Keeping Company

Funny things keep showing up at my shop, though not altogether unexpectedly. The other day, a fairly imposing crate was maneuvered in by some unlucky blighter (me):

A panel came off the crate to reveal a machine and some related supplies within, all safe and sound:

Looks kinda like a bandsaw, huh? But I’ve already got two of those, and no interest in collecting more. So, what could it be?

Well, here we have it, a Zimmermann PS ½, the ‘PS’ standing for Profile Sander:

All grey cast iron, except for the access doors with the plaques on them. The hand wheel at the bottom front is used for tensioning the belt.

It seemed like my Zimmermann pattern mill could use some company (hence the title of this post), and as I said previously, if I could have one of everything Zimmermann makes, that would be very fine indeed. Not that I have the room for such a fantasy – this machine takes practically the last available piece of real estate in my shop.

A view of the other side reveals that this machine was optioned with the built-in dust extraction unit:

A closer look at that extractor:

The machine was the top of the line offering from F. Zimmermann, and combines two models, namely the PS-1, which is the lower table and platen portion only, and which can be used for sanding into the middle of circular objects. To that they add the foldaway overhead arm, making the machine a PS 1-slash-2.  The upper arm gives a more precise and rigid control of the platen, and yet can be swung out of the way and the machine converted, with a changeover to a shorter sanding belt, to what could be called the ‘PS-1 function’. The upper arm in fact tilts to 45˚ as an intermediate position, or can be swung right down to rest upon the floor if you needed more room to maneuver:

Like Zimmermann bandsaws, table tilt adjustments are effected by a rack and pinion drive, the table on this machine tilting in both directions:

The only broken piece on the machine is the on/off switch, which is still functional however:

I’ve sent an email to Zimmermann in regards to parts, but hopes are low in that regard. I’ll be able to fabricate something with new switches though. Other than that, a couple of plastic knobs are chipped, but as these are Kipp items, can likely be sourced easily enough.

A second switch on the front gives two speeds in either belt direction:

Later machines from the company (they made these up to around 2010 I believe) had a control box mounted on a swing arm.

The tilt is adjustable in 0.25˚ increments:

A new belt is put on but not yet tensioned up:

The lower guide gives more precise control of the belt and has ceramic guides fitted. Note the sweet planed table – seeing the condition of the table in photos from the seller is what told me that the machine had seen modest use at best. He told me that he machine had been acquired for one particular (unusual) job, and had seen sporadic service since.

Originally this unit came out of Ohio in 1977, back in the day when Zimmermann maintained an office there:

Another aspect which convinced me to buy this machine was that it came with every available option, save for the table lamp, including a complete set of solid steel profile bars:

You might say I’m getting back into heavy metal. Including the platen mounted on the machine currently, that makes for 10 bars altogether.

4 of the bars have convex profiles:

And 4 offer flat profiles in different widths:

Many of these look unused. The pulley on top of the bar allows for ‘PS-1’ functioning, with the belt traveling up and around the platen. They can be used with the overhead arm set up as well.

Two of the bars, including the one currently on the machine, are in a dovetailed profile, which allows sanding access into acute corners:

In the background you can see the auxiliary guide which is fitted to the tops of the bars in the ‘PS-1’ configuration.

I wired in a new 3-phase outlet, and picked up a piece of (ridiculously expensive) 4" flex hose to connect the machine to dust collection. After I wired a plug onto the cord, it fired up and ran perfectly. It’s decently quiet too!

I had long been considering this machine, however I had only seen them for sale in Germany, which, when factoring the shipping cost with the typical price you might see, made the machine one I would never likely purchase. However, when one of these machines appeared for sale a few months ago in Pennsylvania, my eyes opened wide. I hadn’t realized that there were any of these in the country for one thing. Then to find a fully optioned, top-of-the-line machine with low usage, and hundreds of sanding belts to boot, well, I was chomping at the bit. Trouble was, I had very little spare cash and couldn’t make the purchase price ($3000) happen. Is this a familiar situation to any of you? I hate being in that position where such an opportunity comes along at the very time one is under-resourced, because you never know when you are going to come across something like that again. Probably never. The time to buy something unusual and desirable like that is when you see it.

Then I decided offer the seller his full asking price, on the condition that he would allow me to pay the machine off in 3~4 payments over 3~4 months, and said that if I fell through on my end, he could keep a portion of my payment. To my surprise, the seller, the owner of the Lebanon Pattern Shop in Lebanon, PA, who was retiring and clearing out his stuff, agreed to my offer. At the end of the process, he was also willing to crate and deliver the machine for shipment for $150.00, which was very fair I thought.

The shipping was another interesting aspect, and something I normally dread due to hassles with past shipments and trucking companies who do not seem have the most careful folks operating the forklifts at times.

A friend of mine on the CW forum mentioned that he had acquired a Hitachi bandsaw and was having it shipped through Fastenal stores’ ‘3PL’ program. 3PL stands for ‘3rd Party Logistics’. This is a system of shipping between Fastenal stores using their own trucks. If you can have an item crated on a pallet and delivered to a Fastenal store in the seller’s area, then the item can be shipped from there to a Fastenal store near you for a low price.

How low a price you might ask? Well, Lebanon PA is some 330 miles (500km) from my location, and they shipped the PS ½, which weighs nearly 1000lbs (400kg) for – drum roll please: $75.00.

That was not a misprint. Just $75 to ship the machine, which I then picked up at my nearby Fastenal via rental of a Home Depot pickup truck. Since the item was fully crated, it was also insured for full replacement value. You can ship stuff without a crate, but then it will be uninsured.

Any downsides? Well, yes. They have a long list of items they won’t ship, so forget it for farm animals, household effects, etc. The item will ship on what might be termed a ‘loose’ schedule, and could take anywhere from 4~14days to ship, depending upon what room they happen have on their trucks. And you might think they would have a tracking system that you could use online, so you would see where you item was at any point in its journey. They do not. And if you call 3PL customer service, you will be hearing an automated recording telling you to visit the website and submit a quote. Typical piss-poor customer service stuff that is becoming rather the norm these days with a lot of larger companies. People at the Fastenal store are of little help either with the 3PL shipments ,and also have difficulty connecting with a human in the 3PL department. According to the local store I dealt with, the shipment was due to arrive on the 7th of this month, and when that day came and went without the item arriving, I got a little frustrated with the process and ended up calling their head office in Minnesota. At first they referred me to that same phone number with automated message, but after I was having none of that I eventually, a day later, I was put in touch with a real person at head quarters who could actually give me useful information.

So if you are in no hurry, are okay with your shipment being largely MIA while in transit, have a cooperative seller you can work with who lives near a Fastenal store, and you like to save money, then shipping via Fastenal might be for you. I will use it again where I can, now that I know what to expect.

All for this round. Thanks for visiting!
from Tumblr https://davidpires578.tumblr.com/post/167502895314

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Widely Admired Stuff

Some new wood showed up yesterday, ‘beamed up’ from Pennsylvania:

The white columns you see behind are 8’ (244cm) apart.

There are actually two boards parked here:

There’s a little waviness to the resaw lines, but the pieces are pretty good otherwise, and not cupped.

The front one comes in at nearly 13’ (actual it is 155" or 394cm) in length, though what I in fact paid for was a 10’ piece:

The board has a couple of splits in it, so they don’t count those portions in the tally.

The board in behind the front one has no splits and is over 11’ long.

And the width of these boards averages about 48", being tapered from nearly 49" at the butt end to 47" at the ‘narrow’ end on one:

And thickness, though advertised as 5/4 stock, was closer to 1.375". Nice!

I find it a bit mesmerizing to be in front of a piece of wood like this:

I needed help from 3 other folks to get these into the building from the parking lot. And then i sat there for the better part of half an hour just staring, slack-jawed in incredulity. Yes, many would testify that this is one of my more normal facial expressions, but here it was more pronounced than usual.

What is it? Would you believe this is Honduran Mahogany? It’s way old stock material, dredged out of some defunct warehouse, and was likely milled up into slabs 20 years ago or more.

There’s no more genuine mahogany like this coming down the pike. There no chance of mahogany like this ever being imported again to the US, as far as I can tell.

I remember when doing an early furniture project, my first paid furniture commission in fact (see here) around 2002 or 2003, and I had obtained several 8/4 planks of Honduran. One of those planks turned out to have a significantly darker purple cast to it, featured more white flecks on the board surface, and had a far richer, more delicious feel to it when pushing a chisel through a paring cut. The other boards were fine, but that purple-toned one was special. I’ve talked to other woodworkers and they remember the same sort of thing. But those boards are a thing of the past.

When I went back to that same hardwood dealer to obtain more Honduran for a follow on project, the ‘new’ shipment was in, and it paled in comparison to the one I had encountered but a few months earlier – almost like they had reached the end of the logging road. I had to change plans and that turned into my first meeting with a wood which remains a favorite: bubinga.

Later in 2003 Honduran Mahogany went on CITIES Appendix II. Since then the supply has been gradually drying up. Most of that species now comes out of plantations, Peru being the biggest supplier otherwise, and it is an inferior product in most respects, at least in comparison to the ‘glory days’ (which I only barely experienced). They’ve been cutting mahogany for a long time, and most of the good stuff has been gotten.

I greatly respect Honduran Mahogany as a wood, thinking it a superior choice for interior or exterior use. The Japanese lantern in my front yard (described in a series starting here) is constructed of this wood, and in 5 years of sun, wind, rain and snow, it has nary a check in any of the exposed portions of end grain, and next to no degrade otherwise. It takes aging gracefully to a whole new level. The mahogany frame of the tsuitate I built  in 2010 (see the first post in that thread here) in my living room similarly has aged to a fine dark chocolate color and is very well behaved through seasonal RH swings.

As a result of my deep respect for this wood, I’ve been hunting for nice boards for a while now, and pick them up when that serendipitous intersection of [right price] and [money in hand] occurs, which is not near as often as I might like.

The boards shown above however were a chance discovery while looking for something else, and caused me to change materials for the upcoming cabinet build. I had been planning to make the frame of the cabinet in mahogany, and was thinking figured shedua would look really nice for panels; trouble was, I couldn’t find figured shedua, which is quartersawn, any wider than about 13", so forming a front door panel out of that stock would necessitate a glue-up, which I tend to avoid where possible. I really wanted to find some nice wide (@22") panels of a wood which would go well with the mahogany frame, and if I couldn’t find something suitable, I was considering redesigning so as to not need wide panels.

One wood I was considering strongly was gonçalo alves, a wood from Brazil (mostly), however when I looked around the results were not scintillating. There were wide boards, and there were nicely figured boards, but a board combining both characteristics did not seem easy to find. And gonçalo alves is super hard and dense, much more so than bubinga, and the prospect of working it into panels did not intrigue me too much, other than perhaps as a masochistic challenge.

I looked and look and then I stumbled upon one of the above boards on Irion Lumber’s site. After rubbing my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating upon seeing such an enormous piece of mahogany, I sent my client an email suggesting that we go the monochrome route and make the cabinet out of mahogany for both frame and panels. he wrote back shortly thereafter and agreed that the board was magnificent and that I should proceed to acquire it.

A slab as wide as this one confers a beautiful visual in that the pair of front door panels present a view of a wide tree trunk, but as important to me is that a wide slab cut just above the pith of the trunk is a slab in which most of the width is composed of quartersawn material. Obtaining wide quartersawn mahogany otherwise seems a bit of a tough ask at this time. Generally this species seems to be cut through and through rather than for quartersawn grain.

Later that night, around 3:00 am, I couldn’t sleep just thinking about the crazy mahogany board and got back on the computer to have a look at the piece I had purchased one more time. Sometimes the interval between seeing and believing is not instantaneous, if you know what I mean. While drooling over the pictures once again, I noticed that they had a couple of other boards of similar size listed. After thinking it over a while, I sent another email to the client suggesting it would be wise to obtain a second board. While the first board was sufficient to the build, if anything went wrong with cut out, or the board had defects which added up to greater than anticipated losses, it would be really good to have some back up, and for all I know the stock could be sold out the next day. I suggested that any left overs from the project could be resold, or purchased by me, or utilized in a follow-on project. Once again, the client agreed with my thinking and that’s how I have ended up with two awesome boards of Honduran Mahogany. And added bonus is that the shipping for two boards turned out to be exactly the same as for one board, so a minor economy was realized too.

So, are these two mega slabs of Honduran mahogany the “uber special wood” I alluded to in the previous post? Uh, nope. Of course, they’re totally incredible pieces, but the ‘uber’ stuff, well that goes to another level of ‘special’. That material should be coming my way in about a week, and I’ll tell you that story when it gets here – let your imagination run wild in the meantime, if you like.

Thanks for visiting The Carpentry Way, and don’t be shy about saying hello if you feel so inclined.
from Tumblr https://davidpires578.tumblr.com/post/167360496914

Widely Admired Stuff

Some new wood showed up yesterday, ‘beamed up’ from Pennsylvania:

The white columns you see behind are 8’ (244cm) apart.

There are actually two boards parked here:

There’s a little waviness to the resaw lines, but the pieces are pretty good otherwise, and not cupped.

The front one comes in at nearly 13’ (actual it is 155" or 394cm) in length, though what I in fact paid for was a 10’ piece:

The board has a couple of splits in it, so they don’t count those portions in the tally.

The board in behind the front one has no splits and is over 11’ long.

And the width of these boards averages about 48", being tapered from nearly 49" at the butt end to 47" at the ‘narrow’ end on one:

And thickness, though advertised as 5/4 stock, was closer to 1.375". Nice!

I find it a bit mesmerizing to be in front of a piece of wood like this:

I needed help from 3 other folks to get these into the building from the parking lot. And then i sat there for the better part of half an hour just staring, slack-jawed in incredulity. Yes, many would testify that this is one of my more normal facial expressions, but here it was more pronounced than usual.

What is it? Would you believe this is Honduran Mahogany? It’s way old stock material, dredged out of some defunct warehouse, and was likely milled up into slabs 20 years ago or more.

There’s no more genuine mahogany like this coming down the pike. There no chance of mahogany like this ever being imported again to the US, as far as I can tell.

I remember when doing an early furniture project, my first paid furniture commission in fact (see here) around 2002 or 2003, and I had obtained several 8/4 planks of Honduran. One of those planks turned out to have a significantly darker purple cast to it, featured more white flecks on the board surface, and had a far richer, more delicious feel to it when pushing a chisel through a paring cut. The other boards were fine, but that purple-toned one was special. I’ve talked to other woodworkers and they remember the same sort of thing. But those boards are a thing of the past.

When I went back to that same hardwood dealer to obtain more Honduran for a follow on project, the ‘new’ shipment was in, and it paled in comparison to the one I had encountered but a few months earlier – almost like they had reached the end of the logging road. I had to change plans and that turned into my first meeting with a wood which remains a favorite: bubinga.

Later in 2003 Honduran Mahogany went on CITIES Appendix II. Since then the supply has been gradually drying up. Most of that species now comes out of plantations, Peru being the biggest supplier otherwise, and it is an inferior product in most respects, at least in comparison to the ‘glory days’ (which I only barely experienced). They’ve been cutting mahogany for a long time, and most of the good stuff has been gotten.

I greatly respect Honduran Mahogany as a wood, thinking it a superior choice for interior or exterior use. The Japanese lantern in my front yard (described in a series starting here) is constructed of this wood, and in 5 years of sun, wind, rain and snow, it has nary a check in any of the exposed portions of end grain, and next to no degrade otherwise. It takes aging gracefully to a whole new level. The mahogany frame of the tsuitate I built  in 2010 (see the first post in that thread here) in my living room similarly has aged to a fine dark chocolate color and is very well behaved through seasonal RH swings.

As a result of my deep respect for this wood, I’ve been hunting for nice boards for a while now, and pick them up when that serendipitous intersection of [right price] and [money in hand] occurs, which is not near as often as I might like.

The boards shown above however were a chance discovery while looking for something else, and caused me to change materials for the upcoming cabinet build. I had been planning to make the frame of the cabinet in mahogany, and was thinking figured shedua would look really nice for panels; trouble was, I couldn’t find figured shedua, which is quartersawn, any wider than about 13", so forming a front door panel out of that stock would necessitate a glue-up, which I tend to avoid where possible. I really wanted to find some nice wide (@22") panels of a wood which would go well with the mahogany frame, and if I couldn’t find something suitable, I was considering redesigning so as to not need wide panels.

One wood I was considering strongly was gonçalo alves, a wood from Brazil (mostly), however when I looked around the results were not scintillating. There were wide boards, and there were nicely figured boards, but a board combining both characteristics did not seem easy to find. And gonçalo alves is super hard and dense, much more so than bubinga, and the prospect of working it into panels did not intrigue me too much, other than perhaps as a masochistic challenge.

I looked and look and then I stumbled upon one of the above boards on Irion Lumber’s site. After rubbing my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating upon seeing such an enormous piece of mahogany, I sent my client an email suggesting that we go the monochrome route and make the cabinet out of mahogany for both frame and panels. he wrote back shortly thereafter and agreed that the board was magnificent and that I should proceed to acquire it.

A slab as wide as this one confers a beautiful visual in that the pair of front door panels present a view of a wide tree trunk, but as important to me is that a wide slab cut just above the pith of the trunk is a slab in which most of the width is composed of quartersawn material. Obtaining wide quartersawn mahogany otherwise seems a bit of a tough ask at this time. Generally this species seems to be cut through and through rather than for quartersawn grain.

Later that night, around 3:00 am, I couldn’t sleep just thinking about the crazy mahogany board and got back on the computer to have a look at the piece I had purchased one more time. Sometimes the interval between seeing and believing is not instantaneous, if you know what I mean. While drooling over the pictures once again, I noticed that they had a couple of other boards of similar size listed. After thinking it over a while, I sent another email to the client suggesting it would be wise to obtain a second board. While the first board was sufficient to the build, if anything went wrong with cut out, or the board had defects which added up to greater than anticipated losses, it would be really good to have some back up, and for all I know the stock could be sold out the next day. I suggested that any left overs from the project could be resold, or purchased by me, or utilized in a follow-on project. Once again, the client agreed with my thinking and that’s how I have ended up with two awesome boards of Honduran Mahogany. And added bonus is that the shipping for two boards turned out to be exactly the same as for one board, so a minor economy was realized too.

So, are these two mega slabs of Honduran mahogany the “uber special wood” I alluded to in the previous post? Uh, nope. Of course, they’re totally incredible pieces, but the ‘uber’ stuff, well that goes to another level of ‘special’. That material should be coming my way in about a week, and I’ll tell you that story when it gets here – let your imagination run wild in the meantime, if you like.

Thanks for visiting The Carpentry Way, and don’t be shy about saying hello if you feel so inclined.
from Tumblr https://davidpires578.tumblr.com/post/167360496914

Fall 2017 Prospects

A fair amount has been happening, work-wise, of late.

At the end of the long cabinet job, I hadn’t been getting many enquiries, and other than some remaining work for Jeff Koons, now on hold awaiting the sourcing of more Burmese teak, a work desert seemed to be in prospect. While having a break between projects can a good thing, just to mentally recharge, clean the shop, attend to personal matters, and so on, the prospect of a blank slate for work is of course not welcome. Bills need to be paid, overhead covered, after all. A furniture-maker/joiner’s survival, especially as a one-man shop, can be precarious at times, as many in the same position will attest. Yes, I quit my day job for this, and it is my choice to have a line of work which can be unpredictable, but usually the satisfactions outweigh the trepidations.

My client for the large ‘Ming-Inspired’ cabinet project sent me an email upon receiving the piece expressing his delight, however after that he seemed to go radio-silent, so to speak, and several emails went unanswered from my end. He’d previously expressed interest in a follow-up project, for one thing, and for another I was interested to see how he liked the cabinet once he’d had some time to get accustomed to using it. After about my third email sent out with no reply, I decided it might be best to leave off, and was left simply baffled as to the silence, and fearing perhaps that he was in the end unhappy with the cabinet. This idea didn’t really fit in with my understanding of the relationship otherwise, however sometimes things can take a weird turn in life as we all know.

Anyway, it turned out that my client had sent a certain email from an account he hardly ever used, and all my replies to that email (I hadn’t noticed the address change) had escaped his attention completely. Eventually he did check that account, and we’re back in touch and in fact I’m working on the design for another cabinet. This cabinet is to contain a pair of Japanese beddings, futon, and I’ll be starting a build thread on this in the near future. I’ve obtained some uber special wood for that project as well, but I’ll keep tight-lipped about that for the time being.

I was also contacted by a the Asian Language Department of a large university in upstate New York, looking to remodel their space to reflect a Chinese and Japanese traditional architectural aesthetic. That prospect was quite intriguing, however initially their proposed budget was a bit on the tight side and I was struggling to find a way to make possible the sort of results they were seeking to achieve. In recent days however, some more funds have been secured, and some decisions have been made on their end as to which design elements to keep and which to eliminate, so it is very much looking like that project will go ahead in the near future. Again, I’ll start a thread on that when/if the time comes.

Then I was contacted by an architecture firm, also in upstate New York, about a project down in Pennsylvania to restore a couple of ‘Japanese Teahouses’. I use single quotes around that term for a reason, as the buildings are neither truly Japanese nor are they teahouses. They sent me a variety of materials on the existing buildings, and I could tell after a glance or two that the buildings, constructed in the 1920’s, were not built by people knowledgeable in Japanese architecture. They’re simulacra in other words, though better in achieving a Japanese look, than most other attempts I have looked at. I told the architectural firm that I wouldn’t be too interested in restoring the buildings, but would be in constructing new ones that were more authentic in construction and detail. And if the budget were insufficient for that sort of project, which it might well be the case as I think the budget has already been agreed upon months ago, that I could instead provide Japanese doors and windows and other millwork details for the project. We’ll see how that unfolds. We’re in the preliminary discussion phase at this time. At this point I have no idea what direction things may take with that project, if any, though there seems to be a deadline in place for the work being completed by the end of next summer, so it seems things must get moving on it in the near future.

So, in the meantime I have been doing a bunch of work from home, design, communicating with clients, calling up wood suppliers, and so forth. It’s a relief to have gone from sterile promontory, to borrow a line from Hamlet, to a situation with several irons in the fire. Very soon I will be starting work on the new futon cabinet and the wood for that should be arriving within the next week. Hope you’ll stay tuned for further developments.

from Tumblr https://davidpires578.tumblr.com/post/167275290904