Thursday, October 16, 2014

Carved Red Oak Box



I finished this earlier this month. It was a quick build because the client was hot to trot to get their hands on it. Originally I conceived this box as one half of a pair. Both boxes born from the same board. But the client came to me desperate for something fast and I'd already started this one at a demo. So I finished it up in a couple days and it's gone now. All I have left are the photos.


The box is red oak with black walnut trim. About 20 x 12 in dimension. I'm beginning to feel really good about these when they're done, I've started to dial in the details to where I want them. There are still things I want to explore in this form so I'm not done with it by a long shot.


As originally envisioned, I was going to build two carved boxes from the same board. The carvings were to complement each other or whatever I was going to do with those. But the insides, at least the inside of the lid, were supposed to be my first foray into parquetry.


 But one hot to trot person with money in their hands and I cave to my ideals. Oh well, I have some friends who are having a benefit for their son who has recently been diagnosed with Hodgekin's Lymphoma. I think I'll finish up that box and donate it to the benefit.


The number one question I get when people see my boxes in person is "Wow, how long did that take you." I've gotten wise enough so the first words out of my mouth are, "Well, it's not the first time I've done this." which softens the blow when I tell them the time.

Truth is I can knock out a box like this in a weekend. I cut parts and dovetails on a Friday night and spill some Danish Oil on it Sunday night. Carving and glue ups happen in between. The puzzling thing to me is the reaction I get when I admit something like this.


That I can be both efficient and proficient in getting something like this done seems to result in diminishing it's value. Non woodworkers want me to tell them I slaved over the carving for six months. Woodworkers want me to tell them it took me four hours to cut the dovetails by hand (an hour per corner without a router is the average guess)

It's a paradox I simply cannot wrap my head around sometimes.

But that rant is probably for another day.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bench Design; What's In A Name?

With the help I received getting the bench top done, I had to make some decisions on what I wanted from the bench and I had to decide now. The longer the benchtop sits and waits the better chance it will warp, or fall on the floor, or be confiscated by the underwear gnomes. (It's a side business for them)

Noah building the Arc at his workbench. From the Maciejoski Bible circa 1250AD.

What I need the bench to do is easy. Workbench Whisperer Chris Schwarz has a list of ten rules for workbenches that lays out everything you need to know. Really, it's everything. trust me, if it's not on the list then forget it.

Want to cover the ankles of your workbench with lace so the sight of it's slender ankles doesn't unduly excite the men-folk? Your answer is on that list. . . trust me.

My issue is in all the names. There are so many names, and fads, and trends when it comes to workbenches. Sometimes it's like hearing the well off doctors at work talk about their cars.

"What kind of workbench do you use?'

"Oh, I'm into a standard Roubo now, but I may upgrade to a split top next year."

"Have you seen the specs on the Nicholson? I understand it's back in vogue again."

"Did you see Jim was still planing on a Holtzapffel. . . that's so ten years ago."

As I reflect on it, I find it a little over the top. I don't remember my grandfather's workbench having a name, It was his workbench, it did what he needed it to do or he modified it. It wasn't a near and dear thing. It was a workbench, a tool, a place to work. Sentimentality need not apply.

But there is sentimentality for an old bench. I have enjoyed the hours I've spent working at the one I'm using now, but I can do better and I've grown as a woodworker, so much since I built the first bench. I need better. As I make the decision moving forward on my new workbench, I try and take the lessons I learned from my last bench and step forward.

The only name I've truly considered is Dominy.


On display at Winterthur Museum is the preserved remains of the historic Dominy Brother's workshop. Included is a 12 foot long workbench. It's that correlation in length that has made me think about it.

In the end, I'm not that interested in a twin screw vise for my workholding. I have a moxon vise that does that better (hmmm another name). I like a leg vise myself but I like the sliding deadman a lot especially considering the 12 foot span. The trouble is every picture I can find of the Dominy bench is obscured by the rest of the museum and that damn tall clock case.


Then I saw this bench, called "The Workhorse," from Richard Maguire, a man who makes traditional workbenches for a living, and it seems like the right configurations. Mine will be a little different yet. I want a traditional saw toothed plane stop. and I'm not so sure about a tail vise. I don't have or use one now.

In the end I say, forget the name, figure out what you like and name it yourself.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bench Building In An Avalanche

"Once the avalanche starts it's too late for the pebbles to vote."

This is one of my favorite lines from an old SciFi TV show called Babylon 5. It's been ringing in my head over the last few days.

A month ago today I posted here about some beams I picked up to build a new bench. At the time I thought those beams would sit in the corner of the shop for at least a few months before I was able to fit a bench build into my schedule. That was supposed to give me time to dwell and think about bench I wanted to make. Carefully weigh and debate my options and maybe save some pennies for new hardware and vises.


This is usually how I work, A big project has to sit and ruminate in my mind for a while. I pick apart the details and build it over and over a hundred times before I pick up a saw. Then, once I'm ready to go I can move through the project efficiently, because I have it all planned out.

This time, a trouble maker raised his hand and threw a wrench in the gears.

Mike Siemsen, The Naked Woodworker himself, was having a little spoon carving gathering at his place and I asked if I could come, hang out, and learn some from the folks there, I've dabbled a little in spoons lately myself, nothing much to be proud of really. But Mike picked up on the bench build and offered to help me run them through the big machinery he has for the school.

How could I say no. I packed up the beams in the truck and headed out for the weekend.



Mike does not mess around with his machines.

I have never owned a powered joiner or planer but I can really respect the power and ability inherent in these size tools. Mike is probably right when he says owning a smaller joiner that his really is just playing around.

We ran the three thinner beams (4" thick =  thinner. . . ) through the machines and glued them up into a benchtop in one evening. The next morning we scraped the glue and ran the whole benchtop through the planer one more time, top and bottom.

The result was spectacular.


We also sawed the larger beam in half and squared it up so I could bring it home and make my bench height decisions later. I just wasn't ready to commit just then, I hadn't cogitated on it for six months yet. And that's the crux of my next issue.

I don't want to wait to get this benchtop framed into a bench. The longer I wait to get it fixed the greater the chance of something going wrong, the top warping or falling off the stools I have it sitting on. I just can't let myself wait and see if it goes wrong. The same idea as gluing up a panel of boards as soon as possible after you joint and plane them. you want to lock in that flatness with the strength of the surrounding timber. Strength in numbers.

So for me, a simple pebble, the avalanche has started. It doesn't matter what else is on my plate, (and there are quite a few things right now) today is the time to build a bench.

Thanks Mike for the kick in the ass!

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Column Grooving Router Plane In Action.



Earlier I wrote about solving a problem making dados in turned columns by marrying a router plane and a joiner's saddle. You can read about my process HERE.

I edited together some video I shot of making the dados. I thought it might help in the understanding.


I move down the column in one direction to rough out the depth. Coming back in the other direction finishes the cut and allows me to move into the stopped end of the dado.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Problem Solving In The Shop

A while back I hit a high hurdle in the shop and it took me a while to think my way over it. I'm working on creating this chair depicted in the 13th century manuscript known as The Maciejowski Bible.


If you look at the chair you see round, turned columns joined to rails with mortises, not terribly difficult to accomplish with hand tools, but the kicker in the joinery design is the green panels fit between the rails. This requires some variety of groove or dado along the length of the columns to hold and hide the edge of the panel.

There were two ways to think about it.


First I could plow the groove in any standard way while the stock was still square. Then hope against hope that while I turned the legs on the lathe I wouldn't catch and tear out the groove too bad or worse, catch it very bad and wrench the whole piece off the lathe and send it careening across the shop.

On top of those dangerous prospects would be the gymnastics of getting the groove at proper center and depth before turning. Maybe with a CNC router or lathe, but not in my shop. The idea was out pretty quick.


So I turned the legs and chewed on the problem the whole while. At first I thought I would build a jig shaped like a long box. From either end I would clamp the column and from the top I would make a lid for the box that had a long slot cut in the center.

I would then run a router with a pattern template up and down through the slot and make my groove. I even went out and purchased the lumber, clamps, and a router base plate and bushing set from Milescraft to carry out the job. As I started to build the jig, my gut started to talk to me. I can't say exactly just what made me stop the process and switch gears. There were too many x-factors and measurements and it just seemed too likely an opportunity for me to screw the pooch.

Did I mention I wanted these grooves to stop at a point and not just blindly run the entire length.

Making the legs out of walnut, I didn't have any spare stock to make another if thing went wrong. I had to be smarter than the problem, and that's sometimes tough for me.


I waited and I thought.

I worked on other things and I thought.

I searched the internet, paged through books, wrote unfinished emails asking for advice.

And I thought.

My joiners saddles were my first inspiration.


I wanted to use my plow plane to make the grooves, and if I could figure out how to attach a joiners saddle shaped addition to the fence, I'd be golden.


But the physics of the plane defeated me. As you cut deeper with a plow plane, the fence moves deeper too. There was no way to do it and keep the fence centered on the round column. (Sitting here this morning I have thought of another way to do this with the plow that probably would work. I'll leave that for another day)

I thought about what else I had that made grooves, chisels, and a router plane.

Once I landed on the combination of router plane and joiners saddle I knew I'd picked the lock.


All that was left was to figure out the specifics and see if it worked.


It worked.

That hurdle is behind me, the next one, the finish, is still in my teeth.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Forest To Furniture Demonstration

This last weekend I had the pleasure to demonstrate again at the Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor in Alma Wisconsin. This time I had been invited to join the team of Tom Latane and Paul Nyborg as we showed the historical process of taking a tree and turning it into furniture.

We had a nice selection of finished pieces and examples. An impressive little collection of work If I do say so myself.


Tom demonstrated the early parts of the process. Taking the fallen tree and riven or pit sawn pieces and breaking them down into workable stock.

Hewing away with the adze

Putting your froe into it

planing to thickness

Checking your work
Paul visited with the crowd about joinery techniques, mortise and tenons and drawbore pins while he worked on refining a sizable timber that's to make one leg of a spring pole lathe.

Working the timber down with a slick


Working with a scrub plane.

A well deserved rest leaning against the nearly finished leg of his spring pole lathe. The thing is massive. 
I demonstrated mostly carving in a period style. Talking about the different techniques, giving pointers, and explaining that no. . . I do not have classes lined up to teach. Something I should think about looking into. I should probably ask Peter Follansbee's blessing first.


The panels I carved ahead of time for display. My first true foray into green riven white oak.
What a pleasure to work with. 
 As a kind of fun thing to play around with, I used the a bit of time lapse photography to show the process of carving one of these panels. It makes for a fun and quick little video.


Thanks to Tom and Paul for letting me pal around and make some woodchips with you.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Monday, September 29, 2014

Black Walnut 17th Century Style Document Box

I have many, many things to catch up with here. I'm going to begin with a little bragging.

Back in June I did a little carving demo at the annual Gala for the Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor. I carved a front panel for a document box out of walnut.


Just this past weekend I was part of another demo there, more focused on woodworking itself, and I decided to finish up a couple pieces to have as. ". . . and here's what it looks like when you're done." pieces. I spent last week finishing the till, lid, and turning a set of feet.

Here's the finished results.



The primary wood is black walnut, the inner till is made from cherry and the bottom is pine, (So you get that wonderful scent when you open the lid) .


 


The box measures approximately 20" across and 14" deep.






This small chest is also FOR SALE. I need to make more room for new pieces, (and help finance the materials for them) I'm asking $450 USD.

Send me an email (oldwolfworkshop@gmail.com) if you're interested or have more questions.

There should be a lot more actual woodworking stuff coming from me soon.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf