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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place! These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...
I cannot imagine two sports more different than chess and racing the most complex automobiles on the planet. In chess two men sit a few feet apart in absolute silence, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for a half hour, without moving a muscle. Thinking. Pure thought. Anticipating the future moves and working out in your head all the options for victory. The two who are playing what will be probably their last match tomorrow are two of the most talented individuals in their sport the world has ever seen.
At the same time that they are playing chess, two other men will be racing the last race of the season in F1. They are nearly equal in points after 18 races, and whoever crosses the line first will be champion. Their sport involves split second decisions, the highest degree of technology, a large team of skilled helpers and tons of money. They sit in the cockpit of a machine which is moving at 200 miles an hour, sweating in 140 degree heat, with an engine a few inches behind their head screaming at many thousands of revolutions per minute. For two hours they must focus on the race, where a second gained or lost will determine if they finish first or perhaps last.
I will be watching the chess match on my computer and the race on the television. I can tell you that it will take more than a little bit of concentration on my part to keep up.
I have been thinking lately about what makes a "master" of any craft, whether it's playing chess, racing a car, or just restoring a valuable object from centuries ago. Of course, while I do play chess often, and like to drive my car fast, I am not a "master" of either of these skills. That doesn't mean I can not appreciate the subtleties of those professions. In the same way, I regard the methods I use in my profession with my full attention and experience to guarantee a professional result.
I enjoy working on early furniture since all the experience you need to do the job properly is right in front of you. All you need is a keen sense of observation. Basically it is a question of simple forensics. Look for the clues and you will understand what you need to do. Traditional construction methods, hand tool marks, layout lines, hardware decisions and everything else is important and must be analyzed. In the same way traditional upholstery is predictable and you can learn this skill by carefully taking apart the work and putting it back together using the same process.
I recently completed a large amount of traditional upholstery projects and was thinking about what makes a good upholsterer. One word came to mind: tension. When stretching the webbing, or tying the springs, or stitching the horsehair or tacking the silk cover, the single constant was understand the proper tension. This is why it helps to have large "meathook" hands, like I have. (They also are "handy" for sanding!)
In applying a "period" finish or making repairs, there is another rule I follow: natural wood is not one color. Many refinishers make the mistake of using only one color for wood. The only way I have found to fool the eye into thinking that the finish was original is to use several colors, carefully layered or in different areas on the object. Natural sunlight fades wood, and the surfaces fade differently. Nothing makes a piece look "new" than having a uniform finish on all surfaces. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me, it really makes a difference.
The same concept works with making hand made furniture. I do not think that there is anything sacred about 90 degrees or straight lines. If the door opens and closes, or the drawer slides in and out, fine. I am not saying I am careless. I am saying that there is a priority to decision making when putting a piece of furniture together. It needs to function and be sturdy and attractive. It does not need to be perfect. A drawer is not a piston in a cylinder. It does not need to hold compression during an explosion. It just needs to open and close.
Look at the Parthenon in Greece. The columns are not exactly vertical. If they were, they would be predictable and boring. Would we be as interested in the tower in Pisa if it wasn't leaning? (Perhaps not the best example, but I couldn't resist.)
I guess what I am trying to get at is that you spend your life observing phenomena and, if you are intelligent, constantly learn from that experience, gaining a proficiency in some form of activity. By learning what is important and what is not critical, you can do a job quickly and effectively and with a high degree of satisfaction. In fact, others will pay you to do that job, once you have proven your talents in that field.
I have been fortunate to have had people pay me to restore furniture for over 45 years. Now if I could only get Mercedes to sponsor me.......
|Looking South on Lake Ennis from my neighbor's land|
My father's family arrived from Germany around 1908 and settled with the rest of the Germans in Wisconsin. My great grandfather was a simple carpenter, and worked with his hands all his life. Not finding the jobs in Wisconsin, he left the family behind and hopped the train West.
When the train stopped in Whitehall, Montana, he looked out the window and saw the smoldering remains of what had been the main block of businesses in town. The entire block had burned down the night before, and he understood that there might be work soon to rebuild it, so he set up shop.
For the next 20 years he operated a mill and sash shop, and sold construction lumber as the Interstate Lumber Company. His shop had a large painted sign on the front, which reflected the philosophy of the day, "A Square Deal." In the center of the shop stood the prize piece of woodworking machinery, the Crescent Multi Woodworking Tool. This belt driven tool was a large single chunk of cast iron, weighing nearly half a ton. It included a 36" band saw, 16" jointer, 12" table saw, and a hand operated mortising chisel, all driven by a leather belt running under the floor. My job, when I was very small, was crawling under the floor and lubricating the bearings of the belt.
You can imagine why I am not that interested in using power woodworking tools after that.
In any event, as I was born in Southern California, the visits to Montana were annual and rather short, depending on the weather. I am not interested in snow. However, I love the smell of the mountains, and the open sky and fishing. I also love finding deer, minks, sandhill cranes, rabbits, owls and other wildlife wandering around the property. Not so much the beavers...who think my creek is their swimming pool.
|The Miller Cabin, after 90 years|
Fortunately, my family had the good sense to purchase a couple acres on a lake, 60 miles from Whitehall, to set up a vacation cabin or two. Actually, there are three cabins, all from the 1930's and still furnished with all the furniture, dishes, wood stoves, guns and fishing rods, and vehicles from that time. Really a simple "turn key" operation. The first cabin was a simple building, which was built inside the workshop in Whitehall. Then it was taken apart, placed on a Model T flatbed truck and driven over the dirt road to Ennis, where it was put back together. It is a wonderful cabin, completely wood inside, with all the conveniences of "modern" life, except plumbing, and insulation. I helped install electricity in the 1960's so we could have a refrigerator and lights.
I have enjoyed these cabins with my family and friends for the past 60 years, and find it essential to return there for a different "perspective" on life. Like Walden before me, I find solace in the simplicity of life, when you live off the land. Chopping wood, getting water from the artesian well, catching fish, and just watching the environment as it changes over time is a full time activity.
Each year there is a lot of timber which needs clearing, as the weather is fierce and the trees are old. Last year and this year I lost two of my largest willow trees, and it took a fair amount of time to clear out the wood. I must admit, I am rather good with a double axe. I really enjoy using it to cut wood. It is such a different aspect of woodworking from the usual job I have, cutting minuscule pieces of exotic hardwoods with a 2/0 jeweler's blade.
|Nice Chain! Need a Pull?|
|Reliable Transportation since 1946|
There are also several vehicles which are waiting for us and ready to go when we arrive. The best one is a 1941 Dodge Power Wagon, which was built for the medical corps during the second War. This truck was purchased by my great uncle in 1946 and refitted for mountain camping purposes. I learned to double clutch on this truck and it is a wonderful thing to drive...anywhere you want. It has been on top of all these mountains around the cabin many, many times.
There is a bit of culture shock when I return to my workshop. It soon wears off, as I begin to get back in the "groove" of work. The good news is that I am constantly reminded of where I came from and it keeps me humble as I work on the wonderful things which compose my life's work.
|Cooked on a Wood Stove|