Last weekend I built a dovetailed campaign-style officer’s trunk for the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association and several of the members were shocked when I drove the carcase dovetails together. What was shocking to them was how tight my fit was between the tails and pins; it required a few hard whacks with a dead-blow mallet to seat the tails into the pins. The members asked me a lot […]
Attending the Woodworking in America conference was a little different for us this year. My wife and I were both running cameras for various sessions (which got us in free!). On the first day, my wife ran cameras for Graham Blackburn, as well as for Brian Coe, a joiner who supervises all the costumed interpreters at Old Salem. Meanwhile, I took my own kids down to Old Salem to see the sights.
The next day, I ran camera for Phil Lowe as he showed how to make a full-scale drawing of a chair, and for Matt Cianci as he taught saw sharpening. Thanks to Matt, I now know what I’ve been doing wrong. My next sharpening attempts should be better. I also took a quick spin with the kids around the Marketplace. I could have spent all day there, but as it was, the kids seemed to hover between enjoyment and bemusement.
My son, R, found a mallet just his size at the Lee Valley display. He promptly tried to hammer in the pegs it had been hanging on.
My kids also got a good look at the high-tech, mechanized side of woodworking. The Legacy CNC Woodworking booth featured a CNC machine that was cutting names and designs into pieces of cedar.
All four of the kids took home a custom-made nameplate.
Since this event was part of the kids’ schooling experience (life is learning, after all), we made up a pictorial scavenger hunt for the Marketplace. To make the list, my wife and I looked at the list of exhibitors online, visited their websites, and picked out pictures of items we thought would be likely to show up at their booths. I think the kids found everything on the list, except for Roy Underhill.
One of the items on the list was the Knew Concepts fretsaw. My daughter, A, got to try it out. (My wife wants one now.) My youngest daughter, M, learned to positively identify a backsaw, and she went around the room picking out every single backsaw she could find.
K also got to try out the travishers made by Claire Minihan and offered by Peter Galbert. Claire was on hand to give K some pointers, but she got the hang of it pretty quickly. I hope to see this more often: young women working wood.
More pictures of the event coming soon!
Tagged: Brian Coe, Claire Minihan, CNC, Graham Blackburn, Knew Concepts, Lee Valley, Matt Cianci, Old Salem, Peter Galbert, Phil Lowe, WIA, WIA 2014, Woodworking in America
I have countered the prevailing culture of machine only woodworking for two decades and more now; proactivity gets results as long as there is consistency. It’s not always been easy, in fact I’d say it’s been a difficult passage in many ways, but if I were to take a sector of my life and say which has been the most rewarding I would have to say it’s been this last decade. I have never felt more fulfilled than seeing the results of getting people off the conveyor belt and especially so because it wasn’t easy, but a conscious decision.
Discovering my bent for hand tool woodworking came when I saw how little I liked to work only with machines. It wasn’t ever that I despised them but that my hands wanted to do it – my hands, my arms, my heart and head wanted to somehow take the wood and work its fibres. You see here a man working. An ordinary man, A working man. A, well, a workman. He didn’t turn a machine on to get the results you see in the table he’s making. in fact he planed each surface and split parts to plane them by hand alone. He passed his saw stroke by stroke down a secondhand board and formed some shaped mahogany aprons by his own will and his own choice and tonight, the man, me, turned out the lights and felt happy as he headed home.
I will sell the two pieces over the next few weeks i suppose. Perhaps someone will get married or have a birthday or something like that and they will make a handsome gift. My choice. On the other hand perhaps someone will walk in the workshop and say, “How much are these two tables.” I will say, “They are £200 each.” and they will say, “OK. We’ll take them.” Who knows if you don’t try?
My lifestyle is chosen, developed, designed and intentional. It took some time to establish it but it’s who I am and have been for decades. I am a woodworker.
When I decided to pursue handwork rather than machining I admit it wasn’t too easy to let go of the ease using power machines afforded my work. If I were to suggest a two-man saw for logging out my wood and a then a saw pit to slab it it would be far from realistic, but from there on I can do a lot of my work by hand and so enjoy it machinists think I have lost my marbles. Then they stand and watch me as I work and they can’t usually pull away. They can’t understand why I want to do it by hand let alone enjoy it, but still they hang around and watch and I see that look on their face and I say to myself, “What a wonderful world” I have found here.
I feel the same way about exercise when all it produces is a useless muscle that pops up when an arm or leg flexes. If the muscle doesn’t do more than that I don’t try to understand it. if the muscle is developed for a reason beyond just being there as a flex then I understand. Each to his or her own though. I say all of this to say making this table really meant something to me. My muscles flexed and sinews and tendons pulled. They had purpose and it’s so very black and white and tangibly enjoyed and I feel in love with people when they walk in my workshop or work alongside me because I so loved making what I made by hand. I like taking my time. I like feeling the hard work. I like correcting the plane to cut square and I like chiselling the shapes with and upturned chisel; the way it works in the mahogany 150 years old both chisel and wood and technique. I like work that demands every ounce of my attention. I like work that makes me think all the time. I like work that pays me back for my efforts that cannot ever be calculated by an accountant. I like work that makes me write about what I feel for others to read about and enjoy. I like putting this in the bank no banker can ever get his mits on. You are my depository. My banker. My storehouse for the future of my craft.
I like looking back into the shop as I close the door and seeing what I made on the benchtop and thinking the words, “Thank you!”
When I left Plimoth Plantation in June, I wrote that I would be pursuing other aspects of woodworking beyond 17th-century joined oak furniture. But I also laid out that I wasn’t giving up the oak stuff, just adding to it. Bowls, spoons, baskets, weirdo boxes (coming soon) and more…
And I have had the best summer ever, picking away at aspects of woodworking both old and new to me…but now it’s time to bring back to the blog some joined oak furniture, carved all over.
I dug my “real” workbench out of storage, and some tools and borrowed a work-space from my friend Ted Curtin – who thankfully almost never makes joined furniture anymore, (he’s a school teacher now – that’s good, because he’s better than me at oak stuff!)
Today I shuffled some stuff around, and will start in soon on shooting carved boxes, chests and more for an upcoming book on joinery.
Between travels that is…
Every once in a while, you have a project that “goes South” and then “goes South” over and over again. Ergo, the reference to Mr. Murphy and his law. The dining table I’m currently building is just such a project. The base is well on its way to being finished (another post on glazing is just around the corner). But when it came time to finish up to top, I was given quite a big surprise. The glued-up top had “cupped”, significantly, about 5/8″ in 36″, too much for the fasteners to “pull down”. Jointing and gluing up large panels is, at least in my experience, always a challenge.
Many “old hands” maintain that “springing” a joint is a good thing. And over the years I’ve found this to be a good practice, as much of the stock (air dried) I use has not, necessarily, achieved theoretical equilibrium. But it is one thing to spring a joint on 24″ door panel and quite another to spring a joint on a 7′ table top. It might seem that just a few thousandths of “spring” wouldn’t make much of a difference, geometrically. But the reality is sort of like saying that all triangles equal 180 degrees, until you lift one of the corners. Then, the universe begins to fold in on itself.
I began to consider my options. I certainly did not want to cut the thing apart and re-joint it. That would be a last choice. In the past I’ve had some success in straightening pieces by wetting and controlling the drying of two opposing surfaces, albeit smaller pieces. So, with the help of a friend, I toted the top out into the yard. I wet the grass, then positioned the top with the cupped side down. It wasn’t terribly hot but the sun was fairly intense. I went about my business, determined to check in on the process in several hours.
To my great surprise, within something short of an hour, the rough top appeared to have straightened. After laying a straight edge across the surface, I felt sure that I had been present as something of a miracle had taken place. It was dead flat. Upon raising the top, I realized that there was still a trace of moisture on the “grassy” side. I pulled some heavy cauls (3″x 4″x 48″) out of the shop and clamped the top to allow the remaining moisture to evaporate. After several days, I loosened the clamps and with each turn I watched the cup reappear. So much for that old trick!
As I said earlier, I’ve never had much luck at cutting and re-assembly. Time for a new top. (I’ll put the old plain sawn stock to some good purpose.) I made the decision to do the next top in quarter sawn oak. Stock movement should be very minimal. The only significant challenge will be jointing the long stock. Of course, there are numerous ways to joint long pieces of stock. You can joint them conventionally on a jointer (If you’re strong and steady or have the well coordinated assistance of an associate). You can hand plane them. If you have stock that is already “near straight”, you can “kerf-in” with a saw. You can use a track-saw on a straight edge. Or, you can use a skottbenk as Roald Renmaelmo would. The skottbenk is a jointing (or shooting) bench, unique to Scandinavia, that is mainly used for jointing and/or cutting tongue and groove joints in floor planking. It seems to me that it might be just “what the Doctor ordered” for anyone wanting to create long joints without the aid of electrically powered appliances.
Take a look at this video of Roald using a skottbenk. I think you’ll agree that it might have a place in world of table top construction. Hmm, now that I have some extra room in the shop, since the treadle lathe is gone…
Roald has just put another post on construction of a skottbenk on his blog, skottbenk.wordpress.com. He and his associates also do extensive research on traditional work benches and tools at hyvelbenk.wordpress.com. And be sure to check out all of the videos that Roald and the Norsk Folkmuseum have posted on Youtube. Grab yourself the refreshment of your choice, sit down and start watching. You’ll probably be surprised how long you can sit in one place. Just be careful that your legs don’t fall asleep and you collapse upon trying to stand. Remember the theory of “Unintended Consequence.”
It’s Sunday afternoon on September 14 and I’m on my way home from Woodworking in America 2014. As I stare out the airplane window I can already feel the beginning of what I refer to as “the WIA mourning period” kicking in.
It’s not a regret that I attended or didn’t make it to every class on my list, instead it is a feeling of loneliness that occurs shortly after I leave the event and head home.
As a fellow woodworker, you know ours is a solitary hobby. We frequently work alone in our shops for hours on end, and equally often we don’t have nearby friends or family who are also woodworkers. So outside of the shop there’s no one to share our enthusiasm and excitement over mastering a new skill or purchasing a tool.
At Woodworking in America the whole paradigm of solitary woodworking is turned upside down and on its head. You find yourself surrounded by people who not only know exactly why it is that you get excited about a hand-cut dovetail, but share with you their own elation for them.
And while at home, typically the closest you might get to seeing some of the instructors who were talking at WIA is by reading an article in a magazine, picking up a copy of one of their books, or even watching a DVD. While at WIA you’ll have had a chance to watch them speak in front of a class, ask them a question in the hallway, and maybe even hang out with them at an event in the evening.
Of course what really brings on the “mourning period” for me is the last night. When we meet for dinner and drinks one more time, talk about what excited us, show off what we bought in the marketplace, and what we’ll get started on when we get home.
We exchange contact information, take pictures and maybe even make plans to get together long before the next WIA. It’s no exaggeration when I write that every time I’ve attended Woodworking in America I’ve left with more friends than I arrived with.
If you ask me what my favorite part of the weekend was, you better plan on having a long conversation, because there wasn’t just one or two things, it was everything!
The staff at Popular Woodworking Magazine manage to consistently pull off an event that can’t be topped. Year-after-year they bring in top-notch instructors, assemble an amazing market place and plan extra events that are like nothing you’ll find elsewhere.
If you’ve never attended an event like Woodworking in America, you need to plan on it at least once. I can say without a doubt that you won’t regret it.
We’ll have additional coverage of what went on at WIA – pictures, videos and blog posts – as the week goes on! Keep an eye on this space for more.
At Woodworking in America, a Jet bandsaw was raffled off to a lucky attendee. Since I was lucky enough to be a presenter, I was asked to sign it along with the other presenters. I couldn’t help adding a little extra note.
I blame Patrick Edwards. You can see what he wrote in the top picture, just to the left of my note.
I was a little worried because the plywood is, in reality, under-thickness and would not house properly in the 1/4″ grooves I had made in the carcass. But given that the plywood has a little ‘bend’ to it, it presses against the groove in places which prevents it from rattling around. I’m quite happy with the fit.
Filed under: Drawers & dressers, Projects Tagged: maple, plywood
Now that spoon carving has supplanted pen turning as the latest woodworking craze (and it’s about time), you might enjoy this article from The Woodworker magazine, which was likely written and illustrated by Charles H. Hayward.
Hayward had excellent contacts among British museums, especially the Victoria and Albert Museum. So the magazine is peppered with his drawings of early work, including this collection of interesting wooden spoons.
I’ve not been bitten by the spoon-carving bug, likely because of a psychic scar.
During my first few months at Popular Woodworking in 1996, one of the other editors was carving Celtic love spoons; I decided I would like to learn to make one, too. After half a day of work on my love spoon, I showed it to him to get some feedback and tips.
“Oh wow,” he said, holding my spoon. “I really am a good carver. Your spoon sucks. You’re fired.”
He gave the spoon back to me and walked away. I threw my spoon in the garbage.
You can download the one-page article in pdf format using the link below.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Historical Images
I just got home from WIA and I’m tired, but because I have low self-esteem and don’t want Bob Van Dyke to not like me, I have committed myself to attending this Saturday’s Annual Open House at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. If you’ve never been, then you should lay your head down flat on your SawStop and slide it gingerly into the spinning blade as punishment. Once the blood clots and you’ve placed an order for your new blade and cartridge on-line, you can get yourself over to Manchester, CT this Saturday September 20th for the best damn time you can possibly have with a bunch of old dudes and their bored but tolerant wives.
Here are the details…
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to entice you, then I should also point out that the Open House is combined with the annual Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event….and those slippery capitalists from Warren, ME have never made going into crippling debt so much fun…
So drop the kids off at the homeless shelter, tell your wife you have to “work” and sell whatever body fluids are required to get yourself to Manchester, CT this Saturday. You can thank me when you get there.
Feel free to bring along any saws that need a tune up, as I’ll be collecting work for my insultingly short 3 to 4 week turn-around time.
See you there!
I got a couple of hours in the shop before it got too hot to work today (when is the weather going to break anyway?), and made good progress on the stained glass for the Thorsen cabinet door. If I could get a solid day in the shop I’d be long since done I think.
Anyway, I started by re-making two pieces of the top pane with a different color for more contrast. I think it will look better this way. So it changes from this:
Once the seams were soldered the first one would have looked less uniform, but I like having the purple there. It’s hard to get the final effect looking at just the pieces, so I’m going on faith a little . If it looks horrible when I’m done I can always hurl it across the shop after all.
Then I started on the small panels on the right, I laid out the clear, cut and found all there panels. I followed the same sequence as I showed in my last post, I cut and ground the full sized pane to fit the opening in my copper framework, then I cut and ground the areas the needed to be removed for the colored areas. With some nice music on the stereo this goes really quickly.
Then I started cutting and fitting the colored glass. I laid out which colors I wanted to use in which spots on my master pattern to keep it straight. Where I cloud shape should span two panes I made them the same color. Again, that effect is lost when you’re just looking at the pieces, so it important to have a master pattern with this information.
So that just leaves the large pane on the bottom left. The larger panes are trickier for me, especially with glass glass like this that has inclusions and irregularities. It’s really prone to having the crack propagate away from the scored line, but I have three sheets, so I should be able to get it done.
As I work on finishing the Anarchist Tool Chest project, I needed to finish the carving for the sides of the tills. Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily carve Poplar if I can avoid it, but this is the wood that was supplied as part of the class. In parts it was fine, in other is crushed like paper, ugh.
Anyway, I tried a variation of the Fleur pattern I found on an old chest that is at the Met. I like the little Fleur pattern to fill in the triangle left by the arc. Pretty cool looking.
That should be all the sliding till sides, so now it’s time to start putting them together and finding a while to fit them into the chest.
Yesterday we made a 100 mile trip up into the mountains to visit David Finck, highly talented woodworker and author of Making and Mastering Wood Hand Planes, one of the best woodworking books written.
David owns the last cabinet ever made by the late great James Krenov, I never thought I would ever see one of these in the flesh so this was a great privilege.
The scale of his work can be very deceiving, so the shot below next to David gives you some idea.
Inside the cabinet.
The tiny little dovetailed drawers with hand cut dovetails and pillowed fronts with hand carved knobs
With James Krenov's eyesight failing, he was unable to make the base and this came down to David to complete. His training at the College of the Redwoods and his many years cabinetmaking showed in the result which was delicately designed and crafted. He used doussie, one of Krenov's favourites, better known in the UK as Afzelia.
After a very nice home made lunch we descended to his basement workshop where I recognised many shots from his book including this fine old band saw from the 1930's. It weighs a ton and was built like a battleship. Not surprisingly it works very well, makes my Startrite look like a toy!
Whenever I see a workshop with no free wallspace I know it's a serious place.
David has recently turned his skilled hand to violin making and was leaving for a show the next day. I hope it goes well.
I'll leave this post with an iconic shot from the book showing his rack of krenov style hand planes, made for a multitude of tasks. The plane on the bottom left made from Cocobolo is my favourite and was made while David was at the College of the Redwoods.
I'm very grateful for the hospitality shown by David and his wife Marie, this alone made the trip to the US worthwhile.
Tomorrow morning, I depart Winston-Salem for a long and lonely drive to Cincinnati in the slow, loud and uncomfortable 24′-long truck (I can’t believe I’m allowed to operate this thing without a CDL license!). So I have a little time to kill. After four days of fun, frivolity and being on my feet nonstop, I just don’t think I have it in me to walk any farther than the room […]
I picked up the tool chest yesterday and slipped it in place by my workbench. I own so many chests it could be embarrassing were I not using them to store the tools we do our research and revision in. Many of the ones I own now are still stateside USA, but one day we will auction them off I am sure. I have decided to replicate this one as a pattern for making one because it seems like a practical size as a smaller chest for modern woodworkers without a bunch of bulky wooden planes to house. Those that do have can simply scale up. When craftsmen traveled they used chests like this one to traverse the seas and the continents. Especially those from the Britain and that includes Scotland and the Scots carpenters and joiners well famed for fine workmanship. Speaking of which.
I did the deal with Bill, the canny Scot that always gets more out of me than any of the other dealers I deal with but we still parted friends. He looks out for things for me and of course I think I showed you these two panel gauges before some time. Yesterday I cut up some of the tabletops for the new replication series I am doing on the table build and it was a joy to use something made by a man 80 or 90 years ago as a special tool for his kit. Sometimes using something like this is viscerally sensing in that his fingerprint is all over the design. It’s so well thought through and balanced. I picture him staring like me at a lump of partially shaped rosewood and thinking how this thing can be enhanced. Pulling the gauge line along the tabletop created a good line to cut to and soon I was gluing up the new tabletop ready for the next stage of filming.
There has been something about this table that has really made me look differently at life as a whole. Abandonment seems always a negative anyway but this piece wasn’t just abandoning something because t wasn’t functioning or nicely made with quality joints. I imagine it being discarded because “people don’t like brown furniture these days.” How sick is that. “and they like the nice stuff they can buy in packs from IKEA.” Sicker still. A CNC machine cuts everything out and a robot creates the rest and a person in a lab designs it on a computer somewhere in a different country and then I buy a “brown furniture” piece for £3 after is served for 140 years. Unlocking past methods and techniques is one of the most enriching experiences there is. Interpreting chatter marks from a spokeshave and knowing by experience that the marks only come from wooden ones is my reward to express for others. How do you expelling so valuable a thing?
The videos are very different than our usual work. Tomorrow I should be done with the series but the experience of buying the tables, transforming issues and recreating pieces that are now influencing my next years modern designs is priceless. I so love not working for money everyone. I so have loved my life living and being a lifestyle woodworker. No flat packs and no flat screens, no flat bed delivery trucks but multidimensional three-dimensional lifestyle woodworking I can live with until I pass.
Using recycled wood like this I don’t feel guilty working with real mahogany. I am glad I do and can. I sense the same my forebears did in working such fine wood and it really is a good resource for us. I just imagine how the Victorian joiners felt when they chopped and planed and chiselled such sweet wood with such even grain in wide boards. It has been a privilege all the way.
I got some responses about the 0.1 mm setting of the chipbreaker. For me personally that's nothing extraordinary. Usually I have it set a bit further away in my smoother, but when the need arises, there is no problem to set it that close. But I understand it is not easy for everyone. Here is a tip I read on UKworkshop.co.uk allthough I have seen it before.
I use a piece of softwood, Set the blade upright and push it down into the wood. Then I slide the chipbreaker down and tighten the screw.
The result when looking on the microscope is a very usefull 0.13 mm distance: