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My favorite part of any furniture project is the point when a solution has been found to a challenge. It’s a figurative crossing of the “hump” which then signifies hopefully smooth sailing moving forward. This past Saturday I crossed that hump.
The bad news first. The temperatures in the area dropped well below freezing, and though that is not unheard of in my neck of the woods, it is uncommon for this time of year. So after I returned home from work on Saturday the first thing I did was check on the desk top panel. The panel is just fine, but the breadboard end with the issue was not looking so good. The underside developed a split that was instantly noticeable. Maybe the cold exaggerated it, but at that point I didn’t care, so the instant decision was made to saw off both of those bread board ends, which I did using the table saw and a cross-cut sled. I understood it meant losing a few hours of work, but I know the decision was the correct one because I felt no real remorse then or now, and rather than dwelling on it, I moved on to putting together the leg assemblies.
The leg assemblies posed a bit of a challenge, at least to me they did. Firstly, I wanted them to appear as if they could fold up, so I could not ship lap them together, though that in some ways may have been easier. The dilemma was attaching them to the cross cleats, which sounds simple but was a bit complicated.
The issue was the offset of the legs. Because the legs were not ship-lapped, one side of the leg would obviously offset, in this case ¾ of an inch. So my solution was to make a filler board to make up the gap made by the offset. At that, I wanted the board to match the angles and width of the cleat board as closely as possible, so I spent a good deal of time clamping and measuring. Once I was as sure of myself as I was going to get, I made the cuts, planed it to final size and started drilling holes for the quarter inch hardware I purchased for the project. I won’t lie, those first couple of holes were nerve-wracking, because a mistake would cost me several more hours of work, but once I got moving things went relatively smoothly. It took more than two hours, but in the end I had a finished leg assembly.
Sunday morning I started on the second assembly, and using lessons learned from the previous night’s experience, I had it finished and ready to attach in under an hour, so rather than leaving those two assemblies on top of the workbench, I did just that attached them to the desktop using some angle brackets. I hadn’t planned to do an assembly to be honest, but curiosity got the best of me. The good news is that so far it looks pretty good. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed that the breadboard ends needed to be removed, but it doesn’t look bad in my opinion. But the better news is the fact that the legs all sit level with the ground. Generally, when making a table, there is usually a bit of wobble. As of right now the table sits nicely, and when I placed a level on the top I found it dead flat. At that, the table does rock a bit back and forth, but considering it is not permanently attached to the top yet, and considering the leg assemblies haven’t been joined together yet with any cross bracing, that was to be expected.
Lastly, I removed the assembled table from my garage and placed it in the family room, where I think it will be much safer. Over the years, I’ve found out the hard way that leaving unassembled furniture projects in my garage is a recipe for disaster. Maybe it’s gremlins; I don’t know, but whatever it is my projects seem to take a beating if they sit in the garage for too long, so I was taking absolutely no chances. In any event, the cat seems to like it, because as soon as I brought it inside the house she promptly hopped onto it, sprawled out, and took a nap.
Next weekend I will mill down another board to use for the cross bracing as well as the desktop drawer unit. Thankfully, I already have the drawer unit finalized in my mind, so the construction should have no unwanted surprises. So with a little luck I could quite possibly have a desk ready for finish a week from now.
On another note, some of you (or none of you) may be wondering why I did not post last week. Well, I had the very good fortune to go to Washington DC and not only take a tour of the White House, but to visit Mount Vernon as well. The Mount Vernon trip was not planned, it just happened to fall into place, and because I had not been able to go there last time I was in DC, I made it a priority. I will only say of the trip that I was completely blown away. The furniture examples in Mount Vernon alone are beyond description, and I would have taken photos, but they are not allowed inside the house itself. And because I believe that rules are a good thing (they are hardly “for fools” as some in the woodworking world would claim) I did not attempt any, and instead purchased a very nice book with photos that are much better than those I would have taken anyway.
My family, who was skeptical about the Mount Vernon visit in part because the day was cool, cloudy, and damp, was nonetheless blown away. My daughter in particular was completely awestruck. But the highlight, for all of us, was visiting the final resting place of George and Martha Washington and paying our respects. When I say that this trip was beyond inspirational and much more of a spiritual experience, I am understating to the highest degree. Upon leaving Mount Vernon, my admiration of George Washington, which was already immense, grew even greater. And more than ever I am committed to making this desk to the highest level I possibly can.
Thonet Chair Designs—What They Brought to the Table Michael Thonet chairs have on the one hand remained unchanged for almost two centuries and then enjoyed variations on the theme for decorative accentuation and individualising a design under Thonet’s concept. Working at my workbench I slipped into his entrepreneurial designer shoes as I embraced his commitment […]
An old task for me, but in a new context. For the Hardanger, I'll go as I generally do with violin ribs. For the viola, about 10% thicker. So 1 mm and 1.1 mm! Not much, but a difference.
I want y’all to know that you have adoring spouses and family members. Every year in mid-November we get flooded with requests from people who want to give you gifts with a little extra something special.
A few years ago, we got a request from a woodworker’s wife. She had bought one of our books at a used bookstore. She mailed it to us, and her request was something like this:
Please write an essay on the inside cover that will inspire my husband to continue woodworking. In your essay, I would like you to touch upon the following themes from his life:
- The death of his father at a young age and the lack of authority figures in his life.
- His two beloved dogs.
- The difficulty he has at work because of his boss and the need for him to find a hobby.
It was then that John and I designated November and December the “Lexapro” season – when we are regularly pulled into anxiety-provoking family situations.
During the 2015 Lexapro Season (or was it the 2012 season?), a spouse asked if we could include a day of woodworking lessons with the book she wanted to buy for her husband. We replied with, “We charge $700 a day for one-on-one lessons.” And then she became very incensed that we couldn’t do it for free.
I hear those white pills rattling, rat- rat- rattling for me…
If you do have an overachieving spouse, we recommend they stop by our storefront on one of our open days if they want a personal signature – that really is the only way we can fulfill unusual requests. (Our last open day of 2017 is Dec. 9.) Because I’m in Kentucky and our warehouse is two hours away in Indiana, there’s no way to pull certain orders, sign them in blood and repackage them.
I honestly wish we had the staff to honor requests such as these as they are an indication of how much you are loved. And who doesn’t love love? But we are just two guys, and I have bathrooms to clean.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Uncategorized
I will teach two classes in June 2018 at Dictum in Germany – one class on building a Roubo workbench and a second short course on building a staked three-legged stool.
The classes are held at Niederalteich, a gorgeous monastery in Bavaria. Students can stay in the comfortable guest rooms at the monastery or at one of the local bed and breakfasts in the town. The monastery has a really good restaurant and lively beer garden. It is a perfect setting if you want to disconnect from the outside world and focus on the craft.
The staked furniture class is June 9-10. During the class we’ll build a three-legged staked stool. This class is an excellent introduction to the world of chairmaking. We’ll discuss how to design and execute compound-angle joinery without math or trig tables. And we’ll explore the tapered mortise and tenon, the foundation of staked furniture.
For more details or to sign up for the course, visit this page.
The workbench class is an intense five day class from June 11-15. Each student will build a Roubo-style workbench. The class will focus on making the bench and helping you decide what vises or workholding you need in your shop. We will build the bench using traditional mortise-and-tenon construction and the massive sliding dovetail used on early French benches.
For more details or to sign up for the bench course, visit this page.
Note that these classes do not mark my return to a regular teaching schedule. Teaching these classes in Bavaria helps fund my research into early woodworking in Europe. Plus, I owe the people at Dictum a personal favor for which I will ever be grateful.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Filed under: Uncategorized
We are not the first woodworkers who ever wanted to tweak the coloration of our pieces; the ancients routinely augmented their work with the addition of colorants to both unify overall tonality and accentuate details. Among the most common colorants of the past were asphalt, that useless contaminate that percolated up from the ground, and pitch, which is the residue from the fractional distillation of pine sap into turpentine solvent and colophony resin.
For this workshop I showed and the CW crew used asphalt as a toning glaze. My source for this was some non-fibered parging tar left over from the barn basement construction. The three gallons I have left are all I and a thousand friends need for decades. I thin the asphalt with mineral spirits, and occasionally add a bit of boiled linseed oil.
The asphalt glaze can be applied to the surface and manipulated with bristle brushes to achieve an overall uniform appearance. For carved surfaces it could be applied the same way with the highest points rubbed with rags to remove the colorant and emphasize the three-dimensionality of the surface.
Asphalt can be overcoated with shellac as soon as it is dry to the touch.
I’m behind on my podcast listening, but I’d like to thank Shannon Rogers for giving a shout out to my new video on Japanese tools on the Wood Talk podcast a couple of weeks ago.
The beloved backyard tree No store-bought lumber’s story can compete with that of boards from your own backyard. It can be wrenching to fell a beloved tree, but transforming it into a piece of furniture helps dull the pain by giving an old friend new life. Working with lumber from backyard trees tends to be far more labor-intensive than with wood that was commercially grown. Commercial lumber comes from forest […]
|removed a stop|
|nail set box|
|what's left to do|
|the epoxy comes first|
|back to working the stops|
After I got this fixed I ran into two more hiccups with the 073 holder. The first was I initially screwed the holder too close to the edge plane holder. I had done that without the edge plane in the holder. Once the plane was in it I saw I was up too close to it with the 073.
So I moved the holder and I hit snag #3. The screws were sticking out of the bottom of the shelf and hitting the front brace. I could open and close it but I could feel the screws dragging on the front cross brace. I left the screws in place and filed the points off with a file.
|#5 - making a relief for the handle to clear the side|
|#6 - the pic says it all|
|3 frog hairs of clearance|
|no knob or handle|
|took the easy way out|
|Houston we are almost in double digit problem land|
The final hiccup, #9, is I had to take out the stops. With them gone I can pull the drawer out far enough and get access to the edge plane. The downside is there is nothing to stop the shelf and the tools on it from playing the bounce test with Mr Concrete Floor. I tried to place the stops closer to the opening but it wasn't helpful at all. If I place the stops as far forward as I can I still don't have access to the edge plane. I will have to live with this as is and try to remember I can't pull it out all the way.
|block plane storage idea|
|road testing Miles's hammer|
|made dividers for the block planes|
|dry fit looks and felt good|
|last divider dado needed some help|
|dividers glued, clamped, and cooking|
|first coat of shellac on Miles's hammer|
|plane stop for the violin plane|
|I'll glue these two together|
|then I'll glue it here|
|the 103 is longer|
|my OCD kicked in here|
|laid out a rabbet and chiseled it out|
|doing a small one is just like doing a big one|
|the 103 toe is buried a bit|
|cleaned and squared up|
|I'll wait for this|
|3 coats of shellac on the box|
What is nikhedonia?
answer - the pleasure from anticipating success or a victory (or finally finishing a project from hell)
Replacing the main beam of the Horse Garage has been hanging over my head for more than a month now. Every time I go in there I feel like Damocles and wonder if I will become buried in my work.
Last month, Brendan Gaffney, Megan Fitzpatrick and I jacked up the garage’s joists to relieve pressure on the rotted beam. Today was the day to replace the punky thing.
Lucky for me, woodworker Jeremy Hanson was in town, and I hired him to help. Jeremy is a cabinet maker, carpenter, tattoo artist and art teacher from Seattle, Wash., who is traveling around the country with his charming family in a Toyota Tacoma that is outfitted with a camper. They stopped by the open house yesterday, and Jeremy volunteered to lend a hand.
It took us about four hours of dirty work, but at about 2 p.m. we lowered the joists back on the new beam. All the pieces returned to their proper places without complaint.
Now comes the rush to button the place up before winter comes. I have a roofing company prepared to add a membrane roof. And I am starting to build the new doors tomorrow.
The doors will be lightweight pine, joined with mortise-and-tenon joints and painted for protection. After all the wacky repairs we’ve been making to the Horse Garage, doors will be a cakewalk.
Then I will be out of money – again. After I complete a couple furniture commissions I should have enough money to add electricity to the building. (And, if I’m fortunate, enough money for a mini-split as well.)
There is still a long way to go, but the Horse Garage might be in business before the end of 2017.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Filed under: Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized
Note: No deer were harmed in the making of this project. These antlers were shed by a buck and retrieved from the woods by a so-called “shed collector.”
Getting the antlers fastened to the chair was straightforward in the end. But I’ve spent many nights pondering the possibilities. Rejected ideas:
- Bore a hole for the irregular antler and pack epoxy and maple shavings around the antler.
- Use a staked furniture joint: Use a tapered tenon cutter to shape the antler. Ream a matching hole in the chair.
- Build a mounting board – like a taxidermist would – that would be fastened to the chair.
In the end, I decided to use hanger bolts. One end is threaded like a machine screw – that goes into the antler side. The other end is a wood screw and goes into the chair.
We also decided to cut a shallow counterbore in the chair to obscure the joint between the antler and the chair. This worked brilliantly.
Because you’ll never see a project such as this in a woodworking (or deerworking) magazine, here are a couple tips.
- If you don’t own a tap for the machine screw, the hanger bolt is strong enough to form threads in the hole in the antler.
- A dab of quick-set epoxy on the machine threads is a good idea.
- Have a spotter (or two) help you drill the holes in the irregular chair and antler. It’s more difficult to do alone and make it look right.
After we installed the antlers, most of our customers that day asked to sit in the chair and have their picture taken with it. So either the project is a success, or I’ve created something so ugly that people want a photo to warn others not to do this.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Filed under: Uncategorized
Yup! My parents owned a set of six Thonet dining chairs and it was indeed Thonet who designed a chair that brought a truly democratised and radical product in chair form to our world of wooden seating. Dining chairs, office chairs and even rocking chairs of many a hundred thousand gradually came into full mass-production […]
Things were going so well in the shop today that something had to go wrong it seemed. I was motoring along and things were looking good until I went to get chinese for lunch. The battery in the truck went south when I tried to go home. So what could I do? I went back into the chinese place and ate my lunch. They have a couple of tables there but I have never seen anyone eating in there before.
FYI - batteries ain't cheap. The last battery I remember buying was a Sears diehard and I think I ponied up $50 for it. I was looking on line to see what the prices were and I almost had an involuntary bowel movement. Let's just say batteries don't sell in the $50 range anymore. Starting prices for my truck are $140 and go up from there. One thing I noticed was that no matter the price the warranty on them was still only 3 years.
Got my replacement battery ($173) swapped out without any problems. I think I was heading for a battery explosion with the old one. It had bulged out on all 4 sides with ends being the worse. The car parts store gave me back $18 when I gave them the old battery. Don't remember getting $$$$ from the last time.
|this has cured|
|Amazon prime isn't two day|
|bought a piece of crap|
|kind of worked|
|this 4-in-one is mine|
|nail sets and a center punch for Miles's toolbox|
|I was hoping that I would get to this today|
|figured out my drawer stop problem and it starts with these two pieces of oak|
|screwed in place and the shelf is extended|
|first part of the drawer stop system|
|Miles's hammer almost done|
|this side doesn't have the grain of the opposite side|
|needs to stowed better than this|
|what I came up with|
|1/2" pigsticker fixed it|
|I barely touched this|
|fits now, both ways|
|glued it with rapid fuse|
|got to use my big chamfer bit|
|ripped up some oak veneer|
|I am applying the oak veneer to all of them thin sides|
|part two of the shelf stop system|
|how it will work|
|a backer so I can saw off my individual stops|
|mistake - replaced the 1" brass screws with 1 1/4" screws|
|all five the screws came through|
|had to do it|
|need a shallow rabbet - made it with the 140|
|didn't forget this time|
|while the molding glue sets up|
|6 tries and I'm getting close|
|the outside edge|
|same here as the inside|
In spite of my care and going slow I did switch the error on the lines. After the 3rd filing, the lines were going away from each other outwards at the top. I had to file a bit at the toe before I got my two parallel lines. I didn't check or try to make the inside and outside of the blade parallel.
|layout for the square till|
|pretty close to my lunchtime doodle|
I am also making it out of 3/4" thick pine. I am going with 3/4" because I can't find a decent hinge for 1/2" stock that is worth more than a thimble full of belly button lint.
|stock for the square till|
|the next to last operation for today|
|glued and cooking|
|the last thing I did before the lights were shut off|
Where is the US Air Force Academy located?
answer - Colorado Springs, Colorado
How five masterful makers integrate CNC and CAD technology into their woodworking In the December 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine, the article, Digital Artistry is a peek at what five professional woodworkers are doing with digital tools in their shops. Each maker has an extensive traditional woodworking background and many years of experience before they began to use digital tools like CAD software and CNC machines. As I pointed out […]
The post Digital Artistry — Meet the Artists from the December 2017 Issue appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
|The Coke can is for scale.|
It has what looks to be a blacksmith made mount on the back of it. The mount screw is missing its swivel, lost probably when its mounting screw sheared, so replacing it will require a bit of fussing to extract the screw's leftovers. I really do not expect the mount to work very well, as this type of mount rarely does, but it is very cool looking, effective or not.
|The Coke can was added for scale.|
If you want to spend an enjoyable few minutes wandering around Bob's Tool Box without heading off to England, use this link to get you there...Bob's Toolbox 360° Virtual Tour. It's a little freaky to get used to, but it is also a real hoot.
Writing for woodworking magazines is a strange experience in many ways. You never know what readers will make of your work — the artistry, thinking, writing, building, calculating, drawing, and editing that go into a project article. Will they love it? Hate it? Discover some hideously embarrassing error in the cutting list even after three eagle-eyed editors have gone through it with a fine-tooth comb? Odds are, many people won’t even venture beyond the title. But the one thing of which you can be certain is that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Sometimes I hear nothing after an article is published. Every so often I get a super enthusiastic message that makes my day, such as one I recently received from Larry Nottingham:
“I knew the sideboard on the cover of Popular Woodworking was yours even before I saw your name. All I can say is WOW. I recently purchased a bunch of quarter sawn white oak and, even though I’m just an amateur, I’m gonna give that one a try. Your work inspires me.”
The most common response is a request for more detailed plans. I write back, explaining that I have no more detailed plans and that the drawings in any article I write for Popular Woodworking or Fine Woodworking show far more detail than anything I use in my own work or have ever been given in the shops where I worked for others. The fact is, unless you’re working side by side with the person who wrote an article, you’re going to be interpreting and extrapolating from the instructions and plans, no matter how much detail an article contains. Add to this the reality that publishers today are working with fewer staff and lower budgets than before the Great Recession, and I think it becomes easier to understand that for authors and editors both, selecting what to include is a risky business virtually guaranteed to tick someone off. “I’m not subscribing to xyz for spoon feeding,” some will say, while others lament the lack of exactly that level of instruction.
Let me offer some insight based on my experience.
When doing small-scale custom work (as distinct from production work, whether in a one-person shop or a factory setting where every step of the process has to be just-so in order for the next parts to fit the ones that have already been made*) there’s typically some allowance for the craftsperson to interpret a drawing and build it in whichever way will best suit the job in question. A good example is the Voysey two heart chair in my book about English Arts & Crafts furniture for Popular Woodworking (forthcoming in June 2018). As I explain in the introduction to the chair build, real-life chairs made during Voysey’s lifetime based on his drawings diverge from those plans in multiple ways. Some of the variations were probably requested by customers when they commissioned their seats; others were undoubtedly decided on by the craftsmen who built them, in an effort to make the work affordable.
The drawings I use for my own work are meant to convey to clients how a piece will look and function, as well as provide the basic information I need to build it.Even my bare-bones drawings are head and shoulders above those I often got from my employers in the past, such as this delight: Of course, when you’re building something from an article in a magazine you don’t have the luxury of checking in with the person who designed it as you work your way through the structure. Having made a couple of pieces from articles in magazines over the years (a benchtop bench and some leaded glass panels), I can say I’ve found that even in simple cases such as these, I’ve wished there were more detail. Each time I was stumped, I stopped, thought through the logic of the process, and moved ahead when I thought I had it figured out. I have had to redo a few parts — a drag that might have been unnecessary, had the articles contained more detail. But I chalk such things up to learning, whether a new skill (such as making leaded glass panels) or how to use unfamiliar hardware (as in the benchtop bench). Some readers, such as my friend Bill Heidt, construct a piece on the screen before digging into material in the shop; this is another way to work through the ins and outs of a build beyond an article’s text and illustrations.
So while the basic information should be in the article, it may require clarification. Apparently one or two aspects of the recently published sideboard in Popular Woodworking have had some readers scratching their heads, for which I apologize. Thanks to Megan Fitzpatrick, you can find SketchUp plans with additional information here.–Nancy R. Hiller, author of Making Things Work
*In the shops where I’ve worked, every step of the build is adjusted for the parts that have been made. Flexibility is part of the m.o. You start with a few basic dimensions on a drawing, but the rest are based on direct measurement of the piece in progress.
Filed under: Uncategorized
I am sure you will enjoy following this series and making the cabinet too but even if you don’t make the actual cabinet there is much to learn from the series because it is the first time we have used my system of Mortise and Tenon joinery on a full project. To say that it […]
This has become a bit of a tradition here at giant Cypress.
This is one of the best Veteran’s Day songs, ever, even if it was written for Australia’s version of today.
God bless our vets, all of them.
|back clamped dry and square|
|Houston, we have a problem|
|checked the back for squareness|
|the front is off 3/8" from the back|
|now it's the same|
|my notches need some help|
|cut out all the veneer with the new marking knife|
|glued, nailed and screwed together|
|good on the F/B and S/S|
|cut and fitted the shelf gliders (?)|
|top shelf layout|
|a slight PITA|
|screwed the top onto the sides|
|have some flushing to do|
|making a holder for the edge plane|
|drilled out most of the waste|
|the top I evened out with the chisel|
|hadn't thought this far ahead|
|I have extra|
|I still have it|
|exploded view of the bullnose holder|
|same holder design for the 073|
How many US Presidents had no children of their own?
answer - five Washington, Polk, Harding, Buchanan, and Jackson
Time served funds a maker’s pursuit of woodworking happiness. With most things in life, you either pay with your time or your money. Say you want to build a box using 3/4 black walnut. You have three options: Buy boards milled to fi nal thickness from a lumberyard (least time, most money); purchase rough-sawn 4/4 boards to mill yourself (more time, less money); or fell a walnut tree, have a […]