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Today I decided to post about two very recently completed planes. A shooting board plane and a 650-55 "J" style smoothing plane.
This is a version of the 10-238SBP, actually it's an 11-38SBPW. I decided to put a 2.25" wide iron in this plane and in order to keep good visual proportions I made the plane 11" long in lieu of the standard 10 1/4". I like this plane a lot. These features, plus the Macassar Ebony infill added even more mass to a plane that already possessed quite a bit.
Because this customer already has a Winter Smoother with Macassar ebony and a patina'd finish on the brass parts I applied the patina'd finish on the brass parts of this plane as well.
I was so taken with this plane's performance that I may adopt this configuration as the standard infill configuration Shooting Plane. We'll see.
I've not made a 650-55 "J" style plane in quite a while. The wood in this plane is from a Walnut crotch that someone gave me at a Lie-Nielsen event in Atlanta several years ago. It was dry and ready to use when time for making this plane came around.
If more figured domestic woods like this were commonly available I would probably use less of the exotic species.
I enjoyed watching the Masters Golf tournament last weekend. The Masters is a southern tradition like no other. The winner, Bubba Watson is a UGA graduate. If you live in the south and know about the interstate school rivalry between UGA and Georgia Tech, you would understand that this is actually quite a funny circumstance.
In jokes and jabs that Georgia Tech students and alumni tell about UGA people the subject is almost always referred to as "Bubba". So to have a UGA graduate leading the Masters on Saturday night it just couldn't be a better circumstance to have his actual name be "Bubba".
Matt Kuchar is a Georgia Tech graduate and he was on the leader board as well after play on Saturday was finished. He's seems such a refreshing and nice young man I certainly would have enjoyed seeing him win the most prestigous tournament in golf. He plays well at Augusta National so maybe there's a Green Jacket in his future. Of course if I could have hypothetically picked one golfer to win the the Masters this year it would have been Fred Couples. I was pulling for the "Old Guy" in the field.
We have a close friend that is a graduate of Georgia Tech. She often speaks about the fact that women are in the minority at Ga. Tech. The joke among the girls that attend Ga. Tech is "the odds are good, however the goods are odd", referring to the studious nature of the male students at Ga. tech.
Of course this is all in good fun and this was hardly a college golf tournament. Julie and I had the pleasure of attending the Masters in 1986, the year Jack Nicklaus won his final Masters tournament. It was an experience I will never forget.
We could use some more work space in our kitchen and the island is the solution for that problem.
I looked at a couple of different ideas for the top of the island and I even went to Ikea to look at their solid wood countertop materials. They were okay but frankly I was underwhelmed and I really wanted something thicker than 1.5" for the top of the island.
I don't live close to a hardwood supplier that would have 10/4 stock to choose from. I did the next best thing and called my friend Jon Fiant. He doesn't live far from Peach State Lumber in Atlanta and he frequents their warehouse on a pretty regular basis. I asked Jon to check out their 10/4 red maple inventory on his next visit and told him the rough dimensions I was hoping to achieve on the top. Jon is a custom woodworker and also works at a large millwork shop. He certainly has the experience to act as my personal lumber shopper.
A couple of days later I got a call from Jon. He was in the warehouse at Peach State and had already scoped out 2 boards of 10/4 red maple. One was 6 3/4" wide and 11 feet long and the other was 7 1/2" wide and 12 feet long. I was hoping for an island top at least 20" wide and about 5 1/2 feet long so I knew these boards should yield the top with some left over.
2 days later I sent my youngest son on a trip up to Jon's to fetch the boards home. I knew handling the 10/4 boards was going to be physically taxing and my eldest son and family were due in for a week long visit. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have my son Daniel help me with the heavy lifting of these boards. Don't get me wrong I wasn't taking advantage of Daniel's presence, he was a willing participant and actually quite excited by the prospect of helping me with this task.
With the boards cut into pieces approximately 6 feet long we jointed one face and the edges. The edges needed to be refined with a jointer plane in order to get an exact fit and flat glue up. There were two joints in the glue up. We made them one at a time wiping away the excess glue.
The next day we were faced with the dilemma of how to process the top surface of the glued up blank. I explained to Daniel that we really had 3 choices. We could do it by hand, but I don't really have a jack plane set up for heavy material removal, we could travel to Bo' Child's shop in Barnesville and see if he would run it thru his Martin planer, or we could build a router sled and do the rough removal with that tool. We were both intrigued with the idea of building the router sled so we found what we needed in my wood storage area to cobble together two accurate rails and enough birch plywood for the sled. Couple hours later we were ready to surface the top of the glue up.
The router sled worked quite well and after two passes we were ready to work the surface with hand planes.
Daniel cut the top to length with a hand saw. A couple of years ago I was in the NWA showcase in Saratoga Springs, NY. Adam Cherubini was there by himself setting up his bench in his booth space and I sent Daniel over to lend him a hand. He also helped Adam with a computer issue related to the camera he uses to display a closer look at his hand work. After that issue was resolved I looked over to see Adam giving Daniel a sawing lesson. He spent a while with Daniel showing him the in's and out's of using a hand saw. That lesson cam in handy for Daniel while he was cross cutting a 20" wide piece of 2 5/8" thick maple.
Daniel is a quite capable young man. He worked in an internship program with the SCA (Student Conservation Association). Daniel would travel with a group into the wilderness building hiking trails and if they encountered a water way they built bridges out of what was there in the forest to be used for materials. A person becomes adept at building something out of nothing with simple hand tools under those conditions. It's hard to put a value on those type experiences in a young man's life. Working in a well equipped shop was a piece of cake for Daniel.
Daniel and I took turns traversing across the blank at a diagonal. I would plane one diagonal and then would pass the jointer plane over to Daniel and he would plane the opposite diagonal across the board. We continued this process until we were taking shavings all the way across the board and then we made several passes down the length.
We used a similar system with the smoothing plane. I would plane half way across down the length and then hand the plane over to Daniel on the other side of the bench and he would continue from the middle to his edge. We basically divided the work in half and soon we had a very nicely hand planed maple panel.
This was the perfect situation for a young man to learn about hand planing. We certainly had a great deal of it to do. He didn't have to achieve the learning curve of sharpening and fettling a plane, all he had to do was to use a plane in well fettled condition. He also had an experienced person to help him during the process. It was an ideal situation for learning about using these tools.
The next day I stood the blank on end in my leg vise and cleaned up the ends of the blank.
Later that day I broke all the sharp edges and applied a generous coat of tung oil finish. The next day I applied another coat. The weather was nice both days so I positioned a window fan in front of the open front door to keep the shop well ventilated for this process.
Daniel lives in Vermont so we don't get to spend a lot time together and in this case it was the difference in tacking a labor intensive job by myself or having the opportunity to spend some quality shop time with Daniel. It was a win, win for everyone, plus the fact that we will end up with a kitchen island.
Now, what to do about a base for this hefty chunk of maple?
When the dye was quite dry I applied an oil pigmented stain. I typically am not a fan of Minwax stains. I think they're cheaply made and don't contain as much pigment as a professional wiping stain. In this case I thought this might work to my advantage in trying to achieve an aged look on the pine. The color used was Provincial. In the picture below you will see the result. It was browner than I imagined it would be and at this point I figured worst case I'll have to paint the thing. So I went forward confidently.
I knew a couple coats of shellac would make a big difference. To this point the only dramatic color change was with the Transtint dye. This is as it should be. I sprayed all the parts with two coats of a 1 1/2 pound cut of garnet shellac. This toned down some of the brown from the stain and gave the parts an amber cast as you can see in the picture below.
The next evening I lightly sanded the parts with 400 grit sandpaper and rubbed them down with maroon Scotchbrite. I then applied a light glaze of a Sherwin Williams fruitwood stain. The next day I sprayed the parts with 2 more coats of garnet shellac.
For a piece that will hang on the wall and not see hard use, garnet shellac is a great finish. If you get heavy handed with this material it will window pane around the edges. This is why I like a lighter cut. I let the shellac cure for 3 days.
The rub out process was simple. I lightly wet sanded the parts using soapy water and 400 grit paper. I then rubbed the surfaces down thoroughly with #0000 steel wool. I wiped off the residue and then went over the parts with Old English scratch cover for dark woods. This colors any residue left that might show up a light color when thoroughly dry. Installing the frame for the movement and cross shelf for mounting the coil gong was fiddly and I didn't take pictures of that process. The Hermele movement is a pendulum driven 14 day movement that chimes the hours and once on the half hour. I think this is very appropriate for a Shaker styled clock.
The end result did not end up being the finish I pictured in my mind when I started. If I were to repeat the process there are some things I would do differently. However I'm very pleased with the results and consider the end result a happy accident. We learn as we build. I was once told "when you quit learning, you start dying". I prefer learning.
In summary, the yellow base color plays nicely with the amber and reddish color of the shellac and the other color steps. It gives the piece nice visual activity and I've actually used this same honey amber dye on walnut and then wiped it with a dark walnut stain. It worked well and was a very interesting look. I'm of the opinion that garnet shellac gives the piece a look that clear lacquer or other top coats could never achieve.
If you think this was a very involved finishing process you're correct. I don't think the effort required to build the piece deserved any less.
Recently I've taken the time to build a clock that's been on my list of "Things I Want to Build". I've wanted to build a Shaker wall clock for some time now but I didn't want to build the clock that is the mainstream clock you've seen in hundreds of woodworking magazine articles. I decided to create a piece of my own design.
Many build Shaker styled pieces because they think of them as easier pieces to accomplish because of the simplicity. I think nothing could be further from the truth. You can't get away with bad design just because the piece is simpler in detail. In fact just the opposite is true. When the piece is simpler in scope the proportions and the exactness of build become paramount in achieving an acceptable result. A white elephant is a white elephant no matter what the style. Everyone has made a few white elephants in their time as a woodworker and that's when we learn how important the overall design element becomes in building any piece of furniture.
Pleasing proportions are pleasing proportions and no matter how well joined or fitted, things that are out of the scope of pleasing proportions are just awkward to the eye.
In this case I've used the design of the simple one door Shaker cupboard. I've made a couple pieces based on this form, This clock being the most recent endeavor. It couldn't be simpler really. Two sides made from two pieces glued into a 90 degree corner or side, a top, a bottom, a simple door and an apron board for visual interest. In this case I also included pine back boards aligned with splines in lieu of tongue and grooves. The splines serve the same purpose as the tongue and grooves and only required one milling setup. Easy Peasy if you think out the process before you proceed.
As more of your work is accomplished with hand tools you tend to take the time to think thru processes in order to ease the burden. One liberating thing about working with acquired skill and hand tools is you just set about your work and in most circumstances in the time it would take to otherwise set up machinery you'll have completed your task. Not to mention the fact that it's a more satisfying way to work.
I don't presently own a thickness planer and it didn't deter me on this project. If you can plane and measure you can certainly thickness materials with a hand plane and some components can be sized using a planing sled jig as long as the part is narrower than your widest plane.
A good 80 to 85% of the work on this pieces was accomplished with hand tools, in fact at this point I don't think I would know how to go about building anything without hand tools.
As you have probably noticed this is a somewhat unique door configuration. A two board door with the boards fastened to battens is pretty common but when you attempt to add a cut out for glass it requires a bit of head scratching to sort out the details.
I finished the case prior to leaving on a trip to meet my new grandson "August Brese Paglia". We're calling him Gus, not Augie. He looks like a "Gus" to me, at this point I've taken to calling him the" Gusling". It was hard to tear ourselves away to return home.
Below is a picture of the completed clock case. I was itching to return home and start the finishing process on this piece. The finishing schedule is quite involved and I expected to spend at least as much time finishing this piece as was required to get the project to this stage.
Next Week: A very involved finishing schedule
Somewhere in years past Julie and I acquired 6 Rex furniture ladder back chairs. These were hand me downs from other family members and they have stood us well. Rex furniture was a business that operated in Stockbridge, Ga, just south of Atlanta. They closed their doors many years ago but there is a lot of that furniture in the surrounding area. In all the years I was making and repairing furniture I never was required to repair a Rex chair. That speaks volumes.
When the fiber rush in our chairs was breaking and looking quite worn we decided to keep these chairs and perform a refurb on them. Good chairs are expensive and these Rex chairs to were too good to replace.
One by one my yougest son Marc would bring a chair into the shop, cut out the old rush, pull the staples, sand and prep them for painting. Traditionally chairs were very often painted. Turnings show up better on painted chairs and I was reminded of this when I began painting these chairs satin black. The side chair seats received a basket weave of beige Shaker tape or lasting. Now these chairs look better than they have in years and the seat is considerably more comfortable with the Shaker tape.