Sam's Shop Talk and Blog
After making nets for almost 20 years, I have made as many or more mistakes than most wood workers and craftsmen. This hobby has given me the chance try a variety of methods and equipment in pursuit of perfection. I am also a self taught fly fisherman and spent many years floundering and frustrated while I sought the guidance of others and gained experience. I am hoping in this blog, to share my insights and make your time in the shop or on the stream more productive.
I returned from England, after fishing several beautiful rivers and meeting some wonderful people. While on the trip I had time to reflect. As I talked about my shop and my net building I saw patterns in my behavior. My wife says, I have a Compulsive Wood Disorder, as I can't walk by a pile of boards with out looking for a piece of wood to take home. As usual she is right....and I am now in the phase of acceptance. I now realize life doesn't come out even. There will always be wood in the wood rack, rods and rivers unfished and friends you didn't see enough. So lighten up, relax and enjoy the chaos of your life. A full life doesn't come out even.
This a shameless plug for a woodworking experience (I paid for the class myself). John Wilson of Charlotte, Michigan (517-543-5325) is a true gem of woodworking knowledge, he has researched, reinvented, he now teaches Shaker Oval Box making. What does this have to do with net making? First, he teaches in a weekend class the principles of milling and bending thin wood into a complex form (sounds kinda like net building). Second, he will help you make these really neat boxes...with all that shop equipment you bought to make a landing net...(which you could have bought for the price of the sander). This in turn will transform you into a sensitive giving man, when you give your wife or girl friend a set of nesting boxes....after which you will return to your work shop and descend into utter madness over your net building...but you will be forgiven..........
Finding your groove............Well more, cutting a groove in a net frame. I have heard of a number on methods, both ingenious and scary to cut a small groove on the outside surface of the net frame. In my shop I use a custom cutter built by a local firm in Grand Rapids, recently I became aware of new products that would allow the assembly of a double ball bearing cutter from standard router bit parts. The necessary parts can be found at MLCS woodworking, a supplier of router bits and wood working supplies. The assembly tested used TWO, 1 5/8th inch, ball bearing guides (part number # 12114 @ $8 each) , a three wing slot cutter 1 7/8th inch diameter, for cutting a 3/32 inch slot, (part number #304 @ $12) . The ball bearing guides and cutter were stacked on a 1 1/4 inch extended arbor ( part number # 299 @ $14.99). The assembled cutter worked very well with the larger bearing giving smooth support to the net frame being fed into the cutter. I did adjust the cutter using a small diamond wheel in a Foredom tool to reduce the depth of the cutting edge by about a 1/64 of an inch to produce a slightly shallower groove.......good luck and be safe.
Pictured are the original custom groove cutter and the new cutter assembly with the larger ball bearing surfaces.
These are the parts you will need to order to assemble your own custom cutter. The router arbor usually comes with the washers and threaded nut.
It's been a long winter. Today there has been a bit of snow and rain. The rivers are blown out. I'm ready for Spring.
There seems to be a growing interest in building landing nets. I have receive a number of questions about the brass eyes that I use on my nets. Like many of you, I looked hard to find a solid looking brass eye to finish off the handle. I didn't find any that met my expectations. So I set out to make my own. After spending $1000, ruining several lath tools and scaring the heck out of myself several times, I can now make the brass eyes with out detaching any appendages. The brass eyes are made from 1/2 inch solid brass rod turning it to the rough shape before drilling, grinding and polishing by hand.
After multiple request I am offering the brass eyes as a finished item. 2 for $30 pp. I know many of you don't have a lathe, so I am offing the rough blanks at 2 for $15 pp. They will look approximately like the ones below. You'll need to file, drill, and polish to your liking.
Something to think about, when someone looks at the net you made and asks about the brass eye, you can either say "I bought it off the internet" or "I have them custom milled on a lathe, then I drill, grind and polish them to my specifications." Life is full of stories....make them good.
I am often asked what power tools I would suggest to start making landing nets. I suggest starting with a basic 6 inch by 48 inch stationary belt sander and 14 inch band saw. Those two machines will allow you a good start in this hobby and will be useful for many projects around your home. Work smart, work safe.......Sam
This is my 6 inch stationary sander, I use it more than any other tool in my shop. I purchased a model with a 1750 RPM motor, but have changed the pulleys to DECREASE the belt speed. I find the slower speed allows me to use it as a carving/shaping tool for many projects.
Another thing you don't need for Christmas. This is a new tool for my shop since my last post. (My monthly schedule is obviously time based in another universe.) This honey of a 10 inch band saw has really come into it's own in my shop. I use it for all the triming and waste cuts that so quickly wreaked my good re-saw blades on my 14 inch bandsaw. This particular saw has been on sale at Woodcraft for nearly a year making it seem like the new price. That said, it is worth the $200 price-tag, which includes a 5 year guarantee. I have combined the saw with a light 0.014 inch, 4 tooth per inch, skip tooth blade. (I buy as bulk stock and soldier together.) Using a lighter blade allows proper tension of the blade, yet doesn't over stress the frame. This blade works well for cut off and light re-sawing, and even makes light cuts in aluminum. The saw has ball bearing guides, solid steel construction and very little plastic, yet I can lift and move it with ease around the shop. If you have a small shop and need a saw for your net building fantasies. this saw should serve you well. ( I plan to take some pictures and post information about soldiering your own band saw blades.)
Spring is here and again I have avoided any sane activity all winter. It all started when I was asked a very simple question, "Have you ever?" This is a question that is highly related to the statement attributed to Bob and his famous last words, "Hold my beer watch this." Asking this question is like waving a red flag in front of a young bull, there is only one path, forward. And so began the my decent into my work shop or madness (pick one). It was there, that I crafted and created some worthy young man's Christmas present. Building a single object frees the builder of any sense of time or efficiency. The single objective becomes, can it be done. And this behold is my creation, the one and only: Paddle-Net.
November 2015 Since the people in your life shopping for Christmas, won't find this blog there is very little chance it will result in you getting these under the Christmas tree, so you should feel free to buy them for your self. Over the years I have had the privilege to trial and destroy numerous tools. (Unfortunately I have had to buy them myself). Occasionally there seems to be a brand that survives long enough that I would be remiss in not relating this to the world or the two or three people that may read this blog.
I have used ear muffs in my shop almost continuously since I started making nets 20 years ago. (This has had the added benefit that I missed most of my three children's adolescence.) I enjoy listening to radio as I work, and have found that most "Work-muff-radios" last about 1-2 years before they would no longer provide a reliable signal. Enter my latest purchase that is now 3 years old and still providing steady service. Based on this highly unscientific sampling, the Howard Leight brand by Honeywell have been a real hit in my shop.... a real 5 star product.