Stones River Woodworkers Club Murfreesboro, TN

Jay’s Ramblings


April 2014


Last Fall on a visit to friends in the Boston Area, I was asked if I could repair a ladies walking cane. It had belonged to Hans’s grandmother and Hans is 81 years old so you know the cane was a true antique. At some point in it’s life the Ebony shaft had been cut off about 6" below the handle which is sterling silver and shaped in a Crook configuration. There is some engraving on the cane handle butt that looks like the letter F and the letter B intertwined with 50 and some leaves under the letters. Also around the shank where the shaft is inserted are the numbers 17 10 18 . I cut off the shaft flush with the handle and drilled a hole in the center and inserted a 3/8 tap. I clamped the tap in a vice and tried to pull out the wooden plug. No luck! then Nancy suggested that heat might loosen it so got out my heat gun and what do you know - it popped right out. The wooden plug had been tapered with a barb carved on the end, the handle was filled with some sort of ( resin? ) that liquefied in heat and then the shaft was inserted. The resin flowed around the tapered plug and barb and when cool was rock hard. We think we’re so smart and technically advanced but someone solved his problem hundreds of years ago and it was still solid when I took it apart this spring. With a little heat the cane could have been disassembled and reassembled at any time between then and now. Try that with our super epoxy’s.


I wanted to make a new shaft out of a real durable wood and not having access to a blank of ebony, I chose Osage Orange and Dayton Brown gave me a blank. If my friend uses it in the rain, it won’t deteriorate. One thing is for sure, drying the blank and then turning it isn’t an option. I also went down to BRC in McMinnville to see Stanley Dunn (If you’re looking for some wood from BRC, call Stanley first to see what he has on hand cell 931-607-4758. BRC has been letting some stock run a little low.) , as he had told me that they made ax handles that required the blank be very straight grained so as not to break. I got a Hickory ax blank from Stanley should the Osage Orange not be really straight grained. A person's weight on a 3’4" diameter shaft could cause a grain flaw to show up at the wrong time.


I read somewhere that when turning thin balusters, if you mount the blank in a 4 jawed chuck at each end, the increased stability will allow you sometimes forgo the use of a steady-rest and your hand rubbing lightly on the center of the baluster will suffice. I gots the chucks and setup so why not try it. I have a good steady rest using three in-line skate wheels that works well but I’m an old dog and learning a new trick won’t hurt me at all.


Well I turned the 1"x 34" Osage Orange blank round and I wound up using a steady-rest because 34 inches of 1" shaft flexes quite bit. Boy, does Osage Orange make a striking yellow cane, I hope my friend isn’t disappointed when it turns brown in the sunlight. Now I have to taper it from 7/8" diameter at the tip to about 1" at the handle but I’m not sure how I will affix it into the handle. I have some good epoxy but I’d like to know more about the resin or whatever that was originally used. I need to call Alf Sharp! I’ve been wondering if the mystery resin might turn out to be just old fashioned hide glue. We know so much and yet know so little.


I finally finished the CD shelves I’ve been working on since before Christmas and Installed them. I worked my ass off to make sure everything was straight and square but forgot to check the walls in the upstairs hallway which turned out to be quite UN-square. Thank goodness for spacers and shims.


The 1/2"x1/8" flat-bar was installed in the bottom of the full length dato using 6-32 machine screws into tapped holes in the flat-bar and I painted the flat-bar black prior to installation. I ordered some 1/4" rare earth rod magnets 1/2" long but found that Lee Valley had sent me magnets only 1/4" long so I had to double the magnets end to end to get the desired strength I wanted. I just used wipe-on poly for the finish. After I installed the shelves, Nance cleaned and sorted all of our CD’s and quickly filled up all eight shelves. I’m now in the process of bringing my spreadsheet up to date but the weather is warming so woodworking beckons. In a lot of ways the winter was too long but in some ways it was too short. Bitch, Bitch, Bitch -- nobody’s 100% happy all the time.


In the past I’ve been buying pig-tails (for flipping things on the Bar-B-Q) from Craft Supplies but when Penn State offered the same thing cheaper I ordered some from them. Do the words "Back Order" sound familiar? Do promise dates mean anything? Penn State, I’m coming to realize is the equivalent of J.C. Whitney in the world of woodworking. It’s time to order again from Craft Supply and get back to excellent service.