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So I finished my first experiment with inlay yesterday, the end result was OK — not a good enough effort for an actual furniture project, but then my first dovetails weren’t ready for prime time either. (no snarky comments about my dovetails please!)
Thinking about the effort, there were some ergonomic problems that made this more of a struggle than it could/should have been. For both the sawing out and the excavating steps, some means of clearing the dust is a must so I can see the layout line I’m trying to work to. When I was sawing I got by with puffing the dust away, doing my Thomas the Tank Engine imitation (“I think I can…”). That worked, but I was on the verge of hyperventilating, to say nothing of it stretching my ability to do more than one thing at a time.
Another problem was working height. I had that sorted out OK for the sawing with the v-block setup I made, but I didn’t really have anything worked out for the routing step.
And finally the lighting was an issue, especially when routing out the cavity although it was an issue with sawing too. My eyesight has never been what you would call good, and as I’ve gotten older my prescription won’t work up close. I wear multi-focal contacts, which lets me get by for most things, but I still end up needing reading glass for detail work in the shop. And a 5X Optivisor for this kind of work. Sigh. I remember painting the buttons on cast lead Napoleonic solders that were only 3/4″ tall in high school.
So here is what I’m doodling as a solution, a bench riser that incorporates solutions for most of these problems.
Figuring in the height of my workbench and stool, I need a 12″ lift to get the work to the right height. The v-block for sawing will be removable, with a steel sub plate to attach it to the underside of the riser top and a fixture to hook up a shop vac. I haven’t figured out dust collection for the excavation part yet, although I have a couple of ideas about that. The choices are either a different base for the Foredom that includes dust collection (like the MicroFence Micro Plunge base), or if I can get the kinks worked out on the base I have I’ll make up a positionable hose holder.
The lighting I know what I want to do, but I haven’t found an affordable solution. What I want is a pair of gooseneck lights that attach to the sides of the riser, like the ones below from MSC. They have screw bases, a 30″ flex arm and a 700 lumen halogen bulb. But they are $130 each too. I want a $20 solution.
I think something like this would solve most of the ergonomic problems and make the inlay process go a lot smoother. I don’t plan to pursue this immediately, but certainly before I do anything with inlay again. In fact, the next time I try to do inlay it will be on a real project, so I’ll want to make sure it comes out as nicely as I can possibly do. Probably fairly soon, but today I have a box of glass that arrived that I need to turn into the panels for the Thorsen cabinet.
Wrapping up my Adamstown travelogue, I offer a refresher course on painted chests. There are several styles of painted chests that can be divided into four major groups. First is painting for the sake of painting, much like you paint a house:
Next there is the decoratively painted chests. Often religious, cultural or ethnic themes are portrayed. Some are celebratory, weddings, births. Some are just decorative:
They ya got yer faux wood grained, often done to make the chest seem to be made from a better wood. Possibly to make it look veneered.
Then we move into the abstracts, starting with imaginative wood graining and quickly moving on to things I don’t understand and might never. Wood graining on mushrooms.
And then there is this one I like but don’t get:
I had this earlier blog on painted furniture, “As Close to Easter Eggs as I’m Going to Get.”
And my legendary Flickr set of Chests.
If there are any discrepancies between this and previous blogs, rest assured that this blog is correct. It just goes to show how much I have learned and how much smarted I am now.
After the aborted first attempt at excavating the inlay cavity, I decided to try again. I applied a couple of coats of shellac to seal the wood, hoping that it would make the layout lines more visible — it didn’t. Or at least not by much. I followed the same process as last time — glue the inlay down with Duco cement, trace around it with a fresh Xacto knife, pop the inlay off and excavate with the mini router.
The hardest part of the whole inlay process was accurately excavating the cavity to fit the inlay into. I expected it would be sawing the parts, but I was wrong. What made the inletting difficult (aside from the fact that it’s 100 degrees in the shop) is a combination of tool problems and ergonomics.
I’m having issues with the mini router base not holding it’s position and a few other small issues. I’ve been emailing with William Ng, and I’m sure he’ll get it sorted out for me.
The ergonomics are a little more of a problem. I didn’t have a good way to get hold the part at the right height, I didn’t have a good solution for clearing the chips so I could see the line, and the lighting was bad. I made do, and I have an idea for how to make that better next time. In fact, I think between getting the tool and ergonomics dialed in I’ll have a much better result and more relaxing time of it overall.
The actual process of inletting was a matter of “hogging” the bulk of the waste out with a 1/8″ bit (if you can consider it “hogging” with a tiny router bit). I tried to stay about 1/16 off the line as I was hogging out. Then I switched to a 1/16″ bit and snuck up on the walls, watching for my scribed line to disappear. Sometimes the line would disappear, but when I looked closely the surface where the wood was scored would come off, but lower in the cavity the wall would still be sticking out. So the process included a lot of fine tuning until the inlay seemed like it would snap in.
After a couple of rounds of back-and-forth fine tuning (and the requisite amount of overshooting the line, and only a moderate amount of swearing) I had an inlay-shaped cavity I thought would work.
I filled the bottom of the cavity with Superglue and pressed the inlay in. The little base had broken loose from the main part, which wasn’t a problem.
I put a sheet of waxed paper over the inlay, added a caul and clamped it in my leg vise for two hours. It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I pulled it out to check. I was surprised at how deep the inlay was in the wood. I’d sawn the veneer about .125″ thick, and only routed the cavity .075″ deep, but it was almost flush. I think this was from sanding the back of the inlay assembly to remove glue, I’ll have to watch that in the future.
I started flattening this with 100 grit glued to some plywood scraps. 60 grit would be better, the 100 loaded up pretty quickly. I had to sand the inlay flush, sand off the glue, shellac and paper.
Once that was done I checked for any pinholes and gaps and filled those with Superglue.
So I’ll give myself a C+ for effort on this. It’s obviously got some problems when you look at it up close, although it isn’t a complete disaster. The problems I see are almost exclusively with the excavating of the cavity. A little neater job on that, and this would be presentable. I can see some problems with the sawing too, but surprisingly then almost disappear in the finished piece. And I’d I’d inlayed this into a dark wood the gaps around the edge would be nearly invisible.
Before I do this again I need to get the router base sorted out, and set up better ergonomics for the process. Tomorrow if it isn’t too hot I might finish the Thorsen cabinet…
Mechanics of chipbreakers and high cutting angles in woodworking planes.
Kees van der Heiden, The Netherlands, 2014.
When using handplanes, tearout is a typical problem. Two methods to prevent tearout are high cutting angles and chipbreakers set very close to the cutting edge. In previous work it was found that a cutting angle of 60° is equivalent to a chipbreaker setting of 0.1 mm behind the edge when the chipbreaker edge is beveled at 45°. Likewise an angle of 55° is equal to a 0.2 mm setting of the chipbreaker. To compare the two methods a planing machine is used with force transducers to measure the cutting force Fc and the force perpendicular to the wood surface, the normal force Fn. Fc proved to be 30% higher for the plane setups with a high cutting angle, compared to the equivalent chipbreaker settings. Fn is normally negative, pulling the edge into the wood in a standard 45° plane without the chipbreaker. When setting the chipbreaker close to the edge this negative force is slightly reduced, but in high angle planes this is reduced much more and tends towards 0 around a 60° cutting angle, under the circumstances of this experiment. A second experiment has been conducted to measure the forces after a planing distance of 100 meters. The rate of change of Fc is about equal for both methods. The rate of change of Fn is twice as fast for the high cutting angles. The conclusion is that the plane with a chipbreaker is technically more advanced then the plane with a high cutting angle. A hypothesis about how the two methods prevent tearout is proposed in this article too.
We’ve got a weekend workshop on Boullework Marquetry coming up at The Barn the first weekend of October. Recently I made a batch of artificial tortoiseshell for us to use in that workshop, with at least two pieces for each participant. One of the exercises for the weekend will be to make another batch so that each attendee can make their own once they get back home.
My method is described somewhat in an article I will post next week in the Writings section of the web site, but here again is how I did it this time. Start with a flat clean surface with a sheet of mylar on which to cast the artificial shell on.
Cast out the material on the mylar,
then create the pattern. The upper row of scutes is made to mimic “hawksbill” turtles, and the lower row “greenback” turtles. Once that is firm, cast a second layer of polymer on top of the pattern to complete the composite, and you are done.
PS – I purposefully left out all the chemistry stuff. It’s in the article
PPS If you are interested in joining us for the course, drop me a line through the “Contact” function of the web site.
Last Spring I had an interview with Charles Brock from The Highland Woodworker lined up, so I took a cue from Ron Breese and deep cleaned the workshop. Ron mentioned that he touched every thing in the shop and I vowed to do the same. It quickly reached a point I call the “Nadir”, with the usual side effects of self loathing and regret. Seventy two trips up the stairs to assemble a pile of junk visible from outer space and everything that escaped execution got scrubbed, scraped, and put right. Why didn’t I do this years ago?
Oh by the way, we had fun filming this segment for The Highland Woodworker and they even managed to make this old snapping turtle look respectable. Take a look.
The interview begins at 25:35
Note: Many of the furniture shots were from some of the fine folks who allowed Jim and I to display their work in our book By Hand & Eye. The curly maple desk and tall clock are pieces I made.
George R. Walker
I’m rendered in oils! It’s like having my name up in lights. While travelling this summer, I stopped to spend a day with my friends Heather & Pat in Pennsylvania. Heather posed me for this painting, part of her on-going teacup series.
Here’s the link to her blog; I’m always amazed at Heather’s work…
Don’t forget box-making http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/make-a-carved-oak-box-sept-22-26/
In the above video, period furniture maker Phillip Lowe shared an exciting tour of the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts with me.
Phil started the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts in scenic Beverly, MA as a way to preserve and spread the skills of building and restoring historical heirloom quality furniture. And man, has he succeeded.
His school offers everything from weekend classes on basic furniture-building skills all the way up to multi-year full time woodworking apprenticeship programs. You can see Phil’s short biography and a list of his Fine Woodworking Magazine articles & videos right here.
What I liked most about Phil’s workshop school is that it has a very laid back atmosphere. Of course, I was only there for an hour, but everyone seemed to be having a blast, and working right along on the skills that Phil had taught them. Some of Phil’s programs are like an open shop class where you come for a week or two and build whatever you want, and Phil is right there to teach you how to do it. Others shorter classes are focused on building one project, like this cherry shaker table:
I was absolutely shocked by the high level of quality put into the period furniture. Some pieces were absolutely jaw dropping; fit for a palace.
If students don’t already have a project in mind, Phil introduces them to his library of period furniture books to get some inspiration.
Then they spend the first day or two learning how to draw working plans for the furniture…yes sir, good ol’ fashioned drafting with a real pencil and paper!
Ah, this brings back memories from my high school architecture & woodworking classes.
Then the students spend their time learning from Phil how to build their chosen piece of period furniture, then they are turned loose to apply what they learned.
Some stunning pieces of furniture have come from Phil’s students and more especially from Phil. I was amazed as he showed me many pieces of furniture that are well beyond my skill level.
I was happy to see not only middle-aged guys in Phil’s school, but even some fascinating young guys, like David Hibino. David didn’t have the confidence to build a quality workbench by himself, so he dropped in for a couple weeks of help from Phil.
Phil would walk David through a step, then turn David loose to apply what he had just learned. Then when he was ready for the next step, Phil was close by to teach. I love this type of learning.
I loved seeing someone part from the typical woodworker’s atire…you know what I’m talking about: checked button-up shirt tucked into denim jeans? I’m happy that the upcoming generation is taking an interest in the trades of the past…even if they can’t put their iPhones down.
Thanks for the tour Phil, and thank you for preserving and passing on the furniture-making skills of the past.
In addition to being a regular contributor to Fine Woodworking Magazine, Phil Lowe is also the author of several woodworking books and videos (see the list below), and is an expert on furniture restoration and recreation.
- DVD: Measuring Furniture for Reproduction: with Phil Lowe
- DVD: Bookcase With Bracket Feet
- DVD: Carve a Ball and Claw Foot
- DVD: Basic Workbench with Built-In Storage
Here is a list of the tools that Phil Mentioned in the video:
- Stanley smoothing plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 4 Bronze Smooth Plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 51 Shoot Board Plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 9 Iron Miter plane
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The new cabinets, now full with planes and stuff. Everything neatly stored, but not french fitted so there is still plenty of space for new stuff.
The powertool area. A planer/thicknesser, a tablesaw and a dust collector Everything on wheels so I can pull it forward when necessary.
The bench and the sharpening area. It looks like I have a little bit of a chisel problem...
In the above video I share another one of my absolute favorite books about traditional woodworking: “The New Traditional Woodworker: From Tool Set to Skill Set to Mind Set” by Jim Tolpin.
I’ll be honest. I usually judge a book by it’s cover. The cover photography originally sold me on this book…hey, I’m a former pro photographer snob. But fortunately the inside of the book was also amazing, and filled with useful tutorials on using traditional hand tools to build furniture.
Jim Tolpin does a great job in not assuming that the reader has fundamental knowledge of woodworking, and approaches hand tool use as if the reader is unaware. But the text is far from elementary, and also appeals to more seasoned woodworkers. Hey, look at my blue place markers…I come back to this book often, as a reference.
Perhaps what I love most about “The New Traditional Woodworker” is that Jim Tolpin teaches how to use traditional hand tools by making projects that you will actually use in your traditional woodworking workshop: try square, straight edge, shooting board, gauges, etc… He begins by teaching the reader simpler projects, to illustrate basic skills, and advances to more elevated woodworking projects. Each project builds upon the skill of the previous project.
This book should be on the shelf of every woodworker…not just the traditionalists!
You can purchase The New Traditional Woodworker here:
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We all have quirks, but one of mine is the irrational fear of running out of stuff to talk about whenever I am making a presentation. Notwithstanding the fact that I have never run out of words before the end of my previous two hundred presentations, I still try to prepare such that I can “wing it” if ever I do.
So, in preparing for the upcoming presentations at WIA I have been working assiduously for both the historic finishing and gold leafing talks. Just the supplies and examples for the historic finishing talk seems somewhat overkill, but don’t bother to argue with me. It’s what I do.
I even hand-planed some boards from the lumber pile,
and made a couple of parquetry panels to make sure I had things to work on while the crowds are watching.
I might’ve gone even nuttier with the gold leaf demo, starting with mixing up traditional gesso by putting 10% glue granules in a jar,
Adding water until full,
and soaking over night.
I cooked it,
added calcium carbonate/whiting,
and started preparing step-by-step examples so that I can walk the attendees through the entire process from start to finish, ending with the toning of the newly applied 23 karat gold leaf..
If you are at WIA make sure to say “Hi” and tell me you read the blog.
Woodworking in America 2014 is only a few days away as I’m writing this post, and I’m so excited about attending this year! WIA is billed as the “ultimate woodworking weekend,” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I’ve been very fortunate to have been in attendance at almost all of them since the inaugural event took place in Berea, Kentucky in 2008.
What started out as a small symposium dedicated almost entirely to hand tools, with a small number of attendees (compared to recent attendance numbers) has grown into an event that requires a convention center to contain it.
Why is it the ultimate woodworking weekend? It’s simple. Over an entire weekend, attendees have the opportunity to learn from some of the predominate woodworking instructors and artisans in the field. Woodworkers you’ll recognize from magazines, books, DVDs and even online content are leading classes ranging from “bench plane basics,” “saw sharpening 101″ to “table saw joinery,” “Historic Marquetry Processes,” and so much more.
WIA is a weekend full of learning for every type of woodworker and for every level of woodworking experience.
And aside from the educational classes, there’s also one of the most talked about features of Woodworking in America, the Tool Marketplace. Vendors ranging from specialty hand tools to leading power tool manufacturers, woodworking schools and many more.
The marketplace at WIA is the heart of the event, and after years of attending, I’ve observed that this is the location where attendees congregate to talk about the class they just attended, to get hands on experiences with the tools they want to add to their own shops, and to talk one-on-one with the manufacturers to learn more about whether it’s the right choice for them.
Woodworking in America is an experience unlike any other. So whether you can make it for the entire weekend, a single day, or only a few hours to hangout and purchase something in the Marketplace, you’ll be happy you did.
We just had a cancellation in my up-coming class in making a carved oak box – so if you would like to tackle this sort of work, September 22-26 in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, Heartwood School is the place to be. http://www.heartwoodschool.com/
This is going to be a really small class – so we will be able to really delve deeply into these boxes. I usually do this with 10 or 12 students; this time we’re hoping for 5! Lots more attention to carving patterns, and come hell or high water – tills! Students always ask, “can we put tills in our boxes?” – and the answer is usually “maybe” which really means “no.”
This time – yup. I bet we will.
come on, fall in the Berkshires? Send Will Beemer a note – it’ll be great. http://www.heartwoodschool.com/coursefr.html
What my talk is about is how we have been automating our Foley Saw filing machine to allow us to do some operations automatically and also enable some very complex filings that an all mechanical Foley filer can't do. The reason I find this subject so interesting and why I wanted to give the talk is I think that for the past ten years the Maker Revolution has been building infrastructure so inexpensive that anyone can make pretty complex robots, CNC stuff, and general gadgets. At Maker Faire 2013 we saw a lot of cool stuff and then when we decided that we needed to add some automation to some of our processes it made a lot more sense for us to go the Maker route instead of the substantially more expensive, and much harder to implement, industrial machinery route.
While my specific professional interest is in tool manufacture the revolution in personal automation will (and maybe has started to) effect woodworkers all over the country. But don't think that the job of being a cabinetmaker will be any easier. Good construction is good construction, whether or not you use a hand saw, a giant factory saw, a table saw, a CNC router, or a fancy Altendorf. The difference is really in the amount of capital the maker has and the volume that is produced. As CNC equipment becomes less expensive and easier to use some cabinetmakers will find ways of lowering their costs without compromising the type of quality they are interested in offering. Some cabinetmakers will come up with whole new ideas in design and assembly that weren't possible before. It's mostly all good. Low cost automation might give a small shop a way to compete with factories. And the traditional factory will lose lots of their advantages.
I already know a fair number of shops that have CNC routers, laser cutters and some of them are doing some very interesting stuff. But don't jump down my throat. I like early American furniture. I love lots of early, sometimes very decorative forms. The big sin of furniture makers over the past generation has been simplifying and simplifying forms until most of the stuff I see in stores is pretty boring. I don't expect any machine to be able to grind out a colonial highboy - ever. And I would hate that anyway. I don't want dumbed down designs. What I want to happen, and I think it might, is that with new machinery will come new techniques and new designs. Hopefully furniture makers of the 21st century will produce stuff as new and exciting as say Chippendale furniture was to the customers of the mid-18th century.
Here is the link to Maker Faire NYC . It's an awesome show. And every year I am truly overwhelmed at what folks are making. Bring your kids!! you will all have a great time. If you don't live anywhere near NYC there are Maker Faires all over the country and the world. Even Mini-maker faires for smaller venues that are just starting up.
NB: The snapshot of the most excellent Rhode Island furniture is from the renovated rooms at the American Wing of the Met. OMG. I was rushing en-route to another exhibit and I drolled only a little. I will return for a proper look.
Last year I went to a meeting of the local chapter of the SAPFM, which was fun even though I’m not heavily into period furniture forms. There was a Marquetry demonstration involving a Chevalet, which is a specialized tool for cutting marquetry developed and popularized in France. The presented mentioned having taken several classes at the American School of French Marquetry in San Diego…and the seed was planted.
I’ve been poking around for an interesting woodworking class to take lately, and I came across the “Stage I Boulle Marquetry” class at ASFM and I just signed up for it. I’m looking forward to spending a week learning a new technique. I’m sure I’ll post updates on this class, which will be the first week of October.
Now that the rough/first draft of VIRTUOSO: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley is in the computer I can now focus on those areas of the manuscript that need beefing up. One of those areas was the dearth of description regarding the possible daily activities of Studley in the Poole Piano Company when he was building the tool cabinet and work bench. That information has been very hard to find.
Fortunately I came across a shop in Charlottesville, two hours away, that was dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and care of fine old pianos. Owner Tom Shaw (right) and historical piano specialist Randolph Byrd (left) were a tremendous source of encouragement and information. Their framed poster of the Studley cabinet is jut out of sight on the right.
What made me excited to visit them was the breadth of their activities, plus the fact that Tom’s grandfather was a piano craftsman in Boston beginning in 1907, in other words, a contemporary of Studley’s. Here Tom is proudly showing me his grandfather’s piano tool kit, which his grandfather made himself. It put food on the table, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
The one and only known portrait of Studley depicts him as an “action man” at the Poole Piano Company. His task would have been to assemble a kit like this one (this is for a grand piano, but you get the idea) into a perfectly functioning mechanism that would produce beautiful noise whenever the keys were pressed down.
I even got to see the working of one of the tools identical to Studley’s for adjusting some part of the action mechanism.
One of the final steps before assembling the action is “sighting the hammers” in order to make sure they are aligned and evenly graduated. While this is for a grand piano action, the process for an upright would be conceptually identical.
Gentlemen, thank you for pushing back the boundaries of my ignorance considerably. A copy of the book will wing its way to you when it is available.
I greatly appreciate the notes & emails, etc that I get from readers, students and more. It’s nice to hear that my work inspires some folks to go shave wood. Woodworking has saved many a man’s life (woman’s too…) – and I am glad that my work sometimes gives others a nudge. Likewise, when I hear these things, it inspires me to keep posting my stuff here – someone might get something from it. Co-inspiration.
I’m very late as usual with this post. I owe some of you answers; and had promised to show your stuff to the blog readers. Keep ‘em coming, I like to show this stuff you folks are making. That way, someone else might be inspired to have a go at it. How hard can it be?
In absolutely no particular order – here’s a stool-in-progress from Jason Estes of Iowa. Look at his details; nice chamfers; and square “turned” decoration. Great work, Jason.
Jason had a question about seats = it’s probably too late now (sorry Jason) – but for next time here goes.
“If two boards are used for a seat, are they fastened to each other in any way, or just to the aprons or stiles?”
Alexander & I did them just butted up against each other in the book, but in period work, usually they are glued edge-to-edge, sometimes with registration pins between them. I have seen chest lids done with splines in grooved edges of mating boards. No tongue & groove in chest lids, table tops, etc – they are used in chest bottoms, however.
When I make a wainscot chair seat, I usually edge glue two narrow riven boards together. sometimes w 5/16″ pins between them; maybe 2 in the whole seat.
“If I elect to go with a single board of quartersawn oak, it will likely be kiln-dried – does that require any accommodation, or can it go on like a tree-wet board?”
Nope – if it’s well-quartersawn, it should behave perfectly well.
Sean Fitzgerald (I think I got that right) of parts unknown made a joined & chamfered dish rack…why didn’t I make one of these? Here’s a case I often talk about – my work is 17th-century reproduction, but you can adapt these construction and decoration ideas in new formats; designs, etc – the mortise & tenon is timeless, as is oak.
Here’s a bunch from Matthew LeBlanc – we finally met this past July up in Maine. We had corresponded many times, then finally connected. Matt’s made a slew of stuff – great going. For a teacher to have students like these, I’m a lucky person.
Matt stretched out his stool, made it wider side-to-side. Poplar & sawn oak. If you have no green wood, don’t let that stop you!
Matt also made one of Jennie Alexander’s post & rung chairs – or maybe it’s from Drew Langsner’s book. either way, all the same gene pool. Nice chair. Looks like red oak to me.
And then he sent along this trestle table w carved stretcher. & these were a while ago – I bet he’s kept on going. Nice work, Matt.
Here’s Matthew making a pile of shavings while we were at Lie-Nielsen this summer..