Monday, February 25, 2013

Using a Concrete Edger

I poured another set of curbs for a new fence I'm building along the east side of our property.  Using an edger to put rounded corners on a concrete job is the easiest thing to make it look professional.  The key is to wait until the proper time to use it.  Too soon and the shape doesn't hold, too late and it's very difficult to work.

Basically, I fill the forms, level them off and then float them with a metal trowel, then go away for a while.  The amount of time depends on the temperature.  It was about 45˚F when I did this job, so I waited about 50 minutes and it was still plenty soft and workable.  In the summer, it might be less.  Usually about 15 minutes after you pour and screed and whatever you do initially, there's some water that bleeds up out of the concrete.  Don't touch anything while this is present.  Wait until it soaks back in, then give it a few more minutes.  If you start the process and the surface is still really soft, you can always come back later.  You want the consistency to be a little softer than modeling clay.

Start by digging in with the trailing corner to define the edge of the concrete

I use an edger in two steps.  First, I hold it up at an angle and drag it against the form to define the outer edge of the curb and create a track for the tool to follow in the next step.  Then I lay it down and use it to float and shape the surface.  Just apply light pressure and slightly lift the leading edge of the tool.  It's really pretty easy.  If the concrete is still pretty fresh, you can float up a lot of water and make the surface soupy.  Stop and come back in a few minutes if this happens.  Just work it until the shape is defined - and stop, or the cured surface will wind up weak and crumbly.  If you want to float it really smooth, come back when it's firmed up a bit more and give it a final pass.
Then lay the edger down to form and float the surface

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Turning Tools from Glen-Drake Toolworks

Lie-Nielsen's Hand Tool Event came to town last weekend.  It's a great place to play with all their offerings, and ask questions about maintaining and using them.  I got some solid advice on sharpening small blades, and bought one of their small bronze spokeshaves.  What a sweet little tool, especially compared to the crappy Kunz (Stanley knockoff) I have at home.  I also made several cuts with their thin-plate dovetail saw, and now lust for it even though I have a perfectly functional Veritas model.  It cuts like a shark with lasers attached.

Anyway, there are typically also other vendors there, and Glen-Drake was one of them.  Kevin Drake was demonstrating some new spindle turning tools he's developed, and I'm definitely intrigued.  There are six of them, two sizes each of three types:  a rectangular-shaft skew, and round-shaft skew, and a round-shafted chisel ground with a bevel on top and bottom, like a non-skewed skew...  He calls it a duckbill.  That's it.  No gouges.

Kevin Drake demonstrates his turning tools

The tools are short, only about 14" long, more than half of which is handle.  The business ends are stout, and made of O1 steel instead of HSS that's the standard for turning tools these days.  The steel is tempered differently along it's length to make the shafts tough and strong, and the cutting end hard and sharp.  O1 is generally regarded to give a keener edge than A2 or HSS, although I think most turners will have to rethink their sharpening methods.  These tools are meant to be sharpened like a carving tool or bench chisel - shaped once in a great while on the grinder, and maintained with regular light honing on a stone.  The payoff is the smooth surface right off the lathe.

I ordered the smaller of the rectangular skews.  All the tools are around $80, but he said that's some kind of introductory pricing.  After I get it and have a chance to play with it, I'll do a little review.


I like it.  I'm no expert turner, but I use my skews quite a bit.  I've got a Sorby that's my go-to tool; tough, not particularly sharp, fairly cheap HSS tool.  I'll use it for roughing some blanks, and the coarse shaping of larger parts.  Where I really like this Glen-Drake skew is for fine shaping, slicing with the tip, and putting a nice smooth finish on a cylindrical or tapered part.  I keep it sharp and clean, and that's how it performs.  When I have a catch with a skew, it's usually the kind where the edge catches and spirals back along the workpiece, not the digging in the point and punching out a deep wedge type.  I have far fewer of those with this skew than with my Sorby, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cutting Concrete with a Regular Circular Saw

If you're nervous because all the contractors are using big expensive specialized saws, I'm here to tell you it's easy.  Just go spend $25 on a 7" diamond blade, put it on your regular circular saw, and slice away like you're cutting thick lumber.  If you have a nice saw, you might want to just buy a relatively cheap new one, or get a nice new one and retire your current one to rough work, because the motor will be eating a fair amount of grit.  I just cut up some pavers, and it was a piece of cake.  I was hesitant and thought such a cheap solution wouldn't work, but it worked great and the only issue is the amount of dust it generates.  Work with the wind at your back, wear a mask, and  use eye protection.  That's not some kind of liability disclaimer, just realistic advice.

There are three types of blades available at the borgs:  continuous rim, segmented rim, and "turbo".  I used the turbo type because it's supposed to be the best compromise between fast cutting and smooth cutting.  Just make sure it says it's for dry use or it won't last more than a couple of minutes.  You can also get the blades in smaller sizes for angle grinders and the like.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Installing Turf Block Pavers

I park one of our two cars in the back yard.  There's no driveway, I just drive it up over the curb, across the grass street strip, over the sidewalk, and through a gate.  Classy, I know.  I only drive the car about once a week, and it's only a temporary thing until I get a new garage built or something.  I've been temporarily doing this since 2007...

The part where I drive across the grass strip has worn into a couple of muddy ruts, so I looked into some paving options.  Poured concrete would have been the easiest and cheapest, but turf block / grass block is less obtrusive, easily removable, and doesn't create runoff.
The blocks are 18" x 24" x 3-1/2", and I got them at Mutual Materials in Clackamas for about $8 each if I remember right.  I laid them out and scored the ground to mark the locations, and excavated down about 7" from a levelling board I laid across the area.  Then I laid down several inches of 3/4"-minus crushed rock, and packed it down with a hand tamper until it was 3-1/2" below my board.  A little 1/4"-minus on top gave me a layer to set the stones into.

The stones had to be cut to make a clean fit in the 7' long strip.  I cut them with a $20 "turbo" diamond blade in an old 7-14" circular saw I keep for this kind of rough work.  Trying to cut masonry with something other than a chisel was a new thing for me, and aside from being a dusty mess, it was a piece of cake.  Advice from a newbie to anyone trying this:  cut the top / show face of the masonry first, about half way through, and then flip the stone and finish the cut from the back.  The last bit always breaks off, and you don't want that to be a corner on the top.  And just go slow.  Let the saw find it's own happy cutting speed, and don't push on it.

Cutting the pavers with a diamond blade in a circular saw is easy

I filled the holes in the pavers with compost and soil, and I'm going to plant sedum in them.  It will take the summer heat and drought better than grass.
Finished Turfblock Strips