Category Archives: tools

The heavy table

I made this table about 5-6 years ago with the intent of using it with guests downstairs in the studio, but as things filled the space I never had a place for it, and it ended up under the staircase for the duration. It had literally never been used  for its originally intended purpose and gathered dust. Until a few days ago when I started rearranging the studio. Now with the stairs out of the way, it is out, clean, and ready for action. I scrubbed off 6 years of dust and crud this morning and started thinking about how best to use it.

If you haven’t noticed already, this is a huge grindstone (one of a pair I acquired), and it must weigh at least 200kg. Somehow I was able to get it up on that railroad tie frame with the heavy duty casters underneath so it can be moved. The current top is actually the bottom, and the actual top is slanted, so one side is propped up on two short kiln stilts so the table top is level. The grooves are close enough together that cups can sit without wobbling or falling over.

It occurred to me that the depression in the center would make a good improvised receptacle for tea goodies, and a garbage can could go under the hole for waste disposal. One other suggestion was to place a bamboo section in the whole as a small waste basket. One of the railroad ties partially overlaps the bottom of the hole, so the bamboo doesn’t fall through.

The freshly scrubbed table, about 80cm/32in in diameter.
The freshly scrubbed table, about 80cm/32in in diameter.
table surface detail
table surface detail
Fresh section of bamboo cut for the waste basket.
Fresh section of bamboo cut for the waste basket.
goodies, with wrapper disposal in place.
goodies, with wrapper disposal in place.
Mmmmm. Nice steamy tea on a cold morning...
Mmmmm. Nice steamy tea on a cold morning…

Snagged a new wheel!

I managed to get my hands on a used wheel, cheap. It is a gigantic banding wheel: wheel head is 50cm across and the whole thing assembled weighs 60kg. It looks like it might have been someone’s homemade wheel, made from acquired parts and put together.

It is an oddly constructed wheel, no bearings at all. The top of the shaft accommodates  a pin in the wheel head like my kickwheel, but there is no bearing in the bottom, just tapered sleeve on the shaft that engages the bottom of the wheelhead shaft, heavily greased. It requires a very fine setting of the tapered sleeve. Engage it too much and the wheel doesn’t turn well, not enough and there is a waggle in the wheel.

It arrived pretty rusty and dirty, looks like it saw a lot of use at some point, then got left in a corner somewhere for a few years. I got a wire brush disc for my angle grinder and spent quite a while getting the accumulation of clay, gunk, paint, and rust off.

Removable wheel head shaft
Removable wheel head shaft
Base shaft
Base shaft
wheel head
wheel head
tapered sleeve
tapered sleeve
The whole shebang, still dirty.
The whole shebang, still dirty.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.

Finally got the wheel head assembly cleaned up and oiled, and with some experimentation found the ‘sweet spot’ for the tapered sleeve when engaging the wheel head shaft, and the wheel spins quite nicely. Click on the link below to see it spin:
Wheel spin test

My plan for this wheel is to weld arms to the base of the wheel head shaft and mount a wooden fly wheel, and add a wooden wheel head onto the current steel wheel head. The resulting kickwheel should be great for onggi style coil and paddle work.

Remodeling the studio

It has become increasingly obvious over the last year or two that a major remodeling of the studio was going to be necessary. As output has increased and work habits have changed, and the fact that I want to put in a wood burning stove for winter heating, changing the configuration of the studio has become unavoidable. I’d been putting it off for a long time because it is going interrupt, but I last week it finally reached critical mass and I decided to bite the bullet and get to work. So…

First order of business is to get the stairs into a more manageable place, and add some floor space to the second floor. Here is a series of photos of the project:

Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Stairs and floor removed
Stairs removed, floor next.
Shelving gone.
Shelving and floor gone.

Interesting note here: when I removed the floor and started taking things off the shelf so I could dismantle it, I found my studfinder that I’d been searching for since, well since I put in that floor section 4 or 5 years ago. I looked everywhere for that thing!

Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.
Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.

I’ll still need to remove and redo the shelving at left, but for now just removed enough to get this project accomplished. Baby steps…

Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.

The ‘beam’ is actually two 4.5 cm thick boards screwed together. In my rush to get the beam in place, I forgot to move the stairs to a place within the work area. Doh!  Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 0.  But it all worked out ok, I threw the rope over the newly placed beam and used it to lower the stairs to the ground, then slid them over near to their final resting place, without destroying any discs in my back. Yes! Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 1. Take that, stairs!

Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.
Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.

This is my first project where I have discovered the forbidden delights of the Simpson Strong-Tie. I’d seen them before in the States, but only recently in Japan, and only at one of the home improvement stores. They saved me all kinds of time, since I didn’t have to cut all the joints for the floor joists, and as an added bonus, they’re cheap.

Floor boards almost done.
Floor boards almost done.

I secured all of the floor boards from below, so there are no screws or screw holes visible on the floor surface, and no need for wood plugs or putty.

Floor boards done, stairs back in place.
Floor boards done, stairs back in place.

As you can see, the stairs come awful close to the remaining shelving at left, but they are accessible. Moving the shelving is on the to-do list. Still, looking good from here…

The view coming up the stairs.
The view coming up the stairs.

Nice expanse of natural wood with no nails or screws visible.

Staring down the floorboards.
Staring down the floorboards.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.

All finished. This is the view from the doorway side of the shop looking back toward the stairs. The original part of the second floor at left. Stairs are up against the wall, and the studio already feels roomier.

Spring Firing Wood

is split, stacked, and ready to go. Now all I need are some pots to fire….

the last of it. splitting done.
Douglas fir stacks next to kiln
four palettes of slender cedar and pine, two palettes of douglas fir.
the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the kiln side of the studio

Of late…

I have been busy. Just seems like there is no time for blog posts. Here are some pics of stuff going into the kiln for the upcoming firing in the new year.

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Porcelain cups. Coil built.
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Small food dishes
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Dish feet
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Casting insulating blocks for kiln doors.

This next firing will be longer than previous firings, about 3days, which means a lot more wood to prepare. Gasp. Argh.

New helper in the studio

I traveled to the port at Nagasaki this morning to pick up my new studio helper, a Peter Pugger VPM-20. Once I got it home, it was a breeze to assemble and mount on the stand, and it was up and running in no time.

plugged in and ready to go

Excited to get it working, I grabbed a bucket of dry scraps and some softer clay, and started mixing. It took some time to figure out how to get what I wanted out of the machine, but I think I’ve figured things out for the most part. It really seems to need to be full to do its best work. Once I added enough material to the hopper, things really started moving along. The first pugged clay was too soft, so it got put in again with a lot of dry crushed sandstone and mixed. I just kept adding more dry sandstone until I got what I wanted.

the first time through was too soft and got run through again

I turned out still to be quite a light batch. After turning on the vacuum, pugging out the contents, then digging out the remainders from the hopper, I had a batch of almost 12kg. The beautiful thing was that because the whole batch had been de-aired, even the unpugged remainders were very easy to wedge by hand. In the past when I have mixed as much sandstone in as I did today, the clay has been largely unwedgeable by hand, being just too short and falling apart.

vacuum pump is working…

pugged clay next to what remained in the hopper

All clay bagged and ready to go

I think this machine and I are going to be great friends. It allows me to mix and process clays and other materials that were previously impossible to process just by hand. Oh, and it is very quiet, both the main motor and the vacuum pump are much quieter than I had been expecting.