Harold White Lumber Company

Earlier this year my territory changed for my job and I acquired the Lowe’s in Morehead, KY as one of my accounts. Whenever I would drive down to that Lowe’s, I would always drive by the Harold White Lumber Co. I was always impressed by the amount of logs the mill had on its lot, but I saw no showroom or retail office, so I always kept driving. That was until a few weeks ago, when I decided to pull in and see what the place was all about. I figured the worse thing that could happen is they would tell me they only sell to wholesale accounts and kick me out.

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I stopped at the mill work office and asked if they sold to retail customers. They said they did, but I would have to drive over to the lumber office so, I got back into my car and headed down the driveway to another office. There I met the office manager who asked what type of wood I was looking for. I said “nothing at the moment, just wondered if you sell to retail customers”. She gave me their price list and asked the plant manager to show me around the mill. He took me where they keep the short stacks of lumber with loads of cherry, oak, wormy maple and poplar. He told me that the 4/4 poplar was only $.80 board foot. I usually pay $2.20 for 4/4 poplar at my current lumber yard in Cincinnati. I would have bought some that day, but I didn’t bring any cash with me plus, I was just looking for info at the time and had no intention of buying anything anyway.

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The mill is huge with thousands of logs on their land. I looked at their price list and they carry all the major domestic species, but they also have basswood, sycamore, sassafras, hemlock, and coffee tree. I was told by the office manager that they don’t always have the rare species in stock, but if you call ahead, they may be able to mill some up. You can even buy a whole log if you want to mill the wood yourself.

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So today, I went back and I told the same office manager I was interested in the four-foot shorts. She had an employee follow me back to the area they keep them so they could load it in my car. The last time I was here, this whole area was stacked with bundles of lumber. The guy told me that the shorts don’t last long. They even have a big dumpster where people can dumpster dive for one to two foot long boards.

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I came home with 20 board feet of 4/4 FAS White Oak for $30.00 for a whiskey barrel coffee table my cousin wants me to make for her. The wood should be enough to make the base and top of the table as I already bought a halved whiskey barrel last weekend. The next time I go back, I’m going to stock up on poplar, maple, cherry, and walnut. It’s nice to have place where I can buy hardwood lumber dirt cheap.

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The Blacksmith Shop of Mt Vernon

Spending some time in Washington DC last week, my wife and I went to Mt. Vernon to visit George Washington’s estate. After we bought our tickets to the view of the house, we had some time to kill, so we walked around the grounds to see what else was around.

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On the right side of the estate near the near the back, was the blacksmith shop. It appeared to be about 15′ x 20′ in size.

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We arrived in front and saw one of the blacksmiths making a large hinge. You can see how soaked his shirt is as it was nearly 90 degrees that day. He must lose twenty pounds during the summer working in there.

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Here’s a shot of the bench with a scrap iron on the ground waiting for use.

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Here are some of the items the blacksmiths make at the estate. What’s really cool is they make axe heads and other tools.

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On the side of the shop sat a bin full of coal which stank to high heaven. The smell of burning coal is not a pleasant thing.

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I looked around the other buildings for a carpentry or cabinet shop, but found nothing. I find it odd that Washington didn’t have one on his estate somewhere. The only thing I saw was display case inside the museum with this panel raising plane.

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The Downfall of Sears

This morning I had some time to kill in between store visits, so I decided to stop in a local Sears to browse their tool department for a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting much since I knew that Sears had fallen on hard times in recent years, but what I encountered was just plain sad.

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I was so taken back by their tool department that I grabbed my cell phone and took some pictures of  their shelves. There was hardly any selection of any kind. I remember about twenty years ago, Sears was one of the main places to buy tools. They had a huge selection with competitive prices. I used to buy all my tools from Sears. From clamps to power tools, to automotive wrenches. In fact I still own a Craftsman bench top radial drill press that still works like a champ to this day.

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I was wondering if this was a store that was closing so, I looked around for clearance signs, but found none. The only reason I could think of why they don’t have any products on their shelves is because they may be on COD-only terms with the majority of their suppliers. I remember the company I used to work for a few years ago had the same problem. They couldn’t order any product from the manufacturers to resell it to their dealers and ended up going bankrupt within six months. It’s been so bad for Sears lately that they sold the Craftsman brand name to Stanley Black and Decker late last year to generate cash.

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This is what’s left of their machinery selection. A radial arm saw and a cheap looking band saw. There was one old lady working the entire department who looked like she was 82 years old. I remember back in the day, there would be at least three or four clerks around to help you out.

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When things get this bad, there’s no way I would even buy anything from them in the first place. There’s a good chance that if I did buy something from them and the product ended up breaking within the 30 days of my purchase, with my luck, the company’s doors would be closed leaving me high and dry. When was the last time you bought something from Sears? I can’t even remember the last time I did.

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Jet Oscillating Edge Sander

A couple of weeks ago, my local tool supply company I’ve been buying my power tools for the past twenty-five years, Edward B Mueller Co, was having a spring tool sale. I looked through the email and saw that they were offering the Jet oscillating edge sander for $1019.00, which matched Amazon’s price, but they were also offering $95.00 in free accessories. I’ve wanted one of these machines for a while, but was unsure how useful they were since I’ve never tried one myself. I went over to Woodnet.net and asked the guys over there what their thoughts were on them. Everyone who owned one came back that they loved theirs and they use it on nearly every project they work on. So, I decided to bite the bullet and bring one home to my shop. Along with the sander I also got a mobile base and an extra sanding belt with my $95.00 in free accessories.

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After dragging the sander out of my car, I had to slide it down the basement steps. But before I did that, I took a lot of the parts out of the box to lighten the load. I built the cabinet first and slipped my mobile base underneath before I tried to stick the main unit on it.

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Thankfully, I have a strong wife as we were able to lift it up on the cabinet after I took off the cast iron table.

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After about an hour to put everything together, the sander was up and running. I hooked up my dust collector to it and turned the beast on to see how it worked. The sander is awesome and the oscillating function works well.

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While reading the reviews for the machine on Amazon, one of the biggest complaints people had with it was the fact that the cast iron table was too heavy to  move on your own. So, I went to the flea market this weekend and bought an old car jack for $5.00. I slid the jack under the table, loosen the knobs, jacked it up a little bit, then tighten back the knobs. Works great! Plus the jack is small enough to fit inside the cabinet.

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Yesterday I was building a coffee console table for my wife that had “X” cross braces on each side of the table. I scribed the angle on the crossbar, cut it off heavy on the band saw, and then cleaned up the piece on my edge sander.

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It works perfectly and leaves a super clean finish. All I can say is that I love this tool! I can easily see using it on nearly everything I make. For years, I used to chuck up a 12″ disc to my lathe and stick a sand paper disc onto it to turn it into a disc sander. I used it so much that I used my lathe as a sander more than I did for turning. I’m happy to say that lathe is going back to being a lathe.

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Inexpensive Window Trim

The windows in our house aren’t much to talk about. Just 36″ square vinyl windows in a typical ranch. I’m not sure how old they are as I know they aren’t original to the house, but were here when I bought it fifteen years ago. My wife, Anita, wanted to jazz them up a bit and give them some character, so she asked me to make trim to go around them.

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The first thing we did, was to take out the marble sill, which was the hardest part. Sometimes they get stuck inside the frame, so I had brake them apart in order for them to come loose. If I was lucky, I could cut the sealant around the sill and jimmy it loose.

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I made a new sill out of 7/8″ thick maple. I tried to get rift sawn material so it wouldn’t warp too bad. I cut notches on both sides of the sill so it would stick out on the wall so the 1×4’s could lay on top of it.

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We wanted the header to have character so we took a 1×6 of pine and attached a 1×2 on the top. We then laid a cove molding on the 1×6.

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Using my small miter box, I was able to cut the tiny pieces of cove for the ends.

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I then took a piece of pine 1/2″ thick and used my block plane to shape the corners and ends to create a bullnose. I pinned everything together  with my 18 gauge pneumatic nailer to complete the header.

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Back at the window, I measured, cut, and nailed the rest of the pieces to the wall using a 15 gauge finish nailer. I trimmed the maple sill so that there would be a 3/4″ overhang to sides on both ends.

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Here’s the close up of the header nailed to the wall. The 1/2″ thick bullnose hangs over 1/2″ on both sides of the frame.

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After filling the nail holes with putty, Anita caulked, primed, and painted the window trim. We did both windows in our bedroom the same way. The next step is to frame around the closet, paint the room, get a new headboard, new blinds, ceiling fan, rug, etc… I don’t know, ask Anita, she’s the designer. haha

The Damaged Pinky

If you know me, then you know I don’t do woodworking for a living. I’m actually a sales rep for one of the largest building manufacturers in the country. I sell patio block, mulch, and concrete mix to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s in the Cincinnati, Dayton area. Unfortunately, I got hurt at work.

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Part of my job is to get my stores ready for spring by making patio hardscape displays on the shelves of the garden department. While in one of my Home Depot’s, I removed the old display and had to put a shelf in its place. In order to get the beam locked in place, I had to hammer it down so that the little nibs would lock in the hole properly. I got the right side of the beam hammered in place, when I was working on the left side. Being right-handed, I was using my left hand to hold the beam against the rack pushing it forward while swinging a 3 lb hammer with my right arm. Just as luck would have it, hammering across my body, I barely nicked my pinky finger with the end of the hammer. Had I not been swinging so hard, it would have just caused a blood blister, but because I was wailing at the beam with such force, the blow blew the tip of my pinky open. As soon as I felt it, I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know how bad the cut was until I went to the bathroom to clean it up. Once there, I realized I had to go get stitches as I could I open up the top of my pinky finger.

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I traveled to a nearby hospital where they put five stitches in my finger. I also found out through x-rays that I broke my bone as well. I have to wear a splint for the next month. I always thought that if I ever cut one of my fingers open, it would be from a band saw blade,  chisel, or a knife. I never thought it would be from the brute force of a 3lb drilling hammer.

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The stitches came out last week and I should be fine in about a  month. I’ll need to keep the splint on my finger as the bone heals, but it’s not a big deal. The protrusion of the splint from the top of my finger keeps me from hitting my pinky on objects. I take off the bandage everyday and clean the wound. You can see how much my finger has swelled from the blow. I feel stupid for hitting my finger, but it was more of an accident than anything.

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Porter Cable Restorer

This week while traveling through the Lowe’s stores I call on, I stumbled upon this sander in the tool aisle. It’s called a restorer that uses a sanding drum to sand wood. It was originally $129.00, but Lowe’s had it on clearance for $69.00. I thought it was too good of a deal to pass up so, I bought the tool along with a box of 80 grit sanding sleeves and a paint removal wheel.

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I’ve seen a tool like this being used one day while watching This Old House. Norm traveled to a cabinet shop that builds furniture out of old barn wood. They were using a Makita wheel sander to sand away all the dirt and paint to give the boards a clean look without removing the character of the old wood.  I looked on Amazon to see how much the Makita costs and read the customer reviews. You can read about it here. Even though the Makita has a 7.8 amp motor while the Porter Cable only has 3.5 amps, both machines use 4″ drums, so I thought picking up this Porter Cable restorer for $69.00 was a steal.

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I grabbed a piece of old flooring and tried the tool out.The restorer comes with a variety of sanding grits, from 60-120 so, I slid on a 80 grit sleeve and gently placed it on the wood being careful not to put too much pressure on the machine so it would not dig in.

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After a few light passes, the wood was clean from dirt and grime. I even hooked up my shop vacuum to the restorer and very little dust, if any, escaped. The beauty of this tool is because it is a sanding drum, it slightly bounces off the surface following any irregularities in the wood. Had I used a belt sander to sand the board, the bottom plate of the sander would have flatten any of those irregularities away. After I was done sanding, the wood still had an old look, but was clean from dirt and grime.

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Impressed with its performance, I decided to clean off the top of my workbench. You can see the difference between the sanded surface with just one pass with the restorer. The tool even has variable speed so I can gauge how aggressive the drum will sand.

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You can buy a wheel to remove rust and paint from metal for about $12.00. When I use this wheel, I’ll make sure I won’t hook up the restorer to my shop vac. It’ll be just my luck that I’ll suck in a spark that will ignite the dust inside the vacuum bag creating a dust bomb. No thanks.

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The Skinner Irrigation Co Hand Drilling Device

I’m not sure how unusual tools find me, but another has landed on my lap. This time it was an odd-looking drill press. I spotted it in a local antique shop and knew it was some sort of drill press with its flywheel and depth handle, but it was a drill press like I had never seen before. I could tell it was for drilling through pipe because of the claw like clamping pads that could wrap around pipe after adjusting the bottom arm.

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I brought the drill press home and after cleaning it up, I clamped one of my bar clamps across my workbench and attached the press to one end of the pipe.

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After studying the press a little bit, it dawned on me that I actually clamped the drill press upside down. The arm clamps down on top of the pipe, then the user turns the flywheel while pulling up the depth adjustment arm drilling a hole.

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I realized it was upside down because of a small level on the bottom of the press which guides the user to place the tool level.

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Here’s another view of the press in its rightful state.

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Luckily, there was a maker’s plate on the back. The tool was made by The Skinner Irrigation Co in Troy, OH. I googled the company name and found they were a turn of the century company that specialized in laying irrigation systems. Apparently this tool was used to tap into pipes to attach some sort of nozzles in a direct line with each other. Also, on the plate there was a patent number 893667 so I googled that as well. I found out that the tool was patented July, 21, 1908. You can read about it here. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0893667.pdf\

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The bit that came with the tool looks like a broken threaded tap. You can see that the collar doesn’t have a chuck so this must be a very specialized tool to do one specific job.

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Who knows how many of these hand drilling devices were made, but I’m glad this one found me.

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Building a Shed Part XII

While browsing through the Weaver Barn catalogue, Anita saw this cool looking arbor over a couple of doors. We decided that an arbor like this would look really nice over our side window.

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To begin construction on the arbor, I grabbed some scrap cedar I had from building the shed and made about 24 slats. The slats were about 1  3/4″ wide by 13″ long with a little 1″ arch at one end.

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Designing simply from a picture can be tough, so I grabbed a scrap piece of 6″ wide cedar, cut out a 4″ diameter arch and placed it around my corbel to see how to design the overall arbor.

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The distance between the corbels is 6′ with the overall length of the arbor being 87″. I originally planned 25 slats about 3 1/2″ apart, but Anita thought it was a little too many slats.

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We ended up deciding to use 21 slats 4″ apart. I wanted the slats to fit in place so I cut some dadoes in the wood to house the slats. Using  my dovetail saw, router plane, and rasps, I easily cut the dadoes in no time.

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I cut a small dado on each of the slats as well and test fitted the arbor together.

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Since the slats had a dado, I decided the corbels should have dadoes as well to keep everything in line.

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I also wanted the arbor to fit inside the corbels so I cut notches in both the front and back where the corbels would go.

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I fit everything back together and drilled the slats to fit on the front and back. I used stainless steel screws so that they wouldn’t stain the arbor like galvanized screws would.

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Dry fitting everything together the arbor started to come together nicely, so it was time to stain it.

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I stained the arbor the same Benjamin Moore Cedar Bark stain we used on the shed.

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However, after living with the color of the stain on the shed for a few weeks, we weren’t too happy with the color. So, after the first coat of Cedar Bark from Sherwin Williams, Anita mixed in a pint of Leather Saddle Brown with a touch of Fresh Brew stain from Benjamin Moore. Since all three stains were water based, they mixed together well.

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After I applied the new coat, the cedar took on a much warmer color. We were very pleased.

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Anita helped me install the arbor so I don’t have any pictures of it being installed as I wasn’t in the mood to tell her to hold onto the arbor while I stop and take some pictures. I started out measuring the length of the window frame and calculated how much on each end the corbels would need to be in order for the arbor to be in the middle of the window. The window frame was 67″ while the distance between the corbels was 72″. That left me with 2 1/2″ on each side of the window. I marked the spot and then decided how far above the window I wanted the arbor to be. Once I got that measurement, which was 2 1/2″ as well, I nailed the left corbel in place with 2 1/2″ galvanized pneumatic nails. Then, I placed the arbor on top of the corbel, leveled it, and then shot nails in the arbor itself, attaching it through the siding into the studs of the shed. I then screwed my stainless steel screws through my pocket holes attaching the arbor to the corbel to tighten everything up. Next, I took the right corbel and stuck it up into the recess of the arbor, nailed and screwed it up just as I did to the left one. Finally, I screwed and nailed the back side of the arbor to the shed.

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As you can see, I think we made a good decision darkening the cedar stain. The cedar looks richer and blends better with the gray paint.

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The Workshops of Biltmore

Last week, my wife and I went to the Biltmore Estate again for the fourth or fifth time. If you’ve never been there, there’s a little village on the estate where you can visit a farm, workshops and the ever important winery. Every other time we’ve been to Biltmore, we spent too much time at the house and the winery that by the time we arrived at the village, the workshops were closed. This year we decided to see the village before we headed inside the winery.

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I took some quick shots of the blacksmith shop and the tools they use. After I took these pictures, the blacksmith came back and showed us how he made coat hooks with a rose on the top (sorry, no pic). It was late in the day, so all the anvil work was done, he was simply polishing them up on a wire wheel. Biltmore sells these coat hooks in their gift shop for $42.00 each, but they sell as soon as he’s done making them.

 

If you’ve never used a blacksmith vise, you need to get one. I use on in my workshop and they are far superior than a table top machinist vise.

 

Not sure of the weight, but it looks like a 300 lb anvil. He had a smaller one in his shop right next to this one.

 

The overall working space of his shop was about 10′ x 15′

 

Right next door to the blacksmith shop was the woodworking shop.

 

Inside was a bunch of tools I’ve seen before except for this cool little foot powered mortise machine.

 

The woodworker wasn’t around so I don’t know what his responsibilities are for Biltmore. He could just make things for the gift shop, or he may do some repair work around the estate.

 

The majority of the tools were old, but he did use electricity. I couldn’t really see what was inside the tool chest on the right.

 

By the looks of these planes, I question whether or not he uses them, or if they are there just for show. A little too much dust and cobwebs on them for my taste.

 

A newer lathe sat in front of the older one. He spent his day making these turn of the century ball in the cup toys.

 

 

If you ever get a chance to go to the Biltmore Estate, make sure you give yourself enough time to visit the village before you head into the winery and get drunk like we did. haha