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood; and
Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop and the next step is to find maple for the battens. #flairww -4:30 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think there might be some maple behind there… #flairww -4:38 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Well, there certainly is, but it’s too thin. It’s only 8/4 (2″ rough) and I need 2″+ surfaced smooth. #flairww -4:40 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks This piece would be perfect but I need it for the legs. #flairww -4:42 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I have a general lack of straight-grained maple. Everything is nicely figured! #flairww -4:42 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I forgot that I have more slabs of this maple. #flairww -4:56 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I also forgot that I need to mow the back lawn… I’ll do that later. #flairww -4:57 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I could really use another pair of saw horses right now. I’ve got 6 in use. #flairww -4:58 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Actually, I think I’ll use this piece. (I just had a mini-landslide.) #flairww -5:03 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Instead of standing lumber on end against walls, I think I might be better to lay them down and walk over them. I’m mostly kidding.#flairww -5:05 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks now that would make a sweet shape for a desk top that is pushed against a wall -5:06 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think it’s a little narrow. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: now that would make a sweet shape for a desk top that is pushed against a wall -5:06 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I was looking around the shop for my goggles. Then I remembered that I wore them to bed last night so they’re on my nightstand. #flairww -5:10 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks seeing these slabs you post are like looking at clouds for me, trying to let the shape dictate its function-5:16 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Fun! #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: seeing these slabs you post are like looking at clouds for me, trying to let the shape dictate its function-5:16 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just used my sliding table saw to cut the two battens out of the slab – the first time I’ve used a machine during this build. #flairww -5:30 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Note that I consider the angle grinder, router, and jigsaw power tools but not machines. #flairww -5:30 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

BillGriggs @FlairWoodworks You can never have to many saw horses or clamps. -5:45 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Or friends. #flairww RT @BillGriggs: @FlairWoodworks You can never have to many saw horses or clamps. -5:46 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

BillGriggs RT @FlairWoodworks: Or friends. #flairww RT @BillGriggs:@FlairWoodworks You can never have to many saw horses or clamps. -5:49 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks You bet! #flairww RT @Black_SheepWW: @FlairWoodworks Is this lumber from a local tree? -6:15 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

Black_SheepWW: @FlairWoodworks Is this lumber from a local tree? -6:15 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I cut, surfaced, then milled rabbets on all sides of the battens so that they fit into the pockets. #flairww -6:17 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m using a shoulder plane to slowly widen the rabbets until the battens fit. #flairww -6:20 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks After fitting a part to another, I mark it so I know where it belongs. #flairww -6:26 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Since I’ll soon be planing the surface of the slab, I marked the edge. #flairww -6:27 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

ChrisHasFlair I’m working on a Maple Trestle Table this very minute. Follow along with #flairww Tweeting as @FlairWoodworks -6:28 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for a quick tidy up so I’m clearing the tabletop of tools.#flairww -6:34 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m going to try out these countertop connectors to hold the slabs together. #flairww -6:37 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m replacing the stock bolt (top) with my own 1/4-20 bolt. It’s longer and a little beefier. #flairww -6:43 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m going to use this 35mm, carbide tipped bit to drill the holes for the countertop connectors. Great bit. #flairww -6:49 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve drilled the two holes. Now I need to rout a hole between them for the bolt. #flairww -6:56 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve got a 1/4″ bolt. Should I use a 1/4″ router bit or a 5/16″ bit to allow for some clearance? #flairww -6:57 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks 5/16″-6:59 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I agree. #flairww RT @MansFineFurn@FlairWoodworks 5/16″-7:00 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks My bit is not centred in the guide bushing so I need to not rotate the router as I make the cut. #flairww -7:02 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I could centre the bushing around the bit, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. #flairww -7:02 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks nah -7:03 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks 1 out of 1 woodworkers agree with me. #flairww RT@MansFineFurn@FlairWoodworks nah -7:03 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

kring_l Second that “@MansFineFurn@FlairWoodworks 5/16″” -7:03 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

@msnodgrass2: @FlairWoodworks why not something like a big butterfly?-7:15 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m finally set up to rout. #flairww -7:15 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Oh yeah! Two out of two woodworkers agree! #flairww RT@kring_l: Second that “@MansFineFurn@FlairWoodworks 5/16″” -7:16 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want the table to be able to be taken apart for ease of moving. #flairww RT @msnodgrass2: why not something like a big butterfly?-7:17 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

Tumblewood: I think this will be one if your coolest improv designs yet! -7:20 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I realized that I set up to put the edge, not the centre of the bit on the centreline. I caught it before I started routing. #flairww -7:20 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! RT @Tumblewood: I think this will be one if your coolest improv designs yet! #flairww -7:21 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

Tooltutor @FlairWoodworks whew, close one. Good thing u measured twice, even if it was just in your head -7:22 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Always double-check! #flairww RT @Tooltutor:@FlairWoodworks whew, close one. Good thing u measured twice, even if it was just in your head -7:24 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Rather than reset my template, I simply switched guide bushings. I don’t have a guide bushing 5/32″ smaller but… #flairww -7:25 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks …I do have one 1/4″ smaller. The other 1/32″? Remember how my bushing and bit are not concentric? Score one for Chris! #flairww -7:26 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The first connector is installed. #flairww -7:31 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Dinner time! #flairww -7:32 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop after dinner and I’ll work on installing the second countertop connector at the other end. #flairww -9:09 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks By the way, these countertop connectors cannot be tightened with an adjustable (Crescent) wrench. #flairww -9:13 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks There is simply not enough clearance to get the wrench on, let alone turn it. #flairww -9:15 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The second connector is installed. I’m going to try to find a wrench in the garage. #flairww -9:32 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I didn’t find the right wrench in the garage but remembered that I had these on the wall of my machine shop. #flairww -9:38 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s a great set of wrenches for a woodworker. They’re all box ends with metric on one end and imperial on the other. #flairww -9:39 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The bolts are tight. They seem to work well, but I’m going to leave the clamps on for now. #flairww -9:42 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks For the battens to work according to my plan, they have to bottom out on the bottom of the routed pocket. #flairww -9:43 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks That means I need to remove some bumps from the surface before installing the battens. Where did I leave my jack plane? #flairww -9:43 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The battens are parallel (with no tuning required!) and will be my reference for flattening the table top. #flairww -10:20 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’d planned on flattening the slab with a router but since it’s almost 11pm, I’m trying something else. #flairww -10:43 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a long, straight piece across the battens and a depth stop on a drill bit to drill a grid of holes to the same depth. #flairww -10:44 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Now, I just need to plane until all the drilled holes disappear.#flairww -10:45 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks The brass screw forward of the plane’s mouth prevent the toe from being driven into the blade.  Brilliant. #flairww -10:52 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Anybody want another video of me planing big slabs of maple? ;) #flairww -11:04 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time to sharpen my low-angle jack plane’s blade. #flairww-11:06 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Back in business. #flairww -11:08 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks When doing a lot of planing, I find it imperative to switch grips. Left-handed, then right-handed. Push, then pull. #flairww -11:10 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks Also, take lots of water (or Twitter) breaks. You’re allowed to take your shirt off too. #flairww -11:11 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I also like the sideways stroke, especially for wide boards or slabs. #flairww -11:12 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks This section is just about there. I’m done working in the shop for the night and going for a cold shower. #flairww -11:28 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think I took off 1/8″ in thickness. Maybe more. #flairww -11:28 PM Apr 23rd, 2012

Session 7 is next!

Dovetails and Plywood

My cousin, Michael, asked me to make a wooden box to store his torque wrench.  When he gave me the wrench so I could make the box to fit, he told me, “It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just something to protect it.”  My job was just to make the box and he intended to line it with foam.

I didn’t have much in the way of non-fancy materials in my shop.  I was tempted to use some red oak but ultimately decided to use up some narrow strips of 1/2″ poplar plywood.  (Unlike most hardwood plywoods which have stupidly-thin veneers that splinter when you sneeze at them, this plywood is made of nice thick veneers.  This plywood is 1/2″ thick and has three layers.  You do the math.  This is my favourite plywood.)

At the tablesaw, I cut the six parts to size and milled grooves in the long sides for the bottom and sliding top.

I could have simply glued and nailed the corners, but I felt inspired.  So I dovetailed the corners.  No, they weren’t the best joints I’ve cut, but this application did not demand fine joinery.  These dovetails provided some visual interest and mechanical strength.  And that’s what mattered.  Yes, I used wood putty.  And yes, I missed a spot.  And no, I wasn’t concerned.

I decided to try the time-lapse function on my new video camera so I set it up when I cut the dovetails.  When I shot the video it was dark outside so I was in full control of the lighting.  A single fluorescent magnifying lamp directly over the bench illuminated the workspace.  I set the camera to take a picture every 10 seconds while I cut dovetails for a box.

This is definitely an experimental video.  Please let me know what you think of it.  (I’ll cover my strange dovetailing techniques in a future post.)