Friday, August 30, 2013

Milton Friedman in Practice

A recent article on describes alternative ways to pay for college. But the one method that garnered my attention was an individual who used crowdsourcing to generate enough money to pay university tuition. The reason why it was interesting to me is because Milton Friedman, in Free to Choose, actually conjectured that this would be a feasible solution for paying your way through college without loans. His argument was that outside investors would contribute capital with the expectation that you would repay them a certain percentage of your salary for a fixed term. It was (ideally) a win-win situation in that you didn't have to defer purchasing a home or new car due to student loans, and the investors, if they used proper vetting, would have a reasonable rate of return.
I just thought it was really neat to see it in action, though I'm curious as to if this will result in a drop in humanities.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chris Schwarz's Traveling Tool Chest

In the meantime since my last post, I've assembled the tool chest case, installed the top and bottom skirts, and completed the tool tray. The main reason for having the skirts is the way the chest's case is constructed; dovetails can only go together in one direction, and by default, can go apart the same way. By alternating the way the dovetails go on the skirts with the dovetails on the case, it effectively traps the chest case so the sides can't bow out and fail.
Although I'm pretty sure Chris Schwarz looked at several antique examples of tool chests to come up with his design, the most puzzling thing about the chest was the bottom skirt. When I was first reviewing the sketchup model for the chest, a cursory glance at the bottom skirt made me think that it was similar to other bases I'd seen for case pieces with rabbets on the inside and the chest would slide down and be glued and possibly nailed to the bottom. Moldings would follow to cover up the transition from case to skirt. 
Not exactly. The bottom skirt slips down around and lies flush with the bottom battens, but it's simply glued to the case sides. Hmph.
Although I've been able to get away without measuring through the use of dividers, story sticks and what not, pinch rods would've been extremely helpful for getting a tighter fit on the skirts. They're just two pieces of wood with a fastener in the middle to hold them together, allowing you to measure inside cases with them and then transcribe to a piece of wood for cutting. I can't recall how many times I've used a ruler or tape measure only to have a parallax error rear its quarter inch long head on the piece I've cut.
For the bottom skirt, I measured carefully, cut the dovetails carefully, screwed up an entire set of the pins carefully, and then carefully swore as I attempted to wrangle glue and bar clamps on the skirt while manipulating it into place.
For all the difficulty, the only gap on the bottom skirt measures a hair less than 1/32". That's nothing. The wood will probably shift more than that over the changing seasons.
I glued the top skirt flush with the top of the case and omitted the back board of the skirt to allow the lid to pivot down.
I used Tavern Green milk paint on the chest since it's what was on hand, and applied two coats on the front and sides, and a thin wash coat on the back. I thought it looked fine, just a little plain, so I stenciled a scrolling vine sort of pattern on the front and then painted it with acrylic paint and soft camel hair brushes. I think a stiffer brush is in order. The camel hair brushes might be more suitable for water colors on parchment instead of wood. I had a lot of trouble getting crisp lines with the liner brush. It acted more like a mop in that it would refuse to release the paint until I'd press down about halfway to the ferule. Of course, this splayed out the brush hairs and made the line a lot thicker than what I wanted or needed. If I had to do this again, I'd cut out stencils from cardboard or thick paper and tack them down just to get clearly defined borders and lines. Once the acrylic was dry, I applied two coats of butcher block oil (which is really just a thinned varnish) to darken the milk paint and give it a slight sheen.
The only things left are to make, fit, and install the lid, install handles on the side, and possibly make another tool tray.



Painted and varnished

close up

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Call Me Queequeg

I finally finished cutting out the pin boards and tail boards for the tool chest. Because my workbench is a dinky little affair, clamping up anything in my vise over 5 inches wide is just asking for trouble.
I love trouble. I was thinking about getting my middle named changed to Trouble, but the amount of paperwork that was required was too much trouble. Oh, sweet irony!
Frank Klausz wrote an article in Popular Woodworking magazine about the joys of continental frame saws aka bow saws. He stated that for any material thicker than 1/2" he uses a bow saw. Because my tool chest is a bastard child of red oak, eastern white pine, and hard white ash, I knew that using an ordinary dovetail saw would try my patience. About two strokes of the saw for the hard woods, and one stroke for the pine, was all I needed to get down to my baseline. I used a coping saw to clean out the waste and a chisel to clean up.
I was blown away by how fast it was.
Yesterday I assembled the case and today I'll cut plywood and nail on the bottom including the battens, or rot strips, that span the bottom's width.
When the boards weren't assembled, I could easily stack them up leaning against the wall.
But as soon as the dovetails were cut and the fit perfect and square, I assembled the case to lessen the likelihood of the boards warping or doing other sorts of crazy things. Because of limited space, I had to put them in the study right behind the computer. Every time I glance over my shoulder I see this massive wooden box that always makes me thing of Queequeg and his coffin. Like the novel, I'm sure this coffin will turn out to be a lifesaver for my tools and space.
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