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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American Flag Tree

I don’t get many custom orders as I’m usually too busy with my day job and restoring antique tools to do them anyway. However, my wife’s friend asked her if I could make him some American flag trees. She showed me a picture of what he wanted and it seemed simple enough, so I told her I could make them for him.

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These trees were offered by Martha Stewart a few years ago on her website but, have since been discontinued. The only thing I had to go on was the fact that they were about 20″ tall. Assuming the whole tree was 20″ tall, I figured the largest diameter of the post was probably 1 1/2″ in diameter. I glued some maple together and created 2″ square stock to turn on my lathe. I then used my Peter Galbert calipers to turn the stock to 1 1/2″ in diameter down the whole shaft.

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Studying the photo, I eyeballed the shape of the post, cutting the bottom of the vases to 1″ in diameter. I cut a little finial on the top and a cove and bead detail on the bottom that kind of looks like an old cast iron pot. Again, all eyeballing with no plans. Just imagining things in my head.

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At the bottom, I turned a 3/4″ diameter tenon. This will fit in a hole I will drill in the base with my drill press. I use a 3/4″ open end wrench to turn the tenon the perfect size.

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After about an hour on the lathe, I turned all four posts and pads for the trees. They are all similar but, none of them are an exact copy of one another.

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The tree has four rows of flags with six flags on each row. In order to mark the holes in right spot, each hole would have to be 60 degrees away from each other (360 degrees / 6 = 60 degrees). Instead of grabbing my protractor and trying to mark every 60 degree angle, I took my compass and set it to the radius of the post. I then walked around the circumference of the circle marking it at every spot. That left me with six equal segments that were perfectly spaced from one another.

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I did the same thing on the other end of the post starting at the same point. I then drew lines down the post and took a straight edge, lining up the lines on each end of the post marking where the holes would go on the top of the vases. I only marked on the first and third vase for those marks. On the second and fourth vases, I marked a line in between the first and third marks so that the flags on the tree were more spaced apart.

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Even though I figured out where the holes went on the tree, I still wasn’t comfortable drilling my holes in the final piece. I took a scrap post and did all the markings again and used a 1/4″ drill to drill holes in the post at a 60 degree angle. After I drilled all the holes and stuck the flags in, the sample turned out well.

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When it was time for the real drilling, I took my time. Putting the post back on the lathe, I lined up the marks of the post so they were perpendicular to the lathe bed. This way I only had to worry about the angle of my drill bit as I knew I could sight down the bed of my lathe keeping the bit drilling straight down the shaft. I drilled about an inch in using a brad point drill bit.

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After drilling all 24 holes and giving the piece a light sanding, I drilled a hole in my base and glued the post into it. This is a simple project that I can bang out in case my wife’s friend wants more than the four I made him.

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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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Springfield Antique Show

Last Friday, my wife and I, went to Brimfield, Massachusetts for their antique show. This Friday we headed to Springfield, Ohio for their Extravaganza. Even though the amount of vendors attending is a third of who sets up at Brimfield (2000 vs 6000), I was hoping to find better deals as I usually don’t do too bad at the Extravaganza.

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There are a lot of professional dealers at Springfield, however the majority of them are concentrated in the center of the fairgrounds. As you venture out onto the outskirts of the show, that is where you’ll find people just setting up tables to sell some of their junk. These are the places where I find the best deals. It’s always nice to visit the tables with a bunch of tools from tool collectors, but that’s not typically where the deals are.

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On this table were a Stanley BedRock No 604 for $150 and a Stanley No 8 for $100. Not bad prices if you wanted to pay retail, but I’m always looking for a deal.

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Occasionally you’ll find good deals at these tables. Here were a couple of Stanley planes and a Keen Kutter No 5. The two No 5’s were $15 and the Stanley No 4 was only $21. I passed up on these planes as I wasn’t feeling it for some reason. I only had $40 left in my pocket and still wanted to walk around and see what else was available before I spent all my cash, so I walked away.

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I always love checking out old anvils even though I haven’t set up my blacksmith shop yet. The big boy anvil in the front was a mere $1000. Too rich for my blood.

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After we walked around the fairgrounds for six hours, I came home with a few nice tools. Two Stanley miter boxes, two Stanley No 3’s and two Hartford Clamp Co clamps. The clamps are the most interesting thing I bought as after I researched them, they were primarily used for gluing up thin panels. The bars ride on both sides of the panel so the wood won’t bow while being clamped. I’m going to clean them up and see how well they work.

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As far as deals, I believe I did better at Springfield than I did at Brimfield even though I spent a little bit more money. Now I need to go back to the bank and get some more cash for the Burlington Antique Show in Kentucky on Sunday.

Brimfield Antique Show

Last weekend, my wife and I drove to Massachusetts to go to the Brimfield Antique Show. We heard about Brimfield for years, but finally decided to take the plunge and drive out there to see it for ourselves. With 6000 dealers attending, we were excited to see the show.

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We drove to Connecticut the night before and woke up Friday morning at 5:00 am to drive up north to the show. We arrived into Brimfield around 7:30 am and the first thing we noticed was that it reminded us of a very large stop on the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Dealer tents were set up on both sides of the street which stretched down for nearly a mile. We came up to a gate where a few people were waiting until 8:00 am for it to open and noticed that there was a $5.00 entry fee to get inside. Given we had a half an hour wait, we walked across the street trying to see if any ther dealers were already open, but only a handful were.

About a half an hour later, we came back to the gate where a large group of people were now waiting. We thought to ourselves that this area must be the place to be, so we handed the attendants $5.00 and waited for the gates to open. As soon as they did, we saw people literally running in like it was a black Friday sale. Anita and I started laughing thinking what in the world could be inside the show area worth running for.

Once we got inside, we looked around to see what all the fuss was all about. There were plenty of dealers selling quality antiques, but they came with dealer prices. After about an hour of buying a few things inside, we went out to see what the other areas had to offer.

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The majority of tools that I saw were being sold by collectors, so there was little opportunity to snag a good deal. I was hoping that since I was on the east coast, I would see a lot of good deals on old Stanley planes, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

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I used to think that all the old tools were on the east coast since that is where Stanley plant was located, but I now think tool collectors have all the old tools, not the east coast. It’s just getting harder and harder to find them in the wild for a good price. Most of the planes on this table were $40-85 in price. Even the broken casting block plane was $30.00.

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It’s impossible to see the whole show in one day, but after spending seven hours all over Brimfield we saw 80-90% of it. Unfortunately, these are all the tools I came home with. An old razee smooth plane, a Stanley No 4, a Ohio Tool Co No 4, a Wards Master No 7,  a Sargent block plane, an egg beater drill, and a turn screw. Not terrible, but I’ve done better. Anita faired better than me as she ran out of money and had to borrow mine. It was still a lot of fun and is definitely worth it, if it is on your bucket list.

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Saving a Millers Falls No 9 Plane

Last month my wife and I were at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio when I passed by this Millers Falls No 9 plane. I looked at it and decided that the rust on the right side was too much to deal with, so I walked away. About ten minutes later, something told me to go back and examine the plane better to see if it was worth saving. I thought to myself if nothing else, it could be used for parts as the handles and frog were in good shape. I asked the dealer how much he wanted for it and he told me $10.00 so I handed him a ten-dollar bill and walked away.

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The first thing I do when restoring an old plane is to take everything completely apart spraying PB Blaster on the parts if necessary to break free the rust.

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Once apart, I soak the plane in a citric acid bath for a few hours. I use an old planter box as my tub and fill it half way up with water. Then I’ll scoop out about a cup of citric acid and spread it over the water. Sometimes you can buy citric acid at the grocery store in the spices section, but I buy mine by bulk on eBay. I buy about ten pounds worth for $30.00 which is much cheaper than the grocery store which is usually about $7.00 per pound.

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After a few hours, I take the parts out of the bath and use a wire brush to scrub the residue off the parts. The acid does a great job of removing the rust from the tool.

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I then polish all the parts with sanding sponges and apply my own homemade rust protection solution which contains, mineral oil, orange oil, and beeswax. I also steel wool the handles of the plane and apply a couple of coats of shellac to them.

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Once everything is cleaned and polished, I put the plane back together to see how it looks.

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If all the plane was to do is to sit on a shelf and collect dust, then I would be done. However, I want this plane to be used again, so I needed to focus on the blade. As you can see in the picture, the blade was roasted and desperately needed a new edge. Some people feel a blade that is in this bad of shape would automatically need to be replaced, but I like to see if I can get it to work again first.

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I took the blade over to my high-speed grinder and ground a new edge making sure not to overheat the blade making it lose its hardness.

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After the major grinding was done, I switched to my slow speed water-cooled grinder and worked on the edge some more. I also flattened the back of the blade on my grinder at the same time.

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After I was satisfied with the grinding process, I switched to my water stones to hone the edge. I sharpened the blade with a series of 800, 2000, and 5000 grit water stones.

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I set the cap iron about a 1/8″ from the edge of the blade and put it back in the plane. After adjusting the blade up and down, I was able to get the plane to cut off a nice thin shaving.

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I took one of the shavings and measured it with my calipers. The shavings produced were .002 of an inch thick.

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The shavings are nice, but the real proof is the way the plane leaves the wood with a nice sheen. No sandpaper needed. Not too shabby for a rusty $10 plane.

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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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Another Dresser Turned Wine Cabinet

Last year my wife and I bought an old dresser at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio. We had a spot in our dining room we wanted to make into a bar area and the dresser was small enough that it would fit nicely in that spot.cabinet

I had to remove the drawers to make room for the wine bottle storage I was going to build so, I cut off the rail and drawer runners that were between the two drawers.

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The dresser was old and someone in the past tried to repair the case by driving nails through the side of the case into the end grain of the tenon. I took the tenon out and drove the nails back out through the side.

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After the nails were gone, I glued the case back together to make everything sturdy and square.

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The cabinet was going to be painted so, I bought some birch plywood and cut up pieces to make a box that would slide inside the case. I also trimmed the edges of the plywood with oak to match the rest of the case.

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The old dresser had a bit of detail to the rails that I wanted to match on the box I was building.

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I took my No 8 hollow molding plane and planed a shallow recess down the middle and rounded over the sides with my block plane.

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I had to carefully build the box to fit inside the case. It needed to be loose to slide in, but not too big that it wouldn’t fit. I made the box an 1/8″ smaller than the length and height of the opening of the case so that it would fit. I used simple rabbet joinery to join the sides together and a dado down the middle for the divider.

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The moment of truth. After building the box I prayed that it would slide in the case. Thankfully it did.

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My wife painted the case with black milk paint. She also sanded and stained the top and drawers with a gel stain. I then applied two coats of Waterlox varnish on the top and drawers.

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I wanted the left side to hold wine bottles so, I built diagonal grid out of solid oak and used dadoes for joinery so that the other side of the grid would slide through. This too had to be fitted carefully so that it wasn’t too tight to slide in. After everything fitted well, I took it out, stained and applied Waterlox varnish to the grid.

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Here’s the final cabinet sitting in the same spot. We removed one shelf as we felt the wine glasses hung a little too low. The cabinet came out well and was dirt cheap to build.

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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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