A Norris ‘A31′ Thumb Plane that nearly graced my shelf before being sold on. Lovely little plane, in the hard-to-find adjustable configuration, with rosewood wedge and front bun. Apologies for the poor-quality pics, (they’re not mine). Plane is 5 1/2″ by 1 1/2″, with iron of 1 1/4″.
Who couldn’t use a little help with creating better furniture designs? I know I struggle with it all the time, which probably explains why all of my pieces look like someone else’s!
For the month of November the folks over at Shop Woodworking have compiled a resource rich bundle full of great articles in the form of digital downloads, and DVDs that will help you to improve your design process. According to the description:
To build better furniture, you first need to understand the basics of drafting and design. We’ve compiled 9 incredible drafting and design resources to help you become the best furniture designer. Once you’ve mastered the programs and techniques that help you create great furniture designs, you’ll discover projects, patterns, and advice from some of the country’s most respected furniture designers and builders.
“Drafting & Design for Woodworkers,” “60 Minutes to Better furniture Design with Frank Strazza,” “Hand Drafting Skill-builder with Bill Rainford,” “Unknown Arts and Crafts Design Sources with Michael Crow,” “Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers with Joe Zeh,” “Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers with Joe Zeh,” “Furniture Design: From Process to Problem-Solving,” “Composing with Wood Grain,” & “Popular Woodworking April 2010″
Nine total items that will become your turn-to resources for creating your next project and everyone after that. Plus if you purchase the bundle, you’re actually saving 50% off the list price of all the items if they were sold separately. Don’t miss out!
Though it might seem counterintuitive, sometimes bigger is better when you are doing fine work with veneer and inlays. A wide chisel provides plenty of reference surface to keep delicate cuts straight and square and plenty of heft to slice effortlessly.
Frank is a good friend of mine, and is a past president of the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association, the greatest woodworking club in the world. He has a pair of terrific articles in the November and December issues of Popular Woodworking Magazine on inlay techniques and building a Federal bowfront table. Check it out.
And, it is true — you can use a big chisel for fine work. Using a small chisel for big work is much more problematic.
|Col. Bala with Family|
Col. CV Bala of Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, is the runner-up in our 100th Milestone contest for his frame and panel door, a masterpiece in construction. Col Bala is perhaps the best equipped woodworker in this country, ever ready to try new equipment, tools and methods of work in his ceaseless pursuit of excellence. He also freely shares his knowledge on woodworking as well as his considerable enthusiasm.
His frame and panel door is an example of superb workmanship and focus on finessing details. It deserves a permanent place in this blog to help and inspire fellow woodworkers in the pursuit of their craft.
Col Bala retired from the Army in 2006 and settled down in Mhow, a military town near Indore. His choice was motivated by several factors. His wife, a Gynaecologist, has a thriving practice in the town and their house is close to their Alma Mater, the Military College of Telecommunications Engineering. "Living close to a Cantonment is sheer bliss", he says.
Col Bala took to woodworking while he was babysitting his son in Delhi, who was in senior school. "Today my son has become an Architect and people wonder what had happened to me", says Col Bala. "I was a hard core programmer and my turf was Software Development. I was about to join Satyam at their Hyderabad HQs as a consultant, when my wife dropped a bomb shell, saying, since my son's education and career took priority, and I have to be stationed at Delhi for the next three years. Women are always very wise. But once the Woodworking bug bit me, things changed. "
Thankfully for our small woodworking community Col Bala did not move to Hyderabad and remains a committed woodworker.
Col Bala explains in his words how he made the door and a frame to go with it:
1. After fiddling with hand tools and power tools for a couple of years, I thought the time had come to test my skills on something of real value. One of my earlier endeavours was making a workbench. That too was a huge task, considering moving all the parts single handed, and assembling was a daunting task. But why did I do it? Well I was enjoying each and every moment of it. This is where I really honed my skills. A large project, risky though, allows you to use a variety of tools and you become proficient in handling them. The best part was even if, there are mistakes, nobody is going to see them and you can always patch it up. I did have few issues in the end, but then it does not bother me and the bench works as it is supposed to.
2. But on the other hand making a door and door frame for our front entrance was a different ball game. Not only it had to look good and flawless, it also had to operate smoothly and had to be real strong. At the outset it appears to be a very easy task, but remember in a door if you do a mistake, it will not operate as desired. There could be too large a gap between the Door and the Door Frame, or the hinges may not sit properly, the joinery has to be strong and you have to ensure the wood does not split over time. One has to cater for the wood movement specially the raised panels. So, necessary gaps have to be ensured for the panel to expand and contract depending upon the weather conditions. Then there is the hardware to be fitted. Especially the automatic door lock has to be precisely put for smooth operation.
3. So here, I am going to pen down the various considerations, which led to the making of this door. Here I am going to make a huge investment; anyway if I mess it up there are always small projects where the material would be put to good use. And I can sell them on Diyable.net. I will be avoiding mentioning dimensions, as this particular door was specific to our doorway. Only the method of construction and design is discussed. You would also notice lot of pictures are missing. That is because I did not make enough efforts to record every detail.
4. I examined the existing door, took measurements of the door, the door frame and the inner wire net door.
5. Having done that, I thought of a design for the door. Here the considerations were, It should look simple, sturdy, and beautiful to look at. I drew a basic design on a sheet of paper and me and my wife sat with google to check out various designs. There were thousands of images. There were elaborate complicated designs. They all looked elegant and beautiful, but I had to consider my skill level. I had to settle for something simple, which I can put together with the tools I had. So I looked at this particular image (Shown below) and Chose the first design. A two panel door with an arch top.
|Door Design Options|
Designing the door
6. Once the design was locked, I spent a little time measuring the doorway and translating the rough work into a sketchup drawing. I watched several videos on the youtube on joinery and how to cut them. This is the design I came up with. So actually what I did was to build the door and the door frame in sketch up including all the joinery ( Though I made some changes in the joinery in the actual construction).
|Door Design in Sketchup|
A. The Door Frame was designed to accommodate a door 1.5" thick on both sides. I also wanted to do away with the traditional Mortise and Tenon joints and instead decided to join it using dovetails.
|Door Exploded View|
B. The Door was to have two raised panels between rails and stiles. The top rail would be arched. The rails would be joined to the stiles with Mortise and Tennon. In fact, I ended up with a haunched double tennons on the top and bottom rails. There are some variations between the drawing and the actual door. In the drawing you would notice in Fig-2, I had made stopped moritise. This was changed during construction to a through mortise, as I got the 4" long 16mm straight router bit.
Selection and Milling of Wood
7. I visited the GNT Market (Guru Nanak Timber Market) in Indore and found a shop selling genuine Burma Teak. Bought a whole tree trunk and had it milled to rough dimensions for the door frame, door stile and rails, and for making the raised panel, Inner wire net double doors. The wood was wet, when I had it cut and not in a suitable condtion for a project. I measured the moisture content and found it had a whooping 27% moisture. So the project was indefinetly postponed, till the wood dried up.
8. It took almost four months for the wood to reach 10% moisture content. Over this period as it was drying, I could see cups and twists forming on the wood. My shop was converted into a kiln and had a air blower on at night and the wood would be brought out to the terrance during the day.
Preparing the stock
9. I took the print out for the plan, and proceeded to mill the stock to sizes. Since the all the wood had been cut to rough dimensions , with large margin, it took a while to straighten the stock and bringing it correct size. I must say the Metabo planer thicknesser, shined through. I employed another hand to help me handle the stock as it was very heavy. Fig 5 shows the sketchup plan, with all the dimensions.
10. It took me three days to completely mill all the parts. I then proceeded to mark all the mortise and tenons. It took me a complete week to carefully cut all the joints. I had used my Dewalt 625 router with a 5/8" router bit to cut the mortises. The photo below shows. The tennons where cut on the table saw and a hand saw. I did not photograph every detail as there was so much dust and I did not want my camera catching all the dust. Some of the important aspects, I did capture. Here on you can see most of the things in photographs.
|Dry Fit of Rails and Stiles|
|Boards glued up to make the panels for the door.|
|Arch cut with a Jig saw for the raised panel.|
Both panels were raised thanks to the Dewalt 625 which did a magnificient job. This time I was really feeling proud of myself.
|Time to glue up: The moment of truth was here. Thankfully the panel fit into the grooves as planned. I had left the door stiles longer to flush cut it later.|
I assembled the door outside on the terrace. Some of my large bar and pipe clamps came in handy. There were some gaps in the Tenon joints. This was corrected with the help of a hand saw. This I had learnt from a local carpenter. You take the hand saw and run it through the gap till you hit the Tenon on both sides. Presto there is a snug fit without any gaps. It is as simple as that. I drawbored all the Tenon to make the joint stronger. For the top and bottom rails there are four pins offset from each other, only two are drawbored.
|The door completed. After the glue dried, I carefully ran the belt sander with a 100 grit Silicon Carbide belt and sanded it smooth. This was a tense moment. One mistake with a belt sander, you had it. Fortunately no gremlins were hiding anywhere.|
Clearly, this is one project anyone should be proud of. Col Bala has executed a difficult project with great finesse and deserves our heartiest congratulations.
Keep it up, Colonel!
13 November 2014
Apparently Brother Cadfael feels we need a nifty dovetail saw for our virtual dovetail toolkit too.
This is modeled on the Kenyon dovetail saw from the Seaton tool chest. The front of the handle is different on the Seaton saw than on most of the “reproduction” Kenyon-patterned dovetail saws I’ve seen.
There are a few details I want to nudge, then I’ll make some patterns. Just for fun, mind.
that is the question I wish to cover here tonight.
It is a well guarded secret that I have a fascination with dovetails. Not enough to measure and analyze them but enough to take a picture of everyone I see. Part of the continuing fascination is the amount of “common knowledge” out there that is not borne out by the historical record. I am hear to say that there are other accepted methods of drawer construction. But you really can use dovetails if you want to.
I had an earlier blog about our friend, The Knapp Joint.
Let’s say that you have a drawer front that extends beyond the drawer box to hide some structural details.
(Note: Click on the below joints to see their parent pieces of furniture)
Actually, it is a sliding half dovetail. Other end of the drawer is conventionally dovetailed.
Or a drawer front with dimensional profile.
Again the sliding half dovetail. A rabbet would also work.
But some work hard and do the same. Like this drawer. Offset to allow for two improbable drawers.
In the above instance, the builder removed half the thickness of the drawer front and cut a half blind dovetail into the edge. Kindly ignore the nail.
Here’s another example of a reduction on a complex shape.
This one is unremarkable but I like it.
A while back, Dom of Two Guys in a Garage (TGIAG) sent me a couple of prototype steel folded backs for my review, which can be seen at this link:
They were good - not perfect, but good. I did end up making a couple saws from the backs they sent:
Well, good news for all of you do-it-yourselfers out there who have been itching to make your own saw, but have backed away because bending or slotting a back was beyond what you wanted to do ... They have just made folded backs available for purchase on their web site.
Not only that - but what they are selling is substantially improved from what they sent me. The profile they are bending is more like the classic profile of the classic era of saws, if not identical to it. And - available in both brass and steel.
They also have split nuts and pre-toothed saw plates available. All reasonably priced besides! I recommend these guys completely.
Check it out!
I’ve had some more questions from readers about axes recently, so time to delve into this subject again. There’s lots of tools you can use; some better, some less-so. But don’t despair – the magic is not in the tools, it comes with practice. You can learn to hew with a crap hatchet, if you can make it sharp.
Here’s an earlier take on the subject – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-endless-look-at-hewing-hatchets/
First off, for joiner’s work, my mainstay – I have shown several times that I like a hatchet that is large, heavy, single-bevel, and curved cutting edge. This one weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. and is about 7 ¾” along its cutting edge. Hard to find. Really hard.
Take note of the relationship of the eye to the cutting edge – for hewing flat stuff, this is the best scenario. Others will work; but this is the best.
What do I use it for? Taking rough split stock and preparing it for planing;
The Kent pattern (below) is one of the most common old ones you will find in both the US and the UK. Elsewhere, there are other similar tools. Nice thing about the Kent design is it’s symmetrical, so lefties can remove the handle, make a new one & insert it from the other side of the head.
Before anyone tells me that Gransfors Bruks makes a carving axe available as leftie or rightie – let me save you some trouble. They offer some of their hatchets right-handed or left-handed; but the eyes on these tools are centered on the head, not shifted over to one side. Their tools’ bevels might be asymmetrical; but these aren’t single-bevel tools with a properly placed eye. I have used one of the Gransfors Bruks Broad Axes – it’s a nice tool, but a double-bevel.
And for some reason, their axes and hatchets have convex bevels; for hewing, I like a flat bevel. That’s the principal complaint about the GB carving hatchet…Drew Langsner writes on the Country Workshops axe page how to fix a GB carving axe’s bevels; (file them flat) too bad they don’t just make it right
I also have a large Wetterlings axe, it’s nice. (called at LN the “broad axe, short handle”) A bit heavier than the GB broad axes; but good at removing a lot of stock… Lie-Nielsen sells a line of their axes in the US; we use some for spoon work when I’m up there. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4085/wetterlings-axes
Some have shown me the Oxhead hatchet, from Austria. It’s a bit clunky; it will work. I would hacksaw off the nail puller/claw. It could be better; but for the money, it’s not terrible.
For the spoon work, my favorite is a Hans Karlsson hatchet I got from Country Workshops years ago. They have a new one now, I have one of these too, and it’s excellent.
I just ordered 2 new hatchets for spoon work; one from Drew and one from Robin Wood. I’ll let you know when they get here. Some readers have reported success at the German ebay site for old hatchets. A gamble if you’re shipping to another country, but they go for reasonable prices. I like to see old tools before I buy them, but that’s getting harder to do. So I wouldn’t want to pay a lot for a hatchet that way…
Here’s more, some of which is repeats.
Casting about for additional resources to corroborate the design and construction decisions I'm making can be difficult. Often I have to tease the details out of a dozen varied other sources, other times I have to make an educated guess. But often I the other resources I find are like little Lewis Carol's rabbit holes and they threaten to swallow me up in an afternoon of distraction.
Today I found one page that nearly distracted the whole project. It's a surviving Miniature from the Turin-Milan Book of Hours created around 1420 - 1425. A book of hours is a devotional book, illustrating specific scenes or lessons from the bible In the days of yore they were often beautifully illuminated (fancy artful calligraphy) and contained miniatures (illustrated depiction of a certain passage). It's a depiction of the birth of John The Baptist and I think there's enough information in this one page to write an entire project furniture book. Let's take a closer look.
Here's the full page, but let's look a little closer at the larger top portion that depicts the birthing bed chamber.
I count up eight different builds within this one frame. That's enough for a book! Let me show you.
First there's this obviously central aumbry. It's fantastic with the details and the carvings, It looks nearly as tall as the woman standing next to it. You can see the hardware and even tell which way the grain is running. I may have to build this piece eventually anyway.
Next obvious is the hutch chest on the left hand side. I have built one of these before and I plan to build more in the future, possibly even offering them as a class.
That's just two, but its a really great start.
The woman in the green dress is seated on a triangle shaped stool with a cushion. I can tell it's a triangle shaped stool because there's another one all the way to the right.
A good depiction and evidence of the existence of this style of chair back to early 1400's in France. Standing before the chair I believe is a distaff for the drop spindle spinning of flax fibers into linen thread.
In the back doorway is a Gandalf looking figure sitting upon a cushioned chest and reading his signed copy of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. These low boxes can be found in the furniture record. To Gandalf's left looks to be another triangle stool.
Above the door is a cool knick-nack shelf.
Last, but not least, there's a turned bowl and wooden spoon on the floor in the foreground.
1: The aumbry
2. The hutch chest
3. The three legged stool
4. The distaff
5. Gandalf's chest seat
6: The wall shelf
7: The turned bowl
8: The wooden spoon
That doesn't count the obvious objects like the bed, which is lacking in details other than the textiles that cover it, and what is undoubtedly another chest like Gandalf's under a red cloth to the left of the doorway. Off the top of my head the skills you can cover in this book starts with: mortise and tenon joinery, tongue and groove joinery, simple carvings, spindle turning, face plate turning, and spoon carving
Maybe another time.
I have to remind myself of the mission at hand and keep my head above water or things like this will carry me out with the tide and I'll never finish.
Ratione et Passionis
Over the past few weeks I’ve received several nice emails (even some from family) asking me where the rant-driven, vitriolic, cynical version of my woodworking blog has gone. It’s still here, somewhere. But the truth is that I’ve stopped reading nearly every “professional” woodworking blog, and when I do happen to read a professional blog, those readings have been few and far between. In other words, I haven’t read anything supremely stupid lately, at least not stupid enough to piss me off. So that’s the answer.
Don’t worry, this has happened before. I know sooner or later I will stumble upon something a “professional” has written, it will be really stupid or condescending, or both, and I will write a post about it. In fact, I can guarantee it. It is an inevitability. So please don’t despair; I’m still here.
Working on the toolbox build
Yesterday and today we filmed making the toolbox for the start to the New Year series to start 2015 with. I have a feeling that this could be as popular a series as any we have done so far and as far as conservation goes it’s important to me as it means hundreds of them will be made over the coming months. If you follow me as I build this toolbox you will see that the patterns used offer a simplicity and ease in the making that will inspire you to want to build one too. This toolbox is really more useful for storage and transporting tools and that’s where this type truly comes into its own. The functional size makes it neat and useful and of course the insides can be customised to the tools you use for different aspects of your personal woodworking. I think it’s the kind of box you might want to make two or three of so that the tools are indeed totally accessible. I have more toolboxes, chests and so on than I care to number because of the number of tools I have collected through the years, but soon we will work out how we want to let one or two of them goto new homes.
The filming went well because of the behind the scenes guys that do indeed make it all happen. It’s a workout for me to take off 1/4” from 12 square feet of wood even if it’s pine but exercise is of course good for me and it gets my heart pumping for an hour or two every day. Though I do exercise diligently, I find it boring, but when it’s work related I can muscle for two or three hours and feel as though I am accomplishing something so much more.
My stock is now milled to thickness and that generally means that I planed and jointed all of my boards by hand, planed the edges and endgrain square with scrub planes, a #4 smoother and a #5 jack. I did use some wooden planes and of course these are much lighter and easier to use than metal-soled planes anyway.
In the morning I will lay out the boards for dovetailing the corners using different methods for each corner to make the videos more interesting and to show some of the historical methods used that made dovetailing the corners of a box like this so fast. The fast method means one corner will take about 20 minutes so we’ll show how that is done; and, no, it’s not the coping saw method.
As I said, we will be unpacking the methods and the madness behind making strong yet lightweight and transportable toolboxes. Weighing in at around 12.5 Kilos (30 lbs), this box is one of the most useful because even when filled with tools it can usually be lifted by two people.
Highland is selling large dividers and I got one this week to try it out. I think it is a test, because everybody knows that the only thing you can do with these things is draw, in this case, a very big circle. The pair I have opens to 24-1/4 inches for a circle diameter of 48-1/2 inches and that is the next to small size. The big one opens to 50 inches for a 100 inch (that is over 8 feet, Ralph!) circle. They come with no pencil holder on the end, just two really sharp points, but you can tape a pencil, a pen, a very large crayon or a six inch paint brush to the end of the leg and you are right where you want to be.
I kept trying to think what I might use these things for and I started to do some research. I suppose you could use them to do the navigation for a very large ship. If you need to lay out rafters on a roof, you could step the 24 inch spacing for marking. I remember in geometry learning how to set off a perpendicular to a line with only a divider. When we lay out batter boards for a house, we could use this to make sure the house is square, though a 3, 4, 5 triangle would probably be better. If I were a cooper, I could draw the top of my barrel with this tool. If I were a wheelwright, I could step off the circumference of the felloes in my wagon wheel to see what length the steel rim needs to be. How about painting a sign for the Lottery advertising a $100,000,000 prize? How about making a decorative sunburst? How about an arch for a kitchen entry inside your house? You can do a One-Centered Arch., a Two-Centered Gothic Arch, a Three-Centered Basket Handle Arch, a Four Centered Tudor Arch, a Segmental Arch, a Pointed Segmental Arch, a Pseudo Three Centered Arch, and a Pseudo Four Centered Arch, all with dividers and a square. How about an eyebrow dormer for your house? How about a Traditional Tangent Handrail?
Now if you want to see what a divider can really do in construction and woodworking, get yourself a copy of “By Hand and Eye” by Walker and Tolpin from Lost Art Press. Note the cover imprint if you want a sense of what this book is all about. The main premise of the book is proportion. Our eye moves to proper proportion and we can learn to see good design in furniture and columns and buildings. It is amazing when you are able to quantify what you are seeing in design and much of it only requires dividers. Go to Section III of the book and learn a huge amount about constructing elements with a straight edge and a compass/divider. You can also go to George Walker’s web site to see animated constructions of the elements. Join with the ancient Egyptians and the Masons and the Greeks and the Romans and the classical furniture makers of England and France and start using these ancient and wonderful tools.
Now I know you can design all this stuff in Sketch-Up, but let me see you find a printer big enough to make yourself a Four Centered Tudor Arch pattern to trace on the sheetrock for your kitchen wall. You can do it all with one of these honking compaii plus a straight edge. Besides, what kind of fun would it be to do it on a computer ?!!
I might even start a woodworking book publishing company and use it for a logo.
And you thought I was stumped.
I am pleased to announce that “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill has arrived in our Indianapolis warehouse and is shipping out to customers as I type this.
Our warehouse has set up a special line in its packaging department to fulfill “Calvin Cobb.” If you ordered your copy before today it will be in the mail to you by Friday. (Administrative note: Some customers will receive two notifications that their book has shipped. Please do not be alarmed. You will receive the correct number of books – not twice as many as you ordered. It was a small computer snafu.)
If you haven’t yet ordered “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” you have 17 more days to do that and receive free domestic shipping. After Nov. 29, 2014, shipping will be about $7. Also good to note: Orders made now will make it to their destination for Christmas.
The book is $29 and can be ordered here.
This morning I drove the 100 miles to our Indianapolis warehouse to pick up some copies and it was well worth the drive. The book – every bit of it – is impressive. The matte dust jacket looks fantastic, the interior printing job is crisp and even the cloth headbands on the spine match the cloth cover and internal stamping. I think you will be impressed with the physical product.
As those of you who have already read the electronic version of the book know, you know the story is great fun to read.
Thanks to everyone who worked on this crazy project – from Roy who signed on for a wild ride, to editor Megan Fitzpatrick, designer Linda Watts and cover illustrator Jode Thompson.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. For our international customers and those who buy our books through other sources, such as Lee Valley Tools, Henry Eckert and Lie-Nielsen Toolworks (to name a few). Their books are en route, but we have no information on when they will arrive or when those vendors will begin selling them.
Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!