There's been a fair bit of progress on the Japanese Lamp project, without, I'm happy to report, any dire or assorted 'cock-ups' , which for me, dear peruser, is a bit of a bloody miracle!
The first pic above shows the various smaller components hanging from a line and if you've ever been to Naples, you'll know exactly what they remind you of. Masking off the pre-glued Doms and suspending them from a cord means that I was able to finish all sides in one hit, using a couple of thin coats of matt Osmo-PolyX (great stuff by the way)
Once all the interior surfaces were dry and waxed, it was time for a trial assembly of the lower panels, made in Ipe, or Brazilian Walnut (band sawn veneers over 4mm ply). No real Doms used here, but 5mm bits of ash cut to the right size.
Having checked it all, there were three gluing stages to get to the point above, where a long 22" jointer was used as a 'super-smoother' to level each of the sides, after which the....
...router could be used (with an extended base) to make the rebates all round for the shoji panels. With the corners squared out, the exterior frame was polished and waxed. The eight little stubs were then individually marked with Roman numerals using a 3mm chisel...
...and if you click on the pic to enlarge it, you can clearly see the markings. This means that by aligning the 'III' on the shoulder with the 'III' on the frame, the stub, once shot in and sanded, will fit...
...exactly with no 'step' or overlap.
Clever, ain't it?
Once the stubs were hung out and polished (as before) they were glued in place...
...a pair at a time.
However, that's not quite the end of the saga, because I had a small parcel of Ipe left over and I found that it's one of the nicest cabinet woods that I've ever used in a long time. Being somewhat of a parsimonious old git I decided not to waste it, so I made a small...
...box out of it.
I bought a new push lawn mower the other day, and like a two year old at Christmas, I had much more fun playing with the box than with the mower.
I've spent lots of time thinking about the shaped of the spindles in the backs of chairs and because I use spindles, it's easy to get stuck thinking vertically. But the shape of the human body doesn't follow a singe vertical curve at every spot. So I started thinking about the relationships as they proceed horizontally. With the hardy cardboard, I mocked up this chair back by aligning four curves. It is surprisingly comfortable and sturdy.
Each curve is actually slightly cones shaped. It was easy and took only a half hour or so, but it confirmed a lot of what I have been doing with my spindles and encouraged me to go even further.
Here is the view of the back. I started by pinning the piece together with drywall screws and adjusting them as I saw fit.
Then I took the small blocks of plywood and spun the screws until the plywood was sucked tight to the cardboard. The single board clamped to the workbench puts the support in just the right spot so I can rest my weight on it. From there, I mapped out the spindle shapes and will be making some patterns and dummies to further test it out. We will be working with this more to design some chairs at the class that Greg Pennington and I will be teaching at Kelly Mehlers in a couple of weeks.
As you can see in the chair below, I have been highlighting similar shapes in the flat spindles of my chairs for some time now.
I've accentuated the chamfers on the spindles which adds a lot of interest to their blonde color.
And I opened up the goat paddock into the woods so my kids could climb rocks and eat shrubs.
This photo was recently sent to me by antique tool dealer Jim Bode. We were having a conversation at a local tool museum last Sunday when he mentioned a photo that was given to him by one of his customers. The image shows seven carpenters posing in a field with their tool chests circa 1910. These were full service country carpenters who could build a house from the foundation to the roof. They have the usual selection of handsaws, planes, bit braces, breast drills, augers, spirit levels, hammers, steel squares, mallets, chisels, etc.
The specialty tools reveal the range of their carpentry activities. The boring machines, framing chisels, lifting jack, and adzes show that they were still building mortise & tenon timber frames during an era when most of the country had long since converted to balloon framing. The expensive miter boxes and combination plane show that they were also doing exterior trim, cornice work, and possibly interior trim & flooring as well. The slate ripper is only used for roofing and siding.
The planes are a mixed group of cast iron and transitional. The wooden soled planes were often preferred by site carpenters because they dramatically reduced the weight of the traveling tool kit. Most of the transitional planes in this image are stock models, but one of them appears to be a user modified plane. It looks like somebody took the hardware off of a Stanley No. 26 Jack Plane and added their own custom four foot sole to make a super jointer.
As for the date, I suggest circa 1910 because the miter boxes in this photo appear to be Stanley models with patents issued in 1904. For that reason the photo can not be earlier than 1905. Several years ago I put together a research paper on miter box patents. If you need help with the identity or age of a miter box, then this document can help.
Miter Box Patents – (2812 pages – 160MB pdf) Right Click – Save As
- Jeff Burks
Filed under: Historical Images
“Ornament is an act of love – or at least a token of esteem. We embellish what we revere. We adorn that which we love. We do not decorate the hero, returning from the wars, to make him pretty – we decorate him to pay him honor. Ornament is deep stuff, greatly misunderstood in recent years.”
— Alvin Holm
This quote above is from an article you can link to by Alvin Holm (Ornament) .
Much of our rabbit hole material comes from the thoughts of architects and scientists. Here’s a few thoughts about ornament from an architect. I find it also applies to furniture. Hope this proves insightful and helps you to see in a deeper way. Feel free to share your thoughts.
George R. Walker
College of the Redwoods, indeed.
Photo by Michael Nichols, from National Geographic.
I’m in Fort Collins, Colo., for an in-house conference where editors and community leaders in all areas of our parent company, F+W Media, are getting together to share ideas, talk about the business etc. And last night, we had a trade show so that each of us could demonstrate to our fellow employees what we … Read more
After working the most gorgeous week of the year on the most gorgeous private island in Maine (no seriously… check this place out > Nautilus Island), Mike and the boys came over on Saturday for some tree felling fun. Mike did most of the felling, Casey did the limbing, Kyle ran the excavator for brush and lifting the logs onto the trailer, and I… well, I walked around with a tape measure and cut list directing traffic. I worked through my plans several times over making sure I had a complete list of all the pieces I need. There are about 150 pieces to the frame including braces, purlins, joists, etc. Having not done a project like this from standing trees to complete finish, I was a bit nervous about knowing just which pieces to select for each timber.
Jon Ellsworth has been helpful to me in our discussions about what to look for in size of tree. I trust Jon’s advice. He takes his draft horses up into the woods behind my current studio pretty frequently and takes down trees that he brings to a local sawyer for all the frames he builds. He’s been doing this a long time. I will truly miss hearing the clack clacking of the horses on the road and the subsequent chainsaw in the distance while I am working.
Julia had been busy all week preparing food for the big day. After french press coffee and country store donuts in the morning, we devoured her burritos for lunch, and grilled barbeque chicken with homemade macaroni for dinner. It was so amazing. Thank you Julia!
On occasion throughout the day, Julia would bring Eden up to watch the work from a distance. He, of course, loved it. He frequently talks about how he wants to be like Kyle and run an excavator or like uncle Mike with a chainsaw.
I think the first highlight of the day (besides the sweet fellowship of my brothers) was the take down of the large spruce tree for my 24’ 7 x 7 tie beam in the center bent. All the rest of the 24’ spans I will end up scarf jointing, but this beam is a little more critical. It was pretty cool watching these guys take this down so efficiently. After a little struggle, Kyle’s excavator finally loaded that beast onto the trailer. Cheers abounded as he laid it in place.
The second highlight was the take down of the smallest tree. First Mike, as a professional arborist, put on his climbing gear and worked his way to the top. We had a crew of three guys pulling on the rope from below as he cut the top off. Finally, Casey notched and took down the rest with a little help from the excavator. It was nothing short of ridiculous. And good fun for the end of a long tiring day.
We got the trailers loaded to capacity and only had about a third of what was needed. The plan from here is that Kyle and I will very soon mill what we’ve got and we’ll schedule another work day to get the rest. Next time we will have more hauling capacity so that we can hopefully get the remainder in this second load.
I am so thankful to have such an awesome family. Mike, his brother-in-law Kyle, and Kyle’s brother Casey were so generous to offer their help on this project. I am indebted greatly to these dear brothers and I look forward to helping them fulfill their each of their dreams someday. Thank you, guys. Thank you.
I have often found it beneficial to sketch furniture while examining it. Unlike a photograph, a pencil insists a form be understood to be reproduced. But my sketches don’t always look like my subjects. My failing can be attributed to both my lack of skill and lack of understanding of the subject. I’m not convinced … Read more
We try to keep up with a lot of woodworking blogs here at Highland, and one of our favorites is Chris Schwartz’s blog over on the Popular Woodworking website, where he recently discussed the use of toothbrushes in Canadian woodworking and how they are used a bit differently than in the US. To sum it up, you want to be sure that you know where your toothbrush has been before using it for its normal purpose of keeping your teeth clean.
This technique was demonstrated at one of Chris’s classes at Rosewood Studio in Ontario, Canada, where Chris recently taught his Anarchist’s Toolchest class this past April. Check out the looks of concentration that Hans, one of the students, demonstrates while completing the glue-up of his carcass.
Sadly, this marks the end of this project, but have a few concepts already in mind for the next one. In the meantime, I'm thinking a proper shop tour is long overdue, and it might be the perfect intermission to the next big thing.
Over the years one question I get frequently is in regards to hand plane maintenance. Especially when it comes to what someone should do to keep their newly purchased hand planes from getting ruined.
The folks over at Lee Valley put out a short but sweet video that hits the most important areas of any hand plane that should be taken care of regularly.
Hopefully you’ll find it as helpful as I did!
That's right. Burned in my brain from fifty years ago is a happening event in Central Park. At a time when people were fleeing to the suburbs the parks commissioner (Thomas Hoving) and mayor (John Lindsay) wanted to create events in Central Park to get people back connected to that giant public space. This was when closing the park to cars on weekends was just being tested.
So the park held a "happening" and all around Belvedere Castle groups of young and old people, hippies and princesses, gathered to build their own castles out of found materials. If you want to get young people to imagine what can be done with their own two hands, and how much fun it can be, maybe even, as in my case, burn an indelible image on my brain and help turn me into a maker, let kids make real stuff with real materials.
Back to Saturday. Sub Rosa, a NYC based advertising and promotion company decided to exhibit in the fair for no reason other than it is a good cause, a good idea, and fun. Their booth wasn't some big advert for their company, I doubt if many adults knew what they were about as a company, but it didn't matter. Their booth was a pile of bamboo, some sticks as long as 10 feet, a huge number of kids,
Adults and kids of all ages wandered in grabbed as much bamboo as they wanted, cable ties and built something. House skeletons, ladders, teepee poles, swings, or just more poles on poles. The rules were few, the imagination was massive. By the time we got there the structure was substantial and very very cool.
Blake Dain the organizer of the Bamboo city, said that in addition to doing something fun, they wanted to encourage experimentation with bamboo which in this country (not in Asia) is a very underutilized renewable resource. Sub Rosa originally thought adults would do more of the building, but it was the kids who really seized the day. The exhibit also show how much building is in our nature. We didn't have to tell these kids to build something, they had sticks and cable times, they easily figured out what to do on their own.
Long term what will be the result of this exhibit? Trust me, The more we let kids play with real tools and real materials in a free form way the more we will create makers and woodworkers in the future.
Congratulations Sub Rosa for an inspiring exhibition and a job really, really well done.
I have been traveling the different states in the USA for several months now, teaching and training. I taught two courses last month in the UK New Legacy School at the Penrhyn Castle workshops and that was the fulfillment of our ongoing vision to expand the horizons of woodworking everywhere.This coming week we hold the same two workshops at the Maplewood Center for Common Craft here in Upstate New York. Beyond that there is always much more going on too.
From Local to Global
My two-day introduction to woodworking is much more than the name itself really implies and though I know that for many this course is set to change their lives, to describe it as a life-changing course may seem a little over the top. In reality, this and the upcoming 9-day workshop has actually changed the lives of literally thousands of woodworkers worldwide, so why should I be reluctant to call it anything less.
The Month-long Workshop
In just a few more weeks we will be holding the last month-long workshop we will be holding in the USA. On this course we take a handful of enthusiastic woodworkers with only minimal experience in hand tool woodworking to transform the way they think about and work with wood. It’s hard for some to imagine, but they will build three complex projects from three different wood types. They start first by building a coffee table like this one using solid North American Oak. The table is quite a challenge in that we incorporate the use of dovetails and mortise and tenon joints to create a truly heirloom-quality piece.
The class is limited to 15 people and at the time of posting this we have 10 spaces available. Click here to book.
A Cabinet Makers Tool Chest
The second classic is a tool cabinet maker’s tool chest from Pine or mahogany. In previous years we have made this piece from woods like Eastern White Pine European Redwood and whereas the attendees have a choice between the two woods, we thought some might like the hardwood version and may change its function to be used somewhere else in the home. This is also the piece we will be featuring in the next upcoming series in a couple of weeks time. To find out about our online broadcast go here woodworkingmasterclasses.com and follow the prompt to subscribe, which is free and costs nothing for many featured films that pass on techniques such as how-to-makes and in skills issues.
A Craftsman-style Rocking Chair
The third piece is something of an iconic Arts and Crafts piece that replicates an inspired design I developed from the Craftsman-style furniture era. This is again a piece I see as critical to anyone who wants to master the skills of chairmaking and enter the realms even professional woodworkers find intimidating. This rocking chair is very much a scaleable piece from which the makers can adapt and alter for other chair types such as office and dining chairs.
upcoming schedule is fairly radical. As you know I work hard to pass on my woodworking skills as a generational gift to counter past and current trends that have so undermined the future of young craftsmen and women in the USA and Europe. My sabbatical does not translate into a year off but more a year different. My decisions do affect you and so so I want to appraise you all of the changes we envision so that you can make plans accordingly.
One (maybe two) More Nine-day Foundational Courses this Year – Book Early
There are still spaces available in the June 22-30 Foundation Course in Upstate NY. Click here to book
If the demand is there, we may be able to offer one more nine-day workshop this year. There is always a tendency to wait to book until the last minute, if we do the class it will be in October but in order to make the progress we need to make we must have a cut-off date after the month-long class. Contact us as soon as possible to let us know if this October class will be in demand.
Apprenticing 8 Woodworkers From Around the World
Later this year we will be taking 8 young people under the age of 30 and over 18 years to spend three solid months making about 50 pieces of furniture between us. This series of pieces will go on exhibit in the UK as exemplary works of art created by studying artisans. The goal as always is to enter core realms of real woodworking and furniture making and so we have decided a minimalist path works best for establishing true skill only possible with hand methods of work. We will use one machine only during the three months and a range of different hand tools to convert our stock too useable rough-sawn sizes. We have chosen the Laguna 16” bandsaw from Laguna USA for one of the machines and are considering three UK or European types for a second bandsaw.
Beyond Our Local Reach
We also have other strategies planned for training in other world regions including Africa and India. The vision we have takes much time for planning and this is the reason for some necessary shifts to our short and long term ambitions. Does this mean that we are not continuing our work in the US? Not in the least. We started almost 25 years ago and we still have work to do, but by current necessity classes will be restricted for a season. That said, it does seem that after the July/April Month-long I will not be teaching in the USA for at least 12 months. Our visionary work to progress woodworking on every continent now continues expanding through the different series we film for woodworkingmasterclasses.com. Woodworkingmasterclasses.com has become an essential arm to our efforts in the real woodworking campaign and has enabled us to reach audiences on a much expanded level. Your involvement enables us to make further progress by that support you give and so as we train you in the traditions of hand work, we are able to take what we develop for you and take it to needier continents too.
Because of all this, I plan to teach only this one upcoming month-long workshop as described above, which will be on a first-come first-served basis. If you or anyone you know is interested in this hands-on workshop, please let us know as soon as possible. You can call me directly on my cell phone 518 260 5320 if you have questions, or email Joseph@hisbench.com. Beyond that you can book your bench space directly on the NL website here.
I shot a short video to illustrate the proces.
While I like and appreciate strict reproductions, I’ve always preferred to design my own stuff. How do I design a piece? In the only way I know how. It’s not easy. There are no formulas or rules or ratios. It is by a process I call “saturation and feedback.” Step 1: Absorb everything you can … Read more
My family and I are looking at the end of a very long journey with some real excitement. At the end of this month we close on our new home in LaCrosse. We have basically been "homeless" for several months as we have been searching for the right place at the right price. My parents have been generous and patient and let us live with them while we worked this problem out. It's been a long few months.
We found a nice, three bedroom house on a double lot in an older part of town. Enough room for our family of five to all fit and thrive. As far as I'm concerned the best thing of all . . . the two and a half car garage in the back yard.
I'm moving shop again. You would think I'm getting exceedingly good at it by now.
I've been hitting the graph paper hard in the last few days. Figuring out different configurations of tools, deciding where I want my wood storage to go, and wondering why my wife is insisting that she be able to park her car in "her" half of it. The truth is this is all dreaming and playing around and until I start pushing my workbench through the doors, I won't know for sure where everything will go.
This will be the fifth different studio space I've worked in since I started writing this blog. First was the basement shop in Northern Maine. (1) Then we moved back home to Wisconsin and I basically ended up in a 5'x9' closet at the bottom of our duplex stairs. (2) From there my father offered a significant section of the steel shed in his back yard (3). A space I'm still working out of right now. In between, I moved a small amount of the shop into the dining room of our old apartment for a winter. (4)
This will be the more permanent shop home I've been looking for for a long time and that is an exciting prospect indeed. Something I've been looking for since we left Maine in our rearview to come back home. Almost feels like I'm getting ready to stand on two feet again.
Ratione et Passionis
Years ago I had a shop apron made by CanvasGoods, a small company run by David McMullen. It was my favorite apron, and I wore it all the time and during my first videos with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.
The problem was that McMullen closed down CanvasGoods shortly after that. I was getting so many questions about that apron that I had to stop wearing it – I was tired of answering questions about the apron and explain how you couldn’t buy one.
Then some reader sweet-talked me into borrowing my apron so he could make one like it for himself. That was four years ago. I’m still waiting….
If you ever wanted one of these aprons, the original maker has dug out about 50 or so that were in storage and put them up for sale on eBay for $39.95. If you cannot afford an apron from Artifact Bag Co., these are an outstanding choice.
Act quickly. Once they are gone, they are gone.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites