For the most part I try to keep this blog focused on artisanry and homesteading, but every now and then I veer off course. This is one of those times.
My post-adolescent life has seen me plagued with sleeping problems, mostly that I had difficulty falling asleep when I was supposed to be going to sleep. Three or four hours of tossing and turning was not uncommon, one or two hours was the norm. (I did get a lot of extra reading and writing done, though.) One thing that helped me a fair bit was to listen to the spoken word as I was trying to get drowsy. For some reason music did not work as well, so from the time of my teens I would listen to radio to sop up the extra brainwaves or something.
In recent years late night radio has increasingly irritated me, mostly the 1:1 ratio of programming to non-programming like commercials, news, promos, public service announcements, etc., so instead I’ve switched to downloading old-time radio shows especially of the detective variety, which work like a charm. One delightful recent discovery was a contemporary Toronto radio theater troupe that creates hilarious over-the-top homages the the hard-boiled detective genre, in the character of Black Jack Justice and his sidekick, Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective. Though I am no longer plagued by sleepless nights, the habit is hard to kick and at times I still find myself listening and laughing out loud as I drift off to sleep.
Totally unrelated, a biographical documentary has been released recently for my long time friend, economist Dr. Walter E. Williams. I have not yet seen it but will soon, but it is unlikely that I will be surprised after three decades of camaraderie and lengthy dinner conversations chewing the iconoclastic philosophical fat. I am proud to call him “friend.”
Tomorrow, back to woodworking. I have about 20 blog posts in the can, and just have to parcel them out as the final grind for Manuscript Studley takes control of my life for a fortnight.
You can still sign up for a class I am teaching at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking November 8 & 9 (changed from November 7, 8 & 9)
The class is going to be an open class where you can bring whatever you want to work on. If you have a particular project you are working on or have dreamed of starting a certain carving, bring that. If you want me to bring project ideas, I can do that also. This is open to beginning and experienced carvers. Flexibility is the key!
These are always fun classes to teach, as you just never know what people will bring. It keeps me on my toes!
With Halloween just around the bend I’m reminded of one of my favorite haunts (no pun intended) for thinking about design – old graveyards. The monuments in all shapes and sizes are like a lexicon of design, sort of a mini museum without the alarms. My last blog post had a photo of an obelisk shaped town marker in Nantucket which inspired Dave Fisher to send me these obelisk
photos from a nearby Cemetery. I had to grin inside at the thought that I’m not the only one strolling through the democracy of the dead, trying to keep my designers eye alive. Dave crafts free form wooden bowls which are featured in the November 2014 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. He commented “To my eye, the most beautiful obelisk in the entire cemetery is the Mathers obelisk. Much of the reason, I believe, has to do with the base (plinth?). The quickening curve of the base roots it firmly to the ground, then leads the eye on a ride up to the obelisk itself. There is still a clear indication of where the obelisk itself begins, but without jarring the eye on the way up. The whole piece is organic, much like a tree rising from the ground. ”
I concur with Dave’s educated eye and would add that several other examples, the Roberts and Packard obelisks, look like they took a standard monument and plopped an obelisk on top of them. Not certain I ever noticed that before until they were side by side with the Mathers example. One is a unified organic composition, the others are just combinations of parts. There’s a powerful lesson illustrated here. How often does a design or a work of art fail because it’s a busy mechanical assemblage of parts rather than an organic flowering? I’m interested in your thoughts as you compare these different interpretations of a design.
George R. Walker
I am finally – finally – getting my butt in gear on “The Furniture of Necessity,” building the projects for my next book.
The most recent project has been this aumbry. What’s an aumbry? If you don’t follow my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine, here’s the shorthand. An aumbry is an early case piece used to store food, books or anything of value.
You might argue that aumbries are only for holding the sacrament in a church, but you’ll have to talk to Victor Chinnery about that. (See also: Misnomers, Bible Boxes.) My interest in the aumbry stems from the fact that the form evolved into many pieces that we use today: bookcases, cupboards, armoires and the lowly kitchen cabinet.
Oh, and aumbries are dang fun to build.
In essence, an aumbry is nailed together and features some gothic tracery on the front. The tracery is not merely decorative. It allows air to circulate inside the carcase.
The piercings were covered with cloth on the inside of the case to keep the bugs away. My guess (and the guess of others) is that the cloth would have been undyed linen, which is made from flax.
This aumbry was made from off-the-rack quartered and rift oak. The finish is boiled linseed oil, a wee bit of varnish and brown wax. The hardware is from blacksmith Peter Ross. If you are going to build one of these for yourself, you might want to drop Peter a line now to get in line for the lock, H-hinges and nails needed to build the piece.
All the hardware is secured by clenched wrought nails. It’s a fun way to install hardware (if you like driving while blindfolded).
I haven’t installed the linen yet; I’m waiting until after a photo shoot next week. While I wait, I’ve been sketching up the drawings for the plate for this project and other plates in “The Furniture of Necessity.” The engraver is going to make these look very nice. So ignore my pixels.
The next project for “The Furniture of Necessity:” Welsh chairs. I can’t wait.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity, Projects
It was a great weather weekend for the outdoor event that spanned a large area of downtown Decatur. It was estimated that over 25,000 folks came through the city of Decatur during the 2 days of the faire. Mark said the kids had a grand time and he experienced a “first-time” event as a wood turner and demonstrator when he knelt down to help a 6 yr old girl put an eye hook onto an ornament that Mark had just turned. He was showing the turned ornament to her and apparently the fried dough she had just consumed did not sit well in her stomach and she “tossed” the dough as they say, just missing Mark by inches. Mark has decided he now has another reason to wear a face mask shield at demonstrations. He has also found a new use for wood shavings!
Other than the one upset tummy, the weekend was a good time for all.
Here is some more information on the Atlanta event: http://makerfaireatl.com/
I thought that this was an interesting question and would help everyone better understand some added complexities for all edge tools actually. It’s a well thought through question and Ed is a friend of mine.
Letter from Ed
I was going to post this on your blog, but was afraid it might confuse someone and lead to disaster, so I’ll just put it in an email:
I’ve always wondered why a router plane bladed couldn’t be sharpened “upside down.” That means, have the top of the blade flat (no bevel) and put the bevel on the bottom, which one sharpens by mounting the blade in the router flush with the base and moving the router over a stone as if trying to rout the stone. Yes, this would give zero relief angle, but since the router is really acting like a paring chisel, why wouldn’t this work? You’d always come out parallel to the sole, which would be good for accuracy.
It’s a mega amount of work for little change. It’s really not a problem to hone the bevel of a regular router but you need to set it up first and so I wrote this blog to address the issue. Firstly, you are right, putting the bevel on the underside would work fine but not really without relief. One key problem I see is that most often out intent is to put say a 30-degree bevel on a cutting edge but often add a few degrees unintentionally when and if we strop. That’s enough to put the heel before the toe and so negate the cutting edge from actually reaching the wood and causing the bevel to more ride the wood rather than cut. This is a very common problem with 151-type spokeshaves too, by the way.
With regards to relief. With the best intentions in the world a paring cut just will not happen. When you sharpen any edge tool, the immediate response of the tool edge to the wood is a minute, most often indiscernible fracture right along the fragile edge. This thin line of broken edge happens almost without pressure, but, regardless, the edge does edge fracture. At this stage the edge fracture is very long and narrow and the edge is still sharp enough to cut wood. Subsequent edge fracture continues throughout further and subsequent use and eventually you must sharpen up again.
We tend to see the edge as being worn away like water washes over rocks but that’s not only what happens. The edge does indeed fracture into ever increasing sized craters and this is what the dulled edge really becomes. That being so, the two faces forming the cutting edge are now jaggedly cratered rather than the crisp arête. This then is the reason we inevitably elevate a chisel to compensate for edge fracture on the flat surface edge after only a few minutes of use depending on the wood being worked and the way the chisel itself is worked in the wood also.
Routers are really worked hard in much of the work and the more you can get in prep work from the chisel the easier it will be on your router, it’s cutting iron and of course the less sharpening you will need to do to the router cutter too. Now, that said, there is no reason a steeper top flat cannot replace the bevel and a relief of say a few degrees put to the underside. The Preston and Veritas routers both have a shallower presentation to the underside of the cutter so that would be just fine. Just as an aside and another note of interest that somewhat proves my theory is that if you take one light pass, even the lightest pass, along and on the tips of saw teeth as if slightly topping or jointing the teeth with a flat file, the saw just will not cut at all. Even though the meeting edges are indeed sharp, without the relief of a back bevel they don’t cut.
I have received several requests for the dry powdered pigments I use and having mentioned them in my forth coming book, I decided to offer them for sale as a set.
Black Iron Oxide, Red Iron Oxide, Yellow Ocher, Burnt Umber, & Zinc White.
These are the traditional pigments from the nineteenth century and earlier, zinc oxide is substituted for white lead, as some people won’t allow the sale of lead for some reason.
All natural earth pigments ground 900 fine, they are non-fugative and will not fade. They are compatable with any medium: linseed oil and turpentine, shellac or spirit based varnish, oil based varnish [to make enamel], and water based finishes such as gum arabic or for distemper [hide glue size], etc.
Five one ounce (by weight) glass jars with metal lids, they are available here.
With their elegant lines, angles and smooth curves some chairs look wonderful in a room simply as a piece a sculpture. This isn’t one of those chairs. This one is square and very plain, but then that’s what attracted me to it. When I first caught sight of it in a photo it appeared so wrong that I thought it had to have something right.
The design stems from a knowledge of building settles and all of the joints are nice and familiar mortice and tenons, cut in square sections and connected at 90 degrees. This is what makes the design so tempting to try out, and I love the simplicity of the back which is merely nailed on. For my first prototype I’ve kept closely to the proportions of the first example I saw, because I thought it looked odd which I liked.
With a lack of sophistication or beauty this chair needs to do well when it comes to function and so far I’d say it’s looking positive. When I first sat down on it I have to point out that the initial thought that struck me was that it felt that I was sat on a commode. So naturally that meant it was very comfortable, and more importantly it was a dry fit and was holding me well, so it’s impressively strong.
It feels secure and comfortable to sit in, and it may be a nice to add some simple upholstery to make up for that very flat seat – a loose cushion would be ample. For the finish Helen has some plans to get it painted. The overall feel of the piece is one of utility and very hard wearing and I’d say it would be well placed in a boot room or similar. Predictably it was a very fast, fun build.
I’m going make a few more examples after giving this one a good test out for strength. I know I’d like to play around with the proportions a bit as it doesn’t look quite right to me yet, and I’ll have a think about any other improvements it could benefit from.
Read all about Frank’s dresser project progress. As I mentioned in my last blog, I had to make myself another dovetail marker because I left mine at the school shop. Making a dovetail marker is not too hard, but I have chosen to make it a little harder by using a tapered sliding dovetail to […]
I bought one of the new Veritas bevel-down planes to get familiar with its parts – I’m quite sure I’m going to see a lot of these planes at woodworking schools and in the hands of students in the coming months. Overall, it’s a great plane, and I have a full review coming up shortly in Popular Woodworking Magazine. One of the little difficulties I had with the plane at […]
The post How Best to Adjust the Cap Iron on a Veritas Plane appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
I can’t help it, I love options! I keep saying it over and over, and amazingly they keep coming along.
Once again the folks at Shop Woodworking haven’t let me down. It’s not just one, not two, but a handful of woodworking value packs available right now.
Bargain packages filled with woodworking information on joinery, projects, techniques and more, combining books, CDs, DVD and magazine downloads. Chances are, whatever you’re looking for, it’s probably on sale!
Head over to Shop Woodworking and checkout what’s available and save big money before they’re gone. Plus, save 25% off with Offer Code Mattsbasement25 (expires 12/31/2014.)
I am pleased to announce that we’ve signed the site contract for Woodworking in America 2015. The dates? Sept. 25-27. The place? Let’s have a little fun with that for a few days. • The city has a major league baseball team. • It is the most populous city in the state. • There are many municipal fountains. • The state flag is predominantly red, white and blue. • The […]
As mentioned earlier, I just got back a few weeks ago from a trip to the Galapagos Islands with stops in Quito and Otavalo, Ecuador en route. Otavalo is a town of about 90,000, seventy miles north of Quito. With an elevation or 8,500 feet, one could safely consider it to be in the mountains.
We arrived in Otavalo early evening on Thursday, had dinner and went to bed. On Friday, we hired a small van with driver and visited a few notable local weavers. In the afternoon, we visited a local town that specialized in leather goods. It was an interesting day. Not activities I might have chosen, but it’s not always about me.
Saturday is market day. We started the day by visiting the animal market. I won’t try to describe it other than saying there are no USDA inspectors involved. Use your imagination. Ya, it was like that. Not quite enough to make me a vegetarian and it won’t as long as I visit only every ten years.
When we were done there, it was back to town for “the market”. The market engulfs the square downtown and sends tentacles down several side and main streets. Much of the merchandise looked like much of the other merchandise. To me. Woven art, purses, carved figures, some paintings. Stuff I am not looking to buy. My wife took her two friends on the grand tour. The other couple went their own way looking for a wooden flute (him) and at all the woven art (her). Once again I was left to entertain myself.
I started walking in search of an antiques shop or a furniture store and found neither. I did find one small shop about the size of a supply closet and not as well-lit. It was packed with locals that look surprised and vaguely annoyed to see me there. But they were very polite. Discretion being the better part of tourism, I left. And kept walking.
What I did notice was the doors. There were lots of different doors. Interesting doors. It is a city with all blocks solidly packed with buildings. Or one big building. I couldn’t always tell where one ended and the next began. Retail on the first level and offices and residential on the upper floors. There mustn’t be a strong zoning office in that there didn’t seem to be a uniform color palate.
Another thing I noticed was ready availability of funerary supplies. I must have seem six funeral supply stores.
And I found their dollar store. Ecuador use the US dollar as currency. Their have some of their own coins but use US paper money. So, a dollar store really is a dollar store.
While walking, I learned you can make a ladder with bamboo poles, a saw, a chisel, some hardwood scraps and a bit of wire.
Did I mention there were doors?
Lots of doors.
Click HERE to see the entire set of my walkabout pictures. It is worth a look.
Have I ever lied to you…
I have a new monthly newsletter that I send out at the beginning of every month. It lists the recent lessons that have been added to my online school and gives a preview of the lessons that will be added the next month. It also has a free template that you can download, tips and tricks on carving techniques, my class schedule, and any news or changes happening at the school.
You can also sign up for a weekly e-mail that announces when a new video is added to the school.
Here is the link to sign up.
My two-week-long trip to make on-site exhibit arrangements and a final examination of the Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench began with a long day’s drive from the Virginia mountains to Cincinnati. I remain convinced that Google Maps employs aspiring NASCAR drivers to ascertain driving times.
About an hour out of Cincy I drove through a storm cell that almost certainly contained a tornado or two, or so I deduced from the building parts flying past me on the road. I’ve driven through rain so intense that I could not see the road in front of me, but this was the first time I have ever been in rain so fierce that I could not see the road beside me. I pulled into a gas station as soon as I could see well enough to navigate, but immediately noticed two things. First, the gas pumps were scattered around the lot, some on top of cars. Second was the unmistakable smell of gasoline. I moved on as soon as I could get turned around.
As I write this I’m in Fort Mitchell visiting Chris Schwarz for the evening, reviewing the recently returned page proofs for the Roubo l’Art du Menuisier Book of Plates and working through some of the details for the soon-to-be-submitted manuscript for VIRTUOSO: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley. We spent a fair bit of time discussing Chris’ vision for the physical manifestation of the latter. To tell you the truth I am ambivalent about some of these details; I just want the book to be as compelling as Lost Art Press can make it. Given their track record, I have nothing to worry about in that regard.
A special treat was to be a fly on the wall as Chris and Megan Fitzpatrick discussed an upcoming PopWood article (November, I believe) about a cabinet with some spectacular Gothic tracery Chris is finishing.
And I cannot deny the little tremor of pleasure I experienced when noting this image.