First page of the vise grips archive.

Square peg in round hole – what to do?

Posted by is9582 on July 14, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , ,

I know the title may not represent the subject of this article exactly, but it’s sure awfully close. During my stay in Germany, I helped move some furniture into an old Bahnhof (train station in german), and we were successful with some, but not all.

Many of the old Bahnhofs were built with external stairs, as the only real means for gaining access to the upper floors. In the Bahnhof we were dealing with, these external stairs were in the form of an old castle’s spiral staircase, with the conical roof and all. For anyone who hasn’t ever dealt with a spiral staircase, and moving furniture, there are certain limiting factors. But unlike some of the more current spiral staircases, there wasn’t any open area on the sides, that we could use to let the oversized furniture hang out.

The stairwell is highlighted with a green rectangle, and a red arrow added to help find it better.

The stairwell is highlighted with a green rectangle, and a red arrow added to help find it better.

My daughter and I found a way to coax a full-size box spring for a bed, up through the circular maze, even though it initially acted as if it wouldn’t fit. When it came time for the Queen sized box spring, we knew there just wasn’t enough room, with the contortions we went through on the smaller full-size unit. We still had a go at it, just in case, but it was obviously too large. No matter what we tried, even leaning on the frame in a manner that sounded like we almost broke it in half, were we able to make it go. After the remainder of the furniture was upstairs, and got our wind back, I made a suggestion. Why don’t we just take the box spring apart, and then I can rebuild it again upstairs. My daughter did a quick search and found there was a Queen-sized unit that evidently folded in some manner, to assist fitting through smaller dimensions, but it certainly wasn’t free! The decision was made, so I grabbed all of the tools and headed back down. I’d never taken a box spring apart before, and really not even peaked under the coverings, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad. (Hmmmm)

Even with the longer days in this part of Germany (~4:15am – 10:30pm), after the decision process, we were already getting fairly late in the day. I used my heavy duty Bosch staple remover that I bought at the same time as the Gransfors Bruks axe in my earlier article, and it was sturdy enough to help pull the lighter staples used to attach the material, but the longer staples used to connect wood members were too much. Even so, we shifted away from the slow and exacting tac (read that as methodically pulling each staple around the perimeter, to release the material, and instead cutting just inside the staples), and shifted to the “let’s get this done, before any sound ordinances kick in” approach.

Bosch heavy duty staple remover, with the black handle and extra strong metal bit. Awesome!

Bosch heavy duty staple remover, with the black handle and extra strong metal bit. Awesome!

After almost all of the covering was removed, we started the de-construction process, which was basically pulling apart what we could and using a hammer to “bash” the rest apart. During this process, we tested at multiple stages to see if removing certain parts  might allow it to go through the stairwell. After the second attempt ended again in failure, I knew we had to take it down to individual boards. After we finally finished, we got everything upstairs and we all wiped out.

As some of you might be thinking, I was aware that the same issues would present themselves in the future, when it was time to move from this location. With this in mind, we found a hardware store, and I bought 125 Torx screws that were approximately 1 1/2″ long. I wanted it long enough to solidly connect two of the thickest boards (just over 3/4″ thick) used in the box springs. When initially planning for the screws, I thought 60 or so would do, but opted to double that number when at the store. I just didn’t want to come up short. To my surprise (and relief), even with this doubling of the screw count, I only had 8 unused at the end of the re-build.

While getting the screws, I bought a wireless drill/driver and a few drill bits. I made sure there was a bit that would allow me to drill a pilot hole through each board that would be the “outer” of two joined, to keep these self-biting screws from potentially biting into both pieces, and ultimately holding them apart. During the initial testing at the Bahnhof, I saw just how poorly some drill bits are made, and while I knew this on some level from using drills all of my life, I was somewhat surprised at what happened in the first hole I drilled in the real project.

Two of the boards that run across the end of the box spring, still had a strip of the thicker fabric attached, that the maker used to make the top side durable and I suppose pretty. When the drill bit exited the back of one of these boards, the bit caught in this fabric, and snapped into three pieces! I really couldn’t believe what just happened! (Reminder to always wear your safety glasses, which my polycarbonate sunglasses served the purpose!) There were times in my previous wood/metal drilling, that I’ve made a dumb mistake, and caused a bit to fail, but never anything like this. I wasn’t applying any side forces, or trying to change the entry angle, to make it a right angle or anything like that. So, with that in mind, you can imagine how cautious I was with the remaining 116 or so holes I needed to drill. Fortunately, the next larger size was still small enough so the head wouldn’t pull through the wood, when tightened.

Now let me go back to where I was going with this article. Since our deconstruction process took on a “go, go, go” attitude to meet the sound ordinance, almost all of the staples (long and short) were still in some of the boards. Some of the long staples were driven so their head was almost 1/8″ below the surface. I used a small hammer on each of the legs, to drive it out far enough, so I could grab the head with vise-grips. Even with the staple’s head now protruding, it still took a fair amount of time and effort to get each staple all the way out. The short staples used to hold down the fabric were much easier, and felt like they just jumped out, compared to the heavy-duty long-legged staples.

The staple pulling went on for a couple of days, using the spare time between all other activities, and I could see I was likely to run out of time, if I tried to get every single staple out. Plan B: I looked at all of the boards, and where they would interact with the others, and on most of them there was enough room for two screws, around the existing staples. So, for these that had enough extra room, the staples stayed, but I broke the long legs off flush with the underside of each board. If there was anything still protruding, I just gave it a quick tap with the hammer. If it happened to lift above the surface, I pulled it out, and all was good.

When I started the actual build, I placed each board in it’s position, and marked for the pilot holes I’d drill on the outside board. While marking the placement of these holes, I also visually aligned the boards so they were either square, or parallel, depending on which I referenced. I didn’t have a square, and I know I could have made one using mathematics, but the eye be pretty darned precise once trained. I also had the side benefit of the original staples’ holes, and it looked like they might have sprayed the unit with a wood sealer, after it was built. There was a very light color difference showing how things overlapped each other, but I had to remember that each board may have been in a different location, since they seemed interchangeable enough to not spend the extra time during the de-construction. When I was working with the longer boards, I lightly drove one screw at each end, to keep the intended shape, and once happy, sank them tight. Only after that, did I install any of the screws along the length. It is too easy to pull parts out of alignment, even if by just a little bit, so that the whole doesn’t look right or just won’t go together.

Box Spring partially re-built, but already very rigid and strong.

Box Spring partially re-built, but already very rigid and strong.

Each connection got two screws, and for the most part, I used my left hand as my vise. It wasn’t until fairly deep in the build that my Son-in-law asked if I wanted to use a specific tool to clamp some pieces while I drilled. This tool is somewhat like a vise-grip, but it has a jaw that can move into four positions, allowing for holding parts from thin to very thick. Doh! There were a couple of connections where the board wasn’t quite as flat as would be ideal, so I did use this “clamp” to keep things from moving. Great idea Scott!

These grips have a lower jaw that can fit into any of the four grooves, and has a wide range of holding.

These grips have a lower jaw that can fit into any of the four grooves, and has a wide range of holding.

During the de-construction, there were a couple of boards that either lost a little integrity, or bit the big one. Really the nature of the beast when trying to get something apart, that was never truly intended to come apart. One specific board, was one of the four long main frame boards, and a 1/4″ section of wood stayed under the staple after the board was removed. This board had a curve cut on each end, so the box spring didn’t have a sharp corner. After looking at it for a bit, I flipped it over, and end for end. This gave me enough solid wood at the place where it needed to connect, and we didn’t need to go looking for a piece of wood. One other is of note, and somewhat important. One of the boards that crosses from side to side, to help prevent any of the mattress from sinking down into the box spring, broke with a very light touch, at a knot in the board. Probably never should have made it into the original build, but it also may have felt sturdy enough to not matter. Well, the nature of this break was complete and all the way across the board, so there was no repairing this baby. I looked over all of the other similar pieces, to make sure they were all solid, and luckily they were. So, rather than trying to sprint about 30Km, to get one little piece of wood, I instead shifted each cross piece slightly, to keep an even spacing between each one. The spacing between each cross member grew very slightly, and it will still work solidly.

After all of the screws were installed, we again had a super stiff box spring, that will work wonderfully until it is time to move. At that point, the screws are removed, the boards are transported down the stairs to an awaiting abode, and then screw it back together. As a decision was made to leave the box spring uncovered, it will be simple to deconstruct and I believe they may just use the open space as a little bit of additional storage. Houses in Germany are notorious for lack of built-in storage, so it is space well used.

Box Spring complete and ready for action.

Box Spring complete and ready for action.

Box springs aren’t the most expensive piece around, but if you weren’t already planning to drop some extra $$, you can always do this yourselves. It certainly isn’t rocket science, but does require some focus and some work. I hope this might just help you, if you need to find a way to make your’s fit where it wasn’t meant.

Thanks as always for checking out the article and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Lee Laird

Luthier Clamp update – Amazing little sandpaper

Posted by is9582 on February 14, 2015 with 61 Commentsas , , , , , , ,

I disassembled the cam in my recent vise (what a great thing those spring/tension pins turned out to be), and measuring directly from the cam, laid out the exact size on a thin strip of 220-grit sandpaper.  I chose this grit as I wanted the extra “holding” power, when the cam is in a position, other than vertical, in relationship to the flexible portion of the jaw. In the same thought, I also didn’t want a super coarse grit that would possibly be a bit more “grabby” and could work to sand away the mating surface. Before cutting the sandpaper, I wondered the best way to handle this, without possibly dulling a tool. I came up with a way that was acceptable to me. I held a small metal ruler along the previously marked cut line, and with my Marking-Knife that I got from Homestead Heritage a few years ago, I severed the sandpaper. The interesting part is that I actually flipped the knife blade so it was upside down, and using the area just behind the tip, pulled the knife along the ruler. I wasn’t sure it was going to work at first, but after a few strokes, the sandpaper strip was separated from the sheet.

Before gluing the sandpaper to the edge of the cam, I wanted to verify the cam’s edge was 90-degrees, compared to it’s face. I noticed there were a few less-than-perfect areas, so I made a quick “jig” to rectify this issue. I’d previously made a small platform, against which I saw smaller parts, and it was made from some 1/2″ thick MDF. On the end closest to me, there is a runner that hangs down, so a face vise can keep the whole platform steady while sawing. I snugged it up in the face vise on my bench, so I didn’t have to chase the platform around, while fixing the edge of the cam. Before getting started, I made some pencil marks along the edge of the cam, in the holding area, so I could tell when I was finished.

Cam on the small sawing platform I used to make sure the edge was 90-degrees, before applying sandpaper.

Cam on the small sawing platform I used to make sure the edge was 90-degrees, before applying sandpaper.

 

Showing working position, with the file up against the known-perfect 90-degree platform edge.

Showing working position, with the file up against the known-perfect 90-degree platform edge.

I tilted the file so it was up against the edge of my platform, and while holding it in this position, worked the edge of the cam. While holding the cam against the file, I rotated the cam from the lowest point (when in the clamp), to the very tip of the cam. This makes it so the file is working “downhill” on the grain, and leaves a better surface. I’d flip the cam over and repeat this process from what is the highest point of the cam (when in the clamp), and again stopping when I reach the very tip. After a few passes I saw all of the pencil marks were gone, so it was time for some glue.

I used some polyurethane glue, applying a light coat to the wood, and then gently clamped the sandpaper in place with some vise grips. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure this glue would be a great fit for this purpose, as polyurethane glues require moisture to activate and cure. (This is from memory, so hopefully I haven’t provided misinformation).  None the less, the glue seemed to do a great job of adhering the sandpaper solidly to the edge of the wooden cam.

Holding the sandpaper in place, with visegrips, while the glue dries.

Holding the sandpaper in place, with visegrips, while the glue dries.

I had to clean up one small foamed-up portion of glue, but it was not more than about the size of two pin heads. I really thought there might be more foaming to deal with, so I am very pleased with this usage, at least at this point.

When I got to the point of reinstalling the pin for the cam, I had a bright idea. Since I’d taken this pin out of the clamp using only a pair of vise grips, I wondered if I could put it back in, the same way. It was getting late, and I didn’t really want to start pounding on the pin with a hammer (with the right sized hole, it really was more of tapping), so I gave it a try. I grabbed the pin about 1/4″-3/8″ from the end I would feed into the clamp. With the vise grips closed, I was able to push the pin in up to the vise grip jaws, if I rotated it back and forth. I disengaged the vise grips, shifted back about the same 1/4″ – 3/8″, and did the same things again. I got the same great results. I continued this process, but as more of the pin was inside the clamp, the vise grips had less impact on the deepest portion of the pin. Luckily, since this clamp was somewhat narrower than most commercial versions, I didn’t run out of hand strength, before getting to the opposite side of the clamp.

I tested the clamp on a piece of wood and was pleasantly surprised at how much more responsive the cam behaved, as it allowed the clamp to hold the wood, with a very light force. With this light force, the cam was around 15-25-degrees shy of perpendicular to the  jaw, and the cam stayed right where I stopped the movement.  Here is a photo I took of the clamp, holding a piece of wood lightly, with the cam in a pre-90-degree position. I decided to hold the unit by the piece of wood that is clamped.

Holding the clamp up, by the wood piece that is lightly clamped. (Notice cam position)

Holding the clamp up, by the wood piece that is lightly clamped. (Notice cam position)

These features will go on all of my cam clamps in the future.

Thank you for stopping by to read this article. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 

Lee Laird