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One afternoon at the Marquetry class in San Diego, Patrick called us over to meet a former student, Aaron Radelow. The story he told was amazing; in short he created a perfect reproduction of this reading/writing table that had been built for Louis IV around 1760. The original is in the Getty museum, and Aaron was able to get access to the original to measure it.
When he was done he had a perfect replica, and a perfect inverse copy as well. Because this was made with the Boulle method to saw the marquetry parts, the packets that were prepared for each panel had layers of both blue horn and ivory. The resulting parts could then be assembled blue-int0-white and white-into0blue.
The link below has more details. Regardless of the style of furniture you like, this is an amazing piece in terms of technical complexity, fine details and masterful execution.
The Netherlands do have a remarkable past for such a small country. Especially during the 17th century a major part of European trade ran through our markets and towns. A bunch of merchants became incredibly rich. And they liked to show it. Naturaly my attention was drawn to the many furniture exhibits. And I must say, I didn't find inspiration for my own home. Almost everything on display is way over the top. The craftmanship to produce stuff like this is incredible, but when you live in a low budget house made in the fifties, it is hard to imagine how anyone could fit things like this in their homes. So, just for the fun of it, some images. You can also find many pictures on the website from the museum https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search
Later, in the hall with the medieval stuff I did find some interesting things. Not necessarily for a reproduction, but I like these items.
And of course, let's not forget the tools from the expedition which stranded on Nova Zembla.
On Sunday the 19th of October, I was able to sit in on a class taught by Frank Klausz, one of the woodworking world’s luminary figures. Frank taught a seminar on hand-tool joinery and covered the three major types of dovetails: open, half-lap, and sliding, along with mortise and tenon joints. Frank demonstrated his techniques for cutting the joints, the proper use of each joint, when and where you would use the joint and talked about several other topics. In my life, I have had the opportunity to take some classes from masters of various crafts. As a cellist I was able to attend a class given by Yo-Yo-Ma; as a writer I was able to attend a symposium by several amazing writers. The class given by Frank was no different – it is always a breathtaking experience to watch a true master at work.
We started off early on Sunday morning, sitting in the parking lot of Highland Woodworking and eating some breakfast. At around 8:45, the majority of us had arrived and we wandered into the store before class got started. Frank was hard at work already, prepping some stock for his demonstrations and drawing a few diagrams on the white board. At 9:00am Frank welcomed us all to the class and began what has become one of my favorite experiences with woodworking so far.
Starting off we discussed the 4 quadrants of woodworking as Frank views them: wood technology, tools, joinery and finish. When Frank talks about wood technology, what he means is to understand the medium you are working in. We all know wood moves, but we have to understand how and why wood behaves the way it does so that we can think about the proper way to lay out a table top and the best way to make a joint. The wood itself is the foundation of our work, and as woodworkers we have to know, to the best of our ability, what that wood is going to do.
The second quadrant of Frank’s woodworking seminar was a discussion of tools, both power tools and hand tools. Frank is what I call a hybrid woodworker, someone who incorporates both power tools and hand tools to make his pieces. We talked about tools, what young woodworkers should look for, advice on what tools to buy, and overall, an approach to your tools that will allow them to last for generations. Frank laid out one of my favorite quotes from this seminar about tools when we were discussing hand planes, and specifically Lie-Nielsen tools:
When you purchase a tool like a Lie Nielsen hand plane, or other fine woodworking tool, you are not the owner; you are the custodian of that tool. Tools such as those are heirlooms that you will pass down through the generations, we do not own them, we hold onto them for the woodworkers that will come after us.
We went through a demonstration of sharpening as well. Frank illustrated the way he sharpens his plane irons and his chisels. We talked about the various types of stones and grinders that are available and how best to utilize each. Frank demonstrated that the best jigs you have are your own hands – if you pause and take the time to think about things, to feel the tool in your hands, you often don’t need a special jig. It was brilliant to watch as he took a dull and rounded plane iron from dull to sharp in a matter of minutes.
Throughout the class, Frank told stories and anecdotes about his life as a woodworker and life in general. Frank is one of those speakers who often will wander off on a tangent, telling a story about something that has happened in the past, or that seems un-related but they always circle back to the project at hand and the discussion as a whole. Frank’s stories leave you feeling richer and more enlightened about the world of woodworking. We moved on to the third quadrant of joinery and Frank discussed his thoughts on when to use a joint, and the proper place for joints within a piece. There was a lot of information there, about the differences between reproduction and fine furniture, about Frank’s opinion on when to use which joints, and what it means when you experiment. Frank has some solid opinions, and I got the impression that there is a wrong way to do things, and there is Frank’s way of doing things.
When we discussed the fourth quadrant of finishing, Frank made another point that will stick with me as I continue my woodworking journey. The finish is one of the most important parts. Often times as woodworkers we build a piece and then slap a quick finish on it and call it a day. When we spend so much of our time and effort on a piece, we should spend an equal amount of time and effort on the finish. That finish is what defines the piece in the end, and using cheap hardware or a slap-dash finish can take a wonderful piece and ruin it. It reminded me I want to look into the Finishing the Finish class that Highland offers.
After the whirlwind tour of Frank’s four woodworking quadrants we moved on to the demonstration portions. Frank showed us how he cuts dovetails, how he lays them out pins first, and how he uses gravity to help him mark the tails. We then discussed sliding dovetails, how they develop a watertight joint when they are properly made. Frank showed us the box he uses for his honing stones and how, with no sealer or glue, he is able to craft a water-tight box. Once we were done admiring the wooden gasket that Frank demonstrated for us, we moved on to lunch. Let me tell you, one of the great things about classes at Highland is that you can go out to lunch with folks like Frank Klausz, and you get a pretty decent hamburger as well.
When we returned from lunch we went back over the dovetails for a bit, and Frank gave every member of the class an example of how he cuts them, so that we could take it home and practice. We then moved on to mortise and tenon joints. Frank explained why you need a mortising chisel and why you need to cut your tenons a little shallow, to allow for wood movement. We discussed the advantages of tools like Festool’s Domino Joiner and the applications of domino joints versus traditional hand-cut joints.
The class ended with more stories and anecdotes from Frank, discussions of life, of the world outside of wood, and of how woodworking impacts all of us. The advice and knowledge I took away from this class made me a better woodworker. It also showed me a path to advance my woodworking and transform the way I do certain things. Not often do you get the opportunity to sit at the feet of a Master, but when you do you take it. I cannot recommend highly enough that you keep an eye on the class listings at Highland Woodworking and that when an opportunity like this presents itself you leap upon it.
The post Frank Klausz at Highland: Watching a True Master at Work appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
The front upright is mostly done! Huzzah!
Finishing this part meant I I had to jump ahead and start making the cross arm that will support the saw mechanism so I could get the notch in the clamp mechanism the right size (ish). That’s done, and I’m ready to move on to completing the arm mechanism.
With the nuts recessed I was in the mood for a test assembly so I could see some progress. I’m going to attack this with a round over bit later and knock those sharp edges off.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Highland Woodworking Open house and Hand Tool Extravaganza. The event was an enormous amount of fun. A whole bunch of woodworking knowledge was passed around, stories were told, and a bunch of wood shavings were made. There were some great woodworkers in attendance, including Scott Meek, Chris Kuehn, Frank Klausz, Curtis Turner, and more.
I was able to swing by the store on Friday and got to meet some of the folks that were in attendance while the store was not quite as full; in the late hours of Friday evening after work I was able to meet Frank Klausz for the first time. Frank is a wonderful fellow filled with fantastic stories about woodworking and about his life. I also got to watch as Frank tried out some of Scott Meek’s wooden hand planes. Frank set and worked the planes with the hands of a true master of our craft and I could tell that Scott was a bit nervous to have such a woodworking luminary using his tools, maybe wondering what would Frank have to say about the planes. After making a few passes with some of the planes, Frank had nothing but glowing reviews of Scott’s work. He complimented Scott on his fine hand tools and even remarked that he had made a few wooden planes in the past, though none of them were ever as fine and well-made as the ones Scott had on display. I would call this a ringing endorsement, especially for Scott’s class at Highland, on November 8th and 9th, where he will be teaching folks to make these wooden planes.
After Frank left to get some dinner I spent some time talking with Curtis Turner, who was in attendance demoing some of the fine tools from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. I have had my eye on a No. 62 low-angle jack plane for a while and so stood and spoke with Curtis about it. He let me try out the plane with both the toothed blade and the regular blade, and it confirmed what I thought about their tools. In my opinion, Lie-Nielsen tools are the best choice if you have the ability to buy them. Frank Klausz put it to me with a quote that I think sums up my own personal views on tools: “When you purchase a tool like a Lie-Nielsen hand plane, or other fine woodworking tool, you are not the owner; you are the custodian of that tool. Tools such as those are heirlooms that you will pass down through the generations. We do not own them, we hold onto them for the woodworkers that will come after us.”
I closed out my night on Friday wishing Scott the best and letting everyone know I would see them in the morning. When Saturday rolled around I was not quite as early as I wanted to be for the event but still got to spend a few hours hanging around the store and talking with folks. The event was great, Highland had a steady crowd of folks interested in the tools on offer. Frank almost always had a crowd around his bench as he demonstrated his dovetailing techniques and offered his woodworking wisdom. Chris Kuehn was there from Sterling Toolworks, showing off some of his fine tools and inviting people to try their hand with some of his pieces. Scott was making some pretty mean shavings with his hand planes and probably reduced a pine 2×4 down to next to nothing by the end of the day.
The crowd around the various Lie-Nielsen benches was thick and the planes saw a lot of use. I think everyone that got the opportunity to try out one of their fine tools left knowing exactly what you can do with a solid tool. I was personally able to pick up that No. 62 low-angle jack and brought it home to my shop after the event for a test run. It is a beautiful plane and I look forward to working with it on some upcoming projects.
The Highland Woodworking open house was a lot of fun, and a great way to spend a few hours this weekend. I learned quite a bit just standing in the room listening to various woodworkers talk. If you get the opportunity to come to the store for one of these events I highly recommend it. They are filled with people all interested in the craft that we love and the advice can’t be beat.
The post The Highland Woodworking Fall 2014 Open House:
A Review appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
I have, inexplicably, received several questions over the weekend about cutting really big dovetails for workbenches, such as on a tail vise. That’s weird, given that most bench questions I get are about what kind of wood to use (whatcha got? use it), and how the LVL top is holding up (quite splendidly, but I’d not use LVL for a base again). Not to mention, we’ve not published a bench […]
Recently I was asked if I was ready to wash my hands of the Studley project, both the manuscript for the book VIRTUOSO and the upcoming Studley exhibit next May. I had to think for a minute, because the truth is I am a bit weary from the pace of working around the homestead, wrapping up Roubo 2, and completing the Studley manuscript and making all the plans and arrangements for the exhibit.
But no, I am not tired of H.O. Studley. How can you get tired of contemplating and exploring things like this?
Apologies for the abrupt stop in posting the goings on 'round here, but the fact is the goings on have been such that it has not left any time for anything, inclusive of the blog. I've been trying to make amends to an extent by posting photos on Instagram ( which I am still a little unsure about…. ) but I know that doesn't reach everyone.
But I haven't been sitting on my hands. In fact I've been spending almost every waking moment out at the old house at Tylden, removing the termite infested detritus and 60 odd years of terrible additions and repairs and replacing it with a solid frame, new floors, new windows, doors, internal linings, plumbing, roof and the list goes on. The carpentry work being steered by the talented Peter Murphy, who you have probably seen on the blog playing his Uke or guitar, which he plays ( and makes ) with equal measure.
In amongst the works at Tylden, we've had the usual chair, stool, box ( assisted by Brodie Noor - more to follow about this talented person ) and bucket making classes and also a change of school for young Tom, who is now attending Tylden Primary, in readiness for our move into the old house hopefully before the end of the year. The bar and shop too, which are thankfully picking up speed again with the onset of Spring and warmer weather.
Then there's the Lost Trades Fair, which Lisa reminded me just today, is only about 20 weeks away, which may seem a long time, but I know will rush up on us quickly. Applications have been sent out to over double the participants we had at the Fair this year and with the addition of a good handful of kids activities and and other interesting bits and pieces, it's promising to be a great event next year.
So while I can't promise I'll be posting something every few days again, I will ensure that I'll be here more often. But as usual its 1.28AM and time to hit the hay, but stay posted, I'll be back soon.
In the above video I share the special moment when I opened my very first set of Hollows & Rounds molding planes. I want to walk you through the advice that I received on how to choose the right features when buying hollows and rounds.
WHAT ARE HOLLOWS AND ROUNDS?
Hollows and Rounds are molding planes that are used to cut moldings for furniture and architectural elements.
But they are the most pure way of cutting the moldings and the most versatile, because they (along with a rabbet plane) allow you to create and recreate any conceivable shape in the wood.
The below photo shows a “dedicated molding plane” (also called a complex molding plane). It is called “dedicated” because it can only cut one profile. This one is an “ovolo” shape. Hollows and rounds, on the other hand, can cut any shape that you can draw. You just remove one hill and valley at a time from the wood.
HOLLOWS AND ROUNDS SIZES & SETS
Hollows and rounds were made in numbered sets, with each number consisting of two handplanes (a pair). For example, a #12 pair would include one #12 hollow (that cuts 60 degree hills) and one #12 round (that cuts 60 degree valleys):
Every plane cuts 60 degrees of a circle, just a different sized section. Think of pizza slices; a large slice and a tiny slice have the same arc at the top.
A full set of hollows and rounds includes 18 pairs (36 total molding planes…wowzers!) numbered 1-18. My friend Bill Anderson recently purchased his first full set ever:
But most people that get a “set” will get a “half set”, which covers just about anything you would ever need to make. The most common half set is an “even numbered half set.” (pairs 2-18). “odd numbered half sets” are less common (pairs 1-17).
I really wanted an even “matched set”, which is a set that was all in an original set when it was made and didn’t get scattered over the years. But budget-minded woodworkers (good boys) can also purchase a “harlequin” set or a “mixed” set. A set that is all “harlequin” is a set where none of the planes came from the same original set. A “mixed set” contains some plains and pairs that were originally together, and also some “harlequin” planes. But of course, it isn’t necessary to have a matched set like mine. You just have to be careful that a harlequin set of hollows & rounds has an accurate transition because not all plane makers had the exact same sizes.
WHAT SIZES OF HOLLOWS AND ROUNDS TO START WITH?
You can cut a whole lot of moldings with just a few pairs of hollows and rounds. Some experts recommend starting off with one or two pairs that fall inbetween sizes #4-#12. Matt Bickford is one of the few people who currently makes & sells hollows and rounds, and he’s the author or “Mouldings in Practice” (you can buy it here and download a free chapter here). He shared his recommendation here:
“…I often recommend starting with either pairs of 6s and 10s…or 4s and 8s…”.
Here is a video preview of his recent DVD called “Moldings in Practice” (yes, the same name as his book):
I purchased this DVD (from Lie-Nielsen here) and really found it incredibly helpful.
Matt also wrote this article “The Case for Hollows & Rounds” in Popular Woodworking Magazine.
But if you are on a tighter budget (can’t afford $3,750 for his half sets), you should purchase some antique hollows & rounds like me (see links at the bottom were you can find antique sets). But believe me, if I had more money then I would most certainly purchase a crisp new half set from Matt.
WHAT PITCH OF HOLLOWS AND ROUNDS?
The angle at which the iron sits inside the plane, in relation to the horizontal workbench, is called “pitch”. Here are the following pitches that you’ll encounter in hollows and rounds molding planes:
- “Common pitch” (45°): This pitch is like bench planes, and is more suitable for softwoods.
- “York pitch” (50°): Works for woods that are inbetween soft and hard
- “Middle pitch” (55°): ideal for a wider range of hardwoods.
- “Cabinet” or “Half” pitch (60°): Good for very hard and difficult woods.
I followed the recommendation of some friends who suggested that I purchase a set of hollows and rounds that were either “cabinet pitch” or “middle pitch”. Funny enough, my set has 58° pitch, which is right in the center!
HOLLOWS & ROUNDS IRONS: STRAIGHT OR SKEWED?
I purchased my hollows and rounds with skewed irons, because I want to be able to cut profiles all the way around a board (like on a table). But straight across irons also have their strengths. They cut a bit more cleanly when you are cutting along the grain. But I wanted to have more of a hybrid style that could cut both with the grain and across the grain.
CAN YOU MAKE YOUR OWN HOLLOWS & ROUNDS?
If you have the time and interest to make your own hollows and rounds, then you’re in luck! Larry Williams released an excellent DVD called “Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes” which shows how to make hollows and rounds planes. You can purchase it from Lie-Nielsen here. See the preview of the DVD below:
WHERE CAN YOU BUY HOLLOWS & ROUNDS MOLDING PLANES?
Below you’ll find links to the best places to look for hollows and rounds (both sets and pairs), along with links to other resources:
- View antique Hollow & Round molding planes on ebay
- View antique Hollow & Round molding planes at Jim Bode Tools
- View new Hollow & Round molding planes at M.S. Bickford
I hope this has helped! You’ll see my set of hollow & round molding planes in plenty of future videos!CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO JOSHUA’S FUTURE ARTICLES & VIDEOS!
This weekend my wife and I traveled down to Franklin, Tennessee to check out a pop up show called The City Farmhouse Market. If you’re not familiar with a pop up show, it’s basically an antique show where nearly all the vendors specialize in shabby chic decor. While a show like this may be a very boring show for most men, women tend to love it.
We were checking out the show to see if it would be something Anita would be interested doing next year. She was offered to set up a booth this year, but we wanted to scope the show out first to see if it would be worth the effort.
There were plenty of vendors, about 150 in total, but nearly all the booths were the same. Plus the prices for the items were very high. Nothing to buy if you were a picker trying to resell something.
Here is a close up of a particular booth. As you can see, the style is shabby chic to farm-house style. If you subscribe to Country Living magazine, you’ll know all about this style. If you subscribe to Wood magazine, then you probably have no idea what this crap is all about.
During the day, I was able to spot a few old workbenches for sale. I have no idea what people do with these things. The only thing I can think of, is that they could be used as a display table in a small business that’s going after an industrial look. Whether or not people actually sell these things I have no clue. I have seen plenty of them for sale, but I’ve never seen anyone load one up in their truck if you know what I mean.
These workbenches don’t come cheap either. They were $795 and $1,295 and neither one of them came with a BenchCrafted tail vise.
The next day after the show, we decided to head into Nashville on our way home and check out American Picker’s Antique Archeology store. If you watch the History Channel then you’ve probably seen their show. Mike and Frank pick through random people’s property buying items so that they could resell them. I’ve followed the show since the first season and firmly believe that the current seasons are more scripted than actual reality, but that’s another topic for another day.
The store is rather small and filled with more American Picker t-shirts and coffee mugs than antiques they’ve picked for sale. Plus, if it was an item they’ve picked, you’ll pay a pretty penny for it. The place actually reminded me of a gift shop at a Hard Rock Cafe. It’s a very popular stop as the line to get into the store was fifty people long. Luckily we got there 20 minutes before the store opened and were the first customers at the door.
After viewing the items in the store, I bought my $27 t-shirt because I knew I’d never be back. After that, Anita and I headed out of town stopping at antique stores on our way back home.
Last week a coworker asked if he could borrow one of my handplanes to add a back-bevel to a new door he had installed. I figured that my #7 would be the best tool for the job, so I inspected it to make sure the iron was sharp before I lent it out. I noticed that the plane had a bit of a neglected look to it. It was a little dusty, there was some grime on it along with a few spotty patches, and I also noticed that I hadn’t ever cleaned up the handle of the plane like I had planned on doing. The truth was that I hadn’t used it in a while, and it was about time to reintroduce myself to old #7.
My friend returned the plane letting me know that it had worked perfectly, and I gladly took it back, like finding an old friend again. I decided that I would give the plane a good cleaning and work on the handle a little over the weekend, so that’s what I did. On Friday night after work I took the plane apart, removing the tote and handle, the frog, and every screw and washer. I soaked the frog and all of the hardware in WD40. There was quite a bit of grime on the plane, a combination of oil, dirt, and wood dust. So on Saturday morning I filled a bucket with soap and water and gave the plane body a good bath, scrubbing every inch of it with the brush I normally use to clean my car’s tires. Once I was satisfied with the outcome I wiped the plane dry, used some q-tips to clean out any of the threads, and then wiped the entire body with oil.
I used sand blocks on the iron, cap, and chip breaker, removing any build-up and polishing them up. When finished I oiled those parts as well. I let the hardware soak for one more night, and early this morning I cleaned the parts with an old tooth brush, as well as filed away any burs that I could feel. With those parts clean I turned to the plane handle.
The handle didn’t necessarily look all that bad, but I had always planned on getting it back into shape. Firstly, I wiped the handle with lacquer thinner, and found it much dirtier than I had thought it was. Then I hand sanded it with 100/150/220/320 grit paper. I added one heavy coat of boiled linseed oil, wiped off the excess after a few minutes, and then let it dry for about six hours. After it was dry I added a coat of paste wax, letting it set, then buffing it off.
I have to say that I’m very satisfied with the outcome, and I’m glad I took the time to do the clean-up. The only disappointing part is the front knob. When I first purchased the plane the knob was in rough shape, so I removed it and sanded it down, and wiped it with three coats of polyurethane. While it didn’t look awful, it did darken the knob. Next weekend if I get a chance I will see if I can get the same results as I did with the handle.
In other news, Lee Valley was running a limited time offer for a small set of carving chisels, so I bit, spent the $60, and ordered them in. I don’t do much carving, almost none really, but the set seemed to be a good value, and considering that I had only one carving chisel, it would be pretty difficult to become any better at it without the correct tools. The set was advertised as “sharp”, but the really are “not dull”. I don’t own slipstones, so I will have to make do and learn to sharpen them on the fly with what I have. The handles are overly lacquered, and if somebody lit a match near them I wouldn’t be surprised if they went Gaylord Fokker and burst into flames. But, they seem to be very well made, and the steel appears to be of good quality. Furthermore, the chisels arrived just three days after I placed the order. I wouldn’t have cared if they had taken two weeks to come in, but, that quick ship time does show me that Lee Valley has top-notch customer service. I’ve spend many years dealing with tool vendors as part of my job, and Lee Valley has been among the very best of the lot time and time again.
I also picked up some maple and bubinga which I hope to turn into a block plane or two, one for myself and one for a Christmas gift. At that, believe that I have decided on my next project, though I won’t get into any details for fear of jinxing it. I’ll just say that it’s a small, but nice piece of furniture.
I've never been one to engage in the bloodsport that is the handtool-vs-powertool debate. We each come to the craft from a different perspective, with varying objectives, and with specific limitations on our time and budget. I have as much respect for the woodworking Samurai who shapes each mortise with a chisel, as the one who creates the flowing lines of a rocking chair with a keen eye and a bandsaw.
So it was only a matter of time before I embraced the Festool Domino (btw, I get nothing from Festool; I pay their cosmically stated rate on every purchase.)
And while I have no intention of of adding to the long list of breathless reviews for the tool, I have found that it works quite well in my shop where hand and power tools work side by side. I call it my Domino Work Triangle and I think that it is a good system for repetitive tasks such as attaching aprons on small tables, inserting slats in arts and crafts pieces, and constructing rails and stiles in frame and panel construction. You may already take a similar approach for slip-tenon joinery.
1. A Mitre Saw on the Bench
One of the happiest days of my woodworking life was when I exiled the chopsaw from the studio and sent it to the garage. Rough stock is cut to length with an old Disston, surfaced, and then cut to final length on my renovated Stanley mitre box. It rides in the tool tray, has an adjustable stop, and generates a tiny amount of dust. When stock is marked with a knife you can get very accurate, square cuts.
2. A Mitre Plane in a Shoot Board
A truly perfect joint requires that each edge be square and true. As the Domino creates the perfect internal bits of a mortise-and-tenon joint, you are left to focus on creating a perfect fit between the shoulder and its mating piece. Never has a tool that feels like such an indulgence proved to be so necessary. It is astounding. Because it weighs in at something like eight pounds, it glides through 2"x3" white oak end grain with ease. The shoot board attaches to the other end of my handtool bench and doesn't interfere with the mitre box. A few swipes takes me to the knife line.
3. A Domino on a Festool Work Table
In for a penny, in for a pound. With a couple of commissions looming and several ideas for spec pieces in my head, I just didn't feel like building anything else for the shop. I laid out the money for the mft system and I have no regrets. This third leg of the triangle sits to the right of my bench and is light, strong, and provides another dead flat worktop for the Domino. I know Fine Woodworking just did an article about jigs for the Domino, but I just clamp the work to the top and let it rip. Instead of referencing off the top plate, I often use the bottom of the tool riding on the worktop. On small pieces this provides more stability.
It goes without saying that this combination of kit comes at a price. It does save me a great deal of time and allows me to spend most of my mental energy on design and details -- and design and details are reasons why someone commissions a piece of custom furniture. But even if you are just building for yourself, there is something elegant about working with tools that do their jobs well and make your time in the shop successful and rewarding.
Yesterday was one of those days in the shop.
I had a few hours I could devote to woodwork, so I decided I would work on another pipe. As I began shaping it, I went to re-adjust the handscrew that was clamping the workpiece, and the whole thing (wood, pipe stem, and handscrew) fell to the ground, shattering the stem.
Not having time to assemble another stem, I decided to look in on that bit of dogwood I had salvaged a few weeks ago. I figured it would still be wet enough to carve into some woodenware. When I picked it up, however, I found it full of bug holes! So I treated it with some borax and set it aside for something “rustic.”
It’s something I can do quickly and confidently, though not without thinking about it. My tools and materials rarely let me down. This one is pecan–not easy to shape, but very strong and durable in use. This one is a narrow stirring spoon.
It’s all probably just as well. A recent spate of weddings has depleted my stock of wooden spoons, and need to build up my stock again.
What about you? What do you do when disaster strikes in the shop? Do you plow ahead, switch to something else, or just walk away?
I’m going to write up my Connecticut trips backwards. The 2nd stop was to a Friday afternoon demo at the Yale University Art Gallery’s Furniture Study. What a spot. Readers and students often want to know where they can see period pieces in person. The Furniture Study is just such a place.
These are the works that are not on display in the museum, but are there specifically for study. Tons of them. Over 1,000 items maybe.
You want to see some Guilford, Connecticut carved oak chests? Why not see 3 of them together – then you get to see what’s common, what’s idiosyncratic…
This one they had pulled out so we could look at it in detail; I have only generally studied Connecticut furniture, so it’s fun to look again at these. They are large, heavy stock – the stiles are over 2″ thick, by close to 4″ wide. Note the side top rail, how it has no relationship to the front one. Most often the top rails are equal in height, but they don’t have to be. The linen is not going to leak out of the chest.
I always refer to these chests as prime examples of the use of a scratch-stock to produce the abbreviated moldings above the panels here. A plane would not be able to get the full profile then blend out and in so quickly. This molding was scraped – we just don’t know what the tool looked like, nor what it was called. I’ve been working lately on carving these designs, they are so simple, but very effective too. Maybe 20 minutes of carving? Notice the nail holes in the panels – not from a now-missing applied molding – the beveled framing means there was no molding applied; so I think it’s to fix the piece to the bench for carving. Didn’t see those when I was there, just picked them out in the photos.
The till lid detail is nice; I usually put the pintle/hinge pin way out on spine of the till lid. Here the joiner shifted it about an inch or more in from the edge. Makes boring the holes for it easier; might make the whole thing simpler. I had done some like this years ago, then forgot it. So next time I make a till for a chest….
It goes on & on. I had wanted to concentrate my carving portion of my demo on these patterns – they are quite simple, but I like the result a lot. Some go for this understated approach to 17th-century carvings; unlike the “every-blessed-surface-carved” approach of my usual inspiration.
Let’s not forget these drawer fronts – always picked on because they show what can happen!
If you are in the area some time, contact the folks there through the website – once you start looking around, you’ll have a hard time leaving. My thanks to the staff there for such a nice visit.
All wood splits, some more than others, but it all splits. It even splits when paid professionals try to make it not split. This is good news for those of you wanting to snuggle by a warm fire, but not such good news for connoisseurs of split-free wood. And, it is especially bad news for anyone wanting to make a round table top out of a slice of tree.
It seems easy enough to just slice a cookie, or coin, or round, or whatever you want to call it, off the end of a log and use it as a table top, but it rarely works out. The problem (especially when swimming) is shrinkage, and in the wood realm it’s uneven and unproportional shrinkage.
I talk to customers a lot about this uncomfortable subject, and even though it isn’t pleasant, someone has to do it. As woodworkers, it is critical to understand how wood shrinks (read an earlier post about shrinkage by clicking here), and as customers it is important to understand the limitations of wood.
Drying quartersawn lumber is easy, relatively speaking, and almost always produces wood that doesn’t split. Drying flatsawn lumber without splits is more difficult, but if the ends are sealed and the lumber is dried at a slow, consistent pace, it can be done reliably. Drying round cuts from the end of a log, however, is a totally different story, and almost always results in split wood, and not just a small split, but usually large, unsightly, unrepairable and often devastating splits. So much so, that I tell customers I will cut rounds for them only if they take the milled pieces directly from my sawmill as soon as they are cut. That way I can prove that I had nothing to do with them falling apart – they do that all on their own.
It all goes back to the way wood shrinks and the way it does so unevenly. As wood dries, it shrinks twice as much with the rings as it does from the center. When viewing a log at the end (not a round cut off the end of a log but an actual log), this produces cracks that resemble spokes in a wheel. Sometimes there are larger cracks mixed in with the smaller ones, but they are always in multiples. The end wood wants to split, but since it is attached to a log which is holding it in place, the end cracks with many smaller splits to even out the pressure.
If that piece is cut from the end of a log all bets are off. There is no log holding things together, so the end result is usually one large split that relieves all of the pressure at once. With wood that is known to split easily, like oak, the round cuts will not only have large splits, but will often just break in two or more pieces.
Here are some examples of dried wood cookies. All of these were cut from the end of the log when the wood was wet and then air dried slowly in the shop. They are all about 18″ in diameter and 2″ thick.
So, now you know that the cool round table that you were planning to build is probably going to split if you do nothing about it, but can you do something about it? Well, maybe, kinda, sorta.
One way I know to work, from personal experience and from other local sawyers, is to cut the rounds at an angle. This will reduce or completely eliminate the cracks because the stress is going more up and down than in a circle, but it will turn your round table top into an ellipse. And, while a piece that stays together is probably better than a piece that falls apart, an ellipse is not always acceptable. I personally expect to see a round piece of wood when you tell me it was cut from the end of a round log, and find the ellipse shape a bit unnatural.
Another alternative is to remove the pith (center of the log). Removing the pith can stop the devastating splits, but it obviously puts a hole in the piece of wood, and it is still a gamble because it is hard to tell from tree to tree how much pith needs to be removed to stop the splits from happening. A larger hole is better, but at some point the missing wood in the center will demand creativity, and perhaps more wood or glass to make a complete top.
The last and most widely used solution is to use a wood stabilizer like Pentacryl or PEG (polyethylene glycol). Originally developed to stabilize wood from archeological sites, Pentacryl works well to stabilize all kinds of wood from punky wood to crotches and will help with wood cookies. It works by replacing the water in the wood and keeping the cells at their original size, even when dry. Know that while Pentacryl will reduce and often eliminate cracks, wood cookies are by far the most difficult to dry and may still crack.
Pentacryl is not perfect. It works well, but it is expensive at $60 per gallon and adds a yellow tint to the finished piece. And, wood cookies which could normally be dried relatively quickly need to be dried extremely slowly. So slow, in fact, that thicker pieces could still take over a year to safely dry.
PEG is applied like Pentacryl, but has drawbacks that make it less than perfect too. Like Pentacryl, it is also expensive and the resulting wood surface may not accept the finish of your choice. It also takes extra time to apply and may require additional equipment to make it work correctly.
The bottom line is that you can make a table out of a round end cut from a log, but you’ve got to be prepared for failure and/or be prepared to throw plenty of time and money at the problem. I still steer away from cutting wood cookies and do my best to direct customers away from them as well. And, if I do end up cutting wood cookies for a customer, I literally cut and run.
I’d planned to go to the office/shop today (Saturday) to work on the personal project that’s been a millstone ’round my neck for months – a kitchen island/microwave stand. But I’ve got a bad case of the chest and sinus crud; the very thought of sawdust makes me cough (even more than I already am). And that’s OK (well, the staying home part – I’d rather not be ill), because […]