A singer sewing machine is not a piano. But I accepted the challenge of restoring a sewing machine cabinet that had been badly water damaged. Water and veneered pieces do not go well together. That’s especially true for old veneered panels that were glued with hot hide glue, which is still completely soluble in water decades after it has set.
Normally, folks wouldn’t come to me with a sewing machine restoration project, but friends being friends, it can happen. And who am I to say that I’m not the right guy to restore the family heirloom for a friend? So I said what I say, “Sure. I can fix that.” But I knew that it was quite a project.
Fortunately the cabinet below the top panels was largely undamaged, so on the bright side, my task was limited to recreating the top panels. Some clever work went into the creation of this hideaway machine, and it would take some clever work to recreate it.
My first order of business was to create two oak veneered panels. While the original was a hardwood panel veneered with oak, I chose to use modern materials for the panel core, while trimming it in solid oak. Unfortunately, I could not duplicate the thickness of original panels with medium density fiberboard (MDF) of standard thickness. That’s where another friend came in handy! My friend Justin volunteered to grind some MDF down to my specification of 0.585 inches using an industrial thickness sander at his workplace. It’s nice to have friends! My favorite veneer supplier sent me some very nice oak veneer.
From this point, a number of careful steps were needed to shape parts for the hide-away.
I’m getting close! Projects like this are amazing to execute, because the risk cost of a mistake multiply as each step is completed. I’m getting close, though!
I’ve always “liked” my Rikon bandsaw. Now, I just might learn to love it. The saw, like any bandsaw, needs to be well maintained and adjusted to perform well. The most annoying issue of bandsaws is their tendency to drift, if not set up with real care. I’ve worked at tuning up this saw in the past, but today I achieved results never before attained.
My adventure started with a newsletter from Fine Woodworking in my inbox. I resisted trashing it, and listened well to the video included. The approach to curing drift made sense, and I wanted to pursue it.
Before beginning the project, though, I realized that I’d procrastinated a tune-up of the saw for so long because I really despise the supplied blade guides. They are fussy and difficult to work with. So I went searching for replacement guides, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Rikon is offering a blade guide upgrade for the saw. My Rikon 10-325 is now at least 10 years old, and the new “tool-less” blade guides offered for retrofit are the same guides that Rikon is putting on it’s latest version of the saw. After seeing the offering at Highland Woodworking, it took just a few seconds to place an order. They looked really good!
It was a warm summer day and my brother Bob and I were trying to convince our parents that we needed to cool off. My uncle Mart had an old row boat. We hoped we could make a float trip down the Tippecanoe River. After a few hours of bugging Dad and Mom, they succumbed to our pestering. We decided to put the boat in at the Talma boat launch, and float down to Island Park on US 31 North of Rochester. Our Uncle was reluctant because the boat had a small leak. We were successful in convincing him as well. We agreed to take a coffee can to dip the water out at regular intervals.
It was early morning and the time came to put in at the Talma Public Access Launch. My brother Bob, our cousin Jerry, and me were ready to start an adventure down the Tippecanoe River. Bob was armed with the only oar we had, Jerry with a push pole, and me with a makeshift bilge pump (an empty Folgers can). We agreed to call home when we reached Island Park. We said our goodbyes, and we were off. As we made it out of site of the bridge at Talma we were in uncharted waters. At least to us. Around every bend in the river lay different scenery. Well that’s what my brother told me. I didn’t have much time to look around, because the water was coming in about as fast as I could dip it out. The trip proceeded without having to call the Coast Guard to rescue us. As I recall the trip only took about 3 hrs. We called home and Dad came to pick us up.
It became clear we were born to be river explorers. We wasted no time planning another trip. Our plans hit a brick wall when we ask to float from Island Park to Winamac. Dad and Uncle Mart condemned our mighty vessel. There was no way they were going to let us ten and eleven year old kids make a float trip overnight down the Tippy. After a lot of looking for plans we came across a book published by Popular Mechanic Magazine “The Boy Mechanic”. On page 96 and 97 we found plans to build our own boats. We finally got up enough nerve to ask if we could make the trip if we built our own boat. After a few days It was agreed but only if they determined the boat was safe.
The plans would have to be modified if we were going to build them in our workshop basement. The only way to get the boats out of the basement would be thru a hopper window which only measured 27 inches wide and the boat plans called for it to be 28 1/2 inches wide. My Uncle Mart worked at Chris-Craft boat factory, and regularly brought home scraps of marine plywood and Mahogany lumber. I remember sorting thru piles of plywood till we found enough to start building. I was talking with my brother a couple days ago and he reminded of the thousand plus screws we had to drive in by hand. He also mentioned the blisters on the palm of our hands. We never told Dad about the narrow hopper window. As the build progressed, dad would check on us. On one such inspection, Dad looked at the plans, walked over to the window, and measured it. Dad said ” Hold up there boys, it’s not going to fit out the window”. Bob told dad that we had changed the width of the Kayak to fit thru the window. Dad then measured the boat, turned and made his way back up the stairs. I believe that was the last time he checked on us.
My Kayak was the first one we built. We built it as close as we could to the plan. Bob’s was built a little longer and narrower. Jerry’s was used as a mold to make a fiberglass boat that Uncle Mart helped with. The summer was getting short. We made a final push to get the boats in the water to check for leaks. Dad agreed that the boats were seaworthy. The next adventure was a go.
Launch day finally came. My kayak was the only one with the waterproof compartment. it was determined that I would carry anything we didn’t want wet. This made my boat heavier than the other two. I sometimes struggled to keep up with Bob and Jerry. This adventure went pretty much like the first accept I didn’t have to dip water to stay afloat. As we rounded each bend in the Mighty Tippy, a new adventure seemed to start. On one such bend we came across three girls playing on their pier that was jetting out into the river. As I recall Bob and Jerry was ready to stop for the night. Their plan was thwarted by a somewhat concerned adult. Their father felt it was necessary to get us down the river. He warned us about an old gristmill dam that was still creating a small waterfall. He thought we better get past the dam before dark. We decided his warnings were more of a concern for his daughters than for us. It was time to move on. When we rounded a bend in the river about two miles from the girls, we decided we were right. We could hardly tell there was ever a dam there.
We continued down the river till near dark. We found a nice place to camp, and pulled our kayaks upon the sandy bank. We gathered a few sticks and started a fire. It was a little chilly, so we placed our sleeping bags as close to the fire as we could. There was a flash of lighting, a boom of thunder, and the rain started. The wind was no help either. We hadn’t planned on the rain, so we never packed a tent or even a tarp. Bad planning! We took turns finding something to burn to keep warm. I recall finding some wood that someone had split and stacked, but no sign of a house. If this was going to stop us from freezing to death, then it seemed like fair game. We somehow survived the night. As we were packing up and getting ready to continue down the river, someone was hollering at us. The old man was apparently a caretaker at this place. He informed us that we were on a government facility and we better get off before we got in any more trouble. We had landed our boats on land owned by Culver Military Academy. We wasted no time launching our vessels, and paddling our way downstream.
We continued down the river till we reached Winamac State Park. As we passed an older gentleman setting on a park bench, trying to catch fish, he gave us a wave and we waved back. After paddling for about twenty minutes, we rounded another bend, and to our surprise we could see that same old man with his back to us. Yep! That was the same guy. This part the river made a big loop and came back to within about fifty yards of itself. After we passed thru Winamac we decided to call home at the next bridge. I believe it was on State Road 35. Dad came with the pickup truck, we loaded the Kayaks into the back, climbed in the cab and headed for home.We all decided we would do it again someday, But more important projects loomed in our near future. Dad traded the Kayaks for a fiberglass boat with a 25 hp. Johnson outboard. That was the last time we laid eyes on our sturdy vessels.
I was scanning the Web a few day back and was reading a thread about a guy that was looking for a book called “The Boy Mechanic”. He said he had built a kayak from the plans in the book, and was trying to find the book again. Someone suggested he search for the book on Amazon. I thought why not. After about a week I had the book in my hand. I hurriedly scanned over the index, and there it was “A Sturdy Plywood Kayak”.
Over the years, I thought it would be nice to build the same boats and go down the Tippecanoe with my boys. The time passed, and I thought maybe I’ll make them with my Grandkids. That didn’t happen either. Now that I have the book, and seventy year old knees, I’ll place the book where my Great Grandson will see it. I’ll put a copy of this story between page 96 and 97. Maybe he will be inspired like we were when we were kids.
She’s an expensive dog, and worth it! Now complete is a new walkway to the shop, and concrete steps.
When Bebop arrived in February, we realized we’d want improvements. In the winter time we haven’t been accessing the shop from the deck. Instead we take the safe route from the front door with handrails and well shoveled and salted concrete steps. However, we clearly needed to use the newly fenced backyard for Bebop’s winter potty runs. Once again, the new puppy addition brings improvements for all.
I don’t do concrete well. That was left to the pros. I built the handrail yesterday using redwood for posts and mahogany for railing. Terri finished the job today by staining. Bebop approves.
It’s done. Steps for the east side of the deck. The deck was completed 5 years ago. Pandemic = round-to-it. The deck and stairs are the hardwood, ipe. When looking for handrail, I didn’t want to pay for shipping from Advantage Lumber, the supplier for the rest of the ipe. I opted for locally sourced mahogany. Nice stuff!
You might say that I’ve been thinking about building some steps on the east side of the deck for a while. You might also say that I’ve been procrastinating for five years. I bought supplies at Lowes at 6:00 am, and got to here at 2 pm. Who told me to get this done? Bebop, of course.
Quarantine Project: the Bebop fence. For years, it has been known, “You can’t have a dog. We don’t have an enclosed back yard.” Well the dog arrived, and the fence is now complete. This was a challenging project, from a design perspective: The fenced area shown was the pathway for driving trucks and trailers into the backyard for projects. Hence two five-foot sections and a central post are removable for access. It was also challenging because my body rebels a bit for all the up and down work. But after two weeks, this two-day project is complete. Terri has volunteered to stain it. Thanks!
I bought a collection of quick change driver bits: square, phillips, hex, torx, and straight. Some came with holders for the set; some did not. I saw this as an opportunity for some precision “woodworking”.
Well, actually it wasn’t woodworking, but I used woodworking tools. The material of choice was polyethylene plastic sheet. Very conveniently, the material was cut from an inexpensive Walmart cutting board (more on that later). Here’s the result, comparing my work with the commercial equivalent:
Commercial holder on the left. Shop-made holders on the right.
As you can see, I set myself up for a precision boring challenge. The polyethylene sheet that I had available was sized similarly to the commercial version : 0.347 inches (11/32 inches). The bore needed for a friction fit of the bits was 9/32 inches, which left 1/32 of an inch margin. The material would work with that small a margin, where wood would not. Achieving precision was the challenge.
That challenge was met nicely at the drill press with the compound slide table that I’d bought recently for another purpose
In setting up the operation, I carefully aligned the edge of the top vise to be within a hair’s breadth (0.001 inch) of the drill bit cutting surface when the table travelled from one end of the vise to the other. With that complete,the material could be placed in the vise and positioned for each bore with the left-right adjustment wheels. As it turned out (pun intended), the holes were positioned by turning the wheel 3-1/2 turns (whatever distance that was).