“In some instances it may be necessary for a man to keep knowledge to himself, as his own property, and upon which his bread may depend; but I do not see any impropriety in persons of the same branch informing each other. In trades where their arts depend on secrets, it is right for men to keep them from strangers; but the art of cabinet-making depends so much on practice, and requires so many tools, that a stranger cannot steal it. But in every branch there are found men who love to keep their inferiors of the same profession in ignorance, that themselves may have an opportunity of triumphing over them. From such I expect no praise, but the reverse. Their pride will not suffer them to encourage any work which tends to make others as wise as themselves; and therefore it is their fixed resolution to despise and pour contempt upon every attempt of this kind, in proportion as it is likely to succeed. But those I will leave to themselves as unworthy of notice, who only live to love themselves, but not to assist others.”
-Thomas Sheraton, 1793, “The Cabinetmaker’s and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book”
When I posted the beard comb video earlier this month I mentioned I’d be happy to post some pictures of the ones all of you made, if you were to make one.
A little while later Brian Timmons of Big T Woodworks contacted me to show off his version…or should I say “versions?”
Brian blew me away with his collection of wood beard combs that are as beautiful to look at as they are beautifully constructed.
You don’t have to have a lush full beard to appreciate these beauties, they look as if they belong in the bathroom of any well groomed gentleman!
If you want to be inspired by beautiful woods, or you just want to purchase one so you don’t have to make your own, visit Brian and his amazing wife Rachel at his store’s website (which has a blog too if you want to keep up-to-date with what Brian is up to.)
Visit Big T Woodworks by clicking here! Tell them Matt sent you!
Our local art museum, the Mobile Museum of Art, is hosting an arts-and-crafts fair next month. I don’t usually sell my work at craft shows, but the table fee was reasonable, so I signed up.
The problem is that I don’t have a lot of surplus spoons on hand, so I’ve been in production mode this weekend. That means I’ve had to streamline my workflow. Because–let’s be honest–I enjoy the process as much as the product, so I don’t usually work as quickly as I can.
First, I pulled out some stock that I had been saving for spoons: these boards have some bad end-checking, and they were cut to a very uneven thickness (a casualty of my ineptitude at the bandsaw). The figure isn’t spectacular enough for use in furniture, but it should make great spoons.
Usually, I select stock to minimize waste, but this time I’m working to maximize the appearance of each spoon. I’m also not bothering to work right up close to defects like knots and splits. I don’t want any surprises after I’ve roughed out each blank. My templates help me plan out exactly what parts of the board will become spoons.
If I’m making one spoon at a time, I cut out everything by hand, but this time I cut each blank to rough shape on the bandsaw. Normally, I find that the whole ordeal of taking a single blank down to the bandsaw, turning everything on, putting on my dust mask, tensioning the blade, making the cuts, de-tensioning the blade… oh, shoot–it’s just not worth it for two cuts! But when I’m cutting out seven spoons all at once, the machine is faster.
I still shape the spoons by hand with a large gouge, drawknife, and spokeshave, but I do contract out some of the finishing work.
My wife is pretty quick with the card scrapers, and I even taught her how to resharpen them! I can sometimes get one or two of the kids to do a little sanding. Other times, they just keep my company as they crack pecans. (It was a pecan-sort-of-an-afternoon.)
By the end of the evening, I had seven pecan spoons ready for final sanding.
Nearly all of them have at least a little spalting in them.
I need to do a lot more, in both pecan and walnut. But a few more afternoons like this, and I’ll have a good stock of spoons ready for the show.
Tagged: band saw, bandsaw, craft fair, craft show, Mobile Art Museum, Mobile Museum of Art, pecan, stock selection
In 2007 I met John Winter and he came to my house over a number of days to build his workbench with his dad. His dad is a paediatrician and was working at the hospital in the town near where I live. John came into the castle workshop at 18 for a year to apprentice and learn woodworking and he’s now a man of 21. He’s a fine craftsman. His work is exemplary as is his passion for knowing woodworking. I sit often at my bench and watch him as he works and I see the birth of a skilled and knowledgeable woodworker. Beyond that he’s become a close friend to me and others he works with, a capable furniture maker and an excellent and knowledgeable teacher. His future is now ready to unfold in his own workshop in Patagonia and before the year ends he’ll start new things no one knows anything about yet.
I have enjoyed having John here and I am certain that is obvious, but what made him different to say apprentices I trained years back? When I first took an apprentice it was to help him become what he had no knowledge of but had always wanted to be. His dream was to become a furniture maker and that’s what he became. Stephen was not the easiest apprentice trainee. Probably because he was older and more set in the ways he wanted to do things. As soon as he learned anything from me he thought everything originated from him and as soon as he learned enough he left and started his own business. I was still glad that he was able to start on his own and that he at least worked with me long enough to learn furniture making and indeed he too became more than competent and I taught him all he needed to become the furniture maker he’d dreamed of becoming.
You see, on the one hand it’s been good from time to time to see someone grow away from you for the wrong reasons, but all the better to see someone come to maturity and grow into their place of ultimate responsibility with you and away from you. On the one hand there is often disharmony and then on the other perfect peace. John and Phil have both brought peace into my otherwise high self-demand life. When they come into the workshop I feel settled at them both being with me. I hope that they feel the same way I do.
As we worked on the class today there was for me a peace throughout the day. The students are from Israel and Brazil, from the USA came three more and then another from Belgium. The rest are from the UK. It’s been very peaceful and even though I apply substantial pressure I feel for the one thing I value the most and that is peace and understanding. I think we all feel the same way about learning a craft; that it’s high self-demand that makes it work. No one really ever stops until I call a launch break. Hot coffee is always welcome but no one stops to chat until a phase or step is completed. This maximising of intense training has borne good fruit in that boxes dovetailed all fit and fit well. For most of them these boxes are their very first. Who knows, perhaps they will become furniture makers too, in their own right of course.
One way to accurately replicate a boat design is to build the boat on a strongback with molds that hold the major structural pieces in the proper position. For most skin on frame kayak building, this method is overkill, but Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak says that if you stray from the design of his F1 kayak that you'll have slug of a boat.
So, I built a strongback and molds at several stations along the boats length to hold the gunnels, chines, and keel in the proper positions.
|Keel bent into place.|
|Molds in place.|
Getting the gunnels in place was exciting, because one of the most prominent features of a boat is the sweep of the sheer. The curve of the gunnels defines the sweep of the sheer on this boat and as soon as they were bent into place, it felt like the boat jumped off the page and into my workshop.
|I added tabs to the molds and used wedges to lock the gunnels in place.|
|The ends of the gunnels are lashed together.|
Here are two more videos just uploaded to YouTube on the beautiful and very practical HNT Gordon spokeshaves and planes, some of which I now stock at very keen prices. Nice ones for Christmas!
First I had to prep the wood. Most of this was done with powertools. Cutting a piece of wood from the last cherry plank, planing, resawing it on the table saw, and more planing and thicknessing, They ended up at the 10mm thickness I wanted them to be, It was a squeeze though, the thick tablesaw blade eats up a lot of wood. I really need a bandsaw!
Then I marked out the exact position of all the cutlines. I don't really measure at all, every mark is taken from the other parts, like here, the inside width of the cabinet. This method is much more precise then measuring with a rule.
For the sliding dovetail I first chop a small mortise at the end and mark the sides with a deep knife wall.
And then it's a matter of sawing the sides of the sliding dovetail socket. It';s going to be a half dovetail, so one side is straight, just keep the saw vertical, the other side is at an angle. To give myself an idea about this angle while sawing I set a sliding bevel in front of the board.
The male part is cut likewise. I didn't shoot a picture (sorry), but it is a matter of sawing the baseline and cutting the sloping part with a chisel. Only a little bit of material needs to be removed, so this is quick work.
And here is the result. Not perfect, but not too bad for the first time either.
One of the things I enjoy in life is the experience of the under promise and the over delivery. I bought “Is It Genuine” (1971) while searching for good information about 18th-century furniture. I don’t worship what the 18th century has to offer but at its core it represents what I feel is the pinnacle of hand-powered woodworking. It’s a unique period of the pre-Industrial Revolution world that relied on […]
It doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, but I got the dovetail joint for the seat cut and fit yesterday afternoon.
I spent some time sawing practice joints first on a tick scrap of Sapele. My LN dovetail saw didn’t quite reach deep enough, and it was a lot of sawing — but the cut was crisp and arrow straight. I decided on using my nearly-new Bad Axe 16″ tenon saw and made a bunch of practice cuts to get my arm tuned up.
While I was sawing the cuts I noticed that the saw seemed to want to wobble in the kerf. When I checked the saw the plate was “loose” or “floppy” along the toothline. Not good. I set it aside while I laid out more practice lines, and then noticed that the wobble was gone. Almost like it was heat related. I made another cut and it came back. Crud. I bought this saw a couple of years ago, but I’ve hardly used it at all. I emailed Mark at Bad Axe and he suggested that the saw plate needed to be reseated in the folded back, so I’m going to try that today.
I sawed out the tails and checked them for accuracy. There were a few spots where they weren’t flat and a couple of areas where they were slightly out of square with the face of the board. I pared out all of the problem spots and jury rigged this setup to transfer the tail layout.
If you are particularly observant you’ll have noticed the scraper between the end of the tail board and the plywood alignment stop. Somehow I had the baseline for the dovetails about 1/16″ too shallow. That means the end of the tails won’t reach the face of the seat. Not a structural problem, but a little annoying. I’ll have to check the thickness of the seat, maybe I didn’t finish it to the right thickness, that would be an easy fix.
I sawed and chopped out the pins, and got the joint mostly fit up in time for dinner. There is a little tweaking left as one side isn’t seating completely yet. I’ll deal with that after I get some coffee.
The rest of the joinery on the seat should go more quickly. I’m on the fence about whether to do the work by hand or use power tools. I’m leaning towards hand tools, if I can re-tension the saw plate on my tenon saw I can practice sawing the tenons, and if they are not perfect it isn’t a huge deal as I haven’t yet convinced my wife to put the Chevy in the living room. We’ll see.
I continued work on my Enfield Cupboard yesterday afternoon. I had planned on getting the face frame finished, as well as the case side arches sawn so I could glue up the carcase today. Unfortunately, I ran out of time, but I did manage to get the face frame ready to go.
I started out by laying out the mortises for the top rail. I decided to chop them out by hand because there are only two. That part went fairly quickly, but the poplar I’m working with is stringy, and it wasn’t easy to get the mortises cleaned out. I then made the tenons on the rail by using the table saw jig I built a few weeks back. It worked well, but I did have to wax the runners of both the jig and the table saw fence to get it to slide more freely. Before I go on I will admit that I hate making mortise and tenon joints. Firstly, I’ll say that I’m not all that great at fitting them from the get go, and I always have to spend the extra time getting them fit properly. In this case it was about 15 minutes of added work with a router plane. I would much rather make ship lap joints, which I’m good at and are much of the time just as strong. In any event, it was finished and I moved on to sawing the arches at the bottom of the stiles.
To lay out the arches on the stiles I followed the measurements on the original Enfield plan. I marked some guidelines, and used a French curve to draw the arch. I sawed the first arch with a jigsaw, used it to mark the second arch, and did the same. I then clamped both together and cleaned up the cut with a spokeshave and some light sanding. Before I glued up the face frame I planed the edges, just a few passes, with a smooth plane and gave it a very light sanding. I then glued it, clamped it, and let it dry overnight. Today, I hope to get the case sides finished, though I’m not necessarily sure about gluing it up yet. It’s quite cold right now, and the temperature isn’t expected to rise much above freezing. The case is too large to bring inside to dry, so I’m going to play it by ear.
On another note, last winter I built a Dutch Tool Chest. I felt it would be both useful and fun to build. It does a nice job of holding tools, but I have to say that it is really getting on my last nerve. What is the problem? I have nowhere to put it. The chest always seems to be in the way, and I’m constantly moving it whenever I woodwork. Considering that the chest weighs around 120 lbs, this part isn’t fun. One solution I’ve seen is to attach a French cleat and hang it on the wall, which I might do, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose? It is too deep to be a wall cabinet, at least in my garage, and too large to be unobtrusive on the floor. If I had the time and money, I would make a proper wall cabinet for tools and be done with it. Live and learn I guess.
There is no reason to turn away from building true divided-light glass doors in your projects. While some techniques to get the dividers made and installed are involved, this is a simple technique sure to work.
After building your door frame complete with rabbets to hold the glass, dividing the opening is done using two different sized parts. The pieces that show to the front of the door are 1/4″ thick and 3/4″ wide. The pieces used to separate the glass are 1/4″ thick and 1/2″ wide. Installation uses glue and small spring clamps – and your abilities to cut to the lines.
Build Something Great!
At the same time - next door - will be The Brooklyn Holiday Market featuring Brooklyn makers and hosted by Wanted Design. A lot of our friends are exhibiting there. Both shows are free I think you will have a great time!
See You There!
The shop at Popular Woodworking has been a bit of an embarrassment for the, oh, last year or so. We’ve made a desultory effort now and again to whip things into shape, but ever since our garage door was moved to the far end of the shop (as far away from as possible and around two corners and a fence from the dumpster and recycling bin*), we’ve been less apt […]
|The Jonathan Fisher House|
|Detail of "Blue Hill, Maine" (circa 1853-1857) by Fitz Henry Lane|
|Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.|
|Carriages in front of Clough House in Blue Hill, ME|
|George A. Clough, Architect|
|"Ideal Lodge" of Blue Hill designed by Clough for Effie Ober Kline|
|Clough designed the Suffolk County Courthouse on Pemberton Square, Boston|
I did get two sets of the Llidl chisels, 8, 13, 18 and 24mm, and used them in the demonstrations I did today for the students. They are indeed one and the same as the Aldi set and they take and keep the same keen edge that parallel or exceed the best chisel sets available today. In north European redwood, tough stuff I have in stock, they kept their edges in chopping dovetails, paring and other operations throughout the day on one initial sharpening. The price is the same at £7.95 for four found in Aldi stores. The names of course have been changed to suit the supermarkets chain brand name. These are long-term chisels and could be temporary gap fillers until you find ones you like the looks of, or they can be your lifetime chisels, the ones you reach for every time you cut dovetails or mortise and tenons. They have been out for a couple of weeks in Lidl stores but at least now you will have two sources to buy from in Europe and the UK, which will likely mean you can find them four times a year. They were still in Thursday so just thought you might want a set if you’re in the UK.
Anyway, these are the worst, most gappy dovetails, I've ever had in a project. So please, don't zoom in too much into the pictures!
I want the cabinet assembled so that it won't fall apart when the glue loosens its strength. The top and bottom have the pins, thus the bottom won't fall on the floor when the glue fails. And this is the top of the cabinet, the sides are "hanging"on the pins (gappy!) from the top.
Another thing I learned (again) is the importance of good lighting. It is easy to put the scribe line into the shadow of the saw when the light comes mostly from one side. So I dug out an old tablelamp so I have a spotlight in excatly the right place. That simple thing alone greatly increases the quality of the work.
The bottom is sticking out a bit on the front side. Combine that with the half blind dovetails and it means that the edge isn't straight all the way across. I had to cut out part of it. I choose to use a handsaw and cut as close and straight as I could to the line, pairing the result a bit with a chisel to make the side as straight as possible. I learn now (again) that accurate dovetails are easier to make when all parts are straight and square. You can compensate for errors here, but it is just easier to start with straight stuff. That means that I have to revise my view on shooting boards in regards to dovetail cutting. The shooting board makes life easier in this regard. Anyway, here is a picture of the cut, to make it easier to understand my ramblings.
Another "learning oportunity" was my choice of pin width. I made them so narrow, combined with the rather strong slope of the dovetail sides, that the opening of the pin sockets was too narrow for my smallest chisel, which is 3mm wide. Luckily I had a 1mm #1 carving chisel which saved the day. That tiny little thing with the very flexible blade was brilliant. It holds up admiringly well under the tough work of clearing out dovetail waste!
So, after much struggling, mostly due to my own making, I managed to assemble the carcas. Next job is the shelfs.