Dining Table and Chairs

Well I am committed now. We have discussed making a new dining table for years. However it had not risen to the top of the project heap. Plus, it involves not just making the table but also a matching set of chairs.

The goals include:

  • Seat 6 when collapsed
  • Seat 10 when expanded
  • More width as the current table leaves little room for side place settings and a center piece
  • One or 2 leaves, preferably butterfly style – self hiding / storing
  • NO corner legs. This is one of the biggest complaints with the current Scandinavian / Dutch style with pull out end leaves
  • Reasonably resistant to pen / pencil denting, when used by the grandkids or errant uncles

So over the last week I researched ideas and ran a number of concepts past Teal. She did not like many of the trestle styles as being “too heavy / too much wood”. I did not want a single post style pedestal and anything with 6-8 legs is definitely out as going counter to the “no corner leg” goal.

Finally, I homed in on one that we both liked. However it has a number of construction challenges:

  • The angled and swooping legs will be difficult to cut and join securely. Shaping will be done on the CNC router
  • Desire for an even more graceful sweep to the leg (rather than straight “feet” which the original had. You can see the swept feet shown in the attached photos.
  • An alternative needed for the commercial equalizer slides. These allow you to pull one end and the other slides out as well. Plus I want heavy duty slides that will not sag over time.
  • Better fit needed for the the butterfly leaf than shown in the photos and videos

So I started modeling it in sketchup while continuing researching the problems. The third leg design I tried looks promising. The joint of the legs and stretchers is a potential weak spot. So, I beefed this up vs. the commercial example. This means the legs will not directly meet when viewed from the end. There were some good clues on LumberJocks to handling the slides and I will probably go with Accuride 600lb heavy duty slides (9301E) and aircraft cable for the equalizing mechanism. The GT2 timing belt method is too expensive and the strength specs.

There is still more final drawing / modeling to do for the internal works, but the over-all approach seems doable. However, I am now committed with several hundred pounds / couple of hundred board feet of Cherry wood (and several hundreds of dollars spent) now sitting in my shop. There are still more design decisions:

  • Do I arc the table top edges or leave them straight?
  • Should I undercut / bevel the top?
  • What final profile for the top edge?
  • How much of a bull nose radius on the outside of the legs? (I am having a hard time modeling this in Sketchup).
  • Should I soften the inside edge of the leg or leave it square?
  • How about some simple inlay / banding on the top?
  • Which chair design?
Table expanded with leaf
Table collapsed

Chicken Legs & Thighs – sous vide + grill

The key to this recipe is to use both Sous Vide and grilling. Sous Vide properly cooks the chicken keeping it juicy and tender. Grilling adds the smoke and crispiness.

We started with a big economy family / restaurant 10 pack of legs and thighs. This was split into 3 batches. Trim off any large chunks of fat and tail if present. These can cause flare ups while grilling. I leave the legs and thighs attached, but you could separate them for easier portioning for kids.

Season the chicken generously with granulated garlic, Penzey’s seasoned salt and Italian Seasoning. Place 3-4 in each bag. We kept one out for cooking today and froze the other 2 bags for later.

Sous Vide at 158F for 4 hours. Add 20 min if frozen.

Chill the chicken while still in the bag in ice water or throw in the snow bank for an hour. You could also do this a day or 2 ahead as well and refrigerate.

Heat grill to hot (~350-400 as indicated on the BGE). Too hot, and you just burn the skin off.

Remove the chicken from the bag, pulling off and saving the juice / gelatin. Make sure it is all off or when grilling, you will have an immediate flare-up.

Place on grill meat side down and grill for 3-5 min. Flip to skin side down and grill until crispy – approx an other 3-5 min.

In the winter, don’t forget to re-insert the sheet metal ring when closing the BGE. This reduces the occurrence of the gaskets from freezing the lid shut. If it does freeze shut it helps in melting it open. See: Cold Smoking and Frozen Smoker Entry from more info.

Lonzino batch 4 – first one done

The first of the 3 Lonzino pieces from  Lonzino batch 4, that I started at the beginning of November is ready. For the first 5-6 weeks the drying chamber (Rubbermaid bin with fan for humidity control) was in the garage. Once it dropped below freezing outside, the basement was now cool enough (55-60F) to bring it to the basement.  Initial weight was 1122 g and final was 585g. My target was 45% weight loss.

It is delicious. This is the one that I spiced with Penzey’s 33rd and Galena (by eye).  The spices were applied at the same time as the curing mix.   I think the high humidity of the last couple of weeks, which was due to adding the Sopressata and Pepperoni to the chamber helped avoid any case hardening. 

As pulled from the chamber with a nice layer of mold – Bactoferm 600 culture
Washed with water and then the softened collagen sheet was pulled off. As you can see there was good contact and almost no mold under the collagen sheet
First slices.

The next piece should be ready in a week or so, it is just over 40% loss. The last one is being slow so it may be another 4 weeks.

I started this batch with “recalibrating” / adjusting the target setpoint the Inkbird humidity controller and adding monitoring using an Ecowitt temperature and humidity sensor and gateway to log to the ecowitt.net website. Now I can see how the temp and humidity tracked over time. You can see the temperature shift as I brought the bin ito the basement and then later the humidity shift as I added the sausages just before Christmas. I have more of the Ecowitt sensors in the garage fridge and basement freezer (which is why this is Channel 2).

Temperature and humidity plots captured from the ecowitt.net website
Full drying chamber with the other 2 Lonzino pieces, the pressing Sopressata and the Pepperonis in the front. The small containers (with the lids cracked) in the rear have the test samples of the sausage

Note commissions hopefully earned on the Amazon links

Meat Grinder Tune-up

I have been wanting to get into making fermented sausages such as Sopressata, Pepperoni, Salami and more. My sausage making has been rather limited as Teal is not a big fan of “tubular food” and each time I made sausage (summer, brats, Italians, etc.) it in the past it was painfully slow , so the gear would get set aside for another year or 2. I have both the meat grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid and a Kitchener #10 hand crank grinder. Both are slow to use.

Recently, I was making Sopressata with help from my grandson. However grinding in the hand crank grinder was too much for him this time. However he is a fan of the sausage samples we fried up and commercially made Soppressata.

Even for me it was difficult with the grinder constantly slipping on the counter and the blade and disc/plate getting gunked up. After grinding, I gave up on the hand grinder for stuffing and used the Kitchenaid (slow going). Stewing on this for few days, I was thinking whether I had to get a new grinder and stuffer or does the existing gear just need a tune up? The clue I needed was one of the grinder vendors recommending to send the blades in to them for periodic sharpening. I thought, this would be simple to do myself and then the light bulb came on: I had not done anything with either of the meat grinders! Basically, I was just using them “out of the box”. It appears that this is the primary problem!

I tune up and sharpen all of my knives and hand tools (chisels, planes, jointer, planer, etc). on a regular basis.When I get a new (or new to me- used) plane or chisel I spend the time to flatten and tune up the new tool. On closer examination of the Kitchener meat grinder there is a list of problems:

  • The discs / plates are not flat. Actually both are concave on both sides (how this would happen I do not know). They are not worn by any means, just poorly manufactured. You can see the coarse factory grind marks and no real sign of wear from use.
  • The knife is far from sharp
  • The plastic spacer they provide to go between the feet and the counter is some sort of polyethylene – slippery. We need something that will grab.
  • The feet are far from flat and have a very limited contact patch near the inner corners. This can be seen in the photos with the 2 small wear areas.
  • On the plus side the rear plastic bearing has a reasonable fit and enough thickness to push the blade against the plate.

The first step was flattening of the plates. You can use diamond stones 180 grit and then 300 or silicon carbide (wet or dry) sandpaper on the countertop (or glass plate or table saw or jointer) as shown below. Just wet the sandpaper on both sides and it will stick sufficiently for the flattening. If doing this on the counter, stay away from the front edge which may have some dish to it. It may take 20-30 min to do the initial flattening if they are poorly made (as mine were). However, subsequent sharpenings take but a few minutes.

If you have a hard time seeing the scratch pattern, cover the face of the disk with ink from a Sharpie.
After a few strokes on the sandpaper, you can see the high spots. Note both are concave. Worse yet, they were unevenly concave on BOTH sides with a poor / coarse grinding pattern.
This shows the grinding / honing of the disks on the sandpaper. You may want to try both sides to see which is “flatter” to save some work. You only need one side dead flat.
Getting better
Finished at 320 grit.

With the plates flattened, now it is time to sharpen the blade. For this you need something that can reach all the way into the corners. The diamond plates work well or you can use inexpensive small diamond sharpeners (often sold for sharpening fishing lures) . Aggressively sharpen the bevels, then do the flats the same way as the discs. It now actually feels sharp. So now this is getting promising.

Next was to address why does the grinder slip so badly on the counter? I threw out the stupid polyethylene spacer (which is slippery) that came with the grinder and used a rubber pad of the type for opening stuck jar lids, but this still did not help a lot. Looking more closely I noticed that there are 2 very small wear / contact points on the feet. They are FAR from level.

Note the dull patches on the feet. This is the only area in contact with the counter.

The feet need flattening. Given that this is cast iron, a file will do. Use a 10 or 12″ mill bastard file and carefully file the 2 feet flat. You must make nice parallel strokes or you can easily end up rounding the feet rather than flattening. Check that they are flat with a straight edge such as the blade of a square.

Feet after filing. Note the much larger contact area. More would be nice, but may not be necessary.

When researching other grinders, I saw the LEM #10 had a plastic/ rubber boot over the feet. This makes a lot of sense. So I drew up the foot and clamp pads in Sketchup and then 3D printed them in TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) which is a flexible filament. I am using EOLAS brand TPU+, one of the softer ones for the foot and clamp pad, which they also claim is food safe (also great for gaskets).

With these changes in place, the grinder works far, far better. It grinds much more easily, does not clog as often, and no longer slides on the edge of the counter at all. I am still thinking about a proper sausage stuffer however.

The sketchup and STL files for the pads and a stuffing spider are at: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4695351

Path Lights – Powder coating and final assembly

Now that the lights have all of the pieces soldered together and cleaned up, it is time to cut the stems and get everything powder coated.

You need to be sure you have calibrated your oven and are sure of the actual temperature vs what is set. Additionally the parts should be placed to the sides, and not in front of the fan. The problem is that the powder coating cures at temperatures very close to (if not exceeding) the melting point of the solder. So it is very possible to have your assembly fall apart or significantly change shape while curing the powder coat. Below is a chart I pulled from the Kester web site: https://www.kester.com/Portals/0/Documents/Knowledge%20Base/Alloy%20Temperature%20Chart.pdf As you look at the chart, the solders we have commonly used for electronics, stained glass work and plumbing in the past are referred to as the “mid temp solders”. Note that the lower end of their melting range is 361F. The more modern lead free plumbing solders that I have run across are the Sn97Ag3 , and SN96.5, Ag3, Cu0.5. These have melting points above 420F. This gives us a TINY bit of wiggle room above the curing temperatures required for the powder coat.

So far I have used powders from Eastwood and Prismatic Powders. The Eastwood powders typically recommend 460F until the powder starts to fuse and then 400 for 20 min. This does not work with solder as I demonstrated with my first test piece. The solder joint (60/40) opened up during the curing. This lead to some more research and there were a number of posts that said a powder that cures at 400F / 200C for 10 min (as the Prismatic powders I was contemplating) could also fully cure at 355F/180C for 15 min. Note that this is not from Prismatic (I should really contact their tech support for confirmation). I ordered the candidate Prismatic powders and ran some samples. Sure enough, the powder seemed to cure very nicely at the reduced temperature (nice gloss and the metallic flakes glistened). My oven was calibrated against a Thermoworks Chefalarm and an IR thermometer. It runs +5 to -20F vs the set temperature once warmed up and allowed to soak for 15 min. I also decided to avoid placing any parts directly in front of the fan but rather off to the sides. I assume that the hot air coming from the fan is likely hotter than the “overall” oven temp. I had switched to using “lead free plumbing solder” to assemble the parts. The chosen powder coat was Prismatic’s “Soft Misty Copper UMB-1352“. So now was the time for the test of a complete lamp. This was the prototype path light. Everything held together and the finish was great.

Prototype path light – powder coated.

So this proved that you CAN powder coat soldered parts. However, you MUST be careful in you choice of powder, solder, and oven calibration. There is little room for error and oven temps often swing +-20 to +-30F with greater swings during warm-up or when re-heating after opening and inserting the parts. It may be a good idea to line the bottom with fire bricks or tiles for more thermal mass, but I have not tried it. I did get all 8 lights powder coated without incident.

Prior to powder coating, the parts need to be bead (sand) blasted. I am using 80 mesh glass beads at 45-50PSI. The reason the pressure is so low is that the beads will fracture – turning to dust if the pressure is too high (increasing your materials cost) and the brass will deform under the pressure of the blast. This is most notable with the brass U which should be blasted at an oblique angle. Blasting straight on, can completely deform and close the channel. Once the parts are bead blasted they are then blown off with an air gun and hung on stainless wires from the oven rack.

The process of bead blasting and powder coating can be seen below:

Bead blasting and powder coating the lights

While my powder coating setup is a bit low tech, I am pleased with the results .

The lights get a bipin socket for the LEDs hotmelt glued into the base plate . Extension wires are soldered on. I used 5 watt LED “corncob” style lamps. These run off of standard 12 VAC low voltage wiring (and are darn bright).

The posts / standards are 21″ long 1/2″ copper pipe. This was the longest length that would fit horizontally in my oven for powder coating. They are rather tall, but this is needed as my old lights would repeatedly get buried in snowdrifts in the winter. The “anchor post” was made from 1/2″ galvanized iron pipe. I used 24″ sections, cut in half, ends split and then pounded to some semblance of a point. The same 1/2″ copper to 1/2″ threaded adapters that were used under the base of the light were also used on top of the stake. It is not necessary to solder the posts together. The friction fit with a bit of powder coat overspray is more than tight enough.

I found some new screw together vampire tap connectors that worked out very well to connect into the existing 14 gauge cable that was left from the old lights. These are far better than others I have used in the past.

I think the finished lights look great and are a definite improvement over the several previous light sets.

Finished lights and the first snowfall

Please note that I may get some revenue from the links.

Path Lights – Making the Roof

The roof is the most complex part of the light. The roof panels are curved and flared towards the bottom. This means the curves are not a simple arc but have a changing curve radius along their length with the shorter radius towards the bottom. If this is not done, then the top won’t come to a nice point or the curvature is very flat.

Based on the paper prototypes, a master pattern was made by drawing it out as before, but then folding in half prior to cutting. The goal was to be sure that both of the sides were symmetrical. This pattern was then attached to the thin copper sheet (0.06″) with photo mount spray adhesive. The copper was then carefully cut out and the edges cleaned up a bit. Now I have the template to use to trace the patterns for the rest of the roof panels.

The copper that is used is 12oz copper roll flashing. I bought it in a 20 inch by 10 foot roll. 12 oz copper has a nominal thickness of 0.0162″ (0.411 mm). Note that when cutting the copper with shears, the sides of the cut will have a small bend and burr on them. To minimize the curving (potato chipping), adjacent cuts need to be made in opposite directions. This way there is basically only one direction of warping rather than two. The 3.5″ wide strips are cut of the end of the roll of flashing,

Roof panels traced and ready to cut out

The video below shows the detail of cutting and fitting the roof together, then soldering and clean up.

This covers the process of making the roof pieces

Path Light Side Panels

The path light side panels are built separately from the roof. Once they are complete they are soldered to the roof. The bottom is the final piece that is added.

The side panels are built from pieces of adjustable brass came and brass U came that are soldered together. The thin brass is most easily cut with a small 2″ cutoff saw (Harbor Freight). To smiplify the setup and aid repeatability I added a small aluminum track (left over garage door bottom gasket) and an adjustable stop (expanded PVC) which has a slot to hold a small 6″ pocket rule for measuring the distance from the blade. There are no dimensions provided as this is a “make it to fit” from scrap sort of thing.

The cuts for the track were done on the table saw. Just datoes that were adjusted until the stop block fit. The 8-32 screws fit into nuts that are held in the track. The track opening had to be opened slightly (0.010″) by running it over the table saw. Setting the gap is SO very handy with the rule held in place. The slot was cut with Japanese style pull saw. It is just a friction fit for the rule in the slot

Cutting is easily 5-10x faster than having to measure , mark, set the piece and then cut. Just move it to the stop. It is also much more accurate and repeatable as well. Cutting through the adjustable U channel, it wanted to bind on the blade. Waxing the blade helps tremendously. I use Lenox blade lube (same as for my metal cutting bandsaw) but beeswax, paraffin or SnoSeal would work as well. It also helps to support the cut off piece with your fingers (although it renders photography useless) and prevents some end damage and the part being flung as it is parted off.

Adjustable U Came being cut to length

The glass is fitted in place prior to soldering as this helps greatly with keeping things square and the grooves aligned. Thin plywood pieces make up the fixturing. A scrap of the adjustable U came supports the glass at the bottom. The pieces are soldered together with dabs / tacks. There is no need to run the solder the full length of the corners.

Once side panel being assembled

Once a pair of these side panels have been assembled, the other top bars for the front and back are soldered in. Light wrap of wire helps keep everything together and upright while soldering. Alternatively a square or even the block of sal ammoniac can be used to brace the pieces.

All 4 sides, ready for soldering.

Once the sides are completed, the bottom panel and U channel is added. There are 4 corner holes and a 29/64″ hole in the center for the light socket. #8×5/8″ stainless screws fit the adjustable U channel to hold the brass base plate on. Initially I used the soldering iron to solder the u channels to the base, but found that using the microtorch to heat the base and thereby heat the U channel was much easier and neater. The downside is if the movement of the torch is paused, the glass will crack. I lost 2 out of 32 panels this way. As you will see in the video the indirect heating approach is much neater.

Base soldered on

The support for the light is a 1/2″ copper pipe to 1/2″ threaded pipe adapter. It provides enough support and is easy to solder in place. Once cleaned up and coated, it actually looks quite elegant. The wrap of solder prior to heating proved to be not needed. Just use 1/6″ plumbing solder.

Ready to solder the pipe support.

The next step is soldering the side panel assembly to the top. A small jar serves to hold the inverted roof. The side assembly is then centered in it and soldered in place. The corners are tacked on each side to the previously tinned areas of the roof.

Next step is washing off all of the excess flux and the lights are ready for bead blasting and powder coating.
Full video of the process can be found at:

Construction process for the sides, attaching them to the roof and base.

Ring Roller Dies for forming a curved V shape

For the Path Light project I needed to make curved corner pieces for the roof. The roof panels are roughly triangular and the corners have a roughly 1/4×1/4 angle of “12 oz” copper to cover the corner. The twist is that the roof panels are not straight but instead somewhat concave giving the roof a flare at the bottom. The corner pieces cannot be bent to shape by hand, hammering to flare them takes forever, and using a chisel as a punch to stretch the edges is both slow and prone to cutting through. So a variation on a ring roller is needed. I have a Harbor Freight Ring Roller . It is not exactly a precision instrument but will suffice for this work and save a lot of time vs. building the mechanicals to hold and turn the dies from scratch.

Ring Roller mounted to some wood blocking so it can be secured in a bench vise.

I had run across a youtube video by “Stuff Made Here” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuY2-OrT9ig where he used 3D printed dies to bend some steel parts. Forming the copper strips would require far less stress, so I decided to give it a go. The first goal was to prove that the pieces could be formed as I desired, second would be to improve durability if needed . That could be solved by changing plastics or turning the wheels out of metal on the lathe. The first step was to pull the C-Clips that hold on the factory rollers and get some measurements .

Factory roller pulled and v-rollers fitted

Next the v-roller were designed in Sketchup and 3D printed. They were done in PLA at 50% infill with 3D honeycomb for the infill pattern. No support material was used even with the 45degree overhang (yes there are imperfections at the seam between layers because of this). It did take a few tries to get rollers sized such that they gave the relatively shallow curve that is needed and not split the V in the copper strips when inserted. If I had “properly” 3D modeled everything I could have probable avoided printing a few rejects.

V rollers – Note these had already been used to bend over 30 strips. Minimal wear, mostly from the edges of the strips which had serrations form the snips.

The V-rollers as printed did need a bit of clean up on the inner diameter and the keyway. The adjustable reamer did well for the bore. Yes, I know that you machinist purists will say this is will throw the bore off but I do not have spiral chucking reamers. If my printer had been better dialed in I might not have had as much clean up, but this is close enough. If you don’t have an adjustable reamer sandpaper and a dowel works too. You don’t want too tight a fit as the rollers do interfere with each other and all 3 have to be put on or removed all at once. You can see some faint faceting of the circumference in the wheels and the copper, due to the way Sketchup does circles, but once the part is finished they are completely invisible.

Roller in action bending the v-pieces for the corners of the roof of the lights.

For short run parts such as these the 3D printed parts provide a relatively quick and low cost / effort option to forming the parts. A nice thing was that I could design, kick off the printer and then go back to designing and building the rest of the light components while the part was printing. Also without the right tooling (broaches, which I do not have ) making keyways in aluminum or steel on the lathe is a bit of a pain. The files for the dies can be found on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4678087

Bending the corners in the press brake

Running the bent angle pieces through the ring roller

I hope this gives you some food for thought on making 3d printed plastic metal forming tools.

Path Lights Concept

We are on our 4th (or more) generation of path lights for along the front walk and driveway. We live in the country and there is no street lighting. So we need path / landscape lights to provide illumination for safety (of course nothing is level here) and it just looks nice. However the commercial lighting products are pretty cheap and flimsy unless you are willing to spend hundreds of dollars per light. We have the wiring in place and a large 12 v transformer from the initial incandescent path light installation. We had converted to LEDs a while back but want things a bit brighter. Besides the current lights are again falling apart and the glass is breaking either on its own or due to “incidents”.  Solar / battery lights are nowhere near bright enough and the rechargeable battery replacement is an ongoing expense. 

So now it is time for new lights (again). Being recently retired, I have the time to pursue this, after getting more pressing projects out of the way. I started researching looking for designs that i could use as a starting point and to show Teal as I needed her approval. The lights will be mounted on top of 18-24″ posts with some sort of spike anchor base. We started closing in on some promising ideas and then it was time to start making prototypes out of construction paper. This would allow us to see the final size in the garden setting and help inform what the construction process would entail. I had decided to use copper and brass for the shell of the light and a cear “hammered” finish stained glass for the panes. LED light would be used.   The metal would then be powder coated.  The initial  batch for the front walk will be 8  lights.   If this works  out well then 10 or 12 more will be needed for the driveway.

I wanted something of an Craftsman or “English cottage” sort of look with a peaked roof and 4 or 6 sides. So the first things to tackle were over all size and the roof design.

The first prototype looked like this.

First paper and copper foil prototype

It was a start and could be made in copper but the look was not quite right. I wanted a curved / flared roofline, reminiscent of a thatched roof. The copper foil / flashing I had on hand was also flimsier than I wanted. So purchased a roll of 12oz copper flashing to see if that would be thick enough. Then it was time to play with the roof design to see if I could get the look that I wanted and that Teal would agree with. More time was spent with paper, straight edge, compass and french curves. Now I had 3 paper roof prototypes.

Paper Roof Prototypes

We ended up choosing the middle shape. It has the flare I wanted but I was still debating which one. . Teal did not like the slightly upturned corners of the one on the left. So she had the deciding vote. As it turns out fabricating the curved roof in the middle was hard enough.

More materials were ordered. My old stained glass supplier was out of business and I had to try a new one. THis is where I got a few varieties of brass came and the class itself . More metal was ordered from SpeedyMetals for the bottom panel. I ended up using sheet brass for the bottom.

Now was time to start the fabrication and build the tooling. The Press Brake was already done but more was needed.

The prototype light looks like this.

Path light prototype

I’ll cover the construction details in future posts.