Archive for May, 2012

Woodworking Game Pieces from Wooden Dowels

The size of your game pieces, relative to your game boards, can be determined by your personal taste. However, for chess pieces, the equipment standards outlined by the US Chess Federation call for “a King that measures 3 3/8” to 4 1/2” with a base diameter or 40-50% of the height”. In general, the square formed by the bases of four pawns standing together should just about equal the size of a square on the board. Your King’s base should occupy approximately 75% of the square.

For standard measurements between grooves and a good pattern outline, visit http://chessready.com/woodworking-chess-piece-patterns-regulation-and-standard-dimensions.html. Adjust measurements by percentage based on the size of your board. This will ensure that your pieces have proper spacing and the beauty and detail of each piece can be fully appreciated.

Now for the fun part. Select wooden dowels in contrasting colors of wood to create your pieces. Hardwood dowels are great for heirloom style pieces. Tight wood grain that is clearly defined will help each piece to resist splitting and withstand the amount of work that you are going to put into each piece. Mahogany, maple, and ebony are popular choices.

Start with your selected wood dowel and cut pieces within .25” of desired height. Mark dimensions for spacing of grooves with a pencil. Turn each piece on a lathe. Measure the depth of each groove as you go with a caliper.

You can use blocks of wood if you prefer, and making a chess set is a great way to use scrap wood, but if you want to ensure exact dimensions and cut down on the amount of labor, start with wooden dowels. Most people making standard chess pieces start with 1.25” diameter dowels and turn them down to 1” bases.

After turning on the lathe, use small turning chisels, files, a disc sander and knives to hand carve and finish the King, Queen and Knights. The Castle battlements can be finished with hand files. The cross atop the King can be sculpted with a disc sander. The crown of the Queen can be grooved with a carving gauge.

If you like, you can weight the bottom of each piece with poured lead. Finish out the bases with the desired color of simple felt and you’re done. Weighted bottoms make pieces less likely to tip over during play and give your set a good, solid feel.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

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Shop Safety: Woodworking

Woodworking can be a fun and rewarding hobby for anyone. By keeping some basic safety tips in mind, you can enjoy woodworking without suffering injury. Keeping a list, such as this one, posted in your wood shop will help you to remember to think about safety each time you practice your skill.

1) Take your time when you plan your project. Don’t rush, avoid frustration, and keep yourself safe by remembering not to rush. Give yourself a practice run without tools before you begin to cut. Imagine what it will look and feel like before you start so that you’re prepared for what is about to happen.

2) Keep things clean. Sawdust and clutter can disguise accidents waiting to happen. Keep your work area clear so that you don’t accidentally run into something that you didn’t plan on. Giving yourself plenty of space to move around will keep you from getting cramped into a space that is too small to safely work in.

3) Never force a piece of wood through a saw or a drill bit through a piece of wood. Running into nails or other impasses is dangerous and can cause serious injury. If something is bogging down your saw blade or if your equipment is malfunctioning, you will need to stop and clear any impacted debris before you move on.

4) Study the safety and operating manuals for your equipment before you begin. If you haven’t used a tool in a while, review the safety guidelines for that particular instrument before you attempt to use it.

5) Perform regular tune-ups and maintenance on your equipment to ensure that it is ready for use. Use only sharp blades and bits when you work.

6) Store your equipment according to the manufacturer’s directions. Keep equipment covered or put away when not in use so that it doesn’t collect dust and debris. Make sure that parts have stopped moving or spinning before placing them down on a surface. Also check to make sure equipment has cooled down before storing it.

7) Make sure that you wear appropriate clothing that is not loose when woodworking. Hair should be secured. Protect your ears, eyes, lungs and hands when operating any type of machinery. Properly ventilate your work area to minimize fumes and dust.

8) Do not work if you have consumed any alcohol or other substance that could impair your judgment. Keep a clear, calm mind and avoid distraction of any kind.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

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Cutting on the Curve: Router Basics

A router is a great tool to have if you’re planning on doing woodworking projects. Routers are rotary cutting tools that cut decorative edges along wood. They can also be used to carve out scrolling, smooth grooves, and holes. Unlike a drill which bores into wood with the tip of the bit, a router uses the side of the bit. Routers can rotate as high speeds creating beautifully smooth cuts and designs. If you’re looking for a finishing tool that can create intricate designs and smooth edges, then a router is the way to go.

Standard routers cut along the edge of the wood, creating decorative edges and smooth joining surfaces. Plunge-cut routers start their cuts on the top of the wood. They “plunge” the bit into the surface. Many routers now come with attachments so that you can easily alternate between a plunge-cut and a standard router, depending on your needs.

Routers can also come with a base mount so that you can attach them to a table. This is useful if you are going to do a lot of repetitive work or if you’re working with large pieces. A router table either has a place for you to attach your router or it has a router already affixed to it. Routers can be used in almost any woodworking job and many jobs will require a router to complete.

Before you use your router for the first time, there are some things you should keep in mind. The spinning router bit is not shielded from anything. It can spin at speeds in upwards of 30,000 RPMs. Keep this in mind when you select your clothing. Long sleeves and loose fitting gloves can easily touch the bit and be sucked in with extreme speed. Objects and debris can also be ejected from the bit at an incredible rate. Eye protection should always be worn. You should also take extreme care not to cut through any nails, screws, or anything else that isn’t designed to be carved.

Practice with your router before you attempt to work on your actual piece. The torque can vary depending on what type of wood you are working with and how firmly you are able to hold the router. Make several practice passes with your router over some scrap wood to see which position and speed gets you the finish that you desire. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be able to create professional looking pieces in no time.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

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