Some of you may have noted that I haven't been very active on teh weebs lately, and some of my blogs posts this week have been a bit, uh, fluffy. I normally comment on your blogs and a number of online sites, and over the last month I haven't, or haven't as much anyway.
Well, there's a reason for that - I'm busy.
I'm behind schedule and it's my own dammed fault.
Something had to go, and for a number of reasons it had to be the amount of time I spend reading and commenting on other people's sites.
I normally spend six hours or so in the mornings writing, and my afternoons (after the kid gets home) working in the wood shop. A couple of months ago I picked up a gig making wine racks for a local wholesaler. It's simple, if somewhat tedious, work. I've got an order for a hundred racks in three different styles due tomorrow. The initial prototyping runs gave me a good feel for the amount of time each rack takes to produce and the steps involved, including the time required to reconfigure my machines between steps and the most efficient order in which to perform the steps. I had to build several dozen jigs and templates for each component, and make a couple of prototypes, prior to beginning actual production. The jigs are a critical step, they are used to hold each component piece at the proper orientation in the various machines during boring, shaping, and cutting - and they took a while to get exactly right. Additionally, each rack requires a rather significant amount of complex freehand work on the band and jig saws - which required that I make a number of practice cuts in order to establish muscle memory so that each piece is cut properly during the actual production runs. In some cases I'm cutting several hundred complex curvy pieces and they all have to fit together correctly, and since each rack has a number of moving parts the tolerances are fairly close.
I began the first production run, for the type #1 racks, two weeks ago and everything went pretty much as I expected. But, there are always little things you forget about that add time to the process. For example, after completion, each rack has to be finish sanded prior to staining. I do this both by hand and with a powered palm sander. My palm sander has a dust collection port, but in the past I've never really bothered with it. However, fine dust can be dangerous, it's both a breathing and fire/explosion hazard, especially in large amounts, and with amount of work I'm doing I was generating a lot of it. Now I have a very large cyclone style dust/chip vacuum collection system in the shop. I have the entire shop plumbed in six inch metal ducting which connects my various machines and work stations to the collector. So, it was an easy matter to hook up a 2" inch flex hose between the sander and the nearest vacuum drop. Then the stupid kicked in. See, for the dust collection system to work, the sandpaper on the palm sander has to be perforated in order for the vacuum to collect the dust under the tool as it moves over the wood. I buy sandpaper in bulk and cut it to the shapes I need, but it doesn't come perforated. And I need to change sandpaper fairly often. So I was spending an inordinate amount of time punching holes in the paper, and the holes have to be in the exact right spots - tedious, time consuming, and unplanned. Argh! So, anyway, I was bitching about this very fact to Beastly on the phone the other day - and he began to laugh. For those of you who don't know Beastly personally, he has several laughs - this one is the one he reserves for me personally, when I've done something incredibly stupid. See, there's all this extra stuff that comes with a power tool, mostly worthless crap that manufactures toss in the case so they can make the list of 'included items' on the side of the box longer. I don't keep my hand tools in their various plastic cases; the cases I stash up on top of the tool lockers and rarely ever look at. Beastly sent me to look in the sander case, laughing his evil laugh all the time. Sure enough, in the case (next to the unread instruction manual) there was a little plastic rectangle with six properly placed spikes designed to punch holes in the sandpaper. What had been taking me five minutes per piece of paper (and adding up to over an hour of lost time each day), was reduced to mere seconds. Thanks, Beastly.
So, anyway, I figured I'd gotten the stupid out of my system.
After I finished the production run on type #1, I naturally started type #2. Type #2 requires a lot more freehand work, but less precision, so I figured I could make up the lost time - and I did, initially. I got all the bandsawing work done in a single day and was congratulating myself making up significant time. The next day (Monday last), I started boring the pin and swivel holes. This involves placing each piece in a jig on the horizontal boring machine and cutting precise holes to a specified depth. It should have been simple and quick - and it was. I cut the test piece, measured against the templates and checked whether or not the pins (nylon dowels) fit properly, they did. But, I noted that the machine required a little too much pressure on the quill to drill the holes. This indicated that the drill bit was a little dull. Since I had over a thousand holes to drill, I figured I'd take a second and sharpen the bit. Sharpening tools is an art form and it can take years of practice to get good at it - but I've had years of practice. I dismounted the drill bit and put it in the power sharpener, and the phone rang. GCI calling to see if I wanted to sign up for their digital phone service, it sounded interesting and also sounded like I could save a significant amount of money, so I got the details and told the girl to call me back after I talked to my wife. Then I went back to the job at hand - and completely forgot to properly align the bit in the sharpener, the end result of which was that the bit ended up with a small (about a 1/64th of an inch) flange along one of the flutes - which I didn't notice. I remounted the bit in the horizontal boring machine and cut all the rest of the holes. Simple, quick - and wrong. Here's the stupid part, because I checked the test bore and found it good, I didn't bother to check the rest of the holes, despite the fact that I had made a change in between the test cut and the production cuts. Stupid rookie mistake. Because the bit was sharpened incorrectly, each hole, all thousand of them, was 1/16 of an inch too large in diameter. The pins that go in the holes must fit tightly, and they didn't. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So, I was faced with scrapping several hundred dollars worth of stock and three days worth of work, or fixing it.
I choose to fix it.
I spent several hours cutting plugs from birch scrap, and several more hours gluing the plugs into the holes. Then I had to wait an entire 24 hours for the glue to dry, before I could sand down the plugs and complete the repair. Then I had to rebore all of the holes (this time with the machine fitted with a new carbide bit), and believe me when I say I tested each and every hole as I drilled it.
So, anyway, last night I finally completed assembly of the type #2 racks. Today I've got to sand and finish them. So they can be delivered tomorrow. I'm now about three days behind on the type #3 racks, which the buyer just laughed about and said, "Hey, no problem, tourist season is staring slow this year anyway. Get 'em to me when you can." Thankfully he's an understanding guy.
So, anyway, I'll be in the shop if you need me, probably doing something stupid.