Archive for January, 2012

Making Plywood – Wooden Gear clocks

In the last post I mentioned I had decided to make my own plywood.  I initially had two reasons; one was that I a fairly large pile of Red Oak and Ash in my shop, and the second was that the thicknesses called for in the article, mostly 3/8″ plywood, was not readily available locally.

So I started by making a couple of test pieces.  To see how easy the process was and if I was going to have enough time to complete all six clocks.

  First I cut a board to about 3′ in length, flattened one face, and then one edge.

After I had a square edge from which to work, I then went to the band saw to start re-sawing these boards into 1/8″ thick veneers.

Then back to the bench to re-flatten the sawn face.  Back to band saw to cut another piece, back to the bench…  I think you get the picture.  It was about this time that I realised the Ash I was working with an absolute pain in the butt to work with hand tools, the grain was switching back and forth most of the time and I would have to plane one half of the board in one direction and the other half the other.  When you are trying to get everything to a consistent thickness, this is…  frustrating.

Any way, eventually I had enough pieces for one test piece in Oak and one in Ash, neither was much fun and took a lot longer than I had anticipated. Just to get the veneers!

Since I was aiming for a 3/8″ thickness I was going to use 3 veneers for each piece, alternating the grain perpendicular to each other for each ply.  I was not sure what the best glue would be for this application so I tried the two kinds I had in my shop.  Standard yellow glue and West Systems epoxy.

Doing a mock-up of the first 3 plys I came to the conclusion that there was no way I had enough nor deep enough clamps to really get good pressure across the entire surface.  So I made a press of sorts, I took two 2×6’s and cut them in roughly thirds, I also had some small pieces of 3/4″ mdf lying around so I ripped them to about 12″ wide and cut them to 30″ long.  On the bottom piece I screwed 3 2×6’s to one side with one on each edge and one in the middle, the middle one being the longer of the three.  For the piece that was to become the top I planed a slight arc to one edge of all three 2×6’s and screwed the bowed side to the mdf.  What this gave me was one really flat surface and one surface that had a bow in the middle allowing me to clamp my plywood in the middle using a total of six clamps and getting perfect pressure from the center out.

So I set my first ply down on the bottom platform and covered it in glue, also covering one side of the perpendicular pieces.  Then laying the glued faces together and tapping a small brad in each of the four corners and snipping it off just above the second ply, I applied glue to the other side of the perpendicular pieces and the bottom of the remaining veneer.  Setting the top ply in place and pressing it into the brads, keeping it from sliding around.

I then set the top platform on top of the stack and starting clamping the center 2×6’s together, trying to ensure that the pressure started at the center and pushed any excess glue out to the sides, not trapped in the middle.  I then put the outer clamps on.

After letting it percolate for twenty-four hours I took it out of the clamps and made my second test piece with yellow glue and Ash.  The epoxy seemed to work better and was a lot easier to spread, making less of a mess and a better bond. I then proceeded to flatten both faces and edges bringing it to a consistent thickness and size.

This whole process took a total of about three days when all said and done, and I came to the conclusion that it would take me too long to complete all of the plywood for the six clocks I was planning on making.  It also was REALLY work intensive without a thickness planer or drum Sander. Had I had either of those, I probably would have continued to make plywood for all of the clocks.  Instead I made enough for one clock, so it would look consistent.  My plywood could not be mistaken for the box store stuff I ended up purchasing.  That is also something I came to regret, poor glue bonds between plys, but we will get to that later.

I hope this was informative and in our next post we will start to look at the various ways I came up with for cutting out the gears.


On with the show


Now that we got the welcome stuff out-of-the-way let’s get to the first project.

So like a lot of woodworkers I have taken to making some Christmas presents and since I have six nephews, all around the same age they tend to get similar gifts.  So the year before last they got puzzle boxes courtesy of a book/DVD combo Puzzle Boxes by Jeff Vollmer which they loved.  I highly recommend it.  This year I wanted to make something they would love just as much and would also scratch a woodworking itch, remember I am an addict and love just about all things woodworking.


 Yep, you guessed it, wooden gear clocks! Six of them.  Now that think about it I may have been pushing the limits of common sense, but, you have to admit they are very cool.

Of course I had planned on starting these about mid summer and working through the fall taking my time and just enjoying the process. 

Ya right, are you kidding!  Well, wouldn’t you know with one thing or another I didn’t actually get started until Thanksgiving week. I know, I know, a little over four weeks to complete six clocks that I know nothing about, have I mentioned I procrastinate.

Anyway, to make things even more interesting I (in a moment of brilliance) decided that not only was I making wooden gear clocks, but I was going to make my own plywood from which to cut the gears.

So now is the time that I should probably mention that I have very few power tools.  A band saw, scroll saw, drill press, and the cheapest table saw that Sears has ever made, I avoid using it if at all possible and it tends to be folded up and put under a work bench.  Notice, no power jointer, no planer, and definitely no drum sander. 

In the next post I will walk through my plywood process and all that entails.

Welcome to my blog.

I know, I know.  another woodworking blog.  Well, why not?

My intentions are to document some of my projects, and problems, and maybe impart a few tips for all those other woodworkers out there. 

A little  about myself.  I have been a woodworking hobbyist since 2008 and an avid online woodworking reader/watcher.  Yes I’m that guy reading and watching without comment, here is where I feel a little more comfortable expressing my views and commenting on various woodworking topics.  I will freely admit that I have a problem.  I love woodworking, all kinds of woodworking, you name it and I have an interest.  I seem to wander from topic and project to topic and project.  I do try to occasionally stop and build something, only to discover that I have found a new subject of interest.

It all started when my wife and I went shopping for a china hutch for our dining room.  After several weeks and many stores, including a couple of custom order shops, we decided that we couldn’t find one that we liked that was anywhere near our price range.  Enter stage right…  Norm to the rescue.  While watching the “New Yankee Workshop” one Saturday afternoon I looked at my wife with confidence thinking that I’m a pretty handy guy and said “You know I think I can build what we want for what we have to spend…” and so the adventure began.

With a lot of positive reinforcement from Norm and Roy via the TV, and a set of plans from the new Yankee website, I started to construct a hutch.  It took me most of a year of sporadic nights and weekends with a whole lot of swearing but I did it.

Hutch for wife

Along the way I found some pretty good company.  Marc, The Wood Whisperer; Shannon, The Renaissance Woodworker; Bob, at the Logan Cabinet Shoppe ; Matt’s Basement Workshop; and many others.  All with the same interest in woodworking and the desire, some might say passion, to create, to build something with our own hands.

As I stated at the beginning I plan to document some of my more interesting projects with the hope of providing a little entertainment for those like me who are addicted to learning about how others go about this great adventure.