Sometimes I forget to show things that I think are too commonly understood, but the humble shooting board deserves a mention. When I first read of this tool in one of Tom Fidgen’s books it was like a revelation. Seriously, how does one get on in the shop without a shooting board? I’m still using my push style board on top of my planing beam because its already been made, no need to waste this one just to be pulling a plane across the work. And this little low angle block plane with adjustable mouth is exceptionally effective at end grain work. Here I’m trimming the piston head board to length.
I use the wedge from my shoulder plane as a template whenever I’m cutting mortises that will be wedged. For some reason I felt like laying this out with ink, sometimes the ink is more comfortable because its so easy to see, though a little less accurate than knife lines in theory. In practice the more accurate line to work to is the one that you can actually see clearly. I’ve taken to moving around a small work light just to get things properly lit in the shop on days when the daylight is missing.
After mortising the piston head board I roughed down the handle to a cylinder and drilled the hole for the piston rod tenon. The handle has to be made first so that the tenon can be fitted properly at the lathe. I decided to make the hole blind, part of the clean look of the fuigo.
I struggle to make forms that are not ugly at the lathe. If you asked me what looks good in terms of curve and form I couldn’t tell you. Its much easier to say something is ugly and keep removing wood until it looks good, that’s generally my approach. I may have looked at half a dozen pictures of fuigo with these handles, but you don’t really see the form until you make one for yourself.
The piston rod, having previously been squared and cut to length, was mounted with a two jaw chuck. When I was drawing the plans for the fuigo, this is one of the design constraints for total length of the box. This lathe may suck but it does have some decent bed length.
The chuck is holding the wedged tenon end, with the handle end against the tail stock so that its easy to check the tenon fit on the handle without unmounting from the lathe. After roughing down to a cylinder I used my parting tool and caliper to cut down to 1″ diameter along the length of the cylinder.
The cut that defines the shoulder between the square cross section and the cylinder is a good example of the different quality of cut between the parting chisel and skew chisel. Basically the difference between cross-cut and rip-cut. The tip of the skew chisel, although it makes me nervous to make this cut, gives a beautiful clean end grain cut without tear out.
The skew chisel, with hand as steady rest, was also indispensable for smoothing down the cylinder to final dimension. I made a gauge block for the bearing ID so that I could check the piston rod without dismounting from the lathe. The final bit of fit was brought in with 220 grit sandpaper, so that the bearing gauge ran smoothly over the piston rod.
With the lathe work done I cut the tenon and marked for the wedge that secures the face of the piston head board. I used the tenon cheek cut-off to support the tenon as I mortised.
Mortise cut, tenon chamfered, looking good.
I had a little scrap of walnut that was the right width for the 1/2″ wedges, so it makes some nice contrast, though you’ll never see it in use. The piston head board was from flat sawn stock, so it cupped a little. I placed the concave face on the side opposite the wedges, just seemed to make sense like that. Eventually the handle will be drilled for a cross-pin, but I don’t want to do that until the piston is fitted to the fuigo because the handle has to be off to take the rod out of the box. I also shortened the piston rod by 1/2″ from the plans so that it would actually fit in the box. As you can probably imagine, the piston rod and head board have to be wedged after assembly while inside the fuigo.
I would love to find some kind of fur to use as the gasket material, fur is probably the better material because of its natural slickness and fuzziness. As it is I really want to get this thing working, and I can always replace a thin gasket with a thicker one later. With a pair of calipers I measured this towel to be 1/16″ at full compression, 3/32″ in use. So each side of the piston head board was reduced 3/32″, with the exception of the bottom which I only reduced 1/16″ because the gasket material will compress more under the weight of the head board.
The fit turned out to be quite good with the clearances I guessed for the gasket material, perhaps a little tight top to bottom, but I’m going to see if that changes with a bit of use once the piston is “run in” a bit. All of the internal wooden surfaces in contact with the piston head received two coats of paste finishing wax to make the action nice and smooth. Even as careful as I was with drilling the piston rod bearing and dimensioning the piston rod I still had a little binding towards the back of the stroke (when the rod is pulled out all the way). I could have adjusted the bearing, but in this case just hand sanded the bearing rod until it ran smoothly along its length. I finished the piston rod with a coat of paste wax as well. The lid is simply held on with a snug fit, I didn’t see the need for fasteners.
And here it is, ready to breath life to a forge. It feels a bit tight, but I’ll wait to make adjustments until I use it a bit. I still need to pin the handle to the rod, but its tight enough at the moment that I’ll wait. It pushes some serious air! I am deeply satisfied with how this project turned out, I totally disregarded the length of time it took to complete. Now, looking at the finished object, it still amazes me that I have one of these, I almost don’t believe that it works so well.
If you’re into these fuigo you’ve probably read about the gentle woosh of air, the calming click of the valves. The only thing I can compare it to is the meditative quality of shishi-odoshi used in Japanese gardens. This bellows is the quality of a professional tool, part of me knows I’ve made something too good for me, I aspire to be worth using it.
Next comes making a charcoal kiln for proper softwood charcoal. And perhaps, if my vision stays clear enough and I can train enough carpenters, a small building to house the forge, like Mark has imagined here.